Thursday, October 10, 2013

Belated Birthday Felicitations

It was not the perfect birthday greeting ("Happy birthday you old coot", Phnom Penh Post, 23 Sep 2013), but Roger Mitton had to begrudge that Lee Kuan Yew had always been among the most rewarding interview subjects. At his close encounter of an unpleasant kind at a National Day reception in 1991, Mitton's polite enquiry about an Asiaweek cover story was gruffly rebuffed with, “Oh? Is that important? Does it matter whether I am happy or unhappy with it?”

Roger Mitton is a former senior correspondent with Asiaweek and a former bureau chief in Washington and Hanoi for the Straits Times. While working at Asiaweek, Burma's U Sein Win said of him, "Mitton seems to have a spy network everywhere in Burma... if you are bored with politics in Burma, you will be amused (reading Mitton’s stories). His inside stories are very entertaining."

If Mitton had been frequently criticized for writing stories that were seen to be pro-junta, Tom Plate shares similar barbs from American journalists for penning accommodating stories about another strongman.

In his version of a birthday greeting of a different kind, Plate explained his unfettered access in the opinion piece "The good side of Singapore icon Lee Kuan Yew" (Japan Times, 22 Sep 03):

As far as I know, Lee never denied me an interview if he was in town and available and I once asked an aide why. The answer was something like, for one thing, my being the first American journalist who didn’t try to tell him how to run Singapore!

Plate once actually asked Lee why he bothered with an interview by him. Lee responded with a look as if Plate was crazy: “Because it is my job to influence the people who influence people’s opinions about Singapore.” Whatever. Plate's book about the old coot did help launch his series of Giants of Asia books that followed (Mahathir of Malaysia, Thaksin of Thailand and Ban Ki-moon of South Korea). Some will call the Faustian deal a classic example of quid pro quo.

Whether you subscribe to Mitton's or Plate's perspective of one man depends on your political agenda. The man himself doesn't exactly help when, as the Huffington Post review of Plate's Conversations book highlighted:
Lee Kuan Yew only seems off base when he violates his own rules. For example, he projects from his experience with Malaysians that America will inevitably decline as Latinos dilute the Anglo-Saxon core America once was.

This is the same man who wrote on page 223 of his 'One Man’s View Of The World' book, "DPM Teo Chee Hean has put up a White Paper. Let’s wait a few years for it to be implemented, to see if the measures work”. Did he really mean to see if Singapore will inevitably decline as foreigners dilute the core Singapore once was?


  1. Well, that White Paper was put up by the DPM all right but seriously was the DPM 100% behind it ?
    I believe not. For one, it was poorly put together . The main argument about we needing more Foreigners to make up the past many decades of declining birth rates was not water tight.
    Why? I can tell all that for me, my late father had to put up the cash for my very first HDB

  2. As Tom Plate himself stated the questions have to be "asked in a proper way" before the great man would deign to answer them. And the aides were always on edge. Sounds like the emperors of old toying with court jesters like Tom Plate willing to have his head cut off if the emperor did not find the joke funny. If he did cut Tom's head off I would not cry for him because he was willing to take that risk so that he can boast that he is the only one who can get to humour the emperor at any time.

  3. Malays=Latinos= decline....? White core=advance? So did his book also say anything about north Indians, PRCs, Arabs,,, Jews,...? Maybe that was the hidden objective of the population white paper. But then didn't someone tell him that our filipino immigrants share a common heritage with South Pacific Melanesians? And north indians and talebans all come from Persia (now Iran)? Didn't someone tell him modern humans all share 6% DNA from neardenthals? That human DNA is about 90% similar to that of hogs? The man and his reptilian ideas...
    Whether you call this eugenics or racism or pinkerton syndrome from the colonial era, the great man's ideas seems more like reptilian instincts mambo jumbo.

  4. As can be clearly seen, LKY is a coward -- he likes to engage in a debate/battle with the odds clearly stacked against his opponents. This is the common theme that runs through his political tactic over and over again.

  5. The same anglo saxon core that is now irrationally playing russian roulette with an african american president? Old bully is also a trickster, for he knows, thru his friends Kissinger and Brezinski, that the "anglo saxon" core is also a servant dog held on a tight leash by the puppeteers in the holy land