Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Phoenix will rise again

Well, I got half my wish. Mr Mah Bow Tan is out of the Cabinet, though he remains a government backbencher. I am ambivalent with his replacement, the former Health Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan. One hopes that he doesn't do a rabbit trick in the National Development Ministry by acquiring a BTO (Build-to-Order) apartment for $8 for himself. But then again, he has breached the income ceiling, so no chance.

Somehow, now that Mr Mah is out, I feel a tinge of regret. The blame for the skyrocketing prices of public apartments was not his alone. The Permanent Secretary probably bears as much responsibility, if not more, for not alerting his political masters about an impending problem. But then, they are civil servants, so they just do what they are told. But Mr Mah has taken responsibility and lost his job. And that's that. Of course, his generous government pension will not leave him begging on the roadside. He will be well taken care of. Some chairmanship position will come along, and he'll be a hero (hao han) once again.

I wish him the best.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Young and Old Ones

I am now sitting in a cafe restaurant having a late afternoon lunch. In the background, on the loudspeakers, I hear Cliff Richard singing "The Young Ones" - a song recorded in 1962, ohh,,,47 years ago. The lighting is somewhat dim, giving you a cosy feeling as you await lunch that your significant other is getting. There are a smattering of youngsters hunched over their books and notes, no doubt preparing for their exams. These exams are held around this time of the year. Never mind, the restaurant has many unfilled seats. Better to look somewhat filled than have an empty restaurant. It is, after all, 3pm. The lunch crowd has thinned and the dinner crowd is not due till 6pm, or later.

I wondered how many in the restaurant knew Cliff Richard, or how old this song really is. It probably pre-dates the year that many in the restaurant were born. It certainly pre-dates mine, if only by a year. Certainly those young people behind the service counters also fall into this group. Has the young really changed all these many years since, the so called Gen Y? They seem to be enjoying this tune, the same tune that their parents danced to in their youth. I don't know what Cliff Richard's generation is called. They represented the baby boomer generation after World War II. Gen A perhaps? Much has been made of how the Gen Y are a different breed today, the incessant connectedness on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and, of course, their SMS via Handphones. These gadgets weren't there for the Gen As, perhaps for the Gen X, but not as pervasive as today's youth. However the change, "The Young Ones" remains evergreen.

Which raises the question, that at heart, are the Gen Y really different? The last General Election seems to suggest that the government needs to engage the young ones more, that more young people are needed in politics and government. The disaster for them, of course, is to find someone as young as Ms Tin Pei Ling , only 27 years old, keyed into the consumer-oriented culture of the young, such as hugging a Kate Spade bag. She stood for the General Elections and won, albeit through a back door. There was immediate calls for her to be sacked because many people felt that she is undeserving. But are these young ones all the same? Not really. One doesn't need to look far. Nicole Seah, only 24, spoke with conviction and maturity well beyond her years, and consigned her team mates to playing second fiddle to her, people old enough to be her parents.

So it is not the young ones. Rather, its is the conviction, the imagination and the creativity, young or old, Nicole Seah and George Yeo, that really matters. Let's not swing from a lost end to solely the young generation, only to lose the older generation, in time to come. Surely MM Lee and SM Goh's admonition to "always have in mind the interest of the older generation...the generation who has contributed to Singapore must be well-looked after" bears remembering. For after all that is said and done, we are one big family, young or old, Gen A or Gen Y.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Calling time

Mr Lee Kuan Yew will no longer be called a Minister Mentor. He will now simply be called the Honourable Member for Tanjong Pagar. He has announced his retirement from the government cabinet, the first, and perhaps the last time since Singapore's independence in 1965, almost 46 years ago.

He has done the right thing. Not that his views are no longer valued. I enjoyed reading him in  Hard Truths, and find agreement in much that he had to say. But there is a sense that his politics, built through the struggles in the 1950s and 1960s, and surely thereafter putting in tough policies to ensure Singapore's survival and prosperity, reiterated in Hard Truths, is perhaps past due. This is not to take away the incredible achievements of this man. It takes a coup or an uprising in some countries to push a sitting leader, such as Hosni Mubarak, and Ben Ali of Tunisia, off their seats of government. Fortunately, in Singapore, it took a General Election, a democratic process no less, for both Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong, 2 former PMs, to call time on their stay in the Singapore Government Cabinet.

I wish Mr Lee Kuan Yew more great years of health and happiness for he certainly deserves them.

For Mr Goh Chok Tong, becoming a tuition teacher towards the tail end of his political career isn't too bad either. One only hopes that the student is worth his time.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Point of inflexion

As post-mortems and celebrations are going on island-wide over the results of the General Elections, some people are still quite sore about Ms Tin Pei Ling becoming MP-designate. There is even now a Facebook petition to remove her from this honorable position, such is the extreme dislike for her.

Well, I don't think it will happen, much as we wish for it, unless she voluntarily tells her shi-fu (Master or Teacher), Mr Goh, that she wants to do the right thing and quit. But I don't think Mr Goh will have any of it. Instead, he will probably tell his tu-di (student) that lessons have begun. Mr Goh mentioned that it will take a good 3 years for her to graduate. But  never mind, the tax payers are picking up the tuition fees, which amount to at least $15,000 x 12 months x 3 years, which is $540,000, You know how many zeros there are in that number? And for just one unproven person? The rest of us have to mug multiple sleep-deprived years for a scholarship which may not even pay that kind of money and comes with a title to boot. But well, its an unfair (PAP) world, something that MM Lee Kuan Yew keeps saying in the book, "Hard Truths".

For much of the vaunted incorruptible system that the PAP government has spent the better part of 40 years putting in place, they have now arrived at the point of an 'inflexion', a point in which the level ground is starting  to slope ever gently downwards...

God help us all, and especially our children and children's children if this continues...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Extreme Results

Why / Why Not
Greatest Regret
George Yeo voted out of Parliament. He was an excellent Foreign Minister and one able to empathise with the electorate.
Greatest Disappointment
Mah Bow Tan retains his seat in Parliament. He cannot empathise with the electorate. Period
MVP (Most Valuable Politician)
Nicole Seah. We want to hear more from her from now on.
MUP (Most Undeserved Politician)
Tin Pei Ling. Now an honorary Member of Parliament who said all the wrong things getting there. We want to hear what she delivers from now on - in Parliament, i.e. 
Most Exhilarating Moment
The Workers Party capturing a GRC. Let us look forward to more to come.
Most Boring Moment
The Returning Officer (Mr Yam Ah Mee) reading "Pursuant to Section...". I think he can recite it even in his sleep now, not that it is particularly nightmarish, i.e.
Most Predictable
PM Lee Hsien Loong's and DPM Teo's teams winning in the mammoth GRCs of Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol

GE 2010 Results

Results of my General Election wish list

Result Wish List
PAP returned to power with reduced majority
WP captures Aljunied GRC with a landslide
Mah Bow Tan voted out of office

2 out of 3 isn't that bad.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Wish List

This is my wishlist for these elections:

1. PAP returned to power with reduced majority
2. WP captures Aljunied GRC with a landslide
3. Mah Bow Tan voted out of office

The Wait

Its amazing. The mechanics and voting process in Singapore. Its entirely manual. I don't know about you. But I don't think I saw a single computer in the voting centre. You can transfer billions of dollars online, but when it comes to voting, at least in Singapore, the good 'ol pen-on-paper way is still the safest? It appears to be an aberration in Singapore. We spent billions on automation, telecommunications, IT, etc. but cannot trust it enough to conduct polling.

I'm glad I went early. In fact, I arrived on the hour, at 8. Its not that I am kiasu or kiasi. Typically, Singaporeans don't get up early on Saturdays, after 5 straight days of toil. So I didn't expect too many people at 8am. I was right. The queue wasn't long. Probably 13 or 15 like-minded people in front of me. The polling centre was just a stone's throw away from where I lived. If it is going to be as hot as the last few days, I pity the people showing up later in the day. Better bring along a portable electric fan, failing which, a hand fan might be essential. Yes, the polling centre has airconing, but you're going to spend a considerable amount of time out with nature before you can get into the cool room.

Remember, the whole process is manual, with checking and double checking processes, and joining empty queues that are not your designated one is not an option. There will be several queues. Your queue number is listed on your polling card - A1, A3, A3... And you can't change queue. That's because the register, with your name on it, is only with the election officers in that queue. So if most of the people turning up with you at the polling station has the same queue number as you, you'll really have to wait, even though there is no one in the other queues. And you'll have to put up with official queue-jumping. The elderly, infirmed and otherwise handicapped will be ushered to the front of the queue, over everyone else, by the election officials.

Have a happing outing at the polling stations today!

Do's and Don'ts of Voting
Prohibited Items

The Choice

Just cast my ballot. Mine is a GRC. Took 15 minutes from queue to booth. Took less than 5 seconds to mark the ballot paper and deposit it in the ballot box. Its ironic that some have waited all their lives for this moment. I have voted a couple of times before, so there is no novelty but there was still a tinge of excitement. After all, you don't do this everyday, and what you do today will decide your next 5 years.

Voted for the party that I believe will work for my constituency and the nation. The other party is just not credible right now. Never seen the candidates before, until this past week. This is not to say I endorse every menber of the GRC team that I voted for. If given a choice, I'd vote for another, you know, that one next to Hougang. As far as GRCs go, you have no choice but to vote along party lines. Its as if the person does not exist. Sigh...

I hope the other party gets its deposit back. Not that I am doubtful, but its a lot of money. Nobody should get hurt in these elections, not financially, not psychologically, not emotionally. We are all honest and sincere people trying to give choices to the people.

So far, so good. Its a credit to the government.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Lion and the mice

These Elections has thrown up several new faces. After all that has been said and done in the last 9 days, I cannot but have the impression that PAP's 2 Generals plucked from the SAF and 'plonked' into PAP has been relatively silent - like a mouse. On the other hand, the very young Ms Nicole Seah has roared like a lion and captured the hearts and minds of many.

Her eloquence is a stark contrast to the highly touted generals who cannot speak enough to leave an impression. Is PAP seriously looking to them to lead the 4th generation of its political leaders? What a disappointment.

Vote wisely tomorrow.

The door is that way

It appears that Minister Mah Bow Tan hasn't heard the people at all. Not even after 9 days of intense voices coming from all corners, including the public, that HDB apartment prices are too high and has given many people, especially the young ones, grief in securing a decent home to start a family. He practically called people who are crying out about high prices of HDB apartments liars - yes, liars. He said, "Look at the interior furnishings (of houses around you)...many do up their house lavishly. Look at the car parks. They are full every also see Mercedes and BMWs. So how is it possible, if our flats are supposedly unaffordable?" (Today, Friday 6 May 2011, page 14). As if everybody owns Mercedes Benzes and BMWs...sheesh.

Yes Mr Mah, there are these things, but have your ever asked how people finance these things? First, they have to borrow to pay for the apartment, then they borrow more to pay for the renovations and furnishings, and then they borrow even more to buy that car (and they aren't necessarily Mercedes and BMWs), and...

People in Singapore have had to mortgage their lives over to the banks to get the good things in life while the PAP government, and Mr Mah, boast to the rest of the world that Singapore people are property owning people, that its housing policies are probably second to none, that its National Development Minister probably deserves a Noble Prize in National (Housing) Development...

Clearly, while PM Lee and Minister George Yeo have seen the light and learnt to commiserate with the people, Mr Mah is still as stuck up as ever. He insists on mowing down the electorate, calling them liars. He has lost my respect and any claim to represent the people.

Singapore goes to the polls tomorrow. It doesn't happen everyday. You can only vote once every 5 years (or thereabouts). So exercise your voting power tomorrow. People of Tampines GRC, do the right thing. Do the rest of Singapore a favour. Show him the door. Vote him out. Let Mr Mah know once and for all that Singaporeans cannot be bullied!

DPM Teo said that we need good people to help PM Lee govern better (Today, 6 May 2011, page 4). But you know what, Mr Teo? Mr Mah isn't one of them. But let's also show some compassion. Give him a chance to run for the Presidency in August. Give ALL Singaporeans the opportunity to  k***k him in the b**t, again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Stand down

PM Lee Hsien Loong has done well. Like his father, MM Lee Kuan Yew, he has apologised, but in this instance, on behalf of the Singapore government. He said that the PAP government has not done well in planning for the upsurge of foreigners arriving in Singapore (housing and transport), about the flood in Orchard Road and even Mas Selamat's escape from custody in 2008. This comes on the heels of Minister Khaw Boon Wan's candid admission of "gaps and deficiencies in the system after many opposition parties criticised the lack of hospital beds and medical personnel in their rally speeches" (Yahoo News - 4 May 2011). Minister Mah Bow Tan should listen up.

All these complaints have been raised and given free airing during the last few days of campaigning for the General Elections. That's another plus for the PAP government. No gagging, no censorship although there has been veiled threats. So the democratic process is alive and well in Singapore. The PAP deserves to be returned to power, especially with PM Lee still in charge. Making a mistake is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the lessons are learnt and steps are taken not to repeat them, as PM Lee has pointed out. And I think the PAP government, with their track record, can just deliver again.

But this is not to say the opposition parties should lose. Quite the opposite. If not for the opposition's criticisms of and exposing the shortcomings of the government, I am sure PM Lee would not have been forced against the wall to be contrite. So PM Lee has demonstrated that Singapore needs an effective opposition to help it govern even better. In this respect, these days of campaigning has brought about a positive process to improve Singapore all round. I hope the PAP government now acknowledges that having real opposition voices in Parliament can only be good for Singapore in the long run, which is the point that the Workers' Party has been making all along.

Majullah Singapura!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Red herring

Is the reported high inflation rate in Singapore for real or what? A hawker living in a 3-room public apartment was quoted as saying that he will take the family for a holiday in Thailand with the $900 that he received from the government's Growth and Share giveaway. I would have thought that it would have been more prudent to keep the money aside for a rainy day. Who will believe them now if they complain about inflation? Surely this inflation thingy has been a red herring all along?

Sunday, May 01, 2011


6 days have passed since nomination day. So far, I have yet to come across anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who has anything good to say about the ruling party. There are my colleagues, who condemned the PAP policies on Ministers' salaries and the obscene bonuses they voted for themselves. Then my brother vented his displeasure on behalf on young couples who cannot buy a public apartment without becoming indebted almost for the rest of their lives, and then there was a friend who said that MM Lee's talk about people not getting their estates well maintained if they didn't vote PAP, warning that voters will regret voting for the opposition was a big turnoff. When I pointed out that the opposition party contesting in his constituency wasn't all that great, he said he would vote against the PAP anyway. And another relative expressed similar sentiments about the seeming arrogance of the author of those words.

Is there nothing good to say about the PAP, even after they have all been gifted with cold  hard cash, some to the tune of $3,000 and more? It would appear that even before polling day, the PAP has lost the emotional bond forged with the people during MM Lee's time as PM, including, sadly, for MM Lee too. But then maybe I am not moving in the right circles?

Lose and lose

With the battle in Aljunied GRC heating up, some people are warning that if the PAP team loses, it will not be able to find another George Yeo for a Foreign Minister, as if he is the only one on Island Singapore that can assume that role competently. If this were the case, then the PAP's vaunted succession-minded approach to government has failed. And for PAP themselves to even suggest this shows that they do not have any confidence in their succession plans, if it exists. Some voters are spouting the same fears, either out of ignorance, or fear, or simply being pliant i.e. conditioned after many years not to think for themselves.

And now we are also told that if the PAP loses, it will lose its Zainul Abidin Rasheed's services as Speaker of Parliament. Well, that wasn't the plan, or at least, Mr Zainul himself was surprised by the announcement. So now the PAP has loaded the potential damage if they lost Aljunied GRC and are going to town shouting about this. Nothing wrong with this, except that we are given the impression that Mr Zainul is the only choice. From his reaction, though, he doesn't think so, but has no choice but to obey. There was talk earlier that Mr Abdullah Tarmugi retired as Speaker of Parliament so as to assume the Presidency, slated for Elections in August 2011. Is this either or both? race becoming a factor in the equation, which the PAP is apparently orchestrating? I thought that's political hara-kiri in Singapore politics. But perhaps the rules are different for different parties...

So far, PAP's message in Aljunied GRC has been a negative one. Vote PAP so as not to LOSE George Yeo and Zainul Abideen Rashid. Vote Workers' Party and your will LOSE Zainul Abideen Rashid and George Yeo.

Very inauspicious, that word.