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.