Saturday, September 12, 2015

We Wuz Robbed

The Singapore version of September 11 is a tragedy comparable to happened at America in 2001. There, jihadists flew jet planes into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Here, the ghostly apparition of the horrible person piloted the political machinery into the pillars of our fledgling democracy. That's the guy you saw on state television all week, whose name was invoked ad nauseam in print media as well. If the old goat was still alive, even he would have protested: "Have a care with my name. You would wear it out." (line from Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth in "Shakepeare In Love")

The dissonance between the popular support at election rallies and the final count at the ballot boxes is evidence something is greatly amiss. Bashar was elected president with 97.29 percent of the votes, slightly less than the 99 percent his father regularly received to confirm his seven-year terms in office, but that is Syria. Asked to comment on the results, Reform Party's Jeyaratnam said the people deserved the government they are getting.

The big question floating in the haze is whether the leader of the Workers' Party would do a Lee Siew Choh. Latter yanked his Barisan Sosialis out of the first post-independence general election in 1968, and allowed the People's Action Party to grab all 51 of the seats in Parliament. Why bother to give credence to the mockery of a democracy when a monopolistic oligarchy is actually in charge?

The citizenry have other options, such as checking out the embassies to find out which country is better for the family they plan to raise. Making their way to Syria for military training is less attractive, the desert is far too hot for comfort. Or simply lie back and think of England Singapore, and the Swiss standard of living promised but will never be delivered. Bloggers should declare a moratorium in disgust.
Testing the "within 200m does not include inside 200m" law

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Not About To Lose Face

The gutter politician is at his tricks again.

This time he is laying blame on Mark Zuckerberg. Vivian Balakrishnan is saying that a glitch with the well honed Facebook technology used by 1.18 billion people on the planet every month caused his election advertising first published on Sept 4 to be “auto-posting recurrently”. Although some spokesperson - notably not Balakrishnan himself - said the minister has explained to the Elections Department (ELD) about the potential breach of the "Cooling-off Day" law, it was Balakrishnan who claimed the "We have contacted Facebook headquarters to conduct an investigation into the source of this bug."

There are some problems with the way the minister or his to-be-designated scapegoat is dealing with the transgression. First, they deleted the offending Facebook post, which makes it slightly more difficult for Facebook to examine the metadata. Secondly, the ELD is specific about election advertisements that were put up on the Internet which must be left unchanged once the campaign silence period kicks in at the stroke of midnight. Note also the use of technology to automatically deliver digital ads online and on social media platforms - such as "auto-posting recurrently" - should not be conducted on both Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

But the minister will not be losing sleep over the matter of whether electoral rules have been broken. If the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has to get permission from the prime minister before initiating an investigation, would the ELD dare take action without consulting same?

The Lettter That George Yeo Did Not Write

Out of desperation, some People's Action Party (PAP) supporter put into viral circulation a WhatsApp love-note ("Uncomfortable Questions") that ousted minister George Yeo (GY) categorically denied he ever penned.

GY was/still is capable of misleading the public - recall he once said "But we are building integrated resorts, not casinos" - but this load of crap has to be composed by a juvenile. It's a waste of space to reprint the message, but fun to deconstruct the flawed arguments point by point.

Point 1 raises the spectre of a "freak election" first mooted by the horrible person, and the scary sight of Leopard tanks rolling down the streets in a reprise of the Tiananmen spectacle. That's as likely as Khaw Boon Wan's "No guarantee PAP will be in govt after polls" headline. That's coming from the same fella who said the town council finance software can be easily bought off the shelf. Last time we looked, there's nothing at Sim Lim Square retailing at $24 million (cost of develpment) or $14,000 (selling price to PAP town councils).

Point 2 asks if the opposition camp has any candidate capable of doing us proud in front of an international audience. There is one much maligned person who is Chairman of the Asian Alliance for Reforms and Democracy, and has been engaged by the National Endowment for Democracy. He was also awarded a Hellman/Hammett Writers Grant by Human Rights Watch in recognition of his courage in the face of political persecution in Singapore. 'Nuff said.

Point 3 wants to know if alternate voices are able to talk with world leaders and business leaders on equal standing. We assume this refers to experience on the international stage (as in Point 2) and not about having to be paid at least $1 million to garner sufficient self confidence to meet with business leaders.

Point 4 is about maintaining good relations with with our "sensitive" neighbours. This coming after Shanmugam, Lim Swee Say, and Lee Hsien Loong's intemperate remarks about Malaysia's education system, their racial policies and Indonesia's haze, respectively. The writer must be living under a rock.

Point 5 asks if the alternate voices in parliament truly speak for the people or merely to serve their personal agenda. All we know, on record, is that Goh Chok Tong spoke up only once in parliament after GE 2011, and that was in support of the Population White Paper.

Point 6 raises a scary thought: "We might have to be foreign workers ourselves." That's exactly what the horrible person predicted: one dose of bad governance, and "our women will become maids in other people’s countries, foreign workers."

Point 7 claims markets will react, foreign funds will flee Singapore immediately, our currency will lose its value if if PAP is voted out of the government. There were those who swore Singapore will not survive without the horrible person running the country. Yet on the day he kicked the bucket the Strait Times Index actually advanced quite a few points.

Point 8 reminds us that some candidates only appear every 4-5 years when election comes. That explains why the son of Punggol is now just reappearing in Ang Mo Kio.

Point 9 says nobody like(s) to be the one to give hard truths. Hello, someone wrote a whole book about it. Did the writer read it, or used it as a door stop?

Point 10 asks why are countries sending their diplomats to study from a small little red dot. The country who sent the most "students" for the free education is Communist China. Their generals were even treated to expensive tution in English so they can find their way to the little boys' room without having to resort to subtitles.

Point 11 is easy -  will a weak government fighting for political survival have time for long term projects? The answer is that the weak government is "going to spend all my time thinking what's the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes."

Point 12 reminds us what really captures the world's attention on Singapore. No, not the F1 night race, not overblown YOG - it's the highest paid salary for a sitting prime minister. Of course, when CNN finally airs the interview with Amos Yee, we will be number one again on the world stage for all the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

With Friends Like These

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at Toa Payoh Stadium rally was asking the crowd who protects Singapore if the defence budget is cut. He cited external threats linked to extremism and radicalised individuals from Malaysia and Indonesia who have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for Islamic State militants. What he left out were the big mouths who provoke our neighbours and endanger our small nation through their careless tongues. Thinks of the millions saved if these jokers would just learn to zip their lips:

Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam at a Singapore Press Club forum on 27 Aug :
"Their biggest problem is education because they have not integrated their schools. Politically the Chinese MCA wants to maintain control of the population by having Chinese schools. So they take the Chinese out of the mainstream schools, the kids don't integrate. The Malays are in mainstream schools which are becoming more and more Malay and Islamic, which discourages the Chinese from getting into schools. So from a very early age you keep the Malay and Chinese populations apart, how do you integrate them later?"

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at a campaign rally on 3 Sep:
"Then in 1965, Singapore and Malaysia separated, because Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted a nation regardless of language, regardless of race – one that is equal.
So we can’t stay in Malaysia, as the tenet of Malaysia is: Malaysia belongs to the Malays. So we had no choice, we could only separate. So I am thinking, if we didn’t separate in 1965, today you and I would be Malaysians, ‘heng’ (lucky) ah."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the UOB Plaza lUnchtime rally on 8 Sep:
"Whenever there's haze blowing to us or to Malaysia, somebody in Indonesia will say 'these people are so ungrateful, (for) 11 months we supply them fresh air, never charge for oxygen. One month haze already so unhappy'."

So far only the toothpicker raider has been reproached publicly. Malaysia’s MIC leader, Datuk R. Ramanan, called Lim an “idiot”:
"Lim is a minister who behaves like an idiot. Singapore should be embarrassed for having a cabinet minister like him.
I understand you want to be patriotic but you do not have to throw insults at your neighbour. It does not bode well (for a nation) to have ministers such as him.
If Lim wants to talk about luck, the manpower minister should feel fortunate that there are so many Malaysians working in Singapore and paying taxes to the island republic. Do you not feel lucky about that?"

MCA central committee member Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon added that Mr Lim’s ill remarks were uncalled for especially since both countries have been working toward a better bilateral relationship in recent years. Shanmugam and Lee didn't exactly help in fostering neighbouring ties either.

Lessons From The Titanic

Not exactly Leonardo DiCaprio's "I'm the king of the world" shout
At a People’s Action Party (PAP) lunch-time rally at the promenade area beside UOB Plaza yesterday, you have heard how prime minister Lee Hsien Loong tackles wrong-doing and corruption in high places in Singapore:
"That's why we have the CPIB reporting to me as PM, and if I don't give approval to the CPIB to investigate somebody, the CPIB can go to the president and ask the president for approval. The president says yes, and the CPIB can proceed, against the PM."

The argument would have been more convincing if the president were not related to him by family ties.

No wonder Workers’ Party (WP) chair Sylvia Lim said Goh Chok Tong’s statement that the PAP is its own check was a “more seductive lie”. She was referring to Goh’s remarks that the opposition’s call for checks and balances on the PAP was “a seductive lie”. Goh, while rejecting the call for more eyes on the government from the opposition, had boasted, “We are our own checks.”

The captain of the ill-fated Titanic, Captain Edward John Smith, had failed to take proper heed of ice warnings which was transmitted to him. As the most senior of the White Star Line's captains, he thought he knew it all. We now know one of the reasons for the collision was the direct result of steaming into a dangerous area at too high a speed. We also know the Titanic only had enough lifeboats to carry about half of those on board. There were also stark differences in the survival rates of the different classes: although only 3 percent of first-class women were lost, 54 percent of those in third class died. That's what can happen with growth at all costs, overcrowding and ignoring the Gini coefficient.

The British inquiry findings warned that "what was a mistake in the case of the Titanic would without doubt be negligence in any similar case in the future". Sylvia Lim's own take is that the ruling party might not be what it was in the past and there is no assurance on the quality of future PAP leaders (or past and present pms).
video


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Someone Must Be Feeling Invincible

“You must separate your public political position from your private business or professional interests,” Lee Hsien Loong thought he had made it plain. “You must not exploit your public position as Government MPs, your close contacts with the Ministers, or your access to government departments and civil servants, for your personal business interest or the benefit of your employers."

That didn't stop People's Action Party (PAP) member of parliament (MP) specifically in-charge of Nee Soon South, Lee Bee Wah, from her company being awarded the contract to provide Civil and Structural engineering services for the Khatib Court development located within Lee’s constituency.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) had warned that getai performances are “strictly not allowed before, during or after election rallies,” as stipulated under the Public Order (Election Meetings) Regulations 2009.

That didn't stop the PAP MP from being introduced as a PAP candidate for Nee Soon GRC at a 4 September Seventh Month Festival event, with the emcee openly asking the audience to support Lee at the ballot box and vote for her.

This is the same Lee Bee Wah who had falsely alleged that Workers’ Party (WP) supporters mislead elderly residents about how to vote, and uploaded her own graphic of a ballot paper with her Nee Soon GRC team on it with explicit instructions to boot. “Look at this drawing: You should draw a cross next to the party you want to vote for,” she inscribed. Too bad the Facebook posting was not done on "cooling off" day.

Defending her stage time with the getai hotties, Lee stated that she is familiar with political campaigning rules. “Of course I know what the rules are, what I can or cannot do … I’m just supporting the community group in my constituency, as I’ve always done — does this mean that during General Election time I can’t support them?” Thanks to vigilant members of the community, a police report had been lodged about the cameo appearance, and the court gets to decide who is the law in Singapore. The big assumption here is that our SPF boys are responsible, accountable and transparent, and ever ready to respond to reports of infringement of the laws of the land. And not unduly obssessed by the rantings of 16 year olds.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Deficit Of Logic

Lee Hsien Loong's team may like to borrow words like Responsibility, Accountability and Transparency, but in their perverse version of the English dictionary, they spell only R.A.T. If you thought the rodents burrowing at Bukit Batok were bad, the species unearthed from parliament house are downright despicable.

It was Charles Chong who told Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that the Punggol East SMC had a surplus of $1 million when the People's Action Party (PAP) handed it over to the Workers' Party (WP). Chong was "misleading, lying to the public." These were same words Lawrence Wong used to slime Chee Soon Juan at a recent forum, and claimed an apology should have been forthcoming.

PAP Pasir Ris-Punggol candidate Zainal Sapari inadvertently confirmed the big lie when he wrote in his 9 Sep Facebook posting, Punggol East’s town council accounts showed that “At the handover to AHPETC on 30 Apr 2013, although there was a deficit in the accumulated routine fund of $282,009...” As students of accounting 101 are familiar, the amount of $303,372 claimable as reimbursement from some fund is merely an account receivable, not cash in hand. There's no guarantee that accounts receivable will not turn into bad debts, especially when the Town Councils Act has opaque rules about what happens when there is a change in party managing a constituency. By same definition, your minimum sum in your CPF account is also "claimable", but we know how that goes.

When chief Low Thia Khiang  held up a printout of the ward’s town council accounts as at April 30, 2013, showing a deficit of more than $280,000, he had the proverbial smoking gun in hand.

In 1997, J.B. Jeyaratnam waved a copy of a police report, complaining that Goh Chok Tong, Tony Tan and Brigadier-General (NS) Lee Hsien Loong had been inside a Cheng San GRC polling station on Polling Day. Then  Law Minister S. Jayakumar put it to Attorney General Chan Sek Keong for a legal opinion, and resulted in the warped logic, "while it is illegal to be within 200 metres of a polling station unless you are voting, IT IS NOT ILLEGAL IF YOU ARE INSIDE." Jeyaratnam was also sued for waving another police report, in support of another candidate in Cheng San, lawyer Tang Liang Hong (who Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had accused of being a Chinese chauvinist). Goh considered the $20,000 award for damages as "derisory", and on appeal, the damages were raised to $100,000 plus $20,000 in court costs.

Times may have changed, but the rats still proliferate. Let's see how this saga unfolds.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Mouse That Roared

Finger pointing in the wrong direction, Lee Hsien Loong missed the quiet mice in his own team in Parliament. The brigadier general was never strong in marksmanship anyway, he was bested by his own papa at a rifle range in Brunei.

Raymond Lim obviously zipped his lips after being dethroned from his million dollar perch. He was not about to give his successor any tips on running the Transport Ministry, not for a paltry $16,000 a month anyway.

The surprise revelation - and this is according to Hansard, the name for Parliamentary records - is that Goh Chok Tong spoke only once in Parliament since he was re-elected in 2011. He finally got off his seat-warmer bum in February 2013 to support the divisive Population White Paper. He was one of the 77 PAP MPs who endorsed the 6.9 million "planning parameter".
"Regarding population size, I, too, am not sure about the idea of having 6.9 million people. Many Singaporeans cannot imagine how that can work, when their daily experience with 5.3 million people is of crowded trains and buses. It is good that Deputy Prime Minister Teo has reiterated and reassured all of us that 6.9 million is only a planning parameter and not a policy target."

If the parameter is the bull's-eye of a target, and the arrows are estimates, then a relatively high absolute value for the bias means the average position of the arrows is off-target, and a relatively low absolute bias means the average position of the arrows is on target. They may be dispersed, or may be clustered. The relationship between bias and variance is analogous to the relationship between accuracy and precision. Notice the accuracy and precision is specified to a first decimal point. Not 6, not 7, but exactly 6.9 million.

Goh's skewed understanding of the fable of the rooster that crows when the sun rises is that the feathered creature was claiming credit it could cause the sun to rise. Thanks to alternate voices, we now know the rooster was heralding the dawn of a new day.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Minimum Wage

In his attempt to explain why the People’s Action Party (PAP) opted for the Workfare scheme rather than a minimum wage, it is clear why the Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin actually thought collecting cardboard boxes under the heat of the tropical sun is a healthy exercise for our senior citizens. They must be having a blast now that the haze is on, with the 24-hr Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering at the 82-94 range.

The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme, like all pseudo help government contrived programmes, makes one jump through many hoops, before you get to see the real cash. Some requirements posted on their website:
  • - must be 35 years old or above on 31 December of the work year;
  • - must work at least two months in a three-month period;
  • - must earn an average gross monthly income of not more than $1,900 for the period worked;
  • - must live in a property with annual value of not more than $13,000 assessed as at 31 December of the preceding year.

So the student who tries to pay his way through school will continue to be exploited by working at a fast food joint for $500. Even if he's desperate enough to collect the WIS handout, he has to first labour for 2 months at slave wages. And if he happens to be staying with his retiree parents in a nice house, he is disincentivized from taking on a part time job to help with the bills. Minimum wage has no such artificial constraints.

So what happens to the employer who refuse to pay the minimum wage? These are the same folks who typically ask their $500 employee whether they want a paycheck with or without CPF deduction to avoid the compulsory contribution. They march to the friendly neighbourhood PAP MP and threaten to close shop and wreck the economy. And dummies like Tan will fall for it hook, line and sinker.

“These companies may not be prepared to pay that wage level. We've seen that happening in other countries,” Tan claimed. Please name those countries at your next rally, first world types preferred.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Behold Thy Alternate Voices


Associate Professor Daniel Goh's opening remarks:
"Good evening voters.
In 2011, many of you supported our call to move Singapore towards a First World Parliament and sent seven elected Workers' Party Members to Parliament. WE have seen the result. Today, we have a more responsive goovernment that is more sensitive to the struggle struggles of the people. We have seen policy changes responding to the needs of Singaporeans. But the journey towards a First World Parliament has only just begun. We cannot let our guard down now."

And here's the rest of his message:
We must continue our journey to protect our future and the future of our children. To protect our future, you have to further entrench your power and your rights in Parliament.
You need to take charge of your future, but this is not possible if we have an imbalanced Parliament with an overwhelming majority of ruling party MPs.
This election is a landmark election in the new era in Singapore.
Our formula for success in the last 50 years was to allow the ruling party to monopolise power, to exercise control over every aspect of our society, and set the direction for us. This was largely based on the mentality  that we only have a small talent pool that could lead Singapore. But times have changed. Our talent pool has vastly expanded through education and exposure. Many talented Singaporeans today excel in their own fields. However, our enterprises struggle to take off in the global arena and our workers struggle with productivity.
This is not for lack of talent, but because Singapoeans are not empowered to seize our future for ourselves.
For Singapore to become an outstanding smart nation in the next 50 years, we must build and nutrure confident professional, business and people sectors unfettered by unhealthy political monopoly. To do this, people must be able to think out of the box; people should be able to express themselves freely and debate issues within known limits as a multi-racial and multi-religious society. People must also feel secure and be assured of their rights against unreasonable and disproportionate actions from the Government and political leaders.
We have the opportunity now with the General Election to take that step to become such an outstanding nation. We can empower ourselves through a Parliament that truly represents the diversity of Singapore society for our future as a nation.
We are the masters of Singapore.
Our political leaders should serve us and facilitate empowerment of the people, not encourage subservience and groupthink. You have to decide whether having more ruling party MPS resulting in an imbalanced Parliament is in the best interest of the future of Singapore and your children.
Your vote is a signal to the ruling party that it cannot do what it wants without taking you seriously. It will signal to what extent the ruling party can deprive you of your power to participate in the policy-making process in the name of acting in your best interest.
Before 2011, the ruling party cruised along with policies that led to escalating cost of living, employment and retirement insecurity, and strained infrastructure due to runaway immigration. Your vote changed the course, but change for a better future is only just beginning.
Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, but Singaporeans still feel stressed and disempowered at every stage of our lives. This is not right. The Government is planning for a 6.9 million population to solve the problems at hand. This is heading towards the wrong course. We have to change this.
Your vote is your power.
Use it to empower yourself.
We understand that to exercise the power of your vote, you need to have an alternative party deserving of your support. The Workers' Party is your credible choice. We are a rational, responsible and respectable party. We do not oppose for the sake of opposing and take a balanced approach in politics. We have worked hard to offer a a slate of capable candidates, balanced between seniority and youth, experience and idealism, but all united in seeking the empowerment of Singaporeans.
You can empower yourself to make decisions for your own future. Vote Workers' Party. Empower your future. Good night.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hail victory! Hail victory!

Teo Soh Lung once wrote that her mother would walk away from the television set whenever the ghastly image of the horrible person appeared onscreen. If you had gone into the kitchen for a drink of water when his successor took to the mike, you would have wondered who was raising a ruckus when the next speaker came on. Maybe someone had changed channels, and it was Hitler ranting away in the famous scene from "Der Untergang" (English title:"Downfall").

It was no less than the "keechiu" general, punching his clenched fist into the air, in an uncanny resemblance of the Bavarian corporal rousing his faithful with "Seig Heil! Seig Heil!" (English: "Hail victory! Hail victory!"). Screeching away for all his high octave's worth at the massive turnout - we have to resort to imagination here, state television cameras seldom pan to a shot of the actual size of the gathering - he lambasts the "quality" and "inexperience" of the opposition party candidates.

Maybe he's not aware that his master is leading a batch of anal neophytes at Ang Mo Kio (pun intended, they include the colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon). The most seasoned of the lot actually led his team into the wrong entrance at the nomination center, and had to double back. When a reporter asked why they took so long to finally emerge, the lame leader coughed up something goofy about "making sure of dotting the i's and t's".

It would have been useful if Chan had addressed, and perhaps taken pot shots at, some of the innovative proposals from the alternate voices. The Workers' Party's idea of a 10-year "through train" to do away with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is surely worth a few rounds of robust debate. But no, their preferred weapons of destruction seem to be the usual fifty shades of character assassination. The horrible person would have approved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Painted Target On His Back

Wow, if looks could kill, Chee Soon Juan would be a dead man by now. It is not exactly clear what set off Lawrence Wong, but it was written all over his face and body language - pugnacity, rambunctiousness, belligerence - all in glorious full high definition (FHD). Justification enough to invest in a television set that supports the new DVB-T2 digital broadcast standard.

Apparently it had something to do with what the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief had said earlier in the day about "moving forward" and "constructive politics". Wong dug up history from 1996 ("when I was just stating work in the civil service") about how a select committee determined data submitted was false and Chee was charged for lying in public, and demanded an apology. Chee admitted that way back then his party was the only one who took the government to task over medical subsidy, and added even George Yeo, as health minister, "repeatedly" had apologized for some facts that the government gotten wrong there.

Chee tried to enlighten the rookie politician and instant noodle minister (add hot water and wait 2 minutes) about political discourse in pre-internet and pre-social media days. Unfortunately, the moderator had to cut him off - opposition members on the panel are allotted half the speaking time given to the incumbents.

The key difference in information dissemination is referenced when Chee issued a challenge to George Yeo to an online debate in 2009:
"You will note that the active censorship of the mass media prevents the news and views of the SDP reaching the mainstream public. The little information that reaches Singaporeans about my party is often biased and inaccurate. Your party, on the other hand, is always positively portrayed.
The Internet offers no such refuge. It is a greater leveler of information flow. In this medium, the SDP's views are transmitted accurately, as are yours. We are judged by readers on the merits of our arguments - not by how the Singapore Press Holdings spins and adulterates the information."

Other opposition members on the panel suggested this election should be about the future, no more grandfather stories about the past 50 years, please. Even they must have had enough of grainy footage in sepia filmed during the time when the agitated minister was not yet born.
All not so quiet on the western front


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Today Is Nomination Day

It is Nomination Day today (Sept 1), the day when official campaigning is permitted by law to start: "Candidates can start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of the day before Polling Day (which is the Cooling-Off Day)." Expect your television screens to be flooded by more archived images of the "founding father" a.k.a. the horrible person.

Institute of Policy Studies’ Gillian Koh expects the ruling party to campaign on the “foundational” pillar of good governance. Another academic from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Political Science said that while numbers can be trotted out to show there have been improvements since the 2011 GE — such as more flats constructed, reduced inflow of foreign workers — it is harder to convince people over “intangibles” such as one’s sense of job security, and the perception of being squeezed out by foreigners.

It is easier to spot the tangibles, such as when residents at Pasir Ris ONE discovered that the corridors were only 1.2m wide, the bare minimum required under the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) rules. No one has yet come forth to accuse the developers, SingHaiyi Group and Kay Lim Holdings, of grossly profiteering from the BCA loophole. Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who helms the BCA, is unlikely to order a probe into their books.

It is also difficult to prove that the mother of all issues, liberal immigration policies, is the root cause of lost jobs, transportation woes and unaffordable housing. Opposition members in parliament may question what accounts for the drastic fall in job growth from 28,300 jobs in Q1 2014 and 40,700 jobs in Q4 2014 to just 300 jobs in Q1 2015, but transparent answers may not be forthcoming. It is cold comfort that the union leader turned Manpower Minister, Lim Swee Say, declared aloud in parliament, "Our aim is to moderate the inflow of foreign manpower, at a pace that we can accommodate." In other words, the onerous strain in infrastructure which we have been putting up with, is here to stay. That's the stark future for the next generation, if the incumbents are allowed to have their pace of governance.

Monday, August 31, 2015

When Viswa Met Catherine

Everybody knows Meg Ryan was faking it in "When Sally Met Harry". But there's nothing fake about the frank exchange of views in this Inconvenient Questions video . Viswa Sadasivan, a veteran news and current affairs presenter and former Nominated Member of the Singapore Parliament, was really upset when he asked Catherine about people who are capable of engaging the government for the greater good of Singapore but abdicating the responsibility (at 16:42 or thereabouts).

He calls it "intellectual hypocrisy". Not willing to go out on a limb but wanting others to fight the battle. Even for the doyenne of Singapore writers, that choice of phrase was a very strong outburst. Her own anecdote was about a "highly educated" friend who said she had to vote for the ruling party because her son-in-law was due for a promotion. Her prognosis is that the "very compliant" older generation is about to be replaced by a more vocal young. It is no longer convenient to hide behind the veneer of fear.

Only a few know that the bogey of the serialised ballot paper was invented by the Barisan Socialis, who tried to frighten the masses from voting in the "rigged" referendum of 1 September 1962. Unfortunately for them, spoilt/blank votes were counted as Option A - actually all the three options, A, B or C, were for merger. The self censorship is still working, and the incumbents are still benefiting from the unwarranted fears.

The orgasmic moment in the interesting dialogue is not the mention about Amos Yee being interviewed by CNN last week (not BBC). Near the end, time for broaching the inconvenient question, the author is asked if Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese prime minister. Citing "the sincerity that gets across", Tharman gets her full hearted and full throated endorsement. Okay, that should explain why the present one is still fighting hard "to earn your trust and support."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gross Profiteering

Poor Ng Eng Hen, nobody seems to heed his no-negative-campaigning directive. Teo Chee Hean bared his fangs at a fair damsel just because she paid compliments to the Fengshan hawkerfare. Goh Chok Tong upped the ante with his version of Sun Xu's "more dogs than humans in Singapore" tirade; the fossilised has-been lambasted citizenry who "chase after bits of meat thrown by the opposition."

Looming ahead is a potential rehash of the bak chor mee saga of general election 2006. The podcast classic poked fun at the ruling party’s incessant demonising of Workers' Party (WP) candidate James Gomez, for botching up his submission of election forms. The mainstream media devoted pages and pages to what amounted to a laughable "sorry also must apologize" crusade. Then some disconnected individual thought he could hire Jack Neo to produce a “mee siam mai hum” variant in retaliation, and the rest is history.

The politicized Ministry of National Development (MND) statement about the former managing agent for Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) “grossly profiteering” from services rendered is insidious on its own, but the enlightening response cuts to the chase:
"With regard to paragraphs 3 to 5 of your letter, we wish to highlight that arrangements between FMSS and its employees are entirely commercial and not within the control of AHPETC.  I am not aware of the matters you have highlighted therein, as AHPETC does not ask its contractors about their profitability or internal arrangements.  We emphasise that AHPETC has ensured that payments made to FMSS are in line with and within the budget provided under the tender awarded.

In any case, it is misleading and unfair to compare MA rates charged by FMSS with MAs of other town councils under the People’s Action Party (PAP), since their MAs did not submit a single bid for our public tender for MA services in 2012.  FMSS’ bid for MA services in 2012 was assessed, using the former rates charged by CPG Facilities Management for the PAP-managed Aljunied TC as a baseline.  It is also ambiguous as to what the Ministry means by an “abnormal” profit margin, when it is not clear what the other MAs’ levels of profit are in other town councils."

What is not ambiguous is that citizens' contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) have a return of 2.5% while the appointed investment houses regularly trumpet Total Shareholder Return (TSR) has been 16% since inception. Perhaps MND should share their thoughts on this mode of “gross profiteering”.

Tharman provided respite to the furor when he gave assurance that the AHPETC issue is not treated as "political game", nor "aimed at putting the WP down":
"When I speak about an issue, it's because I'm worried and I want to make sure we have responsible and honest politics in Singapore, that's all."

So do we, Mr Deputy Prime Minister, we are all on the same page for responsible and honest politics. How about having a quiet chat with the minister who is hiding behind the poison pen of the MND official?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

No Personal Animosity Intended

Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam claims that his key points made at a Singapore Press Club forum on Thursday (Aug 27) were:
1) The Chinese leadership in various local areas in Malaysia want to maintain control over the Chinese population;
2) At the same time, many mainstream schools in Malaysia are becoming more Malay and Islamic which discourages the Chinese from going into those schools.;
3) So you end up with having more Malays going to mainstream schools, and more Chinese going to Chinese schools.

That's the kind of racist commentary that upset sensitive types and got Singapore tufted out of Malaysia.

When Sangeetha Thanapal ("independent scholar and social media activist engaged in anti-racism work in Singapore") took offence at the interference of a neighbouring country's domestic politics, the Indian law minister's initial approach was civil and statesman-like, the type of classy response that makes you wonder why one racist said Singapore is not ready for an Indian prime minister:
"Dear Madam, I hold no personal animosity towards you. Will be happy to speak with you."

The meeting of the minds - Sangeetha thanked him for offering to speak to her and provided her telephone  number so he can call her on Saturday for an appointment - will never take place. We are disregarding spousal objection to the out-of-office rendezvous here. Higher powers must have intervened, and now we have an oddity of a law minister intending to file a police report over the Facebook post which has been deleted:
"Who are you, an Indian, to be deciding what is that acceptable enough way to be Malay-Muslim?"

Whoa! What happened? Can the spirit of a dead horrible person reach out from Hades to possess the living (鬼上生)? Somebody or someone has to be putting words into the peace-loving animal-lover type politician:
“(The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew) foresaw these things, which is why he kept talking about such issues. And, each time he talked about those issues, every generation which was not his generation tended to be dismissive. ‘Here goes old man again trying to scare us.’”

The scary part is that this could be a cockamany election tactic to move the populace to rally around the flag when missiles (figurative! figurative!) from Malaysia start flying across the Causeway. If that's the game plan, someone will be sorely disappointed. The more likely outcome is that risk adverse fence sitters will finally realize the rabble rousers are from within, and that the time for alternate leadership is long overdue.
30 Aug update: Shanmugam has decided not to file a police report after all

Friday, August 28, 2015

Price Of Honesty

The practitioner on the art of seduction
The question from the floor at a National Day Rally public forum organised by government feedback arm REACH (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home) was about the justification for the stupendous Member of Parliament (MP) allowance, which stands at $192,500 annually. Vivian Balakrishnan's response that no politician will work without financial incentives speaks volumes about his, and his party's, motivations.

General Nguyễn Cao Kỳ once confessed that everyman has his price, and his was an American helicopter. It came in useful during the fall of Saigon, he piloted himself to safety on one of the aircraft carriers positioned offshore for the evacuation. The question unasked was what is Balakrishnan's price.

His insinuation blemished the memory Lim Kim San who demurred compensation to take on the challenge of housing the masses. For one who sits shakily on a moral high horse, he should pay more attention to his own words:
“It’s not making me popular, but I will insist on honesty … on declaration of conflicts of interest … on declarations of related party transactions. I will insist that ... if you’ve cheated before, come clean.”

This coming from one who has yet to account for the $79.8 million buried in the books as "Other costs" in an inflated blowout of $387 million. Every project budget has an element of contingency allowance, typically about 5 - 10%, but $78.9 million should raise eyebrows, and warrant investigations of shady dealings like, say, related party transactions. Facebook user Ghazali was arrested for questioning the increase in the YOG budget because he wished figuratively to "burn Vivian Balakrishnan and the PAP" and "rally together and vote them out". The Minister's comment?
"I didn't know about it until I read about it in the papers. It shows that I almost didn't care."

We should care. It's our money, and we are not even referring to the plunder of the Central Provident Fund. Honesty is not restricted to money matters, it's synonyms are integrity, probity, and rectitude.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paying The Price

New faces on the block
According to official spiel, this general election is supposed to decide on the team which will set the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years. Yet only 9 days - the minimum period under current election laws - is set aside for the electorate to vet the new players. This looks more like speed dating on steroids.

While the alternate voices - a better term than the derisive opposition label - struggle for a seat in parliament to represent our wishes for a better future, the incumbents have a string of hangers on lined up to ride coat-tails into office. A quick survey of the day jobs they are jettisoning in favour of entering politics suggests that monetary reward has to be a prime motivator:
  • former Syariah Court deputy registrar Rahayu Mahzam, 35
  • deputy director at a polytechnic, Darryl David, 44
  • assistant general manager at some child care outfit, Joan Pereira, 47
  • foreign exchange research head at a Malaysia bank, Saktiandi Supaat, 41
  • corporate lawyer - please, not another overcharging Alvin Yeo - Amrin Amin, 36
  • an animal activist, Louis Ng, 37
Even a former Assistant Commissioner of Police can expect a hefty hike in take home pay. As for the executive director of a homegrown investment, trading and management consulting firm, the game changer has to be "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

Goh Chok Tong begs to  differ, he is saying the electorate are the ones being seduced. In his equivalent of the horrible person's call for repentence, he admonishes:
"And if the (Marine Parade) people are not careful, they will be seduced... they will pay a price."

Goh has a curious choice in turn of phrase, accusing the alternate parties of "looking for plunder". Another $3 billion has just been announced to seduce the senior citizen's vote, on top of the Pioneer Generation Package goodies. Coming in at a time when industrial output has shrunk for 6 months in a row - with potential to drag the economy into technical recession - one has to ask where the money is coming from. Ask nicely, not the way Chee Soon Juan once did:
"Mr Goh! Mr Goh! Come here Mr Goh! I want to talk with you, come here! Where is our money Mr Goh? You can run, but you cannot hide."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Day Of Infamy

It's the final pork barrel giveaway - an extra day off. Never mind about the loss of productive man-hours, the incumbents are still relying on the easier method of productivity growth, shipping in more foreigners. Besides, Friday starts with a "F", as in "Fifty", used ad nauseam to mark the golden jubilee, although some may associate it with an unprintable four letter word.

Punters were placing their bets on September 12, since the last general elections of 2011, 2006 and 2001 were all held on a Saturday. September 11 is, and always be, remembered as a day of infamy. That was the day a powerful nation woke up to the danger of a foreign threat. Our own version of 911 happens to mark the first election since Independence without the horrible person making his ominous presence felt at a nomination center.

His image, however, is still being milked to the hilt by the mainstream media. That, and scary archival footage of falling bombs when the Brits were having their butts kicked during WWII. Goh Keng Swee was on duty with the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (SSVF), assigned to the "Battle Box" (an underground signals centre) at Fort Canning, when the air raid sirens sounded. Another volunteer was Edward William (EW) Barker, member of the Machine-Gun Company, comprised mostly of Eurasians. The infantry E Company was filled by Chinese recruits, while the Armoured Company manned by Europeans. There were about 2,000 men in the SSVF. ("Goh Keng Swee, A Portrait", by Tan Siok Sun, page 41)

Most of them are dead, many probably killed in battle repelling the invaders. Not for them the honours that were bestowed by the daft on two wartime collaborators, or richly rewarded with princely appointments. 911 is a reminder of unsung heroes, not fictitious champions of our down trodden. The tragedy that will unfold on Black Friday is that more will have to repent before true democracy can prevail on this island.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Same Old, Same Old

The Elections Department (ELD) is tweaking the rules again, raising maximum spending limit from $3.50 to $4.00 per voter, tilting the "level playing" field to political parties with deeper pockets. Other changes include new ballot papers featuring candidates' mugshots "to help the elderly identify the candidates". Since we only get to see these guys face to face once in fifty five years, we won't know the purity of their hearts from a brief encounter. What they should include is an accompanying short quote reflective of their true colours:


"If you’re lazy and work less, you’ll have less Medisave" - Khaw Boon Wan
"Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are." - Goh Chok Tong on Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places

"A manpower policy that advocates hiring "Singaporeans first" will not benefit the economy in the long term" - Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor
"We (also) need to reflect, are we the way they described?" - Bay Yam Keng on Sun Xu's "more dogs than humans in Singapore"
"However, it may not be wise to call for the tradeoffs to be tilted further to an extent that it dissuades good people from coming forward in future” - Grace Fu on ministerial pay cut
"Some cardboard collectors treat it (collection of cardboards) as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home" - Tan Chuan Jin
"Well, everybody has a car, we have two — my wife drives one, I drive one. We are both professionals, we need to travel" - Koh Poh Koon on car ownership
"...I regret making the decision because, in the end, the baby continued to be in intensive care, and KKH now runs up a total bill of more than $300,000..."- Lim Hng Kiang on regretting the decision to save a baby's life.
"If we spent 387 million dollars, will we get value from that expenditure? In my mind, the answer... is yes." - Vivian Balakrishnan on YOG budget blowout
"Whether a participant perished or survived depended on where he or she happened to be at the time." Heng Swee Kiat on why 12 year olds died on Mt Kinabalu

Monday, August 24, 2015

Please Let Them Go

You know the National Day Rally Speech (NDRS) has hit a new low when viewership has to be boosted with a "getai" introduction. Did anyone count how many times the horrible person's name was mentioned? Crooner Kit Chan should have chosen another tune from the Disney blockbuster, "Frozen". You know, the one with the chorus line that goes, "let it go, let it go, let it gooooo........"

You really have to think twice if you were planning to buy a second hand car from this guy - who also professed to a second career as a housing agent - when he says his best performing ministers are Vivian Balakrishnan and Lim Swee Say. If someone opened a window, the audience should able to get a whiff of the free smoke from Indonesia. Wait, it gets betterrer, even the Kate Spate fetish gets a mention. Maybe it was just a distraction so someone can swipe the toothpicks. How come Deputy Prime Minister Tharman did not warrant a mention? Latter had arguably produced the best soundbite in 50 years, about the provision of a trampoline instead of a safety net so Ah Kong can bounce back to collecting cardboard boxes till age 65, that's upped to 67 by 2017. And if we are to believe Tan Chuan-Jin, it's a healthy exercise to keep active, instead of wasting time doting on grandchildren.

After the litany of pork barrel giveaways - Special CPF Housing Grants, New Fresh Start Housing Grant, New Proximity Housing Grant, Higher Medisave Grant for newborn, etc - he still has to make sure the daft knows what the speech is all about:
"...if you support what we want to do ahead, the future that we are building, the please support me, please support my team."

Notice there's no discussion about a workforce decimated to two thirds "core Singaporean", whether the outing Transport Minister's promise of a fare reduction will be kept, and how hard the Medishield Life premium will be hitting us - except the neat reminder that the premiums will start when a baby takes his first breath. Mahathir was roundly trashed for saying certain folks were provided for from cradle to grave. Last night there was clapping for being taxed from the womb to the tomb.
Warning: The expiry date has just been extended

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sorry, Mr President

"Teach less, learn more" has to be the ultimate oxymoron. The idiots who implemented the policy in 2005 cut up to 20 percent of content in the syllabuses at primary, secondary and pre-university levels. Thanks the trimming of knowledge base, we now have senior civil servants who  can't spell the name of Singapore's first President correctly.

Ravi Menon, managing director of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), may own up to the embarrassing gaffe, but he had a whole staff who must have had half a chance to proof read the booklet which accompanied the issue of the SG50 commemorative notes.
"This should never have happened, is not acceptable, and I take full responsibility. I apologise on behalf of my colleagues who worked hard to prepare the notes and folders but are deeply disappointed that we made this most unfortunate mistake. We will put this right."

The education system has to be blamed if officers at that level (read income tax bracket) are so careless, and disrespectful of our history. According to Heng Swee Keat, the systematic reduction "include content that relies on recall or focuses on technical details not critical to students' understanding". Thanks to the debasement of instant recall, "Yusof" was spelled "Yusok". Instant recall would have prevented the other gaffe of cockles being mistaken as an ingredient in mee-siam.

And the Education Minister wants to cut school content further - and pay the teachers 5 to 9% more for the exorcism - this time purportedly to focus on critical learning. Asked by Fareed Zakaria about encouraging creativity, Tharman Shanmugaratnam said, "The toughest question to ask ourselves... is not what we add to the education system, but what we subtract." Indiscriminate use of the scissors can only lead to a sanitised version of our past, and mislead a whole future generation that only one name needs to be remembered. And spelled correctly.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Story Of Singapore

The story of Tanjong Pagar is the story of Singapore, so sang Chan Chun Sing. But when one reporter asked who will be taking over the horrible person's Tanjong Pagar division, the ex-major general said that will be decided after the election. The reticence is understandable, given that this is the season of the roaming hungry ghost, no one is prepared to walk in any dead man's shoes. Meanwhile, invoking his name in every political spiel seems to be the order of the day.

It is ironic that Tharman Shanmugaratnam should ask us not to judge politicians on their soundbites or soaring rhetoric, but on their "mundane, unexciting" contributions on the ground. He, who offered up the trampoline instead of a safety net for those who are falling through the cracks, knows too well the right word will immortalise or bury the speaker. Nobody wants this engraved on his or her tombstone:
"(For example,) you go to Peach Garden, you eat the S$10 XO Sauce chye tow kuay (fried carrot cake), you can be quite happy right? Because you are satisfied with the service and so on. On the other hand, you can go to a hawker centre, even if they charge you S$1.50, you might not want to eat it if the quality is not good."

We worry not about this type of entertaining contribution, but the "mundane, unexciting" policy making that is hell bent on ramming up the population target to 6.9 million and beyond. The taciturn Liu Thai Ker is even more tenacious, "Forget seven million. Think ten million people, if you want this city-state to succeed."

Like the parable of the frog in the simmering kettle whose survival instincts are geared only towards detecting sudden changes, Singaporeans only woke up when foreigners have snapped up their houses, jobs, and seats on the public transportation system. A few years back, when Mah Bow Tan was still minister, a well connected civil servant expressed surprise that Mah unwittingly exposed the (then) 5 million population target. It was their closely guarded secret. Yesterday Lim Swee Say revealed another well kept secret: two-thirds Singaporean core a firm target.

One who was intimately involved in quietly turning up the heat is Sim Ann, who worked in the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD)  under the Home Affairs minister. You won't find her name in the unsigned Population White Paper (PWP). Given the mike at a dialogue organised by the National University of Singapore Society, she shredded her unexciting persona to take a vicious bite, casting aspersions about money lost in accounting lapses ("But in the case of AHPETC, I’m not too sure,”):
“I wish that more answers had been forthcoming from AHPETC. Then I think we would have wasted much less time on the issue and I think the population would be much the wiser.”

For folks who profess preference for "mundane, unexciting" undertakings, that has to be stirring up an hornets' nest. The population is much the wiser, and the incumbents face a Herculean task in attempting to stuff the rot back into Pandora's box.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tall Tales


It's the kind of one upmanship that is best suited for a men's locker room. Seriously, comparing lengths at a public kopi-tiam?

Former public servant Joan Pereira started it off by boasting about her record length of grassroots service: "My 25 years of grassroots experience has impressed on me the importance of anticipating and meeting needs of residents."

What she did not anticipate was the delicate ego of her male colleague, who countered with "police officer for 20 years, grassroots volunteer for 30 years." Born in the 1970s, that would make Melvin Yong the youngest political activist at age 13. Pereira started official party work in May, she has been seen walking the ground with Indranee Rajah since last year. When it comes to political truths, the mileage will vary.

And you thought you heard everything when the anal doctor Koh Poh Koon claimed that he and his medical graduate wife only had $11.50 in their bank accounts when they shifted into their HDB flat. You know the incumbent party must have scraped the bottom of the barrel, and now resorting to the terminus of the alimentary canal, to recruit such running mates.

Even the mainstream media contributed, writing that Yong's last day of work with the Police was on Sunday, Aug 16, a public holiday. Unfortunately for the hard working Assistant Commissioner of Police, Yong was spotted at Tanjong Pagar GRC mingling with residents at a walkabout organised by the People's Action Party (PAP). Which is in blatant breach of the Code of Conduct published by the Public Service Division (PSD) to remind civil servants they should be “completely neutral in all political matters and matters of public controversy".

Forget about filing a police report. Parts of Tanjong Pagar GRC came under his watch as Commander of Clementi Police Division from 2010 to 2014. His band of brothers in that ward will ship you so fast to the Institute of Mental Health for a medical review that you won't know what hit you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Putting The House In Order

Tharman Shamugaratnam referred to the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) accounts as "a house in danger of collapsing" even though the town council has tightened financial and accounting procedures in the aftermath of the Auditor-General's Office (AGO)'s observations. He took particular delight in reiterating the AGO observations on administration of grants, tendering and management of revenue contracts and related party transactions.

Over at another construction site, People's Association (PA) deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said his house is not at risk of collapse, "We've learnt from findings of the AGO and will improve to do better." Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Lina Chiam reminded him that the AGO had discovered only in 2012 that Lim's PA had excluded grassroots organisations' accounts from their financial statements for umpteen years. Exclusions that, no doubt, allowed profligates like the Admiralty Citizen's Consultative Committee (CCC) chairman to approve his personal expense claims of $114,767 without much hassle. That figure includes 3 missing receipts totalling $56,050 for "workplan retreats". With Lim not enlightening us further with details, one can only guess the partying that can be hosted for that kind of money. No champion of transparency himself, Lim did not name Tonic Oh as the toxic philanderer. The distinguish holder of the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) was outed by social media.

Abusing monetary grants received by PA was just what Chiam called the "tip of the iceberg". The other lapses include related party transcations and mismanagement of revenue contracts, abhorrent transgressions itemised by Tharman in glee. Even if there is no evidence of fraud or corrupt intent, an errant  officer may face serious disciplined action, including being barred from promotion for a few years, Tharman said. The quick and dirty alternative is to resign, and sweep everything under the carpet.

The big bad wolf huffed and puffed at the piggies' houses, but we know only the one made of bricks withstood the blasts. Those resorting to straw - and inclined to invoking straw man arguments - will be witnessing their own collapse pretty soon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

One Nation, Two Standards

The Speaker of the House is an important appointment, the second most powerful after the prime minister. Halimah Jacob has no excuse not to know the rules and regulations. Although she outranks the President, that doesn't mean she can start campaigning for votes before a writ of election addressed to the returning officer has been issued:
Candidates can only mount election campaigns from after the close of nomination up to the day before the eve of polling day. No campaigning is permitted on the eve of polling day itself, which is known as "cooling-off day".

The packet of rice she's caught handling out to residents in rental flats at Marsiling Road may not be haram, but pork barrel politics definitely is. With or without a SG50 sticker.

Problem is, the tudung clad member tends to make her own rules. Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Eugene Tan thought he was just doing his job when he pointed out to the Speaker in the nick of time that quorum was not met when two bills were about to be passed in parliament. Leader of the House Ng Eng Hen managed to save the day by asking for an adjournment instead of summoning the MPs back into the Chamber.

Tan had made it well known - online, offline and maybe kopi-tiam circuit - that he was seeking another term as NMP. He was not chosen. Chairman of the Special Select Committee of Parliament Halimah Yacob explained:
"We looked for eligible candidates who had distinguished themselves through their contributions to society or to their respective field, and who could bring their specialised knowledge to add to the depth and breadth of debates in Parliament."

Future generation leader hopeful Lawrence Wong is not about to distinguish himself by saying anything to make her look "malu" (Malay for saving her half covered face). In the immortal words of Robin Williams in "Good Morning Vietnam", "This will not look good on my resume."

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Looming Clash Of Egos

Earlier this month (4 August), Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, 74, was pondering (on Facebook) whether to run in the sweepstakes. Friends asked him to call it a day, while he also claimed some Marine Parade residents had urged him to stay on. No spring chicken, this stuffy dinosaur is way past his expiry date. He promised to explain his decision at at the Marine Parade National Day dinner on the 14th this instant.

Come Friday evening, he admitted he had contemplated retirement. But even the ex-prime minister was not captain of his own fate. A few days before on Wednesday, we are told he met with the standing prime minister and "We had a long chat." Obviously stepping aside for young blood was not on the menu, all the talk about transition to the fourth generation was grist for the mill. More likely, too many stalwarts have been jumping ship, and even an old goat going off the pasture will be saying volumes about someone's persuasive prowess. Especially when a ex-naval chief had dared to say no to his commanding officer.

Goh understood he was supposed to lead the team as an elder.

Next day, on the 15th,  Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin made it crystal clear that he will be the anchor minister at Marine Parade GRC. Tan said this means he will be “playing a leading role” within the team. As for Goh's personal perspective, “We will continue leveraging on his experience."

“One Mountain Cannot Contain Two Tigers” (一山不能藏二虎) literally means that in an area, there cannot be two very strong personalities vying for the leadership role. But Tan need not fret, in an open confrontation, Goh can be a real pussy cat. When the horrible person once described him as "wooden" and said that he might have to see a psychiatrist about it, Goh merely meowed:
"It did not hurt...I knew Mr Lee well. He's not a man to slam you for nothing. He was never personal. So I did not feel he wanted to insult me...He had his purpose in saying what he said. I think he was disappointed with me for my inability to mobilise the ground. So he wanted to get me to do something about it."

Goh added, "I knew myself. I was a block of wood. So? It was the truth."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A House In Disarray

You know this election is not exactly running according to script when the big guns seem to contradict each other.

At the "Singapore at 50: What lies ahead?" dialogue with American journalist and author Fareed Zakaria in July, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam had reiterated that Singapore is in a fortunate situation “where there is a great deal of trust and confidence” in the current leadership and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 63. “Fortunately, he is very healthy. And we have, very importantly in the wings, a group of younger people.”

That explains the colour choice of his shirts, to assure his supporters he is indeed in the pink of heath.

But in an interview with the media on 14 Aug, DPM Teo Chee Hean tells Singaporeans not to take things for granted:
“The Prime Minister is already 63, and had a bout of illness recently. Many of the senior members of the Cabinet are already in our 60s, and come the next General Election a good many of us will be in our 60s.”

As for Ng Eng Hen's advisory about negative campaigning, Teo seems to relish wallowing in the mud. First he derided Low Thia Khiang for shedding "crocodile tears" over the quixotic departure of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, next he lampooned Sylvia Lim for sampling the culinary delights at Fengshan Hawker Center:
"You're going to swallow up Fengshan for what purpose? To serve the residents of Fengshan? Or is Fengshan delicious because you want to add it into the  pot to help the town council with the deficit?"

Ad-hominem attacks are, and has always been, par for the course with the men in white. Leopards do not change their spots overnight. The horrible person has taught them well.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) seems to have problems with enforcing their own advisory as well: trying to keep election campaigning activities and the Chinese Seventh Month Hungry Ghost Festival events separate. Ghostly images of a dead politician should "strictly not be allowed before, during or after election rallies."
 "... even if you put me in an urn and
I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Their Dream Team

Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC Ellen Lee has been given the boot to make way for new candidate Amrin Amin and former Aljunied GRC candidate Ong Ye Kung. The lady voters may not take this too kindly, after all the lip service about dearth of women in politics.

The acronym FILTH is for Failed In London, Try Hongkong. But after the puritanical Communists took over, even filth decided to move on. Ong's case is a matter of Failed In Aljunied Try again, anywhere, even in Sembawang. FIAT is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort", as in getting into parliament effortlessly through a GRC.

Those who get to stay in the national lottery, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan, Vikram Nair and Lim Wee Kiak, are not exactly crowd pleasers. For starters, senior citizens who have been dumped in Johore have Khaw to thank:
"The monthly cost of keeping a resident in a private nursing home in Singapore, you can stretch it easily to pay at least 2-1/2 months of nursing home care in Johor Baru."

Vikram Nair showboated his fearlessness by drinking water from a storage tank fortified by the floating body of a dead Indonesian maid. But the poison was on his tongue when he likened Worker’s Party (WP) MP Chen Show Mao's proposals, for the 2012 Budget to do more for vulnerable groups, to a Nigerian scam:
"Maybe even the Nigerian scheme required you to put $10,000 upfront. But Mr Chen's scheme does not even require a short-term provision. It is not even a deficit for one year. No, no, no. It will pay for itself because it is an investment."

Lim Wee Kiak is the joker in the pack that makes you wonder what is in the drink when these guys were invited to tea at the Istana:
“If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discusses policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.”
- May 2011, on debate on ministerial salaries;

“I will quote (from your speech then) one more time. And maybe your hearing aid has to be (turned) up a little bit.”
- Feb 2013, on Workers’ Party’s chief Low Thia Khiang's remarks being taken out of context;

“What you realise from this survey is that majority are not asking them (PRs) to serve exactly the same two years system. In fact, serving the two years is a privilege. I am quite glad that many Singaporeans realised that and that should be a privilege that belongs to Singaporeans.”
- Oct 2013, on doing National Service as a privilege;

“If they didn’t have information, they should just say they have no information, rather than come up with a lot of theories. When they do this, people will think they already have some information.”
- Apr 2014, on Malaysian authorities' handling of the MH370 case.

Teo Chee Hean is thinking aloud that "Singaporeans should do what we can to strengthen that (PAP) team and not weaken it." What do you think?

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Heat Is On

Not one for mincing words, Mahathir said Najib's tall tale of a Middle East donor is pure bull. We have our own load of crap on his side of the Causeway too, specifically in the Bishan-Toa Payoh surrounds.

Playing mother hen, Ng Eng Hen is leading three greenhorns into parliament via the GRC backdoor, spouting platitudes like:
"look out for residents" - Chong Kee Hiong
"inclusive society is critical" - Chee Hong tat
"contribute to S'pore dream" - Saktiandi Bin Supaat

There's good reason why the chicken crossed the good: the pay over there is better. Jack Neo nailed it with "Money No Enough". Even the superscaled salaried permanent secretary is aiming for the million dollar lottery prize. He claims his wife had reservations, but Ngiam Tong Dow begs to differ:
“When you raise ministers’ salaries to the point that they’re earning millions of dollar, every minister — no matter how much he wants to turn up and tell Hsien Loong off or whatever — will hesitate when he thinks of his million-dollar salary. Even if he wants to do it, his wife will stop him.”

We have seen freshly minted ministers looking out for cardboard collectors with rose-tinted glasses, championing influx of foreigners into the local workforce, and dreaming of the Swiss standard attainable only by the likes of Goh Chok Tong and his cohorts.

The original headline for the ChannelNews Asia post was "All three hot-button issues in the last General Election in 2011 are still on minds of Singaporeans". That was quickly toned down to "Housing, jobs and healthcare weigh heaviest on minds of Singaporeans, survey finds". The heat is still on.

In the land of America, only a competent democratically elected president will make it to term two. Here in lah-lah land, an incompetent after 7 terms, is still asking for more time to address the same three heated issues: Housing, Jobs and Healthcare. By the time a new entrant to the workforce - fighting tooth and nail to stave off foreigners imported to compete for the same job opportunity - finally pays off the last mortgage due, he/she is already in her fifties, staring at a depleted bank account to cope with retirement needs. Based on current estimates, the Medishield Life premium will be at least $1,400. And the dream of car ownership will start at about $100,000, the price of the smallest public housing flat unit.

Hard to believe, but it's currently on your television screens. Fancy powerpoint slides and crafted statistics about Housing, Jobs and Healthcare. Parliament has yet to be dissolved and the writ of election yet to be issued, but campaigning is already in earnest. How is it Lee-gal and Lee-gitimate to misuse public media for selfish party agenda?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Unfinished Business

Last chance to show Wong can sing.
Singapore's then Minister Mentor (MM) said in an April 2008 email interview that the daring escape of Mas Selamat Kastari from the notorious Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC) on 27 February was a "very severe lesson in complacency". MM Lee said the country's security officers knew that fugitive Mas Selamat was "an escape artist", who had evaded arrest many times. "When you are complacent in handling a wily detainee, then you have been negligent," he concluded.

Mas Selamat was captured by Malaysian police during a raid on a house in Kampung Tawaka, Skudai, on 1 April 2009. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told Parliament on October 2010 that Mas Selamat "has not given a completely reliable account" of how he evaded being discovered even as a nationwide manhunt was launched to find him, as well as how he made his way to Malaysia. The nation remembers being informed earlier of another incomplete account, that either Mas Selamat was in Singapore, or he was not in Singapore.

Even as Wong, 68, announced yesterday he would not be contesting in the imminent General Election of 2015, many questions about the jailhouse breakout that would forever be associated with his complacency and negligence, are still not answered. Questions like who's bank account the $1 million bounty for information leading to the apprehension of Mas Selamat was deposited into. Or if the two individuals who made the offer ever paid up.

"I've walked through this long journey, more than three-quarters of my working life," Wong told adoring fans at his swansong. "Don't you think I deserve a rest?" Like the albatross weighing down on the seafarer in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Wong must have been burdened by the stigma of the Mas Selamat saga. Just as another jailbird, Amos Yee, will be the curse on the last politician standing from his batch of 1984.
"Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony."