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.

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