Tuesday, August 08, 2006

David Marshall -- 1994

Below are some choice excerpts of a previously unpublished-in-full interview that Dharmendra Yadav had with David Marshall, Singapore's first Chief Minister, in 1994. The full article is here. Passion, fire, imagination, humanism, compassion, empathy. This is what Singapore needs and not just dismiss everything in a pragmatic and practical manner.

We have become good bourgeois seeking comfort, security. It’s like seeking a crystal coffin and being fed by intravenous injections through pipes in the crystal coffin; crystal coffins stuck with certificates of your pragmatic abilities ... I take off my hat to the pragmatic ability of our government but there is no soul in our conduct. It is a difficult thing to speak of because it is difficult to put in a computer, and the youth of Singapore is accustomed to computer fault. There is no longer the intellectual ferment, the passionate argument for a better civilisation. The emphasis on the rice bowl!

So are youths not content? They are not anti. Our youths frankly, very honestly respect the pragmatic achievements of the government, and I’m grateful, but they feel empty.There isn’t this joy of living which youth expects and youth needs – to learn the joy of living. How do you teach it?I think you teach it through respect for the individual. That’s our tragedy. If you want to put it in a nutshell, our tragedy is that we emphasise the primacy of society as against respect for the individual. Mind you, both are right.
And I’m according to Lee Kuan Yew in Parliament when he sought the abolition of the jury, “David Marshall is responsible for 200 murderers walking freely the streets of Singapore.”I’m proud of that. I told him to put it on my tomb. If there are 200 people walking freely the streets of Singapore, it means they are contributing to Singapore. Singapore would have been poorer by hanging them. I have no compulsion.
What matters most in life is the right of human beings to live fully in the context of their own genius. In one word, perhaps, to fight for human justice. I once said humanity’s cry for human justice reverberates down the corridors of the centuries, and it is still crying for human justice.
I was coming. That was the old building and I was coming along the corridor carrying a set of books. It must have been morning and, outside my classroom, there was a Chinese boy much slimmer than you [Dharmendra] with his back to the wall – absolutely pale, full of fear.And in front of him was my friend, an American boy – same student, same class – and dancing an Indian jig saying, “Ching! Ching! Chakama!”Without the slightest warning, I dropped my books and lunged at him [the American boy].


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is so tragic about this is that it will never be printed in the ST for the majority of Singaporeans to know about David Marshall. David Marshall is (notice I used present tense for emphasis) multi billion times the MAN that lky is not; i.e. humanity, compassionate, empathy.

9:22 AM  

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