“Like sailing through fog.” Son of Devan Nair on Daughter of Lee Kuan Yew
Most people, if not all, will have seen LKY’s daughter’s, Lee Wei Ling’s, public postings on Facebook saying that she would no longer write for SPH as the editors there did not allow her freedom of speech. Yes she was complaining that she was being muzzled by the State’s media. The topic that she did not want to be muzzled over seemed to be her Papa. A Papa she shared with our current Prime Minister and coincidentally all Singaporeans as he was as we all know Father of the Nation. It would seem that Lee Wei Ling was critical of Lee Hsien Loong for using Papa’s giant blown up face to put some wind beneath his wings. Would there be duelling at dawn we wondered? We were expecting cracks to start showing but on the first year’s anniversary of his death we were not expecting LKY’s family to come apart so dramatically at the seams. Cyber citizens reactions were largely divided into three camps.
Camp A: You poor dear. How terrible for you . We are here to support you.
Camp B: Welcome to our world. We can’t even get our letters published.
Camp C: Seriously? Didn’t you know that it was your Papa who put the media under the control of the PAP. In other words, your brother.
Apart from being just utterly bizarre Lee Wei Ling’s complaint of being censored revealed how much she is divorced from reality here in Singapore. Did she really think that if she were a regular citizen that anyone would have given her a column in The Straits Times? Does she really think that the reason her collection of stories is on sale at every tourist outlet across the country is because it is so well written or intrinsically interesting?
For that matter is she director of NNI because she has a talent for management and leadership?
However, having said all of that I do think there is a line we should not cross. Yes, Wei Ling is a spoilt brat, in an ivory tower, wrapped in cotton wool , all those things. She is a woman who thinks giving her bodyguard the slip shows what a brave adventurer she is. She thinks that the corruptly discounted purchase her father made at Nassim Jade allows her to talk about living in a modest apartment. She thinks frugal means sending your man – a man hired on a full time salary- to Malaysia to buy spare parts for your window fan rather than install air con units. ( The woman is supposed to be a scientist!) Still, I do not blame her for being ignorant. Her upbringing was far from normal and by all accounts other than hers, her father was a pretty nasty man at home.
What I cannot believe is that the son of Devan Nair, Janadas Devan, who used to edit Ms Lee’s articles when he was an editor with the Straits Times would go to such lengths to publicly humiliate her.
This is what he said:
I was the one who, when I was with The Straits Times, first edited Wei Ling’s columns. Most of the pieces that appeared in her recent collection, A Hakka Woman’s Singapore Stories, were edited by me.
Wei Ling now says she suffered suppression under 3 editors — beginning presumably with me. She has unjustly questioned the professional conduct of a number of my former colleagues as well as myself.
We are expected to believe she suffered so much oppression, writing for ST, that she willingly persisted with the experience over almost ten miserable years. And then, at the conclusion of that prolonged period of agony, she lovingly gathered the products of her oppression into a best-selling collection of essays.
How credible can that be?
Reading Wei Ling’s unedited writings was like sailing through a fog. The effort of turning her raw material into coherent articles — that’s what I remember most about editing Wei Ling.
Perhaps now that Lee Kuan Yew is dead they feel they can take a few timid steps on the long journey to journalistic integrity and independence but I doubt that as PM Lee Junior maintains the same control over the editors that his father had. Could it be possible that he is speaking against Wei Ling with her brother’s approval? or even at her brother’s behest? Particularly as Janadas Devan takes exception to her saying that “Loong” phoned up the then Editor of the State Times, Cheong Yip Seng, to scold him for being disrespectful to Papa. Lee Hsien Loong may take exception to the naive Singaporean public seeing just how much the media is under the thumb of the Lee family that editors can be scolded like children.
Whichever it is, I would like to point out that Janadas Devan’s dismissive comments about Ms Lee’s articles being incoherent and “like sailing through a fog” are pretty low even by Singapore standards given that he must be aware of Lee Wei Ling’s dyslexia.
Lee Wei Ling first wrote about her condition in a ST article on 30 July 2013 entitled “How I learnt to cope with dyslexia“. Janadas Devan probably even edited it so he can hardly be unaware that she is dyslexic. I thought it was pretty gutsy of her to come clean about her disability as we are still pretty conservative here in Singapore and even backwards when it comes to accepting disabilities. Here is what she said:
I am dyslexic, though I coped well academically. I discovered I was dyslexic only at the age of 28 as I watched a psychologist testing a Grade 10 schoolgirl in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
My dyslexia causes me fewer problems now than it did before. Thank goodness for word processors and spellcheckers!
Nonetheless, I say this to my fellow dyslexics: You are not dumb. You just lack the talent for analysing and categorising speech sounds. An inability to play tennis or piano won’t hamper your progress in life. Unfortunately, a lack of talent for reading and spelling will.
The remedy is special education, which the Dyslexia Association of Singapore provides, plus hard work. There is no alternative to hard work.
I find it disturbing that Janadas Devan would mock a person with a disability over their disability. Even though Lee Wei Ling comes from a highly privileged background such that her dyslexia was no obstacle to her rising to become head of the National Neurological Institute, as someone with a disability she still deserves sympathy and consideration. The fact that she knows her writing is incoherent but got on with it anyway should make her a role model. We should remember also that one of the PM’s children is an albino and another attended the Singapore American School because he was on the autistic spectrum. Does Janadas Devan’s ill-tempered criticism mean that these other individuals will become targets of mockery? Would Devan be able to get away with this if the person he was talking about had a physical rather than a learning disability?
I hope that Devan’s comments will not stop any Singaporean with dyslexia from striving to reach their full potential. The world can be a cruel place and maybe the Government’s Communications Director should keep his comments to himself even if his strings are being pulled by his superiors.