Friday, June 10, 2011

Lee Kwan Yew Steps Down - reminiscence by Hon Sui Sen's daughter.

A comment by Joan Fong (nee Hon), daughter of Hon Sui Sen, former Finance Minister of Singapore, on a blog post by Catherine Lim on Lee Kwan Yew's stepping down. (Comments as is, with spelling errors).

Joan Fong
May 18th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Dear Catherine,

I read your commentary with some exasperation. It seems as if you have to make a wonderfully accurate commentary on all that is going on politically and go down in history for your sharp wit and perception. And to talk in terms of “downfall” with such relish so many times just got my goat.

He happens to be someone I know. In the past I have been with him a few times, not often, enough to be able to read his mind and make a comment that hit the nail on the head as to what he was pondering.

Take is as a woman’s instinct. The instinct of a woman who happen to like men, as part of the human race, as friends, and who feel for their welfare. And who care to make them cushioned against things that are hurtful, especially to their ego.

Before his wife died and we visited for Chinese New Year, 2010, He let us (me and my sister) in to view his wife, someone who had always been on easy terms with me. I put my hand on her shoulder as she lay immobile and prayed over her.

He waited until I had finished, and then pointed to the wall behind me. “She chose this herself,” he said. I saw a large framed picture of the Virgin carrying the Child Jesus. And was astounced. She had in the past brought back a glass bust of the Virgin for my mother.

We went back to the dining table and indulged in some juicy gossip, none of it political. My nephew gave him this thing like a hamburger that his firm was selling, to show him something invented and made in Singapore.

In CNY 2011, he went down to our car to talk to my mother because she could not climb stairs anymore. She had been brought by us, her four daughters, to the wake at the Istana of a good friend without our telling her what it was all about, and she burst into tears when she realised what had happened. Loong and Yang were concerned and didn’t know how to placate her. Their father was not around. So, it was at this Chinese New Year visit, 2011, that she got to meet him.

She asked how Ling-Ling was, and she was called out from her computer to talk to her too.

He asked if she still went to Mass every day. She is now 94. We said yes for her as she is stone deaf. How does she go? he wanted to know. I said, “Oh, by taxi, with the maid.” My sister said to me later, “Idiot! We all go daily Mass and we take her there, and it is only on days she didn’t follow us in the morning that she takes a taxi.” It doesn’t matter. When you are growing old, details are immaterial.

I had just lost my husband to cancer half a year before that. He had just lost his wife. One can guess how he feels now at the vacuum in his life. I can also guess, most of his fire and confidence stemmed from her lively presence in his life.

She would say funny things to me like, “Look at me. If he didn’t marry me, nobody else would have!” and she actually doubled up in laughter. She used to shove yogurt into my mouth saying it is good for me. I hated yogurt and she never dug this truth out of me but fed me a second spoonful. She asked if I remember which room I used to stay in, in Oxley Road. I pointed to one of the middle rooms – that one!

When I bought a house, she was my lawyer, and said to me how stupid we were long ago, not to have bought our properties. “In those days, if we didn’t have the money, we just didn’t go and buy one. We didn’t want to borrow money, not even from the banks.”

When Loong lost his first wife, he was disconsolate. His father wished he had a religion or a God to carry him through this, my father said. I wrote him a long soulful letter on how we are all contingent beings, not responsible for our own existence on earth and who are journeying in this life with us. I said, if he didn’t believe in God, well, I did and will pray for him. God will compensate him for this tragedy.

His father told my father that I had a good heart, like my mother. That little remark meant that Loong must have snapped out of his mood.

In life, it is people that matter and not things. Things can go hang but it is the people who matter. If they are sad you lift them up. If they fall, one does not shout to all their lowly stance and describe their wounds with accuracy.

I am trying to say they are as human as you and me. And I have not spoken about our friendship with them, in case we give the idea we like to hobnob with the great. If now he has no power over the masses anymore, I would step forward and offer my support. I would do anything to boost his morale.

I sense now he is tired of everything, without his wife, even politics. It is time to step back. Will he be out of the picture completely? No, his opinion will still be sought and he will give it for what it is worth.

There are worse things in life he had suffered without having to worry about one GRC ward being lost. And if Loong can act as he thinks, and can promise to aim to corrent deficiencies, and thus swing votes for himself, he is doing all right. Time to put himself out to pasture. I don’t think he feels much sorrow leaving the picture.

Well, I might be wrong. It is my two cents worth. Now I too will return to the shadowns. I have a late husband to muse over. And I wish you all the best and hope you are happy.


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