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Astunning A Hundred Flowers Ablooming – PM Lee swats at Roy Ngerng

I much prefer my suggested title but the TRE Editor has his prerogative what he prefers and, indeed, understands of his audience’s receptivity. I hope to have pointed to the actual reason why PM Lee acted as he did…and sadly, it ain’t going to change anytime soon. Perhaps, changes to defamation threats will come after the next GE when either PAP loses much more votes while retaining a small absolute majority. Or, who knows, only a slim majority. That would be interesting

Let the flowers bloom: Discard cabinet code of conduct

Whilst much of what has been discussed make for lively discussions, most commentators have broadly focused on the reasons why/why not, what should/should not Blogger Roy or PM Lee have done. That, and some spirited commentaries on the merits of the subject blog and the letter of demand.

What is missing, I hasten to add from my own incomplete access, is the bigger framework within which Lee Hsien Loong as PM is, nay must be, motivated to act as he has done. That should be THE ISSUE for the Singapore of 2014 to ponder over given Roy’s shorter history as an activist and relative youth. It’s the times, the times, my fellow Singaporeans, that make the hero or the villain, not vice versa.

So, what forced PM Lee’s hand? We must look to the – current (pun not intended) – anchors securing the Singapore ship and not just point to the undercurrents, waves and storms that will always change in intensity and direction.

So, what forced the hand of this PM who, ascending barely 10 days into the highest executive officer, in his first National Day Rally on 22 Aug 2004, appeared to try to set a new direction in free speech, a more active, participatory citizenry with his (eerie?) reference to Mao’s ‘let a 100 flowers bloom’ imagery?

21   The second thing we’re going to do is to open up the Speakers’ Corner where you can go and make any speech you like and we are going to say, “Well, if you want to go there and have an exhibition, go ahead”. Once in a while, Think Centre says they want to go to the Speakers’ Corner and they want to plant 100 flowers there, let the 100 flowers bloom. Well, I think go ahead. They want to water the flowers, go ahead. They want to turn the flowers down, go ahead. I mean, free expression as long as you don’t get into race and religion and don’t start a riot. It’s a signal – speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions.”

PM Lee Hsien Loong
(National Day Rally, 2004)

Has he gone back on, if not, his words then in spirit (within our cyber Speaker’s Corner)? After all, it was his “signal – (to) speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions”? I think not. A signal is not a carte blanche. PM Lee did mention the limits of race, religion and (prophetically ?) ‘riot’, which Roy did not breach. Left unsaid, intact were the laws of defamation and libel.

I believe he is focused on maintaining his credibility as leader amongst his own. For without that continued credibility, there is no premiership to speak of. But it does not stop there and we shall come back to that shortly.

So again, what then forced his hand? Well, it’s an archaic but nevertheless doctrinal pillar of PAP governance;

There are many critics of the PAP in Singapore… Political opponents, so long as they keep within the law… do not have to appear before the judiciary. But if they’ve defamed us, we have to sue them — because if we don’t, our own integrity will be suspect. We have an understanding that if a minister is defamed and he does not sue, he must leave cabinet. By defamation, I mean if somebody says the minister is on the take or is less than honest. If he does not rebut it, if he does not dare go before the court to be interrogated by the counsel for the other side, there must be some truth in it. If there is no evidence, well, why are you not suing?

PM Goh Chok Tong
(ASIAWEEK December 3, 1999.)

Many changes have been wrought since 1999 but that cabinet code of conduct remains since no minister has said otherwise. There you have it, the factual basis for PM Lee to use his considerable resource to swat at a small fry with a limited, vocal audience or fans.

But in acting to protect his leadership amongst his peers & PAP supporters, he cannot ring-fence the impact on the broader populace, marginal voters included. He must have calculated that the price, on balance, works for him. Casting a cold spell as a side-effect is not a bad thing given his own recent faux pas (PIDCS, Singapore belongs to all) and at mid-term after a dismal GE & 2 BE plus an increasingly vocal and more credible demos with verifiable and valid complaints to share.

But in securing his vested leadership, he discarded another opportunity to lead the entire nation to nurture the 100 flowers he started out with in 2004 – to gently direct the flowers to the sunshine of greater openness for more and genuine sources of feedback as well as speed of feedback. Does any leader seriously believe that the complexity, extent and speed of changes these days are adequately served by his same 20th century modi operandi?

This gardener is more worried about potential weeds than making flowers bloom.

But the Singapore today is no longer the mostly uneducated or secondary school graduate. Aided by IT, we are more discerning of the info we are bombarded with. Just look at how his ST’s readership has plummeted! Hence the core issue in this defamation episode is not about maintaining his right to legal action but, in exercising that right, to NOT abuse or seen to be abusing it over itsy-bitsies. Why show yourself to be a leader who surely can but does not want to differentiate the fireworks from the fire, the sound from the substance or, indeed, the facts from the farcical?

A crying shame, really.

In our zeitgeist, one can hang on to one’s honesty, integrity but lose out on felicity in leadership. Time to update the method and methodology of securing one’s honesty, integrity to fit our times – without jettisoning that right to legal action in the most obvious cases of defamation, libel – or be outdated by the times.

Laws can stay relevant. That cabinet code of conduct is now ridiculous.

2cents

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Love in Politics? Nah, I’ll pass.

I have had the pleasure to meet the TRE Editor on 4, 5 occasions since I contacted him to volunteer my services. <www.tremeritus.com> was looking for volunteers to help modulate comments. But I told Richard Wan that modulating is not really my cup of tea. I thought I could assist him in a kind of ‘sub-editor’s’ role.

Since then he has thrown me some item, like this one, or stuff which he thought I could be useful at. I honestly feel he can do with some help with his overload…I foresee it can only get worse for him as the Singapore scene hurls towards a crescendo into the next GE. I hope to contribute in a small way towards a lighter load for him and more thoughtful discussions on TRE.

LOVE IN POLITICS? Nah, I’ll pass.
<http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/invitation/story/its-time-love-politics-20140517&gt;

In her opinion piece, ‘It’s time for love in politics’, Dr Chan Heng Chee’s intent is to ‘drain the bile’ from the Foreign Talent narrative and, by extension, the PWP. A week earlier, ST had Prof Kishore advising, “The best way to protect Singapore in a political crisis is to persuade our people to love Singapore more than their political or sectoral interests”. Earlier still, Prof Tommy Koh gently shared his ‘ideological cleavage’ (29 Mar) take on what ails SGP. Does it not appear that ST is using its print space to help the PAP shape the narrative and soften the issue comes the next GE?

But why ‘drain the bile’ at all? Does Dr Chan not know that ‘bile’, though a bitter liquid, ‘aids in the emulsification, digestion, and absorption of fats’? [Link]. As an accomplished practitioner and doctor of political science, does she prefer for the French that not just the bile but the vileness be drained from the trampled peasants who Stormed the Bastille? Would any change be possible at all with a ruling elite bent on insular intellectual debates only within the gated confines of their minds while trying to ‘drain the bile’ from divisive, destructive employment, immigration policies simply with ‘good arguments’?

Is the ST Editor hijacking her reputation for independent thinking to help discard the ‘bile’ so that our out-of-touch greedy, elitist political, civil service leaders, rich businessmen and professionals may continue to feast at their shared tables of opulence, leaving crumbs for those under?

In SGP’s current context, the bile, dear Dr Chan, must surely serve as the spectre at each daily feast of our elite. Hence, the proper response should scrutinize how such strong bile came to exist.

I content that what Dr Chan et al have diagnosed are but symptoms of a deeper pathological condition in our body polity than a mere implemental change needed in another political phase.

THE SYMPTOMS

Beginning with GE 2011 vote swing, followed by the PWP debate, the subsequent PWP protest and then reiterated more strongly via 2 by-elections, the Singapore’s polity landscape displayed all the substantive symptoms circumscribed only by the severe laws in place.

Again, constrained by the same laws, but not for want of passion and conviction, Singaporeans took to the internet, social media to push the boundaries focused on getting the same protest across to the powers there be.

When all we got for our efforts were, as Dr Chan observes, only ‘work visas… cut and the influx of foreigners moderated’ and a toothless FCF (Fair Consideration Framework) that took a year to conceive and another (yet) to implement even as the numbers and time of being unemployed increased, a  palpable sense of betrayal follows naturally, no?

Then what? Well, citizens cannot but must take matters into their own hands – still within the strictures of the law. Enter the exposé of biased jobs ads, Anton Casey, news on xenophilic employers including key govt-owned entities and stat boards, perceived and actual infractions by Caucasians, Ah Tiongs, Indians and Pinoys etc splashed across alternative media – leaving MSM trying to catch up to influence the tone of debate.

Then again what? From one perspective, it is almost comedic if not tragic, how the leadership and leaders chose to respond to the heightened outcry – with self-righteousness, condemnation and name-calling. We leaders at fault? Never crossed our minds. As Dr Chan helpfully reiterates for the ministers, ‘there are those who have chosen not to believe’ and ‘a minority’ who spurn ‘good arguments’. Ministers label fellow-S’poreans ‘bigots, disgraceful even’. Do good intentions to uphold our laws, show patriotism, even if not civilly expressed make bigots nor xenophobes of citizens? How hurtful it is that it’s our political and civil leaders (e.g. SKM chairman, ST editor) using their privileged platforms to reprimand those with legit if strong estrangements?

Little wonder the symptoms of excess bile leaking from INSIDE the livers of our daily experience.

THE DIAGNOSIS

Moving on from the symptoms, let’s try to diagnose what ails us using Dr Chan’s conclusion, “We are into a phase of politics beyond the transactional, into the politics of empathy and individual worth. Apart from expecting goods and services, voters expect to be valued as individuals… It is the politics of the day.”

Perhaps, Dr Chan views through the prism of her 20+ years rubbing shoulders in USA with their ‘touchy-feely’ individualistic culture (who can forget Clinton’s ‘I feel your pain’ show of empathy). But we may be better served by looking within ourselves and our short history. An exercise that may have escaped her.

Implicit in her words is that transactional politics exist. Implicit, too, is the acknowledgement that such articles as she et al now write were once superfluous, even irrelevant. Why? Because transactional politics worked in the face of then existential issues (double digit unemployment, for e.g.). Leaders and citizens transacted to understand and agree exactly what must be done. And Singaporeans rose and pulled as ‘one united people regardless of race, language or religion’ – those not in were truly in the ‘minority’ then.

What then were the terms of the ‘transaction’ that worked for us?

In the 60’s to mid-80’s, Singapore leaders and the governed knew exactly why, how, when, what and where our bread was spread with. Singapore worked well because we the people and a leadership understood and each delivered what was overtly agreed and committed to – it was transactional politics alright. Our leaders led with ‘old school politics’ of competence infused with trust, trust, trust.

Consider Mr EW Barker, upon whose shoulders our legal underpinnings as an independent nation rested and he helped delivered with flying colours, who served 2 decades drawing a meagre salary that could not comfortably pay for his semi-D; compare him with Mr Mah Bow Tan, 11 years as Minister of National Development, boasting that the Marina Bay Sand skyline takes pride of place in his achievements as minister even as HDB knowingly neglected to build enough for citizens during his tenure and presided over runaway HDB prices that PRs sold off for fat profits then packed off home for good to enjoy. What about then HDBs that cost less than only 2-3X annual salaries (without grants) paid for with fair salaries in relatively stable jobs versus current 5X (after grants) with us servicing mortgages with salaries and CPF savings ravaged by inflation along with the constant, overhanging threat of FT dislodging one’s employment?

Even more bitter our lower-income compatriots trusting their assigned minister for a good decade only to see comparatively lower incomes during his tenure – while he landed for himself a red-meat chairmanship appointment…and collects his minister’s pensions. Yet the charade continues with another million$$$-minimum-salary minister who wages against a decent, fair minimum wage for his charges – in the interest of business-owners.

By the way, dressing up as Zorro to entertain and showing up at a reserved table for early lunch and then snitching toothpicks are not evidence of  empathy, Dr Chan. Empathy is lived and cannot be, as implied, ‘recalibrated’. Otherwise, it amounts to raw politicking, not true leadership. So, in not exploring when, where and how ‘transactional politics’ once worked in Singapore, you missed the opportunity to nudge the cabinet & elites to reflect honestly to learn from our past. Unintentionally, you trivialise a legit concern, fear even in favour of a superficial makeover, instead of reframing the substance behind the debate.

Where we once had consensus on the goals, the modi operandi – and reap relatively fair rewards across the board as seen in the lower 2-digit ratio ministers pay vs median wage 3 decades ago, we now see a 3-digit ratio in the same measure.

But Singapore was not exempt of missteps. Lim Chee Onn had to resign from his cabinet post in 1983 for nothing more than failing to synchronize his reform speed with the NTUC’s leadership. But PM Lee has the luxury of deploying PAP’s 2/3 Parliamentary majority to shove the PWP down our throat, fullstop  – even as transport, housing and healthcare supply were out-of-sync and he admitted he had not 20/20 foresight. Also as PM, responsible for ISA detentions, he told citizens to ‘move on’ – while he stayed on – after Mas Selamat escaped. How’s that for leadership and accountability, Dr Chan? Do you still share their narrative?

TRUST AND COMPETENCE

In short, we can see that in place of transactional politics that worked when and where trust and competence were in great abundance, the current phase of politics is anything but… It is betrayal of trust and incompetence that is our zeitgeist.

Betrayal of trust? – enough aforesaid, no need to restate.

‘Incompetence?’ How is that possible from looking at current results? Jim Collins explains for us, “As organizations head into Stage 3 decline, internal warning signs begin to mount, yet external results remain strong enough to “explain away” disturbing data or to suggest that the difficulties are “temporary” or “cyclic” or “not that bad,” and “nothing is fundamentally wrong”… leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether.”

CONCLUSION

Indulging Dr Chan personally with America culture, she may wish to take something from US pop culture of a time further back than Clinton’s ‘I feel your pain’.

You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss (and a meal is still a meal)
A sigh is still a sigh (and a home is still a home)
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by”   –  Herman Hupfeld, ‘As Time Goes By’.

Why’s that? Because

After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same”  –   Paul Simon, ‘The Boxer’.

So unlike Dr Chan, I believe the ‘transactional’ aspects in politics cannot and will never go away – no matter what empathy political leaders try to calibrate to swing into groove. To change, to mould a future to be one within our reach as ‘one united people regardless of race, language or religion’, we need to ‘grow from our core’ more than ‘maintain a Singapore core’. I am no rocket scientist but I understand enough that given our small absolute numbers, short history and openness, any core not home-grown nurtured will be overwhelmed by the new arrivals.

Yes, Singaporeans are rational, so no need for ‘love in politics’. We need phase-proof ‘leadership in politics’ of competence and trust. Pure and simple. Perhaps, what’s changed may be that as life takes on a faster and more complex pace and where leadership is found lacking, we need to go back to listen more earnestly and look to the demos and set aside the ‘meritorious’ for our way forward, at least for a season.

With the Foreign Talent and PWP, the issue is not ‘good arguments’ or executing those arguments. The fact is: You have shown to be not competent – and worse, you have betrayed our trust.

Love? Nah, I’ll pass.

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PM Lee Sues Young Citizen Ngerng

I heard about Roy Ngerng’s run-in with the PM earlier this evening on TV and had a quick look at the relevant post on his website.
What I could see was there he posted the letter of demand and then attached below the 15 May post that is the subject in the libel action…that and the tone of his response posted basically told me tt he appears to be eyeing a showdown.

Later, I checked out TRE and sure enough, there are already 2 articles published on the matter. So, I duly commented as follows;

Roy

It looks like Roy Ngerng is planning to proceed to fight the case.

I am not qualified to comment on the merits or otherwise of thelegal aspects of the article and the letter of demand. But I see the development from 2 angles;

1) The winds of change are blowing beneath the wings of people like Roy. Not just the younger electorate but also those of us older ones are seeing the unfairness, if not ridiculousness, of it all.

A PRIME MINISTER of more than 15 years suing a young citizen barely 25 years old – not just for retraction of the alleged libellous statements but full legal costs & compensation for damages? Where is the sense of proportion?

Again, the PM is truly out-of-touch. Dumb, even. If I was him, I’ll issue a demand letter but forget about the legal cost & the damage – unless the alleged defendant refuses to recant. At least, you start off on a higher moral ground. Neutral, reasonable people will say and agree that, yeah, it’s a matter of principle about one’s reputation.

But by demanding compensation – from a young person with his right to a viewpoint, even if a mistaken one – you come across as a blinking small-minded person, unbecoming of the standing of a PM.

Instead of taking the opportunity to reset and initiate the standard that you have always claimed to be your aim – open, honest & thoughtful discussions without recourse to personal attacks and defamatory allegations or insinuations, PM Lee has, instead, yet again try to stifle discussions. If you force people to go underground, you just create an ‘underground ecosystem’ that you, as a leader, cannot and will not be able to more accurately gauge to understand and to govern. To understand and to persuade.

Hence, from that angle, Roy Ngerng, with less commitments than many other older ones, you are in the right place and right time to make history for Singapore.

2. On the subject of the demand, CPF, it is something that much, much more have been exposed, debated, analysed in the last 30 months than the preceding 30 years.

We can see from comments and opinion pieces that there is much tt have been kept in the dark. And the govt has been giving hedged and half responses to questions and demands raised. They have tried to appear to engage with replies that are mostly qualitative and hence can be interpreted either way depending on which side one is on. But quantitative replies? Nope, not much.

But the pressures are on. Not to respond can only mean that more people reaching 55 and servicing their mortgages via CPF savings will only believe the worst thereof.

Therefore, on this, if Roy proceeds to contest, demands can be made to have CPF reveal more under duress of the courts. So, it is a positive development for us who want more straight answers via the courts, hopefully.

On that note, the merits of the case aside, I support Roy if he intends to fight it out. His moral victory in the court of the public opinion is already secured.

Though jobless now, I’ll chip in for him. G’luck, kid!

 

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Managing Foreign Labour – the Issues, not the periperals.

I wrote the piece below in quick response to the AFP report on <https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/world/a/23237091/&gt;,
“Singapore plans centres outside city for migrant workers”. It would seem to me that this govt is governing increasingly from pillar-to-post, dealing with the symptoms instead of getting down to the root issue.

Admittedly, what I know about the Belgian approach is only very cursory from what I once read by a commentator apparently from Belgium. But the gist of the Belgian approach makes alot of sense – and appears to meet with most if not all of the interests of the stakeholders.

I’d be happy to stand corrected if someone can provide more relevant info how it’s done in Belgium.

 

The Belgian Way of managing foreign labour

MIGRANT WORKERS’ WELFARE – THE REAL ISSUES, NOT THE PERIPHERALS
I’m pretty certain tt the SPF & MOM may already be commending themselves for thinking out of their comfort zone to dream up such a solution. Unfortunately, based on the track record of a leadership shown to be rather distant behind the curve, I’ve to stay skeptical, cynical even that they are still behind the curve.

These measures are no more than managing at the edges – not the real issues themselves. There is a good reason why the workers are called ‘migrant’.

-The issue of fair treatment for foreign workers for all their talk of knowing SGP’s need for their roles and showing appreciation for their contributions under the hot sun.
Hello? These fellow-men born poor or living under ineffectual govts or facing a lack of opportunities are here PRIMARILY to make money in order to first pay their agents and then save enough to give their loved ones a better life than what they have been ‘blessed’ with – recreation in SGP is far from their minds when waving their loved ones goodbye.
If you want me to tell it like it is; these are mostly virile young men prized for their physique. The recreation they may well prefer is sex. Is the SPF & MOM going to bring in enough prostitutes for them and throw in free condoms…whlist turning a blind eye to the activities? Think more Geylang & Desker Road.
Deal with the real issue, not what’s peripheral.

– The issue of greedy businessmen who want everything on the cheap, to gain more for themselves. No wonder their feedback to policy wonks are all couched with the threats of damage to the SGP economy – which the latter are too happy to buy into and pass on as the truth to daft citizens. How many businessmen or senior mgrs have we met in our lives who honestly believe that the macro interests of society precede their own micro ones?
Deal with the real issue, not the decoy.

– The issue of lazy businessmen who prefer cheap labour which is easier than making productivity work. Or, at least in the short term, no need to train or expense on technology/equipment. Cost-wise, nothing beats cheap ones that are easier to use, abuse and refuse
Deal with the real issue, not the vicarious.

For all the enjoyable study trips that ministers and policy wonks have taken at taxpayers’ expense, why is no one considering the Belgian Way of managing foreign labour? My understanding is that, at its most basic, the Belgians pay the going rate of what a local is paid, grant permits that will allow for the guest workers to stay in Belgian, enjoy the amenities and then leave once the contract is over.

The results: Belgians apparently get what they want done, at a competitive price due to the more productive and trained workers who are attracted to the deal that is better than back home (as a skilled labourer). Belgium does not appear to be straddled with such worker welfare problem because their welfare is dealt directly in a focused way. In the process, the ‘secondary profit-driven concerns’ of businessmen are well-served as they earn their dues while remain assured of a steady stream of skilled, highly-productive labourers. Either you are already trained in your home country (more cheaply than what local employers have to pay to do so) or you don’t bother to apply.

Hence, treat and keep the ‘migrant’ workers migrant. Deal with the real issues. THE win-win solutions are all within our reach. What we need is true, honest, competent political leadership on this issue.

Singapore gets less crowded with less rowdy and less migrant workers – and taxpayers are not made to pay indirectly for all these needless bells & whistles that are, in the first place, the employers’ concerns not society’s and with better-paid migrant workers, are there not more opportunities of higher value-added businesses for locals?

And, this has to be said with the evidence before us; no thank you for govt & civil service leaders who create yet more work for themselves (which means more expenses) using taxpayers’ money while paying themselves a huge bundle for being top talents of such bottom-pit non-solutions.

(Someone who knows the Belgian way better, pls enlighten us further. Thanks.)

Change we Must.
End PAP’s dominance or, as you can see in this instance, PAP’s dominance will s-l-o-w-l-y but surely end us with their 3rd-class leadership with their back-to-3rd-world solutions.

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The Lie in “More Recognition & Support for NSmen”

My response to Michael Gerard Hong, ‘Reward NSmen Who Served Earlier’.
<http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/05/06/reward-nsmen-who-served-earlier/&gt;

I served my NSF from 1979 to 1981, 2.5 years. I wasn’t very active in ECA during school days and never made it directly to Officer Cadet School despite good academic results. But I did well enough to enter the 10th SMC (Standard Military Course).

My platoon mates ranked me #2, probably because they saw that I did what was right as the appointed Platoon Under Officer even when the trainers were not looking. The trainers ranked me #3, probably because I once explained what no one else did, why I’d rather trigger an attack in an ambush when the ‘enemies were retreating’ instead of advancing.

I never actually had a natural liking for military stuff but my attitude was to make the best of the situation. I did well enough to be commissioned amongst the top 10% and received a sword from then Defence Minister Howe Yoon Chong at the Istana with my parents attending. I was that ‘boh chap’ that it didn’t occur to me to capture that moment in print that I could use to help my career! Dumb ass.

Anyway, I’ve been following the discourse on the NSmen issue and have a definite view about ‘recognition & support’ in light of the calls by some to ‘abolish NS’. After readling the letter TRE published, I could no long hold back my thoughts….

“I read with dismay each time another ex-NSF comrade of mine raise his hand to ask for or suggest a different ‘reward’ or ‘handout’ for the time we spent in NSF.

To do so is to buy into and be trapped by the narrative that this government has framed the issue. Their true intent is to turn THE issue of ‘more support and recognition’ for us into one of ‘more handouts, more goodies, more rewards, more benefits’

Their true intent is to equate ‘recognition and support’ into tangibles whilst completing ignoring – and indeed, hoping to completely bury, snuff out the true cries of true Singaporeans NOT to cheapen what has been originally and always sold to us as a male citizen’s patriotic obligation that is in the same category as the citizenship that one inherits naturally.

I am not here to belittle or disregard the possible good of tangible reciprocity from the State that some or many of my fellow NSmen can do with. I am not here to begrudge the work of those who sincerely work to help give tangible meanings to the time, effort – and, really, a chunk of our lives – given to serve our country and countrymen.

I am here to call the bluff, the sleight of hand by the leaders to divert the true issue that has made us unhappy where once there never was. When was there ever such vocal cries to ABOLISH NS? When? When? When?

If there was never before such an outcry – one born of disgust and, perhaps, desperation even at how hopeless the idea of defending Singapore has become – then WHY? WHY? WHY?

And, WHY NOW? Why not when Singapore was barely a Third World city, when we had not yet all these physical trappings of a nouveau riche city, all the CPF money that belongs to us citizens, all that Singaporeans proudly identify ourselves with and as when we are asked our identity when overseas, when asked?

The TRUE ISSUE is not one of boosting the recognition of the NSman – it is in the cheapening of it.
– It is in the relegating of National Service to lowly citizens while non-citizens and newly-mint ones get to get a free pass to make more money, faster, without the NS incumbrance.
– It is in the denial of choice whether to be drafted while PRs get to decide whether or not to proceed, to sign up.
– It is in the slavery-like condition that is dug for our lives even as we give a chunk of our lives in the hope of being able to actually OWN a small part of the real estate that we have sworn and trained to protect…even as non-citizens swarmed down to scoop up what’s there on the cheap while we pay time and are paid pittance, unable to pay even the down-payment.
– It is in the discrimination that NSmen face from employers who could easily find cheaper foreign replacements…all aided and made possible by the very govt who seeks to offer more ‘recognition and support’ to us.

And yes indeed! It is in the sickening attempt to equate the intangible nobility of a cause with the cheap tangibles while completing ignoring the TRUE ISSUE.

Please NSmen all! DON’T BE FOOLED! You don’t need more handouts if food, clothes and shelter are not priced out of reach for and by the rich!

Tell them, “GIVE ME BACK MY COUNTRY AND EVERYTHING THAT IS MEANT BY THAT and I will seize that great honour to serve my National Service gladly AGAIN AND AGAIN! And so will my sons and my grandsons after him.”

Anything less is betrayal.”

2cents


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A Second Reading of Tea Leaves – Next GE

 

NMP Prof Eugene Tan has observed that the next GE will likely be in ‘the last quarter 2015’.

In my earlier article, I suggested 2 basic considerations for the PAP to time the next GE, namely; the ground must be sweet and PAP must have enough candidates. Since, the good Prof did not explain
why Q4 2015, I shall try to do so.

wp2014

GE IN Q4 2015
…Not cast in stone. The reason is simple enough. Being too darn sure means that we are not factoring in any Black Swan events leading up to end 2015.

Some pundits believe that if LKY dies, the urge to capitalize on sympathy votes may surface. Or, more likely, the next financial, economic or political global crisis may force the schedule.

Can we be sure how the PAP leadership thinks about the effectiveness of sympathy votes? The ground can be so toxic that LKY’s demise may work against them with wavering, even faithful, voters seeking a clean break from the past. But taking advantage of a global crisis comes with a precedent – GCT bringing forward the 2001 GE after the Sep 11 attack.

Other Black Swans lurking unbeknownst to us in the realm of very low probability include one or some PAP leaders being incapacitated, dying suddenly etc (e.g. air crash, speaking matter-of-factly, not ill-intended). Or PAP invisible in-fighting is so intense that a gauntlet is thrown down to decide on a change in their top leaders. Hence, never say never.

NOT BEFORE 9 AUG 2015
Why? A matter of common sense.
None in her right mind will think the ground is sweet for the PAP currently or anytime soon. The PGP details will only be out in Aug 2014. Time will be needed to explain those details, ground responses collected and analysed. Where’s the certainty the senior-voter ground will be sweetened by this cheap vote-buying shot? How certain when Medishield Life premiums will go up, possibly neutralizing the positives wrought, nay, hoped for with the PGP? How about skeptics who prefer to view the PGP as an outcome from more opposition elected, hence more needed?

Is PAP that foolhardy to think that they can afford to risk the elusive sense of gratefulness to a PAP past to tilt the next GE just so to celebrate the 50th National Day? Only for history to write of fools relying on the vicissitudes of an electorate never so restless, so vocal to be grateful for a past long gone – but a future in peril?

Pertinent, too, is the pressure LHL is already under. He has led PAP to a reduced vote count by 8.7% (2006) and a further 6.5% (2011). Extrapolating that trend, the PAP will likely lose another 4.8% to 7.6% (trending % or average %). Maybe more.

Therefore, LHL needs all the time available to dish out more pork barrels to buy more votes or, at least, stem the bleeding. So, GE in time for 9 Aug 2015 is unlikely.

A MATTER OF HEADCOUNTS
In practical terms, headcounts may shape up to be the bigger challenge PAP faces preparing for the next GE. Consider the figures;
Cabinet
Of 18 ministers, Lim Hng Kiang has been in politics since 1991, Y Ibrahim and S Iswaran since 1997. Wouldn’t they consider it ‘timely’ to call it a day (or abandon ship)? How about the ‘bad guys’ given their ‘unfortunate portfolios’ – Gan Kim Yong & Lui Tuck Yew? Or those patronizing talkers and cocky faces that just rub voters the wrong way – the Vivian & Grace show? Finally, the $8-heart bypass spring chicken at a ripe 62, supposedly ‘best health minister Singapore ever had’ (sure, if you rate by the $8 heart bypass deal he managed for himself when no other citizen could claim the same deal then or since).

So, in all, 8 possible replacements. For this discussion, let’s say we settle for half, 4 insisting that it’s time to quit while the going is good for themselves.

Ageing PAP MPs
Presently, 10 are aged 60 or older; H Daipi, Lily Neo, Charles Chong, Arthur Fong, Raymond Lim, Seng Han Thong, Mah Bow Tan, Wong Kan Seng, Goh Chok Tong & LKY. With 3 obvious albatrosses around the neck (Raymond, Mah & Wong) and LKY (a deserved rest he truly needs), we should expect 6 to 8 retiring , including Seng, 65, Chong & Fong both 61 and Neo, 60 (albeit still attractive, not only physically but a heart of gold). Despite GCT’s own claim of ‘being able to make more money in the private sector’ & ‘top talent’ pedigree, TOTAL & JP Morgan have not shown interest to invite him to replace LKY’s soon-to-be-vacated board seats. So, ‘what’s wrong with collecting more money from citizens’ as MP at S$16k of ‘peanuts/month to bequeath to his grandchildren in the UK?

Middle-Aged PAP MPs
26 are aged 50 to 59.
Without needing to evaluate each one, let’s just go with the PAP’s self-renewal creed and settle on a 50% attrition rate i.e. 13 replacements.

Newbie PAP MPs
Here, records appear to show that PAP usually keep their all their newbies for at least a second term, as with GE 2006 candidates.

But we can reasonably assume that obvious duds like a paediatrician who could only string words in Parliament that sounded more like babbles coming out of the mouths of the babes he usually treats. Or the Kate Spade who’s morphed into a Singapore Nancy Drew, iconic for her efforts hunting down fellow feminine felons keen of sanitary-pad projectiles. Or, as likely , those meritocratic young talents, that only the PAP can see or attract, may wonder if it makes sense continuing to make their resume ‘more impressive’ being onboard a PAP in decline. Or to exit now, the better able to spin later, ‘I disagreed with policies and therefore exited.’

Let’s say 3-4 newbies will quit.

If our analysis holds, then PAP is looking to christen 26-29 new candidates. It could be more if, in their foresight (correctly &, for a change…in Singapore’s better interest, neutral to opposition and not serving only PAP’s interest), they increase the MP seats to 100 to have enough MPs to draw ministers from.

CONCLUSIONS
Given the above hard key figures analysis, the question that the PAP is likely grappling with now is attracting enough MPs, credible ones that meet the changed criteria of electability. The electorate appears to indicate they do not reject but, please, not too many highly-educated ones. It seems one has to get pass that basic ‘hygiene factor’ (Herzberg) of boots-on-the-ground-MP type, to play in Parliament.

Hence, the early new faces PAP introduced are probably an acknowledgement of that current truth.

But how attractive is the PAP brand name currently? From the horse’s mouth; Lim Swee Say confirmed he’ll be contesting East Coast GRC but had, in Parliament 2007, said, “By 2016, when I’m 62, if I still have to stand for election to serve as secretary-general of NTUC…as Minister in the PMO… our effort in attracting the best people to form the best team must have run into some difficulties.” <http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/lim-swee-say-fight-east-coast-again-next-ge-20140127#sthash.S3hEg4jz.dpuf&gt;

Well, if the best that PAP can parade thus far is one Chong Kee Hiong with his all-too-familiar sterling academic, commercial and rags-to-riches background but winner-takes-all meritocratic tendencies, upset at foregoing his Primary 5 math prize even into adulthood, one cannot help but surmise that the brand appears attractive still – but for the right motivations???

A posteriori, it appears safe to say that the next GE will likely not be before Aug 2015.
In my next, 3rd final analysis, let’s discuss how the GE should be fought.

2cents