AS A YOUNG CHILD I MADE SURE LKY’S SYSTEM WILL NOT ROB ME OF MY BEAUTIFUL SOUL INSTEAD I FIGHT BACK WITH GRACE AND DIGNITY TO PROTECT MY SOUL WHICH IS A GIFT FROM GOD ALMIGHTY!!
People said that I have a ‘Love – Hate’ relationship with LKY
When I escaped back from the Middle East in 1983 from my ex-Lebanese husband, I had written a book My Lifelong Dream with poems and my ex-schoolmate said, “Sun Wah are you, Lee Kuan Yew?’ I asked Ker Ern what did he meant by this remark? He said that who will want to read the book because I am not LKY and moreover it is a book putting my thoughts on how life should be and how Singapore should strive forward. He said, “Are you trying to start a new religion?” He told me that I must be out of my mind to try to unite all religions; I might end up in prison. Maybe I would but I don’t care!
I never wanted to be anyone except to be myself and this ME wanted to do a lot for Singapore because Lee Kuan Yew has inspired me. The people who know me said that I have a love-hate relationship with this man Lee Kuan Yew. Why? When you were from a poor family in the 50s and 60s, you will understand why we thought so highly of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew even to the stage that he was our savior sent from heaven. At those times we were only concerned of the rice bowl and not the foods for the souls. That idea did not exist till after our stomachs were quite full in the late 70s and especially in the 80s. (Maybe Mr. Lee Kuan Yew should starve all of us so we will not ask too much from him!)
In the 60s, at a very young age, I knew that this man Lee Kuan Yew was going to change all our lives for the better? But obviously, my mother influenced me too.
When election day arrived she will shout to the neighbors, “Ah Soh, this man is going to change our life, we must all vote for him. “ She continued, “Not important that he speaks English, he looks sincere and his face tells me that he will fulfill what he has promised to the people. He is our only hope we must give him the chance to prove to us.” That was what my mother said to the neighbors and all of them believed in my mother and thus made sure that their spouses voted for PAP too.
There were quarrel and fight between them because most of their husband did not like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as he was English educated. The women were more pragmatic and they made the most decision in the family especially when the education of the children were concerned. In our family, only my two elder’s brothers went to Chinese school because my father insisted that his sons must be educated in Chinese. The frenzy too caught up with me in those times although I was too young to vote or even understood what was going on. When Mr. Lee Kuan Yew name was mentioned, everyone got excited as though some magic is in the air, thus he was my hope to change not only my life but also the life of the people.
I came from a very poor family of nine including my father and mother and you got nothing but cling on to hope in those hard and difficult times. This simple naïve dreamer name ‘Sun Wah’ that’s me, saw the strength in Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to build a better tomorrow for all of us and I kept on believing in him, so naturally I loved, admired and respected him in those wonder years as he had delivered what he had promised to the people but he had never promised us food for the soul. Singaporeans heart is without a soul; I put the responsibility on our parents and teachers, not Mr. Lee Kuan Yew personally.
Our failure is that we do not question the system. Through the years we learn how to accept it and in time to come we drink it like a cup of tea and we became what the system wanted us to be. Instead of working hard to reveal its flaws in a diplomatic or subtle way thus help to enlighten the Government, most of us just gave up trying. If we had been pro-active, I believed we don’t need to remake Singapore now because to remake and fix a machine is easy but you are talking about remaking human beings and our way of life. Well, can’t blame the Government way of thinking as they had been fixing us all these while, no wonder we have been known as robots for such a long time! It even had a great joke about Singaporeans being the best robots, even better than the Japanese ones.
My Greatest Fear!
What happened in the Middle East can happen to Singapore too! In the late70s, my Lebanese ex-husband often said that what happened to his country can also happen to our fragile Singapore because we are a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. He said that if Lebanon with one race and the country can be broken up into pieces due to religious conflicts, this is a sign that human conflicts had no barriers. He said that what held Singapore together is Fear – “Lee Kuan Yew”. My ex-husband wondered who will hold Singapore together when LKY leaves this world.
I can never forget what my classmate said to me during my secondary school days, “Sun Wah why are you thinking so much for Singapore?” My classmate Chow Kim Seng said, “We got Lee Kuan Yew to think for us, why we should be thinking?” The way he talked as though Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is immortal. So I answered back, “What if he dies because he can’t live forever then what will happen to Singapore?” Can this be one of the reasons why Singapore students were apathy? Through this conversation, I had learned the new word ‘Immortal’ from my teacher. She always smiled at me when she saw me so worked up with Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s future and I questioned to myself why the teachers didn’t care.
In the early 80’s I was so upset with the rumors that Lee Kuan Yew had passed away that triggered me to pen this poem WHAT IF HE DIES? With the help of my father Chong Chow Chiap who did not like Lee Kuan Yew at all.
WHAT IF HE DIES?
Rumors have it that he dies like a bombshell dropping from the sky
What will happen to Singapore, if he really dies?
Roadside rubbish will stack sky high
Mind you! This is only the first sign
Stock market plunged to the bottom
This is a sight not to be forgotten
Property value will go a downward trend
Our money will be drenched
Scarcely have you found anyone dares risk to buy anything
Because this is the time they will run away with everything
Stability starts to shake
Foreign investors will hold their money tight
Unemployment will be a big sign
We are bound to live a miserable life
True facts will reveal
Rumors mongers spread these lies
We are wise
Let us help him to help us to have a happy life!
– Let us change Singapore when he is still alive! – Sunflower Chong
My ex-husband George Youssef Habib told me that great leader creates more leaders but in the case of Singapore we have only obedient followers, this means people without characters and cannot think even for himself or herself, so how can the country excel and go beyond? My mother often said, “How could we depend on this bunch of elitists to protect Singapore?” My ex-husband said that Singapore does not have any strong leaders because the Singapore system only produced robots – Total Obedient. He said the problem lies in the system because it stressed on the power of money as ‘god’ that could buy everything and solve all our problems. The human factors are secondary to the stage of no importance in such a rigid system. The system demeans the value of the people intellect! He said that was why Singaporeans do not think except when it concerned MONEY.
I didn’t take things for granted; therefore I do appreciate all the physical aspects I see in Singapore. After Mr. Lee Kuan Yew took over leadership the new Singapore was not something that anyone can pluck from thin air and made it happened, on top of it within such short span of time – 25 years? It was only through a belief with a passion that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had made Singapore successful most of the time, even though at a very heavy price of losing our roots, culture, principle and belief system. Nevertheless, I am still grateful and thankful that Singapore got a strong man like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to set the path right for all of us economically, if not, we will not make it, what more to the world stage. Now lay the only question, “how effective this system is going to be, to help us succeed beyond the 21st century?” And my greatest concern is that can we find an able leader who can rule with a mind and heart as well.
The urge to keep on searching for knowledge and the need to seek for freedom of self-expression had brought me to write to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. That was the only way I could let out all my doubts and fears for Singapore and I hope that he could hear from an ordinary person first hand and maybe he could understand and help us to excel by giving us some space to breathe. I did not ask much from this man, except for a clean and green city as a child because the intangible should be achieved by us. He had realized my dream of a clean and green city; therefore, I was so thankful that I had penned a poem for him of my appreciation of his work for us.
Back in the fifties
Lion City is not like today
Poor are the people
Terrible conditions in those days
Dirty is the streets
When out poured the rain?
Wish I had one
To let it no all not remain
Always dream in my mind
To solve all changes today
Fairy God-Mother there is none
But only the lion they say
My dreams are only fulfilled
When leader he became one day
My love and respect for him
For what he makes our city famous today
Sincerity with honesty he possess
I saw on a speech day
Tiny as I was
I understand all he said
The pain and struggle in him
Has made Lion City a special place to stay
Nothing we can offer
Except for our words of praise
What more can you ask from any man today?
I have great admiration for him
For this man is magic
He had made my dream stay
Same feelings I hope you all have
Let’s not his works go to waste
We have to thank him
For proud people we are today
– I am a very proud Singaporean – Sunflower Chong 1983
HE GIVES HIS LIFE TO BUILD SINGAPORE?
Tired is our leader; who dedicates his entire life,
To Singapore at all times?
To complain he has not, except to achieve happiness for us,
Words of praise should be given.
But instead, it is complaining and unhappy voices,
Heard at all times?
Gratitude and thanks we should have,
Had he not created an identity for Singapore?
The fault or flaw if he has,
Is the lack of understanding of the spirit and soul?
To ensure us a secure life, he chose only the pragmatic path,
That means no-nonsense, firm and practical at all times.
Dear Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore need born leaders,
So please open the political door if not Singapore will disappear in quick time
-We still must be patient with LKY at all times – Sunflower Chong 1983
ATTN: Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
16 September 1983
Dear Prime Minister Lee,
Many times I had written letters and birthday cards to you as a young child. But on your 60th birthday, I felt it’s important and high time for me to let you know that I care and understand your sacrifices for us. Because I lost not the art of appreciation, therefore it is sparkling clear you are my greatest admirer.
Why I’m writing this letter I know not, but I only know that I need to write to you to ease my thoughts to let you know what ordinary citizens think? It is my belief that the right way to lasting happiness is to do some ‘soul-searching’ to find out where the human values lay, under the favorable social circumstances. Do we really understand the significance of our existence in this world? Why we are here and what is our duty in this world? Is it just to exist or to live and live meaningfully? Is it not for the LOVE we all search after?
I remembered very vividly when I was a student in New Town Secondary School; you paid a visit to our school. We were all very excited as this was the first neighborhood school that you were going to visit. I wished at that time, I could meet up with you and talk to you. Unfortunately, your visit was often surrounded by a group of people. I often asked myself why can’t you be with the ordinary simple people and talk to us. By keeping too far away from the people and only listening to the one close to you is not advisable, as you will not be able to get firsthand how the people feel towards the Government, especially the students because we got a lot of issues with the education system.
Be with the people, feel the people, know the people before you could make them follow your footsteps. Don’t be too hard; we are all human with deep feeling. Your expectation is too high for the people and sometimes it does more harm than good. Make them understand; give explanations if you can because this will help the people to reach out to you more, rather than the other way round. If you have not thought of us Singapore will not be like today, but please do remember always try to bridge the gap of unfairness act – Rule but rule with balance and most important rule with your heart.
I have written a poem it said that no matter what we do; still we couldn’t escape death and why not make it best when alive. Enjoy your busy life, make everyone understand you and let your name be carrying through history that you are a leader that cares with a heart. (I know that you care but the masses don’t, they don’t like a strict parent.) I needed nothing from you, but I just felt the urgency to write because I realized that many things are disturbing the people at large. They are not happy with a lot of actions lately. I try to give an explanation for every action the government did. I wanted them to understand that it’s only for the good of Singaporeans that strict rule was implemented. For example, there were many unkind talks about the MRT project and I told the people that the MRT is not meant for now, but for the future when the population double. We got to prepare ourselves now, instead to wait for the problem to arrive.
LISTEN TO US
Admiration I hold deeply for you
For Singapore to be recognized worldwide
I understand your hope and dream
To help us flow in the same stream
But sometimes it’s not always wise
For us to sink in the same boat and die
Honesty and loyalty I possess
It’s my nature, I guess
Truth I carry to eternity
Stubbornness in me is like an identity
A true citizen I remain
I am too happy to carry this name
Facts are facts
Our origin is the fact
Truth is truth
Let us be practical too
Don’t force, don’t blame
Let them feel if their Surnames need the change
The hearts of the people maintain
This should always be the aim
-Let out hearts accept the change – Sunflower Chong 1983
I’m sure there are not many men that can sit in your place. It is a place of pressure, expectation, and demand and knowing Singaporeans how spoiled they are, they are taking everything for granted. As my mother said, “Singaporeans expect the government to help them to “San Chai, Yon Chai and Kao Chai” in English it means to give birth, to feed their children and to teach their children.” So what are Singapore’s parents good for, I really wondered sometime?
I would not want to be where you are because only a strong man of great distinction can hold onto it. I wanted the people to understand you and love you for what you are and who you are. You have been searching all these years the right answer for a better life for all of us, then why can’t we just love and appreciate you instead it was otherwise for instant suspecting your every action for the people and country? Although it will be great if you can let go just a little and make life not so restricted for the people, can be very helpful for the people to see you differently.
I hate to hear bad remarks about your actions; hence I often had a fight with the people around me especially with my ex-husband. Your sacrifices had gone beyond your own happiness, so why can’t we unite and help you to pass through thick and thin for the sake of Singapore’s future. I only pray that all your efforts and works towards the prosperity of Singapore will not be wasted one-day. I love you for what you have given to us all these 25 years. As a token of my appreciation, I penned this poem for you.
APPRECIATION OF OUR 25 YEARS OF SUCCESS
Left or Right,
The only success of accomplishment overrides.
Our greatest pride,
Is it not the man we decide?
Do we need to fear or fight?
When stability and security are here with might.
What is human right?
If we comprehend not where our duty lies?
Now, we live in comfort and a free life.
Do we still recall our past and difficult times?
Will immediate problems arrive when we lose our identity?
Without art and culture as our right?
Though progress is always fine to seek,
If only men lose their mind of power and greed.
-To be proud of our root is the strength for our survival – Sunflower 1983
OUR ROOTS MUST BE PLANTED
Great love gains true respect,
Is this not the food we must have?
I let my humble soul rests,
Over this tiny land, Singapore.
My first breath,
Is deeply rooted in my homeland.
Far and wide I had traveled,
Spending my nights under different skies,
But still, I forget not,
Where is my motherland you had helped us fought?
– Loving my country is a virtue we must value – Sunflower 1983
I am true to you and to the land I’m born and raised. What more do I want except to pray for your continued health to help us to have a brighter future?