Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The wheel of history will move forward

Ever heard of the wheel of history moving backwards? That should worrythe PAP leadership as to the political direction Singapore is heading. The younger electorate will be the deciding factor in the next general election and the election after that. An increasingly number of them have manifestly shown that, while not entirely disillusioned with the PAP, they want to see a transformation in the government structure to reflect a more equitable society. And not unnaturally, they see a credible opposition as a vehicle for this transformation. Of course, for this to have any degree of realisation, there must be tangible inflow of able and high calibre potential candidates to the opposition parties, especially those who are scholars or talented degree holders. This is what is happening now in Singapore and the young voters are certainly to be elated at this trend of political development which will hopefully lead to the realisation of their cherished dream of a change of government.

That the PAP leaders have been monitoring this worrying trend for some time is not in doubt. They could not show openly that they are worried, but not yet to the point of panic, over this political development. So the prime minister has to put on an artificial front to comment sarcastically the dramatic event of a husband-and-wife team who are government scholarship holders who graduated with first-class honours degrees from Cambrige University joining the opposition Reform Party but admitted it is a significant development. When asked about reports of well-qualified Singaporeans joining the opposition, he simply glossed over the issue but wished them well. What else can he say?

The tsunami that hit the Barisan National in the last general election in Malaysia is a lesson that the beleaguered PAP leaders take to heart. The ostensibly fraternal visit by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to Malaysia last year was not just a friendly visit but with special assignment to assess the real reason for the Barisan National election debacle so that the PAP can readjust its unpopular policies to prevent s similar tsunami hitting the PAP in the next general election. They have so many unpopular measures to adjust one of which is the long-overdue reduction of the obscene salaries of the prime minister and his affluent ministers. If the prime minister is still ignorant how unpopular their obscene pay is, ask any man in the street. The other is their policy allowing the indisciminate influx of Chinese immigrants who are so problematic that they are regarded as the bane of our social ills.

Anyway, if the PAP is not voted out of power at the next general election because the opposition is not yet able to field sufficient number of credible candidates, PAP will be fortunate if it gets away with just a decimation of its position. But its luck may not hold in the general election after that. Singaporeans can be patient.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Moral Turpitude of Singapore's Great Helmsman

It is certain that MM Lee Kuan Yew does not find it flattering to be compared with China's Great HelmsmanMao Zedong in greatness. It will be a boost to his ego.

A little injustice, maybe not daily, is in the repertoire of the Minister Mentor and does not cause him any compunction. What is a small injustice to a public officer when the then- prime minister showed no qualms about the prolonged detention of Dr. Lim Hock Siew (19 years) and Chia Thye Poh (32 years). This is as good as any time to revisit the injustices that this public officer suffered at the hand of the Minister Mentor who is now facing an unprecedented crunch to his popularity and career.There is a sonorous call by a discerning public for him to step down as Minister Mentor as he is no longer considered a deserving or appropriate imposition on the taxpayers' fund with his astronomical salary of more than $3 million a year doing nothing but "forecasting".

The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an omnipresent intelligence organisation with its tentacles reaching almost every nook and corner of the earth, not even sparing China. Wayback in 1961 when Singapore was in the turbulent era in the South East Asian region facing ferocious communist agitation, CIA was very desirous to recruit a Special Branch (SB) officer to act as an undercover agent to supply it with with security information on communist threats to Singapore and the region including information of the inner workings of the government.

The identity of the SB officer the CIA intended to recruit cannot be disclosed at this stage because of some arcane twisted working of the then-prime minister's mind, he had refused to identify the officer publicly, apparently for fear that this officer would steal the thunder from him. But it may be to his dismay that this is already public knowledge. Only MM Lee thinks that it is not.

The Special Branch officer was approached by his boyhood buddy to work as an undercover agent for the CIA in 1961. The SB officer sat on it for three days without reporting it to his superior because he was unhappy with the PAP government's oppressive policy against civil servants who were generally English-educated who had not supported the PAP when it was in the opposition. Amongst the PAP's persecutions was the docking of civil servants' pay. I told my superior Mr. Richard Corridon this when I finally reported the CIA approach to him. This was where the injustice arose. The then- prime minister Lee Kuan Yew twisted the officer's reason grotesquely to convey a doubt on the officer's loyalty and integrity. This is what MM Lee said in his memoirs: "The officer found the CIA's offer so attractive that he sat on it for three days before reporting to Richard Corridon". Mr. Corridon unfortunately is no longer in this world and therefore cannot testify to Lee Kuan Yew's dishonesty.It was a glaring insult tothe officer's integrity and it did not seem to bother MM Lee's conscience.

This was not the first time MM Lee had disparaged this officer. The other occasion was when he told an untruth about this officer at the Select Committee Hearing of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill on 9 October 1986 that this officer had been asked to quit as Director CPIB in connection with the investigations of four detectives by the CPIB following an official complaint by the then-solicitor-general Mr. Francis Seow. The officer was accused of helping out his friend Mr. Francis Seow and had the four detectives sacked. The accusation was a figment of MM Lee's imagination. The officer was able to proof that he had been appointed Director ISD following his stint in CPIB. These were two glaring examples of the recklessless of MM Lee Kuan Yew who had little regard for the truth. Much less was there any apology from a callous MM Lee.

The CIA saga has been mentioned in MM Lee's memoirs. Two CIA polygraph experts brought in specially from Saigon to put the officer through a lie-detector test had been detained. So was a third CIA officer. An undercover first secretary of the American Consulate was declared a persona non grata. A polygraph had been recovered and this is now displayed in the ISD Heritage Centre. The CIA fiasco had sent a shock wave right up to the White House in Washington. The US President then was Mr. John Kennedy. The SB officer was awarded a Meritorous Service Medal and given an accelerated promotion. But the SB officer was not publicly identified though no one after reading this article will have any doubt as to his identity.

The SB officer's embargoed reminiscences contain more vivid accounts of the SB operations in the CIA saga. Well, whether the then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had used this incident as a leverage in his dealings with the Americans is left to the imagination of the public whether he would have let such a golden opportunity to slip by.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is MM Lee Kuan Yew adding value to Singapore?

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen can hardly be classified as a PAP heavyweight and so his political views on MM Lee Kuan Yew should be taken with a certain amount of circumspection. He is probably overawed by the intimidating reputation of MM Lee. Which lightweight minister is not? MM Lee is after all the father of the prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and is probably the power behind the throne.

So when Dr. Ng Eng Hen was popped the question as to why MM Lee was not stepping down by Mr. Dennis Tan, a workplace safety and health trainer and member of the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) at a dialogue following Dr. Ng's speech to members of the NUSS and NUS alumni and staff on Friday night (22-1-10), to his credit he appeared not flustered and was able to give a dipolmatic answer. Dr. Ng replied: "The question is, does MM add value to Singapore? I'm not talking about in history, I'm talking about now. That's the question that should be asked, not whether he should retire or not. Singaporeans must decide. MM spots pitfalls, he tells you what to avoid. He pushed for F1, for the IRs. So you decide. At the end of the day, it's the vote. If his constituents at Tanjong Pagar feel he's not adding value, they are free to vote."

Very diplomatic except that this is the stock answer any minister, or for the matter the prime minister himelf, will give any inquisitive or well-meaning individuals who have the well-being of the political future of Singapore at heart. The PAP leadership has anticipated that the stepping down of MM Lee will be a hot topic, especially among the young electorate who wonder why this old scrooge is still drawing a whopping salary of over $3 million a year doing nothing but "forecasting". So all the ministers are primed to give the stock reply, maybe varying in style in giving it in some cases so as not to give the impression of regimentation.

There are very widespread dissensions among the public, PAP supporters notwithstanding, that MM Lee should be removed from his Minister Mentor's post. If the PAP leadership is still ignorant about this, it shows that their feedback unit is malfunctioning or their ground is feeding them only information that the leadership wants to hear. Whether MM Lee is adding value to Singapore is a moot point but he himself confesses that he does nothing but "forecasting". Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong may find himself in an untenable position if he acts alone to remove MM Lee. who is after all his father. But it will be different if the ministers show some backbone and initiate action which would absolve the prime minister from the onerous responsibility of having to do the task himself and incur the infamy of being unfilial.

Does the PAP leadership sincerely believe that leaving the constituents at Tanjong Pagar to decide is the right course to resolve this matter. There are so many imponderables, one of which, very crucial, is whether the opposition is able to put up a team of credible candidates to face M M Lee's slate of candidates. Another is MM Lee is in a GRC and it will be impracticable to expect electors to vote against MM Lee without affecting his fellow-candidates. He still has his admirers among the electors, who are either blind to or condone his kinks. The million-dollar question is: Is the PAP leadership heeding the call of the public and sincere in wanting to resolve the problem of the removal of MM Lee ? The ball is in the PAP court.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is this a premonition of the PAP waning stars?

The news this morning in the Straits Times of a husband- and- wife team who have joined the opposition Reform Party should come as a welcoming and exhilarating tidings to the young Singapore electorate who will determine the fate of the highfalutin PAP. What made it so significant is that both husband and wife were government scholarship holders who graduated with first-class honours degrees from the world- renowned Cambridge University in England. The reason why they have not gravitated towards the PAP could be the same cogent reason for a hopefully high number of similarly intellectually endowed young men and women to join the opposition. And it will be a good omen for Singapore.

That the PAP hegemonists, especially the narcissistic Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, will be losing much sleep over this historical political development may not be an exaggeration. From their recent political posturing, it is obvious that they are fearing the day when their precarious position will succumb to a relentless onslaught by young invinvible Singaporeans who are bent in sweeping away the vestiges of an increasingly unpopular PAP regime. And the PAP wallahs are not standing idle and are strenously preparing the political ground to prevent such a disastrous phenomenon from happening. So one sees them relaxing some draconian rules and restrictions and offering sops to the electorate, especially the younger ones, in order to retain their loyalty. They are leaving no stones unturned in trying to woo young professionals to join their rank.

The tsunami that hit the Barisan National in Malaysia in the last general election could not have been lost on the PAP leaders. In fact, they were so distraught by it that they sheepishly sent their old war horse Minister Mentor Lee, ostensibly on a fraternal visit, to Malaysia to try to assess the real reason for the phenomenal transformation of the political allegiance of the Malaysian electorate, especially the young politically-conscious Malays. What the astute Minister Mentor saw could not have not convinced him that a similar tsunami could take place in Singapore, if not in the next general election, then in the one after that.

Minister Mentor is not unknown to have run down the opposition as inept and in no way qualified to form an alternative government. He is clearly too conceited in his blustering views. How can he say that the opposition could not govern efficiently if, in the first place, it has not been given an opportunity to administer a government? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Is Minister Mentor Lee not too presumptuous? Let Ms Hazel Poa and her husband Tony Tan Lay Thiam be the trail-blazers in leading an unrelenting influx of similary qualified young professionals to opposition parties to give the arrogant PAP a run for its money in the next general election. If history is allowed to manifest itself, PAP's mandate should have concluded its course and the Singapore people should be blessed with a rejuvenated but untried government formed by the opposition to begin an era of beneficial government to the people. The first heroic act of the new government will be expected to be the reduction of the obscene salaries the prime minister and his affluent ministers are now paying themselves unabashedly.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The True Colour of a Disingenuous Romanian Government

Events of the hit-and-run accident involving the Romanian charge-d'affaires Dr. Silviu Ionescu have now taken a dramatic turn with the latest Romanian Government's intractable stand on the whole affair. My earlier hopeful concept in my posting of 5-1-10 of a sagacious Romanian Government taking a humanitarian stand in this affair is now shown to be misplaced.

In a stunning twist, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now declared that Dr. Ionescu has been recalled to Romania and will not return to Singapore. This honourable gentleman disappeared suddenly three days after the hit-and-run accident and turned up in Romania. It has all the drama of a science fiction that it suddenly occurred to the Romanian MFA to declare Dr. Ionescu's recall to Romania, more than two weeks after his return to his home country. In fact, he had stated that that he would be returning to Singapore later this month. That this is clearly a ploy of the Romanian government not to allow Dr. Ionescu to assist in the police investigations which would in all likelihood turn out to be detrimental to him. The Romanian MFA is talking tongue-in-cheek if it professes to ensure that justice is done in this case. Even the condolences the Romanian Embassy gives to Ms. Yenny Young, wife of the deceased victim Tong Kok Wai, call for scrutiny considering that the condolences were not accompanied with an offer of compensation.

Like a comic opera, the Romanian MFA now says that it is conducting its own investigations into the hit-and-run accident and will forward results of its investigations to the country's Public Prosecutor. It is incredible how a reputable country can indulge in such childish pranks. How does it propose to investigate when the accident occurred in Singapore and all the relevant witnesses are here. Is the Romanian government trying to hoodwink the world it can genuinely investigate the accident which in all honesty it can only do by remote method.

The Singapore police have an unenviable reputation of being competent in their criminal investigations. They have carried out comprehensive investigations into this hit-and-run accident and have almost completed them except for the questioning of Dr. Ionescu which is crucial to the whole case. Dr. Ionescu has to account for his implication in the whole case and this now seems impossible with the latest intractable stand of the Romanian MFA in not allowing Dr. Ionescu to return to Singapore. And any lifting of the immunity of Dr. Ionescu will be out of the question.

Whther the Romanian Government by its intractable attitude is showing an ugly aspect of its feature may be too early to say. There is a remote possibility that it may relent, but how remote is that possibility is a million-dollar question.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Disoriented Romanian Diplomat

Diplomats are people with plenty of time on their hand and, if they do not have their families with them, are likely to explore the exotic sphere of amorous liaison. Our fun-loving Romanian diplomat Dr. Silviu Ionescu could not have been above this mould.

There is a Chinese saying: When one's stomach is full and warm one's thought is on sexual desire (bao nuan si yin yu). Dr. Ionescu is no angel and that he was with an Asian female companion in the early hours of December 15 could not have raised any eyebrow. He had earlier been to a karaoke lounge in Peace Centre and could have tippled whether to what extent is now difficult to ascertain. So willy-nilly he has to be given the benefit of the doubt that he was not inebriated.

After dropping his female companion off he apparently was heading home when he ploughed into first two pedestrians and later another one. He was driving a black Audi A6 with a diplomatic licence plate. That he claimed that he was not the driver at the time is a moot point and taxes the imagination when there is overwhelming evidence of public-spirited witnesses. There is the evidence of the taxi-driver whose cab he hailed at Sungei Kadut to take him back to River Valley Road. The fact that he disappeared suddenly three days after the hit-and-run accident and returned to Romania ostensibly for medical treatment does not add to his credibility. He promised that he would return to Singapore later this month to assist in the police investigation but it is prudent to wait and see.

Of the three victims of the hit-and-run accident, one had since succumbed to his injuries on Christmas day. The other two are luckier but are still under medical care. Whether the victims, especially the deceased's family, will get any compensation is a big question mark. The Romanian government cannot escape its moral responsibility here.

As long as Dr. Ionescu is outside the jurisdiction of Singapore, police investigations of the hit-and-run accident are likely to be handicapped. The facts are glaring and it is incumbent upon the Romanian government to direct Dr. Ionescu to return to Singapore to assist in the police investigations in the interest of justice and fair-play. The Romanian government will endear itself to Singaporeans, if not to the world, if it lifts the immunity of Dr. Ionescu to allow him to be prosecuted and face the penalty if there is concrete evidence to implicate him in the hit-and-run accident, in which a life has been lost.

Immunity is meant to protect diplomats from malicious persecutions by foreign governments and should not be abused. Where there is a clear case of fundamental injustice committed by a diplomat, the government of the diplomat concerned is judged whether its leaders show distinctive statemanship in their diplomacy of seeing to it that justice is done. So far, Romania is of high repute in the eyes of the world and it would not be worth its while to allow this little unfortunate incident to mar its reputation.