Lee Kuan Yew: A legacy of servant leadership
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2015 - 10:00am

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday when our Lord Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem in triumph riding on a donkey, which was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, 500 years earlier, which read, “Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, our king comes to you, meek and riding an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” We are now in the Holy Week and we can only hope and pray that our Catholic political leaders would finally learn that servant leadership is about giving to our people, but never giving to one’s self. But one doesn’t have to be Christian to know what servant leadership is all about.

As I’m writing this piece, my TV set is turned on to Channel News Asia of Singapore for the funeral of a great Asian leader in the person of the late Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, LKY, the founding father of Singapore, who wasn’t a Christian, but made his marriage work. Call it fitting that the funeral of LKY happened during Palm Sunday because the late Lee Kuan Yew’s life was one of humility and love for his family and love for his people and Singapore.

The eulogies were very long, especially the one of current Prime Minister Lee Soong, the son of LKY. PM Lee quoted his father who said, “I always wanted to be correct… not politically correct.” Then PM Lee went on saying, “He made sure we did not get the wrong ideas — no inflated sense of self; never to be inconsiderate to others; not to throw our weight around. We may not always have done it right, but we were never in any doubt as to what was the right way to behave.” This is why LKY is so respected not just in Singapore.

If there is a lasting legacy that the rest of Asia, especially here in the Philippines can learn from LKY, it was that he built an inclusive society where multi-racialism and bilingualism prevailed. In the Philippines, we invented a new language called “Pilipino” to the detriment of all the spoken languages in the Philippines. LKY believed in religious freedom and transformed unions to improve the lot of Singaporeans. As his son PM Lee pointed out, “Other Asian countries fought for independence, but failed in their quest at nation building. He fought for discipline and order to ensure that every problem gets fixed!” Discipline is something that we Filipinos ought to embrace!

Of course as we already wrote before, that LKY did not believe that media is the 4th estate. He strongly believed that media should be a partner in nation building to promote jobs and economic growth. I guess the media in Singapore supported LKY because of his humility and his showing himself as an example of good governance where he wasn’t seeking for entitlements. In the Philippines, our politicians demand such entitlements because they just don’t know what true service to the nation is all about.

The 1960s were a time of turmoil for most Southeast Asian nations. We were just shedding off our colonial ways. Then two men emerged, Singapore had LKY, while the Philippines had Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. Both emerged as strong men in their respective countries ruling with strong-arm tactics, especially when Marcos declared Martial Law in the country.

But in less than 20 years, LKY turned Singapore from a third world nation to a first world nation… where the ordinary Singaporean earned a very decent wage. I don’t have to tell you what happened to us in our country. In contrast, as LKY wrote about the Philippines in his book “From Third World to First.”

“The Philippines had a rambunctious press but it did not check corruption. Individual pressmen could be bought, as could many judges. Something had gone seriously wrong. Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists, and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours…

“The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. They supported the winning presidential and congressional candidates with their considerable resources and reappeared in the political and social limelight after the 1998 election that returned President Joseph Estrada.”

Today our nation is in a crisis because of what LKY said about us Filipinos… that we are a soft and forgiving culture. Forty-four Special Action Force (SAF) troopers have been killed because they were sent on a mission that literally ended their lives. Yet we get no apology from the very man who ordered Oplan Exodus to commence. It is this tolerant nature of the Filipino that President Aquino and his political allies have exploited to the hilt. This is why the ordinary Filipino will always live in poverty because our political establishment uses the poor to get themselves elected. This is why we must bite the bullet and change our system.

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com


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