GE2015: LKY’s 1984 National Day Rally Speech


I said there’re three main things that bother me IMMENSELY about Chee. One is that I don’t think he’s patriotic. And two, I don’t think he is loyal, or perhaps I should say I’m very disturbed by the episode of him driving CHIAM SEE TONG out of the party (Singapore Democratic Party, SDP) he had founded.

The third thing is I am of the view that Chee’s dogged pursuit of total freedom of speech and absolute human rights will do us more harm than good.

I am for responsible freedom of expression, and yes, we can open up and relax more, but maybe not THAT much more in the very near term. Call me conservative, I don’t care. And you can disagree. Me, a strong believer of everything in moderation. I don’t think it is possible to attain absolute human rights without infringing on another person’s right or space or freedom.


Maybe it’s all because I’m old school. You know, the LKY School.

He gave a brilliant speech back in 1984 during the National Day Rally. It’s all of 55 minutes long. Watch it if you have the time. He’s kindda riveting to watch and listen to, you won’t feel the 55 minutes.


But if you’re really short for time, then at least watch these seven minutes from the speech. He (sorta) mocked the foreign journalists. And I’d even say he shut the human rights and other social activists up.

All of 31 years ago, and I can almost still throw the same speech to Chee. 


Transcript of LKY’s Speech @ National Day Rally Speech 1984

And when I read all these wiseacres, no group of men are wiser than the foreign correspondents who have been here six months. You know, if I were an Israeli, every wrong article would get a letter and a reply. But it’s so silly. They got it all wrong. They don’t even know what happened when we were independent. They’ve come here and think, Why? Lack of human rights, free press, docile, too clean, sterilized…

God… I should get their predecessors back. One day perhaps I should go through the old list of men who used to interview me in the 1950s and 60 and get SIA to fly them back. Free! The stench, the filth, the total confusion, the sense of despair and hopeless!

What did it?

Human rights? Are they bankable?


I used to tell them and I said this on television often to them, ‘Look, you tell the British government or the Australian government that they underwrite. If anything goes wrong, they will admit two million people. At that time, we were less than two million, 1.9 million people. They would admit them to Australia or Britain or America, and I would follow what you tell me (to do). And if it comes to grief, you take my people.’

When you have no food, you tell me where you go. When you haven’t got a job. You go to UN (for) your right? Your ILO (International Labour Organization) in Geneva? Or minimum conditions, minimum wage they should get. Millions are unemployed, what are they talking about? Thirty million in Europe. You would turn up at the ILO office and they would give you a job? When you’re hungry, you would go the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)? They would give you food? Or you’re sick, you got no medicine, you would go to the WHO (World Health Organization)? Is it bankable?

This is the only bank you have. The Singapore government!


And if we don’t do it right, your cheques won’t be honoured. One flip of the coin and it goes sour, we’d have 20% unemployment. What do you do? It has happened, you know. I dug up the figures from the annual reports. 1929, 1933, the Depression years. The British repatriated over 600,000 Indians and Chinese, back to China, back to India. From Singapore alone, 200,000. Where are we going to repatriate our Chinese and our Indians? And our Malays too. Are you going to send them back to China, to India and to Malaysia, or Indonesia? You going to do this?

Where do you queue up for the work permit? You know how they come back to get a job. They get cheated. Robbed! So contemplate all these, and I say these especially for the growing group of the intelligentsia here who read these magazines. Just remember, who wrote it? What is his stake? What is his interest in your future before you believe him?


I was once asked a whole series of questions by an Australian wire, ribald, long hair… ‘Why are we so tough on people who smoke marijuana, so on and so forth’ You know, so many things to do… So I said to him, ‘Look, let’s assume I’m only 3/4 as bright as you are, but I spend 20 hours of the day fuddling over these problems. You’ve only spent 20 minutes to think up all these questions. You think you know more about this and what’s going to happen if I listen to you?’

In fact, I have thought my problem through. They can’t solve the heroin problem in Britain. The Lord Chief Justice said it’s now gone rampant. I was doing my aerobics on my rowing machine and they had BBC on and they quoted Lord Chief Justice. He was very vivid. He said, ‘There’s no need to rob a bank. No need to take that risk. All you have to do is to sell heroin to the kids and they will rob their parents. There’s no need to rob the banks, you’ll run a serious risk.’

When we were faced with this problem, I said to them, ‘They hang or it will never stop.’ And they didn’t believe that we would hang them. We had to hang four before a dramatic drop. But you know Amnesty International and all these human rights will say, ‘Hanging is wrong.’ I said, ‘Look, if you believe them, when your child or your teenage son is a victim, look for them. See what remedy they have for you.’


Shall leave you with one of my fave #RememberingLKY posts from March.


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