Instead I will remember George Yeo as the minister who brought the casinos to Singapore. Yes, in case you've forgotten, George was the guy who first proposed the idea and pushed for it. Even within the PAP, there was plenty of debate and resistance about the casino proposal (to such an extent that another ex-minister, Lim Boon Heng, recently broke down in tears when he revisited those memories). But in the end George prevailed.
(George Yeo was also the man who famously said, "But we are building integrated resorts, not casinos". I found this statement very annoying, not merely because of its inherent dishonesty, but because it also assumed that Singaporeans were so stupid that they would fall for it. However, let's not digress.)
George Yeo's true legacy for Singapore is the casinos, for they will continue to exert an influence and impact on our society long after George himself is dead and gone. Billion-dollar infrastructure projects backed by serious international investors will not just fold up and expire tomorrow - once they are here, they are here to stay.
I am not one of those people who are fervently against casinos. Firstly I am not a Christian nor a Muslim and therefore have no religious objections against gambling.
Secondly, I recognise that the casinos do earn easy tourist dollars and create jobs (even though I do not think well of many of these jobs - would you really encourage your son to pursue a career as a professional croupier?).
Thirdly, I am not terribly persuaded by the argument that the casinos will spawn widespread gambling addictions among our people. That's because (in my view) such addictions may just as well arise in relation to 4D, Toto, Big Sweep or mahjong, all of which are forms of gambling which were here in Singapore long before the casinos ever came.
My concern about the casinos is that they will breed a lot of crime in Singapore. As long-time readers of this blog know, I began my legal career as a DPP, working frequently with the police as well as with CPIB and the Central Narcotics Bureau. Through my work experience, I have developed an intuitive sense of the kinds of environments and conditions under which crime, like magic, will spontaneously appear and flourish.
Casinos strike me as a rich, natural breeding ground for many types of crimes. Casinos are to criminals what garbage dumps are to rats, or shit is to houseflies. Specifically, a casino environment is supportive of the following species of criminal offences - theft, robbery, extortion, cheating, drug trafficking, consumption of illegal drugs, illegal moneylending, money laundering, vice activities, human trafficking and other immigration-related offences.
The two casinos have opened only in the recent past, so some of you will argue that it is too early to say if I am right or wrong. In fact I hope to be proven wrong about what I have said about the casinos - for who would want to live in a crime-infested country? Nevertheless, we can already begin to get a flavour of George Yeo's true legacy for Singapore. See below:
"AN UNEMPLOYED man was charged in court on Thursday with armed robbery of $450,000 from a businessman at a hotel room in Marina Bay Sands last week. No plea was taken from Octavius Tok Tien Howe, 37."LINK
"SINGAPORE: A punter who cheated the Marina Bay Sands casino of S$31,500 (US$24,800) with the help of a dealer was sentenced on Monday to 54 months jail. Thirty-two-year-old Tan Tiong Loon is the first person to ever be convicted and sentenced for being in cahoots with a dealer to cheat a local casino." LINK
"A VIETNAMESE woman was fined $700 on Wednesday for soliciting at the Marina Bay Sands casino after she lost money in gambling ... A district court heard that at 1.30am last Saturday, police received a call from security staff of the casino that they had detained a woman for soliciting for the purpose of prostitution." LINK
"SINGAPORE: A former croupier at the Resorts World Sentosa casino and a full-time gambler were jailed Tuesday for working together to cheat the attraction of nearly S$29,000 between October 2 and 9 last year."LINK
"A Singaporean man has been charged with acting as a bookie at the Resorts World Sentosa casino. 50-year-old Ng Ah Chye allegedly committed the offences between 11 July and 17 August, last year." LINK
"SINGAPORE: A court in Singapore has framed charges against five Indians for allegedly using fake casino chips at a resort in the city state, local media reported on Saturday. The Indians are accused of using an unknown number of counterfeit chips valued at SGD 1,000 each ..." LINK
"After gambling and losing the $1000 he had brought to the Resorts World Sentosa casino, an Indonesian tourist resorted to theft. 49-year old Paulus Djohar has been sentenced to 4 weeks' jail for the attempted theft of a $500 cellphone. He followed 18-year old student Lim Tse Min from behind at Changi Airport and took the phone from her backpack." LINK
"A CHINESE national gambled with $250 in casino chips that did not belong to him while an Indian national stole $12,180 worth of electrical cables meant for Marina Bay Sands so as to get some money to bet with. On Wednesday, the two construction workers pleaded guilty. Ni Guo Jian, 45, was jailed nine weeks for criminal breach of trust. Kakkayan Govindarasan, 26, was jailed seven months." LINK
For better or for worse, this is George Yeo's legacy. For all of us, in this country.