Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Booboo of the Minister Mentor

Due to his highfalutin character, the eminent Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew can never refrain from making booboo in his bombastic utterances, usually made at the wrong time for the wrong reason. His latest gaffe is his deleterious comments in the National Geographic magazine in which he portrayed Singaporeans as less hard-driving and hard-striving so that it became necessary for the Singapore government to bring in Chinese immigrants as a counter-measure.

His gratuitous comments happen to grate on the raw nerves of Singapore netizens, besides innumerable other citizen, who, one and all, do not mince their words in their condemnation of the ungracious MM Lee. The essence of their anger centres around the fact that for MM Lee, who draws a whopping salary of over three million dollars a year, jets around the world at taxpayers' expense and does nothing but in his own words "forecasting", to portray Singaporeans in such despicable terms is stretching their patience to the limit.

This is not the first time that MM Lee has made a gaffe nor will it be the last to the government's embarassment. The problem is that he has too much time on his hand and, apart from "forecasting", he does not know what to do with his leisure. So he thinks hard to find a topic that he thinks will amuse his international audience and at the same time please his Singapore electorate. But experience has shown that he is not the consummate entertainer who does not falter in his clowning.

The indiscriminate influx of Chinese immigrants is a sore point not only among the discerning Chinese Singaporeans but more so among the Malay and Indian Singaporeans. There is an overtone of racisim involved in this connection as Malays and Indians are naturally alarmed by this overwhelming influx of yellow intruders. They do not appear to enhance the quality of life here except to make up for the deficiency of the Chinese demography and to provide cheap labour. They are so ubiquitous that there is hardly any service job that is not monopolised by a Chinese national.

Is this policy of encouraging the indiscrimiate influx of Chinese immigrants a rational one to rectify the demographic deficiency? Are we getting the right type of Chinese immigrants who can enhance the elitist quality of the population? There appears to be a need for the re-examination of the government's immigration policy to ensure a more equitable influx of quality immigrants, not only of Chinese nationals but of other nationalities as well.

That the Straits Times did not carry MM Lee's callous remarks is not surprising.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Sobering View of an Ex-ISD Officer

Those who are sobering readers of the political book Men In White cannot help but form an impression that the tome is a glorification of the narcissistic Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. It is small wonder that some people and portals describe it as a propaganda book. It depicts Lee Kuan Yew to be a one-man crusader in his fight against the might of his so-called pro-communist foes. The authors fail to highlight Lee Kuan Yew's more ignominous persona.

On the other hand the book Fajar Generation by an aggrieved group of former detainees connected with the old Malaya University Socialist Club is an antithesis and contains an incisive indictment of what they imply as the iniquities of a treacherous and inhuman Lee Kuan Yew. The authors, especially Dr. Poh Soo Kai and Tan Jing Quee. had apparently visited the British Archives in the United Kingdom and quoted extensively relevant extracts from the Archives to expose the so-called treachery and perfidy of Lee Kuan Yew in complicity with the British to push through the Malaysia plan. The book Fajar Generation is published in West Malaysia and surprisingly is available in some book stores in Singapore.

To debunk the subtle assertion in Men in White that Lee Kuan Yew had been able through his own industry to build up a mass base for his political ambition by simply agreeing to serve as legal adviser to pro-communist trade unions and other communist front organisations (CUF), it is obvious the authors are over-simplifying the issue. It was a well-known fact that Lim Chin Siong, the former general secretary of the powerful Singapore Factory & Shop Workers Union was the undisputed leader of the communist united front and controlled the mass base. Lee Kuan Yew could not have been unaware of this fact and knew that he had to depend on Lim Chin Siong and his mass base to advance his political ambition.

To give an example of the massive influence of Lim Chin Siong over his CUF members, the CUF used to hold anti-colonial mass meetings at the old Happy World Stadium which were invariably packed to capacity. It was an unforgettable experience to behold that Lim Chin Siong was given a standing ovation when he entered the stadium. Lee Kuan Yew would usually be tagging along holding his briefcase and this phenomenon could not have escaped the sharp attention of Lee Kuan Yew. He had no doubt kept this at the back of his mind for reference in his dealing with Lim Chin Siong in future. Lee was of the conviction that as long as Lim was a free man, Lim would be a great obstacle to his ambitious plan of capturing political power. So along came an unsuspecting benefector in the person of Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock who did Lee a great favour by detaining Lim Chin Siong and his fellow activists thus allowing the ambitious Lee Kuan Yew to inherit Lim Chin Siong's mass base to advance his political ambition. The word gratitude is not to be found in Lee's lexicon. In fact, it would have been a great joke if Lim's detention had caused him any grief.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flash in the Pan

Flash in the pan. It is common knowledge who was the smart-alec Singapore political leader who said these infamous words in describing Mr. Barack Obama before he was elected American President. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew appeared to be disdainful about the prospects of a black American candidate becoming an American President and true to his highfalutin character he irresistably opened his big mouth to make his disparaging portrayal of Mr. Barack Obama. Any possible repercussion arising out of his cavalier utterance could not have been further from his mind. He was apparently rooting for the white candidate Mr. John McCain and was no different from the white American supremacists who considered the election of a black American President to be apocalyptic.

As a result, the victory of Mr. Barack Obama in the American presidential election could not but bring mortification to MM Lee. That President Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within a year of taking office added to MM Lee's consternation. This was not the first time he opened his big mouth which brought embarrassment to the point of disaster. But all is not lost because MM Lee has a thick-skinned quality and can change like a chameleon. He calculated that he had to come to terms with the untenable problem sooner or later. The opportunity presented itself when he went to America to receive an award presented by the US-Asean Business Council end of October. He managed to wrangle a meeting with President Barack Obama the day after the award dinner.

That President Obama was magnanimous enough to condescend to see MM Lee warts and all could not have escaped his narrow outlook of black people. He was naturally astounded and overwhelmed when President Obama described him as "one of the legendary figures of Asia". President Obama was very liberal with his accolade to people who had been disparaging in their behaviour towards him. And MM Lee may be forgiven if he had been mesmerised by the thought that President Obama had been incredibly forgiving. This must have been so exhilarating to him that he forgot himself and made his gaffe by calling on President Obama to engage in Asia in order to counter-balance the emerging economic and military might of China. This immediately evoked a colossal uproar from the Chinese people, especially their netizens, which looked like it was going to be prolonged. But Chinese leaders very judiciously mitigated the situation, not necessarily out of any consideration for MM Lee but more likely for the overall political interests.

Can the leopard change its spots? Can MM Lee be counted on to curb his tendency of making political gaffes in future? We may see a subsidence of indiscretions on his part for a time but there is no guarantee that there will not be a recrudescence of his gaffes. This is a problem which deserves a final solution by the PAP leadership. After all, he is drawing a whopping salary for doing a nominal job.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Booboo of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew

Never in the recent history of China has there been such national wrath evoked against a foreign political leader such as the current campaign against our eminent Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for his sinophobic call to the American President Barack Obama to engage in Asia in order to counter-balance the overwhelming emergence of China's economic and military powers. This was one time the highfalutin MM Lee opened his big mouth and invited disaster, which in a way will have repercussion on Singapore.

The Chinese are a people who will not easily forget a favour or a treachery. It looks like this anti-MM Lee movement in China, especially among its netizens, is not going away for a long time. The Singapore Chinese are described as having abandoned their ancestry (shu dian wang zong) and Singapore is depicted as opportunistic. The way the campaign is carried out in China is reminiscent of the early days in Singapore when a French-educated Chinese journalist branded as "er mao zi (literally a two-haired brat - a totally derogatory reference to a westernised Chinese devoid of Chinese culture) a certain political leader. This is the theme the Chinese netizens are plugging which is an uncanny co-incidence as the audacious Chinese journalist has long departed from this world.

MM Lee is not unknown to be constantly ingratiating himself with Chinese leaders and made frequent visits to China in order to pay his obeisance. But now the Chinese felt that they have been stabbed in the back by none other than a sinophile who has all along professed undying affection for the Chinese people. At the same time this chameleonic leader hightailed all the way to America to hobnob with its president and give his earth-shattering advice to the latter to contain China. Were the Chinese wrong in describing Singapore as opportunistic?

We will now come back to some sense of reality. Do Singapore taxpayers really believe that the annual remuneration of three million dollars MM Lee receives is a fair charge on them? To all intents and purposes the office of Minister Mentor appears to be a sinecure. What he does is to jet around to spout his whimsical ideas upon gullible audiences around the world, that not surprisingly included such discerning world leaders like President Barack Obama. And occasionally he made a booboo out of it. We think he has a more than prodigious nest egg to see him through a luxurious lifestyle until the coffin is closed and we have the verdict.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A lesson in humility at the feet of the Chinese Premier

There are people who are born with humility and there are people who acquire humility as they progress in life and become matured. Humility comes as a second nature to the modest Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao . His latest display of humility was centered around a small mistake concerning rocks. Many people would not have noticed it, but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao felt the need to publicly apologise for it .
His public apology was given prominent publicity in our local Chinese paper Lianhe Zao Bao on 14th October 2009. The Straits Times picked it up and published it on 17th October. Premier Wen was on a visit to a middle school to celebrate Teacher's Day and mixed up his rock types in his talk with the students in an informal meeting. He immediately apologised in a letter to Xinhua News Agency the next day and the news disseminated by Xinhua captured the hearts and respect of the Chinese people. Premier Wen is affectionately known as the People's Prime Minister in China.
This is where our eminent Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew can take a leaf out of Premier Wen's book on humility. Singapore has no comparison with China in size, population and world renown. When the late David Marshall, when he was Singapore's Chief Minister, could sit at the feet of his political idol, the late Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to imbibe political wisdom from him, there is no reason why MM Lee could not benefit by sitting at the feet of Chinese Premier Wen to learn humility from him. MM Lee will certainly endear himself to sceptical Sinagaporeans by becoming a more modest and caring person.
So far it is known humiliy is not his forte. He has never been known to apologisae for his mistakes. Two glaring examples in the past can be cited to show such a character flaw in him. The first occasion was when he made a scurrilous attack on my reputation at the Select Committee Hearings on the Legal Profession Act (Amendment Bill) on 9th October 1988. He knew it was an unfounded vicious attack but made no attempt at correction or apology. He could have been sued for libel but for obvious reasons it would have been an exercise in futility with heavy financial loss to me, especially when he was then the Prime Minister.
The second occasion was on 30th September 1998 when a lengthy poignant letter by Ms Tan Siok Choo, daughter of the late Tun Tan Siew Sin, former Malaysian Finance Minister, was published by the Straits Times in which she refuted, by remarkable patient reasoning, the disparaging remarks made by MM Lee against her late father in his memoirs. In particular she was able to rebut cogently the allegation that her late father had harboured covetous ambitions of becoming Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister.
The most decent thing, in the mind of right thinking Singaporeans, was for MM Lee to make a sincere apology for the damage and anguish he had cost Ms Tan by his disparaging remarks about her late father. But then his courage deserted him and he resorted to getting his press secretary to give a reply, a rather feeble one, which was neither here nor there and contained no apology.
MM Lee has quoted the Chinese proverb "When the coffin is closed you will have the verdict."
Future historians will find his lack of humility a factor which they cannot ignore and MM Lee may find his quotation prophetic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well

My blog posting "An Unconscionable Injustice" has generated considerable interest, very much more than I had expected, on the injustice done to my reputation in the political book "Men in White". The matter has now been amicably settled with the authors publishing a note of correction and apology in the Straits Times on 16-10-09 which I find it difficult not to accept gracefully as a vindication of my reputation. I must specially mention Mr. Richard Lim, one of the authors, as the person who worked earnestly and assiduously to find a solution to the problem that would be fair to me. I think I owe him a sense of gratitude for his altruistic spirit.

The manager of the blog "Temasek Review" has displayed exceptional camaraderie spirit in his dramatic presentation in support of my cause of seeking justice to vindicate my reputation. That he was doing all this out of an altruistic desire of righteousness was very much in evident. His blog has a very wide readership, both local and foreign, and the favourable comments which came from his readers were overwhelming. They could not have been without any impact on the people higher up.

I must offer my apologies for not being able to thank each and every one of the readers of his and my blogs who contributed striking comments and thank them sincerely for their exemplary show of support, which I will always remember.

I have indicated to Mr. Richard Lim that I will treat this matter as closed and so it will be.

Last but not least, I must not forget to express my gratitude to my former colleague and buddy Teoh Kah Chay for drawing my attention to the libellous references about me in the book "Men in White"; otherwise I would still be none the wiser for it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Unconscionable Injustice

Occasionally, there can happen to an unsuspecting person an underbelly attack on his reputation from not entirely unexpected quarter.

Quite frankly, I am baffled by the motive of the ebullient authors of the overhyped political book "Men in White" in giving me unflattering mention in it. Whilst it is purported to give an objective history of the PAP struggle I wonder what have I got to do with the intra-party struggle. Anyway, in page 441 of the book the ambitious authors made the following unverified disparaging statement about me under the sub heading "Another Foreign Hand" : "But in 1971, after a police raid on his (Francis Seow's) woman friend's apartment, he used his influence and friendship with the then director of the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau, Yoong Siew Wah, to have the four officers who had conducted the raid sacked. The attorney-general Tan Boon Teik intervened to reinstate the four officers. Seow was allowed to resign rather than have his actions investigated because of his track record in the Legal Service. Yoong was also asked to quit."

On 28-9-09 I wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Press Holdings drawing his attention to this disparaging statement about me and requesting that a correction be made in his newspaper. I explained that the CPIB was duty-bound to investigate all formal complaints. Mr. Francis Seow made a formal complaint and CPIB carried out investigations of the four detectives. The investigation papers were sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Police who made the decision to dismiss the detectives. There was a prima facie case against the detectives. There was no question that I was asked to quit. I was appointed Director of Internal Security Department following my CPIB stint.

My letter was passed to Mr. Richard Lim, one of the three authors of the book. Mr. Lim replied on 1 October that the material for the disparaging statement was taken from a speech made by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Select Committee Hearing of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill which was published in the Straits Times on 10 October 1986 of which a copy was attached.

It did not come as a surprise to me as the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was like a god to some people and the accuracy of his denigration of a person's reputation was invariably taken at its face value. That he made the disparaging statement about me in the heat of the moment without regard to its accuracy in his heated exchange with a cool-headed eloquent Francis Seow at the Select Committee Hearing could not be ruled out. He is not unknown to have behaved erratically with venom in his speech when highly agitated. He was obviously so infuriated by Mr. Francis Seow's biting taunts that it escaped his normally lucid mind that I was not boarded out but appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint. It was subsequently pointed out to him but humility is not his forte and he has not been known as one to apologise for his mistakes. Mr. Richard Lim, one of the authors, has assured me that he would add a line after the sentence that I was also asked to quit to indicate that I was actually appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint in his next and future editions of the book in order to be fair to me.

It was reported that the then attorney-general Mr. Tan Boon Teik intervened to have the four detectives reinstated. Very gallant of him. He must have read the CPIB file on the investigations and could not have missed that the dismissal of the four detectives was made by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. How the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was given the impression that I had the four detectives unlawfully dismissed is something I would like to get to the bottom of.

Mr. Francis Seow was the solicitor-general at the time when I was director CPIB. He had overall supervision of CPIB investigation files sent to his department for final direction. That I should have had a cordial relation with Mr. Francis Seow was natural in human relationship development. For the then PM Lee Kuan Yew or for that matter the attorney-general Mr. Tan Booin Teik to give a sinister connotation to such a relationship seemed to raise doubt as to the soundness of the detractors' mind. Why should the affinity between Mr. Francis Seow and me be seen as something unwholesome?

The most decent thing for the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to do now is to undo the harm he has caused me and to restore my reputation. But will he?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hanky-panky in Hourly-rate Hotels

The question and answer session in Parliament day before yesterday (14-9-09) on the need to pre-empt so-called illegal activities in hourly-rate hotels provided much amusement in that Senior Minister of State S. Iswaran seemed to be baffled himself in describing as "illegal activities" the government was trying to prevent in these hotels.

It is common knowledge that these hourly-rate hotels are popular and convenient tryst venues for foreign maids and their foreign paramours as well as for local illicit lovers. These hotels serve their purpose from economical point of view in addition to minimising their chances of being discovered. This aspect of the hotel business is quite brisk and brings in not an insubstantial amount of revenue to the hotels.

So where are these foreign and local lovebirds going to for their trysts if this avenue is denied them? Where there is a will there is always a way. Is this hanky-panky of such a magnitude that you need a sledge-hammer to curb it? This is a problem that is common in all the big cities of the world and they seem to be able to take it in their stride. Is Singapore trying to portray itself as a city of saints? Even saints go for an occasional amorous pursuit. There are also examples of Catholic paedophilic priests. Perhaps the Senior Minister of State may care to clarify what "illegal activities" exactly he has in mind.

Are there other nefarious activities that the Senior Minister of State thinks need curbing in these hourly-rate hotels and for the installtion of cctv to identify the perpetrators. Since when did these so-called illegal activities become a problem attributable to the hourly-rate system?

Singaporeans are a pragmatic people and to them hanky-panky is at worst a moral issue hardly deemed illegal. So they are curious to know what "illegal activities" are carried out in these hourly-rate hotels which cannot be carried out more safely elsewhere. Just like in the Temasek saga concerning the sudden departure of its CEO-designate, the government can elect to remain uncommunicative in the present case which would, not surprisingly, show its apathy to public opinion. The attitude is it is for your own good to know only what the government wants you to know. As the late American President Abraham Lincoln once said: You can bluff some of the people some of the time. The Chinese say that the eyes of the people are "ice-clear" and can see through any deviousness. There is also the Chinese saying: You do what is required of you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Manifestation of Realism

Will there come a time in the future when a credible oppostion takes over power in Singapore? The honourable Minister Mentor has always pooh-pooh this possibility. During a dialogue session at the fifth anniversary dinner of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy last night, he was jolted back to reality by the renowned author Ms Catherine Lim (whom he feigned not to recognise at first) who posed him the question: "In the event of a serious threat of a freak election, would you do the unthinkable, that is, send in the army?" His answer, as given in the Chinese press, was (perhaps not with tongue-in-cheek)" if we lost the electors' mandate, we will respect the election result and hand over the political power."

The almighty MM Lee was on this occasion more down-to-earth and was now more worried rather than sceptical that a credible opposition could come in maybe not in the next general election, but after. He gave a few scenarios including one where they were not able to find a team which can equal an opposition team or if they become corrupt, inefficient and cannot deliver.

What is it that has caused this fundamental mental transformation in the normally dogmatic Minister Mentor? The world is in a perpetual change and Singapore is part of this world. (The Book of Change: i jing). The epoch-making political events in our neighbouring country cannot be without influence on our young voters and this phenomenon cannot escape the astute mind of MM Lee and PAP leaders. The recent so-called fraternal visit by MM Lee to Malaysia could not have been strictly for social intercourse as such. Not so much the worry of the Malay Supremacy posture of UMNO activists spilling into Singapore but of more concern to MM Lee and his PAP colleagues are the robust opposition politics which could have a catalytic effect on the young voters of Singapore.

Is MM Lee of the certainty of mind that Singapore's young voters are satisfied with the status quo? His diffident exposition of the Singapore political landscape of the future at the anniversay dinner dialogue does not convey the confidence. He could have been having this gnawing feeling of political uneasiness for some time and is not something he suddenly becomes awakened to. So it is a irrevocable fact that the young voters, even more mature ones, are looking for more dynamism in an equalitarian policy that reaches out to all strata of our society. They are not totally disillusioned with the present PAP leadership, not by any stretch of imagination, but it is human nature just to want to see some political change. The wheel of history moves relentlessly on. This is the reason a daunting MM Lee cast a pall of sombreness on the destiny of the PAP. The change may not happen in the lifetime of the more senior citizens but, as sure as the sun rises in the east, it is going to happen in the near or distant future.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Debilitating Side-effect of the Speak Mandarin Campaign

It may be showing irreverence to portray the honourable Minister Mentor in the category of a chameleon. His metamorphosis from a Sinophobe to a Sinophile is remarkable by any standards. Perhaps the saying that there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics is apposite in his case.

China, post- Mao Tse-tung, was an emerging as an economic juggernaut under the dynamic leadership of Deng Xiaoping and the whole world was gravitating to jump on the bandwagen. MM Lee, who was then Singapore's Prime Minister, was astute enough not to miss the boat and overnight became a Sinophile. He had unabashedly extolled the virtues of the People's Republic of China and its dynamic charismatic leaders, especially Deng Xiaoping.

MM Lee (or PM Lee) was so besotted by the charisma and charms of the celebrated Communist Chinese leaders that it could have possibly germinated the idea of a Speak Mandarin Campaign in his mind. And so was born the Speak Mandarin Campaign, probably much to the delight of Communist China. It was supposed to appeal to Chinese Singaporeans, especially those who were not bi-lingual. With MM Lee's exhortations, it took Singapore by storm and Chinese Singaporeans, even some enthusiastic non-Chinese, were blithely, and maybe proudly, rattling off in Mandarin. This is a feather in MM Lee's cap and is so far-reaching that Mandarin is spoken in all Government offices dealing with the public and in hospitals. But how this campaign with its chauvinistic overtone is viewed by non-Chinese Singaporeans is a moot point.

Perhaps this saying is appropriate here: Can you have the cake and eat it? While the Speak Mandarin Campaign is a success, the standard of English has suffered as a result. It has reached a stage where MM Lee exhorts Singaporeans, especially the youths, to speak grammatically correct or proper English. The Singapore youths speak atrocious English but are otherwise Singlish-savvy. This trend is worrying and, if allowed to continue, will have an adverse effect on the international reputation of Singapore as a country with a very high standard of English. So MM Lee has now come up with a Speak English Campaign. But the Minister Mentor will face an uphill task as the youths are too deeply entrenched in their Singlish habits to pay any heed to MM Lee's appeal. Could this aspect of the language problem have been neglected all these years because of too much emphasis on the Speak Mandarin Campaign. There is a appropriate Chinese saying:"It is not too late to repair the pen after the sheep have escaped", which is meant to indicate that it is not too late to remedy the situation whatever it takes.

Proficiency in Mandarin may stand a person in good stead in his business dealings in China and maybe Taiwan. But English is the language that is pivotal in business and social intercourse with the world, especially the West and USA. Can one imagine any of our future leaders speaking Singlish here and overseas but MM Lee would probably not be around to see it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

No racial inequality in Utopian Singapore?

One of the easiest ways to make his hackles rise is to heckle the benign Minister Mentor about racial inequality in Singapore. He is either myopic or a dreamer who believes in a utopian Singapore where racial inequality exists only in one's imagination. Sooner or later he is going to be roused forcefully from his idealistic dreams by the stark realities of the problem.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong narrated in his National Day Rally on 16 August a classic example of a near Sino-Malay incident which was timely prevented from happening through the alertness and quick action of community centre officers. A Malay family had successfully obtained an HDB void deck for a wedding and was appalled to find it occupied by a Chinese family for a funeral rite. As it turned out, the Malay family showed exemplary communal spirit and understanding by agreeing to move the wedding to another site, thus preventing an ugly racial incident. Knowing the Chinese idiosyncracy where funeral rites are concerned, the Chinese family could not have given way. On the other hand the Malay family could have insisted on racial equality and held their ground.

Perhaps MM Lee would have been more enlightened about his utopian dream by the following snippet by a Chinese reporter of the Lianhe Zaobao published on 29 August. Apparently, this woman reporter specialised in collecting conversational titbits in her rounds of community centres. Here is an interesting account of her scoop: "As a majority race we Chinese do not always comprehend how our speeches and behaviours or national policy will influence our other racial compatriots. Because of this we should diligently listen. For example, my recent attendance at a dialogue has allowed me to hear for the first time that in actual fact our Malay compatriots when renting HDB void decks for wedding are rquired to state clearly in the signed form their agreement to withdraw if there are people (meaning Chinese) wanting the place for funeral rites". Can the enlightened Minister Mentor really believe that this is racial equality? If this is true, there is an urgent necessity for the government to rectify this racial inequality before it deteriorates into an untenable situation.

Another area of racial inequality perceived is the apparent unrestricted influx of foreign workers from China, especially in the service sector. Can one imagine Indian clients being served by Chinese waiters in Indian restaurants? This is because Indian restaurateurs find it impossible to overcome official red tapes when they apply for service workers from India. Apparently no such red tapes exist for the entry of service workers from China. So, as an expediency, some Indian rstaurateurs resort to the engagement of Chinese service workers to fill their waiter vacancies. Conversely, can one imagine Chinese clients being served by Indian waiters in a Chinese restaurant? Is this not ridiculous? So are the Indian restaurateurs receiving fair treatment and is this MM Lee's definition of racial equality? It is not surprising that rumblings of racism can sometimes be heard.

So the great Minister Mentor should exercise more circumspection before he ventures to declaim that there is no racial inequality in Singapore.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Sophistic Can Temasek Be?

"You can bluff some of the people some of the time". This famous saying was made by the late renowned American President Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century and it is still axiomatic in the 21st century Singapore.

Temasek, or rather Ms Ho Ching, hid behind a sophistic phrase "unresolved strategic differences" to make the bombshell announcement of the sudden departure of the CEO-designate Mr. Charles Goodyear. Since the enigmatic announcement there have been massive clamours from the disillusioned public for Temasek or Ms Ho Ching to enlighten them on the real reason for Mr. Goodyear's departure. Ms Ho Ching cannot be so naive as to expect the discerning public to be so easily taken in by such sophistry.

Temasek spent two years since 2007 wooing Mr. Charles Goodyear who was interviewed by board members individually and as a group. Are we asked to believe that the board members, individually and as a group, showed such ineptitude that they could not detect any prospective "strategic differences" or any similar flaw in the prospective CEO? This is what the public would like to be enlightened on. Indeed, there is a plethora of requests for such enlightenment from netizens which Temasek could not have been so ignorant as to be unaware of. Maybe their most expedient attitude is to ignore such clamours in the hope that they will blow over in course of time.

Are these really "unresoved strategic differences" as such between Ms Ho Ching and Mr. Charles Goodyear? When did Ms Ho Ching discover these differences to be so fundamental that they cannot be resolved? Or could it not boil down to the fact that it gradually became dawn on Ms Ho Ching that Mr. Goodyear was not a malleable character much to her chagrin. In short, Mr. Goodyear was found to be a maverick. Worst still, he appeared to all intents and purposes to be going to throw a spanner in the works when he assumes complete control of Temasek. No doubt this discovery had appalled Ms Ho Ching and the Temasek Board and, amidst the frantic scrambling for a face-saving solution, a drastic action had to be taken which necessitated the giving of a golden hand-shake to a disconcerted Mr. Goodyear. This was where politics came into play. To preserve a semblance of goodwill on both sides, the parting was euphemistically described as mutual and the phrase "unresolved strategic differences" was coined to give the comic opera a veneer of respectability. The truth of the matter will eventually appear on the grapevine but may take some time.

In the meantime Ms Ho Ching will continue to reign as Temasek queen which public talks have predicted as her ambition. The disenchanted public will be watching with bated breath to see if there will be any further disastrous financial losses under her diffident stewardship, her recent so-called honour as the world's fifth most powerful woman notwithstanding.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Were they highfalutin ideas?

The poor Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Viswa Sadavisan did not really expect the massive fury of none other than the benign Minister Mentor (MM) to land on him. For him it was no doubt a signal honour to be appointed an NMP and, brimming with the ebullience of a people's crusader, he made what he thought a maiden speech in Parliament befitting his altruistic aspiration. Let's examine what he said that brought the wrath of MM upon him.

There was nothing wrong, indeed it was patriotic of Mr. Sadavisan, to quote the National Pledge to remind the government to adhere to its principles in its management of the affairs of the State based on racial equality enshrined in the National Pledge. It was a fair proposition and there was nothing highfalutin about it except in the person's imagination.

MM Lee may have been moving on a higher political plane in recent times jetting to the West and China to exude his charismatic charms on his guillible audiences so much so that he is detached from the political reality of a section of the people, especially the non-chinese. If he is not like the ostrich burying its head in the sand he should not miss the rumblings, faintly perceptible because of a climate of fear, of racial inequality among a section of the non-Chinese. In fact it took an intrepid patriot like Mr. Sadavisan to draw attention to such a phenomenon, knowing that it would not be viewed with any kindness. One can live in a fool's paradise and, one fine day, finds the ugly reality explode in his face.

As an elder statesman MM Lee thinks that it is in incumbent upon him to entertain the rakyat from time to time, whenever he feels the occasion for it, with his so-called inspirational speeches. He delights in giving such evangelical speeches as it gives him the satisfaction of assuming himself to be a messiah. So it is in his innate character that he would use such bombastic words as "bring the house back to earth" in his highfalutin speech in Parliament. It would not come as a surprise if House Members, who have been so used to his snide remarks, have taken this in good spirit.

Of course his memoires could only be a glorification of his exploits and do not reflect a verdict of his so-called statesmanship. He has used the Chinese proverb:"When the coffin is closed, you will have the verdict" to explain that he would leave it to future historians to judge him. To judge him now may be a bit premature and unflattering.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Could it not be more appropriately called the Singapore Mass Rapid Travesty? SMRT is supposed to move big numbers of commuters who travel in the train efficiently, but seems to lack courtesy in some of its front-line staff dealing with commuters. Quite glaring was the overwhelming manhandling manner of its operating staff in its recent campaign against eating and drinking offenders in trains and stations. To use an analogy, it was not unlike using a sledge-hammer to whack a fly. It was obvious that the offending commuters were quite intimidated by such peremptory approach. The whole operation could have been done with more finesse which would have left a better taste in the mouth of the public.

The discourteous behaviour of the SMRT front-line staff has remained unchanged since a heart-rending incident involving an elderly female Malay commuter three years ago. Her name was Madam Dalmah, 63, who had severe diabetes with frequent giddiness and prone to fainting spells. Her doctor had advised her to always have some sweets with her to be taken when she experienced such fainting spell. This was because her blood sugar level was low.

She had one such fainting spell as she was commuting in the train on this occasion. Fortunately, she was accompanied by her son Mr. Azli Talip, 35, who promptly popped a lozenge into his mother's mouth. She recovered from her fainting but the whole incident was watched by two SMRT officers. Instead of showing compassion for the old woman's plight, they really showed their fangs. One of them rudely questioned the son whether he knew it was an offence to eat on the train. He refused to accept the son's explanation of his mother's medical condition.This smart alec asserted that an offence was an offence and warned Madam Dalmah not to be caught eating on the train again. Of course the son was livid but he quite wisely avoided creating a scene.

The callous attitude of the SMRT officer, which should take the cake for callousness, has given such a harrowing experience to Madam Dalmah that she now shuns travelling on the SMRT. The train service must not only be concerned with only the mass movement of commuters efficiently for which it was established but it owes a duty to the commuting public to see that its staff, especially its front-line staff, do not forget courtesy to the public along the way, especially compassion to those who are indisposed like Madam Dalmah. The recent campaign against eating and drinking offenders does not give the impression that SMRT has changed for the better in its fron-line staff's attitude since the discreditable incident three years ago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sermon on the Mount

There is a Chinese saying that if you do not open your big mouth, nobody will say you are dumb. Ms Ho Ching has finally opened her big mouth ostensibly on the Temasek debacle, but not quite. She started off with a red herring, quite rightly because of the public wrath, to divert Singaporeans from the real issue by offering so-called co-investors a stake in Temasek Holdings. Just like the slick operator she is, she either deliberately or absent-mindedly left out the details. And what are Singaporeans to make of this seemingly castle in the air?

This was an excellent opportunity for Ms Ho Ching to transcend her egregious persona and to show, even for a fleeting moment, the persona of an upfront Temasek CEO to explain the reason behind the abrupt departure of the CEO-designate Mr. Charles Goodyear instead of hiding behind the terse stereotyped "unresolved strategic differences". Instead of redeeming herself from disastrous track record of recent colossal losses of Temasek's assets, she glossed over the real issue to digress with the entertainment of bombastic salesmanship.

Can Ms Ho Ching blame Singaporeans for speculation when she is uncommunicative on the reason behind the sudden departure of Mr. Charles Goodyear? The public has a right to know and Ms Ho Ching has a moral responsibility to disclose. How long is she going to keep this charade under wrap is what the public wants to know. Like a closely-sealed hen egg which can hatch into a chick (a Chinese saying), whatever secret will eventually appear on the grapevine.

Whether this whole episode is a masquerade to allow Ms Ho Ching to perpetuate in her pet appointment as Temasek CEO is a moot point. One has only to listen to coffee shop talks to follow this trend of opinions. Be that as it may, Ms Ho Ching has now to shed her past inept persona and show more astuteness in making financial investments of Temasek. Her track record in this respect could hardly stand up to scrutiny.

Temasek may not be a government entity but is nevertheless a government-owned company.So any substantial financial losses in injudicious investments involve taxpayers' money and must be answerable to the public. But so far this has not been the norm and Temasek seems to be a law unto itself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Temasek Conundrum

There is a Chinese saying: Human sympathy is as thin as the paper; world affairs are like playing chess where each game is new. The sudden departure of Mr. Charles Goodyear as CEO-designate may sound like a bombshell but is not actually unexpected. The antics of Temasek Holdings have ceased to intrigue right-thinking Singaporeans.

But Singaporeans will certainly be more interested to know more than just the terse reason of "unresolved strategic differences" given for the dramatic flip-flop. But we must accept that it is not uncommon for government-linked companies to hide behind stereotyped statements for any administrative or financial lapses.

There was considerable fanfare when it was announced by Temasek Holdings early this year the appointment of Mr. Charles Goodyear as the CEO-designate to take over fully from Ms Ho Ching on lst October. It has found this gem of a prospective CEO after continual search and approached him as early as 2007. It seems that Temasek had spent more than a year wooing Mr. Goodyear, who was interviewed by board members individually and as a group. If Temasek had gone through such elaborate and meticulous efforts to recruit this eminent personality, there was no reason to believe that it could not have foreseen any flaw in its recruitment plan which now has to be aborted. Having interviewed the candidate so thoroughly, it is quite unbelievable that is could not have detected any sign of intransigency in his character, which appears to be the root of the present fiasco.

Now there is the question of compensation as a farewell gift to the gracious Mr. Goodyear for his noble acquiescence to leave, thus saving Temasek from an intractable situation if he chooses to remain in his career. The compensation can run into millions of dollars but then this will be only a drop in the ocean in Temasek's coffers. It is known to have lost billions of dollars in the sales of its stakes in Bank of America and the British Barclays Bank without any compunction. The Chinese press reported that Mr. Goodyear decided to leave on his own accord in which case the question of compensation is a moot point.

Singaporeans were quite elated on learning the news early this year that Ms Ho Ching was relinquishing her CEO post in Temasek to make way for Mr. Goodyear. Now will the news that she is going to helm Temasek indefinitely following the leadership transition fiasco have a welcoming or dampening effect on Singaporeans is going to be a million-dollar question. This will depend on whether she is astute enough not to merrily squander away Temasek's assets. Her track record in this respect has been disastrously unimpressive, losing billions of dollars of public money with impunity.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

ASEAN's Pipe-dream

Asean seems to be moving with its head in the clouds where Myanmar is concerned. Asean leaders are either naive to an unbelievable degree or they are so blinkered that they cannot see the wood for the trees. Myanmar military junta leader General Than Shwe has shown himself time and again to be an untrustworthy despot whose heinous oppressions of his country's democratic fighters, especially the iconic Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, are world renowned. And yet it defies human sanity for Asean founding members to invite, perhaps in their mind, a benign Myanmar to join their august organisation.

Whilst the whole democratic world was outraged and making vitriolic attacks on the despotic military junta of Myanmar for the trial of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi on a trumped-up charge, we were entertained to an incredible spectacle of a Singapore Senior Minister stating openly to the despotic General Than Shwe that it was Myanmar's domestic affair. The Senior Minister could have been in a state of euphoria when he said it probably because of the overwhelming receptions accorded him on his visit to a so-called utopia state. What signal his impetuous utterance had given to the democratic world is not hard to guess.

The latest antics of the despotic General Than Shwe in rejecting outright the request of the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki Moon to interview detained Aung San Suu Kyi should be a wake-up call to Asean. If the Singapore Senior Minister thinks that his ingratiating talk to the despotic General Than Shwe had softened his heinousness, the Singapore Minister had better think again. This is a typical example of a leopard never changing its spots.

So a world personage of no lesser prominence than a UN Secretary-General has now received a first-hand rebuff from what Asean considers to be its most promising star. Does not this egregious act of the Asean darling Than Shwe fly in the face of Asean leaders? Mr. Ban Ki Moon is chief of the United Nations and what kind of world reactions can Asean expect on his outrageous treatment by the leader of its over-cherished member.

Myanmar will be like an albatross round the neck of Asean if the latter is still under the illusion that it can democratise Myanmar with a well-intentioned but unworkable policy of constructive engagement. This can have a deleterious effect on the impeccable reputation of Asean in the long run, a reputation it has painfully built over the years.

Perhaps Asean leaders may take note of this Chinese idiom: Rein in your horse on the brink of the cliff.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stark Awakening from a Nostalgic Dream

The fanfare accorded to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in his nostalgic journey to Malaysia was nothing short of the etiquette normally accorded to royalty and head of state or government, except in MM Lee's case there was no inspection of ceremonial guards. Whether it went to his head with an intoxicating effect is intriguing but the quizzical description by an adversarial Dr Mahathir Mohamad of a visit of "a little emperor of the little middle kingdom" is certainly not lost on the public.

The exceptional receptions MM Lee received must have intoxicated him to the extent that he could have believed himself to be some kind of messiah delivering his gospels to his believers. In such circumstances he could have been so msemerised by his own irresistable charms that he could be forgiven if he could not see the taboo or sensitive area to be avoided. And so, whether absent-mindedly or otherwise, he pursued relentlessly ad nauseam the sentitive question of the supply of sand to Singapore as a quid pro quo for Singapore's participation in the building of a third bridge to East Johor. MM Lee is an extremely experienced politician and he could not have been so abstruse as not to understand that the question of sand supply is considered as a sovereignty matter by the Malaysians and is taboo. The corollary is that now you have the UMNO Youth chief and a whole host of indignant UMNO leaders up in arms against the supply of sand to Singapore.

MM Lee's Malaysian visit has received not inconsiderable favourable press publicity both in Malaysia and in Singapore. What should have been a feather in his cap has now been marred by his avoidable indiscretion in making irrational utterances. In his hubristic way, MM Lee may think this is a matter he can take in his stride. But it could not have escaped his intelligence to know that this is going to have a serious implication for his son PM Lee Hsien Loong in his relationship with his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Razak. They have established an excellent relationship during PM Najib Razak's recent introductory visit to Singapore and now this faux pas by an ebullient MM Lee is going to put them in a dilemma. Especially for PM Najib Razak. How is he going to smoothen the wrath of his indignant UMNO leaders and followers?

There is a appropriate Chinese saying: Deficient in success but excess in failure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Journey of Nostalgia

He had just returned from self-adulating trips to China and Britain and was flush with smugness and narcissism. It is quite natural the Minister Mentor is now thinking of exuding his irresistable charms on admiring luminaries across the causeway. It is not unlike in the Chinese parable a village boy made good who returns in brocade garb to his village to flaunt his glory before his village elders. But MM Lee Kuan Yew is decked out in a Chinese national garb probably to emphasize his Chineseness in a sea of Malay supremacy.

He is no doubt flattered by the very distinguished reception accorded to him by the gracious Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, whom he greeted as an "old friend from Johor". Their discussions are merely formal and are a regurgitation of issues gone over between the Malaysian PM and the Singapore PM during the former's introductory visit to Singapore recently.

There are two possible scenarios for the Minister Mentor's visit. The planned revision of Parliamentary consituencies ostensibly to accord more political space to the opposition expounded recently ny PM Lee Hsien Loong could not have not occupied MM Lee's astute mind. His proposed visits to the Pakatan Rakyat-governed states of Penang and Kelantan could not be for the simple objective of social intercourse. They would enable him to have a closer look at what makes the Pakatan Rakyat ticks and whether there is any danger of this remarkable phenomenon taking hold in Singapore in the near or distant future. A tete-a-tete with the dynamic Pakatan Rakyat chief Anwar Ibrahim, if this is on the cards, may provide the inquisitive MM Lee with the invaluable information he seeks.

Another scenario, which borders on the sceptical, is the exploration of a possible merger with the Chinese-dominated Penang. This is not too far-fetched as an idea but is politically untenable. So this is in all probability a non-starter, but is not without interest in Singapore and Penang. Both were former British Straits Settlements.

MM Lee Kuan Yew is probably giving a miss to a possible meeting with his long-time adversary Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad during this visit. Dr. Mahathir may be an unpredictable personality, but is not likely to hold any animosity towards MM Lee now. He may even have a few pleasantries with MM Lee if they meet. There is no permanent friend or foe in politics.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Political Buffoonery

Except for the bizarre phenomenon of Asean luminaries fallen over one another in ingratiating themselves to Myanmar, the pariah nation would have been isolated by the international community, especially the west, like a leper. And so would it not be like a comic opera for the sagacious Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to make a fraternal visit to this despotic state at a time when the whole democratic world is appalled by its ruthless suppression of its citizenry, including the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi? Quite true, this visit is ostensibly at the invitation of Myanmar's Prime Minister, but the Senior Minister cannot be worth his salt if he is not ingenious enough to find a credible excuse to postpone the trip to a more propitious time. Of course he did not and would have considered it not to be in accord with his stature not to have accepted the invitation, to the dismay of Asean's western allies.

Myanmar rulers, on the other hand, are astute enough to capitalise on SM Goh's visit to enhance their discreditable reputation in the hope that the pariah nation could become more acceptable in the democratic world. So they hide their fangs and turn on their artificial charms on a gullible prominent guest including a diplomatic offensive in the form of a meeting with the egregious General Than Swee, chairman of the so-called State Peace and Development Council.

SM Goh is just human and to say that he is overwhelmed by his host's attention is not an overstatement. How else could one explain his gaffe in stating openly in TV news report that the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is a domestic affair? When the whole democratic world is furiously attacking the despotic Myanmar regime for the persecution of Aung San Suu Kyi, it is entertained by a comic utterance that this is a domestic affair of the Myanmar government by a no lesser personality than an eminent Senior Minister of the Singapore government. Would it not be sending a wrong signal to the democratic world? Indirectly, would SM Goh not be echoing the warning of Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Defence at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue to the international community to keep their hands off the internal affairs of Myanmar?

Myanmar's military junta will be having the last laugh.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Another parting gift from the gracious Ms Ho Ching

Singaporeans have hardly recovered from the shocking Temasek's colossal loss from its sale of Bank of America shares and are now presented with another no less shocking loss of between 500 million pounds sterling (S$1.2 billion) and 600 million pounds sterling in the sale of its stake in British banking giant Barclays. And a so-called Temasek's spokesman had the cheek to say that they "don't comment on unsourced reports." Such arrogance of Temasek's staff is a sad reflection of the superciliousness of its top management in dealing with the public and the chief executive officer is not without fault. It is amazing that such colonial-minded attitude still exists in Temasek.

Straits Times has performed a chivalrous service to the Singapore public by exposing this gross financial mismanagement by Temasek. By all indications, if not for the Straits Times exposure, Temasek will in all probability be keeping this colossal financial loss under wrap, hoping in this way to escape the wrath of the public. So much for the integrity and transparency of Temasek's honcho. Now that this financial mess is public knowledge, will the public let this pass without any uproar or will it take the Temasek's management to task for this gross financial mismanagement?

There were all kinds of speculations by financial analysts and fund managers on Temasek's sale of its Barclays stake at a colossal loss but not an iota of explanation from the so-called upfront Tamesak about its financial fiasco in Barclays. It has the impudence to suggest that news reports on this sensitive subject do not reflect Temasek's policy and that the public should independently ascertain the veracity of these reports before contemplating any action. Is this all the expanation that Temasek could give and is this its manifestation of transparency? A loss is a loss by whatever name and is a fact in this case arising out of Temasek's injudicious and ill-advised investment.

One thing is certain is that the ebullient Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will, like a knight-errant, come to the rescue of the hubristic Temasek's management with his usual sophistry glossing over the flagrant financial loss and exaggerating the overall profits of Temasek. This is expected of him as a dutiful minister.

In this connection, Singapore can take a leaf out of the book of Japanese culture. The Japanese have such an excellent civil culture, which Singapore leaders try to emulate in certain aspects, that, in such a situation as the Temasek financial fiasco, the chairman or president of the corporation will publicly apologise to the public to seek their forgiveness. In serious cases, the honchos may even perform "hara kiri" (suicide by cutting open the abdomen) to atone for their mistakes. Can one imagine Ms Ho Ching apologising to the public or performing the hara kiri?

From the secretive way Temasek goes about its business, it would not be surprising if the latest financial fiasco may not be the final parting gift of the gracious Ms Ho Ching considering that October 1, the handover date, is still some time away.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another parting gift from the gracious Ms Ho Ching

This posting has been overtaken by subsequent events and
it is considered prudent to have it deleted. It is an uncomplimentary
commentary on the sale of Temasek's stake in Barclays.

My apologies.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Apoplexy of ASEAN

Since its formation in 1967 with five founding members, Asean has grown to its present formidable strength of ten countries. It had a modest beginning with the fledgling organisation striving very hard to gain the recognition and confidence of the international community, in particular the United States of America and the European countries and of course lately the titanic China. It is now enjoying an unprecedented renown in world diplomatic relations comparable to any similar western alliances like the European Union.

Whilst it was at the zenith of its development, Asean seemed to have lost its sense of direction by inviting the despotic Myanmar regime to join its rank, to the dismay of its western allies. Of course Myanmar was not alone in being invited to join Asean as there were four other South East Asian countries invited as well. It was unclear who was the smart Aleck whose brilliant thinking initiated this bizarre idea of including Myanmar in the organisation. It goes without saying that he was able to convince his gullible colleagues with his cockeyed argument of a policy of constructive engagement with Myanmar.

Assuming that a policy of constructive engagement was a noble cause in the beginning, subsequent truculent and undemocratic behaviour of the Myanmar military junta should have disabused any would-be diehard dreamers in Asean of the futility of such a policy. Asean is full of sound and fury but has little to show, apart from bombastic talks and vauntings, to bring Myanmar to its senses. In fact, what Asean should now take as a last straw in his patience is the outrageous outpouring of Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Defence at the august Shangri-La Dialogue warning the international community, including the eminent Asean members, to keep their hands off the so-called internal affairs of Myanmar including the trumped-up trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. Quite appalling, but not unexpected, not a single member of the Asean luminaries had the audacity of even uttering a squeak to chastise the egregious Myanmar general who had
flagrantly abused his position as a guest. It was left to the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and British Minister for International Defence and Security Ann Taylor to press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

Well, quo vadis Asean? The whole world is anxiously waiting for some deterrent action against the despotic Myanmar regime including its expulsion from Asean. Can Asean shake off its spineless image? While it is scrambling to restore its confidence, the Myanmar military junta will be cocking a snook at its Asean colleagues and the world.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The whimsical wisdom of MCYS Minister

The STTA saga has taken an incredibly unremarkable twist in Parliamant yesterday. That the STTA president's conduct was considered important enough for the Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports to bring up in Parliament showed the government's awareness of the immense public interest in this saga. What really came as a dampener was the Minister's incredible disclosure that neither the MCYS nor the National Sports Council was going to be involved or to intervene in solving the injustice. In other words, they are going to be just bystanders occupying the ringside seats to watch the slugfest between the STTA and ex-coach Liu Guodong. How heroic coming from a Minister and to add to his not unedifying utterance he quoted the analogy of a line call in a tennis match to exemplify the dispute which can only appear relevant to the gullible. Perhaps he has never heard of the well-known Chinese saying: To each his own virtue and wisdom.

The Minister cannot blame the public for any misunderstanding of the Minister's incomprehensible non-involvement stand as an endorsement of the questionable conduct of the STTA president Lee Bee Wah. She will certainly take heart from the Minister's encouraging words which will, not unexpectedly, embolden her to be more truculent in her dealing with ex-coach Liu. Is it in the interest of the government to encourage an impasse in the dispute and any subsequent tussle in a court of law. The wise Minister has no doubt been sufficiently briefed as to the possible implications to the government in a court battle. Quite apart from the possibility of not having a good reflection on the government, there is the question of who is going to foot the legal bill. Will it go down well with the public if taxpayers' money is used?

There is widespread call from the public for the removal of Ms Lee Bee Wah from the STTA presidency. In fact, according to the STraits Times, she was handed an online demand with 4,500 signatures for her resignation on Sunday 24-5-09. The government has often been vaunting that it heeds the voice of the people and this is a significant occasion for it to live up to its vaunt. One quite disturbing element that may influence any decision to remove Ms Lee Bee Wah is that according to market speculation she is considered a favourite of PM Lee Hsien Loong in his Ang Mo Kio GRC. Could this be the reason why the Minister is afraid to remove her? There is a appropriate Chinese saying: He who ties the bell is the person who can untie it.

It is amazing how the Minister can justify his astronomical pay by burying his head in the sand and hoping that the knotty problem will unravel itself. Is there a need to needle the Minister out of his inertia in order for him to show more spunk? Quite apart from Singapore public support, could the Minister be blissfully unaware that ex-coachLiu is getting strong support from his countrymen in China and that Singapore is getting a bad press there over ex-coach Liu's shabby treatment?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Mas Selamat Kastari Conundrum

If there is any piece of sensational news that could knock a Singaporean over with a feather, the incredible news that Mas Selamat Kastari is being detained in Malaysia for two years by the Malaysian authorities takes the cake.

Not only were the ordinary Singaporeans could not believe their ears, but the Singapore leaders and security agency seemed to have been kept in the dark until the very last minute. This is one coup by the Malaysians that the Singapore leaders and Singaporeans will be grateful for for a long time and is a reflection of the excellent relations we have with the Malaysians.

Of course Mas Selamat is a minor pawn and Singapore must look at the broader picture of international relationship. Home Affairs Ministry, not surprisingly, is faced with a near intractable situation and has no alternative but to issue a statement of appeasement to keep up with the hilarity. The Malaysians could have decided to detain Mas Selamat for two years in Malaysia long before the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak paid his introductory visit to his Singapore counterpart earlier this month. Of course he was not talking with his tongue in his cheek when he touched on the repatriation of Mas Selamaat to Singapore because he is the Prime Minister of Malaysia who is expected to be above any suspicion of perfidy. But one cannot help seeing a picture of smugness in him when he made the startling announcement at the press conference today of Mas Selamat's two-year detention in Malaysia. It was to all intents and purposes a coup de grace by him.

Quo vadis Singapore? The Internal Security Department (ISD) will be hard-pressed trying to get the details of Mas Selamat's flight of freedom from the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRTC), at least not for another two years and maybe longer. The only possible alternative is to get the benevolent service of the Malaysian Special Branch to condescend to get the details from Mas Selamat which may not be an ideal arrangement. Maybe the Malaysian SB may condescend to allow ISD officers to question Mas Selamat in Malaysia. How Mas Selamat managed to do a Houdini escape from WRDC is a subject that will engross an agog Singapore public. ISD has an obligation to fulfill this duty.

Will Mas Selamat be cocking s snook at Singapore? One has to get it from the horse's mouth. The Malaysians will be sniggering. Why Malaysia is doing the favour to Singapore of detaining Mas Selamat in Malaysia is for posterity to discover, unless one can get it from the Malaysians.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Continuing STTA Saga

Bravo Straits Times. The Straits Times has at last awakened from its slumber and is now able to see, unblinkered, the injustice that the eminent ex-coach Liu Guodong received at the hands of STTA, especially its egregious president Lee Bee Wah. Its incisive editorial in the Sunday Times of 24-5-09, although taken a little longer in coming, is nevertheless a welcoming event joining the thundering chorus in chastising the injustice perpetrators. Let's hope this is not a flash in the pan and the Straits Times will continue to lend its strength to an honourable cause.

What seems to be mind-boggling is the non-chalant attitude of the government in this saga. With all its feed-back potentials, it cannot be oblivious to the massive groundswell of public opinion against the injustice to ex-coach Liu Guodong and for removing Ms Lee Bee Wah as STTA president. There is even an internet online campaign to collect signatures for her resignation. Her suitability as Member of Parliament is also in question. The Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister cannot be seen to be adopting a couldn't care less attitude in all this. Singaporeans have shown that they can transcend national pride in their pursuit of justice for a Chinese national ex-coach with such forcefulness and yet the Minister seems to fail to match this public enthusiasm. Needless to say there is widespread indignation in China over the shabby treatment of ex-coach Liu.

Can the Sports Minister be so enamoured of the STTA president Lee Bee Wah that he appears to be blind to her pernicious antics? Or could there be another reason? One may describe them as rumours but they have wide circulation that Ms Lee Bee Wah considers herself a favourite of PM Lee Hsien Loong in his Ang Mo Kio GRC and it is not surprising if the Sports Minister regards her with awesome respect. If this is true, then the matter of her removal is out of the question.

What honour has Ms Lee Bee Wah brought to Singapore's reputation? She is not unknown to have thrown tantrums when Singapore was celebrating its Olympic silver medal victory exposing her immaturity and impetuousity. She displayed reckless tendencies in describing, without substantiation, ex-coach Liu Guodong as without integrity and professionalism in explaining why Liu was not nominated for the Coach of the Year award. Liu was in Singapore to seek clarification from her for what appears to be her libellous remarks. In two meetings between ex-coach Liu and STTA representatives , Ms Lee Bee Wah showed her true colour by staying away from the meetings. Is not her "no show" at the meetings a gross insult and lack of etiquette in the eyes of the world and would it do any good to the reputation of Singapore? She is hubristic, in which case she should not be STTA president, or she could have been scared stiff to face ex-coach Liu because of her untenable position. Singapore's reputation will be put to another test if ex-coach Liu decides to sue Ms Lee Bee Wah for libel and who will foot Ms Lee's llegal bill? Not the Singapore taxpayers, if it can be helped.

If the Sports Minister finds himself in a spot having to decide removing Ms Lee Bee Wah from the STTA presidency, why not let the public decide in the form of a referendum. This will be democracy at its best and will stand the government in good stead.

Two top-ranking officials of STTA have found themselves coming to grief with the STTA authorities. They are expected to leave the association shortly but apparently not because of any mishandling of the ex-coach Liu Guodong's case.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A bouquet to ISD (first posted 8-5-09 but inadvertently deleted)

The Internal Security Department (ISD) is responsible for keeping Singapore secure from internal as well as external security threats. In the late forties to sixties in the last century, the main security threats were from the communists and Communist United Front. From the late nineties to the twenty-first century, with the emergence of fanatical islamism spearheaded by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), ISD had to deal with terrorism masterminded by JI. And since the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States, the ISD had the onerous responsibility of preventing JI-organised terrorism from happening in Singapore. In its unobtrusive way it was able to nib in the bud potential JI-organised terrorist acts and the JI's plan included crashing a hijacked plane into Changi Airport. Singaporeans took it for granted their comparative peaceful rhythm of life so painstakingly preserved by the perseverance of ISD for which we all should be thankful.

All this ISD outstanding work had been shattered by what DPM and Home Minister Wong Kan Seng said was a "silly and incredible" security lapse enabling JI leader Mas Selamat Kastari to escape from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on 27 February 2008. The whole of Singapore was shocked at this incredible news and in the subsequent course of recriminations and counter-recriminations on the responsibility of the security lapse, there were also calls for the resignation of DPM Wong. Quite gallantly, PM Lee Hsien Loong stood up for DPM Wong and the director, ISD.

Thus started the biggest manhunt in Singapore's history. Even the Singapore Armed Forces were enlisted to join in the hunt. There was no dearth of calls from the public on the sighting of Mas Selamat but in the end these proved unhelpful. The fugitive proved elusive and speculations were rife as to his whereabouts, including his escape to Indonesia.

In the meantime, unfazed by the ballyhoo and in its quiet professional way, the ISD has been plodding to secure information both from its local and friendly foreign intelligence sources to pinpoint the whereabouts of Mas Selamat. Its assiduous efforts were rewarded and ISD was able provide the vital information which eventually led to the recapture of Mas Selamat in Johore through a joint operation of ISD and Malaysian Special Branch.

This is the most welcoming piece of news to a dismayed and fastidious Singapore public and by its near miraculous feat of Mas Selamat's recapture, ISD has indeed vindicated itself. It deserves more than a pat on the back. DPM Wong Kan Seng was a picture of joy at the press conference to share the marvellous news.

Bravo ISD

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A parting bonus from a gracious Ms Ho Ching

The colossal loss of between US$ 2.3 billion (S$3.4 billion) and US$4.6 billion by the much-vaunted Temasek Holdings in its sale of all its Bank of America (BoA) shares is indeed a gracious parting gift from an equally gracious Ms Ho Ching, Temasek's chief executive officer, to the people of Singapore. Or is this going to be her last parting gift since there are still some months to go before October 1st when she hands over her CEO's post to her successor. Is this not a valid reason why she should not have been removed earlier?

Ms Ho Ching cannot be blamed if she thinks that the people of Singapore are moronic for her to be able to weather this and all her past miscalculation of Temasek's investments with alacrity and impunity. Is her enjoyment of impunity because of her position as the wife of the Prime Minister? One is free to draw his or her conclusion.

You get an extraordinary situation in Singapore where the CEO of a state-owned investment company does not have to account for bad investment losses, in this case probably because of the CEO's political connection. In the case of a renowned multi-national corporation, the CEO will not only be given a short shrift but will probably be made liable for the losses through bad or negligent judgement.

One strange phenomenon is that this colossal financial loss by Temasek does not seem to evoke much public wrath which may give a false sense of security to Ms Ho Ching. One reason may be that freedom of the press here is something of an illusion. The Straits Times Press is under the control of an overbearing Singapore Press Holdings and has to heed its master's voice. one would not find any one of its chicken-hearted staff brave enough to publish anything frowned upon by the government. So even if one is gallant enough to pen something to the press to take the government to task over this issue, his or her chances of getting his or her letter aired are almost nil.

The two opposition Members Of Parliament are silently articulate, to use an oxymoron. They appeared to be overawed, if not mortified, and, quite understandably, could not be expected to be as efficacious. They lack the eloquence and audacity of maverick Dr. Chee Soon Juan, the so-called madcap general secretary of the Singapore Democratic Party who could render an eminent orator and debater like the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew speechless in cross-examination of the latter in the HighCourt. If Dr. Chee Soon Juan can manage to enter Parliament, it is certain that the House will be livelier.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The STTA Comic Opera

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Is this an apt description of the protagonist in the present STTA saga? But on the other hand, by no stretch of imagination can the STTA president Lee Bee Wah be described as an angel. Although she tries to portray herself as above board in the STTA committee's decision to withhold nomination of ex-coach Liu Guo-dong for the Coach of the Year award, she cannot escape the discerning eye of an indignant Singapore public as the villain of the piece. The massive public clamour for her replacement as STTA president is spontaneous and a reflection of a righteous Singapore public to see justice done.

One would have thought a judicious Singapore government would have given at least some heed to the popular public call for justice. Instead you find a comic character in the person of the general secretary of the STTA coming out in defence of his superior, the STTA president. This is indeed a comic opera in which you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Then there was a rather disoriented Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Sports Ministry who seemed to lack conviction in trying to mollify the public anger. He was no doubt taken aback by the vociferous public demand for Lee Bee Wah's replacement and could be seen to be quite hesitant in his appeal. That it could have crossed his mind whether Lee Bee Wah is a suitable person to remain as STTA president is not an impossibility.

There is nothing the Singapore public can do if the authorities do not heed their demand. The die is cast, or is it, but the damage to the confidence of the public is irrevocable. Lee Bee Wah may remain in her post as STTA president but whether she continues to enjoy the confidence of the Singapore public is questionable. As usual, the government is banking on the likelihood that this unpleasant episode will be forgotten by the public with the passage of time.

This is the second time Lee Bee Wah has incurred the public wrath ;over the ex-coach Liu Guo-dong saga. The first time was over her very big tantrum in threatening to terminate Liu's contract upon expiry when Singapore was in the midst of a celebratory mood to honour the Singapore Women Table Tennis Team upon winning the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics. It was apparently over an alleged omission by Liu as a coach which Lee had blown out of all proportions. There was very vocal call for her replacement as STTA president but the Sports Minister had managed to save her neck. She has obviously not learnt her lesson and has not desisted from her dishonourable scheme to deprive ex-coach Liu Guo-dong of a deserved honour.

The latest is that ex-coach Liu Guo-dong has arrived in Singapore to confront STTA president Lee Bee Wah for her uncalled-for deleterious remarks on his character. Lee Bee Wah has avoided the press so far and whether she will avoid meeting ex-coach Liu will show up her character. The confrontation, if it takes place, will be interesting.

The STraits Times has rather mysteriously avoided any mention of the latest public uproar for Lee Bee Wah's replacement, although it was given generous airing by Radio and TV.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The disservice to coach Liu Guo-dong

It is hard to believe that there is no shenanigen in the deprivation of the Coach of the Year award to coach Liu Guo-dong.

Never since Tan Howe Liang won the silver medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics has Singapore bathed in such Olympic glory as when the formidable Singapore women table tennis team won the silver medal in the Beijing Olympics last year. Does the pretentious STTA president Lee Bee Wah really believe that this achievement was possible without the sterling effort of the dynamic coach Liu Guo-dong in guiding and directing the Singapore team to victory. It was coach Liu and not the surly Lee Bee Wah who brought this great honour to Singapore.

One would have expected Lee Bee Wah to show gratitude to coach Liu for Singapore women's team silver medal achievement but I think Singaporeans were flabbergasted, if not dumb-founded, by her childish display of petulance in threatening not to extend coach Liu's contract upon expiry for some alleged omission which was blown out of proportions. Not unexpectedly her petulant display at once brought forth mammoth indignation and anger from right-thinking Singaporeans who wondered why she had not been replaced as STTA president. The public was completely flummoxed because her behaviour was a manifestation of immaturity and impetuousity. It was understandable, however, if the government wanted to give her a second chance.

Of course one would have expected a more sobering STTA president following the Government's generosity. So it follows that there would be no grudge against coach Liu. Coach Liu has since not renewed his contract and is now a coach of the Indonesian table tennis team. So what part has Lee Bee Wah played in withholding the nomination of ex-coach Liu for the Coach of the Year award? Being a responsible president she has now pushed the responsibility to a committee within the STTA for making the decision. Are we asked to believe that as STTA president she had played no part in infuencing the members of the committee. She portrays herself as a person with lofty principles who would not allow personal grudges to influence her deliberation in official matters. She is implying that ex- coach Liu was not professional and did not have integrity. Since when did she discover that ex-coach Liu was not professional and what did she do about it? Has she any proof of ex-coach Liu's dishonesty? Was it reported to the authorities if corruption was involved? She is treading on dangerous ground with her allegations and she could be sued for defamation by ex-coach Liu.

The withholding of the nomination of ex-coach Liu for the Coach of the Year award is a great disservice to him in view of his outstanding service to table tennis in Singapore in general and to STTA with Lee Bee Wah at the helm in particular. He has unselfishly, despite being from China, brought the prowess of Singapore table tennis to the world stage.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The obsequiousness of the Straits Times

Newspapers are meant to disseminate news or information of public interest, but is the Straits Times conforming to this noble ideal? What has the failure of Dr. Lee Wei Ling in her MRCP examination in Edinburg in 1982 to do with public interest is something only the Straits Times is able to fathom. If Dr. Lee's missive is considered to be of public interest, then genuine letters of public interest should not be rejected out of hand. Is the public asked to believe that this is not because Dr. Lee is the daughter of MM Lee?

More than a month ago, the Sunday Times gave prominence to a missive by Dr. Lee purporting to give a low-down on her decision to remain single. Again, what possible public interest that this had on the general public will only be known to the obsequious Straits Times group. Even on that occasion she professed to be upfront on the reasons for her remaining single, but could she have left some important details out? It was common knowledge, especially among her contemporaries in Boston, USA, that she was romantically involved with a young Singapore Indian from a reputable judicial family in Singapore. It was a serious affair and could have led to a tying of knot but for an opposition from a not entirely unexpected quarter. Dr. Lee's mother,nicknamed the empress dowager, for some esoteric reason best known to herself, decided against the Indo-Sino romance which came as no small blow to the two love-birds, especially Dr. Lee. Being brought up in strict Chinese tradition, especially where filial piety was concerned,Dr. Lee had no choice but to show obeisance to her mother's wish. What role MM Lee played in all this was not very clear but he would not have the audacity to disagree with the dowager. There was no reason to think that, if not opposed, the marriage would not have been a happy one, but by this cruel twist, Dr. Lee is now consiged to a life of solitariness, perhaps not without some merriness.

It may be that Dr. Lee finds solace in sharing her solitariness with her readers and finds it convenient doing it via the Straits Times column. The Stratis Times may be doing a service to her because of her father but the newspaper should be careful of double standards. Would the
newspaper provide the same kind of service to other lonely hearts?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Ministerial Musical Chair

The antics of ex-ministers going on a musical chair are not an uncommon phenomenon. The latest caper is the taking over from Mr. Lim Chee Onn as non-exectutive chairman of Keppel Corp by Dr. Lee Boon Yang, until recently Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts from July 1.

Ministers are equated by the government with chief executive officers (CEO) of multi-national corporations (MNC) in ability if not in status. But then in the history of Singapore politics, has there ever been any ex-minister who is considered a sufficently qualified and viable candidate for any reputable MNC? They can only be suitable for absorption by government-owned or sponsored corporations. MNC's are down-to-earth people and much as they would like to respect the government's evaluation of its ministers, they owe it to their share-holders to ensure that they do not take any unnecessary risk to their corporations by taking in CEO's of unproven quality. The consequence is that one finds ex-ministers being placed in government-owned or sponsored undertakings such as Singapore Press Holdings, Capitaland, Keppel Corp and the like as no reputable MNC's would want to risk employing them.

Which brings us to a pertinent point. The government has often crowed about the intrinsic calibre of its ministers and equated them with the highest echelon in the corporate world. So they pay themselves astronomical sums to give the skewed impression that they are really worthy of their whopping salaries. But the harsh realities of the corporate world give a lie to the government's position.

What the ordinary Singaporeans cannot stomach is that while the rest of Singaporeans, especially those on the poverty borderline and the retrenched, suffer from the economic downturn, the opulent ministers still hung on to their sinful whopping pay. And was it not a sickening joke for the Prime Minister to say that he and his ministers were suffering together with the masses? Like the writer Patriot said in his sarcastic reply to Dr. Lee Wei Ling's letter to the press which mentioned her mother's vaunt that suffering and deprivation was good for the soul. Patriot replied pointedly and sarcastically that Dr. Lee's mother's suffering and deprivation was like utopia to the ordinary Singaporean.

That the Singapore ministers are filthy rich, especially MM Lee's family, is obscenely plain for the people to see. In spite of his opulence, MM Lee is drawing a whopping salary and jetting around at taxpayers' expense to spout poetries to a gullible world audience. As he says when the coffin is closed, you will have the verdict. We all look forward to the day, especially those who survive him.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Uniquely Singapore

Is there any fundamental difference between a minister without portfolio and a minister in the Prime Minister's Office(PMO)? As far as can be seen, both are holders of minister's post but without ministerial functions like being in overall charge of a ministry. Would any right-thinking person describe these ;as sinecures? And would such a person be branded as an iconoclast?

There is no other place in the world, except Singapore, a small country where you have three ministers in the PMO. As has been said they do not have any portfolio to take charge of and yet they draw a minister's pay out of taxpayers' money. More than two million dollars a year is no peanuts. In fact nowhere in the world, not even in America, an economic superpower, is a minister paid such an astronomical salary. And their minister has a responsibility far exceeding that of the Singapore minister.

Another unique feature of the Singapore government is that you have two Senior Ministers(SM) and one Minister Mentor(MM) (actually a SM by another name to justify his whopping salary of three million dollars a year). Quite frankly, two are out of job former prime ministers and one a deputy prime minister who are re-employed at the taxpayers' high expense to tap on their prestige and so-called invaluable experience once in a while. In other developed countries, especially in America, their retired presidents have the dignity of eschewing the crutch mentalityof relying on the government for glorified sinecure appointments.

A shining example of dignified personality is none other than Mr. Bill Clinton, the renowned past president of the United States.He not only did not rely on his successor to any job handout to keep him from unemployment, on the contrary he is such a charismatic personality with inimitable oratorical skills that his erudite lectures are performed to captivated audiences not only in the United States but in Europe and other parts of the world earning him enormous sums of money not to mention international prestige.

Surely our SM and MM, especially the latter, do not lack similar charisma and oratorical skills and could easily give Mr. Bill Clinton a run for his money if they really want to be self-supporting. With their resourcefulness there is no dearth of opportunity for them to secure a lucrative niche in the business world. Again with their age and enormous fortunes, do they really have to work for a living? They could gain the respect of the rakyat by offering their services gratis to the country.

People are wondering why a small country like Singapore requires two deputy prime ministers (DPM).Apart from helping the PM in some of his duties, the DPM is required to stand in for the PM in the latter's absence. Surely the PM is expected to be judicious enough to ensure that he and his deputy are not unavailable at the same time. If this is conscientiously adhered to, does it not follow thaty the second post of DPM becomes redundant?

The plethora of sinecure appointments involving the SM, MM, the three ministers in the PMO and the two posts of DPM are all very perplexing to the ordinary people who, as the Chinese saying goes: "Dare to be angry but not dare to speak up" for obvious reason - they want to avoid incurring the wrath of the government. The renowned Chinese sage, Confucius, would have expressed it with his famous saying: "I do not want to see any more".

Monday, March 30, 2009

Freedom of the Press

Is there freedom of the press in Singapore? There is an appropriate Chinese saying:"To each his own virtue and wisdom." The PAP government wallahs will assert that freedom of the press is the cornerstone of the PAP government. Many people believe it is a myth and that you get as much press freedom here as you get in Myanmar, perhaps not as bad.

Have you heard of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) ? You can be sure it is not some kind of charitable organisation. It is some kind of a government behemoth exercising supreme control of all news publications, English and vernacular. At its head is a PAP heavyweight who had been a deputy prime minister. The widely=circulated broadsheet, the Straits Times, like all the other vernacular newspapers, comes under the jurisdiction of SPH. There can be no illusion about loosening its tight grip on the newspapers or any deviation from its rigid policy.

The Straits Times is the pet newspaper of the government which it has nurtured from time immemorial. The paper has held a monopolistic position for as long as can be remembered and from time to time feeble efforts had been made by enterprising newspaper competitors to break this monopoly but all met the inevitable fate of folding up. So the Straits Times preserves its monopoly as the English broadsheet.

The Straits Times is a household name which is not surprising considering its antecedents. It claims to be the people's mouthpiece and will show no fear or favour. But does it live up to its vaunting? Have you tried to get a letter or article critical of the government published by the Straits Times? The chances are that you will never see it in print, especially it the critical writing is from an opposition politician. The most recent instance is a letter critical of Dr. Lee Wei Ling, daughter of the Minister Mentor, in reply to her presumptuous article of 4 January 2009 which the Straits Times published. The letter was rejected by the Straits Times and it had to be posted on the internet under the pseudonym of Patriot.

So where is the freedom of the press? In fact many Straits Times readers have eschewed this newspaper out of disgust with its biased reporting of local and international events and turned to the internet for their daily news consumption. It is understandable for the Straits Times staff to adopt what the Chinese say "a black tortoise with its head drawn in" attitude. The Chinese use this saying to taunt those who show cowardice. I cannot imagine any of the staff showing audacity in publishing anything frowned upon by the powers that be. He will not only lose his pants but his rice-bowl as well. The right to reply which the government wallahs insist when dealing with intransigent foreign publishers cuts no ice with the Straits Times.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Quandary of Dr. Lee Wei Ling

It is unenviable to be the prestigious and publicity-seeking daughter of an illustrious Minister Mentor father whose "benign" character has to be encountered in order to be appreciated and believed. The daughter is non other than Dr. Lee Wei Ling whose pampered life has seen her ascending to the pinnacle of her career.

She is very fond of writing moral-sounding articles to the press commenting on political and social issues and it is inevitable that, because of her social standing, sometimes she ventures into not insensitive territory like extolling her family characteristics., which may not find consonance with some satirical critics.

So it should have come as no surprise, or should it be a surprise, to Dr. Lee that a sharp-witted critic going by the pseudonym of Patriot should have written a pungent letter castigating her for her self-eulogising article of 4 January 2009. What the critic found particulary disgusting was Dr. Lee's reference ;to her mother's talk of suffering and deprivation which was good for the soul which the critic said was utopia to the ordinary people. The writer did not mince his words and his letter was quite understandably rejected by the Straits Times. So he had to post it on the internet. Some heads would have rolled if the Straits Times had the audacity to publish the incisive letter. We are talking about the Straits Times which claims to be the people's mouthpiece without fear or favour but what we are seeing is a mouse sadly lacking in courage when it is most needed.

A letter to Dr. Lee Wei Ling by the Patriot is therefore only available for viewing on the internet. So far there is no response from Dr. Lee and she is not known to be not internet-savvy. She is either irked by internet critics and refuses to lreply or finds her position untenable because the criticisms are too substantial to refute. Either way is not a good reflection of her character, firstly as her own prestigious self and secondly as a daughter of an illustrious father.

This enlightening episode should be a invaluable lesson to Dr. Lee Wei Ling and should curb her enthusiasm of her tendency to moralise her so-called altruistic messianic pursuit which may not go down well with the public if persisted ad nauseam.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Singapore's Scenario After Lee Kuan Yew

The subject of Singapore's scenario after Lee Kuan Yew never fails to fascinate the politically-conscious Singapore citizens, indeed any Singaporean who has the interest of the well-being of Singapore at heart.

First, let us start with the longevity of the so-called founding father of modern Singapore. It may not be known to many people that he ingests a certain amount of health-giving supplements to maintain his good health. Could he also be imbibing elixir to prolong life? Well, he is also very conscious about his cosmetic appearance and might have received some form of cosmetic treatment to enhance his appearance to exude charisma to his audience. It is quite natural for a person to want to have longevity in life and MM Lee is no exception. So it will be quite some time before MMLee passes into the next world unless he is struck by lightning like his iconic Merlion in the meantime.

At an international Rotary award presentation recently MM Lee quoted a Chinese proverb: When the coffin is closed, you will have the final verdict. It could be prophetic and Singaporeans or even non-Singaporeans who outlast him will be enlightened on the pros and cons of his political career by true historians. Maybe it is premature for anyone to conjecture the verdict but this would not prevent some zealous souls from giving it a try.

The first thing that may happen post-MM Lee may be the renaming of Changi International Airport as Lee Kuan Yew International Airport in commemoration of the founding father of modern Singapore. The internet has given some indication of this possibility. So air travellers post-MM Lee will experience the thrill of taking off and landing at Lee Kuan Yew International Airport. MM Lee will be smugly watching from his lofty perch in his ethereal world the excitement down below, if you believe in the uncanny or life after death. Does it surprise you if such an eventuality does happen post-MM Lee? There is no dearth of surprises in Singapore.

The political atmosphere post-MM Lee will definitely be more liberal with more open political assertions without anyone having to look constantly behind his back. Who knows in time to come the political structure may evolve into a two-party system, not necessarily by any of the present opposition political parties. By a process of subtle political awakening among the PAP elites over the political future of the country, there may emerge a group of political crusaders with the conviction that the country be best served by a two-party system. It may not happen with the present generation of PAP elites but the next generation may be a better bet. With a two-party system, Singapore can live up to its reputation of being a true democracy. You can hardly call it a democracy now with a one party dominance.

Singaporeans can be pardened if they believe that there will be greater political freedom with the passing of the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. At least one cannot help feeling that he is the eminence grise.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Tibet Conundrum

The name Tibet never fails to conjure up in one's mind a turbulent region in western China where from time to time violent resistance broke out by loyal belligerent followers of the exiled Dalai Lama against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama mounted a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet on 10 March 1959 and fled with thousands of his followers to India where they were settled in Daramshala in northern India. Year after year the Dalai Lama sought from his assumed position of strength in refuge in India to negotiate with China for independence of his so-called mother country,Tibet, greatly encouraged by support from the United States and his western allies, in particular the European Union.

The political events in Tibet do not normally capture the interest of the ordinary people very much, and those who have more than a fleeting interest on them do not really have a good grasp of the situation except from what some of the western newspapers tell them.

Historically, Tibet is an undisputed part of China ruled before the 1959 uprising under an
oppressive feudal slavery system headed by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had amassed an
enormous fortune concisting of 27 farmsteads, 36 plots of grasslands, 160,000 taels of gold, 100,000 taels of silver and caches of jewelleries. In addition he owned 6,700 peasant slaves and 120 house slaves. Not a bad accumulation of astronomical wealth for a Dalai Lama exercising political and divine powers. Does it surprise you? Any wonder why the Dalai Lama wants to have his position restored in an independent Tibet?

Need I have to describe the slavish conditions of the Tibetan peasants under the Dalai Lama's regime? The current Panchen Lama said on 15 March 2009 at the Tibet Democratic Reform of 50 Years Exhibition in Beijing that a million of Tibet peasant slaves will not get respect and freedom without the Chinese Communist Party. The departure of the Dalai Lama signified the end of the Tibet peasant salavery system.

Mr. John Norris, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State reiterated to to a delegation from the Tibet self-governing region led by its deputy head of the standing committee (reported on 19 March 2009) the US government stand of recognising Tibet as an inseparable part of China and absolutely not supporting Tibet independence. The Dalai Lama has apparently reduced his demand to autonomy for Tibet, but with an expansionary implication. Will China relent?

After the Dalai Lama, where is Tibet heading for? The Dalai Lama is getting on i age at 74 and there is no anointed successor in sight. Could one be found in good time, someone with a similar international stature who could command the absolute loyalty and obedience of the Dalai Lama's belligerent adherents in and out of Tibet? It will be interesting to watch development.