A Story Of Two Men – Part 1.

by Patrick Liew on September 19, 2013

(I’m not writing this short note out of disrespect for anyone but to recount the achievements and failures of two leaders who played a major part in the history of Singapore. I believe that somewhere in the two stories, there are important lessons for all of us.)

One man, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was often quoted to have said that he would jump out of  his coffin if there is a threat to Singapore’s security. He had lived to transform a difficult dream into a reality.

Another man, Mr Chin Peng wrote in his memoir, ‘It is ironic that I should be without the country for which I was more than willing to die.’ He fought for an unworthy cause that never came to pass.

The former celebrated his 90th birthday on 16 May 2013, honoured widely as a hero. His foresight, sacrifices, leadership, execution and sacrifices have turned a small little red dot into a  modern-day miracle.

The latter passed away on the same day and the headline of the newspaper referred to him as ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’ He had the leadership and charisma that attracted thousands to live in the jungle, many of them at the prime of their youth and to lay down their lives for a communist cause.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s story is well known. While he may not be perfect, his contributions have far surpassed what have been achieved by the leaders of his time.

Today, fellow Singaporeans can travel all over the world and know that Singapore is widely admired and modeled after. Leaders from many parts of the world travel to Singapore to live, work, learn, and play, and to study the Singapore Way.

This is a legacy of Mr Lee that nobody can and should take away. None of our Singaporean leaders from the past and present can command the same degree of respect and be as sought after all over the world for his knowledge and views.

Chin Peng’s first call to fame was when he took to the jungle at a young age of 18 years old. As a part of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), he fought a fierce guerrilla warfare against the Japanese.

For that, he won the Order Of The British Empire and two campaign medals, all of which were subsequently rescinded. As a determined anti-colonialist, Chin Peng was the leader of the Communist Party of Malaya’s guerrilla insurgency.

During the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), he wanted to turn Malaysia into a communist state. He fought against the British and Commonwealth forces.

Subsequently, after Malaysia’s independence, he applied his military knowledge to try and bring down the government of the day. He was instrumental in killing many people and destroying many public  properties.

In the words of Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, “I want him to be remembered as a terrorist leader. The security forces which had fought a bloody war with him still cannot forget or forgive him for the atrocities during the Malayan insurgency.”

Kinder words were spoken by Lim Kit Siang, a senior opposition leader. He said, “Whether one agrees or not with his struggle, his place in history is assured.”

Mr Chin Peng wanted to return to his home country, at the least to have a brief visit to pay homage to his ancestors. The government of the day has banned even his remains from being brought back to the country.

What lessons can we learn from these two leaders?


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