"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"

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The Truth Behind The Beauty Of Tharman (Part 1)

Given the current, overwhelming approbations and adoration, even, in both social and mainstream media for PAP Elder-cum-Dy PM Tharman, it is with a truckload of trepidation that I approach my blog today….

Let me begin by stating clearly that I admire Mr Tharman for all the same reasons that the majority of we-the-citizens-of-Singapore do. I was lucky enough to have met him personally on 10 Mar 2013 at Taman Jurong Hawker Centre. He extended and followed-up  his words of assistance in my job hunt, emailing me a few times. He’s the real deal.

We all recall his admonition to SDP Chee to ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth‘.
But I am of the view that Tharman doesn’t practise what he preaches – most of the time. Neither with discussing things openly (remember the smack-down in parliament, ‘no strategic purpose‘ for us to know about what went wrong at Temasek with Goodyear) nor, most certainly, with telling the truth, but only selected facts or half-truths.

So, what then the truth behind this beauty of a party elder, a statesman?

To find out, let’s first ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’ about our retirement adequacy via our CPF scheme. Tharman claims ‘the CPF system provides a level of retirement adequacy comparable, if not superior, to other pension systems once you take into account the savings that are locked in one’s housing‘.

Scratch deeper and Tharman’s assertion comes up troubling when we consider;

*One’s housing price appreciation must continue to beat inflation between the times of purchase and unlocking. Put differently, for such an retirement plan to work, our children or grandchildren must shoulder the ever-widening gap between house value appreciaction and real inflation. A house of cards, a Ponzi-sque scheme? Perversely, in between, Singaporeans end up funding PRs who buy our HDB units, cash out and retire comfortably in China, India, Malaysia, Philippines.

*HDB statistics show that 117,225, 241,343, 309,007, 256,913 & 85,070 ‘dwelling units’ were built in ’61-’70, ’71-80, ’81-’90, ’91-2000 & 2001-10 respectively. The leasehold balance of the units will continue to age  – and their values will correspondingly depreciate.
What then for 2,3 generations of daft ones believing in ‘unlocking’ a sure-bet basic roof over one’s head?

*What if, like the situation that is unfolding before our very eyes today, one happens to ‘retire’ and need to unlock one’s housing – only to face a real estate market in decline with falling prices? And, of course, with Murphy’s Law, that usually happens with one losing one’s job as well.

*Aside from the cold, hard numbers, forcing, coercing or enticing retirees to sell off, rent out one’s ‘home’ where privacy and dignity should be the least one’s left to ask of this life – how’s that for a sense of humanity for fellow we-the-citizens who are less naturally-endowed, less talented to earn more than enough to survive when able-bodied? A heart-of-stone approach to governing?


While I acknowledge the arguments that Yeoh Lam Keong advances for improvements to the 3 pillars to ‘fill up’ our retirement nest, I find it disappointing that the issue of ‘leaks’ from that nest via rent-seeking prices on our public housing is not categorically dealt with at all.

The above factual and situational scenarios I have listed are by not means exhaustive. There are many other unforeseen and unforeseeable developments. Developments that will sink Tharman’s assertion, nay, boast that the PAP’s continuously-managed-for-60 years CPF is built on false hope and Ponzi-like foundations, at least for the less capable ones amongst we-the-citizens.
Will the real Tharman please ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’?

In our next post, we try to understand the truth behind Tharman’s modest response to calls for his premiership.

Law Kim Hwee


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Minority President: The Truth Behind The Beauty of Symbolism

Let’s try to ‘rescue truth from beauty’….

Truth vs Beauty

“It is a very necessary symbolism of what we are as a multiracial society – what Singapore means, stands for and what we aspire to be.” PM Lee Hsien Loong

The beauty of a symbolic minority-race Singapore President, albeit an elected one, is that those of the majority race can say with a straight face that the tyranny of the ethnic majority does not exist in Singapore.

But the truth is that the Malays, in particular, continue to be discriminated against in the military, the civil service and select cabinet portfolios – after half a century as an independent Singapore.

Likewise, and perhaps sadder still, the truth is that the Singapore female, at a 1.036 ratio higher than male, continues to be overwhelmingly under-represented in the top echelons of the cabinet, among MPs and the civil service – after half a century of universal education for all regardless of sex.

Do the above racial and gender (factual) situations not deserve the same ‘very necessary symbolism of what we are as a multiracial society’, Mr Prime Minister?

Symbolism With Substance
Symbolism taken to its progressive, logical end can only mean proportional representation across racial and gender lines and across all offices. That, however, is neither a realistic nor a wise approach given the self-evident differences in human beings, as much as the similarities we all share. Whilst proportionality ensures all categories of people have a seat at the table, society may not be prepared to pay the price of a slower and, probably, lower average rate of material progress.

PM himself admits ‘the head of state represents all Singaporeans‘ – more a figurehead than an elected office bearer – with nothing much needed to show for. Hence, would not the ‘very necessary symbolism’ that the PM so believes in be truly better served with symbolism in offices of true substance – where the office bearer or appointee gets the opportunity to show her/his leadership competence in the military, civil service and cabinet?

What’s more, what does it mean to claim, ‘yes, this is my country. Someone like me can become the head of state, can represent the country‘ when only the daft ones will not know that that Malay, Indian or Eurasian President is only there because it is her/his turn to occupy the Istana as a mere symbol of multi-racialism?

Symbolism vs Tokenism vs…Puppetism
To get a clearer understanding, we look up any reputable dictionary to understand what ‘symbolism’ and, its very close synonym, ‘tokenism’ mean.


n.1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.


n.1. The policy of making only a perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture toward the accomplishment of a goal, such as racial integration.

As can be seen, what PM Lee tries to sell to us is for the minority-race President to ‘attribute symbolic meanings or significance’ to our belief in multi-racialism. But, isn’t it clearer still that, since he is not interested whatsoever in addressing the as-very-necessary racial and gender symbolism in the military, civil service and cabinet, what Singaporeans, especially the aggrieved minorities are being shortchanged with ‘tokenism’ i.e. ‘making only perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture’ towards multi-racialism?

The analysis leads us inevitably to the truth of tokenism devised and disguised as the beauty of ‘a very necessary symbolism‘. One designed to advance the PAP imperative for puppetism in order to serve its party dominance in Singapore. in order that they, the natural aristocrats, can ‘decide what is right. Never mind what the people think‘. Never mind what the elected President thinks.

The ultimate survival of Singapore is secondary to that imperative of PAP dominance. Thus, expect a superficial, wayang-like parliamentary debate where PM Lee will ‘persuade you that it is something that we should do and which is good for Singapore’.

If he truly believes in the strength of his argument, he’d put the proposed amendments to a referendum. Tetapi Perdana Menteri tidak mempunyai bola, methinks.


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NSF Deferment Idea: Not Your Average Joe’s School of Thought

Whilst it’s nice that our Gold Olympian’s National Service obligation has been settled, it isn’t far enough. For a government that always prides itself with it’s self-proclaimed long-term planning prowess, deferring Schooling’s NSF a mere 4 years – and they call that ‘long-term’ and prowess?

Please lah!

Heard of a planning concept that is superior to ‘long-term planning’? It’s called, ‘Begin with the end in mind’.

So, in Schooling’s case, he should be asking himself, ‘Assuming nothing untoward happens to me, how many more Olympics am I good for?’ It’s not too ambitious to look at  3 more Olympics (= 12 years) as a guide. By then Joseph will be a ripe 33, only 2 years more than Phelps in his 5th Olympic outing.

Did not the Schoolings aim for Olympic gold instead of, say, just national, Asian or Commonweath glory? So, any visibility for Joseph short of 3 more Olympics as the ‘end in mind’ is less than ‘gold standard’ planning.

But we can count on the PAP cabinet, never ever one to admit shortcoming, to retort, let’s cross the bridge when we reach it. You know, there are so many ‘what ifs’ along the way that can scupper the best-laid plans.

But that’s merely an excuse. See, Schooling can always be granted deferment till after Olympics 2028 – but always and only conditional on his performance (say, must minimum qualify for finals or win a medal) at the each Olympics.

Fair? But we know that’s not going to happen. For all the blah-blah-blah spouted, not one single minister can or has come up with a dollar figure of how much they have invested in Schooling. Ironically, we can add up all the good money that has been thrown at mostly pedestrian foreign participants under the FST (Foreign Sports Talent) Scheme. Oh, yes, they didn’t even bother considering the small change needed to broadcast Rio live. That’s truly how much they think of we-the-citizens. But when they see gold glittering around Joseph’s neck, they move a motion in parliament, full of sound and fury – signifying their hypocrisy for the world to see.

So, Joseph, are you reading this post?

Here’s a crazy idea for you to consider. I go so far as to say that if you take up this idea, you will be doing MORE than just “NSF” (National Service Fulltime). You will be doing our Nation a true, Lifetime Service; an act to strengthen the unity of Singaporeans for generations to come. Sorry to pile pressure on you. But YOU are the only one capable to do so at this moment for us.

– First, you give up your Singapore citizenship.
– Then you apply for US or Aussie citizenship. Otherwise, try UK (where your great-grandpa hailed, if anything, they’d be happy to show some subtle ‘contempt’ of the PAP). If all fail, get a Timbuktu’s passport.
– Next, you continue with your planned training, studies and life.
– Finally, a year before Tokyo 2020, apply to become a Singapore citizen. Don’t worry, the PAP, if still in power, will capitalize on it and show how generous they are, very broad-minded. If out of power, the new government will approve your citizenship if only to show what idiots the PAP was to force your hand.

Via the above steps, you will be exempted from NSF FOREVER!!! Just like what your Olympian colleague, Chen Feng and others enjoy now.

Your loyalty to Singapore is never in doubt. What’s more, no mere words but your unprecedented, courageous act will demonstrate your true love for your fellow Singaporeans. In fact, bless your parents, they brought you up right by Singapore (unlike some PAP ministers with some children for quitters, NS ‘preferential deferrers’ and or others with family living overseas).

Your course of action will lay bare the bankrupt nature of PAP’s sorry and inequitable policies of ‘NS for male citizens and steal-a-march-option for male PRs/new citizens’. I and all my sons have served our due. There’s no personal gain in my suggestion to you,

Joseph, even as you bask in your deserved limelight, think of how the policy has not only denied the likes of Ang Peng Siong and many of your earlier fellow Olympians their medals. While outside of the sports fraternity, ‘NS for male citizens and steal-a-march-option for male PRs/new citizens’ has been sowing doubts in all our minds of what patriotism entails. PAP ministers are all none so deaf and blind to the collateral consequence of their policy only because they choose not to hear and see.

Dear Joseph, please reflect on it. Has God gifted you just be a mere Gold Olympian?  Or perhaps, He’s uniquely equipped, placed and timed you for a greater purpose to nudge Singapore from its current, nation-disunifying trajectory back to our original ‘one united people’ pledge?
Law Kim Hwee

PS: I’d love to hear from fellow Singaporeans how the idea can be improved upon.



New M$20 Road Charge: The Low-down

160714 Road Charge

I have been openly critical of Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan. But with Malaysia’s impending M$20 ‘Road Charge’, I fully support and praise his decision to “match it in some form“. Proviso: I have a personal interest in this; my wife and I drive to JB (often, to stretch our grocery dollars & food hunt) as well as KL (occasionally).

Why then support a move that will cost me more?

Simple: Oppose government policies I may but when other countries seek to exploit us, our duty is to stand on the side of our Singapore. Higher cost becomes secondary.

How did Malaysia come to finally, finally pull this trigger? In a word, GREED.

But first, there are two important factors, without which, greed might have taken a back seat to the commercial interests of Malaysian retail and tourist business owners whose support the Malaysian government need badly to oil their political and personal interests. Or, for that matter, both governments’ hollow expressed desire to increase, improve people-to-people contact.

1. Smiling Tigers
Here’s ex-Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Parameswaran urging Malaysia to match Singapore’s new VEP on every SG car entering Malaysia:

“I think the notion that Singaporeans will shun Johor if a levy is imposed no longer holds water. Things have changed in recent years as many Singaporeans have bought property here, and are commuting between both countries daily.” (quoted in Star Aug 2014, hyperlink lost)

Such a statement may be par for the course with the usual politician. But an ex-high commissioner? We would think he’d try to help his country understand a neighbour better –  the better to build up government-to-government and people-to-people relationships. But no, not Datuk Parameswaran. He’s right in front pushing his government to exploit Singaporeans.

2. Toothless Lions
Singapore is known for no protests allowed. Our northern neighbours, nay the whole world, could see, have seen how we-the-citizens are such docile, submissive, almost spineless creatures. Too afraid, almost beaten to a pulp by repressive laws and ruthless lawsuits.

All PAP leaders need to do is to give cursory explanations, no need to convince anyone, then sign a tax or whatever into law. And Singaporeans will simply fall in line – no ifs, no buts, no protests.

Is it any wonder that Malaysian politicians rub their hands in glee at the PAP-given opportunities aplenty to extract money for their country and for themselves. After all, LKY’s “what’s wrong with collecting more money” has not only never been challenged but his idea has been systematically hijacked by LKY-wannabe ministers and civil elites into a key article of faith across all ministries. Pay-And-Pay!

But herein lies the paradox of his declaration: Carried out judiciously, it’s good for a government’s legit revenues. But practised across most if not all ministries, what Singaporeans end up with is that we live and work mostly to Pay-And-Pay into government’s coffers (via public services and GLCs…with some unknown amounts leaking into Temasek Holdings’ top management, as bonuses for rent-seeking us their captive customers).

Similarly, with a “no protest please, we are Singaporeans”, helped by state-controlled media, the unintended consequence or paradox is you end up not allowing Singaporeans, human beings, to vent our collective emotions, sense of injustice, anger against exploitation etc – in the moment, not just rationally at general elections.

The Truth Behind The M$6,90 x 2 Tolls
Does anyone recall the initial hooha when Malaysia implemented the RM$6.90 per way toll on 27 Jul 2014? Who protested? It was the Malaysian transport companies that loudly protested and blocked the Causeway – for a day. Where were Singaporeans? Were there any significant discussions in the media, let alone physical protests? Parliamentary debates? – what a joke, Zero. Zilch. Kosong. Read here for more info.

What then happened to the Malaysian protests? Here’s my guess. Behind closed doors, their government explained to the Malaysian protestors (mainly Chinese-owned business interests), “Look, 90% of the vehicles are from Singapore side. We collect the money from their wallets. Johoreans then get to use the EDL (Eastern Dispersal Link) – for FREE. What do you think, Mr Chinese businessmen?”

Since then, that M$6.90 toll has yielded an estimated minimum o f M$110,00/day for the Malaysian government, manna from heaven with just a stroke of their pen. That’s M$40mil out of mostly Singaporeans’ pockets! Of course, it also means LTA pocketing additional S$15.8mil/year, also out of Singaporeans’ discretionary income. (based on my own estimated average of 8000 cars/day).

The Truth Behind The New M$20 Road Charge
GREED, in and of itself, cannot succeed if the exploited party refuses to co-operate or are not as daft and easily conned. Or docile. Or submissive. And spineless, not exposed to unite in protest.

Unfortunately, the observation that Singaporeans are Toothless Lions (citizenry) that cannot even roar, let alone bite or fight back against our northern Smiling Tigers (politicians/civil servants) has been reinforced by the success seen in the M$6.90/way charge implemented since Aug 2014. Traffic went back to normal after the initial drop.

The bottomline is: Voiceless, docile, submissive and spineless Singaporeans will again help fill up Malaysia’s state coffers to the tune of another M$M160,000 (assume 8000 cars unchanged) every day till kingdom cometh! That also means another S$7.80/car/day (=S$62,400/day total = S$22.77mil/year) into LTA coffers. In total, another S$40mil out of Singaporeans’ discretionary income.

“What’s wrong with collecting more money?” INDEED!

So, Why Support LTA’s Policy?
In the face of exploitation that benefits other governments and in the absence of any meaningful, effective way to register our unhappiness to Malaysia, we must stand together to try to make the latter’s greed backfire on themselves.

Aside from the soundness of Khaw’s “long-standing policy is to ensure Malaysia takes into consideration Singapore’s response whenever it plans to raise tolls”, the likely impact of a much higher toll will, hopefully, result in a drastic and more lasting drop in Singaporeans’ spending in Johore – to the detriment of the commercial interests (mainly Chinese & Indians but also Malay), other tax & fee payable by same and, over time trickle down to noticeable job loss affecting the livelihood of their citizens of all races. Perhaps, then an impact on the ballot boxes in Johore will result.

It’s a longer route to make Singaporeans’ voices and interests heard across the Causeway. But what else can we do?

Oh, boycott Johore? That’s a dead-in-the-water option where Singaporeans are concerned. Apart from our pathetic lack of will and practice to rise up collectively in a meaningful, physical but non-violent way, we are kiasu to the core, remember? Individual self-interest is paramount…let someone else take the lead. How I wish to be proven wrong!

So, bring on the additional toll, LTA, to match Malaysia’s money grab. You have a supporter in me this instance.

But, if I may postulate from the situation described above, stretch the argument a little further, what the neighbours observe of we-the-citizens is a real worry. Never mind if SG has the latest weaponry and strong economics, the people are toothless, docile, submissive and spineless to stand up for themselves. Their politicians have got the daft citizenry, like a “young apprentice caught between the Scylla and Charibdes” and wrapped around their little fingers.

How is the attribute good for Singapore’s defence and survival when the unexpected crisis comes? Can our elected leaders (oh, so many decorated military generals who never fought a war but demonstrated how good they are at selling off NOL, not able to resolve train issues, skipping from ministries to ministries without any concrete results to show for their geniuses) rally us to be united? How?

Can we reasonably expect Singaporeans will rise up in unison at external threats when a people has never learned how to organize themselves spontaneously and willfully? Especially when there’s palpable disquiet about our sons having to serve NS while foreigners and their sons steal a 2-year march in our sons’ career?

Perhaps, that’s something for us all to ponder over. As I say, it may be a stretch to link the no-protest-allowed issue with our ability to unite meaningfully and spontaneously. But there’s always “the law of unintended consequences”. Or, as I see it, there’s always a weakness in a strength – usually hidden and revealed only too late.

Law Kim Hwee






Defective Trains: The Sagely One Speaks

Many Singaporeans must have heaved a sign of deep relief when Khaw Boon Wan finally
put on his safety helmet to show up at Bishan MRT Depot. After all, there was a report that
Singaporeans prepare for worst as Khaw Boon Wan still missing 2 days after defective MRT trains made public.”

The Sagely One (remember his ‘Butterfly Lovers’ explanation of the Sengkang Columbarium sage – his then HDB officers had assumed, yes assumed the winner of a tender to be affiliated to a religious organization), must have been meditating at Mount Silent prior to showing up. It seems the time spent invisible and incommunicado was worth it for us as he didn’t disappoint with his words of wisdom to explain why LTA’s and his transport ministry’s hands were forced on the issue of our defective trains.

Undue Panic

Declaring that trains were being returned to China for repairs due to hairline cracks could have caused undue panic, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said at the Bishan Depot on Tuesday (Jul 12).

Mr Khaw said that going public for something that was “not a major event” might have caused unnecessary panic to the layman, noting that to engineers, not all cracks are the same.

Any “undue panic” he speaks about can only originate from Singapore citizens since he’s asserted that the defects were “not a major event”. As the saga continues to unfold and we sort among the stories we are told, to Khaw’s latest spin, here’s the question that’s hard for us to hold:

So, does that mean that we, the citizens of Singapore, after 50 years of the PAP education in school and exposure to realities and reporting, mostly through our mainstream media (ST, Mediacorp), are not able to even differentiate between a major or minor event? Between the truth or otherwise of the nature of the trains’ defects? That we are such a panicky people – all these after 50 years of nation-building (plus the million$ just expended in 2015 to celebrate and remind ourselves of how far we have come?


The Sagely One has to decide if his explanation is a valid one and, if so, what it says about us, the citizens of Singapore under PAP for 50 unbroken years.

Everyone Loves A Conspiracy Theory
…and Khaw obliges.

Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, linked the news — broken by Hong Kong’s FactWire news agency — to factions in the city with an anti-China political agenda. Having read various analyses on the controversy, Mr Khaw said: “We are caught in a crossfire and there are factions in Hong Kong who wanted to cause some difficulties for mainland China. I have no inside information on whether that is true or not, but it’s possible.”

“Unfortunately, we become a convenient bullet and collateral damage.”

What does it tell when Khaw would actually, deliberately spill the above lines for we the citizens of Singapore, his audience? What does he take us for? Does it not show just how this Foreign-Talent Minister (unlike ex-Ceylonese Mr S Rajaratnam, ex-Malaysians Mr Goh Keng Swee, Mr Toh Chin Chye, Mr Ong Pang Boon, Mr Hon Sui Sen) view us Singaporeans – with contempt?

Even though I know who I voted for, I truly believe that Democracy is the worst system there is, except for the rest – I therefore accept that we the citizens of Singapore deserve the government leaders we have collectively elected in Sep 2015.

With such senior leadership, I think some critical change should not be very far ahead for Singaporeans. Unless, of course…

Law Kim Hwee

PS: Mr Tharman, you around? Please help us understand how your colleague Khaw’s explanation fits into your ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth‘ approach to politics and leadership?





Defective Trains: “Discuss Things Openly, Tell People The Truth”

Unlike most articles taking SMRT, LTA and MOT to task, I want to address the transport issue to Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam personally. He’s not the minister responsible. So, why him?

For one, I have plenty of respect for Thar-‘man’. He is probably the most qualified and proven minister in his job. He’s respected internationally not just domestically like so many self-vaunted ministers/ex-ministers who could only land jobs in GLCs but not MNCs once out of their million$ posts.

Another reason: as a Singaporean of Indian descent, he has it in him a natural openness to debate, talk over issues. Noble laureate Amartya Sen did not author ‘The Argumentative Indian‘ for no reason. The Indians were philosophers long before the Greek or the Chinese ones appeared as embryos.

And, of course, Mr Tharman was the person who preached, ‘Discuss things openly, tell people the truth.’

In truth, he also famously told Singaporeans that their right to know stops if he simply says so: “People do want to know, there is curiosity, it is a matter of public interest. That is not sufficient reason to disclose information. It is not sufficient that there be curiosity and interest that you want to disclose information…it serves no strategic purpose,‘ he said in Parliament over the Charles Goodyear ‘resignation’ even before he started work at Temasek in 2009. Remember that one? As citizens, we had no ‘strategic interest’ to know something that affected the management of OUR hard-earned CPF money! Walau!

So, now, Mr Tharman, surely the very safety of high-speed train commuters are a paramount concern to you. Surely, there is curiosity, public interest to understand why it took a foreign investigative team to uncover the defective trains before LRT and MOT came out with such well-prepared explanations. Surely, surely, we wish to know, nay, we must know what exactly happened, the works! LTA processes, the chain of events unfolding, the negotiations etc to understand what if any cover-ups for complacency (?), for incompetence (??), for possible corruption (???) might have occurred?

Whilst the minister of transport has direct responsibility, you as DPM, you who preach open discussion and telling the truth, surely you must demand answers for us voters and citizens.

How about it, Mr Tharman? Will you see to it that you practise what you preach, ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’? How about starting with these 2 questions:

1. If the defects were not ‘safety-critical’, why was it not discussed openly, told truthfully to us until LTA’s hand was forced by the report of foreign investigative journalists?

2. How is it ‘the appropriate thing to do’ and ‘value for our money’ to settle for rectification instead of new replacements for new trains delivered defective? You mean LTA negotiated such pathetic terms when signing the purchase order? How come?


But I wonder if a minister, junior to you, who preached the need to not cultivate ‘a blame culture’ may prevail over your sermon? Perhaps, it’ll be the cabinet’s collective decision to continue to fudge things up, to protect the cronies and fellow PAP-supporting civil service elites. Because, in protecting your underlings, PAP protect its own complacency and incompetence.

8 lives were lost in the Hep C mistake at the SGH. No one was brought to account openly and truthfully – all in the name of avoiding a blame culture. No life has been yet lost – yet – due to the defective trains. So, chances are dim that citizens will see the train fiasco ‘discussed openly, told the (whole) truth’. What’s more, the families of the 8 lives lost must have been paid off so obscenely with taxpayers’ money that they preferred to remain quiet instead of commencing a class action against those guilty of killing their loved ones. And, of course, the Health Minister never offered to resign.

Hence, the prognosis to ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’ is not good.


How many deaths do we need before we ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’? If a non safety-critical issue is being covered up, would we not inevitably develop a culture of more and worse cover ups…all in the name of avoiding a blame culture.


Mr Tharman, how does it feel to be a minister in a cabinet with such moral leadership values, of such distinction?


Law Kim Hwee


SAFTI @ 50 & The Leaders Produced

SAFTI’s 50th anniversary is a celebration for me personally. I spent my BMT, SISL and SMC at SAFTI while transiting from teenage to adulthood. PM Lee lauded it for producing past and present military leaders who have built and transformed the SAF.

My family ‘contributed’2 years of our youngest son’s young life to SAFTI, all in the belief that he has to do his “duty to ensure that Singapore will always be secure, so that your families, and all Singaporeans, can always be confident of our future together.” But so many of his cohort found it ludicrous to abide by that conviction when they could see sons of PRs and naturalized citizens steal a 2-year march on them (many with taxpayers’ money) to university and to plumb jobs and higher salaries. Some they’ll be reporting to or asking a job from later in their lives.

But my question for us today is: What do the records show of the SAFTI-produced leaders since year 2000? Here are the notable ones:

  • Former Chief of Defence Force (2003-07) Major-General Ng Yat Chung, recent last CEO NOL (fr Oct 2011)
  • Former Chief of Defence Force (2007-10) Desmond Kuek Bak-Chye,President and CEO SMRT (since Oct 2012)
  • Former Chief of Army (2010-11) MG Chan Chun Sing, Minister (since May 2011)
  • Brigadier-General Tan Chuan Jin, Minister (since May 2014)

Peacetime field performance, sand-model strategy prowess and medals do not reliably indicate actual performance during wartime or periods of national unrest. None, no not one, of our SAFTI leaders have even fired a shot at an actual enemy or terrorist.

Just ask ourselves. What’s happened to NOL since 2012, a precious state asset? What about SMRT since 2013? Any notable policies from ministries helmed by the generals since they were elevated? No ifs, no buts, what do the quantifiable and quantified results of the units they CEO-ed say of the above SAFTI-produced leaders?

Why are taxpayers paying $million$ for non- or dismal performance or pedestrian ones?. And other than Rear Admiral Liu, has anyone voluntarily gotten out of his way for his lackadaisical performance?

But sadder still to see that less-than competent leader-type has now ‘progressed’. I save the best for last.

The most recent addition and transition from SAF to full minister in one superman (PAP-style) step, is the ex-Chief of Defence Force LG Ng Chee Meng.

He’s the only defence honcho – ever – who claims his army is capable of ‘one-shot, one-kill’, under his watch, no less. Google and you won’t find even armies with recent and extended boots-on-the-ground experience (USA, UK, France, Netherlands, Israel, to name a few with similar modern weaponry) dare make such a boast.

Even more astonishingly, he claimed his entering politics is ‘giving back to society’, paying back his ‘indebtedness’. O! how far the values of our leaders have fallen! What does he mean by giving back to society – leaving behind a S$300k to S$400k SAF job for a 3-4X higher S$1.2mil minister post?

Giving back by taking more from society’s tax coffers?

Be afraid. Be very afraid – of such a system producing such leaders with such track records and boastful or “giving-back-to-society” values.

I have no personal dislike of any generals mentioned here. Not least, Ng Chee Meng. In fact, he appears personable, like Tan Chuan Jin. I have been repeating this observation of Ng’s ‘giving-back-to-society’ claim primarily for what his words mean – or would mean – to citizens and especially to younger Singaporeans observing how the PAP leaders of today compare with yesteryears’ (such as ex-Law Minister E W Barker who faced difficulties servicing his semi-d loan, according to LKY). What do their words and actions say of the idea and ideal of sacrificial, self-less (if not selfless) patriotism? From Grace Fu complaining about her salary cut previously to now Ng claiming to be giving back – by taking in more for himself – what example are we setting for our young?

LAW Kim Hwee