Different legacies: Ferdinand Marcos and Lee Kuan Yew
(CNN Philippines) — On paper, Ferdinand Marcos and Lee Kuan Yew share many things in common — both men, lawyers by profession, rose to power in a time when the world was still recovering from the Second World War. They ruled over their respective states for decades, and are widely known for their strong-handed governance.
Although he never declared martial law, Lee was a stickler for the most specific of details in public life. He supported strict rules on cleanliness: spitting, littering, and even failing to flush toilets are all punishable under Singapore law.
Lee has also been criticized for Singapore’s restricted freedom of speech and heavy censorship of the media.
“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today,” Lee told The Straits Times in 1987.
And of course, Marcos, citing what he believed to be a rise in lawlessness and disorder, declared martial law in 1972.
However, Lee and Marcos arguably share more differences than similarities.
Lee has been glorified, especially in Singapore, for being the architect of its momentous economic growth. On his death yesterday (March 23), different heads of state heaped praises on his leadership.
The same cannot be said for Marcos — he has long been vilified by a large majority of Filipinos, and neither does he have a stellar reputation with the rest of the world.
Marcos was essentially a statesman in the making. His father, Mariano Marcos, was a House representative of Ilocos Norte from 1925-1931.
Ferdinand Marcos studied law at the University of the Philippines and topped the 1939 bar exams, despite allegedly reviewing for the test while behind bars on a murder charge.
Marcos would soon serve as a House representative and Senate president before winning the 1965 presidential elections. He was reelected to the same position in 1969.
Lee, on the other hand, was born to a business-oriented middle class family.
After the Second World War, he finished a law degree at Cambridge and returned to work as a lawyer in Singapore. After co-forming the People’s Action Party (PAP) with other middle-class contemporaries in 1954.
Lee would find himself as Singapore’s first prime minister after the PAP won an overwhelming majority in SIngapore’s 1959 elections.
At that time, Singapore had just been granted full self-government by the United Kingdom — the British still controlled external affairs such as the military and foreign relations.
Singapore broke away from colonial rule in 1963 when it joined the Federation of Malaya (modern-day Malaysia) with Sarawak and North Borneo.
It was a rocky union for Singapore — there was tension between the city’s constituents of Chinese descent, and the rest of Malaysia’s predominantly Malayan citizens.
During that time, the ruling parties of Singapore and Malaysia also shared ideological difference. In 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia.
In 1990, Lee stepped down from his prime minister post, leaving behind a Singapore that was entirely different than when he assumed the position during the late 50’s.
At that point, the country had grown to become a global finance and trade hub, as well as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It had gained recognition as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.
When Marcos was ousted in 1986, he also left behind a Philippines that was entirely different than when he first became president.
Decades of constant borrowing had plunged the country in deep debt. And of course, there was the political crisis to boot, which reached its apex during the assassination of former Sen. Benigno Aquino II in 1983.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, [the Philippines] was the most developed, because America had been generous in rehabilitating the country after the war. Something was missing, a gel to hold society together,” Lee said in his book From Third World to First.
Updated 14:29 PM PHT Tue, March 24, 2015
Read about Marcos Plunder > https://anywhereiwander.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/asian-journal-chronology-of-the-marcos-plunder/