From Third World to First PDF Book by Lee Kuan Yew


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In the second half of the 20th century, the emergence of scores of new states has made international politics and economics truly global for the first time in history. At the same time, technology has made it possible for nearly every country to participate in events in every part of the world as they occur. Unfortunately, the explosion in information has not been accompanied by a similar increase in knowledge.

From Third World to First PDF Book by Lee Kuan Yew

Name of Book From Third World to First
PDF Size 10.7 MB
No of Pages 757
Language English
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The continents interact, but they do not necessarily understand each other. The uniformity of technology is accompanied by an implicit assumption that politics, and even cultures, will become homogenised. Especially the long-established nations of the West have fallen prey to the temptation of ignoring history and judging every new state by the criteria of their own civilisations.

It is often overlooked that the institutions of the West did not spring full-blown from the brow of contemporaries but evolved over centuries which shaped frontiers and defined legitimacy, constitutional provisions and basic values. But history does matter. The institutions of the West developed gradually while those of most new states were put into place in elaborated form immediately.

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In the West, a civil society evolved side-by-side with the maturation of the modern state. This made possible the growth of representative institutions which confined the state’s power to those matters which society could not deal with by its own arrangements. Political conflicts were moderated by overriding purposes. Many post-colonial states have no comparable history.

Tasks which in the West were accomplished over centuries must be completed in a decade or two and under much more complex circumstances. Where the common national experience is colonial rule, especially when the state comprises diverse ethnic groups, political opposition is often considered an assault on the political validity of the state rather than of a particular government.

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Singapore is a case in point. As the main British naval base in the Far East, it had neither prospect nor aspiration for nationhood until the collapse of European power in the aftermath of the Second World War redrew the political map of Southeast Asia. In the first wave of decolonisation.

Singapore was made part of Malaya until its largely Chinese population proved too daunting for a state attempting to define its national identity by a Malay majority. Malaya extruded Singapore because it was not yet ready to cope with so large a Chinese population or, less charitably, to teach Singapore the habits of dependence if it was forced back into what later became the Malaysian Federation.

I wrote to thank Healey for his assurance. I was wrong: he could not speak for the government. Wilson, the prime minister, was out to save his government. He meant it when he said it was “Britain first”. Wilson also said “no area of expenditure can be regarded as sacrosanct”. I wrote to Wilson on 18 December to recount how the Singapore government had faithfully supported sterling. From Third World to First PDF Book

And lost S$157 million as a result of this devaluation (the Currency Board S$69 million, the Singapore government S$65 million, statutory boards S$23 million). My letter ended: “I would be loath to believe that temporary difficulties could disrupt the trust and confidence we have in each other’s good intentions, goodwill and good faith.

I shall stand by my statement at Scarborough and on our part we shall see that the last of the British forces will be given a ceremonial send-off when they leave their bases in the mid-70s.” This was a forlorn hope. In the first major crisis of his government Wilson had no time to save friends and allies, however faithful. Instead of replying, he sent George Thomson.

The Commonwealth relations secretary, to see me on 9 January 1968. Thomson was apologetic and defensive. Devaluation, he said, had given the British government a chance once and for all to put the economy right. The defence cuts would mean a fundamental change in the historic role of Britain and its long-term defence structure. From Third World to First PDF Book

The British would remain in Europe, though their capability could be used to help allies outside Europe. I asked about Healey’s statement on an amphibious capability in Singapore. That was to be scrapped. No naval forces would be stationed in Southeast Asia after 1971. Asked how firm the decision to pull out by 1971 was.

Thomson said it was very firm but they would take into account the views of their Commonwealth partners. Thomson was gentle and friendly in his demeanour. His sympathies were with us. It was an unpleasant task Wilson had given him. To soften the blow, Wilson invited me for discussions at Chequers, the official country home of the prime minister.

In my frustration and anger at this total disregard for undertakings given solemnly, I said that we too could put Singapore’s interests first and foremost and protect our sterling balances by moving them out of London. Nevertheless I decided to go to London and see Wilson at Chequers. From Third World to First PDF Book

Through these cases, Singaporeans realised that what the foreign press wanted was to sell their papers to our growing English-reading public. They did this by being tendentious at the expense of the facts. Naturally they did not like their slanted articles straightened out. When they discovered that if they twisted our arm, we could tweak their noses in reply, biased reporting became less frequent.

In July 1993 the Economist, an influential British weekly, published an article which criticised us for prosecuting a government officer and the editor and a reporter of a newspaper under the Official Secrets Act. We sent a letter to the editor to correct errors in the article. It published the letter, claiming it had “virtually not been touched, practically in full”.

But it left out a key sentence: “The government will not acquiesce in breaches of the Official Secrets Act, nor allow anyone to flout, challenge and gradually change the law, as has happened in Britain with Clive Ponting’s case and Peter Wright’s book, Spycatcher.” This was the whole point of the letter. From Third World to First PDF Book Download

We were not going to allow our press to challenge and gradually alter by precedent the law governing official secrets. The British press had succeeded in doing this when Ponting, a civil servant, released secret information about the sinking during the Falklands war of the Belgrano, an Argentinean warship, and when Wright, an MI6 officer, broke their secrecy rules by publishing his book.

We sent a letter asking the editor to remedy the omission. The editor quibbled and refused. We gazetted the publication and capped its circulation at 7,500 copies. We made clear that circulation would be progressively restricted and released the exchange of letters. Then the Economist published our letter, including this sentence. After a decent interval, we lifted the restriction.

Apart from replying to attacks in the media itself, I was ready to meet my critics face to face. In 1990 Bernard Levin of the London Times wrote a bitter attack on me and criticised the Singapore judiciary. He alleged “misrule” and a “frenzied determination to allow no one in his realm to defy him”. From Third World to First PDF Book Download

To sue Levin in England, where I was not widely known and did not have any voters, would have been pointless. Instead, I wrote to invite him to a live television debate in London on his allegations. Levin’s editor replied that no television station would be interested. I had taken the precaution of first writing to the chairman of the BBC, my friend Marmaduke Hussey.

Who had agreed to provide half an hour and a neutral moderator. When I informed the London Times of this offer, the editor on Levin’s behalf backed off, arguing that my response should be in the same medium in which Levin had attacked me, namely the Times. I wrote to regret Levin’s unwillingness to confront me.

When the Times refused to publish my letter, I bought a half-page advertisement in the British daily, the Independent. Interviewed on the BBC World Service, I said, “Where I come from, if an accuser is not prepared to face the person he has attacked, there is nothing more to be said.” Levin has not written about Singapore or me since. From Third World to First PDF Book Free

In his autobiography, serialised by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun in 1995, he said that his “father’s blood line has supposedly been traced back to Kerala State in India”. His mother was a Malay born in Kedah. But he identified himself totally as a Malay and was determined in wanting to uplift the Malays.

When Hussein Onn appointed him as his deputy prime minister and minister for education I decided to hold out my hand in friendly cooperation for the future, regardless of our profound differences in the past. Through Devan Nair, who knew him well from his years in the Malaysian Parliament, I invited Mahathir to Singapore in 1978.

I expected Mahathir to succeed Hussein as prime minister and wanted to put our old antagonism behind us. I knew he was a fierce and dogged fighter. I had seen the way he had fought the Tunku when the Tunku was at the height of his power. He had been expelled from UMNO but that did not deter him from carrying on the fight. From Third World to First PDF Book Free

I was not unwilling to clash with him when we were in Malaysia, but feuding between two sovereign states was different. I initiated this dialogue to clear away the debris of the past. He accepted the invitation and followed up with several subsequent visits. We had long and frank exchanges of several hours each to clear the air surrounding our suspicions of each other.

He was direct and asked what we were building the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) for. I replied equally directly that we feared that at some time or other there could be a random act of madness like cutting off our water supplies, which they had publicly threatened whenever there were differences between us. We had not wanted separation.

It had been thrust upon us. The Separation Agreement with Malaysia was a part of the terms on which we left and had been deposited in the United Nations. In this agreement, the Malaysian government had guaranteed our water supply. If this was breached, we would go to the UN Security Council. From Third World to First PDF Book Free

If water shortage became urgent, in an emergency, we would have to go in, forcibly if need be, to repair damaged pipes and machinery and restore the water flow. I was putting my cards on the table. He denied that any such precipitate action would happen. I said I believed that he would not do this, but we had to be prepared for all contingencies.

Singapore’s then chief minister, Lim Yew Hock, invited me to meet him at dinner. A dapper little man, well-dressed and articulate, Bandaranaike was elated at having obtained an election mandate from the Sinhalese majority to make Ceylon a more nativist society. It was a reaction against the “Brown Sahib” society – the political elite who on inheriting power had modelled themselves on the British.

Including their lifestyle. Sir John Kotelawala, the prime minister whom Bandaranaike succeeded, went horse riding every morning. Bandaranaike did not seem troubled that the Jaffna Tamils and other minorities would be at a disadvantage now that Sinhalese was the national language, or by the unease of the Hindu Tamils.From Third World to First PDF Book Free

The Muslim Moors and the Christian Burghers (descendants of Dutch and natives) at the elevated status of Buddhism as the national religion. He had been president of the Oxford Union and he spoke as if he was still in the Oxford Union debating society. I was not surprised when, three years later, he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk.

I thought it ironic that a Buddhist monk, dissatisfied with the country’s slow rate of progress in making Buddhism the national religion, should have done it. In the election that followed, his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became prime minister on the sympathy vote. She proved to be a less voluble but much tougher leader.

When I met her in Ceylon in August 1970 she was a determined woman who believed in the non-aligned ideology. Ceylon favoured the withdrawal of all US troops from South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and a Nuclear-Weapons Free Zone in the Indian Ocean, free of big power conflicts. From Third World to First PDF Book Free

As a younger man, I patiently explained my different foreign policy objectives, that Singapore would be gravely threatened if South Vietnam were to fall into the hands of the communists, threatening Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The insurgency would spread into Malaysia, with serious consequences for Singapore.

We could not subscribe to this high-minded ideology when it had serious consequences for our future. Other great powers in the region, China and Japan, would in time expand their naval build-up. Therefore Singapore found it necessary to continue with the Five-Power Defence Arrangement which gave us some security.

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