Monday, October 21, 2013

A Slap in the Face or a Smack on the Wrist?

People in and out of Singapore were quite intrigued recently by the no-show display of both Chinese leaders President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang when they by-passed Singapore in their visits to South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam before attending summit meetings in the region.Since Indonesia and Malaysia are so close to Singapore (一水之隔), one would expect that it was a matter of utmost courtesy for the two top Chinese leaders to include Singapore in their itinerary unless it was intended as some kind of a snub for whatever reason. To add to the conundrum, neither the Chinese leaders nor the thoughtful Singapore Government  thought it necessary to enlighten the people , both in and out of Singapore. So it was allowed to continue to be enigmatic and Singaporeans cannot be faulted if they were found to indulge themselves in trying to find a plausible and credible reason for the apparent display of discourtesy by the two top Chinese leaders.

It will not be inappropriate to recall that our comical PM Lee Hsien Loong had in his inimitable way insulted the Chinese by his brilliant diplomatic display during his visit to the United States of America at a dinner given in his honour by the American business community in April this year. He told the august American audience that in Shanghai when one turned on the tap one could get pork soup, a sarcastic allusion to the massive pig carcasses found floating in a river in China. Next he said sarcastically that one could get free smoke when one opened the window in China, an allusion to the severe air pollution in China. He thought it was funny but the Chinese were not amused and could only consider it a sick joke aimed at humiliating them, considering the standing of the American audience. It could  just be possible that the Chinese leaders have not forgotten nor forgiven PM Lee for his insult and the skipping of Singapore from their itinerary is just a way of showing their disgust.

It may or may not be a valid assumption. Some political analysts were reported by the Lianhe Zaobao today (21 Oct) to say that the skipping of Singapore from their itinerary by the two Chinese leaders did not mean that the position of Singapore could not be compared with other countries in the eyes of the Chinese. They cited the visit in October of the Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli to Singapore as one reason for the two Chinese leaders to skip Singapore as it was not considered consistent with diplomatic practice for more than one high-level leader to visit the same country within a short period. Frequent mutual visits of high-level Singapore and Chinese leaders were said to be another possible reason. So was the visit in August to China by PM Lee who met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang . Until we get a clarification from the two Chinese leaders which may never come Singaporeans are left with no viable alternative but to determine from what is known about PM Lee's insult and the theory advanced by the political analysts. PM Lee would not be able to know if his insult is still the determining factor in the mind of the two top Chinese leaders.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The grotesque behaviour of Mr. Ngiam Tong Dow

Mr. Ngiam Tong Dow needs no introduction to Singaporeans as he is a well-known retired top civil servant of very high social standing. He was permanent secretary of a number of Government ministries, including Finance, and had held the position of Head, Civil Service. In recent years he has also been known to be outspoken against various policies and practices of the Government. Many Singaporeans, especially some from the opposition parties, have looked upon him, because of his sociopolitical eminence, as some kind of a potent critiquer  of the PAP Government, adding not a little impetus to the anti-PAP chorus.

So when Mr. Ngiam Tong Dow was interviewed by Dr. Toh Han Chong, editor of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) News, which was in a question and answer form, Mr. Ngiam's statement  included some critical comments on the high salaries of PAP ministers, which for fear of losing them, prevented ministers from speaking up to PM Lee Hsien Loong and on the elitist nature of the PAP leadership. These and other comments, which were published in SMA newsletter in September, were hardly flattering to the PAP leadership, especially PM Lee, but they were lapped up with great delight by Singaporeans mainly because the comments were made by an author of high social standing in a prominent medical journal. From the nature of the contents of the statement, there was no question that it was made voluntarily and without any coercion. Mr. Ngiam could not have been a happier man because the statement has been in circulation for a considerable time without any unforseen incident.

What political manipulation went on in the meantime is not something which Singaporeans are privy to. Literally, out of the blue Mr. Ngiam came out with a statement yesterday (published today 12 Oct) seeking to clarify the comments he made about PAP ministers being afraid to speak up and the PAP being elitist. The million dollar question is why has Mr. Ngiam taken such a long time to make the clarification when the statement has been in circulation for some time. Of course, that this sudden turn of event has come as a disappointment to his ardent supporters is to put it mildly. PM Lee, however, showed his true colours by ever so promptly welcoming Mr. Ngiam's clarification and extolling him for his action.

The more important aspect of this whole episode is whether this bizarre behaviour of Mr. Ngiam spells the end of his courageous probing of the PAP leadership. What went on in his mind and whether there had been any political pressure on him to make the clarification is something which we may not know for some time. One thing is certain. If Mr. Ngiam chickens out, it will be quite a significant loss to opposition politics.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A nervous & fumbling Prime Minister

The question of the humongous salaries that PM Lee Hsien Loong and his self-serving ministers pay themselves from taxpayers' money has been the subject of public outrage but PM Lee and his ministers merrily continue to help themselves with the unconscionable emoluments oblivious to public outrage. This is because they are the Government and have the power to pay themselves outrageously without having to answer to the electorate that elected them. Just imagine our PM Lee drawing four to five times the salary of the President of the United States of America Mr. Barack Obama. It is preposterous for PM Lee to think that his position and responsibility are equal or superior to the American President to justify his exorbitant salary. So too are our self-serving ministers if they think they are superior to their American counterparts to justify their humongous salaries. PM Lee simply rides roughshod to any public protest.

But PM Lee shows himself to be less courageous when he faces foreign questioners on his and his ministers' astronomical salaries. In a recent interview with an astute interviewer Ms Patricia Wu of CNN, he was found to be nervous and fumbling with embarrassment when asked to comment on Singapore's lawmakers being some of the highest paid in the world and whether Washington would attract better talents if their salaries were more competitive. PM Lee was quickly put on the spot and caught off guard by Ms Patricia Wu's question. His unsteady answer was that they may have competitive salaries but were far from being the richest lawmakers in the world. They operate a clean system, an honest system, and are paid what their job is worth and what their quality is worth and are expected to perform. And if they don't, they have to go or (shrugs his shoulders) the electorate will vote them out.

Obviously not satisfied with his answer, Ms Patricia Wu pressed on with her question and before she could finish her question, PM Lee cut in and with a pained look and obvious discomfort gave a rambling irrelevant explanation. Not getting a straight answer from PM Lee, Ms Patricia Wu gave up and moved to another topic, allowing PM Lee a relief to his discomfort.

PM Lee can show some Dutch courage to Singaporeans in his unconvincing defence of the humongous salaries he and his ministers pay themselves but he is obviously cowardly and embarrassed when called upon to defend the preposterous whopping salaries in foreign countries, especially when interviewed by astute questioners. His answer can only be porous and untenable, especially if he is shown to be trying to overshadow President Barack Obama in importance and world standing. His defence that his ministers are paid for what their job is worth and what their quality is worth is so subjective that it is not worth the while demolishing it. Except for one or two non-Chinese ministers who are deemed worthy, most of them are considered run-of-the-mill calibre.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Contrasting Personality

The recent memorable visit of the Myanmar icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may still be fresh in the people's mind. Since she is a renowned Myanmar politician of international standing, it was not surprising that PM Lee Hsien Loong pulled out all the stops to make her visit a historic event. In view of the fact that Daw Suu Kyi has captured the attention and affection of the world with her uncompromising struggle for democracy against the powerful military junta which had ruled Myanmar with an iron hand for decades, PM Lee would not want to miss the golden opportunity of showing his exquisite hospitality to the Myanmar herione during her short stay in Singapore to enhance his so-called international reputation. So among the programme which had been meticulously arranged for Daw Suu Kyi, there appeared to be one which had perhaps flummoxed many Singaporeans, unless it was meant as a stop-gap.

There were many who wondered what significance was there in the meeting between Ms Grace Fu, Minister in PMO and the Myanmar icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw Suu Kyi is a political fighter of international stature who could easily dwarfed the mediocre credentials of Ms Grace Fu, notwithstanding that she is a PAP minister. In spite of being overawed by the formidable stature of her honoured guest Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Ms Grace Fu nevertheless managed to utter a few words of friendship between Singapore and Myanmar while Daw Suu Kyi spoke with conviction about her hopes for her country and her people.

But the contrasting personalities of the two female politicians are very prominent. Ms Grace moaned about her "sacrifices" during the period of the ministerial salary review. She was reported to have said that when she entered politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor for her. The more considerations for her were the loss of privacy and personal time, public scrutiny and career disruptions. She had further said that she had ground to believe that her family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though she experienced a drop in her income. So it was with this recent pay cut. If the balance was tilted further in the future, it would make it harder for anyone considering political office. Well she is now a million-dollar PAP minister.

Daw Suu Kyi too had her sacrifices all too familiar to the world. She was compelled to forsake her husband, her two young sons and personal freedom to fight for democracy for her people. But true to her lofty character, she perceived her "sacrifices" more of a choice than a sacrifice. "If you choose to do something, then you shouldn't say it's a sacrifice because nobody forced you to do it" Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said. (This paragraph is quoted from a post "Transitional Eternity").

The contrast between these two women - one a political luminary of world renown and the other a run-of-the-mill PAP minister - is so great that one glitters like  a shinning star in the dark and the other exhibits darkness like a starless night.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Trust is a many-splendoured thing.

This is the title of a magnificant article by David Chan in the Straits Times on 28 September. This is no doubt for the edification of Singaporeans for the enhancement of their political discernment, and in particular to the disoriented PAP leadership under PM Lee Hsien Loong in coming to terms with their predicament in GE 2016.

With due respect to the author David Chan, his treatise has been very carefully crafted with a view to admonishing the PAP that it is heading toward a political disaster in GE 2016. Only that being an invitee of the Straits Times to write, it would not be very civilised of him to be too explicit in his admonishment. But discerning Singaporeans reading the article will be left with no doubt of its oblique reference to the PAP.

David Chan has identified three major dimensions of trust which affect how citizens think, feel and behave and which may shed light on how and why the public trusts or distrusts the Government. They are competence, integrity and benevolence. Trust in competence  is about people's confidence in the Government's ability to perform and solve problems. It involves the ability to address issues affecting quality of life and also effectiveness in managing crises. Issues of infrastructure such as public transport lagging behind population growth raise doubts relating to trust in competence.

Trust in integrity is about people's assessment of the Government's character or extent to which they think it is not corrupt and is impartial. Trust in benevolence is about people's belief in the Government's intentions and motivations. Trust in benevolence increases when people believe that the intention of policy and government action is to serve their interests and is motivated by a genuine concern for citizen well-being, as opposed to being influenced by vested private or partisan interests. It gets eroded when people think that policies are formulated by an elite which is disconnected from ground sentiments, is unable to empathise, or does not care enough for the less fortunate or ordinary folk.

Let's examine the three major dimensions of trust identified by David Chan and see how the PAP leadership under PM Lee fare in measuring up to their strict standards. PAP ministers, including the prime minister, are more concerned with their astronomical salaries running into millions of dollars from taxpayers' money than with serving the people and would this not affect the Government's ability to perform and solve problems? It is a well-known fact that the transport problem, especially the SMRT, is in a dreadful mess with frequent breakdowns and overcrowding  and would not this raise doubts relating to trust in competence? And the rational PAP Government is planning to increase the population to 6.9 million in 2030 as their clever way of solving the overcrowding.

As for trust in integrity, we know that corruption is illegal but with the prime minister and his ministers paying themselves astronomically from taxpayers' money, is this what one would describe as trust in integrity? As for trust in benevolence, Singaporeans are branded as daft by the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and it is precisely that because Singaporeans are daft that they believe that the intention of policy and government action is to serve their interests and is motivated by genuine concern for citizen well-being, as opposed to being influenced by vested or partisan interests.

We leave it to the discerning Singaporeans to form their opinion whether the PAP leadership under PM Lee deserve the trust in competence, trust in integrity and trust in benevolence identified by David Chan in his magnificent article.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Antics of a Comical Prime Minister

There had been so much hype on the "Ask the PM" TV forum that Singaporeans could be excused if they expected some really epoch-making pronouncements to be made by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the forum. But what came out of this comic opera was a regurgitation of so-called political and social issues purportedly for the amelioration of the plebeian which had been diffused ad nauseam from time to time. It could hardly be objective when the interview is managed by a Straits Times staff and an editor. If PM Lee expected his so-called political expertise and eloquence at the forum to mesmerise the electorate, he could be in for a not so mild disappointment. The reaction from discerning Singaporeans could at best be said to be lukewarm but PM Lee being made of more sterner stuff may find this episode a kind of challenge. Although he has claimed to be immune to cyberspace criticism, he will find it edifying to visit the website TR Emeritus to read a vitriolic article by a very penetrating writer Molly Meek who very expertly demolished the presentation by PM Lee at the forum until what remained was a fig-leaf to conceal the disconfiture.

From his disclosure at the forum, PM Lee is thinking of a career as prime minister up to or very near to seventy. He is now sixty-one. Although he assured Singaporeans that he had a fourth generation team in waiting he had qualified that by saying the team lacked experience which is a way of saying that he could go on holding the prime minister's post ad infinitum. So we have to get used to being ruled by a group of prime minister and ministers who are more concerned with their astronomical (some say obscene) salaries of millions of dollars from taxpayers' money than with serving the people.

There are incontrovertible signs that a very good percentage of the electorate are showing disaffection towards the PAP leadership under PM Lee and could deal a severe blow to their prospects in GE 2016, There is already a precedent in Aljunied GRC in GE 2011 and subsequent by-elections in Hougang SMC and Punggol East SMC. This is an irreversible political trend but may not be sufficiently dynamic to bring about a fall of the PAP Government. There will however be more inroads by a united opposition into a number of GRCs and SMCs, provided there is unity within the opposition parties.

PM Lee and his beleaguered ministers could not be blissfully oblivious to all these undertones inimical to their prospects in GE 2016. So they are desperately trying to pave the way to reverse the unfavourable political trend by intensifying their efforts to win over the electorate with generous largesse to improve the people's livelihood, especially the lower-income Singaporeans. The "Ask the PM" TV forum is the latest political gimmick by PM Lee to salvage a political decline of the PAP but will not be the the last before GE 2016. All hands on deck are required to do their utmost to refloat the sinking ship. We will be able to see in GE 2016 whether they will succeed in stemming the wheel of history.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Already 90 but lacks civility and humanity

Tomorrow (16 September) our former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew will be celebrating his 90th birthday, a longevity by any standard. No doubt there will be felicitous greetings from far and near to congratulate this nonagenarian on his so-called auspicious 90th birthday. In Singapore there will be many like Mr. Chua Thian Poh and Mr. Wee Cho Yaw, two prominent Chinese community leaders who will fall over one another to show their so-called obeisance. In fact never to be outdone in their obsequious zeal, Mr. Chua Thian Poh, president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and Mr. Thomas Chua, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry had organised a grand pre-birthday bash at the Shangri-La Hotel meant to celebrate the so-called auspicious occasion in a grand way but with a pathetic imperfect element in that the birthday nonagenarian could not attend on his doctor's advice. He was represented by his second son Mr. Lee Hsien Yang who received an award on his behalf, an opportunity lost in glorifying his presence. A picture book "Lee Kuan Yew : A Life In Pictures" was also published to commemorate the occasion. The celebration will not be complete without congratulatory messages from present and past world leaders. Of course they are not to know the unconscionable aspect of Lee Kuan Yew's persona.

All this pomp and pageantry has the illusion of giving a veneer of veneration to former MM Lee Kuan Yew, but does not really give an insight of the loathing of the heinous aspect of his character by a substantial section of the community. Of course with the propaganda of the mainstream media, especially The Straits Times, the undercurrent of abhorence seems not to be apparent to the casual observer unless he or she follows the social media. The netizens are quite generous in their vitriols of the former MM Lee Kuan Yew from time to time especially when he makes a booboo in his discourse.

It cannot be denied that there are some Singaporeans who are still nostalgic about the so-called greatness of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in transforming Singapore from a third world country to a first world nation. But at the same time he had done something inhuman to his political opponents and it is an open secret that some of them had been incarcerated by him for nineteen and thirty-two years, even longer than that of the incarceration of the famous Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mendela.

The nonagenerian Lee Kuan Yew has expressed a wish that when it is time for him to go that it will be a peaceful and painless death, But if one believes in karma, retribution has a way of exacting justice and Lee Kuan Yew may find his wish hard to fulfill. He also said that after his death and the coffin is closed the verdict will be known. (蓋棺論定). His 90th birthday is as good a time as any for the verdict on him to be known. There will be his diehards who will extol his so-called achievements and virtues and there will be his dissenters who will bury him with his evil deeds.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Prime Minister- in-waiting

Ever since The Straits Times has published the possibility of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Social & Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing to succeed PM Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister in the future, there seems to be a decidedly attempt on the part of The Straits Times to give more prominence to Minister Chan as the more preferred choice of the prime minister-in-waiting. Hardly a day passes without The Straits Times giving publicity to the so-called political posturings of Minister Chan, be it in expounding government policies or clowning among old folks. Without doubt, the prediction of being the prime minister-in-waiting could not have passed off without a heady effect on this young minister. Will this be manifested from now on in his persona when dealing with the public or with his colleagues?

What kind of a prime minister will Chan Chun Sing project if indeed he becomes the prime minister-in-waiting? He is hardly a popular figure in the Internet world and judging from the amount of snide comments about him is a clear indication that he is the least likely minister to be welcome as a prime minister-in-waiting by this section of society. In the beginning of his political career, he was fond of asking his audience to "kee chiu" (raise hand), and so he was seen as a joker  given the moniker of "kee chiu". He is commonly known as kee chiu on the Internet.

As far as the discerning Singaporeans are concerned, he is one of those army wallahs appointed ministers to fill in the gap when suitable talents from the private sector are, for cogent private reasons, giving a wide berth to PAP political appointments despite being strongly approached. So this is a golden opportunity for these army wallahs, or for that matter any other minister including PM Lee, to amass wealth from the millions of dollars in salaries from taxpayers' money. It is very clear in the public mind whether these ministers are in it to serve the people or just self-serving, notwithstanding their not infrequent pleadings that they are not self-serving. Opposition parties should give prominent emphasis on this point in their election campaign in GE 2016.

It is clear that Minister Chan Chun Sing has had only army experience when he was appointed acting minister and his performances in the political sphere so far can be described as run-of-the-mill. So his appointment as full minister  after a short stint as acting minister without any performance of value to show, can only be mystifying to discerning Singaporeans. But then Minister Chan can take comfort that he is not the only one among a host of ministers who have been underwhelming in their performances. This is a point opposition parties should make when commenting on their humongous salaries in GE 2016.

If the political status quo persists or gets worse, PM Lee Hsien Loong and his PAP will find it hard to reverse the wheel of history in GE 2016.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Thick-skinned Prime Minister

It is interesting to read that the comical PM Lee Hsien Loong has the humility to admit that he is a thick-skinned prime minister  who is "flame-proof" to cyberspace vitriols against him. But is he aware that adventurers are also thick-skinned but it is not suggested that PM Lee is an adventurer. It however depends on the perception of discerning Singaporeans whether he talks like an adventurer. Although he claims to be immune to cyberspace criticisms, but it does not mean that he does not monitor adverse cyberspace opinions about him as he is known to have threatened to take defamation suit against some website which was reckless enough to cross the libellous line.

It is not disputed that the social media had played a significant role in the defeat of the PAP candidates in the Aljunied GRC in GE 2011 and in the subsequent by-elections in the Hougang and Punggol East SMCs. And it would have been foolhardy for PM Lee not to have taken cognition of this. Since the cyberspace has been seen to be unerring in its uncomplimentary and vitriolic comments against the PAP leadership, is it not an act of bravado for PM Lee to say that he is thick-skinned and "flame-proof" to all these? Discerning Singaporeans who are disgusted with the pro-PAP propaganda of the mainstream media, like the Straits Times, are invariably turning to the social media for alternative views which could have a decisive effect in influencing a pro-opposition electorate in GE 2016. So PM Lee could ignore this political trend at his peril and he cannot be merrily oblivious to this political hazard.

It looks like PM Lee sets high hope for a political uplift of the PAP in his "Our Singapore Conversation" (OSC) , a so-called mass engagement exercise begun a year ago. It is chaired by the much-acclaimed million-dollar Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. What Minister Heng has been known to be doing is to hold a number of meetings with apparently the same group of people from different strata of society, including senior citizens. They have been going round and round in their discussions and people were wondering if they would come out eventually with something spectacular. They did not disappoint and presented PM Lee with ostensible material on health, education and housing for his National Day Rally speech. The OSC has received considerable hype but that did not fail to cause people to wonder what it was all about. PM Lee thought it was a very successful exercise. But is it? Or could it be an exercise in futility?

This brings us to the question of the quality of our million-dollar ministers. They are on record as the highest-paid ministers in the world drawing millions of dollars in salaries from taxpayers' money.  The talks that go round among some Singaporeans, among them the netizens, are that the only ministers worthy of their million-dollar salary are the two Indian ministers Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam. the DPM and Finance Minister and Mr. K. Shanmugam, the Foreign and Law Minister. Either of them should be eminently competent to succeed PM Lee as prime minister but an Indian PM at this stage of political development in Singapore is out of the question. Anyway, whether PAP would not lose power in a freak election in the future is also in question.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sermon on the Mount

The original Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Jesus Christ to a massive audience which included his followers and disciples. So is it not appropriate to equate the National Day Rally speech delivered by the beleaguered PM Lee Hsien Loong to an equally massive captive audience at the Institute of Technical Education's new Ang Mo Kio campus on Sunday 18 August 2013 with Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount? Whilst Jesus Christ discourse was on humanity and how to save the world from iniquity, our PM Lee's audience was regaled with a bombastic discourse on how to avert the PAP from sliding into political oblivion in GE 2016, which even worried the befuddled ESM Goh Chok Tong who called it "mid-life crisis".

So whatever sweeteners the gallant PM Lee offered in his rally speech could only be with the ultimate  aim of restoring public confidence in a decadent PAP Government in time for GE 2016. While there could be no demur from the captive audience, it was quite a different reaction from the discerning Singaporeans outside, especially the netizens, who viewed his discourse with trepidation and scepticism. No doubt some of his offers went down well with some affected Singaporeans like the extension of the housing grant of $20,000 to middle-income buyers of four-room flats, for example.

Discerning Singaporeans are confounded by the so-called removal of the age limit of 90 for Medishield Life. How many Singaporeans will live up to 90 like PM Lee's pompous father Lee Kuan Yew who is obscenely affluent and well looked after without Medishield Life? Is this not a political gimmick as Singaporeans likely to benefit from this unrealistic scheme are minuscule. Netizens slammed it as a madman's scheme void of commonsense.

PM Lee touched on Health, Education and Housing in his rally speech but had scrupulously avoided the intractable transport problem which the harassed commuting public would only be too eager to hear his solution. Obviously this distressing subject will not score point for the beleaguered PAP Government as PM Lee will be at his wit's end trying to assuage the wrath of frustrated commuters whose voting power is relatively decisive and was therefore astute enough to avoid it. PM Lee would have found it hard-pressed to avoid the subject of nationalisation of the transport industry which would be an answer to the transport woes experienced by commuters under the present privatised transport system. A very cogent case for nationalisation of the transport industry was circulated on this website on 20-7-2013 which was also carried by the website TR Emeritus but the inexplicable attitude of PM Lee and his Transport Minister not to take cognition of it was incomprehensible. Why the PAP Government is so adamant against nationalisation is mind-boggling.

According to the Straits Times, liberal-minded Singaporeans were also disappointed that PM Lee spoke about getting the politics right, but said nothing about political change. No concessions were made on issues liberals care about, such as the Internet and media freedom or giving more space to dissenting voices. Opposition supporters noted that every sentence uttered by PM Lee was predicated on the assumption that the PAP will remain the dominant party in Singapore. But they will be living in a fool's paradise to think that the political situation will not change to their detriment in GE 2016.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Downfall of Eric Tan, CPIB Director

The announcement of the replacement of Eric Tan, CPIB director for supervisory lapses in order to rebuild public trust in the bureau hit recently by a $1.7 million scandal did not take the public by surprise. That he had been completely in the dark as CPIB director when his enterprising assistant director at the bureau, Edwin Yeo Swee Hong, was siphoning off bureau funds to the tune of $1.7 million meant for the bureau operations from 2008 until his ruse was uncovered last year is mind-boggling. So his replacement as CPIB director is only a natural corollary of his supervisory lapses, otherwise the Government will find itself in an untenable position to try to rebuild public trust in the bureau. That Edwin Yeo had been able to embezzle bureau funds for four years without detection under the watchful eye of his director is more in the nature of a fiction.

From past observation of his highfalutin character, especially in his high-handed handling of the invited guest list of former CPIB directors in connection with the 60th anniversary celebration of the bureau, he stood out as a director of pomposity, totally bereft of humility and civility. In a fit of funkiness, he decided to exclude  me,as a former CPIB director, from the anniversary celebration in order to ingratiate himself into the favour of the former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who was a guest of honour at the celebration. Eric Tan had a morbid fear that my presence would cause great embarrassment to his honoured guest Lee Kuan Yew because of our mutual antagonism. I was however not sore that I was excluded but was livid that Eric Tan had not the civility inform me beforehand and I had to learn about it after the celebration from the press report. I wrote to him in the most civilised manner requesting an explanation but he persisted in his arrogance in not even replying to my letter, much less to offer any apology. To add to his impudence, he had the gall to get his man to leave an unsigned copy of the anniversary coffee table book at my doorstep. There were blog postings both by me and by TR Emeritus castigating Eric Tan for his arrogance and his lack of civility.

This is now so much water under the bridge and normally it would serve no useful purpose to harp on the incident except to show in this instance the uncivilised character of the man. His present downfall is a lessen which Eric Tan must imbibe seriously and carry out a soul-searching of his actions. Above all, he must carry out a transformation of his pompous character and show more humility and civility in his dealing with other people. At the present moment he does not know where he will go after he leaves CPIB at the end of September but if he is willing to change for the better this will no doubt stand him in good stead in his future career.

It is a bit uncanny, but I had the unerring feeling that some kind of retribution will befall Eric Tan for his unprincipled and uncivilised behaviour towards me and any other people. There is no hard feeling and certainly, as in the Chinese saying, no taking pleasure in the calamity of others, (幸災乐禍). On the contrary, we wish him every success in his future career.

Another Instance of Former Minister Mentor's Balderdash

From time to time the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had amused Singaporeans with his gaffes or his balderdash. Quite often he prided himself with commanding the world audience with his so-called bombastic world view of politics but it is a different story with the Singaporean audience who view his so-called pearl of wisdom with cynicism except his die-hard supporters. He likes to believe that he is popular with and liked by Singaporeans but he has only to surf the internet to see the kind of "tributes" that netizens heaped on him. Perhaps it would be an eye-opener to his loving daughter to surf the internet to see for herself the kind of uncomplimentary remarks on his eminent father before she extols his so-called virtues in her writings. These praises cut no ice with the discerning Singaporeans who have ceased to be mesmerised by his so-called charm.

It has been his character to write books about himself, among other topics, in order to boost his standing locally and world-wide. In his latest book entitled One Man's View of the World, he had the impudence of commenting on the sensitive and much criticised  subject of Singapore abysmal 1.2 fertility rate. He was the prime minister in the 1970s when he decreed the "Stop at Two" population policy and he now has the gall to say that the suggestion that his campaign of the 1970s played a part in bringing fertility rates down is "absurd". He attributed the falling fertility to global phenomenon due primarily to women's emancipation and participation in the work place. Does he honestly believe that discerning Singaporeans will believe and accept his incredulous and untenable explanations? It is in the man's character to disavow responsibility even in the face of glaring facts that the "Stop at Two" policy was the main cause of the current low fertility rate. Perhaps he is deaf to the curses of Singapore women who had suffered deeply by his "Stop at Two" policy. He is equally blind to the caustic criticisms going round, especially among the netizens, that he is responsible for the low-fertility rate because of his "Stop at Two" policy.

The former MM admitted that he could not solve the low-fertility problem and had given up. He had pushed the job of solving the problem created by him to another generation of leaders and hoped they will eventually find a way out. If he were in charge of Singapore today, he would introduce a baby bonus equal to two years of the average Singaporean's salary. The PAP Government has tried all kinds of incentives, including monetary and paternity leave, to try to restore the low fertility rate to its normal replacement level of 2.2. However, all these efforts appear to have fallen on deaf ears as the fertility rate shows little improvement. And the Government is left with no alternative but to fill this gap by immigration with all its attendant shortcomings. Whether the present PAP Government will be able to solve this intractable fertility problem is taxing the mind of the PAP leaders. No one has come forward with a rational solution to this problem so far.

Meanwhile the former MM Lee Kuan Yew's book was launched at the Istana today to great fanfare.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nationalisation of the Transport Industry

The priority of a privatised transport industry, as in a commercial enterprise, is profits for the shareholders and service to the commuters is by necessity of secondary importance. So maintenance of the service becomes circumscribed by the profit bottom line and is it surprising that we get frequent breakdowns of train services much to the inconvenience of the hapless commuters who had to scramble by other means to get to their work? And many of the commuters are from the lower-income group and the regularity of the breakdowns has caused a numbness in their mental feelings to the extent that any miraculous remedy from the Government is a pipe-dream under the present privatised system. Of course, those who are affluent enough to own cars are not concerned with the frequent train breakdowns but they are a small number of the privileged class compared with the massive commuters.

A typical example of the ineptitude of the Government in this connection was the questionable appointment of Ms Saw Phaik Hwa as the chief executive officer of SMRT in December 2002. She had neither the expertise nor the experience of managing a transport system of such magnitude and it needed little intelligence to discover that she had made a great mess out of it. Her working experience was mainly in the retail business and indeed, despite her lack of expertise, she had surprisingly managed to deliver impressive profits to the company, but would appear not from managing the train and bus services. She was awarded hundreds of thousand of performance shares which were rightly forfeited after her resignation in January 2012 following two major rail breakdowns in December 2011. Her eminent successor, ex Lt-general Desmond Kuek, who took the helm on October 1 last year, is not seen to have fared better in the management of SMRT, apart from packing its management with his army cronies making it appear as an offshoot of the Ministry of Defence. Like his infamous predecessor, Desmond Kuek, with solely a military background,  lacks the expertise and experience for the running of a rail and bus system and may finally end up with a mediocre performance.

The case for the nationalisation of the transport system is a cogent one. First and foremost, it is not run solely for the profits of shareholders to the disadvantage of commuters, especially the middle and lower income earners for whom public transport is a crucial means of their livelihood, As a government-run enterprise, it should be more efficient in its management and maintenance, which could cut down on frequent rail breakdowns and the less frequent unexpected industrial action by bus workers. Because it is non-profit orientated, the nationalised system will present less demand for the increase of transport fares from time to time, a welcome relief to the impoverished commuters. Just look at the countries with nationalised transport systems like Germany and France to see how efficient and trouble-free the way it is run with a contented commuting public, is it not time the cocooned PAP Government should seriously consider the much-awaited nationalisation of the transport system to alleviate the anguish of the long-suffering Singapore commuters? If the PAP wallahs are thinking of redeeming themselves by service to the public, this will offer them a golden opportunity for them to show their worth.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Antics of PM Lee and Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan

PM Lee Hsien Loong must have calculated that his broadside on 12 July against the Workers' Party (WP) and its secretary-general Low Thia Khiang following the pompous blustering speech by Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on 9 July would be certain to bring public wrath against the WP with consequent loss of public  confidence. In the present political climate, little does PM Lee realise that his words no longer command the public respect and his bluster of lack of integrity and honesty  against WP MPs Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr. Pritam Singh cuts no ice with the public. People were wondering why the prime minister and his million-dollar cabinet members should be concerned with a mundane hawker centre cleaning dispute which to all intents and purposes had been settled when they should quite rightly be looking into national issues in order to justify their colossal salaries.

This is not unlike a disguised form of witch hunting. First Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr. Pritam Singh were accused of making false and untruthful statements which could not be verified conclusively even with so-called iron clad documentary evidence. Then out of nowhere Mr. Pritam Singh was accused of plagiarism by PM Lee for passing off an Internet article "word for word" as his own in a parliamentary speech. Mr. Pritam had the permission of the author to use the Internet article and how on earth could PM Lee in his right mind have made such a terrible blunder? Is it not fair that Mr. Pritam Singh should expect an apology for having been put to such unnecessary distress?

The issue of WP AHPETC hawker centre cleaning row has been transformed into a mountain from a molehill and it should be clear to PM Lee and his cabinet colleagues that it would not be to their advantage to continue to harass the WP on it. Public opinion on this matter is evenly distributed  on both sides. So it will be wise, albeit painful, for PM Lee to let the matter rest for the time being.

It shows the mediocre calibre of a politician when he says: politics is a contest for power. So Dr. Balakrishnan is in politics for the sole purpose of contesting for power and not for the purpose of serving the people. If his political doctrine is representative of all PAP ministers and MPs, do you not think that Singaporeans who have all along been asserting that PAP ministers  are self-serving who are in politics for the money are correct in their assessment? The PAP ministers are paying themselves astronomical (many call it obscene) salaries from taxpayers' money and have the impudence to call this as service to the people. Where in other parts of the world can one find a prime minister drawing a salary four or five times that of the American President? And is Singapore bigger than America with its prime minister being more important and holding greater responsibility than the American President? When GE 2016 comes along, Singaporeans should know what to do and opposition parties should, besides other bigger issues, capitalise on these two issues of politics is not for serving the people but contest for power and ministerial salaries in the election campaign.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Comical Display Of Pomposity

 His reputation has been on the wane because of his lacklustre performance as a minister and the Workers' Party AHPETC hawker-centre cleaning row had presented the pompous Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan with the rare opportunity of giving a comical display of pomposity with a so-called eloquent castigation of the Workers' Party (WP) in Parliament. The WP MPs Ms Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh were apparently caught unprepared for Dr. Balakrishnan's onslaught and did not make a creditable effort in demolishing his accusations. So one can see the smugness on the conceited Dr. Balakrishnan's face as he finished off his pompous speech with what he believed to be a coup de grace.

Dr. Balakrishnan is decidedly aiming to score a political point on the unsuspecting Workers' Party in order to redeem his flagging political fortune in time for GE 2016. He belaboured ad nauseam on the so-called mistake of the WP Property Manager to require hawkers to pay for the  cleaning of the hawker centre which in the end remained unproven because documents he produced  in Parliament to prove his case remained inconclusive. Ms Sylvia Lim, Chairman of AHPETC, was able to make a robust denial of the allegation. But Dr. Balakrishnan was bent to make a capital out of the saga and summoned up his Dutch courage to make a pompous display of his oratorical skills to support his case which indeed captured the imagination and interest of both those inside and outside of Parliament. He had indeed prided himself of having performed magnificently to dent the reputation of the Workers' Party and score a political point for the PAP. But little does Dr. Balakrishnan realise that his political ranting against the Workers' Party could have the opposite effect of drawing public sympathy for WP. Some would view his so-called oratory as bluster, especially when he ended his speech by calling on the WP secretary-general to investigate further into the hawker-centre cleaning row and branding WP officials as false and untruthful.

Dr. Balakrishnan asserted that the issue was about integrity and clean politics. The WP secretary-general countered quite rightly that it was not a problem of integrity but pure and simple market cleaning. Mr. Low Thia Khiang also brushed off Dr. Balakrishnan's call for him to further investigate  the issue. Whether this episode will enhance the political standing of Dr. Balakrishnan in the eyes of the public is open to interpretation. As mentioned earlier, he has not been very impressive in his ministerial performance and is in need of an opportunity to show his talent. He saw the WP AHPETC hawker-centre cleaning row as the opportunity he had been waiting for and he promptly jumped on it. He did not disappoint his political master and can be certain of his candidature in GE 2016 but whether he can convince his electorate to return his GRC team is another matter considering the fluidity of the political situation in GE 2016.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Continuing Spectre of Dr. Yaacob's Licensing Rules Saga

The fact that the draconian new licensing scheme for online news sites was foisted on the Internet public with hardly any notice, much less any consultation with the concerned public or debate in Parliament does not bear the hallmark of a government that is confident of clinching GE 2016 or   people-oriented. Very craftily, Dr.Yaacob Ibrahim presented ten news websites which included seven Singapore Press Holdings sites, two Mediacorp sites and Yahoo Singapore which required licensing from 1st June and pledged that other Internet users or bloggers would be free to continue to criticise the government without fear of governmental restrictions, unless racial and religious issues were involved. The PAP Government hopes that in this way it will be able to pull a wool over the public's eyes and deflect any agitation from the Internet public against the licensing scheme.

The groundswell of resistance against the scheme was something which the PAP Government may or may not have expected and Dr. Yaacob  became the PAP hatchet man to try to manage damage control. The bloggers formed a "Free the Internet" movement to spearhead and co-ordinate action to pressurise the Government to rescind the licensing scheme which is regarded as a sinister move by the Government to clamp down on dissent. On this Dr. Yaacob and the Media Development Authority (MDA) are seen to be  strenously working to try to assure the Internet public that the Government has no such intention but the bloggers remained adamant and would accept nothing short of rescinding the sinister scheme.

The resistance to the licensing scheme does not confine to local bloggers and has attracted world-wide concern which should give the Internet public a well-deserved fillip to their movement. The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) -comprising Internet giants Facebook, Google, eBay, Yahoo  and Salesforce - has entered the fray and has written to the Singapore Government questioning, among other things, in particular the clause which empowers  the Singapore authorities to ask a licensed news website to take down an article within 24 hours.

The United States government has also weighed in on the issue with the State Department saying that it was "deeply concerned" by the "restrictive policy requiring the licensing of news websites. The State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: we urge Singapore to ensure freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations and commitments. Later when asked for response to Ms Psaki's general comments, the Straits Times was referred to what Dr. Yaacob had said in Parliament in response to concerns on the rules raised by MPs. As expected, Dr. Yaacob had nothing new to offer but simply repeated with a deadpan face like a parrot the hackneyed statement that the licensing of online news sites is meant to ensure responsibility among news providers and bring  greater regulatory parity across various media platforms. He also repeatedly assured that the new rules will not stifle  creativity or freedom of speech on the Internet.

It is doubtful if such monotonous and meaningless utterances will go down well with the Internet public. The bloggers are a determined lot and the fight for justice will go on relentlessly until one party yields to the other. The PAP Government is, as the Chinese saying goes, "Riding a tiger and difficult to get off" (騎虎難下)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Is this a prelude to a more sinister move to clamp down on dissent?

Since the loss of Aljunied GRC in GE2011 and the subsequent by elections in Hougang SMC and Punggol East SMC, there has been panicky reaction among the discredited PAP leadership to the role of the social media in contributing to their election fiasco. Especially since the victory of the Workers' Party in the Punggol East by-election in January this year, there is very persistent public opinion, especially among the netizens, that the PAP Government may fall in a freak election or, if not, will lose more GRCs in GE2016. There has been strong indication that a perturbed PM Lee Hsien Loong and his equally distraught ministers are considering the foisting of a code-of-conduct on the social websites, aiming in particular at the anti-establishment websites. The comical Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim by virtue of his position became the public face of the Government to push this desperate move for a code-of-conduct for acceptance by the social media. But the politically-conscious bloggers saw through the Government's sinister motive in introducing this code and Minister Yaacob, unless he was dumb, could see that he was not able to get his idea accepted.

The PAP wallahs could not have abandoned their plan of circumscribing the social media because of the looming GE2016 for which they need time to counter the deleterious effect of the wide-spread anti-PAP propaganda on the internet. So it came as no surprise that they have now come up with this draconian Licence Scheme for New Websites which takes effect on  1at June. To pull a wool over the public's eyes, they presented ten news websites that will need the new licence. They include seven Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) sites, such as and Stomp and two by MediaCorp. Yahoo Singapore is the only site not run by either SPH or MediaCorp.

The most oppressive condition is the $50,000 performance bond for the licence. It is not oppressive to SPH, MediaCorp or Yahoo but will be oppressive if it is applied to ordinary websites like TR Emeritus and The Online Citizen. To say that the PAP leaders are "Old Crafty and Very Cunning" (老奸巨滑) is no exaggeration. They first introduced the Licensing Scheme ostensibly to deal with news websites like SPH and MediaCorp as a red herring to divert attention later on their real heinous intention to clamp down on the anti-establishment websites. PM Lee and his run-of-the mill ministers think that they can hoodwink discerning Singaporeans in this way and is an insult to their intelligence. They are taking a serious lesson from the prowess of the so-called Chinese tsunami (coined by Malaysian PM Najib Razak) in the Malaysian GE on 5th May and cannot afford to be caught with their pants down in facing a united Singapore Opposition in GE2016. The writing is already on the wall and whether the funky PAP leadership takes oppressive action against the pro-opposition websites, they should remember that the wheel of history only moves forward. Singaporean voters are a discernible lot and when the time arrives will cast their epoch-making votes in fulfilment of history.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Could this be a monumental gaffe?

A recent event with possible political implications to Singapore should interest Singaporeans if they have not already read about it, not in The Straits Times. Our comical PM Lee Hsien Loong in his inimitable way gave a display of brilliant diplomacy during his recent visit to the USA at a dinner given in his honour by the American business community. One could almost scream with disbelief when he told the august American audience that in Shanghai when one turned on the tap one would find a flow of pork soup, a sarcastic allusion to the massive pig carcasses found floating in a river in China. Next he said sarcastically that one could get free smoke when one opened the window in China, an allusion to the severe air pollution in China. PM Lee could have thought that he was being brilliant in his joke and maybe never occurred to him whether or not the Chinese were amused by it. By any standard it could only be described as a sick joke considering the standing of the audience. Even if PM Lee had wanted to please the Americans, was there a necessity for him to insult the Chinese? Is it in Singapore's interest for him to show such abject adulation to the Americans at the expense of the Chinese? The Chinese are by nature a tolerant people but they also have a long memory.

It is interesting that PM Lee had tried to explain after he had cracked the unsavoury joke that he was just quoting what the Chinese had said. What is intriguing, if what PM Lee said is true, is why the Chinese would want to denigrate themselves. If the Chinese had cracked the joke about themelves it is strange that our Chinese paper could have missed it. The unsavoury joke by PM Lee was strangely given a miss by The Straits Times and the Lianhe Zaobao. They could have considered it wise not to publish it. So far, there has been no reaction from the Chinese to PM Lee,s antics, probably preferring to keep this matter close to their chest for the time being.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Plight of the Early Government Pensioners

It is a well-known fact that the prime minister and his ministers are drawing millions of dollars in salaries which are paid out of taxpayers' money. They are in fact wallowing in wealth at the public expense and whether they deserve such humongous (some call it obscene) salaries has been viewed with disdain by the public, especially those who are struggling with the high cost of living. And are they self-serving? PM Lee Hsien Loong and his ministers, while enjoying the comforts of life with their well-deserved{?} whopping salaries, can be said to be callous in ignoring the plight of Govenment pensioners who retired in the seventies in the last century.

At that time the salary scales were very low and as a result civil servants who retired during this period received pensions which could just possibly cope with the cost of living existing at that time. This was more than thirty years ago and the cost of living has risen so many folds during that time but the sad thing is that the pensions of these pensioners have not risen accordingly. To show the callousness of the Singapore Government, two representatives of the Singapore Government Pensioners' Association met a former Finance Minister to seek his assistance for an increase in the pensions of Government pensioners to cope with the rising cost of living and the response they got from this former Finance Minister was too shocking to be believed.The former minister told the representatives that the pensioners had served their purpose, what they were getting was enough for them to get by and the Government was just waiting for them to die off. What kind of human being is capable of such callous atrocious utterance is beyond any human comprehension.

PM Lee Hsien Loong was later asked in a letter about the former minister's callous utterance but he avoided touching on this subject. He was asked in the same letter to consider the plight of Government pensioners who retired in the seventies and to increase their pensions in acordance with the current cost of living. His answer is that Government pensions are governed by the Constitution and nothing could be done about it. This could be the lamest excuse that could have come out of the prime minister as the Constitution has been amended from time to time at the whim of the Government for whatever reason and that amending the Constitution to increase the pensions of pensioners could not have been an obstacle. It is a test of the sincerity of the prime minister whether or not he wants to do it which in this case is an act oc humanity.

In Malaysia, for example, pensions of Government pensioners are increased from time to time whenever there is a rise in the cost of living. This is not the only benefit the Malaysian pensioners enjoy. When they pass away, their spouses continue to receive their pensions and enjoy the medical benefits they have all along been receiving. In some quarters, Malaysia is not regarded as progressive as Singapore and yet they look after their Government pensioners so well that the Singapore Government could emulate with pride. Some other Commonwealth countries look after their Government pensioners in the same way as the Malaysians.

While they are wallowing in their wealth provided by the taxpayers, PM Lee and his ministers should give serious and sympathetic thoughts to the plight of Government pensioners of the seventies. This is the taxpayers' money and when they can pay themselves millions in salaries out of this fund, surely the impecunious pensioners have the equal rights, if not the morality, to the taxpayers' money to assuage their wretched condiition. These pensioners had in the past contributed significantly to the progress and development of Singapore to make it to what it is today no less than what the ministers are contributing. Moreover, their numbers are dwindling  to a very small circle and could not be a burden to the taxpayers in the way that ministers' salaries are.

Whether PM Lee Hsien Loong wants to be remembered for his humanity or callousity is important and pertinent to him as a prime minister.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Population White Paper Conundrum

Never in the recent history of Singapore has there been such massive protests by Singaporeans against an ill-conceived Government measure as the White Paper on Population. Right from the start when the White Paper was introduced, there were unmistaken ominous signs that the Government would find the passage very rough if it tried to force this unpopular and undemocratic White Paper down the throats of the normally tranquil Singaporeans. In the face of such massive opposition, PM Lee Hsien Loong was gung ho in ignoring Singaporeans' wrath to push the White Paper through Parliament with the endorsement of the entire PAP MPs. Well almost entirely because there seemed to be the solitary conscientious PAP MP who voted with his feet in defiance of the PAP Whip.He showed outstanding courage as a PAP MP in criticising the White Paper and followed up with a no-show when it came to the crucial point when he was expected to cast his vote in support. It will be interesting to watch how PM Lee will deal with this so-called renegade.

The crux of the public protests is the projection in the White Paper of an inordinate increase of population of 6.9 million in the little red dot called Singapore in the year 2030 when the infrastructure even now when the population is 5.3 million is bursting at the seams. The Total Fertility Rate at 1.2 could not be expected to fulfill the target of 6.9 million and the Government will have to resort to immigration to make up the target with its attendant social problems.The loss of job opportunities to Foreign Talents is now the biggest bugbear among Singaporeans, especially the PMETs many of whom are still unemployed and the Government is hardly innovative in addressing their problem. The overwhelming population increase will exacerbate the perennial acute housing problem which will be a perpetual headache to any future housing minister. It is expected that many Singaporeans will be impoverished by the population increase while the millionaire PAP prime minister and ministers will continue to wallow in their wealth, thanks to taxpayers' money.

The Govenment is back-pedalling  as a result of public anger and pressure and now portrays the 6.9 million population as the "worst case scenario" and not the target.But the pitch with which the Government had been pushing the 6.9 million population increase has left a pernicious impression on the public mind which cannot be erased easily. So even when it has now softened on the 6.9 million target, Singaporeans are hardly convinced of the Government's sincerity and will continue their vehement protests against the White Paper until they see tangible proof of the Government's sincerity in addressing this issue. The 4,000 strong protest meeitng at Hong Lim Park on Saturday 16 February  is just one of the manifestations of continuing public wrath against the White Paper. There will no doubt be more protests of this nature. PM Lee and his Cabinet colleagues can continue to pooh-pooh this continuing groundswell of public dissent against the White Paper at their peril. If left unaddressed, it may come to a disastrous climax for the PAP one day.

It may intrigue PM Lee to know that there are coffee shop talks that the former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew bad built up Singapore from a third-world to a first-world State only to be demolished by his dragon son PM Lee Hsien Loong.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

History in the making in Punggol East

Never in its more than fifty years of history has the PAP experienced such a humiliating defeat as in the recently concluded Punggol East by-election. Although the PAP candidate Dr. Koh Poh Koon had diligently emphasised during the campaign that the by-election was about local issues, the Punggol East voters have nevertheless unmistakably delivered a clear message that this is a referendum on the PAP's performance since GE 2011. PM Lee Hsien Loong and his millionaire ministers cannot continue to be oblivious to the massive anger of the people over the undemocratic policies of the PAP Government.

The PAP brought in an eminent colorectal surgeon to be its candidate thinking that his professional status would be an added advantage in winning the heart of Punggol East voters. As a credit to him,  he did not exhibit any of the PAP arrogance in his approach to the voters and in fact was quite down-to-earth in presenting his election programme to them which was aimed at ameliorating their livelihood and living conditions. But the PAP leaders did not consider it important that Dr. Koh was a newbie parachuted into the constituency which may have been a handicap in his effort to commune with the voters, especially the elderly women. With the PAP big guns coming in to give much needed support to Dr. Koh in his campaign, it would have been reasonable to suppose it would have improved his chances to win. Especially with PM Lee extolling Dr Koh's eminent qualities and promising that, if elected, he would make him a political office holder. PM Lee might have overdone it as this could have a counter-effect to the more down-to-earth Punggol East voters and cut no ice with them.

On the other hand, the Workers' Party (WP) candidate had the advantage of being familiar with Punggol East voters, having contested in this SMC in GE 2011. She had an inimitable knack of blending harmoniously into the heart of the Punggol East voter, especially the older women  who seemed to treat her like their loving daughter. Her election programme is in some way not widely dissimilar to that of the PAP candidate but she also brought in national issues which give the Punggol East contest the appearance of a referendum. In fact WP leaders who spoke at their election rallies stressed that the Punggol East by-election was not confined to only local issues. If the attendances at the WP rallies were any indication of the popularity of the candidate, they could have foreshadowed the outcome of the by-election. The attendances at PAP rallies paled in comparison.

This by-election defeat of the PAP is a great loss of face and prestige to PM Lee and the PAP leaders. The margin of defeat by 3182 votes or 10.8 per cent of valid votes is not insignificant. The WP candidate Lee Li Lian secured 16,038 votes or 54.52 per cent and the PAP candidate obtained 12,856 votes or 43.71 per cent. This is a microcosm of the election pattern that the PAP will face in GE 2016. The WP and the Singapore People's Party (SPP) are the only opposition parties with MPs in Parliament, the SPP having one NCMP. With opposition unity, there will be other credible opposition parties which could reprise the WP's performance in GE 2016.  WP conquest of Aljunied GRC in GE 2011 was an auspicious start followed now by an equally auspicious sequence in winning the Punggol East seat. The wheel of history only moves forward and the predominance of the PAP will fade with time. It may be just as well as PAP leaders are not unknown to be arrogant and to pay themselves humongous sums from taxpayers' money long enough to the disgust of Singaporeans, besides their other iniquities.

As predicted, both Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance and Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party lost their deposits with their very dismal performance. They were portrayed as spoilers who entered the fray to dilute the WP votes and were splitters of opposition unity. Desmond Lim could only manage to secure a minuscule 0.5 per cent of the valid votes while Kenneth Jeyaretnam secured only 1.20 per cent. Their future as politicians looks very bleak.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Case for Opposition Unity

The case for opposition unity is a subject which has been exercising the mind of opposition leaders for a long time and the consensus, until now, is that it is an indispensable element in the opposition's cause to dislodge the PAP from power eventually, or at least to clip its representations in Parliament by capturing a good number more of GRCs. So it comes as something of a major let down when Low Thia Khiang, Secretary-General of the Workers' Party (WP) sings a discouraging tune to the effect that "diversity within the opposition ranks made unity inconceivable". WP is rightly or wrongly regarded as the vanguard of the opposition parties and for its leader to make such a defeatist statement is mind-boggling, to say the least, and hardly conducive to the opposition's cause.

Mr Low Thia Khiang may feel that WP is now on the political ascendency and flexes his muscles to show that WP alone can match the political might of the PAP without any support from other political parties. Indeed, it is now the only oppostion party with eight MPs in Parliament, with one NCMP from the Singapore People's Party (SPP). Because of its Parliamentary strength, the WP is monopolising the limelight compared with other opposition parties. Could this predominance have brought about a sense of arrogance in Mr Low Thia Khiang to view with disdain the apparent disunity of the opposition parties?

Mr. Low Thia Khiang may be myopic in not being able to see that there is considerable opposition unity in place. GE 2011 was a very good example of such unity as it was a straight fight between PAP and an opposition party in almost all the constituencies except in Punggol East SMC where it was a three-cornered contest with the spoiler Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) diluting the WP's percentage of votes. If there had not been unity and the Aljunied GRC turned out to be a three-cornered fight, the WP's dream of capturing the Aljunied GRC would have collapsed.

Similarly, in the current Punggol East by-election, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) showed remarkable unity by being the first opposition party to declare its non-participation. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) showed defiance in wanting to contest almost up to Nomination Day but Dr Chee Soon Juan showed exemplary courage of unity in the end by withdrawing. The SDP could be a formidable challenge to WP for opposition votes in Punggol East and its withdrawal leaves WP in a more comfortable position of having to deal with two feeble spoilers in Desmond Lim of SDA and Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party (RP). It would be a surprise it they could dilute opposition votes for the WP. Perhaps they could get some disaffected PAP votes if they could get any vote at all.

Dr. Chee Soon Juan had made a great sacrifice for the WP and it looks like Mr Low Thia Khiang has not the civility to acknowledge it, going by his ranting of opposition unity being inconceivable. For his unrequited noble selfless act, Dr Chee could not be blamed if he is seething with indignation. Dr Chee had even received approbation from the public, especially the netizens, for his selfless act but the WP, being the beneficiary, appears nonchalance, aggravated by Low Thia Khiang's disunity theme. Could there be a more glaring case of ingratitude?

Mr Low Thia Khiang should heed the famous saying: Unity is Strength (团結就是力量) if he wants to fulfill the opposition historical role of annihilating the PAP as the ultimate objective. The Aljunied GRC conquest in GE 2011 was a auspicious start and the Punggol East by-election could be an equally auspicious sequence. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his WP ignore all these auguries at their peril.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Very Noble Selfless Act

Very rarely one comes across a very noble selfless Act as displayed by Dr. Chee Soon Juan when he decided at the eleventh hour to withdraw the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) from the Punggol East by-election in the higher interest of opposition unity. The SDP had made elaborate preparations for the by-election including walkabouts, resident visits and the making of election posters which all showed that it was determined to enter the fray. It was a very great sacrifice on the SDP part to withdraw at the last moment which took many people, including PAP leaders, by surprise. Dr. Chee is not known to be a vacillating person in his political pursuit but the overwhelming criticisms, especially by netizens, of his principal role in breaking the unity of opposition parties in the Punggol East by-election could have had a salutary effect on his conscience. He himself admitted that SDP had heard the voices of Singaporeans who did not want more than one opposition party taking on the ruling People's Action Party so as not to split the opposition votes. Ironically, that message did not reach the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Reform Party (RP).

The Chinese have a saying on Dr. Chee's noble act: Superlative care of the great scheme (public affairs), sacrifice a small "me" and accomplish a big "me" (顧全大局,犧牲小我,成全大我)。By his magnanimous act, he will endear himself to Singaporeans in GE 2016, especially those who have never been comfortable with his so-called volatile character. Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his DDP will now be regarded with more respect by other opposition parties and even the PAP.

The Punggol East by election will now be a four-cornered contest by PAP, WP, SDA, and RP. On paper a four-cornered fight will be favourable to the PAP candidate Dr. Koh Poh Koon, as opposition strength is apparently split. However, WP's position is strengthened by the withdrawal of SDP  from the contest. There is no reason to rule out the 41 per cent vote the  WP candidate secured in GE 2011. SDA candidate Desmond Lim and RP candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam are regarded as splitters of opposition unity and it will be a surprise if they can get sufficient votes to avoid forfeiture of deposits. However much they may try, they will not be able to dislodge any of the WP's 41 per cent solid votes to their favour. The ground situation in Punggol East,as is also in other constituencies in Singapore, is that there is general dissatisfaction with the PAP over its undemocratic policies with the result that there may be some quite considerable disaffected PAP votes. Desmond Lim and Kenneth Jeyaretnam certainly hope to be able to attract these disaffected PAP votes but it is more likely that they will go to the WP candidate Lee Li Lian.

Although PAP may feel that it is in a more advantageous position in a four-cornered fight, there is an even chance that WP may pip it at the last moment at the finishing line. The SDA and RP candidates are not even lightweight contestents and they are in the contest as what one would call spoilers. Especially Kenneth Jeyaretnam who started off as a promising politician but his inability to see the bigger picture in the world of Singapore politics may be his undoing.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Main Breaker of Opposition Unity

It does not take much intelligence to surmise that one of the main factors which prompted PM Lee Hsien Loong to call a snap by-election in Punggol East SMC is the glaring disunity displayed by opposition parties which will weigh heavily in favour of the PAP in the fray. The scramble that the opposition parties will engage in on Nomination Day falling over one another to nominate their candidates they think will be most acceptable to the Punggol East voters will be the most ugly sight to behold. With four opposition parties and one possible independent candidate scrambling for opposition votes to compete against the PAP candidate in the by-election, the result will be a foregone conclusion with the PAP candidate romping home comfortably. It does not take a prophet to prophesy such an eventuality.

There are still four days to Nomination Day on 16 January and it is still possible for the opposition parties to close ranks and allow the Workers' Party (WP) to nominate a candidate to wage a one-to-one battle with the PAP in the by-election. Punggol East is rightly regarded as WP territory by virtue of the fact that it was the main opposition party that contested in GE 2011 securing a credible 41 per cent of the votes. The ground is considered to be in favour of the opposition and the chances of an opposition (WP) victory are more than encouraging. The main obstacle to opposition unity seems to lie with the not unpredictable intransigent character of Dr.Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).  Even long before the by-election date was made public, Dr. Chee, typical of his hubristic style, announced SDP's claim of the right to contest the Punggol East seat. This sounded the first signal of opposition disunity. SDP has never contested in Punggol East and does it not make it an unconscionable encroacher of WP's territory?

In order to put up an erroneous image of the righteousness of SDP stand, Dr. Chee made several overtures to WP to try to negotiate a presentation of a united opposition candidate for the by-election. The latest SDP's proposal is presented as a radical idea that calls for the WP to work with it to field a single candidate under a joint campaign. Under its so-called "win-win-win" plan, the candidate would be from the SDP and represent the partnership in Parliament pushing SDP's policies. The person would also be chairman of the Punggol East town council, but the WP would take care of the day-to-day operations. Could anyone in his right mind have come out with such a preposterous and bizarre proposal? Quite rightly WP has not made any response.

Meanwhile WP is keeping its card close to its chest and has not even revealed its candidate at this stage. It is no doubt hoping the situation will change for the better before Nomination Day and that opposition unity will miraculouly become a reality allowing it to go into a straight fight with the PAP.  This is also what the majority of Singaporeans are hoping will happen for the sake of Singapore's future. Even without any of the opposition parties withdrawing, WP, because of its notable standing, will emerge in the contest as the highest scoring candidate and may in the event of a freak election emerge as the winner. Though not likely, but not entirely impossible, there may be an erosion of sufficient disaffected PAP votes to give the WP a surprise victory. A number of opposition candidates are likely to lose their deposits, among whom will be the SDP candidate. It will be a rude awakening of the SDP from its illusion that it has a strong standing among Punggol East voters. As a corollary, SDP will have credibility problem when it faces the electorate in GE 2016, all because of  the iniquitous antics of Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Continuing AIM Saga

The elaborate statement by Dr. Teo Ho Pin, Coordinating Chairman of the PAP Town Councils, in response to Workers'' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim's questioning of the sale of the computer software rights to Action Information Management (AIM), when she asked if it was in the public interest, cuts no ice with the public, especially the netizens. His statement has been published on the TR Emeritus website which elicited no less than 218 responses from netizens criticising or condemning Dr. Teo for his disingenuous statement designed to cover up the questionable sale of the PAP Town Councils' computer software system to a PAP-owned AIM with a paid up capital of $2 whose three directors are former PAP MPs.

Dr Teo attempted to justify the sale of the computer software by quoting for the first time  that a consultancy firm Deloitte and Touche Enterprise Risk Services Pte Ltd had been engaged to review the system and had found the system, built in 2003, was becoming obsolete and impossible to maintain. Deloitte and Touche had suggested centralising the software ownership with a third party taking over the software rights. A commentator with computer software expertise has commented that unlike a real machine, a computer software cannot get outdated. It is just a series of instructions to an operating system to perform a task. There are no rotating gears or other moving parts in a software which can suffer from wear and tear. So Singaporeans can draw their conclusion whether the sale of the computer software to a third party which turned out to be none other than the PAP-owned AIM, a $2 shell company, was in the public interest.

In this controversy, the WP started as an underdog but it has justice on its side. The way Ms Sylvia Lim has stood up to the political onslaught of Dr. Teo Ho Pin and his cohort is a credit to the indomitable character of the WP chairman. Dr Teo, with due respect to him, emerges out of this controversy as not so adept in trying to force through his arguments, probably by sheer display of PAP's superiority. He has no answer to the public perception of the impropriety of the sale of the computer software system to AIM, a $2 capital shell company with a skeleton staff and no computer software expertise. Ms Sylvia Lim suspected that AIM was exercising the rights of termination of the lease if there was a "material change" in the composition of the Town Council when it terminated the software lease to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

It is as clear as daylight that Dr. Teo's elaborate statement lacks conviction and cogency. He has to try harder to convince Singaporeans of his ingenuousness in wanting to resolve this controversy equitably, especially to the WP. This controversy has been festering for some time now and it could not be beneficial to the PAP with an eye to the possible Punggol East by-election if it is allowed  to drag on indefinitely. What seems to be drawing public attention is the reticence of the PAP leadership on this controversy.