Monday, March 23, 2015

Is this the passing of a Titan?

The once powerful and invincible Lee Kuan Yew is finally gone, after suffering for 46 agonising days hooked to a mechanical ventilator in the Singapore General Hospital. The Chinese believe that how well a person dies reflects on his or her kindness or cruelty in his or her life. Is this the passing of a Titan? This will depend on which side of the political spectrum one stands. PAP diehards and mesmerised aficionados will of course hail him as a great man who has brought Singapore from a third-world backwater to its first-world status today. Is that an honest assessment? In actual fact Lee Kuan Yew merely provided the figurehead leadership and without the indispensible expertise and monumental efforts of PAP pioneers like Dr. Goh Keng Swee, Mr. S. Rajaratnam, Mr. Hon Sui Sen and of course the eminent UN Economic Advisor Albert Winsemius, the much vaunted Lee Kuan Yew would have been reduced to a nonentity.These economic and political goliaths, especially Albert Winsemius, helped build Singapore to what it is today. This has been the narrative among discerning Singporeans.

When he was prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew had been known to be frequently hobnobbing with world leaders and with his oratorical skills had no trouble getting these world leaders to eat out of his hand. That they held Lee Kuan Yew in very high respect was never in doubt, quite oblivious to his severe character flaws. So we can now expect the outpouring of emotions from these world leaders to mourn Lee's passing. Such display of hypocrisy is not uncommon.

Is there any character flaw in the late Lee Kuan Yew? Some of his unfortunate political opponents are no longer alive to answer that. Some of them suffered immensely, whether real or imaginary depending on which side you are on, at the hand of the humanitarian Lee Kuan Yew but strangely bore no ill-will against him. The late Dr. Lim Hock Siew's son was five months old when he was unceremonously detained under Operation Coldstore on 2 February, 1963 and entered university when his father was humanely released after 19 years in detention. Chia Thye Poh held the honour of 32 years in detention, even longer than the famous South African leader Nelson Mandela.

If, in a moment of compassion, we think that Lee Kuan Yew had suffered enough in his illness, perhaps we could allow his tortured soul to rest in peace. We could show some magnanimity even if this was not one of his traits in his lifetime. Lee Kuan Yew had said this in a moment of bravado:"When the coffin is closed, the verdict will be known" (蓋棺論定). So historians, whether authentic or pseudo, will soon scramble to fulfill his wish by giving a verdict of how he had contributed to Singapore's society and the world, including his severe character flaws, if they strictly abide by the code of their profession.

It will not be remiss here to give a little conscientious advice to the enlightened PM Lee Hsien Loong. Would you be humane enough to redeem a little bit of your late father's handiwork by relaxing the inordinate persecution of Francis Seow and Tang Liang Hong by allowing them safe return to Singapore to lead a normal life? By no stretch of imagination can they be described as major security threat. There is a Chinese saying that if you want to impose a criminal charge on a person there is no dearth of a reason.(欲加之罪,何患無詞).

There is no dissenting view that the late Lee Kuan Yew  be accorded a State Funeral, which is befitting his status. However, the conundrum of denying a State Funeral to the late President Ong Teng Cheong has never been satisfactorily explained. The late Mr. Ong Teng Cheong is popularly known as the People's President.

Lastly, we offer you PM Lee Hsien Loong our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your loving father, the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A sinister omen of impending ministerial payrise

The obscenely high salaries of PM Lee Hsien Loong and his incorruptible ministers have never ceased to draw vitriolic adverse reactions from Singaporeans, minus PAP diehards. They have the audacity to benchmark their pay to the top 1000 earners in Singapore with their run-of-the-mill calibre and have the dubious reputation of being the highest-paid ministers and prime minister in the world. Even US President Barack Obama draws a modest salary of US$400,000 a year and would it not be burlesque for our clownish PM Lee to compare himself with the redoubtable President Barack Obama. They can, of course, do whatever they want with taxpayers' money with impunity by paying themselves with obscenely high salaries. So whether Singapore voters will want this ridiculous abuse of taxpayers' money to continue indefinitely will depend on the wisdom of the voters in the next GE with the help of a united opposition to galvanise them into voting for the opposition.

In the meantime, one would have thought that these money-grabbing PAP ministers will have the gumption to enjoy their obscenely high salaries in a contented manner without making any fuss. So is the sudden announcement in Parliament by an ebullient DPM Teo Chee Hean that the salaries of ministers have not gone up in the last three years even though the benchmark they are linked to has risen by around 3 per cent each year a sinister omen of an impending payrise for the filthily-rich ministers and the prime minister at public expense? DPM Teo mentioned that the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries had recommended that the salary framework be reviewed every five years and the PAP Government can continue to adjust salaries within this framework should there be a change in overall salary levels in the coming years. The poor Workers' Party has been dragged in to give an aura of civility in the announcement.

The Chinese believe that in any pursuit of wealth or power, it is prudent to stop at the appropriate time  (適可而止) for if you persist in being greedy in the end you will end up a pauper.(贪而無厭,反而変为贫). Examples abound in China of the downfall of high-ranking officials who enriched themselves whilst in office. DPM talked of the ethos of political service. How this can be reconciled with paying themselves obscenely high salaries in order to serve the people? Is this service to the people or self-serving? Even Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo asserted unashamedly in a recent REACH forum on NSF allowance that "service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents". Is this not a slap in the face of the clown Lee Hsien Loong, the so-called prime minister?

Let us hope that the greedy thought of increasing ministerial salaries is only a wild imagination that will just dissipate with DPM Teo's announcement which may have been made out of the insanity of the moment.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The disordered SMRT under over-rated CEO Desmond Kuek

To say that the name Desmond Kuek is synonymous with frequent rail disruptions is not an exaggeration. The employment of this ex-SAF Lieutenant-general as CEO in 2011 was not without misgiving among Singaporeans as it was considered ridiculous that an ex-SAF Lt-general without the necessary business and technical experience could run the SMRT efficiently. An ex-SAF general's experience was in running the SAF and used to issuing orders to soldiers with absolute obedience. Running the SMRT is altogether different and requires business and technical acumen that a CEO must be endowed with.

To show what a joker CEO Desmond Kuek is, he could display a blatant irresponsibility two months after assuming duty as CEO by vacationing in the United States in complete disregard to an illegal strike by 171 PRC drivers of SMRT. He returned only after everything had been brought under control.

Another instance of his inadequacy was in bringing in four SAF buddies into the SMRT management in December 2012 "to steer the beleaguered transport operator back on track". He acknowledged that SMRT was beleaguered but bringing in four SAF buddies to steer it back on track is mind-boggling. Like Desmond Kuek who lacks the necessary expertise to run SMRT, the bringing in of four SAF personnel, without the requisite experience, to steer it back on track could only mean to take the commuting public for a ride. It could only enhance the suspicion that the joker Desmond Kuek was out to make the SMRT a defence entity like PM Lee Hsien Loong's Cabinet.

That Desmond Kuek and his SAF buddies have not been able to make any improvement to the frequent rail disruptions since taking office is all too clear to the commuting public. They are not too blind to see the desperate effort of the CEO in trying to put up an artificial defence each time the SMRT runs into mishap. It happens so frequent that it ceases to have any meaning to the commuting public.

There have been at least five rail disruptions since 23 February with the latest two occurring on Tuesday 3 March.A sixth disruption has just occurred tonight at the Bukit Panjang LRT and it's so severe that services could only be restored the next day. Desmond Kuek acknowledged that commuter confidence in the reliability of SMRT's train services has been shaken. Whatever plans Desmond Kuek promised to make  to remedy the defects will not be able to convince the public because past promises have been found to be meaningless. Desmond Kuek and his SAF buddies just lack the expertise to run the SMRT efficiently. They are only fit to run the SAF with their absolute command.

So is there any remedy? Desmond Kuek is obviously found to be severely wanting and the most logical choice is a replacement with the requisite expertise to run the SMRT efficiently. So if for political expediency, it is found necessary for Desmond Kuek to continue as CEO, rail disruptions will be a perennial problem as Kuek will never have the expertise to overcome it.The ideal solution will however be the nationalisation of the transport system.