Monday, September 21, 2009

Replies to Eric Brooks

The following is a letter by Mr Cheong Wing Lee, a Canadian, in response to
Mr Eric Brooks's letter in the Straits Times titled, "Be grateful, Singapore".

Dear Editor,

As a fellow Canadian I am embarrassed by Mr Eric Brooks' remarks to
Singaporeans. Mr. Brooks is a visitor with a superficial knowledge of
Singapore history. He should refrain from making such ridiculous sweeping

I was born shortly after the Second World War and raised in Singapore before
immigrating to Canada. I have worked and lived in more countries than Mr
Brooks. There is no doubt that most Singaporeans deeply appreciate the
outstanding work done by the Singapore leaders in bringing the country from
third world status to the present world class status. However, gratitude
evolves with time and social changes. Singaporeans are now better educated.
They travel, see, learn, compare and adapt. Singaporeans are not stupid or

Singaporeans now have a higher level of thinking and are more demanding.
This demonstrates progress. Higher aspirations, greater expectations come
with evolving progressive social changes. A society that remains complacent
and stagnant deteriorates and eventually collapses. No country can excel
with a mindless society of puppets. The Singapore government should be
grateful that its citizens are matured and not treat anyone with opposing
views as public enemy. Most of them are as passionate as the government in
making Singapore a better society.

Singaporeans are smart enough to see through spins and propaganda and
evaluate the truths for themselves. It is difficult for most Singaporeans to
remain silent whilst government leaders lecture them to be thrifty, not to
be materialistic and not to demand for higher pay. On the other hand, the
leaders reward themselves with pay packages that exceed the leaders' of the
eight richest countries in the world combined.

The Singapore ministers' argument that their pay package is only a small
fraction of the country's GDP is weak and debatable. The Canadian prime
minister draws less than 10 per cent that of the Singapore prime minister's
but he governs a country 15,000 times the size of Singapore, with a
population that is eight times larger and with a GDP that is ten times more.
Vancouver in Canada is constantly voted the best place to live in the world.
This example put the Singapore government's argument out of context.

The government gives S$360 a month as financial support for the poor and
needy. If such an amount is computed by the government as enough to survive,
why then do they need to pay themselves by millions?

I cordially invite any member of parliament and/or news media reporter to
come and stay with me for a period of time and I will show them that it
takes only a small tiny fraction of their salaries to live happily and
healthily in a beautiful environment with a good standard of living.

Is it a surprise that Singaporeans are discontented? It is just human
nature. Confucius was quoted as telling the emperor on good government:

"How can the emperor be happy when the people have nothing? How can the
emperor not be happy when the people have everything?"

Does Mr. Brooks know that 79% of Singapore students after studying overseas
do not return to Singapore? Are they not grateful too?

So Mr. Brooks, before you further make a fool of yourself in Singapore, be
grateful to Canada and not complain because of a temporary disruption in
garbage collection in Toronto. Be thankful of the good healthcare system and
the generous old age pension. If you truly like Singapore you should be a
citizen. There are lots of Singaporeans who are willing to trade your
citizenship if it is possible.

Yours truly,

Wing Lee Cheong


  1. I am a citizen in Singapore. Although the million dollar salary is a big issue to most people, I am among the rare ones who is not against it. As long as the ministers perform and aren't corrupt that is the most important. Ministers have to face the public for whatever reasons. Just like CEO has to face shareholders. But the responsibilities of govt office holders are much larger.

    Vancouver is blessed with soooooo much natural resources and hinterland. So it is not a fair comparison.

    The attitudes of the people in Canada and Singapore is very different. Just like that of New York and
    Ohama, Sydney and Alice Springs, Shanghai and Ulan Bator. We can't change culture overnight. People are more materialistic in Macau, HK, Singapore because there is not much more they can do, they are caught up in a rat race.

    Chinese, Jews, Indians are inherently more hardworking, it is their work culture. They compete hard. Canadians are compassionate and relaxed. Perhaps because Canadians are blessed with so much. So they are content with enough. Singaporeans like to surround themselves with more. It is a mentality and cultural issue. The govt do play a part. But dont you think, the govt is also shaped partially by society too?

    I do agree that $360 is a pittance, I think more should be done. Especially to give them real help to a quality life. There is so much reserves accumulated, sometimes I wonder why govt is so tight fisted. > 300 billion USD.

  2. For a start, send this and any other reply like this to Mr. Brooks letter to the same paper that published it in the first place and see if it gets published. The censorship or lack thereof will be a very good indication of the kind of environment that Singaporeans live in.