Monday, April 25, 2005

Why Pranay Gupte admires Lee Kuan Yew

Below is an email Pranay Gupte wrote in response to a message he received after the post regarding his dismissal from the Straits Times. It is quoted in full with names present and email address absent.

From: Pranay Gupte
To: Gopalan Nair

Dear Gopalan:

Thanks for your note. Let me emphasize at the outset that, as a foreign journalist, it's not my place to interfere in the conduct of domestic policy in Singapore. I am a professional observer, not a player, and it's my job to listen to all points of view and report as truthfully as I can. Whatever my private views as an Indian-born US democrat, these do not affect my journalism.

That having been said let me address your question as to why I am an admirer of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

I've long been an admirer of Mr. Lee because of the way he set about nation-building. As I see it, three things were emphasized right from the start: the rule of law; developing strong institutions of public governance; and a corruption free society. To this was added a vital element: secularism in what is a multi-racial society.

My admiration flows from how Mr. Lee stuck to this plan despite overwhelming odds. When Singapore began its nation-building experiment nearly 40 years ago, the fashion in the former colonial territories of the world was to pursue statist socialism. I have covered virtually all of the Third World's 135 countries during my four-decades-long journalistic career, and let me tell you that socialism did not work out. Hence, the sad, sad spectacle of dozens of failed states in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Eastern Europe, of course, was sui generis, and its countries are still paying an enormous economic and social price for pursuing communism.

As I see it, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's model of economic development and nation-building has worked out. Granted, Singapore's scale is small. But demography and geography have less to do with successful nation-building than skillful leadership in the public interest. Mr. Lee and his associates demonstrated such leadership; other developing countries did not have such visionary leaders.

I have learned during my lifetime in journalism that societies and nations take time to evolve. The sort of participatory democracy that many Singaporeans yearn for will undoubtedly come. It's bound to be a healthier system because of the foundations that were laid by Mr. Lee.

Thanks again for writing to me.

With best wishes,