The Singaporean Identity Needs TLC

Photo Credit: Epigram Books

SINGAPORE is sometimes referred to as a nanny state, particularly by the Western media. The epithet is not particularly flattering, but there is some truth to it.

The country’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, was, after all, a man who was tough on corruption and litter, a visionary who steered Singapore from a third world country to a first world oasis. His love for the country and his no-nonsense approach to nation-building can be summed up in that one line he delivered in a speech—if ever anything were to befall Singapore even if he were dead and gone, he would crawl out of his grave to set it right. Continue reading

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No Memoirs Please, I’m Goh Chok Tong

“I don’t write memoirs,” said Goh Chok Tong, Singapore’s former Prime Minister, at the 22nd Nikkei Future of Asia Conference in Tokyo earlier this week. His reason: “At the age of 75, I don’t look backward.” What fuels him is “the future of the next 50 years,” and how he can “try and get the Presidents and future leaders to understand that we must work together for our common future.”

At first glance, the comment comes across as humble, heartfelt. It’s a voice that eschews self-aggrandizement, and one that seems to be making the point: “No, I’m just not that sort of person who’d cash in on my name and status.”  Continue reading

Chill a Little, Dr. Lee! Let the Nation Honor Your Father.

DR. Lee Wei Ling could learn a thing or two about not taking herself so seriously. But then again, that’s tough advice to give to someone so grim and severe, someone whose personal motto must probably embrace either one or two of these words: “serious” and “should.”

It doesn’t help that she exudes a brooding, philosophical quality, wont to seeing the darker rather than the brighter side of life. One can almost detect a depressive bent to her voice—something I observed from a piece she wrote immediately following her father’s death. That’s only natural, given how her grief was still so fresh and raw. That was the last I read of her, until April 1st, Continue reading

The Giant Tap, the Mural, and Hometown Tales

BUKIT Timah is home to one of Singapore’s latest outdoor murals, and what better name to give it than Uniquely Bukit Timah. Here, after all, is where you’ll find Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore’s highest natural peak, and 40 percent of the island’s flora and fauna. Continue reading

Neti Relief for Our Haze-Filled Days

WE have been gobbled in gray for over four weeks now. The cabin fever is keen, the throbbing in my temple mischievous and restless—sometimes it goes beating away at the right, then the left, never both together strangely, before it worms its way behind the eye sockets. Continue reading