Monday, March 23, 2015

Is this the passing of a Titan?

The once powerful and invincible Lee Kuan Yew is finally gone, after suffering for 46 agonising days hooked to a mechanical ventilator in the Singapore General Hospital. The Chinese believe that how well a person dies reflects on his or her kindness or cruelty in his or her life. Is this the passing of a Titan? This will depend on which side of the political spectrum one stands. PAP diehards and mesmerised aficionados will of course hail him as a great man who has brought Singapore from a third-world backwater to its first-world status today. Is that an honest assessment? In actual fact Lee Kuan Yew merely provided the figurehead leadership and without the indispensible expertise and monumental efforts of PAP pioneers like Dr. Goh Keng Swee, Mr. S. Rajaratnam, Mr. Hon Sui Sen and of course the eminent UN Economic Advisor Albert Winsemius, the much vaunted Lee Kuan Yew would have been reduced to a nonentity.These economic and political goliaths, especially Albert Winsemius, helped build Singapore to what it is today. This has been the narrative among discerning Singporeans.

When he was prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew had been known to be frequently hobnobbing with world leaders and with his oratorical skills had no trouble getting these world leaders to eat out of his hand. That they held Lee Kuan Yew in very high respect was never in doubt, quite oblivious to his severe character flaws. So we can now expect the outpouring of emotions from these world leaders to mourn Lee's passing. Such display of hypocrisy is not uncommon.

Is there any character flaw in the late Lee Kuan Yew? Some of his unfortunate political opponents are no longer alive to answer that. Some of them suffered immensely, whether real or imaginary depending on which side you are on, at the hand of the humanitarian Lee Kuan Yew but strangely bore no ill-will against him. The late Dr. Lim Hock Siew's son was five months old when he was unceremonously detained under Operation Coldstore on 2 February, 1963 and entered university when his father was humanely released after 19 years in detention. Chia Thye Poh held the honour of 32 years in detention, even longer than the famous South African leader Nelson Mandela.

If, in a moment of compassion, we think that Lee Kuan Yew had suffered enough in his illness, perhaps we could allow his tortured soul to rest in peace. We could show some magnanimity even if this was not one of his traits in his lifetime. Lee Kuan Yew had said this in a moment of bravado:"When the coffin is closed, the verdict will be known" (蓋棺論定). So historians, whether authentic or pseudo, will soon scramble to fulfill his wish by giving a verdict of how he had contributed to Singapore's society and the world, including his severe character flaws, if they strictly abide by the code of their profession.

It will not be remiss here to give a little conscientious advice to the enlightened PM Lee Hsien Loong. Would you be humane enough to redeem a little bit of your late father's handiwork by relaxing the inordinate persecution of Francis Seow and Tang Liang Hong by allowing them safe return to Singapore to lead a normal life? By no stretch of imagination can they be described as major security threat. There is a Chinese saying that if you want to impose a criminal charge on a person there is no dearth of a reason.(欲加之罪,何患無詞).

There is no dissenting view that the late Lee Kuan Yew  be accorded a State Funeral, which is befitting his status. However, the conundrum of denying a State Funeral to the late President Ong Teng Cheong has never been satisfactorily explained. The late Mr. Ong Teng Cheong is popularly known as the People's President.

Lastly, we offer you PM Lee Hsien Loong our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your loving father, the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A sinister omen of impending ministerial payrise

The obscenely high salaries of PM Lee Hsien Loong and his incorruptible ministers have never ceased to draw vitriolic adverse reactions from Singaporeans, minus PAP diehards. They have the audacity to benchmark their pay to the top 1000 earners in Singapore with their run-of-the-mill calibre and have the dubious reputation of being the highest-paid ministers and prime minister in the world. Even US President Barack Obama draws a modest salary of US$400,000 a year and would it not be burlesque for our clownish PM Lee to compare himself with the redoubtable President Barack Obama. They can, of course, do whatever they want with taxpayers' money with impunity by paying themselves with obscenely high salaries. So whether Singapore voters will want this ridiculous abuse of taxpayers' money to continue indefinitely will depend on the wisdom of the voters in the next GE with the help of a united opposition to galvanise them into voting for the opposition.

In the meantime, one would have thought that these money-grabbing PAP ministers will have the gumption to enjoy their obscenely high salaries in a contented manner without making any fuss. So is the sudden announcement in Parliament by an ebullient DPM Teo Chee Hean that the salaries of ministers have not gone up in the last three years even though the benchmark they are linked to has risen by around 3 per cent each year a sinister omen of an impending payrise for the filthily-rich ministers and the prime minister at public expense? DPM Teo mentioned that the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries had recommended that the salary framework be reviewed every five years and the PAP Government can continue to adjust salaries within this framework should there be a change in overall salary levels in the coming years. The poor Workers' Party has been dragged in to give an aura of civility in the announcement.

The Chinese believe that in any pursuit of wealth or power, it is prudent to stop at the appropriate time  (適可而止) for if you persist in being greedy in the end you will end up a pauper.(贪而無厭,反而変为贫). Examples abound in China of the downfall of high-ranking officials who enriched themselves whilst in office. DPM talked of the ethos of political service. How this can be reconciled with paying themselves obscenely high salaries in order to serve the people? Is this service to the people or self-serving? Even Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo asserted unashamedly in a recent REACH forum on NSF allowance that "service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents". Is this not a slap in the face of the clown Lee Hsien Loong, the so-called prime minister?

Let us hope that the greedy thought of increasing ministerial salaries is only a wild imagination that will just dissipate with DPM Teo's announcement which may have been made out of the insanity of the moment.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The disordered SMRT under over-rated CEO Desmond Kuek

To say that the name Desmond Kuek is synonymous with frequent rail disruptions is not an exaggeration. The employment of this ex-SAF Lieutenant-general as CEO in 2011 was not without misgiving among Singaporeans as it was considered ridiculous that an ex-SAF Lt-general without the necessary business and technical experience could run the SMRT efficiently. An ex-SAF general's experience was in running the SAF and used to issuing orders to soldiers with absolute obedience. Running the SMRT is altogether different and requires business and technical acumen that a CEO must be endowed with.

To show what a joker CEO Desmond Kuek is, he could display a blatant irresponsibility two months after assuming duty as CEO by vacationing in the United States in complete disregard to an illegal strike by 171 PRC drivers of SMRT. He returned only after everything had been brought under control.

Another instance of his inadequacy was in bringing in four SAF buddies into the SMRT management in December 2012 "to steer the beleaguered transport operator back on track". He acknowledged that SMRT was beleaguered but bringing in four SAF buddies to steer it back on track is mind-boggling. Like Desmond Kuek who lacks the necessary expertise to run SMRT, the bringing in of four SAF personnel, without the requisite experience, to steer it back on track could only mean to take the commuting public for a ride. It could only enhance the suspicion that the joker Desmond Kuek was out to make the SMRT a defence entity like PM Lee Hsien Loong's Cabinet.

That Desmond Kuek and his SAF buddies have not been able to make any improvement to the frequent rail disruptions since taking office is all too clear to the commuting public. They are not too blind to see the desperate effort of the CEO in trying to put up an artificial defence each time the SMRT runs into mishap. It happens so frequent that it ceases to have any meaning to the commuting public.

There have been at least five rail disruptions since 23 February with the latest two occurring on Tuesday 3 March.A sixth disruption has just occurred tonight at the Bukit Panjang LRT and it's so severe that services could only be restored the next day. Desmond Kuek acknowledged that commuter confidence in the reliability of SMRT's train services has been shaken. Whatever plans Desmond Kuek promised to make  to remedy the defects will not be able to convince the public because past promises have been found to be meaningless. Desmond Kuek and his SAF buddies just lack the expertise to run the SMRT efficiently. They are only fit to run the SAF with their absolute command.

So is there any remedy? Desmond Kuek is obviously found to be severely wanting and the most logical choice is a replacement with the requisite expertise to run the SMRT efficiently. So if for political expediency, it is found necessary for Desmond Kuek to continue as CEO, rail disruptions will be a perennial problem as Kuek will never have the expertise to overcome it.The ideal solution will however be the nationalisation of the transport system.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Conundrum of AIM's Role in the AHPETC Audit Report

What started well for the PAP Government in the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) exposure of the so-called major lapses of the AHPETC in the financial management and governance of its town council has now gradually become counter-productive to the PAP for going overboard in their frenzied attacks of the Workers' Party on these issues. In the midst of their massive swoop on the WP, the PAP wallahs simply glossed over the role played by AIM in the whole controversy. The unfortunate situation would not have arisen if it were not for the sudden intentional withdrawal of the software system of AHPETC resulting in major disruption of its management. They faced immense difficulty and despair in the limited time available to re-assemble a workable system in order to prevent a collapse of the administration.

Singaporeans, until now, find it hard to comprehend how three PAP MPs could own AIM (Action Information Management), a $2/- payout company that bought over town council software for $140,000 when the development cost at public expense totalled $23.8 million. And this PAP company is used to deprive the AHPETC of the use of its software. The AGO has either not been aware of AIM's role in the controversy which is unlikely or for some unknown reason simply avoided giving prominence to its role in it which could be significant. The Ministry of National Development (MND) was tasked by the Prime Minister to carry out a review of the AIM scandal over its questionable purchase by the three PAP MPs but, as expected, the MND reported that nothing was amiss. So quite merrily, AIM could go on with impunity with its nefarious task of depriving the opposition in the use of its software should they find themselves in the invidious situation of taking over a town council in an election victory.

As for the so-called conflict of interest presented by the AHPETC managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), it was apparently under intractable circumstances that the WP had the unenviable task of appointing it as MA as no other bidders seemed to have the temerity of incurring the wrath of the PAP to venture in. Any conflict of interest seemed to have been more apparent than real as AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim had explained that necessary checks had been made before each transaction.

However, whatever factors are advanced in its favour, the AHPETC still faces a transparency problem in running the town council and it is crucial for the WP to convince the electorate, especially the middle ground, that the Town Council in still very much in good hands. There is no reason for it not to be able to restore electoral confidence in the Party in the next GE.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Astounding Lapses of AHPETC

The reputation of the Workers' Party has never so splendid since its capture of the Aljunied GRC and Punggol East  SMC in GE 2011 and BE 2013 respectively. And the prospects that it can do even better in the next GE have never been brighter. The groundswell of opinion is in its favour and the opposition generally as of until now. And the electorate, minus the pro-PAP diehards, looks forward promisingly to the winds of change in the political situation in the next GE.


So the critical report of the Auditor-General's Office on the lapses of the AHPETC in its financial management and governance of the Town Council came like a bolt from the blue. It caught most Singaporeans by surprise, but quite frankly it was not entirely unexpected. One of the most glaring lapses is the persistent conflict of interest revealed in the AGO's report between the Town Council and its managing agents the FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and the FM Solutions & Integrated Services (FMSI).  How on earth could the husband and wife team of secretary and general manager of the Town Council be the majority owners and proprietor of the managing agents at the same time is the serious conflict of interest problem no amount of explanation that the WP Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang and Chairman Sylvia Lim can give convincingly to pacify the electorate.

The Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan and Law Minister K. Shanmugam  have never been so vehement in their denunciations of the Workers' Party for its lapses in AHPETC emphasising strongly on its conflict of interest problem at the Parliamentary sitting on 12 February. The WP Mr. Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim could offer no satisfactory answers to the pernicious accusations and looked very dejected. WP Mr. Pritam Singh did not help in his inexplicable remarks that he would only answer to his residents.

It is unfortunate that these colossal AHPETC lapses occur so near to the next GE which could take place at any time before January 2017. WP's ineffectual defence against the PAP denuciations could not have put them in a favourable light with the electorate. Unless they can come up with a concrete solution to the financial and governance lapses of the AHPETC quickly, it looks like they may lose considerable support from the middle ground.

WP must try its best to defend itself in the coming weeks to convince the middle-ground that its Town Council is still very much in good hands. What needs to be rectified or who needs to be changed, act on it. Be transparent with the electorate and I'm sure they will be a lot more forgiving towards you.

The same cannot be said of the PAP. Like one of their prominent minister said, "We are deaf to all these criticisms."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Our humanitarian Prime Minister

Can our PM Lee Hsien Loong pass off as a humanitarian Prime Minister? He can be quite humanitarian when it comes to paying obscenely high salaries to himself and his so-called incorruptible ministers from taxpayers' money. He claims that he and his ministers are serving the people and would it not be a cynical travesty of the lofty principle of serving the people if they exact exorbitant salaries in order the serve them? It raises the question of whether they can be honest with themselves and with the people that their motives are altruistic. What really flummoxed the people is the way they continue their blatant way to serve the people at an exorbitant price.

Which brings me to the point of the writing of two letters of appeal to the callous PM Lee to mitigate the plight of government pensioners who retired in the seventies of the last century to improve their meagre pensions which had remained stagnant since the start of their retirement whilst the cost of living has been rising at an alarming rate. The letters are reproduced so as to give a realistic picture of the appeal:

Letter 1
27 December 2014
PM Lee Hsien Loong

Dear Prime Minister,
I have always admired your humanitarian character, or lack of it, and hope this will catch you not in your infamous "flame-proof" mood.
 I will come straight to the point. It is about the plight of government pensioners who retired in the seventies of the last century. It is not a secret that you and your highly incorruptible ministers are enriching yourselves with absurdly astronomical salaries from taxpayers' money. Of course it is your earnest hope that this will not become a political issue with the electorate. However much you try to sweep this issue under the carpet, it will feature, much to your anguish, prominently in the next GE and the opposition will be foolish not to capitalise on it in their election campaign. Especially since some of the ministers are of mediocre calibre drawing million dollar salaries. It will be a surprise if they can escape the critical judgement of the electorate in the next GE. You were qualmish when interviewed by a China TV host who posed you tendentiously the question of "high salaries" of your ministers and you artfully employed the euphemistic term "reality and correct" to wriggle your way out. So you cannot prevent the public, especially the electorate, to perceive the ministerial salaries as obscenely humongous.

My point in labouring on the astronomical ministerial salaries is to show that while the PM and his ministers are wallowing in wealth and luxury, they are oblivious to the terrible plight of the impoverished government pensioners who are languishing in their miniscule pensions which have never been adjusted since the start of their retirement in the seventies although cost of living has been increasing at an alarming rate. There are not many of them still around breathing the salubrious Singapore air. They had contributed in no small measure and certainly not any less creditably than the first generation ministers to the progress of Singapore. It is a disgrace that they are being so inhumanly treated. I wrote to you on 10 April 2007 to appeal to your humanitarian character, which I thought existed, to be kind enough to lift this group of pensioners out of their misery by making reasonable adjustments to their pensions so that they can live decently. In case you are still ignorant, in Malaysia, which is considered less progressive than Singapore, government pensioners' pensions are adjusted from time to time whenever there is a rise in the cost of living. When the pensioner passes away, his wife continues to receive his pension and medical benefits until she passes away.

Before my letter to you, two representatives of the Government Pensioners' Association had been to see the then Finance Minister Dr.Richard Hu for his help to improve the pensions of government pensioners. Not only Dr. Hu did not lift a finger to help, but what he told the two representatives could only have been uttered by a monster and not a human being. The callousness of his remarks could only be made by a satanic beast. Dr. Hu told the two representatives that the pensioners had served their purpose, what they were getting was enough for them to live and the government was just waiting for them to die. I mentioned this in my letter to you but apparently as a face-saving measure you chose to avoid the subject.

The negative reply from your Private Secretary on 16 April 2007 came as a disappointment to say the least though not entirely unexpected. Seven unfruitful years have passed and it is thought not inexpedient to revive the subject to see if the eminent Prime Minister will be in a more accommodating and humanitarian mood to give a favourable response to the pensioners' plight, maybe with some merciful divine intervention.

Letter 2.
10 January 2015.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

My dear Prime Minister,
It has regrettably escaped my plebeian mind that the Right Honourable Prime Minister might be miffed by my outspokenness and could be put in a dilemma as to how to reply to an otherwise non-complex issue involving pensioners who retired in the seventies of the last century. As a Prime Minister of an affluent Progressive Singapore, I am sure you possess a magnificent magnanimity which could transcend any personal animosity and look at the more humanitarian picture of mitigating the abject plight of these impoverished pensioners. There is a Chinese saying: A virtuous family will certainly have a surplus of luck (積善之家,必有餘庆). In other word, one who does a benevolent and humanitarian act will accrue immense benefits to their children and offspring especially in health and fortune.
And not only that. Your ever loving father will benefit from your benevolence. For all his loving kindness and mercy to his political adversaries, he will definitely be given an honoured abode in heaven. As his filial son, it will be reasonable to expect that you continue to do good deeds such as looking after the down-trodden to ensure the continued blessing of your loving father and children. It is natural that you will want to perpetuate you famous father's name to flow fragrantly for generations (流芳百世).
As a final endeavour, may I appeal to your keen sense of justice and fairplay? It may not have occurred to your busy mind, so you may not have appreciated it. Some of us had risked our precious lives at the height of the Communist insurgency to make this place safe and secure so that people like the Honourable Prime Minister can feel safe and sleep peacefully at night. It was through the dedicated efforts of officers like us in those turbulent days that make Singapore the prosperous and peaceful country that it is today with the Prime Minister and his loyal ministers enjoying the luxury and comfort of a "realistic and correct" salary. So please give a thought, while you are at the top of this world, to the abject plight of the impoverished pensioners who had contributed not insignificantly to the security and prosperity of Singapore. Their numbers are small and any increase in their pensions will not be a burden to the Government, and would cost the Government at most a minuscule fraction of what the Prime Minister and his ministers are getting. Many are advanced in age and may not enjoy any bestowal of increase in their pensions for long but the spirit of the gesture will be something that will touch them very deeply.
I do not think I need to elaborately further and I only hope that I have been able to mitigate any negative factor in you to gi9ve a favourable response to my humanitarian appeal.


The first letter is admittedly somewhat outspoken but it forms the basis of the appeal as it was considered the appropriate moment to make it whilst PM Lee and his ministers are enriching themselves with obscenely high salaries from taxpayers' money. If there is an iota of humanity left in the so-called humanitarian PM Lee Hsien Loong, the pensioners concerned will feel that they have found a saviour in him. But is he a saviour? He did not even have the civility to answer my first letter and so I sent a second letter, written more reverently this time, to this high-falutin Prime Minister hoping that the highly respectful language will somehow move him. Still there is no response and it suddenly dawned on me the saying that "the leopard cannot change its spots".

It may appear that this appeal only applies to a group of pensioners of the seventies but they belong to the pioneer generation who had contributed not insignificantly to the security and prosperity of Singapore, no less significant than any of the current ministers (including the Prime Minister) or even the first generation of ministers. So the often professed slogan of the Prime Minister to respect and reward the pioneer generation is but a myth. One can find no dearth of rumbles among the pioneer generation of citizens on such myth, the so-called generous distribution of the Pioneer Generation Packages notwithstanding.

Would you agree that the present lot of political office holders are not of such high stature that they are above that of self-serving mercenaries with their obscenely high salaries?  If the electorate , minus the pro-PAP diehards, is not discerning enough in the next GE, they will find themselves saddled with being governed by the same bunch self-serving money-minded PAP prime minister and ministers. In this respect the opposition has a crucial role to play to warn the electorate of this danger and to galvanise them to vote for the opposition in the next GE.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A PAP Comic Opera

It has been sometime since we had been regaled with a PAP Comic Opera and a comical rookie Minister of State of the Ministry of National Development (MND) has taken upon himself to be the protagonist in the latest comedy to discredit the Workers' Party AHPETC for allegedly mismanaging the Town Council and its funds. MOS Desmond Lee saw this as a golden opportunity to project himself into prominence as an advancement to his political career. So right from the start he pulled no punches in a salvo of denigrations against the AHPETC obviously based on his glaring misconception of the actual situation in the WP Town Council.

MOS Desmond Lee jumped upon the MND annual report card which highlighted the worst scores in the areas of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) arrears and matters of corporate governance of the AHPETC which he saw as a god-send opportunity to condemn the WP Town Council for gross mismanagement with no doubt the main objective of diminishing the reputation and chances of WP at the next GE. But the clownish Desmond Lee had grossly underestimated the adroitness of the WP, especially the competent AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim, in convincingly countering his accusations of mismanagement. Ms Lim has adroitly explained why AHPETC was unable to submit the S&CC arrears report in the format demanded by MND and pledged to explain to the public the S&CC arrears in due course. Naturally, a seizable number of the public and netizens saw through the evil design of the devious Desmond Lee and rallied in total support of the WP stand. This was pooh-poohed by the desperate Desmond Lee as a co-ordinated online campaign to distract the public, using falsehoods, half-truths and speculations and proxies of the Workers' Party. This was like a drowning man grasping a last straw.

And so the battle of words continues ad nauseam seemingly without abatement. There was a brief moment when a timorous Minister for Culture, Community & Youth Lawrence Wong showed a fleeting moment of chivalry in coming to the aid of a floundering colleague with some half-baked comments. Lawrence Wong realised his own shortcomings in coming to Desmond Lee's aid, as a consequence he was frightened out of his wits by the fierceness of the fray and vanished from the scene.

The Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan could not have been oblivious to the antics of his MOS Desmond Lee unless he was contented to watch at the sideline the comic opera provided by his MOS. Such comic operas will not likely to endear the voters to the PAP and Minister Khaw  will not be the last person to acknowledge it. The AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim has given a pledge that the WP Town Council would explain the S&CC arrears to the public in due course. The implication is that this will have serious repercussions for the WP if it does not fulfill its pledge. The matter of corporate governance is quite another kettle of fish which the WP can ignore at its peril. Therefore Minister Khaw is advised to curb the ebullience of his clownish MOS to desist from making a fool of himself further for the sake of his own political future. He is still a one term politician and with his clownish behaviour it will be a joke if he is ever returned in the next GE.