(photo credit: The Online Citizen) “FIRST up on our list is Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore‘s (AVA) new reason for culling chickens (or was it *gasp* red junglefowl?) In a letter to Today’s Voices page, Dr Yap Him Hoo, director-general of the AVA, says that the birds were culled because of the risk of … Continue reading
The names and races of Singapore Presidents are as follow:
Presidents Elected Into Office By Parliament:
1959 – 1965:Yusof bin Ishak (Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for “Head of State”)) -6 years
9 August 1965–23 November 1970: Yusof bin Ishak – 5 years – died whilst in office
2 January 1971–12 May 1981: Benjamin Henry Sheares – 10 years – died whilst in office
24 October 1981–28 March 1985: Devan Nair – 3+ years – prematurely discharged
2 September 1985–1 September 1993: Wee Kim Wee – 8 years
Presidents Elected Into Office By Popular Vote:
1 September 1993–31 August 1999: Ong Teng Cheong – 6 years
1 September 1999–31 August 2011: S. R. Nathan – 12 years (2 terms – both elected unopposed)
1 September 2011–: Tony Tan Keng Yam – 6 years (by September 2017)
To date we have one Head of State and seven Presidents. And of the seven office holders, 4 were from the MINORITY RACES, the remaining 3, Chinese, from the majority race. So, the minority races are well represented even now.
Despite this, all of a sudden there is this hyperbolic urgency to change the existing criteria because of an apparent government perception that the minority races should ‘once in a while’ be made president although the record has clearly shown that a minority race member has had no problem becoming president of Singapore all this time. The late Mr Nathan for instance, was president for two terms as our elected president.
Well, the problem appeared to be self-inflicted by the PAP government on itself – for apart from the usual ceremonial duties it also wants the president to be ‘qualified’ with the prescribed credentials to take on the sacred duty of guarding Singapore’s national reserves, to be the ‘second key’# needed to block a rogue government from helping itself to the accumulated wealth of the nation.
However, these are not necessarily mutually exclusive conditions, nor are they insurmountable obstacles for a member of the minority races to contest on an equal footing with the other candidates in an EPE in the light of former EP, the late Mr Nathan two terms presidency, for instance. He was a member of the minority races and he not only made president, he in fact served TWO terms and was even elected UNOPPOSED on both occasions.
There is also this very obvious elephant in the room, that is, it makes nonsense of the very stringent and extremely high bar to cross, for any member of the majority race, namely, the Chinese, to merely qualify for CONSIDERATION as an EP candidate – before further screening, whereas, effectively, for the REST of population, (aka the minority races) the government appeared willing and prepared to relegate and water it down, perhaps even bringing the bar as low as would be necessary to ACCOMMODATE the minority race candidates in this respect. It makes NO sense because imagine the scenario where an ethnic Chinese president (majority race) elected on the basis of his high credentials to do the job of safeguarding the nation’s reserves, handing over the job after 6 years in office, to a minority race president who may not be equal to this task by virtue of being accommodated by the government (who else?) for political reasons (what else?). Are Singaporeans expected to believe and accept that our national reserves would still be safe, in hands of the less than qualified minority race president? This begs the burning question of whether during the 6 years term of a minority president, who would actually be guarding the national reserves from an opportunistic government which could turn roguish after and because the president would now be virtually a lame duck president where such a crucial duty is concerned?
Personally, I would not credit this government with an ostensibly ‘noble’ objective of ensuring that Singapore’s minority races would not be inadvertently forgotten or sidelined because of the government’s own very apparent low expectation of them. By ‘accommodating’ them with such preferential treatment the government would be taking ‘affirmative’ action up yet another notch and thereby perpetuating the myth that members of the minorities cannot make it on their own steam; that they are in need of political ‘charity’ and patronage of the government at every turn in our multi-racial and meritocratic system. This is an insult to the very many successful Singaporeans from the minority races. Just look around.
On the other hand, there is the widely believed conspiracy theory doing the rounds in social media, coffee shop gossips, among relatives, friends and colleagues, the talk of the town really, that this elaborate latest gambit of the government is nothing more then a ‘racial’ red herring cast to camouflage an ulterior PAP self-serving motive. Do you not think that it would be counter-intuitive for the government to deliberately orchestrate and heighten racial consciousness and highlight differences among Singaporeans after all the decades of national education efforts? So, quite evidently much bigger stakes are at stake for the PAP government’s sudden hyperbole on changing the constitution once again in order to accommodate a minority race president ‘now and then’, even when they don’t have the essential credential. And really who could believe that the PAP is seriously worried about minority races of Singapore throwing a huge tantrum if they had little or no opportunity to take up residence at the Istana? Just the other day, in a recent Mediacorp broadcast, a Malay participant has categorically stated to acting minister Ong Ye Kung that such tokenism is unacceptable to him because it would reflect poorly on the minority races in the long run and be unfair to former presidents like Mr SR Nathan in the years to come. He would prefer an evolutionary process whereby a member of a minority race is elected because he meets the exacting criteria.
But, no, the timing of the CJ led commission suggests that the hidden agenda of this sudden clamouring for a minority race president is almost certainly a convenient excuse fabricated to engineer changes to the current eligibility criteria for the EPE due next year so as to prevent another Dr Tan, Dr Tan Cheng Bok, from ever contesting again and potentially becoming the next president of Singapore; this can certainly happen if the eligibility criteria remained unchanged given the whisker thin winning margin of the incumbent. The PAP government is therefore afraid. What the changes would be Singaporeans would know very soon as the CJ has already submitted his report to PM Lee recently.
PM Lee himself once mentioned that if something isn’t broken, it should be left alone. Plainly, the current criteria for the elected presidential candidacy is broken – as far as the PAP’s self-interest is concerned.
(# Btw, the relevant details of the steps and procedure on how this critical blocking function would actually operate on a day to day, or month to month, or even year to year basis, had NEVER BEEN MADE KNOWN BY THE GOVERNMENT. In a nut shell, like in the CPF, Singaporeans have never been given information, are kept in the dark, regarding the mechanism by which this blocking would achieve its intended purpose of denying a rogue government out to fritter away our national reserves and also whether in fact such a system is actually in place and/or functioning.)
Cyber attacks are nothing new. They come with the territory and have been around for ages. What is new is the seeming inability of the government cyber security experts to cope. Apparently, the kitchen is getting too hot for the government, so it is getting out. Is that true?
I wonder how the rest of the world’s governments are coping? Is it likely that they are facing far lesser or less threats than the government of the republic of Singapore? Very hard to believe. Are we being asked to believe that it is worse than in the US, UK, Japan, and other European and developed countries?
IMO, a far more probable reason is the govt’s general distrust of its rank and file in the civil service. It probably regards the average civil service employees as potential spies, presenting clear and present danger – particularly, if it is employing a lot of foreign talents whose backgrounds are almost impossible to accurately vet or know. It is probably the leakage of information by civil servants that it is also worried about other than any cyber attacks. Evidently, the move is targeted at its own employees – the perceived enemies within.
Yet, another probable reason is that the Singapore govt classifies vastly far too much of its information and data as ‘sensitive’ or ‘confidential’ and therefore requiring protection, whereas in many other first world countries such information and data would likely be regarded as open statistical facts which are routinely and openly made available to any interested parties for consumption. This in not surprising nor hard to believe since the government has consistently refused to even provide a proper breakdown of the population when asked in parliament by opposition MPs. So we can see it as a possible extension of the desire to continue to deny freedom of information to the people of Singapore that this decision is all about, rather than some overwhelming danger posed by cyber-intrusion that is too hot to handle by the cyber security department. Cyber attacks are a convenient excuse, a red herring. A self-respecting cyber security professional would regard such a move as an insult and a sign of no-confidence in his ability.
At the end of the day, what sort of example is the govt setting for the rest of the country when it has evidently given up the ghost and in effect capitulate to cyber attackers by getting out? Are we to believe that commercial entities like banks and credit card companies and other huge corporations and MNCs operating here and elsewhere in the world are facing any less or lesser threat than the Singapore government, even though the government would theoretically be able to avail itself of the best means and resources to tackle the problem? In whose interest really is this siege mentality of the government out to protect?
It does look like the relevant authorities could only be moved to do something about existing shortcomings and deficiencies in SOPs, regulations and specifically in this case, the PGO (Police General Orders) and MOE guidelines to school leaders, only after someone had died to expose them.
I am reminded by 14 year-old Benjamin Lim’s suicide of how a young prisoner, Dinesh*, had died from asphyxiation, after he was brutally manhandled with excessive force by several Prisons Officers during an incident and left lying restrained on the floor of a cell in an awkward position that directly caused his eventual death by asphyxiation.
*Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah died inside Changi Prison on 27 September 2010.
It does look like to Singaporeans that the government and ministries seems to demand HUMAN SACRIFICES before they would relent and deign it necessary to take another look at some of their existing methods and procedures, regulations, guidelines, general orders, and what have you, governing the conduct, work and actions of public officers when dealing with people in the course of their duties.
In the case of Dinesh, public assurances were given to the effect that existing prisons SOP pertaining to the handling of defiant/difficult prisoners would be changed to prevent a recurrence. But I do not recall any subsequent announcement or publicity given to whatever improvements and safeguards that were finally put in place since the incident, even though an undertaking was given in parliament by a minister/minister of state that it would be done. So the people are supposed to take it at face value that something has been done and accept that this is the way the government operates, its M.O. (modus operandi) of maintaining a wall of silence because certain matters or details are ‘confidential’ and/or only on a need to know basis)? So the general public do not need to know?
On the other hand, I can recall reading reports on the alacrity and haste with which the several prisons officers involved were mass ejected from the Prisons Service through resignation, and a subsequent fine imposed on their supervising officer at the end of court proceedings. What improvements or changes have in fact been enacted/implemented to prevent another prisoner from suffering a similar fate as Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah appeared not to have been publicised or at least not given the level of publicity it deserved. That’s only my opinion. Did I miss any public announcement in this respect?
This time round, let’s hope there will be more transparency and wide publicity regarding any definitive changes and improvements that would be made to the existing SOPs and system of both the SPF and the MOE.
Perhaps, it may be timely too for the government to CRITICALLY review and audit all of its existing civil service SOPs, guidelines, regulations and general orders for civil servants with a view to remove/modify/attenuate/improve/update any such potential TIMEBOMBS that may be lurking within the complex and mammoth bureaucratic machineries that is the civil service and government. One can arguably argue that two lives have already been sacrificed in order to surface just two of such discrepancies. Are there anymore?
It would not be easy, but it has to be done for otherwise still more human lives are potentially at risk, if no deliberate cleansing is undertaken to remove the ‘scourge’ in such encounters with government officials which are often heavily loaded against the ordinary person. The government has vast resources at its disposal. It is only a question of whether it has the will to do it instead of kicking the can further down the road for the next 50 years.
PM LHL was quoted as saying that it was ‘completely hypocritical’ of Dr CSJ to look ‘magisterial and benign’ when the latter expressed his opinion that he disagreed with other SDP members who had ‘hit’ PAP ex-MP David Ong ‘as hard as they can’ for his extra-marital affair with a grass root volunteer. He accused Dr Chee of being the hidden hand behind instigating his ‘lieutenants’ to ‘say all the bad things’ about David Ong!
IMO, this accusation against Dr Chee amounts to an assassination of his character. If I may ask, where is the evidence, PM Lee? You are obliged to provide the evidence to substantiate your allegation if you want people to believe what you said. You must be aware that there is no parliamentary privileges for such remarks during a walkabout of Bukit Batok. Or do you have moles within the SDP reporting to you? Otherwise, it can only be a wild figment of your own imagination that you have created out of thin air in order to justify your smear of Dr Chee’s character in that same statement. As PM and a gentleman, you owe Dr Chee an apology if you are unable to substantiate your allegation.
Further, PM Lee also added that ‘Character never changes…’ which is really very, very rich coming from him since Lee himself was widely reported to have said in May 2006 that he would be ‘thinking what’s the right way to fix them’ if there were ‘10, 15, 20 opposition members in parliament’ and how ‘to buy my supporters vote’. He later apologised, but it was already too late, for the cat is well and truly out of the bag about his own character and intentions towards the opposition. It was a clear unforced Freudian slip that had exposed the Machiavellian streak of his character and personality traits during an unguarded moment – of what he is capable of doing behind the scene or upfront against the opposition.
So that is a part of his character, all laid bare by himself, clearly and unequivocally enunciated in his very own words. Unfortunately, again according to his own belief, it could NEVER be changed, no matter what he may do or say subsequently for the sake of damage control!
PM Lee also cast doubt about whether Dr Chee would make a good MP if elected by the voters of Bukit Batok. And again quite blatantly, Lee had said this without offering any tangible scrap of evidence to the voters of Bukit Batok and other Singaporeans. He must really think that Singaporean voters are fools. Of course, he can do this as blatantly and as frequently as he likes since no one from the MSM would dare to gainsay him nor point out that he really had no clothes on, on pains of jeopardizing their rice-bowl.
In yet another moment of amnesia for which the men in white are infamous, PM Lee had so quickly forgotten about the two MPs (Michael Palmer and now David Ong) who had to be so suddenly jettisoned from their position as MPs (Palmer was at that time also the Speaker of the House) because they had been publicly exposed to have deliberately abused their positions by having extra-marital affairs with the ladies with whom they worked hand in glove (more likely, cheek to cheek) with, as MPs. Essentially, they came, they saw but they could not resist touching.
So, is there a better way to judge whether PM Lee is a reliable or dependable judge of character or not, and whether he is omnipotent (like God) and therefore able to tell who would make a good MP or not, than for us to base it on publicly available information, as well as what he himself has publicly said and done?
I am not taking sides but I would expect LWL to reveal what about the editing by ST that she was so unhappy about. It is not in ST’s interest or responsibility to make that call. In any event, LWL who started the ball rolling, would have all the material evidence (emails) of what had gone to and fro between her and the ST editors, to make her case – if she wants to badly enough. The ball is really in her court, as the world awaits.
IMO, if she refuses to do it then her objective for airing her unhappiness in fb is quite plainly to manipulate public opinion in her favour in her tantrum swipe against the ST and it is most definitely not out of any sense of justice or that she really cared for freedom of speech beyond her own self-centred needs. After all, as Janadas Devan has pointed out, the editing has been going on for a decade and she has been happy enough to even collate them into a book to make money. To my mind, she did it basically out of a violated (naïve) sense of self-entitlement, pure and simple. So would she be foolish enough to cut her own nose to spite her own face, notwithstanding her rhetoric about freedom of speech? Any revelation would cut both ways – she has to be careful with that.
It is apparent her interest in free speech is confined only to HERS alone, i.e. when she perceived HER right to say what she wishes, when she wishes in the ST, is being controlled by some other vested interests above and beyond her own. So the rest of us should really just stand by the side to eagerly watch the pantomime being played out and hope that this jousting match between LWL and the ST would grow (and expose more skeletons). Let’s just wait and see who eventually will be knocked off his/her high horse. It would also be interesting to watch who if any, could step in to mediate (it could be in secret) in the wider interest of the ruling party’s vested interest. Would the Chairman of SPH and a government minister get into a huddle to find an amicable mutually face-saving solution all round?
It may very well be that the ST is privately miffed as it is caught between a rock and a hard place, as on the one hand, it was instructed by ‘upstairs’ to blow up the old man’s one-year death anniversary into a gratuitous 11- page exercise in abject ritualistic genuflection to the dead master so as to be in sync with the government propaganda machinery’s steroid-charged excesses, and on the other hand, the old man’s naive and strong-willed daughter demanding her right to call a spade a spade of what she sees.
If the ST had acceded to LWL’s demand to publish warts and all what she had written, its editorial board would certainly become a laughing stock and be roundly criticized as being Janus-faced; it would also remove all doubts that it is indeed not only an unmitigated running dog but one so completely devoid of every single vestige of corporate will or shame that even a prostitute would despise. This it would never do – made to slap its own face.
The passing of the old man is like a safety valve that is now let untended as no one else has feet big enough to wear his shoes. This incident and others to come would possibly lead in time to an inevitable blow up, which can only be good for our society. The fact is LKY’s death has left high and dry many institutions that he had once heavily influenced and leaned upon to toe his line, when he was alive. They are now like the eunuchs of the Forbidden City – left to their own devices – after the death of the Empress Dowager.
It is completely moot if the current PM has his father’s gravitas, personality or political shrewdness to fill the void.
The Straits Times reported that “50 turned up to discuss review of office” (Sunday Times, 6 March 2016).
It was reported,
“One of the speakers, constitutional law expert Kevin Tan, echoed a sentiment shared by several participants: that the current review of the system is spurred by the experience of the close contest in the last presidential election in 2011.”
This is perhaps the one and only real purpose from PM Lee’s point of view: to change the criteria so that only HIS preferred choice of candidate could qualify and win the elected presidency.
Let’s examine Lee’s main excuses for change:
that the number of at least $100 million companies has grown 13 folds to 2,114 since it was written into law 25 years ago.
So by simple arithmetics, we had only about 162 of such companies when it first started 25 years ago? But how is having more people now who qualify be an issue? SINGAPOREANS WILL NOW HAVE MORE POTENTIAL PEOPLE TO CHOOSE FROM TO BE THEIR NEXT EP. Why is this not good? Why is this apparently a bad thing that worries the PAP government?
To most of us ordinary mortals, it is a cause for celebration to have more capable people in our midst to choose from to fill the elected president’s job. Yet, Lee is apparently rueing the fact that this is the case! To date he did not condescend to explain to us what is his logic beyond those threadbare remarks.
In the manner Lee prefers to slant it, you get the impression that he thinks the 13 folds increase is apparently just so much more burdensome weed (or, duckweed?) that requires the appointment of a 9-member Constitution Commission of highly qualified and highly placed persons to prune and weed out.
There is one more weakness in Lee’s reasoning about the 13-fold increase in ‘eligible’ companies: he implied that a 13-fold increase would directly or inevitably translate into a rush of company Chairmen, Presidents and CEOs knocking on the Istana gate to become the next elected president.
This is quite unfounded and without real merits. A non-sequitur because from past experience this had not been so. More to the truth, he is motivated by the knowledge and fear that there is a very real opportunity for a president who truly represents the people to be elected this time round and upset the PAP’s apple cart.
It is seriously doubted that the vast majority of the 2,114 eligible companies and their top brass would even be slightly interested to jeopardize the well-being of their own businesses for the sake of the largely perfunctory position of the EP in the PAP’s scheme of things. But in contrast, it is extremely jealously guarded by PAP for reasons of its own vested interest as it is very much a part and parcel of its cosmetic window dressing and white washing for the outside world. It is also a weak link if a truly non-partisan and righteous person takes over command at the Istana.
His claim that the national reserves, which has always been shrouded in secrecy, has grown much bigger is a weak argument and makes little impression as how much bigger has it actually grown or for that matter, shrunk, no average citizen really knows. Real knowledge of the reserves’ status is a well guarded secret. Very probably, even top officials of the MAS, GIC and Temasek dealing with the reserves would have only a partial and incomplete picture confined to their own immediate portfolios and spheres of responsibility. Even Goh Chok Tong, an economist, was apparently kept at arms length by the father and son in respect of the reserves.
There is no way he would be able to convince Singaporeans on this point.
According to PM Lee’s implied logic, an at least $100-million company is now not good enough to qualify. It begs the question what should the new ‘magic’ cut-off figure would be – $200, $300, $500-million, or perhaps even a billion $ since this would be rarefied enough and would probably be good for the next 50 years?
One might also ask him what about those presidential advisers – shouldn’t they be the ones that would and should be constantly and readily changed and refreshed to suit a changed or different ‘steering’ requirement rather than constantly chop and change the Constitution to ‘adjust’ the EP’s qualifications at the drop of a hat. In comparison, in an executive president system like the US, presidential advisers come and go often to meet changed circumstances. In any event, the EP’s role is largely ceremonial 99% of the time and custodial 1% of the time, and he has no options but to take his cues from the Prime Minister and he is fully assisted in all important matters, including his custodial duties of guarding the national reserves, by a team of highly qualified advisers, experts and assistants.
Further, as has come to pass the overwhelming majority of these top companies top guns are perfectly contented to remain where they are as they are quite ‘ambitionless’ in the direction of becoming the next elected president of Singapore with a guaranteed limited tenure of only 5 years. This has been the case to date (see below). It is moot that they would prefer ‘challenges’ like kissing babies, making inane speeches, gracing ceremonies and shaking hands of ordinary folks and foreign dignitaries at the Istana and other functions, to running their business outfits.
Furthermore, given the PAP’s record of a lack of transparency with regard to the management and status of the national reserves (think of the treatment/answers meted out to late President Ong Teng Cheong when he wanted to take stock of his responsibilities for the reserves) how many self-respecting top guns of top companies could stomach the prospect of sacrificing their concrete and real control over their ‘mere’ $100 million companies, in exchange for something so vague and nebulous as a gilded jaga job over ‘invisible’ billions in national reserves.
Simple Real Statistics
Next, let’s look at the real statistics – based on the reported 2,114 at least $100-million companies today – there would have been roughly about 162 such companies 25 years ago when it started? What is the purpose of comparing with dated 25 years old figure? What about a more current figure such as the figure in 2011 when the last EPE was held? This was not given nor emphasized I believe.
When we extrapolate from 25 years assuming a progressive trend of increase over the 25 years to the present 2,114, there could have been theoretically, something like (roughly) 1,690 to 1,800 eligible $100 million and more companies in 2011, the year of the last EPE. Now, the interesting and enlightening point is how many people from these 1,690 to 1,800 companies who qualified for the 2011 EPE were actually interested enough to participate and were eventually allowed after their credentials were vetted? The answer is, precisely 1 (namely, Tan Kin Lian). So what is the significance of trotting out the 2,114 figure when it is obviously irrelevant?
Why does the PAP see a need to cut down on people who are eligible to participate when they are overwhelmingly not even interested to participate in the first place? Why is the PAP making it an issue when NONE exists in the first place? Why isn’t Lee happy if more from the eligible ‘cohort’ would qualify to stand given the current paucity of interest, even apathy, among them to come forward and serve? Instead, he is apparently making an excuse to cut down when he should be doing the very opposite – like a farmer spraying weed-killer when he should be nurturing the soil with fertilizer.
It is therefore plain that Lee is using it as an excuse for the Constitution Commission to introduce new criteria aimed at preventing 2011 EP candidates like Tan Cheng Bok (who lost to Tony Tan only by a whisker) and Tan Kin Lian from participating in the 2017 EPE. Many believe, not without justification, that should it come down to a two-horse race between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bok, the former would be soundly beaten this time round. The PAP knows it has a huge problem finding a replacement for Tony Tan who could outshine the popular medical practitioner.
Affirmative Action For Minority Participation in the Elected Presidency
“east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet” – Kipling
This basically turns Lee’s own punctilious arithmetics and logic above on its head. On the one hand, the PM appeared impossibly fastidious about the calibre of the EP to take on the custodial duties for the national reserves, but on the other hand he is at the same time saying it is all right, now and then, to indulge in patronizing affirmative action towards members of minority groups by making them EPs (implying, even when they don’t meet the reserves custodial criteria). Is this flattery or an insult? It is apparent that Lee is saying it is OK sometimes to have such LAME DUCK EPs never mind his inability to discharge his fiduciary responsibilities towards the people! How would our local Indian and Malay Singaporeans see this? How would the rest see this? In a manner this is a Freudian Slip of Lee on the real sort of EPs that he in his heart of hearts really wants. What should we make of this except that he is playing to the gallery? Let’s see if members of the minority groups would call his bluff.
Why don’t the PAP simply scrap the EP and revert to a titular presidency – call a referendum if you will – where the government can pick and choose who it wants to be president? Spare us the pantomime and make-believe that we are going to elect someone into the Istana who could actually be depended upon to stop a rogue PAP government from doing whatever pleases it with our country’s reserves.
We all know that under the PAP the unchangeable fact is that the president whether, elected or selected, could only tread where the govt allowed him. He could NEVER ever dream of stopping the PAP government where it matters most and when the chips are down. So, can you stop the wayang, please?