Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Arrrr Mateys Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC! Prepare for Boarding!

April 3, 2010

A respectable old-timer joins hands with a respectable newcomer. Signaling that Chiam See Tong might be endorsing Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance members would do a joint raiding walkabout party at Toa Payoh-Bishan GRC today. Reform Party, with the son of JBJ at the helm and backed by his daddy’s legacy, is the maverick opposition corsair at the moment.

Why Kenneth and Chiam picked each other? Not sure but between SDA and the Workers’ Party – the 2 parties which have representation in parliament, you don’t need to have Jack Sparrow’s weird compass to tell us that because of JBJ’s political baggage with the Workers’ Party, Kenneth won’t be political pals with the guys at the Hammer anytime soon that easily.  There is a history that cannot be put aside just like that.  Furthermore if the joint walkabout is any hint, would Reform Party and SDA form another opposition alliance when Singapore goes to vote? We can guess better if there are more joint walkabouts in future.

There is another opposition ship christened, the United Singapore Democrats, but this motley bunch seems more like a breakaway SDP group. Goes to say much about the current SDP leadership under the Chees. Maybe they wisely got tired of the civil disobedience by the Chees and wanted out. Or maybe not.

Talking about wanting out and ousters, Chiam See Tong, made to leave SDP by his protege and now in the sunset of his political career, gets to witness that his SDP is now like some cursed Flying Dutchman. His then protege Chee Soon Juan just wasn’t the right captain for the SDP and Chiam’s original flagship is doomed ever since.

All this adds up to a more colourful GE when it comes.

Yo Ho Ho, lets make the incumbent Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MPs walk the plank!

Yo Ho Ho, let's make the incumbent Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MPs walk the plank!

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US Public Diplomacy Explained

March 29, 2010

Not too long ago, the term “public diplomacy” was brought up by our number one newspaper in Singapore. The next US ambassador to Spore, David Adelman, wanted to score points in front of a Senate hearing to get his new job in Spore, and thus said that he is shooting from the hip when he comes over to try our chilli crab. He is also going to realise that contrary to what Chinese restaurants in the US claim, there is no such thing as Spore Fried Noodles in Spore. And there is also no US-styled democracy in Spore too.

Make no mistake, currently Singapore is not a multi-party democracy,” and “I intend, if confirmed, to use public diplomacy to work towards greater press freedoms, greater freedom of assembly and ultimately more political space for opposition parties in Singapore,” were David’s promises when Virginia Senator Jim Webb asked about how David would try to sell Uncle Sam style democracy to Spore. BTW Jim is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Anyway while David reserved a ra-ra version for the Senate, the one he had for Straits Times and Sporeans was nonetheless more subdued, ” There’s no question. I want to make it very clear that those issues are for Singaporeans to decide for themselves

So WTF is US “public diplomacy” although some talked about its big evil empire implications? Well, it is actually the euphemismto promote the national interest of the United States through understanding, informing and influencing foreign audiences.” Oh. Ouch. So public diplomacy or foreign propaganda by another name, is expected anyway as that is what all embassies do – set up shop in another country and do their Jedi mind trick on the natives. Gunboats, missionaries and death stars just don’t do the trick anymore and it is up to embassy staff to strut their national stuff for their goals using pop culture to student exchanges to fast food chains to whatever soft power tools are available. Heh. Sporeans are not taught US-styled democracy for our own good, it is for the US’ own good! Errr hokay.

This is not the ruling party you are looking for...

This is not the ruling party you are looking for...

Town Councils increases S&CC – Give us some value!

March 10, 2010

Even before the economy has fully recovered, Aljunied and Jurong Town Councils have already increased their Service and Conservancy Charges.  Taking effect next month, the increase will range between $1.50 and $7.50.  The Town Councils justified the increase citing more expensive lift servicing cost, electricity tariffs and cleaning contractors.  No doubt, the general prices of goods and services have been going up and it was in 2004 that Town Councils last increased their S&CC charges, but the underlying question is how professional and forward-looking are our Town Councils.  Mind you, they’re in essence estate managers of communities that number several hundred thousand.  And let’s not forget, the Town Councils also collect season parking coupons receipts and these would surely have surged given the increase in the number of cars in recent years.

The current S&CC charges are neither very expensive nor very cheap, while they’re considered affordable by most Singaporeans, it is the “no-value-for-money” or the Geylang “no-bang-for-the-buck” feeling that residents get from paying S&CC charges.  The blocks are only clean for the few short hours in the morning, the lifts always emit a particular smell and the walls perpetually stained by glue of real estate agents pamphlets.  And to demonstrate how dense these people are, after so many years of painting walls stained by pamphlet glue, why can’t they set up a meeting with the police and the real estate agents associations and give a stern warning to these people vandalizing public property.

In Jan 2010, residents in Pending Road were up in arms over their newly installed laundry bamboo pole holders as there were too small for their existing poles. The new holders which cost $200k had an economic multiplier effect as many residents had to buy new poles which were smaller.  The simple thing that Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council could do was to keep to the old diameters of the pole holders and yes, these same fellas lost millions in the Lehman Minibonds.  When asked, they replied that the holders complied with HDB requirements.  Meaning to say that the old ones did not comply and were a hazard to pedestrians walking below them?  What happened to apologizing and moving on?

Another area where Town Councils are lacking is recycling, I can’t even find a recycling bin in my neighbourhood for the plastic bottles, cans and waste paper that I have collected.  Surely, as the largest estate manager of 80% of Singapore’s population and as the ruling political party, it is the social responsibility of Town Councils to educate, promote and facilitate recycling.  They have not done this, at least not where I stay.

In Sep 2009, the government came up with the Town Council Management Report Framework where Town Councils’ performance will be judged based on the cleanliness of estate, estate maintenance, lift performance and S&CC arrears management.  It could potentially be a huge wayang show because inspectors are from HDB which like the Town Councils, are under the Ministry of National Development.  Besides, MND also did not include financial performance as one of the indicators in the framework as they claimed that different estates have different needs due to their age and they had difficulty coming up with fair indicators.  Simple, the benchmark of their financial performance should be pegged to the GDP as the bonuses of our ministers and top civil servants are tied to the GDP as well!  Surely, they can perform as much as they earn! Moreover, if they do not meet the financial performance indicator, they should be frank about it and explain why as Town Council sinking funds belong to the residents as well.

The last question that Singaporeans should ask themselves is with so many pressing questions to be answered and improvements to be made in Singapore, would MPs with a full-time career outside of their parliamentary and constituent duties be able to dedicate enough efforts to improve our Town Councils?

For readers info:

Town Councils are required, under the Town Councils Act, to set aside between 30% and 35% of the s&cc in the Sinking Fund. The Sinking Fund is utilised for major cyclical repainting & repairs, renewal or replacement of roofing system, water tanks, pumps and water supply system, rewiring, lifts, major repairs and maintenance of the common area and contributions to the HDB in respect of general upgrading works carried out on the common property under the Housing and Development Act . Cyclical repairs and maintenance works are major works which require large sums of money. By accumulating sinking fund over time, residents do not have to pay an additional lump sum each time one of these major works needs to be carried out. Town councils can invest up to 35 per cent of their sinking funds in financial instruments like equities, corporate bonds and funds.

Budget 2010 – S'pore for S'poreans

March 4, 2010

In what was a Jan 2010 article that reported Singapore emerging as the world’s second freest economy for the umpteen times was greeted with the usual bureaucratic fanfare and the customary congratulatory from the state media. Ironic for a country that is more well-known for being impregnated with a repressed political culture and an ever-adolescent civil society. Beneath the accolades is a steadfast commitment of the PAP Government to grow Singapore’s economy by ensuring that there is a free market and competitive business environment for enterprises and their accompanying free movement of capital and (foreign) labour. As with all economic goods, it comes with a price. A price that is paid by the sweat and toil of Singapore’s low-wage workers who have pretty much stagnated in the whirlwind of economic progress that have benefited the upper and upper-middle class, some of who were foreigners. Singapore’s income inequality has increased; and although we do not have the poverty problems of other countries with more severe income inequality, the trend is increasingly worrying.

A large part of Singapore’s GDP growth has been achieved via the bumping up of our population whether through the import of cheap foreign labour or the “attracting” of talented Permanent Residents. The attention, with the announcement of Budget 2010, has now shifted to increasing productivity – an almost stark naked attempt to conceal and recover from the negative side effects of the earlier policies. And no doubt, the side effects which were most felt by the low-wage workers and the lower-class faced with an increasingly crowded, competitive and pricey Singapore.

Although the focus has now shifted to productivity, some of the earlier policies have not changed. While we will see a broad increase of the foreign workers’ levy come middle of this year, the dependency ratios of Singapore workers versus foreign workers are not going to change much. Meaning to say, companies who can still afford the levy will still continue to employ foreigners. This is in line with the government’s philosophy to maintain a free market economy that is conducive for businesses. With the PAP majority in Parliament, which will mean that Budget 2010 will pass unopposed, we can only call for the levies collected to be redistributed to low and middle-wage workers through WIS, WTS, SPUR, CPF contributions, Tax rebates and various other means. In fact, the government should run a deficit in this particular account to alleviate the hardship of the low-wage workers who have been most hard-hit by the fierce competition from the import of foreign labour in the last decade. Remember, while foreign workers and talent can return to their countries, where their money will last them longer, sons and daughters of Singaporeans can only continue to grit their teeth in Lion City. For a certain sector of Singaporeans to be stuck in the poverty cycle would not bode well for the future of this country.

Ultimately, welfare handouts, ingeniously disguised as training benefits and supplementary wages or otherwise, are only temporary measures. Ultimately, what is needed is a mindset change and diversified education system that is non-discriminatory, non-hierarchical and does not emphasize on streaming as a social stigma. As the Chinese saying goes, “There is use for every human that is born”. Anyone who has been to Taiwan, Japan or Australia will see that their workers doing non-executive jobs, like service staff, carpenters, construction workers and plumbers, are not shun upon. They take proud ownership and pride in jobs considered demeaning by Singaporeans. Needless to say, they provide good service and skills that are valued by society, not only in newspapers articles come National Day, but in kind and a respectable salary. Indicators such as freest economy, income inequality and freedom indexes are only but numbers and lofty statistics; only Singaporeans can redefine our own country and only ourselves will be left to clean up our mess.

Priorities priorities priorities

January 26, 2010

I always tell the younger ones to get their priorities right. Now it might be your work, later it might be your wife and maybe even later it may be your very talented foreign girlfriend. But for the PAP govt, it is always the economy that is the first priority – if they get this right they’re on their way to victory, or so they think.  First, we have SM Goh telling us not to get excited about the polls and concentrate on economic recovery. Today, we have PM Lee telling us that the elections are not “imminent” and we should worry about the economy, workers’ productivity and the continuation of calibrated immigration to top up the population.  Wait, you mean in the past it was not calibrated?! Maybe that’s why we have so many talented distractions around…so much so that husbands can’t be bothered to make babies with their wives? It’s a vicious cycle. So to solve it in a typical economic PAP way, we have to reduce the supply so only the rich can afford these talented distractions…calibrated immigration it’s called. Works out just fine, great policy planning.

But, just when they say elections are not imminent and tell us not get excited…as Riz Low would say, “Boomz”, they announced it and everyone is shell-shocked rushing to get the campaign going. Too little, too late sometimes.  So take it with a pinch when your elders tell you to prioritise, it’s all about discipline and making sure some work is done everyday so you don’t get shell-shocked when the teacher throws you a surprise test.

Same SH*t Different Year

January 18, 2010

Wah piang eh…why nobody post for 2010…wait until lin beh also tak boleh tahan liao. Aiyah but actually tahun ini sama sama lah, GIC continue to lose money…steady lah…USD$675 million in U-Ass-A hilang liao. Dunno which ang moh sibeh happy laughing in his 20,000 sqft house with swimming pool and tennis court like MTV rap stars which costs peanuts while Singaporeans get damn excited about over-priced piegon holes maciam atas city living called simi lan Pinnacle@Duxton. They know what is hisap rokok@yellow box?? KNN…and soon cannot even smoke in kopitiam liao lah…I hear cheng-hu going to clamp down on smokers like maciam drug addicts, make sure they run into rat holes and smoke in gelap dark corner littered with cig butts. Hong Kan liao Lah!!

And more things won’t change in the new year…new kid on the block MInistar has to come out and assure Singaporeans that we are not being swarm by foreigners…build more HDB flats for who??  Housing prices continue to climb naik naik naik…apa pun naik…so sama sama as last year rite?? And what is black hair over 60 years old Ministar SEng saying when he claim that they are monitoring reactions to the church attacks in Malaysia...piang eh…kong simi lan?? He know Singaporeans is more buay song about MacD dun have Chinese Zodiac Pig Doraemon or not?? Haha…later hire Ah Long to hang pig head and spray paint on MacD…actually Doraemon is what huh?? Cat or Bear?? KNn he is sibeh fat…think he togo Baron’s Strong brew like me also…haha.

Another Merry Xmas?!

December 25, 2009

Yes, it’s another merry merry christmas with recycled gift exchanges and loads of wrapping paper laid to waste. But hey, at least we’re recycling the gifts. While it has deep religious meanings for some, others see xmas as another opportunity to revel and partake in less godly activities in the name of a countdown. Fret not, more opportunities to come next week. Heh.

Looking back, this year has been especially meaningful, or at least eventful, for Christians with the AWARE saga and the suspected Christian-backed Singanews soft launch. Seems like religious groups want their voices to be heard on social issues and we might see more of that in 2010. Less from the likes of Thiolibans, don’t bet on it! Here at TVD, we would welcome those with measured and centralistic views to speak up…freewheelin’ liberals (most often very lusty bros) most welcome as well. Afterall, it’s not the straitjacket tight-ass conservatives we are worried about, but the death of socio-political debate in SG.

While we celebrate xmas and watch Volvo being taken over by Geely, sadly today we also see the sentencing of PRC dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years imprisonment for trying to subvert the Communist Party (like wtf lor). A sad day for Internet activism.

So Merry Merry Xmas TVD readers, and do continue to read and write because change will only come about if our voices are loud enough.

Philip, oh Philip, where art thou?

November 25, 2009

Although I is hokkien pai one but lin beh england also not that bad one ok…look at my title u know liao. Mwahaha. Philip Jeyaretnam, son of the late JBJ, baru appointed to Public Service Commission for lima tahun. For 5 years, he will tolong the kum gong gong government to choose all the maciam atas scorelahs…I is think govt also bo pian liao…the problem got so jialat that they recently have to come out and admit that their scorelahs poor attitude, self-centred…aiyah basically glory seeking knn solo king maciam sibeh smart type lor…macar Philip steady lah…pls help choose those that betul betul really wanna serve Singaporeans.

Anyway, why state media mention his name must always mention his father also? Knn he still wearing diapers ah? Lin beh fark

Chiam Gambles for a GRC

November 15, 2009

In a gamble, you either win or lose but we all know that gamblers’ pride yearn for more and that’s why they wager. Chiam’s gamble for higher political honour and office might be his swan song given his age; a very risky one that might see his loyal Potong Pasir supporters bear with a PAP MP till another Chiam comes along. Some see it as Chiam’s betrayal to his Potong Pasir supporters, but cynically, I guess it doesn’t matter much now that they have lift upgrading. Chiam’s foray into contesting for a GRC could not only mean a potential morale booster win for PAP in PP, where the man-in-white came mighty close in the last 3 elections, but could also mean a severe cut for opposition representation in the parliament given the limited representation we have had since independence. Woe to the scores of Singaporeans who regard Chiam not only as the Potong Pasir MP but as an opposition voice for those that either did not get a chance to vote or were turned-off by the lack of quality opposition.

Personality plays an important role in politics, especially opposition candidates that can’t lean back on a PAP brand name. Party brand didn’t affect Chiam much when he left SDP as his supporters continued to vote him into parliament. Would his replacement, who has not been named, enjoy such popularity even though he comes from Chiam’s party? For his Potong Pasir supporters, they were voting for Chiam rather than his party which is mostly made up of unknowns and who have yet made any impact on Singaporeans. It would be a letdown for their unwavering support of Chiam all these years as he seeks the Holy Grail of Singapore politics. Chiam is taking a huge risk for his GRC ambitions by placing a relatively unproven replacement in Potong Pasir, and if the replacement wins, would he have the ability to lead and manage Potong Pasir like Chiam did? And retain the seat again and again?

Would Chiam enjoy the same popularity in another constituency sharing the stage with others who most certainly can’t match his credentials as the longest serving opposition MP? Like in a single man ward where his qualities shone, Chiam could find himself hindered by others in a GRC configuration ala James Gomez. Similarly, his replacement in Potong Pasir might be unwittingly exposed by PAP due to his inexperience. It would be a pity if both Chiam and his successor lose and Chiam ends up in the wilderness with no harbor to anchor.

Even the formidable trio of Dr. Lee Siew Choh, Francis Seow and Mohd Khalit bin Mohd Baboo lost in Eunos GRC in 1988 to a mere Minister of State Tay Eng Soon and his two largely unknown PAP running mates, Zulkifli bin Mohamed and Chew Heng Ching. Dr. Lee, the former Barisan Socialis leader, and Francis Seow, the former S-G, were cult figures in local politics, the few who dare to stand up to the PAP machinery in the tumultuous era of post-independence. But like many before and after them, they vanquished under the cruel vote of Singaporeans, loyal PAP supporters and ballot boxes. Chiam himself is a decorated political war horse having been voted continuously into parliament since 1984 but a GRC is still an immense uphill battle, a lonely and forlorn battle without his steadfast Potong Pasir supporters, many whom I think would have wanted one last swinging salvo from Chiam in Potong Pasir.

CSJ the Media Mogul

November 11, 2009

So Chee Soon Juan has hatched a great plan to use the APEC summit to run a literal media circus on the radio talkshow circuit in the US. The stuff mentioned is of the usual, democracy, suppressed freedom of speech, lawsuits, ad nauseum. Frankly, I have to wonder what Dr Chee hopes to achieve by doing these talkshows? From the talkshow perspective I can see, since it’s all about ratings it makes sense for them to get sensational people to talk about sensational issues. At one point Dr Chee said democracy makes economic sense. Well, economics is about money and the USA is fuck-buddies with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most restrictive countries. That to me is quite telling of the USA’s foreign policy when it comes to democratic movements vs ecnomonic considerations.

Woe be to Singapore if the government would allow local issues to cloud an international event like APEC (or IMF or ASEAN, et al). Foreign governments would also be much too astute to comment on issues of the host country, especially if the agenda is about way more important things currently, like the ecnonomy. You don’t visit your friend’s house to play his games on his new spanking PS3, then start complaining about how dirty his toilet is, would you? You thank him for letting you play his games, then leave and go home.

I was listening to The Lionel Show’s podcast and frankly what Dr Chee’s saying is nothing new to us. What struck me was that near the end of the podcast, when Dr Chee was still talking on, Lionel abruptly cut him off, saying that the show is ending. Well, actually the show hasn’t ended since the show is segmented into several stories as seen from the Air America website. If Lionel wanted he could have let Dr Chee speak on but he chose not to.

That says something doesn’t it?