Posts Tagged ‘PAP’

Overheard at the Istana dinner party

In News Reports on February 8, 2014 at 3:36 am

It’s tomorrow….and here’s a look at what they might be talking about among themselves

Table of ex-MPs

“Eh, Andy, you here also ah? How come? You step down in 2006 still got connection with PA ah?”

“Of course lah. PA invited Chiam, must invite me as well. Not bad ah? One-term MP can still come to dinner.”

“Poor thing lah that Cheng Bock. So popular in Ayer Rajah. Almost become President. But still cannot come to dinner. He’s 73 right? Cannot be considered pioneer generation ah?”

”Eh, talking about president, you think George Yeo is here? He qualifies right? 2011 then kena voted out.Was he going to run for President on our side or some other side?”

”Dunno. Bosses never say. But if we see him tonight, must ask him. But he might be too paiseh to say lah. At the end, president became Tony Tan.”

Table of military-cum-grassroot leaders

“This Tan Chuan Jin and Chan Chun Sing should have been fiercer. These generals should have whacked the Indonesians harder! Naming warships! By the way, we have similar warships or not? Bigger? Better? Faster?  

“Must ask DPM Teo and Lui Tuck Yew, former navy people. I’m waiting for Tuck Yew to talk back to the Indonesians. But he too busy with trains to talk about boats.

“Actually, our generals not even born yet during MacDonald House bombing. Who else still around at that time? Maybe should drag out Winston Choo to say something.’’

“Aiyah, we relying on our minister-generals’ guanxi with the current Indon armed forces lah. The Indon leaders also probably not even born yet.’’      

Table of conservative grassroots leaders

“What is this HPB thinking about? They keep saying family is basic unit of society but they go on and on about gay stuff. Now my son also saying he might be gay! I told him whether gay or not, make sure you do National Service and be a man!

“I think someone in HPB screwed up lah. You wait…sure backtrack.’’

“Anyway, my MP Lim Biow Chuan already filed question in Parliament. I told him he better do it because I know a lot of people not happy but don’t want to say anything.

“Wah! You told him ah…Very brave. You not scared people call you what..what…homophonic or a biggod or something?’’

Table of Aljunied grassroots leaders

“Eh, Victor, you good lah. Write letter to ST Forum page and all. Really need to whack those Workers’ Party people. How can? No licence also can hold fair. And then our own fair they come and kachou…”

”No lah. Simple thing. They didn’t answer Minister Khaw last time about contracts for their friends, so I just repeat lah. Must shut up that Pritam and Sylvia.”

“I think you better lie low lah. You also party branch chairman, not just CCC chairman. Already people saying PA cannot be PAP. You will cause us problems only…”

“Aiyah. Tell the truth lah. What to be scared of? Same complaint for so many years already. Still the same leh. I just carry on. See what those Workers Party people can do. They not here right?”

“Please lah. You think Lim Swee Say will invite them here?”     

Table of long-serving grassroots leaders

When PM going to speak leh. We all waiting for this pioneer generation package. Show me money! Huat ah!

What you think going to be inside? Sure something for health right? He said not going to be one-time right? Until the day I die right? My cholesterol very high already and they still serving this kind of rich food. Aiyoh.

You scared to die, just eat the loh hei lah. Free dinner.

The Party before the riot

In News Reports on December 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

If not for Sunday’s riot in Little India, the MSM would have splashed an event earlier in the day, the People’s Action Party congress, all over Monday’s print and broadcast news. Actually, Zaobao kept the Prime Minister and PAP secretary-general’s speech as Page 1 lead. But it looked like ST made a quick decision to replace the story with what happened in Little India. PM Lee’s speech was moved to Page 2. I’m reading tea leaves here…

The decision isn’t wrong. The first riot in 40 years beats a party congress any time news-wise. Truth to tell, I was more obsessed with the whys and hows of the riot than I was in what the PAP leadership said although it was to be a re-making of sorts for the ruling party.

Belatedly, therefore, I went over the speeches at the party website and took a look at the resolutions approved.

I have to say I was a little disappointed. The PM’s speech was not unlike what he said at the National Day rally, except that it was customised for his audience of party members with references to the work done by stalwarts. The most significant thing was that a group will be set up to look at ageing issues, known as the PAP seniors group. This is not a gathering of old folks, the PM made clear, but of people, including old folks, who want to take a close look at the issues which affect our greying population.

That’s a good move. Politics-wise, it would give older party members a sense that they have not reached their expiry date of usefulness to the party. Nation-wise, a group of ordinary people, including older people,  looking at the multi-faceted issue of ageing might give all a better feel of problems than the numerous high-level committees which have discussed the matter in the past. Seriously, so much attention is given to the youth and young people issues that we forget that the bulk of the population will be the older folk. I am guilty of it too.

I don’t know how often I’ve told my undergraduate students that Singapore is “yours now’’. If problems arise, you are the people who will have to face them and solve them. Me? Hopefully nicely retired and lazing by the pool. This is why I push them to get interested in the Medishield Life discussions because hey, thanks, for paying my premiums when I get old(er). This is why I asked them to write about the URA Masterplan in the now-comatose Breakfast Network  because it will be realised in their lifetime. Me? Hopefully still ambulant in elderly-friendly spaces. I tell them about COE and property prices and say, they might be difficult for you to own. But then again, my generation lamented that it was more difficult for us as well when we compared ourselves to our parents’ generation. (The big houses were all taken…)   

My reasoning was faulty. The grey and the greying should take the bull by the horns and settle their own future. I think there is this idea that when you reach a certain age, your time has passed and the younger generation should step up to the plate, including thinking for you. This sort of thinking only adds to the perception that being old is to be a burden, whether on the family or the nation. We “consume’’ resources while the young people are to be “invested’’ in.

Older people are worth investing in too.


Okay, I wasn’t too enamoured by what Minister Chan Chun Sing said about “communications’’ and exhorting the party members to do battle on all fronts. Too Churchillian, methinks, and where’s the war? It might be all right if this was a closed-door event; leaders will do what it takes to rally members. But an outsider looking in would be wondering what he meant by : “We must continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up.’’

“ If we do not stand up for what we believe, others will occupy that space and cast us into irrelevance. We must not concede the space – physical or cyber. We will have to learn from the 1960 generation of PAP pioneers – to fight to get our message across at every corner – every street corner, cyberspace corner be it in the mass media, and social media. We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.’’

Fighting words.

So is it a common space to be defended or a space for the party to occupy?  Who are the “others’’? Other political parties or ordinary voices which do not sing the PAP song? Is this intended to herald in the knuckle-duster era?

I suppose we should simply read it as a call for party members to stand up and say clearly that the PAP is delivering the right stuff in the right way for Singapore, for Singaporeans and with Singaporeans. Typical political party language.   

Mr Chan needs a better speech-writer.


Doubt on Day 5

In News Reports, Politics on February 11, 2013 at 6:34 am

Do you realise the Prime Minister likes talking in threes? I don’t mean three languages like he did in Parliament.

- He set three groups apart for special consideration (old, young and poor),
- He set out three issues that arise from the population conundrum (baby numbers, identity building and economic consideration)
- He gave three ways to make Singaporeans feel special (they are in the majority, they are better treated than others, they will be given the chance to upgrade and get good jobs)
- He pointed out three issues for further discussion (how to get Singaporeans to marry and have babies, how to restructure the economy while keeping it vibrant, how to keep Singapore’s identity strong while keeping the country open)

Well, that looks clear enough although I wish he was reported in threes, which would have made reading the whole of words in the media more simple. So did he or did he not “cast aside’’ the 6.9m population projection as BT put it? None of the other media said it that way, except BT. Rather, they focused on the 2020 review that is to come. Well, I think it’s good to kill this divisive figure, whether it’s a target, a projection, a planning parameter or whatever. I wish the PM would be more precise about this – so that we could put the figure to rest.

Threading through the speech was an unsaid acknowledgment that the G had miscalculated – again. This time, over the way it sold the White Paper. Much ink has been spilled on the way the G looks only at numbers and hasn’t felt the pulse of the people well enough to realise that the White Paper would rouse such resentment. It is, in fact, the first time I can ever recall that the G making such a mis-step, a terrible mis-step, since it had already admitted that it did not realise how much resentment the people would feel over the recent influx of foreigners straining the infrastructure. It was then actually a mis-step on top of a mis-step.

So did the PM manage to paper over or patch up the differences over the White Paper? Did he manage to persuade the people to get over the emotional hump posed by the 6.9m figure as ST commentator Chua Mui Hoong put it? Did he manage to at least repair the bridge between the government and the governed, and make a start at restoring public confidence in the G’s ability to solve problems, as ex-ST editor Han Fook Kwang put it in The Sunday Times?

I wish I was in Parliament to listen to the proceedings as it seemed that even the PAP MPs seem to have caught on to the Us-versus-the G rhetoric so much so that MP Denise Phua has to call on all to stop the G-bashing already. I liked what she said, that the MPs will work harder but that the only promise that can’t be made was to “turn our cheek every time we are being slapped’’.

In fact, the G has been subjected to quite a bit of “slapping’’ and it has been turning the other cheek. It’s very un-PAP like. The apologies, the clarifications by ministers no less…but I don’t think they assuaged the population. In fact, it only whets the appetite for more. I feel sorry for the G and actually wonder if the PAP would be able to persuade more people to join its fold, so unpopular it has become. I have to say this: the PAP G is looking soft, and I don’t like it. And those who have always liked a tough G – and that could be a big group – might be wondering at our wavering politicians.

Or maybe I have got it all wrong. There are still plenty of people who are firmly behind the PAP. Maybe, in their heart of hearts, even those who are pro-opposition will admit that there isn’t any other group with the ability to take its place in Government. Even the Workers’ Party doesn’t think it can do the job. At least not yet.

But what’s the bet that even if the PAP delivers on its promises to strengthen and expand the infrastructure in the next few years, that the people’s anger will abate? That the trust that has been forged between the older generation and the older leaders would be replicated among the younger set?

Politics is an emotional thing and come 2016, what will happen? Will a political tsunami accompany the silver one?

I dread to think.

Duelling on Day 4

In News Reports, Politics on February 8, 2013 at 1:33 am

There is some merit in NOT carpet bombing the news. I read ST’s coverage of Day 4 and got thoroughly confused about what’s happening. Stuff kept getting repeated. Quotes got repeated too. Seems no one person is looking over the whole coverage.
And those boring, boring headlines. Yesterday’s headline was about a “major’’ shift in planning infrastructure. Today’s ST headline was yet another “major’’ shift in the economy. I don’t think anything quite beats the headline for the first day of debate : that the White Paper was for “the benefit of Singaporeans’’.

Here’s where the smaller papers do much better – pick the relevant points and home in on them. But I suppose ST has to labour under the burden of being the newspaper of record (of sorts).

BT homed in on the G’s objections to a total foreign labour freeze advocated by the Worker’s Party while Today gave an excellent account of the PAP-versus-WP sword play. I could follow it, because each cut and thrust was well juxtaposed, with relevant backgrounding. I thought its insertion of PAP MP Lim Wee Kiak’s apology to WP’s Low Thia Kiang right at the top of the article was a stroke of genius: It reflected how tense and impassioned the debate had become for Dr Lim to tell Mr Low to “turn up his hearing aid’’. Ooh, what a cut! For which Dr Lim was good enough to apologise for.

Sorry. The rant above was just me using my ex-journalist lens while reading the newspapers.

Back to Day 4.

You know, I almost expected an apology from Mr Wong Kan Seng. This was the minister who presided over the whole population growth and who turned on the tap big-big. He was a pretty tough nut then, putting down criticisms of immigration. I guess he was only doing what he had to. I wish he had said more about those years of exploding numbers, never mind that PM Lee had already said that the G lacked foresight then.

I also wish (well, almost) the WP had never put out its paper. Then we might get down to tackling some points in the White Paper instead of witnessing point scoring, jibes and snide remarks. Then again, if the WP didn’t, we wouldn’t be having a debate on whether the tap should be shut tight, or opened slightly. Clearly, the WP’s no increase in foreign workers position is being attacked, both in and out of the House. I can’t agree with the WP either. No increase at all? Rather too drastic. I know it’s the WORKERS party, but it can’t mean that it is so totally against employers as not to give them a bit of room to hire a few more people? By the way, ordinary Singaporeans employ foreigners too, as maids. And nursing homes need foreign helpers too.

I want to see the PAP MPs and Nominated MPs get down to other issues.
Can we, for example, have a clear definition of what is the Singapore core? I don’t think PAP MP Alex Yam’s use of the apple – which he brought into Parliament – quite makes it. You eat the apple (which I presume stands for foreigners) and you throw away the core!
So must the Singapore core be born and bred – as WP’s Sylvia Lim put it? Or can we be Singaporeans out of conviction and choice, as Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin said quoting the late PAP ideologue S Rajaratnam?

Hopefully, this can be settled today. Along with it, I hope the sentiments of the minority communities can be addressed too. I count at least three Malay MPs who have wondered if the racial makeup will stay the same and the status of Singapore Malays in 2030. Then there was an intriguing comment by Nominated MP R Dhinakaran on the worries of the Tamil-speaking Singaporeans being swamped by the non Tamil-speaking Indians.

The Eurasians? Speaking for myself, I don’t care lah. But I don’t know if others do.

ALL MPs should work harder

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 4, 2013 at 1:05 am

So now you have ministers stumbling over themselves and each other to explain the 6.9m figure. It’s not a target, not a prediction, not a projection. It’s a planning parameter, a worst case scenario. In other words, we might not hit it. So please don’t worry. Thing is, if we don’t hit it, the White Paper makes it seems like we will not even make 1 to 2 per cent growth (which is really low going by the standards we’re used to). Is that really the case?

In any case, Parliament sits today and a whole bunch of people are speaking up, including all the opposition MPs. I hope they dispense with the niceties and cut to the chase and don’t all start lauding the White Paper for its comprehensiveness and then immediately go on to do the popular thing of talking about the people’s worries of living in a crowded space.

Can we hear some substantial views instead about how to keep Singapore going, an analysis of the assumptions the White Paper has made, and deeper look at particular parts of the paper?

Based on what I’ve read online and offline, some strands of thought have emerged. And yes, some are contradictory.
a. Is the G too fixated on GDP growth and have simply worked backwards to come up with the numbers? Does GDP growth equate to higher standard of living? Some have pointed to Nordic countries which have kept populations small while still achieving a quality life style.

b. Is the G paying enough attention to the baby front? Should we be devoting even more resources to have more babies?
- Take a look at Singapore’s adoption processes and see if things can be made easier for couples who can afford it to adopt an “instant’’ Singaporean brought up in the Singapore way. And who will serve NS.
- Or put all our effort into raising the fertility rate, that is, really, really subsidize potential parents. (Then you have to deal with where the money is coming from – single taxpayers?)
- Convert long-staying foreign spouses to PR and then to citizens (TNP had a story last weekend about a poor Indonesian who has been rejected time and again even though she’s bringing up Singaporean children as a widow of Singaporean husband) Of course, some would make the point that these foreigners are not economically active, hence why give citizenship…? (That’s the problem when Singapore men marry down. Serious.)
- Slay the sacred cow of the ban on dual citizenships. After all, it’s not uncommon to hear even Singaporeans saying they will jump ship if things get too crowded. And some 200,000 already living abroad anyway. Plus there are long-staying foreigners here married to Singaporeans and think that giving up their citizenship marks a betrayal of their homeland. Usually the better-educated men. (That’s the problem when Singapore women marry up. Serious).

c. Cost of living versus standard of living is something that should be explained. Are they necessarily opposed to each other? An ST Forum Page writer raised this matter today and it’s worth elaborating that keeping cost down means somebody else is going to suffer. I mean, if taxi fares remained low, you wouldn’t have so many people wanting to be taxi drivers because they realise they can now make a decent living driving…But of course, I would STILL complain leh. Human nature.

d. Another point on cost of living. Dare we slay the sacred cow about “home ownership’’? Our home ownership push is so successful that every newly formed family expects to own a new home asap if not immediately – and then they scream about high prices. Thing is, is renting or leasing such a bad thing? If something is out of reach, then you settle for the next best before you can afford what you want. I am not talking about rental flats from the G which should only be for those who are in real dire straits. But renting from the rental market. Why should only foreigners be tenants? Can’t Singaporeans rent homes too? Or too paiseh?

e. Businesses are screaming about tightening of foreign labour in the immediate term and how they will have to close down or relocate. This is in contrast to the ordinary people’s views: They think already too many here. I guess some business people figure that this is “forced’’ restructuring of the economy into the higher value-added services sector although it wouldn’t be politic for any G man to say so. Then, there’s this question of productivity. It would be good if we have an update on whether the productivity incentives are bearing fruit – and whether more can be done to make it easier for businesses to access. Even the planners admit that 2 to 3 per cent growth is a stretched target – which begs the question of why it is in the paper in the first place. And what would change if the target isn’t met? We bring in more foreigners to achieve GDP growth or throw in even more incentives for baby-making?

f. All those plans for more rails, reclamation etc is nice. But one wonders how we are going to pay for them. So the projected GDP growth is enough to cover the cost of laying rail lines and building new homes? Or are we looking at the possibility of dipping into reserves on the premise that we’ll be investing in Singapore’s future and averting a future crisis? By the way, who’s going to sell us sand?

I’m sorry if I’m not very coherent. I guess the subject matter is so vast that to come up with something sharper is difficult. Or I’m just stupid. You know, I’m looking forward to hearing the MPs speak. A couple of opposition parties have already said their piece but not the Workers’ Party. I know Mr Low Thia Khiang is trying to project a moderate image and seems to expect to only serve as a “check’’ or co-driver. You can bet everyone will be watching the party’s performance in this regard. With so high a margin of victory in Punggol East, we expect a rigorous performance. No less. And from the PAP MPs too, if they don’t want to labour under the perception that they merely parrot the G’s line which is why the G needs a “check”. And from Nominated MPs as well given that they have picked because they have some level of expertise in some areas. Bring that expertise to the fore please.

Random thoughts on the by-election

In News Reports, Politics on January 12, 2013 at 3:40 am

So many things happening over the past few days, so hard to keep track. Some random thoughts on the coming by-election:
a. The fuss over the son of Punggol. I wonder whose big idea it is to label PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon that way. He can hardly be sentient in those few years when he lived there as a babe. One friend who has lived in the same place all his life said he should be known as the Father of Chai Chee. I guess I should be the Punggol Pariah then since I hardly know where it is…

Dr Koh, who used the same label on himself on his FB page, rescued himself somewhat by displaying a sense of humour when he acknowledged the barrage of really crappy jokes that have accompanied his profession as a colorectal surgeon. I gather from ST reports that he is a different kettle of fish from the ebullient Michael Palmer – more serious and stoic. Of course, the grassroots leaders also added another “s’’ – sincere.

Random thought: Managed PR is a bummer and smells wrong; an image generated from the bottom up is better.
b. ST had a good interview published today with Mak Yuen Teen, a corporate governance expert, on the MND’s review of town council in light of the AIM transaction. He put forth the issues very nicely and suggested that a kind of corporate governance code like that in place for charities be put in place. But he balked at saying anything about the political nature of town councils since he is not a “political scientist’’. Town councils were started so that MPs can account for their work to residents. He asked this question: Before town councils, what were MPs accountable for then?

This is interesting. As far as I can recall, the G introduced town councils so that residents can see how their vote will have a direct impact on their daily lives and their surroundings. I have always thought that this was to blunt the lure of having an opposition in Parliament to check on the PAP government. Constituents would have to think harder about their vote. So this relatively new innovation of Singapore (like the vehicle quota system, exec condos, foreign worker policy etc) requires a re-think. Does anyone think that a bunch of civil servants in MND will be able to deal with a “political’’ question on the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils – when an academic declined to do so? Anyway I thought WP did the right thing by withdrawing its adjournment motion. Better to wait for the MND report and then tackle the report. Why waste time now? Let the civil servants dig out the details.

Random thought: The Punggol East voters should ask what would happen if their town council changes hands…The trouble is, the MND review will only be completed after the polls on Jan 26…

c. The Opposition is NOT having a party. SDP’s Chee Soon Juan’s proposal for co-operation with WP in the Punggol East BE floored me. So they campaign together and if they win – SDP sits in Parliament and WP runs the town council. Looks like the SDP, after launching its proposals on housing and health, thinks it’s better placed to be in Parliament while the WP should take the behind-the-scenes work of running the town councils. If WP says yes, I don’t know what to think! It sort of overturns the town council idea of having your parliament representative demonstrate some governing ability. (MND, please take note). You know, I think the SDP should just try to get itself nominated in Parliament as NMPs – if all it wants is a voice.

And these letters that SDP have made public on its overtures to WP….one wonders what’s wrong with making a telephone call and settling everything privately? The PAP must be real pleased with SDP’s play. WP must be real pissed – it’s been saying all the right things so far (even acknowledging that PAP has incumbent advantage in Punggol East) – and now it looks like it’s being pressured to make some kind of statement on SDP’s proposal…

Random thought: How is all this wrangling good for the Punggol East voter?

Town councils as political organisations

In News Reports, Politics, Society on January 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Here’s an interesting twist to the AIM tale: town councils are political organisations, not public organisations. That’s Baey Yam Keng’s take on how the whole saga should be viewed. The issue has been unnecessarily politicised, he said. Town councils aren’t government agencies, not run by civil servants – which I take to mean that they shouldn’t be subject to civil service norms or expectations.

He also said in Today that the question should be whether Action Information Management failed in its commitment to town councils and whether its fees are reasonable.

His answers are in response to former PAP backbencher Tan Cheng Bock’s comments that the town councils had used public monies to develop the system, which was sold to AIM. “This software is developed using public funds by town councils. Is it right for the TCs to give up ownership in this manner?” he asked in his FB posting. “So did the town councils as public institutions do the right thing, selling to a company owned by a political party with its own agenda?”

I suppose Mr Baey’s position is rooted in the way town councils are actually forms of local government, run by politicians elected by the people living in the ward. So if the composition of the town council changes, then a political organisation – and its partners – pulling out of the management is really something to be expected.

I wonder if he realises that he’s opening up a can of worms.

You can’t help asking then if AIM is then the ONLY PAP-owned outfit that works with town councils. What if the PAP had set up a cleaning service unknown to us all? Or it went into lift repairs? The PAP isn’t saying what other companies it owns. It should. Because when I elect a representative, I want to know exactly what is on offer. I want to know how local government will change if I choose to throw out the incumbents. That it isn’t just the heads that will roll, but arms and legs will get chopped off too. Fair, no?

Just think. What if the PAP decides that its PCF kindergartens shouldn’t operate in opposition wards and closes down what it now has? I doubt it wants to antagonise residents like that but, hey, it’s a political party and if it wants to inflict pain on the people who turned their backs on it, it can.

Come to think of it. Wasn’t lift upgrading also a political issue? Go to the back of the queue if you vote opposition? And that’s not even a political party imperative but a G initiative explained away as the right of the party in power to decide who gets rewarded first. But that’s in the past.

Back to AIM. I really think politicians should stop telling us how to think. I read on Sunday that Ms Grace Fu said that we’ve all got hold of the wrong end of the stick and should remember how the issue arose – the Workers’ Party’s Aljunied-Hougang town council’s poor showing in the corporate governance category. Focus on that, she said.

Then there was this ding-dong about who terminated the agreement first. It was like a schoolyard fight: You did it first! No, you did it! You! You! It was framed like an integrity question: who came clean, who didn’t, what’s hidden etc.
Frankly, I’m not sure I care who wins that fight.
Seems to me there are far bigger issues here that the PAP should address that goes beyond the handing over an information system to a company it owns. And Mr Baey has just started a big one: Is the town council a political organisation? If so, what does it MEAN?


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