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?