The news got across to me in a most unusual way. I guess most people came to know the demise of our great architect through the local radio, TV or newspaper. If you are tech-savvy your source could be Twitter. Not for me. I did not receive the news from the local media, or internet.
Friday evening. Hong Kong. I was holed up in the room after my shower and the TV was running to add that bit of gaiety to the pigeon-hole. Then it came, the news delivered, as a matter-of-fact, by their local station.
It was like a fast-moving documentary, over in less than a minute (I think). The archival footage of our great architect (现代新加坡首要建筑师 by Zaobao) was playing, but I would not have known what had happened - Cantonese sounds Greek to me, exacerbated by the rattling newscaster - if not for the Chinese subtitles. I managed to pick up "Singapore" and news of his demise - 新加坡元老逝世.
If you think substituting Wu Qingrui for Goh Keng Swee is bad enough, wait till you hear the Cantonese rendition of his name 吴庆瑞 which is Ng something something (told you newscaster was rattling). For a while that got me confused - I thought Ng is Huang (黄), like our Education Minister Ng Eng Hen. I wonder how Ng is read in the different dialects?
Like other founding fathers, the great architect faded into obscurity after his "retirement" from politics. We almost forget he was deputy chairman of GIC, amongst other directorship and chairmanship. Younger Singaporeans should be forgiven for not recognizing the slight balding man on screen on Friday. After all, my history syllabus in school taught me more about Malaya than post-war Singapore (though that might have changed today). What I knew can be summed up as a few major players taking the hot seat (Lim Yew Hock and David Marshall come to mind) and for the finale, Lee Kuan Yew shedding tears watched by residents lucky enough to own a TV.
Much has been said about his achievements. I heard the mediacorp documentary on Saturday about him was good, kudos to the production team (let's hope they did not work day and night to rush this out, such documentary should be "on standby" for a leader with failing health). Not much has been said about his shortcomings or failed policies. The controversial streaming in primary school could be one, though that did not really affect me. From what little was revealed by his widow Dr Phua, Dr Goh was quite a
I have blogged about his factories and you can see him officiating at an opening in my Tanglin Halt chocolate factory article. The (topmost) cover photo* of him standing on the bank does have some personal relevance. Chun See might remember the bridge as the one he "blew up" a few years after the photo was taken. By his time, the rolling hills in the background should have been levelled. In December 2008, Chun See drove the few of us to Jalan Samulun to revisit the bridge after exploring the Jurong (Railway) Line at Shipyard Road. Peter volunteered to brave the terrain to have a good shot of the bridge which you can see in Chun See's article.
* The cover photo shows the great architect having a respite (he might really be "taking five", our military slang for smoking break. Look between his right fingers, you can see what appears to be a cigarette).