Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I grew up admiring how safe I feel when I am visiting Singapore. How clean the city is. How organized things are.

Back home in Jakarta, everything seems comparatively haphazard. For the record, Indonesia is my home and my heart is here.

The passing of LKY makes me ponder though, what kind of Indonesia would we be in, today, had we been led by someone like LKY. I am NOT talking about race. I am talking about character, implementation of ideas, and everything else.

Sure enough, managing an island state like Singapore is NOT the same as managing the 4th most populous country in the world. Add 15,000 more islands, plus over 200,000,000 people, and you may be in the same ballpark.

LKY was not without faults. He was authoritarian and perceived as uncompromising to others getting in his way. To this day, there seems to be no real opposition to the ruling party in the lion city.

They say, though, the proof is in the pudding. LKY stepped down as PM of Singapore in 1990. Twenty five years later, the Singapore of today has proven resilient. It went through two bouts of global financial crises relatively unscathed. That is a quarter-century of proven pudding, or legacy if you will.

I doubt that LKY would have approved the Marina BS (pun intended) had he been the PM in his prime.

Going forward, I fear Singapore's much vaunted gambling dens will bring more harm than good to the island state, but that is a topic for another day.

As a foreigner, I am somewhat amused that the city symbol of Singapore may be slowly shifting, perception wise, from one M (the Merlion) to the other M (the Marina BS).

Back home, gambling is just one of the topics that we are concerned about. There is the half-built and fully-abandoned Monorail structures in the major streets of our Capital. There's the seemingly concerted effort to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission. And then there's the growing drug problem, perhaps the biggest threat to Indonesia's next generation.

Indonesia recently made regional headlines with our stance against drugs, by announcing the planned execution of convicted drug traffickers. As Indonesia's noted journalist Desi Anwar stated in her aptly titled article, this is "like cheering the shooting of a couple of burglars while forgetting that the entire house is already run by thieves." 

So, "what kind of Indonesia would we be in, today, had we been led by someone like LKY?" 

We will never know.

What we (or most of us) know, a true giant passed today. 

Let us all carry on, warts and all.

Rest In Peace LKY.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Balpil,

    If our Indonesia were lead by Leaders like LKY, I believe our beloved country will be a much better Nation. We got abundance of natural resources, strategic location, and big populations.
    Alas, many Indonesian leaders don't have good ethics or good characters, and long term strategic thinking.

    I admire Mr. Lee Kuan Yew for his Leadership, character, ethics, and achievement of his dreams for Singapore. Singapore is very fortunate to have him as their founding father.

    Rest In Peace Mr. Lee Kuan Yew,