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AN OPEN LETTER TO DR TAN CHENG BOCK

Dear Dr Tan 

It has been four months since the 28 July, SDP-initiated discussion to form a new opposition coalition. But there appears to be no progress since. If our past is prologue, the formation of any alliance is dead in the water. The 2001 Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) made no meaningful headway with only Mr Chiam See Tong retaining his pre-SDA Potong Pasir seat while SDA’s chairman Desmond Lim set the “record for the lowest percentage garnered in an election since Singapore’s independence” or 168 votes (0.57%)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Democratic_Alliance

There’s already a very well-written analysis of why the “coalition of convenience will not make minor opposition parties electable”. https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2018/08/15/coalition-of-convenience-will-not-make-minor-opposition-parties-electable/ 

I would like to add my observations.

Everyone wants to be secretary-general

…and not necessarily in the better interest of Singaporeans or the opposition cause. It’s mostly just to have a frontseat at the table. My GE2015 experiene suggested to me that most opposition parties have less than 100 members each and even lesser than 20 who are active.

 Consider; and one must wonder why, after being graciously accepted in April 2011 to contest under SDP in GE 2011 in May, some candidates would then decide to quit SDP to form anothernew political party. Or, what is one to make of another secretary-general-wannabe pledging “total commitment to the coalition” when there was no evidence of he ever seeking to work within existing, alternative parties? Instead he hastily formed another party after resigning from one.

Fence-sitting voters, prepared to give the opposition a chance, are not that dumb not to see through the charade.

 Self over Cause?

Some had fought the opposition cause for many elections. Now, they appear to think that voters owe it to them to elect them into parliament – all because they had fought this long and paid a high personal price doing it. Persistence is neither reason nor justification to insist on taking leadership positions when the electorate has apparently made clear through the ballot box as many times that they just had not measured up to expectations – or came with too many historical baggage.

This is especially true if one cannot even secure 40% votes in a by-election. Yes, a by-election where voters are already “assured” of a PAP government and are more inclined to vote in an opposition MP! Isn’t it painfully clear why Bt Batok voters were so reluctant to tip that opposition candidate over into parliament when the understandable concern of a voting a non-PAP government was non-extant?

No, sir. Your time as party leader is up. Please, for Singapore’s sake, let your cause that you have invested in, outlast, outlive you. Thank you for your service. It’s past time that someone else takes the baton and you play a less glamorous but no-less vital supporting role – if you are truly vested in the good of Singaporeans and Singapore.

 Opposition Party? What Party?

The Workers’ Party and SDP excepted, many of the other opposition parties’ candidate-support structures were a joke compared to what they were up against i.e. the well-oiled, well-funded PAP monster election machinery. Many so-called opposition parties come with a sec-gen and just a handful of members (active? non-active?) that you can count on one, maybe two hands.

Therefore, in light of all the above realities, Dr Tan, you won’t be losing very much, if at all, not to head any coalition. You are wise to have withheld acceptance to lead a non-starter of a coalition. 

Now, what?

Unless the Workers Party is prepared to carve a role for you in the coalition or their party (very unlikely), you are much better off on your own, with a clean slate. Trying to insert yourself into the mishmash of opposition parties meansfinding the lowest common denominator amongst all the sec-gens – a hopeless proposition against the PAP’s overwhelmingly successful 12 x GE juggernaut. why not capitalize on the strength of your own name andreputation amongst voters? Choose a path forward – and if anyone wishes to ride with you, well, youand not those sec-gens decide the goal, direction and terms of theride.

The urgency and the goal is to create a focal point for the groundswell of voters questioning the competence of PAP’s current slate of leaders and the PAP’s old, albeit past successful policies (housing as assets, inadequacies of CPF for health and retirement, cost of living etc) which are nowshowing up but which the PAP continueto fudge and fortify, never admitting to being mistaken or wrong.Time is critical to draw in more voters on the peripheral into that groundswell.

Forget unitingthe opposition. Instead, Dr Tan, please seek to coalesce and unite the people’s anger, frustrations, cries, disbeliefs – and surely, the other opposition parties willfall in place – if they want to stay relevant toand true tothe cause of building a stronger, more inclusive Singapore. 

A broader common goal for all non-PAP forces is to deny the PAP their 2/3 pariliamentary majority. While the next GE objectiveis for you to win aGRC, if not two. If you are able to do that – and surely it can be done! – then with 3 to 10 MPs under youand together with WP and others, Singaporeans will see that the PAP can no longer run this place like it belongs to their party – or their father– like changing the Constitution to put their preferred Indian-Malay or Malay-Indian? candidate as President.

From gaining 1/3 of parliamentary seats, the momentum towards change will then be more doable. And, perhaps, an opposition alliance in the GE after the next will be a viable option, not a pipe dream. We owe it to Singaporeans to do that.

What’s next?

This is where our election history informs us.

Mr Chiam and Mr Low all won their parliamentary seats only after walking and working the grounds week-in, week-out. This is perhapsthe only proven way to win voters hearts and minds. No webcast, no newsletter, no FB posts can substitute for walking and working the ground in person. That’s the S$5000/- lesson I learnt in GE 2015.

Hence,the next step will be to identify the GRCs or SMCs to contest in. But we also know that the PAP are dirty – filthy actually – political practitioners, always ready to gerrymander to their advantage. That is a given that we will live with it. But if we go on the walkabouts single-mindedly, deliberately, regularly, humbly and gerrymandering occurs the next GE, voters will have another reason to carefully consider how they have been manipulated – and hence vote even more wisely.

Once the GRCs/SMCs are identified, the hard work begins.

And next?

You will need a competent and totally-committed campaign manager from the very start. He hasto give shape and sharpness to your campaign. He will have to plan, execute and also instill discipline to your team – the way the Ng Eng Hen did in GE2015. 

Suggestion

In your legal battle on the presidential election, you were right to decide to spend your own money to engage aQueen’s Counsel. But in your Facebook, I suggested that to bolster the psychological winds behind yourcause, you should nonetheless appeal to Singaporeans to contribute money to the legal effort. Butyou should guarantee that whatever money Singaporeans contribute will NOT be used to pay for your activities and instead given to charity. All contributions received will be professionally and transparently audited by an established auditor.

Imagine if you had raised S$100,000 from 100,000, 200,000 or moreSingaporeans then! That would send a message to the PAP – and to Singaporeans, too, wouldn’t it?

   

My 2cents’ worth of appeal and ideas can surely be refined and reinforced. But I sincerely hope you will give it your careful considerations. 

Sincerely,
LAW Kim Hwee

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SMRT CEO Neo: Stating A Fact To Hide A Truth

I do commend Neo Kian Hong’s decision to ditch his car and not buy a new one “because it is more useful for me to take the MRT to understand the issues and take our company’s assets like our taxis and buses”. Early in my corporate life, my MD introduced me to the concept of “management by walking/wandering around” (MBWA). And, along the way, I also learned “the map is not the territory”, which I used to remind myself that the data or information landing on my desk gave but a model of what was actually happening on the ground – which may or may not be the same thing.
Aside from the obvious criticisms of the PAP government (via Temasek Holdings helmed by Mrs Lee Hsien Loong) using GLCs to reward, to reinforce loyalty of their own elites (mostly, ex-generals or PAP apparatchiki, ex-ministers) with an iron rice bowl in businesses that some are only remotely qualified, at SMRT, there was little doubt that ex-CEO Desmond Kuek was mostly managing behind his desk with statistics, charts, reports and boardroom meetings. Not a bad stint Kuek had with more than an estimated S$10 mil for his near-six year tenure, considering that the first (?) SMRT deaths of two employees under his watch. Peasant lives are cheap in Singapore.
Regardless, new honcho Neo should be applauded for getting his butt off his CEO chair – and personal car – to try his hand at MBWA and travelling from point A to point B using SMRT’s assets (buses, taxis and trains).
I personally wish him good luck in his role.
But, by the way, Mr Neo, we all know that CEOs of a company the size of SMRT are entitled to and given a luxury car at his disposal and personal use – driver included.
So, unless you come forward to say that you are declining the use of the company car, you are merely stating a fact about your personal car ownership but hoping to hide the truththat you see an opportunity to save on the horrendous cost of car ownership in Singapore while trying to impress or mislead your audience.
Fake news?
Or just another bird of the same feather doing the PAP leaders’ and elites’ penchant for speaking facts while hiding truths? Remember, the factually-correct but truthfully-distracting “there are no dead poor in Singapore” assertion?
Anyway, “Good luck, Mr Neo! Thank you so much for your paid-‘volunteering’ for the SMRT job.” Khaw Boon Wan will have your back, you can count on it!


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We Will Be What They Read…

Ahead of National Reading Day, 28 July, eight 4G ministers were interviewed on their current reading. No prizes for guessing how our image-conscious ministers would use the opportunity to burnish their credentials to show how they are atop their game to be your leaders – even with the books they are now reading. If only the first prize number for Saturday’s 4D draw was that predictable.

Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Affairs,
– Skin In The Game: Hidden Asymmetries In Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a non-fiction book about risk and reward.

Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth,
– Thank You For Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman, about major trends affecting the world today and how we can thrive in this age of accelerations.
– World Order by Henry Kissinger. “I had many ‘aha!’ moments when reading World Order, especially in understanding the psyche of nations through his interpretation of history.”
– Quest For Chinese Culture by Yu Qiuyu. Yu compares and contrasts different philosophers, such as Confucius, Mencius and Laozi, using simple and easy-to-read language.
– The Okinawa Program: How The World’s Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health – And How You Can Too by Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox and Makoto Suzuki.

Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources
– The Way Of The Strangers: Encounters With The Islamic State by Graeme Wood.

Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education
– Homo Deus: A Brief History Of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, which is a sequel to Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind.

Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry
– The China Questions: Critical Insights Into A Rising Power, edited by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi, a collection of essays by 36 experts on China.

S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information
– Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth And Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, a look at how people make decisions;
– Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy Of India’s Partition by Nisid Hajari, about the 1947 partition of India;
– The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice From The Silence Of Autism by Naoki Higashida, written by a 13-year-old Japanese boy with severe autism spectrum disorder and translated into English in 2013 by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, author David Mitchell.

Ng Chee Meng, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress
– The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo,
– Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari,
– National Day Rally Speeches by National Archives of Singapore.

Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance
– Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics Of Artificial Intelligence by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb.

Take note: they are almost all focused mostly if not only on reading social sciences books. NARY A SINGLE FICTION BOOK, or any of a pure humanity subject.

It is a self-evident truth that our choice of books informs and forms our view of the world.

So, while both “Humanities and social sciences deal with human aspects like politics, law, linguistics, economics, and psychology, one major difference between the two is that humanities involve a more critical and analytical approach whereas social sciences deal with more of a scientific approach.

And, for all the PAP’s yak-yak about inequality and the need to “level up” ad nauseam, zero out of eight 4G ministers are reading up on research work or ideas to actually help walk their talk.

So, my dear younger fellow Singaporeans, you can pretty much expect that we will live in a Singapore governed with little soul or spirit but more of science and schema. Lots lots of head, little or no heart for our people.

Brace yourselves and…

“Watch the days, make your plans
Change in ways, your lives demand….” Read widely. Vote wisely.


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A Singapore’s “Alliance of Hope”: No, Not With Goh Chok Tong

Based on Facebook posts, there appear to be Singaporeans who are wishful of Goh Chok Tong doing a “Dr Mahathir” for Singaporeans to stand against the current Lee Hsien Loong’s PAP in the next GE due by 15 Jan 2021.

Let me state upfront: No! Not with Goh in the Dr M role.

It’s an insult to Dr M’s political charisma and recent tumultuous GE accomplishment to compare wooden (LKY’s adjective) Goh with him.

What do Dr M and Goh share in common that some think the latter can bring about a “new dawn” for Singapore? Two main ones, namely;

One, both share membership links with the dominant ruling political parties in their respective countries.

Two, both Dr M and Goh rose to be PMs.

Beyond the above, they diverge dramatically. And in the following key divergences lie the foundational differences that disqualify Goh for a similar Dr M role in Singapore politics:-

– Dr M was always a maverick, one with a cause – and the courage. As a young politician, he penned “The Malay Dilemma”, laying bare publicly his honest, uncomplimentary thoughts about “the behaviour of his own people…” Whilst Goh, from his words and actions, was, has been since resigning from cabinet, is always a PAP man. So, Dr M, a maverick. Goh, a PAP apparatchik, one of a very, very small handful enjoying his ex-ministerial multimillion $ pension.

– Dr M speaks his mind clearly, openly. Goh tries too darn hard to be sagely, with his philosophistry, his touches of ambiguous Facebook musings and posts on matters political. You know where Dr M is coming from and, as important, where he is heading. Goh, with his self-serving ambiguities, appears to hedge his bets in order to lean where the winds of change may blow – and then will he his bet place, maybe. If Dr M has been compared to a snake. Then he’s a straight-shooting one. And the Malays, Indians and Chinese came out to curl around him because they all knew his yes is yes, his no, no.

– Dr M was branded a dictator and called all kinds of defamatory names. But he “never sued anybody“. Says he, “the way of democracy…and in politics, of course, people will call you nasty names. That is normal.” But Goh sued Tang Liang Hong, Chee Soon Juan, the New York Times etc… for libel. And when it came time for his PAP’s colleague Loong, he lent total support to Loong’s abuse of Parliament to try to clear the libellous “dishonourable” honorific that the latter’s sister bestowed on him, instead of going to court.

The above three differences are not exhaustive. But they tell us that Goh has not Dr M’s political DNA in the seminal role required to bring about “a new dawn” for Singapore politics.

Now, let me remind Singaporeans how Goh Chok Tong gave or laid the foundations for many of what are presently wrong in Singapore;

– It was Goh who started the “asset enhancement” policy, forcing citizens to use an inordinate amount of their hard-earned savings into HDB (and also 99-year condos); depleting our retirement nest egg while filling up the state’s coffers (some of which the PAP use to pay Temasek and GIC cronies million$ in salaries/bonuses with our direct/indirect CPF monies – with zero transparency or accountability).

– It was Goh who started the “mild India fever”, the base policy LHL replicated resulting in the Indian-Chinese-Filipino-Westerner deluge of Foreign so-called Talents. Many senior, middle-aged, middle-income Singaporeans are now either unemployed or under-employed, being collateral damage of the sold-as-mild- but-secretly-executed-as-high fever policy.

– Goh called Tan Cheng Bock a “close friend from school”. But Bock, after the last Presidential Election, he was and will be on his own.” BTW, Goh voiced nary a word against
neither the rushed-through for-Malay only PE legislation nor Halimah’s Indian paternal ancestry. Goh is a PAP apparatchik like no other. He probably would prefer his “close friend” Bock banished than his PAP lose overwhelming control of Parliament.

– Finally, Goh gave himself and his ministers the once highest staggering S$1.59 mil
salary (junior ministers) which also laid the foundation for the purportedly once highest gross 2008 windfall that included a eye-popping 20.4 months of bonus (over and above annual salary). If PAP hadn’t lost a GRC, a first, in GE2011, would PAP have reduced their salaries?

It is not that Goh didn’t do some good for Singapore. But that he is not the chosen one to go against the PAP. Just as he reasoned “as for Tang Liang Hong, he is not his brother“, we can safely see, for all his political sophistry, that he will not hurt the PAP because PAP’s dominance must supersede even the longer-term interests of Singapore. This, regardless  the self-evident truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Dr M knows, understands and lives as a mamak. A maverick mamak – with a cause suited for the times – and the DNA to match. Goh sees himself as belonging to the natural aristocracy…who secretly believes that we peasant-citizens should be happy eating cakes.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Goh started the GST on 1 Apr 1994 as PM? Or that he was
the one who started bringing untested SAF generals into cabinet? Readers, please list more of Goh’s “contributions” to most of what’s wrong with Singapore today.

…But one should never say never in politics.

Law Kim Hwee


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Op Coldstore: Fake News For Honourable Purpose?

In a more reflective interview nearing 87 years old, LKY said in 2010:

In any case, it is not these reporters or the obituaries they may write that will offer the final verdict on his actions, he said, but future scholars who will study them in the context of their day.

‘I’m not saying that everything I did was right,’ he said, ‘but everything I did was for an honorable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.‘”

It’d be a dim person not to respect him, if for little else, than his unsentimental openness to subject himself to “future scholars who will study them in the context of their day” to ‘offer the final verdict of his actions’. Equally, it’s a disrespect for a minister to beat down anyone who’s verdict may not be to his liking, no?

In suggesting as he did, why did LKY volunteer a tacit admission that not everything he did was right but that everything he did was for an honourable purpose? And, interestingly, admitting that locking fellows up without trial is a ‘nasty’ thing, to destroy some lives without due democratic process. By the way, it is still legal to do so, today, in First World Singapore.

However, Lee’s openness to be subject to scholarly scrutiny came with the proviso, ‘in the context of their day’ and his own assertion that ‘everything was for an honourable purpose’. ‘Context’ is fair enough. But ‘honourable’? If Lee stuck untrue labels on some Operation Coldstore detainees and did not respect an individual right to due process, even if legal, how was he ‘honourable’? And how do we square a less-than honourable person with ‘honourable purpose’?

Now with regard to Operation Coldstore (2 Feb 1963), these were the relevant, openly known facts about and around Feb 1963 (context of their day).

It was a tumultuous time in Singapore. The broader world was simmering in the Cold War leading up to the Oct 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In our own backyard, the process to form the Federation of Malaysia sparked the Brunei Revolt (Dec 1962) and Indonesia’s announcing their policy of Konfrontasi (Jan 1963), commencing military raids into Malaysia’s territories.

Through all these events, the economy was shaky, to say the least. Into that mix, the 2 dominant political parties PAP and Barisan Socialis were slugging it out for and against (respectively) Singapore’s merger with Malaya. PAP, though in government with originally 43 out of 51 seats from GE 1959 was, by July 1962, reduced to only 26 seats i.e. only 1-seat majority as a result of by-election defeats, defections and expulsions.

Under the momentum of having lost nearly half their seats mid-term, there was a fighting chance that PAP, under LKY, will lose the GE 1963 in Sep to an equally, if not seen as more charismatic Lim Chin Siong-led Barisan Socialis.

With the above as context, of the 107 detained under Operation Coldstore, ‘many of the detainees were politicians mostly from Barisan Socialis‘. Barisan’s core leadership of Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, James Puthucheary, Dominic Puthucheary, Poh Soo Kai, and Lim Hock Siew were detained without trial.

Is it not conceivable and a convenient cover for LKY, an outstanding lawyer, to decimate his key opponent by doing the ‘nasty thing (of) locking fellows up without trial’?…albeit with legal cover under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance, the predecessor of the Internal Security Act (ISA)?

Was it fake news for LKY to characterize the mass arrest as a pre-empt against a plot to subvert the elected government – but actually utilising that same act to also destroy one’s political opponents? Even if there is some truth to the subversive plot, would utilising it as a cover to arrest the Barisan Socialis leaders, who could not be successfully prosecuted in a court of law, not constitute misleading news – making LKY the protagonist a liar?

Regardless, his ‘honourable purpose’ did not take away the (possible) guilt of spreading fake or misleading news of Operation Coldstore’s overt governmental purpose to advance his covert political intent.

We will not know for certain LKY’s true motivation for Operation Coldstore. But if secret documents that the government possess in relation to the alleged threat posed by those detained by Operation Coldstore are revealed and cross-examined by academics and the public to set the record right for individuals accused of communism.

Now, if LKY opened himself, his actions up, with a tacit admission no less of possible ‘not everything was right’ and was prepared for different offerings of verdict by scholars, why did Shan present us with only a binary choice; “Either they have to be accepted, or shown to be untrue. Keeping quiet about them was not an option.“? Why, indeed, when to any reasonable person, Dr Thum’s verdict –  is but one, and only one of many other different ones – that LKY of the PAP ‘was the biggest creator of fake news in Singapore, a liar, and Operation Coldstore was based on falsehoods’?

Was it because Thum’s verdict undercut PAP’s propagandised veneer of being ‘men in white’, purveyors and practitioners of non-fake news but unadulterated, pure truth every time, all the time? This is especially inconvenient if that verdict takes root or creates doubts amongst Singaporeans, coming as it does so very soon after the recent Budget 2018 trial balloon snafu. An episode that saw the PAP scrambling to a quiet corner licking its wounds. All thanks to Shan who initiated that self-inflicted wound on PAP. Was Shan trying to make up for his royal screw-up by bashing Thum?

Regardless, the bigger issue for us is, in the context of our day, whether the PAP is covertly, under the guise (or fake news?) of the need to control ‘fake news’, intent on practising and repeating what their party founding father, LKY, did i.e. using their own ‘fake news’ presumably to further what they consider to be ‘honourable purposes‘.

My fellow Singaporeans, are you ok with that? Is that what you want for your children – that only one party is able to spread their fake news for what they, a select few, consider to be ‘honourable purposes’ such as, perhaps, perpetuating their party’s total dominance and control of Singapore?

Law Kim Hwee


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Leadership Planning ll: The Best-laid Plans of Mice and Men…

It bears repeating: One, the leadership of PAP should and must not be conflated with Singapore’s leadership and two, Singaporeans deserve the leaders and leadership we elect.

Consider this famous (mis)quote, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America”? (Charles E Wilson, President GM, 15-16 Jan 1958). Read how the quote came to be here. Misquote or not, therein lies a lesson for Singaporeans fed on a constant diet of PAP propaganda that, without the PAP, Singapore will sink.

The PAP prides itself in having a proven leadership succession process. Though the plan and process are public knowledge, the procedure is opaque to Singaporeans. Under Lee Hsien Loong, that plan is now in kilter, But the PAP will never admit their plan is out of whack. Check out this video to see how PAP’s sec-gen tries to worm his way out of his failing self-declared “urgent task…(that) we don’t have the time to lose” when asked.

So, here we find ourselves, our elected political party making promises of a smooth transition but failing to deliver on time. Are their pride and sticking to party-focused procedures more important than what’s best for Singapore and Singaporeans? What’s good for PAP is good for Singapore?

Singaporeans are not the only ones expecting the well-executed transition promised. Foreign investors’ expectations, too, must be considered.

WHY should the ship of Singapore be hostage to a political party’s internal succession formula with its fixed, perhaps outdated, methodology?

Without saying too much about the international stature (if any, to speak of) of the 3 potential PMs-in-waiting (Heng SK, Chan CS, Ong YK), that there is no consensus amongst their peers is evidence that even within the party, confidence in any one of them to lead is lacking. Aside from the probable (unseen) squabbles within the PAP senior cabal over personal preferred choices, the three’s own 4G colleagues are also clueless even after sizing each out up since GE2006.

Perhaps, the conundrum is fully understandable when we consider each candidate’s pitiful  dearth of meaningful, quantifiable performance:

Heng SK helmed the ministry of education – can anyone name any change he made that resonate with meaningful impact on our children’s education? How about as minister of finance?

Chan CS – acting minister for community development, youth & sports (17 months), 2nd minster for defence (19 months), minister for social & family development (20 months), sec-gen NTUC (34 months to date); pray tell the defining achievements Ah Chan brought in his musical chair act.

Ong YK – who couldn’t win over voters on his first 2011 try under George Yeo’s coattail, then, instead of working the Aljunied ground, ran off to comfortably bide his time as director of strategy, Keppel Corp (2013-2015), and succeeded only in his second under-the-coattail GRC attempt in GE2015…a ‘leader’ who couldn’t even win his MP seat on his own or his first attempt and needed a safer GRC to sneak in as MP…a leader? a PM choice?

Enough said.

We have shown that PAP’s succession plan is either fake or has failed. Now, we assess the 3 PMs-in-waiting to be neither proven nor adequately, let alone well-prepared enough to inspire confidence with Singaporeans or foreigners.

So, wither Singapore?

No need to regret how we voted our way here. Let’s play the cards we are dealt.

First, let us make it clear to PAP that what worked before is no guarantee to work now.
The times have changed. It’s not 1990 or 2004. And the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Sticking to PAP’s fixed plan now is surely, demonstrably unwise.

It is time PAP leaders act on their own lecture to citizens on “change”, getting a “new mindset”.

Second, let’s demand for Tharman Shanmugaratnam to be our next PM. Here are just 3 reasons why Tharman is the man-of-the-hour for Singapore.

* Nobody, including Lee Hsien Loong, has the same proven record as him on the international stage. He stands as the only leader who is recognised and respected for his expertise enough to chair (or chaired) G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance (2017- ), the Group of Thirty (2017- ) and the IMF Committee (2011-15).

A recognised and accepted ‘brandname’ to inspire continued confidence in Singapore. Look, even GCT got no invitation from the likes of Total, Daimler-Chrysler, JP Morgan (which had LKY on as advisor).

*  He has the breath, depth and proven track record of ministerial experience across diverse portfolios over a 16-year period. None of the potential PMs-in-waiting even come close.

* And, most important to my mind, he has explicitly stated that he is not interested to be PM. Who knows what lurk behind those 3 in the running to be PM? None of whom denies he’s interested in (if not secretly gunning for) the power and prestige the office brings.

So what if Tharman as PM is outside PAP’s playbook? Let’s remember, what’s good for PAP is not necessarily good for Singapore and Singaporeans.

How does it matter that “the ruling party is operating under the assumption that majority Chinese Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese premier“? Remember PE2017, despite the clear signs that not just the Indians but majority Chinese and even a sizeable Malay voter block were not sold on a Malay President except on merits, LHL used his PM office – and the Parliament – to expend tremendous capital and ultra-ordinary urgency to push for a Malay (minority) Executive President.

Now, we should ask him, “Is the PM’s position more critical to Singapore’s wellbeing than that of President?” If so, what is stopping him from doing the same for a minority Indian Prime Minister. Isn’t that being racist?

And come on, Tharman is 1000%, yes 1000%, more credible and up to the job than Halimah! Besides, there is absolutely no question of Tharman even remotely thought by voters to be attracted to an increase in his salary!

Singaporeans must do more than respond to a Yahoo survey.  Let’s assert our constitutional right to agitate for Tharman as Singapore PM #4.

As for Tharman’s personal disposition and disinterest to be PM…? Well, Mr Shanmugaratnam, Singapore NEEDS YOU NOW!

Destiny calls.

 

(Epilogue: Some will say Teo Chee Hean has qualifications similar to Tharman. Well, domestically yes. But internationally, not by a mile. And, let’s be blunt about it, if Teo is elevated over Tharman, wouldn’t that mean PAP really, really is racist?)
Law Kim Hwee

 


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Leadership Planning l: A Fake Or Failed PAP Loong-In-The-Tooth Promise

Let us keep in mind two truths; one, PAP leadership should and must not be conflated with Singapore leadership and two, Singaporeans deserve the leaders and leadership we elect.

It was the first generation PAP leaders (not just LKY himself alone) who realized the critical importance of early leadership renewal to Singapore. To a large extent – and to all their credit, including Mr Toh Chin Chai (who objected to the pace of leadership renewal) – they showed they were able to attract a diverse 2nd generation of potential leaders compared to the mostly SAF ones Singaporeans now live with.

Fast forward to the day, 13 Aug 2004, when Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as PM. This was what he promised Singaporeans:

21 Hence, leadership succession will be one of my top priorities. We must continue to search for younger Singaporeans in their early 30s and 40s to rejuvenate the team, to inject new perspectives and to prepare for leadership succession at all levels – ministers, MPs, at the grassroots, in the trade unions

Make no mistake of the significance. That “leadership succession” commitment was the first he mentioned in his speech after all the introductory remarks.

Then, as if to convince Singaporeans further, he restated the his intention days later at his first National Rally, 22 Aug 2004.

Political self-renewal is critical to Singapore.  Chok Tong started talent-scouting before he became PM…And I’ve got to do the same.

But sadly, after the “top priority” was paid its lip service, he conveniently forgot about it for the next 13 years in all his major speeches…except when it suited his PAP immediate goals to gain votes during election time in order to continue PAP’s dominance of parliament.

Sadder still, no MPs, no grassroots leaders nor anyone in trade unions – and least of all, the Straits Times (ST) – say anything to hold Lee Hsien Loong to account for his “top priority” commitment. The latter reports only on the issue what they appear to be instructed to report to Singaporeans. Incredibly, ST editors and writers spin the issue in a way that is almost entirely positive:

Picking SG’s next PM: The 4G16 has shown its hand and it is good
4G ministers are a serious-minded and cohesive team

More than that, to try to cover up for the fake or failed loong-in-the-tooth promise, ST even offers as an “insight” (how else to characterize the propaganda since it is their ‘Insight Editor’ who wrote it?) for Singaporeans as a fall-back plan,

Should PM Lee Hsien Loong lead beyond 70?

Or are there some unknown, unknowable or unmentionable motivations for PM Lee to continue for longer? Our guess is as good as…well, ‘it’s already happened, let’s move on’.

So, how did the PAP end up with a break to their vaunted and oft-tooted boast and promise of ensuring PAP-type continuity for Singaporeans? Maybe, Goh Chok Tong is getting a taste of his own silly, ineffectual “ownself-check-ownself” prescription, evidenced by his need to nudge the issue.

Regardless all the charade that is played out, broadcast entirely by PAP-controlled media to paper over the failure, what are the possible explanations?

One, Lee Hsien Loong, for all his initial claims of leadership renewal as a “top priority”,  has been overwhelmed by other matters that crossed his path.

Two, he must understand how important and helpful it is to put in place a successor on a long runway as preparation to take over from him. He himself was given no less than 17 years full cabinet experience across various ministries. Why would he deny his potential successor that exposure and benefit? For fear that the latter will outshine his performance as PM?

Three, his leadership style and performance could not win over the many potential successors (with track records other than in the SAF or civil service) who we will never know.

Four, could it be possible that Lee Hsien Loong wants to cling on to his premier position for reasons best known to himself?

Or a combination of some or all the above possibilities to explain the failure. Objectively speaking, it is a FAILURE if and when you set out a goal but do not achieve it. If not, it is a FAKE commitment all along. In which case, it is a success since you manage to achieve your hidden agenda under the cover of the stated goal.

Thinking Singaporeans may wish to hold the PAP they have elected to account on this leadership renewal planning commitment, which was used to gain their votes and ask, “Is that a fake or failed loong-in-the-tooth promise?”

Law Kim Hwee
a.k.a. 2cents