Forum: Tommy Koh wants only the best for Singapore and its people

Professor Tommy Koh (left) speaking at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference on Oct 1, 2019.
Professor Tommy Koh (left) speaking at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference on Oct 1, 2019.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

There has been much discussion and criticism of Professor Tommy Koh's recent lament that Singapore is a First World country with Third World people (Singaporeans can be more civic-minded, considerate, says Prof Koh, Oct 2).

He was accused of insulting both Singaporeans and people in the Third World.

But we should pay more attention to the many valid and spot-on observations he has made.

Those who listened to his full speech and his answers to the questions posed to him would find ample kindness, passion, sincerity, courage and patriotism in the 81-year-old veteran diplomat.

At the end of his speech, he said: "I love Singapore. I would die for Singapore. But are we a perfect people? We are not."

Prof Koh has set high standards for Singaporeans to achieve in every aspect of life - from how they behave in public to the living standards of lower-income citizens - and maintained Singapore's global reputation as a harmonious, safe, fair and progressive society.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'Tommy Koh wants only the best for Singapore and its people'. Print Edition | Subscribe