If we set aside his Minister Mentor role, it's so easy to see him as a sad old widower hankering for attention in a world that's fast passing him by.
As someone who lived in Singapore for over 30 years , it heartens me to observe how Malays in Singapore have borne themselves with much dignity in their response to this self-righteous diatribe. There was no Hindraf-style rampage on the streets - even if that's possible in this island Republic!
There is nothing as depressing as watching a man way past his use-by date trying to revive the old glory days, strutting his opinionated versions of what should be. It's like an addiction, having people sitting at your feet waiting for more drops of wisdom to emanate from your mouth. Just like the Mandarin Scholar (Sifu) or the MahaGuru from days of yore. His latest pearl of wisdom however, only revealed a suppressed and pathological contempt for the Malays - be it in Singapore , Malaysia or throughout the 'big Malay pond '. It always works - inculcate a 'siege mentality' to keep a fragile organization alive and kicking.
In the 1960s when LKY was flexing his political muscles, our Hokkien shopkeeper at Pasir Panjang Road confided this opinion of Singapore's future Prime Minister to my father. "Itu Lee Kuan Yew - dia Hakka - hati banyak busuk." Really? Still, as a Chinese he may not be too far off the mark. But, we Malays also subscribe to generalisations about orang Jawa, orang Melaka , orang Johor and so on..... and at times they do apply.
During those days LKY learned to speak in Malay, took up lessons in Mandarin, but despite this, many did not take him to their hearts, This was an ambitious man, impatient for power, who believed his oyster should not be limited to this little island, this Pulau Ujong.
His lamentations about Malay-Muslims are nothing new. LKY's policies with regard to holding back the Malays for National Service and recruitment into the Navy and Air Force are carefully co-ordinated with coralling the Malays into HDB housing estates where the Chinese keep their 75% majority and Malays are limited to no more than 15% of the community. But that arrogance and prejudice did not begin and end with LKY.
The Chinese, with their 3,000 years of history as LKY is wont to remind us, have always looked down on the 'indolent and easy-going Malays". Of course this perception was also part and parcel of British imperialism. Although - living in Britain for the past 30 years - I observe that laziness and indolence is also a British trait. Already the Brits are paranoid about the 10-15 % of immigrants on their island - and especially the Muslims. The British would be ground to the earth if they inherited a 75% Chinese majority! Tell me about the Chinese Diaspora!! Tell me more about their fear of the Republic of China!
For over 200 years, and especially on the coat-tails of Portuguese, Dutch and British imperialism the immigrant Chinese learned how to manipulate the Muslim-Malays. In terms of trade and commerce they had the field to themselves (except for the parts 'belonging' to the Caucasians) while the Muslim-Malays - due to their ignorance and unsophisticated short-sightedness, were pushed to the periphery, waiting for crumbs. However, the Muslim-Malays also had their own turncoats and desperados who were happy to sell their people for a song, like the way Singapore was 'acquired' from the Johor rulers. And this Wayang is still going on today.
At the risk of being pedantic, I hesitate to use the term 'Singapore Malays'. I prefer Malays in Singapore just like you do not describe the Caucasian natives of Britain as British English or British Welsh or British Scots. They are as a matter of course, the English or Welsh or Scots. Just like the Malays in Singapore. For both these people, these offshore islands are where they originate.
There have always been Malays in Temasek, or Pulau Ujong, or Singapura before their island abode was re-founded by Raffles. As a maritime and riverine community they are often on the move. Today, we acknowledge the needs and rights of aboriginal tribes to a nomadic life - a culture with no man-made boundaries, no immigration checks and no passports. The Malays were once thus - although their cultural and catchment area was circumscribed by the rivers and the seas of South East Asia, the Malay Archipelago - what they now describe as Nusantara.
|THE MALAY ARCHIPELAGO|
It is very difficult for LKY and his culture to appreciate or recognise the waves and ways of the Malays. His tactic is to enclose them into little pockets of natives surrounded by 75% Chinese. You can see where his paranoia comes from because he has done to the Malays just what he fears they might one day do to him. So the Malays are given their 'bread and circus ' in their cosy, modern high-rise abodes to keep them sedated and quiet - but more circus, perhaps, than bread!
Despite his attempts to re-sinify himself (and the Chinese) , LKY is essentially an Anglophile - in his education, politics and economics. When he took on the Malays to be less Islamic because they get in the way of 'integration' he is singing from the same hymn book as David Cameron and the leaders of Europe to manipulate and master Muslims into their mould. Yesterday in Munich, when Cameron ranted on about how multi-culturalism (he meant the Muslims) has failed to integrate Britain he sounds like an echo of the venerable LKY. He did not envisage a respect of differences. He did not want a "salad" of a variety of colours and taste. He wanted a melting-pot of "soup" where the dominant culture will swallow up the minor ones.
This is also LKY's ambition. In their playground, the bully boys will set the agenda and move the goalposts as they please.
However, what is more frightening is the fact that his opinions and diktat are not his alone - they have, after all, long been whispered into the ears of this ageing autocrat. So it will not end with LKY. This chauvinism will be sustained for a long time to come.