Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MM Lee Kuan Yew the "Forecaster"

It would not be far off the mark to say that the narcissistic MM Lee Kuan Yew would consider it an honour if he were invited to officiate the opening of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort. But he had to settle for a second best by touring the MBS a day before its grand opening, which to some people may be seen as a form of unofficial opening ceremony before its actual officiation which will no doubt tickle his ego.

But a leopard can never change its spots. True to his swaggering character he cannot help opening his big mouth, in conformity to his calling as a "forecaster", to predict that the newly opened MBS will take up to seven years to reach full capacity. With his official status MM Lee could not have been accompanied on his tour of MBS by any lesser personality than the MBS Chairman Mr. Sheldon Adelson.

One cannot expect Mr. Adelson to be amused by MM Lee's unflattering forecast, evidently not based on any tangible evidence but on his whim and fancy. How is Mr. Adelson going to face his shareholders if he allows such a deleterious remark, not one made by an ordinary mortal, to pass with impunity. Mr. Adelson is a shrewd Caucasian, one who must have had considerable experience in his career in dealing with high-ranking politicians of all political hues and colours and would certainly not be overawed by their prominence. He blithely told a disconcerted MM Lee that he believed that MBS would achieve full capacity in the year 2011. MM Lee was clearly seen to be taken aback by the Chairman's candid retort and could be seen to have no answer to his statement. Mr. Adelson is therefore seen to have reasserted his position thus giving assurance to his shareholders that he is no pushover.

Whether MM Lee will take this as a lesson to curb his egregious habit of "forecasting" for the wrong reason at the wrong time will be something which Singaporeans will be relieved to know.
He is paid more than $3 million a year from taxpayers' money to do what he himself has described as "forecasting". His position is a sinecure and he has so much time on his hand that he jets around the world, not infrequently, on taxpayers' funds to overwhelm his gullible audiences with his irresitable charms, making booboos in the process.

The latest example is in his eulogy to the late Dr. Goh Keng Swee whom he described as the minister who acted on his own "to have a clean break from Malaysia". Of course, such a serious controversial divergence from known facts could not have been allowed to pass without accountability. Dr. Goh is no longer around to clarify and the controversy has unfairly impinged on his character. Whatever is the motive of MM Lee to bring this up after Dr. Goh's death only time will tell. But in view of the disquiet generated by this controversy among the public, MM Lee is now trying strenouosly to carry out damage control in order to salvage the situation. His feeble attempt at vindication in the Straits Times of 22 June is a typical example.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Sophistry of Minister K. Shanmugam

It is obvious that the government is trying strenously to manage damage control as a result of the fallout from the serious security lapse at the SMRT Changi depot. Whilst the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Home Affairs had remained reticent, for reasons best known to themselves, on the security breach, it has now fallen on the shoulder of a discomfited Second Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam to make a belated sophistry on the goverment's dissociation of responsibility on security of private sector installations giving SMRT and its depots as an example and citing prohibitive costs as the main reason.

It is incredulous that the Minister could come up with such a simplistic view on a matter of considerable gravity as security. It is fortunate that the security breach at the SMRT Changi depot was a graffiti caper by two innocuous foreign pranksters. So the SMRT honchos are held responsible for the security lapse although the government cannot escape embarrassment and loss of face. Up to this stage the dissociation of responsibility stand of the government appears to sound reasonable.

But has it occurred to Mr. Shanmugam that, instead of two foreign pranksters, the security breach at the SMRT Changi depot could have been carried out by Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorists? Does he think that these JI terrorists would be there to spray-paint graffiti on the train? The consequence of such a scenario would be immensely devastating especially if the carriage is packed with commuters. Will Mr. Shanmugam consider such a security situation to be the responsibility of theSMRT honchos for them to manage?

So Mr. Shanmugam will have to show more ingenuity and circumspection in explaining to the business community or private sector, that whilst it is their primary responsibility to look after the security of their installations, the circumstances in which the government will assume full responsibility of any breach of security, for instance in case of terrorist-inspired incidents.

The SMRT Changi depot security breach was a good example where the Minister for Transport or the Minister for Home Affairs could have come out in the first instance with an assurance to the commuting public that security at the SMRT was being reinforced for their safety. Instead it was left to the SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa to express deep regret for the "serious lapse", quite flippantly because some people said that she was merely aping DPM Wong Kan Seng. It is appropriate to ask here if an assurance from a government minister would have a greater impact on the commuting public.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Comic Opera

It's uncanny that it was a Swiss national Oliver Fricker who showed how easy it was to breach the so-called unbreachable security of the SMRT's Changi depot to spray graffiti on an MRT train in the middle of the night. What made it all the more comical was that the train was allowed to ply its services for two days without anyone's being the wiser although SMRT now claimed that its staff thought it was an advertisement. Is the claim not a bit far-fetched?

Fricker may not have realised it at that time but his impetuous artistic painting, though may have appeared to him to be an innocuous caper, is certain to have caused great consternation to the powers that be. They may have been probably woken to the harsh reality that their elaborately laid out security of protected places could be breached by some foreign prankster out to make fun of the hubristic PAP government.

By his caper Fricker has knowingly or unknowingly caused the government to lose face and public confidence. Does he seriously think that the PAP government will show magnanimity and let him off lightly? Fricker may not have realised that his folly could have brought him serious consequences or he might have had second thought about going through with his prank. Then there is an alleged accomplice and the government is not going to let him off either. What part the alleged accomplice had played in this prank may only be known when he is arrested and brought back to Singapore. He is believed to have fled to Hongkong.

DPM Wong Kan Seng cannot be amused at the ease with which Fricker had breached the security at the SMRT's Changi depot. It is fortunate that it was just a prank for DPM Wong will be singing a different tune if it had been done by a Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist group. Because what the JI terrorists would have done would not be just spraying amusing graffiti on the train. The scenario could be quite devastating.

We wonder if the SMRT's chief exective Saw Phaik Hwa really realised the gravity of the SMRT security gaffe. It is quite flippant for the CEO to just say she deeply regretted the "serious lapse" (here some people said that she tried to ape DPM Wong Kan Seng) and tended to shift responsibility to SMRT staff.

Another glaring fact is the complete silence of the Minister for Transport on this SMRT security lapse. It does not seem to concern him and he does not consider it important for him to reassure the commuting public that security of the SMRT is being reinforced for their safe travel.

Neither have we heard anything reassuring from DPM Wong Kan Seng who is the Home Affairs Minister. Are we to assume that the government is complacent about the present SMRT security lapse until a real terrorist incident explodes in its face?