Monday, January 17, 2011
More Fiction Than Truth
The truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. Sean sold the proposal for the book before informing his father, who had reservations because, in the old man's words, "I've done some bad things that I'm not proud of". Like dressing up as an old codger at a party and then run around the room feeling up all his friends' wives.
There's nothing that comes close to such eye-openers in the Straits Times Editor Han Fook Kwan inspired Q&A book "'Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going'". It's no longer surprising to read of Lee's rhetorical question posed to Han, "if he had daughters, and how he would feel if his daughter came back to say she wanted to marry a black man". A multi-racial country dominated for decades by a unapologetic racist is ho-hum news. Not exactly the spin that would engage the targetted younger readers. And no one expected Han to triumph with a Frost versus Nixon moment when his dream team includes an ex-staffer from the ISD. Bottomline, Tom Plate's slim volume of "Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew" has more bang for the buck.
In the Tom Plate story telling, Lee mentions 3 ministers who wanted to resign because of Goh Chok Tong's stewardship ("they didn’t like his style"), and critics were quick to speculate on Plate's dismal failure to press on with his journalistic instincts and home in on their identities. Could it be a variant on the Richard Hu, Tony Tan and Dhanabalan on-site reaction to the infamous sting on the left cheek? Is Goh destined to be fall guy in a revisionist history like Goh Keng Swee's purported initiative in the separation from Malaysia? In Han's narrative, Lee's hero is not longer just Deng Xiaoping of Tiananmeng infamy (post Zhao Ziyang's leaked secret memoir, "Prisoner of the State"), as quoted in Plate's book, but now updated to include Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill. The two full-time attendants dedicated to serve provide heating pads promptly and at the correct temperatures, faithfully documented in "Conversations", are now replaced by a DIY neon coloured skipping rope.
Perhaps it's time for Lee to pen his own memoirs, instead of depending on SPH staffers to do the writing. Surely the truth can't be more mind-boggling than Sean Wilsey's recollections.