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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor


One of my favourite books

"Lessons Learned - A Sad but True Tale of What Can Go Wrong in a One-Party State

Chris Lydgate, a long-time journalist from Portland, Oregon, has written a harrowing and frustrating tale on the life of an opposition party politician in a country that permits no such dissent - Singapore.

When I first picked up this book, I knew little to nothing about Singapore and didn't really think the subject would keep my interest. But Mr. Lydgate's biographical sketch on the life of opposition party politician J.B. Jeyaretnam quickly swept me in. His writing style is concise, clear and engaging, and the book concludes with a powerful warning for those who still harbor naive illusions about the nature of democracy.

As the story unfolds, you find yourself in the midst of a very personal battle between two stubborn men - the immensely powerful Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, and his erstwhile political opponent, Mr. Jeyaretnam. You learn quickly how easily the Prime Minister, with all the organs of the state at his disposal, can manipulate the judiciary, the police and the parliament into virtually destroying Mr. Jeyaretnam's career through an endless series of harrassment law suits designed to bankrupt and humiliate him.

Along the way, you pick up a great deal of the island's short history - it's been only 200 years since the island was settled - and you become deeply involved in Mr. Jeyaretnam's personal life, as he struggles to raise a family and stay true to his principles despite overwhelming economic and legal pressure.

In the end what you get is a powerful warning - this could be you, too, folks, if you allow the power of one single party or one single man within that party to grow too strong.

Singapore is, on the face of things, a democracy. There are elections every few years and opposition party candidates are allowed to run. But the system has been so hopelessly locked up by the PAP (People's Action Party) for so long now that any real dissent against the group-think policies of the island are met with overwhelming and brutal force.

In this era of "you're either with us or against us" and "this is not the time to cut and run", Mr. Lydgate's excellent book serves as a powerful reminder of the essential role that tolerance, dissent and criticism play in a democracy.

For those interested in such affairs, I heartily recommend this enjoyable, easy-to-read and yet powerful book."

~ Douglas Haxall

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