Falsehoods and false lessons from ST forum letters

October 20, 2014

Don’t be taken in by the falsehoods of Mr Chew Kok Liang

I refer to the 20 Oct 2014 Straits Times online letter “Don’t underestimate female soldiers” by Mr Chew Kok Liang.

Why is Mr Chew resorting to using a Malaysian military officer’s encounter with communists as an example of Singapore’s confrontation with communists? Why can’t Mr Chew use an example of a Singapore military officer’s encounter with communists instead?

Mr Chew can’t because there is no such example. Singapore had already separated from Malaysia by the time our military was set up by Mr Goh Keng Swee with the help of the Israelis. So Malaysia’s fight against communists couldn’t have been our fight against communists.

Singapore’s communists had long been defeated by our Special Branch resulting in their retreat into the jungles of Malaya.

Mr Chew was thus wrong to equate the Malaysian military intelligence officer’s encounter with female communists in the jungles of Malaysia as being the example of Singapore’s confrontation with the Communist Party of Malaya.

False lessons from Hong Kong

I refer to the 20 Oct 2014 Straits Times online letter “Lessons to learn from Hong Kong” by Mr Geoffrey Kung.

Mr Kung’s lessons to learn from Hong Kong’s democratic movement are false ones. Hong Kong isn’t the only one that never had any votes under the British; Singapore too never had votes under the British prior to the Japanese Occupation. But that didn’t stop Singapore pioneers from similarly demonstrating and agitating for more voting rights that culminated in Singapore achieving full internal self government in 1959. Many of our demonstrations, like the Hong Kong ones today, were similarly student led.

The correct lesson therefore is that the Hong Kong people have every right to fight for their freedom just as Singapore pioneers had every right to fight for theirs. If Singaporeans feel indebted to the fighting spirit of Singapore pioneers who fought and won full internal self government for us then we of all people should be the first and the foremost to acknowledge and appreciate the similar fighting spirit and self-sacrifices of Hong Kong demonstrators today.

Singapore must be careful not to fall prey to false tales of people like Mr Kung who has betrayed Singapore’s pioneers and forgotten their sacrifices for us. The short term disturbances of Hong Kong can only be for its long term greater good.

Mr Kung must not conveniently assume that the louder group represents the minority. During our recent National Day, the silent majority finally ‘spoke up’ by collectively choosing not to fly the Singapore flag. Just because the silent majority has few spokespersons doesn’t mean they are therefore the minority.

While we must look outward to learn from others, we mustn’t look through tinted glasses and end up learning the wrong lessons. We must also look behind to remind ourselves of lessons from our own history that still has relevance and application today.

STforum online, Don’t underestimate female soldiers, 20 Oct 2014

AS THE Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps opens its doors to women, the debate over their military potential begins anew (“Flexi-terms for SAF Volunteer Corps”; last Monday).

When Singapore confronted the Communist Party of Malaya, it had to deal with female communists.

They were mainly Chinese and physically smaller and weaker than their male counterparts.

But what they lacked in strength, they made up for in dedication and ability.

I knew a Malaysian military intelligence officer who fought the communists. Part of his duties was to turn them to gain intelligence and to aid in search and destroy missions.

In his experience, the women were more deadly.

It was possible to crack or turn a male communist, given time and incentives, he said.

However, try as he might, he could never turn a female communist. They were prepared to die for the cause “no matter what”, he said.

He once led an ambush of a communist patrol and a heavily pregnant communist charged at one of his soldiers with a parang.

He knocked her down with a shot but she got up and tried to charge again. He had to shoot her again, this time, to her death.

In his opinion, female soldiers are as good as male soldiers. They may even be better as they can be more focused and ruthless.

There are many reasons for and against enlisting women, but their fighting capability should not be one of them.

Chew Kok Liang

STforum online, Lessons to learn from Hong Kong, 20 Oct 2014

I VISITED Hong Kong recently and witnessed the so-called “democracy” protest going on there.

The city’s modern development is similar to Singapore’s.

Hong Kong became a British colony in the late 1940s, after World War II.

In the early 1950s, Hong Kong was more a trading port than a bustling city. There was no public housing and the influx of Chinese refugees made the situation worse. There were a lot more people than there were jobs.

But through the hard work of the population, the city grew and prospered.

This pioneering generation is now handing the baton to the younger generation, who did not witness the Japanese war, union riots or secret society fights.

Many of the younger residents have studied overseas, travelled abroad and tasted the affluence of developed countries.

There is an increasing sense of entitlement as families grow smaller and a belief in “my rights”.

The student protest for “democratic” votes illustrates the fact that they have forgotten or do not know that they never had any votes under the British.

Singapore’s young must be careful not to fall into a similar situation, where our economy is damaged by a “louder” minority.

We should look forward and outward and learn from others.

Geoffrey Kung

Unraveling Lee Kuan Yew’s communist paradox

October 18, 2014

I refer to the 11 Oct 2014 Straits Times column “The Communist Paradox”.

Communist paradox

The quintessence of Lee Kuan Yew’s so-called communist paradox is that some condemned communists or pro-communists in the 50s and 60s have paradoxically become non-communists since the 1990s. Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye, two great men who contributed so much to Singapore education went from condemned communists in the 50s and 60s to role models today. That is Lee Kuan Yew’s communist paradox – one can be communist one day and non-communist the next day even though what one did or did not do stayed the same. The communist label isn’t based on some fundamental truth that can stand the test of time. Instead, it is a frivolous tag that can be put on or taken down depending on the whim and fancy of the victors of Singapore politics. How much more paradoxical must it get before Singaporeans finally understand the ridiculousness of Lee’s so-called communist paradox?

Foremost among these men are Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye. Both … operated in pre-independent Singapore but were hitherto linked with the communist cause by the state: Tan Kah Kee professed admiration for Mao … while Tan Lark Sye had his Singapore citizenship papers revoked in 1963 on the grounds that he had “actively and persistently collaborated with an active antinational group of communists.” Hence recent public references to both men have been singularly focused on their munificence toward education … Their politics as understood by the state is left unmentioned, as is the context of Singapore’s anticolonial history. Singapore’s heroes are thus in limbo – an intermediate state of simultaneous exposure and suppression …

With the clarification of the “misunderstanding,” that the two men were actually selfless champions of Chinese education rather than communists, both men have become fit for emulation in public discourse, for their enterprise and public spiritedness. A PAP member of Parliament who considers himself to be the voice of Chinese-educated Singaporeans … prescribed the emulation of heroes such as Tan Kah Kee. Recalling the tycoon-philanthropist image and erasing the communist label have made them suitable heroes …

Tan Kah Kee’s and Tan Lark Sye’s posthumous rehabilitation and transformation from communists to communitarians, effected collaboratively between the state in search of local role models, and the scions of the families … perpetuates a pop-up story-book dimension … of their human agency.

[New Terrains in Southeast Asian History, Abu Talib Ahmad and Liok Ee Tan, page 226-230]

During the election campaign, the Barisan tried to capitalize on Tan Lark Sye’s status, his activism in the struggle for Chinese education, and his antagonistic relationship with the PAP leadership. They asked Tan for financial support and later for a public endorsement of the Barisan candidates who were Nanda graduates or students. Tan did both, donating $20,000 towards the campaign cost of the 10 Nanda candidates while publicly urging Chinese voters to support them in the election. His hope was that a Nanda graduate would become the Minister of Education in the Barisan government … On 22 September, the day after the election, the Singapore government began legal proceedings to revoke the citizenship of Tan Lark Sye on the grounds that he had “collaborated with a group of communists at Nanda”. Lee Kuan Yew wrote: We had decided to make an example of prominent figures who had acted as front men for the communists, believing that their wealth and standing in the Chinese-speaking community gave them immunity. Number one on the list was Tan Lark Sye, then honorary president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the founder of Nanyang University.

The PAP used this reasoning as pretence to take out a strong leader with much clout amongst the Chinese electorate, eradicating a possible avenue for an alternative to its own power base. Tan Lark Sye could remain in Singapore only because he had gone through the process of British naturalization in the 1950s. Disgruntled, he later took some of his business ventures abroad … In Ipoh, Malaysia, he set up the Tasek Cement complex. At the launch of this industrial venture, he emphasized the considerable financial involvement of Taiwanese partners, defiantly asking the Singapore government why these fiercest of Chinese anti-communists would ever cooperate with him if he had really been a communist sympathizer. He had a point because as a businessmen and a multi-millionaire he was not interested in a communist ideological line. He did think that Chinese language, culture and identity were important issues … however, that did not make him a pro-communist.

[The Business of Politics and Ethnicity: A History of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 155]

… the key leadership in the majority Chinese community were millionaire philanthropists who would thus make good candidates for canonisation, but they either displayed sympathy for the … Chinese Communist Party as was the case with Tan Kah Kee, or like Tan Lark Sye, the largest donor of funds to building Nanyang University, did not necessarily support the PAP’s cultural politics; in fact Tan was stripped of his Singapore citizenship by the government. Pan Shou, the assistant to Tan Lark Sye in the early years of running the Nanyang University, suffered a similar fate.

Nevertheless, in the 1990s these men were conscripted as heroes, after being rehabilitated as exemplar visionaries who supported the cause of education and culture.

Tan Kah Kee’s nephew … responded … to the ‘rehabilitation’ of his uncle’s name by emphasizing that for years ‘some people mistook him to be a communist or a communist sympathizer, but he was neither. He has simply focused his energy to help China and win a place for ethnic Chinese in the world, by contributing to education here and in China. This was not valued in the beginning. But now, it is recognized that there is a need to revive the Tan Kah Kee spirit – this spirit of contributing to society.’

[The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts, Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, page 163, 173]

The prominent businessman so celebrated in Singapore’s history today, Tan Kah Kee, for example, was not allowed to return to Singapore following his visit to Peking in 1950. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce … was incensed in 1950 over an immigration bill which restricted immigration of Chinese suspected of Communist sympathies.

[Forging a Singaporean Statehood, 1965-1995: The Contribution of Japan, Robin Ramcharan, page 111]

Lee’s communist paradox was nothing but a myth that must be rejected. All subsequent appearances of the word “communist” in his radio talk will be replaced by the word “Leftist”, “Barisan” or “Lim Chin Siong”.

Singapore not independent under Malaysian rule

Lee was being ridiculous about Singapore becoming independent with the rest of Malaya in 1963. Our merger with Malaya was merely a transfer from British overlordship to Malaysian overlordship. The simultaneous independence from Britain and dependence on Malaysia meant that on the whole we were no more independent than before. In fact, Singapore enjoyed more independence when Britain granted us statehood in 1959 than when we joined Malaysia. Joining Malaysia resulted in us losing, not gaining some of the independence we had previously. Our judiciary and legislature ended up being overruled or nullified by the Malaysian judiciary and legislature.

One result of Singapore’s entry into Malaysia was that the Supreme Court of Singapore became, by virtue of … the (Federation of Malaya) Malaysia Act, 1963 the High Court in Singapore and subject thereafter to the provisions of the (Malaysian) Court of Judicature Act 1964 …:

In the event of inconsistency or conflict between the provisions of this Act (Malaysian) and the provisions of any other written law other than the Constitution in force at the commencement of this Act (Malaysian), the provisions of this Act (Malaysian) shall prevail

Appeals lay from the High Court in Singapore first to the Federal Court of Malaysia …

A second result of Singapore’s entry into Malaysia was that the Singapore Legislative Assembly became the Legislature of Singapore with legislative powers restricted to those matters set out in Lists II, IIB … of the Ninth Schedule of the Malaysian Constitution …

If any State law is inconsistent with a federal law, the federal law shall prevail and the State law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 634]

Leftists not camouflaging their struggles as anti-colonial

Lee was being ridiculous when he said the Leftists preferred British rule over Malaysian rule because it allowed them to disguise their struggle as anti-colonial. The British didn’t leave Malaysia but continued to stay on in Malaysian bases so if the Leftists had wanted to make use of the anti-colonial pretext, they could jolly well have continued to do so even after Singapore joined Malaysia.

Instead a September 1957 Defense Agreement perpetuated Britain’s right, and obligation, to defend Malaya and to station forces there after independence on 31 August that year. Indeed, it even gave Britain the right to use Malayan bases in defence of other British territories in the Far East, including Hong Kong and Borneo.

Above all … British bases and military services personnel remained deeply desired by communities from Nepal to Singapore, with Lee Kuan Yew fighting to keep British bases until the last gasp, in 1968

[Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia, Tobias Rettig and Karl Hack]

Struggling in Malaysia wasn’t struggling to destroy independence

Lee was being silly when he argued that a struggle within Malaysia would be a struggle to destroy independence and to set up a communist government because he himself had claimed to have struggled against communalism in Malaysia. Since Lee too had struggled in Malaysia, by his own definition, he was struggling to destroy independence and to set up a communist government.

Leftists not seeking matrydom

Lee was being silly again when he claimed that the leftists were seeking martyrdom through imprisonment by the British. Would those detained without trial for so many years have preferred martyrdom in prison or the freedom to fight what they believed in?

Strange example of Dr Nkrumah

Lee was silly to have held Dr Nkrumah up as an example to contrast against Lim Chin Siong and his fellow Leftists when Dr Nkrumah also had Marxist leanings, organized civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts and strikes, was similarly “martyred” in jail and even received a Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union in 1963. Dr Nkrumah couldn’t have been more similar to Lim Chin Siong in beliefs and actions yet Lee hailed Dr Nkrumah but vilified Lim Chin Siong.

However, after Dr Nkrumah came to power, he became more authoritarian and more like Lee, detaining innocent people without trial, illegalizing strikes and transforming his country into a dictatorship. So if Lee thought that hailing Dr Nkrumah meant hailing himself, he should be well advised that it also meant hailing his reputation as an incorrigible dictator.

Just because Nehru or the Tungku didn’t lock up nationalists didn’t mean Lee wouldn’t. Because Lee was neither a Nehru or a Tungku, he was therefore capable of locking up nationalists and anti-colonial fighters.

Where was House of Commons?

Lee was silly to have said that the Leftists preferred to be detained by the British because they would then have the House of Commons speak on their behalf.

Where was the House of Commons or what good was it:

• When Tan Kah Kee was banned forever from entering Singapore in 1950?

• When Tan Lark Sye was stripped of his citizenship in 1963?

• When Lim Chin Siong and his fellow Barisan colleagues were detained without trial during Operation ColdStore?

The Communist Paradox, 11 Oct 2014

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s 8th radio broadcast on Sept 29, 1961, was titled The Communist Paradox. This is an excerpt of it from the book, The Battle For Merger:

“I want to explain this paradox, that the communists prefer Singapore still under British control but with the Internal Security Council abolished, to a Singapore independent with the rest of Malaya.

The most important reason why the communists prefer a Singapore still under British control to a Singapore as part of Malaya, is that with the British in control, their struggle for a communist Malaya can be camouflaged as an anti-colonial struggle.

But if they continue their struggle in a Singapore which is independent with the rest of Malaya, it is quite clearly a struggle not against colonialism, but against an independent elected government. Their object will then be obvious, that is to destroy an independent national government and to set up a communist government.

Moreover, when they are dealt with by the government, as they have been from time to time, it is far better for them to have a British colonial government take action against them than an independent elected Malayan government.

To be imprisoned by the British colonialists is to be a martyr, in the company of (India’s) Mr (Jawaharlal) Nehru, (Ghana’s) Dr (Kwame) Nkrumah, (Malawi’s) Dr (Hastings Kamuzu) Banda and many other anti-colonial nationalists.

But to be locked up by Mr Nehru, Dr Nkrumah or (Egypt’s) Colonel (Gamal Abdel) Nasser or the Tungku (Abdul Rahman of Malaysia) is an entirely different matter.

Mr Nehru, Dr Nkrumah, Col Nasser and the Tungku do not lock up nationalists, who are the real anti-colonialists. In fact, they welcome anti-colonial fighters who are nationalists to their ranks.

It is only those who are out to destroy the independence won by the nationalists and to supplant it with a totalitarian or communist government who are locked up by nationalist leaders like Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser and the Tungku.

There is this added consideration.

If a communist is detained by the British, questions can be asked in the House of Commons in England, resolutions passed in anti-colonial conferences all over the world and speeches made by friendly delegates in the United Nations.

But if a communist is locked up by an independent nationalist government, there cannot be much noise or propaganda made out of it either here in Malaya, or in London, or in the United Nations, or in Belgrade and the other meeting places of the Afro-Asian nations. The Afro-Asian nations are concerned with protecting nationalists and not communists.”

Rebutting DPM Teo

October 16, 2014

I refer to the 10 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Mr Lee’s radio talks on merger fight back in print”.

No communist

It was wrong for DPM Teo to portray the Communist Party of Malaya as being the party that opposed Singapore’s plans for merger with Malaya. The MCP had long been crippled by the Special Branch so it could not have played any role let alone a leading one in Singapore politics then.

The Malayan Communist Party … was not particularly effective. It hosted a meeting … most notable … for the comprehensive surveillance by the British Special Branch … Subsequent mass arrests decimated the MCP

[Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq, James R. Arnold, page 134]

In December 1949 the Special Branch obtained the full list of the STC through a planted informer, and conducted a raid on 1 May 1950. Singapore Town Committee Vice Secretary Ah Har and three other committee members were arrested … Later that month, 20 more MCP and ABL members were arrested. Seven months later, on 5 December, because of an alert Special Branch officer, STC Secretary Ah Chin and his assistant, Ho Seng, were caught …the mass arrests caused the near collapse of the MCP’s operations in Singapore

[Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Post-war Singapore, Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki, page 61]

The first thing to realise is that although left-wing and anti-colonial radicalism flourished to unprecedented levels during the first half of the 1950s, the Communist Party itself was diminishing as a controlling force in Singapore over the same period

[Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-building Project, Michael D. Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš, page 26]

The MCP itself … seems to have been more a figment of the imagination of … the British Special Branch and the right-wing forces in Singapore. Its “ghost” may have lived a much longer and more active life than the real one ever did. While the party … attracted idealistic recruits from Singapore … we may question the extent of its organization and power in Singapore, particularly during … 1952-63. Repeated waves of arrests, banishments and defections between 1948 and 1963 severely limited its ability to launch an effective organization

[Singapore: Wealth, Power and the Culture of Control, Carl A. Trocki, page 101]

The leader of the anti-merger group was Lim Chin Siong. Lim Chin Siong was never a communist.

Due to his association with the Chinese trade unions, labour unions, and schools, as well as his past brush with subversive activities in the Anti-British League, Lim was regarded as communist by both the PAP and the British. This was despite the fact that Lim was never linked with any communist organization. Even Chin Peng, head of the Malayan Communist Party stated that Lim was not a part of the party. However, in the eyes of the PAP government as well as the British colonialists, he was one because he had acted “subversively” against their regimes by instigating protests to their policies. Yet when Lim was in government he so scrupulously adhered to constitutional, legal, and democratic methods of government that it put him at a disadvantage. Lim himself claimed he was labeled a communist by the PAP government because it enabled the government to detain him without trial.

[Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary, Leo Suryadinat, page 600]

At the same time, Lee pressured the British to arrest the Leftists under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSP). Recent research shows that Lord Selkirk, the British Commissioner in Singapore, and his deputy Philip Moore believed that the Barisan intended to work within constitutional means. For a time, explaining that the left were a political rather than a security problem, Selkirk and Moore warded off Lee’s calls for mass arrests … London overrode Selkirk and sanctioned the arrests to broker an agreement on merger with the Tungku. The British implicated Lim Chin Siong in an anti-Malaysia revolt in Brunei … On 2 February 1963 … Operation Cold Store detained 113 left-wing political leaders … including Lim. Subsequent British investigations found little evidence of Barisan involvement in the Brunei plot, but the detentions decimated the left. After Operation Cold Store, the PAP carried out a systematic crackdown on the unions … The government mounted trials of left-wing union leaders for misuse of union funds … In truth the issue was not, as implied, corruption … but a simple failure to maintain proper documentation … due to a lack of expertise … and shortage of funds for engaging accounting clerks.

[Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Post-war Singapore, Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki, page 218]

Why Lim opposed merger

Lim opposed merger because it would have reduced Singaporeans to second class citizens in Malaysia.

In December 1961, Lim Chin Siong, the secretary-general of the BS, warned that amalgamation would consign Singapore to second-class status.

[Hegemonies Compared: State Formation and Chinese School Politics in Postwar Singapore and Hong Kong, Wong Ting-Hong, page 68]

Lim had grown concerned about merger with the federation and the prospect that the Chinese would be awarded “second-class citizenship” in a politically Malay Malaya.

[Singapore Stories: Language, Class, and the Chinese of Singapore, 1945-2000, Ernest Koh, page 30]

Mr Lim’s predictions came true. Our Malaysian non-Bumiputra friends lament every now and then about being second class citizens in their own country. Malaysian Indians also took to the streets in 2007 to protest their pathetic status. Lim Chin Siong was thus prescient in not wanting Singapore to be a part of Malaysia. Opposing merger wasn’t an evil, communist scheme but the right thing to do that history has validated.

Several years ago, I was having a friendly banter with a pro-PAP ex-colleague. At some point, she asked “What if Singapore had been led by a lousy party that decided to do a silly thing like merge us with Malaysia? We would all end up as second class citizens!” she exclaimed. I explained to her that such a silly thing did happen and it was Lee Kuan Yew who did that silly thing she mentioned. She was shocked, didn’t know how to respond and just muttered about her lack of knowledge on this. So even PAP supporters intrinsically know that merger with Malaysia had been wrong so it’s bewildering Mr Teo is now resorting to touting the merger as their holy act when it was actually a heinous sin.

Turning the tide

If Lee Kuan Yew had managed to turn the tide, how come all three options in the referendum forms were “Yes” options? Why were there no “No” options? Why even blank votes were counted as “Yes”?

Clearly Lee Kuan Yew didn’t have the confidence he would win the referendum so he didn’t give people the chance to say no. How can that be construed as having turned the tide?

… the PAP passed a bill … The bill postulated that … all blank votes would be counted as supporting the amalgamation. The referendum offered people choices of three alternative forms of merger, but not the choice of whether or not to go through with the merger itself.

[Hegemonies Compared: State Formation and Chinese School Politics in Postwar Singapore and Hong Kong, Wong Ting-Hong, page 68]

There is thus no proof that Lee’s radio talks succeeded in winning back the majority or portraying the Leftists (the word ‘communists’ is rejected because Lim Chin Siong and the Barisan weren’t communists) as losing because all three referendum options were for “Yes” and even blank votes were counted as “Yes” so we would never know what proportion of Singaporean pioneers would have voted “no” had they been allowed to do so.

No armed revolution in Singapore

Mr Teo was wrong to say that Singapore will turn 50 next year. Singapore will turn 196 next year.

It was meaningless for Mr Teo to ask what if CPM had won because CPM had lost and fled to Malaysia and no longer featured in Singapore’s road to independence.

Mr Teo’s reality check was merely self-delusion instead. He should acknowledge that truth has been lacking all this while in our 150th ranked press so there’s nothing wrong for historians to bring truth back to the public.

Since the communists had been forced to flee to Malaysia, how could they have seized power through armed revolution in Singapore? Why couldn’t Mr Teo name even one victim of the supposed armed revolution or struggle in Singapore? Mr Teo couldn’t because for all his talk, he has got nothing to show other than LKY’s one sided speeches. But LKY changes words like a chameleon changes color. The long list of LKY flip flops suggests his words cannot be trusted.

Mr Teo’s so called communist conspiracy was just that – a conspiracy theory that doesn’t hold water because it was based on nothing but the one-sided tale of a man who changes words like a chameleon changes color.

Road to independence

Mr Teo was wrong to say that Singapore’s road to independence began with our merger with Malaya. Singapore’s road to independence began shortly after the end of the Japanese Occupation when Singapore pioneers began to agitate for greater self determination much like what is happening in Hong Kong today. Pressure from pro-independence groups culminated in our achieving full internal self-independence in 1959 and the creation of the State of Singapore, our own Singapore national flag and our national anthem Majulah Singapura that are still in use today.

After the Second World War and a traumatic occupation by the Japanese, a political awakening occurred in Singapore … as they began to anticipate independence … The late 1940s and early 1950s were characterized by labor unrest, strikes, and demonstrations. In 1955, they forced the British to introduce a new constitution proposed by the Rendel Commission … However, the 1955 elections were followed by more riots and social unrest, constitutional negotiations were reopened, and new elections were planned for 1959 with Singapore granted almost complete internal self-rule.

[Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Daron Acemoglu, page 8]

The war ended suddenly with Japan’s surrender on 14 August 1945 … While the returning British troops were welcomed, the occupation had eroded the innate trust in the empire’s protective embrace. New political forces were at work and the road to independence had begun.

[Singapore, Joshua Samuel Brown and Matt Oakley, page 25]

To defuse hostile sentiments against colonial rule, the colonial government in Singapore had agreed to accept the reformation of the local constitutions in 1954, granting Singapore greater internal self-government. Elections held under this constitution in 1955 eventually paved the way for a local government to be formed.
[Singapore in Global History, Derek Thiam Soon Heng and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, page 220]

The Rough Road to Independence: 1945 – 1963

[The History of Singapore, Jean Abshire, page 109]

Leftists did not fear quick end to British rule

Mr Teo’s theory that Lim Chin Siong and the Barisan (the word ‘communists’ is rejected because Lim Chin Song and the Barisan weren’t communists) feared a quick end to British rule and thus rejected merger doesn’t stand up to reasoning because Lim Chin Siong and the Barisan fought for complete independence which would have meant a quick end to British rule anyway.

Lee stated later in his memoirs that Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and Woodhull had been “stirring up demands for an independent Singapore without a merger” from the time of their release from detention in Jun 1959.

[The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity, Edgar Liao and Cheng Tju Lim and Guo Quan Seng, page 173]

At the Anson by-election on 15 July, Lim Chin Siong and seven other left-wing PAP assemblymen withheld support from the government’s candidate and instead backed David Marshall … who stood for immediate independence.

[Malaysia, A. J. Stockwell, page 145]

What did the pro-communists want Lee to fight for in London? It was immediate independence. This was their goal, and the reason why Lim Chin Siong had supported Marshall all the way in the failed negotiations of the previous year.

[Singapore: The Unexpected Nation, Edwin Lee, page 141]

The rest

It didn’t matter that the Malaysian government would clamp down on the CPM as the British colonial government before them did so too. In any case, Lim Chin Siong and the Barisan weren’t CPM.

Mr Teo’s acknowledgement of the communists’ conviction was hypocritical at best given the scathing remarks he had given them. He should show courage and wisdom in recognizing the distinction between Lim Chin Siong’s Leftists and the CPM and in recognizing the frailty of his accusations that are based on the one-sided words of a chameleon.

Mr Lee’s radio talks on merger fight back in print, 10 Oct 2014
He made 1961 broadcasts to expose communists’ agenda, rally support

IT WAS a tumultuous time, with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its allies out to derail self-governing Singapore’s plans for merger with Malaya.

Taking to the airwaves in 1961 for 12 radio broadcasts to expose the CPM’s real agenda to seize power, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew managed to turn the tide.

A compilation of the talks, first published in 1962, has been reprinted. The Battle For Merger was launched yesterday, on the same date as Mr Lee’s last broadcast 53 years ago.

At the launch, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said its release could not be more relevant as Singapore turns 50 next year. If the CPM had won, Singapore would be a very different place today. The book will “provide a reality check” to attempts by some historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue, he said.

“They portray the fight as merely a peaceful and democratic disagreement over the type of merger. They ignore the more fundamental agenda of the communists to seize power by subversion and armed revolution,” he said.

Mr Teo, the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister, said the CPM’s armed struggle and the Communist United Front’s efforts to destabilise Singapore have been well documented by academics and writers. They include top CPM leaders such as Chin Peng and Fong Chong Pik.

These accounts, he said, support a key argument Mr Lee made in his speeches then: that a communist conspiracy to take power was being played out over the issue of merger with Malaya.

The communists and their supporters opposed the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) vision for merger, fearing their activity would be curbed. They did so through violent and subversive means, arming themselves and infiltrating trade unions and political parties.

In 1961, the pro-communists in the PAP tried to capture the party. After failing, the faction broke away to form the Barisan Sosialis.

Mr Teo said Singapore’s road to independence began with the attempt to merge with Malaya – a move that communists, who were in the ascendency regionally and in Singapore, strongly opposed.

“Merger was against the communists’ interest… First, it would result in the quick end of British rule in Singapore and make it harder for the Communist United Front to disguise its agenda to establish a communist regime as an anti-colonial struggle,” he explained. “Second, the CPM expected the anti-communist federation government to clamp down on them, as internal security would come under the central government in Kuala Lumpur once merger was achieved.”

Mr Lee’s broadcasts, which began on Sept 13, 1961, were pivotal in lifting the curtain on the communists and exposing their manoeuvrings. It succeeded in getting the majority to back merger in the referendum in 1962.

National University of Singapore historian Albert Lau said the majority of Chinese speakers were on the fence then. “Mr Lee set out in his radio talks to convince the people that, by supporting merger, they would be on the winning side. He wanted to portray the communists as fighting a losing battle. In this, he succeeded.”

The book launch comes as the Government barred from public screening here, the film To Singapore, With Love by film-maker Tan Pin Pin, over its partial portrayal of CPM members who condoned violence and subversion. Officials say the book’s reprint and launch were planned much earlier.

In his speech, Mr Teo acknowledged there should be respect for the personal conviction of those of different views who fought on the communists’ side. But “we should, even more, acknowledge and give our respect and appreciation to the Singaporeans who had the courage and wisdom to reject the CPM’s ideology and tactics”.

Rebutting Mr Mahbubani’s silly earthquake theory

October 13, 2014

I refer to the 11 Oct 2014 Straits Times column “To future-proof the country, build a wise citizenry” by Mr Kishore Mahbubani.

Earthquakes

Contrary to Mr Mahbubani’s claim, earthquakes often happen in Tokyo. They do not rarely happen in Tokyo. In December 2012 Tokyo experienced earthquakes once every two, three days.

The Japan Times, Tokyo-area frequency of quakes still high, 4 Jun 2014

The frequency of earthquakes measuring magnitude 3 or stronger in the Tokyo metropolitan area at the end of last year remained higher than before the massive Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 … According to the research … the frequency in December 2012 rose to one every two to three days.

If Tokyo is wise in making expensive investments to earthquake-proof their buildings despite the ‘remoteness’ of major earthquakes hitting them, isn’t Singapore stupid then for not making similar expensive investments to earthquake-proof our buildings despite the remoteness too of major earthquakes hitting us?

Clearly, the ‘remoteness’ of a major Tokyo earthquake is different from the remoteness of a major Singapore earthquake. A major earthquake is not as ‘remote’ to Tokyo as it is to Singapore which explains the difference in attitudes towards earthquake-proofing homes. While the probability of a major earthquake hitting Tokyo on any particular day is low, the probability that Tokyo will experience a major earthquake over 30, 50 years is quite high. That is why people in Tokyo are willing to spend on earthquake proofing, because the probability that a building will experience a major earthquake over its lifetime is quite high. Singapore, on the other hand will hardly experience a major earthquake over 30, 50 years.

The University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute predicts there is a 70% probability that the capital’s metropolitan area will experience a magnitude-7 quake within four years and a 98% probability within the next 30 years.

Tokyo sees high quake probability, scientists warn, CNN, 27 Jan 2012

Mr Mahbubani’s calling for Singapore to earthquake proof our politics is like a calling for us to earthquake proof our homes – silly and ridiculous.

Exceptional Singapore

Mr Mahbubani’s idea of Singapore’s success as a statistic aberration is one based on a highly selective view of the world. His claim that no other new nation-state has enjoyed 50 years of peace and prosperity is based on imagination, not truth.

Singapore isn’t the only new nation state that has experienced peace and prosperity over the last 50 years. Minister Shanmugam explained how East and Southeast Asia enjoyed peace and prosperity due to US involvement:

Modern East Asia, including Southeast Asia is what it is today because of the crucial role the United States played in underwriting security in Asia-Pacific. The U.S. provided security and stability that helped to stem the tide of communism, the 7th Fleet kept the ceilings open. The U.S. generously opened its markets to the region, and that sustained economic growth and prosperity of many Asian countries. In turn, that created conditions that allowed East Asia, beginning with Japan, to seize opportunity to uplift their people’s lives, and China is a most recent example of that. Success of countries in the region created a dynamism which has also created new challenges and opportunities, and let me add … the U.S. did all of it

The Brookings Institution, Southeast Asia and the United States: remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam, 22 Sept 2014

Both LKY and his son PM Lee commended Suharto for bringing 32 years of peace, stability and prosperity to Indonesia till 1998. Add to that the years of peace and prosperity after 1998 and Indonesia would have had roughly the same number of peaceful, prosperous years as us.

PM: Well, after President Suharto resigned … back in 1998 … Suharto had given us stability for 30 years and that stability had created prosperity in Indonesia and allowed other countries in Southeast Asia to prosper … for the last ten years, we have had President Yudhoyono and there has been stability, there has been growth …

Singapore Summit, 20 Sept 2014, PM Lee

There is thus nothing aberrational about Singapore’s peace and prosperity that cannot be explained by US involvement in East and Southeast Asia.

What is the kind of “normal instability” experienced by South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand in the last 50 years that Singapore hasn’t experienced? Has Mr Mahbubani forgotten our 1969 racial riots? Is Mr Mahbubani ignoring our Little India riots this year? Mr Mahbubani’s concept of stability or instability seems to rest on selective amnesia.

Institutional independence, US dysfunction, populist government

Singaporeans have witnessed one incident after another of institutions hopelessly aligned with the PAP. We cannot depend on these institutions to act fairly and justly in normal times or in times of political crisis.

It was with the same rationality that Singaporeans voted for PAP promising HDB flats. But unlike the agricultural subsidies in Thailand or the petrol subsidies in Indonesia, HDB flats have never been subsidized since Day 1 but have been hyper inflated ever since. Only fools believe that a discount over a jacked up price is a subsidy.

Mr Mahbubani cannot convince us of US dysfunction when US is ranked 3rd in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index.

Mr Mahbubani’s description of a populist government making use of its legislative powers to override checks and balances fits PAP to a T. Singapore’s populist PAP government made use of its legislative powers to enact the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act in 1974 to effectively control the press and override this important institutional check on the government.

Educated citizenry

Mr Mahbubani held the Swiss up as a wise, responsible, well-educated citizenry for voting against the Swiss minimum wage on 18 May this year. But the Swiss also voted against spending $3.5 billion to purchase 22 new Gripen fighter jets from Sweden on the same day. They also voted against immigration this year. So if Singaporeans similarly vote against buying F35 fighter jets or vote against immigration, will Mr Mahbubani say we are not wise, not responsible and not well educated? Mr Mahbubani’s concept of a wise, responsible, well-educated citizenry seems to rest on the people conforming to the government’s decisions. If that’s the case, North Korea has the most wise, responsible and well-educated citizenry in the world.

If Mr Mahbubani sincerely does not wish to see Singapore citizenry fall prey to a populist government, he should have encouraged Singaporeans to vote against the PAP promising easy HDB upgrading in return for votes.

Mr Mahbubani’s definition of a good education system is a circular one. If a good education system is one that delivers a well-educated population, then what is a well-educated population? A population that has received a good education system?

The universal benchmark for how well educated a population is, is literacy rate. North Korea’s 99% literacy rate trumps Singapore’s 96%.

If Mr Mahbubani sincerely wishes for more peer-to-peer engagement in Singapore, he must first fight for press freedom because it is difficult for Singaporeans to engage older fellow citizens who may not know how to use the Internet who must therefore be engaged through the press.

School of Public Policy

Government agencies are already churning out one policy paper after another like the Population White Paper which has largely been consigned to being flushed down the toilet bowl. There is no need for more policy papers to flush down the toilet bowl. Mr Mahbubani should instead fight for Singaporean referendums similar to the Swiss ones so that we can make it clear to all who the silent majority is and what we collectively want. If Mr Mahbubani thinks that the current electorate is not wise, responsible or educated enough to vote at referendums yet, surely he must also think that the current electorate is not wise, responsible or educated enough to vote at elections?

The 76% and 75% who trust the NGOs and the government respectively shows that the people’s trust in NGOs is only little better than their trust in the government.

The four research institutes of the School of Public Policy already have a large thrash of policy papers that no one is referring to for policy debates. There is no need for an even bigger thrash of policy papers that no one will refer to.

Government agencies have always been using data and arguments to state their case. But far from disarming critiques, these selective data and arguments have always been a source of liability for the government and ammunition for critiques to fire back and to highlight the government’s folly.

The School of Public Policy has never played a catalytic role since its inception but has largely been consigned to the inconspicuousness of making noises in the spectator stand.

There has been no lack of policy papers from the School of Public Policy but it has yet to produce any phenomenal, far reaching policy paper that can address deep, systemic issues that has been plaguing our country for a long time. It would be wise for Singapore’s business community not to throw good money after bad by supporting a school that clearly doesn’t have the right answers. Any investment in the School of Public Policy would simply be money down the drain that would serve no useful purpose except to support a lunatic’s fantasy about earthquakes in Singapore.

Straits Times, To future-proof the country, build a wise citizenry, 11 Oct 2014, KISHORE MAHBUBANI

BIG Idea No. 9 is also a difficult one: “Future-Proof” Singapore. What does the phrase “Future-Proof” mean?

The best way to explain it is to use an analogy from the world of earthquakes. Earthquakes happen rarely. But they do happen. Hence, it is wise for a city like Tokyo, which is in an earthquake zone, to legislate that all buildings should be engineered to be earthquake-proof. They should be able to remain standing even if a major earthquake hits Tokyo. Of course, this makes the cost of buildings in Tokyo much more expensive, but it is a wise investment to make.

Discerning readers of my columns in The Straits Times where I highlight Big Ideas that would help Singapore navigate the next 50 years, would have picked up a rising concern of mine that Singapore’s future will be challenging.

Indeed, even though the prospects are as remote as a major physical earthquake hitting Tokyo, we cannot rule out a major political earthquake hitting Singapore. Since we cannot rule out such a political earthquake, we should “future-proof” Singapore so that it can withstand one.

Inevitably, some of the more virulent voices in Singapore’s social media will accuse me of scare-mongering. Hence, I need to explain why the statistical probability of political shocks is high. To explain this, I need to explain why Singapore’s success so far has been a statistical aberration.

To put it simply, no other new nation-state has enjoyed 50 years of such peace and prosperity, as Singapore has. The first 50 years of Singapore’s history after independence were therefore an “exceptional” performance. It took exceptional leadership, exceptional governance, and exceptional luck to create an “exceptional” performance.

Let me now state an obvious point: the word “exceptional” means “exceptional”. It also means “not normal”.

Since exceptional performances do not last forever, it will be perfectly normal for Singapore to experience the “normal” stresses and strains of other societies. And if you want to understand what “normal” means, just look at South Korea and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Since we have not experienced the “normal” instability that other societies have experienced, we may not be prepared to handle “normal” instability. The goal of this article is to suggest one major “stabiliser” we can build in Singapore to handle political shocks.

I should quickly add that we have wisely invested in a few stabilisers already.

Powerful stabilisers

OUR strong civil service and excellent judiciary, to cite two examples, are powerful stabilisers. The quality of the people who serve in these institutions is remarkable. Hence, in the event of a political crisis, they are likely to perform well. Yet, it is also true that when a “populist” government is elected, it is more than likely to behave irresponsibly and either override or weaken these institutions.

And it would be unwise to rule out the possibility of a “populist” government emerging in Singapore.

It is rational for populations to vote in a government which promises them subsidies, such as the agricultural subsidies in Thailand or the petrol subsidies in Indonesia.

It would also be unwise to assume that this happens only in developing countries. Eminent American scholars have begun to warn that American democracy is becoming dysfunctional.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Dr Francis Fukuyama, one of America’s leading political scientists, has said this: “And while democratic political systems theoretically have self-correcting mechanisms that allow them to reform, they also open themselves up to decay by legitimating the activities of powerful interest groups that can block needed change. This is precisely what has been happening in the United States in recent decades, as many of its political institutions have become increasingly dysfunctional.”

If the powerful American Constitution and its system of checks and balances have failed to prevent dysfunctional governance in the US, we in Singapore should take heed and look for even stronger ways and means of preventing dysfunctional governance.

Only real safeguard

STRONG institutions can help. But as populist governments have shown the capacity to use their legislative powers to override institutional checks and balances, the only real safeguard against populist governance is to have an educated citizenry.

We have had a good recent example of how a responsible and well-educated citizenry can behave.

On May 18 this year, the Swiss population was asked to decide whether the Swiss minimum wage should become the highest in the world. I fully expected the Swiss population to vote themselves a pay raise that the government and private sector would have to pay for. Similarly, if a political party were to promise cash subsidies of $10,000 per Singaporean family (paid for by tapping into Singapore’s reserves), it is equally probable that the Singapore population would support this.

Fortunately, the Swiss population showed that they were a remarkably wise people. They actually voted against giving themselves an increase in the minimum wage.

This is what we have to do in Singapore: develop an equally wise citizenry that will not fall prey to populist governance. We want a population that will vote against any populist party that promises easy subsidies.

The big question is: how do we develop such a wise citizenry?

The good news is that we are halfway there. Over the years, we have developed an education system that is the envy of other countries in the world. A good education system, by definition, delivers a well-educated population.

That is the good news. But there is also bad news.

The bad news is that a well-educated population requires a different kind of engagement.

Some of the top-down approaches that worked well in the early years of Singapore’s governance will not work when dealing with a well-educated population.

Intelligent peer-to-peer engagement is what a well-educated population expects. This is exactly how the Swiss government engages its population. It uses reason and logic to explain to the population why it should not vote itself a pay rise.

For example, Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann, the Swiss Economics Minister, said: “A minimum wage of 4,000 francs (S$5,340) could lead to job cuts and even threaten the existence of smaller companies, notably in retail, catering, agriculture and housekeeping. If jobs are being cut, the weakest suffer most.”

To help a well-educated citizenry make well-informed decisions, I would like to propose that we “future-proof” Singapore by creating a treasure trove of well-researched and well-reasoned policy papers on all the major challenges that Singapore will be facing in the next 50 years.

This could be done by government agencies. And they should certainly do this.

However, research shows that the population is more likely to put greater trust in papers produced by non-governmental organisations. For example, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 76 per cent of Singaporeans trust NGOs, while 75 per cent trust the Government. Thus, evidence from both NGOs and the public sector will help to shore up this treasure trove of information.

This is one small contribution that the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy can make.

Armed with four well-established research institutes (the Asia Competitiveness Institute, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Institute of Policy Studies, and Institute of Water Policy) and a strong faculty (including both academics and practitioners), it is in a strong position to build a treasure trove of public policy papers that a well-educated citizenry can refer to any time a major public policy debate breaks out in Singapore.

The best way to disarm a seductive populist politician is to show data and arguments that will demonstrate the folly of marching down the populist path.

Obviously, the Lee Kuan Yew School cannot do the job alone. It can, at best, play a catalytic role of sparking a process of deep reflection on the future options for Singapore. The hardest point to put across to a population that has enjoyed 50 years of peace and prosperity is that this long record of peace and prosperity is not natural or normal. If it were natural or normal, more nations would have enjoyed Singapore’s track record. We do need to prepare our population for “normal” times.

The business community of Singapore has benefited enormously from the 50 years of good governance that Singapore has enjoyed. The value of all their assets (including real estate and market cap values) will diminish significantly if good governance diminishes in Singapore.

Hence, one of the wisest long-term investments that the business community in Singapore can make is to support the creation of this treasure trove of policy papers to jump-start a process of deep reflection. An investment of 1 per cent of their annual profits would be a tiny cost, but it could result in massive dividends if it protects Singapore from political earthquakes.

Minister Lui’s COE accounting misleading

October 12, 2014

I refer to the 9 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Citizens account for more than 80% of COE purchases”.

Minister Lui reported that we the 61% citizens are taking up more than 80% of the COEs. He seems to be saying that we citizens are taking more than our fair share of COEs.

Minister Lui’s figures are as follows:

Citizens PRs Non-PRs
People (%) 61 9.6 29.4
Cat A COE (%) 89 9 2
Cat B COE (%) 84 12 5

But non-PRs comprise of:

Domestic helper 14%
Construction, marine sectors 46%
S pass 8%
Employment pass 12%
Children 21%

Source: http://population.sg/resources/population-composition/#.VDadzLCUd9o

Domestic helpers, construction workers and S pass workers are low wage foreign workers who have no reason to want COEs. Similarly, non-PR children should also have no need for COEs. They should be excluded from comparison. However, if non-PR children are excluded, children of citizens and PRs should also be excluded. But there is no separate information on citizens’ children or PRs’ children as they are normally lumped together as one.

So the only thing that can be compared based on Minister’s Lui’s information is citizens and PRs.

Citizens PRs
Population (%) 86 14
Cat A COE (%) 91 9
Cat B COE (%) 88 13

From the table above, it can be seen that the % take up of COEs by citizens is generally in line with its share of the population.

But that’s beside the point. Why should a precious national ‘resource’ like the COE be shared in the same proportion amongst citizens, PRs and non-PRs? Citizens by virtue of their status should get a higher proportion of COEs.

Suggestions on COEs

COE allocation should first and foremost be based on citizenship. Citizens should be allocated most of the COEs with the rest shared amongst PRs and non-PRs. COE allocation amongst citizens should be by income. The following COE categories are suggested:

• Category 1: Citizen, annual income $1 million and above
• Category 2: Citizen, annual income at least $500,000 but less than $1 million
• Category 3: Citizen, annual income at least $250,000 but less than $500,000
• Category 4: Citizen, annual income at least $150,000 but less than $250,000
• Category 5: Citizen, annual income at least $100,000 but less than $150,000
• Category 6: Citizen, annual income at least $50,000 but less than $100,000
• Category 7: Citizen, annual income less than $50,000
• Category 8: Non-citizens
• Category 9: Motorcycles
• Category 10: Company vehicles, taxis, buses

Citizenship

• Citizenship can be easily identified using the NRIC or FIN
• Categories 1 to 7 should be allotted a total of 92% of the private car quota
• Apportionment of quota amongst categories 1 to 7 should be in proportion to their actual population ratios. This information is readily available from IRAS. The information may be a year old but population ratio by income shouldn’t shift dramatically from year to year
• Category 8 should be allotted 8% of the private car quota
• The exact percentages can be adjusted according to changes in population ratios

Annual income

• Annual income can be easily ascertained through the income tax
• A housewife can purchase a car at the lowest income bracket. That’s ok because a housewife is entitled to purchase a car to fetch her children around
• If a person gets promoted to the next income bracket, the new income tax won’t show until the following year so he has a year to buy a car within his or her old income bracket

Fairness

• The effect of this allocation is that COE price will vary widely between Categories 1 and 7. While we may end up with much cheaper COEs in Category 7, COE in Category 1 may shoot up to $1 million. The overall effect could be an increase, not a decrease in COE coffers.
• The fairness of the system is similar to that of the progressive income tax system where the rich pay more, the poor pay less.
• It is also similar to the HDB allocation system where different income brackets are set for different flat categories
• There is nothing to stop the ordinary man on the street from re-selling his COE + car to someone in the higher categories. The higher category man gets his COE + car while the man on the street gets to earn some pocket money. Both are happy.

Multiple car ownership
• 2nd car: Top up 50% of prevailing COE or $25,000 whichever is higher
• 3rd car: Top up 200% of prevailing COE or $100,000 whichever is higher
• 4th car: Top up 400% of prevailing COE or $200,000 whichever is higher
• 5th car: Top up 800% of prevailing COE or $400,000 whichever is higher
• 6th car: Top up 1,600% of prevailing COE or $800,000 whichever is higher

No more than 6 cars for any person no matter how rich he or she is.

Straits Times, Citizens account for more than 80% of COE purchases, 9 Oct 2014

FOREIGNERS tend to steer towards bigger cars, but Singapore citizens still make up the bulk of new car purchases.

Citizens, who make up 61 per cent of the total population, accounted for more than 80 per cent of new car registrations in 2012, 2013 and the first eight months of this year, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

He gave the figures on Tuesday when replying to opposition MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).

More specifically, citizens accounted for 89 per cent of Category A cars (up to 1,600cc and 130bhp) and 84 per cent of Category B cars (above 1,600cc or 130bhp).

Non-citizens make up the rest.

Among them, permanent residents (PRs) – who form 9.6 per cent of the population – accounted for 9 per cent in Category A and 12 per cent in Category B registrations. For non-resident foreigners, the respective figures are 2 per cent and 5 per cent. The numbers exclude cars registered to companies.

Motor dealers such as Cycle & Carriage (Mercedes-Benz, Kia, Mitsubishi), Performance Motors (BMW) and Wearnes Automotive (Bentley, Land Rover, Jaguar, McLaren, Infiniti, Volvo) have noticed more foreigners in their showrooms in recent years.

They tend to be largely from China, India and Indonesia, they said. But Ferrari agent Ital Auto said Singaporeans still form the vast majority of its buyers.

Said its marketing manager Nicholas Syn: “Foreigners are painfully aware of what cars cost back home, or in the region.

“A quarter-million euro sports car in Europe could easily cost $1.3 million here.”

The statistics Mr Lui cited also show a disproportionately large percentage of PRs registering commercial vehicles.

Between 2012 and August this year, they accounted for 32 per cent of non-company registrations of vans, trucks and buses.

Most commercial vehicles are registered to companies, but hawkers and owner-operators of heavy trucks can register these vehicles in their own name.

Explaining the phenomenon, National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said PRs may be more disposed to businesses that require the use of such vehicles. “No matter what, the figure is high,” he said. “Does this imply that Singaporeans are moving away from certain types of business?”

On the other hand, Dr Lee was not surprised that PRs were getting more Category B certificates of entitlement than A.

“PRs with the choice of car ownership can afford bigger cars because of their economic standing,” he said, noting that Singapore is selective in picking its PRs, who tend to be more talented, more educated or better paid.

Lasting Power of Attorney system adequate? Ha ha

October 11, 2014

I refer to the 8 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Lasting Power of Attorney system has adequate safeguards” and the 9 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Another LPA storm brews over a rich person’s assets”.

One day after Minister Chan Chun Sing declared that our LPA system has adequate safeguards, another contentious LPA case emerges.

Ms Sylvia Lim’s suggestion to reinstate the option to inform others of an LPA application doesn’t contradict Mr Chan’s concern that “not everyone wants to inform certain family members of their decision.” If a person doesn’t want to inform certain family members, he can simply uncheck the option to inform others. Better still, the applicant should simply be allowed to list the names and NRIC of those he wants to inform in the LPA application. In that way, those whom the applicant doesn’t want to inform won’t be informed while those whom the applicant wants to inform will be informed.

Saying it is up to the certificate issuer to do the job professionally doesn’t solve the problem if there is an inherent weakness in the system that has nothing to do with the professionalism of the certificate issuer. If the medical practitioner or psychiatrist okays the LPA application, what professional reason has the certificate issuer got to say no?

The recent LPA commotion involving Madam Chung has shown that a medical practitioner’s or psychiatrist’s assessment may not be sufficient to validate an LPA application as the independence of the medical or psychiatrist assessment can be easily doubted later on by the authorities. If the whole basis of the LPA which is the medical or psychiatrist assessment can be so easily doubted later on, doesn’t it show that the fundamental basis of the LPA is actually quite weak?

Given that our LPA system is only four years old, it should not be deemed as being cast in stone but should be refined as problems surface along the way. Ms Lim has provided some good suggestions but our minister conveniently brushed them off, ignored obvious issues and refused to resolve them. This reminds us of the period between 2007 and 2011 when the people constantly highlighted the problem of runaway property prices but the PAP just kept turning a blind eye until they were told in no uncertain terms through the ballot box.

To avoid the system becoming overly onerous, additional checks can be confined to LPA cases that do not conform to a predefined set of guidelines or that which confound common sense and experience. For example, it would be unusual for someone to appoint an unrelated person whom he or she has known for less than 5 years as the LPA. This should raise a red flag and prompt for more investigations to ascertain the validity of the application. This is consistent with the principles of both law and accountancy to always err on the side of caution.

Mr Chan should list the countries that have less onerous LPA systems than ours. The last thing we want is to compare with Uganda or Afghanistan.

Straits Times, Lasting Power of Attorney system has adequate safeguards, 8 Oct 2014

WHETHER a person informs family when setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a personal choice, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing told Parliament yesterday, stressing that the scheme has adequate safeguards.

He was responding to questions from Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim on the scheme, which allows a person aged at least 21 to appoint another to make key decisions on his welfare and finances should he lose the mental capacity to do so.

Ms Lim, a lawyer, asked why an option to inform others when applying for an LPA was removed from the form last month, and whether the ministry would look at bringing it back.

Mr Chan replied that it was removed after feedback from applicants, who could still, on their own, decide to share the information. “Not everyone wants to inform certain family members of their decision and that is the dilemma. We leave it to the best judgment of the individual to inform the person that he wants to inform.”

The LPA system, which was launched four years ago, has come under scrutiny after a former China tour guide was accused of manipulating an 87-year-old Singaporean widow into giving him control over her assets estimated to be worth $40 million.

The widow, Madam Chung Khin Chun, applied for the LPA naming 40-year-old Yang Yin as her donee in 2012. Her niece, tour agency owner Hedy Mok, found this out only earlier this year. She then started legal action against Mr Yang, alleging that he took advantage of her aunt, who was diagnosed with dementia this year.

An LPA is issued only after a lawyer, medical practitioner or psychiatrist witnesses and certifies the application.

Yesterday, Ms Lim asked if the Government would consider an “additional check” by these professionals to ensure that the applicant is not unduly influenced. She highlighted that in Scotland, they would have to decide on the applicant’s independence, based either on personal knowledge or by consulting someone else.

Mr Chan said this would be up to the certificate issuer who, regardless, is expected to do the job professionally. “I can appreciate that sometimes a second pair of eyes does help but we must always be careful not to overly burden the system,” he explained, stressing that applicants should consider who they wish to appoint as donees carefully. He pointed out that the system here is “much more onerous” than in other countries, where in some instances a person does not need a professional to certify the LPA.

Straits Times, Another LPA storm brews over a rich person’s assets, 9 Oct 2014

ANOTHER wealthy elderly person said to be suffering from dementia. Another Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Another lawsuit.

But this time, the person in the eye of the storm is not a previously unknown tour guide, but someone who has made headlines before.

Madam Kay Swee Pin was in the news some years back for suing the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) after it suspended her for lying that she was married to Mr Ng Kong Yeam, a former boss of SA Tours.

Now Madam Kay, 62, is caught up in a new legal tussle over allegations that she forged the signature of Mr Ng, 75, in 2011 to obtain a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to manage his affairs. Mr Ng has dementia.

Mr Ng’s son, Mr Gabriel Ng, said in court documents he had found transfers of his father’s assets to Madam Kay – including the transfer to her of all his shares in Natwest Holdings, a 99 per cent shareholder of SA Tours – “highly suspicious”.

“Natwest was estimated to be worth between $15 million and $20 million at the time of the transfer. It is surprising that all but one share would be sold to Madam Kay for a mere $1 million,” Mr Gabriel Ng said.

The older Mr Ng, a former lawyer, is at the centre of a family feud over management of his personal welfare and financial assets – including SA Tours in Singapore and Malaysia – estimated to be worth up to $30 million. The dispute involves Mr Ng’s legal wife, Datin Ling Towi Sing, their three children, including Gabriel Ng; and Madam Kay, managing director of SA Tours, and their daughter, Eva Mae, its marketing manager.

At issue is an LPA that Madam Kay obtained on Dec 28, 2011 by allegedly forging Mr Ng’s signature to launch legal proceedings, on Mr Ng’s behalf, against his legal wife and children, and others.

An LPA is a legal document allowing a person to appoint another to make key decisions should he lose mental capacity.

It has been in the news after a former tour guide from China was accused of manipulating an 87-year-old Singaporean widow into giving him control over her assets estimated to be worth $40 million.

In Mr Gabriel Ng’s application to revoke the LPA, and for his family to be appointed deputies to manage his father’s affairs, he argues his father did not execute the LPA personally.

He also argues statutory requirements were not met as his father did not personally attest to the statements in the LPA.

Mr Gabriel Ng claims there were two attempts by Madam Kay to execute the LPA. He says that, relying on a purported letter of authority, she allegedly forged Mr Ng’s signature.

But Madam Kay, in court documents, denied the allegations of forgery, saying she had signed Mr Ng’s name because he “was irritated with her for informing him that he had to sign the forms again”, and because he had “given (her) authority to do so”. But she said she was “unable to find” the original letter of authorisation.

An open reply to an open letter

October 10, 2014

Dear Mr Raymond W. Yin,

I refer to the 6 Oct 2014 Straits Times print of your letter “An open letter to HK protesters”.

Answer to question 1:

Just because Hong Kong never got to elect governors during British colonial days it therefore has no right to ask for elections now?

Suppose you worked for a very kind, understanding boss who gave you all the freedom to do your work enjoyably. You never felt a need to ask for freedom because you never felt oppressed. But one day, you got a new boss who liked to micro-manage and even tried to force moral education upon you, would you not feel fed up and demand for more freedom? Will you be so stupid as to say, because I didn’t ask for freedom previously when I was under a kind understanding boss, I therefore have no right to ask for freedom now that I am under an unreasonable boss?

Singapore too never got to elect our governor over more 100 years of British rule. But that didn’t stop Singaporean pioneers from agitating, demonstrating, fighting and ultimately winning full internal self-government. If Singaporean pioneers were like you, thinking they have no right to ask for freedom after 100 over years of British rule, Singapore could still be a British colony today.

Answer to question 2:

The Basic Law has been in use for only less than 20 years so it’s still relatively new, unlike the British Common Law which has been honed over hundreds of years. Various parts of the Basic Law are not thoroughly clear and have resulted in contradictory interpretations. Worse still, some parts actually contradict other parts. Given the rawness of the Basic Law, it should not be regarded as being cast in stone but should be given refinement in accordance to what the Hong Kong people wants. Ultimately, this is a document for the Hong Kong people to decide for their benefit, not a document to restrict them. A city’s constitution and laws should be for the benefit not to the detriment of its people.

If we look at the top ranked democratic nations in this world:

Country 2012 EIU Democracy Index
Norway 9.93
Sweden 9.73
Iceland 9.65
Denmark 9.52
New Zealand 9.26
Australia 9.22
Switzerland 9.09
Canada 9.08
Finland 9.06
Netherlands 8.99
Luxembourg 8.88
Austria 8.62
Ireland 8.56
Germany 8.34
Malta 8.28
United Kingdom 8.21
Czech Republic 8.19
Uruguay 8.17
Mauritius 8.17
South Korea 8.13

They all share the same clear and unambiguous universal suffrage of being free to choose their respective government heads. They don’t have an external power that approves a list of candidates that can be elected.

In the list above is Malta which was also an ex-British colony. Up to 1974, Malta’s head of state was Queen Elizabeth. A British Governor-General exercised nominal authority over the Maltese prime minister which effectively ruled Malta. But make no mistake; the British didn’t pre-approve a list from which the Maltese prime minister can be elected.

Should the dictator or the people dictate the pace of democratic development? After the Second World War, the French and the Dutch went back to re-assert control of their respective colonies. If the Vietnamese and Indonesian people didn’t rise up against their colonial masters, you think Vietnam and Indonesia could have achieved independence so quickly? If Gandhi didn’t fight for India’s independence but gladly allowed the British to dictate the pace of democratic development, you think India could have achieved independence so quickly?

Lee Kuan Yew famously said:

After all, the British did not govern from Singapore for decades just because they like Singapore. This happens to be the centre of gravity in the area.
Straits Times, “Premier Lee: Common market is vital to agreement”, 26 Jun 1963, page 7

If Singaporean pioneers didn’t rise up against the British, the British would have gladly continued to govern this piece of gravitational centre just as it continued to govern Hong Kong for as long as it was allowed to.

While there is nothing wrong for the central government to ensure a patriotic person governs Hong Kong, it is for the Hong Kong people, not the central government to decide who is patriotic to Hong Kong and who is not.

Answer to question 3:

There is no reason why academics or clergymen cannot initiate protests. Martin Luther King was a pastor. Did Pastor King sin when he led non-violent protests during the American civil rights movement? Dr Sun Yat Sen was trained as a doctor. Did Dr Sun lack integrity when he led China’s revolutionary movement that finally brought an end to imperial China?

Under “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong already has a lot more freedom than the rest of mainland China. Yet, the rest of mainland China is not following suit in asking for the same. Why would “one person, one vote” make any difference? Why would the rest of China plunge into chaos?

Why do you liken emigration to becoming slaves of a foreign master and yet you continue to live in the US? Why worry about Hong Kong people becoming slaves to foreign masters when you yourself has become one and continues to be one?

US involvement in the Middle East is just one of many US international involvements. If you look at the Far East, South Korea and Taiwan have benefited enormously from US involvement. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and much of East and Southeast Asia have also benefited to varying degrees from US involvement. There can be no doubt that East and Southeast Asian nations have a better life now because of US involvement.

Deng Xiaoping’s 50 year commitment means Hong Kong people continue to worry about their future after 50 years.

Hong Kong was already prosperous and stable since British colonial times. Hong Kong didn’t just become prosperous after its handover to China.

Just because there is no perfection in this universe we don’t strive to make life better for ourselves?

Is one’s long term view better when one has full control over one’s destiny or is one’s long term view better when one’s destiny is at the mercy of another?

Democracy is no poison to Taiwan; Taiwan is the 12th most competitive economy in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, much higher than 29th ranked China and certainly no poison to 7th ranked Hong Kong.

Straits Times, An open letter to HK protesters, 6 Oct 2014, Raymond W. Yin

As a senior overseas Chinese who has lived in the United States for almost 50 years, I have really not needed to worry about the future of Hong Kong.

That is until the recent dramatic and unexpected developments there. Because my loved ones and seven million of my compatriots live in the city, I cannot stand by and watch them led astray into a political cul-de-sac by a few people with questionable intentions, maybe even ulterior motives, without saying something.

Though my words may not be welcome, I must still speak the truth or I will not be at peace with my conscience.

Among you, the three initiators of the so-called “Occupy Central” movement, two are university professors and one a religious figure. Under normal circumstance, you all should enjoy respect as scholars. But apparently you are not familiar with prevailing world circumstances, nor do you understand history. You self-righteously proclaim that you represent the people while encouraging idealistic but naive youth to break the law in order to pursue unrealistic political objectives. If this is not prompted by some kind of ulterior motives, then your ignorance causes me to sigh with despair.

Please answer me these questions:

In the British colonial days, did you elect the governors?
Has the universal suffrage reform framework, passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), violated the Basic Law? You say it is not in line with “international standards” but define “international standards”. Please also explain which country’s electoral mechanism measures up to the so-called “international standards”.
Professor Chan Kin Man, you have repeatedly said the refusal of the NPCSC to accept your political reform proposals is humiliating to you personally. What if the central government were to say that you have humiliated them with your remarks instead? What would you say?
The development of democracy is a gradual process. It cannot be rushed nor can it be implemented in haste. Otherwise, serious problems would arise. The central government says it wants to ensure only a patriotic person can become Chief Executive of Hong Kong. What is wrong with that? Would you rather a turncoat be elected to the post? It is simply part of the selection process under an, as yet, imperfect reform framework, but it is a good start. We will be able to improve it as we gain more experience with its implementation. But if you rush the process, you are likely to mess up things, and we will all suffer. Can you afford to bear this responsibility?
The three of you who initiated Occupy Central are academics and a member of the clergy. Your responsibility is to nurture talent, not to take it onto the streets in defiance of the law at the risk of ruining the future of your charges. Don’t be presumptuous about the absolute integrity of your position. Bear in mind that there is that silent majority who might not share your views. I would counsel you to read more history and learn from the mistakes of mankind’s past. You may then gain an awareness of the dangers of unpredictability and not seeing the wood for the trees. Most of all, you must avoid violence. Don’t be besotted with apparent Western superiority and practice. Always think twice before you act.

Tell me, if Beijing were to accept your demands for “one person, one vote” in Hong Kong, and the people on the mainland also were to follow suit in electing the president of the country, where do you think it would lead us in the current situation? If Hong Kong and the nation are in chaos, you can emigrate abroad to become slaves of a foreign master. But what can the other Hong Kongers and mainlanders do?

When the United States sent troops overseas with the intention of “saving” Iran, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the reasons were that in those countries the rulers were despotic and their peoples had no freedom. But look at the consequences now.

The rulers were either killed, jailed or ran away, but are their peoples freer now? Do they have a better life?

Ms Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Mr Martin Lee Chu Ming went to Britain to seek support. Do you think that it is right? Mr Chris Patten says the NPCSC passed a fake election framework. Please ask him this question for me: Was he elected to his previous role as governor of Hong Kong by the Hong Kong people?
Deng Xiaoping made a commitment to maintain the status quo of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) for 50 years. Has that been changed?

Later, this commitment became the Basic Law and Hong Kong received full support from the mainland. Consequently, the SAR overcame many difficulties, leading to today’s prosperity and stability. You should cherish the recent gains.

Where on earth can we find a perfect universe? There is no perfect system. And there is no need to insist on everything now. It is better to take the long-term view, hoping for the prosperity of the motherland and improving the quality of people’s lives. Peace and democracy will bear fruit, and Hong Kong and mainland citizens will be better for it. We must have patience.

I have studied and worked in the US and Canada for nearly 50 years. I understand that Western democracy is no panacea. For success, it requires an upgrade in the quality of the people. According to the prevailing view, democracy is a blessing in Europe and the US (though not perfect) but a poison in Taiwan, and a disaster in the Arabic world. I predict it would create chaos in China and cause the people to suffer. Do you not understand this obvious truth?

Don’t trust everything LKY says

October 9, 2014

I refer to the 6 Oct 2014 Straits Times letter “Start planning for our next 50 years”.

SG50 should be renamed SGI50 because it’s specifically about Singapore’s 50th independence anniversary. SG50 conveys the wrong impression that Singapore has survived for 50 years only when in fact Singapore has survived for 196 years already since 1819.

Mr Lim shouldn’t read too much into LKY’s words let alone regard them as visionary or tenacious. LKY changes words like a chameleon changes color. Back in 1965, LKY said:

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew … stressed that it was the quality of the people – “the mettle in them” that counted … Singapore … did not believe in shaking knuckle dusters at others because the people here were polite … But, he stressed, the island was determined to survive in South-east Asia for the next 1,000 years … Nothing will hold us back. We have thick skins and necks. Even our chickens have thick necks.
Straits Times, We will survive for the next 1,000 years – Lee, 19 Sept 1965

In 1965, it was the quality of the people that counted. From 2007 onwards, it was million dollar ministers that mattered.

In 1965, the people had mettle in them. In 2009, the people’s spurs are not stuck deep enough in the hide.

In 1965, our chickens had thick necks. In 2009, the people have thick hides.

In 1965, the people didn’t believe in shaking knuckle dusters. In 1997, LKY will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac … anybody who decides to take him on needs to put on knuckle dusters.

In 1965, Singapore will survive 1,000 years. Hitler was the only other leader I know who spoke about building a thousand year Reich. Then in 2013, it became:

Will Singapore be around in 100 years? I am not so sure. America, China, Britain, Australia – these countries will be around in 100 years. But Singapore was never a nation until recently.
One Man’s View Of The World, Lee Kuan Yew

If everything LKY ever said was put side by side, a Guiness World Record might be set for the World’s longest ever flip flop list.

Mr Lim must be a fool to constantly believe in the consistently inconsistent LKY.

Straits Times, Start planning for our next 50 years, 6 Oct 2014

AS SINGAPOREANS prepare to celebrate SG50 next year, some sceptics have expressed concerns that our tiny nation may not survive the challenges of the next 50 years.

We have uplifted ourselves from living in kampungs lacking modern sanitation, to living in “sky-pungs” with rooftop swimming pools, as well as supermarkets, banks, clinics and facilities for childcare and eldercare.

Forging ahead, we must build on our achievements and focus on the positives.

What we have achieved so far is nothing short of a miracle.

We cannot control external world events.

Our destiny lies very much in how we plan and fully exploit our limited resources, to go beyond just sustainability and into the realm of regeneration for the next 50 years and beyond.

I suggest that we create a Singapore Masterplan 2065, and let Singaporeans who are now 20 to 30 years old, whose children and grandchildren are likely to be alive 50 years from now, take the initiative.

Form a group of 200 and let them brainstorm ideas over the next two years on what kind of Singapore they and their future generations would like to live in, 30, 40 or 50 years from now.

Focus on the “what” and “why”. The “how” will emerge along the way.

With ideas in hand, a working committee of 10 can then be formed to work with the government of the day, evolving the masterplan while marking milestones.

It is fitting to recall the tenacity and vision of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, when he said in 1965: “I am calculating in terms of the next generation; in terms of the next 100 years; in terms of eternity; and believe you me, for the next thousand years, we will be here.”

Clinton Lim Eng Hiong

Comments on Mr Shanmugam’s Hong Kong protest views

October 8, 2014

I refer to the 4 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Hong Kong protests: Western media reports biased against China, says Shanmugam”.

Hong Kong had democracy under British

Mr Shanmugam was wrong to say that Hong Kong didn’t have democracy during 150 years of British rule. He could only say that Hong Kong didn’t have the right to vote under the British. Singapore too, didn’t have the right to vote during more than 100 years of British rule. Yet Singapore under the British was more democratic than Singapore today because colonial Singapore had press freedom whereas Singapore today no longer has press freedom. We are ranked 150th in the world for press freedom – rock bottom. It was with press freedom that the Leftists were able to galvanize the collective powers of the Chinese speaking masses to win full internal self government for Singapore. Self-rule, self-determination, the State of Singapore, the Singapore flag, our national anthem Majulah Singapura were all born out of the democracy of press freedom accorded to us by the British.

It may sound strange but Hong Kong without voting rights has more democracy than Singapore with voting rights. This can be seen from the fact that Hong Kong outranks us in the Economist Democracy Index 2012:

• Hong Kong, rank 63, score 6.41
• Singapore, rank 81, score 5.88

Simply put, there can be no democracy without press freedom:

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.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of Brazil

Most of all, it includes the inalienable right to live in a society in which truth is sought after and achieved through a free and informed public debate. This is the core of democracy

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.

Benjamin Constant, French writer (1767-1830)

“With newspapers, there is sometimes disorder; without them, there is always slavery.”

Peter Howe

The act of witness is very important. Without journalism there’s no democracy. Without journalism, there’s no freedom.

Alastair Farrugia

Freedom is when the people can speak. Democracy is when the government listens

Alan Barth, columnist, Washington Post (1906-1979)

“If you want a watchdog to warn you of intruders, you must put up with a certain amount of mistakened barking. Now and then he will sound off because a stray dog seems to be invading his territory … or because he is outraged by a postman, and that kind of barking can, of course, be a nuisance.

But if you muzzle him and leash him and teach him decorum, you will find that he doesn’t do the job for which you got him in the first place. Some extraneous barking it the price you must pay for his service as a watchdog.

A free press is the watchdog of a free society. And only a press free enough to be somewhat irresponsible can possibly fulfill this vital function.”

KH Abdurrahman Wahid, President of the Republic of Indonesia

I do not wish to sacrifice freedom of the press in the learning process, which we have to undergo, for in the end it will all bring forth a true democracy in Indonesia.

The notion that a gagged press is good for the country was espoused by none other than Adolf Hitler himself:

Adolf Hitler, Dictator of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945

“The organization of our press has truly been a success. Our law concerning the press is such that divergences of opinion between members of the government are no longer an occasion for public exhibitions, which are not the newspapers’ business. We’ve eliminated that conception of political freedom which holds that everybody has the right to say whatever comes into his head.

Thus Hong Kong always enjoyed the fundamental basis of democracy – press freedom, under the British.

Singapore is example for Hong Kong

While Mr Shanmugam can say that Hong Kong under the British never had the right to vote, that doesn’t mean Hong Kong should be content with whatever limited voting rights it is now given even if those fall short of what Hong Kong people want.

When the British first granted us elections in 1948, only 6 of 22 seats were electable and only British subjects could vote which meant most of our Chinese speaking pioneers could not vote. If Singaporean pioneers had been contented with that kind of limited voting, Singapore would never have become the independent country it is today. We would have remained a British colony where half of Singaporeans of voting age cannot vote and nearly ¾ of parliament seats aren’t voted but are nominated instead. Clearly this is not what Singaporeans want.

So if Singaporeans appreciate how our pioneers didn’t stop at limited forms of elections but went the full distance to win full internal self government, we should also appreciate Hong Kong people’s desire for a more complete form of democracy.

Democracy and good governance

Good governance and multi-party democracy are not antagonistic to one another. China can have good governance coupled with democracy because the best governed nations in this world are also the most democratic.

Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Luxembourg, Austria and Germany are amongst the best governed nations in the world as well as the most democratic.

Country 2013 WGI Government Effectiveness Country 2012 EIU Democracy Index
FINLAND 2.17 Norway 9.93
SINGAPORE 2.07 Sweden 9.73
DENMARK 1.97 Iceland 9.65
SWEDEN 1.89 Denmark 9.52
NORWAY 1.86 New Zealand 9.26
SWITZERLAND 1.81 Australia 9.22
CANADA 1.77 Switzerland 9.09
NETHERLANDS 1.77 Canada 9.08
NEW ZEALAND 1.75 Finland 9.06
HONG KONG 1.73 Netherlands 8.99
LIECHTENSTEIN 1.73 Luxembourg 8.88
AUSTRALIA 1.62 Austria 8.62
LUXEMBOURG 1.62 Ireland 8.56
JAPAN 1.59 Germany 8.34
BELGIUM 1.59 Malta 8.28
AUSTRIA 1.57 United Kingdom 8.21
ANDORRA 1.53 Czech Republic 8.19
ANGUILLA 1.53 Uruguay 8.17
GERMANY 1.52 Mauritius 8.17
UNITED STATES 1.5 South Korea 8.13

Others

Although the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 did not include universal suffrage, Article 45 of the Hong Kong Basic Law does:

The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

China’s wish for the nation to become more prosperous before democratizing need not apply to Hong Kong because Hong Kong is already prosperous and thus ready for democratization.

Party gridlock in the US should not be seen as dysfunction as US continues to rank 3rd in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, just one rank lower than Singapore’s. If the 3rd ranked nation in this world is considered dysfunctional, wouldn’t that mean nearly the entire world is dysfunctional?

Mr Shanmugam should look at Russia, not the US to see what dysfunction is. According to the 6 Oct 2013 Straits Times report “Tensions in Moscow over economic woes”:

Senior Russian officials are sounding dire warnings as prices rise, the rouble plunges and growth grinds to a halt, but President Vladimir Putin is ignoring their advice amid the stand-off with the West over Ukraine.

This Mr Shanmugam, is dysfunction. China, a nation politically more similar to Russia is actually in greater danger of dysfunction in its current state.

If the US government doesn’t plan long-term, it wouldn’t have pulled off the Apollo program which was first conceived during President Eisenhower’s (Republican) time but completed during John F Kennedy’s (Democrat) time.

China is unlikely to implode like the Soviet Union did because China has one country, two systems so whatever democratizing can be confined to Hong Kong without impacting the rest of the country.

Hong Kong Basic Law itself is subject to interpretation and there are grey areas and even areas that contradict one another so it cannot be said for sure that China has acted in accordance with the Basic Law. The Basic Law does mention universal suffrage which should give Hong Kong the leeway to demand universal suffrage. The calling for Hong Kong to live by China’s rules is to essentially disregard one country, two systems because if at the end of the day, both systems kowtow to Beijing in so far as internal matters are concerned, what difference is there between the two systems? Singapore’s 1959 full internal self government serves as a good platform upon which China can govern Hong Kong where China can take charge of defense and foreign affairs while Hong Kong takes care of everything else internal, including the selection of its own chief executive.

Hong Kong’s reliance on China should not be used to threaten Hong Kong’s future because Hong Kong’s faltering and instability will do China no good.

Straits Times, Hong Kong protests: Western media reports biased against China, says Shanmugam, 4 Oct 2014

There has been much anti-China bias in Western media’s reporting on Hong Kong’s situation, said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, as he sought to offer another perspective on the current stand-off between Occupy Central protesters and the authorities that is now entering its eighth day.

Speaking to Lianhe Zaobao in an interview published on Saturday, Mr Shanmugam said that western media reports have made Beijing out to be “denying democracy” and acting to infringe on freedoms that have made Hong Kong so successful.

The truth, he said, is that Hong Kong did not have democracy during 150 years of British rule.

Beijing’s proposal for Hong Kongers to elect their leader from a vetted list – what the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are currently amassed against – is actually much more than what the British had ever offered.

Before the handover to China in 1997, neither the British rulers nor the Hong Kong media thought Hong Kong needed democracy, he pointed out; universal suffrage was also not included in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, the agreement that cemented the terms of the handover.

“The Western media does not report these facts,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam put the Chinese government’s hard line towards the Occupy Central protesters in the context of its overarching governance priorities.

At this stage in its development, China’s primary goal is unity, progress and a better life for 1.3 billion people, he said, and its leadership believes that it can achieve this only by good governance and avoiding the ills of multi-party democracy.

China’s GDP per capita today is US$6,800 (S$8,708), and Chinese leaders will want to achieve the goal of becoming a moderately prosperous country before they will contemplate any move to democratise.

Two examples confirm Beijing’s belief, he noted.

First is the dysfunction and partisan gridlock of the political system in the United States, which has deteriorated to the point of being unable to pass a budget for years or address any pressing governance issues like immigration reform, improving public education or handling crime and violence.

Because of short electoral cycles, the US government is also unable to plan for the long-term, he said.

China, as a poorer, less developed country, believes that it “cannot afford the luxury of such dysfunctionality”, he said.

The second reaffirming example Beijing looks to is the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, which Chinese leaders see as a cautionary tale of what happens when political restructuring precedes economic reform.

In the 1980s, Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev implemented a policy of glastnost – openness – as the Soviet Union tried to reform, unleashing democratising forces that ultimately unseated his own government.

“So China will be firm: it is not going to institute any major political change to copy the Western models – in the short term,” he said.

“The leadership will believe that any such move will be disastrous for China and will hurt the people of China,” he added.

And since whatever happens in Hong Kong can have an impact on the rest of China, giving in to the protesters’ demands, from Beijing’s point-of-view, may affect the stability of China as a whole, he noted.

This perspective, said Mr Shanmugam, “is entirely understandable”.

China is also suspicious of the protests and wonders if Western countries have a hand in stoking up sentiment, he noted.

Mr Shanmugam said that it must be asked if the average Hong Konger is prepared for the trade-offs of a protracted stand-off with Beijing.

“There needs to be clear understanding that China has acted in accordance with the Basic Law,” he said, referring to Hong Kong’s mini Constitution that enshrines the “one country, two systems” principle.

“If Hong Kongers want a change from the Basic Law – they have to recognise that Hong Kong is part of China, and there are some things China will accept, and some things which are red lines for China.”

“And there needs to be a clear understanding of Hong Kong’s extreme reliance on China for jobs and (its) livelihood,” he said, adding: “There needs to be a clear understanding of China’s largesse towards Hong Kong even as an anti-China mood is stoked up.”

Mr Shanmugam believed that the Occupy Central protests will not affect Singapore.

Self-serving or not up to Singaporeans, not PM Lee to judge

October 6, 2014

I refer to the 4 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Exiles shouldn’t get to air ‘self-serving accounts’”.

It is not up to PM Lee, a less than half past six (60.1%) prime minister to declare Singapore political exile accounts as self-serving. Whether or not the accounts are self-serving, judgment lies with Singaporeans. Singaporeans do not need others to make moral judgments on their behalf but can make these judgments themselves.

Can PM Lee name one Singaporean victim killed in Singapore to illustrate the violence of the communist insurgency? PM Lee and his government had been so quick to highlight the victims of the MacDonald House bomb blast during Konfrontasi, why have they not similarly revealed the victims killed in Singapore as a result of the communist insurgency?

They can’t because there was none for there was never a communist insurgency in Singapore. The full name of the communist insurgency was the Malayan communist insurgency, not the Singapore communist insurgency. The armed struggle that raged for 40 years raged in Malayan jungles and villages, not in Singapore. The thousands killed were killed in Malaya, not in Singapore. PM Lee should not mistake Malaya’s communist insurgency as Singapore’s.

Singapore’s fight against communism was over almost as soon as it began and we won hands down. MCP operations in Singapore were crushed very early on in their campaign so much so they had to beat a hasty retreat to Malaya.

The Malayan Communist Party … was not particularly effective. It hosted a meeting … most notable … for the comprehensive surveillance by the British Special Branch … Subsequent mass arrests decimated the MCP [page 134]
[Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the], [James R. Arnold]

In December 1949 the Special Branch obtained the full list of the STC through a planted informer, and conducted a raid on 1 May 1950. Singapore Town Committee Vice Secretary Ah Har and three other committee members were arrested … Later that month, 20 more MCP and ABL members were arrested. Seven months later, on 5 December, because of an alert Special Branch officer, STC Secretary Ah Chin and his assistant, Ho Seng, were caught …the mass arrests caused the near collapse of the MCP’s operations in Singapore [page 61]

The first thing to realise is that although left-wing and anti-colonial radicalism flourished to unprecedented levels during the first half of the 1950s, the Communist Party itself was diminishing as a controlling force in Singapore over the same period [page 26]
[Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-building Project], [Michael D. Barr, Zlatko Skrbiš]

The MCP itself … seems to have been more a figment of the imagination of … the British Special Branch and the right-wing forces in Singapore. Its “ghost” may have lived a much longer and more active life than the real one ever did. While the party … attracted idealistic recruits from Singapore … we may question the extent of its organization and power in Singapore, particularly during … 1952-63. Repeated waves of arrests, banishments and defections between 1948 and 1963 severely limited its ability to launch an effective organization [page 101]
[Singapore: Wealth, Power and the Culture of Control], [Carl A. Trocki]

This is no attempt by historians to revise history; this is history that has been kept under wraps for far longer than it should have been.

While the Malayan communist insurgency had been a matter of historical record not seriously disputed, the notion that the Malayan communist insurgency was also a Singapore one is a matter of fiction and imagination not to be taken seriously.

The six self-declared CPM members were guerillas fighting in Malayan jungles, not guerillas fighting in Bukit Timah hill. They carried weapons in Malaya, not Singapore except during their national service. That they returned to Singapore doesn’t mean they were fighting Singapore.

Is PM Lee more authoritative than the movie judges at Dubai and Busan on documentary history, objective presentation or accuracy? PM Lee is no authority in the history of Singapore to pass judgment about the movie’s objectivity or accuracy.

If there is anyone whose reputation and honour would be sullied by these revelations, it would be PM Lee’s father Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Given their close relationship, Singaporeans cannot take for granted that PM Lee would be perfectly impartial in trying to protect his father’s reputation even if it means gagging the truth. The security forces who did his father’s bidding have only themselves to blame for perpetrating many wrong doings towards innocent Singaporeans like Teo Soh Lung and Ang Swee Chai who were taken away even though they did no wrong or towards honest politicians like Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Chia Thye Poh who were locked away for 20, 30 over years. It is time Singaporeans wake up to the myth that these Stalin like perpetrators of injustice were fighting communism to build Singapore. They were bludgeoning political opponents to the extent of going after related but innocent persons for the purpose of consolidating their own powers.

If one can write a book to counter another book, surely one can make a film to counter another film? If one can read a book together with the counter book, surely one can watch a film together with the counter film?

Communist insurgency in Singapore is a myth created to sully the heroes of Singapore’s independence movement who weren’t communists but anti-colonialists collectively known as the Leftists. Whether or not they deserve the winner’s podium is for Singaporeans to judge, not for PM Lee or his apparatuses to judge. PM Lee and his apparatuses’ constant prevention of the other side to tell their side of the story is a sure sign there is an ugly truth to it that they would rather Singaporeans not know.

Straits Times, Exiles shouldn’t get to air ‘self-serving accounts’, 4 Oct 2014

THE political exiles featured in a documentary that cannot be shown in public or distributed here should not be allowed to air their “self-serving accounts” of the fight against communism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Local film-maker Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love had to be seen in the historical context of the communist insurgency, an armed struggle for power that raged for 40 years and killed thousands, he pointed out.

He was commenting for the first time on the film that has been in the news since the Media Development Authority recently classified it “Not Allowed for All Ratings” because it was deemed to undermine national security.

Ms Tan has submitted the film – unchanged – to the independent Films Appeal Committee and said on Thursday she hoped the classification could be reviewed.

It came up at last night’s National University of Singapore Society forum when Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh cited it as she asked Mr Lee how the more “controversial” points of history could be discussed more normally.

He said there was no hindrance to discussing the past in a normal way, noting that some historians propound revisionist views of history and others rebut them.

But Ms Tan’s film involved people who figured in the communist insurgency. “It was a violent struggle; it lasted for 40 years from 1949. On one side, you had the non-communists, democratic groups; on the other side, you had the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and their sympathisers in the Communist United Front… It was an armed struggle for power,” he said, adding that these were matters of historical record, not seriously disputed.

The six self-declared CPM members in Ms Tan’s film do not deny having been guerillas, and one even shows himself in jungle green carrying weapons.

After the insurgency, many communists returned to Singapore with their families after owning up to their actions.

They included former communist leaders Eu Chooi Yip and P.V. Sarma who returned from China in 1991. “They were superiors of some of the people who are in the movie – cleared their accounts, made their peace, lived and died here,” Mr Lee said.

There is nothing to stop the exiles in Ms Tan’s film from doing the same, he added.

“Well, they’ve chosen not to do so. It’s their prerogative. But if they have chosen not to do so, why should we allow them, through a movie, to present an account of themselves, not of documentary history objectively presented, but a self-serving personal account conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts in others?”

This, he said, would sully the honour and the reputation of security forces, and the people who fought the communists to build the Singapore of today.

A film, he added, is a different medium from a book.

“You write a book, I can write a counter book. The book, you can read together with the counter book,” he explained. “You watch the movie, you think it’s a documentary. It may be like Fahrenheit 9/11, very convincing, but it’s not a documentary. And I think that we have to understand this in order to understand how to deal with these issues.”

Professor Tommy Koh, who chaired the forum, noted that the influence of communism had waned, and would no longer pose a security threat to Singapore.

But Mr Lee replied: “Communism is over, but I don’t think the people who used to support communism… have given up the fight for a place on the winner’s podium.”


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