"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"


A Call To Arms (Introduction)

Different views on when the next GE will occur have been discussed. Each has her own idea about the timing. What’s interesting is that the one person who should know exactly when does not appear to exactly know when.

The PM has the final say on the GE date. He tries to impress as the master strategist, demonstrating his AOS (‘appreciation of situation’) prowess to Singaporeans. He rallies his troops at PAP60 Conference, 7 Dec with his distilled 3-point grand vision and First World Govt triumphing a First World Parlianment imagery. (But how is the former possible if without the latter to draw the cabinet from?)

He has read his Sun Tzu, apparently, ‘All warfare is based on deception.’ So, as if a masterstroke to throw off the opposition, he says the GE may not be held “when everybody is expecting it”. Really? Is there actually, is it possible to have, ‘a time’ that ‘everyone expects’? Poppycock.

Maybe, as mere mortals, we can’t possibly understand when a deity utters words or ideas only angels or demons can appreciate. Like when we face difficulty figuring out what a Woodbridge Hospital inmate tells us sometimes.

But PAP Chief Strategist appears to unwittingly allude to the key weakness his party faces. Like a new found religion, PAP suddenly and openly advertise that, after 4-5 decades of offering only academically-brilliant (mostly unproven) candidates to renew their breed, now animal lovers, culture buffs, non-grads, grassroots ‘Victors (Lye)’ and practically everyone can now be invited to an exclusive PAP afternoon tea.

Regardless the spin, the fact is that PAP 3G leadership has shown no change in their long-held belief in academic success. Did they amend the Constitution given such a fundamental shift? Nope. Were hints already given earlier – remember their long-term planning DNA boast? Nope. It’s seems like a one-off, throwaway remark. For proof, watch out cosmetic and token non-grad candidates to be introduced later.

Were PAP serious, they would have said so immediately after GE2011, not now, barely 2 years to the next GE.

The PM’s spin is he wants a more diverse cohort of representatives in response to a more fragmented, more vocal society.

We think we know better. The hard-truth is: unlike the PAP of yonder years, theirs is not the attractive Sampan brand name it once was. But now a leaky Sampan 2.0 that, not only potential new ones wish to distance themselves from, even current MPs are working out their personal exit strategies whether openly or on the sly (sorry hor, PM, my wife says I must spend more quantity not merely quality time with our kids…but also my mother-in-law). Rats, we know, are the first to realize when to scurry off a leaking vessel.

Anyway, whilst we all cannot agree on the actual timing of the GE, we can reasonably agree that, sans the headcount (87 candidates, maybe a handful more as reserves), there will be no GE until the legal dateline of Jan 2017. Nonetheless, time is short and the battle ‘deadly serious’.

Why A Call To Arms
Absent a good agent or mole in the PAP’s innermost circle, we cannot know when PAP shortlist enough heads. But the GE beckons, regardless. And Singaporeans face this existential threat – born and bred citizens being outnumbered by citizens of convenience (PAP’s convenience to perpetuate their reign) after 2017. We who are clamouring most noisily for change must be already equipped to work the ground to effect the change we demand. Or we’ll live to regret too late.

Remember, the incumbent is formidable, very strong and cunning. Therefore, all hands must be on deck. That means not just Opposition Supporters and Opposition Party Members but also Civic & Civil Leaders and even PAP Supporters, indeed, All Singaporeans has a part to play.

If our underlying common aim across all strata of our society is not for a ‘Singapore is for everyone’ but to build the Singapore that we can say, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country’ (Nathan Hale), then every voter counts.

Hence, the Call to Arms.

Let’s discuss, over the next few weeks, the small but effective roles and actions we all can and should take to push our county along that desired direction.

We shall explore;

A Call To Arms (Part 1) – Opposition Unity…How About This Idea
A Call to Arms (Part 2) – Civic & Civil Leaders as Change Influencers
A Call to Arms (Part 3) – PAP Supporters…The Party Is More Than The Sec-Gen
A Call to Arms (Part 4) – Singaporeans: Give Us Back Our Pledge
A Call to Arms (Part 5) – Opposition Supporters as Change Agents

An ambitious agenda. But we must give it our best shot. With a more focused discussion, better clarity, we can indeed effect the Change we Must and end PAP’s dominance with the wisdom of the TRE crowd.

We have nothing to lose and much to gain.

2cents blogs @2econdsight.wordpress.com



Glimpses of Minister “Bigger-Role’s” View of Singapore

Make no mistake, the PAP government has marshalled all the resources (non-party ones) at its disposal or by subtle force to push their ‘newly packaged product’ onto to shelf space of Singaporeans’ minds. For marketers, a product that does not command shelf space or visibility has less chance of succeeding. All the more so when an ‘existing one’ has been repackaged as destined for a ‘bigger role in Singapore politics’ when, in fact, its 4-year existence has shown up short on tangible benefits for Singaporeans – other than the ‘kee chiu’ shorthand to signal one’s agreement to a matter.

Hence, less than 72 hours after being butted-up to succeed as the next Sec-Gen of NTUC in Oct 2015, Minister Chan’s (Bigger role) face  – and thoughts – are all over the mainstream media after an appearance at the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) Singapore Perspectives conference, 26 Jan 2015.

Visually,  Straits Times and Todayonline splashed his boy-SAF-general face, hands gesturing to make his point. While on page 4 (TODAY hardcopy edition) his intent face is in focus even as his senior DyPM Teo’s oblique face is faded out.

Textually, the thoughts of Chan to the 4 reported questions (out of 7) were all reported while only one of Teo’s views is worthy to see print. The 4 questions covered political diversity, providing for social needs, Pioneer Generation Package and Growth vs Productivity.

All our lives will be deeply affected if Chan should rise to be PM#4. So, what’s Minister Bigger Role thinking about issues affecting us?

Political Diversity
Diversity is ‘a strength…(to) check our own blind spots’ but Singaporeans must be matured enough to ‘achieve consensus beyond expressing differing views’.

Interpretation: Basically, nothing more than a motherhood statement devoid of substance. Such an answer can be given anywhere, anytime by any politician – it’s safe to make. But are we any wiser in our current context?

No one can disagree with the need for consensus. But in our current context tell us please, Minister Bigger Role, how can the process to achieve consensus begin? Would it not rightly begin with the government being willing to acknowledge the ‘blind spots’ that differing views revealed? Or is Chan also convinced he should always ‘decide what is right. Never mind what Singaporeans think’ (LeeKuanYew, 20 Apr 1987)?

Providing For Social Needs
The ideal has always been ‘do the most for those with the least’, but the challenge lies in defining this group…as there will be some lamenting at being left out even though they are not the most in need.

Interpretation: Another safe motherhood statement. But what so challenging about ‘defining this group’? Why can we accept IMF’s, World Bank’s, UN’s etc definition in most socio-econ concepts and yet cannot, indeed refuse to, set a poverty line? Wouldn’t that be at least a start?

The fact is that with any ‘definition’, there will always be lamenters. So, what’s the problem here? Or it’s but a convenient excuse?

Pioneer Generation Package
Whether more to receive or be given will depend on whether a government can muster the resources and the willingness of society to honour the older generation.’

Cautioning against a situation in which elections are turned into an “auction”, where subsidies are wielded as a tool to win votes.

“It is always easy for someone to come and do a one-upmanship, and say that I will promise more. The only way to check against this is not a political system per se, but an enlightened electorate,” he said, adding it is important to pose tough questions, such as how a candidate proposes to balance the books or bring about the promised benefit.

Interpretation: Is he, a leader, trying to play one group against another with pushing responsibility to citizens with his ‘willingness of society to honour the older generation’? Whatever happened to the PAP conviction to do the right thing even if it is unpopular with ‘society’?

What about a government’s book that is always balanced but at the expense of citizens’ books that are in chronic deficit from the cradle to the LifeCorp columbarium? What about reducing spending in one to increase another – even as change in our context and circumstances is the surest constant?

Slower Foreign Worker Growth vs Increasing Productivity
Asked how to balance the two, Chan pointed out the realities of Singapore’s citizen population, which is small compared with megacities that it has to compete with, such as Beijing or Shanghai.

“In any global economy, in order to be a niche, as part of the global value-added chain, we need to be of a certain size. The question is, can we do that … I won’t dare say it’s impossible, but I know it’s very difficult.”

Interpretation: I can only say that for someone who’s only aced Cambridge (BA Econs, First Class) and Sloans Fellows (MSC, Gen Mgt) but never worked a minute in the commercial world, his thoughts are mighty rich, to say the least. Words spouted from a head soaked in theories only – with zilch practice and proven records.

If SIZE was THE factor, Singapore wouldn’t be where it is today. Nor, for that matter, before, when or after Raffles, with his East Indies clerk background, bought us over and then ‘conceived a town plan to remodel Singapore into a modern city…devised a set of policies and regulations that outlined the objectives of the…free port… instituted a local magistrate who ensured peace and order…establishing an institution for higher learning’. All in 5 years from 1819 to 1824, by the time he was 35 years old on his own steam, not via a GRC walkover. Now, THAT’s TALENT – with incomparable foresight!!!

Yes, globalization changed the global economy. And, please Mr Chan, don’t be surprised if I tell you another phenomenon will sweep over globalization. How and when we know not yet. But the unchanging bedrock principle, pre-, current- and post-globalization, for economic relevance is ‘competitive advantage’- not SIZE!

You define your challenge wrongly, you bark up the wrong tree. You think size, you (wrongly) ‘add more (maybe wrong) people to Team Singapore’. You think ‘competitive advantage’, you do not end up like a ‘one-trick pony’ but more likely to succeed.

General Chan, you should know better than to assume the map to be the territory.

Not encouraging. But let’s evaluate his performance, his further utterances and not just this first scene in Minister Bigger Role’s first act as the newly Union Chief-to-be before we decide his fate come the GE.


Political elite – Politically inept

Here’s an interesting perspective from Chris K who has lived some years in UK, Germany to appreciate the finer workings of a functioning democracy.

“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond first contact with the main hostile force” sagely said the famous Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke. Or commonly paraphrased; “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”.

Potential future PM Chan Chun Sing, despite a former Major-General, seems to have forgotten this most important aspect of general-ship when he launched an offensive at the SDP’s Chee Soon Juan, not planning on receiving the social media blowback. That the minister, given to warlike Churchill copycat exhortations of “doing battle everywhere necessary”  felt the need to argue and rebut a “political failure” which not only gave prominence to that “political failure” but also pointed to his own less than solid electoral credentials underlined von Moltke’s dictum.

But there was more. National Development Minister of State Desmond Lee fired a broadside at AHPETC, only to be found to be a pot calling the kettle black when it is not even certain the kettle is even black. Let’s not mention the rats.

What is political talent?

A military scholar bureau-technocrat (the writer finds himself unable to call him military leader) and a legal professional. First term MPs riding the bandwagon of an ex PM and a DPM. Yet both immediately propelled to full minister and minister of state. No private sector company bet that much money on the unproven but not the PAP betting taxpayers’ money their technocratic talent automatically becomes political talent, even PM one day.

Political talent is the ability to understand the motivations, aspirations and concerns of voters. Then to craft the right policies which meet expectations and lessen disappointments. That talent needs to stand firm and yet adapt to criticism and be able to persuade voters.  No easy task but it gets harder. Financial resources need to be found and allocated among competing demands to fund those policies and yet be prudent. It requires real political talent for such a delicate balancing act. By comparison, the technocratic stuff about policy optimal feasibility, KPIs and the likes are a walk in the park. One can even learn it in university.

Policy-making in cognitive delusions

Political talent cannot really be tested and proven when the GRC fast tracked would-be ministerial talents with convenience of a lopsided democratic process and without the inconvenience of having to develop and burnish their political credentials.

There lies the rub. There can be no connection with the masses without competition whether that is from the opposition, the media, an active citizenry or simply fighting for one’s very own seat. There can be no political talent without connection to the masses. There can only be the easily acquired taste for entitlement.

Formulating strategies and policies among the like-minded, in the comfort of a super-majority and without necessary checks and balances is a self-perpetuating cognitive delusion, not least when assumptions are self-validated by an ever-helpful MSM, a lack of vigorous Parliamentary debate and a penchant to hear only what they wish to hear. It is then not such a surprise that policies and solutions to social conundrums are no Hard Truths but Easy Ways Out with citizens having to pay up for one thing or another, or throwing more bodies at the economy.


50 years of political dominance may have entrenched the PAP in power but the citizens increasingly recognise they are ruled by disconnected politicians.

PMO Minister Grace Fu bemoaning a reduction of her fabulous salary with nary a thought she sounded ridiculous to the toiling masses. Minister of State and MP for Sengkang Dr Lam Pin Min found waffling in front of resident-voters. Social media leak stories of MPs who were neither able to defend nor articulate government policies. First term MP-ministers’ unseemly haste to score brownie points smacks more of political ineptitude and naivety than future Prime Ministerial potential.

Stick those spurs

Von Moltke’s famous dictum may refer to the uncertainty of the enemy’s reaction but it warns us that the best laid plans may not survive the test of reality. In politics, that reality is the everyday life of the voter and a hardening of attitudes against disconnected governance.

A prime minister unused to that hardening of attitudes may delude himself with the need to fix the opposition so that he need not “solve the problem of this week and forget the challenges of next year”. But in that separated sphere of wealth and technocratic excellence without the need for the political talent of connecting with the masses, he and his colleagues are overly comfortable in their old ways. In sheer irony, it is they who need those spurs stuck in their hides.

One-party political dominance is a bad idea even for the PAP.

Chris K

* Chris is a retired executive director in the financial industry who had worked mostly in London and Tokyo. He writes opinions and commentaries on economic and financial matters.


PAP’s Mind Games

7 Dec 2014, the PAP Sec-Gen rallied his troops with the never-before uttered, ‘the coming GE is a dead-serious battle’. The troops themselves lapped it up – unthinkingly. None questioned, ‘How come, from the default party of choice to dominance threatened, possible defeat even?’

Tellingly, too, the Sec-Gen was betting that non-party voters will be as unquestioningly daft to believe his assertion that ‘if the PAP is in trouble, Singapore will be in trouble’.

The ruler didn’t think that the previously daft electorate has been subjected, like the peasants of the French Revolution, to PAP’s own version of ‘let them eat cakes’. In place of a lack of food, we have been strangled, subjected to the non-stop treadmill of PAP’s rent-seeking, money-robbing schemes. In place of gathering outside the palace, the enlightened among the dafts have coalesced on the internet.

Deception is the key to cultivate the crowd

We’ll be mistaken to believe that the PAP are a clueless bunch when it comes to political strategy. Since overtly piling and playing on voters’ fears can backfire very badly, rationalizing for voters that their fears are intelligent, legit will serve PAP better.

Little wonder that the Sec-Gen scheduled a (rigged) Q&A session with his Propaganda Dept (14-15 Jan) to casually inform the GE is not yet. But, for good measure, Singaporeans must know that his successor remains at large. Voters should understand that they may well be voting in the Next Chosen One from amongst the new faces PAP will be fielding. Left unsaid, ‘So please, hor, give your vote to our new candidates.’

Yet another move in the well-crafted grand strategy to secure the long-time supporters while reaching out to FMMs (fence-sitters, marginal supporters and mal/mis-informed) is PM Lee’s Facebook Q&A. This exercise is not unprecedented. What is, is the follow-up masterstroke of Tea with PM for some 13 lucky fans 18 – 63 years old, all gullible as props to serve the PAP’s end. The guests to tea must be so impressed that they must tell the world of a ‘true, caring’, approachable, working-like-shit PM who is “the Man to lead Singapore for the next decade!”

Desperation is the kink in their armour
So, what gives with the paper-general Chan Chun Sing’s (CCS) new Union Chief appointment? A surprise? That would be an understatement in PAP’s 60 years in existence. The PAP Singaporeans know is one beast that leaves little to Lady Chance. PM#2 and PM#3 talked about succession even as they just ascended their thrones. The NTUC Sec-Gen position, with its hundreds of thousands of members and its historic role played in PAP’s ascension would rank high in importance – even if it isn’t the normal route to premiership.

Consider, as early as 2011, PAP tried to sell Ong Ye Kung as a ministerial potential with his NTUC background.

Therefore, the staggeringly surprising change in CCS’ appointment, usurping Heng Chee How (NTUC Dy Sec-Gen since 1999) as the next Union Chief (all formalized in one day) speaks of a decisive if desperate move by PAP. But is it ‘strategy’?

Consider this angle. PM Lee did publicly assess that ‘Singaporeans want PAP to govern Singapore’. If this is the assessment (actually, he cannot possibly say otherwise), then how would that inform PAP’s GE strategy? We already heard that the PM-in-waiting has yet to be anointed, so please hor, vote our new candidates. PM Lee also tried to seal the image of a hardworking, friendly servant of the people via an ‘unexpected’ FB Q&A – orchestrated a week after a live one with the Press..

Are these seemingly casual moves or well-planned ones meant to reach out to the FMMs?

So, whither CCS’ new appointment?

I submit that it is THEIR chess move to subtly focus the minds of the electorate. The voter needs to see PAP’s (voter’s) future in PAP’s (voter’s) choice of PAP’s next possible PM (voter’s personal future situations or children’s) secured – or at least steps taken to the effect.
Leaving little to Lady Chance, PAP even enlisted their has-been PM Goh CT to chime in that CCS is destined for a ‘bigger role’. Goh, in blind service to the PAP instead of the people of Singapore, saw no disconnect in his endorsement of CCS whose record is as follows;

1987 – 2011
: Military career. Achievement, Chief of Army.

26 Mar 2010 – 25 Mar 2011
: Chief of Army (Paper Chief for all of 365 days). Achievement, not publicly discussed.

27 Apr 2011
: Elected MP on Nomination Day. Achievement, rode on MM LKY’s coattail.

21 May 2011 – 31 Oct 2012
: Acting Minister, of Community Development, Youth & Sports. Achievement,                                                nothing to publicize even by his boss, PM Lee.

1 Nov 2011 – 31 Aug 2013
: Acting Minister of Social & Family Development. Achievement, promoted to                                                 full minister. Achievement, no notable citation of specific KPI reached.

1 Sep 2013 – now
: Minister of Social & Family Development. Achievement, nothing but                                                             nonetheless, got Goh’s ringing endorsement as the next ‘bigger’ thing in Singapore politics.

(N.B.: There’s zilch in his whole life that he’s shown even an inkling of working for workers’ welfare. Absolutely zero.)

If a jack-of-many-trades-with-quantifiable-achievements-in-none is premiership material – in PAP’s current configuration – then shit has hit the fan. When LKY dissected PM potentials in the 80’s, he carefully explained both their strengths and weaknesses. Remember ‘wooden’, ‘Indian’ to explain why PM-shortlisted but not PM-anointed? What’s more, LKY had 4, 5 to pick from. Now, PAP has only one – perhaps, he’s the only one who gleefully ‘kee chiu’ (volunteered) for the job?

So, for all the razzmatazz (‘excited action or impressive display’ or is it ‘evasive or misleading language; double talk’?), signs of desperation writ large as a kink in their strategy armour.

Mind Games
Summarizing, CCS’ dazzling ascension can be read as the normal, predictable almost, way of the PAP we have come to know – i.e. succession planning. But now his inexplicable butt-up into Union Chief territory, coming less than 2 years into his 2 achievement-less Ministerships, leaves us wondering if this is a desperate or reckless or bold move by the PAP?

Recall once again why would PAP Sec-Gen Lee say that the next PM choice “is not entirely certain, because I will bring in some MPs and some new people with leadership calibre in the next General Election” on 16 Jan, then barely a week later, agreed to NTUC’s request to second CCS to be their deputy Sec-Gen – all within a day.

Rounding off with Goh’s unabashed endorsement. Goh’s not known for verbosity. That’s impossible for anyone wooden, except in the hands of the late ventriloquist Victor Khoo as Charlee. From his brief 61-word 25 Jan FB post lavishing praise on CCS, he found it necessary to draw voters’ attention that with the CCS’ move ‘Singapore needs to look forward’.
Therefore, does not the whole affair smack of PAP’s grand strategy at mind games; to calculatingly, psychologically assure party supporters while simultaneously manipulate FMMs with a view to intimidate the one or confuse the other into voting a ‘certainty that what we have now is going to continue’ come the GE?
Now, opposition parties and anti-PAP troopers, what are you going to do about that?


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Shackling Symptoms, Sidestepping the Cause.

Two bills tabled in the current parliamentary sitting, Liquor Control (Supply & Consumption) Bill and changes to the Industrial Relations Act, are sold by the government as proactive. Both are actually a demonstration of reactive, regressive leadership and unconcern for citizens’ true welfare.

In essential, the twin bills show the government to be Shackling the Symptoms while Sidestepping their Causes.

The Liquor Control Bill
On the surface, the Bill is ostentatiously in response to “concerns raised…by some MPs over alcohol-induced disamenities in their constituencies.” The aim is to ‘curb alcohol sales and consumption in areas with “significant risk of public disorder associated with excessive consumption of alcohol.”

TODAY has helpfully listed countries with existing Public Drinking Rules, I guess, to help ‘educate’ Singaporeans how progressive and responsive the government is. Let’s look closer.

The Police’s prerogative to issue DPPO (Designated Public Places Orders) was borne out of a UK government Jan 2005 proposal on Drinking Responsibly in order to address “alcohol misuse, in the form of binge drinking (BD)…prevalent among young people and seems to be a distinctive characteristic of the British drinking culture”. Concerns listed include alcohol and hooliganism amongst football spectators. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn244.pdf

Sustained economic losses from alcohol-induced crimes were very high. ‘In 2002/03, 1.2 million violent crimes were alcohol related and 44% of all violent crime was fuelled by alcohol. 35% of all attendances at hospital accident and emergency departments are related to alcohol as were 70% of those which occur between midnight and 5 am. One in five violent incidents took place around pubs …All…costs alone estimated to amount to £7.3 billion a year.’ http://alcoholresearchuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/odpm-drinking-responsibly-january-2005.pdf

Alcohol-Free Zones regulations first appeared under the Local Government Act 1993. Special consultation has to be made in an area that ‘has a recognized Aboriginal community’ if AFZ is to be declared. As recent as 2010, when Sydney declared more AFZs, it was observed that “some of these areas are residential areas where Aboriginal people live”. Aborigines were not specifically targetted y the Act but was highlighted.

The laws are aimed primarily at Danes. “From 1991, municipal authorities can prohibit the drinking of alcohol beverages in public places like streets and parks.” Pg 126, Denmark Country Report – Alcohol Policy Profile
The 2 common features of the 3 territories with Public Drinking Rules are;

  1. The legislation originated out of a concern to curb excessive drinking of their own citizens in order to minimize instances of social disorder or crime.
  2. All legislation can be traced to the days long before the higher presence of foreigners in the country became an issue if, in fact, it is.

Industrial Relations Act (Amendment) Bill – allowing PMETs representation by rank & file unions
It aims to provide PMETs an “additional and lower-cost alternative to settle their employment disputes through union and management negotiations.” Given their increased numbers (now >30% of workforce), the amendment will help them to be “better represented…and better embrace(d)…into the tripartite process.”

Disputes in re-employment contract (i.e. pending retirees) were repeatedly given as examples that the amendment serves. But MP Yeo Guat Kwang, who famously holds the most directorship of any MPs past or present, should know a thing or two when he tellingly spoke of “more accounts by PMEs about how their colleagues were retrenched because it was less costly for employers to hire a younger or foreign PME.”

What PMEs need are laws that will be punitive against unfair retrenchment, that such disputes need not even arise. Otherwise, employers can rest assured that, like Prime Gold had done, Singaporeans can be illegally replaced with foreigners without concern that the Ministry of Manpower will demand that those unfairly replaced need to be reinstated.

PMEs need bread, PAP government gives them stones.

What The 2 Bills Says About PAP’s Leadership & Governance
Singapore has laws in place that had served us well for 50 years; laws on the sale and consumption of alcohol; laws that PMETs found adequate to protect them while earning a livelihood for themselves and loved ones.

So, why does Singapore suddenly need new or amended existing laws – that have proven adequate for 5 decades?

Does it make sense that a sovereign nation has to adapt its laws to accommodate the ‘sins’ of the foreigners who come in their numbers and at Singaporeans’ pleasure? Should it not be the other way around since we live peaceably enough with just the old set of laws?

Why have Singaporeans got to change our behaviour (more restrictive drinking terms) or seek out more legal protection (via unions) just because of the changes brought on by excessive foreigners in our midst?

The foreigners who came in their numbers and the employers (local or foreign) prior to 2010 or earlier had to adapt themselves to our existing laws. Their behaviour did not force new laws on us, our lives.

Are we really in control here? Or is the tail of foreigners over-presence wagging the dog of legislation? Isn’t that the case here with their drinking ways and their impact on employers’ hiring practices? Are we acting like a sovereign country when our sovereignty means adapting our laws to cater to guests and commercial organizations’ behaviour instead of telling them, these have been our laws, take it or get out of here!

Does this not prove that this government has been derelict in their leadership? And their governance have been shown to be without any true concern for the lives and interests of citizens because they choose to shackle the symptoms, while sidestepping the root cause of irresponsible drinking and unfair employment practices – i.e. foreigner numbers have exceeded their critical mass to behave as they do back home and employers can exert illegal dismissals of Singaporeans with impunity.

I wish to categorically state that I have worked practically my whole adult life with foreigners as principals, colleagues or clients. No issue with them whatsoever at every personal level. They are entitled to their own pursuit of life and happiness for themselves and theirs…as much as I am and my fellow Singaporeans are.
More so on our home turf and not at our expense – and surely not with the tacit and overt concurrence of our elected government



Where’s Your Campaign Strategist?

Aside from opting for the road less travelled, what have Dr Chee and Roy Ngerng in common?

Well, both of them have repeatedly invited PAP ministers to meet for debates or discussions on national issues. The latest one coming from Dr Chee when replying to Minister Chan Chun Seng’s broadside, ‘There are genuine differences in how the SDP and PAP want to take Singapore forward. On this we can have an honest, even robust debate’.


Why would an elected government (however they have done so via their legal trickery is not the issue here) with a 5-year mandate consider giving Dr Chee and Roy the time of day and the publicity to debate? What is there to gain for them?

Why would they want to set such a precedent for ordinary, disagreeing citizens to seek ‘debates’ with them?

By offering either of the gentlemen the platform to speak up in a formal debate, by standing on the same stage with them and by just even showing up, they would be, like it or not, lending a grain of legitimacy to both gentlemen’s credibility and recognisability. Would you do that to your political opponent when there is no legal compulsion to do so?

Who would the potential, interested audience be for such a debate? Presumably, Singaporeans at large. I refer to Mr/Ms Everyman, not the viral supporters on either side of the political spectrum who would already have their minds made up which way the debate goes.

So, what do Everyman hope to gain therefrom? Not much as far as I can tell. Not when most are so caught up with bringing home the bacon and focused on keeping their jobs under the gaze of their local or foreign bosses all too eager to replace them with foreign workers or talents.

So, it’s fair to say that the invite is an initiative dead in the water. As such, the only imagined gain for Dr Chee and Roy is the satisfaction that the PAP ministers have no guts to face them. And then, what?

I think debates may eventually come to the Singapore scene but not that soon. And, if they do materialize, it’ll likely be only confined to the period prior to a GE.

But the lack of response to the debate invitation is not necessary an obstacle to Dr Chee and Roy. Or, for that matter, to the opposition. See, we now have the internet.

If your intent is not just to be on the same stage or TV screen as the ministers but to convince an audience of your choice, then the logical thing to do is to take your message directly to your audience. Never mind about your sparring partner. Take your message again and again to your intended audience!

Therefore, I urge both gentlemen and the Opposition Parties in general, please make use, make more and better use of the internet to get your message across to the voters. The cost is cheap and the reach is wide where your audience is.

We have to move further away from where your opponent is strong, i.e. in traditional media, and move decisively, deeply and swiftly to exploit further the internet, social media. Obama, Modi and Joko have all shown the power to be harnessed.

Unfortunately, what is still inescapably clear with WP, SDP, NSP, SDA, RP etc is that up to now none have got a Chief Campaign Strategist (especially one IT-savvy) to give direction, firepower, speed and unity of purpose with obviously limited resouces to winning the impending GE.

By being the first to merely announce the appointment of such a person to the role, you would have shaken the confidence of the other players. And make voters sit up to look or to listen.

Why wait and work behind the scene just mostly waiting for the GE date to be announced? Why not think and start a strategy of what Karl Rove did for George Bush, namely, attack PAP’s strengths early in the game in order to neutralize those strengths so that you can focus your limited resources to engage with voters during the short on-the-ground campaigning duration? Is this the best strategy? Maybe, maybe not. But it shows what can be done – systematically and now, not later when the noises get louder for your key message to fight for eardrums and eyeballs.

So, forget about calling for debates. Appoint and set that Campaign Strategist loose…NOW!


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Basic Idea #1: Set Our Students Free

Background intro:
Last year, what started as a one-time request from TRE editor to write my response to Prof Kishore’s monthly Big Ideas column in the Straits Times (ST) continued on and off. I had jokingly said that ‘sarcasm is my middle name’. It was fun to critique K’s pompous BS.

When K’s series ended Dec, I suggested to write a series to contrast with K’s Big Ideas. Working titles included ‘Small Ideas, Significant Impact’, ‘Modest Ideas, Mega Impact’. I finally settled for ‘Basic Ideas, Basal Impact’ because, unexpectedly, K started a new ‘Small Idea’ column in the ST.

There was a longer intro piece published in TRE <http://www.tremeritus.com/2015/01/11/countering-kishore-intro/&gt;. It was not much read or commented on. I could have done a better job but failed :).


As a response to Prof Kishore’s 2014: Year of Big Ideas < http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/2014-the-year-big-ideas-20140111>, here is the first Basic Idea.

It is fashionable for politicians, in particular, to make rousing references to how we must nurture our youth. Our youth is the future of our nation.

The past is important. But it is also dead and gone. But the future’s there for anyone to change. What’s doggone certain are a) like it or not, it will surely come and b) changes will bring us the future even as the future will bring us changes.

Idea #1 is informed by Roosevelt’s assertion. In fact, it is our sacred duty to do so as adults. But there is a small problem. Why must ‘we’ be the only ones to build? Why not ‘they’? After all, it is their future we are talking about, isn’t it?

Now, of all the changes that the original team of PAP leaders did, there is one that I never understood. The rationale behind the policy and the context within which it was decided are understandable. But it’s nonetheless puzzling.

No longer discussed and long forgotten, it was the policy of forbidding our students from participating actively in politics and socio-political matters. The policy was borne of the riotous days of the student protests. If I recall correctly, the 1950’s hyper student activism of The Chinese High School (now Hwa Chong) and Chung Cheng High was legendary.

What our Singapore students did would put the recent Taiwanese Sunflower and HK Yellow Umbrella civic disobedience in the shade. Just google ‘Singapore Chinese middle school riots’ for more details.

No, I am not advocating that we return to those heady, violent days of youthful activism. And it is most certainly not because of what recently occurred in HongKong and Taiwan that I have puzzled over the matter.

Reading up on Singapore modern history decades back. I had always thought it ironic that of all the people to call for neutralizing the voice and activism of students, it was the once-in-many-lifetimes team of LKY, Goh Keng Swee, S Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye et al. My questions were;

– Where did they first meet?
– When did their political philosophy germinate?
– How did they first dip their feet into political activities? .
The short answer is: In the universities, as undergraduates.

Why were they able to stick through the many baptisms of fire? Amongst other reasons, it must be that their ideals were formed, forged and fortified by the rush of youth and youthful, never-say-die-must-try perseverance. Sheer will and grit to sell their ideals and sacrifice their all for the greater good of their fellowmen.

The depth of such idealism cannot be replicated in men and women, with their youth long gone.

The breadth of such ideals cannot be conceived by minds narrowed by too many failures or successes, both of which serve mostly to circumscribe the boundaries of the merely possible.

The freshness of insights can never be spontaneously recreated in the lab of adult experience.

If we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them (Einstein), then it’s onus upon us to encourage and also look towards that other level of thinking to whom the thinking capabilities and future belong. Let us free them to listen to their own heartbeats, to march to their own drumbeats.

It is quite beyond me why the PAP team that went on to build up the better Singapore we used to know with ideals and camaraderie fashioned during their student days would cut off that basic human right and the environment that rallied them together in the first place.

Therefore, my Basic Idea #1 is Set Our Students’ Free. To do so, we must jettison at the earliest possible any and all the legal encumbrances that are currently holding back our students and our young from thinking and acting freely to discuss and push for what they see to be their own future in the making.

I call for the timely dismantling of a mistaken system that has reduced and cowed our young into mostly self-centred, self-absorbed, self-seeking cry-babies – with too few exceptions. Instead of redirecting our top young minds to focus on merely succeeding as mainly productive economic units, let us free them, dare them to…

Let the disappointments pass
Let the laughter fill your glass
Let your illusions last until they shatter
Whatever you might hope to find
Among the thoughts that crowd your mind
There won’t be many that ever really matter

And remember to be kind
When the pain of another will serve you to remind
That there are those who feel themselves exiled
On whom the fortune never smiled
And upon whose life the heartache has been piled

And when you’ve found another soul
Who sees into your own
Take good care of each other
(The Only Child, J Browne)

The future is theirs, we cannot build it for them. Building them for their future starts with allowing them their right to conceive the kind of future they think, dream possible. We certainly can – indeed, must – stand aside, cheer them on to harness their energy and exuberance, their imagination and idealism for a world better than what we leave for them.

K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2005

Basic Idea #1 – Set Our Students Free…NOW!