When Singapore’s first PM might be referred to “He-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Uttered”


Did you hear that the government is thinking of adding Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s name and image to the list of prohibited items against use for commercial gain? Apparently, the current Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Act does not have any provisions for the regulated use of a person’s name yet, but the government is intending to make that into a regulation, thereby restricting people from the use of Mr Lee’s name and image.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said that it was not banned, just a restriction; approval was required to make use of these items.

This is a rather odd regulation, even for a regulation-filled country like Singapore. Mr Lee was a man; just like any other man of the street. He was a very intelligent man, sure; and the main reason why Singapore has reached where it is today. One can even say that he is the Greatest Son of Singapore (GSS) who has ever lived. But when the government bends over backwards to guard over an image that can stand on its own without regulatory protection, one needs to ponder if indeed the government has gone too far in hero-worshipping? What possible intent can the government have for wanting to do this? What strategic value can we achieve with this?

And what might happen if we regulated the use of Mr Lee’s name and image? Well, there would be lesser and lesser views of his picture in the media and on the streets. Many people will stop mentioning his name, since Singaporeans are a good and law-abiding bunch. Very soon, no one will remember him, because there is nothing to remember him by. He might even be relegated to “He-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Uttered”. Is this how we want Singapore’s greatest citizen to be remembered?

Sometimes, it is better not to be too tight in our regulations. We should celebrate the person who was Mr Lee Kuan Yew, but not enshrine him in legislation, only to be uttered by the powers that be. There are ways to protect his name and image without having to resort to regulation. It would be a pity if Mr Lee Kuan Yew becomes known as “He-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Uttered,” don’t you think?

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