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 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, nevermind 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 is 'slide'. How strongly did he really feel about it, one wonders? Or is it a case of shedding political tears?

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.