Long-time political commentator Catherine Lim has announced that she will no longer be lecturing or writing about politics, and will instead focus her attention on mentoring and playing a consultant role to young Singaporeans instead.
The 73-year-old author and political critic made this recent announcement on her website to coincide with what she termed as “the end of the Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) era” and the beginning of the “new era in PAP (People’s Action Party) politics”.
Besides having nothing more to say about the government’s reliance on using “fear as an instrument of control”, she also said that as her writing would inevitably mention the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, it would be a “breach of both social responsibility and human decency” of her to make critical comments about him, since he is no longer around to refute them.
This comes after more than 20 years of constantly being at loggerheads with the ruling party. Catherine, who has published countless political commentaries, is said to be the “most persistent” critic of the PAP. She was also endorsed by the late Lee, who had equated self-criticism with what she said about him and the PAP.
ARTICLES SPARKED POLITICAL DEBATE
In 1994, an article written by Catherine, entitled “PAP and the People: A Great Affective Divide” and published in national broadsheet daily The Straits Times was widely thought to be the first salvo fired by Catherine, and the start of a two decade-long fight between her and the Singapore government.
The article talked about a divide between the PAP and Singaporeans, which had emerged, even with the country’s stability and prosperity, through the government’s use of tight political control so as to remain in power.
After it was published in The Straits Times, it caused such a controversy that various ministers, such as then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong and then-foreign affairs minister George Yeo felt the need to voice out against it.
Even so, Catherine was unperturbed, and did not stop there. She went on to talk about the “Crisis of Trust” between the Singapore government and the people in an open letter to prime minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2014.
In the letter, she lambasted the Singapore government’s “inability or unwillingness” to listen to the people in the aftermath of the General Election of 2011. She also criticised prime minister Lee’s decision to go forward with the defamation suit of blogger Roy Ngerng, suggesting that it may be wise to follow the advice of his ministers to bridge the divide between the government and its people.
Although she has now decided not to publicly lecture or write about politics, even going to the extent of shutting down her website (whose purpose was to share commentaries that the mainstream media were “not willing to publish”), she has stated that she intends to “observe with keen interest” the government’s strategies for Singapore’s upcoming general elections and share her views with “like-minded, equally concerned” Singaporeans, in the role of a mentor and “friend”.
Besides political writing, Catherine, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Malaya and a PhD in applied linguistics from the National University of Singapore, also has experience as a teacher. She has worked in the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore and the Regional English Language Centre.
(Photo Credit: Darren Soh for the International Herald Tribune)