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.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Will this be PM Lee's swan-song?

There seemed to be plenty of fight in PM Lee Hsien Loong's performance at the PAP 60th anniversary rally on 7 December. Now genuine pundits cannot help feeling that all his vociferous utterances of fictional inspiration to his followers could be a fig-leaf to hide his fear of a backlash to his party's chances at the next election before 2017. He could not be so myopic as not to be able or not wanting to see the winds of change that had swept the Congress Party in India from power and more recently the KMT from the mayoral and local elections in Taiwan. That the PAP will be the next target is not something that is so intangible. PM Lee can ignore the lessons of the PAP debacle in Aljunied GRC and Punggol East SMC at his peril.

Quite understandably there is now a feeling of euphoria among dreamy PAP leaders and their equally dreamy adherents which has unwittingly lulled them into a false sense of security. They think that now they have the electorate eating out of their hands with their ostensibly humanitarian handouts like the Pioneer Generation Package and the Medishield Life assistance.The irony is that many, especially those of the lower rank of society, are still wondering what the schemes are about and how they could benefit them.The fact is that the rot of discontent has gone too deep, especially among the poor, for any pathetic half-hearted effort to remedy the situation. They dream that the ground is idyllic in their favour and that recapturing Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East is a foregone conclusion. But they will be in for a rude awakening.

Another glaring grievance which constantly makes the poor section livid is the absurdly astronomical salaries that PM Lee and his ministers pay themselves out of taxpayers' money. When they are living from hand to mouth constantly worrying there their next meal will be coming from while the mercenary PM Lee and his ministers are wallowing in wealth from their whopping salaries at the expense of the taxpayers, would the high-falutin PM Lee and his equally high-falutin ministers still be dreaming that these seriously deprived electorate are a contented lot?

It will not be amiss to mention here that when PM Lee was interviewed recently by a China TV host, the latter tendentiously posed an awkwark question to PM Lee on the "high salaries" of PAP ministers. This immediately put the qualmish PM Lee on his guard who unashamedly declined to accept the term "high salaries". True to his devious character, he offered to use an euphemistic term of "a realistic and correct salary". The TV host obviously understood his discomfiture and did not press further. This clearly shows that the disingenuous PM Lee is aware that the obscenely high ministerial salaries are an inescapable fact and the that some of the run-of-the -mill type of ministers are shamelessly pocketing them is scandalous, to say the least. No wonder the poorer section of the society  are livid over this.

The never-say-die spirit of PM Lee in rousing his ministers and other potential PAP candidates to greater effort in winning as many seats as possible in GE 2016 is admirable on the surface but considering the mediocre performance of many of the run-of-the-mill type of ministers, PM Lee could brace himself for a considerable percentage of casualties among these ministers, which means that more GRCs may go to the united opposition.

GE 2016 is therefore very much an epoch-making election to watch. It may be PM Lee's swan-song.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Singapore's Comical President's UK Debut

Nowhere in the democratic world can we see the preposterous spectacle of a president elected by 34 per cent of the electorate. The proper and democratic president should have been decided by a run-off election when it was obvious that there was no convincing elected candidate with over 50 per cent of the vote at the last presidential election. Dr. Tony Tan was backed by the funky PAP leadership who feared that a run-off would have resulted in an overwhelming victory by the more popular Dr. Tan Cheng Bok who, the PAP leaders may find to their dismay, may not be as easily manipulated as the more pliable Dr. Tony Tan. So a 34 per cent minority president was foisted on an unsuspecting electorate who were incredibly caught unaware and had unfortunately missed the chance to register a strong protest. Of course, it did not include the 34 per cent who voted for Dr. Tony Tan. So we are now faced with the ridiculous spectacle of a comical minority President representing Singapore on the world stage.

By a quirky stroke of luck there is no dearth of gullible and well-meaning countries ready to show some semblance of civility and diplomacy to the clownish minority President in order not to belittle the self-conscious and conceited Singapore Government. The British Government feels that it is their turn now to invite a domestically undistinguished minority President to a State Visit to the United Kingdom, the first Singapore president to be so invited. Not to be outdone by other countries which had hosted the President previously, the British Government seems to have gone overboard in its pomp and pageantry, befitting that of a past colonial master, accorded to the minority President from Singapore. Quite rightly as the magnificent host, the British Monarch displayed consummate splendour in conferring the highest palace honour to an undistinguished minority President. Never in his wildest dream has Dr. Tony Tan experienced such a high degree of pomp and pageantry from a British Queen. Of course this highly exquisite Royal reception of Singapore's minority President is a boon to the reputation of the unimpressive PAP leadership in the world arena.

As expected, the slavish mainstream media, especially the Straits Times, went to town in highlighting the pomp and pageantry accorded to the minority President  in his State Visit to the United Kingdom. To what extent has the Singapore electorate, excluding the 34 per cent pro-Dr. Tony Tan's voters, given more than a cursory attention to the minority President's State Visit to the United Kingdom is an interesting point to show the acceptance and popularity of Dr. Tony Tan by this segment of the electorate. He can merrily go on his foreign escapades but he can, if he has any humility, only claim to represent 34 per cent of Singaporeans. Why the British Government chooses at this time to accord a State Visit to a Singapore minority President is unfathomable. Our late President Ong Teng Cheong could have done Singapore proud if the British Government had the good sense and judgement to have invited him then. He was a properly elected President with a convincing majority and was popularly acknowledged as the People's President.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Is the National Day Rally speech of the nature of a charlatan?

There had been so much hype about PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally that it was not a surprise if Singaporeans, especially the less-privileged class, had expected something spectacular to be announced by PM Lee to uplift their living and social conditions.So apart from those privileged hundreds who deemed themselves fortunate to be in the audience listening live to the PM Lee's speech, other less privileged Singaporeans numbering in their thousands were glued to their TV sets in order not to miss out the divine message from their saviour prime minister. So one could say that they had placed very lofty hopes on the prime minister's speech.

PM Lee displayed excellent oratorial skills in his Malay, Mandarin and English speeches and it cannot be gainsaid that he did not mesmerise the audience, whether genuinely or not is a matter of conjecture, but it must be remembered that it was a captive audience. Of course, frequent applause from the awe-struck audience was only to be expected and a standing ovation at the conclusion of his so-called oration was a natural corollary. It could be inferred that the captive audience had been completely impressed by PM Lee's speech and the so-called divine message it was supposed to convey.

Would it surprise PM Lee and his acolytes if there are discerning Singaporeans who are utterly unimpressed and disappointed with PM Lee's Rally speech? They feel that there is nothing new or inspiring in his speech and that it was wholly a rehash of what he and his millionaire ministers had been harping on all the time, especially his elaborations on the Lease Buyback Scheme and the CPF Minimum Sum. He had scrupulously avoided touching on other CPF issues often questioned by CPF members which have been given frequent airings by the popular blogger Roy Ngerng, since being sued by PM Lee. He had avoided explaining the difference in the interests earned by GIC from CPF investments and the 2.5 per cent given to CPF  members' ordinary account. In fact the oration sounded more like a regalement of persons and events for the entertainment of the captive audience. Since his death in 1970 ex-President Yusof Ishak is suddenly remembered and resuscitated by naming a mosque, a leading think-thank and a professorship after him to appease the disillusioned Malays.

PM Lee claims to be "flame-proof" but still that does not prevent his sidekicks from apprising him of the disparaging remarks about him and his Rally speech prevalent in the social media. It is hoped that they will at least make him a tad more wiser, if not influence him to be more people-oriented in the pursuit of his decadent policies.