Why Lanka Can’t Be Another Singapore?

Sunday Leader Editorial

Members of the so called Joint Opposition and some of the ‘Laptop Journalists’ of the former regime take much delight in riling government MPs about the slow progress made towards the declared intention of their leaders in making Sri Lanka another Singapore.

True, there has been little progress beyond the blue-print stage but government MPs should not be hesitant in giving the reason loudly and clearly: Because of you – the Opposition.

Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore was not built with Opposition activists disrupting the country with long 125 Km long marches stretching for days, daily protests on anything and everything that the government proposes, provocative challenges to the police at kissing distance by demonstrators until the police are compelled to resort to water cannon and tear gas or monks/ demonstrators pretending to be monks, hurling stones at policemen and injuring them.

For the benefit of those querying why this government can’t emulate building of Singapore like Lee Kuan Yew did, we reproduce some extracts of an obituary written on Lee in Britain’s Guardian (March 23, 2015) by Carlton Tan who The Guardian says is a ‘nom de plume for the Asia Correspondent’.

‘Lee Kuan Yew’s death for some marks the passing of a ruthless tyrant and for others a tireless leader’s final reward….. For 31 years he ruled as Prime Minister and for two decades held a key position in Cabinet… Firmly entrenched and with one hand Lee molded Singapore in his own image. He wasn’t interested in concepts of liberty….. He arbitrarily detained hundreds of alleged communists over the years using the Internal Security Act. It was detention without trial. So concrete evidence was not necessary. All you needed was a form of conviction that the country was under siege and a strategic balance of outmaneuvering the enemy.

‘Many of the alleged Communists were Lee’s political enemies. In 1963 more than 100 opposition politicians and union leaders were deemed a threat to national security and arbitrarily detained crippling the Barisan Socialis, the biggest threat to Lee’s People Action Party (PAP). In 1968 the PAP won 58 seats out of 58 seats in parliament. The opposition never won an election since’.

Thus those asking the government why the Singapore leader can’t be emulated will realise the difference between the Yahapalanaya’s (Good Governance Government) approach and the Lee’s PAP party. They didn’t have the freedom of the wild ass or buffalo as their Sri Lankan counterparts are blessed with.

They may see similarities between the nine-year rule of their Rajapaksa Regime using Emergency Regulations for incarceration of political activists and even worse things such as murder and disappearance of journalists and the phenomenon of White Vans. That the Yahaplanaya adherents say is not their style.

However it has to be questioned whether this government can hope to build megalopolises such as Singapore with chaos created by frequent disruption of government activity with massive political protests and resultant political destabilisation coupled with a new media culture particularly of some TV Channels that tends to project a scenario of near chaos in the country.

Big demonstrations in urban areas and even minor protests in villages with bawling men and screaming women are blown up and projected as very serious issues that could take 10 to 15 minutes of newscasts to depict the government in very bad light. For instance the recent demonstrations in Hambantota shown on some channels appeared to be an uprising against the establishment of a ‘Chinese colony’ in Hambantota with no mention made of the intense local political forces at play that resulted in the high street drama.

While the adverse local political impact on the government is obvious even of greater concern should be the projection of an extremely adverse political climate in Sri Lanka which would be a positive disincentive for foreign investments.

That no doubt is the intention of those behind the protests and their client media channels, their big chief openly declaring his intention of toppling the government this year.

It could be said that the duty of the media is to inform the public but all responsible media should have restraints when national interests are affected. There are limits to be observed. This does not seem to be the case when the government announced the decision of European Union to restore the GSP concession. Many media organisations did not attempt to show the benefits that would accrue to Sri Lanka but instead questioned on whether the conditionalities attached could be complied with – conditions which their own government had accepted when they were the ruling beneficiaries.

While the National Unity government remains committed to its pledge of freedom of expression for all, they should also consider whether its development objectives can be achieved with their insane agitations with some pro Rajapaksa media organisations running amok like enraged buffaloes in Hambantota town.

News, whether they be in the print media or shown on TV, requires responsible editing which seems to be non-existent in certain institutions. The government should re-think its media policy when it comes to development and attracting foreign investments and consider whether little bit of Lee Kuan Yew’s policies is required.

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