It is a prosperous, clean and functional city, with imposing skyscrapers and state of the art shopping complexes. You can buy any brand name you've ever heard of. The roads are crowded with Mercs, BMWs and whatever brand you fancy. The highways are lined with tropical flowers and a public transportation system unmatched elsewhere.
This tiny red dot at the southern tip of Peninsula Malaysia is one of the most prosperous nations in the world with per capita income higher than the United States and many other Western nations.The IMF lists Singapore at No. 4 with PPP of US$51,142 in 2008.
Once upon a time at the head of this thriving free-market city state is a clever, benevolent, fatherly and no nonsense socialist dictator.
This is Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore.A tiny island nation without any natural resources that have not stopped to amaze the world.Singapore had come a long way to what it is today by the way of, not pure democracy, but 'enlightened absolutism'.The sheer determination and perseverance of one man, the founding father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew or Harry Lee as he is popularly known among his close friends.
From a tiny mosquito infested tropical island to a sprawling metropolis, the economic and developmental vibrancy have not slowed down.This is a government with a bit of everything, a mixture of democracy, socialism and feudalism and an enviable success story.
In his memoirs 'The Singapore Story" Lee admitted he look upon Switzerland as his model.To defy logic, if such is illogical, today, Singapore had overtaken Switzerland in its PPP (Purchasing Power Parity).
Lee Kuan Yew has interfered with every aspect of Singaporean life, from not allowing long hair for male person during the flower power era, to limit only 2 babies per family, to banning chewing gum and mandatory canning for vandals. These are just a few of Lee's decree of what best for Singapore which some defender of democracy would call infringement of human rights.
Lee is an advocate of corporal punishment.In his memoirs he mentioned that during his time at Raffles Institution in the 1930s that he was caned there for chronic lateness by the then headmaster, D.W. McLeod. He wrote: "I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he lightened his strokes. I have never understood why Western educationists are so much against corporal punishment. It did my fellow students and me no harm".
The world have seen good and bad dictators.Bad dictators are mostly self-serving,cruel and more often than not would run down the nation to the ground through massive corruptions and unconscionable abuses of power.Good and benevolent dictator is passionate about his country and the people but believe democracy is a hindrance to progress.
Some examples of good dictators are Napolean Bonaparte of France, Antonio Salazar of Portugal,Mustapha Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and of course not forgetting Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia.
What is the yardstick for determining a benevolent dictator? It's a very simple equation. A continuous economic growth and economic development for the benefits of the people and not just for the dictator, his families or cronies.These are the characteristic of a benevolent dictator.A deep passion not to do for himself but to do for the nation.
Some may argue that Musharraf or even Mahathir should not be in this category.
Let start with Musharraf first.
In 1999 under Nawaz Sharif Pakistan was a bankrupt country, almost 65% of its revenue had to be utilized for debt servicing leaving very little for development expenditure.Public and external debt exceeded 300% of foreign exchange earnings.The country was in deep financial trouble.During Musharraf time from 1999 to 2007 Pakistan went through unprecedented economic growth as shown below:
Pakistan’s economy grew by 100%
Per Capita Income grew by 100%
Foreign Reserves grew by 500%
Exports grew by 100%
The list is not exhaustive.Under Musharraf's watch Transparency International's corruption index improved tremendously, falling from 11th to 41st position.
If anything that can go wrong will go wrong, an adage known as Murphy's Law.When Mushraff suspended Chief Justice Mohammad Ali Chaudhry for corruptions and abuses of judicial power the law fraternity took to the streets in massive numbers in protest of the suspension.In less than two months political parties joined in the fray and took to the streets demanding Musharraf to step down. In August 2008 the Pakistan People Party and Pakistan Muslim League led by Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif agreed to force Musharraf to step down and begin impeachment proceeding against him.It is speculated that Pervez Musharraf would have had to face corruption and even murder charges if he had kept refusing a graceful exit from the president house.
On Monday, 18 August 2008, in a speech defending his record, Musharraf announced that he had resigned.While announcing his resignation Musharraf said "After viewing the situation and consulting legal advisers and political allies, with their advice I have decided to resign. I leave my future in the hands of the people. Not a single charge in the impeachment can stand against me. No charge can be proved against me because I never did anything for myself, it was all for Pakistan. On the map of the world, Pakistan is now an important country, by the grace of Allah. Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose. They don’t realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage."
"Nonetheless, despite those mistakes, he has been that rare phenomenon in Pakistani politics — an honest man with good intentions who tried to serve his country to the best of his abilities. In a country that has suffered so much over the years from corrupt and self-serving politicians, there have been too few figures like him" ____an extract from Arab News, a leading Middle East English language daily.
As I have said in my earlier posts the Pakistani people have thrown out a good man and brought back not one but two known crooks to rule their country.These are crooks voted in by the masses under a Western-styled democratic system.What Pakistan need is 'enlightened absolutism' not pure unadulterated democracy.Musharraf was right when he said it is Pakistan that will suffer.The country is now in the early stage of anarchy and on the road to being a failed state.
Mahathir Mohammad ! Do I need to refresh everything he has done for Malaysia.No, I don't need to.He has left his footprints everywhere in the country.The physical presence of his untiring efforts to make this nation a great nation and the legacy he left behind is visible for all of us to see.He has a passion for the country and the people to excel. Anwar Ibrahim has a passion to be prime minister whatever it takes.
Will Malaysians make the same mistake the Pakistani people have made.Vote for those who are good at organising protests, demonstrations and candlelight vigil to bring down a legitimate government.Those who are good at sweet talking, fabricating wall of lies and inculcate materials of discontent to create political instability to show the rest of the world how rotten this government is.
Give me enlightened absolutism or benevolent dictator anytime rather than a rotten democratic system and rotten politicians than cause instability and political upheavel.
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because you heard the thunder.