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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Electoral Threat of the Workers' Party (WP)

From the recent criticisms of PAP ministers on the Workers' Party (WP) manifesto and its other voters enticement policies, it is obvious that PAP leaders regard the WP as the biggest threat to their dominance in the General Election. So far WP seems to be the best organised opposition party with the biggest slate of candidates including some star performers. The fact that PAP leaders have focused their character attacks on the WP star candidate Chen Show Mao shows that Chen's prominence has rattled the confidence of the PAP. No doubt that he is only one individual but is so special that he can exude a winning streak to his fellow candidates in the GRC. He is more than a match for any of the candidates in the PAP camp.

The WP will not only be able to capture the GRC in which Chen stands but in a number of SMCs and possibly another GRC. The PAP leaders are not amused by this WP onslaught and are leaving no stone unturned to put up their best teams against the WP. That the WP will be resourceful enough to find a chink in the PAP's armour cannot be doubted.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan is obviously feeling the heat of the WP's proposal to lower the prices of new Housing Board (HDB) flats. He described it as not in the interest of Singaporeans and even dangerous. He gave three reasons: One it would impact the value of existing flats; two the WP was showing that it was against the Government's asset enhancement policy; three the WP's proposal amounts to an illegal raid on Singapore's reserves.

Let's examine the three reasons of Minister Mah to see if they are flawed. A high percentage of flats were bought on the resale market and naturally incurred higher costs. Quite a lot of these resale flats were for renting out. So if the WP proposal would impact the value of existing flats, the owners mostly affected are those who purchased their resale flats for commercial benefits. Lowering of the prices of new HDB flats would benefit especially first time buyers, particularly those getting married and they form a large proportion of the population. How then can this be interpreted as against the Government's asset enhancement policy?

As for the third reason that the WP proposal amounts to an illegal raid on Singapore's reserves, is not Minister Mah going into the realm of make-belief? The ordinary Singaporean will not be able to understand his tortuous argument and much less believe in it. So it is best left to the intelligence of the ordinary Singaporeans to form the opinion whether Minister Mah is flawed in his arguments.

On the election front, it is both encouraging and a credit to opposition unity that so far GRCs are unlikely to see any three-cornered contest. Kudos should go to the Reform Party for its exemplary conduct in withdrawing from all three-cornered contests. This augurs well for the opposition and it will be a consummate feat if this can be implemented in the SMCs.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fallacy of the GRCs

GRCs were introduced ostensibly for the so-called important reason to ensure Parliament will have a minimum number of minority MPs. According to PM Lee Hsien Loong: We are a multiracial, multi-religious society. If we don't have GRCs, our multiracial, multi-religious Parliament will be under threat. All very gallant and idealistic sentiments.

Let us examine whether this specious argument is sustainable. Because of the unwieldy nature of the GRCs, they did not seem initially to attract the interests of the opposition parties. This was probably due to a lack of suitable personnel and financial resources. So the PAP were able to maintain a dominance of the GRCs by reason of their superior personnel and financial resources. In order to give a semblance of accommodating minority representation, a very small percentage of Malay, Indian and other ethnic candidates were included in the GRCs. This is only an eyewash as this minority representation is used as a cover for the backdoor entrance of untested candidates into Parliament on the coattails of anchor ministers. Because of their dominance, the PAP candidates in a GRC are usually returned by a walkover in an election.

There is only one minority candidate in a GRC consisting of four to six persons and the rest are untested backdoor entrants. A recent glaring example is the beleaguered Tin Pei Ling who to all intents and purposes will enter Parliament in this manner. There has been public pressure for her to stand in an SMC in the upcoming general election but this seems to have fallen on deaf ears. So when one considers the percentage of minority representation with the percentage of untested backdoor entrants in the GRCs, it does give a lie to the PM's assertion that GRCs are set up to preserve minority representation in Parliament which is important in our multiracial, multi-religious society. The most logical choice of action is for the PAP to abolish the GRCs in order to have a level playing field for the opposition parties.

Going on another subject, it seems quizzical for PM Lee Hsien Loong to remind all party members, whether old ones or new ones, that they are here to serve Singaporeans. Never forget we're servants of the people, not their masters. Never lord it over the people we're looking after and serving. Well said and timely only if it is not ironical. Can one imagine the arrogant and bumptious MM Lee, the father of PM Lee, lowering himself as a servant of the people? It hardly befits his narcissistic character.

Another minister who hardly fits the bill of a servant of the people is Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. As Enviroment Minister his high-handed handling of the Orchard Road floods can by no stretch of imagination qualify him as such. Last but not least is our smart Aleck MCYS Minister Vivian Balakrishnan whose callous treatment of volunteers who were afflicted by food poisoning during the Youth Olympic Games can hardly be called a servant of the people.

It is good that PM Lee has come out with this call for party members to be humble towards the people but the timing is questionable. Be that as it may, the fact that he has made the call is commendable.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Down-to-Earth Counsel to the Opposition

The euphoria engendered in the opposition parties of their respective prowess leading to the mad scramble to carve out the SMCs and GRCs they consider their preserves to contest in the upcoming General Election is intriguing. This is an unhealthy trend and can only be described as madness. This gross disunity of the opposition is something that will be viewed by the PAP leaders with infinite glee as it would make their election effort a shoo-in. They will certainly want to see the opposition parties continue their fight over the rights of their respective constituencies up to Nomination Day when the die will be cast and they find themselves in a zugzwang.

There is a Chinese saying:"Unity is Strength" (团结就是力量). During the Sino-Japanese war the Chinese were able to resist the more superior Japanese army because the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists were able to unite against the Japanese and eventually defeated them. It is hardly called unity if opposition parties are engaged in three-cornered or four-cornered contests in SMCs and GRCs. It is already an uphill task for the opposition in a one to one contest with the PAP, so what chances of success have the opposition in a three-cornered or four-cornered contest?

It would be a pity for the opposition parties to fritter away their golden opportunity because over the last one or two years they have been able to win over considerable support, not only of the young voters but older electors as well. They have even been able to disaffect a considerable number of erstwhile PAP supporters who are disillusioned by the PAP government's inequitable policies. There is also the new media which is staunchly behind the opposition parties.

Some of the opposition candidates are of such a high calibre that they are more than a match to their PAP opponents and are well placed to capture a considerable number of SMCs and some GRCs in the General Election. This favourable situation has not escaped the sharp attention of PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues and in fact has rattled them. It will be noticed that their election campaign has been particularly high-powered and intense, especially in their colossal efforts in discrediting the opposition's offensive.

It is not too late and is in fact timely for opposition parties to pull up their socks and transcend their selfish interests to put up a marvellous show of unity by agreeing to only one party to contest in a SMC or GRC against the PAP. Which is the most suitable party in terms of candidates' qualities may be quite subjective but some sacrifices may have to be made so that the pro-opposition electorate should not be let down. When there is a will there is a way. The writing is on the wall that the opposition parties will triumph in the upcoming General Election.

The so-called independent candidate who wants to contest in the Joo Chiat SMC may prove intransigent. Anyway, his intention and background are not very illustrious. It will be a surprise if he does not lose his deposit. So the opposition candidate chosen to contest this SMC can easily take him in his stride.

Good luck and God willing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Unique Minister Mentor

Can there be a more squirmy occasion than when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong extolled his old man as a unique and one and only Minister Mentor before a gullible University student audience at the National University of Singapore Cultural Centre on the night of 5 April? PM Lee listed his eminent father's contributions as in terms of his stature, in terms of his network, in terms of his weight which people give to what he says and concluded by saying that he is a very precious resource. It is quite natural, being MM Lee's anointed son to follow his father's footstep to become prime minister, to extol his father's so-called virtue.

PM Lee took special precaution to avoid mentioning the considerable number of booboos committed by his eminent father. He had also taken the trouble to avoid mentioning the constant vitriolic criticisms that MM Lee received at the hands of the new media, in particular the criticism that MM Lee is drawing $3m plus of the taxpayers' money annually for doing nothing but "forecasting" in his own words. There were also frequent calls in the internet that he should retire and not waste the taxpayers' money. These disclosures would give a lie to PM Lee's sentimental statement that his father is a unique Minister Mentor.

In fact MM Lee is an incorrigible highfalutin character who often opened his big mouth to make booboos to the chagrin and embarrassment of his prime minister son, only the latter will find it unfilial to show it. Before the American presidential election in 2008, MM Lee appeared to be disdainful about the prospects of the black American candidate Mr. Barack Obama becoming an American President. He described Mr. Barack Obama as a "flash in the pan". He was rooting for the white candidate Mr. John McCain and considered the election of a black American President to be apocalyptic. President Obama is a magnanimous person and when MM Lee unabashedly entreated a meeting with the President in October 2009, he was overwhelmed when President Obama described him as "one of the legendary figures of Asia". That made him look rather foolish after calling Mr. Barack Obama a "Flash in the pan".

Another booboo of the Minister Mentor occurred in 2009. He made deleterious comments in the National Geographic magazine in which he protrayed Sigaporeans 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. This caused a furore in Singapore.

His latest gaffe is his disparaging comments on the Singapore Malays/Muslims in his much-hyped but doubtful repute 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) coming out in a scathing attack on the Minister Mentor. It was up to the Prime Minister to issue a statement dissociating the government from MM Lee's disparaging comments. It had taken MM Lee more than a month to come out reluctantly with a statement to say "I stand corrected" but no apology. Whether the Malay ground was convinced of the sincerity of MM Lee's belated statement was a moot point.

PM Lee is right in saying that his eminent father is a unique Minister Mentor but unique in making booboos. In this respect he has no equal and it will be an insult to the intelligence of the electorate if he is nominated to stand in the General Election.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Beleaguered Tin Pei Ling

Why is this PAP cinderella Tin Pei Ling, and not other new prospective PAP candidates, being singled out for profuse criticisms by netizens is not entirely without logic. Her young age may be one factor indicating that she has just been weaned from suckling and lacks any political or worst still any humanitarian experience. But above all, it is her opulent lifestyle and rather highfalutin character that irk the netizens. It must have cost a bomb for her to celebrate her birthday at an upscale restaurant in Japan which could have been just one of her regular expensive feasts. Not only netizens but ordinary voters will wonder how a young hubristic woman with such expensive taste and politically inexperienced could pretend to know the hardships of ordinary people and much less to serve them.

She is married to the private secretary to the Prime Minister and this the netizens consider, rightly or wrongly, to be an important factor in Tim Pei Ling being chosen as a new candidate in the coming General Election. With such an uproar over her candidature, it will be a surprise if she could win if she were to contest in an SMC. So the latest PAP stunt is to put her as a candidate in Marine Parade GRC under the stewardship of SM Goh Chok Tong to ensure her election as an MP. But SM Goh is likely to have taken account that Tin Pei Ling is unlikely to be a vote-getting team member in his GRC. If anything, she will only bring down the percentage of votes that SM Goh's team is likely to get in the election.

That the PAP wallahs have come out in open support of Tin Pei Ling in face of widespread criticisms by netizens is something to be expected. They cannot be seen to chicken out at this stage as they have their reputation to consider. Tin is probably selected after an extensive process of selection and they could not afford to be seen to be abandoning her just because of netizens' criticisms. That would show them up to be fragile in succumbing to pressure. They go one step further in criticising the new media for making uncalled for attacks on Tin. The MSM Lianhi Zaobao devoted its editorial on 2-4-11 under the title:"Say no to smearing black politics" (向抹黑政治说不) joining in the Government's criticisms of netizens' attack on Tin. In spite of all the government's support of Tin, there is an approp0riate Chinese saying: "Empty cave comes the wind, its coming is natural" (空穴来风,其来有自)。Ir really means there is no smoke without fire.

Tin Pei Ling makes history in that this is the first time a new PAP receives such widespread adverse reception even before the hustings begin. It is left to be seen if she can transcend her bruised image if she is elected and show her detractors that she is made of sterner stuff than what they make her out to be. Not only the netizens but the whole of Singapore will be watching Tin Pei Ling's performance with highly critical eyes.