Sunday, July 12, 2020

Post-election reflection #GE2020

The mood in the ruling PAP has changed somewhat. The PAP government's PM, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, has now recognised an official Leader of the Opposition and offered the position to Mr Pritam Singh, the Secretary-General of the Workers' Party (WP). This is as it should be. By so doing, it is giving due recognition to the electorates' sentiment that they want a more participative government, not one ruled by a few whose decisions are not to be questioned. This has been the pattern of behaviour among the 4G leadership. I have seen the bullying tactics of the PAP government in and out of Parliament, apparently without realising that the WP MPs' were in Parliament because they were invited to sit there by real voters, real people who live among us. I remember some of these:

1. Presidential "Election"
2. PAP Govt bullied WP over Aljunied-Hougang Town Council matters
3. MRT rail problems
4. Explosion of Public Housing (esp. in Sengkang and Punggol)
5. Population/Crowdedness
6. Mismanagement of COVID-19 (Dorms)

Hopefully, Parliament will be a more civil place where serious issues are discussed and the views of all Singaporeans taken into account. Matters not effectively dealt with in Parliament will spill over into the ballot box. We don't need a bulldozer which act as if its decisions cannot be questioned, and the Opposition's every view is ridiculed. I think this may be one of the reasons for the PAP government's reduced vote-share. That said, the PAP government has had a resounding show of support from the majority of Singaporeans by any global standard, and rightly so because it has always delivered "the goods". The only issue is whether these are the only goods that people want delivered and the manner in which they were delivered. 

I hope I am right that Singapore has just seen a generational change into a new normal, where we have a strong government and an effective Opposition in Parliament from now on. This will make for a more mature decision-making process which will work to the benefit of all Singaporeans.

Majulah Singapura!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cockles what? #GE2020

In a victory speech on securing the electoral ward of Sengkang GRC in the 2020 General Election, Dr Jamus Lim used the phrase "warm the cockles of our heart..." For a moment there I thought he was being vulgar, but no. The origin of the phrase, according to John Frith, is

"The cockles of the heart are its ventricles, named by some in Latin as "cochleae cordis", from "cochlea" (snail), alluding to their shape. The saying means to warm and gratify one's deepest feelings" (What are the "cockles of your heart")

With due respect, many in the PAP will not have been able to come up with this phrase. Goes to show that we need more divergent voices.

Truly a passionate man. Well, at least half of the residents in Sengkang GRC feel the same. Congratulations!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Proof of the pudding #GE2020

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. After all is said, it is the next 5 years that matters. And one way of thinking about this is to look back 5, 10 years. Here is just such an article.

Vote wisely tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Intent and plans for the future of Singapore #GE2020

In the age of rampant falsehoods appearing on social media, especially on Facebook, it made sense to have a POFMA law. It is widely believed that the last US elections in 2016 was "rigged" by the Russians that led to the surprise victory of Donald J. Trump. Granted that there was a lot of animosity against Hillary Clinton, it was still an eyebrow-raising result. After 4 years, the US is a former shadow of itself in terms of leadership in Science and Technology, and perhaps more importantly, moral leadership in a world that is increasing a dangerous place to live in, and I am not just referring to COVD-19.

When Singapore pushed through its POFMA, many were concerned that it could be mis-used. And this appears to have happened. In GE2020, there does not appear to be any undue influence outside of the country, nor on social media from foreign sources that anyone, much less the PAP government, can point to that would make POFMA relevant. Some what do we do? We train the laws at our own people. I don't think there is any doubt in ANYBODY's mind that every candidate standing for GE2020 loves Singapore and want the best for the country they truly call their home.

So this selective use, or more precisely, mis-used, of POFMA laws proves the fears of detractors to be well-founded. It is not wrong of anybody to oppose the intent or plans that the PAP government may have raised but not subsequently implemented. It is a fair warning to people that a party that has a tendency to think a particular way may not have given up entirely on the idea, and to forewarn people that while these plans have not been realised, it will not be raised again some time in the future, when Elections are well out of the way. Then what?

This is why we must have good people like Dr Tambyah, Chee Soon Juan, Pritam Singh, Tan Cheng Bock and Jamus Lim in Parliament. The GRC is just an irritant, though eventually, probably, decisive. The dice is loaded.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Explosive news #SG2020

News media just went to town with a report that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is investigating allegations that a WP candidate in the Sengkang GRC team had written racist and religious materials on social media. These views were expressed as recently as May 2020 and another in 2018. 

If true, then WP's campaign is in real jeopardy. On the other hand, the PAP may have sensed that the ground in Sengkang GRC is not sweet at all, given the popularity of the WP's A/Prof Jamus Lim. This can be viewed as a desperate move by the PAP to sink the WP's bid. If one of those remarks were made two years ago, and it is a serious breach of Singapore's strict laws on race and religion, why bring it up only now? Well, of course it is a timely tactic by the PAP to caste doubt on the WP candidate, and with it, the WP team contesting the Sengkang GRC.

But who knows? Let's see how the matter develops over the next couple of days.

Raeesh Khan apologises.

Mid-point view #GE2020

Even as GE2020 heads towards its last week of campaigning, the electorate needs to make up its mind soon. I suppose many would already have made up theirs. The rest is just theatre. You can go to for the entertainment or ignore it totally. The PAP claims that the WP's platform is PAP-lite - essentially no different from the PAP, implying that the WP is superfluous. Choosing the WP will make not an iorta of difference in the larger scheme of things. The SDP claims that it has made a difference already by forcing the PAP government to state unequivocally the non-existence of the 10 million population target, and even the 6.9 million target has also been disavowed. I remember 7 years ago, this 6.9 million figure was vigorously opposed by many Singaporeans. It appears to be settled, for now.

The PAP has introduced a whole slate of new candidates. It is using the GRC system, with its slate of veterans, to get these people elected into Parliament - people who have yet to prove themselves. Nothing new, you say. Well, Singapore, why can't that apply to the other Parties too? There are a few good men and women which are worthy of serious consideration. People like A/Prof Jamus Lim who is standing in the newly formed (reconstituted) ward of Sengkang GRC. Yee Jenn Jong and Nicole Seah are standing in the East Coast GRC. Both are earnest and intelligent individuals who I think can contribute to Singapore's future government. Of course, that GRC, suddenly, overnight, had a mini-earthquake and grew a mountain possibly named Heng Swee Keat Peak. Frankly, HSK parachuted himself into that constituency because it was one of the more risky GRC that could fall to the WP. The last time, the PAP won with a low margin of 55%. Low because there were relatively heavy-weight PAP government Ministers standing there then. With all due respect, people must understand that HSK is the PAP's chosen leader. Yes, he opened the country's foreign reserves and doled out billions of dollars. Do Singaporeans think that this couldn't be done by someone else? 

Unless Singapore identifies with the PAP unequivocally and completely, HSK becoming Singapore's future PM is not a foregone conclusion. The PAP would like you to think their thoughts and do its bidding. Are we slaves to a single narrative? I believe the PAP has the depth of leadership to easily throw up an alternative, like Mr Ong Yee Kang, who takes after Lee Kuan Yew more than most in the PAP.

Dr Chee Soon Juan has "matured" over the years and I think he will be a valuable addition to Parliament. He came out to defend his opponent when social media dug into the incumbent MP's family life. Yes, we can expect a lot more debate, which actually gives taxpayers their money's worth. Why settle for less? With his involvement in international fora, Dr Paul Tambyah can also enrich Parliamentary discussions and contribute more to Singapore than most of the new PAP candidates.

Singaporeans have been known for its bargain hunting ways. Why settle for less? Like what the WP said, with a non-PAP MP, you can be serviced by the PAP as well. It won't abandon you! Two for the price of one! Buy-one-get-one free. That's a language that many Singaporeans identify with.

Worth wisely, Singapore. 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Integrity and honesty in government #GE2020

DPM Heng Swee Keat is right that our national leaders must be people of integrity and honesty. This is one of the chief reasons why the Singapore electorate has returned the PAP to government in all elections held since Singapore's independence in 1965. One of things that the PAP has also done well over the years is to root out corruption within its party ranks and civil service, so much so that the PAP is reputed for being whiter than white.

However, it is disingenuous for the PAP to insinuate dishonesty and lack of sincerity in parties opposed to it, especially in the current hustings. The PAP has again said that the SDP lacks integrity and honesty over the issue of the 10 million population issue. I am not sure that I buy the PAP's line on this. This charge is nothing new - it has been saying this for years, especially referring to Dr Chee Soon Juan. Is there nothing else the PAP can say, especially now? The pot calling the kettle black? One of its new candidates withdrew his candidacy due to public disquiet about the person's supposed elitist behaviour and hint of unanswered questions regarding his involvement in respect of some Brazil projects. While the jury is out on the case of Ivan Lim, it seems hypocritical to call into question SDP's honesty and integrity. 

If the SDP has outmaneuvered the PAP in respect of the 10 million population issue, it cannot then turn around and call the SDP dishonest. It just goes to show that the PAP has no effective response to the issue.

Yes, I am beginning to become convinced that we need good opposition voices in Parliament. It will give us the best of both worlds - a proven government which is clean, and opposition voices which will keep the decision-making sharp to avoid the occasional mis-thinking that the PAP has been guilty of, and which may cost the country millions, no billions, of $ of unnecessary expenditure. Even its distinguished former member, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, advocates this.

Majulah Singapura   


Friday, July 03, 2020

The old can teach a thing or two #GE2020

Advice from the oldest candidate in Singapore's 2020 General Election to its young occupants:
“Goodnight, young people. So many hypebeast people chatting with me. Care for Singapore and love your hypebeast country. You are the future of hyperbeast Singapore.”
This clearly demonstrates that the seniors among us are certainly not over the hill. Age-ism - the belief that older people have only so much time to learn and contribute that it is more worthwhile investing in the young (in terms of training and nurturing). What a lot of hogwash, as Dr Tan Cheng Bock, aged 80, demonstrates.

Monday, June 29, 2020

An Officer and a Gentleman #GE2020

When a potential candidate receives unsolicited brickbats regarding his personal qualities, he'd be scrutinized and, if found true, run out of town. That was Ivan Lim. 

When another potential candidate receives unsolicited praise regarding his personal qualities, he'd still be scrutinized and, if found true, should be held in high regard. Such is Desmond Tan, former Brigadier General in the SAF and lately, the CEO of the People's Association. We need more of such people in Parliament and the Government - people who can empathise with others and in the process, make a positive difference.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

This is why he had to go #SingaporeElection

This is the reason why he had to go. Not opinion, not feelings, not political machinations. He lied, brazenly. And the PAP thinks that it is a positive life lesson. Well, if that is how the PAP chooses and shortlist candidates, the apply has fallen far from the tree. 

Like me at Another Say

On the up and up in Singapore, and crash #GE2020

2 years ago, and 3 years into the PAP's victory in the 2015 GE, the PAP government promised these:

1. Increase in GST rate - from 7% to 9% starting between 2021 and 2025
2. Increase in water prices by 30% starting July 2018
3. Increase airport tax - to build Changi Airport T5
4. Parking charges to be imposed at all public schools
5. Increase public transport fares (as alluded to by Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament in May 2018)

True to form, the PAP government does what it says it will do, baring circumstances like COVID-19 - a once-in-a-century phenomenon.

1. The GST rate increase will still take place between 2021 and 2025, probably later rather earlier. Maybe 2023.
2. Check - done
3. Changi Airport T5 has been suspended because there will not be demand due to COVID-19, so the Airport Tax will not be increased anytime soon
4. Check - done
5. Check - done

What is the state of play in the coming GE 2020?

In 2020, the PAP government spent nearly $100 billion of Reserves to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Some feel that it could have been less, if only it had dealt with the elephant in the room early on instead of soaking in the adulation of the world about Singapore's success in containing the spread of the virus on the island in the early days. This elephant refers to the Foreign Worker community living in cramped Dormitories, which number no less than 200,000 - a figure hard to miss, but was missed. In retrospect, if we had insisted on masks like what Hong Kong has done all along, a couple of 10's of billions of dollars would have remained in the Reserves, and businesses will still have been able to operate for much of the time.

Going forward, COVID-19 will still hog the limelight, at least for another year. Would more diverse voices in Parliament with teeth be needed to see the country through more successfully and saved us a couple of 10's of billion of dollars? Based on what has happened, the answer must be an unqualified "yes".

Like me at Another Say

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mdm President

Singapore has been slow to the game. Many countries have had their female heads of state, whether executive or ceremonial. There is India's Indira Gandhi, Indonesia's Megawati Sukarnoputri,  Thailand's Yingluck Shinawatra, Philippines' Corazon Aquino, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, and lately, Hong Kong's Carrie Lam. 

Now Singapore has its first female President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. Elected via a disqualification of potential opponents - 4 of them, questions have been raised about her legitimacy. Right now, her legitimacy can only be based on the strength of the ruling government of the day, which set (or changed) the rules to ensure that few, if any, opponent can qualify to stand, nevermind that there would be no contest and, in the same breadth, anoint her as 'duly elected'. If you want to be unkind, Singapore is looking like a banana republic, in the same mould as Cambodia, Cuba, Djibouti and DPRK (yep, the bomb-astic nation). How far the apple has fallen from the tree.

To its credit, LHL and his government is well aware of the disquiet about the whole Presidential Election and the way it has been conducted. Nevertheless, it believes that this is good for Singapore 50 years hence, although non of them will be around to answer for the truth or folly of this belief. We can only say that LHL's government is sincere in wanting the best for Singapore and its future, and their belief that this is the best way of going about it. We cannot fault sincerity. They said that it will be willing to bear the consequences, possibly in the next GE. Well lets see. It isn't going to be 50 years from now, only 4 years, in 2021, or earlier.

From social media postings, both before and after the 'election', private postings, and more private conversation, coffee shop talk and street conversations, some of which I have witnessed and been party to, there is tremendous unhappiness, and even ridicule, over the whole 'election'. And now, a lot of the unhappiness continue to be expressed about President Yacob's decision to live in Yishun instead of the Istana, never mind that tax payers have to foot the bill for the security, the car park space (its not going to be just one car and all of them do not incur season parking fees - wait till the Auditor General hears about this), expenses of outriders and police blocking traffic as the President travels between her house and the Istana almost everyday. Yishun is quite a distance away from the Istana. It is regrettable that the first act of the newly 'elected' President is to impose unnecessary additional expenses and incovenience on tax payers. I hope, sooner rather later, that she will dignify her office by moving into the Istana, or otherwise, get a private and suitably remote location to stay (why not the Istana then?)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Japan surrenders - again

Singapore remembered the 75th anniversary of its surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army this month. More precisely, it is the surrender of the British colonial forces that had ruled Singapore for more than a century. On 15 February 1942, at the Ford Motor Factory situated in Bukit Timah, the British army, led by General Arthur E. Percival, signed, or behalf of the British Empire, the instrument of surrender, ceding the island to the Japanese invaders. Thence, for the next 3 and a half years, Singapore was renamed to the Japanese name 'Syonan-to' - meaning 'Light of the South'. To many, especially the Chinese and Eurasians, there was not to be any light, only darkness, fear and loss. Some managed to flee to up north, to the rural countryside in Peninsula Malaysia to eke out a living eating sweet potatoes and whatever else that could be gotten in war time. I know because my mother often mentioned about her life during those war years, an episode in her life that was anything but a bed of roses.

So when someone decided that the old Ford Motor factory be renamed the Syonan Gallery, I was surprised and a little disturbed. Wasn't there any other name that could be used? Hello, Singapore was 'liberated' from Japanese rule in 1945, and re-gained its 'Singapura' name. It took another 20 years for Singapore to gain independence and thence its proud name, Singapore. In retrospect, I cannot understand how and why some 'sick' mind(s) decided to name the Ford Motor Factory gallery to 'Syonan Gallery' after the sad and horrible period in Singapore's storied history.

Encik Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communication and Information stood resolutely by this misnomer, giving his (the official) spin on the rationale for the name. Well, a fair number of Singaporeans did not share his spin and raised their voices in objection. It was a no-brainer, really, given that there are still people living in Singapore who had gone through the war and Occupation. To Encik Yaacob's credit, he reversed his decision and ordered that the gallery be given a more neutral name. Even Mr Khaw Boon Wan came out in support of this reversal, giving the reason that his maternal grandfather had suffered during the Occupation. One wonders, though, if he had objected to the name in the first place, or whether he had let it 'slide'. How strongly did he really feel about it, one wonders? Or is it a case of shedding political tears of the crocodile variety?

In any case, the matter is now settled amicably and, hopefully, a lesson learnt - that you cannot impose your view of the world on others, no matter how logical or reasonable it may be to you. There are feelings here and the weight of history that reason sometimes just cannot overcome.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Music to the ears

Minister Tan Chuan Jin justified legalising online gambling, saying that it is a growing activity and anyway, cannot be stopped entirely. Thus it would make sense to bring a part of this dark activity into the light so that it provides people with a guilt-free and legal avenue to engage in this erstwhile illegal activity. This decriminalising of online gambling in Singapore, with certain controls and conditions, will wipe out a criminal activity in one fell swoop. That's the main argument anyway, not to mention that it will increase government revenue from this once illicit activity. Minister Tan went into quite pedantic detail in an interview regarding this matter with Channel NewsAsia. I will not repeat the points, for by Minister Tan, and against by the Worker's Party and the National Council of Churches.

I would just like to add that the government, by the same argument and logic, should legalise the consumption of marijuana (cannabis) in Singapore. It is underground right now, and attracts draconian penalties when caught. In spite of all efforts to eliminate the trafficking of this drug and its use (if no one uses it, no one will traffic it, right?) remains unabated - the same as online gambling. After all, some countries have decriminalise the possession of the drug, including Australia, Austria and the US (in some States) as have some countries online gambling. But I suspect that the Singapore government will not do so anytime soon (or ever), never mind that the logic behind the easing of restriction on online gambling is exactly the same for consumption of marijuana.

I would suggest that the logic and argument that has been brought to bear on justifying the legalisation of online gambling has been quite selective and convinces no one except those for which it is music to the ears.