We don’t know which is more bad-ass – Lee Kuan Yew rejecting a US$3.3 million bribe (in 1950s money!) , or Lee Kuan Yew daring to publicly shame the Americans, the world’s superpower, by bringing this bribery attempt to light.
In the late 1950s, America’s Central Intelligence Agency was apparently worried about the PAP’s close ties with pro-Communist groups.
So in 1960, the spy team tried to secretly infiltrate Singapore’s own intelligence agencies.
They were outed in 1961 and naturally, Lee Kuan Yew was hopping mad (but probably not to the extent of screaming “You don’t Ch*bai”).
The CIA tried to cover this up with a bribe, but Lee refused.
His counter-offer: US$33 million in aid to Singapore.
The CIA tried to deny the whole bribery scandal, but Lee threatened to produce tape recordings of the incident.
As described in this dated news article on the incident, “Escorting reporters into the office, he angrily jerked out files marked ‘Top Secret’…”
“The Americans stupidly try to deny the undeniable,” Lee said.
“The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing with in Singapore and not get themselves further dragged into calumny. They are not dealing with Ngo Dinh Diem or Syngman Rhee. You do not buy and sell this Government.”
Singapore’s civil service has been fraught in recent years with scandals involving top leaders.
This story is a timely reminder that more must be done to inculcate the values of integrity displayed by the man who founded the service.