Monday, January 14, 2008

A Shared Legacy: Suharto and Lee

As rightfully observed by The Observer, the ailing former Indonesian President Suharto was a dictator. Under his reign, he oversaw communist mass-killings, suppressed secessionist attempts, outlawed civil activism and was unapologetic about it all. Why? Well first and foremost, such moves were dubbed necessary for economic development. Well, the Asian financial crisis came along and hit Indonesia very hard. Bailouts from international monetary were suspectedly mismanaged or even embezzled. Losing the veneer of economic progress and stability, another ‘unchallenged’ reelection of Suharto broke the proverbial camel’s back.

Recently, MM Lee has once again spoken of his friendship with the former Indonesian ruler. He however chooses to remember the man for the good he has done rather then the ‘missteps’ or ‘hard decisions’ made during trying times.

Lee owed much of Singapore’s and ASEAN’s stability to his similarly strong-armed counterpart. His feelings of gratitude are therefore understandable, and not surprising. This is because they in fact share more than common histories; they also share a common legacy.

Hence I couldn’t help but wonder whether Lee’s most recent character defensive of Suharto is actually a personal confession of his own.

“Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favours to his family and his friends…But there was real growth and real progress. I think the people of Indonesia are lucky.” MM Lee on Suharto

With his own mortality firmly in the foreground, is this statement a veiled self-reflection on his own tenor? Or am I over-reading it?


Marc said...

So I suppose as long as there is economic growth, corruption and nepotism is perfectly acceptable.

Why didn't he say so? Then there would've been no reason to raise the pay of the ministers since they can be corrupt and it would've been ok as long as the economy is growing.

*roll eyes*

Anonymous said...

So Singaporeans are just super duper luckier than Indonesians!
no wonder paid so much..

Anonymous said...

MM Lee Kuan Yew have done himself a lot, lot of damages this time.

Why at this moment??

Anonymous said...

Is he suggesting that a similar scenario may happen in Singapore? Is he trying to set the precedent that when he moved on and when people discovered his past "misdeeds", people should forget them and think about the progress that he had brought to Singapore?

"Yes, there was corruption."

I think that there is still corruption.

fatwally said...

We should really compile a quotable quote book of MM Lee's ludicrous statements.

Would be a bestseller coffee table book when he kicks the bucket! :)

Unfortunate Singaporean said...

Hi marc

love what you do at your blog.

to annonymous 2

MM Lee has the hide of a rhino and doesn't mince his words. My own view is that when you step down as PM, you get to be more open about your opinions as your words represent yourself, not the party or the nation. Why at this moment? Its just one scene in the movie that is Lee :)