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PIDCS Episode: A Half-Time Commentary

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How started
The PIDCS episode appears to have started with a 16 Apr blogspot calling to ‘ban-Philippines-independence-day-singapore-soil’. The event might have petered out innocuously as it isn’t an inaugural event. But, nyet.

All thanks to newbie, still Acting Manpower Minister Tan CJ, a likeable-looking chap to most admirers, sympathetic of his tough portfolio dealing with the vocal, visibly restless unemployed PMEs vs his ‘Kee Kiu’ colleague acting Santa Claus to the less-visible, beaten-down-but-(still)not-dead poor. Tan wrote on his FB the next day, ‘These actions by those who peddle hate are not acceptable, repulsive even. We should..say no to such bigotry.” Strong words, certainly. Any indication that he tried to understand, engage those who support the ban? Not certain. But generals are generally decisive or must appear to be cocksure.

Then, as if on cue, another cocksure general charged in, also via FB the following day, “I was appalled to read about those who harassed the organisers…and spammed their Facebook page. They are a disgrace to Singapore.
Fortunately this appears to be the work of few trolls. Heartened that many sensible Singaporeans condemn this thuggish behaviour…I just attended our Singapore Day in London. How would we have felt if British netizens had spammed our website, and abused Singaporeans living in Britain?
We must show that we are generous of spirit and welcome visitors into our midst, even as we manage the foreign population here. – LHL”
Again, strong, very strong words, certainly. Again, any indication of prior engagement with detractors? Not certain.

Records seem to show that on the direct websites calling for the ban, there were no more than 20-30 comments each, for and against, as of 18 Apr i.e. before the ministers rocketed it to viral status. Colourful words, “f**king vermin”, “scum”, “shit heads of a third world country” and “undesirable underlings” could not actually be found on major websites (e.g. saynotooverpopulatedsingapore) directly related to this PIDC episode. Maybe, like the PM’s FB, they’re edited out.

Hence, from what is verifiable, could the PM & Minister have shot from the hip based on non-verifiable claims of phone calls and mistaken descriptions uttered in other contexts? Both generals fired not with Beretta Tomcat mouse guns but the double-action S&W Model 29 Magnum revolver with a calibre in the order of ‘repulsive…bigotry…appalled…a disgrace to Singapore’, against their own, some of the voters that they as leaders need to win over. Going to bed, both might have felt they made their own day out of some punks.

 

Why?
Putting aside the sideshow of non-verifiable evidence, why exactly are the majority detractors against the PIDC event? 3 key motivations;

One, a question of pride if not patriotism.
Goh Wei Kian, Singaporean, observed in the Manila Bulletin, ‘Our Independence, Our Interdependence”. These two slogans together hints at the host country is ALSO dependent on the OFWs. I believe this would generate similar uproars in other Asian countries. Most Singaporeans have nothing against the National (Day) celebration; its the way the event is themed in an insensitive manners.’

Two, a question of legality & fairness (…but what else, being S’poreans) .
Reginald Ashton: so if they’re not a registered society or a umbrella organization, it means they’re consider a secret society….everyone call police on that day to report e event as a disturbance la. illegal gathering&a threat to e peace of singapore.
Prithpal Singh: For 2 Singaporeans to come together in public to voice out a worthy public cause you need a permit which will never ever be issued! For 9000 Pinoys to come together for a political cause in the heart of our shopping center on a Sunday, the only day when stressed out Singaporeons go out to get some relief, it seems its all OK!!

Three, perhaps, the main bread & butter reason;
Bob Koh: To those who think we should not be against this: We are a small country overwhelmed with foreigners taking our jobs, crowding the trains, buses, services and facilities. We have the right to complain against these large group of foreigners celebrating their ‘independence day’ in our country in a public place like Orchard Road as if they own it. Let us continue to register our displeasure against this.

Note: All above comments were logged 16-18 Apr, before the matter went viral and detractors of the detractors started sticking ‘xenophobic’ & ‘racist’ labels freely, abetted by ST. For the record, confident S’poreans are not insusceptible to feelings of disgust (which isn’t phobia). And, well, nowhere are Filipinos recognised as a ‘race’ except some themselves claiming to be Aryans (Spanish blood?); unless S’poreans are racists of our Malays-in-arms serving side-by-side in NS, then what racism?

 

Why the above whys?
How then do we make of the PIDC episode? In the context of our times, of course.

The Macro
1. Against the 2012 China Chinese bus strike and the 2013 Indian Little India riot, is it unreasonable to deduce that more than just ‘a few trolls’ are feeling the Singapore they knew appears to be slipping over the horizon? Hence, the urge to make a stand?

2. Bitten by FT, GDP growth-at-all-cost etc policies and (Population) White Papers that a dominant government has full, if not absolute, control over, is a significant 40% that did not give this government carte blanche trying to ‘negotiate the policy failures’ (BK, TRE contributor) with the govt at mid-term?

The Micro
3. Is the world witnessing a PAP cabinet in decline? One that more often than not these days appear to prefer to rush to judgment instead of first engaging those whose views may not sit so easily with theirs. Or any views that appear to hint at the falling concrete and crumbling pillars of their various policies.

4. Zeroing in on the 2 ministers in action; was there a need for Tan CJ to speak up so soon, so condemningly (hate, repulsive, bigotry)? How about those prime, choice words, ‘disgrace, thuggish’ from a Prime Minister, no less? One wonders if the PM was subconsciously recalling a LIFE (15 Jul 65) Close-Up of his father, headlined, “Brilliant, but a bit of a Thug” (hey, with a cap ‘T’, get it?).

 

Conclusions
1. Internally, though not yet ended, the PIDC episode contains for Singaporeans hints to portend another small marker in the dislodging, changing of the chief guard if not the PAP leadership in toto.

A leader with an iota of wisdom – or just an ion of electrically-charged patience – will hold his peace, check the full facts, call forth different counsels, allow time to play out….and then, depending on how the wind blows, step forth with a few choice words that make everyone come out of this brouhaha smelling like roses.

But nyet, just as he
pronounced ‘foreign workers have LESS crimes compared to S’poreans’ (in a foreign land, at that), so he CAN’T BUT see a shadow of threat, a rebuke, an objection to his policies – and person, maybe – in every incident, word or question, then bang! off goes his Magnum .44-cal. Here, he managed to offend even those who object for noble reasons sans vulgarities and also put his Police in a quandary. And, heck, even school kids know the difference between Singapore Day & Independence Day.

The Question we must ask themselves honestly is; can both the 60+40% Singaporeans, proceed with such a leader & leadership to navigate a more complicated, complex, faster-moving world? Whether to continue to try to play in the top or 2nd-tier global city league – led by one who appears only interested and capable to lead his supporters instead of marshalling all hands on deck to fashion a new consensus and then show the way to win that prize, be it just silver and not gold?

2. Externally, how will Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and China foreign service be filing their narratives in light of this PIDC event? Will the Pinoys, known to be more united than Singaporeans, sense a weakness in the PAP, a divided house? The others as well? How about the Chief Ally in Pivot to Asia mode?

The Question here for us; is Singapore being led as one united nation, likely to be one united nation when and if under threat with a PM who appears (again) to side with foreigners at the expense of his own?

2cents

PS: Separately a word to Gilbert Goh of Transitioning. Provided it’s held before the police decides yes or no to the PIDCS permit, you have a slam-dunk Hong Lim rally on a platter. The ground is palpable with anger on the issue. Just count the number of publications and comments @ TRE. Either way, you will not lose however the event unfolds thereafter. Best to work fast to negotiate the theme with the upcoming 3 May rally organizers. Don’t take my word for it. Work out all the scenarios to see for yourself. Good luck.

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2 thoughts on “PIDCS Episode: A Half-Time Commentary

  1. Hi – first line of main text – did you mean 16 April rather than Aug?

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