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.