Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Tale of 16 Former Detainees

Wait, some time last month Dr Lim Hock Siew, who was detained for nearly 20 years, and Presidential candidate Tan Jee Say call for this ISA COI already and no one seemed to move, materialistic Singaporeans were not stirred.

Sadly the truth of the Marxists arrests do not interest Singaporeans primed to the brim with PAP propaganda, expensive dinners and shopping malls. Try telling the towkay who bid $3888 for bags of rice and charcoal during Hungry Ghost month. WP has probably got the formula more right, they picked the right fight with PAP-controlled-PA which got the attention of almost the whole Internet and much of the nation. In a way, they have operationalised the chest-thumping democracy of SDP. Take a look at their popular grassroots activities photos with bountiful party volunteers. Political indoctrination would come much easier after mooncakes and children dancing.

To mount a credible challenge for GE2016 SDP's Yuhua SMC candidate Teo Soh Lung and SDP Vice-Chairman Vincent Cheng should take a leaf from WP to pull themselves out of the political fringes. Real problems like housing, transport, and the social economic woes of the underclass need to be solved. Our population has hit 5.18 million, surely more needs to be done about the widening income gap. While the ISA can be a SDP pet topic, along with democracy and human rights, it has failed to capture the imagination of middle-ground voters and reiterated its corporate identity as a far left organisation divorced from the heartlands. Even WP agreed in principle to detention without trial with stringent checks and balances.

When stalwarts like Dr Lim Hock Siew, detained for nearly two decades under the ISA, has failed to rock the boat (add in Barisan Socialis Dr Poh Soo Kai and Said Zahari), I don't see how short-term detainees like Teo Soh Lung and Vincent Cheng (less than three years) can do much. After all, they have recanted fairly quickly and lived a largely peaceful life for two decades after their release. Even canned food has expiry dates. Only the insurmountable lion JBJ has that special place in the heart of Singaporeans and for all his troubles he was not even detained under ISA! And among the 16, you can't find even a single recent terrorist ISA detainee - you mean all of them agree with this stupid draconian law?!

In all irony, our neighbours up north have already called the bluff of Najib expressing their scepticism over any real change and termed the move as an attempt by Najib to bolster his reformist image ahead of the polls. 

Politicians do things for votes and political mileage. That is only normal. And although GE2016 seems eons away the battle really begins now with the 'new normal'. Who knows, 20 years down, when WP romps into parliament, we might see Teo Soh Lung made a heroine. After all, she was a WP member and supporter before her detention in 1987, and more recently she resigned from Reform Party before joining the SDP for GE2011. It seems that the political landscape of Singapore can only get more interesting.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Open letter to Singapore's Civil Society - Wake Up & Screw the Hibiscus

As with most Singaporeans, my initial reaction to Malaysia's decision to repeal the dreaded ISA was one of pleasant surprise; is this a sign of progressive liberal democracy? Does this mean that Singapore will follow suit? Looking at how our fledging civil society has reacted, fists pumped and rhetoric flowing, it does seem that they genuinely believe that the winds of change are nigh.

Let me prick this euphoric bubble a bit. The only reason why Najib made this decision is to keep UMNO in power. Forget about liberal democracy. Without the ISA, a corrupt and crap government can and still will stay a corrupt and crap government. This is a political move to sucker us into this kind of euphoria and by the looks of it, we've been hooked, line and sinker...and by a Malaysian politician for goodness sake! My relatives in Malaysia surprsingly said that they would rather have the ISA than a divided polity now willing to give UMNO a chance. Going by how the country operates, how wheels and deals are made in kampungs, having an ISA is not so bad after all, especially if you are a minority community forever living in the racialist past. It's all politics. There was no sudden intervention by the heavens to make Najib realise suddenly that the ISA is an evil legal instrument. It was pure politics, simple as that.

So even as our civil society gets all hot and horny and starts parading ex-detainees like Chia Thye Poh and Teo Soh Lung as victims of the ISA and let's just say that they do get their wish and the ISA is repealed; does it change the political landscape of Singapore? Nope, except that the PAP will get political mileage and our civil society will be left sucking their thumbs. Are we so stupid not to see that it is the people wielding the ISA, and for that matter, any other legislation? After Spectrum, can we not see that political dissidence is dealt with by court of law under crippling defamation suits?

If our political culture is to evolve and we are to become a mature citizenry, political moves like this should be exposed for what they are; stop-gap PR measures to hide a more severe rot in the political machinery. Can our civil society please stand up?? Your role is not ape a political manoeuvre by our abang neighbour; think more strategic, your role is to make citizens more politically aware and mature, to see through these political shennanigans rather than be sucked into it!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Two-Faced Bock, Don't Talk Cock

I like this poster above.  It shows a man who is quietly plotting his carefully calculated moves to be one up on the other two pretenders for the mighty throne of an empty position, the president of Singapore.

But who is this man?  For well over thirty years he slogged it out for the PAP, retired as an MP, went to a hospital project, left in a puff, ended up arguing over parking space in Sentosa Cove no less, and is now running for the Presidency of Singapore.

In the famous Dark Knight movie, we are introduced to this fascinating character called Two-Faced Harvey.  Prior to becoming Two-Faced, Harvey was the crusading White Knight of Gotham, bursting with enthusiasm and idealism, wanting to rid the city of evils; in short a pretty self righteous bxxxx .  However, under the machinations of the Joker, Harvey’s ideals get turned topsy turvy and he becomes the second villain in the movie: Two Faced Harvey.

The career of TCB is quite fascinating now that we bother to examine it since he is running for Presidency. 

The first thing is his days as a White Knight for the Men-in-White.  Conveniently now, we are told he was actually quite anti-estab, a rebel within the PAP ranks!! This is a big WOW.  In the 80s and 90s, when pre-Internet Singapore was ruled with first LKY’s iron fist and then GCT’s velveted iron fist, TCB was a rebel … seeking change from within!!  An insider threat!!  This leaves the neutral breathlessly asking what intrigues he fostered? What change he wrought?  This White Knight on the scale of things, did nothing. He never became a Minister, he slept through 12 years of Parliament and comes to us now with the nuggets of CPF education and Sunday car-park rebates!

Now this White Knight TCB wants to tell us that he is truly an independent, that he has courage to stand for what he believes that he will resign if forced to do something against his will … but then again one wonders as did Siew Kum Hong why if the White Knight was so critical of the Government when he was a PAP MP as examples of his independence, and yet he did not resign then.  Surely the White Knight is actually quite aware of how to milk a high profile resignation since he did it with his Jurong General Hospital “I QUIT” charade in April 2011 before announcing his presidency candidacy over an Ng Teng Fong $125million donation.

Imagine if White Knight TCB had resigned in the middle of his PAP career, launched a press conference and spilled all the anger he had with a Government that was losing its moral compass.  This White Knight would have been blinding white in those dark pre-internet days of absolute PAP control.  Then White Knight TCB attending the emotional dinner for the true Warrior Chiam See Tong would have been perfect.  But instead, TCB attending CST’s dinner loses its sheen somewhat, makes it more a Two-Faced TCB kind of a thing.

You see, I would have voted TCB without a shadow of a doubt, if he had stayed a White Knight and did the right things.  Even if he was a Dark Knight and he stayed a Dark Knight I would give him the respect.  The problem is that TCB is a Knight that changes colors too often.  In Thailand he would be Red and Yellow and hence, Orange.

From his Holland Grove home, this self proclaimed White Knight TCB humbly welcomes reporters and supporters to explain why he should be the President.  While at his OTHER home in Sentosa Cove, he thumps his chest as the highest polled politician in the land of Singapore to solve a freaking carpark problem to the derision of his other lofty neighbours.


Which brings me back to the poster I like so much.  That palm tree on the left does spoil the symmetry of the picture, makes one side of the face heavier than the other.  And maybe that is what TCB really represents, Two-Faced Bock on a coat of armor that reflects what anybody wants.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Nightingale and Other Stories

Old folks getting smacked in the mouth and left sitting half-naked under the ceiling fan with nothing on but a shower cap. No Florence Nightingales at Nightingale Nursing Home at all. Lots of people are shocked, disgusted. They and the the family of those in the nursing homes have a right to be pissed. Who's to blame?

Well the list is long. The nursing home! The nurses, who by the way, gasp, are foreigners! PRC or Pinoys! The government for not doing enough spot checks by sending retired old civil servants disguised as one of those old folks with nowhere to go as their own kids kicked them out of the house. Did I say old folks who were kicked out by their own kids? In that case, add this to the list, the people who send their parents to old folks homes! Hey, but why would kids become so unfilial, so un-Asian society-like? These old folks must have abused their kids and were bad parents and it is karma! Everyone is to blame! Nobody is to be blamed! Wait, let's go into Western-style airy-fairy blaming - it is society's fault!

Irene Nursing Home and Serene Nursing Home also said that it gave the sack 3 staff, lo and behold, all foreigners! The undercurrents of xenophobia and foreigners are abusing our old folks, besides the stories of maids abusing kids! What do you expect when we outsource old folks care to these transient labour who are doing jobs that Singaporeans don't want to. Nursing is a unglam vocation and not a career that Singaporeans want to go into. To be a cool rich doctor, yes. To be a nurse wiping patients' arses, no. Nurses have to deal with cranky old folks that their own kids don't want to deal with. If they know that the patients' own children might not treat these old folks with dignity, why should they. Not everybody is a Florence Nightingale or a Mother Theresa.

Well to be fair, some people don't have the time or space in their homes to house their parents. O'rlly. They can't afford to send their parents to a retirement village in JB or in Perth, so they have to make do. So Nightingale and its ilk fit in nicely. Seriously ,some of these homes are probably professional and give great elderly care and maybe even most of the staff including foreigners are gentle and caring. That's just too bad as we want to focus on the cases of abuse and blame, and screw personal responsibility.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Presidential Selection err Election

Why do people think that the president is elected rather than selected?

In 1991, the elected presidency was created, giving the president more veto powers over government budgets and key appointments in the civil service. In theory this is a fantastic check and balance to the ruling party of the day or in PAP' case, the decades. Everything sounds nice and naughty at the same time.

Nice because WOW the PAP allowed the president to move out of his ceremonial role into a custodial role, albeit slightly. Naughty because HEY, there is the Presidential Elections Committee and a strict criteria on who can be the head of state in Singapore, a parliamentarian system where the PM is the boss while the president smiles and is the last to arrive and first to go at National Day parades.What is this committee that decides who can run for the head of state office?

This is what the Elections Department says. "The Chairman of the Public Service Commission chairs the Committee, which comprises 2 other members - one is the Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority and the other is a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights nominated by the Chairman of the Council."

So that means Eddie Teo would be the main man deciding who can get into the ring. He would be aided by Chan Lai Fung (ACRA chair) and someone from the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. The question of course is whether these top civil servants should be the ones to determine who can run for president. Or should the public decide themselves rather than the civil service provide a filter, a screen for the PAP? Or should the committee be more diverse in its composition e.g. one civil servant, one from the judiciary, one from business sector. That's a nicer spin isn't it?