2econdsight

"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"


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Ministerial Promotions: What Lee Kuan Yew Preached vs How Lee Hsien Loong Practises

I never cease to be amazed at how fast novice PAP MPs are appointed ministers and their promotions confirmed. A whatsapp message sums it up, ‘Do nothing and can get promotion. I oso want .’

PAP’s leadership renewal is conspicuously planned so ‘that Singapore…continue to have honest and capable leaders’ (Lee Hsien Loong) or ‘the best people in government’ (Goh Chok Tong). Or leaders who will not ‘succumb to corruption’ (LKY).

Carrie Gracie, BBC, reports, ‘to steel its…members against temptation‘ or corruption, Xi JinPing (by LKY’s assessment, ‘a man of great breathe…in the Nelson Mandela class of persons‘) started revolutionary tours for its key cadres. The PAP, however, prefer a shortcut, paying the highest salaries of any government worldwide.

Here’s how LKY sold to Singaporeans the key intent for the high salaries:

So it was an unending quest for the right man to put in the job. It takes years for a person to be tried and tested as a minister, and to develop the judgement and touch……

Let me point out how long it takes to get a MP to learn to be a minister and have the public recognise him as such, especially when he is not a natural crowd puller or a mobiliser. There are two kinds…of ministers in Singapore – the doer and the mobiliser…..

People need time to gauge and assess who has what qualities and is best suited for what jobs that can make Singapore grow and thrive…..LKY, 30/6/2000, Parliament

How do fresh-face Ong & Ng along with Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin – all entered parliament under the coattails GRC system, without ever having to fight man-to-man for their seats, let alone suitability for high office – measure up under LKY’s need for developing time-tested, ‘people-gauged/assessed’ ministers?

Well, someone who had a ringside view already drew a conclusion about the effectiveness of high pay policy.

“…it started going downhill when we started to raise ministers’ salaries, not even pegging them to the national salary but aligning them with the top 10…” Ngiam Tong Dow, ex-civil servant.

Let’s not take Ngiam’s word for it. Let’s look closer at the evidence before us.

Chan Chun Sing
Can anyone name one policy that Chan enacted in all the 4 ministries he helmed since May 2011, namely; Community Development, Youth & Sports, Defence (2nd minister), Social and Family Development, sec-gen of NTUC & minister in PMO that has had a measurable positive impact on our lives?

To be fair, my search into the current article making the rounds about ‘105,000 households get little food’ finds no such study. The ‘105,000 households earning S$1500/month’ is taken from Singstats’ ‘Key Household Income Trends 2012’ but not linked to they ‘getting little food’.

Be that as it may, Chan’s catchy ‘kuih lapis’ policy of tackling poverty has been 3 years in its execution (since Nov 2013).

The result? No one knows. No one knows because despite the government’s complete access to data plain refuses to publicly engage us, feigning ignorance. Or is it because the results do not measure up to expectations?

Truth is, Chan’s boss set no quantifiable goals to speak of in the first place.

Nonetheless, Chan keeps ascending the cabinet ladder – without any measurable achievements to show for.

Tan Chuan-Jin
Same question. What’s one policy that Tan enacted or helped implement since making minister at MOM and, currently, Ministry of Social & Family Development?

As manpower minister, Tan gave us the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) (公平考量框架). Anyone remember what the FCF is about? If you have the time, read link.

Any quantifiable outcomes since implementing FCF and JobsBank in Aug 2014 with much fanfare? Yes! an increase in PMETs unemployed and for longer periods, too – while evermore foreigners slipped through on EP & S-Passes!

It’s gotten so bad that in a recent 3-4 days, 4 ministers, PM Lee included, came out to loud-speak that there are 70,000 vacancies with 30,000 more in healthcare alone in the next 5 years. And PM’s lame ‘we are pursuing all the right strategies, and I am confident that, given time, they will work’.

Similarly, Tan’s boss set no numbers for him to be gauged/assessed under the FCF. After spending 369 days at MOM and pocketing S$1.3mil, he moves to a new ministry – all without having any measurable achievements to show for.

Ong Ye Kung
Same question, any policy or change he enacted as education minister since 1 Oct 2015 to show for?

The man makes grand-sounding speeches. His maiden parliamentary speech is about ‘faster legs, stronger hearts, wiser minds‘. He secured that speaking opportunity only because he couldn’t get into parliament against the Workers’ Party in Aljunied and had to be sundered therefrom to another safer PAP GRC. Ong slipped into parliament under Shanmugan’s coattail.

How does his speech meet LKY’s “do not try to impress by big words – impress by the clarity of your ideas. Then I am impressed”?

His speech is long on the big markets of China, India and Africa but short on originality and practicality. He proclaims, ‘Today China drives the value chain. We must look at China now as a tremendous business and consumer market, and learn to tap into it.’

Yeah, sure.

I knew that from visiting China in 1996. Tried to interest my Swiss bosses, subsequently, my Dutch ones to invest in a production plant (both no go), then ‘downgraded’ to a more palatable central warehouse (succeeded). Workable, specific ideas. Not the hifalutin strategy spout by a still wet-behind-the-ear acting minister. Judging by the wrath we now face from China re the South China Sea, was his boss listening?

So, what did Ong achieve (not merely do) in measurable KPIs the 395 days he ‘acted’ as education minister (high edu & skills) with his S$1.3mil pay?

Ng Chee Meng
Final same question, any single policy or change he enacted as education minister (schools) since 1 Oct 2015?

Zilch.

As a father of 2 sons, I couldn’t fathom the pathetic parliamentary statement he made to explain young Benjamin Lim’s death after his police interrogation. What if it had happened to one of his own daughters?

Ng took the same chicken parliamentary route as all his other ministerial-material 4G colleagues, behind the coattail of another minister. I often wonder what other ASEAN ministers and MPs think about him – and of Singapore. Here, Singapore’s Chief of Defence Force, a lieutenant-general who boasted about the SAF’s ‘one-shot-one-kill’ capability but too chicken to battle one-on-one with an opposition candidate! Then after 395 days of speeches, his boss made him full minister!

But Singaporeans should be even more worried: Ng batted not an eyelid when he claimed his entering politics is ‘giving back to society’, paying back his ‘indebtedness’.

Yeah, sure.

Giving back to society = giving up S$300k-S$400k SAF job and taking up PAP-guaranteed’s 3-4X higher S$1.3 mil minister’s salary apid by taxpayers? Perhaps, we peasants understand not the math behind the brains of a president scholar and top general. But he’s setting a fine example on how to give back to society for our youth, indeed.

So, what did Ng achieve (not merely do) in measurable KPIs the 395 days he ‘acted’ as education minister (schools) on his S$1.3mil pay (excl bonus)?

Conclusion
Have Singaporeans been given the time to gauge, assess Ah Chan, Ah Tan, Ah Ong & Ah Ng against LKY’s time-testing aim, ‘it takes years for a person to be tried and tested as a minister…people need time to gauge and assess who has what qualities and is best suited for what jobs that can make Singapore grow and thrive’?

Did PM Lee do a thorough job assessing, gauging them – against LKY’s timeline and standards?

Rather obvious, isn’t it?

Sadly, we observe a pattern of leadership behaviour, a habit; the love for shortcuts, taking the easy, fastest way out. Refusing to grow our own timber. With GDP, PM Lee is addicted to the shortcut of importing Foreign Talents (carrying on from Goh Chok Tong’s legacy) and adding labour instead of being a doer or a mobilizer to convince, coerce our local SMEs – and our GLCs+TLCs – to increase productivity the last 20, 30 years.

Likewise, instead of fulfilling his promise of ‘leadership succession will be one of my top priorities‘ when swearing in as PM#3 on 13/8/2004, he’s rushing a shortcut to give the false impression of offering enough candidates to succeed him. He’s denied others even half the 20-year apprenticeship he enjoyed.

But even more worrisome is a trend shaping up underneath the surface of these fast-track, undeserved promotions. If the 4 ministers’ career trajectories are an indication, then Singaporeans must begin to be afraid. Be very afraid.

It may mean that the high salary system that LKY has instituted are attracting unproven politicians who are guaranteed salary increases of up to 4 times or more of their last drawn salary. Singaporeans already have a taste of something similar at NOL, SMRT, Singapore Police, LTA, Temasek Holdings etc.

Beside the salary, it’s a surefire career choice where your promotion is guaranteed without the need to show measurable KPIs.

Even more, it’s an iron-rice-bowl job – doesn’t matter if a world’s most dangerous terrorist escape or 8 Singaporeans die illegally of Hep C infection under your watch, your job is secured and salary intact!

All you need is unfailing party loyalty.

Is Samuel Huntington right after all, “The honesty and efficiency that Senior Minister Lee has brought to Singapore are likely to follow him to his grave“? We may not perceive that yet, being too close to the unfolding but very subtle deterioration.

Or will LKY have the last word?

Time will prove that I am right that Ministers should be paid 2/3 of their private sector counterparts’ salaries of two years ago. This is the way to ensure that our government and system stay clean and honest, with able and dedicated men, who can stay in office for several terms…..

If salaries pegged to the market do not work, then not much will be lost, except a few million dollars. Singapore can always go back to the old system of paying Ministers much lower than the market rate, and hoping for the best.” LKY. 19 July 96

…but only if Singaporeans heed his advice to jettison the system. Regardless, don’t hold your breath. 69.9% voters (now, minus Dr Lee Wei Lin) think things are honky dory under PAP & Lee Hsien Loong.

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If you happen to be one of the children of any of the 4 ministers reading this, please ask your pa if he ever search his heart as each day departs.

Law Kim Hwee

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Singaporeans’ Nightmare: A Leader Bereft Of Vision

Which country wouldn’t want to be able to point to or have as prime minister someone with the following pedigree?

– Followed his PM father to political activities from age 11.
– Plays the clarinet.
– A President and SAF scholar.
– A Senior Wrangler at Cambridge University in England, a position once regarded as “the greatest intellectual achievement attainable in Britain”, a Cambridge alumnus with First Class honours in mathematics and an MPA from Harvard.
– The youngest Brigadier-General (1983) in SAF history.
– At 32, elected an MP and immediately appointed as Minister of State (1984).
– 20 years of apprenticeship at the ministerial level; helming trade & industry, defence, finance portfolios amongst others and Dy PM for 14 years before ascending to the throne of the 3rd Prime Minister of Singapore.

What’s uniquely more, he was personally under the tutelage of and had unfettered access to his famous father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, with his formidable political wisdom, for at least a good 60 years for advice on leadership.

PM Lee’s Speech At Ho Rih Hwa Leadership Series
With credentials such as his, PM Lee eminently qualifies to speak at the Ho Rih Hwa Leadership lecture.

To keep this article short, we shall discuss the body of PM Lee’s speech another day. Suffice to note that the mainstream media widely reported the speech to encompass ‘Singapore’s key future challenges: Economy, population, identity’ and how he hopes to meet them in broad strokes. For now, we know that good Speechmaking 101 suggests the introductory and concluding remarks to be crucial pointers of a speaker’s purpose.

How then does his speech measure up to the purpose of the Lecture series – which one assumes is what he was invited to serve?

Host SMU states: The series “seeks to inspire students and the public with the views and valuable opinions of accomplished entrepreneurs, business and political leaders from within and beyond the Asia-Pacific region.

...the lecture series serves as an enriching platform for the sharing of relevant knowledge and experience…It is a tremendous opportunity for audiences to draw on the foresight, knowledge and experiences of these distinguished speakers…” Link

A speech Introduction is chiefly to state the speaker’s proposition or thesis. Here, PM Lee was in his element. Within a minute or 160 words, he said with feeling, “But he (Mr Ho Rih Hwa) served with distinction as our ambassador in Thailand, in Belgium and the European Economic Community as it then was and also at the United Nations in Geneva. He refused to accept any remuneration because he saw this as a National Service, a duty that he was honoured to discharge.”

Ahhh, now, he’s talking! “refused to accept remuneration…a duty that he was honoured to discharge”. Anyone in the audience would have her expectations raised. Finally, the PM was going to inspire us all with a volte-face of the PAP’s long-held conviction of paying millions to ministers and civil servants. Could this be a clarion call to his current brothers and sisters in arms to discharge their duties without care or consideration for remuneration like Mr Ho?

Nope. Sadly, none of that followed in the body of his speech as can be seen with his concluding words.

Now, the conclusion; Good speakers would use the conclusion to emphasize the primary message and, in this case, to inspire one’s audience with a call to action. Here’s what he said:

“But all these things we want to do depend on good leadership…We need leaders with a sense of responsibility wholly committed to Singapore and to Singaporeans, leaders who can win your support and rally the country together, leaders who can work with us and make the next 50 years as glorious as the last 50 years and then not only will our next generation enjoy a good life but they will be able to look forward to a brighter future for themselves and for their children.”

Measuring those closing words with the explicit purpose of the Lecture series; “To inspire…to draw on the foresight, knowledge and experiences of these distinguished speakers”, did LHL’s words achieve that purpose? Or was he thinking he was electioneering, appealing to his audience to vote for ‘leaders who can work with us (PAP) and make the next 50 years…a brighter future for themselves and for their children’?

It appears that PM Lee misled his audience with high hopes of inspiring Singaporeans with a change that he and leaders of his choosing will now lean closer to following Mr Ho’s exemplary display of selfless service to the nation. Or he needs more help with speech writing.

In place of inspiration he displayed his party’s pure and unadulterated hubris that Singaporeans can conceive and achieve a Singapore only with ‘leaders who can work with us’ (PAP) and none else. It begs the question, does Singapore exist to be led by and for the PAP only?

The son has to invoke his father’s name 3 times in his half-hour speech, almost as if to seek papa’s guidance or to borrow from the halo of papa’s brand name. Almost as if pleading for papa’s departed spirit to show up behind him. For all Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s controversial leadership, no one can argue with his clarity of vision for Singapore when he was PM.

Over and above all the challenges that our parents faced; being kicked out of Malaysia, the British pulling out their military resulting in significant job loss, the Viet communist threat being even more a clear and present danger than ISIS today is –  we also had less resources and capabilities then vs now – the founding PAP leaders were able to see above all our existential challenges and articulate a clear vision that rallied my parents, yours and all of us  to roll up our sleeves, grit our teeth and pull all our weight behind those leaders who were discharging their duty without million $ pay packets.

The vision was simple as it was clear: A First World oasis in a Third World neighbourhood.

Alas, with ‘Team Lee Hsien Loong’, there is no vision! Only a discussion of the details with emphasis on the scale of the challenges and aim of achieving only the doable. His is a leadership bereft of imagination. Our children will say, ‘We are like, you know, totally UNINSPIRED! No vision thingy.’

Check out this space to find out why when we discuss the body of his speech.

Meantime, I paraphrase the great Churchill, ‘The Singapore of the future is a Singapore of the mind.’

Law Kim Hwee


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BASIC IDEA #3: Ban Political Parties From Commercial Activities

Basic Idea #3 is in response to the AIM-the-PAP-S$2 co saga.

When it first caught the public attention late 2012, I was just starting out in social media. Amid the flurry of discussions, what piqued my interest was what Singapore’s laws have to say about the relationship between political parties and their legal commercial, for-profit entities.

My interest centred specifically on the messages and comparisons that Lee Kuan Yew made on several occasions (unfortunately, I do not have the links). I recalled that he spoke about political parties in Asia that own huge commercial interests (e.g. prominent multi-storey buildings among other possessions). His PAP government sought to differentiate SG by framing laws that, for e.g., limit the amount of money donated by individuals, no donations from foreign parties/individuals, limit to the amount spent per voter in the constituency contest etc. For e.g., currently, the Election Dept specifies The maximum amount a candidate can spend on election expenses is:

  1. in the case of a GRC, an amount equal to $3.50 for each elector divided by the number of candidates in the group; or
  2. in the case of an SMC, an amount equal to $3.50 for each elector.

These and other measures are meant to minimise the use and need for money to fight and win an election. The aim being to win on the force of one’s arguments (and, perhaps, personality) instead of relying mainly on money to gain the upper hand…hmm, maybe that sounds good if you have been the dominant political party for a long time. Regardless, on the face of it, as a fair-minded person and one who believes in the evils of money politics and money or the lack thereof crowding out would-be candidates (like the insane US$1bil that Obama & Romney spent in 2012), I was proud of our election laws in this regard.

My exploration of the Societies Act and the Registry of Societies yielded no clarity whether political parties are legally allowed to own commercial, for-profit businesses. Via email inquiry, the reply I got was in 2013 was, “The Societies Act does not prohibit a registered society to set up a company to carry out its commercial activities.  With regard to the ownership of a company, you may wish to contact the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) at 6248 6028 or visit their website at http://www.acra.gov.sg.”

The discomforts and even objections of Singaporeans in general to S$2-AIM’s specific involvement in the purchase of Town Council software are the right response. But could we be missing the woods for the trees? What is the bigger, potentially graver issue here? I submit that all Singaporeans ought to be even more concerned, that without any legal impediments to owning commercial entities and as the cost of electioneering will continue to increase, the day when Singapore politics go the way of our neighbours’ in which political parties own outright or via proxies mainstream media, cable networks, properties and many other industrial and commercial interests cannot be too far away.

In practical terms, political parties will take a leaf from PAP-dummy (pardon the jab, it comes naturally the more I read what he writes and reasons) Calvin Cheng’s initiative, and will be paying Facebook, Google, Youtube etc serious money such that their election messages appear at the top of any search by voters. This will unfairly influence voting patterns. Likewise, serious money for MSM advertisements etc. Do we want that in Singapore?

It is a real pity that LKY is not around to enlighten us why, despite all his overt words, moves and grooves to differentiate our political electioneering from our neighbour and the world at large, he had not said anything given that AIM was already established on 21 July 1991 when he was still PAP Sec-Gen. What was he thinking? ‘What’s wrong with collecting a little more money?’. Perhaps. Therefore, other than allowing each political party to legally own its own premises (reasonable size fit-for-purpose and not a grandiose #1 Raffles Place equivalent), we must elect MPs who will support Basic Idea #3 i.e. a change in the Societies Act to immediately disallow all political parties from owning commercial for-profit entities.

Oh, I almost forget the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) is ostentatiously a foundation supposedly, by definition, ‘given to rendering financial aid to colleges, schools, hospitals, and charities and generally supported by gifts for such purposes.’ Well, the question to whether not-for-profit organizations (such as the PCF) should be included is, ‘With the PAP govt’s newfound, increased largesse to ‘subsidize preschool and senior care services’ (2 of PCF’s core activities) with taxpayers’ money, should we not be better off taking Deep Throat’s advice to ‘follow the money’ to find out which pockets all the subsidies are going into and then make the decision to, perhaps, ‘nationalize’ PCF?

2cents


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Whither LKY’s La La Land?

Starting with the obvious; the answer to any ‘whither’ Singapore question lies with our youth, leaders of our tomorrow. 3 incidents give cause for real concern.

First was the graffiti on the roof facade of Blk 85A Lorong 4 Toa Payoh in May 2014.

Second, the fake Prime Minister Office’s announcement of LKY’s death 18 Mar 2015.
Third and finally (maybe not), Famous Amos’ rant last week.

Once, they say, is an happenstance, twice a coincidence, three times it’s enemy’s action (Ian Fleming’s ‘Goldfinger’, 1959). Earlier, in Chicago’s gangster era of 1920s-30s, variations were already cited with three times being ‘a habit’ or ‘a moral certainty’. We shall come back to this observation later.

What are the common threads in what would have been 3 almost non-events or mere incidents in other First World lands but make international headlines (with the hoax, in more ways than one) for LKY’s La La Land?

One, as already mentioned, all 3 happened in LKY’s La La Land aka as ‘Disneyland – with the death penalty’ (William Gibson, Wired, Sep/Oct 1993), incidents like these are not supposed to happen, not even once in 50 years.

Two, all 3 drew their ‘inspiration’ or motivation from PAP-related governance of Singapore. None of which is complimentary in any way. The first is forthright in its condemnation and exhortation; ‘F*** the PAP’ and ‘WAKE UP SG’ (in caps no less)…as if to shout out the urgency of their exhortation. As if they the young are able to see more in their relative innocence than the rest of us daft adults busy chasing after the legal tender. The second stands out as mocking the very death of a ‘founding father’ credited with the almost god-like miracle of giving the perpetrator his good life and education. The last one directly celebrating the death of LKY in a way diametrically opposed to, different from and during the very worshipful, mourning mood week itself, no less.

Three, all 3 were committed by 16/17 year olds. Youths who range from being social dropouts to the average or above average talents. These are our youths, whence reside the leaders of tomorrow Singapore.

Deliquent or misbehavour exist everywhere in Singapore and in varying degrees. But if it’s not once, twice but three times within a year that such behaviour is played out on the national stage, is it then no accident or coincidence but…

  • ‘enemy action’ (or conspiracy) which is what the PAP leaders would expend state resources to find a ‘fix’ for,
  • or ‘a moral certainty’ that warrants more civic lessons in LKY’s globally-acknowledged education system (how ironic),
  • or ‘a habit’ that ministers must, first, blame on concerned parents and, second, the latter must remedy.

Is that it? Is that all?
There is another variation to the observation i.e. ‘three times it’s a pattern’. If so and if it correctly describes a generation of Singapore youth born entirely with the internet that knows nothing of and is raised thro’ nothing but LKY’s system of governance, policies and all, then all Singaporeans must be very, very worried – even and especially if LKY’s current PAP do not see it as such. It’s not just the education system but also the parents who raised them and, very importantly, the larger social dynamics within which they also interact within daily.

Do we see the bigger significance of what these youths may be hinting to us or calling out the systemic malfunctions, if not failures, of LKY’s legacy – never mind the glimmering Singapore shoreline for us and the international eulogies for him (and, some like to believe, by extension LKY’s present PAP)?

There are 2 possibilities before us;

– “The honesty and efficiency that Senior Minister Lee has brought to Singapore are likely to follow him to his grave. “ Samuel Huntington

– “The society Lee Kuan Yew has shaped will not…follow him to his grave…It may not look like the Singapore of Lee’s time…(but)…will thrive so long as our children know that the future of Singapore belongs to them.” Ho Kwon Ping

Will it be the stark assertion by Huntington? Or the conditional observation of Ho’s?

Or is there a third possibility?

The possibility whereby our surviving parents of the overlapping LKY’s generation and we as parents come together to honestly see that the current PAP has gotten it all wrong in the current context with blindly employing the hench-man methods behind LKY’s core principles of building a Singapore to benefit all we the citizens of Singapore regardless of race, language or religion circa 60’s-80’s?

That third alternative is not fully in the hands of our youth – yet. They are watching us, expecting us to bequeath SG to them in order that they can further learn to bequeath SG to theirs.

I’ll make bold to suggest that NONE of the 7 youngsters in the 3 incidents will believe that National Service is worth a dime doing. All that glitters is worth naught if our next generation see little love to defend what we bequeath to them.

Now, that surely is predictive damnation and the future demise of LKY’s La La Land. I say this very sadly, even I have come to feel the same way – if the Singapore Story continues with the PAP’s current narrative.

Therefore, Change we Must.

End PAP’s dominance.

2cents


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Communism in Singapore: Is this the past or future that is calling?

“While the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it’s seems It would be easier sometimes to change the past.” Jackson Browne

The many comments made on the articles relating to the Communist threat (within the Battle for Merger) suggest that writers’ and readers’ views, on either side of the divide, are highly polarized – and almost always selective.

A disinterested observer will find it amazing that either side is so darn sure that theirs is the only true and correct version. How can that be so? We are discussing politics and political events here. It’s also amusing that when such a neutral view is taken, both opposing sides are only too happy to unite (for once) to condemn it; instead of contemplating if there may be some or much truth in the view that the truth probably lies somewhere in between the 2 extremes.

Here are some perspectives that may be worth considering.

PAP’s Narrative
@BK appears to hit the bull’s-eye when he observes that PAP’s narrative has to be defended primarily to ensure that the PAP government ‘legitimacy’ is not doubted.

But a slightly nuanced view is that PM Lee needn’t have been in apprehension of the ‘legitimacy’ whether in the 1960s or today on account of the Communist reality. The 60s are past and gone (we shall revisit this later). Why even raise your own legitimacy (propriety) since, strictly speaking from a legal standpoint, PAP has always ‘legitimately’ been elected the government? Instead, the PAP’s credibility (believability, trustworthiness) is what he should be worried about; what with, for e.g., fixing the opposition, the GRC system and redrawing of electoral boundaries, to name a few credit-negative acts.

Another point worth noting is their use of the word, ‘revisionist’. PAP is explioting their ‘first mover advantage’. Just because they ‘won’ that period, they enjoy the luxury of putting ‘their side of the narrative’ out to the marketplace first. Does being a ‘first mover’ in matters of political history necessarily bestow ‘truth’ to one’s preferred narrative? But a ‘first mover’ lacking the confidence to allow for a different perspective or narrative to be told – or a film to be shown – will likely encourage more FMMs (fence-sitters, marginal supporters, mal/mis-informed voters) to question the veracity of the original narrative.

What the heck are PAP strategists thinking? Either they are clueless or shuddering at the loss of support they are facing. In days like these, it is not their die-hard supporters they need to convince but FMMs. Well, that can’t be bad news for us here at TRE.

ISA Ex-detainees’ & Supporters’ Beef
It is true that only those who have been detained are qualified to speak up and they are the best source of the facts of the matter.

But is it beyond possibility that some of them and some of what they may say (or have said) may also be influenced by their own sufferings, their need for ‘closure’, sense of unfairness? As much as the protagonists embellishing and twisting theirs.

I’m asking a fair question, not making a statement.

Regardless, if the chances of getting one’s story told in the current circumstances and via mainstream media are not good, what is the better solution? Perhaps, everyone interested should come together to discuss how to deal with that – aside from the ad hoc counter-responses. The goal should be to decide how best to convince the FMMs. Creating different presentations to reach different target audience groups will probably be more effective compared to PAP’s single ‘Battle for Merger’ narration.

The Times Form The Context
The Tiger and The Trojan Horse (1986) contains a comprehensive account of the co-op and struggles between the social democrats and the pro-communist who became bedfellows of convenience to advance each own cause.

Chin Peng (MCP head) didn’t deny the ‘front’ that the MCP used to advance their cause. Or the influence he wielded those days. In fact, joining forces with non-commie Malayan Democratic Union (1945-8) preceded their co-op to form the PAP. If so, is it objective to write off parts of the PAP’s narrative with such certainty? And not just LKY, even (honourable) Goh Keng Swee, Devan Nair & others have given the same broad story lines.

That is not to say party leaders didn’t exaggerate some ‘facts’ to suit their party’s or individual’s interests.

Furthermore, those were heady days of anti-colonialism, nationalism, communism and anti-communism. The fights for hearts and minds were in full flux. There were no eternal enemies, no certain friends – only pure interests. So, how possible was it that claims and counter-claims were all true and correct, then? What more with the passage of time and fading memories?

Isn’t it more likely than not, therefore, that the truth lies somewhere in between the 2 narratives?

Truth & Reconciliation (or Punishment?)
Finally, calls for a revisiting of that traumatic time have been amplified by the (non) release of To Singapore With Love, no doubt helped by social media.

That is a good thing and should be borne in mind.

Note: such calls have been confined to giving those detained or exiled their say in order to uncover lies, expose the (or other) truths. That’s fine. But the word ‘reconciliation’ has been patently absent. That being the case, some form of punishment is left unsaid but implied.

Well, the most prominent Truth & Reconciliation exercise of modern times is the South Africa Government of National Unity (1985), formed ‘to help heal the country and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid’.

Two things to note:

One, such a commission was only possible after, not before, the previous apartheid government lost power.

Two, the Reconciliation part bears emphasizing. Without that complementary goal, any revisiting may be more akin to a witch-hunt in reverse, serving only to further divide and disunite an already highly polarized Singapore. Not only a non-starter with PAP in firm power, is that what detractors really want for Singapore?

Missing Something From Both Sides?
Both sides claim their aim of wanting Singaporeans to understand our past in order, presumably, that we will all be more aware of our shared past struggles and bond as ‘one united people’. But I am skeptical.

See, if the aim is to educate and remind our shared difficult past, there is another episode round about the same time that saw a) more violence, more bloodshed, more Singapore lives lost and b) our people truly standing side-by-side in unity against a common enemy and for a cause. Wouldn’t that historical episode be more effective and appropriate to discuss and remind us of why and how we should stand as one united people?

Does the period known as ‘日本天’ (‘Japan Sky’) ring a bell?

Till today, Koreans, Chinese and Taiwanese are all teaching their children the common sufferings and shared pains brought on by the Japanese. While here in Singapore…Hello? Hello? —Almost total silence on that period of our nation’s history.

The use of state resources and the relentless insistence on their own and only their own PAP’s narrative – to the exclusion of others – and the prioritizing of that narrative to the exclusion of any discussions on ‘日本天’ (‘Japan Sky’) show how this Party is only interested to propagate their own dominance of Singapore. Not interested in ‘one united people’ but ‘polarize and rule’.

If what’s argued so far makes sense, then those pushing for redemption for their unfortunate and sad detention and sufferings are playing into PAP’s purpose.

Would it not be better to await the time when PAP is toppled to push for that redemptive exercise? Would it not be exposing the PAP’s bald and shameful, self-serving aim of prolong their own dominance by taking the higher road of focusing on WWII and how Singaporeans (as much as we could identify ourselves as such then) were and can be ‘one united people’ going forward?

With the trust quotient deteriorating each new day, no need insisting on the ‘truth’ of alternative narratives to that of the PAP’s. All that’s needed is to turn opportunities to raise reasonable doubts about theirs.

The Present & Future More Than The Past
Which leads me finally to what one side has done and the other side wants undone…

‘While the future is there for anyone to change,
still you know it seems it would be easier
sometimes to change the past.’

But those who have changed the world have always first accepted the world the way they found it to be – taking that as their starting point. No, they don’t bitch about how the way the world should have been in order for them to get started changing the world.

Hence, if your goal is to end PAP’s dominance, do you focus on the past – or reach for the now and reach out to the future?

“Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problemsIt is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem – which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.” Peter Drucker

2cents


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Need A SG50 National Slogan?

Response to Catherine Lim’s ‘new national slogan’

Oops! Methinks I’m not going to make many new friends, lose some even maybe, with this post of mine. Not when Mr Nobody 2cents dares to take aim at a reigning doyen of the Singapore Literary Scene – she, with awards, books, invites to speak and ‘luxurious apartment in a decidedly prosperous part of town’ to show for while 2cents has zilch to his name…Regardless,

I first came across but skipped Catherine Lim’s ‘A new national slogan for Singapore’s 50th birthday’ at singaporedaily.net. It’s worth checking out The Singapore Daily for a feel of ‘what everyone is talking about’ in SG, different from TRE’s offerings.

Unlike a friend, a teenager probably smitten by Catherine, his lit teach, other than her ‘affective divide’ and ‘PAP unable to reinvent itself’ commentaries, I keep a skeptical distance when occasionally reading Ms Lim’s other short articles. And the FM 88.9 BBC interview I heard a short while back, with her shrill voice, an almost perceptible effort at purposefully sounding girlish-like – this in an interview on serious politics – just didn’t turn me on.

The last time I read Catherine was her ‘the-bkbc-interview’ via singaporedaily.net, “‘bkbc’ being ‘bo kia bo chup’ which translated from Hokkien means ‘not afraid, can’t be bothered’, to convey recklessness and defiance”. Believe me, if what she wrote was bkbc, then the word to describe what TRE commentators are capable of has not yet been coined. She obviously doesn’t dig street-cred Hokkien but tries to fake it in order to bolster her, pardon my French, ‘baba-siohw’ (she, a Peranankan?) or her obvious elite/elitist status.

My bet is on not a single Singaporean who lives in an HDB flat amongst her exclusive clique of ‘luxurious apartment in a decidedly prosperous part of town’ and landed property residents whom she calls personal friends.

Nonetheless, read her ‘A New National Slogan for Singapore 50th Birthday’ I did after Richard Wan published it on TRE. And she didn’t disappoint with her shallow national slogan critique… and call for a new one.

A TAKE ON CATHERINE’S SLOGAN CALL
For starters, Catherine claims, “When Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959, he set a trend that, simply because it came from him, had to be followed by his successors. This was the marking of a new premiership with a slogan. Under Lee Kuan Yew, it was ‘A Rugged Society’”.

Records show LKY’s first mention of (actually) ‘a robust and rugged society’ occurred circa 1966, after we got booted out of Malaysia, not when he ascended to the premiership.

Hence, it is historically incorrect to claim ‘the marking of a new premiership with a slogan’.

Furthermore, GCT’s exact words in his PM-ascension swearing-in speech were ”to build Singapore as a nation of distinction’, emphasizing ‘economic growth…values and culture…invest heavily in our people…(and) equalise opportunities’ [Link: GCT Swearing-in Speech].

Nope, no ‘a gracious society’ in there. Truth be told, GCT got sort-of lost when he abandoned ‘nation of distinction’ for ‘Renaissance City’ (2008, ok, it’s more a culture blueprint but still, and anyone remember that report?).

As for Lee Hsien Loong, Catherine gets it only half right; ‘Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore’ [Link: LHL Swearing-in Speech, para 26], not the literary license she uses to explain, ‘a noun…preceded by an adjective that could change, depending on the preference of the new premier’.

Hence, I would contend that storyteller Catherine Lim started with the premise of urging ‘a new national slogan’ and then went about making up her needed dots to try to weave her story coherently.

POSSIBLE MOTIVATIONS
What could Catherine’s possible motivations be to generously share her copyright work in her blog-of-sort? I suggest three; a parochial interest, self-aggrandizement and commercial self-promotion.

Parochial Motivation
First, she questions, “Almost on a daily basis, Singaporeans are aware of changes that have overtaken their society, some in the most unexpected ways. So, under the present circumstances is the present national slogan of ‘An Inclusive Society’ at all relevant? Should it be changed to reflect the changing needs and aspirations of the people?”

Then, she proceeds to suggest “‘An Inclusive Society Part 2′? Since Part 1 has already done a good job of thoughtfully including so many different groups…Part 2 could finish up the job by including a long neglected — and long maligned — group, the political mavericks and troublemakers who, after all, are true Singaporeans, true citizens of a nation they care for.”

How’s her suggested Part 2 a reflection of the ‘changing needs and aspirations of the people?’ Hey, Catherine, the people are crying out mainly for ‘ReturnOurCPF’, lower cost-of-living, less FTs etc and, yes, VTO! But we don’t expect the elite to understand that, do we? To include the long maligned group you refer to is the aspiration of some people, yes, but not the people. To your elite, elitist, civic or cultural gang, your Part 2 makes for highfalutin conversation in your caviar and cocktail circuit. But we, the common people, continue to collect the bread crumbs beneath your tables of plenty.

How can elites even begin to understand how it feels to have to sell one’s basic flat to survive one’s old age, huh?

Self-Aggrandizement Motivation
To understand this 2nd motivation, we need to go back to her ‘the-bkbc-interview /#comments’.

Quote, “I had said: ‘Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy will be so mixed…(but) everyone will agree that for a man of his stature and impact, neither the past nor the present holds an equal.’

I suppose this was my ‘compliment’ to Mr Lee, and in referring Tom Plate, his biographer, to me, he was returning the ‘compliment’ (both compliments needing those strong, qualifying inverted commas!) But I must tell you, it made me very happy. Because Mr Lee never minces his words, and says exactly what he feels.”

Read the full text yourself. Catherine ‘very happy’? Nah, she was completely bowled over, thrilled to bits like a dewy-eyed school girl unexpectedly complimented by her strict disciplinary master.

So, here she comes with her rather complimentary piece on LHL’s reign, hoping for a return compliment by the master’s son, perhaps?

Commercial Self-Promotion Motivation
Catherine has just launched her new book, Roll Out The Champagne, Singapore! 16 Oct 2014. Like any publisher and author would want, she’s just gifting away some teaser chapters lure potential buyers to her book.

Thus far, she’s offered 3 carefully selected chapters. She has to do her darnest to persuade more dafts to part with $21.50 for her bank account, doesn’t she? How else to ‘collect more money’ from her writing efforts?

So, sad to say, the elitist are as the elitist do, they think they understand us the common people but actually they hear not, know not our cries beneath their wheels.

HERE’S THE ONE SLOGAN WE ALL NEED @SG50
Having called Catherine’s coveting covert motivations, let’s nonetheless examine the need for a new slogan for SG50.

Do we need any new one at all. We should go back to the future. We should drink our old wine from a new bottle.

The only evergreen slogan born out of the crucible of our national existential struggles that we need now – and more of – is ‘As One United People…’ Our Pledge.

So, all together now, with feeling…….

We, the citizens of Singapore,

pledge ourselves as one united people,

regardless of race, language or religion,

to build a democratic society

based on justice and equality

so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and

progress for our nation.

2cents