Archive for January, 2016

Don’t be taken in by Heng Swee Kiat’s bullshit

January 31, 2016

I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Let’s create value and share it: Heng Swee Keat”.

Mr Heng said:

“Since its founding, Singapore has faced challenges which spur innovation, from a lack of water to an ageing population”.

It is imperative that Singaporeans be reminded of the simple fact that Singapore’s founding was in 1819, not 1965. It was our late Dr Goh Keng Swee who said that Singapore faced challenges as early as 1823, just four years after our founding by Sir Stamford Raffles:

… As early as 1823, four years after Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles, the first discriminatory measures against Singapore’s trade were introduced … the Dutch imposed a special levy on piece goods imported into Java from Singapore …Trade discrimination and flag discrimination were only two of the perils that Singapore merchants had to contend with. Another took the form of the establishment of rival trading centres. In 1847, Makassar was converted into a free port by the Dutch to take away the flourishing Bugis trade from Singapore. In the next five years five more free ports were established at other places in the Netherlands East Indies. None of these measures checked the growth of Singapore …

[Singapore Economics History Collection – The Practice of Economic Growth, Goh Keng Swee, page 5]

I refer to the 29 Jan 2016 Today report “Bringing ideas to reality will keep Singapore ahead: Heng” (http://tablet.todayonline.com/singapore/succeed-we-must-remain-forefront-heng) for other statements made by Mr Heng but not reported by Straits Times.

Today reported Mr Heng saying:

… the Republic created its own technology to overcome the scarcity of water.

But the truth is altogether different as illuminated by wise members of the online community:

Water filtration, reverse-osmosis etc are Western inventions. We merely buy these filtration technologies & equipment for our needs.

Frank Lee

Researchers from both University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Florida successfully produced fresh water from seawater in the mid-1950s, but the flux was too low to be commercially viable until the discovery at University of California at Los Angeles by Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, of techniques for making asymmetric membranes characterized by an effectively thin “skin” layer supported atop a highly porous and much thicker substrate region of the membrane. John Cadotte, of FilmTec Corporation, discovered that membranes with particularly high flux and low salt passage could be made by interfacial polymerization of m-phenylene diamine and trimesoyl chloride. Cadotte’s patent on this process was the subject of litigation and has since expired. Almost all commercial reverse osmosis membrane is now made by this method. By the end of 2001, about 15,200 desalination plants were in operation or in the planning stages, worldwide.

In 1977 Cape Coral, Florida became the first municipality in the United States to use the RO process on a large scale with an initial operating capacity of 3 million gallons per day. By 1985, due to the rapid growth in population of Cape Coral, the city had the largest low pressure reverse osmosis plant in the world, capable of producing 15 million gallons / day (MGD).

Statestimesreview, Kok Wan See

Mr Heng also said:

But the fact is that Singapore’s social policy innovations in housing, healthcare and the Central Provident Fund, among others, are studied around the world.

Again, the truth is something else altogether different:

The predecessor of HDB is SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust), set up in 1927 by the British colonial government in Singapore in response to the massive housing needs of the population. If you go to Tiong Bahru today, in the neighbourhood of Seng Poh Lane, you can still see a good number of these colonial flats in excellent condition standing earmarked for heritage preservation. They can cost over a million in the open retail market today and much sought after. So HDB is not a PAP invention as claimed by the minister.

CPF was also created by the British government in the colonial days in Singapore, the British Colony of Hong Kong and the Peninsula of Malaya as a retirement plan for workers. It’s a British invention. The PAP only “bastardized” it for a cheap source of fund to build the nation and to profit from the citizens in astronomical housing prices, super expensive healthcare and education to absolve the government from its social responsibilities.

Frank Lee

Also, Singapore’s premier healthcare institutions predate PAP by a century. Singapore General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Kandang Kerbau Hospital were established in 1821, 1844, 1858 respectively, more than a century before PAP came to power in 1959. How can PAP claim the credit of Singapore healthcare from pioneers like Tan Tock Seng who certainly was never a PAP man (because he died before PAP was born)?

Singaporeans shouldn’t miss out the ample evidence of the pioneering contributions of colonial era SIT in building Singapore’s first housing estates, first public flats including our first high rise flats and how it became the cornerstone upon which the later success of HDB rested upon:

The housing of 150,000 Singaporeans by the SIT had no parallel elsewhere in Asia. Straits Times, 2 Feb 1960

[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop and John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo, page 57]

… He told the Straits Times: “I have never seen such wonderful blocks of flats … The S.I.T. flats, which he toured yesterday, “staggered him.” … “People in Liverpool where we consider ourselves to be in the forefront of town planning and slum clearance, would fight to get an S.I.T flat in one of the new blocks I saw to-day.

[The Straits Times, 10 June 1952, Page 5, He is all praise for SIT homes]

The S.I.T should be congratulated for developing Queenstown into a beautiful estate which was once covered with shrubs and graveyards. Queenstown should now be considered a model housing estate for Singapore. It has the highest building, schools, markets, good roads and plenty of playing grounds for children and very good flats.

[The Straits Times, 8 September 1956, Page 12, A SLUM IN THE MAKING]

One of its enduring achievements was the building of a new town at Tiong Bahru, intended to relieve the congestion in Chinatown. It housed 6,600 people and was to have been the first of a series of satellite towns.

[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 18]

The SIT record shows that by the end of 1959, it had built 22,115 housing units, 904 shops, and twelve markets. Another solid achievement to its credit was the completion of the Master Plan. It is often commented that the performance of the SIT was unremarkable compared with that of its successor, the HDB. But the different conditions under which the two bodies worked should be taken into account.

[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 19]

It is worth nothing that the first ten-storey tower blocks in London had appeared only three years before, in 1948.

[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop & John Phillips & Wei-Wei Ye, page 56]

The Singapore Improvement Trust … did provide the basis of a public housing bureaucracy with a valuable accumulation of experience, which could later be utilized by the Housing and Development Board. An illustration of this transition is the development of the first satellite town, Queenstown, which was originally planned by the Trust but was left to its successor to accomplish.

[The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore, Michael Hill and Kwen Fee Lian, page 114]

Although the development of Queenstown was initiated by the SIT in 1952, the estate was subsequently completed by SIT’s successor, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), in the early 1970s. A major part of the town was developed during the first Five-Year Building Programme (1960–1965). Between the years 1952 and 1968, a total of 19,372 housing units were built in the area.

[HistorySG, an online resource guide – Development of Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town]

Don’t just talk only, Minister Wong

January 30, 2016

I refer to the 31 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Make S’pore a city for people, not cars: Minister”.

Minister Lawrence Wong reportedly said that Singapore needs a “cultural shift” towards a “car-lite” future.

Minister Wong, don’t just talk only, kindly lead by example by giving up your car please.

Architect Cai Bingyu was quoted saying “We have a convenient public transport system”. But a lot of areas in Singapore are still not served by MRT and would require lots of waiting time and bus changes to reach. Even places served by MRT are plagued by persistent service unreliability and the MRT ride is often quite unpleasant being packed to the hilt.

WP’s position on NCMP is sound

January 30, 2016

I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Party’s transfer of vacant seat a political manouevre: PAP MPs”.

Spirit of NCMP scheme

While the spirit of the NCMP scheme is to offer a seat in parliament to the best performing opposition candidate who lost, performance is relative. All else being equal, opposition performance should be better against a weaker PAP candidate like Charles Chong as compared to against stronger PAP candidates like Minister Lim Swee Say and Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan.

Lee Li Lian’s higher percentage votes doesn’t automatically imply that she performed better than Daniel Goh. Because if these two candidates had swapped places during election 2015 with Daniel Goh pitted against the weaker Charles Chong and Lee Li Lian joining the fray against Minister Lim and Minister of State Lee, Daniel’s percentage vote might have been higher than what Lee Li Lian garnered while WP’s East Coast team might have fared worse than it did.

Hence, WP’s support for Daniel Goh to take up the NCMP position doesn’t necessarily go against the spirit of the NCMP scheme. WP is merely supporting the candidate it thinks had performed better.

No contradiction in WP position

There is no contradiction in WP taking up NCMP positions while opposing the NCMP scheme in principle.

What the opposition truly deserves is a level playing field in the political arena so that they can win seats in parliament unencumbered by an Everest of unfair PAP practices. In lieue of that, PAP throws the rag bone of the NCMP scheme. There is no contradiction in protesting one’s exclusion from feasting from the same table of exquisite political cuisine while taking up the rag bones of the NCMP thrown on the floor to sustain oneself to fight another day.

No revolving door

There has been no revolving door as far as WP is concerned because right from the start, WP’s chosen candidate for the NCMP post has always been Daniel Goh. That has never changed.

Conversely, the reshuffle of nearly all minister positions after every election is quite clearly multiple revolving doors. If multiple ministers go through revolving doors every 5 years, it gives the impression that these ministerial positions are very easy roles that can be filled by practically any Tom, Dick or Harry with no prior experience at the snap of the finger. Is it any wonder our housing policies flip flop like prata and our transport system is now choking with Khaw’s cholesterol?

Show case talent

PAP uses the GRC to parachute candidates it deems to be of ministerial calibre into parliament and after several terms, these seasoned ministers, having show cased their talent to the nation, then becomes strong enough to helm GRCs themselves. Isn’t the GRC, PAP’s tool to show case talent? PAP can show case talent, opposition cannot?

Mixed signals

Low Thia Khiang’s declaration that he would not take up an NCMP position, which means he would leave parliament if he lost, doesn’t conflict with his support for other WP candidates taking up the NCMP position.

It’s like George Yeo, who having lost in 2011, chose to quit politics. But George Yeo doesn’t go around and say Sitoh Yih Pin should not continue to be in politics after Mr Sitoh lost in his first two tries.

Duck weeds

Charles Chong shouldn’t begrudge what Minister Balakrishnan terms as “calling a spade a spade”. A duck weed is a duck weed. It is not a water lily and has no anchor to any constituency.

Not unfair to Punggol East voters

There is nothing unfair here as Punggol East residents didn’t lose anything because the NCMP position is by definition not tied to any constituency, certainly not Punggol East. Even if Li Lian took up the NCMP position, she will neither be obligated nor empowered to represent Punggol East because Punggol East didn’t give her the mandate to do so.

Charles Chong was wrong to say that sufficient Punggol East voters had given Lee Li Lian the mandate. It is precisely because insufficient Punggol East voters had given Li Lian the mandate, that Li Lian lost.

Charles Chong is mistaken, regardless of who takes up the NCMP position, the NCMP position is still a backdoor to enter parliament. The fact that Daniel Goh entered instead of Li Lian doesn’t make the backdoor any more backdoor.

It is Li Lian’s right to give up her NCMP position

Mr Chan said “the right and the privilege was given to (Ms Lee) by Punggol East residents. It was not for her to give it to someone else.”

Mr Chan is mistaken, if Punggol East residents had wanted to give Li Lian the right and the privilege, they would have voted her in. The fact that they didn’t means that as a whole, Punggol East residents chose not to give Li Lian that right and privilege.

Don’t bullshit need for strong military

January 30, 2016

I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times letter “Don’t underestimate need for strong military”.

Mr Adrian Vianueva compared Singapore’s unpreparedness during the Japanese invasion in World War II with the success by the British and Commonwealth in protecting Singapore during Konfrontasi and concluded that it was a strong military that made the difference.

Mr Vianueva is not comparing apple to apple. If the Japanese were to invade Singapore today, does Mr Vianueva think Singapore can successfully defend itself this time?

Global Fire Power 2016 ranks Japan 9th in global military power with a score of 0.3841. Singapore is ranked 26th with a score of 0.8587. Detailed comparison of firepower between the two countries can be found here http://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-comparison-detail.asp?form=form&country1=japan&country2=Singapore&Submit=COMPARE

Thus, even today, Singapore continues to be much weaker than Japan militarily. Mr Vianueva’s point about Singapore’s defeat by the Japanese during WWII being the consequence of our military weakness must surely continue to apply today.

It is hypocritical to use our defeat by Japan during WWII to justify our high military spending today knowing that our high military spending today still doesn’t allow us to defend ourselves against Japan.

Straits Tines, Don’t underestimate need for strong military, 30 Jan 2016, Adrian Vianueva

It is unfortunate that those who have very little knowledge of military history and defence matters have made general comments on Singapore’s defence policy (“Open debate needed on defence policy” by Dr Paul Tambyah of the Singapore Democratic Party; yesterday).

Singapore veterans who have been through World War II and Konfrontasi would remember their experiences during those difficult periods.

The former period, in 1942, showed how unprepared the armed forces were to face theonslaught of the Japanese troops.

However, the latter period proved that, with a strong military that included modern naval, air force and army assets, the British and Commonwealth forces could successfully defend Malaysia and Singapore, and deter then Indonesian President Sukarno from carrying out his expansionist plans.

A strong military is a strong deterrent, which is important for Singapore’s defence.

We should never be so naive as to think that all will be well in the region in future years.

Jealousies and aggressive policies could develop.

But such adversaries would be deterred by our strong and modern military that can not only protect, but also reach out to targets in potential enemy territories.

There are some who think that the years spent in national service should be further reduced, but this is unhealthy thinking.

As our population dwindles in numbers, we also need to train our military with the most advanced military technology to ensure an active and robust deterrent force.

This priority includes the possible purchase of the F-35 jets or whatever advanced aircraft is finally chosen for the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

We have our defence experts and scientists to make the necessary assessments wisely for future needs.

It is important not to believe in hearsay.

It is naive to think that the situation could not change in neighbouring countries, and that we will always have peace in the region.

The number of terrorism hot spots and the threat from militant groups in neighbouring countries have increased.

We can ensure the well-being of our citizens as well as foreign investors only when their interests are secure.

This guarantee can be ensured if we continue to have a strong defence policy encompassing a strong, high-tech military deterrent force.

Political detention without trial is bad

January 13, 2016

I refer to the 12 Jan 2016 TR Emeritus article “PRC’s detention without trial versus ours” (http://www.tremeritus.com/2016/01/12/prc%E2%80%99s-detention-without-trial-versus-ours/).

Cybernut Investor compared Singapore’s detention without trial to that of PRC’s and concluded that ours is better.

That is like comparing Lee Kuan Yew with Hitler and concluding that Lee Kuan Yew is better. In the first place, one has to be bad enough to warrant a comparison with Hitler. In other words, Cybernut Investor unwittingly admitted that Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew dictatorship was bad enough to warrant a comparison with communist PRC. You don’t find Cybernut Investor making such comparisons of Denmark and Switzerland because it is understood that these countries don’t belong to the same category as Singapore / PRC.

It’s bad enough to have political detention without trial which puts us in the same league as some of the worst regimes on this planet. D7 may be better than F9, but it is a fail grade nonetheless.

Finally, saying that open detention is better than secret detention is akin to saying it is better to be robbed than to be subjected to thievery.

Doctors should not use false analogies

January 8, 2016

I refer to the 9 Jan 2015 Straits Times letter “clearing the air on nude medical photos by Dr Karen Sng, president of Singapore Society of Cosmetic (Aesthetic) surgeons and Dr Matthew Yeo (chairman of Chapter of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery.

Dr Sng and Dr Yeo likened taking off the undergarment while photographing a surgical area next to private parts with taking off the spectacles when photographing the facial area.

Dr Sng and Dr Yeo should not fool Singaporeans with false analogies. While the spectacles cover the face partially, the undergarment does not cover the surgical area next to the private part.

A better analogy is this: Photographing the face with a collared shirt on is okay because the collar, while adjacent to the face, does not cover the face.

Not SG51 but SG197

January 1, 2016

The 1 Jan 2016 11 pm Chinese news reported some organisations adopting the new SG51 insignia for 2016.

When we celebrate SG50 or SG51, we are celebrating the 50 or 51 years since 1965. That means we are not celebrating the years before 1965.

We are not celebrating 1960, the year Tan Howe Liang won us our first Olympic silver medal. We are not celebrating our war heroes Lim Bo Seng and Lt Adnan who died during World War II some 20 years before 1965. We are not celebrating the good deeds of Tan Kim Seng, Tan Tock Seng, Tan Kah Kee and many others who died before 1965 and so added nothing to SG50 or SG51.

There are many legacies that are integral to Singapore today that happened before the last 50 or 51 years. We cannot be so ungrateful as to disown these legacies by restricting our celebrations to 50 or 51 years only.

We cannot contradict ourselves by celebrating our first and only UNESCO world heritage site – our Botanical Gardens as part of SG50 celebrations while ignoring the fact that our Botanical Gardens is 156 years old already.

PM Lee recently celebrated the gazetting of the Fullerton Hotel as our national monument. But the Fullerton Hotel building is 88 years old. Our first high rise flats were built before 1965. Our first reclamations were done during colonial times. Serangoon Road and Bukit Timah Road were carved out from primordial jungles by pioneers who came to work as coolies. Their work was even tougher than those of SG50 pioneers.

When we celebrate SG50 or SG51, we are only celebrating 50 or 51 years of independence. Everything else has evolved since the day Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819.

2016 is not SG51 but SG197 and in three years time, we should be celebrating SG200.