20 years after not joining politics, matriarch-author Catherine Lim delivers yet another political missive

Will she hit a raw nerve again?

Belmont Lay| June 07, 03:16 PM

Twenty years after being dissed by then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong for dispensing political insights without joining politics, Singapore's leading matriarch-author Catherine Lim is back.

On June 7, 2014, Lim penned a lengthy open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the wake of his defamation lawsuit against a blogger.


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The 72-year-old wrote that she couldn't help but write this piece as a personal letter so as "to convey a greater sense of urgency", and essentially went back to the same theme covered in her Straits Times critical commentary, "The PAP and the people – A Great Affective Divide", published on Sept. 3, 1994.

The theme, then and now, is about Singaporeans' attitudes towards the ruling People's Action Party and how things are going downhill.

Within hours of the publication of this latest open letter, it received hundreds of comments, some praising her, some deriding her for her flowery language, and some, who obviously have no grasp of English, leaving comments that are in need of moderation.

If there is anyone else who can gain so much traction online in such a short period time, it is the fail-safe Ann Kok.

Regardless, here are 5 things Catherine Lim wrote in this latest piece that will make you, a regular Singaporean, nod in agreement as she is massaging all our collective sweet political G-spots:


1. First salvo by Catherine Lim early on in the open letter

"With utmost respect, Sir, I must point out that it is ultimately your inability or unwillingness to listen to the people."


2. Lim on why defamation suits no longer work, even though they might be one way to seek recourse

"Hence while you see yourself as simply going by the rules, Singaporeans see you as the PAP juggernaut ready to mow down the little people in its path."


3. What doesn't constitute real change within the ruling party

"For the change to be truly beneficial to the people, it cannot be something merely concessionary, much less cosmetic or superficial, such as the leaders giving up the traditional austere all-white uniform for something a little more colourful, so as to blend in with the crowd; abandoning their usual stern, distant style for greater friendliness and smiling approachability; purging their image of all signs of elitism through a more visible presence at hawker centres or the MRT; peppering their speeches with humorous personal anecdotes and admiring observations about ordinary Singaporeans, such as this young person with little education who made good or that hardworking teacher who went out of her way to help her students, etc."


4. Gone with the old, in with the new

"The old era that may be aptly called The Lee Kuan Yew Era, is now over, and for the succeeding PAP leaders to be seen as clinging to it despite their obviously good intentions and efforts to respond to the unstoppable forces of change in the new era, is to be caught in a neither-here-nor-there, politically ill-defined domain that gets pushed and pulled both ways."


5. There is a need to listen to those around you who are speaking up

"Professor Tommy Koh some time back actually commented that the use of the defamation suit was not exactly commendable or useful in the long run, and recently Dr Lily Neo calmly and tactfully suggested during a parliamentary sitting that you ought to be listening more to the people and communicating better with them. There must be many in your camp who feel the same way but are reluctant to speak up. It may be a good thing to start listening to them in order to start listening to the people."


Alternatively, you can read the full open letter here.


Top photo from here

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