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.