Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An illegal strike or "wage dispute"?

The PAP Government was probably caught with its pants down when 171 (originally quoted as 102) PRC bus drivers of SMRT suddenly refused en masse to turn up for work on Monday 25 November because they were unhappy with their wages.The Government demurred in calling it an  illegal strike immediately obviously because the drivers involved are from China, a country with which the PAP leaders are ingratiating themselves and a country not to be trifled with because of its greatness. The irony is that if the drivers involved were Singaporeans, the Government would not have batted an eyelid in using the knuckleduster and arresting them for illegal strike. So when the Ministry of Manpower was told about the "SMRT situation", it avoided branding it an illegal strike and merely said that it takes "the workers' actions very seriously".

The intrepid Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin probably could not find peace of mind thniking hard how to present the drivers' action as an illegal strike without repercussions, especially from China. So it was not surprising that he finally summoned up enough courage, after no doubt consultation with his political master the prime minister, to describe the drivers' action as an illegal strike. The Government said that the drivers would be dealt with, if found guilty. It is not hard to see that the Acting Minister's explanation of not calling the drivers' action at the outset as illegal strike lacks conviction.

The China factor is undoubtedly the most important consideration in the PAP Government's deliberations in how to handle this illegal strike by PRC drivers .Netizens in China are out in full force accusing the Singapore Government of discriminating against PRC workers. And China has asked Singapore to safeguard the rights and interests of  Chinese workers according to local laws. The Chinese mainstream media are probably holding back comments waiting for a cue from the Chinese Government. So that should be sufficient premonition for the PAP Government to take note on how to deal with the PRC drivers without incurring the wrath of Great China.

Anybody can see that PAP leaders hold China in great awe and are leaning backwards to please it. In fact, very few countries in the world do not view China's greatness with awe, even the Americans. Singapore has substantial investments in China and it is in Singapore's interest not to disturb the equilibrium. China is known to be magnanimous at times but it is also not unknown to take umbrage at the slightest agitation. So PAP Government will have the unenviable task of handling this PRC drivers' illegal strike gingerly so as not to give the slightest offence to its benefactor, both politically and economically.

Let's examine what the PAP Government can or will probably do. Imprisonment is out of the question but Singapore workers in similar circumstances may not escape imprisonment. Dismissal and expulsion from Singapore are also taboo as this is likely to incur the ire of China. So the only option left is a fine, if found guilty. Perhaps a nominal fine, a slap on the wrist, to indicate closure of an unpalatable episode and, more importantly, to pacify China.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is this the desperate face of a floundering Government?

There is a Chinese saying:When a person is about to die, his or her words are kind (人之将死,其言也善)。One cannot help having the impression that this is an apt description of the antics of PM Lee Hsien Loong when he was addressing some 500 PAP activists at the Party Seminar at the Lasalle College of the Arts on Saturday 24 November. The fact that there is a necessity to galvanise PAP activists into vigorous action at this time is a clear indication that the PAP leadership realise that the gound is anything but favourable to the party.

Of course, PM Lee did not find it tedious to reiterate what he has been exhorting PAP activists that it is their responsibility to lead their discussions on the party's ideals, ideas and policies together with the people in order to persuade them to see things more in the way they do. They did not allow the opportunity to slip by to engage in the party's own version of the national conversation exercise.As loyal PAP members they are duty-bound to give credibility to the so-called national conversation,,ridiculed by considerable percentage of the public as more of the nature of a farce.Well, the PAP has no alternative without the loss of face but to continue this quite unpopular exercise regardless of the disdain it attracts.

The PAP leadership realise that they are facing the predicament of a declining confidence of a discerning electorate in the next General Election in 2016. So they are now placed in a position where they have to stretch their so-called ingenuity to introduce so-called pro-people measures ro salvage  a desparate situation. But in the course of their flap, they could also be excused for foisting such a grotesque innovation as the National Conversation.

The issue that will loom large in the electors' calculus in GE 2016 will be the astronomical ministerial salary which the PAP leaders will find hard to wish away.PM Lee could not find competently qualified ministerial candidates from the private sector willing to join the party, so it would seem that any Tom, Dick and Harry from the SAF would be roped in to make up the deficit to enjoy the unprecedented whopping millions of dollars annual salary. It is mind-boggling how an army major or brigadier general can be considered a natural or automatic choice to substitute as a minister. It seems to be a standard or routine that when the prime minister cannot find any suitable candidate from the private sector willing to stand as PAP candidate, he will promptly bring in an army man as a substitute.

That is why the emphasis in on opposition unity to face the PAP in GE 2016. The whopping ministerial salary may not be the main issue but it will be a plus in favour of the opposition parties in their election campaign to show that most PAP ministers are self-serving politicians who are in the game for the taxpayers' money. For a small country like Singapore, the PM and PAP ministers are the highest paid ministers in the world, even more than what the American President is getting. Is PM Lee trying to show that he has a heavier responsibility than the American President whose responsibility covers the whole world? Singapore's electorate are getting more sophisticated and should, by discernment, be more receptive to the opposition campaign

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Paramountcy of Opposition Unity

The question of opposition unity is an indispensable element in facing the PAP in GE2016. In the last General Election in GE2011 there was a three-cornered contest in the Punggol East SMC. Ii was a straight fight between PAP and the opposition in all the other constituencies which showed a credible unity among the opposition. In GE2016 there should not be any three-cornered contest to show complete unity among the opposition. 

The possible entry of Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party, into the fray in 2016 will be a welcome development since his bankruptcy has been annulled leaving him free to stand in elections again. That he has stressed the importance of opposition unity in the next GE in 2016 is a timely reminder to opposition parties to sink whatever differences they may have in the larger interest of the public, the electorate sympathetic to them.

It is mind-boggling if there cannot be complete unity in the opposition camp in facing the PAP in GE2016. The present prognosis of the political situation is assessed to be in favour of the opposition because of the iniquities of the PAP policies and the opposition parties should not overlook this golden opportunity to nurture this favourable development to their political advantage when GE2016 comes around.This has not escaped the attention of the PAP leadership who are working strenously  to try to salvage the unfavourable situation by introducing such novelties as the National Conversation in order to appease the Singaporeans' wrath.

The Workers' Party with the largest number of opposition MPs in Parliament is naturally looked upon as proactively providing the lead in co-ordinating the various opposition parties into a solid united front in facing the PAP in GE2016.The next GE is not too far off and now is the right time to start to work the ground so that nothing will go amiss before GE2016. It is hoped that in order to replace the so-called formidable PAP Government in the next General Election or at least to capture a considerable number of GRCs, which is not impossible in the current political climate, opposition parties, especailly the Workers' Party, will transcend their parochial interest for the more noble altruistic political objective.

Opposition parties cannot fail to observe the universal dissatisfaction of Singaporeans against the iniquitous policies of the PAP and should, if not capitalise on them, at least play them up to their own advantage. Workers' Party surprisingly has not been very vocal in this respect; so it will have to buck up if it wants to retain the  voters' confidence in its performance. In order to divert Singaporeans' attention from PAP iniquities, PM Lee Hsien Loong flexes his external muscles by his narcissistic performance on the regional stage like the recent ASEAN Summit. Could it not be compared to the similarity of a death-throe?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is the Workers' Party keeping a low profile?

This is the question which is uppermost in the people's mind, especially Workers' Party (WP) supporters.The Party was so prominent and active during the last General Election that it was no surprise when it swept like a tropical storm  the redoubtable PAP team from the keenly- contested Aljunied GRC.The Party continued to show its prowess in capturing the Hougang SMC in a subsequent by-election. Since then and of late, the Party seems to be resting on its laurels and is seldom heard of on the internet, much less in the PAP-controlled mainstream media.

So much was expected of the Party's star MP Chen Show Mao that apart from a recent charitable distribution of mobility aids to senior citizens of his Paya Lebar ward which was given publicity by pro-opposition websites but, as expected, ignored by the MSM, we do not see much of the display of his formidable talent which contrbuted greatly to the defeat of the reputable PAP team in Aljunied GRC in the last GE.In fact, he has been so quiet that his supporters could be excused for not noticing his existence.

Quite rightly, the WP cannot expect the MSM to give it the kind of publicity that they accord to PAP ministers and MPs. But then the social media has been quite generous in giving publicity to its activities as often as they occurred. In fact the social media has been giving wide publicity to activities of opposition parties as a matter of routine. However, there has been lesser reporting of WP activities by the social media of late, especially since the GE and Hougang by-election, probably because there was little activity to report.

The WP is being looked upon as the vanguard of opposition parties, as it has the largest number of MPs in Parliament, by progressive Singaporeans who want to see a sea-change in the PAP-dominated political landscape of Singapore. The scarcity of WP activities is hardly conducive to its leadership role to bring about this transformation  GE2016 is not too far off and now, which is as good as any time, is the right moment for the WP and other opposition parties to work the ground earnestly to make a real impact on the electorate in order to replace the PAP government, if possible, but nevertheless to at least capture a few more GRCs in the next General Election in 2016. Like the well-known Chinese saying:The gale of wind sweeps away the fallen leaves (狂风扫落叶), together they can sweep away the arrogant, if not decadent, PAP.

The prerequisite to such a magnificent political objective is unity among the opposition parties to face the formidable electoral  machinery of the PAP. It is a gigantic but not an impossible task for the opposition parties,  but first they, especially the WP, must sink whatever political differences they may have in the larger interest of the public sympathetic to them  to forge an indispensible united front against the PAP in the next GE in order to break its political dominance. Up to now the prognosis is favourable to the opposition and the WP and other opposition parties should not let this golden opportunity slip through their fingers. They should double their effort to ensure and improve the favourable prognosis when GE 2016 comes around.

WP may not agree with the assessment that it is not politically vigorous of late but it is hoped that WP will take it in the spirit in which it is made to spur it out of any complacency.