Archive for June, 2008

Tale of two cities, two leaders

June 7, 2008

I refer to the comparisons made by Robert Yeo between Fidel Castro and Lee Kuan Yew (Weekend Today, 7-8 Jun 2008). Robert points first to the fact that both gentlemen succeeded in maintaining the sovereignty of small island nations in the midst of bigger, hostile neighbours. What Robert forgot to mention was that while Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore sat in close proximity to the military presence of the world’s greatest superpower, Fidel’s Cuba had to and managed to hold its own against that same superpower.

While it is well known that Castro fought and won the war by himself, what is less recognised is the fact that Lee’s victory came on the back of British military might. So while Castro’s victory might be unexpected, that of Lee’s cannot be doubted given the overwhelming support from the British.

The gulf in outcome between Singapore and Cuba has been attributed to a contrast in ideologies – that of socialism for Fidel Castro and pragmatism for Lee Kuan Yew. If extreme stupidity is how we would characterise Fidel Castro’s socialism, then the equivalent for Lee Kuan Yew’s pragmatism would simply be that of not being extremely stupid. So Lee Kuan Yew didn’t turn out to be extremely stupid, did he?

While Castro ruled without the ballot box, Lee Kuan Yew ruled by shifting the ballot box around or by combining several smaller ones into bigger ones to his advantage.

Cuba is poor because Cuba didn’t have the millions of hard working, enterprising Chinese that Lee Kuan Yew had. If we were to swop Lee Kuan Yew with Fidel Castro, would Cuba have prospered under Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore gone into demise without him? We only have to look at Hong Kong to know that Singapore would have succeeded just the same without Lee Kuan Yew. We also can look at all the other non-socialist Carribean and South American nations to know that Fidel Castro wasn’t the reason why their economies have languished. We can also look towards China today to see how a socialist society can still prosper under the toil of a billion hardworking Chinese.

If Lee Kuan Yew is deemed as the champion of change while his compatriot Mr Castro is not, then there would be hundreds of champions of change with only North Korea’s Kim Jong II to accompany Mr Castro as the only other non-champion.

In the end, we are left to wonder why the pre-eminence of Lee Kuan Yew can only be illuminated by a comparison with Mr Castro. Is it because Lee Kuan Yew’s achievement shines only in comparison with the lowest of the lowest? Or is it because they do indeed belong to the same league?


Grey skies? It’s not the haze, says NEA

June 7, 2008

NEA was reported ( Straits Times, 6 Jun 2008 ) to have attributed the grey shroud over Bishan-Sengkang to the “poor dispersion of particulate matter” and not due to haze. Isn’t haze particulate matter too? If the current particulate matter didn’t come from Indonesia where did they come from?

Straits Times reported that haze too is caused by particulate matter and added to our understanding by reporting the first hand experience of a resident whose eyes were tearing so badly she was convinced it couldn’t have been anything but the haze. ST also reported the Indonesian meteorological service as saying that burning had started recently and hundreds of hot spots have appeared in Kalimantan and the Riau Islands. Farmers in Riau have begun clearing undergrowth earlier than usual.

This is one incidence whereby ST doesn’t propagate the official government bullshit but obliquely disagrees instead.

Strict response to ‘scurrilous’ attacks on S’pore judiciary

June 6, 2008

LAW Minister K Shanmugam was reported by Today on the 5 Jun 2008 to have said this:

“To make sure that you protect the integrity of the judiciary, and make sure that the people’s confidence in the judiciary is not affected, you have to be very, very strict about anyone who attacks the judiciary in scurrilous ways or calls into question its independence.” – K Shanmugam

So what Shanmugan is saying is that anyone who questions the independence of our judiciary can actually destroy its integrity and undermine people’s confidence in it. What kind of judiciary is it that doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny? What kind of judiciary is it that collapses in the eyes of the public the moment it is being questioned? If the judiciary has done no wrong, why does it fear probing and questioning?

Minister Shanmugam has also condemned attacks made on the judiciary as “totally unacceptable” and insists that it is the ‘duty’ of all Singaporeans to denounce such attacks.

In other words, what Shanmugam is saying is that we Singaporeans should never question the judiciary and should instead join hands to condemn anyone who does so. Isn’t he asking us to trust the judiciary blindly and to have faith that it will never go wrong?

Blind faith is a dangerous position we should never take. Many Germans in the second world war, blindly put their faith with Hitler and his party, never questioning his ideals and methods as long as he brought bread to the table. Look what blind faith brought to the Germans in the end.

Examples abound of flip flops in our judiciary that suggests that what it deems as right may turn out to be wrong after all. For two or three times, the judiciary decided that TT Durai had done no wrong and the parties accusing him were guilty instead. Finally when TT Durai went against the SPH, the tables were turned and TT Durai was finally found to be guilty.

Then there was the case of Jonathan Lock late last year. The courts initially decided that Mr Lock should pay NTUC something in the order of $120,000. If Mr Lock hadn’t had the courage to challenge the verdict, he would’ve become a silent victim of our ‘never erring’ judiciary.

So I disagree with Shanmugam that we should never question the judiciary. The fact that the judiciary can sometimes ‘err’ means that we should never take for granted that it will always be right. As such, I’m of the opinion that it is the duty of Shanmugam as law minister, to invite citizens to question the judiciary to minimise ‘wrongful’ judgements.