Contraries to what PM Lee said

December 15, 2014

I refer to the 10 Dec 2014 Straits Times report “Rallying party for next GE”.

Contrary to what PM Lee said, the PAP doesn’t always deal with the problems they face. More often than not, they conveniently explain problems away. They don’t lie low, they lie.
Their so called settle now is to give excuses. Instead of hoping that the public forgets the problem, they hope the public remembers their excuses.

For example, between 2007 and 2011, the public could obviously see housing prices running out of control. But PAP kept explaining the problem away. First they insisted it was the natural outcome of demand and supply which the government had no control over. Then they rationalized it wasn’t a problem at all and that correcting it was tantamount to robbing from state reserves. But immediately after the election setback of 2011, suddenly both housing demand and supply can be controlled, with measure after measure to rein in both demand and supply. Discounts to new flats were also increased, never mind it reduced already heavy inflows to state reserves. That’s how the PAP operates; explain problems away first rather than solve them first.

Contrary to what PM Lee said, PAP doesn’t behave as though it owes people responsibility. Instead, it behaves as though people owe them our First World status despite the fact that Singapore was already very prosperous as a British Crown Colony and became more so under the economic plan written by Dr Albert Winsemius.

Contrary to what PM Lee said, PAP is neither transparent nor accountable. It continues to hide behind the safety of state controlled media that shield it from answering really tough questions that transparency and accountability calls for.

PM Lee knows no shame when he asked other political parties to measure up to PAP’s lowly standards. It is not up to PM Lee but Singaporeans to decide who is up to the mark and who falls short. Neither PM Lee nor the PAP sets the mark. PM Lee’s own mark is less than half past six (60.5%).

Straits Times, Rallying party for next GE, 10 Dec 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong, at the PAP rally on Sunday, touched on these topics:


“We will reinforce the team further in the next General Election. We have already identified many promising candidates, including a few potential office holders. Some from the private sector; some in the government; quite a number from the activists, from the grassroots, men, women, different age groups, different races. A good representation of Singapore and the way Singapore’s leadership should be.

Of course, the elections are still a bit off yet and we have not stopped and will not stop looking for good men and women who can join us. So, after the next General Election, with the support of the voters, I will have a renewed, strengthened and more seasoned team of MPs, and of ministers.

Whoever will succeed me as Secretary-General and Prime Minister, will most likely be amongst the PAP MPs elected in the next General Election….Well before the end of next term, I am confident we will have a younger, passionate and capable team, ready to take over the reins”.


“When we face problems, we acknowledge them publicly and deal with them. We do not pretend there is no problem – no comment, studying the matter, thinking about it, we’ll clarify one day. We settle now! You lie low, hoping the public will forget the issue and the issue will go away and the public will forget you, and you might as well go away.

Because we are the People’s Action Party, we owe a responsibility to the people, to be honest, to be transparent, and to be accountable. In fact, it is our responsibility to set the standard that other political parties in Singapore should be measured by and should aim for. I cannot tell them what they should aim for, but I can tell you who is up to the mark and who falls short. And we have to set that mark.”


“This is democracy. People are entitled to try. It is the way the system works or is supposed to work. But for democracy to really, truly work in Singapore, the PAP also must fight, and fight to win the battle. Because if the other side fights and we sit down and we are good guys and nice and friendly to everyone, I think we deserve to lose. We are friendly, yes. To win, we must fight for what we believe in. If you get flamed, so what? I have the thickest skin in town and if you are doing the right thing and if 10,000 people go against you, proceed. We are charging in the right direction.”

Next General Election will not be a fight to see who forms government

December 14, 2014

I refer to the 8 Dec 2014 Straits Times report “Next General Election will be a fight to see who forms government: PM Lee”.

Was PM Lee trying to pull a fast one when he said the next general election is about who forms the government? Even Mr Ho Kwong Ping who delivered the first two Institute of Policy Study lectures said it was unlikely that PAP’s dominance can be challenged in the next 15 years.

What did PM Lee mean when he said the next general election is going to be a deadly serious fight? Was he implying that previous general elections were play play only?

PM Lee can try to frame his next election campaign around a First World government all he wants but that will not extinguish the people’s yearning for a First World parliament. The people has come to appreciate what PM Lee’s supposed First World government is – a government of self praise that is no praise. The people are gradually coming to realise that without a First World parliament, their welfare and their children’s future cannot be safeguarded despite PM Lee’s so-called First World government.

PM Lee can try to frame every contest as a national one, not a local one. But he should not forget that the Workers’ Party won Aljunied without significant local issues to capitalize on, without the by-election effect. Instead, Workers’ Party won Aljunied on the back of national, not local issues.

PM Lee is mistaken if he thinks that the people will identify with his motherhood vision statements about a fair and inclusive society. PAP’s motherhood statements cannot change the people’s daily encounters with the realities of societal unfairness and exclusion.

PM Lee is deluding himself if he thinks that only PAP solves problems. PAP creates more problems than it solves while the people are largely left to solving for themselves whatever problems PAP has created. After all, isn’t it the PAP’s mantra all these years that the people must be self-reliant as encapsulated in one of its all time classic phrases “Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant”?

PM Lee’s vision and road map is meaningless to the average man on the street. The average man on the street cannot see vision statements as anything beyond meaningless motherhood statements. They see bread, butter, roof and cash better.

PM Lee should quit fooling himself; he does not have the thickest skin but the thinnest skin in town for over reacting to a blog that the common man on the street couldn’t care less about.

Straits Times, Next General Election will be a fight to see who forms government: PM Lee, 8 Dec 2014

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore’s next General Election (GE) will be about who forms the government to implement policies to take the country forward.

“The next GE is going to be a deadly serious fight,” Mr Lee told 6,000 members of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) yesterday at its 60th anniversary rally at the Singapore Expo.

“It will be about whether we continue to have a First World Government, not about the so-called First World Parliament,” he said, alluding to the Workers’ Party’s (WP’s) GE 2011 slogan.

“Every seat, every contest will be a national one, not a local one,” he said in a rousing hour- long speech in Malay, Mandarin and English. What will be at stake in every constituency will be who gets to form the government, rather than the by-election effect often used by the opposition to secure more seats, he argued.

The next election must be held by January 2017, and Mr Lee said it would be about choosing a “clear vision” and “capable leadership” for the nation. “It is not just about expressing approval or disapproval, it is not just about winning a seat in Parliament, it is not a by-election,” he said.

The party, he said, would fight to win every seat – and this included WP-held Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol East.

Going on the offensive against opposition parties, Mr Lee accused them of offering no vision for Singapore, even as he outlined the PAP’s updated objectives for an inclusive and fair nation with citizens who are hard-working and actively engaged.

These goals, adopted as a resolution during the party’s convention last year, were crystallised in the party’s Constitution yesterday. It was the first amendment to the Constitution in 32 years.

The change cements the PAP’s shift in governance over the past decade towards more communication with the public and stronger social support, said Mr Lee, the party’s secretary-general.

Noting that the PAP is the only party offering a national vision, he said: “Only the PAP is solving problems, planning for the future. Only the PAP is putting forth a vision, a road map for Singapore.”

Meanwhile, he urged PAP activists to stand up for their ideas, even if they are criticised. Telling them to have courage, he quipped: “If I get flamed, so what; I have the thickest skin in town.”

Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh noted that the WP had fought on a platform of being the PAP’s check and balance in the last GE.

“The challenge seems to be whether it can do the local part well,” she added, referring to recent hitches in the WP’s management of its town council.

The PAP also held elections for its central executive committee yesterday, for what is likely to be the last time before the GE.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin made it into the committee’s top 12, replacing Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. Dr Ng was co-opted into the committee with Speaker Halimah Yacob, as the two nominees with the next highest number of votes.

For the next GE, the PAP has identified “many promising candidates”, including potential office-holders, Mr Lee said, adding that his successor is likely to be in the “renewed, strengthened and more seasoned” team that will be in place after the next polls.

Not enough checks yet to cause checkmate

December 13, 2014

I refer to the 8 Dec 2014 Straits Times report “Too many checks ‘will lead to checkmate'”.

PM Lee is wrong to say that the opposition does not see its duty to solve the nation’s problems or plan for the future:

• The Singapore Democratic Party launched its national housing plan and national healthcare plan in Nov 2012 and Jan this year respectively to solve our nation’s housing and healthcare problems respectively.

• Both Workers Party and the National Solidarity Party launched their papers and plans for a sustainable population in 2013 to solve population problems caused by the PAP.

• The Reform Party launched its 5 year master plan in 2011 to plan for a brighter future in 2016

PM Lee should not see the checker in parliament as negating the efforts of the government doer, thinker or leader. Conversely, parliament checkers help the government doer do the right thing; they help the government thinker crystallize his or her thoughts better, they help the government leader lead better. The checker has, after all, always served the utmost important role of being the last stop in the line.

PM Lee cannot say there are lots of checkers in parliament when only 10 MPs are active checkers (WP + SPP) while close to 80 are sleeping or absent checkers (PAP). If PM Lee discount the 80 sleeping or absent checkers, he will find there aren’t so many checkers around to cause gridlock or checkmate.

But from time to time, these 80 sleeping or absent checkers can spring into action and become counter checkers. With 80 counter checkers against 10 active checkers, the odds are firmly in PM Lee’s favour. What has PM Lee to fear? Are PM Lee’s policies so flimsy, so indefensible, so easily checkable that it cannot prevail despite an 8 to 1 odd?

No reasonable person will believe that PAP will be checkmated in the coming election. In a recent public lecture, Mr Ho Kwong Ping made the point that PAP won’t be checkmated in the next 15 years. Would Seoul give PM Lee honorary citizenship if it thinks PM Lee’s government is about to be checkmated? The most likely reason why PM Lee would warn against PAP being checkmated is to scare the sizeable electoral middle ground which happens to be the most gullible also.

The opposition asks the PAP to do more because the PAP isn’t doing enough.

Almost every year, the PAP takes from the country billions of dollars more than it spends on it. The money for doing more can come from the billions more that the PAP takes from the country every year.

There is no need for PM Lee to take issue with the opposition over the lack of vision statements which tend to be useless motherhood statements anyway. For example, PAP’s vision of a Swiss Standard of Living quickly turned out to be a household joke. Singaporeans don’t need and don’t care about useless motherhood vision statements.

PM Lee should understand that government surpluses that helped fund the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package did not come from his own pocket but from the pockets of Singaporeans. The spike in housing prices meant that Singaporeans paid more for housing that ultimately went into government surpluses. The availability of vast amounts of cheap CPF funds also helped fuel government investments that helped earn extra surpluses. PM Lee cannot take credit for the surpluses that ultimately came from the people. In spiking housing prices, PAP is ultimately mortgaging our children’s future to win votes because our children will be paying even more in future for ever smaller living spaces.

PM Lee doesn’t know what First World parliament is because he has never been part of one. By the time he was inducted into politics, Singapore parliament has already degenerated into Third World status. PM Lee should not shamelessly associate himself with our achievement of First World nation status but should instead acknowledge that Singapore didn’t progress to First World status under his watch but under the watch of his predecessors.

PM Lee should correct his mistaken notion that PAP also fighting means democracy will truly work in Singapore. More importantly, PAP must fight fairly and squarely in order for Singapore democracy to truly work. PAP fighting with unfair, self-assigned advantages is insulting and contemptuous to Singapore democracy.

PM Lee should quit being hypocritical. Since when in PAP’s history has it ever been the good, nice, friendly guy? Would nice guys lock up opponents for 30 over years without the permission of the courts?

Straits Times, Too many checks ‘will lead to checkmate’, 8 Dec 2014

Singapore’s opposition parties do not see it as their duty to solve the nation’s problems and plan for the future, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Instead, their main campaigning platform is to act as a “check” on the ruling party, he said at a People’s Action Party (PAP) rally held after the party’s biennial conference yesterday.

But for every “checker” in Parliament, there will be one fewer “doer, thinker and leader” in the government, said Mr Lee, who is the PAP’s secretary-general.

“You will have a lot of checkers, you have no workers… There will be gridlock, like in other countries,” he said.

Singapore’s opposition parties do not see it as their duty to solve the nation’s problems and plan for the future, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. — ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
“Eventually, there will be no PAP to check… That will be the last check, because it will be checkmate for Singapore.”

In a speech that pulled no punches in criticising the opposition, Mr Lee said that every time the PAP Government puts out a popular policy, opposition politicians respond: “Do more.”

But they fail to suggest where the money will come from, or “who are you going to ‘take from’ in order to ‘give more’ “, he said.

Mr Lee also chided opposition politicians for not putting forth a vision for Singapore, saying it is “because they are trying to avoid answering hard questions”.

The PAP, on the other hand, delivers on its promises and thinks long term, he added. Citing the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package, which was funded from the surpluses of a single term of government rather than future taxes, he said the ruling party will not “mortgage your children’s future to win your votes”.

Taking a jab at the 2011 election slogan of the Workers’ Party (WP) – the biggest opposition party in Parliament – Mr Lee said: “When other people say First World Parliament, we don’t know what it means.” He added to loud cheers: “But when we say First World Nation – here we are.”

Yesterday, Mr Lee also urged PAP activists to greater action in the lead-up to the next general election (GE), especially in opposition-held wards.

The WP currently controls Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol East – the biggest opposition haul since independence.

Mr Lee said that in June, he visited several thousand Aljunied residents, who gave him a rousing welcome. Pledging to win the opposition constituencies back, he said: “It may take some time, but we will not give up trying and, one day, we will succeed.”

He pointed to the example of PAP MP Sitoh Yih Pin, who wrested Potong Pasir back from the opposition on his third try.

Madam Normah Ahmad, 62, a Kaki Bukit activist, agreed: “We should try to win back Aljunied, slowly, if we have to. It is a hard fight, but I think we can.”

Activists must also toughen up for the next GE, Mr Lee said.

“For democracy really, truly to work in Singapore, the PAP also must fight, and fight to win the battle,” he said. “Because if we sit down and we are good guys and nice and friendly to everybody, I think we deserve to lose.”

Mr Jacky Foo, stop pandering to your political pay masters’ editorial tastes

December 7, 2014

Dear Wall Street Journal Editor,

I refer to the 2 Dec 2014 Wall Street Journal letter “Singapore’s Current Reality” by Singapore’s consulate-general to Hong Kong, Mr Jacky Foo.

Contrary to what Mr Foo says, Dr Chee’s arguments are rooted in a sense of reality that Singaporeans are slowly but surely coming to grips with despite our 150th ranked state controlled press.

Singapore’s inequality hasn’t merely increased; Singapore has always been one of three most unequal societies amongst First World economies over the past 30 years alongside Hong Kong and USA.

Which First World nation doesn’t have high quality education for the low income? Universal education is taken for granted not only amongst rich nations, but amongst many poor countries too.

Whether Singapore offers high quality health care to the low income is questionable. The high cost of healthcare in Singapore has driven the low income to commit suicide to avoid incurring hefty hospital bills that they cannot afford to pay.

Singapore public housing less affordable than private housing elsewhere

Singapore’s public housing can be more expensive than private housing elsewhere. Newly launched public housing can have a price to income ratio 4.8 which is close to what World Bank considers as unaffordable.

This is almost equivalent to the price to income ratios of private housing in Western countries.
[10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2014, page 10, figure 1]

Housing affordability

No true home ownership

There is no true home ownership in as far as Singapore’s public housing is concerned because the homes are leased to the people for 99 years and in all public housing agreements, the people who supposedly own those houses are referred to as “lessees”.

False claim that $1,000 can buy apartment

The notion that Singapore families earning just SGD $1,000 a month can afford a two-room apartment is a fallacy that Mr Foo is repeating after his political paymasters.

Firstly, public assistance for a family of three in Singapore is $990 a month ( This is the minimum level of sustenance that a family of three in Singapore needs to survive. So a family earning just $1,000 a month has only $10 to spare after paying for their daily living expenses (assuming only one child). How can this family afford monthly mortgage payments with just $10 to spare?

Secondly, the so-called two-room apartment actually has one bed room only, the other room being the living room. It is typically 45 square meters ( which is only the size of a studio apartment that the entire family has to squeeze into.

Thirdly, Singapore families with such low salaries will end up with no savings whatsoever after paying for apartment mortgages and daily expenses. These poor families will end up having to sell their small apartments at old age to fund retirement needs leaving them with no apartment at the end of the day.

So bottom quintile households that supposedly own their homes will eventually have to give up their homes at old age to unlock their retirement money. The government is fully aware of this problem because it is now actively helping these poor families to monetize their homes. The government should therefore know very well that bottom quintile households will eventually lose the homes they own when they retire and not trumpet the false hope of home ownership.


Contrary to what Mr Foo said, independent financial experts like Mr Leong Sze Hian has time and again shown that real wage growth of the low income has been negative for quite some time already.

The only thing in Singapore that has no parallel in other countries is the amount of bullshit we have on official media.

Mr Foo should not refer to ‘our’ model as being not perfect. The far from perfect model is the ruling party’s model which more and more Singaporeans are beginning to understand and reject.

It is Mr Foo, not Dr Chee who is being dishonest for putting words like “fail” into Dr Chee’s mouth when Dr Chee never once used the word in his article. Dr Chee merely highlighted the issues blighting our nation and expressed his hopes for a better Singapore. It is only in uniquely Singapore that expression of the truth can be construed as dishonesty and vice versa.

Mr Foo selectively chooses more successful government linked companies to make his case while ignoring other languishing companies like Neptune Orient Lines which has been making losses. He also omits to mention government linked companies that survive mainly on generous government contracts or thrive on government protection like the Singapore Press Holdings.

How can Mr Foo accuse Dr Chee of not being interested in facts when Dr Chee used facts like the government paying women to undergo tubal ligation in the 1970s and is now giving tax incentives for couples to have more babies and also paying children to demonstrate strong character?

How can Mr Foo accuse Dr Chee of trimming his sails to the wind when Dr Chee has been consistently writing about both government linked companies and free trade agreements for years in his books?

Lack of democracy

Contrary to what Mr Foo says, Singapore lacks democracy despite having elections because we lack a free press. Our press is ranked 150th in the world – rock bottom. As many world leaders have said, there can be no democracy without a free press.

Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Democracy is impossible without freedom of the press, for freedom of the press is the basis of democracies.

Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

A free press is a fundamental prerequisite in the implementation of democracy.

An Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern T.D., Prime Minister of Ireland

Freedom of the press is one of the rights that is fundamental to democracy. No country that systematically interferes with or restricts freedom can be considered fully democratic.

Yoshiro Mori, Former Prime Minister of Japan

The people’s Right to Know is a universal principle that secures democracy, and Freedom of the Press is the basic freedom that guarantees this right.

Wolfgang Schüssel, Federal Chancellor of Austria

Freedom of the press has remained the condition sine qua non of democracy ever since: every cultural and political development is based on freedom of opinion.

Thomas Jefferson

If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.

Information is the currency of democracy

Winston Churchill

A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. … Under dictatorship the press is bound to languish, and the loudspeaker and the film to become more important. But where free institutions are indigenous to the soil and men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the Fourth Estate, the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.

Even our elections are not entirely free or fair. The ruling party implemented the GRC scheme that lumps several constituencies into one to be contested as one which raised the barrier of entry to political office. This is something that the ruling party has unabashedly admitted.

Mr Foo isn’t truthful when he claims that Singaporeans have rejected Dr Chee and his party. Typically, about 30% of Singaporeans vote for Dr Chee’s SDP during elections. Mr Foo cannot say that the 30% who votes for Dr Chee’s SDP rejects Dr Chee or the SDP.


Mr Foo would do better to take Singaporeans’ interest to heart, rather than pander to the editorial tastes of his political paymasters.

Wall Street Journal Online, Singapore’s Current Reality, 2 Dec 2014

Singapore’s consulate-general to Hong Kong responds to Chee Soon Juan’s Nov. 28 article.

In his op-ed last week (“A New Vision for Singapore”, Nov. 28), Chee Soon Juan rehashes old arguments without a sense of reality.

He takes issue with income inequality in Singapore. Indeed it has increased, as it has in many other countries. But in Singapore, the low-income have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens. Families earning just 1,000 Singapore dollars ($800) a month can afford to own a two-room apartment. Indeed, 80% of households in the bottom income quintile own their homes, with an average of more than S$200,000 net housing equity. Their wages have also grown by 10% (in real terms) in the past decade, unlike the stagnation often seen elsewhere. There is no parallel in other countries. Our model is not perfect, but it is dishonest of Mr. Chee to claim that it has failed, or that we have done nothing.

Mr. Chee criticizes government-linked companies. His charges are absurd. GLCs include highly successful, internationally renowned companies, such as Keppel, SembCorp and Singapore Airlines. They provide good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, but they make up just 10% of the economy. Privately owned small and medium-sized enterprises employ seven in 10 Singaporeans and enjoy the bulk of government support.

But Mr. Chee is not interested in facts. He is out to make a political case and trim his sails to the wind. When he writes in The Wall Street Journal, he attacks GLCs, but when he writes for the Huffington Post, he attacks free-trade agreements, in particular the U.S.-Singapore FTA.

Mr. Chee claims Singapore lacks a democracy. The reality is that elections in Singapore are free and fair. Every time Mr. Chee and his party have contested, Singaporeans have rejected them. He might do better to take the interest of Singaporeans to heart, rather than pander to the editorial tastes of the Western media.

Jacky Foo
Consulate-General of Singapore
Hong Kong

Not necessarily treason

December 6, 2014

I refer to the 14 Nov 2014 Straits Times letter “Joining ISIS is an act of treason” by Mr Matthew Ong Koon Lock.

ISIS is a globally condemned organization whose public beheading of captives goes beyond the moral tolerance of almost any culture or religion today. Most people would readily agree to condemning ISIS and arresting all who fight for ISIS.

However, in our eagerness to condemn ISIS, we must be careful not to jump to the conclusion that going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle in support of an ideology is necessarily an act of treason. The Christian crusades are the best examples of people from various nationalities going to war in a foreign land in support of an ideology that did not constitute treason. Even King Richard of England and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa joined in the crusades. Their peoples supported their respective king’s and emperor’s decision to join the crusade; they did not see their respective king or emperor as being treasonous.

There are many other examples of individuals going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle that does not constitute treason:

In Medieval Europe, serving as mercenary soldiers for a foreign power was a common job occupation that didn’t constitute treason. Historically, the Swiss guards have been one of the most respected, not treasonous of mercenary soldiers serving a multitude of European courts. The Swiss guards continue to protect the Vatican City today.

In both World Wars, American volunteers who served on the Allied side before America officially joined the war weren’t considered treasonous.

Many Gurkhas served as soldiers for the British army and fought in many British campaigns without being considered treasonous back home. Gurkhas continue to serve Singapore today.

Singaporean pioneers who served as Nanyang Volunteers for China during the Second World War weren’t considered treasonous too.

The above examples show that going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle cannot in and of itself constitute treason.

Our oath of allegiance to our country should not preclude our allegiance to our religion or culture. As long as our allegiance to our religion or culture is not in conflict with our allegiance to our country, we cannot be said to have committed treason.

Straits Times, Joining ISIS is an act of treason, 14 Nov 2014

SEVERAL governments have been trying to prevent their citizens from leaving the country to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

When a citizen decides to go to a foreign land to take part in an armed struggle in support of an ideology, this should be considered an act of treason.

As a Singapore citizen, I took an oath of allegiance to my country. If I went on to serve ISIS, would I not be breaking that oath? The appropriate penalty would be to strip me of my citizenship, and the onus would be on me to show why this should not be done.

Such a penalty will show potential ISIS volunteers that there are repercussions to their actions.

Upon returning to Singapore, these individuals should be arrested immediately for treason.

As for those claiming to go to Iraq or Syria as aid volunteers, why not require all such aid agencies to register with the local government and provide a letter indicating the named individual as a registered volunteer?

This means the Government has a responsibility to conduct due diligence on any aid agency to ensure its credibility. This includes meeting officials from the organisation, reviewing their published and audited financial statements, and working with them for a specified period before recognising them as a legitimate group.

There is also a need to check their registration and incorporation, and to do follow-up reviews to ensure donations are spent appropriately.

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

Refutting George Yeo

December 4, 2014

I refer to the 18 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “S’poreans ‘can weather calls for welfarism’”.

A good number of the wealthiest economies in the world are small, often smaller than Singapore. Macau, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Hong Kong are small wealthy economies without natural endowments. They all have nothing on ground, in land or underwater. Yet they are amongst the wealthiest in this world. It’s about time former minister George Yeo correct his mistaken notion that wealth must come from the ground, land or underwater.

Unfortunately for Singaporeans, the government’s balance isn’t between spending today and saving for the future as Mr Yeo puts it, but between spending and squandering on ill fated investments.

I refer too to excerpts from the 18 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “S’pore well placed to adapt to new world order: George Yeo”.

Considering that print media continues to be Singaporeans’ main source of news, the capacity to distort and to manipulate information lies mainly in the hands of print media.

Newspapers still dominate, but more readers go online: Survey

SINGAPORE – PRINT newspapers remain the staple source of news for most readers, with 68.4 per cent of people in Singapore reading a hard-copy local newspaper every day … It found that more than seven in 10 people in Singapore read newspapers daily, whether in print or online … And 85 per cent read them at least once a week … The Straits Times remains the most-read title, reaching around 34.3 per cent of the population every day … It was followed by Today, with 18.1 per cent readership … The Internet is used by 66.6 per cent of the population daily, up from 62.3 per cent last year …And 36 per cent read news online at least once a month.

[Straits Times, ST still Spore’s most-read, 5 Nov 2012]

Straits Times, S’poreans ‘can weather calls for welfarism’, 18 Oct 2014

ALTHOUGH striking a balance between government spending and savings will remain a political challenge, Singaporeans are pragmatic enough to weather growing calls for welfarism, said former foreign minister George Yeo yesterday.

He gave this assurance to an audience member at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s 10th anniversary conference who had asked how the country would deal with demands that the Government spend more.

“For as long as Singaporeans think the Government is rich, they will say, ‘Look, pass some over’,” he said to laughter. “But in fact, we’ve nothing. We’ve only a small island. We’ve no natural endowments, and what we have – I do not know how many hundred billion dollars we have – even if you double it, what is that compared with what others have in ground, in land, underwater?”

The Government needs to strike a balance between spending on today’s generation and saving for future generations, he said. This is a political challenge every generation of Singaporeans has to contend with, said Mr Yeo, who left politics after his team lost Aljunied GRC in the 2011 polls.

But he is confident Singaporeans’ practical view of the world will see them through. “They know that ‘if I don’t get a good education, I’ll be in trouble. And I’d better save for a rainy day’.”

Straits Times, Excerpts from S’pore well placed to adapt to new world order: George Yeo, 18 Oct 2014

Sparking this change is social media that has kept people informed but also distorts, and is sometimes deliberately manipulated. Access to information because of the digital revolution has also played a part in causing the corrosion of hierarchies, as those at the top find their authority and knowledge questioned and challenged by those below across all manner of relationships and institutions.

Hong Kong must not stop self-flagellation

December 3, 2014

I refer to the 29 Oct 2014 Straits Times column “Hong Kong must stop self-flagellation” by Mr Tom Plate.

Although history’s future judgment cannot offer current value, history is replete with many past judgments that can offer current value.

Wasn’t it the breakdown of law and order and erosion of decent respect for legitimate authority in the original British colonies of America that led to the birth of the United States? So instead of taking issue with the factual correctness of Hong Kong’s breakdown of law and order and erosion of decent respect for legitimate authority, Mr Plate should instead take comfort from the factual correctness that it was through such things that American independence was born.

There is no need for an analogy or situation to perfectly resemble Hong Kong in order for it to be applicable. Puerto Rico for example is under US sovereignty but gets full unrestricted elections of its own. Singapore in 1959 also serves as a good example. We were a state of our own under British sovereignty possessing full internal self-government and unfettered right to our own elections. Only defense and foreign affairs matters came under the British. That would be a good arrangement for Hong Kong today. Another example would be the Principality of Monaco which is a sovereign country under the protection of the French or the Principality of Andorra which has links to both France and Catalonia but which too has full unfettered elections of its own.

Instead of ridiculing Hong Kong as the spoiled prodigy that kept demanding for special treats, Mr Plate should instead take heed of the factual correctness of America too being the spoiled prodigy of England that kept demanding for special treats until it ended up fighting and prevailing over its parent.

The story of Hong Kong did not begin with Deng Xiaoping but with Emperor Daoguang. It was during Daoguang’s reign that Hong Kong was forcibly ceded to UK. So instead of asking what Deng would have done if he was alive today, why not ask what Daoguang would have done instead? He would have required all Chinese, including Deng if he was still alive, to fashion pigtails and kowtow to him. That of course would have been silly just as it is silly to ask what Deng would have done.

If Deng had been the uncle of eternal patience, surely he wouldn’t have ordered the Tiananmen massacre would he?

Disruption to Hong Kong’s adult economy is akin to Occupy Wall Street’s disruption to New York’s adult economy except that in both cases adults, even very senior ones partook in those disruptions. Mr Plate doesn’t have to look very far to understand if public space activity would be patiently and lengthily permitted in Los Angeles. He only has to look at New York.

If Mr Plate feels that good, tough decisions have ratcheted up tensions, then surely bad, soft decisions would bring about his so-called “higher level of calm and consensus”? Tom has in fact answered his own question – the solution to Hong Kong’s tensions lies in bad, soft decisions.

If as Mr Plate suggests, these ‘street circuses’ succeed in bringing about a plenary review by the community, wouldn’t that amount to some level of success by the protestors? How would that be considered a waste of time, energy or spirit or for that matter stupid or dispiriting?

Although Tung Chee Hwa retains Beijing’s trust, he is nonetheless a Beijing chosen candidate. Isn’t Beijing chosen candidature the bear bug of the entire Hong Kong issue?

Many things in life like the butterfly must undergo suffering first before transforming into something more beautiful. Cutting down Hong Kong’s self-flagellation prematurely will also cripple its transformation into something bigger that awaits history’s future judgment.

Straits Times, Hong Kong must stop self-flagellation, 29 Oct 2014

History rarely moves in ways simple enough to be wholly comprehensible at the time. Even our best journalism takes but close-up snapshots – never the long view.

What observers and commentators make of what is happening in Hong Kong is not, in any complete sense, what history will eventually make of it. Historical meaning is elusive without the perspective of time, which is precisely what we don’t have at the very moment we need it most. The inescapable flaw of history’s future judgment is its inability to offer current value.

So the question becomes what is to be concluded about Hong Kong right now, in the unfocused, semi-darkness of the moment? Some observers view the struggle of the “pro-democracy” street protesters as the classic diorama of good guys against bad guys. This is obviously simplistic but emotionally appealing. Others view the recent turmoil as the breakdown of law and order and the erosion of a decent respect for legitimate authority. This is factually correct, but is emotionally unappealing. And it is beside the point, which is: Where do Beijing and Hong Kong go from here and in what civilised manner do they do it?

One has the sense that this really is new political terrain – that brilliant Hong Kong is sui generis, one of a kind, resistant to obvious analogies, a situation not really like anything else. The basic but special demographics and geography of Hong Kong place this little gem as close to mainland China as you can get without falling over into Guangzhou and yet, for a long time, sovereign power was absurdly distant.

After the sensible Thatcher government accepted that it had to give it back, the sensible Deng Xiaoping imagined a Hong Kong embraced without rancour or fuss into the overall Chinese family, even if it proved the case that this spoiled prodigy would incessantly demand special treats. Which, more or less, it has, and more or less incessantly.

Were Deng alive today, would he take the rod to the spoilt child? Or shake his head knowingly, the uncle of eternal patience? So far, at least, the Beijing of today has mostly left the official reacting to the local Hong Kong authorities, even as students, among others, continue to play in the streets, freeze traffic, disrupt the adult economy and disrupt domestic tranquillity. Would such public-space activity be so patiently and lengthily permitted in Los Angeles where I reside?

Beijing is understandably perturbed by the protest against its judgment regarding the rules for the 2017 election, in which everyone in Hong Kong will be able to vote but not everyone will be able to run. It regards its rule making as well within its sovereign power.

Pushing negotiations with the upstart protesters down to the working level of the special administrative region itself is tactically correct and within the markers of “one country, two systems”, the governing code endorsed by the late Deng which, though battered, is anything but dead. But there is an operational problem: The local Hong Kong government would appear to have lost too much moral – or at least persuasive – authority.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, who took office in 2012 and early on made some good, tough policy decisions, has inadvertently ratcheted up the tensions. Certainly, his public comment, in which he openly worried over the consequences of permitting the poor to have as much influence over public policy as the elite, was not helpful or calming. It is hard to imagine any responsible Communist Party official in Beijing uttering something like that.

Beijing might quietly want to note that Mr Leung attained the highest office in Hong Kong via an election nominating process that in part will carry through to 2017, despite the grandiose and welcome opening to universal voting. The danger with that is that Hong Kong and Beijing may never gain the kind of inspired leadership both deserve and the tricky “one country, two systems” requires. Perhaps the process of selection should get a second look. A plenary session of review, perhaps a community-at-large process taking even many months, hosted at one of Hong Kong’s universities, would hardly seem more of a waste of time, energy and spirit than these stupid and dispiriting street circuses.

To this end, why not ask Mr Tung Chee Hwa, China’s first chief executive (1997-2005), to chair the review? With his timely and obviously good-willed calls for calm and reason, Mr Tung, who – crucially – retains Beijing’s trust, offers the people of Hong Kong very good reason indeed to listen to him with special attentiveness.

There may be some room for navigation between what Beijing has proposed and what some Hong Kong locals prefer. Surely the time for a higher level of calm and consensus is ripe. The territory and mother China should be working together on ameliorating the social and economic pressures threatening to pull Hong Kong down far more dramatically and dangerously than today’s governance dispute. Hong Kong should get its act together and cut down on the self-flagellations.

The writer is a career journalist, Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and author of In The Middle Of China’s Future (Marshall Cavendish).

Refuting Law minister Shanmugam

December 2, 2014

I refer to the 7 Nov 2014 Straits Times report “Parliament: ‘When you have a small Bar and very small talent pool’”.

Contrary to what Minister Shanmugam said, if the constitution is changed to suit what the government finds it has to do, that’s not fitting the rules to the best it can but changing the rules to suit whatever purpose it may have.

Mr Chan Sek Keong isn’t the greatest jurist of his generation

Many Singaporeans may not agree with Minister Shanmugam that former chief justice Chan Sek Keong is the greatest jurist of his generation.

During the general election of 1997, Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Tony Tan entered Cheng San polling station in contradiction to general election rules but Mr Chen Sek Keong, as Attorney General then ruled that no laws were broken.

But according to Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218), contested elections:

(4) The presiding officer shall —
(c) exclude all other persons except the candidates, the polling agent or agents of each candidate, the Returning Officer and persons authorised in writing by the Returning Officer, the police officers on duty and other persons officially employed at the polling station.
(5) The number of polling agents that may be admitted to any polling station for an electoral division shall be as follows:
(a) only one polling agent for each candidate contesting the election in that electoral division; or
(b) in the case of a polling station for a group representation constituency, only one polling agent for each group of candidates contesting the election in that constituency. [42/96]
(5A) Notwithstanding subsection (5), where more than one polling place has been established at any polling station, only one polling agent for each candidate or each group of candidates, as the case may be, shall be admitted to each such polling place. [42/96]
(6) No polling agent whose name has not been notified to the presiding officer as required by section 64(1) shall be admitted to a polling station.

It was unlikely that Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Tony Tan entered the polling station as polling agents which are minion roles to them. So going by this section of the law, the presiding officer should have excluded Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Tony Tan from entering the polling station. The fact that both gentlemen entered the polling station when they ought to have been excluded from entering means something must have been wrong then. If not, why didn’t Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Tony Tan continue to enter polling stations of other candidates in subsequent general elections? The failure of Mr Chan to catch this transgression will forever mar his good name.

Mr Shanmugam contradicted himself

Mr Shanmugam contradicted himself when he said on the one hand that we have a small Bar and a small talent pool but said on the other hand that Singapore faces a glut of lawyers.

Over just four years up to March last year, the number of practising lawyers here leapt by nearly 25 per cent to more than 4,400. Another 1,500 are expected to join them in the next three years. And there has been a sharp rise in those heading overseas to study law. In Britain alone, the number of Singapore law students more than doubled from 510 to 1,142 between 2010 and last year. Law Minister K. Shanmugam dished out these numbers yesterday as he warned that Singapore could soon have more lawyers than jobs for them all. He urged law students to temper career and salary expectations, and maybe even consider other jobs. Speaking at the Criminal Justice Conference organised by the Singapore Management University (SMU) and National University of Singapore, which both have law schools, he said the number of lawyers is expected to grow by nearly a third in the next three years. But “the market is not going to grow by 30 per cent”, he said, pointing out that this year, nearly 650 graduates will compete for about 490 practice training contracts at law firms, to get the training they need before being admitted to the Singapore Bar. About 150 students will have difficulty getting a training contract, let alone employment after that,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is a senior counsel himself. “The study of law provides an excellent training of the mind, so I don’t want to be seen as discouraging people… but you have to have a realistic understanding of the market, the economy, the total structure.”

[Straits Times, S’pore facing a glut of lawyers, 17 Aug 2014]

Difference between government and opposition

Unlike what Minister Shanmugam said, the government differs from the opposition in the sense that it bends laws in ways that are so clumsy and outrageous it defies common reasoning and makes them the laughing stock of the world.

Straits Times, Parliament: ‘When you have a small Bar and very small talent pool’, 7 Nov 2014

The Workers’ Party yesterday made judicial independence the reason for not supporting an amendment to the Constitution tabled by Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
It was an odd move on the part of the opposition party. As Mr Shanmugam pointed out, the objections raised by Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh – both lawyers – had nothing to do with the amendment before the House, but were related to changes the WP wished the Government were making instead.
Any amendment to the Constitution – being the supreme law of the land – is a serious matter. To be passed, it needs the assent of not less than two-thirds of the elected Members of Parliament.
The key aspects of yesterday’s amendment were to create two new judicial appointments, namely, International Judges and Senior Judges; and to introduce a gratuity plan in place of pensions for future holders of judicial and statutory appointments.
The first relates to the setting up of the Singapore International Commercial Court, as the Republic moves to realise its vision of becoming the leading dispute-resolution hub in the region.
The second follows from the Public Service Division’s review of salaries last year.
These were clearly set out in Mr Shanmugam’s speech.
But when Mr Singh joined the debate, he announced the WP’s opposition to the Constitution Bill on the grounds that the party was uncomfortable with the change to allow retired High Court judges to be appointed on short terms as Senior Judges.
“This weakens a concept critical to judicial independence, namely, the security of tenure,” he said.
The WP’s view, as set out in its manifesto, is that the Constitution should instead be amended to extend the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 65 to 70, with no prospect for extension thereafter, he said.
“While extensions and short- term appointments are administratively convenient,” he added, “it is the Workers’ Party view that they weaken the protective wall that upholds judicial independence.
“Under the existing regime, which this Bill re-enacts, it is conceivable that a judge past the retirement age may be retained by the Government because his or her judgments are ‘safe’ ones and acceptable to the Government, even as the Judiciary remains a separate organ of state.
“While I am not suggesting that this has occurred, such judgments may well be read as a signal by other judges who have not reached retirement age, as a factor that might determine the prospects for future judicial employment past the statutory retirement age or for a permanent appointment in the case of Judicial Commissioners.”
A Judicial Commissioner or JC has all the powers and functions of a High Court judge but is appointed on a short tenure. Singapore’s practice of appointing JCs dates back to 1979, when the Constitution was amended to allow for it.
Yesterday’s amendment merely extended this practice to the appointment of Senior Judges.
Still, Mr Shanmugam chose to address the WP’s concern over security of tenure seriously and factually, for which he is to be commended.
Currently, judges enjoy security of tenure up to the retirement age of 65. Should that be raised to 70?
In an ideal world, perhaps, he said, adding that on the issue of tenure, “fundamentally, we don’t disagree”.
“But the point is you have to take the profession as you find it and try and fit the rules to the best you can, and if you are too theoretical or too dogmatic about this, in the end you will not have had the judiciary that we have had with the outstanding reputation that it has,” he said.
In 1979, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had explained to the House the need for JCs. Lawyers in private practice indicated – and they continue to indicate, said Mr Shanmugam – a preference for short-term appointments to the High Court bench, after which they could decide whether they wanted to continue or to go back into practice.
In 1986, former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong became the first person to be appointed a Judicial Commissioner.
CJ Chan is “possibly the greatest jurist of his generation”, Mr Shanmugam said, citing him as an example of an outstanding judge who started out as a JC.
The Law Minister also stressed the need to deal practically with the reality of “a small Bar, which is what we have, and a very small talent pool”.
Therein lies a key difference between what those in Government find they have to do and what those in the opposition prefer they do.
All seven WP MPs voted against the constitutional amendment.
But it passed easily with 69 ayes, 11 more than the 58 needed, thanks to PAP MPs’ strong turnout – the best the House has seen for some time.

Refuting PM Lee

November 30, 2014

I refer to the 4 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “PM calls on S’pore to look outwards and to the future”.

Singaporeans not navel gazing

It is not Singaporeans who have given in to navel gazing. Instead, it is PM Lee who has gone riding on his high horse without checking his pants first. How many times must PM Lee get caught with his pants down before he would finally check his pants before charging off?

Surely the big picture PM Lee wants us to look at cannot be complete without the view from our own backyard?

Don’t repeat mistakes with handling high birth rates

Once upon a time, PM Lee’s father was over zealous with high birth rates and went into overdrive to kill them. PM Lee should learn from his father’s mistakes and not repeat them. Even as low birth rates cannot be wished away, there is no need to go into overdrive to correct them through artificial means like immigration. It may backfire like it did last time. Low birth rates could simply be a manifestation of poor underlying conditions. PM Lee should work hard to improve underlying conditions instead of just treating the symptoms which may worsen the underlying conditions.

Good jobs for Singaporeans

Instead of saying foreigner professionals have created good jobs for locals, why not list out 1,000 highest paid foreigner professionals (including permanent residents) employed by government or government linked companies and explain why no Singaporean can do their jobs equally well?

Joseph Schooling

The Joseph Schooling saga started with Joseph’s father posting a video in protest with being called an ang moh. This was reported by Straits Times on 28 Sept 2014 (My boy’s a true son of Singapore: Schooling Sr). A Google search of “Joseph Schooling” + “ang moh” – “kio” up to 27 Sept 2014 yields the following possible culprits:

Joseph Schooling allowed to defer NS till after Olympics 2016 … › … › Lifestyle › Eat-Drink-Man-Woman
Oct 21, 2013 – 15 posts – ‎13 authors
National swimmer Joseph Schooling — touted as a potential Olympic medial …. ang moh tua ki….. If chinese confirm need to go ns first one. eurasian != ang moh.

Can defer NS by two years now a days? WTF! – Sam’s Alfresco Coffee › … › The Courtyard Café
Oct 21, 2013 – 20 posts – ‎12 authors
KNNBCCB PAP :oIo: Singapore top swimmer Joseph Schooling granted National Service deferment Published on Oct 21, 2013 By … Ang Moh Gau is the best!

The rants are understandable considering they were in response to Joseph being granted NS deferment for 2 years which is an extremely rare privilege. But it should be clear by now that the deferment had been worthwhile because it yielded a true blue Singaporean gold medalist at Asia level with possibly even greater feats in years to come.

Communist and communalist falsehoods

PM Lee should stop spreading the so-called communist and communalist falsehoods. Two of Singapore’s greatest philanthropists Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye were labeled and persecuted as pro-communists but today both men have had their charges posthumously cleared. This shows just how frivolous the communist tag is. Singapore was the beacon of communal peace throughout our colonial years, communal violence erupted soon after PAP became in charge. So if there was anyone to be blamed for communalism, it would be PM Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew. Even Lee Kuan Yew’s good friends Toh Chin Chye and Lim Kim San think so too:

The events of 1963-1965 appear to be substantially a clash of temperaments and world views, with consequent misunderstandings among the key players. Lee’s own colleagues tell a story of Lee Kuan Yew in overdrive, aggressively engaging in brinkmanship and pushing the Malaysian experiment to the precipice. Lee found it difficult to exercise self-control in front of a microphone and developed a pattern of making outrageous and inflammatory speeches, which Toh Chin Chye later characterised as anti-Malay. When Lim Kim San, a key cabinet minister during the period was asked by Melanie Chew whether he counseled Lee to tone down his speeches, he replied “Oh yes! We did! But once he got onto the podium in front of the crowd, paah, everything would come out. Exactly what we told him not to say, he would say!” Lee at this time was driving himself to the brink of a breakdown, and his judgment was impaired by a regime of prescription drugs designed to help him cope with the stress. He was not at his best and all his prejudices about Malays and his fears about the future were given a free rein, just at the time when he needed to keep them under strict guard

[Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethinicity and the Nation-building Project, Michael D Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš, page 29-30]

… the political ambitions of PAP leaders led by Lee Kuan Yew created a situation that, if not arrested, might inevitably result in a serious Sino-Malay clash.

[Across the Causeway: A Multi-dimensional Study of Malaysia-Singapore Relations, Takashi Shiraishi, page 43]

He (Lee Kuan Yew) was subsequently taken to task in Malaysia for apparently questioning the status of Malays as the indigenous people of Malaysia, angering Malays and endangering the Chinese in Singapore. He was also accused of having aspirations to become Malaysia’s prime minister and of wanting special status for Singapore within Malaysia

[Chronicle of Singapore, 1959-2009: Fifty Years of Headline News, Peter H. L. Lim, page 74]

… Lee Kuan Yew’s own political ambition also contributed to the separation of Singapore from Malaysia.

[A History of South East Asia, Arthur Cotterell, page 346]

… Mr Lee is a highly is a highly ambitious man,” the Tunku told Malay leaders in 1966, “he feels Singapore is too small for his aspirations … he wants a bigger stage for his dictatorial performances. Mr Lee has become prouder since the outside world proclaimed him as a wise and clever man. But he is living in a dream world …

[Lee Kuan Yew: The Crucial Years, Alex Josey, page 42-43]

The so-called reinforcement of these false lessons in history is akin to the rewriting of history by the Japanese government to whitewash their World War II atrocities. PM Lee should stop behaving like his dishonest Japanese counterparts.

The rest

The place we have built today wasn’t accumulated over 50 years but accumulated over 195 years. The Botanical Gardens, the Clifford pier, Parliament House, City Hall, Empress Place, Victoria Concert Hall, Istana, Fort Canning, National Museum building, Singapore General Hospital, Kandang Kerbau Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, our police force, civil service, laws, port, Bukit Timah Road, Serangoon Road, all these certainly weren’t accumulated in just the last 50 years. PM Lee can be a bit more honest when attributing Singapore’s achievements.

How can Singaporeans take the ball and run when it is always guarded by the PAP? How can we win the game when PAP dictates the game?

Straits Times, PM calls on S’pore to look outwards and to the future, 4 Oct 2014

He outlines three principles to take country to the next stage

AGAINST the backdrop of major world events, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night warned Singaporeans against the dangers of being overly absorbed with internal issues to the detriment of preparing for the future.

Urging them not to give in to “navel-gazing”, he laid out three principles that have helped the country succeed and which would help it maintain its momentum.

These are: Looking outwards and staying plugged in to the world; staying true to good-hearted policies while not shying away from hard-headed realities; and taking heart from the past to embrace the future with confidence.

“We are now at an inflexion point, changing gears, changing pace,” Mr Lee said.

“We need not only to navigate the eddies and currents from moment to moment, but to keep in mind basic principles which will help us maintain our momentum, our direction, our purpose.”

Mr Lee was giving the National University of Singapore Society’s 60th anniversary lecture, titled “Singapore in Transition – the Next Phase”.

His comments come after more than two years in which Singapore has had to grapple with more urgent priorities in housing, public transport and medical care.

Acknowledging that these were understandable concerns, even as the Government is putting in place longer-term shifts for these policies, Mr Lee yesterday sought to refocus attention on the big picture and the world beyond Singapore.

“There are major changes in the Asian landscape which are having a big impact on us, more so because we are a small country,” he said, citing changes in Indonesia, India and China.

“Unless we understand what is happening… we can’t anticipate or respond properly to events.”

Mr Lee also acknowledged that while population and immigration policies had to take the heart into account and consider the social impact – and adjustments had been made – hard facts like low birth rates could not be wished away.

He touched especially on the issue of foreign professionals, managers and executives who compete with qualified Singaporeans for jobs, saying that while he could appreciate their concerns, the bigger picture was that allowing such professionals to come in created more good jobs for locals.

He warned against what he called the “real dangers” of anti-foreign sentiment, citing the latest outburst online against Eurasian Singaporean Asian Games medallist Joseph Schooling.

And in looking to the future, Mr Lee called on Singaporeans to understand the upheavals in their recent past. Citing the challenges from Communists and communalists in the 1950s and 1960s, he said: “The lessons of history need to be reinforced, because if we don’t remember them, we may not learn the hard-won lessons and we may fail to value what we have painstakingly built.”

Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence next year will also see memorials to victims of Konfrontasi and those who fought the Communists, he added. “But SG50 should also be a time to look ahead, to set new goals for the next half century, to see and be excited by the opportunities opening up,” he said.

During the lecture at the University Cultural Centre, Mr Lee also tackled questions from the floor. Professor Tommy Koh, the moderator, said some older Singaporeans in the audience had told him they did not think Singapore could replicate its success of the past 50 years, though he disagreed.

Replied Mr Lee: “We are small. We are successful, we can continue to be successful. But watch the world, have a good heart, but think very hard about what you are going to do, and have confidence in the future.

“You are young, you are living in an age with the amenities, with the knowledge, with the resources, with all the accumulated 50 years of effort which we have put in to build this place. Take it and run with the ball, win the game!”

Hypocritical for Singapore to rely on China for survival

November 29, 2014

I refer to the 27 Nov 2014 Straits Times letter “Does S’pore still need a great power to survive?”

Mr Yong is correct, not many people truly understand Singapore’s vulnerability, not even Mr Yong himself.

Geographically, Switzerland is somewhat sandwiched between France and Germany which fought three bitter wars between 1870 and 1940 (including the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 which gave birth to the German Empire). Culturally, Germans and French also form the two biggest ethnicities in Switzerland. It is remarkable that Switzerland didn’t become embroiled in those three wars despite being geographically and culturally close to the two warring nations. If Switzerland can maintain neutrality despite geographical and cultural connections, why can’t Singapore?

It is not correct to say that American influence in Asia Pacific is declining. America continues to have very strong presence in the Asia-Pacific with bases in Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore and Darwin. Even though US forces in South Korea and Japan are being consolidated, those in Guam and Darwin are being expanded. US forces in Darwin will be closer to Singapore.

It would be strange for Singapore to rely on China for survival while hosting an American naval base. That would be like relying on a friend’s adversary for protection. It would be hypocritical too for the government to seek China’s help while continuing to label and persecute Singaporeans as Chinese chauvinists or pro-communists. Furthermore, would PM Lee have the cheek to seek China’s help after joking about Beijing’s free smoke from the window and free pork soup from the tap in front of their American adversaries?

Straits Times letter, Does S’pore still need a great power to survive?, 27 Nov 2014

NOT many people truly understand Singapore’s vulnerability.

When I did my postgraduate studies in Britain in the mid-1980s, I had an opportunity to interact with students from other Commonwealth countries.

We discussed the role of the colonial master, and I was teased when I said Singapore had urged the British government not to pull out its military forces prematurely in the late 1960s.

My classmates believed that nationalism should prevail over colonial affiliation. They did not understand that Singapore, which did not have the capacity to defend itself then, had to rely on a great power like Britain to survive.

Unlike Switzerland, the geographical, political and cultural set-up of Singapore does not warrant or permit us to pursue neutrality.

Now, we can defend ourselves as we have built up our own defence forces. We have also been cooperating militarily with the United States to strengthen our defence and security.

However, will American influence in the Asia-Pacific region continue to decline? Or will it bounce back and prevail?

It is premature to tell whether Singapore will need a great power like China to survive in future. Indeed, as I read the article (“Concrete moves to make Sino-S’pore defence ties stronger”; Nov 15), I wondered if Singapore could survive without one.

A realistic view is for Singapore to explore academic means to enhance military relationships with China.

The two countries can establish a research centre, perhaps called the Institute Of Sun Tzu’s Art Of War, to achieve this purpose.

Sun Tzu’s Art Of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise. Its strategies and tactics have influenced Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics and legal strategies, among other things.

The research centre would symbolise a new era of practical cooperation and face-to-face interactions between Singapore and China. It would also bring new ideas on how Singapore can manoeuvre militarily and diplomatically in this highly complex and uncertain world.

Paul Yong Teck Chong


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