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Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday 9 June 2009

MM Lee Visits Malaysia

Singapore's minister mentor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew will be visiting Malaysia next week. He will also visit Pahang, my home state. His impending visit has sparked a flurry of interests. Conspiracy theories abound. They include insinuations of some sinister motives behind the visit. I shall not take issue with such propositions.

As far as Pahang is concerned, I hope the state's leadership will take the opportunity to extract as much wisdom as possible from Mr Lee. In the next few days, I hope to be able to write a few articles on the thoughts of Mr Lee who is arguably regarded as one of the foremost political leaders of the 20th and now the 21st century.

I have received an e mail from a Singaporean gentleman by the name of Encik Mohd Ismail Abdullah. He has been gracious enough to share with me, the thoughts of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew on ageing. Mr Lee is visiting Malaysia in his advanced years. He is almost 86 years old. The principal motive for that visit may be just as he stated- a trip down memory lane.

As for the initial remarks from Encik Mohd Ismail, I am not going to pretend I am not pleased. They are however, his personal opinions. I can only reciprocate by reproducing what he has sent me to share with others. Enjoy Mr Lee's views on ageing.

Assalamualaikum wrwb.

I am a 65 year old Singapore Malay, and am a regular follower of your writings. I admire your brain (especially your very good command of the English language). How I wish all the leaders in UMNO have the brain power like yours.

Thank you for your time, Datuk.

Lee Kuan Yew On Ageing

MY CONCERN today is, what is it I can tell you which can add to your knowledge about ageing and what ageing societies can do. You know more about this subject than I do. A lot of it is out in the media, Internet and books.
So I thought the best way would be to take a personal standpoint and tell you how I approach this question of ageing.

If I cast my mind back, I can see turning points in my physical and mental health. You know, when you're young, I didn't bother, assumed good health was God-given and would always be there. When I was about -'57 that was - I was
about 34, we were competing in elections, and I was really fond of drinking beer and smoking. And after the election campaign, in Victoria Memorial Hall - we had won the election, the City Council election - I couldn't thank the voters because I had lost my voice. I'd been smoking furiously. I'd take a packet! of 10
to deceive myself, but I'd run through the packet just sitting on the stage, watching the crowd, getting the feeling, the mood before I speak. In other words, there were three speeches a night. Three speeches a night, 30 cigarettes, a lot of beer after that, and the voice was gone.

I remember I had a case in Kuching, Sarawak. So I took the flight and I felt awful. I had to make up my mind whether I was going to be an effective campaigner and a lawyer, in which case I cannot destroy my voice, and I can't go on. So I stopped smoking. It was a tremendous deprivation because I was addicted to it. And I used to wake up dreaming...the nightmare was I resumed smoking.

But I made a choice and said, if I continue this, I will not be able to do my job. I didn't know anything about cancer of the throat or oesophagus or the lungs, etc. But it turned out it had many other deleterious effects.
Strangely enough after that, I became very allergic, hyper-allergic to smoking, so much so that I would plead with my Cabinet ministers not to smoke in the Cabinet room. You want to smoke, please go out, because I am allergic.

Then one day I was at the home of my colleague, Mr Rajaratnam, meeting foreign correspondents including some from the London Times and they took a picture of me and I had a big belly like that (puts his hands in front of his belly), a beer belly. I felt no, no, this will not do. So I started playing more golf, hit hundreds of balls on the practice tee. But this didn't go down. There was only one way it could go down: consume less, burn up more.
Another turning point came when -this was 1976, after the general election - I was feeling tired. I was breathing deeply at the Istana, on the lawns.. My daughter, who at that time just graduating as a doctor, said: 'What are you trying to do?' I said: 'I feel an effort to breathe in more oxygen.' She said: 'Don't play golf. Run. Aerobics.' So she gave me a book, quite a famous book and, then, very current in America on how you score aerobic points swimming, running, whatever it is, cycling. I looked at it sceptically. I wasn't very keen on running. I was keen on golf. So I said, 'Let's try'. So in-between golf shots while playing on my own, sometimes nine holes at the Istana, I would try and walk fast between shots. Then I began to run between shots. And I felt better. After a while, I said: 'Okay, after my golf, I run.' And after a few years, I said: 'Golf takes so long. The running takes 15 minutes. Let's cut out the golf and let's run.'

I think the most important thing in ageing is you got to understand yourself. And the knowledge now is all there.
When I was growing up, the knowledge wasn't there. I had to get the knowledge from friends, from doctors. But perhaps the most important bit of knowledge that the doctor gave me was one day, when I said: 'Look, I'm feeling slower and sluggish.' So he gave me a medical encyclopaedia and he turned the pages to ageing. I read it up and it was illuminating. A lot of it was difficult jargon but I just skimmed through to get the gist of it.

As you grow, you reach 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and then, thereafter, you are on a gradual slope down physically.
Mentally, you carry on and on and on until I don't know what age, but mathematicians will tell you that they know their best output is when they're in their 20s and 30s when your mental energy is powerful and you haven't lost many neurons. That's what they tell me.

So, as you acquire more knowledge, you then craft a programme for yourself to maximise what you have. It's just common sense. I never planned to live till 85 or 84.! I just didn't think about it. I said: 'Well, my mother died when she was 74, she had a stroke. My father died when he was 94.'

But I saw him, and he lived a long life, well, maybe it was his DNA. But more than that, he swam every day and he kept himself busy.. He was working for the Shell company. He was in charge, he was a superintendent of an oil depot.
When he retired, he started becoming a salesman. So people used to tell me: 'Your father is selling watches at BP de Silva.' My father was then living with me. But it kept him busy. He had that routine: He meets people, he sells watches, he buys and sells all kinds of semi-precious stones, he circulates coins. And he keeps going. But at 87, 88, he fell,! going down the steps from his room to the dining room, broke his arm, three months incapacitated.
Thereafter, he couldn't go back to swimming. Then he became wheelchair-bound. Then it became a problem because my house was constructed that way. So my brother - who's a doctor and had a flat (one-level) house - took him in. And he lived on till 94. But towards the end, he had gradual loss of mental powers.

So my calculations, I'm somewhere between 74 and 94. And I've reached the halfway point now. But have I?

Well, 1996 when I was 73, I was cycling and I felt tightening on the neck. Oh, I must retire today. So I stopped.
Next day, I returned to the bicycle. After five minutes it became worse.

So I said, no, no, this is something serious, it's got to do with the blood vessels. Rung up my doctor, who said, 'Come tomorrow'. Went tomorrow, he checked me, and said: 'Come back tomorrow for an angiogram.' I said: 'What's that?' He said: 'We'll pump something in and we'll see whether the coronary arteries are cleared or blocked.' I was going to go home. But an MP who was a cardiologist happened to be around, so he came in and said: 'What are you doing here?' I said: 'I've got this.' He said: 'Don't go home. You stay here tonight. I've sent patients home and they never came back. Just stay here. They'll put you on the monitor. They'll watch your heart. And if anything, an emergency arises, they will take you straight to the theatre. You go home. You've got no such monitor. You may never come back.'

So I stayed there. Pumped in the dye, yes it was blocked, the left circumflex, not the critical, lead one. So that's lucky for me. Two weeks later, I was walking around,I felt it's coming back. Yes it has come back, it had occluded. So this time they said: 'We'll put in a stent! .'

I'm one of the first few in Singapore to have the stent, so it was a brand new operation. Fortunately, the man who invented the stent was out here selling his stent. He was from San Jose, La Jolla something or the other. So my doctor got hold of him and he supervised the operation. He said put the stent in. My doctor did the operation, he just watched it all and then that's that. That was before all this problem about lining the stent to make sure that it doesn't occlude and create a disturbance.

So at each stage, I learnt something more about myself and I stored that. I said: 'Oh, this is now a danger point.'
So all right, cut out fats, change diet, went to see a specialist in Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital. He said: 'Take statins.' I said: 'What's that?' He said: '(They) help to reduce your cholesterol.' My doctors were concerned. They said: 'You don't need it. Your cholesterol levels are okay.' Two years later, more medical evidence came out. So the doctors said: 'Take statins.'

Had there been no angioplasty, had I not known that something was up and I cycled on, I might have gone at 74 like my mother. So I missed that deadline.

So next deadline: my father's fall at 87.

I'm very careful now because sometimes when I turn around too fast, I feel as if I'm going to get off balance. So my daughter, a neurologist, she took me to the NNI, there's this nerve conduction test, put electrodes here and there.

The transmission of the messages between the feet and the brain has slowed down.

So all the exercise, everything, effort put in, I'm fit, I swim, I cycle. But I can't prevent this losing of conductivity of the nerves and this transmission. So just go slow.

So when I climb up the steps, I have no problem. When I go down the steps, I need to ! be sure that I've got something I can hang on to, just in case. So it's a constant process of adjustment.

But I think the most important single lesson I learnt in life was that if you isolate yourself, you're done for.
The human being is a social animal - he needs stimuli, he needs to meet people, to catch up with the world.

I don't much like travel but I travel very frequently despite the jet lag, because I get to meet people of great interest to me, who will help me in my work as chairman of our GIC. So I know, I'm on several boards of banks, international advisory boards of banks, of oil companies and so on.

And I meet them and I get to understand what's happening in the world, what has changed since I was here one month ago, one year ago. I go to India, I go to China.

And that stimuli brings me to the world of today. I'm not living in the world, when I was active, more active 20, 30 years ago. So I tell my wife. She woke up late today. I said: 'Never mind, you come along by 12 o'clock. I go first.'

If you sit back - because part of the ending part of the encyclopaedia which I read was very depressing - as you get old, you withdraw from everything and then all you will have is your bedroom and the photographs and the furniture that you know, and that's your world. So if you've got to go to hospital, the doctor advises you to bring some photographs so that you'll know you're not lost in a different world, that this is like your bedroom.

I'm determined that I will not, as long as I can, to be reduced, to have my horizons closed on me like that. It is the stimuli, it is the constant interaction with people across the world that keeps me aware and alive to what's going on and what we can do to adjust to this different world.

In othe! r words, you must have an interest in life. If you believe that at 55, you're retiring, you're going to read books, play golf and drink wine, then I think you're done for. So statistically they will show you that all the people who retire and lead sedentary lives, the pensioners die off very quickly.

So we now have a social problem with medical sciences, new procedures, new drugs, many more people are going to live long lives.. If the mindset is that when I reach retirement age 62, I'm old, I can't work anymore, I don't have to work, I just sit back, now is the time I'll enjoy life, I think you're making the biggest mistake of your life.
After one month, or after two months, even if you go travelling with nothing to do, with no purpose in life, you will just degrade, you'll go to seed.

The human being needs a challenge, and my advice to every person in Singapore and elsewhere: Keep yourself interested, have a challenge. If you're not interested in the world and the world is not interested in you, the biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli, that's real torture. So when I read that people believe, Singaporeans say: 'Oh, 62 I'm retiring..' I say to them: 'You really want to die quickly?' If you want to see sunrise tomorrow or sunset, you must have a reason, you must have the stimuli to keep going..'


Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 08:16  

Welcome back to Malaysia Mr Lee Kuan Yew!
And welcome back to Pahang!
May you get to see your relatives and old friends again.
And may enjoy your trot down memory lane!

Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 10:17  


Why don't you ask the Malays in Singapore whether they are as deprived as some of the politicians say they are ? Many of them are doing very well on their own ability without special considerations. Of course there are the odd restrictions previously but by and large, they are doing well without special assistance.

There is even a Malaysian Malay economic analyst doing very well in Singapore. He used to work for S & P.

Fi-sha 9 June 2009 at 13:11  

Dear Datuk Sak

I alway admire Mr LKY as a person and a stateman.

Gandhi says "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

Looking at SG Zoo and many more animal sanctuaries there, I know he has done so much for his beloved nation and its people.

Well, he's a normal human being, not angel to be maksum from any misdeeds but for me his PLUS points overweighs everything bad about him.

We have a stateman who talked arrogantly about his performance but i cannot help but shed tears listening to his interview on TV on how much he loved his country that he had do something to keep it alive and most importantly, to keep its people's dream alive.

May Mr LKY has a good trip to Malaysia - One Grand Old Man he is.

p.s. the conspiracy theories about his visit? Bak kata pepatah - siapa makan cili dia terasa pedas kan Datuk Sak? Guess they eat too much 'chillies' :)

Take care Datuk Sak!

Suci Dalam Debu 9 June 2009 at 13:33  

Dear MM Lee,

I am a nobody but my simple heart warmly welcomes you to visit this land which was part of you not too long ago.

My only wish is that both people on the Tebrau divide would forever be friendly to each other; politician included.

ABC 9 June 2009 at 14:17  

"If you want to see sunrise tomorrow or sunset, you must have a reason, you must have the stimuli to keep going.."

Wise words these.
Especially for regular joes like most of us (If u're rich, u DO have a reason to get up the next day even if u're old - to drive that ferrari again, play golf with friends, or shop for another bungalow/wife).
for most joes then, maybe the easiest/cheapest thing to do to keep the stimuli level high is to start a BLOG! to rant and rave about your fav subject :-)

Big Fan,  9 June 2009 at 15:52  


What are thoughts on KJ and his olive branch to PAS?

Pls write one up.

walla 9 June 2009 at 16:28  

Unlike MM Lee who has to present his passport, there is one other who should also be more than welcomed for what he had stood for.

Good leadership is not just intellect and iron will. Neither is it also just vision and communication.

For good leadership to be great as well, it must also be conscience, humanity, humility and courage.

The late Mr Rajaratnam should also be welcome.

Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 18:17  

Oh dear, oh dear, I've read this excellent piece by lky before but I can't remember when (I think he was addressing some med conference?) and where (ST online?). This worries me and I'm only 50
Mr Young at Heart
Have read that whatever we do, our genes pool is the biggest determinant of how we will fare healthwise.d

Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 18:18  

Oh dear, oh dear, I've read this excellent piece by lky before but I can't remember when (I think he was addressing some med conference?) and where (ST online?). This worries me and I'm only 50!

Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 21:33  

LKY and Singapore, forever the standing indictment of what we could have become and MORE!

Anonymous,  9 June 2009 at 21:54  

very good moves lah.visit china,have lky special guest star on a road tour..should capture the minds and souls of our chinese voters.

and hopefully in the process get some nice tips on how to make malaysia better...and lots of money to fund some new investments.

next to get our indian voters to be more friendly to BN.Get rid of samy and kayveas?bring in hindraf..maybe

young malay voters...thats harder to strategise?never mind..KJ will know wat to do.

Anonymous,  10 June 2009 at 07:43  

Rosmah Mansor’s family talks about the real 'First Lady', something which is still unknown to most Malaysians-at-large. See what they have to say in this YouTube video recording EXCLUSIVE to Malaysia Today. Rosmah's disgusted brother has now left the country to join me in self-imposed exile.

Anonymous,  10 June 2009 at 09:00  


U r really been diplomatic!

Anonymous,  10 June 2009 at 11:55  

No advise on foods?? What was/is he eating? Eating/eating less habits?

We should get advise from our close peer, the average joe, rather than someone who is practically surrounded by the whole batallion of health pratitioners/experts and still earns millions of luxuries by virtue of being a singapore minister until the day he die.
Kidding me?

We're not living in a "wonderful world of disney", are we...

spade a spade

Doc 10 June 2009 at 12:00  

thanks for posting this piece. Was a refreshing read, away from the normal socio political stuff. I enjoyed the last four paragraphs even more.

No offence meant, but assuming this to be his last visit down memory lane in Malaysia, i hope he has a good stay and takes back with him good memories of Malaysia be good ones. After all it was she who gave him the stepping stone to become who and what his today.



Suci Dalam Debu 10 June 2009 at 13:14  

MM LKY is renown the world over for the right reasons.

He has the results to show for it. From third world to first world in one generation is no mean feat for a little red dot without natural resources.

Malaysia....oh my Malaysia, why have you squandered most of your resources?

Will our leaders ever learn?

Anonymous,  10 June 2009 at 17:01  

LKY -- the one and only brilliant, visionary and incorruptible authoritarian ruler on earth. Maybe a leader like this comes one in 500 years time...

Anonymous,  11 June 2009 at 02:58  


Focus is what made Singapore what it is today.Malaysia had no such focus, but still Singapore is seen as Chinese first and multiracial second. Malaysia for all its Ketuanan Melayu screams, will always remain multiracial in substance. What it lacks is focus but someday, perhaps in the not so distant future, it will have that leadership that possesses that focus ....that will make Malaysia, a better Singapore.

flyer168 11 June 2009 at 08:34  

Dato Sak,

In this great article on MM Lee, I hope Malaysians can appreciate & LEARN from this "Towering Asian & International Political Icon".

I had been exposed to the LKY's "Critical but Rewarding" Values inculcated in the 60s to the 70s whilst with Malayan Airways through to MSA & SIA.

The reward has been worth it & I am now enjoying my Malaysian Dream from the fruits of my perseverance to be the "Master" of my "Vocation & Destiny".

May I share this with you & your readers....

Lee Kuan Yew on Malay vs. Chinese Culture
George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore, 1998-1999

In Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas, his biographers relate how Lee sought explanations for the different economic approaches -- and degrees of success -- found in Singaporean Chinese and Malay communities.

Long before becoming Singapore's Prime Minister -- in fact, while still a student -- he had rejected colonialist notions that some races were superior to others, and so he sought other explanations.

Turning to contemporary anthropology, he came upon a convincing one in the work of Bryan Parkinson, a Fellow at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hull, whose 1968 article in the journal Modern Asian Studies argued that Malays and and Chinese had different "maximising postulates" or ways of conceiving success:

This desire to succeed is no more absent from rural Malay society than it is from any other, but to the Malay success means something different from what it does, for example, to the Malaysian Chinese.

The Chinese seem to regard success as being the improvement of their economic position even if this requires fundamental change or innovation.

The Malays seem to regard success as doing what their forebears have approved and practised, but doing it as well as they can.

Wealth and economic advancement are desired by the Malays, but not at the expense of renouncing utterly the traditions and traditional occupations of their forebears to which they have grown accustomed.

Parkinson further argued that although there was "nothing irrational about Malay values," they would explain why Malay economic advancement has been and will likely "remain relatively low" in comparison to what Lee termed the "achievement-orientated, striving, acquisitive" Indian and Chinese communities.

Attempting to solve this "extremely delicate problem," Singapore has tried several approaches,

The first being a form of affirmative action that provides....

"Free education from primary school right up to university for any Singapore citizen who is a Malay.

This is something we don't give to the majority ethnic group -- the Chinese.

They pay fees from secondary school onwards."

Second, the government has employed "judicious intermingling of the communities so that, thrown into the more multiracial milieu we have in our new housing estates,

Malay children are becoming more competitive and more striving"


Han Fook Kwang, Warren Fernandez, Sumiko Tan. Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas. Singapore: Times, 1998.


flyer168 11 June 2009 at 08:38  


Dato Sak,

flyer168 Question:

If LKY has been "Magnanimous" towards the "Minority Malays" in Singapore to provide that affirmative action, why are our UMNO/BN Leaders "Marginalising & Depriving" the Anak Bangsa Malaysia from achieving MERITOCRACY?

Bapak Borek...Anak MESTI Rentek & tak boleh LEBEH PANDAI pada Bapak?

Malaysia has been embroiled in racial politics and due to the fear of losing political power, all actions taken by the main party in power was never targeted towards bringing wealth to all.

Wealth was distributed to the chosen few only. They were the cronies and the backers of the party leadership to perpetuate their own selfish ends.

Seeing the efficiency and the progress achieved by Singapore caused the Malaysian leadership to suffer from an inferiority complex.

That Malaysia should suffer from this complex was of its own making.

In a recent interview, Kuan Yew said that Malaysia could have done better if only it treated its minority Chinese and Indian population fairly.

Instead they were completely marginalised and many of the best brains left the country in drove.

He added that "Singapore was a standing indictment to what Malaysia could have done differently".

He just hit the nail right there on the head.

In 2009 we are witnessing that "Ketuanan UMNO Ideology" going "Horribly Wrong" with Denials, Intimidations, Threats, etc convoluting it into "Gutter Politics & Law of the Jungle".

The PRESENT LEADERS on BOTH sides of the Political Divide are "Trapped" in their "OWN QUAGMIRE" with no Win-Win SOLUTIONS....

Malaysia NEEDS NEW LEADERS with Political MATURITY to ACHIEVE its Financial, Economic & Social CONSOLIDATION & STABILISATION.

Until such times Malaysia can IDENTIFY “Role Model” MATURED, EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, ESTABLISHED Leaders & Politicians of HONOUR with Calibre & Tolerance without Fear or Favour,

Malaysia CANNOT even THINK of having a 2 or 3 PARTY Political System of Government to mitigate the IMPENDING Political & Financial fallout.


as roy,  18 June 2009 at 19:17  

You are doing a great service for us all by posting this article.

Mr Lee has provided insightful thoughts on how he looks after himself as he ages. Great example of thinking while living.

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