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.