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“Like sailing through fog.” Son of Devan Nair on Daughter of Lee Kuan Yew


LWLJD

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:

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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.

LKY-media-freedom-quote

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.

 The simple words she had difficulty spelling, I too was uncertain about…

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.

 

 

11 Comments »

  1. i have no doubt that this article have fulfilled its objectives, its end results i find satisfying and well-deservedly so. I also hope that everyone can recognize the sarcasm and satire as such, and not misinterpret them for hypocrisy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, if you have a copy of OB Markers, you would know that Cheong Yip Seng retired as editor-in-chief of the English and Malay Newspapers Division of SPH in 2006. The book was published in 2013. Hence, it is inaccurate to say that Lee Hsien Loong called up the editor of ST to scold him. Thanks.

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  3. I don’t think “like sailing through a fog” is a comment on her spelling skills (or lack thereof). I think he might be critical of her skills of logic and reasoning, some of which you have pointed out yourself in the terrible logic she applies within her articles?

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    • Raymonton. Thanks for the feedback. Dyslexia is not a condition which only affects spelling and does impact organisational skills particularly in writing but I agree he is clearly attacking her mental faculties in general. As she is director of NNI this is inflammatory. Devan is basically saying that the director of our National Neurological Institute, appointed by the government, lacks the critical thinking skills that the job requires.

      I suspect there may have been a decision taken to remove her from NNI and this is an opportunity for the first strike.

      I don’t believe I am pointing to terrible logic in her articles. I can see from her Facebook page posts that she can write lucidly without an editor and she is dealing with complex ‘he said, she said’ issues.

      What I point out is not her terrible logic but her delusions about the real world. She can be delusional and still write coherently and still be brave enough to admit to a disability such as dyslexia. I see her inability to grapple with reality as her being a victim of her monstrous family and something akin to Stockholm syndrome.
      In a way I pity her. I’ve looked through all the photos and can’t find one of Lee Kuan Yew, her adored Pappa, actually touching her. On the cover photo of her book he is obviously putting out an arm to restrain her and stop her from running ahead but I can find no evidence of affection. Even in her graduation photos her Momma grasps her arm but Pappa stands stiffly by her side. KJ

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      • Hmm… I didn’t know dyslexia also affected organizational skills. I stand corrected. And i agree that ‘logic’ is probably not the most accurate word to use. The word to use, as you have rightly pointed out is ‘delusions’.

        That said, I think you understand my point defending Devan’s conduct in pointing out that he wasn’t making a low-blow and mocking her dyslexia, just her poor writing style or organization. And following that argument to it’s logical end, shouldn’t have any impact on the wider community of dyslexics out there.

        The above out of the way, I personally felt repulsed at how LWL was give a mouthpiece on a national scale (Straits Times) to air her views, which sometimes would be better left un-aired due to reasons you so eloquently described above and in your article. Because of her juvenile ways which she so proudly wrote about, I have never seen her in too kind a light. Moreover I heard from friends in the medical fraternity that she’s never been THAT great at what she does… If you forgive my cynical (and unsubstantiated) conclusion, becoming the director of NNI must thus have something to do with her lineage. I must admit that I feel a certain sense of schaudenfreude seeing her get cut down to size. Ironic that the one article that started this whole brouhaha was probably her only article i read which i agreed with: slamming the sycophantic worship of the late LKY.

        Poor little rich girl. Had everything gifted to her but yet never being able to win Papa’s approval. Interesting take on the Stockholm Syndrome being applicable to her.

        -Ray

        (Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in defending Devan, just giving my 2 cents on your commentary)
        If reading the above is like sailing through a fog, I apologize in advance. it’s already 2am. :p

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      • Hmm… I didn’t know dyslexia also affected organizational skills. I stand corrected. And i agree that ‘logic’ is probably not the most accurate word to use. The word to use, as you have rightly pointed out is ‘delusions’.

        That said, my point was to defend Devan’s conduct by pointing out that he likely wasn’t making a low-blow and mocking her dyslexia, just her poor writing style or organization. She could be a non-dyslexic and still write poorly. Just because she’s a dyslexic doesn’t mean that he has to avoid all criticism of her which might stem from her dyslexia. And following that argument to it’s logical end, what he said shouldn’t have any impact on the wider community of dyslexics out there.

        The above out of the way, I personally felt repulsed at how LWL was give a mouthpiece on a national scale (Straits Times) to air her views, which sometimes would be better left un-aired due to reasons you so eloquently described above and in your article. Because of her juvenile ways which she so proudly wrote about, I have never seen her in too kind a light. Moreover I heard from friends in the medical fraternity that she’s never been THAT great at what she does… If you forgive my cynical (and unsubstantiated) conclusion, becoming the director of NNI must thus have something to do with her lineage. I must admit that I feel a certain sense of schaudenfreude seeing her get cut down to size. Ironic that the one article that started this whole brouhaha was probably her only article i read which i agreed with: slamming the sycophantic worship of the late LKY.

        Poor little rich girl. Had everything gifted to her but yet never being able to win Papa’s approval. Interesting take on the Stockholm Syndrome being applicable to her.

        -Ray

        (Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in defending Devan, just giving my 2 cents on your commentary)
        If reading the above is like sailing through a fog, I apologize in advance. it’s already 2am. :p

        Like

  4. Strange that you should address the spat from the perspective of someone who cares about people with disabilities when it should make you raise important questions which this spat throws up. For example, why is Devan given this high powered, euphemisitically designated, civil service job. In the US and the UK they are known as spin doctors. Should the taxpayer pay for such characters? Or, why did he telephone Wei Ling to complain about Cheong Yip Seng and not to him directly?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Curious. You make several good points. However, by the time I decided to write something on this I had given my opinion of most of the other angles in my Facebook posts. This was an extra angle that I wanted to write on. I found Devan’s remarks to be particularly personal and very much a character assassination and of course this smear campaign must be paid for by the State as you correctly point out.

      In particular on Facebook, I had as always brought up the Newspaper, Printing and Presses Act which Ms Lee’s father and brother use to great effect. By this Act the government gets to appoint key positions and editors in the main stream media or to veto appointments. In any event they have control. I think the obstacle to free speech and a free or effective media that this Act presents is not common in any democracy whereas spin doctors are. In fact political parties and governments hire spin doctors in the UK and US in order to wrangle some control in the media.
      What astounded me also is the description of a Lee phoning up the editor and scolding him like a child.
      Mostly as I said, it crosses a point when we attack someone for their disabilities and it damages our integrity.KJ

      Like

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