Friday, December 16, 2011

The SMRT Debacle

The name SMRT has become synonymous with chaos and confusion as evidenced by its worst breakdown in its 24-year operating history in train stations across Singapore last night. Thousands of commuters riding home during the evening rush hour were plunged into total darkness as trains on the North-South Line suddenly lost power and ground to a halt. The chaos and confusion that followed were so unprecedentedly atrocious that it was incredible that they could happen only under the inept management of SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa. No words could describe the dire sufferings of the commuters in the stifling heat of windowless carriages where the air-conditioning had also failed. It was indeed a nightmarish and traumatic experience for the commuters.

Happening so soon after the Circle Line debacle, does it not occur to the fertile mind of the Transport Minister, or the PAP Government for that matter, that something is radically wrong with the management of the SMRT helmed by its CEO Saw Phaik Hwa. She was nowhere to be seen and it was up to the Transport Minister to make an appeasing statement from Cambodia where he is attending the 17th Asean Transport Minister Meeting. Under Saw Phaik Hwa's watch, not only were Singaporeans provided with comical spectacles of vandalism of SMRT carriages in their depots on two occasions. In addition there had been frequent disruptions of train services to the utter inconvenience of commuters culminating in the debacle last night. She was quite flippant in her attitude towards all these happenings and the question uppermost in Singaporeans' mind is whether she has not outlived her tenure in her million-dollar job.

The SMRT provides an essential service to the commuting public in moving large number of people from place to place in an efficient manner. The frequency in the number of breakdowns in services does not convey confidence in the commuting public nor does it reflect well on the efficiency or the lack of it in the management. One or two breakdowns should have forewarned the management of possible flaws in the system and that efforts should have been made to detect these defects and rectify them. Complacency seems to be the order of the day and nothing seems to have changed the frequency of disruptions. Let's see if the Transport Minister will be able whip up some urgency to act in the complacent management, especially its sluggish CEO to make a really credible improvement to the SMRT system.

The press conference given by CEO Saw Phaik Hwa today can best be described as an exercise in futility. No amount of press conference will be able to compensate the commuters for their nightmarish and traumatic experience in the latest SMRT debacle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Momentous Impact of Aljunied

Judging from the soul-searching that pervaded the PAP convention at the University Cultural Centre on Sunday 27 November, PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues are stilll smarting from the humiliating defeat of the top PAP team in Aljunied GRC in the last General Election in May. They lost two heavyweight ministers, a senior minister of state and a prospective political office holder in the Aljunied fiasco. PM Lee has now vowed at the convention that the party is set on retaking Aljunied in the GE in 2016. All very brave words but would history and, more importantly, the enlightened voters of Aljunied allow PM Lee and the party to indulge in this fantasy of retaking Aljunied? The wheel of history only moves forward and PM Lee and his circle of self-acclaimed ministers may find to their dismay not only that they could not recapture Aljunied but may lose a few more GRCs to Workers' Party and the other opposition parties if they are able to muster credible candidates against the PAP. People on the ground are already talking about it.

More startling to the complaisant PAP leaders is the belief in certain quarters, among them some quite prominent, that in the present struggle for political supremacy, the Workers' Party (WP) is portrayed as having similar prowess that PAP had in the turbulent period before it came into power in 1959. The PAP had the solid support of the pro-communist unions under the powerful leadership of Lim Chin Siong. The PAP now has the unions completely under its control through its jocular minister Lim Swee Say. So politically the WP is deprived of this important source of trade union support. But if WP is on the political ascendancy reminiscent of the PAP 1959 political might, there is every possibility the trade union rank and file may shift their allegiance to the WP, maybe not openly, in defiance of the PAP-dominated NTUC leadership.

From his demeanour in the PAP convention, PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet comrades show no compunction in wanting to snuff out the opposition completely from Parliament. Of course, PM Lee can explain that the opposition can still be represented in Parliament in the capacity of NCMPs. Is this not a travesty as NCMPs are not elected MPs? They do not represent any constituency and have no voting rights in certain aspects in Parliament. It shows the arrogance of the PAP leaders in wanting to assert their political dominance in Parliament to the exclusion of the opposition, especially the WP. This is perhaps what they want Singaporeans to believe that they are practising democracy, which is contrary to their oft professed intention. Is this not a mockery of democracy?

Anyway, a great number of electors are disillusioned with the PAP leaders. Even with the five years before the next election for the PAP leaders to rectify their shortcomings and win over the disenchanted voters, they may not find the going smooth for the simple reason that history is no longer on their side.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Usurping the role of the Host (喧宾夺主)

The Chinese saying :xuan bin duo zhu (喧宾夺主)is more scathing in its Chinese form than its English rendering "usurping the role of the host". And in the Chinese society there could be example of social occasions which ended up with one party accusing the other party or person with this saying. It has an unpleasant connotation which could have a lingering effect on the receiving party or person for quite a while.

The Straits Times and the Media Corp could have, whether unwittingly or not, played the role of portraying our eminent PM Lee Hsien Loong as a usurper of the role of the Indonesian host President Susilo Banbang Yudhoyuno. The Straits Times and Media Corp had been giving prominent daily reports of the speeches of PM Lee at the ASEAN/East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia to the diminution of other world leaders, especially President Yudhoyuno. You opened the Straits Times every morning and you could see nothing but PM Lee Hsien Loong said this or he said that and very little of what other world leaders said at the Summit. One could not help getting the impression that PM Lee was the host of the Summit and that he was actually running the show. The Indonesian Ambassador here could not have failed to notice this phenomenon as it was so glaring. President Yudhoyuno could hardly be amused but being a magnanimous person he could not be expected to show any displeasure. But Indonesians have a long memory.

We now come back to the role of the Straits Times. The public perception that it is the propaganda organ of the PAP Government is never too far-fetched. And the chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings who exercises tight control of the Straits Times and other vernacular newspapers is described as the spin doctor. So to counter the pro-government propaganda that the Straits Times disseminates, there is a proliferation of the social media which provide an alternative source of news to the public. Because what they print is not complimentary to the Government, there is now an intention on the part of the Government to curb the influence of the social media by legislation, although still at a preliminary stage. The Internet played no small part in the PAP's loss of the Aljunied GRC and reduction of the total percentage of the votes garnered in the General Election in May this year.

There is really nothing wrong in PM Lee Hsien Loong's ambition to portray himself as an outstanding politician among ASEAN and world leaders at the ASEAN/EastAsia Summit or in any international forum. But it shows political sagacity that this is done without any tendency of one-upmanship.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Comical Gaffe by Minister Khaw Boon Wan

The small Himalayan country called Bhutan came into prominence recently when its king married a commoner in a colourful ceremony and brought happiness to his subjects winning the universal acclaim of being the most happy nation on earth. This seems to strike a chord with Singaporeans who wish the Bhutanese well for their happiness which is to many people an elusive element in the Singapore society. However, along came a jocular figure in the person of Minister Khaw Boon Wan who pooh-poohed the universal perception that Bhutan could be the last Shangri-la on earth.`He also denigrated Bhutan that it could not be the happy country made out to be as its people are almost eking out a living from its not very fertile soil. Mr Khaw could not have been more pretentious by his depreciating remarks on Bhutan just from one brief visit to the country. Of course, he could not be faulted for trying to be more critical than the former MM Lee Kuan Yew in disparaging others.

Be that as it may, it could come as a mild shock to Mr Khaw to discover that there is a highly-cultured Bhutanese who goes by the name of PaSsu who could give him a lesson in logical argument in English. Does it surprise Mr Khaw that an ordinary Bhutanese could operate a blog on which he has posted that "this is in reply to National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan of Singapore on his comments made on our country". For a Bhutanese he surprises readers with his fairly high standard of satirical replies to each of Mr Khaw's disparagements of his country.

Saying that he was not surprised when Mr Khaw said that "Bhutan is not the last Shangri-la on Earth" because a friend of his from Singapore found Bhutan only "full of mountains and valleys". The Bhutanese asked sarcastically:"When you visited Bhutan, what did you expect? Those flying mountains you saw in Avatar? or every Bhutanese merrily dancing in designer clothes? Well, you must have at least expected fancier cars and taller buildings but we only have taller mountains (not flying ones) and thicker forest (truly natural)". To Mr Khaw's uncomplimentary remarks that most of the time he only saw unhappy people toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products, the quick-witted Bhutanese quoted a proverb he had heard in school:"Two men looked through the prison window, one saw the mud and the other saw the horizon".

The humorous Bhutanese said that he was surprised that Mr Khaw spent most of his time in Bhutan looking in the fields and was amazed at his ability to figure out whether the people are happy or unhappy just by looking at them. He answered point-blank that if Mr Khaw had gone closer to see the people in the fields, he would have heard them singing and enjoying the social lives which Mr Khaw would not understand. He would have seen a woman with a basket on her back holding arms with several children coming with steaming food and everybody will sit down to eat their lunch, laughing, joking and feeding babies. The people do not worry about the next harvest or whether there would be buyers for their products. In fact, they do not do much commercial farming but do the farming to keep with tradition. When the sun sets, the people leave for their homes where they have a large family waiting for a family get-together.

Well, Mr Khaw, Singapore may be a thriving modern city but what percentage of the people are really happy like the Bhutanese. The people who can be said to be extremely happy are ministers like your kind self who are drawing whopping salaries from the taxpayers' money. So before you venture again to dispense your uncomplimentary remarks about other countries, you will save yourself a lot of public disapprobation if you think twice before you open your big mouth. Or maybe ministers are so thick-skinned that one more criticism does not add further to their dented reputation.

The Bhutanese blog post is titled:"Bhutanese replies to Khaw Boon Wan's 'Shangri-la' comments". It is meant to be an open letter to Mr Khaw Boon Wan if he has not already read it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Display of One-upmanship in Parliament

Does the "new normal" in politics include the beginning of a display of more affability on the part of PAP ministers and MPs towards the opposition (especially Workers' Party (WP) MPs in Parliament? This does not seem to be incongruous with the aim of the realistic PM Lee Hsien Loong but whether this noble intention has gone down well with his colleagues and MPs is intriguing. If the proceedings of the start of the 12th Parliament are any indication, it shows that there are still a few stragglers among the MPs and at least one minister without portfolio.

Mr Lim Swee Say was described in the Straits Times as the ruling party's most high profile Mandarin-speaking minister. He featured in a heated debate with the WP secretary-general Mr Low Thia Khiang in Parliament. By Lim's disdainful demeanour and aggressive attitude in presenting his arguments, PM Lee's idea of a more tranquil and courteous atmosphere in the 12th Parliament is devoid of meaning. TV footage of his antics in Parliament showed him to be more comical than rational with his clownish demeanour.

The object of his caustic crticisms, Mr Low Thia Khiang, emerged as an indignant cogent opponent who was able to outmanoeuvre the PAP high priest in almost all his arguments. In response to Lim Swee Say's clarification on his "cheaper, better, faster" catchphrase, Low's quick retort was: "On his clarification about cheap, faster and better workers, I would say that perhaps we will start to see better, faster and perhaps cheaper (ones) after the ministerial salary review is completed".

In the longest debate with Mr Low, the Minister in the PMO Lim Swee Say said he was at a loss for words that Mr Low felt ministers served out of self interest. Responding, Mr Low said he was referring to Singaporeans' perception, nicely hitting the nail on the head. In this connection, an article was published on 22-7-11 on this website titled: "Are the 3rd generation PAP leaders not really self-serving?" which attempted to show why there was a perception among Singaporeans that PAP ministers (including the PM) were a self-serving lot. The relevant post is still available and Mr Lim Swee Say is strongly urged to read it to keep abreast of Singaporeans' perception.

There is an acting minister who is given the nickname "Kie Chiu"(meaning raise your hand) . He has the ridiculous habit of asking his puzzled audience to raise their hands to show approbation of what he has said. Then another minister who had become notorious for disappearing from heavy flood scenes in Orchard Road leaving helpless business victims in the lurch. Another minister incurred public displeasure at showing an indifferent attitude to food-poisoning volunteers who helped in the Youth Olympic Games. These are supposed to be the cream of our selfless ministers.

Returning to WP MP Mr Chen Show Mao's maiden speech in Parliament, a large number of Chinese-speaking Singaporeans who were viewing the TV programme on Parliamentary debates were not only disappointed, but were angry at Media Corp for censoring Chen's speech. They could only see Chen saying the words:"Patriotism is not the preserve of the ruling party" and the rest was cut off. The citizens were eagerly waiting to watch the immaculte performance of Chen as a excellent Mandarin orator and ended up with hearing only one sentence of his speech. It was an anti-climax to them to say the least. Is this kind of discrimnation going to endear them to the PAP?

A former woman journalist of the Lianhe Zaobao has written an article in the current affairs column of the Chinese journal on 21-10-11 that it was a grave error for Media Corp to refrain from reporting the epoch-making maiden speech of Mr Chen Show Mao in its TV programme and urges that Parliamentary debates be reported in full in future. She said that Singaporeans were disappointed that they were deprived of the opportunity of watching Chen's wisdom and intelligence in action.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Dispassionate View of Chen Show Mao's Analogy

The Workers' Party MP Mr Chen Show Mao has so far shown by his words and actions that he is a man of very careful disposition. He is not known to have said or done anything which could be considered to be uncomplimentary to the PAP leaders or Government. In fact, he could only be the antithesis of the highfalutin former MM Lee Kuan Yew. So before he brought up the analogy of Emperor Tang Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty China in his maiden speech in Parliament, he would have considered all the pros and cons that this delicate theme could engender. The overwhelming response to his speech, especially the analogy of Emperor Tai Zong, proved him to be a consummate politician.

Two of the three PAP MPs who debated Chen's Tang analogy were rational in their comments. One even commented that Chen should have been given more applause. One woman MP Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC) voiced a dissenting view of Chen's analogy. She argued that it was inappropriate to compare the PAP to Emperor Tang Tai Zong as he was an autocratic ruler in a feudal era. It is quite possible that there may be some conservatives among Singaporeans holding this view.

Let us examine dispassionately the appropriateness of Chen's analogy. Emperor Tang Tai Zong was one of the most, if not the most, enlightened ruler in Chinese history. He had shown no characteristic of an autocrat and under his sagacious rule, the Chinese people experienced a period of peace and prosperity. He treated his people like his own children and showed concern for any of their distress and sufferings. During his benevolent rule, he nurtured and developed a host of literary, artistic, musical, dance and theatrical talents which were a legacy to modern China. That he was able to achieve all these remarkable achievements was due in no small measure to the constant fearless and far-sighted advice of his famous loyal courtier Wei Zheng. And so the period of Emperor Tang Tai Zong's enlightened rule was given the historical title of Zhenguan golden era (贞观之治)。

Chen Show Mao could not have equated the PAP Government to a feudal ruler but the analogy was meant as a timely encouragement to the PAP leaders to emulate the enlightened adminstration of Emperor Tang Tai Zong which he could not have done this without mentioning the emperor. The fact that the emperor was a feudal ruler, though a benevolent one, could only be taken in a co-incidental sense as the emphasis is on his enlightened administration and not on his status as a feudal ruler.

When Chen made the analogy, he would have expected that there will be some Singaporeans who may hold different views. That is only to be expected in a democratic society and it is hoped that the above exposition would be able to persuade them from any misconception. Mr Chen Show Mao has proved himself to be a sincere and able politician and his analogy of Emperor Tan Tai Zong has been made with all sincerity and not without humility.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tribute to a Passionate Patriot with Lofty Principles

By now the name Chen Show Mao is no longer strange to Singaporeans. In particular, they should remember him as the charismatic member of the Workers' Party (WP) quintet who toppled the formidable PAP team which included the heavyweight Foreign Minister George Yeo in the Aljunied GRC in the General Election in May this year. He was quite modest in his pivotal role in bringing about the historic WP victory.

He brings along with him formidable credentials which even the ordinarily disdainful PAP leaders could only admire and respect. How could they be otherwise when Chen's credentials put him in a position superior to most, if not all, of the PAP leaders, including possibly the immodest PM Lee Hsien Loong himself. With his talent and international legal experience Chen is going to pioneer a political path for Singaporeans which will give the PAP leaders a run for their money trying to emulate or counter.

Chen showed his political dexterity when he made his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday (18-10-11). He showed himself no less effectively bi-lingual than the best of any such politicians that the PAP can muster. He spoke fluently in Mandarin and not only displayed political maturity but magnanimity as well when he deftly sketched out the relationship between the WP and the ruling PAP as he saw it by bringing back to present reality the royal court of Tang Dynasty China.

There was in Emperor Tang Taizong's reign in the Tang Dynasty a famous courtier Wei Zheng who was renowned for speaking the truth to the throne and was unafraid of offending the emperor. As a result of courtier Wei's fearless and far-sighted criticisms, the emperor introduced the Zhenguan golden era (贞观之治) that would become a model for China's future rulers. Mr Chen appealed earnestly: "In this 12th Parliament, I hope a wise ruling party can be Tang Taizong while we the WP can be Wei Zheng. Together we can create a prosperous era, one that is not dictated by a single ruler surrounded by 'yes' men". (The quotation of Mr Chen's speech is taken from the Straits Times)

Mr Chen's speech was described as mastery and commanded the attention of the almost-full House, including PM Lee Hsien Loong. That the House has rarely experienced such a dignified utterrance of a rising political star of Mr Chen's calibre is never in doubt. As a further proof of the respect he commands, Minister of State for Education and Defence Mr Lawrence Wong was careful in his speech to avoid the pitfall of irrational criticism of Mr Chen's speech. As if by intuition he also touched on the same theme of the relationship between the Government and the people. It was the PAP smart Alec Dr Teo Ho Pin who made some dissenting noise that he"did not know the difference (Mr Chen) has made" in defining the differences. (Mr Chen was making the point that political differences are not akin to divisions that will lend to time-wasting politicking and gridlock).

In conclusion there is a Chinese saying which fits exactly the character of Mr Chen Show Mao: Acquainted with things ancient and modern; Well versed in philosophy. (博古通今; 精通哲理). There is a prediction that in Mr Chen Show Mao the highfalutin former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew will meet his waterloo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Comedy in Conspicuity

Perhaps the article Defining 'the Government' in the Straits Times of 3.10.11 written by the political reporter Janice Heng was seen as a comedy in conspicuity mainly to amuse rather than to convey any serious meaning. She may find that she shows naivety in expecting the discerning public to believe that the Straits Times and the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) controlling it are not the propaganda organ of the PAP Government. If she is a newbie and shows dreadful ignorance of the true camouflaged character of the Straits Times and the SPH, she may be forgiven. But is she?

It was a well-known fact that when Dr Tony Tan was chairman of the SPH, he was described by the public as the Government's spin doctor. It meant that he was the PAP Government's propaganda chief and the mainstream media (MSM) could only churn out pro-Government propaganda in their journals to the detriment of opposition politics. It was only during the hustings for the General Election this year and after that that some reasonable journalistic coverage has been given to the opposition parties. The Forum page in the StraitsTimes is meant for letters from the public written in praise of the Government. Writers of letters critical of the Government are usually turned down ostensibly because of lack of Forum space.

Ms Janice Heng shows remarkable naviety in saying that those who think The Straits Times is inextricably linked to the Government should try spending some time here as a political reporter. Does not this show that ST political reporters are blinkered and cannot see the wood for the trees?

The post of chairman of SPH has always been held by former ministers starting with the late former minister Lim Kim San. After the late Mr Lim Kim San, the baton was passed on to Dr Tony Tan, another former minister and deputy prime minister. Now the chairman SPH post is passed on to Dr Lee Boon Yang, another former minister. This is to ensure that the pro-PAP Government propaganda by the SPH-controlled MSM is perpetuated. So is not Ms Janice Heng myopic in her assertion that the Straits Times is not inextricably linked to the Government?

Do not all these revelations about PAP Government's tight control of the press through the SPH make Ms Janice Heng out to be either a naive and ignorant political reporter or a politically-motivated one to be writing such a frivolous article which could easily mislead dispassionate readers? Reporters Without Borders, an international non-governmental organisation that advocates freedom of the press, gave a very low ranking (137) on freedom of press in Singapore. Ms Janice Heng may not be aware of this low press freedom ranking and may be something for her to mull over if she contemplates to write about press freedom in Singapore.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Geriatric in Pomposity

In the normal course of logic, when a person grows old he or she becomes more circumspect in speech and behaviour. But then sometimes there is an exception to this logic when you find a geriatric behaving pompously and bombastically and expecting his preachings to be accorded a regal reception. There are many Chinese sayings to portray such highfalutin individuals but suffice it to quote just one or two: All are too mean for his notice (目空一切) and Conceited and egoistic (自高自大).

In fact having made one gaffe after another in his comments on world as well as local affairs which were embarrassing, to say the least, to his prime minister son as well as to the Government, one would have thought that the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew would simmer down and retire gracefully to a quiet affluent life to the relief of sceptical Singaporeans. But unfortunately this was not to be the case and his latest gaffe was to humiliate a PhD student of the Nanyang Technological University at a forum. Miss Joan Sim, who probably adored the former MM for what she thought was an inimitable eminent politician and statesman, naively asked him an innocent question about social cohesiveness. Instead of answering the question, the former MM baffled his audience by hubristically urging the PhD student, who is single, to stop wasting her time on her doctorate and find a boyfriend instead. That the surprised audience was shocked by his crass remarks could well be imagined, but the normally sedate Miss Sim could well have been knocked over with a feather from shock. Will Miss Sim still harbour any illusion of the former MM as a humane fatherly figure after this deplorable incident?

The President of the Association for Action and Research (AWARE) Ms Nicole Tan showed admirable courage in attacking the former MM Lee Kuan Yew's comments claiming that it "perpetuates sexist stereotype" and "belittling single women". She also slammed the PAP Government for not "walking the talk". For her adverse remarks against the former MM and the PAP Government, it would not be a surprise if the plucky Ms Nicole Tan finds her presidency being challenged. The netizens are equally critical of the former MM.

It should be well known by now that the highfalutin former MM takes a delight in bullying university students, especially NTU students, (Miss Sim's case is an example) and yet NTUSU and other student organisations seem to enjoy the antics of this blustering octogenarian. This is a fascinating phenomenon and one cannot help associating it with masochism. Does the former MM have a high opinion of university graduates whom he described as "educated but not bright"?

The question that is uppermost on everyone's mind is why does not PM Lee Hsien Loong do something to curb his father's impetuousity. The answer may be found in the saying that a leopard cannot change its spots. Then there is the question of filial piety towards the father which may inhibit any altruistic desire to act.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did the former Minister Mentor really say it?

Whatever his strong point, the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is not known to be a person who is judicious with his words. There is a Chinese saying aptly fitting him: His mouth never chooses kind words (口不择言). He thinks he is more sagacious than the famous Chinese sage Confucius. But the narcissistic Lee Kuan Yew's booboos in his utterances have become his trademark.

It is hard to believe that the US embassy cable, leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, reporting the former Minister Mentor characterising Islam as a "venomous religion" during a 2008 meeting with visiting US senator Hilary Clinton is not authentic. The US diplomat reporting it was obviously present at the meeting and it was a first-hand report of the proceedings. Unless we believe that the US diplomat was an irresponsible officer who had an ulterior motive in misreporting the offending words used by the former Minister Mentor, there could be no dispute as to the accuracy of the report. Anyway, senator Hilary Clinton would have noticed it if she thought it was misreported.

Could the fact that it was not recorded in the Foreign Affairs Ministry notes of the meeting be conclusive proof that the offending words were not used by the former Minister Mentor? There could be many plausible explanations for the omission of the offending words from the record. Could it be the prescient discretion of a conscientious officer who could forsee a political furore over this offending term in the future? So we have now to decide the probability between the US embassy version of the meeting where the offending words "venomous religion" were used and the former Minister Mentor's version in which he vehemently denied ever using such offensive words.

To refresh the memory of Singaporeans, perhaps it should be remembered that our former Minister Mentor is not immune to making booboos from time to time. His famous "flash in the pan" in describing the black American candidate Mr Barack Obama when he contended the American presidential election in 2008 was Lee's biggest gaffe. Lee Kuan Yew was rooting for the white American candidate Mr John McCain and considered the election of a black American President to be apocalyptic. He had to eat his words and humbled himself when he met President Barack Obama in2009. President Obama showed that he was a figure of magnanimity.

Another of his booboos occurred in 2009 in which he made deleterious comments in the National Geographic magazine portraying 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. Needless to say Singaporeans were infuriated by his disparaging comments which showed up his political insensitivity.

His next gaffe was his disparaging comments on the Singapore Malays/Muslims in his much-hyped book "Lee Kuan Yew : Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going". He commented that other communities have easier integration than Muslims because they tend to be "distinct and separate". This caused an uproar in the Malay/Muslim community with the Association of Malay Professionals (AMP) making a scathing attack on the Minister Mentor. There was concern that this Malay anger had affected Malay support of the PAP in the Aljunied GRC which was won by the Workers' Party in the May 2011 General Election.

Finally, should the former Minister Mentor find himself having nothing better to do than delivering his so-called pearls of wisdom to gullible audiences, there is a pretty comical suggestion that he could busy himself by becoming a stand-up comedian to entertain the kids. They will be extremely delighted and will regard him as their idol.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Singaporeans want an enhancement of powers for the future President.

The president, as provided for in the Constitution, has veto power in respect of the protection of national reserves, appointments of key personnel in the civil service, ISA detentions, CPIB investigations and the maintenance of religious harmony. Beyond these responsibilities he has to act in accordance with the advice of the prime minister and his Cabinet. For instance, the Law Minister asserted that the president cannot speak publicly without the advice of the PM and his Cabinet. This has raised a minor storm from the three presidential candidates other than Dr Tony Tan. Mr Shanmugam has since softened on his hard stand.

In the recent presidential hustings, apart from Dr Tony Tan who was considered a pro-PAP candidate quite comfortable with the constraints imposed by the Constitution on the president, the other three candidates were all very vocal against this circumscription. They were definitely voicing the strong dissensions of the majority of the voting electorate against these undemocratic restraints on the president's powers. They wanted the president to be able to initiate action on social issues, especially those on the poor people's livelihood. It is significant that one candidate wanted the president to have discretionary power to decide on the clemency of condemned prisoners. The case of Yong Vui Kong, who has gone through all the processes of appeals in the High Court and to the president for clemency over his death sentence for heroine possession, has generated considerable sympathy among Singaporeans for sparing his life. The outgoing president has no discretion but to act on the advice of the Cabinet. The new president will not be able to act any differently.

The three presidential candidates, other than Dr Tony Tan, had created such a furore with their animated stand against constitutional constraints on the president's powers that it could be ignored at the PAP Government's own peril now that the hustings are over. The events have clearly shown that Singaporeans are strongly desirous for a change to enhance the powers of the future president. The new president Dr Tony Tan will still be circumscribed by the Constitution but as he has said he will not feel uncomfortable with it. This is because of his close liaison with PAP leaders. He professes to be an independent president but how independent he can be will be interesting to watch.

Coming back to the enhancement of presidential powers, even the MSM Lianhe Zaobao, in its editorial on 30-8-11, is able to see this trend coming and advises the PAP Government that it cannot put off for long the desire of Singaporeans for an enhancement of the president's powers. The writing is already on the wall. The PAP Government can choose either to ride roughshod over the people's desire or to show a more democratic facade by preparing to accommodate the people's wish to see the future president's powers enhanced. Even the new president Dr Tony Tan is able to see this inevitable trend coming.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Cliffhanger Presidential Election

Despite the voluminous criticisms against him in the social media, the former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan still managed to scrape through with the slimmest of margin in the presidential election to become the seventh president of Singapore. Dr Tony Tan won by a minuscule margin of 0.34% or 7269 votes. With the massive support from trade unions and other establishment bodies and the tacit endorsement of the PAP Government, Dr Tony Tan's narrow victory can be said to be a irony of fate against a more worthy opponent Dr Tan Cheng Bock. There is a Chinese saying befitting Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Although defeated but still honourable (虽败犹荣). He had put in massive efforts in his campaign and not only his supporters but many Singaporeans will be extremely disappointed that he has been deprived of victory by the slimmest margin imaginable. Fate has been unkind to him for he would have made an excellent president with his independence of character.

Willy-nilly we are now saddled, through the intricacies of fate, with a new elected president whose independence of the PAP Government is never reassuring, given his PAP background. Will he turn out to be another S R Nathan whose tenure has been anything but illustrious. Of course Dr Tony Tan is the PAP tacitly-endorsed candidate and nothing pleases PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues more than his election as president as this removes a source of anxiety of a possible turbulent relationship with the presidency if any of the other three candidates was elected.

In his campaign Dr Tony Tan portrayed himself as a candidate with financial expertise and vast experiences in the corporate world and is the best person with a steady hand to handle the national reserves. He was careful to steer clear of problematic political and social issues that the three other candidates promised they would take up with the PAP Government, if elected. Dr Tan Cheng Bock's proposal to move the PMO and Cabinet Office out of the Istana particulary irked him. So could he be expected to initiate any issue with the PAP Government that will bring benefit to Singaporeans? His pet answer is that the president's power is circumsribed by the Constitution and that the centre of power is the PAP Government. So it will be interesting to watch how Dr Tony Tan will perform as the elected president of Singapore for the next six years.

It is surpising that Mr Tan Jee Say secured only 25.04% of the votes which could mean that a good percentage of the anti-establishment votes had gone to Dr Tan Cheng Bock. He would have made a good independent president considering his bold character.

Mr Tan Kin Lian managed to secure only 4.91% of the votes which could mean that he had neither pro-PAP nor anti-establishment voters' support. Right from the beginning he had shown concern that he could lose his deposit but the fact that he still entered the fray was something quite incomprehensible. But does he realise that he was in fact playing the role of a spoiler? His 4.91% of the votes could have gone to Dr Tan Cheng Bock which would have made all the difference for him to win the election. This is a guilt that Mr Tan Kin Lian will have to live down.

Finally, the message to the PAP Government is clear. Dr Tony Tan only secured 35.19% of the votes which means that 25% of the 60% of the pro-PAP votes in the last General Election has deserted him. With only one third of the electorate voting for him, it shows clearly that Singapore voters do not want a pro-PAP president. How the PAP leaders are going to reconcile this is something which they have to live with. Quite evidently, Dr Tony Tan just does not have the moral authority to represent all Singaporeans as their president.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is the People's Association a Political Tool of the PAP?

The People's Association (PA), as constituted, was glamourised as a politically-neutral organisation designed to mould Singaporeans into a patriotic citizenry. Its administration was paid out of taxpayers money so it owes its allegiance to Singapore taxpayers and by extension to Singapore voters. The CEO of the PA and his staff should be expected and duty-bound to be impartial when they have to deal with the opposition parties. They have been showing political bias towards the PAP but as long as they do not persecute or harass the opposition parties, the people tend to view it as a natural inclination of a slavish mind. After all, the PAP leaders are their political masters and the prime minister is the chairman of the PA.

The latest bouts of high-handed antics of the PA against the Workers' Party (WP) MP Chen Show Mao and the WP itself are something which any right-thinking Singaporean will feel revulsed. They are going beyond the realm of propriety and decency to please their political masters and no decent Singaporean would believe them if they disavow that their deplorable actions are not politically-motivated and an abuse of power.

Let's examine the facts. WP MP Chen Show Mao was invited in his capacity as MP by residents of his Paya Lebar Ward in Aljunied GRC to a Seventh Month dinner celebration . The Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) (which comes under the PA) in his Paya Lebar Ward told the organisers that they could not invite the WP MP to the dinner if it was held at premises under the CCC charge. As a result the invitation was withdrawn. The irony is that the defeated PAP candidate Madam Cynthia Phua can attend such dinners under the guise of PA's appointed grassroots adviser. We leave it to the people to judge if this kind of interpretation is not cockeyed and politically-motivated.

To make sure that the WP is politically ashyxiated, the PA in collusion with the Housing Development Board (HDB) transferred the management of 26 open spaces - mainly fields and hard courts often used for community events - from the WP Aljunied Town Council to the PA without giving WP any notice. This move would give PAP candidates a ground advantage and permanent presence in Aljunied GRC in advance preparation for the next elections.

As if all these are happening without his knowledge, if not at his instructions, PM Lee Hsien Loong is adopting the untenable attitude of "seeing no evil and hearing no evil". Neither the PM nor the relevant minister has the civility of saying anything in explanation or clarification, much less justification. They may bank on the possibility of Singaporeans not remembering this whole episode over time. But it still begs the question whether the PA is a political tool of the PAP.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who is likely to capture the Presidency?

Who is likely to capture the Presidency? Will it be the former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan or former PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock or the former NTUC Income chief Mr Tan Kin Lian or investment adviser Mr Tan Jee Say?

With all the excitement that has been whipped up so far in the election campaign and still with a few more days before polling day it may be a bit premature to give a definitive assessment of the chances of the four candidates. But initial assessment may show that Dr Tony Tan may be in an unassailable position. He has been pledged with support from trade unions, clan associations and Chinese, Malay and Indian Chambers of Commerce. But it does not necessarily mean that the rank and file of these unions and associations will heed their leaders in their choice. They may have their own personal preferences.

Not least of all, PAP leaders like PM Lee Hsien Loogn and ESM Goh Chok Tong have given Dr Tony Tan tacit endorsement which may bring him most of the 60% Pro-PAP votes. But Dr Tony Tan's stand on the Marxist conspiracy detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the graduate mothers scheme is going to go against him because of his untenable position.` He is just unable to extricate himself from his intricate position.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock has solid support of voters in Ayer Rajah Constituency but outside of it is an unknown factor. So far he has shown that he is a formidable opponent of Dr Tony Tan and has presented himself as a credible candidate for the Presidency. His idea of requiring the PMO and Cabinet Office to be moved out of the Istana complex if he is elected president has gone down well with the electors. This will cause quite a flutter to the prime minister and put him in a fix whether to move out of the Istana complex or not. Dr Tan Cheng Bock also has the support of leaders of some opposition parties in their personal capacity which means that his chances of getting some anti-establishment votes are quite good. His chances of being elected will depend on the percentage of pro-PAP votes he can hive off from Dr Tony Tan. His non-establishment votes are not likely to be significant.

Mr Tan Jee Say's candidature has been a source of consternation to the PAP leaders. In his campaign he has never ceased to remind voters that his mission as president, if elected, is to provide checks and balances on the PAP Government. But he has been careful to qualify that by saying that he will not be openly adversarial to the Government. He can be considered as the only candidate out of the four who is independent of the PAP Government. There is no reason not to expect him to get solid support from the 40% anti-establishment votes which may be just enough for him to secure the presidency. Imagine former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and ESM Goh Chok Tong having to stand up before Mr Tan Jee Say when approached by the latter if he is elected president, a former personal private secretary of DPM Goh Chok Tong in the civil service. It will be difficult for LKY and GCY to live down this appartent humiliation.

Mr Tan Kin Lian strikes one as an enigmatic candidate. He is a former PAP cadre but the PAP does not appear to be particulary impressed with his service to the party. He claims to be independent of the PAP but with his past PAP connection can he really expect Singaporeans to believe him? He is in a comical position where he can neither attract pro-PAP votes nor anti-establishment votes. He may believe otherwise. He can be so insensitive that he can go electioneering at a solemn memorial ceremony for the late political detainee Mr. Tan Jing Quee. He should consider himself lucky that he was not ejected from the gathering. He promises to be the voice of the people if elected. He is also concerned whether he will be able to secure 12.5 per cent of the votes so that he will not lose his deposit.

The hustings are getting more exciting each day and there will be more campaigning by the four candidates in the next four days. We will know on 27 August after polling has ended who is the lucky candidate to be the new elected president. Whoever he is should deserve the unanimous approbation of all Singaporeans. If Dr Tony Tan is elected, then the question of unanimous approbation is in doubt because he is the least of the four candidates that netizens want to see elected.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Prospects of the Presidential Election.

It could be said that the Presidential Elections Committee's (PEC) decision to give certificates of eligibility to four of the presidential hopefuls has come as a bit of surprise in terms of the timing and its liberal interpretation of the eligibility criteria. The four successful presidential hopefuls for the presidential election are former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan, doctor and former MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former NTUC Income CEO Mr. Tan Kin Lian and investment adviser Mr. Tan Jee Say. There were doubts that Mr. Tan Jee Say could not have met the eligibility criteria but that he has finally been able to qualify shows the liberality and progressive thinking of the PEC, which is a credit to its chairman and members.

If all four potential candidates seek nomination on 17 August, then Singaporeans will be presented with a rare spectacle of a four-cornered contest. Dr Tony Tan seems to lead with a substantial political advantage with the main stream media, especially the Straits Times, going on an overdrive in extolling has so-called merits as a potential president. He is in every respect a PAP Government-endorsed candidate, maybe one may like to describe it as tacitly but an endorsement nevertheless. He has also portrayed himself as eminently qualified, because of his so-called unique financial expertise and extensive administrative experience as a minister, to be elected as president by the Singapore electorate. He has been praised by PM Lee Hsien Loong as the most suitable candidate for president. So has also the Emeritus SM Goh Chok Tong heaped praise on Dr Tony Tan. Law Minister K. Shanmugam mentioned recently at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) forum that the president can influence the PM if he is wise, knowledgeable, trusted and respected by the PM which prompted president hopeful Dr Tan Cheng Bock to interprete that only a Government-endorsed presidential candidate can wield influence with the PM. So how Dr Tony Tan is viewed by the Government as the next elected president is never in doubt.

Dr Tony Tan is also supported by the Tan Clan Federation and a number of trade unions, if not the NTUC itself. He is likely to be supported by pro-PAP voters who comprised 60.1 % of the voting electorate in the last General Election. But what percentage of support he gets will depend on whether Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian, both former PAP members, also receive support from the same pool of pro-PAP voters. It will be assumed that the 39.9 % of the anti-establishment votes will go to Mr. Tan Jee Say, a former Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member who is contesting as an independent candidate. In the unlikely event that some of the anti-establishment votes would go to Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian, the number is unlikely to be significant to affect the prospect of Mr. Tan Jee Say.

The probable scenario is likely to be that no single candidate is going to win 50% or more of the votes to make him an outright winner. The deciding contest may be between Dr Tony Tan and Mr. Tan Jee Say. If the dilution of Dr Tony Tan's pro-PAP votes is not significantly large, he may have a better prospect of winning. But it is unlikely to be a shoo-in. Mr. Tan Jee Say's prospect of winning is equally strong if he gets the solid support of the anti-establishment votes.

We will know at the end of polling on 27 August if Singaporeans get a PAP-endorsed or an independent elected president.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Bombastic Scare Tactic

This is not the first time that the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has used his bombastic scare tactic to deter Singaporeans from moving towards a two-party system which he warned as being fraught with dangers. He is a past master in sophistry which he uses consummately in this instance to try to demonstrate that Singapore is exquisitely governed by a PAP one-party system and that Singaporeans will only rock the boat at their own peril by "electing weak and ineffective governments".

He tried to gloss over Western criticisms of the systems of government in Singapore and China and misleadingly asserted that they sprung out of "preconceived ideas" the West has about multi-party democracy. It is interesting to note here that he seems to equate the system of government in Singapore with that of China. China is a one-party Communist system of government where there is hardly any democracy or suffrages as known to the democratic world. Singapore is a democracy with election by citizens of a government every five years. What kind of grotesque mind has this man Lee Kuan Yew in trying to mislead Singaporeans that the systems of government in Singapore and China are identical? He also tried to portray a similarity between the PAP and the CCP claiming both have comparable cultural backgounds and work on the basis of pragmatism. Can the non-Chinese Singaporeans be amused by such tendentious comparisons?

By his arguments which he purports to speak on behalf of the PAP Government, the PAP seeks to perpetuate a one-party hegemony and draws on the Chinese experience as a guide. Therefore, any talk of a two-party system by the opposition is anathema to the PAP. And so begun a pernicious campaign of scare tactics by the former MM Lee Kuan Yew to castigate this system and to deter Singaporeans from ever entertaining any idea of this PAP-abhorred two-party system.

As shown by the General Election in May, the writing is on the wall that Singapore electors are disillusioned with the PAP one-party hegemony and have shown their disgust with the PAP by voting in a Workers' Party (WP) team in the renowned Aljunied GRC. However one looks at it, it is not unreasonable to assume that, with the wheel of history moving forward, a two-party system is not something that is intangible whether in the near or distant future.

This reality has sent a blue funk to the PAP leaders, especially LKY, that the hitherto somnolent Singapore electors have awakened from their slumber. They have very discerning eyes - the Chinese call it "snow-clear" (雪亮) (meaning very clear) - and they will be able to see through the machinations of the PAP leaders, delivering them a more telling blow in the next GE. It may not lead to an alternative government, unless there is a significant surge of talented candidates in the opposition, but may see a significant increase of successful opposition candidates sufficient to form a two-party system. Will the former MM Lee Kuan Yew have sleepless nights over this electoral evolution? It would mean that from now on he will intensify his heinous campaign of scare tactics to make sure that this nightmarish eventuality will not materialise.

The wheel of history is progressive and not regressive.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are The 3rd Generation PAP Leaders Not Really Self-serving?

We often hear of smooth-talking politicians professing vehemently that they are dedicated to serving the people but in the end most of them are more motivated by enriching themselves. There is no dearth of such self-serving politicians, especially in the third world.

Singapore is proud of its first generation PAP leaders who were sincere politicians dedicated to serving the people, especially the poor, without any unwholesome thoughts of enriching themselves in the process. They were quite contented with the modest stipends they got for their ministerial pay. And there was an almost complete absence of any corrupt tendency among the ministers in spite of their modest pay. They were elected by the people for the people in the true sense of the words. And there was no lack of their political zeal in transforming a backward Singapore society to a more developed one where poverty of the lowest rung was reduced to a considerably manageable degree. We think that their names can go down in Singapore's history as remarkable selfless nation builders.

The second generation PAP leaders inherited the legacy of the first generation in remarkable condition and for the first few years the tradition of serving the people was carried on. Then in the middle of 1990s the Prime Minister hit on a brainwave that in serving the people they must not overlook the opportunity of enriching themselves from the country's wealth. So without any tinge of compunction, an astronomical scale of salaries of two or more millions a year each was introduced to reward the so-called impoverished ministers. All these merrily came out of the taxpayers' money, Can the taxpayers demur?

Now this introduction of astronomical ministerial salaries gave an entirely different perception to the lofty ideal of serving the people. The people were now served by ministers motivated by a whopping salary and the distinction between greed and service was hardly palpable. So we now had a provider of service to the people without a soul and was merely a mercenary. This caused a lot of unhappiness to the people who had voiced their vitriolic criticisms on the ministerial salaries but they were unable to sway the intransigence of the PM. The people's wrath, however, continued to fester.

Then came the third generation PAP leaders who continue to carry on blithely the astronomical ministerial salary tradition and their so-called service to the people which we must now view askance. As long as their motivation is their whopping salaries, the distinction between greed and service to the people is at best indistinguishable. As one citizen puts it, a blind PAP leadership is trying to lead a sighted people. As the Chinese saying goes: the people's eyes are snow-clear (雪亮)(which means very clear) and they can easily see through the disingenuity of the PAP leaders. They are just biding their time until the opposition can come up with a viable alternative governmental slate of candidates. Or they can show their disapprobation by delivering a more telling anti-PAP result in the next general election.

PM Lee Hsien Loong had a premonition and had very wisely ordered a review of the ministerial salaries. We will wait and see whether the outcome is drastic enough to meet the people's expectation. The most absurd is the President's salary which should have been included in the review. He draws $4.2 million a year holding babies, attending Istana open houses and receiving foreign dignitaries. When asked by a wag what he has been doing all these years as a President, he was at a loss for words for a reply and sheepishly asked his enquirer to read his memoirs (as yet unpublished). His is just a ceremonial role and it is suggested that $500,000 a year is more than adequate for his office.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Refreshing Candidate in the Presidential Election

We have been presented so far with three prospective candidates who have past connections with the PAP. One was a deputy prime minister, deputy chairman of GIC and chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). Another was a PAP MP and the third a PAP branch office-bearer. So the electors were actually presented with a Hobson's choice. Now we have a fourth prospective candidate in the person of Mr. Tan Jee Say who has no past connection with the PAP and is a refreshing entrant in the presidential fray.

Mr. Tan Jee Say was a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in the General Election in May but failed to capture the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in which he contested with his party comrades. He is said to have resigned from the SDP to contest the presidential election as an independent candidate. He has creditable credentials and there is every reason that he will succeed in getting qualified as a candidate.

Mr. Tan Jee Say stands out as a candidate truly independent of the PAP Government. In this way he stands a very good chance of garnering the anti-establishment votes. The other three candidates - Dr. Tony Tan, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian- will have to contend with one another for the pro-PAP votes. This is likely to be the scenario because the current electoral mood is still to shun the white (白色忌讳)(the white meaning the PAP) and may target candidates with past PAP connections.

The election of Mr. Tan Jee Say as president is likely to cause consternation to the PAP Government. Mr. Tan knows that as president he has very little executive powers except custodial responsibility on national reserves and he has to work within the constraints of the Constitution. For the first time in Singapore's history, PAP leaders will have the discomfiting experience of dealing with a president with opposition background. And there will no longer be a yes-man at their beck and call. Six years is a long time and there will be no guarantee that during this lengthy tenure of the president there will be complete harmony between the president and the PAP Government. So if Mr. Tan Jee Say could be disqualified as a candidate it will save the PAP Government untold discomforts, if not displeasures, in having to deal with a self-assertive and independent president. With the PAP any bizarre scenario is not an impossibility.

If Mr. Tan Jee Say is indeed elected president, it will be a celebratory occasion for true Singaporeans. It will show the political awakening of the people who dare to display displeasures to the so-called PAP democratic rule. In fact this is a continuing phenomenon from the General Election in May which witnessed the PAP's first defeat in the reputable Aljunied GRC and reduction of its total votes to 60.1%. There is no reason not to expect this electoral mood to continue in the presidential election.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Can The Proposed Fare Hike Be Justified?

It has become a regular routine for the SBS Transit and SMRT to apply for increase of bus and rail fares every two or three years ostensibly to cover increased operating costs. It therefore does not come as a surprise for these two public transport operators (PTO) to apply for the maximum increase of 2.8 per-cent for bus and rail fares due, according to SMRT, to rising fuel prices and manpower costs. The sharp reaction from the commuting public to the proposed fare hike is something to be expected. They cannot understand the whim and fancy of the PTOs in proposing fare hike at this juncture when cost of living is on the rise thus increasing their burden of livelihood, especially the lower-income group. And ironically you have a comical Transport Minister saying blithely that it is not unreasonable for the operators to earn fair returns from the sizeable capital investments required to sustain their operations and to invest in future public transport needs.

In answer to the Minister's point, he may be aware that for the year 2010 SMRT made a profit of $162 million and SBS Transit made a profit of $72 million. Would he not agree these were fair returns since public transportation is a public good and should not be profit-oriented? If it is operated strictly for profits at the commuting public's expense, then the Government should sincerely consider the Workers' Party's (WP) proposal for a National Transport Corporation to oversee and run major transport services. Such a transport body would not be driven by profit but would operate on a cost-recovery basis. Just because the proposal comes from an opposition Party, in this case the Workers' Party, it should not be viewed as an anathema. The way the Transport Minister dismissed it off-hand by saying the proposal "might seem like a very attractive idea but it has serious downsides in reality" is not very helpful in wanting to solve a complex public transport problem. His thesis on the "serious downsides" appears to be his own version of the negative effects of the nationalisation of the public transport. Whether the Minister's arguments will be accepted by the commuting public is a moot point. He should therefore seriously reconsider his hasty conclusion of the WP's nationalisation proposal for its feasibility and eventual adoption in the public interests.

Be that as it may, the immediate problem facing the commuting public is the PTOs' fare hike proposal. The Public Transport Council (PTC), helmed by Mr. Gerard Ee, says it will review the current fare adjustment formula which is valid until next year and will bear in mind the interests of commuters and long-term viability of the PTOs. It is hoped that the PTC should consider, for a start, whether under the current adverse cost-of-living circumstances there is a need for any fare hike since the PTOs have earned fair returns in 2010 and will be expected to do the same this year. The proposed maximum increase of 2.8 per-cent for bus and rail fares will be an onerous burden on the commuting public, especially the lower-income group when they are already shouldering adverse cost-of-living burden. There is a Chinese saying: Lift up high your esteemed hand (to help) (高抬贵手). All eyes are now on the PTC on which is placed the public hope that it will come up with a solution equitable to the commuting public.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How Independent Is Dr. Tony Tan?

Dr. Tony Tan is well known as the PAP spin doctor. He was Chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and was in fact the propaganda chief of the PAP Government. In addition he was the Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC). Not to mention he was at one time chairman of the PAP. So when he announced on 23 June that he was stepping forward in the presidential election as an "independent" candidate, it was greeted with great incredulity bordering on the comedy or ludicrousness.

Dr. Tony Tan is not apolitical and could not be unaware of the political ground situation where the electorial mood is said to be inimical to the PAP. He is a smart Aleck and knows that as a PAP-endorsed candidate he will be disadvantaged by the considerable anti-establishment votes. So he hits on the idea of presenting himself as an "independent" candidate and hopes by this masquerade he can get the support of the anti-establishment voters. To give substance to his declaration as an "independent" candidate, he divests himself of his positions of deputy chairman of GIC and chairman of the SPH hoping in this way to convince the electorate of his "independence".

Dr. Tony Tan can succeed only if he thinks that Singaporeans are so naive as not to be able to see through his scheme. The voters are not going to believe that divesting himself of his PAP positions is going to make him any more independent than a PAP wallah. Emeritus SM Goh Chok Tong has openly stated that Dr. Tony Tan is eminently suitable for president. PM Lee Hsien Loong has asserted that Dr. Tony Tan will be a unifying figure for all citizens and will bring honour and credit to Singapore. So to all intents and purposes, these PAP leaders have endorsed Dr. Tony Tan as a PAP candidate, however tacitly, but nevertheless an endorsement. So where is the independence?

So willy-nilly Dr. Tony Tan will go into the presidential election not as an independent but a PAP-tacitly-endorsed candidate. He will have to contend with two so-called independent candidates in the persons of Dr. Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian. Of the two contenders Dr. Tan Cheng Bock has shown to be an independent-minded person with better credentials. The electorial mood now is to shun the white (白色忌讳)(the white meaning the PAP) and Dr. Tan Cheng Bock should be able to garner the anti-establishment votes. But he may not have a smooth passage because of the candidature of Mr. Tan Kin Lian who may inadvertently act as a "spoiler". The pro-PAP votes, as expected, will go to Dr. Tony Tan and any votes for Mr. Tan Kin Lian can only come at the expense of Dr. Tan Cheng Bock's anti-establishment votes with disastrous effect on the latter's election success. The civilised thing for Mr. Tan Kin Lian to do, in the higher interest of the political unity of the people, is to withdraw from the contest so that it becomes a straight fight between Dr. Tony Tan and Dr. Tan Cheng Bock. Mr. Tan Kin Lian will win the gratitude of the people of Singapore in this way.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The "People's" President

The so-called publicly-acclaimed President S.R Nathan finally announced on 1 July that he would step down when his second term runs out on August 31. Even when Dr Tony Tan announced his intention to contest the presidential election as an"independent" on 23 June, the comical President S.R Nathan was still keeping his intention close to his chest, mysteriously promising to reveal his intention in two weeks. It was obvious even to the most gullible that President S.R Nathan was bluffing to subject the public to his sense of suspense as to his re-election intention when any such intention would be put paid with the entry of Dr Tony Tan into the presidential contest. Although Dr Tony Tan's independent status is questionable, his standing in the PAP easily eclipsed that of President S.R Nathan and therefore any intention of the latter to contest against the former is out of the question. That no one, not even members of the opposition, had the heart to call S.R Nathan's bluff shows a measure of tolerance that public has for his antics.

In his statement, President S.R Nathan acknowledged both the Singaporeans who had criticised him and those who had shown him "affection and kindness". It is intriguing that a former senior minister of state and some PAP MPs called Mr. S.R Nathan a People's President in spite of the fact that he had acknowledged that Singaporeans had criticised him. It is interesting that only PAP members called him that and those intoxicated PAP members should access the internet to have a measure of the netizens' criticisms of Mr. S.R Nathan as an unpopular president. In addition the curses of the president from taxi drivers should send shivers down the spine of Mr. S.R Nathan. Taxi drivers are by nature loquacious and they do not need much encouragement to open up about the iniquities of the PAP leaders. In view of such an adverse reaction, would it not be a travesty of the noble title to call Mr. S.R Nathan a People's President? So far, only PAP members have called him that or have sung him praises.

In the history of Singapore's presidency, only two past presidents had been acknowledged by Singaporeans as People's Presidents. One was the late President Wee Kim Wee who was really adored by Singaporeans. The other was the late President Ong Teng Cheong, who was especially adored by the Chinese-educated. President Wee Kim Wee's relationship with the PAP Government was a smooth one with no hiccup. But President Ong Teng Cheong's serious tiff with the PAP Government over his request to examine the national reserves resulted in unhappy ending. The Government's vindictiveness extended to the withholding of a state funeral for the late President Ong Teng Cheong when he passed away.

President S.R Nathan has accumulated enormous wealth from the taxpayers' money. If he still has any compunction about his prodigious wealth, he should seriously consider about donating a meaningful amount to some deserving causes. The Chinese believe that this will be rewarded by heaven, especially in the afterlife.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Sophistry of Law Minister K. Shanmugam

The general feeling is that there is a lack of moral integrity in the Law Minister K. Shanmugam in his tendentious way of expounding the quest of the late President Ong Teng Cheong for an account or details of the Singapore reserves. Minister Shanmugam showed a fertile imagination in asserting that President Ong was not " stonewalled" and was in fact provided with "a complete listing of State buildings and lands" by the Government. He further asserted that President Ong wanted all of them valued at (then) current values which could have taken 56 man-years.

Quite fantastic! This was the first time that Singaporeans had ever heard that President Ong had asked for a listing of State buildings and lands. All along it was made clear in the public's mind that President Ong had asked for an account or details of the Singapore reserves which had caaused great consternation to the PAP leaders. For some esoteric reason, the PAP leaders considered it prudent not to share this information on Singapore reserves with President Ong lest it could lead to some unforseen consequences. So the PAP wallahs hatched a grotesque excuse to President Ong that it would take 30 years of work to provide the information the President had sought for.

President Ong was not so naive as not to realise that this was an underhand trick of the Government to prevent him access to the information he asked for. And as to be expected, this was the beginning of his turbulent relationship with the PAP Government, which is never known to be magnanimous. This state of affairs continued until the retirement of President Ong. The PAP leaders continued their vindictiveness even after his death by not according him a State Funeral, when other lesser dignitaries were accorded this honour when they died.

The disrespectful impertinence towards President Ong by the PAP leaders over Singapore reserves has continued to fester among Singaporeans who from time to time showed outrage on this disrespect. President Ong was regarded as a People's President and was adored by Singaporeans, especially the Chinese-educated. There is a prospect that this will continue to haunt the Government and so Mr. K. Shanmugam, as Law Minister, took upon himself to try to put the ghost to rest. With due respect to him, he lacks the finesse and moral integrity to put up a convincing explanation. He started on the wrong footing by asserting that there was no "stonewalling" of President Ong which no decent Singaporean would believe. Then out of the blue with a sleight-of-hand he introduced a so-called "complete listing of State buildings and lands" provided by the Government. Mr. Shanmugam did not mention if President Ong was satisfied with the Government's presentation, which would have obfuscated him, let alone satisfied. The puzzling question is why should President Ong want a listing of State buildings and lands when it was clear in everyone's mind what he asked for was about Singapore's reserves.

If Minister K. Shanmugam expects his sophistry to dispel the suspicion of Government's disrespectful treatment of President Ong, he will have to try harder and with more sincerity.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Referendum on the Ministerial Pay

There is a general trend of opinion that the Special Committee appointed by PM Lee Hsien Loong to review ministerial salaries may not meet the people's desire for a meaningful cut of the whopping ministers' pay. The composition of the Committee does not exude the kind of confidence that it will really go to the root of the problem and recommend drastic cuts. At best itwill show that it has gone through the motion of examining in detail the basis and level of ministerial salaries and come up with a cosmetic recommendation falling far short of the people's expectations. It takes great courage to recommend drastic cuts to ministerial salaries and there is the lingering doubt that the appointed committee does not possess that kind of pluck and determination.

There is some kind of consensus among certain people that an ideal way of determining the degree of ministerial salaries cut is by a referendem. This is such a heated topic and of such intense interest to the public that it is of fundamental importance for the people to be involved in the final determination of the degree of cuts in ministerial salaries. We could offer the Government three sets of proposal for the referendum for the electorate to decide. One is for a 50% cut; the second is a two-third cut and the third is a 80% cut. Even if any one of these three proposals is decided by the electorate, the ministers will still be quite comfortably off with the reduced salaries when compared with ministers' salaries in other Asian or Western countries. Service to the people must involve some sacrifices on the part of the ministers. The people will be happy and this will endear the PAP Govenment to the people.

There are rumours circulating around that another matter which is causing considerable worry and anxiety to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues is the forthcoming election of the President. The PAP leadership is said to be frantically looking for a suitable candidate who could win the election considering the current unpredictable mood of the electorate. It is very important at this juncture for a pro-PAP candidate to be elected as President if only because of the need to keep the country's reserves from being inspected by an inquisitive President. Another reason is that with a pro-opposition or neutral President relationship between the President and the PAP Government may not be that congenial, especially in the case of a strong-willed President. The mood of the electorate is still not entirely in the Government's favour and any less eminent candidate they put up will likely end up in woe. The person likely to win the presidency for them is none other than the former Foreign Minister George Yeo because of his still eminent standing among the electorate. Otherwise the mood of the electorate is that they want to see a non-PAP candidate elected as President for a change. They thnik it will be good for Singapore to have a President who really represents the people without the PAP baggage.

It will be interesting to watch who will emerge as the person with the audacity to offer himself as a candidate to compete against a formidable PAP nominee. Since this is a national election, this iconic personality will likely get the opposition support and the support of all those borderline cases who voted for the PAP in the last General Election.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Might of the People's Power

Never has the might of the people's power manifested itself so strongly in Singapore as in the last General Election. This was acutely felt by PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues when the People's Action Party (PAP) was overwhelmingly defeated in Aljunied GRC resulting in the loss of two heavyweight ministers and a prospective Speaker of Parliament. The PAP also saw its share of valid votes drop to 60.1 per cent compared to 66.6 per cent in 2006, the lowest since independence. There has been a considerable amount of soul-searching in the party and PM Lee has since shown that he is going to give more priority and importance to the people's financial and social woes. He may be gung ho in his revivifying effort but whether some of his more tardy ministers are up to the mark is another matter. There is a Chinese saying: He who gains the people's heart gains the country; he who loses the people's heart loses the country (得民心者得天下; 失民心者失天下). In a microcosm, the Workers' Party fits into the former.

It is because of the widespread criticisms of the astronomical ministerial pay that PM Lee now feels the heat and compunction to do something to assuage the people's anger. He has now decided to form a special committee to be headed by Mr. Gerard Ee, National Kidney Foundation Chairman, to review the basis and level of Ministers' salaries. It is preposterous when the prime minister's salary is six times that of the President of the United States of America. Even a minister's salary exceeds that of the USA President several times.

A discomfited and comical SM Goh Cok Tong had described the issue of ministerial salaries as the "opposition's flogging horse" and said that the "majority" of the population were not concerned about it. He was either day-dreaming or was misled by his feedback people. In fact he was the blurry-eyed Prime Minister who introduced these infamous ministerial salaries in the mid-1990s, so how could he be be aware of the people's wrath now? Even if he were aware, it would reflect badly on his reputation to admit to this animosity of the people. In fact at that time, the famous author Catherine Lim sent a long letter to the Straits Times highly critical of the astronomical salaries but the then PM Goh Chok Tong, true to his hubristic character, dismissed Catherine Lim's letter offhand, chastised and warned her that if she wanted to engage the Government politically she would have to join a political party to do it. What impertinence! Any citizen has the right to criticise the Government in his own capacity. In fact by his high-handed action, PM Goh was trying to intimidate Catherine Lim not to criticise the Government on this issue.

The fact that PM Lee Hsien Loong has now decided to form a special committee to review the ministerial salaries flies in the face of Emeritus SM Goh Chok Tong's complacent assessment of the ground feelings on this issue. The ball is now in the court of the Review Committee to see if it has the courage to recommend a drastic pruning of the absurd ministerial salaries to a level commensurate with their duties and responsibilties to the satisfaction of the people (rakyat).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The PAP's Waterloo in Aljunied

What has disquieted the PAP leaders, especially PM Lee Hsien Loong, about the possible loss of the much-vaunted Aljunied GRC has finally come to pass. With this defeat, Foreign Minister George Yeo, Minister Lim Hwee Hua and Senior Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed have now lost their official positions. When the Workers' Party (WP) put its best team of Secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, Chairman Sylvia Lim and star candidate Chen Show Mao on Nomination Day to contest in Aljunied GRC, the party was going for broke in its effort to capture the GRC. The Chinese describe it as: To smash the cooking vessels and sink the boats (破釜沉舟). It means that WP has to succeed because there is no retreat. This now proves to be a correct strategy first adopted with success by the ancient Chinese feudal prince Xiang Yu (项羽).

Although not entirely unexpected, the Aljunied defeat came as a shock to PM Lee and his Cabinet colleagues. One of the biggest contributory factors to this political setback was the gratutious warning by the hubristic Minister Mentor to Aljunied voters that they live and repent if they voted the WP. Another factor could be the soured Malay ground which was angered by the disparaging remarks on Malay integration by MM Lee. Of course the important factor is the eager desire of Singapore voters to see more opposition MPs in Parliament as a check to the PAP.

This is acknowleged by PM Lee at his press conference following the announcement of the election results. He could not hide his disappointment at the Aljunied defeat and indicated that he would arrange for alternative assignments for the defeated ministers. George Yeo has been an outstanding Foreign Minister and his experiences should stand him in good stead for any diplomatic or non-diplomatic assignment. It will be a great loss to the country if his talent is overlooked.

There was complete unity among the opposition parties and the fact that this did not translate to the capturing of more GRCs and SMCs when the voters' mood was in their favour is an incomprehensible question. What makes it more puzzling is that there was no dearth of high quality candidates put up by the opposition parties who could match the quality of PAP candidates. However, the PAP managed only to win the Joo Chiat SMC and the Potong Pasir SMC by the skin of their teeth. The results were so close that the outcome could have gone the way of the opposition. The share of valid votes garnered by the PAP dropped by 6.5 percentage point to 60.1 per cent compared to 66.6 per cent in 2006.

Although the creation of the GRCs is seen by the opposition as a PAP scheme to shackle their electoral ambitions and facilitate the backdoor entry into Parliament of untested new candidates, the WP's win in Aljunied GRC shows that it can demolish this PAP invincibility if there is steely determination. WP has now to show that it can manage and administer Aljunied GRC as well as, if not better than, the PAP. The PAP has vowed that it will retake Aljinied GRC in five years, so this will be a challenge to the WP to excel. Above all, WP MPs will be watched very closely by the Singapore public for their performance in Parliament, now that they have eight MPs. Mr. Chen Show Mao will be the centre of public attention. This will be a good beginning for WP and Singaporeans can look forward to seeing more excitement in Parliamentary proceedings. And the PAP will have some soul-searching to do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Timing of PM Lee's Apology

The Prime Minister has finally said "sorry" for the many mistakes of his government such as tardiness in addressing shortfalls in housing and transport including the escape of detained terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari and flooding of Orchard Road. PM Lee kept a discreet posture then. It would have been remarkable if this apology had been expressed by PM Lee long before the present hustings but the fact that he has chosen this moment to say it loses much of its significance, despite what the Straits Times spin doctor says.

However, it shows great humility on the part of PM Lee but then is this not a last minute effort to win back votes when opposition pressure is gaining ground in their campaign focussing on the same mistakes for which PM Lee has apologised? This only goes to prove that more opposition voices in Parliament are an imperative to provide a check and balance from time to time to the PAP government's shortcomings, The voters' eager desire for change is never so loud and clear and it sends a shudder to the pompous PAP leadership. A lot of scrambling is going on to try to contain the situation but PM Lee's apology may be viewed as a little too late to stem the opposition tide. There are still two more days of electioneering for PM Lee to win over the voters.

PM Lee's comment on his eminent father MM Lee is both instructive and revealing. It shows MM Lee to be an anachronism in the government and yet he is tolerated. He draws a $3m plus annual salary and all he does is "forecasting" in his own words. Is this a fair charge on the taxpayers' fund? Most of the time he creates a booboo whenever he open his big mouth. Foreign Minister George Yeo found to his consternation the damage of the uncalled for warning of "ruminate and repent" to Aljunied voters by MM Lee. The Minister Mentor is filthy rich and why does he still want to draw on the taxpayers' fund? In fact, he could gain public approbation by donating his sinecure salary to a charity or charities and offer his services to the government on a voluntary basis. Is he that popular when there are calls, especially by the netizens, for him to retire?

The campaign for Aljunied GRC is gathering momentum and the PAP team helmed by George Yeo is directing their fire-power at the character of the Workers' Party (WP) team. WP Secretary-general Low Thia Khiang is portrayed as a politically ambitious man whose ambition does not stop at just capturing the Aljunied GRC. Psychologically, the WP may be slightly in a advantageous position but then the state of play can still be fluid. PM Lee sounded a note of optimism when he said PAP could win Aljunied and will muster PAP top guns to lend support to George Yeo in his campaign to try to clinch a PAP victory. MM Lee's stern warning words "ruminate and repent" may be a dampening factor.

A Disoriented Senior Minister

SM Goh Chok Tong had the dubious distinction of introducing the astronomical salaries for ministers when he was the prime minister. There was a big hue and cry over this unprincipled draw on the taxpayers' money. But true to his uncompromising character the obnoxious proposal was pushed through by PM Goh and this is now a permanent feature of the ministerial pay. This is a peeved subject which has never failed to incense the public from time to time whenever there was an occasion to highlight it as in a general election. As expected, this had no compunctious effect on the Prime Minister and his ministers blithely continue to wallow in their wealth at the taxpayers' expense.

Describing the issue of ministerial salaries as the opposition's " favcurite flogging horse", the comical SM Goh said that the "majority" of the population were not concerned about it. Does he really seriously believe in his own conjecture? It does not mean that when they remain silent the people are not concerned about it. Has SM Goh ever heard of the saying: Dare to be angry but dare not speak out (敢怒而不敢言). Because of the government high-handed manner in dismissing any dissent to the ministerial salaries, the people are resigned not to expect any concession from the government on the issue. So even if they are angry about it, they prefer to remain silent until such time when their pent-up anger bursts out.

SM Goh can say that this subject had been debated in Parliament but does he honestly believe that with the PAP dominance any useful outcome will come out of these parliamentary debates? The two opposition MPs and one NCMP were easily overwhelmed by the sheer force of the PAP MPs. Any arguments the three opposition MPs were able to put through were like voices in the wilderness. This incidentally could be one of the issues that acts as a catalyst for the electors to want to see more opposition MPs being voted into Parliament to provide more opposition voices as a check and balance to the PAP government. So on the surface SM Goh may find the "majority" of the population were not concerned about the issue but may discover to his chagrin that this could be just an illusion.

On his shabby treatment of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) scholar candidate Tan Jee Say, SM Goh could have shown more civility. There was no justification for him and MM Lee to denigrate Tan on his civil service credentials especially when it was proved that the attacks were all misconceived. SM Goh was the one who emphasised on a clean and fair campaign at the outset of the hustings but then he could not resist a smear campaign against Tan. There is a Chinese saying: One can row a boat in the stomach of a prime minister (宰相肚内可撑船). It really means one should be magnanimous and SM Goh can take a lesson from it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Vexatious Minister Mentor

He could be quite affable if he is not agitated. The Minister Mentor appears to be unnerved by the prospect of a Worker' Party (WP) victory in Aljunied GRC in the General Election (GE) and is hopping around uttering not appeals but strictures warning Aljunied Voters of dire consequences should they vote for the WP which he promised they will repent. What do you think will be the reaction of the Aljunied voters, especially those who have made up their mind which party to vote, to this intimidation of the Minister Mentor?

It is quite reasonable for them to dismiss it as a ranting of a PAP leader who has temporarily lost his self-control when faced with an adverse political situation. It may even have the opposite effect in galvanizing the indignant voters into voting for the WPs including those who are on the borderline. There is definitely a wind of change blowing in this GE and Singapore voters would like to see more opposition MPs in Parliament to provide a check and balance to the dominant PAP. A glaring example of the wanton habit of the PAP leaders bulldozing legislations was the hasty manner in which the proposal of astronomical, some call it obscene, salaries for the PAP ministers was passed.

There are five more days, minus the one-day cooling period, for the PAP to try to reverse any unfavourable voting trend of the electorate, but then the opposition parties will be equally determined to win over the sympathy of the voters. If you go by the attendances at election rallies, the opposition, especially the WP, rallies show more enthusiastic support. But then some past election rallies had shown that this might not be a reliable indicator of voters' support. In any case, better crowd attendances have undeniably an encouraging boost to the morale.

Aljunied GRC is the most hotly contested GRC in this GE and is closely watched both inside and outside the country. This is a water-shed event because two heavyweight ministers and a prospective Parliament Speaker face the danger of fading out of the political hierarchy if the WP wins the election. And the WP has put up its best team ever and is determined to wrest control of the Aljunied GRC. The PAP team is not taking things lying down and is equally determined to put up a good fight. But psychologically the PAP team is on the defensive and PAP leaders, especially MM Lee, are pessimistic of PAP chances. This prompted the Minister Mentor to warn Aljunied voters that they have five years to live and repent. Christians are appalled at the choice of the word repent by MM Lee. In christianity the word repent is used when a sin has been committed. Is MM Lee trying to imply that voting for the WP team in Aljunied is a sin? Is this not sacrilege? This is something for the Minister Mentor to unravel and this is not the first time he has created a booboo. Good luck to him.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Hidden Agenda of the Straits Times Editorial

Can the Straits Times (ST) honestly say that it stands neutral in the present hustings? Everyone knows that it is under the tight control and direction of the Singapore Press Holdings helmed by a former PAP deputy prime minister who is in reality the government spin doctor and the ST can best be described as a propaganda broadsheet of the PAP. Anyone with any article critical of the government or its leaders aspiring to find printing of it in the ST will invariably come up against a wall of courteous denial, as the famous author Catherine Lim experienced recently when she sent a satirical letter about the comical Minister Mentor to the ST for airing in its Forum.

Let's examine the implication of the ST editorial :GE 2011. What do voters really want? What does it try to imply by saying that the voter cannot vote for the opposition with the assurance that PAP will be returned to power in any case? It is a given that, with the present political state, the PAP will be returned to power but perhaps with a reduced majority. Is not the ST calling on the voters not to vote the opposition? It shows the ST is treading on questionable ground as a national newspaper supposedly dedicated to an objective presentation of news to the public. A blind man can easily discern that this is hardly objective by no stretch of imagination,

Next the editor cannot resist the temptation of touching on the hotly contested Aljunied GRC which is being closely watched by not only the public and voters but also the PAP leaders as well as the opposition. To expect the editor to present an objective and impartial view of the electoral fray in Aljunied GRC may be somewhat unrealistic. He insinuated that a Workers' Party (WP) victory will not be cost-free. The so-called exquisite quality of the PAP team is given great play, especially the team leader Foreign Minister George Yeo. He is being put in the same distinguished category of the late Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam. The editor asked if Singapore would have been better off if Mr. S. Rajaratnam, Singapore's first Foreign Minister, had been defeated in the 1963 GE as he almost was. The answer is given as an obvious no.

The editor further asked if voters want a strong opposition badly enough to boot out of office so many able people. Can they vote against Rajaratnam, he asked? Even a blind man can see where the ST editor's tendentious arguments are leading to. Firstly it is invidious to compare George Yeo with the late S. Rajaratnam and secondly it is sacrilege to invoke the late Foreign Minister's name in such circumstances. Comparison of merits between George Yeo and the late S. Rajaratnam is at best subjective.

ST is never a neutral newspaper and its tendentious deprecation of the Workers' Party is a natural progression of its heinous design. The electoral battle in Aljunied GRC has begun and it is best for newspapers not to take sides, leaving it to the contesting parties to convince the voters respectively and win their votes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A General View of the Opposition Prowess

The most refreshing piece of news that comes out of the Nomination excercise today is the show of unity by the opposition parties to avoid three-cornered contests and to have straight fights with the PAP in all 14 GRCs and 11 SMCs. The only set-back is in the Punggol East SMC where there is a three-cornered contest involving the PAP, the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Workers' Party (WP). It's an unfortunate situation and WP could have been more gracious in withdrawing as a three-cornered contest is bound to benefit the PAP candidate.

Be that as it may, the show of opposition unity augurs well for the opposition parties in the 2011 General Election. For the first time voters can have a clear choice to vote for a PAP candidate or an opposition candidate. It is not far-fetched to say that opposition parties have built up considerable support in the present campaign and it will not be too presumptuous to say that voters may be persuaded to feel that it is opportune to elect a number of opposition candidates into Parliament to provide a check and balance to the PAP which they think has been in dominnance far too long. The PAP will still be returned to power and voters may feel that the PAP leaders' call to voters to vote for their future and their children's future is meaningless and superfluous.

The most significant contest that has emerged in this Nomination exercise today is the battle of supremacy between a PAP team A helmed by Foreign Minister George Yeo and a high-powered WP team headed by its secretary-general Low Thia Khiang in the Aljunied GRC. Included in the WP team are star candidate Chen Show Mao and WP Chairman Sylvia Lim whilst the PAP team comprises also a woman minister and a Malay senior minister of state.

The Aljunied electoral battle will be closely watched by the PAP leaders as well as the opposition fraternity as either way the result of this contest is going to have a profound effect on both parties, but more on the opposition. If the WP team emerges victorious, not only will it give a big boost to the opposition standing but will lift their morale. The PAP on the other hand will suffer ignominy with the loss of two ministers and a senior minister of state. It will also show that the PAP is not invincible. That is why Low Thia Khiang had kept this team combination close to his chest until Nomination Day. The fact that he has put the creme de la creme from his party to contest the Aljunied GRC shows that he is going for broke. There is an appropriate Chinese saying: To smash the cooking vessels and sink the boats (破釜沉舟). It means the WP must succeed because the retreat route is smashed. It will be the epoch-making journey of the WP and God willing they will succeed. The wheel of history only moves forward. In the last general election, the WP lost narrowly to the PAP mainly because the Malay votes were not in their favour. The Malay ground culd be different this time and the WP should apare no effort in working hard on it.

The PAP teams which may not have a safe or easy passage could be in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Tampines GRC, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Moulmein-Kallang GRC. The SMCs in danger of falling into opposition hands may be Joo Chiat SMC and Mountbatten SMC. The PAP team in Marine Parade GRC may see its percentage of votes decreased because of the presence of the beleaguered woman candidate Tin Pei Ling. She is no match to her counterpart Nicole Seah of the National Solidarity Party (NSP). It will be a laughing stock if she causes the defeat of the PAP team in a freak election.

One thing which is incomprehensible to the common man is why the PAP leaders insist on a clean sweep of the elections without any humane consideration of political space for the opposition when the Party itself is so dominant without any fear of being toppled. One believes that this only happens in a fascist country in other parts of the world. In a real democracy, opposition voices are a feature of its parliamentary system and in fact are encouraged. As a matter of fact, the PAP is in an unassailable position and can afford to be liberal and accommodating in its dealings with the opposition.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Desperate Appeal of the Minister Mentor

The amount of excitement that has been aroused on the opposition parties is something even the normally arrogantly sanguine MM Lee Kuan Yew could not fail to miss. It must have frightened the wits out of him to see that the wind of change has finally come to sweep the PAP from its pedestal. Maybe the PAP may not be swept from power, short of a freak election, but certainly an admission of a number of opposition MPs into Parliament is not a remote possibility. They will have the responsibility of providing a meaningful and effective check to the PAP's impetuosity in Parliament.

So our highfalutin MM Lee has suddenly waken up to this potential threat to the PAP monopolistic tranquillity in Parliament and decided to use his passe influence as a founding father of independent Singapore in a last desperate attempt to win back the pro-opposition votes for the PAP. So he goes into the ritual of how the first generation PAP leaders had gone through great political sacrifices and hardships to bring Singapore to its present prosperous state and appeals to voters not to rock the foundations, reminding them of what's at stake.

It cannot be argued that the first generation PAP leaders were selfless politicians who were in it not for the money. They were really there to serve the plebeians and to improve their livelihood politically and economically. The same may be said of the second generation PAP leaders initially until the mercenary PM Goh Chok Tong introduced overnight astronomical salaries in the region of millions a year for his already well-paid ministers and himself. The third generation PAP leaders inherited his preposterous financial legacy. The second and third generations leaders could hardly be described as selfless and not in it for the money. By the time they retire, all these affluent ministers are multi-millionaires enjoying humongous pensions.

MM Lee said that at the May 7 General Election, the PAP is fielding candidates " of proven character, of high calibre and with a track of performance that shows they will not fail in taking on repsonsi8bilities". Can the same be really be said of the 24 new PAP candidates. They are untested individuals and are likely to enter Parliament on the coat-tails of anchor ministers in the GRCs. So how are they of proven character and of high calibre? In fact some of the opposition candidates are no less eminent than the PAP candidates and can match them in every sphere. One of them Chen Show Mao even surpasses them in proven character and high calibre and his candidature has become a bee in the PAP's bonnet.

MM Lee concluded by calling on voters to vote for men and women of proven character and track records of high performance. Make the right choice to secure the future of your children and grandchildren. This is a desperate call to the voters to vote for PAP candidates by MM Lee who is himself an insult to the intelligence of the voters by standing for election in spite of his advanced age and blundering behaviour. That his Tanjong Pagar GRC is going to have a walkover is a travesty.

The writing is on the wall. The judicious Singapore voters will decide on May 7 whether there should be more opposition MPs in Parliament. This is history in progress and no PAP force can reverse it.