Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils
New York Times, 2007-09-02

[Most of the article; emphasis is added.]

SINGAPORE, Sept. 1 —
Lee Kuan Yew,
who turned a malarial island [Singapore]
into a modern financial center with a first-world skyline,
is peering ahead again into this city-state’s future....

For all his success, Mr. Lee, 83,
remains on the alert for perils that may exist only on the distant horizon:
the rising role of China in the region as the United States looks the other way,
the buffeting of the world economy, even
climate change.

A British-educated lawyer who led Singapore for 31 years,
Mr. Lee is one of Asia’s remarkable personalities,
a world figure whose guest book is filled with
the names of international political and financial leaders.

His creation, modern Singapore, is an economic powerhouse with
one of the world’s highest per capita incomes
and high-quality schools, health care and public services
that have made it a magnet for global labor.
Foreigners make up roughly a fifth of its 4.5 million residents.

In his office in
the former headquarters of the island’s British colonial rulers ...

“To understand Singapore,” he said,
“you’ve got to start off with an improbable story:
It should not exist.”

It is a nation
with almost no natural resources,
without a common culture
a fractured mix of Chinese, Malays and Indians,
relying on wits to stay afloat and prosper.

“We have survived so far, 42 years,” he said. “Will we survive for another 42?
It depends upon world conditions. It doesn’t depend on us alone.”

This sense of vulnerability is Mr. Lee’s answer to all his critics,
to those who say Singapore is too tightly controlled, that it
leashes the press,
suppresses free speech,
curtails democracy,
tramples on dissidents and
stunts entrepreneurship and creativity in its citizens.

“The answer lies in our genesis,” he said.
“To survive, we have to do these things.
And although what you see today — the superstructure of a modern city —
the base is a very narrow one and could easily disintegrate.”

One of his concerns now, Mr. Lee said, is that
the United States has become so preoccupied with the Middle East
that it is failing to look ahead and plan in this part of the world.

“I think it’s a real drag slowing down adjusting to the new situation,”
he said, describing what he called
a lapse that worries Southeast Asian countries that count on Washington
to balance the rising economic and diplomatic power of China.

“Without this draining of energy, attention and resources for
Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine,
there would have been deep thinking about the long-term trends —
working out possible options that the U.S. could exercise
to change the direction of long-term trends more in its favor,”
Mr. Lee said.

[This is what some might call
the opportunity cost of Washington’s Middle East obsession.]

As the United States focuses on the Middle East, Mr. Lee said,
the Chinese are busy refining their policies and
building the foundations of more cooperative long-term relationships in Asia.
“They are making strategic decisions on their relations with the region,”
he said.

And this is where tiny Singapore sees itself as a model for China,
the world’s most-populous country.
“They’ve got to be like us,” Mr. Lee said,
“with a very keen sense of what is possible, and what is not.”

Every year, he said, Chinese ministers meet twice with Singaporean ministers
to learn from their experience.
Fifty mayors of Chinese cities visit every three months
for courses in city management.

Singapore’s secret, Mr. Lee said, is that it is “ideology free.”
It possesses an unsentimental pragmatism
that infuses the workings of the country as if it were in itself an ideology,
he said.
When considering an approach to an issue, he says, the question is:
“Does it work? Let’s try it, and if it does work, fine, let’s continue it.
If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.”

Singapore’s real “secret” is the high quality of its people,
their intelligence and work ethic.]

The yardstick, he said, is:
“Is this necessary for survival and progress? If it is, let’s do it.”


“I think we have to go in whatever direction world conditions dictate
if we are to survive and to be part of this modern world,” he said.
“If we are not connected to this modern world, we are dead.
We’ll go back to the fishing village we once were.”


As for people’s adherence to
the “Asian values” — hierarchy, respect and order —
that Singapore is founded on, he said:
“It’s already diluted,
and we can see it in the difference between the generations.
It’s inevitable.”

In his own family, generational values are changing.
From father to children to grandchildren, he said,
command of the Chinese language has weakened,
along with the culture it embodies.

“They had a basic set of traditional Confucian values,”
he said of his children, two sons and a daughter. “Not my grandchildren.”


This well-educated younger generation
reflects the social dichotomy of Singapore,
Mr. Lee said, in which
the top 20 percent of the population is as cosmopolitan as any,
surfing the Internet and traveling the world without constraint.
“This is not a closed society,” he insisted.

But at the same time, he said,
the government must protect the less affluent, less educated people
from information that might upset or confuse them.
These are people “who are not finding it so comfortable
to suddenly find the world changed, their world, their sense of place,
their sense of position in society.”

They are the ones who he said had to be pulled into the future
as he seeks to make Singapore “a first-world oasis in a third-world region.”

“We built up the infrastructure,” he said.
“The difficult part was getting the people to change their habits
so that they behaved more like first-world citizens,
not like third-world citizens spitting and littering all over the place.”

So Singapore embarked on what Mr. Lee called
“campaigns to do this, campaigns to do that.”

Do not chew gum.
Do not throw garbage from rooftops.
Speak good English.
Perform spontaneous acts of kindness.

Paradoxically, he said,
if Singapore had not been so poor
it might never have transformed itself and prospered as it has.

His warnings about vulnerability and collapse
are a constant theme
to persuade his people to accept limits on their freedoms.

“Supposing we had oil and gas,
do you think I could get the people to do this?” Mr. Lee said.
“No. If I had oil and gas,
I’d have a different people, with different motivations and expectations.

“It’s because we don’t have oil and gas and they know that we don’t have,
and they know that
this progress comes from their efforts,”
he said.
“So please do it and do it well.”


Gruesome Killings by Mugabe Supporters Detailed
Villagers Suffered Zimbabwe's Worst Violence in 20 Years;
New Vote Set for June 27

by Washington Post Foreign Service
Washington Post, 2008-05-17 (page A13)

[The conclusion.]

One of the most ruthless attacks was on Funyisai Dofo, 28, who was returning from working in the fields outside Chaona, he said, when four men demanded to know why he had not attended the ruling party meeting. When Dofo explained that he had been working, the men accused him of supporting the opposition and starting beating him with sticks.

“They wanted me to confess that I had voted for the MDC during the elections,” Dofo recalled. “All this time I was screaming for help. One of them had a pistol, so every time I try to scream for help he would threaten to shoot me. They were taking turns to beat me up. It was as if I was an animal.”

Then one of the men announced he was going “to fix Dofo once and for all.” The attacker stripped off Dofo’s clothes, sat him on a large rock, then crushed his testicles with a stomp from a booted foot. Dofo passed out.

He woke up in a cart. Somebody was wheeling him to the hospital.

A few minutes after Dofo recounted his story, he turned to his wife, Melody Dofo, who was at the hospital with their daughter, Rufaro, 2.

“Listen, Melody,” he said, “they have killed me for no reason, these ZANU-PF people. I am dying, but take care of our kid.”

Funyisai Dofo died an hour later.



In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice
New York Times, 2007-11-11