"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"


Singlish vs Standard English: I say, RELAK, lah!

Confession: I possess no PhD in English Literature or, for that matter, a MA, Int’l Relations or a BA (Hons), Sociology & Int’l Relations (the last 2 from UK universities, no less). But I do speak and write fairly decent English – and communicate in Singlish as and when.

It is no surprise to me how Chang Li Lin, press secretary to PM Lee, came down hard on
Gwee’s ‘Politics and the Singlish Language’ (original title). The NYT editors might have thought of Singapore’s media being ranked progressively at a new #154 out of 180 low and its parallel to George Orwell’s 1946 ‘Politics and the English Language‘.  To Orwell, language is ‘an instrument which we shape for our own purposes’. And one where ‘political and economic’ causes and effects inter-play.

That might have motivated Chang to respond i.e. the hint of political manipulation of language use in Singapore is a No-No. Her key defence: ‘Standard English is vital for Singaporeans to earn a living’, highlighting the economic – while deflecting and eluding discussion of the political causes and effects.

After a very short introduction, Gwee dives unhesitatingly into the political causes and effects at play in Singlish. He helpfully dissects a Singlish example in ‘ownself check ownself’ for his international (mainly American) audience. Readers with understanding of the need for independent checks and balances in any First World country with pretensions of democracy (whether the size of almost a continent or a little red dot) would straightaway understand the context – and the spot-on mockery therein…at the expense of the PAP leaders.

Then towards the end, he gives what amounts to a coup de grâce (on Chang’s boss, the PM himself) with discussion of how ‘mee siam mai hum’ came to exist as a shorthand to mean how out-of-touch from his peasantry the naturally-aristocratic PM (and his kind) has been.

PM has since tried to make up for his boo-boo, with Facebook pics and posts (or ‘poses’?) of his standing in queue for hawker food and eating at a humble hawker centre table  – unfortunately, with a ‘makan-kaki’ who placed her elbow on the table (an unladylike table manner…eh, appeared to be the same one who uploaded a monkey with the middle finger at her sis-in-law, probably,). The PM himself now encourages ‘new citizens to integrate..(and)…if you can understand Singlish, so much the better.’

Who can blame Ms Chang for coming out to take a sarcastic swipe at Gwee on her boss’ behalf? Besides, it makes dollars-and-sense since hers is a secured job that probably pays higher than the US President’s press secretary. But in making her point, why the need to say, ‘Not everyone has a Ph.D. in English Literature like Mr. Gwee, who can code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and standard English, and extol the virtues of Singlish…in polished standard English.’?

Tsk tsk tsk.

Eh, hello, Ms Chang, why so liddat one? Don’t be KNS, leh. Relak, lah! 

Got something to say, say nicely, can or not? We no can tahan gahmen people tekan our bro, okay? Why? You think you gahmen so you are tok kong, ah? We all Singaporeans. Can sui sui talk one.

You know, huh, we one people, one nation, one Singapore. How we are ‘one’, you know or not? Simple lah, you go outside country, when you hear how we talk (yah lah, yah lah, I mean our accent), the Singlish we spiak and oso siow about food – you know, cannot chabot..that one sure Singaporean!

So, when Lao Lee and the cheng hu talk and talk about ‘pledge ourselves as one united people’, we the people alleady ourselves make our own way to become ‘one united people’ – with SINGLISH!

Why not you gahmen so clever, make use of what we the people alleady doing to make us more united? But you, what they call you now – ELITE ah (ha! KNS!) – want to kill Singlish. Worse ah, now our hawker food all become so expensive, liddat we sure die, we sure cannot unite one!

You talk liddat in your letter, we go pengsan liao! Bo sui, bo sui!

So, please hor, Ah Lian (eh, your name Li Lin almost same like Li Lian), I say, RELAK, lah.


Law Kim Hwee

(PS: I should say a word to concerned i.e. kiasu parents here. In my 30-year career I have interacted and communicated with many colleagues and customers across USA, Europe and Asia. Non-English-mother-tongue speakers from West and East have told me that they find my speech much clearer and easier to understand than my other Singaporean colleagues.

My own little secret? Rather simple – whenever I speak or include Singlish, I make a deliberate switch mentally. How can that be achieved? Perhaps, I’ll share that another time to, hopefully, benefit your children. Remember, you don’t need a PhD or MA or BA in English or Literature to speak and write well – without jettisoning Singlish.)



That’s A$246,406.57 per day…for 25 years; thanks, mate!


In the excitement and run-up of Bukit Batok by-election, this A$2.25b deal might have been missed…

 “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’–that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Keats


Notwithstanding PAP leaders’ cold, calculating leadership ideology (embodied in words such as ‘How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?’), I have always imagined that they are all closet, poetry-loving dudes. Well, at least, Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn appear to express their beliefs in beauty and truth.

Why and how else can it be that whatever they do are reported by the mainstream media as acts of beauty – that it’s always the only truth? And, yeah, ‘that is all…and all ye need to know’, citizens!

Take the now-concluded Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement PM Lee has just inked with PM Turnbull. Both called it a ‘landmark’ pact. There can be and there are only upsides all round for Singapore and Singaporeans. Read here and here.

I have little problem with ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’, my usual concern is with the truth behind the beauty. Specifically, in this case, the truth behind the beauty of access to a training area 10X the size of Singapore is at a cost of A$2.25 bil over 25 years. Our ever-compliant reporters & editors preferred the neat 3-digit beautiful figure.

But, in truth, it’s a mind-boggling A$246,406.57 per day of our hard-earned money.

Why should it concern or worry you? 
Since the announcement on 7 May, not one single MP, whether PAP or WP, has raised any questions about this serious money that we are throwing to the Aussies.

What is even worse, for an agreement with such a high payout, the defence minister, the foreign minster or the prime minister himself never bothered to bring the agreement up for parliamentary discussion prior to negotiation. Does that not put Singapore at a grave negotiating disadvantage as the Aussies know that they need only convince the ministers who, unlike their own, need not be accountable to their MPs and citizens – or inquisitive reporters? Perhaps, a little polishing of the ministers’ apples (that they are such worthy ministerial talents, so decisive in knowing what’s best for their Singapore will yield the additional A$100mil, A$400mil more in the final price tag?

What’s more, will it not encourage other countries (Taiwan, Thailand, Brunei, USA, India etc) to rub their hands in glee when similar agreements come up for renegotiation?

Therefore, shouldn’t that worry Singaporeans on 2 counts, namely, no prior debate and the actual amount of serious money that we are paying just to train (up to) 14,000 soldiers annually?

I know that questioning expenditures on defence-related issues are a favourite for the PAP leaders to jump on to make outrageous claims that the questioner is risking our nation’s survival etc. They are also wont to throw up out-of-context, false-dilemma or many-questions type of fallacious arguments (Minister Shanmugam did with Chee’s call to relook our foreign labour policies) i.e. everything but give straight answers to our honest concerns, worries and questions.

But we are merely exercising our basic right to question and, in fact, taking up Minister Tharman’s recent belief that politician and leaders, in particular, must ‘discuss things openly, tell the people the truth‘.

My fellow Singaporeans, please email your MPs (click here to get their email addresses) to demand that they raise the questions on our behalf. It’s OUR money!!!


Tharman: Discuss Things Openly, Tell People The Truth

“You don’t need to agree with the PAP, but discuss things openly, tell people the truth,” Mr Tharman added. “Always go for a better consensus. That’s how we advance democracy, that’s the track I hope SDP gets on to.”

Tharman had this advice for Chee; ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’. Wow! That was really rich coming from Tharman.

Before going further, let me say upfront that I, like many other Singaporeans, admire him tremendously for his command of financial matters and his common touch with the average Singaporeans. Which other PAP ministers, practically all of whom never got into parliament on their own steam but via a corrupted GRC system, can truly hold a candle to the many brilliant minds and leaders on the world stage? Just cast your mind across the faces of the past few cabinets, can we imagine anyone else being appointed Chair of the Int’l Monetary & Financial Committee? Or similar?

Singaporeans should not be too besotted with the GDP numbers since Goh Chok Tong (he who initiated his FT policy) took over as PM. From 1970 to 1990, the Soviet Union more than tripled their GDP before the USSR disintegrated. It’s easy, as Krugman observed, when all you needed to do is to ‘add labour’. Well, just because there is no evidence of cancer does not necessarily mean that everything is hunky-dory…or as I always like to say, ‘don’t say it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet’.

‘Discuss things openly, tell the people the truth,’ he said. Chris Kuan has exposed Tharman’s less than open and truthful records from the financial angle. I’d like to add more observations, mainly related to our hard-earned CPF savings.

Discuss Openly & Tell The People The Truth
Can the Minister please discuss openly with us why Malaysia’s EPF, managed by lesser talents and paid much, much less than Singapore’s highly talented ones, has been able to beat Singapore’s CPF on dividend/interest paid to members?

Graph taken from https://likedatosocanmeh.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/20141028

If the Minister believes that Malaysia is 3rd World, then could he please consider to discuss openly with us Norway Global Pension Fund’s (GPF) average annual returns of 5.7% (in local currency) vs GIC’s & Temasek’s records?

While you are at it, Minster, please discuss openly with us, the people, why it is that the Norwegians pay only 0.06% of fund valuation (or only US$51mil for 2014, average 0.09% since 1998) in management fees to the managers to achieve such impressive returns whereas what we pay to the CEOs of GIC & Temasek are State Secrets, never once revealed to us Singaporeans whatsoever. Hello? Does not the CPF and Temasek’s fund belong to we- the-citizens? We are the Boss and the Boss doesn’t know, hasn’t the right to know how much we pay our employees?

For the record, GPF CEO, Mr Yngve Slyngstad, holds 4 Masters in Law, Economics, Biz Mgt & Political Science and, yes, had more than 10 years in investment and equity management prior to his CEO appointment 1 Jan 2008. He is supported by a team with impressive and role-relevant backgrounds. Click to discover the detailed information of each key executive. Compare that with our Singapore Technologies bloodline in Temasek…now becometh experts in fund management?


Minister Tharman, ‘discuss openly, tell us the truth’, can?


By the way, in case you don’t have the info, CEO Slyngstad earned NOK6,2417,170 in salary, NOK9,084 in benefits, NOK479.580 in pension benefit. An eye-boggling grand total of NOK6,735,834 (eye-boggling only in the 7-digit figure but worth only a ‘peanut’ S$1,202,828). Oh, by the way, he also has a co loan of NOK503,387 (S$89,890, I might have read somewhere that he loan that to renovate his house…Hilarious, isn’t it? Our top GIC & Temasek managers could probably buy one fully-furnished apartment each year instead of renovate a house! But we don’t know since it was never discussed openly, no info = no truth told.) Link to GPF Annual Report 2014, page 57.

So, please, ‘discuss openly and tell us the truth’ how much and why GIC & Temasek CEOs  deserve the salaries & bonuses they have been getting.


It’s OK, take your time to ‘reflect…don’t blame the system’ for our ignorance – especially when it is in your hands and power to ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’. Unlike Chee, or us poor ignorant peasants, still without access to even basic information about how much we have been paying those we employ to manage our retirement funds with the majority ending up with insufficient to retire on – after 50 long, long years of nation building – you do have the info,.eh, or don’t you? And the authority and the same honesty you preached to Chee, I mean.


Perhaps, after you have discussed and told the truth to the above questions, we will have more of other stuff to talk about.

(By the way, Minister Tharman, I love both your and Mr Slyngstad’s hairstyles…. He more sexy one up on you, leh. He got sexy beard. Don’t angry. Joke only, lah.)

Law Kim Hwee

PS: For those interested to read more of the comparison between Norway’s GPF & our GIC & Temasek Holdings, check out this link.)





Chee: Dogged Dog or Reformed Recalcitrant – Only One Way To Confirm

Dogged dog?

Though the PAP have not said it, there can be no doubt that it is not beneath them to be thinking in those terms at the highest levels. Recall the almost reflexive posting of the middle-fingering monkey? The way the election is fought by both the incumbent party and the insurgent candidate and his supporters, Singaporeans will likely be straddled with the Chee enigma for a some time to come. What good is that?

On Chee’s side, he has indeed paid a heavy price. Unlike any other current opposition politician, he has spent time in jail (not once but, the last count, 10X!…my respect, man!…even if some jail time were self-inflicted), made a bankrupt and, probably the only PhD holder with a PhD spouse living with 3 kids in a HDB 3-room flat.

And, notwithstanding the unfortunate events surrounding his takeover of of Chiam’s Sec-Gen post, we have to give it to him for keeping SDP in better shape – at least, organizationally –  than how Chiam left it. SDP leads the Opposition in the use of social media. They have produced pretty comprehensive policy alternatives on a range of national issues.  And, from what I could tell, the SDP Youth Wing is one to reckon with despite not having the same resources as WP or PAP.

To the reasonable person and from outward and visible appearances, the man appears to have not only rehabilitated his negative past but made SDP a party with hat still in the ring.

Chee dearly wants voters and Singaporeans to view him as a Reformed Recalcitrant.

What about the PAP side?

They lost no time at their first rally, applying megaphone electioneering to call (again) into question Chee’s rebellious, ungentlemanly actions . There have been loud complaints of ‘character assassination’. But ‘character assassination’ is ‘the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person‘. Therefore, whilst there’s no doubting the PM’s & his colleagues’ intent (to destroy voters’ confidence in Chee), strictly speaking, they are not character assassins,. Their claims are based on factual and historical legal records. Slandering being verbal defamation, Chee has not indicated he will seek redress under the law.

What we can reasonably say is that the PAP leaders lack confidence in their election game plan. They, as $millionaire political professionals using taxpayers’ money to party’s advantage and their own monstrous party machineries, still choose to fall back on hitting under the belt.

The PAP Sec-Gen neither explicitly denounce nor deny that no less than his minister and speaker of parliament started hitting out with references to Chee’s person, engaging in unsavoury, cynical insinuations. For good measure, he threw in a few of his own self-righteous observations (when, hey, he himself was dissed as ‘a dishonourable son’).

So, without having to repeat their claims, the PAP basically paint Chee’s character as a ‘dog'(contemptible person), albeit a dogged one that refuses to go away.

Now, Bukit Batok voters, do you not agree that going forward, Singapore and we Singaporeans have got much more important matters to discuss and fight over? To focus our limited resources, time and energies on life issues than always listening to what our fellow citizen Chee is about, what he stands for? If nothing else, it’s downright boring to hear the claims from both camps. It makes our politicians almost sound like the current Republican candidates, Trump & Cruz.

So, please Ms & Mr Bukit Batok Voter, do yourselves and all Singapore this BIG favour, vote for Chee Soon Juan! Give him 4 years at Bukit Batok to prove to you, to us citizens, and to the PAP bullies if Chee Soon Juan is the Dogged Dog or a Reformed Recalcitrant. It’s the only way to confirm the claims either way.

There is nothing to lose for Bukit Batok residents whatsoever. The S$1.9 mil town project is already in the bag whoever wins. And PAP will work even harder to try to win your votes back if Chee is voted in.

If you are still hesitating, remember that PAP leaders do approve giving themselves and citizens a second chance. As they have shown by not revealing the names of those responsible for causing the death of 8 of our fellow citizens. So, if nothing else, you are walking the talk of giving Chee a second chance.