Saturday, February 6, 2016

The bizarre behaviour of the Honourable Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned". This famous quote could not be more poetic in portraying the bizarre reticence of the Honourable Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam when the whole of Singapore is agitated and livid over the questionable tactics of the police in the handling of the case  of a 14-year-old student Benjamin Lim which resulted in his tragic suicide. Minister K. Shanmugam is known to be very loquacious at other times especially in his crusade against the cruelty of cats. Does this mean that a human life is less worthy than a cat in his lofty views? Just like the Chinese saying: To treat the people like grass.(視人民如草芥).

A young life has been cut short which could be attributed to his traumatised experience at the hand of the police. While Singaporeans are questioning the antiquated police procedure in dealing with a minor and are waiting for a decent answer from the police, it is beyond logic and belief that the Honourable Minister K. Shanmugam could be turning a deaf ear to all these deafening rumblings by Singaporeans for social justice. The public would certainly like to know what he has to say about the questionable police tactics and the tragic suicide of the minor. The police department comes under his control and it is incumbent upon him to give his unbiased views on the issue.

On the other hand the police seem to be dragging their feel in the long overdue review of their antiquated procedure in dealing with minors. While they are sitting on their arses wrangling among themselves, there may be another tragedy waiting to happen. How can they be impressed of the urgency of finding a quick solution to the problem? They seem to be waiting for a cue from their Honourable Minister which is taking a long time to come. So the opening quote of "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" is not misplaced. PM Lee Hsien Loong has prided himself on a prompt and efficient civil service. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say on both the police tardiness in reviewing their procedure and the funkiness of Minister K. Shanmugam in giving his views on such a grave matter.

The Minister for Education could also not escape the admonishment of the public for staying aloof of all these discreditable happenings. Did he not find something remiss in the conduct of the principal of the school and should not there be a review of the procedure in the handing over of a minor to the police for investigation making it less stressful to the minor? Benjamin Lim was in a state of starvation and the principal would be remiss in not noticing it. And his tardiness in responding to the minor's father who called him after his son's suicide cannot be condoned. He returned the call only the next day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The police could show more compassion and finesse in dealing with teenagers

The tragic suicide of a 14-year-old teenager Benjamin Lim has struck a raw nerve among Singaporeans about questionable police methods of interrogation of teenagers. The manner in which Benjamin Lim was hauled from his school by five burly plainclothes police officers for a suspected molestation offence for interrogation could not but cause consternation to the public by the display of excessive intimidatory tactics by the police. The question uppermost in the public mind is whether it was necessary to send such massive police manpower to the school in the first place to deal with a minor? Was it not a clear case of wasteful use of resources when a single police officer would have been more than adequate.

At the police station Benjamin Lim was subjected to more than three hours of interrogation without any of his guardian being present. He was released after interrogation and went straight home, only to jump out of his window to his death. The only conclusion that could be drawn was that he was over-traumatised by his traumatised experience at the hand of the police. An innocent life has been tragically lost at such a young age.

The million dollar question is who is to be blamed for this tragedy? The public could not be blamed if they point their finger at the police. They cannot understand how the police, with all their expertise, could deal with a minor as if he was a hardened criminal. The police will find it hard to defend themselves and whatever statement issued by them would not be able to calm the public.

So what is the best course for them to regain public confidence? It is natural to be wise after the event and the police will be found wanting if they could not be doing this. To begin with, it is obvious that their procedure in dealing with teenagers is defective and it is incumbent upon them to revise thoroughly their current procedure to do away with the unpalatable aspects such as the massive use of police manpower and the interrogation of minors without their parents or guardian being present. There should be the application of more commonsense in implementing the procedure. They should always bear in mind that minors are a vulnerable class and should be treated compassionately and decently.

If we can henceforth see significant improvement in the police procedure in dealing with minors, the the tragic death of Benjamin Lim will not be in vain. But then it is very sad that his parents will have to live with the pain of his premature death for the rest of their lives.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The passing of a Titan

The passing of Francis Seow in Boston, USA, came as a bit of a staggering news to Singaporeans, especially those who knew him well. As is to be expected, the Straits Times does not carry or is afraid to carry the news for obvious reasons.

The career of Francis Seow as a legal counsel of the Singapore Government in the 1950's and 60's was one of the most dramatic and sensational in the manner in which he prosecuted whether in the criminal court or a Commission of Inquiry. The late David Marshall was a class of his own as a defence lawyer and in a similar vein Francis Seow was a class of his own as a Government prosecutor. The late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew regarded Francis Seow as an inimitable gem and held him in high respect.

Politically PM Lee Kuan Yew was greatly troubled by the brazen pro-communist activities of Chinese school students who were encouraged and supported, both politically and financially,in their nefarious acts by none other than the President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC). Lee was so impressed with the unique talent of Francis Seow that he appointed him the Government inquisitor to expose the complicity of the SCCC president in a Commission of Inquiry in the notorious Secondary IV examination manipulation by Chinese school students in 1963 prior to Singapore's entry into Malaysia. Francis Seow, with his exceptional prosecutor's skill, had very dramatically and convincingly reduced the SCCC president to a physical wreck with all his secret dealings with the Chinese school students exposed thoroughly. And Lee Kuan Yew thus scored a political victory over the SCCC president. Francis Seow was awarded with a gold medal.

Things began to sour up between Lee Kuan Yew and Francis Seow  after the latter resigned from government service to go into private practice. Lee was so afraid that Francis Seow would pose a formidable opponent to him, both politically and administratively. Lee was so devious that he would imagine all kinds of evil acts that Francis Seow was going to foist on him that he would take pre-emptive action. Lee even accused the writer of abusing his authority when he was Director CPIB in helping Francis Seow in the discharge of some detectives for pilfering his property when they were investigating a theft in his dwelling. As it turned out this was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. But he was so vindictive that he defamed the writer by stating on TV that he had dismissed the writer, but it was pointed out to him that he had on the contrary promoted the writer to the post of Director ISD.

Somehow, the name Francis Seow struck a feeling of fear on Lee Kuan Yew. He detained Francis Seow under the ISA for 72 days in 1988 accusing Francis of having received funds from the United States of America to promote democracy in Singapore. He was no stranger to fantasy and this was too far-fetched for people to believe. Francis Seow was released before the General Election in 1988 and his announcement of taking part in the General Election threw Lee Kuan Yew into a spasm. Lee knew that Francis Seow had the charisma to sway voters in his favour and the idea of Francis Seow entering Parliament would upset the equilibrium of Lee Kuan Yew with Francis' eloquence. Francis Seow and two fellow candidates contested the Eunos GRC against Tay Eng Soon from the PAP. Lee was determined by hook or by crook to prevent Francis Seow's team from capturing the Eunos GRC. And Lee had no compunction in using even underhand methods to secure a PAP victory. Even Chinese primary school teachers were mobilised to distribute pamphlets to persuade voters not to vote for Francis Seow. In the end the PAP team won by a whisker of 50.9 % despite all their bullying tactics. Francis Seow and his team had the honour of securing 49.1 % of the votes.

Lee Kuan Yew was determined to fix Francis Seow and ordered the Comptroller of Income Tax to fix him. This suited the Comptroller as he was a sworn enemy of Francis Seow and how he managed to dig up the dirt to charge Francis Seow with tax evasion is still a mystery. Francis Seow left for the United States and never returned.

Now both Lee Kuan Yew and Francis Seow have departed from the good earth and it is a matter of intricate diplomacy whose name is more morally accepted to the people. The netizens will have no difficulty in picking Francis Seow as their man of the moment. Renowned historians have not so far given any verdict on Lee Kuan Yew.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is this the benign feature of ESM Goh Chok Tong?

This is obtained from the grapevine and it is up to the readers to form their opinion as to its veracity. At the end of it, if there is no denial from ESM Goh, then readers can form their conclusion.

As a respect for his privacy, the location of ESM Goh's house will not be given. His house is built on a slope and slightly above his is a neighbour's house. The neighbour must be of an affluent class to be his neighbour. Recently, the neighbour had his house renovated no doubt at a costly sum. What could have suddenly struck the security-conscious ESM Goh that the renovation could have presented a security or ethical problem to his residence is too far-fetched. He required the neighbour to cover up the portion of his renovated house facing ESM Goh's residence. How he made the approach to his neighbour, whether any coercion was involved, was between ESM Goh and his neighbour which may not be known to the public.

It certainly begs the question of whether it is reasonably expected of a man who had spent a small fortune to renovate his house to cover up a portion of his house because of some esoteric reason from a politically powerful neighbour. Quite apart from jarring the aesthetic quality of the house, it also causes extreme anguish to the neighbour and his family by preventing them from looking out of the covered-up portion of the house. So the question of complete voluntarism on the part of the neighbour is a myth.

So let's see what possible motive ESM Goh could have on his mind in requiring such egregious action on the part of his neighbour. If it is from the ethical voyeurism point of view, people will be wondering what is there so sexually stimulating to peep from two who are over the hill in their youthful exuberance. If it is from a security point of view to prevent the threat of snipers, it will really need enormous convincing that ESM Goh could be the target of any sniper from his neighbour's house. Could it be that he drew his inspiration from his late political master Lee Kuan Yew who ordered that apartments in Cavenagh House be covered up to prevent snipers from taking aim at the Istana. But ESM Goh is not Lee Kuan Yew and has not reached his stature.

So let's now go back to the principle of propriety. If the above narrative is true, the question before the public is under what authority is ESM Goh acting in requiring his neighbour to cover up a portion of his house. Is he a law unto himself and is that how an exemplary minister should conduct himself? Above all, has he got the imprimatur of PM Lee Hsien Loong to issue his order to his neighbour? In any case, PM Lee is duty-bound in principle to come to his defence even if he had not been consulted. There is an old Chinese saying: Behead first and petition the Emperor later.(先斬後奏)。

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cowboy Khaw Boon Wan

The Minister of Transport is a hazardous occupation which no ambitious PAP ministerial candidate would want to step into voluntarily. Although Cowboy Khaw did not actually volunteer for the job but because of his reputation as a trouble-shooter when he helmed the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Development he became the obvious choice for a distressing PM Lee Hsien Loong to appoint to this hot seat. And in line with his flamboyant character Cowboy Khaw could hardly hide his ecstacy as his appointment could provide him with the golden opportunity to flaunt his so-called extraordinary prowess to deal with an extremely intractable rail problem which had caused the political demise of his two predecessors.

Since taking over the Minister of Transport portfolio, with due credit to him, he has shown incredible diligence in learning the intricacies of engineering construction of the rail system and of the permutation of every conceivable technical fault with the hope of finding a concrete solution to all these ills.He has appointed the PUB chairman Mr. Tan Gee Paw as an advisor to the MRT whose unique experience in water supply maintenance is considered to be invaluable in helping Cowboy Khaw in solving the rail maintenance problem.

His almost daily regalement of his efforts in keeping the public informed of what he perceives as the technical faults of the rail system and of the diligence with which he has organised his technical staff to look searchingly for every possible technical fault to set it right could not have missed the attention of the public. He portrays the rail engineers as "rat-catchers".His diligent efforts should have rewarded him with zero rail disruption and the breakdown of the North-East Line on 26 October affecting 41,000 commuters in the morning rush hour could not but have caused him immense agony.For a moment he seemed to be in despair by quoting Murphy's Law to emphasise his point that we can be prepared to expect worsened rail disruptions. So the disruption on 25 November of the North-South Line affecting 70,000 commuters is like a prediction come true.

It is to his advantage that he has not lost his nerves and seems to be quite quick in recovering his composure to continue with the arduous task of gaining public confidence to his relentless pursuit of finding a panacea to his rail problems. His latest stunt in combining the expertise of the LTA, SMRT, SBS Transit and PUB water engineers to tackle the intractable rail problems may well be the step in the right direction.

Cowboy Khaw works very hard and possesses an indomitable spirit to excel. He may well turn out to be the right person for the job and his assiduousness may well bear him the fruitful result that he deserves.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Cowboy Minister of Transport

The Transport Ministry had caused the casualty of two ministers in the past and is regarded by any incoming incumbent as a hazardous occupation. So PM Lee Hsien Loong was presented with a knotty problem in selecting a new Transport Minister. Quite understandably no courageous candidate would stick his neck out by volunteering. It so happened PM Lee had a sudden hunch that the post was tailored for the flamboyant Khaw Boon Wan who he regarded as a trouble-shooter. It also fitted into the flamboyant character of Khaw who saw this as a golden opportunity to flaunt his so-called extraordinary prowess.

Khaw was obviously tickled pink by the plethora of publicity surrounding his appointment. He was portrayed as a potential omnipotent rehabilitator of the notoriously inefficient rail system. He regaled the public with his knowledge of the mystique of the rail network and on how he thought its maintenance should be pursued. He spoke as if he was an expert on the intricacies of the construction engineering of the rail system. He would put his engineers whom he described as "rat-catchers" to make a comprehensive detection of any potential flaws in the maintenance of the technical construction. He appointed Mr. Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of PUB, as an advisor to the MRT as his so-called unique invaluable experiences in water supply maintenance are thought to be very apt and most useful in solving the rail maintenance problem. Mr. Tan appeared to be the person who coined the word "rat-catcher" to describe the engineers, who may not be amused. Khaw said maintenance is not sexy which may not be comprehensible to the public.

To be fair to Cowboy Khaw Boon Wan, his almost daily regalement could not but have attracted the rapt attention of the public but sometimes it may seem to be a little bit long-winded. And does his daily talk lull the keen sense of security of the public that rail disruption will be a thing of the past? The answer was almost instantaneous when the North East Line broke down on 26 October causing disruption to about 41,000 commuters in the morning rush hour. And all that Cowboy Khaw could exclaim was that it had tarnished our reputation and not a word to soothe the ire of the commuters. Well, this is not a very auspicious start of his watch and he will no doubt keep his fingers crossed that another disruption will not be so soon in coming until he is well prepared mentally to tackle such disruption to his well-oiled programme. To the Public he seems to be solely occupied with the affairs of the MRT to the exclusion of all else in his ministry. Over time he may yet prove that he is the right man for the job. Maybe he should try to open up his window a little bit and consider the nationalisation of the transport system as a panacea to all the transport ills. The only drawback is that this idea originated from the Workers' Party which is anathema to the PAP.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Can we have the truth?

The Hepatitis C virus infections at the renal ward of the Singapore General Hospital saga has shown the glaring ineptitude of the PAP Government in a cover-up of the medical mishap of such magnitude from the public until October  when the discovery was made in April/May. What really dismayed the public was the wide gap of misadministration when the MOH's Director of Medical Service knew of the existence of the cluster of 22 infections on 3 September and 18 September when the Minister for Health was informed of the cluster. And the public was only informed in October. It just is not the kind of confidence to be given to the public of the ineptitude of the Healthcare system when six inexplicable deaths were involved and the public only came to know about them so long after.

The attitude of the Minister for Health in all these ill-boded events seems so remotely in evidence. He seemed to accept the late reporting of the cluster to him as something normal and quite contented to allow his officials to handle the incident apparently without oversight. This seems to be supported by the letter of his Press Secretary to the Straits Times Forum on 20 October. There could be no question that the formation of the independent review committee could not have been done without his knowledge or imprimatur.

But is the independent review committee really the answer to the task of thoroughly investigating the unfortunate outbreak of Hepatitis C virus infections at the renal ward and the inexplicable inordinate delay in announcing it to the public? The composition of the committee is such that it may not be able to act freely and independently without awkward constraints. It is hardly in the public interest if its report is not independent in the strictest sense.

The PAP Government should therefore seriously consider the suggestion of the Workers' Party to constitute a Committee of Inquiry in place of the review committee to look thoroughly into the incident. The Government should not adopt a head-in-the-sand attitude just because the suggestion came from the Workers' Party. NCMP Leon Perera who acts for WP in making the suggestion is to all intents and purposes doing it in the public interest and is not trying to be one up on the PAP. So the automatic reaction of immediately putting the WP on the defence without examining the merits of the suggestion may not go down well with the public but the PAP flush with their recent GE victory may choose to ride roughshod over the WP's suggestion with impunity. There is nothing the WP or the public can do if this is how the PAP wants to show its hubris.