Monday, 15 February 2010

Lesson in Life: Mousetrap

What to start a new week full of hope and reaffirming my belief in the sense of community....if my brother or sister is in trouble, I have to help him or her out, carry the load and just be there to lend a listening ear...This forwarded e-mail from my sis just it perfect for me to place it on my blog. I don't know the original author. Nevertheless, all credit to you and thanks for this inspiring story.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. What food might this contain? The mouse wondered-he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house! The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr.Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me." " I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The pig sympathized, but said, I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. "Be assured you are in my prayers." The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose." So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital , and she
returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra
effort to encourage one another.


One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend

Monday, 8 February 2010

From Third to First

Title: From Third World to First: The Singapore Story 1965-2000
Author: Lee Kuan Yew
Pages: xv+729
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reviewer: Mwesigye Gumisiriza

How much does having a foresighted and focused leadership determine the path of development that a country will take? Are some countries just lucky to have had such leaders or do we get the leaders we deserve? Or is it that the leaders we have are mere products of the environment from which they emerge?

Reading this book from a Third World perspective like Africa, one can’t help but feel short-changed. Singapore, which was colonised by the British like many African countries and attained independence during the same period, changed from a gloomy prospect to an industrialised and prosperous state. This is an account of the transformation by the man who was at helm for over three decades.

In the foreword, Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, observes: “Located on a sandbar with nary a natural resource....Singapore seemed destined to become a client state of more powerful neighbours...Lee Kuan Yew thought otherwise...superior intelligence, discipline and ingenuity would substitute for resources”.
When Lee Kuan Yew came into office, his government was confronted by challenges. Economically, it was how to deal with the withdrawal of British naval bases that had provided employment and other economic opportunities. Politically, the Communist opposition and the trade unions were a constant thorn in the side. Externally, due to the Cold War, their foreign policy required walking a tight rope between competing forces and interests.

So Lee convinced Britain to conduct their withdrawal in a way that enabled Singapore adjust to the after effects to its security, sovereignty and economy. He then built an army not only for protection but provision of employment and boosting of national unity. On the latter, Lee also championed education, with English as medium of instruction, as a vehicle to minimise racial divisions and create a highly skilled citizenry for the foreign investment in industry that the government had attracted. To position the country favourably, the government searched for and made products for markets beyond the region and cultivated it as a global financial centre to complement New York, London and Tokyo.

Subsequently, against many odds, Singapore became an environmentally clean state, with decent modern accommodation for the people, an efficient workforce, a sound social security system and a corruption-free bureaucracy. With regard to corruption, he states “We were sickened by the greed, corruption and decadence of many Asian leaders...So, from the very beginning we gave special attention to the areas where discretionary powers had been exploited for personal gain and sharpened the instruments that could prevent, detect or deter such practices”.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I focuses on the beginning and the challenges. In Part II, Lee elaborates on his relations with different leaders and foreign policy with various countries. Though he visited many African states, he says little about them but acknowledges Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Apollo Milton Obote. Part III is where he describes retirement from public office: “The support of the old guard had made possible what we had achieved but it was our joint responsibility to ensure that Singapore continued to be governed by able, honest and dedicated men. The original team had peaked and was running out of steam”.
If I was to give this book to any African president, I would beg him or her to first read the parts about creating a clean government and about passing on the mantle to new leaders.