Monday, June 11, 2007

Research During The Colonial Days.

There was little or no research done during the colonial days both in the University and in the government ministries in Singapore. There were also no special funds set aside for research. People were either kept busy teaching in the colleges, the U or bogged down with routine work in the Government departments. There was no private sector to talk about and research then was non existent. This was the scenario our early science graduates faced after the war. Some of these situations still exist.

Local graduates with their Raffles College diplomas were not on equal standing compared to the British expatriates with their university degrees and professional qualifications. At best the few science graduates became science teachers in the schools and in government departments they worked as glorified laboratory technicians and not as professionals. The superiority and inferiority complexes that existed between the expatriates and the local graduates inhibited progress. The rules were “never argue with the boss”. Rule No. 1 was “the boss was always right”. Rule No. 2 was “if you think otherwise refer to Rule 1”. It was an absolute top down management, no questions and no arguments. People preferred to keep quiet, complain silently and let things go on. This killed the initiatives of many people. Let us ensure that this situation will never ever happen in Singapore again.

It required the Malayanisation policy of the Government in 1950’s in Malaya and Singapore to have this system changed. The locals were to take over the administration from the expatriates within a specified period of time. It is not difficult to imagine how the expatriates feel and react. It was under these conditions that many of us joined the Government service in 1950’s. I was a timid person when I was young. The environment then existing changed me. I had to fight for what I considered was right and just, not only for myself but for others too. We are not inferior beings as some people want us to feel. Our future was in our own hands. With this new found self confidence and challenges many of us found a lot of courage to do many things which we would not have done otherwise. We dared to be pioneers and venture into the unknown. It is wonderful to know that our pains can give hope to others. To be able to right the wrongs was good enough for many of us to do many of the things we did during our time. Let us not lose this spirit that we possess. When people are pushed to the corner they will fight as some of us did. We have today because of this “never say die” spirit and attitude.

Lee Kum Tatt
6th June 2007.

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