Calling it quits
Columnist who has attacked Lee Kuan Yew for years stops
writing for NY Times after three decades. Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 17, 2004
the 90s, William Safire has called Mr. Lee Kuan Yew a dictator
like no others. "Ironically, Lee may have created the
ideal communist state with the help of multinational corporations,"
he wrote in 1992.
that Lee's 'neo-authoritarianism' was was being studied
in China and 'this form of tyranny may become the next threat
and after Kuan Yew's retirement, the Pulitzer Price winner
had continued to criticise the ruling People's Action Party
policies on politics, the opposition, judiciary and the
like its laws on hanging, caning, chewing gum, and in particular,
its use of the courts against opposition leaders and the
foreign press that "Lee disliked."
York Times spokesman announced the Op-Ed page writer for
more than three decades will end his regular column in early
rightwing Safire joined the paper in 1973 after working
as a speechwriter for President Nixon. Since then he has
put out 5,000 columns and 3 million words. In 1978 he won
the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary.
However, Safire, 74, will continue to write his Sunday column,
"On Language", which has appeared in The New York
Times Magazine since 1979 and has led to the publication
of 15 books on the English language.
Singaporeans know him for his crusade against Lee Kuan Yew,
whom he had interviewed for the Times. Excerpts of one heated
exchange in February 1999:-
Well, I've seen where a publication suggested that compliant
judges were used corruptly to bankrupt your opponent. Right?
LKY: I took them to court and they paid damages for that.
That was because of your corrupt judges.
LKY: Now, just a moment. The World Economic Forum and it's
rival organization, IMD, listed us in their competitiveness
report, had confidence in our judicial system; compared
to all of the other countries, it's right on top.
That's on economic ...
LKY: No, no, no, no. You don't have judges who are honest
and competent in economics and dishonest and corrupt in
LKY: Because that's not the way we run our system. That's
not the way we appoint judges. A judge has been appointed
... we have inherited the British system. Once appointed,
he cannot be removed. His salaries are guaranteed under
the constitution. All his perquisites cannot been diminished.
So the result of these pristine, honest, uncorrupt judges
is that all your political opposition is driven into exile,
or bankrupted, or, in other words ...
LKY: Just a moment. How are they driven into exile? We do
not want them in exile.
Singapore was criticised, (the then) Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong said since Safire hadn't kept himself up-to-date
with events here he invited him to come for a visit - and
a public debate.
would give the American direct access to convince the people
of Singapore that he was right and the government was wrong.
fame was at home, built in an era of strong rightwing fervour
against communism and the Cold War.
9/11 and the war against terrorism, Safire's reputation
has taken a knock, especially his support of Bush's invasion
written in strong support with the US administration that
there was a link between Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein
- an allegation that Bush himself later admitted was based
on wrong intelligence.
columnist, Barry Lando, in Salon.com, asked how this "minister
of misinformation" (Safire) could get away with glaring
errors that shaped world affairs. He had insisted that there
was a smoking gun when there was none.
Seah Chiang Nee