The hypocrisy of Calvin Cheng’s “Dangers of a politicised elected presidency”

November 16, 2015

I refer to the 16 Nov 2015 Straits Times letter “Dangers of a politicised elected presidency” by Calvin Cheng.

Calvin wrote:

The problem with the elected presidency goes beyond the quality of the candidates – the problem is that the process has been politicised.

It is clear from the previous presidential election that candidates are no longer content to just be a figurehead with a second key to our reserves – several candidates campaigned on a platform of a more politically active elected president who can draw from his popular mandate to act as a check on the Government.

Calvin should realise that the president is empowered by law to check on the government on certain important matters concerning our reserves. Therefore, checking the government is not entirely at odds with the president’s role. The checking role is very common in all walks of life:

• There are checkers for every examination paper sat by our students including our Cambridge GCE papers.

• The board of directors effectively act as checkers on the CEO

• The quality control of every manufacturing firm is a checker

• The manager who approves and signs his subordinates’ work is also a checker

Checkers are not antagonistic but essential to the well functioning of society at all levels. Because checking is so important, it should be welcomed, not brushed aside. Only irresponsible people refuse checking.

Calvin wrote:

First, such a politically active elected president could ignite a constitutional crisis because, in our political system, the President is not meant to be an alternate source of political power, much less a check on the Government.

Even if his powers are curtailed constitutionally, an elected president intent on making his political views heard will be hard to stop.

A politically active president could thus reach beyond his constitutional role, by appealing to his electoral support.

The president’s checking can simply mean an extra pair of eyes to help the government spot mistakes for the betterment of the country and the people. Whether or not the government disagrees with the president, there can be no constitutional crisis because the constitution clearly doesn’t require the government to follow the president’s advice on matters outside his jurisdiction. To say otherwise is to doubt the constitution and to question its legal authority.

The government should not fear the president’s political views if its own views are robust, unshakeable and impeccable. To say otherwise is to say that the government’s views are shaky and cannot stand the test of arguments. Wouldn’t that all the more suggest the need for more checks beyond ‘own self check own self’?

Furthermore, the government can easily out speak the president through the press and the television which it firmly controls and which have been deemed more trustworthy according to the Institute of Policy Studies.

Calvin wrote:

Second, after every general election, a time of healing and national unity is necessary for the country to move forward.

How can there be healing if the injurers are not taken to task and not given their due justice? How can the injured heal when there is nothing to stop the injurer from continuing to rub salt into wounds? How does Calvin expect the injured to show unity with the injurer when the injurer never apologises and does not even think he is wrong?

Calvin wrote:

The presidential election, if it continues to be politicised, will quickly become a proxy for a mid-term referendum on the Government, with each party backing its own candidate.

Mid-term feedbacks are common in many levels of society. Students sit for mid-year exams, employees undergo mid-year reviews, companies submit mid-year financial reports, even quarterly reports. Given its importance, wouldn’t it be all the more necessary for the government to be subjected to mid-term reviews?

Calvin wrote:

This means that instead of focusing on technocratic competence, governments will end up having to deal with politicking every two years, effectively shortening the electoral cycle.

This is unhealthy both for governance, as well as for national unity.

Calvin is presupposing that politicking happens in a vacuum independent of technocratic issues. That is not the case. All political issues are ultimately technocratic issues. If the technocratic competence of the government is not regularly challenged, we will end up with technocratic incompetence every now and then like we did back in 2007 to 2011. Thus, contrary to Calvin’s assertions, politicking based on technocratic issues is both healthy and essential for good governance.

Calvin should not fool himself into thinking that silencing Singaporeans, including the president, is the hallmark of national unity. It is not; it is the hallmark of dictatorship.

Calvin wrote:

A permanently politicised country is a road that other countries have travelled, and one we would do well to avoid.

Calvin should quit kidding himself. All nations are pollicised for better or for worse, by authoritarian or democratic rule. Even China is politicised albeit by the Chinese Communist Party.

Calvin wrote:

In the light of this, it may well be prudent to scrap the elected presidency, and revert to the old system of an appointed one, which produced respected and loved presidents such as Mr Yusof Ishak, Dr Benjamin Sheares and Dr Wee Kim Wee.

It’s quite obvious that appointed president Devan Nair isn’t someone Calvin would think first as a loved and respected president. By PAP standards, Devan Nair isn’t one of the respected and loved presidents. Thus, contrary to Calvin’s assertions, the old system of appointing presidents doesn’t automatically yield respected and loved presidents (according to PAP standards).

Calvin wrote:

The president should be a figure for national unity, and elections, by nature, divide rather than unite.

Does Calvin think there can be national unity under President Tony Tan who is himself a through and through PAP man for decades? If the politicising of the president is something Calvin frowns on, surely Calvin should frown on Tony Tan becoming the president? Or Calvin prefers to fool himself thinking that Tony Tan, after decades as a key PAP man, suddenly shed his PAP colours overnight when he became the president?

Does Calvin seriously believe Tony Tan would have been a uniting figure rather than a divisive figure if he had been appointed rather than elected?

Calvin wrote:

The second key to the reserves can then be held not by one man with a political agenda, but by a Council of Grandees, which can include the appointed apolitical president, the Chief Justice, the head of the civil service, as well as well-respected people from the unions, professions and businesses.

Calvin should not kid himself thinking that the law profession, civil service, unions, professions, businesses are not political in and of themselves. Singapore’s biggest union, the NTUC, stands side by side PAP in every national day parade. DBS, under ex-chairman Wee Cho Yaw, donates to PAP foundation. The law society stood firmly with the PAP government on many issues including the lawsuit involving Dr Susan Lim. Our ambassadors to Australia and Hong Kong have written to the press to defend their political masters. My ex statutory board director writes weekly essays to the whole department, some reeking heavily of political (PAP) agenda.

What is the point, may we ask Calvin, of transferring our reserves key from the politicisable elected president to the equally politicisable council of grandees? I can think of one reason. In the case of the elected president, the politicising can go either way while in the case of the council of grandees, being appointed by the PAP government, the politicising will more likely go only one way. Herein lays Calvin’s hypocrisy: while waxing lyrical about the need to depoliticise the president’s role, Calvin’s solution is one that tilts the already unfair politics even more in favour to his PAP political masters.

IPS post election survey 2015

November 9, 2015

I refer to Institute of Policy Studies’ post election conference slides: Post election survey 2015 (S1_GK_POPS-8_GE2015_291015_Web1.pdf).

Response rate

The survey response rate of 24.5% (page 10) is rather low. This may compromise the randomness of the survey.

Percentage importance VS mean score

IPS ranks “need for efficient government” as the top issue of 2015 because it bears the highest mean score (page 21).

1 - need for efficient government

However, there is no change to the mean score for “need for efficient government” between 2011 and 2015, so it can’t explain the sharp change in voter sentiments between 2011 and 2015. To explain the sharp change in voter sentiments, we need to look for larger change in numbers.

Take the issue of “fairness of government policy” for example. The mean score rose marginally from 4.1 to 4.3 between 2011 and 2015, not substantial enough to show up on the radar screen. But the percentage of voters who viewed this issue as important or very important rose sharply from 81% to 94%. This sticks out more prominently.

2 - fairness of government policy

It is important to know what to look for in the data that we have.

Issues with larger increases in percentage respondents viewing it as important

The issues that have seen much greater increase in number of respondents viewing it as important or very important compared to 2011 were (1) fairness of government policy, (2) work of former MP, (3) foreigners & immigration, (4) neighbourhood facilities and (5) upgrading:

3 - work of former MP
4 - upgrading

Amongst these five issues, it can be presumed that the issue of foreigners and immigration worked against the PAP while the other four issues worked for it. Thus while the opposition had rightly capitalised on the issue of foreigners and immigration, this issue alone could not overturn the combined influence of the other four issues that the PAP was able to bring about by the sheer strength of its financial muscle.

The Pioneer Package may have contributed to the sharp increase in the percentage of respondents giving importance to fairness of government policy. This together with sharp increases in percentage of respondents who placed importance in upgrading and neighbourhood facilities suggests that ultimately it was generous providence that bought PAP success.

Comparing 2006 with 2011

We can similarly compare 2006 and 2011. The issues that experienced sharper increases going from 2006 to 2011 were cost of living, party manifestos, job situation and upgrading, which were roughly the more prominent issues back in 2011.

Candidate characteristics

IPS concluded that the electorate placed greater emphasis on a GE2015 candidate’s honesty, fairness, efficiency and empathy (page 25). However, because many GE2015 candidates were new faces, there would not be sufficient track record to judge them on these attributes. These would therefore be rather useless attributes in explaining electoral choice.

Communication channel

The percentage of voters influenced by TV, internet, grassroots workers, door-to-door visits, friends/family/colleagues increased in GE2015 so all these may have contributed to the election outcome.

Little separated the top three channels of TV, newspapers and the internet. What’s interesting to note is that amongst internet channels, Facebook stood head and shoulders above the rest.

5 - top 5 internet channels

There may be an urgent need for the opposition to expand its Facebook reach towards swing voters.

Party credibility

6 - credibility

All three most credible parties experienced sizeable increases in the percentage of voters viewing them as credible in 2015 but that did not translate to the same electoral success. Perhaps when it comes to credibility, being the second or third most credible party means nothing when compared to the most credible party.

It is unlikely for the opposition to ever match PAP in credibility because it can never be in a position to show that it too can deliver. While a lot of good can come from speeches or manifestos, in the context of practical minded Singaporeans, talk or sales brochures seldom trump action and actual physical providence.

Election system

There is a marked increase in the percentage of voters who perceived election fairness as being important in 2015 and this may have worked to PAP’s favour. PAP may have learnt not to be too blatant in its abuse of the election process to gain acceptance by the masses.

7 - election system is fair

Cluster analysis

IPS categorises voters into three groups:

1) Conservatives (those who support the status quo)
2) Pluralists (those who support political pluralism and change in electoral system)
3) Swing voters (those whose views are mixed)

IPS doesn’t give details on how it decides who supports the status quo and who doesn’t but from its brief description, it’s possible that IPS based its decision on respondents’ views on some mixture of the following issues:

1) Need checks and balances in parliament
2) Need for different views in parliament
3) Important to have elected opposition party members in parliament
4) No need to change election system

The problem with the above criteria is that they don’t specify how much check and balance, how many different views in parliament or how many elected opposition members of parliament. For example in the case of having elected opposition members, it’s possible that a respondent might give a “yes” answer even though in his mind, he is thinking of no more than just a handful of opposition members. From the given answer, IPS would conclude that this respondent is a pluralist (if other answers do not contradict) but in actual fact, this respondent is closer to a conservative than to a pluralist.

It would have been far better if IPS had simply asked respondents if they had switched votes this time. That would be more straight forward and surer in identifying the swing voters.


While IPS flagged differences between various voting groups’ mean scores to various issues as being significantly different, most of them hardly differ by more than 10%. It therefore seems that on average, voters of different groups by age, household income, education, ethnicity, housing type, gender, citizenship status do not differ too greatly from one another in voting pattern. That is, even new citizens do not vote too differently from citizens at birth.

However, as noted at the beginning, mean scores may not as meaningful as percentage respondents in deciphering voting patterns.


The percentage of respondents who viewed an issue as important or very important may be more meaningful than the issue’s mean score in deciphering voter sentiments.

Based on issues that experienced greater increase in number of respondents viewing them as important or very important, the key to PAP’s 2015 electoral success may have been its tremendous power of providence.

Facebook emerged as the runaway champion amongst various internet modes of communication.

It may not be of much use to be the second or third most credible party when up against the most credible party. Opposition parties must start to move decisively beyond talk and manifesto towards physical actualisation of its providence ability to match up to PAP’s credibility.

IPS’ cluster analysis’ categorisation of various voter groups is not very convincing. A simple question of whether the respondent switched votes may have been better.

More to ST report on Singapore’s Legatum 2015 performance

November 3, 2015

I refer to the 3 Nov 2015 Straits Times report “Singapore economy tops key sub-index”.

Firstly, there is no such thing as the economy sub-index being the key sub-index. According to Legatum 2015 report (page 40):

“Finally, the Prosperity Index score is determined by assigning equal weights to all eight sub-indices. The average of the eight sub-indices yields a country’s overall Prosperity score.”

Thus, the economy sub-index is not a key sub-index but simply one of eight sub-indices of equal weight.

ST reported:

Singapore’s economy topped a list of 142 countries in an annual global prosperity sub-index released by the Legatum Institute yesterday, on the strength of its export market and productivity rate.

The Republic dislodged Switzerland to grab the top spot this year in the economy category of the Prosperity Index, which classified 47 per cent of its manufactured exports as “high-tech”, the third highest in the world.

The title and the opening paragraphs say it all, economy alone is sufficient to sing Singapore praises despite the fact that Singapore didn’t make it to the top 10 in any of the other sub-indices and only managed an overall ranking of 17th.

It is worth noting that China is ranked 3rd in Legatum’s economy sub-index even though China’s per capita GDP is still quite low by international standards. Hence, Legatum’s economy sub-index doesn’t necessarily reflect a nation’s level of economic attainment.

According to Legatum, the economy sub-index is a combination of many factors including high-tech exports. But many of our high tech exports are by foreign firms the revenue of which goes mainly to foreign firms, not to Singaporean firms or to Singaporeans.

About half of Singapore GDP belongs to foreign firms and foreigners. These should be factored out to obtain our true economic performance. We cannot include the economic performance of foreign firms and foreigners as part of our economic performance as a nation just as we do not include the salaries of our tenants as part of our household income.

For example:
• A household couple earns $8,000 in total from wages
• They rent out a room for $1,000 to an expatriate who earns $10,000

The household’s income is only $9,000. The expatriate’s $10,000 salary is not considered part of the household’s income.

Singapore is renowned for having one of the world’s highest per capita GDPs. For example in 2010, our per capita GDP (PPP) of $57,902 was second highest in the world but our indigenous per capita GDP (Singaporeans and PRs) then was only SGD $47,148 which was only about ¾ that of our per capita GDP. If we factor out PRs’ GDP, the true figure for Singapore companies and Singaporeans might be even lower.

ST reported:

The index found Singapore to have the second-highest capital per worker in the world at US$240,750 (S$337,290), behind Luxembourg.


Don’t be fooled by the above reporting. “Capital per worker” isn’t one of the eight sub-indices in the Legatum Index but one of the sub sub or sub sub sub indices.

ST reported:

Among Asean nations, Malaysia came in next highest after Singapore, ranking 44th overall followed by Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Indonesia climbed up 21 places in the last seven years – the most by any country in the world, to rank 69th overall.

The establishment loves to compare Singapore with our immediate poorer Southeast Asian neighbours when in terms of economic development we are closer to our fellow East Asian dragon economies. The Legatum rankings of our fellow East Asian economies are:

17 Singapore
19 Japan
20 Hong Kong
21 Taiwan
28 Korea, Rep.

Our ranking isn’t exceptional when seen in relation to the rankings of our fellow East Asian peers.

Singapore wasn’t a start-up but was already exceptional in 1965

October 29, 2015

Dear Standard Chartered,

I refer to your article “Singapore: An exceptional start-up turns 50” published by Straits Times on 7 Aug 2015.

You wrote:

Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away this year, belonged to the bricks and mortar generation.

Lee Kuan Yew is not Singapore’s founder. Singapore’s founder is Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore in 1819.

Lee and his People’s Action Party, who navigated Singapore’s incredible journey from Third World to First, could not have been more different from Silicon Valley’s brash tech entrepreneurs.

Lee did not navigate Singapore from Third World to First. Singapore was already Middle Income status, not Third World status back in 1965. According to the University of Pennsylvania, our 1965 real per capita GDP (output, chained PPP, 2005 USD) of $6,279 was third highest in Asia and 29th out of 109 countries (Penn World Tables version 8.0) and when converted to 2011 dollars, already put us in the Upper Middle Income bracket according to World Bank classification today. We were thus already at the cusp of becoming First World back in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew himself boasted to Chicago businessmen back in 1968 that we were already a metropolis. There’s no way Singapore could have turned from fishing village to metropolis in just 3 years.

Our per capita GDP in 1960 was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status

[Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, page 166]

We were already the 5th most important port in the world some 30 years before 1965:

Singapore was already the estimated 5th or 6th most important port in the world by the early 1930s and the key port in the Straits region by the late 19th century

[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114]

We were already the most important communications centre in the Far East and had more cars than anywhere else in Asia 10 years before 1965:

Singapore was the most important communications centre in the Far East, not just for shipping but a focal point for airlines, telecommunications and mail distribution at the beginning of the 1950s.

Singapore in the mid-1950s had 30 people per private car compared to 70 for British Malaya and more than 120 for the rest of Asia.

[The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33]

Given the level of development we already had, Singapore back in 1965 could hardly be considered a start up.

Furthermore, our industrial development at independence went according to Dr Albert Winsemius’ plan, not Lee Kuan Yew’s plan ( Lee Kuan Yew himself expressed gratitude to Dr Winsemius for our prosperity today.

For these reasons, Lee Kuan Yew cannot be likened to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur for no Silicon Valley entrepreneur worth his salt would hire someone else to do the start up on his behalf and taking over an already well run company cannot be considered an act of starting up.

You wrote:

Yet, as Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, I see striking parallels in the ethos and approach of Singapore’s founders in the 1960s and the Silicon Valley pioneers a decade later.

How can Singapore be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year when we had already celebrated our centenary back in 1919?

Yesterday’s historic ceremony honouring the colony’s founder
1819 – 1919
This tablet to the memory of Sir Stamford Raffles to whose foresight and genius Singapore owes its existences and prosperity was unveiled on Feb 6th, 1919, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Settlements … he (Raffles) founded Singapore, this child of his … On the occasion of the celebration of the Centenary of this important outpost of the British Empire … the Chinese Chamber of Commerce … express our admiration of the sterling qualities and remarkable foresight and fortitude of that great Empire builder, Sir Stamford Raffles, whose memory we have gathered here this morning to honour.

[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 7 February 1919, Page 5]

2015 is our 50th independence anniversary, not our 50th anniversary per say. In four years time (2019), we should be celebrating the 200th anniversary of our founding.

You wrote:

Singapore’s independence in August 1965 was not planned.

Forced to separate from a federation with Malaysia, Singapore’s leaders faced some incredibly difficult choices.

Singapore came of age when its much bigger Asian neighbours were also newly independent, but with significantly larger populations and natural resources to draw sustenance from. Faced with impossible odds, Singapore’s leaders did what pundits today describe when a tech upstart successfully takes on well-entrenched incumbents – they disrupted the status quo.

Singapore’s eventual emergence as an economic powerhouse followed an unconventional path. In the immediate aftermath of World War II and the burst of decolonisation that followed, new nation states turned inward and shut their doors to outside investment and influences …

For many newly independent nations in the 1960s, conventional wisdom held that policies built on self reliance and state control of the economy would deliver better results than free trade, foreign investment and the private sector.

Singapore’s leaders challenged this view, opening up the country to trade and investment at a time when many doors in the region were firmly shut.

Singapore’s leaders didn’t just come to power in 1965; they came to power in 1959 when Singapore attained complete internal self government which Lee Kuan Yew called ¾ independence. It is important to note that Singapore’s leaders didn’t choose the unconventional path between 1959 and 1965 when they were already in power and could do so. During this period, they chose the conventional path instead like leaders of other new nation states did and even forced Singapore to merge into Malaysia to pursue the conventional wisdom of import substitution for the Malayan Common Market.

Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP proposed a political union with Malaysia, which would provide a good-sized domestic market for an industrial strategy of import substitution. Expulsion from the union with Malaysia in 1965, on political grounds by the government in Kuala Lumpur, destroyed the import-substitution strategy.
[The Fraser Institute, Case Studies in the Relationship between Political, Economic and Civil Freedoms, page 155]

During the federation period and immediately afterward, Lee’s government initially pursued an import substitution strategy … but the alienation from Malaysia, with its much larger market, rendered the strategy impractical.
[Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Asia Competitiveness Institute, Remaking Singapore, Michael Porter and Christian Ketels and Neo Boon Siong and Susan Chung, July 2008]

Singapore’s industrialisation strategy was originally dependent on policies of import substitution within the Malaysian common market, but the attainment of political independence in 1965 led to export industrialisation.
[Robert Fitzgerald, The Competitive advantages of Far Eastern business, Page 55]

Import substitution was adopted in the early 1960s in anticipation of the Malayan common market. However, Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 dashing the hopes of the common market, hence an export strategy was promoted instead.
[Eddie C. Y. Kuo / Chee Meng Loh / K. S. Raman, Information technology and Singapore society, Page 87]

Singapore at first adopted the industrialisation policy of import substitution, followed after 1966 by the export of labour intensive manufactured goods.
[Jacques Charmes, In-service training: five Asian experiences, Bernard Salomé, Page 21]

Everyone knows the reasons why the Federation is important to Singapore. It is the hinterland which produces rubber and tin and that keeps our shop window economy going. It is the base that made Singapore the capital city. Without this economic base, Singapore would not survive. Without merger … and an integration of our two economies, our economic position will slowly and steadily get worse. Your livelihood will get worse …
[The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew Volume 1, Lee Kuan Yew, page 109]

It was only upon our divorce from Malaysia that Singapore had no choice but to embark on the unconventional path. This is in stark contrast to true entrepreneurs like Bill Gates who forsook the conventional path through college and deliberately chose the unconventional path of entrepreneurship instead. Unlike true entrepreneurs, Singapore leaders did not forsake the conventional for the unconventional but was forced to do so only after the conventional became unavailable.

More importantly, it was Dr Winsemius who planned and wrote our unconventional path. Lee Kuan Yew wasn’t an entrepreneur in any sense of the word but merely engaged a true entrepreneur who was Dr Winsemius.

It is also worth noting that:

• the percentage of small population economies (less than 10 million) achieving World Bank’s High Income status is almost double that of large population economies (more than 10 million)

• economies that does not depend on natural resources (less than 5% of GDP) but have achieved World Bank’s High Income status is more than double that of economies that depend on natural resources (more than 5% of GDP)

It is thus wrong to assume that being large and predisposed of natural resources is automatically a blessing. Statistics point to the other way around instead – that for economic progress, it is far better to be small and nimble and unencumbered by natural resources.

It is also important to note that Singapore has a resource far more precious than any natural resource – our priceless geographical location that has been the basis of our founding and prosperity since 1819.

You wrote:

Singapore’s leaders believed in the role of the state, but with two crucial differences: They modernised governance to ensure clear accountability, and they focused on execution, ensuring that the vision of the founders was translated into tangible policy action that impacted the lives of Singaporeans.

Singapore governance – our laws, civil service, government organs were largely inherited and evolved from British colonial roots.

You wrote:

John Maynard Keynes once remarked that when his information changed, he altered his conclusions. Like Keynes, Singapore’s leaders injected a strong dose of pragmatism into their public policies. This helped Singapore through good times and bad, as policymakers were not wedded to ideological preferences.

To use the parlance of Silicon Valley, Singapore leaders “debugged” policies which were not working and “rebooted” the system when needed. Singapore’s ever-evolving cityscape embodies its willingness to constantly adapt and change.

But according to our leaders, adaptability wasn’t injected by them but inherited from our British colonial past:

There are four reasons which enabled Singapore throughout her history as a British colony, and today as an independent republic, to survive and even prosper in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties … The second reason must be ascribed … to Sir Stamford Raffles’ great vision of the island growing into a great emporium founded on the Victorian belief in the virtues of free trade … For well over a hundred years Singapore learnt to adapt her economy to changing circumstances. This ability to adapt which was won in the hard school of experience remains an asset which the government of independent Singapore decided to retain. It might have been politically expedient to rid ourselves of institutions and practices that bore the taint of colonial associations. Had we done so, we would have thrown away a priceless advantage.

[Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7]

You wrote:

This vision and determination to succeed is the hallmark of any good start-up entrepreneur.

But the vision came from Dr Winsemius, how can Dr Winsemius’ vision become the hallmark of Lee Kuan Yew?

You wrote:

Singapore policymakers like to say that no one owes the country a living, and such positive anxiety has fuelled the country’s remarkable growth since 1965.

Singapore policymakers also pay themselves the highest salaries in this world as though Singaporeans owe them our living. But make no mistake – it wasn’t Lee Kuan Yew’s anxiety but Dr Winsemius’ wisdom that fuelled Singapore’s remarkable growth.

Lee Kuan Yew, appearing in tears on television when announcing separation, was devastated. His feelings strongly contrasted with scenes in Chinatown where firecrackers were set off to celebrate liberation from rule by Malays from Kuala Lumpur … Most Singaporeans … did not share the government’s dismay … Lee’s dismay was also not shared by the country’s most prominent foreign advisor. Winsemius … said in an interview in 1981 that … To my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.

[The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 171]

It was Winsemius who knew what to do because he had done it before. In contrast, Lee Kuan Yew was anxious because he didn’t know what to do.

You wrote:

The “little red dot of a nation” … has turned 50 – not bad for an exceptional start-up which has vaulted to the First World but never forgotten its scrappy beginnings.

No one says India turned 68 this year just because India achieved independence in 1947. Everyone knows India is thousands of years old. Similarly, no one says China turned 66 this year just because the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949.

Similarly, no one should say Singapore turned 50 this year just because Singapore achieved independence in 1965. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 and has turned 196 this year. We are too old to be considered a start-up and our exceptionalism has been a part of the Four East Asian Dragon exceptionalism well documented by economists for decades already. With the 5th most important port in the world in the early 1930s, most important communications centre in the Far East in the 1950s, third highest per capita GDP in Asia in 1965, Singapore’s 1965 ‘beginnings’ were far from scrappy.

Lee Kuan Yew is not Singapore’s founder or founding leader

October 18, 2015

I refer to the 16 Oct 2015 Straits Times report “Public can give views and join forums on Founders’ Memorial”.

It was reported that dialogues will be held to get views from the public on a Founders’ Memorial to honour Singapore’s founding generation of leaders.


According to the Cambridge dictionary, to found means to bring something into existence while founder refers to someone who establishes an organisation. Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and has existed for 196 years already. Since Singapore’s 1965 leaders neither brought Singapore into existence nor established Singapore, it would be wrong to commemorate them as founders since they neither fit the definition of found or founder in any sense of the words.

There will of course be those who would play around with words and argue that 1965 was the year that independent Singapore came into existence or was established. But in so far as independent Singapore is concerned, only independence was established in 1965, Singapore itself was established much earlier in 1819.

The independence of an organisation is not the same as its founding just as the independence of a person is not the same as his or her birth. For example, Frasers Centrepoint became independent from the F&N Group in 2013. But that doesn’t mean Frasers Centrepoint was established or founded in 2013. The history of Frasers Centrepoint goes back twenty years earlier to 1983 with the opening of the Centrepoint Shopping Centre.

We shall not even bother with ancient Singapura which was all but destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1600s. Singapore today did not originate from that ancient city. Instead, Singapore today can be traced all the way back to Raffles.

Founding father

There is another definition in the form of the founding father. Cambridge defines it as “one of a group of men who started the United States as a country and wrote its constitution”. This definition cannot be transplanted to Singapore without first understanding the act of founding that led to the birth of America.

George Washington and Gandhi are America’s and India’s respective founding fathers because they were instrumental in delivering their respective nations from the yoke of foreign power subjugation. It was in gratitude of their momentous contributions that they are hailed as founding fathers by their respective peoples.

With this in mind, we have to ask ourselves what did Lee Kuan Yew or his colleagues do to win our independence in 1965? The answer is – nothing. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even want independence. He cried bitterly on national television on the occasion of our independence and stated in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want independence; instead he wanted Singapore to be subjugated under Malaysian sovereignty. This is in such stark contrast to what the founding fathers of America did it would be silly for us to remember him as founding leader when he did the exact opposite of what founding leaders do.

Our independence was thrust upon us against the wishes of Lee Kuan Yew when Tunku Abdul Rahman kicked us out of Malaysia. It was the Tunku, not Lee Kuan Yew or his colleagues who gave us our independence. The mere act of receiving independence is too cheap to be considered an act of founding. All Lee ever did was to swap British sovereignty for Malaysian sovereignty in 1963 which was no act of independence either.

Road to independence

It is important to recognise that our independence wasn’t obtained in a single stroke in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew himself said that Singapore was already ¾ independent (tiga suku merdeka) back in 1959 when Singapore was elevated to the status of a state with our own state flag and anthem that are still in use today. So rightfully, it is three times as important to celebrate 1958/59 as it is to celebrate 1965. 1958/59 didn’t just happen out of nowhere but was the culmination of a long road to independence that began soon after the end of the Japanese Occupation with the political awakening of the people.

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]

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]

Thus, while Singaporeans today detest protests and riots, we must not forget that it was through them that Singapore’s independence was delivered.

The trade union movement bore Singapore out of colonialism and into statehood.

[Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 11, Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng]

There is little doubt that the exodus of British capital and activity due to strikes and unrest hastened the relinquishing of control over internal affairs.

[South East Asia in the world economy, Chris J Dixon, Page 144]

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 people’s vehement desire for self-government was why Britain had to grant early self-government in order to gain the people’s acquiescence to govern them.

[Defence and decolonisation in Southeast Asia, Karl Hack, page 224]

The leading force driving Singapore’s push towards independence was the Leftist Chinese whose endless strikes and riots gradually forced the British to cede power. Even Lee Kuan Yew readily admitted this.

For Lee the greatest sins of the English-educated lie in their self-interest, and failure to cast their lot with the anti-colonial movement. He was certain that Singapore’s political future would be in the hands of the Chinese radical left.

For Lee, the Western-educated elite too prone to kowtow to the British were pathetically ‘irrelevant’ in the anti-colonial struggle; labour unions and the Chinese-educated world were something else altogether

[Singapore: The State and the Culture of Excess, Yao Souchou, page 35, 38]

So if Singaporeans truly treasure the independence that we enjoy today, we must not forget that it was primarily won by the struggles of the Leftist Chinese who bore the brunt of the sacrifices that the fight for independence called for.

A growing chasm between the Chinese-educated and English-educated population was clearly developing. This chasm was marked by the general allegiance of the English-educated to the British. This was in clear contrast with the vehemently anti-colonial and anti-imperial Chinese-educated Chinese.

[Negotiating Multiculturalism: Disciplining Difference in Singapore, Nirmala Purushotam, page 53]

Singapore’s anti-colonial movement was largely organised by Chinese-educated leaders from the Chinese middle schools

This (anti-colonial) movement was led largely by Chinese-educated leaders enjoying popular Chinese support

The citizenship-language campaign … had whipped up considerable Chinese interest in politics by 1954

[Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55, Yeo Kim Wah, page 173, 248, 260]

The left wing, strongly supported by the Chinese-educated working class, was probably the more passionately anticolonial entity.

[Fates of Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: The Politics of the Legal Complex, Terence C. Halliday, Lucien Karpik, Malcolm M. Feeley, page 157]


Our 1965 leaders will fail any conventional definition of what a founder or founding father or leader is. Unfortunately, Singaporeans die die must credit our 1965 leaders as their fathers, mothers, founders, founding leaders, founding prime minister because they falsely believe it was they who delivered Singapore’s prosperity.

How sadly misinformed they are. Suppose the Leftist Chinese didn’t foolishly sacrifice themselves to fight for independence and Singapore remains a British Crown Colony till this day, Singapore would invariably have ended up like another Hong Kong – different but prosperous just the same.

Suppose Barisan had won power instead, we would have business magnates like Lee Kong Chian, Tan Lark Sye and Tan Kah Kee who would undoubtedly have turned Singapore into an economic powerhouse just the same but perhaps more entrepreneurial like Hong Kong.

More importantly, the economic strategy that Singaporeans always credit our 1965 leaders for actually came from someone else – Dr Albert Winsemius. He is the single most important person Singaporeans should credit for our economic success today:

He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.

[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

Singapore and I (Lee Kuan Yew) personally are indebted to him (Dr Albert Winsemius) for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore. I learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him … He gave me practical lessons on how European and American companies operated … showed me that Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments.

[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

Singaporeans insist we owe Lee Kuan Yew but Lee Kuan Yew said he and Singapore owe Winsemius. So in the end, who do we really owe?

More below:

Japanese Occupation

The most significant episode of Singapore history wasn’t 1965 but 1942 when Singapore was plunged into 3 years and 8 months of darkness under the Japanese Occupation. The Japanese massacred 50,000 of our forefathers as described in Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs:

Dalforce … Put together by John Dalley … brought together Chinese from all walks of life, supporters of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), including notably some 500 communists freed from prison by the British at the eleventh hour. Once armed, the volunteers were sent to hold the ground east of Kranji River on the flank of the 27th Australian Brigade. They fought ferociously. Many died, but so did many Japanese. They made Dalforce a legend, a name synonymous with bravery …

… those picked out at random at the checkpoint … 40 to 50 lorries arrived to collect them. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were transported to a beach at Tanah Merah Besar, some 10 miles away on the east coast, near Changi Prison. They were made to disembark, tied together, and forced to walk towards the sea. As they did so, Japanese machine-gunners massacred them. Later, to make sure they were dead, each corpse was kicked, bayoneted and abused in other ways … A few survivors miraculous escaped to give this grim account.

The Japanese admitted killing 6,000 young Chinese in that Sook Ching of 18-22 February 1942. After the war, a committee of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce exhumed many graves in Siglap, Punggol and Changi. It estimated the number massacred to be between 50,000 and 100,000 …

If the Japanese were to be in Singapore as my lords and masters for the next few years, and I had not only to avoid trouble but make a living, I would have to learn their language.

… Shimoda offered me work in the new world in which the Japanese were now the masters … I got another job … in the kumai or guild that controlled essential foods … I read an advertisement in the Syonan Shimbun inserted by the Japanese information or propaganda department called the Hodobu

… This time it was the Japanese who were on the run … I read dispatches of the stubborn resistance they put up as the British advanced towards Mandalay and down the Arakan coast. I felt certain the British would soon push their way down the Malayan peninsula in the same way, and feared that, with the Japanese fighting to the last man, to the bitter end, with enormous civilian casualties. It was only a matter of time …

I decided it would be better to get out of Singapore while things were still calm, and I could resign from the Hodobu without arousing suspicion over my motives. I applied for leave and went up to the Malaya to reconnoitre Penang and the Cameron Highlands, to find out which was a safer place …

… Had the Japanese stayed on in Singapore and Malaya, they would, within 50 years, have forged a coterie of loyal supporters as they had successfully done in Taiwan …

The only people who had the courage and conviction to stand up to the invaders were the Chinese who joined the Malayan Communist Party and, in smaller numbers, the Kuomintang-led resistance. Both groups were fired by Chinese nationalism, not Malayan patriotism, and were to prove as much a source of trouble to the British in peace as they had been to the Japanese in war …

[The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew]

It’s obvious from Lee Kuan Yew’s accounts that while he recognised what bravery was, he didn’t exhibit bravery and while he recognised bestiality, he didn’t resist bestiality. Throughout Singapore’s hour of need, Lee never thought of fighting for the land of his birth but thought only of self-preservation. He obviously could have escaped into the jungles of Malaya to join the resistance there but preferred to work for the Japanese instead. He planned to leave Singapore only when he knew that the Japanese were about to lose.

This is in stark contrast to Lim Bo Seng or Lt Adnan who fought and died for Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew even discredited Lim Bo Seng’s sacrifices by saying it was out of Chinese nationalism rather than Malayan patriotism.

The immortalisation of Lee Kuan Yew as our founding leader would not only be a grave injustice to those who fought and died for Singapore, it would also set a very bad example for future generations of Singaporeans. How can someone who only cared for his life but not for the land of his birth and who readily accepted the cruellest of conquerors as new masters be worthy of our respect as founder or founding leader?

That would be like celebrating Marshall Petain of Vichy France who was branded a traitor after the war instead of Charles de Gaulle who continued to fight after France’s fall. Incidentally Lee once expressed admiration for de Gaulle but was quite clearly the opposite of de Gaulle.

If Singapore is invaded again and Lee Kuan Yew can get up from his grave as he claimed he can, do you think he will fight for Singapore? If Singapore falls again and Lee Kuan Yew can get up from his grave, do you think he will join the resistance to carry on the fight in the jungles?

Singaporeans who still do not see the answer must be really daft. Singaporeans who see the answer but still choose to revere Lee Kuan Yew must have moral compasses similar to Lee Kuan Yew’s. If the people of Singapore by and large have no qualms about self-preservation over the defence of their land of birth, it’s not hard to imagine them putting up token resistance to save their own skins in times of war, and we can’t blame them because their so-called ‘founding leader’ didn’t even try. While it is one thing to choose self-preservation over sacrifice for the nation, it’s a completely different thing to glorify someone like this as founding leader.


The Singapore that we know today has one and only one founder – Sir Stamford Raffles.

The closest to the definition of a founding father that Singapore has were those who fought and eventually won us our ¾ independence – mainly the Leftist Chinese.

Our 1965 leaders fit neither definition of founder or founding father or leader.

The one person whom we should be most thankful for our prosperity today is Dr Albert Winsemius.

But most of all, we should simply be thankful of our own fathers and grand fathers because they were not the stupid ones who had be to led by the nose towards success. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea became successful too but because they enjoyed much greater democracy they know that prosperity did not come from any single party or leader.

Lee Kuan Yew didn’t fight for Singapore during Singapore’s hour of need but chose to work for the enemy instead. That in most countries is considered treason. To hail Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore’s founding leader is to raise treason to the highest form of honour in Singapore.

The American founding father put his life on the line to fight off the enemy while the soon to be crowned Singapore ‘founding leader’ worked for the enemy to save his own life. How much more stark must the comparison be before Singaporeans finally get it?

A chance conversation with a PAP voter friend

October 18, 2015

This PAP voter said she appreciates the stable life now compared to the tumultuous times of strikes during her growing up years. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that many of the labour laws that guarantee workers’ rights today including Sunday off arose from those strikes. Without those strikes, the British might conveniently have held on to Singapore for as long as they could like they did in Hong Kong. In any case, those strikes were during a time of power struggle. Once the victor emerged, regardless of which side won, the power struggle would stop and she would enjoy her peaceful life just the same.

She said Lee Kuan Yew had to do terrible things in order to push the country forward. I said Chia Thye Poh was imprisoned till 1989 and detained till 1998. What threat was Chia Thye Poh to the country’s progress in 1989 or 1998? I should have added that Singapore at that time was already embarking on the Swiss standard of living.

I pointed out that if the PAP’s stance is so defensible and unshakable, it should have no qualms freeing up newspapers and television for it could easily defend any argument from newspapers not within its control. PAP voter said press control is to guard against extremists who may destabilise the country through the press. I said the laws that allow the PAP to round up extremists still exist. It can by all means round up any extremists if it so desires. Let our voices speak for themselves. Let the people see if our voices are extremist or not.

She said CPF is good because if the money is put in a bank it only earns peanut interests. I said she isn’t comparing apples to apples. CPF funds are locked up for 20, 30 years, if the money is put in a similar bond with 20, 30 year maturity, the returns will be similar.

PAP voter said after Lee Li Lian took over Punggol East for a few years, the estate did not improve. I said that is because the PAP controls the purse springs so that any estate improvement over and above normal funds must come from the government. Any party who controls the national purse string will have access to these funds. Does she not feel it is unfair or unhealthy that estate improvement funds are being politicised?

She said WP did not do its job and allowed bad debts to accumulate. She said this was unfair to people like her who paid her estate maintenance bills regularly. I don’t know what to say.

She said WP used money from Punggol East to replenish overdrafts in Aljunied. I said that’s political smearing. Teo Chee Hian used an incomplete statement from within the stack of statements to claim accounting irregularities whereas Low Thia Khiang used the main page which is the summary page that showed all accounts are finally tallied.

She said she was relieved that Singapore voters proved wise. I said no, voters are not wise but are misinformed as there are clearly so many loop holes with her arguments which show an incomplete understanding of the truth to many political issues.

She said opposition only knows how to talk. I don’t know what to say. I can’t find a single evidence of opposition project so grand and outstanding it completely shuts the mouth of critics.

She remarked that I am an opposition voter. I said no, I merely wish to see balance in the parliament, 50% PAP – 50% opposition. In other words, I am the true middle ground. There are many false middle grounds today who even though are called swing voters are merely swinging from 2% opposition to 8% opposition and vice versa. She said if parliament has 50% opposition, Singapore liao lor. That is the crux of the opposition problem. The majority of Singaporean voters think opposition is good for nothing except talk only.

PAP voter said her studies were affected when the government suddenly changed the language of instruction from Chinese to English. Her teacher cried in class as the entire textbook changed from Chinese to English overnight. She said amongst her classmates, only one made good in life – some academic in Nantah. I said to her, your life has been turned topsy turvy as a result of PAP’s policies. Yet you continue to vote for PAP. If Barisan were in charge and you were able to make a living based on the Chinese language, would you not have done better in life?

Safeguards in place to entrench single party rule

October 4, 2015

I refer to the 1 Oct 2015 Straits Times letter “Safeguards in place to check single-party rule” by Mr Edmund Lam (Dr).

Mr Lam wrote:

Some members of the intelligentsia have expressed concerns about the implications this unexpected development will have on the future of our democracy and on possible abuses by the dominant party.

But this is based on the false assumption that an ideal democracy with a two-party system will bring about a better life for the average lot.

Leading democracies, such as the US and Britain, are seeing widening inequalities and disillusionment among their electorates.

Mr Lam’s selective comparison is no argument at all. Why only compare with US and Britain? Why not compare with Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand or Australia?

Even if we consider US and UK, it can hardly be said that their people aren’t leading better lives. Inequality in US and UK are lower than in Singapore while nearly all other First World nations have much lower inequalities than us.


[United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER)

Both US (15th) and UK (21st) are ranked above Singapore (24th) in the World Happiness Report 2015. US (10th) and UK (13th) are also ranked above Singapore (18th) in the Legatum Prosperity Index 2014. UK (41st) is also ranked higher than Singapore (90th) in Happy Planet Index 2012. So based on data, it is unlikely that US and UK citizens are any more disillusioned than Singaporeans are.

A 2009 Gallup survey shows 165 million and 45 million adults worldwide want to migrate to the US and UK respectively compared to only about 10 million adults who wish to migrate to Singapore. The US and UK are therefore about 17 times and 5 times as attractive a migration destination as Singapore is respectively.

The United States is the top desired destination country for the 700 million adults who would like to relocate permanently to another country. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of these respondents, which translates to more than 165 million adults worldwide, name the United States as their desired future residence. With an additional estimated 45 million saying they would like to move to Canada …

Forty-five million adults who would like to move name the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination.

… This means that Singapore’s adult population would increase from an estimated 3.6 million to as high as 13 million.


An updated version of the Gallup poll in 2012 shows similar numbers:

Roughly 150 million of them say they would like to move to the U.S. — giving it the undisputed title as the world’s most desired destination for potential migrants since Gallup started tracking these patterns in 2007 … large numbers are attracted to the United Kingdom (45 million)


Conversely, more than half of Singaporeans wish to migrate if given a choice (The New Paper, More than half of S’poreans would migrate if given a choice: Survey, 9 Oct 2012,

The combined picture of all these surveys is clear: contrary to Mr Lam’s assertion, life in US or UK isn’t worse than life in Singapore. The evidence points to the contrary, that life in most First World nations are better than in Singapore which should validate their two or more party systems instead. In any case, without trying out a two party system here; there is no way Mr Lam can say for sure it won’t work better for Singapore.

Mr Lam wrote:

But there are safeguards in our system.

Our independent first-class judiciary is one antidote for our one-party system.

The very mention of safeguards gives away the lie and points to the obvious danger inherent in a one party system.

Mr Lam shouldn’t confuse the powers of the judiciary with the powers of the legislative. The judiciary can only operate within the laws made by the legislative in parliament. The judiciary cannot go against unjust laws and hence cannot serve as the antidote to our one party legislative system.

Mr Lam only has to read this: “” to understand the grave injustices our opposition politicians suffered.

Mr Lam wrote:

Another equally important institution is the mainstream media, especially The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, which can act as proactive and constructive arbiters in our society.

Mr Lam must be kidding, with a global rank of 153; our mainstream media is only good for laughing stock.

Mr Lam wrote:

They have done a remarkable job in covering the recent general election in terms of impartiality.

Disagree, especially for Mediacorpse. The host of a TV programme allowed Lawrence Wong to attack Dr Chee Soon Juan below the belt but prevented Dr Chee from defending himself after that.

Mr Lam wrote:

This is not to advocate that the media play the role of the opposition.

Why would Mediacorpse play the role of the opposition when it went into overdrive to broadcast pro-PAP reels 24 by 7 in the months leading to the general election?

Mr Lam wrote:

In essence, this election has shown that Singaporeans need to evolve a social and political system tailored to our limitations and needs of our people, and not to blindly emulate Western democracy.

This election has shown that even phDs like Dr Lam can be complete idiots when it comes to political understanding and have nothing to contribute other than blind regurgitation of government propaganda.

Never too early to be conned in politics

September 30, 2015

I refer to the 30 Sept 2015 Straits Times letter “Never too early to learn about politics” by 16 year old student Yeo Jen-Lin.

Jen-Lin wrote:

In the lead-up to the recent general election, my parents took me to rallies held by the People’s Action Party, Singapore Democratic Party, Singaporeans First and Workers’ Party.

They wanted me to hear and see for myself what policies and values the parties promoted and represented.

A month before going to the rallies, I accompanied my father and his friend to a few Meet-the-People sessions.

Again, my parents wanted me to experience being “on the ground”, to know the everyday problems faced by some of the middle- and working-class Singaporeans, and to develop empathy for others.

These were eye-opening experiences.

It was evident from the rallies that many people wished to listen to what the opposition had to say.

The large crowds at the opposition rallies, however, did not translate into votes in the end. This was an important takeaway for me, as social media did not seem to reflect that.

Having witnessed the everyday problems faced by Singaporeans, Jen-Lin should ask himself whether or not government policies are working fine and whether alternative policies might better address those problems.

Jen-Lin should not mistake large crowds at opposition rallies as indication that many people wish to listen to what the opposition has to say because the crowds never amount to anything more than 10,000 which is only a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million voting population.

The fact that social media doesn’t reflect overall voters’ choice doesn’t mean that social media is therefore wrong because history has shown that it is possible for the majority of the population to be wrong as had happened in wartime Germany and Japan.

Jen-Lin wrote:

It is vital that Singapore youth keep abreast of the local political scene, as it will soon be their turn to vote.

Having knowledge of local politics, and some awareness of regional and global current affairs, will help us make informed decisions based on balanced perspectives.

We cannot simply stay in our comfort zone and rely on social media for information and perspectives.

As far as possible, we should be involved with our community.

In this way, we can learn what is happening on the ground in Singapore.

How does Jen-Lin ensure that his understanding of regional and global current affairs would necessarily be balanced since most commentaries on such events come from traditional mass media which is controlled by the government?

Even something as innocuous as community involvement may subconsciously colour Jen-Lin’s political perspectives as government politics has infiltrated many community organisations. Even religious organisations and churches have openly declared support for PAP and are no longer neutral.

Against such odds, Jen-Lin should ask himself whether or not it is healthy for Singapore politics that opposition voice is largely confined to social media which is severely underfunded, limited in reach and cannot compete with traditional mass media. Does Jen-Lin ever wonder why would a government whose policies are so flawless and defensible have the need to exclude opposition criticisms from traditional mass media?

Reply to TR Emeritus post “My sister rapped me”

September 27, 2015

I refer to the 24 Sept 2015 TR Emeritus post “My sister rapped me” by Mr Patrick.

The 1.5 km covered walkway, community club, library, karaoke lounge and swimming pool are all built using public funds. Any political party that runs the government, not just the PAP, will have access to these public funds to construct these facilities and amenities. So there’s no reason why Sylvia Lim can’t build these amenities if she ever is in charge. In fact, it is the HDB, URA or the Ministry of Community Development, not the PAP that plans and builds these public amenities for the whole country and whose good work should continue regardless of which political party is in charge.

Every ministry is headed by a permanent secretary who should be of such high calibre that he does not need a minister to tell him what to do. The minister’s role is essentially not so much of a technocrat but that of a citizen elected representative who ensures that the ministry works for the interests of the people. Many ministers like Mr Tharman were former civil servants who would have performed just as effectively in a permanent secretary role.

We shouldn’t fault Ms Lim’s abilities simply because she failed to make eye contact. Not everyone who makes good eye contact will turn out to be true and honest. Similarly, we should appreciate that Chen Show Mao’s abilities are severely underutilized in an estate management role when he should be wheeling and dealing at the international level. There is no reason why 28 WP MPs would lead the country into trouble when there are more than 28 PAP MPs who contributes nothing, sleeps through or regularly absents themselves from parliament.

We may detest those who scold the government but we should not forget that it was through their scolding that the Pioneer Package finally arrived after 50 years. Instead of faulting Jeyaratnam’s poor public speaking skills, we should take it upon ourselves to understand the words of wisdom he has taken the trouble to pen down. They are wise words you won’t hear from PAP or read in mainstream media.

Singaporeans like Mr Patrick’s sister should stop their obsession with comparing ourselves with our poorer neighbours because such comparisons are essentially misplaced because:

• Singapore was already the richest in Southeast Asia since colonial days. We had the third highest per capita GDP in the whole of Asia (Penn World Tables) back in 1965. We didn’t prevail over our neighbours only after independence, we have been prevailing over our neighbours since colonial times but this fact has largely been forgotten after 50 years of PAP indoctrination. The King of Siam wouldn’t have sent his sons to Singapore to study if we weren’t already superior to Thailand during colonial days.

• Culturally, Singapore is not so much Southeast Asian but East Asian instead. That is why economists have always grouped us together with Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea as one of Four East Asian tiger economies. We are never known as a Southeast Asian tiger economy. Israel is never compared with its Middle Eastern neighbours because it is understood that the Israeli society is essentially a Western one, not a Middle Eastern one. Similarly, Singapore should not be compared with our Southeast Asian neighbours because Singaporean society is essentially East Asian, not Southeast Asian.

• Singapore’s smallness allows us to prosper more quickly. The larger size of our Southeast Asian neighbours makes it more difficult for them to prosper quickly. What most people don’t realise is that the percentage of small nations that are prosperous is about twice that of large nations.

It is therefore more meaningful to compare ourselves with Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea than with Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. If we do that, we find ourselves not so out of the ordinary in terms of economy, law and order.

Patrick’s sister would most likely not appreciate these and would insist on comparing ourselves with Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia without realising that smallness is an advantage not a liability. Even if she chooses to do that, she should take note that our neighbours have progressed well and are no longer Third World countries. Thailand and Malaysia are now Upper Middle Income nations while Indonesia is now Lower Middle Income. It is also worth nothing that Indonesia’s homicide rate of 0.6 is amongst the lowest in the world (ours is 0.2). Does Patrick’s sister know it is cheaper to replace a stolen car in JB than to extend a Singapore car’s life for 10 years?

Patrick’s sister should ask herself how come she had to wait 50 years before she could finally get her teeth cleaned for free while Westerners have been enjoying this all along. Would she realise that without those pesky protestors whom she frowns on, it might have taken another 50 years before Singaporeans can enjoy such benefits?


September 25, 2015

li zong li

李总理大胜就说选民的眼睛是雪亮的。可是四年前他输掉Aljunied时却没这么说。难道四年前选民的眼睛是贴stamp的?四年后如果成绩不理想他又会怎么说呢? 难道说人民把stamp贴回去了?

wei wen

阿文呀,你是不是屁股痒需要用刀插进去?还是多多向 Dr Thum Pin Tjin 学习什么是诚实吧 (!

shen yin



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers