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The FamiLEE Saga: A Non-Emotional Analysis Of Why I Support PM Lee

Commentary, Singapore
lee hsien loong

Hey folks! This post is on the logical, non-emotional analysis of why I support PM Lee. Singaporeans have been really riled up about this issue, so I thought I will write something logical and rational about it.

In the previous post, I wrote that the various parties in this FamiLEE saga were very consistent in their actions towards their respective objectives from the PR perspective. In this post, I will demonstrate how all parties are consistent in their cognitive bias too. If you were to follow this analysis from the lens of cognitive bias, you will realise very quickly that all parties are not lying in their versions of events.

Think about the story your teacher told you in primary school, of the blind men who touched different parts of an elephant.

elephant

The blind men all reported different versions of what an elephant is. The guy who felt the tail said the elephant is like a rope; The guy who felt the legs of the elephant reported it to be thick and short; The guy who felt the trunk said it was long and powerful. All blind men felt the same elephant and reported different things because of their differences in positions, and all were not lying.

To observe how any blind man would report the elephant, you simply have to observe exactly where the blind man is located. If he is located near the tail of the elephant, then obviously he will report the elephant to be “akin to a rope”. You can change blind man A and put blind man B near the tail, and he will be reporting the same thing from the same spot.

Now, in this FamiLEE context, what do the blind man and elephant refer to?

  • Degree of blindness = degree of cognitive bias
  • Elephant = reality.

So a man with perfect eyesight can be thought of as a man who is logical and base his decisions 100% on verifiable facts and zero emotions. Which is probably none of us. The most we can do is to minimize our degree of cognitive biases (= minimize degree of blindness), in order to see reality (=the elephant) as is. It is always beneficial to be aware of your cognitive bias so that you know exactly how your emotions affect your logical thought process.

Therefore, the implication of identifying the consistency in cognitive bias is that you can quickly understand how each party perceives the world.

Think of cognitive biases as lens by which you interpret things that happened. If there is an apple in front of you, and previously you bit into an apple filled with maggots, then you will feel repulsed by apples. So while most people would view the apple as a sweet fruit, you will view the apple as disgusting. Likewise, while a girl might be thrilled when her boyfriend tells her “You’re the apple of my eye”, you will feel like puking because looking at the apple triggers disgust which was learnt from .

So you see, you can actually predict reactions once you test for and identify a consistent cognitive bias. The way to test for a cognitive bias is to compare the first situation with a “control observation” by a person who is indifferent to the issue. For our apple example, simply ask someone who is indifferent about apples how he will react if he sees an apple in front of him. The likely answer will be that he doesn’t react either positively or negatively– “I will just eat the apple, lol?”

In the same vein, to test for the cognitive bias of LHL, LHY or LWL, you can ask a non-Singaporean without emotional ties to Singapore, on what he thinks about this whole FamiLEE saga. It is very likely that the non-Singaporean will say that he really doesn’t see the big deal about the house issue. And even if he does, he is likely to comment that the national heritage matter is really blown out of proportion.

So, here are the cognitive biases of each party:

  • LHY and LWL’s cognitive biases// The anger that LHL might be “too” politically ambitious, to the extent of going against LKY’s wishes;
  • LHL’s cognitive bias// The suspicion that LHY and his wife might be “too” greedy, even to the extent of possibly manipulating LKY’s final will.
  • LKY’s cognitive bias// I think LKY was actually pretty logical and minimized his personal cognitive biases. Having said that, I personally feel that LKY identified both LHY/LWL and LHL’s biases and wanted to minimize risks of Singapore falling to a “personality” type of political leader in future. LKY did have to balance contradictory objectives simultaneously–to weigh the risk that Singapore will fall to a leader without any substance VS the benefit for Singapore to have some sort of national heritage. This explained why there was a change in clauses for the wills, because all these are not easy decisions to be made. Now, note that LKY’s final decision is consistent with LKY’s past behaviour as a pragmatic rather than ideological politician. So, my personal view is that he minimized his own cognitive biases to his deathbed.

Also, note that the cognitive biases of all parties have been consistent throughout the saga.

That is, everyone is speaking the truth and their perception is reality to them.

Here, you can do an experiment–try viewing the evidence from the lens of LHY and LWL first with the cognitive bias that your brother is a crazily politically ambitious person, to the extent that he would manipulate LKY’s last wishes.

This would explain why:

  • The last will was done in such a rush– most likely, they did not want LHL to intervene or “plot” to intervene;
  • LHY and LWL have to secretly plan such a calculated and unpre-empted social media against LHL, and
  • They refused for the statement that “LKY agreed with the MPs that the house should be kept as a heritage site” to be read out in parliament.
  • LHY and LWL concluded that LHL and Ho Ching must have planned for their son to be the next prime minister after LHL.

Similarly, if you were to view LHL’s world via his cognitive bias that LHY and his wife might be “too greedy”, you will also come to the same conclusion as written in LHL’s lawyer’s press release. This conclusion is also logical, because LHL is unlikely to even see that LHY and LWL view him with that particular cognitive bias of him being “too” politically ambitious.

Imagine this purely fictional and entirely possible scenario:

  1. Long long ago, LKY created his first will and in the first will, the house was to be demolished. This is because LKY is a pragmatic leader and has consistently always preached practical values. He even built Singapore out of pragmatism!
  2. Then LHL suggested to LKY, “Pa, why don’t we keep the house? It might serve as a great national heritage.” LHL says this because he has experience also as Prime Minister of Singapore.
  3. LKY might consider this. After all, LKY knew the importance of symbols in national building, and the house will remind Singaporeans of their roots and not to take things for granted.
  4. LHY and LWL watched this and got suspicious, because they could have interpreted LHL as using this as an excuse to prolong his own political power. This is how the cognitive bias built up. There might have been triggers in the past that caused the seed of doubt to be there.
  5. So, LHY and his wife went to persuade LKY to will to demolish the house after LKY is gone, for the good of Singapore not to fall in the hands of a leader who feels that he needs not account to anyone.
  6. LHL probably realised only later that this particular clause in the will is changed. If it were you, will you get suspicious as to exactly why it is changed? Of course you would!
  7. My guess here is that LHL does not know of the sibilings’ cognitive biases, defined as an irrational anger and suspicion that LHL is “too” politically ambitious. LHL probably sees himself as politically ambitious, which all leaders would. So the logical conclusion is to suspect that LHY and his wife are doing this out of greed for money.
  8. This explains the reason why LHL sold his share of the house to LHY conditional on LHY giving the proceeds of any sale to charity. LHL donated his share to charity too. This is out of the cognitive bias LHL has towards LHY, that the masses might interpret BOTH LHL and LHY as greedy.
  9. This cognitive bias that LHY and his wife are “a little too greedy” also explains the press release sent out by his lawyer, on the part that there was suspicion that the last will was tampered with.

Now, some people might question, “If PM Lee is really innocent, why doesn’t he sue his siblings? Therefore, he must be guilty. After all, did he not sue Roy Ngerng most recently on the count of defamation? There is inconsistency, there is something he must have wanted to hide, why does he have such double standards when it comes to his reputation?”

There are actually many reasons why someone might not sue another person. And in this case, it is because the opponent is not only strong, it is family.

So, here are several very rational reasons why PM Lee might not sue (yet):

  1. Opportunity cost// The opponent this time is strong and if this matter goes to court, the lawsuit is likely to be a protracted one. What will the opportunity cost be? It is basically future time taken away from attending to more important political matters for Singapore. Is the trade-off worth it? Obviously not by any measure!
  2. Magnanimity and the will to avoid a public relations disaster// The parties against him are after all his siblings, people he grew up with. It is entirely possible to also take kinship into consideration.
  3. More dirty linen due to (deliberate) lack of context by the mass media and the public// A text without a conTEXT becomes a con. It might be possible that the non mainstream press will simply take words from LHY and LWL out of context and sensationalise them, making public opinion towards PM Lee even worse.

Now, accusations of conflict of interest are VERY COMMON amongst people in high positions. If you hold a political position and a business position, it is very easy to accuse you of conflict of interest, and sometimes sincerely so. And who knows, in this case there might be conflict of interests that nobody previously paid attention to. Because nobody ever dared or bothered to voice out in Singapore as the system works okay for majority of the people.

Therefore, all in all, I am for PM Lee because I believe that he cannot be faulted for being politically ambitious– that can only be good for Singapore. I personally don’t think PM Lee is “too” politically ambitious because…come on, Singapore is not so easy to run in recent years, what with the rapid rise of China, crazy Donald Trump and the ever widening income gap.

I can empathize with PM Lee’s position–it is a pretty difficult situation to be in because he faces accusations of conflict of interest as son, brother and leader of Singapore. In fact, I would go as far as to say “who on earth would want to be ‘too’ politically ambitious in Singapore?” It really is hard enough to run this country–Imagine making a speech until you faint. And after you faint you CHOSE to come back to finish your speech. 

This is not it. The most important reason as to why I support PM Lee is this: In lieu of suing, what did PM Lee do?

Yes, you got it. PM Lee decided to address parliament in July in a humble and accountable manner.

He apologised to the public for causing concern at the expense of Singapore and explained his stance in an elegant, non-dramatic manner.

He won my respect because this position still gives his siblings the space to backtrack.

In other words he did not force LWL and LHY into a corner with a lawsuit. This position also gives the Singaporean public a chance to understand his position and intention better.

Some might say, Come On, the PAP IB/ bootlicking MPs might just ask stupid questions. Well, yes, then let’s vote them out in the next election then. This is the time to see the true colours of what is meant by “ownself check ownself”.

But the fact that PM Lee CHOSE to open himself to scrutiny and tight questioning by NCMP, Opposition party MPs and PAP MPs showed me his humility and I respect that very much.

And the above reasons are why I support PM Lee. I do not doubt his positive intentions for Singapore. And I hope after reading this post, you will not doubt it too. Everyone in the FamiLEE saga are acting consistent to their cognitive biases. And guess what, everyone involved has the heart for Singapore.

Or perhaps, that’s my cognitive bias.

When Smart People Play: The FamiLEE Saga From a PR Perspective

Commentary, Singapore
familee

Today I am going to write an opinion piece focusing on some key takeaways from the recent FamiLEE saga, a huge matter of public interest.

Because this saga is a highly polarizing topic in Singapore,  I’ll make some preliminary disclaimers first.

Preliminary Disclaimers

  • #1. I have the highest respect towards PM Lee (Read my previous posts about him here, here, here). This post however is not speculation on “who said what” or “what should be”. It is instead a “what is” analysis of “how and why certain things are said (or not said) in certain ways”.

  • #2. This post is written BECAUSE the saga involves some of the top minds in Asia. And boy, from the Public Relations (PR) perspective, I must really say that LHL and LHY are extremely smart and strategic people who make very consistent PR moves. In fact, I’m extremely amazed by how consistent these moves are.

  • #3: There are legal defences to defamation. According to Singapore Legal Advice, for the defence of fair comment, the statement maker must prove that the statement was:

    -An expression of an opinion;

    -Based on true facts

    -The opinion of a relatively unbiased person; and

    -Related to a matter of public interest.

Therefore, do note that the PR strategies will be largely contingent and influenced by the four points. In order to strengthen their defence against defamation, LHY and LWL have to consistently and from time to time make an argument that they are doing what they do in the spirit of one or more of the above four points.

  • #4. Note that this saga is already not about “The Truth”, or “What is right or wrong”. Whenever a private matter is aired onto a public space and everyone is talking about it, it ceases to be about the truth anymore. Instead, it then becomes about public OPINION.

Truth is now irrelevant. It is always useful to bear in mind that there are two courts in life: One, the court of law and Two, the court of public opinion. Even if you win in the court of law, you can lose very badly in the court of public opinion and lose power overall, even more so for politicians.

Now, ever since LHY and LWL launched attacks on PM Lee, there is no way LHL can emerge from the mess in a “win” situation. LHL best case scenerio is to basically minimise the damages as more ambiguous or complex things are shown to the public. These things might be subjected to unfavorable interpretations and speculations.

This is the dangerous aspect to the whole saga and PM Lee cannot choose to sue easily, because IF he does, it will end up in a protracted lawsuit which will then force all parties into a worse lose-lose situation.

 Consistent PR Strategies Taken by The Lee Siblings and Family

  • PM Lee Hsien Loong// The objective of his PR strategy is to balance the need to protect his reputation as PM of Singapore with the need to not appear as “too harsh” in front of the Singaporean public.

In my view, there is a clear tradeoff between the court of law and the court of public opinion. So PM Lee has to plan his PR messages in a way that protects him from negative consequences in both courts. Note that the court of public opinion is also not limited to just Singapore– there is a need to also behave in such a way to “reassure” the world that Singapore is not a dictatorship, for instance.

  • Lee Hsien Yang// The objective of his PR strategy is to show/ hint at a hidden agenda/ conflict of interest/ misuse of power associated with PM Lee’s actions. LHY has to pursue this objective against perceived unfair use of “state organs against him and his family”.

My opinion is that Lee Hsien Yang probably DID felt threatened in some ways so much so that that he is forced into this position. It is not a very nice position to take for sure. LHY’s goal is to get the house demolished.

  • Dr Lee Weiling// The objective of her PR strategy is to get the house demolished, because this is what she believes the late Lee Kuan Yew wants in accordance to his will. This is why she backs LHY and will share his fb posts on her public page, or on her personal facebook wall.

I’m personally convinced that she chooses to be involved in this mess for this reason. This is why her responses tend to be sometimes emotional. It is interesting to note that Dr. Lee Weiling has nothing monetary to gain from helping LHY. Also, I personally don’t think she is a lady who is easily influenced by money.

  • Ho Ching// The objective of her PR strategy is to stay out of the limelight.

Personally, I think the most telling part of any PR strategy is who is excluded from the mess. People who choose not to be publicly involved in sagas are actually very wise folks.

  • Lee Suet Fern// The objective of her PR strategy is to convey messages that support her husband’s stance IF she does choose to be seen in the media.

She has been very consistent in this, especially in the “softer” and “emotional” sides.

  • The sons of Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Hsien Loong// The objective of their PR strategy is to not get involved in this political mess as much as possible, or dispel conspiracy theories about themselves. I believe Li Shengwu (the son of LHY) has already exercised great restraint coming from someone who is a distinguished debater and has a political science background in his education.

So here are some of my key learnings and observations, from the PR perspective:

#1. Key Observations From The First Press Release Made Public By Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Weiling

It is clear that this post with both article links is written with the intention for the FB post to go viral. Why do I say so?

  • Timing// The post is released at 2.30am SG time so as to maximize social media reach before the mainstream media can react.
  • Tone and potentially inflammatory content// Personal attacks were made against PM Lee, who has previously shown that he will sue for defamation. The tone was highly emotional. PM Lee has a strong supporter base and his well-being is linked to Singapore’s so it is likely that people will share because this topic is so sensational.
  • Background of writers// The people who made the accusations are PM Lee’s siblings.
  • Two versions for reading convenience// A shitass long version and a ;TLDR version. So, obviously meant for public digestion.
  • Title of post// “What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew’s values?” can be seen as click-baity! Lee Kuan Yew’s name is evoked, and “whatever happened” prompts people to click on the post because of FEAR and CURIOSITY.
  • New Facebook pages specially set up for this “fight”// Dr Lee Weiling’s FB page and Lee Hsien Yang’s FB page. Now, think about it, why would you set up a FB page just for this saga? Reason: To polarize and accumulate social proof to advance your cause, of course.
  • Vulnerability// Saying that they are scared and creating strong sympathy amongst some segments of the Singaporean masses.

 

#2 Key Learnings From PM Lee’s Responses

(1) No matter how angry you feel, do not show it to the public. Always write in a dignified manner. 

This is a very calm and dignified response! The key words used were “very disappointed” and “deeply saddened”.

No random flare ups at all. If PM Lee were angry when he wrote the statement, I personally give him +10000 points for writing such a succinct piece IN SPITE OF his possible feelings of betrayal and anger.

This is because showing your emotions to the public will raise even more questions about how logical you are as a leader, or whether you allow your emotions to get the most out of you.

(2) How to write in a manner that conveys that you are logical and not crazy. 

Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, 15 June 2017

  • Notice that PM Lee wrote this summary via his lawyer(s). This seems to subtly hint that if LWL and LHY do not back down, a court case might be possible and imminent.
  • This summary is written in a chronological order. Whenever you want to counter responses that appear emotional (such as those that Dr. LWL tends to make), it makes sense to structure your response in a chronological order because it primes your audience for verifiable facts.

Verifiable facts are defined as things which happened on a particular date or time. Think about it, who would appear to be more credible: A chronological response based on black on white, with verifiable facts? Or a response peppered with emotional words (even if true) on highly subjective matters which cannot be verified?

  • Summary is written in a very impersonal, boring, logical and unemotional manner. This seems to be done with the intention of clearing the air, and wanting the saga to die down and not sensationalise it further.

#3. Key Learning from LHY’s subsequent responses

I’m very impressed by LHY’s responses methods subsequently because of various reasons:

(A) LHY basically plays his cards one by one. NOT showhand. 

Notice how he respond to a list of questions/claims made by LHL? Yes, you got it–ONE AT A TIME. He doesn’t address the whole list.

So he will make a Facebook status addressing ONE POINT, attach a black on white verifiable and clear evidence to rebut that point with no doubt.

How to argue against the above, except to take the stance that the will is not valid? By taking this stance, another can of worms is opened.

And the genius of this strategy is that you don’t know exactly how many “Trump” cards LHY holds! So, if you are on LHL’s side, you do have some unknown-unknowns which can really be scary.

(B) Using PM Lee’s words against PM Lee.

In personal branding and inspiring trust amongst the masses, inconsistency kills.

Now the question to ask is not “who is right?” In the first place this was not the objective. The objective is basically to hint at LHL having a hidden agenda.

(C) Fast response time

This is to give an impression that whatever message that is put out is genuine and authentic.

That is, nobody vetted through the messages hence you can reply very fast.

#4. The Next Episode of FamiLEE Saga: Look At What Is Not Said

Overall, it is very clear that this saga is only starting, not ending.

It will be really useful to monitor response methods and strategies as more and more people of high positions are dragged in, one by one. It is also perhaps important to think about who might be involved in the mess but keeping quiet.

Sometimes looking at what is UNSAID tells even more than what is SAID.

The Singaporean masses tend to think that this saga is messy. However, it really isn’t. So far, the PR strategies are amazingly consistent. And if the PR strategies stay consistent for all parties, we can predict ONE logical end.

The logical end will be reached assuming nobody loses control of their emotions and sticks to their planned PR strategies. And the logical end is this:

  • PM Lee will eventually issue a statement saying that they have decided to re-discuss the situation privately, and invite “constructive comments”.
  • After PM Lee does this, the siblings might continue to protest or raise alarms via their social media channels, if needed– “to update the Singaporean masses”. The social media platforms are their insurance against any potential bad things that can happen to them.

And then, silence. Then everyone moves on with their lives.

Singapore’s Future…Whatever is Happening?!

Commentary, Misc, Singapore
singapore

Whatever is happening to Singapore’s future?

Have you guys read the following news that is circulating on social media?

The following quote summarizes the gist of the long press release titled “What Has Happened To Lee Kuan Yew’s Values?”

QUOTE:

“Lee Kuan Yew served as Singapore’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990. Lee Hsien Loong is Singapore’s current prime minister. Wei Ling and Hsien Yang are also the executors and trustees of Lee Kuan Yew’s estate; Hsien Loong was removed in 2011. Wei Ling and Hsien Yang state:

“We have seen a completely different face to our brother Hsien Loong, one that deeply troubles us. Since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, on 23 March 2015, we have felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government to drive his personal agenda. We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government. We feel big brother omnipresent. We fear the use of the organs of state against us and Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern.

If Hsien Loong is prepared to act thus against his younger sister and brother, both contributing members of Singapore’s establishment, to advance his personal agenda, Wei Ling and Hsien Yang worry for Singapore.

The situation is such that Hsien Yang feels compelled to leave Singapore:

“It is with a very heavy heart that I will leave Singapore for the foreseeable future. This is the country that my father, Lee Kuan Yew, loved and built. It has been home for my entire life. Singapore is and remains my country. I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure.”

 

The above press release and statements were jointly made by Dr. Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang. Emphasis in bold are mine.

This is serious because some pretty strong words have been used.

As an overseas Singaporean citizen who has always been thankful and trusting of our country’s leadership –You can read my praises for PM Lee here and here too– I was quite shocked! 😮

 

Some people have said that this is “fake news”, so we went on reddit to cross-check:

reddit singapore

Wow. According to the above redditors’ logic, it is highly unlikely that those statements are fake news.

 

Further comments by Li Shengwu, Lee Hsien Yang’s son:

li shengwu

 

It would also be really interesting to see how the mainstream media reports this. Or perhaps, disturbing.

And it will be really insightful to see how PM Lee’s Public Relations Team pens a response to this. Come to think about it, this situation is not a good position for any Public Figure to be in.

  • On the one hand, it is not wise to sue your (high-profile) family members for defamation, as the Singaporean public would tend to see this act as “being heartless”. Because why would you sue your kin, instead of being more magnanimous and forgiving?
  • On the other hand, if the Public Figure doesn’t sue, his good name will be questioned. And people will also question the consistency in his decision– Did PM Lee not sue Roy Ngerng to protect his good name, even though some have criticized the act as petty? Shouldn’t PM Lee’s good name be protected at all costs “for the sake of Singapore”?

So one possible logical way out is to pepper the PR response with terms like “It is with great disappointment that I have to make this statement…”, “with great grief”, “regretful”, “would be happy to start a ‘constructive dialogue’ “, etc.

I don’t know– I’m not PM Lee’s PR Consultant. We can only wait and see.

Looks like something major is brewing. 😮 How worrying!