Poor Lee Hsien Loong! He Still Cannot Get Rid of His Problems with Yes Men After All These Years
At an event at the end of February 2017, reported on by state media mouthpiece The Straits Times, Lee Hsien Loong announced that “it is important for leaders not to be surrounded by yes men who paint only a positive picture”:
Mr Lee was asked by a participant how he remains honest to himself and aware of his shortcomings, if he is surrounded by people who might constantly agree with him.
“If all you have are people who say ‘three bags full, sir’, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous,” Mr Lee said.
Certain phrases came to mind when I read the article at the time and they had nothing to do with honest or transparent. Lee after all is no different from his father and is so paranoid over criticism that, not content with owning all the press and broadcast stations, he sued a blogger into bankruptcy and had him sacked from his job as well as imprisoning a 16 year old for mocking his dad LKY. Lee has also built on his father’s repressive legacy by taking steps to tighten his control over the internet and shutting down the only sources of alternative news by using the time-honoured tools of the PAP to silence dissent, as the US judge in Amos Yee’s asylum case ruled.
So it was with some amusement that I read my father had used the same nursery rhyme to mock the PAP during his brief spell in Parliament before LKY used the familiar method of a trumped-up prosecution to expel him. Here is the exchange below during the debate on the Newspaper and Printing Presses (Amendment) Bill:
Lee Hsien Loong entered Parliament in 1984 so he would have been present at that debate and no doubt remembered JBJ’s memorable phrase and decided to appropriate it for himself.
Despite Lee’s protestations that he values independence it is difficult to see any sign that anything has changed since JBJ’s time. In fact the huge salaries paid to Ministers make the opportunity costs of being wrong and losing your job much worse. The pressures to conform are much greater than in 1986. Even if he wanted to, Lee Hsien Loong still cannot get rid of the Yes Men!