Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Secession Conundrum

True to his disingenuous character, the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew always has something up his sleeve which he would foist on the unsuspecting public, ostensibly to score a point. The latest is his baffling disclosure on Singapore's separation from Malaysia which he made in his eulogy to the late Dr Goh Keng Swee at his state funeral. It was anybody's guess whether the distinguished audience at the funeral was taken aback by his enigmatic disclosure that it was the late Dr Goh who decided on his own, after discussions with Tun Abdul Razak, the Malaysian DPM and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, the Minister of the Interior to have a clean break. In other words it was Dr Goh alone who made the decision to secede from Malaysia and later told PM Lee Kuan Yew about it. The Chinese have a proverb: Behead first and report to the throne later (先斩后奏).

From events at that time and what MM Lee Kuan Yew said in his memoirs it was the Malaysian PM Tunku Abdul Rahman who decided to expel Singapore from Malaysia, choosing to "sever all ties with a State Government that showed no measure of loyalty to its Central Government". Lee Kuan Yew was adamant and tried to work out a compromise but without success. He was later convinced by Goh Keng Swee that the secession was inevitable.

Lee Kuan Yew's Malaysian Malaysia adventure against the Central Government exacerbated by race riots in Singapore caused immense alarm to the Malaysian leadership, in particular Tunku Abdul Rahman. He came to the inevitable conclusion that he could not resolve the crisis and decided that separation was the best solution.

Singaporeans have been taken for a ride once too often by the highfalutin MM Lee Kuan Yew and it is about time he shows some civility and responsibility in enlightening the public as to his motive, whether good or evil, in portraying Dr Goh as the protagonist of the secession, especially when DR Goh is no longer around to question its truthfulness. It shows Dr Goh to be a man of gross impetuousity, making a decision on his own on a grave matter affecting the destiny of millions of Singaporeans. Is this a fair reflection on a statesman on whom the innumerable tributes show him to be a man of sound principle and not one to have acted on his own on such a grave matter as secession?

Well, the ball is now in MM Lee Kuan Yew's court. There is another appropriate Chinese proverb: He who ties the bell round the tiger's neck is the one to untie it (解铃还是系铃人).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Premonition of Opposition Disintegration?

Even Heaven looks kindly upon the opposition and paves the way for it to progress to its present pre-eminence and hopefully up to and including the general election. The ground is definitely favourable in favour of it and it has all the electoral support from the new media, especially the netizens who have continually called on voters, especially young voters, not to vote for PAP. Of course, any support from the government-controlled mainstream media is out of the question.

In fact, it has all the characteristics of the victors in the Red Cliff battle in the Chinese historical saga, the Three Kingdom. On the eve of the battle, the fabulous prescient Military Adviser Zhu Ge Liang made his famous prediction: All things made ready but only lacks the East Wind (万事具备,只欠东风. As he patiently waited, the East Wind arrived and sent his armada into victory in Red Cliff. The Chinese history is quoted as an analogy to show that the opposition is having all things made ready but only lacks the East Wind in the form of unity to secure victory like the Red Cliff victors.

The talks between Reform Party (RP) led by Mr. Kenneth Jeyaretnam and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) led by Mr. Chiam See Tong to form an alliance to contest the general election started on a promising note. It had all the makings of a remarkable beginning of a significant process leading to the indispensible unity of the opposition in facing the PAP in the general election. The talks were going so well that it came as something of a shock to hear the news that the proposed RP-SDA alliance had come to grief over the SDA's declination of acceptance of the 11 conditions of the RP after having earlier agreed to them. Kenneth Jeyaretnam was right to feel mystified and SDA Chiam See Tong did not improve matters by remaining tight-lipped.

Mr. Chiam See Tong seems to hold the key to this whole opposition unity conundrum.
A veteran politician like him should have no illusion about the paramount need of opposition unity in securing victory over the PAP in the general election. This should transcend all personal or party interests in the overall interests of opposition unity. The RP-SDA alliance fiasco will be viewed with exultation by the PAP leaders as it would mean that without unity the opposition will be less of a threat to their dominiance in the general election notwithstanding any favourable ground condition and new media support to the opposition. Of course, if the opposition parties were to contest against one another in a single ward or GRC, this will virtually amount to a walk-over for the PAP.

The general election is likely to be still some time away and the oppoosition, especially Mr. Chiam See Tong, should transcend their parochial interests to forge a solid unity and not let down their electoral supporters. If the opposition parties fritter away the present golden opportunity, they may not find a similar opportunity for a long time to come.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is Straits Times a government mouthpiece?

Speaking during a dialogue session organised for forum writers to the Straits Times, ST Editor Han Fook Kwang admitted that the paper suffered from a perception that it is a " government mouthpiece". But he got the cheek to say with tongue-in-cheek: "But the test is if our readers believe in the paper and continue to buy it". It is pathetic that Mr. Han, who is just a cog in the massive government propaganda organisation is trying to ape his political masters in continuing to hoodwink the people as to the insidious political role of the Straits Times. What Mr. Han says about the Straits Times is not important because he is impotent himself and is not in a position where he can in any way influence the policy of the Straits Times.

What is of more concern to the discerning Singaporeans is whether there is freedom of the press in Singapore. Reporters without Borders ranked Singapore media 133th in terms of press freedom among 175 countries last year. Can there be press freedom when the mainstream media is tightly controlled by a forbidding organisation like the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH)? It is not some kind of benevolent organisation but an omnipotent body formed by the government to oversee the mainstream media, especially the Straits Times, in its dissemination of government propaganda. At the head of SPH is none other than a former deputy prime minister who is also the spin doctor.

Under the circumstances, it will be naive to think that press freedom exists in Singapore. What the mainstream media,especially the Straits Times, dishes out to the public is what the government wants the public to read. Views, opinions or articles inimical to the government, especially from opposition parties, will find it extremely hard to get publicity, esecially in the Straits Times. Even letters unflattering to the government sent to the Forum suffered the same fate.

We will see the true colour of the mainstream media, especially the Straits Times, during the hustings for the General Election. Under the tight control of SPH, the PAP will have monopoly of the mainstream media, probably to the exclusion of the opposition parties. The opposition parties will most likely have to rely on the new media to support their election campaign. The Straits Times, being a government mouthpiece, is not likely to lend a hand to the opposition campaign. It will be just wishful thinking.

Although Singapore's population has increased, Straits Times circulation has shown a decline. It claims an inflated readership of 1.4 million. This shows that there are Singaporeans who cease to read the Straits Times because they are disgusted with its pro-government propaganda. These are the people who turn to the internet for their supply of local and foreign news and they could form a fairly substantial number. There are also some who read the Straits Times for its sports, social and financial news, skipping its propaganda.

One will have to be cynical to believe that there is press freedom in Singapore. This, at best, depends on the charitable whim of the powers that be.