I am also grateful to Today and CNA for offering me the chance to respond, and for accurately covering my position. Good to know that mainstream media journalists are also eager to put out unbiased narratives. This will be my final piece on the matter. (Err. I hope.)
But first, why the fuss now? The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will was published last July. There was no response from the government then; no newspaper critiqued the book, as might have been expected if somebody took issue with it. Instead, last Thursday, Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, the PAP MP for Chua Chu Kang, who has suddenly developed a keen interest in Oxley Road, asked Teo Chee Hean (TCH), senior minister, a random question out of the blue, offering him a chance to say whatever he wants about me and my work.
Minister hantaming ordinary citizen in a protected setting—a uniquely Singaporean way of debating. Yes, most likely I’m collateral damage in some bigger fight between the Lees, with the presidential election (due this year), and possibly even to do with the general elections (due by 2025).
“When elephants fight, the grass suffers, but when they make love, the grass suffers also,” LKY apparently used to say, playing on an African proverb. As I said in the book’s conclusion, I hope that Hsien Loong, Hsien Yang, Wei Ling, Ho Ching and Suet Fern eventually kiss and make up—sorry to put that thought in your head—but for now, I’ll assume the elephants are fighting.
And all I, a blade of grass, can do is try to elak, while also nurturing our plot. On that note, it’s great that over this past weekend Jom, the weekly magazine about Singapore that I co-founded last year, has seen a spike in our paid subscriptions. Thanks for the support: we now count well over 700 people of many nationalities as subscribers (I make the point only because some worry that foreigners can’t subscribe. Of course you can. We’re like any other subscription product. Forget Netflix; get Jom.)
Jom is a proud, Singapore-incorporated independent media company. Our only source of revenue is reader funding—we believe this is the best way to guarantee our independence.
Some readers of my free e-book have asked how they can contribute. The best thing you can do is to get a paid subscription to Jom—there are different price points for people of different means. Every dollar counts. Jom publishes weekly, but we also have three big investigative projects planned for this year: one social, one political, and one corporate investigative, which I believe is the big gap in Singapore.
We’ve got a great team. Read about our values here. We are only a quarter of the way to breaking even. Before you continue reading about TCH’s Ministerial Committee, take a minute to help us get there.
So, why was the formation of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road (MC) problematic? Readers will know that this was a tangential topic, which is why I relegated it to the book’s appendix. But since TCH is again so interested in the affair, it’s only fair that we talk about the MC that he led.
First, it’s important to note my book’s statement on this controversial point: did LHL orchestrate the formation of the MC by directing his ministers, as his siblings suggest? I found no evidence of this. The available evidence, in other words, supports Hsien Loong’s perspective on this, not Hsien Yang’s or Wei Ling’s. And the book says so (p. 22-23).
Still, there are three problems I found:Continue reading “The problems with Teo Chee Hean’s MC on Oxley”
As Teo Chee Hean noted in Parliament today, the book, The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, is the product of a year of research by my team of researchers and me. It does not include any primary interviews, because I didn’t want to interview only a select few family members. I believed that that would be a biased approach. Instead, it is based … Continue reading a response to Teo’s response to the book
Image: “Barisan’s Lost Candidates” published in 阵线报, the defunct official Chinese language paper of the Barisan Sosialis. Thursday was the 60th anniversary of Operation Coldstore, in which Lee Kuan Yew’s government arrested and jailed over 120 people in Singapore. Yesterday Fiachra Ross and I co-wrote an essay for Jom. Be The world still lives with the scars of the 20th century’s Communist conflicts. On the … Continue reading Operation Coldstore: my first ever piece
The reason I haven’t written much here this year is because all my writing is now at Jom, a new magazine about Singapore that a few of us launched in August. (Haven’t heard of it? Hello-oh, where you been, macha?)
My best friend whom I’ve hardly seen of late just told me that we should do a “2022 Jom Year in Review” type thingy that seems to be so fashionable among the new media literati, and I think we should next year, 2023, once we’ve had a full year of operations, Our Books of the Year, Our Home Baker of the Year, Our favourite politician TikToks of the year, look out for that—don’t you hate it when people say ‘look out for that’ for something so far away—but in the meantime I’ll just do a very bloggy post to address everyday questions from my friends in this style that only 0.01% of you appreciate, too bad, just exercising a literary muscle that’s been left to atrophy by my editorial masters at Jom, so you can leave now but then you’ll miss the story of when Anthony Bourdain returned to haunt me through Twitter in late September.
But, first,Continue reading “the most stressful week of the year”
Dear friends and readers, I just published my very first article for Jom, the new Singapore magazine that I’ve just co-founded. Memories of National Service always fill me with mixed feelings. I made some of my best friends there, but also saw lots of pain and suffering. Read “National Service: why we need a deeper discussion” on Jom now. And if you’re ready, do subscribe … Continue reading National Service: why we need a deeper discussion
This is my final piece on this site. From now on, please follow my work at Jom, a weekly digital magazine covering arts, culture, politics, business, technology and more in Singapore.
Lee Kuan Yew wanted his entire house at 38 Oxley Road demolished—nothing else—but he was aware that it might not be.
My formulation is the product of over a year’s worth of research by our team into the two competing narratives proffered by his feuding children: Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, on the one side; and Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, executors of the estate, on the other.
It puts Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking between the two, albeit certainly closer to the executors’.
Furthermore, based on the available evidence, it is my belief that, although mistakes may have been made by some of them, the following people have been unfairly judged in this matter by their respective public critics: Ho Ching and Lee Suet Fern, Lee Kuan Yew’s daughters-in-law; as well as Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang.
There are still lingering questions in my mind about Lee Hsien Loong’s chosen path of engagement, specifically his decision not to query his father’s thinking (and possible foul play regarding the will) in court, as might have been expected, but instead to cooperate with (and thus endorse) a private investigation by the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road (MC). The committee’s formation and findings are, in my view, problematic.
These arguments are substantiated in an e-book that is available here for free (click to download the PDF), and for which this essay is meant to serve as a synopsis and entry-point.Continue reading “The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will”
Many in Singapore cheered the sight of Henry Kwek, a People’s Action Party (PAP) politician, at last week’s Pink Dot. It was apparently the first time in 14 years that a ruling party politician had attended the event.
In another picture Jamus Lim, a Workers’ Party (WP) politician there in his personal capacity, is seen next to an attendee carrying a placard, “Change starts now”.
The sight of these two politicians there is remarkable because one of the things the PAP and WP have hitherto agreed on is that there will be no change, both seemingly content with the status quo: the maintenance of the S377A law that criminalises sex between men accompanied by a sort of legally contentious *wink wink* caveat that the cops won’t enforce it (an oddity in this supposedly “rules-based” society).
At least the PAP and the WP have been clear about their positions. The two other major parties, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), have not. (The SDP called for repeal as far back as 2007 but in recent years has appeared to dodge the issue.)
So why was Kwek there? Rumours suggest that the PAP has decided to repeal S377A. One theory is that it will be a swansong of Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, before he hands over the party’s reins to heir apparent Lawrence Wong, a sort of sop to Singapore’s long-disaffected liberal segment (that the party hopes to win back).Continue reading “The politics of repeal”
The wildest Covid-19 border story I’ve heard involves a Malaysian speeding in her car towards Singapore, only to find a huge jam at the border crossing. Arriving at six in the evening, this friend of a friend had given herself plenty of time to make the midnight cut-off, after which foreigners would no longer be easily allowed into Singapore and the complications of modern travel would kick in: quarantines, swabs and stay-at-home notices. With her family and job waiting in Singapore, she had to make it back.
To be sure, there is always some traffic on the two bridges that connect the Malay peninsula to the island of Singapore. Memang jam gao gao, surely there will be a heavy jam, a Malaysian might quip, combining three languages in the most delightful creole phrase. Memang is Malay for surely. Gao is Hokkien for thick or heavy. And jam is, well, not the strawberry kind. Memang jam gao gao, but nobody expected it to be like this.Continue reading “Separation”
This is a conversation with old buddy Unsu Lee and newer one Douglas Evans about media, censorship, diversity, propaganda and democracy. Thanks for having me on your show guys! Was lots of fun.And of course, thanks a lot to Min-Wei Ting, the man behind the camera. Copy from Breaking the Spell: “Why Care About Media and Democracy in Singapore? A Conversation with Sudhir Vadaketh When … Continue reading Media and democracy: A video podcast with Breaking the Spell
(Note: This is a longer version of a profile first published in May on Mekong Review. I have italicised the extra passages.)
Epigram Books owes its existence partly to Lee Kuan Yew’s secret police.
In 1981, as news broke that the Workers’ Party’s J.B. Jeyaretnam had won a by-election, thus breaking the ruling People’s Action Party’s stranglehold over Singapore’s parliament, plain-clothes officers from the Internal Security Department watched in horror as a young reporter from the Straits Times jumped up and down at the counting centre.Continue reading “Edmund Wee of Epigram Books”