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Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew

The title of this post reminds me of a song by Pink. Personally I think it's one of her better songs. Her song “Dear Mr President” was directed at then President of the United States of America, George W. Bush. In her song, she questioned George Bush on a number of issues and in my post, I will question your views on tattoos. Sadly, I don't agree with anything you said in pages 386 and 387 of your latest book 'Hard Truths'.

They say the truth is hard to swallow but those two pages I highlighted does not contain the truth. It's far from it! Quite frankly, I think you are a little out of touch. I would expect the old men that sit under their blocks to have that mindset. But not from a man that is well travelled like yourself. I love you for everything you have done for this country. I honestly do. We will not be where we are today if not for you. That's a true fact and I am sure you know that.

When you were asked about the local tattoo community trying to get tattoos accepted as an art, you said that you are very strongly against it. You even rang MICA (Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts) to tell the press not to be stupid by promoting tattoos. You mentioned as well that no decent man or woman has a tattoo.

When I first approached the media about the previous web television show I did last year, I was not prepared to be turned down by each and every one of them. On hindsight, I should have taken the Singapore Tattoo Show 2010 as an example. As far as I know, nobody from the local print and television media promoted the show. At the press conference for the convention at Zouk, the ChannelNewsAsia van stayed parked  outside the venue because they needed approval from some person that didn't want to break the 'rules'.

I have many friends that are tattooed. I should add that all of them are decent individuals. They work extremely hard in life and the majority of these folks are the nicest people walking god's given earth. I have met tons of tattooed Singaporeans as well. Some of these people are doctors, policemen, lawyers, teachers, pilots, hawkers, nurses, salesmen, musicians, animal keepers, actors, etc. To sum it up, tattooed Singaporeans that are not only decent, but Singaporeans that call this country home. You might find this hard to believe but it is the truth.

Then there are the artists that are the driving force of our tattoo industry. These men and women work extremely hard at what they do! They provide spectacular art to thousands of Singaporeans and tourists each year. We have artists (Singapore born nationals) that have won awards at renowned conventions all over the world. I personally think that instead of a front page article of some minister planting a tree or some foreigner winning us a gold medal, these artists should have been on that page. It's for one simple reason. They are Singaporeans and they have put this country on the map! Is that not worth a mention somewhere?!

I have questions which I'm sure will never be answered. Like how do we call ourselves a modern country when the man controlling Singapore is still stuck in the past? Or why a country that has so many laws and regulations does not have a law that prohibits anyone under the age of say 18 from getting a tattoo when that will help the tattoo industry.

Iwill always be proud to be a Singaporean. I do wish things were a little different in Singapore. The thing is, only you have the power to change that. Everyone else seems to be afraid of you. Yes, including your son Loong. A simple phone call to MICA would be a good start. As a man that loves the art and the industry, I hope you will one day change your mind. That's all I have. HOPE!

Yours truly,

Noel Boyd.


  1. Noel Noel....... Thumbs Up x 2!


  2. MM Lee said that? What the hell? I work hard, raise my children right & I serve my country. I am a SAF regular officer and we are the frontline if Singapore goes to war. Maybe to him I am not a decent man. But my men who have tattoos and myself are decent soldiers on call 365 days a year! So i say again, what the hell????

  3. I’ve read the book myself and to be fair, he’s royally pissed off every other community as well:)

    So what’s the real problem here, or who is the real ‘enemy’? The old chap’s mind and mouth? Or is it a prevailing issue of symbolism and how society views symbolism of this nature?

    I’ve not gone out to solicit a response, but i am pretty sure a fair percentage of people with tattoos will never casually reveal that they have one, especially to their superiors or elders. As you mentioned they are good people – but why do they still hide?

    In reality, tattoos are being used by gangs, martial arts fighters and in general, deviants. Unfortunately, until all those things change, the negative image from the craft may not be completely removed.

    So, perhaps the right question to ask is - as an artist and appreciator/bearer of tattoos, how do you get the mainstream to accept and understand the nature of the craft better?

    Or is it even important to gain the acceptance of the mainstream? Starting off negatively isn’t always a bad thing; it wasn’t too long ago that Christianity was deemed as a deviant subculture, but look at how it has developed today.

    And if the community were willing to take leadership in developing and improving the image of the craft, would they turn gangsters away who want tattoos? Or those who wish to use religious/gang images that they do not fully comprehend the nature of?

    I am not well read in the history of tattoos, but ironically much of the development in tattoo art is precisely due to the prevalent gang culture (eg. Yakuza). Hence, while i may not want to tattoo people related to the criminal world, would it be against my artistic ethic to deny them?

    There are too many questions to ask, and i too have many gripes with the leaders (not only in sg) past and present on some of their decision making. However while I may be frustrated with the lack of or poor leadership in some areas of our community, I don’t also forget that the change works both ways. We perhaps have to simply become better people (eg repair and improve relationships at home?) to get others to take notice – positively.

  4. i do see gangsters/secret society members without tattoos too.. but that doesn't make tattooed people look at the non tattooed whom might be your family your children or even yourself in that way.

    Yakuzas, gangsters or whatsoever are also human and they eat and shit just like every other human. What is secret society? Sounds pretty unpleasant because they ain't being accepted by the general public. So what "society" or "acceptance" should we judge/give the governors or even world leaders without tattoos when the "people without tattoos" also appear stealing, cheating, taking drugs, raping, fighting etc etc.

    Should the tattooed also discriminate those without? Should the tattooed save a life of a non tattooed if some freak accident were to happen or should they judge them and "assume" that they might be somebody indecent or immoral in the future and just walk away? What if its your son/daughter or somebody you love? Guess you wouldn't want to lose a love one just because you discriminate and judge tattooed people!

    Don't judge/discriminate. The person you judge might be the someone saving your life or whatsoever one day.


    Deputy Superintendent Tan Yong Hong, head of the Singapore Police Force's Secret Societies Branch yesterday said that his team was "very concerned" about the tattoos on some of the teenaged boys arrested for gang-related activities.

    Said DSP Tan: "They tattoo themselves to show off to others that they are tough and 'protected'. Imposing a minimum age will help prevent the at-risk teens from associating and identifying themselves with hard-core criminals."

    A third man was charged this morning in connection with the murder.

    Poh Chong Heng, 27, has tattoos on his arms, legs and back. He is alleged to have been with four other men when one or more caused the death of Mr Chen at Havelock Road on Dec 3.


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