Archive for November, 2011

‘Fight on… even when the person you are trying to help curses you’

November 28, 2011

Dear Ms Denise Phua,

I refer to the 28 Nov 2011 Straits Times report of your speech at the PAP annual convention.

You quoted Theodore Roosevelt saying “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly .. the man who actually tries to do the deed.” Sadly that description does not befit some PAP ministers.

First, they are not in the arena, but in their cushy offices. Second, their face is not marred by dust, sweat or blood but swathed in money, millions of them. Lastly, they strive not to do the deed but to deny any wrong deed. That is their first and their last motto, to deny, deny and deny any wrong deed even when it is already so blatantly obvious to all.

The person whom you help will not curse you. He curses the people in charge who made things worse to begin with, for why would they have needed help if not for those mistakes in the first place?

The fundamenta​ls ‘will not change’

November 24, 2011

Dear Mr Lee Yi Shyan,

I refer to the 19 Oct 2011 Straits Times report of your comments in parliament.

You said other countries struggled with frequent changes in political leadership and policy directions. Germany has had a few changes in political leadership in recent years but continues to be one of the strongest economies in the world. Taiwan has had changes in political leadership without change in prosperity.

You said Greece is an example of the failure of the European welfare model. In that case, Germany is an example of the success of the European welfare model.

You said United States’ deep structural problems is largely due to entitlement spending. Actually, a large part of it is also due to military spending.

You gave a grave reminder of how First World parliament in US did not prevent the country from spending to the point of near insolvency. You should similarly remind us of First World parliaments in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland that have no solvency issues.

Buyers shouldn’t blame Govt for bad property investment​s

November 24, 2011

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 14 Aug 2011 letter by Mr Tan Tee Khoon.

Mr Tan claims that it is the individual’s responsibility to make prudent property purchase decisions and asks if it is the government’s duty to restrain an individual from spending recklessly. Mr Tan is mistaken. For most people, a property is a basic need, not a luxury item they can afford to spend recklessly on. Since most people are price takers, what choice do they have but to take the price set by developers whose mark-up includes a high price for land paid to the government? Is Mr Tan saying in order not to be reckless, everyone should postpone their marriages and delay setting up homes and wait for property prices to come down? When price of rice shoots up, does Mr Tan call for prudence and ask everyone to stop eating rice until prices come down?

Mr Tan says that the government has, over the years, intervened to ensure a stable and sustainable housing market. That is not true. There were only two episodes that required intervention, one just before 1997 and the other one in 2007. In both cases, the government failed to rein in sky rocketing prices.

Mr Tan claims that no amount of intervention can prevent exploitative prices. That is not true. Housing prices were much more stable before the government’s asset appreciation plans came along.

The failure to control prices is a government failure. If price of rice shoots uncontrollably upwards, is Mr Tan going to say it is not a government failure as well? Failure to stock up rice and to ensure adequate supply to stabilise prices is a government failure. Similarly, failure to build sufficient housing or failure to match housing to immigration is a government failure. The government is accountable for all these failures.

Govt pledges better life for all

November 24, 2011

Dear Istana Office,

I refer to the 11 Oct 2011 report on the president’s speech at the opening of the 12th parliament.

Dr Tony Tan urged Singaporeans to think through issues, weigh the options and make compromises and choices. Dr Tan should urge the government to do so instead. It is because the government didn’t think through issues, didn’t weigh the options and didn’t make compromises and choices that resulted in the undesirable outcomes today.

Dr Tan warned against the use of the new media to spread misinformation and amplify intemperate voices. Is new media spreading misinformation or the inconvenient truth instead? Is new media amplifying intemperate voices or merely providing a channel for real voices from the ground to be heard?

Dr Tan urged all sides to take a long term, national perspective and put society’s interests above their own. Is the government putting society’s interests above its own by paying itself million dollar salaries? Is Dr Tan putting society’s interests above his own by accepting a multi-million dollar salary? Does national perspective mean sacrificing the wellbeing of the people? Does long term mean grow-at-all costs?

Getting our politics right doesn’t mean getting the opposition to acquiesce to the PAP government. That will not lead Singapore to progress but will lead Singapore to ruins.

3 PAP lawmakers debate Chen’s Tang analogy

November 23, 2011

Dear MPs,

I refer to the 20 Oct 2011 Straits Times report of your comments in parliament.

Dear Ms Ellen Lee,

You said Mr Chen’s analogy doesn’t hold water because Emperor Tai Zong was an autocratic ruler whereas we are a modern, democratic society where anyone has the right to speak. You didn’t get the analogy’s message right. The message is not about having the right to speak. It is about having the leader listen to what we have to say. Our right to speak doesn’t guarantee that we will be heard. The Emperor Tai Zong analogy is spot on because it is asking our democratic ruler today to listen to what the people has to say, just as Emperor Tai Zong listened to what his faithful counsellor Wei Zheng had to say.

Dear Mr Sam Tan,

You cited Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan who were once active critics of the government as proof that the PAP is a broad church that accepts a variety of views in its ranks. However, Mr Tharman and Dr Balakrishnan no longer are active critics of the government. Therefore, they no longer represent the variety of views found in a broad church.

You said being in the government is not about speaking many empty words but serving the masses. You should tell that to our ministers. We don’t want to hear many empty words. We want them to serve the masses and not serve themselves with high salaries.

Excerpts from the book

November 20, 2011

Dear Professor Vogel,

I refer to the 14 Nov 2011 Straits Times print of excepts from your new book on Deng Xiaoping.

You said Lee Kuan Yew came of age fighting colonialism and was leader of our country’s revolutionary struggle. That statement is not accurate. Anti-colonial and nationalistic sentiments emerged amongst the local populace soon after the end of the Japanese Occupation and led to Singapore’s first elections in 1948. So it was the community who began the fight against colonialism. They weren’t led by Lee Kuan Yew who was in England then studying law.

The next election in 1951 saw Lee becoming an election agent for John Laycock who contested under the pro-British Progressive Party. Since Lee stood with the pro-British camp then, he again did not fight colonialism.

The British commissioned nine-man committee that proposed limited internal self-government for Singapore in 1953 did not include Lee. So again, Lee didn’t help secure this milestone from the British.

While Lee was one of the thirteen who went to London to negotiate internal self-government in 1956, he wasn’t the leader, David Marshall was. In any case, they failed.

It was Lim Yew Hock, not Lee, who convinced the British in 1957 to grant us full internal self-government.

Lee then gave up some of that full internal self-government when he merged us with Malaya in 1963. Before that, he locked up his former comrades turned political opponents with British help. Once again, he didn’t fight colonialism but used it to further his political career instead.

Finally, Singapore achieved independence in 1965 only because we were expelled from Malaysia, not because Lee fought and won against colonialism.

Looking at the history of events, Lee hardly did anything to fight colonialism, let alone become the leader of our country’s revolutionary struggle.

Lee Kuan Yew and Deng Xiaoping ‘had special bond’

November 14, 2011

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 14 Nov 2011 report on Prof Ezra Vogel’s new book on Deng Xiaoping.

You referred to Lee Kuan Yew as the one who founded a nation of two million. That description is inappropriate. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t found the nation of Singapore, the nationhood of Singapore was thrust upon us when we were kicked out of Malaysia. Don’t belittle the act of founding by equating it to being kicked out of Malaysia. It might be more appropriate to say that Lee Kuan Yew inherited a nation of two million.

You referred to Lee Kuan Yew as turning Singapore into an economic powerhouse. That description again is inappropriate. We were already one of the busiest ports in the world and were a Crown Colony long before Lee Kuan Yew was born. While it is true that our per capita GDP grew manifold after Lee took power, the architect of that progress and implementer of the architect’s plans were Dr Albert Winsemius and Dr Goh Keng Swee respectively.

You referred to Lee Kuan Yew as having fought the communists. Not a single bullet was fired in Lee’s fight with the so-called ‘communists’. Where on earth at that time did communists fight without guns and bullets? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Lee did not fight ‘communists’. He merely called them such so that he can lock them up for such a record number of years even Nelson Mandela cannot beat.

You said Lee Kuan Yew came of age fighting colonialism. Actually, the hard work was done by his Chinese speaking comrades, not Lee. After the work was done, Lee simply used colonialism to lock up his former comrades and replaced the old colonialism with his brand of new colonialism. It was just animal farm played out in real life.

S’pore’s success: An observer’s take

November 13, 2011

Dear Mr David Mason,

I refer to your article published by the Straits Times on 27 Oct 2011.

The first transistor radio you bought in 1963 at Raffles Place was courtesy of our founding in 1819 as a free port and British free market principles which helped Singapore blossom into a bustling emporium for goods to be bought and sold.

Singapore’s transformation from a swampy island began in 1819 when the British set about sculpting a beautiful port city out of this tiny island. The majestic buildings we inherited from them have become precious monuments in our country. We continue to be beset by mosquitoes with outbreaks of dengue fever cases every now and then.

The prosperity of the Western democratic nations shows that democracy is no impediment to stability and that there is no truth to the notion that embracing democracy means throwing away progress our forefathers fought so hard to achieve.

Having aircon buses might seem a God send for a Westerner like yourself who is not used to our hot weather and who leaves wet marks under your shoes. But for Singaporeans born and bred, the heat is no issue. When aircon buses were first introduced, some commuters actually requested for more non-aircon buses so that they don’t have to wait every other bus to get on a non-aircon one which charged cheaper fares.

We have indeed become a place of enjoyment for the well-heeled but not for the masses who struggle to cope with a place rapidly becoming expensive.

HDB shouldn’t be compared to public housing elsewhere since it is sold at prices comparable to private housing prices elsewhere. If HDB suddenly decided to offer the kind of cheap public housing found in other countries it may be surprised that the population might want to cash out on their current expensive flats and move into those cheap flats.

If Jurong is unbelievable, Taiwan’s Hsinchu is even more unbelievable as are countless other unbelievable industrial parks sprouting all over East Asia. While our CBD is close to the best in the world, we still fall behind New York, London and Hong Kong.

The supposed need for unchecked immigration is not founded on macro-economic grounds, a point even our distinguished ex-civil servant Mr Ngiam Tong Dow acknowledged in his 10 Nov 2011 Business Times article “Climbing the Global Economic Ladder”.

You applaud our massive immigration because you are not here to feel our daily commuter crush; you don’t have to pay sky high property prices due to excessive immigration.

While Singapore was won by the mid-1980s, our fight really began in 1819. In his speeches, Goh Keng Swee spoke of crisis after crisis Singapore had to overcome soon after our founding in 1819, long before PAP won in 1959.

It is not just the younger generation that lack understanding, understanding is generally lacking across generations. Generation after generation have been fooled into believing that Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP gave us prosperity. If that were true, we must be the only prosperous nation to have made it after the Second World War, for there is only one Lee Kuan Yew and one PAP in this world. But we are not the only nation to have prospered after the war. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea prospered too without Lee Kuan Yew or PAP. In fact, hundreds of developing nations emerged after the Second World War but only four prospered. All four came from East Asia. Is that mere coincidence? The chance of that happening is so low it can’t be coincidence. Our success has everything to do with East Asian exceptionalism and nothing to do with Lee Kuan Yew or the PAP.

Asians respect elders. But our elder has referred to us as animals whose spurs are not stuck deep enough into our hide. He claimed we would become maids and foreign workers if not for his good government. He recently threatened us with five years of repent if we voted in the opposition. You are mistaken, Mr Mason. It is not us who have no respect for our elders; our elder has no respect for us.

The awful sense of birth right and complacency has gone into the heads of the PAP, allowing them to bulldoze through one poorly considered policy after another.

Since success is rooted in East Asian exceptionalism, not due to any one elder, our nation is not at risk come what may to our elder.

How about a Deng Xiaoping award next?

November 12, 2011

Dear Mr Tom Plate,

I refer to your article which was carried by the Straits Times on 10 Nov 2011.

Exceptional leaders are sometimes exceptional only because the works of others have gone to their credit. Lee Kuan Yew is no exception. Without Dr Albert Winsemius, without Goh Keng Swee, without Singaporeans, Lee Kuan Yew would have amounted to nothing. It wouldn’t be accurate to refer to Lee Kuan Yew organising and running Singapore as Goh Keng Swee organising and running Singapore with Dr Winsemius as advisor.

It wasn’t just under Lee but even before Lee, Singapore never cared much for ideology. We were founded as a place for trade and commerce and have continued to evolve as such.

It is strange that Lee Kuan Yew would refer to Chinese history as going back 5,000 years instead of going back to 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party won power. Strange because whenever he refers to Singapore history, he invariably goes back to 1959, the year he won power instead of 1819, the year of our founding.

To refer to his track record of correct assessments is even stranger. He couldn’t even see the Global Financial Crisis unfolding right before his eyes and GIC which he headed lost billions overnight. His wrong assessment in the early years led to over-control of population growth leading to population under-growth today. The economic policy he adopted when he first took power was import substitution for the Malaysian market. Import substitution was the policy that eventually failed many third world nations. Thankfully for Singapore, we were kicked out of Malaysia and didn’t have to suffer the consequences of Mr Lee’s wrong assessment.

He labelled his former comrades communists and made himself look anti-communist in order to lock them up and destroy them. He even referred to a group of Christians as Marxists and had them locked up too. You see, he will call his opponents anything just to have his way with them. But if you look at the substance of his accusations, there is none to be found. Have you ever seen communists anywhere in the world fighting without guns and bullets? Yet, these were the unarmed people labelled by Lee Kuan Yew as communists and locked up for such a record number of years even Nelson Mandela cannot beat.

If we have to name a Singapore counterpart to Deng Xiao Ping, it would have to be Goh Keng Swee, advised by Dr Winsemius. The award most befitting Lee Kuan Yew would be a Mao Tse Tung award or a Joseph Stalin award. For Lee is a through and through autocrat whose only gifts were political guile and ruthlessness, the two hallmarks of great autocrats like Mao and Stalin.

All MPs should solve problems together: PM

November 6, 2011

Dear PM Lee,

I refer to the 31 Oct 2011 Straits Times report of your comments in Perth.

You said it takes courage to say something which is true but difficult for the population to hear. In that case, the government has been utterly lacking in courage. It lacked the courage to disclose actual job numbers created for Singaporeans, preferring to hide behind aggregated figures for Singapore residents. It lacked the courage to tell Singaporeans the flip side of asset enhancement, which is the enhancement of debts.

You said it is the government’s responsibility to speak the truth to Singaporeans. But all we have heard so far are mostly half-truths and sometimes even falsehoods from the government. You reminded the opposition of its responsibility to acknowledge the truth. That is precisely what the opposition has been doing, acknowledging the truth behind the government’s half-truths.

You said leaders from the Caribbean, Africa and Pacific countries are wowed by Singapore’s success, have read MM’s books and want some tips on how we did it. But there is no secret to how we did it; they are all well documented in books. Our success stems not from prescribed formulas that you can pick up from books. Our success stems from our people, it is our people that makes this place works, with or without the PAP government.