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?