Skip to content

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!


  1. Dear Ken,
    Its interesting to note that those in power do succumb to its influence. Furthermore, it distorts reality in such a way that sycophants praises seem to be a great comfort food.

    In a 2009 article published in _”Brain”_ Jonathan Davidson defines “Hubris Syndrome,” as a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence.

    28 June 2017

    Ex Singaporean, now Australian


    • Interesting but I wonder whether the direction of causation runs the other way. People who’re prepared to gamble everything usually are people who seize power in coups like Franco, Pinnochet or LKY. They also usually display lack of empathy and contempt for others. Trump would be like that were he not constrained by American checks and balances


  2. I am very concerned about the increase in the pricing of water by 30%. The compounded ripples would result in uncontrolled inflation that would cause many hardships among the lower income groups. The authority did not realise the mistake after 17 years of stable pricing of water, instead if they should implement the gradual increase of 2% per annum, by now the compounded price would be more than 40% and likewise there would not be so much objections. I believe they conveniently based their estimate not on the average of several methods of refining our water but the most expensive one probably that of newater or desalination which is misleading the public. They are concerned about the abuse of water usage which is credible and understandable. Instead of levying a 30% increase over two years, how about setting a quota system for the usage of water by taking the average consumption over the years and average them to use as the quota of consumption and then set a higher pricing above the said quota or imposing a fine which the govt is very good at implementing.
    Hope the ministers concerned would wake up and study their high handed method instead of looking at other options to lessen the load of the people.


  3. Always remember, the real paymasters are the majority voters, period. The Gov’t MPs are just mere servant leaders, doing the bidding of the majority voters, period. If the said Gov’t were to perform poorly or not to the sarisfaction of the majority voters, the said Gov’t can be kicked out at any GE. However, since 1959, the same Gov’t has been in control of S’pore after every past GE. Does this not speak volumns ofr the said Gov’t ? So, just don’t be sore or lousy losers, ok ?


    • Sore or lousy losers …they sure are. Otherwise why would they want to count in foreigner/new cizens votes…..shameful.

      And then we have retards,senile, unsound minds, robots voting for em.
      The locals that us

      People with integrity will accept defeat .


  4. We cannot rule out the plausibility of LHL being a Yes-man himself; from the empirical evidence available, he seems to be worse than that.

    He has certain weakness[es]; he wants to be praised, as opposed to being critiqued; but criticism is precisely what he deserved/deserves.

    His performance as PM leaves much to be desired; he should step down asap; his Yes-men should be frank with him.

    And since LHL has been so irrational as to have tweaked the Constitution with stupid amendments, relating to presidential elections, LHL should also realize [and here, too, his Yes-men can remind him] that not a single member from a minority race has been Singapore’s Prime Minister, from day 1 until now [58 years!].

    All the PMs of Singapore have been Chinese; and if LHL has any sense of logic, he should realize that Singapore may want a Malay, an Indian, a Jew [anyone from a minority race] as the next PM of Singapore, after LHL that is.


  5. I would like to assume that PM was sincere by those remarks. If so, then he should, among other things, acknowledge such facts about human nature as this. Whatever one believes and say, one is unavoidably also propelled in one’s acts by such unconscious or sub-conscious “drives” ascribed in part to one’s genetic inheritance (LKY famously subscribed to this). We all “suffer” from having inherited bad genes. Hopefully, the good ones, such as those producing genius (which LKY referred to selectively), dominate in many of us. It’s all a matter of degree. We inherit good genes as well as bad. That means a leader, sincerely committed to “not relishing yes-men around himself”, besides voicing out the policy, should cautiously constantly self-check to combat any untoward “drives” his human nature has inherited which might war against the liberalism he consciously espouses. Human “freewill” allows for some degree of power to combat such “drives” within us. We are not dogs that cannot stop barking.

    Might not the above remarks explain the discrepancies Kenneth brings out between what PM pronounced and some of his acts? For instance, we learned from LKY’s daughter that her grandmother once threw tantrums in the home only because her familial underlings had not called her down to dinner before starting to eat. And we had heard rumours such as that Kua Geok Choo would in those days phone ahead to where LKY was visiting as PM, in order to signal to them the mood he was in, presumably because LKY was known to likewise throw tantrums. I know for a fact that at one address he was giving to then University of Singapore students, he lost his temper when questioned by a philosophy lecturer, pushed the chair-student aside, and then left the lecture theatre. And I was participating in a TV Q&A recording when I saw this. They had honoured him with a red velvet chair to sit in whilst answering our questions. He felt warm and uncomfortable after an hour or so. During the break, he turned around to look at the technicians and producers, then pointed his head and scolded, “You all have no brains”. All became silent and solemn. That grand velvet chair was replaced by a more common one, and then they broke their silence, “Recording ready, Sir”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: