Butter in the balance

Jentrified Citizen:

Why it matters that we should not have a dominant one party rule in Singapore. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely…..”Consider this: Malaysia’s UMNO-led coalition isn’t as dominant in that country’s political landscape as the PAP is in Singapore’s. UMNO and its Barisan Nasional partners do not even have a two-thirds majority in parliament; BN does not run all the state governments. There is a far more active civil society there than in Singapore. Malaysian sultans are not appointed by the government and have had a history of tension with it. Despite these handicaps, Najib has been able to block investigations, sack those who stood in his way, and issue the most asinine of ‘explanations’. We thus cannot naïvely assume that, should a future scandal brew under the surface in Singapore, where currently the government remains even more dominant than that in Malaysia, truth will out and wrongdoers punished.

A year ago, no one could have imagined the crisis of confidence that has since engulfed Malaysia. The thing about rot is that it can remain invisible for a long time, only to be exposed and turn dangerous very late in the day.”

Originally posted on Yawning Bread:

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Even as signs of an election were building up in Singapore over the last few months, an incomparably absorbing story was unfolding to our north in Malaysia. However, the scandal at the sovereign wealth fund One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) speaks to our election too. It shows how the lack of sufficient checks and balances is a bread-and-butter issue.

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Lee Kuan Yew is not Singapore’s founding father

Jentrified Citizen:

A very clear and factual explanation debunking the many myths and propaganda surrounding Lee Kuan Yew.

Originally posted on Yours Truly Singapore:

I refer to the 24 Mar 2015 Straits Times report “Singapore mourns: Thousands pay tribute to founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew”.

ST quoted PM Lee:

“The first of our founding fathers is no more. He inspired us, gave us courage, kept us together, and brought us here. He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him,” he said.

Lee Kuan Yew is not our founding father let alone the first because he never fought for our independence like George Washington or Gandhi did for their respective countries. Instead, Lee was the recipient of our independence and was on record to say that it was a moment of anguish for him. Isn’t it contradictory that Lee fought for our independence yet felt anguished when we became independent? Lee’s anguish at our independence confirms…

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The Good, the Bad and the Intolerant in the Amos Saga

A gaunt looking Amos Yee leaving the court yesterday.

A gaunt looking Amos Yee leaving the court yesterday.

It has been an eye-opener reading the flurry of online comments about the release of Amos Yee.  Most of the comments have been heated with much mud being slung both ways. The raging debate over Amos has clearly brought out the worst and the best of Singaporeans and, of greater concern, it has highlighted an ugly segment of militant people who are exceedingly intolerant of anyone behaving outside their notion of the social paradigm.

These extremists have hurled vitriol at Amos and even at those who campaigned for and supported his release from prison.  An example of their vitriol can be seen in the ridiculous allegations made in response to a comment I had made on TODAY FB page regarding the Amos Yee release.  Using my Facebook moniker Min Zheng I had written: “A very shameful period for our country. Shame on the state for bullying a child. And shame on those who wish the worst on this boy.”

This comment sparked a slew of angry responses. Many militant conservatives strongly defended the actions by the government and accused me of being anti-government, a paid foreign spy (ah if only I get paid for my writings), a political tool for just about every opposition party (and curiously even a tool for Han Hui Hui). Some sneered and said I should leave the country implying I am a traitor of sorts.

Presentation1 It was also disturbing reading the many callous comments about Amos with many saying he deserved being jailed and sent to the mental hospital and that he was faking it when he looked traumatised yesterday (these people should try staying in jail and a mental ward and see how they look after that). Some even attacked his mother for being a bad mum and criticised her for wearing a “I Support Amos” T-shirt on the day of his release.

The belligerent attacks continued with one smart-ass trying to assert that Amos at 16 is an adult and not a child and that the jail sentence is too short as he is a menace to society! Amazingly, some people went on to declare Amos had to be punished if we do not want to see racial riots in our country or become like Malaysia!

For the record, a teen at 16 is still a child not an adult according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which defines child as persons under age 18. If any adult disagrees, please ask yourself if you thought and and behaved like an adult when you were 16.

Frankly, even if Amos were an adult I would still say it was wrong to arrest someone for speaking his mind, albeit rudely, as what he said was not so earthshaking that it could cause even a dent on our social harmony. His rant and his name would most likely have have long been forgotten if the fanatical gang of 32 had not created a ruckus by filing police reports against him.

Next, what Amos said had nothing to do with race and what he said could not have caused  a mini riot much less sparked a descent into hell for our religious harmony which was built over many years (Singapore’s history harks back to the third century contrary to political propaganda that we are 50 years young).

Do note that not a single Christian group came forth to cry father cry mother about Amos’ video rant (which btw was about Lee Kuan Yew lest we forget and not about religion). Not a single one. On the contrary, there were many Christians who petitioned for his release. One pastor even took part in the recent Hong Lim Park rally, which campaigned for Amos’ release, and he said there was nothing to forgive when someone asked if he forgave Amos.

There is much hypocrisy among those loudly condemning Amos. The fact is many of these people are not really concerned about our religious equilibrium, their anger is actually fuelled by Amos insulting their idol by calling Lee Kuan Yew a “horrible person” and a dictator not long after his death.  Yet, these people are shamelessly using religion as a tool to hang Amos.

As for allegations of me being used as a political tool to topple the government, please lah don’t honour me with such importance when I do not have such power nor any political associations of any sort. All I have done and am still doing, like many other concerned citizens, is sharing my opinions and speaking up when I see injustice done against my fellowmen.

On the flip side, one could also accuse these zealots of being political tools or agents out to protect the PAP-govt by defending the abusive use of draconian laws to squash dissent. These defenders are also being hypocritical in ignoring the double standards in how the law on sedition and harassment has been applied over the decades by our government. In addition, the outspoken Lee Kuan Yew had said many hurtful things about women, Malays and had even insulted Singaporeans such as calling us dogs in the past. Yet, none of his supporters called him out for causing disharmony did they?

As I have mentioned, this whole saga has brought out the worst and the best of Singaporeans and it has brought to our attention the emergence of a highly intolerant group of Singaporeans whom I shall call the “Intolerants”. Their behaviour goes well beyond being conservative as they appear to be callous, swift to anger, fast to condemn and worse, have the tendency to push the authorities to punish those whom they find offensive.

This militant group’s arguments are often fallacious and strident to the point of telling those who disagree with their political views to leave the country. Why the hell should any Singaporean leave their country? What gives these arrogant “Intolerants” the right to tell their fellow citizens to leave the country in the first place? Such behaviour makes them look like fascists trying to purge the country of those who do not share their views and values.

We should worry for our country’s future if such people are in community leader positions and in the PAP-government.

IMO, such extreme intolerance should not be allowed to proliferate as they will end up polarising our society and cause more cracks and unhappiness. Our Government leaders need to be more careful and discerning when listening to such people’s complaints and advice if they truly want to have peace and harmony among our people.

Yes, there will always be differences in any society but being militant in saying “It’s my way or the highway” is simply not the way to build a cohesive and happy community in today’s day and age. We should be able to discuss, argue and debate in a civil manner without resorting to hysterical vitriol and to using the law in an abusive manner.

As society progresses and becomes more complex,  we will need to become more understanding and accommodating of different views and beliefs; we will need to have more empathy; and we should be more open-minded and less judgmental.

One final comment on Amos. Whether one loathes or love him, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that the people and our authorities treat the boy right – with universal values of compassion, fairness and justice. To his haters, I say you have the choice to stay angry or to ignore his future postings (which I am certain will resurface) and please stop cursing and condemning him. To his fans – don’t make him into some sort of idol and stop egging him on to do things that you wouldn’t even think of doing.

Amos is just a 16-year-old boy. Let him be. Let live his life.

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Is Singapore becoming a shamelessly hypocritical society?

If you don't walk the talk, it is best you don't talk the talk.

If you don’t walk the talk, it is best you don’t talk the talk.

Reflecting on recent national issues that have happened here, it is sad to see how increasingly hypocritical our Singapore society is becoming. Let’s review some of the more noteworthy hypocrisy:

  • Our government has launched Character and Citizenship courses for students purportedly to teach them moral values (and values aligned with the PAP). Yet the government leaders have time and again shown their own lack of integrity by twisting facts and telling half-truths and even lies just to make themselves look good (One big lie is calling Lee Kuan Yew our country’s Founder when Singapore was founded centuries before he was born).  The G has even formed a committee to create a Founders’ Memorial, to basically honour the PAP pioneers, but curiously there is no historian in the committee.  All these lies and perversion of our proud history have been justified by them in the false name of protecting the country when all they are doing is protecting their party.
  • Along the same vein, our govt exhorts us to embrace Asian values yet these same people embrace the litigious nature of the West, eagerly suing vocal critics and ordinary citizens over the past few decades. Double standards much?
  • Our govt preaches a zero-corruption system while practising unethical cronyism such as blatantly rewarding and placing their own inexperienced “loyal soldiers” in well-paid top dog positions in the govt and in Govt-linked companies.  At the grassroots level,  loyal PAP/PA grassroots supporters  are rewarded with juicy benefits such as reserving the best units in unlaunched new HDB flat projects. And more recently, there was a public uproar over the People’s Association unfair act of reserving places for their own people at the Aussie government-sponsored BBQ.  Ironically, a Resident Committee chairman had the gall to write to the Straits Times to defend this unfair move. When one is in power, one is blind to one’s faults and defiant to the very end?
  • The ultra conservatives in Singapore are loudly against the LGBT, to the ridiculous point of getting some children’s books like “And Tango Makes Three” removed from state-run libraries. Yet the moral police has long been oddly quiet on the rampant cheating and adultery committed by many people across religions. Hello, the Bible also says Thou shalt not commit adultery ok?
  • An increasingly extremist self-righteous group here is pushing to curb drinking and  smoking in public. Some justify it by claiming their rights not to inhale secondary smoke. Yet, some of these people are likely committing worse “sins” such as polluting the air with the vehicles they drive and destroying the environment with the rubbish they throw and do not bother to recycle, and note the numerous plastic bags and Styrofoam boxes they use without any concern for the world.
  • A strident and intolerant group of Singaporeans (many of whom appear to be fanatical [and opportunistic?] MIW supporters) like to file police reports over the slightest thing that they claim will endanger our racial/religious/country’s harmony and peace when many of these hypocrites secretly harbour racist views and are highly intolerant of alternative views. Many of them including some PAP grassroots leaders behave in a shocking lynch-mob manner wishing for the worst to befall upon 16-year-old Amos Yee – from threatening to cut off his dick to wishing he gets raped in prison. Harmony? What harmony? What peace?
Amos was brutally slapped by a man outside of court and many cheered the assailant's assault

Amos was brutally slapped by a man outside of court and many cheered the assailant’s assault

With so many mixed messages being sent out by the government and community leaders, who should be good role models to our young, what are Singaporeans to think and make of all that is going on? I wouldn’t be surprised if, looking at how our leaders behave, many of our young will think it is perfectly ok to lie, twist the facts and use every opportunity to advance one’s agenda regardless of ethics and fairness.

The cynics will say hypocrisy is everywhere. That may be true but as citizens of our country, we have every right to reflect and ask what kind of society we want Singapore to become. Is it a society that is shamelessly hypocritical and which believes the ends justify the means or a society that believes in good universal values of behaving with integrity and compassion?  Think about it. It’s your country, your home, your future.
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MARUAH’s Statement on Defamation Law and the Case Against Mr Roy Ngerng

Jentrified Citizen:

Fully agree. It is shameful to have such a prime minister who is probably the only one in the world to sue a citizen for defamation.

Originally posted on Maruah Singapore:

MARUAH, a Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisation, objects to government leaders using the Defamation Law to institute defamation lawsuits against its critics, regardless of whether the offending statement is defamatory or not.

We make these remarks as the court assesses the damages that Mr Roy Ngerng has to pay for the remarks made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. In May 2014 Mr Ngerng, a blogger, was sued by Mr Lee Hsien Loong, whom we assume is acting in his private capacity and not as the Prime Minister. Mr Lee’s lawyers demanded that Mr Ngerng remove the article in question, issue an apology on his blog, and offer compensation to Mr Lee. Mr Ngerng acceded to all the demands, including removing four other articles, and made an offer of S$5,000 as compensation to Mr Lee. Mr Lee’s lawyers, however, dismissed the amount as ‘derisory’, and commenced legal action on 30 May…

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Much Ado over One little Amos Yee

bbfbb7c3eaa1b82ec753b14ea839f5cfIt’s been 40 days since Amos Yee was arrested and he has spent some 15 days in remand since then. Following the 2-day trial which ended yesterday, this 16-year-old boy is currently languishing in a Changi Prison cell awaiting the court verdict which is expected  next Tuesday.  One can only imagine how he must be feeling and how surprised he must be that his 8-min video rant against Lee Kuan Yew has exploded in such an unimaginable way that has brought out the worst and the best in Singaporeans and even drawn international attention to how intolerant a society we have become and how insensitive our system is in the treatment of a child.

Yes, lest some forget, he is still a child not an adult according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which defines child as persons under age 18. If any adult disagrees, please ask yourself if you truly felt like an adult when you were 16.

Over the past month we have witnessed a shocking level of intolerance and vindictiveness in the overblown response to the video.  Yes the timing of his video soon after LKY died was bad, yes he did say things that were rude in his rant against LKY and this offended SOME fervent fans of LKY and SOME Christians. But many, including Christians and Catholics, have also spoken up to say they were not offended. Yet, for this one short video, which he did to get people thinking about political issues, Amos and his family have been subjected to all sorts of indignities and sufferings including online abuse by adults who should know better.

Ironically, Amos had said in an opening line in his video that “Lee Kuan Yew is a horrible person because everyone is scared, everyone is afraid that if they say something like that they will get into trouble which, to give Lee Kuan Yew his credit, that was primarily the impact of his legacy”.  All that has happened to Amos since then is reinforcing this view as zealous supporters of LKY seem hellbent on continuing this oppressive legacy.

Let me now list the trials and tribulations that the kid and his family have suffered since he his video posting on March 29:

1) Amos has been mob-lynched online by numerous adults with many making inappropriate filthy sexual threats including some wishing that he gets buttxxxx (raped) in prison and a PAP grassroots leader even wrote that he wants to cut Amos dick and stuff it into his mouth.

2) Thirty two, yes 32, police reports were filed against him including by well-known diehard grassroots supporters of the PAP.  None of these people have appeared as witnesses in court.

3) Amos was arrested on March 30 within a day of his video posting and was handcuffed and shackled in the presence of his grandparents. At least 8 police officers went to his house to arrest this boy. Why so many? Why was he treated like a felon?

4) He was given what his lawyers have argued as  unreasonable and disproportionate bail terms which include a total ban on him posting anything on social media (though the AGC sniped that he can still shop online) and an initial bail amount of $20,000 (which btw is half of the bail amount imposed on Filipino Ello who had made seditious insults against Singaporeans). The amount was upped to $30,000 after Amos broke bail terms by posting comments online protesting against the bail conditions

5) He was assaulted by an adult male outside of court with a heavy strike to his face which caused his eye to be swollen.  Despite being arrested a week ago, the assailant’s identity and photo has NOT been publicly disclosed.  Shockingly, many Singaporeans cheered the repulsive attack including establishment types like grassroots leaders and well-known bloggers. Their rationale for cheering? He deserved it. Yet, would any of these people allow strangers to slap or hit their child even if their child had misbehaved obnoxiously in public? Not at all.

20150430_amosyeeslapped2_st_screengrab

Struck by a man in front of court and the assailant’s identity has still not been disclosed even though he has been arrested

6) And at the public court hearing over the past two days (May 7 and 8), a pale and skinny Amos shuffled in with hands cuffed, legs shackled in heavy chains while wearing a shirt with the word PRISONER emblazoned on the back, shocking those seated in the public gallery.  The shackling and cuffing, I understand, is a police protocol for all those held in prison even if in remand. Isn’t it time to review this SOP for children and the frail elderly?

7) To add insult to injury, the media including The Straits Times have misreported several facts and tried to paint Amos’ mum as uncaring and the boy as a psychopath with mischievous and misleading headlines that screamed “Loonie!” just because the court had wanted him to undergo psychiatric counselling in exchange for reviewing the bail terms.  For the record, Amos’ mum Mdm Toh said she had taken Amos for counselling to understand why he seemed “too daring” and feared nothing, and not to find out if he was insane. The boy is brilliant and cocky but he is no psychopath. As his lawyer Alfred Dowell reminded the public – he is just a boy, don’t demonise him!

A shit-stirring headline by Straits Times

A shit-stirring headline by Straits Times

8) Just yesterday, TODAY newspaper ran a terribly misleading and wrong headline that added to the family’s humiliation when it claimed falsely that Amos was asked by his church to leave. The truth is he gave up practising his faith as a Catholic when he chose to be an atheist.

a completely wrong headline

a completely false headline

9)Since he was charged on March 31, Amos would have spent a total of 18 days in jail by the time he is brought out in chains again to hear the court verdict next Tuesday. This includes the time he spent in prison before he was bailed out by the kind soul Vincent Law (who said he had absolutely no regrets doing so) and the time that he went back to remand after breaking the bail terms by posting comments online.

Yes all the above, and more, has happened to Amos. And he is just a 16-year-old boy.

Amos has been charged with making offensive remarks about Christians and circulating an obscene image. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges against him.  Initially, he faced a third charge for making comments about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew that were deemed likely to cause distress to Singaporeans, but this was stood down although the prosecution can still charge him for it in future if they so decide.

I understand that some people were upset by the video made by Amos.  But as his defence lawyers argued in court, there is no proof that Christians were hurt by what Amos said. Some were upset but many more were not.

As for the supposedly obscene line drawing of LKY and Margaret Thatcher, Amos’ lawyers raised the point that one must consider if there was an intent to deprave and corrupt such as causing titillation for the image to be considered obscene. IMHO, no one looking at that drawing will be titillated.

Everything that has happened to Amos would be very considered traumatising even for adults so what more for a child? Even though his lawyer has claimed Amos is in high spirits, even though many people admire the boy’s seeming resilience in the face of such adversity, no one knows how he really feels beneath the stoic facade.  There may be major longer-term repercussions as this draining saga may affect Amos’ mental development and physical health, destroy his future in Singapore and wreck his family and social relations.

The crux here is – there has been a dramatic overkill in response to what Amos did.  Why should Amos and his family be traumatised in such a manner? Did he something that was so terrible and evil to warrant all that has happened to him? Online lynching, cheering when he was assaulted, 32 police reports, jail time? Seriously??! Would any of his haters feel the same way if all this happened to their child?

Yes, he was disrespectful in his comments on LKY and on Christianity but surely any  rational person can see that such comments from a child will not wreak LKY’s reputation nor destroy the strong religious harmony which has been built over many decades in Singapore? There are many much, much worse comments made online about LKY and religion over the years and yet both survived unscathed.

While I am saddened by the pettiness and vindictiveness, I am also heartened to see many people speaking up for Amos.  Many have expressed shock at the lynching and jeering. I too was taken aback when some friends, who are normally compassionate and kind, rejoiced gleefully when Amos was assaulted.  Whatever happened to their compassionate and understanding heart? Where is the universal principle of love, forgiveness and kindness preached by their religions? Isn’t their reaction completely at odds with what they preach?

If one teenager’s online rant can draw this kind of rabid response, and if nothing is done to temper the mindset of such people, Amos’ case could well set a precedence. It may embolden the ultra conservative and ultra sensitive to take even more atrocious actions against any and every person/website/blog who/that posts anything that may be deemed offensive to them. Some may want to take personal/political/religious advantage of the very grey and broad Protection from Harassment Act and sedition laws.

Having drawn blood from getting Amos arrested and charged, will the self-righteous group become even more intolerant? Is this the kind of Singapore we want? Is this the kind of intolerant and uncompromising society we desire for us and our children? Will this not fracture our fragile harmony as one people?

So much has been said by our Government about the need to be a kind, tolerant and gracious society. We are exhorted to be gracious and accepting of all different races, religions and nationalities.  Yet, how are we treating a child who is somewhat different from the norm here? What are we seeing in the treatment of Amos?

I worry for our country if this sort of mob mentality and intolerance takes root. I hope good sense will prevail and that our Government leaders will do the right thing to rein in any zealous and unjustified mob lynching and work on building a more tolerant and open-minded society.

Let’s now put things in context. Amos is not a bad kid, not by a long shot. He did well in his studies, he has won awards for his creative work, he does not smoke, drink or do drugs and he has never committed a crime. His only “sin” that seems to offend some people is that he is very different from the norm as defined by society here. He speaks his mind bluntly, he has an unusually deep interest on socio-political issues for one so young and he has an exceptional brilliance and an ability to think critically that could make some adults uncomfortable. What he lacks for now is maturity and the ability to think strategically to survive in this world.

Amos and his family have already paid a heavy price for his one video rant. The boy needs time to grow up and understand life. He needs guidance and counselling to become wiser and to learn how to navigate this complex world in a mature way. What he does not need is vindictive abuse and immature jeering from adults who should know better. He also does not deserve to be broken and destroyed all because he made one video that pissed off some overly sensitive people.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than in the way which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela

Published by Jentrified Citizen, 9 May 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

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50 Shades of White, PAP-Govt’s House Needs Cleaning

Khaw's words while leading the coordinated attacking on WP in Parliament.

Khaw’s words while leading the coordinated attack on WP in Parliament.

There has been a firestorm in Parliament this past week with the ruling party lashing out at the Workers Party with exceptional venom and shockingly slanderous accusations. I am not going to add to the debate over the AHPETC town council matter as this has been covered in-depth online and it has been reported extensively by the mainstream media which devoted reams of pages to this over several days.

Instead, I am wondering about the sense of perspective over AHPETC, or rather the loss of perspective, by the ruling party and the MSM for them to have devoted so much time, energy, public resources and news space to it when there are many other bigger issues of concern to the citizens.

Let’s start with the 2013/2014 report by the Auditor-General (AGO) on the transgressions by the government. The contents list of this 64-page report was an eye-opener as it listed the numerous financial lapses and irregularities found to have been committed by EVERY Ministry in FY2013/2014.

The puzzling question is – Why didn’t the Ministers and MPs openly address in Parliament some of the major lapses (some repeated) committed by their agencies if they truly care about integrity, transparency and doing what is in the best interest of Singaporeans? Instead, the PAP MPS and several heavyweight Ministers like Khaw Boon Wan and Shanmugam spent a great deal of the entire Parliament time this past week harping on ONE lapse by the Workers Party – the management of AHPETC. Is it because the ruling party is gearing up for the looming General Elections which may take place this year?

Even though there were lapses in the management of AHPETC, one would have expected the MPs to at least allocate balanced time to the matter while spending precious Parliament time and resources debating and addressing other areas of great concern. This is what tax-payers expect their MPs to do and not to waste resources bombarding the opposition in Parliament in an astoundingly undignified manner.

It was shocking indeed to hear Khaw Boon Wan use the example of  Japanese senior management who would resign and even commit hara-kiri (suicide) over wrongdoings. I doubt he was actually asking the WP MPs to kill themselves over AHPETC but Khaw was certainly playing to the gallery to exaggerate and  sensationalise the lapses committed by WP during its learning curve of managing its first GRC.

Those who live in glass houses should be sure their homes are clean of filth before they lob accusations at others for not doing proper housekeeping.  In the 2013/2014 report by the AGO, irregularities were found in various agencies under the Ministry of National Development headed by Minister Khaw who has been spearheading the Parliamentary attacks on WP.

The report said the National Parks Board’s transgressions included creating and backdating some documents relating to the development of Gardens by the Bay to give the impression that they existed at the time when the relevant transactions took place. The AGO said “creating and backdating documents to satisfy audit queries is a serious irregularity. It also casts doubts on the authenticity of other documents and information provided to AGO.”

Although MND conducted an inquiry into this, shouldn’t it still account openly to the people as to how such a lapse could have happened in the name of transparency and assure the public that such lapses will not happen again to any agency under its control? Instead it appears that its big chief has been busy expending energy on pontificating about his righteousness and taking WP to task over AHPETC.

Over at the the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). which is also under the MND, the AGO found had grossly underutilized land, buildings and facilities at several places which is to quote the AGO “tantamount to a waste of public resources”. As an example, AGO found that of the 41 buildings at the Sembawang site, 15 buildings were left vacant for periods between 2 and 14 years. Another three buildings were partially occupied for periods between 8 and 11 years. The vacant areas in these 18 buildings formed 28.4 per cent of the gross floor area of all the 41 buildings.

AGO also noted that 112,294 m or 78.0 per cent of the site was vacant land. AGO also observed during its site visit that some of the vacant buildings were poorly maintained. For example, there were termites in one building and condemned furniture and other discarded items in other buildings, which could pose pest and fire hazard problems.

And at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the AGO found serious lapses in the National Council of Social Service which repeatedly violated procurement procedures such as by not getting the mandatory three quotes and although NCSS implemented a set of improved procedures in April 2013, the procedures did not prohibit the same officer from being both the payment approving authority and the quotation approving authority.

NCSS procedures were also lacking in requirements for ensuring proper negotiations, such as having ample representation during the negotiations and keeping proper records of the negotiation meetings. AGO’s test checks of 45 purchases made directly from the vendors or where only one or a few selected vendors were invited to bid revealed that for 32 purchases (71.1 per cent) totalling $1.72 million, NCSS gave lame reasons for not procuring through open competition.

AGO also found that for 15 of these 32 cases at NCSS, the suppliers were awarded the contracts without competition for three or more consecutive years, and for one case, for 20 years.

Over at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the AGO’s test checks of 46 payments at the Singapore Civil Defence Force(SCDF) revealed lapses in financial control and instances where officers had approved purchases and contracts or certified invoices when they did not have the authority to do so.

Specifically, the SCDF approved two payments in March 2012 amounting to $217,100 for the maintenance of two IT systems before services were fully performed.

There are many more such appalling lapses where proper procedures were blatantly ignored, money was lost and public resources had been wasted.  One need only read the contents page in the report to see the scale of the transgressions by the government bodies.

All these are matters involving public funds, trust and integrity and the Government must account to the people for the lapses and explain why some of these lapses have continued to recur despite them having been flagged by the AGO previously.

My point here is that there are many national issues of great importance and the MPs, who are elected and paid by the people to do a proper job, should not waste precious Parliament time fixated on slanderous attacks to fix opposition parties.

Read the full report by the AGO here http://www.ago.gov.sg/doc/ar-1314.pdf

The contents summary of AGO’s report:

10
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Lapses in the Licensing of Land
………………………………………………..
11
Lapses in Administration and Maintenance of Land
…………………….
13
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
Control Weaknesses in Processing of Housing Allowance Payments
….
14
Late or Non-recovery of Salaries and Related Costs of Seconded Staff
……
15
Lapses in Tender Evaluation and Contract Management
………………
16
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Contracts Made Outside Singapore Not Signed by Authorised
Signatories
………………………………………………………………………….
18
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Financial Assistance Not Ceased for Deceased Persons
……………….
19
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
Singapore Civil Defence Force
Lapses in Controls over Financial Commitments and Payments
……
19
Misuse of Funds Stored in Cash Cards
……………………………………….
20
Prior Approval Not Sought for Changes in Procurement Requirements

21
ii
ii
PART II : AUDIT OF STATUTORY BOARDS
…………………………..
23
MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
Media Development Authority
Lapses in Administration of Grants
……………………………………………
25
Lapses in Evaluation of Projects for Funding
……………………………..
27
National Library Board
Lapses in Procurement of Library Materials
……………………………….
27
MINISTRY OF CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH
National Heritage Board
Irregularities in Management of Variation Works
……………………………
29
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board
Lapses in Appointment and Monitoring of Former Staff Engaged
for Projects
………………………………………………………………………….
31
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Lapses in Administration of Goods and Services Tax Refunds
under Tourist Refund Scheme
……………………………………………….
33
Singapore Totalisator Board
Gaps in Controls over Administration of Social Enterprise Hub
Programme
…………………………………………………………………………
34
iii
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Health Sciences Authority
Lax Control over Approval of Applications for Import of
Medicinal Products
………………………………………………………………
36
Weak Controls over Seized Items
………………………………………………
37
Contracts Awarded to Incumbent Contractors that Did Not
Meet Tender Requirements
……………………………………………………

39
MINISTRY OF MANPOWER
Central Provident Fund Board
Lapses in Managing Waiver of Competition, Purchases and
Approval of Ad Hoc Works
………………………………………………….
41
Wrong CPF Contributions for Employees Performing
Operationally Ready National Service
……………………………………
43
Lapses in Monitoring and Following Up of Erroneous Medisave
Claims
………………………………………………………………………………..
44
Incomplete Data for Assessing Eligibility for Workfare Income
Supplement Benefits
……………………………………………………………
45
MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority
Under-utilisation of Land, Buildings and Facilities
…………………………
46
Assets Under-utilised or Left Unused
………………………………………..
48
Weaknesses in Evaluation of Research Projects
…………………………..
49
National Parks Board
Creating and Backdating of Documents Furnished for Audit
………..
50
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT
National Council of Social Service
Irregularities at Various Stages of Procurement
…………………………..
51
MINISTRY OF
THE ENVIRONMENT AND
WATER RESOURCES
National Environment Agency
Inadequate Follow-up on Possible Breaches of Tenancy Conditions
….
54
MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board
Lapses in Procurement of Services to Administer an Award

 

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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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