Wednesday, 26 January 2011

S. Rajaratnam - Another Founding Father of Singapore to remember

Wow, time flies off swiftly when you didn't notice it. Just realised my last post was more than 6 months ago....

Last week, our Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew launched his 3rd memoir - Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going. It generated some argument in the blog space after a young blogger spoke to the press that, I quote:

"'There is nobody bigger than MM in Singapore,' said Mr Cheo, who has read and owns both volumes of Mr Lee's memoirs. 'He is the equivalent of Nelson Mandela to Singaporeans.'" - source Straits Times.

Frankly speaking, that 2 statement disturbed me because as a Singaporean, we should know about our history more than the others. You see, I heard of Nelson Mandela and watched the movie, played by Morgan Freeman, Invictus. However, a movie being a movie, I know so little about Africa history that you can consider I don't know anything. How MM Lee is equivalent, I don't know. But one thing I know is that no 2 persons are of equivalent because each of them are in different situation, have different character and personality, and have achieved different things. How the Africans see Nelson Mandela and how Singaporeans see Lee Kuan Yew, I cannot agree on its equivalent either because the Africans and Singaporeans both went through different situation too.

As a Singaporean, we should know our history more than others. We should know that there are many people who had helped to build and who had sacrificed their lives for the good of Singapore. Some are politicians and some are not. Some of them are popular and some of them are not. But their effort and sacrifices should not be undermined. That is why I fully support the government to credit and honour those people. There is a Chinese saying that says:"猪死留皮,人死留名" (zhu si liu pi, ren si liu ming), which means after the pig's death, it leaves behind its skin, and when a man died, he leaves behind his name.

If you know about Singapore history, there are more than 1 founding father. Please don't misunderstood me that I do not recognise and being grateful of what our MM Lee has done for Singapore. Like a soccer team, all our founding fathers formed the team and fought battles together to bring us here today. Everyone's effort counts. On top of that, without the current team to continue to put in the effort to build on what our founding fathers have achieved, Singapore is nowhere near here either. In addition, please also not to forget that other than the leaders, Singapore's success should also be credited to its practical people and its strategic location.

What I am trying to bring the point across is that nobody on earth (yes, I am 101% certain) can achieve big things like building a nation single handedly without the assistance, help and sacrifices from others... and of course, with some luck. MM Lee himself acknowledged that. Great leaders in history acknowledged that.

However, most human being like to credit or idealise certain man, or even associate with them. This is because usually the man who is seen last standing will be reflected as WINNER. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we also need to bear in mind that there are many other good men and women who had sacrificed and who are going to scarify for Singapore too. Scarifices include dying for Singapore. Don't forget about them, honour them and also be grateful to them.

In Chinese, there is a saying, and I quote "饮水思原" (yin shui si yuan) - which means that when you are drinking the water flowing down from the stream, think of the source. In another words, don't forget where the water comes from and be grateful.

To add, another Chinese quote:"前人种树,后人乘凉" (qian ren zhong shu, hou ren cheng liang) - which means, the generation before planted the tree, but it is the generation after that will enjoy the shade. Literally, it means that what we enjoy now is the effort of the earlier generation/s, so we should do likewise for the next generation/s.

Picture right:
Late Mr S. Rajaratnam
(25 February 1915 – 22 February 2006) (age 91)

About Mr Rajaratnam (NLB)

About Mr Rajaratnam (NLB - Blog)

About Mr Rajaratnam (wiki)
S. Rajaratnam
This brings me to write about S. Rajaratnam, which is the header of this post is about. Like MM Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee and Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr S. Rajaratnam is also one of Singapore's founding father. Since he passed away in 2006, I have wanted to write about him and share my thoughts on what I learned from him. Glad that I am doing it now.

I heard of his name, but I don't know him personally nor did I meet him face to face before. I only read about him in the the media after his death. I attended the exclusive peek into his literary side of his book "The Singapore lion : a biography of S. Rajaratnam", authored by Irene Ng, at National Library on 6 Feb 2010.

During the launch of the book, the author of "The Singapore Lion", said: "If I may leave you with Mr Rajaratnam's words,

"The only thing you can be certain about in this otherwise uncertain world is that the past is unchangeable. The present will disappear in a moment. But there will always be a tomorrow to be shaped as you wish. You can make the tomorrow you want, provided you have the wisdom, the guts and the will to struggle for it.""

I think that is inspiring.

I remembered I saw a video clip that Dr Goh Keng Swee called him "Minister of Talk" because he was an idealistic man. Btw, I just found out that Dr Goh was the one who introduced Mr Rajaratnam to MM Lee back then.

In another video clip, I also saw Dr Goh Keng Swee replied to a reporter with these words, he said:"I (have) no initial vision, you just start it and hope for the best. (hehehe). If you have a vision, then you are a dreamer. (chuckling) I am not a dreamer.".... I just got a strong hunch that he was referring to Mr Rajaratnam when he said "dreamer"... :)

Honestly, I agreed with Dr Goh that a man with vision is a dreamer because it takes more that just science but also arts to do it. Our PM Lee Hsien Loong also hails his vision of multi-racialism stating his idea was ahead of time. And I always belief that it is because of idea and vision that make men keep on striving and achieving. Without that, as many of us may know, it is like a body without a soul.

Most Singaporean, because we are the practical lot, do not understand the real power of DREAMs. Most people laugh at dreamers because they are uttering what don't exist. I am one of them who are being laughed at and I know how it feels.... But because of Dreams, we people stay alive. Like LKY said, multi-racialism is still an aspiration and not yet a reality in Singapore. That is why he keeps on going, and we, generations after generations should keep on going too. As he said, the work to build Singapore is not done yet. You cannot build a nation in 50 years. That is what I thought too. But I believe we will get there. My definition and principle of LIFE is : (L)iving (I)n (F)requent (E)ffort. Once you take things for granted, you are going downwards. I said so? No. History said so.

There are something that I also see in the building of Singapore (particularly the founding fathers of Singapore like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Rajaratnam, Dr Goh Keng Swee and Dr Toh Chin Chye) that are very relevant in Enterpreneurship that I will write about in future, so stay tuned. :)... yah, just don't know when I can find the time to do it.... :) But when I say I will, I mean it. :)

Ever with the BEST! For year 2011... Cheers!..

Here, I leave you with some of his words and what others said about him which I gathered from Wikiquote:-

Quotes by Mr Rajaratnam

“On my identity card, it says my race is Indian,” Mr. Rajaratnam often said in his later years. “But I don’t care if you call me an Indian or an Eskimo. What is important is whether you consider me a good man.”

"If you think of yourself as Chinese, Malays, Indians and Sri Lankans, then Singapore will collapse. You must think of Singapore: 'This is my country.' I fight and die for Singapore if necessary," A speech in 1984.

"Singapore run only by PhDs would be my vision of a purgatory. Equally, a government run by roadsweepers can be no less a terrifying place to live in." - Rajaratnam (undated)

"If this is an attempt by voters to blackmail the government, to compromise on important issues or principles, then we must show them we cannot be blackmailed. No government should succumb to blackmail." - 24 December 1984, in the aftermath of an election in which the Opposition got 2 seats

Quotes by others on Mr Rajaratnam

"His strength was as a thinker and a writer, a man of honour, with great moral courage. He had a way with people, enormous charm, integrity and character. He was self-possessed, had a good strong voice, and won the confidence of those who dealt with him." -Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, on 25 February 2006, in his eulogy to Rajaratnam.

"With his passing, Singaporeans have lost a patriot, a man of deep conviction and principle. His contribution was not in bricks and mortar, or concrete and glass, but in ideas, sentiments and spirit. Everyday when the pledge is recited in our schools, our children are reminded to live up to our aspirations as Raja expressed them." - Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, on 25 February 2006, in his eulogy to Rajaratnam.

"His weapon was the typewriter, He loved putting up the drafts of the ideology, which was a group consensus." - Lee Kuan Yew

"He had this enormous gift of being self-possessed - friendly, approachable, very personable and he got on with people. I thought he was the one who would represent us best abroad, and he did." - Lee Kuan Yew, in an interview with Channel NewsAsia in 2005.

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PS: It seems that there are very little material done on Mr Rajaratnam that I can find in the Internet. Fortunately, I found the following videos at Youtube and would like to thank the creator of the videos for doing them. Again, I learned something about him after watching the videos. Thanks. Enjoy.

Rajaratnam's Early Life (Part 1 of 3)
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Rajaratnam's Ideals (Part 2 of 3)

Rajaratnam's Political/Final Years (Part 1 of 3)