Honour (Singapore) Group – Honour and Obey the PAP-Government?

about_logo_imageThe launch of a high-powered organisation called Honour (Singapore) earlier this month caused an online buzz as many people questioned the reasons and motivations for forming such a group.  Are Singaporeans lacking in honour? Is this another propaganda initiative to try to “educate” us to honour and obey the PAP-government as if they were our parents?

We should all be concerned and ask some hard questions as this group, led by powerful elites, has stated it wants to do a mass national outreach to everyone (read mass propaganda)  including actively engaging youths and children through programmes such as talks and conferences. They are also discussing with the Ministry of Education to develop initiatives for schools. What kind of initiatives will these be and what will the contents comprise? Is it justified if public funds are used by MOE to fund such ambiguous initiatives?

In addition, this non-profit organisation is asking for public donations. How justifiable is it for Honour (Singapore) to be classified as a charity and for it to compete with other genuine charities for donations? Under the Singapore Charities Act, one of the criteria to qualify as a registered charity is that “the governing instruments of the institution provide for the purposes of the institution, and such purposes are exclusively charitable“.  Is preaching honour to the people a charitable act?

No doubt though there will be companies that will donate to them for the sake of good government relations and for the generous tax exemption. Registered as a charity, Honour Singapore was granted the status of an Institution of Public Character (IPC) which means all donations are eligible for 250% tax deduction.

On the surface, it sounds almost beguiling as this group has claimed it is out to promote honour as part of our country’s celebration of 50 years of independence. But why honour and why now?  How honourable are the intentions of this organisation?

Reports by the mainstream media on the launch event, which was officiated by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat,  gave no real insights into this group as they parroted the vague media statements such as saying Honour (Singapore)’s “mission is to seek the well-being of the nation by promoting a culture of honour and honouring”.

What is known is that this group is led by a group of prominent elites. It is chaired by Mr Lim Siong Guan, group president of GIC and former head of the Civil Service. Its board members include Mr Richard Magnus, a retired Senior Judge who heads the Public Transport Council, and Mr Jason Wong, chairman of Focus on the Family.

Honour (Singapore) also has a well-connected advisory panel comprising public figures such as Ho Bee Land’s Chairman Chua Thian Poh,  Far East Organization CEO Philip Ng, Banyan Tree Holdings’ Senior Vice President Claire Chiang, Lien Foundation chairman Laurence Lien, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore president Alami Musa and businessman and ex-civil servant Andy Lim who is married to ex-Minister and PAP stalwart Lim Hwee Hua.

With such a powerful lineup spearheading this group, what exactly is its objective?

Interestingly, it has been pointed out by sharp-eyed bloggers that Honour (Singapore)’s board of directors are all leaders of Full Gospel Business (FGB) Singapore, a Christian outfit whose stated mission is to bring the ministry of the Christian faith into the marketplace. In response to the allegation of a religious agenda, Honour (Singapore) has issued a press statement to deny this even though HS shares the same office as FGB.

Several troubling questions came to mind after reading the website www.honour.sg and the speeches made at the launch event.  Is the PAP-Government using a group of powerful  individuals to front Honour (Singapore) which in turn is being used to frame and soft-sell a political agenda through mass indoctrination?  Are the community and educational projects by this group a way of re-programming an increasingly critical populace into unwitting obedience? What kind of values and messages will they try to inculcate in the masses in the guise of honour?

As novelist George Orwell had illustrated in his books Animal Farm and 1984, the use of language and not physical force is the more powerful tool in the manipulation and control of minds. A group working in the name of “Honour” certainly sounds more persuasive than the Government commanding us to behave and to obey. And few, especially the young students, would question the legitimacy of indoctrination programmes packaged as educational initiatives in the name of honour.

1984-Orwell-quote

The first line of  Honour (Singapore)’s  press release  gives another strong hint as to the purpose of this group. It opened starkly in typical PAP-government fashion with: “Strident voices, an undertone of pessimism, and the view that one wins only when another loses are growing more evident in Singapore”.  Placed right at the opening, this line deliberately sets an ominous tone to imply our country is at risk and that there is a need for a group like Honour (Singapore) to save the day (and implicit in the messaging, we should follow their mission if we want peace and prosperity).

For more clues on the government’s involvement in this group, read Heng Swee Kiat’s speech made at the launch where he stressed that “we must strive for a deeper understanding and appreciation for what has made Singapore successful so far, and what would help us to succeed in the coming years. In particular, we must reflect on the values that have underpinned our success” such as by honouring our past and our pioneers “who built the foundation to give us opportunities we have today”.

Heng’s second point was about ‘Honouring Our Word”. Here he emphasised that “we are a people and a government whose word can be trusted...and ensure the predictability in policies which will make others feel safe for decades to come”. The clincher within this paragraph was when he said “most fundamentally, we are a people whose word is our Honour, we are a people you can trust”. WE? Who’s we? In his speech, he lumped both the people and the government in the WE, a sneaky way of trying to convince people that the Government is trustworthy.

Heng also made a third point about “Honouring One Another”. Here, he used fear as an alarmist weapon by citing how differences and fault lines had led to World War One and the Ukraine war. He then launched into a spiel about how we should avoid such fault lines by honouring one another and working together for the “greater good”.

The Honour (Singapore) website was more direct on how it would use honour as an “Enabler for Constructive, Respectful Debate”. It stated: “As we look into the future, we can also expect an increasing desire by citizens to speak out on a widening array of national issues, and to be able to act on their own initiatives but with government support. In order to maintain peace, harmony, and stability even in such times of debate and individual actions, there must be a national consensus that all things are done with a view to enhance the well-being of the nation. To achieve this, there must be a strong vein of honour and mutual respect between individuals even when there may be sharp differences in views over particular issues.”

By now, I think many readers would have drawn the same conclusion as I did. It seems quite clear that Hope (Singapore) was established to push a national agenda and to strengthen the people’s trust in the PAP/Government by using the honour narrative. The Honour (Singapore) website even highlighted this sentence in bold font : “Trust is the lifeblood that determines the quality of relationships that undergird every community and society. And honour is the foundation of trust.”

Post GE2011, the Lee-led Government has increasingly taken aggressive actions to stem the wavering trust and waning votes. That Honour (Singapore) would be used by the Government to shore up its power base should come as no surprise. They have come under growing and vocal criticisms over their highhandedness and flawed policies (from immigration to housing and CPF) which have eroded our Singapore identity and pride and which have driven up the cost of living to the point where Singapore is ranked as the Most Expensive City to live in in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

For an idea on how Hope (Singapore) will carry out the indoctrination read its evangelistic declaration on the website:  “It is imperative that the culture of honour be embraced by Singaporeans as a fundamental virtue in the compass for Singapore’s success in the years to come. It is a message and a belief that needs to be espoused and embraced by schools, parents, leaders, workers, and community groups, with the help of various channels like talks, conferences, media, events, and community activities.”

Some of the key messages that Hope (Singapore) might evangelise in its outreach could well include:

1) Honour your pioneers especially the PAP-Government leaders. Praise the pioneers and do not act dishonourable by criticising the government leaders especially the Lee family who are beyond reproach. Honour and Obey your government if you want Singapore’s success to continue.

2) Honour your word – Look no further than to the PAP-Government leaders as exemplary examples who are trustworthy and who always honour their word (especially to foreign investors and businesses). Honour your word like how your government has ALWAYS honoured its promises (forget about broken promises such as returning your CPF at 55 as that’s for your own good).

3) Honour one another – Be measured when voicing your views and manage your differences for the sake of survival and harmony.  Let consensus rule and the majority win for the greater good of this country. You are behaving dishonourably if your views are too different and critical and if you do not understand the need for consensus.

On this topic of honour, one cannot avoid asking just how honourable has the PAP-government been since it came into power? History is replete with examples of its dishonorable behavior from the way Lee Kuan Yew had disparaged Singaporeans to how he and his Party collaborators used their absolute power to consistently repress our civil rights by introducing draconian laws and occasionally circumventing our Constitution when it suited them.  And of course, we cannot forget how numerous critics of the government were brought to their knees via the ruthless use of the Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial, through questionable crackdowns like Operation Coldstore and the Operation Spectrum (Marxist Conspiracy) and via the use of lawsuits to bankrupt and break its political opponents and overly vocal critics.

Honourable is certainly not a word that comes easily to mind when we think of our incumbent government.

In the coming months and years there will be a lot of “noise” in Singapore about honour and honouring. We will do well to prepare for it by remembering, and telling our children, that true honour boils down to knowing and having the integrity to do what is morally right.

We must never hush our conscience and let others, especially an elite group with dubious intentions, dictate to us on who, what and how we should honour.

“Act well your part, there all the honour lies.”  Alexander Pope, English poet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cartoons supporting dialects in Singapore by the talented Cartoon Press artist

Support Dialects in Singapore

Support Dialects in Singapore

Childhood songs sung in dialects

Childhood songs sung in dialects

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PM Lee Refuses to Yield on the Speak Mandarin (Forgo Dialects) policy

 

Blustery rebuttal letter from Prime Minister Lee's Office published in ST on July 11. All fury and little substance

Blustery rebuttal letter from Prime Minister Lee’s Office published in ST on July 11. All fury and little substance

Two days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the 35th anniversary celebration of the Speak Mandarin Campaign in early July, Lianhe Zaobao published a commentary that rained on his parade. Zaobao, which is staunchly pro-Govt, had uncharacteristically criticised the Speak Mandarin campaign saying the campaign and the bilingual policy had exacted a very high price from the people as it had turned the use of Mandarin and dialects into “a zero-sum game” with dialects being the victim.

The Government’s policy had also created a divide between the dialect-speaking pioneer generation and their mainly English-speaking grandchildren, leading to a loss of traditional Chinese values and sense of identity and the hastening the Westernisation of society, said the Zaobao editorial which also pointed out the falling standards of the Chinese language here.

The Prime Minister’s Office sent a strong letter rebutting Zaobao’s editorial without conceding that its policy had hurt dialects and communication with the elderly and standards of Chinese language. PMO even audaciously claimed that without that draconian policy there would be a generation of Singaporeans who cannot understand, speak or write the language.  And it stubbornly, defiantly even, insisted that its policy remains relevant today as most people cannot master English, Mandarin and dialects at the same time!

These claims, in my opinion as an older generation Chinese, is untrue, without basis and a gross exaggeration by the PMO to defend its Speak Mandarin-Forgo Dialects campaign. One wonders if the insular official view that it is nigh impossible to master Chinese language and dialects is coloured by the anglicised Lee Kuan Yew’s own experience as he did not learn to speak Mandarin until a late age in his 30s after he was shamed at an election in 1955 by an opposition candidate for not being able to speak Chinese even though he was Chinese.

The Government’s die-die-must-defend attitude smacks of deliberate ignorance and a refusal to acknowledge reality and the citizens’ needs. Firstly, the Mother Tongue for the Chinese refers historically to our dialects and not to Mandarin. Removing dialects from the Chinese is akin to removing our cultural roots and heritage. There is much value in preserving dialects and this has been well researched and argued by many scholars.

We also have studies that prove that children have an innate ability to learn multi-languages when young and experience has shown that knowing dialects can aid in the learning of Mandarin. More importantly we have living proof.

Our older generation from age 40s onwards finds the Government’s argument against dialects fallacious and hollow as many of the older educated Chinese grew up multilingual. They were able to speak English, Mandarin and dialects and even some Malay unlike the majority of the younger Singaporean Chinese who only know English and Mandarin. Adding to the irony ,  it appears that the well-educated older generation tend to speak and write better English and Chinese compared to many of the younger generation in their 20s and 30s who have problems grasping the basics of grammar, syntax, tenses and accurate pronunciation and enunciation.

In its rebuttal letter, the PMO also trotted out a frayed argument when it said its “pragmatic policy” (speak mandarin – forgo dialects) has worked well compared to Hongkong’s experience with three languages (English, Mandarin and Cantonese). Was it even right for the PMO to compare our country with Hongkong which is predominantly Chinese and whose people have been speaking Cantonese as the lingua franca for centuries?  It is a language which the HK people are proud of and it is what gives them a strong sense of identity. Moreover, many HK people are able to speak Mandarin and English pretty well these days.

The PMO should have compared Singapore with Malaysia instead of Hongkong.  Malaysia, like Singapore is multi-racial and multi-cultural. For the record, Malaysian Chinese are able to speak English, Mandarin, dialects and Malay without the insurmountable difficulties touted by our government.

Like the Malaysians, older Singaporean Chinese had comfortably used a combination of languages to communicate with our friends and family long before the bilingual policy was introduced in 1979. When growing up, as with other older gen Singaporeans, I spoke English/Mandarin/various dialects/Malay/Singlish with my friends, English and dialect with my father, Mandarin and dialect with my mum and dialects with my older relatives.

So are we better or worse off with the Speak Mandarin campaign which has sacrificed all dialects in a callous and disrespectful manner?

Today, many of our young Singaporeans are unable to speak any dialect except perhaps for some common jargon like Walau and cuss words like KNN. Thankfully, we still have Singlish which incorporates the use of some dialect words or else dialects may really become obsolete in Singapore’s not-too-distant future. It would be a great loss to us if dialects were to disappear from our society. We would lose a valuable part of our Chinese and Singaporean culture and history if so. Those stories told to us by our grandparents in dialects,  childhood songs sung in dialects, those colourful words that added vibrancy and nuances to our conversations (especially feisty in heated arguments)…all never to be heard again on our island. A truly depressing possibility.

Support Dialects in Singapore cartoon by Cartoon Press

Support Dialects in Singapore cartoon by Cartoon Press

It is tragic that dialects were politicised and neutralised when the PAP came into power. It is regrettable that till today, PM Lee is stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the flaws in the Speak Mandarin-Forgo Dialects policy and the very real need to make more space for dialects to flourish.  One wonders why? Are they afraid a review will amount to an admission of error on the Government’s part or that it might undermine their power base somehow? What exactly are they afraid of?

We live in a different era now and have reached a point where English is the lingua franca in our country and Mandarin is also spoken by most if not all local Chinese. Allowing dialects to be aired on local media and encouraging the young to learn some dialects isn’t going to threaten our society nor the learning of Mandarin. Learning to speak dialects doesn’t mean we will stop speaking Mandarin just as reading a book about two male penguins hatching an egg isn’t going to turn us gay.

Ironically, we hear a great deal of dialects being used by the PAP candidates and their entourage when they campaign for votes during the General Elections and when they go on house to house visits to sell their party. The PAP-Government knows full well the power of dialects in communication, especially with the older generation, so why do they continue to deprive younger Singaporeans of this ability?

It frustrates many of us that our dogmatic government appears frozen in an outdated paradigm and is unable to evolve to meet changing societal needs.  If only it has the heart and honesty to soul search and to review its policies for the betterment of the people. A leader who is unable to humble himself to learn from past mistakes to make changes will only hold back and even stymie the growth of the nation and the citizens. We do not want that to happen to our country.              ——————————————————————————————————

Some background notes: Many of our younger generation are unaware that the PAP-government under former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had taken a deliberate and oppressive approach to minimise the presence and use of dialects while promoting the use of Mandarin.  All dialects, including dual-sound options, were banned from TV and radio programmes. This not only deprived many elderly from enjoying their daily dose of entertainment in dialects, it also removed the opportunity for Singaporeans to learn dialects via the local media.   There were also several official campaign slogans over the years  exhorting citizens  to “Speak More Mandarin, Speak Less Dialects” (1979), to believe that “Mandarin’s In, Dialect’s Out” (1983), “Start With Mandarin, Not Dialect” (1986) and that we are “Better with more Mandarin, less dialect” (1988), and for us to adopt “More Mandarin, Less Dialect. Make It A Way Of Life” (1989).

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S. Rajaratnam on Book Banning and Religious Hysteria

Everyone who cares about Singapore’s peace and harmony should read this letter written by one of Singapore’s finest leaders S Rajaratnam who was our Deputy Prime Minister in the early 80s.  He had warned back in 1988 of the dangers of giving in to religious hysteria and of religious conflicts that could tear this country apart. He was spot on.

The rising religious fundamentalism in this country is worrying and it is even more so as our government appears to be supporting and “placating” religious hysteria. The recent appalling actions by the National Library Board in withdrawing three children’s books just because they did not fit “community norms” and the even more shocking official support given by the Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim have raised alarm bells.

Like many fellow Singaporeans I am worried for my country. Worried that the angry debate, the growing intolerance of people who do not fit the state-sanctioned “norm” and the rising militancy of religious fundamentalists will tear our social fabric and our harmony to shreds if the Govt continues placating and feeding the religious hysteria. If only we have the likes of the wise Rajaratnam in government now to restore sanity to the state. -Jentrified C.

Why Religious Hysteria Must Not Be Placated 
A letter by S Rajaratnam published in ST Forum
23 Nov 1988

Why, it may be asked, am I persisting in what is turning out to be a spirited monologue between me and the censors responsible for banning Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation?

The banning of a memorable book which the vast majority of Singaporeans have ignored for some 30 years without serious damage to their health and mind is unlikely to bring Singapore crashing down.

The worst that can happen, from the censor’s point of view, is that, should the ban be ever lifted, there would be a stampeded to borrow or buy the book.

The best that can then happen is that, in diligently searching through the novel for the dirty bits that do not exist, many Singaporeans would have, for the first time in their lives, read from cover to cover a masterpiece of modern literature.

So my persistence is not over the banning of one book but concern over the cast of mind and motive that led to the banning.

This anxiety has been reinforced by Mr Koo Tsai Kee’s response on Nov 12 to my first letter. I find Mr Koo’s reply far more disturbing than that of Mr John Lee (ST, Nov 12). In the latter case, I was broadcasting FM while Mr Lee was radiating on a wave length beyond the range of earthly intelligence.

Mr Koo, on the other hand, is a highly intelligent man, not least of all because of his description of my first letter on the ban “as a brilliant piece of expose which makes for compelling reading”.

Circuitry haywire

My inflated ego soared higher still when he tried to shame our censors by stating that the fact that “the movie and book were not banned in the West in spite of a hue and cry from predominantly Christian societies bears witness to the triumph of sanity over hysteria”.

He then goes on: “If anything the misrepresentations should be exposed. I sincerely believe we are intellectually the poorer because of it (the ban).”

So far so good. We were both operating on FM. Then suddenly I lost Mr Koo. He was inexplicably operating on a wave length well beyond the reach of known human intelligence.

His circuitry suddenly went haywire. He says that nevertheless “I empathise with the sentiments of my Christian friends” in the interests of what he calls “racial and religious cohesiveness” — race and religion unspecified.

He, therefore, “grants our censors… the privilege” of ensuring that, out of regard for the sensitivities of the hysterical, other thinking Christians and non-Christians should “suffer some intellectual deprivation”.

In other words, “racial and religious cohesiveness” can best be ensured in Singapore by enforcing, as a matter of law, what on the basis of Mr Koo’s own analysis is the triumph of the hysterical over the sane — Christian and non-Christian.

I would have thought the best way of ensuring racial and religious harmony would be by compelling the hysterical minority to “empathise” with the sane majority.

This is what Western Christian and even non-Christian countries with also a multiplicity of religions and races have had the courage to do in the face of the baying of the hysterical over this book.

And as far as I know, no religious wars have erupted as a result of the courageous stand. On the contrary, placating religious hysteria is the surest way of encouraging religious intolerance and, therefore, of religious civil wars.

Yet a non-Christian and Asian Singapore applies the opposite remedy.

I do not propose in this letter to back my statement by adducing a wealth of evidence, except to point that, today, there are so many racial and religious wars on a global scale as to justify regarding this phenomena as the rule rather than the exception.

That is why when on the day of my retirement from official politics I was asked by the reporters what my future concerns for Singapore were, I unhesitatingly said: “The danger of racial and religious conflicts”.

Personal encounter

The reason why Singapore has so far been an exception to what is becoming a world-wide rule is that this Government had the courage always to be on the side of sanity against the intolerance of the hysterical.

Singaporeans would be foolish to think for one moment that they have some divine immunity against religious shootouts.

I would like to back this statement with a personal encounter.

I was recently on a holiday in an Asean country. I was visited by a niece of mine on her way to a girl guide campfire sing-song. I remarked that during my boy scout days I enjoyed such campfires.

“Not any more uncle”, she said, with a wry smile.

“Why not?”

“Nowadays we have sing-songs but without campfires”, she said wistfully.

“Why?”

“Because”, she said, “some minor religious sect considers singing around a campfire fire-worshipping and therefore offensive.”

The girl guide officials were advised in the interests of racial harmony and in the interests of “empathy” for the intolerant to dispense with the bonfire.

A triumph of hysteria over sanity, right?

As my niece walked away, I wished with all my heart that, for her sake, sanity had won over hysteria instead.

Transcribed from: http://bit.ly/1nrJful

Note: This letter was transcribed by Kenneth Tan and it had first appeared on his Facebook page Kenneth Shanghalist Tan.  He is looking for volunteers to help transcribe more archived reports that are of interest to Singaporeans. Those interested can contact him at singaporeano@gmail.com

 

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PAP and the Art of Name Calling

Jentrified Citizen:

An excellent article analysing the systematic and continuous verbal abuse thrown at Singaporeans by the PAP Govt. All of this party’s despicable name calling actions are manipulative and calculated to undermine the people’s moral, to control them and push the govt’s own agenda. No other government in the world has insulted its own people in the same manner as the PAP which has lost the moral right to govern.

Originally posted on The Bullshit Politician:

Bigotry

Ever wonder why Singaporeans are called many names? From time to time, we see Singaporeans being labelled ‘Xenophobic’ or ‘Bigot’ or ‘Infantile’ and many more names. It seems very convenient for the media to employ name calling all the time, but are we really what they called us to be?

Just recently we have been called a ‘Bigot‘ and ‘Disgrace’ when there is conflict over the Philippine Independence Day event where Filipinos being targeted online for planning to celebrate their Independence Day in Singapore. Well, I’m not going into a lengthy discourse over that phenomenon. Let’s explore the underlying interest of the PAP controlled mainstream media and the Art of Name Calling (or Labeling).

Name Calling is a form of psychological abuse which can cause devastating effects that affects your inner thoughts and even exerts control over your life indirectly. It destroys healthy relationships even relationships with…

View original 1,516 more words

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One Little Riot Opens Pandora’s Box to Many Big Issues

The riot involving a mob of over 400 foreign workers in Little India

The riot involving a mob of over 400 foreign workers in Little India

So much has been said about the Little India riot with blame implied by our Govt and unsubtly pinned on the supposed drunken fury of the workers. At this stage, the causes of the riot have not been officially defined nor has it been proven that the rioting was due to drunken states. Yes, the workers were wrong to have rioted but has our Govt ever considered that they are ultimately responsible in a way for failing to consider the infrastructural and sociology-psychological impact and consequences of shipping in 700,000 foreign workers (excluding domestic workers) onto a tiny island (just 710 sq m in size) to work in hard laborious jobs? Of these 700k, about 300,000 are South Asian blue collar workers.

When you have such a large number of lowly paid and over worked transient workers here, you must plan for them as human beings and not as mere digits to fulfill an economical need. Did the government work to ensure that their well-being and welfare is taken care of? Are these poor and powerless workers housed in decent lodgings, fed decent food, and given enough time to rest? Did our government plan for sufficient recreational outlets and facilities to cater to the workers’ interests and different needs? (sitting around and walking around Little India every single weekend as the main form of recreation can get frustrating even for a local so let’s get real here and view all the workers of different nationalities as people with genuine needs and feelings).

We all have different sets of experiences, values and customs. Some of us are more reserved, some of us are passionate and expressive. Some like to drink, and some hate drinking. Even among locals, we have many differences, what more with those of other nationalities?  The government’s declaration that foreigners have to live and behave the “Singapore Way” shows a complete ignorance of and a lack of empathy for human behavior and our individual needs. And it reflects this govt’s blinkered dictatorial mind – Do it our way or no way. Should they not consider the differences of our diverse population and learn how to manage and yet cater to the differences in a small melting pot?

The Govt wants the integration of these workers with our society but this is somewhat naive when dealing with transient workers who are here on short contracts. What integration are we talking about when some locals have even suggested building fences and gates to protect all public housing in Little India (will that be our new apartheid complete with signs saying “Foreign workers keep out”?). What integration when Housing Minister Khaw Boon Wan has even once suggested the possibility of housing foreign workers on outlying islands (a nicer version of Robbens Island with a curfew?).  What in the world are these people thinking of? Keeping the foreign workers out of the way is simply not right morally. Adaptation with minimal conflicts is a more realistic goal.

It is too late to put back the clock now with such a huge number of imported workers already here (and that’s not counting numerous others on other employment passes), hence the Government needs to get down to work fast to have a good grasp of the situation. Instead of just doing a technical Committee of Inquiry investigation of the riot, they need to do soul-searching and hold discussions with all relevant parties including transient workers groups. Instead of trying to put a quick ending to this riot, which must be mortifying to the Govt and is a huge slap to their proposed Population White Paper to jack up the population with more foreigners,  the G needs to do a holistic review of the foreign worker and population issues.

This riot is not something that can nor should be left to Home Affairs Ministry alone to analyse and handle.  The Manpower Ministry and community agencies across the government must come together and conduct proper research and thorough planning to ensure that the welfare and needs of these workers are met. There is also no better way to understand the situation, the frustrations and the needs by speaking to the workers themselves. Don’t interrogate them. Ask them what they think and feel. The answers may surprise.

Can ways be found to help these workers adapt? Can ways be found to give them better treatment? Can ways be found to provide them with more avenues for relaxation and recreation? Can ways be found to help Singaporeans understand and adapt to them better?  Can the government review and scale back the population targets and numerous construction projects to balance the influx of workers with the small size of our nation and needs of the local population? Can our government even begin to reflect honestly and ask themselves what went wrong and what can be done better for the foreign workers and for the citizens of the country?

Things often happen for a reason in life. This unfortunate riot has a silver lining in that it has opened a Pandora’s Box and reminded us that there are many deeper issues that must be examined and answered. Dealing with these underlying issues and treating people decently will be the necessary first step to having long-term harmony among vested parties on our little island country.

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Do anti-online harassment laws mask real intent of the Govt?

image“Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there,” said PM Lee Hsien Loong at a forum yesterday . This comment seems to be the latest sign of the PAP-government’s belligerent attitude towards the online world.

This comment by PM Lee was reported as part of the current spate of news reports, editorials and letters published in MSM – all seemingly aimed at demonising the online world and drumming up support for our government’s move to introduce new laws against cyber harassment. Many of the govt officials, reporters and letter writers cited the dubious survey by REACH (the govt’s feedback arm) to claim that 8 of 10 Singapore “residents” want tougher rules against online harassment.

I am against cyber bullying but I also believe many people may be supporting this move without being aware that the PAP-Govt could be using this as an opportunity to a) attack the credibility of the online world to diminish criticisms of the PAP and b) to tighten the laws such that netizens will have more fear and lesser freedom online to criticize incompetent PAP leaders, flawed national policies and the Party.

Some political observers believe that this is a strategic war move that the beleaguered PAP leaders are making to shore up their defences in the run-up to GE2016. The signs have already been there since GE 2011 when government leaders started referring to the online world as “the wild, wild west”; their online critics as the “lunatic fringe”; made numerous slurs about the “vocal minority” online and subsequently introduced the new MDA ruling earlier this year to curb the reach and proliferation of online sites and blogs that are increasingly critical about our incompetent government. Demonising the online world by describing it as a vile place full of trolls, hackers and crazy anti-establishment bullies is a devious political strategy to discredit it.

And now, riding on a flimsy survey by their propaganda arm REACH, and leveraging off the recent website defacements, the Government is making its move to tighten their invisible net on the Net by introducing tougher laws against harassment online. Just how far will they go with these laws?

Their approach to the new online laws betrays their real intent because if they were sincere about protecting those who are being cyber bullied while balancing not being a paternalistic nanny, surely they would have focused the new laws on cyber bullying? The fact that they have come out with guns blazing to say that they want to introduce tougher laws against online “harassment” implies a lot as the word harassment is very vague and the act of harassment spans a broad and grey continuum of behaviours.

What is harassment? How will it be defined? There are 1,001 degrees of what constitutes harassment. Is a political cartoon or a meme mocking govt leaders deemed as harassment? Is using an anonymous profile to question and critique a Minister on his Facebook page or to tweet a not so nice comment considered cyber bullying or even harassment of the minister? How many times must one do this to run afoul of the new laws? And really, shouldn’t the focus of the laws be to tackle genuine cyber bullying cases and not harassment which is so vague? In fact, if the G wants to tackle serious harassment, it should step up its efforts offline where it is much more common and worrying There are many cases of sexual harassment at work and bullying at schools for example, but I don’t see our government making a big deal out of that.

It is precisely the vagueness of this word “harassment” that benefits the increasingly defensive Government. Keeping it grey and the laws broad could give them wide powers to deal with unfavourable online comments and netizens as they deem fit, just like how the recent MDA online ruling has been kept very general.

Yes, anti-harassment laws could instill more civility in cyberspace, but if too broad and unfettered, they could also spread fear, yet again, among Singaporeans, who have only recently started emerging from their fear of speaking up for their rights and to criticise the government policies that hurt the people.  The net effect of increasingly repressive laws could lead to a muzzling of online criticisms of the government. A most desirable outcome for the PAP.

“Nothing is as it seems. Black can appear white when the light is blinding but white loses all luster at the faintest sign of darkness.” – Christopher Pike

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Lim Swee Say and his “Sayisms” ring hollow

Contradictory Circular reasoning by Lim Swee Say

Contradictory Circular reasoning by Lim Swee Say

It’s a good thing that Singapore’s Labour movement chief Lim Swee Say is Not an English teacher. Read the many contradictory things he said recently in a speech in which he claims there is a “mistaken perception” that grassroots leaders and organizations exist to help the People’s Association (aka the PAP govt). He then contradicts himself by saying “that is not a core mission”! LOL.

Hello, if it is truly a mistaken perception, then it means it is not true right? But since Swee Say, who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, says it is not the “core mission” it means it is indeed true that it is a PA mission to help the PAP!

Next he goes on to erudite “Let’s invert this grassroots triangle. Instead of the Govt on top…your main focus must be resident-centric,” which means the triangle has always been the Govt on top as the main focus!  And he is indirectly admitting that for the past 48 years, the Govt and PA has been using taxpayers money and public funds not to focus on helping residents but to help the PAP. What a revelation! Duh. Tell us something we don’t already know.

Swee Say who was speaking in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association at a PA event, also said something mystifying:” PA advisers, we [the govt] are here to support you, not the other way around.” Huh?? But but, PA advisers are drawn from the PAP MPs and the govt! So according to him, it will still be PAP government leaders supporting PAP leaders who are also from the government?

And what’s this bullshit from him that the PA need to focus on serving residents to deepen bonds with them? Shouldn’t that have been the case in the first place based on the PA’s mission for its very existence? Swee Say also instructed the PA to involve more partners such as schools, government agencies and companies. Going by the PAP’s past political patterns, Swee Say’s latest exhortations sound like a self-serving agenda yet again – to use the PA to infiltrate deeper into the community and across the business and school networks to manipulate minds to win votes for the PAP.

We should also take note of the intricate unhealthy web of government-unions-grassroots in his portfolio - he is an adviser to the Prime Minister in the PMO, he is Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress and the deputy chief of the PA.

Lim Swee Say and his "Sayisms"

Lim Swee Say and his “Sayisms”

Although Swee Say really does need lessons in English and straight talking, we have to thank him for illustrating so clearly how the Ministers twist the truth and spin yarns so blatantly to fool the people. And we have to thank the MSM for reporting faithfully what the ministers say for the people to read with their eyes wide open.

BTW, Swee Say also said recently, in his capacity as a labour chief, that, although we do not have the minimum wage here, we have the “minimum wage ladder”! What’s that yarn about? That’s a separate story which you can read online. The Internet is full of his fabulously entertaining and hollow “Sayisms.

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Blast from the Past – Mary Lee’s testimony to the harshness of LKY

Ex-ST's reporter Mary Less tells of her terror after writing an honest article on the education system here.

Ex-ST’s reporter Mary Less tells of her terror after writing an honest article on the education system here.

Jentrified Citizen – The above is a screenshot of a letter from ex-ST journalist Mary Lee which was published in The Independent Singapore website. For more on this gripping personal story you can visit http://theindependent.sg/how-lky-changed-my-life/

I am sharing this as it is a very real and vivid reminder of the ugly terrifying side of rule under Lee Kuan Yew who has been glamourised and sanctified by the media and idolised by blinded fans as a holier-than-thou leader, a legend larger than the real person. I hope people will open their minds to hearing all sides of story to know the truth and not have LKY wrongly immortalised in history as a leader who did no wrong. (And get it right once and for all, LKY was NOT the founder of Singapore which existed long before his ancestors even stepped foot on this country)

Have things improved under his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong? Is the state no longer using such dirty tactics to muzzle its critics? Not really. The difference is that the cold steel is now sheathed in velvet gloves and the muzzling is more subtly done. Vocal critics are still being monitored (just look at the ridiculous number of undercover police they sent to video the people who attended the Hong Lim Park protests).  Yes, we are still wary but we are no longer terrorised.

There comes a time in life when many of us,  as decent human beings, are pushed to the edge of our tolerance. Ultimately, our conscience and human desire to resist and speak up against wrongdoings overcomes our fear. Ultimately, good must triumph over evil as the saying goes.

Mary Lee, kudos to you for not being cowed and for bouncing back stronger and braver.

 

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Compassion Deficit: Singapore Ruling Elite’s Attitude towards the Poor

Jentrified Citizen:

Jentrified Citizen – The one thing the PAP government lacks is heart. This shows in the heartless way they treat the citizens, the poor and needy and in the way they hold us ransom through fear and dirty tactics over the decades.

Originally posted on Singapore Armchair Critic:

Hong Kong has a hugely popular reality television show that invites the city’s yuppies and tycoons to experience the life of the underclass. For a few days, affluent participants of “The Battle of the Poor Rich” (窮富翁大作戰) had a taste of the daily struggles of the homeless, the sweeper, the garbage collector, the eatery helper, and the single mother etc. trying to stay afloat in one of Asia’s most expensive cities.

(Cantonese with Chinese subtitles).

In one episode, a power broker spent barely a few hours collecting garbage before he asked the show’s producer to give him a less tedious job. Another young businessman who gamely took up the challenge of sleeping on the streets and earning his keep, shed tears of frustration when he lost his job as a eatery helper after working half a day.He said this after a sobering night as a homeless:

The…

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