Thursday, July 16, 2015

The root cause of the SMRT debacle

It's a truism that in a privatised organisation like the SMRT, the priority is to maximise profits for the shareholders. The major shareholder of SMRT is Temasek Holdings. It follows that SMRT commuters are placed very low in its priority and as a result maintenance could not have been placed in a very important position.

The rot really started with the appointment of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa as CEO. Her only experience was in the retail business and she knew next to nothing in the running of SMRT and its maintenance. She was however successful in making hugh profits for the shareholders, especially Temasek Holdings, mainly through rentals of SMRT properties and for a time she was able to ride high in the organisation. Although there were rail disruptions under her watch, they were not thought serious enough to warrant any Governmental attention. However as luck would have it, a massive rail disruption occurred in December 2011 which necessitated the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry (COI) by the Government. That massive disruption and the  rather harsh verdict of the COI  made it impossible for Ms. Saw to continue as CEO of SMRT. The irony is that she was handsomely rewarded for her departure from SMRT.

It's amazing that the Government had not learned from the bitter lesson of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa. To the confoundment of the public, especially the commuting public, the Government made the bizarre appointment of Desmond Kuek, an ex-army lieutenant-general, as CEO of SMRT in replacement of Ms. Saw. What credentials he had in remedying the transport woes of SMRT, only the myopic PM Lee Hsien Loong and Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew were able to perceive. He did not give a good impression of himself to the public right from the start. While SMRT was bedevilled by an illegal bus strike by Chinese national bus drivers, this joker Desmond Kuek was frolicking on a vacation in the US. He returned to Singapore after the strike was over.

He has no technological qualification or experience in running an MRT and was out of his depth in coping with the maintenance of SMRT. He was no better than Ms. Saw whom he replaced and in his desperate effort to prevent frequent breakdowns he brought four army cronies into the management to assist him. But they were just like him completely ignorant in the running of an MRT and so the SMRT continued to experience frequent rail breakdowns to the anger and inconvenience of commuters. What takes the cake was the massive breakdown of the North-South and East-West lines on 7 July. PM Lee Hsien Loong appeared shattered by the massiveness of the breakdown and had the eerie premonition that another massive breakdown of this scale could happen at any time. That he and his Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew could still be shielding the joker Desmond Kuek will be at their peril. That Kuek has been making profits for the shareholders could not be underestimated as he would not have been awarded the $2.25m remuneration.

The point is as long as the SMRT is privatised and profit-oriented, the poor and unfortunate commuters will suffer from frequent rail breakdowns, not excluding massive disruptions. So it is time that PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Transport Minister wake up from their slumber and seriously consider the nationalisation of the transport system as a perpetual remedy of the transport woes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

From disaster to disaster at the SMRT

It has been proven umpteen times in the past that so long as the joker Desmond Kuek remains as CEO SMRT, frequent rail disruptions will remain a perennial problem. It did not come as a surprise to many Singaporeans when both the North-South and East-West lines were severely disrupted for more than two hours from around 7 pm last night (7 July) causing overwhelming difficulties and confusion to commuters at peak hour. It must have been a sick joke for Desmond Kuek to have the temerity to make a long speech at the Company's annual general meeting on how much rail reliability had improved just hours before the disruptions. Could there have been a bigger clown on whom PM Lee and Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew placed such a high estimation? Frequent rail disruptions will continue if thisjoker Desmond Kuak continues to helm the SMRT.

Would not the Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew be shedding crocodile tears to show extreme concern now on both the North-South and East-West lines affected by the disruption? He could not now pretend that he was not aware of the inadequacies of Desmond Kuek whose credentials to helm the SMRT are highly flawed. He was an army general whose whole life experience had been in getting the army yes men to be in strict discipline. So what expertise could he have in running a complex SMRT which requires technological knowledge to run smoothly without disruption. To add to his antics he brought in his army cronies to pack the management which could not but have led to the frequent breakdowns.

Could PM Lee and Minister Lui Tuck Yew be so myopic as not to be able to see the shortcomings of Desmond Kuek at the expense of commuters? The public could not have been more flabbergasted than when Kuek was given a substantial bonus recently ostensibly for his excellent management of SMRT. The public could not have been more perplexed to know what improvement Desmond Kuek has brought to SMRT to deserve the bonus if you have the dishonesty to disregard the frequent rail disruptions. So it comes down to the question of one scratching the back of each other at the expense of the commuters. Commuters will suffer as long as the status quo continues. Surely there could not be such a dearth of competent candidates with the right technological expertise around to run the SMRT efficiently. And what hold Desmond Kuek has on PM Lee and Minister Lui to enable him to cock a snook at them with impunity may never been known.

It has often been advocated that the nationalisation of the transport system could be the panacea of the transport ills and it is the reluctance or fear  of the Government to consider the subject that is preventing a solution to the transport woes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What does the unconscionable PM Lee think he is doing to Amos Yee?

What Madam Mary Toh, the mother of Amos Yee, has revealed about the inhuman treatment of his son in the Institute of Health (IMH) is shocking.

Amos Yee is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as suffering from "autism spectrum disorder" and is being remanded at the IMH for psychiatric observation as to whether he is suitable for mandatory psychiatric treatment which will be for two years. Amos Yee's medical condition is autism and not derangement and it is insanity on the part of the authorities to put this vulnerable teenager in a block together with adult patients suffering from derangement.

What kind of compunction does PM Lee need before he could realise that he is ruining the life of an upcoming teenager because he had described his father, the late Lee Kuan Yew, as a "horrible man" in his video. Is that such a capital crime that PM Lee could only be appeased with the destruction of this otherwise innocent teenager? Since his arrest Amos Yee has been put through enormous inhuman treatment such as being hand-cuffed and having his legs shackled when he was brought before the court. Now he is confined with insane persons and put in a bare cell with only a urinal and a mattress. The light in his cell is kept on 24 hours everyday no doubt with the evil intention of depriving him of any sleep with the hope that this will cause him derangement.

The one million dollar question is when will the unconscionable PM Lee wake up from his vindictiveness and call a stop to the inhuman treatment of the victimised Amos Yee?  Amos Yee's atrocity has attracted world-wide attention and even the august United Nations Human Rights Commission has joined in the call for the Singapore Government to exercise humanity and conscience in dealing with Amos Yee. The irony is that what Amos Yee is guilty of is a minor infraction of disparaging the Christians (which surprisingly no Christian of any standing has openly shown being offended) and the circulation of an obscene imagery which is derogatory of Lee Kuan Yew, but this is being transformed into a comic opera of a serious crime almost in proportion to a murder.

PM Lee surely could not be so daft and devoid of common sense as to victimise an unfortunate teenager first to satisfy his hurt feeling and to win over a minority of Singaporeans who might be unsympathetic to Amos Yee. But PM Lee can only be unresponsive to world opinion and to the massive criticisms of Singaporeans shocked by the atrocious treatment of Amos Yee at his peril.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A comparison between the Old Guards and the present millionaire Prime Minister and ministers

PM Lee Hsien Loong has never ceased to try to portray his late father Lee Kuan Yew as the founding father who had brought Singapore from the third world to the present first world. LKY has passed away since 23 March and so far no historian has emerged to give a verdict of this "titan". Perhaps they have not yet been able to reconcile his so-called achievements with some of his character flaws so that they may need a little more time to remedy their thoughts. And so meanwhile Singaporeans would have to be a little more patient to wait for the historians' verdict.

In the meantime let's talk about LKY's political actions which had brought progress and prosperity to Singapore and its people. He was undeniably a dynamic prime minister and he and his old guard ministers like Dr. Goh Keng Swee, Mr. S.Rajaratnam, Mr. Hon Sui Sen and Dr. Toh Chin Chye were really serving the people without any avaricious thoughts of enriching themselves with taxpayers' money. And LKY was fortunate to have the services Dr. Albert Winsemius, a UN Economic Advisor who helped build Singapore to what it is today.


Under the Old Guards, Singaporeans could be said to have enjoyed a reasonably satisfactory way of life with affordable public housing almost universally available to those who needed it. The prices of public housing were indeed very affordably moderate. Complaints of high cost of living were unheard of as prices of commodities were really within the means of low-level income group. With the help of Dr. Goh Keng Swee and Dr. Albert Winsemius the economy really got going and improved tremendously to the extent that it generated an unmistakeable feeling of euphoria among Singaporeans irrespective of their social status. It was the Old Guards and not Lee Kuan Yew , who merely provided the figurehead leadership, who brought the progress and prosperity to Singapore to make it into a first world status. And they have the gratitude of Singaporeans for this change of fortune and their service to the people.

But from the second generation of leadership under Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, the political idealism of PAP seemed to have undergone a critical change. There was no longer the idealism of serving the people but a scramble to raise the salaries of the prime minister and his ministers to an obscenely high level. There were naturally massive protests including a highly critical missive from the famous author Catherine Lim but the hubristic Goh Chok Tong simply adopted a dictatorial attitude in not heeding them. He even adopted an intimidating attitude in his reply to Catherine Lim.

The third generation leadership under PM Lee Hsien Loong is no better. He and his money-minded ministers continued to pay themselves obscenely high salaries while at the same time unabashedly professed to serve the people. Probable as a result of conscience-smitten and as a sop to mitigate the anger of the people, PM Lee and his bunch of ministers reluctantly agreed to a cosmetic reduction of their obscene salaries. But they still continue to pocket millions of dollars from taxpayers' money. Quite ridiculously the pay of the army generals who packed the Cabinet is benchmarked to the pay of the 1000 top Singapore earners. Can you imagine the pay of technicians benchmarking to that of engineers which is an apt analogy?

Compared to the Old Guards, what has PM Lee Hsien Loong done to ameliorate the cost of living which continues to balloon without end in sight? The so-called affordable housing policy is a sick joke as public housing in Singapore has never been so pricey and unaffordable. A coffee shop in Bukit Batak recently changed hand for $31 million and no doubt the owner will be raising the rents of his stallholders which will increase the food prices and the cost of living.

The Prime Minister and his ministers are happily enriching themselves with taxpayers' money for ostensibly serving the people while the lower-income Singaporeans are suffering from trying to make ends meet with the oppressive high cost of living. In this connection it will be incumbent upon the opposition to pursue the issue of the obscene ministerial salaries in their election campaign. The ground is favourable to the opposition and they must not allow this opportunity to slip through their fingers by staying united.



Thursday, May 7, 2015

The supreme fighting-spirit of Amos Yee

By now the name of Amos Yee is known far and wide for his supreme fighting-spirit in his confrontation with the inhuman PAP Government. The name must also be the cause of persistent nightmares to the clownish PM Lee Hsien Loong. Imagine a 16 year-old being shackled in both hands and legs and brought before the court. What kind of human being is capable of inflicting such inhuman treatment to a 16 year old boy is beyond humanity. It does not only horrify right-thinking Singaporeans but other right-thinking people in the world as well. How would PM Lee react if his teenage son was shackled in both hands and legs and brought before a court? This would not happen under the PAP but retribution has a strange way of manifesting itself, especially when PAP has dissipated.

Besides the anti-Christianity charge and the charge of circulating obscene imagery, the inimitable Amos Yee has composed one of the most derogatory depiction of the late psychological monster (described by an American author) Lee Kuan Yew that has been causing PM Lee the persistent nightmares. This third charge has been stood down for some esoteric reason. If the composition is done by Amos Yee himself, and there is no reason to think otherwsie, Amos Yee is certainly one of the most talented teenager to have renowned Singapore with his most poignant denunciation of the late Lee Kuan Yew. Could this be the reason for his inhuman treatment by the PAP Government? In addition to being shackled, he is being remanded with adult prisoners and runs the risk of being sodomised.

What catches the imagination of right-thinking Singaporeans is Amos Yee's remarkable defiant attitude to all efforts by the court and other heavy-handed authorities to bring him to his knees, considering that he is only 16 years old. To think that there are still highly selfless-motivated lawyers to come out under such adversity to defend Amos Yee pro-bono is something for the clownish PM Lee to ponder over. Fear of reprisals is no longer enough to deter the good Samaritans to come to the aid of their oppressed fellow brethren.

The disgraceful spectacle of the inhuman treatment of 16 year-old Amos Yee is not confined to a Singaporean audience and by now should have attracted horrified attention of right-thinking people around the world. The first round of the court case took place this morning (7 May) and ended rather abruptly without the ability of the court to curb the exuberance of a highly-spirited Amos Yee. So it has been adjourned without much fanfare to tomorrow (8 May) and Singaporeans may watch with abated breath the final arbitration of Amos Yee. Whatever it is, the indomitable spirit of Amos Yee  will be a fine example, especially for a united opposition in the next GE.

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.