Playbook for 2020?

‘Opposition’ parties tried to use the 2011 playbook for 2015 and it failed miserably. As warned in 2011.

Now the question is, do they still want to use the same playbook for 2020? Or are they willing to reform?

1. WP has to get its town council accounts right. It has been given one last chance. If it doesn’t get a perfect set of accounts by 2020, they’re gone.

It wouldn’t hurt WP to make a leadership renewal before 2020 either, get new and younger leadership into place.

2. SDP has to continue Chee’s makeover. Leadership renewal too, get rid of the dead weight. And don’t put up ex-isa detainees for election. Ever. In fact, get rid of them from the party if possible. As they and other activists tend to cloud the party’s agenda.

3. Sing first is a one trick pony. The xenophobic platform needs to be changed completely. If TJS can get enough good people to join him, the party can stay. Else he should just merge with SDP.

4. NSP, SDA, RP, SPP should all close shop. The good guys from these parties, such as Jeanette and possibly Ben Pwee, to join other parties. The no-hopers, such as KJ, should be shut out from all other parties. The Ah-Sohs should retire.

All parties need to consider whether protest votes are still a viable way of getting into Parliament, and whether their role should be to play second fiddle to pap forever. Or should they instead appeal to voters by putting up strong candidates to secure beach heads so that they can build their strength over the next 20 years and be ready to challenge pap for power by SG75.

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Opposing For The Sake Of Opposing?

If you’re gay and you speak out against pap, are you opposing for the sake of opposing? If you’re a single mum and you speak out against pap’s ‘pro-family’ policies, are you opposing for the sake of opposing? If you’re a pacifist and you speak out against pap’s high defence spending, are you opposing for the sake of opposing?

Yet when political parties say the same things, pap labels them as ‘opposing for the sake of opposing’. And what’s sad is that many Singaporeans seem to be buying this pap brainwashing.

Amazing isn’t it? If a party speaks up for its convictions, it’s “opposing” the pap for the sake of opposing. I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s what the pap and its fans would have you believe. Because they say ‘opposition’ parties want to oppose the pap just for the sake of opposing.

Pap’s hidden message is that these parties really have no use at all, because all they do is to waste time.

Pap don’t want people to understand that political parties are formed by people who share certain fundamental beliefs. That these values can be quite different to those of the pap. That these parties can be elected to parliament on a platform that is based on these values. And that having been elected on such a platform, voters expect them to act in accordance with their platforms and beliefs, which are quite different from those of the pap.

No. What pap says is, they are just opposing for the sake of opposing.

Well, Pap too has certain beliefs, which were shaped by its founders. For instance, like the republicans, pap advocates high military spending. Because lky said he never wanted Singapore to be invaded again.

Similarly pap is anti welfare, anti human rights, pro-family, anti gay etc. Pap believes in elitism, self-sufficiency, secrecy, genetic engineering, etc.

Other parties may have different views, different beliefs. There are those out there who believe in more human rights instead of less, egalitarianism instead of elitism, equality instead of discrimination against gays and singles, more welfare instead of anti-welfare, a less hawkish military posture, etc.

So is it fair for pap to say that everyone who opposes pap is opposing just for the sake of opposing? Can we say that when such people form ‘opposition’ parties which encompass such beliefs, they are opposing pap for the sake of opposing? And when they do get into parliament, can pap say such parties are there to wreck the country by opposing pap? Or do they do what they do because that is the platform which such parties were elected on, and thus they have to carry out as they promised during their elections?

The other aspect of pap’s labeling that someone ‘opposes for the sake of opposing’ is even more sinister. It presupposes that pap is right and others are wrong but still want to oppose them.

But in many things, there’s seldom a clear right and wrong, black and white. For example, pro-life or pro-choice, which one is right? Is there such a thing as right? More welfare or less welfare? More defence spending or less defence spending? Elitism or egalitarianism? Streaming or no streaming? 377A or no 377A? Woman’s charter or no woman’s charter. More human rights or less human rights. Transparency or secrecy. Etc.

Can you prove scientifically, without a shadow of a doubt, that one policy choice will lead to superior outcomes over another? Or is the future unknowable and the choice thus driven by one’s fundamental beliefs, such as whether open govt, transparency, human rights, egalitarianism, no discrimination, equality etc are the fundamentally right things to do?

So when a party disagrees with the pap, is the pap always right and the other just opposing for the sake of opposing? Or can we understand that there is no right or wrong, but there is a fundamental difference of beliefs?

How long do Singaporeans want to buy the pap bs?

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Presumptuous PAP

Dr Ng Eng Hen today (27 Jul) let slip a few remarks which show the true colors of the party.


1. “[Pap] Mp’s to introduce their successors (where possible)”

Why is pap so presumptuous? Who is your MP to say that so-and-so will be his successor? Is this a democracy where people choose their representatives? Or an autarchy or hereditary aristocracy, where you decide who the next ruler is?

Corollary: I suppose it wasn’t possible for Mr Singh to introduce his successor.

Corollary 2: The same kind of condescending and patronizing attitude is used for pap’s ‘minister-calibre’ candidates, whom we are told must be ‘groomed’ for office. I wonder if these ‘minister-calibre’ candidates are show horses (who must be groomed before they go on a beauty parade) or hereditary successors (who are groomed to take over when the family patriarch dies).

As above, it appears pap doesn’t believe that the people have a say in who should be elected, only how long their ‘grooming’ should take.

2. “No lottery, no mudslinging or [pap] will find it difficult to attract people into politics.”

But who called their political opponents terms such as “Chinese chauvinist”, “vampires” and “political gangster”? Who ridiculed Chiam for his poor o-level results? Who called Jbj a dud? Who compared Chen Show Mao to a Nigerian scammer, in Parliament of all places?

What kind of strawberry generation politician wannabes does pap want to bring in, if their candidates can’t even take as much as their predecessors have given?

I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of Dr Ng and his words of wisdom….

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Rapid CPF Proposals

Has anyone digested the new CPF proposals from the panel led by Prof Tan Chorh Chuan? I certainly haven’t, but guess what? On the day of the publication of the new proposals, the manpower minister’s letter accepting every single proposal in their entirety was also published alongside!

Isn’t it amazing how the govt can properly evaluate and agree to such radical proposals as slashing the minimum sum by half in less than the time you and I take to read the entire msm article on the proposals? That’s why our ministers are worth millions of dollars per year, they’re so efficient!

But personally I find the rapid ‘acceptance’ of all the proposals rather strange. I’ve never seen such well-thought out proposals that are accepted without a single question. I’ve also never seen proposals accepted so rapidly. And I find it strange that this govt can just accept such wide-ranging proposals without even giving parliament a chance to debate the proposals. In fact, I’d have expected the govt to go on a road show to sell the new proposals to the public, to take months on the road, presenting the proposals at dialogue sessions, consulting, explaining, persuading and then refining the proposals before putting them to a parliamentary vote.

Granted, there is no constitutional requirement for the govt to do any such thing. It does not need to organize a referendum to pass cpf changes. It does not even need to get parliament’s approval to make changes to the cpf rules.

Yet, cpf is such a hot button issue that if I were pm, I would want to know the mood of the people on this issue. I would explain, I would sell the proposals at dialogues held at libraries, cc’s, town halls, tv talk shows, etc. I would enlist my mp’s to do the same, get feedback. And I would then modify or even reject some of the panel’s recommendations if I find they lack popular support. And then I would put it to a parliamentary vote before I changed the rules.

But of course, what do I know about politics? I’m only a writer, while the pm is a $4m pa dollar man. If lky was able to change the whole cpf system overnight on the basis of just one report by Howe yoon Chong, surely LHL can do just as well by changing the cpf system on the basis of one panel’s recommendation.

Why waste time consulting or selling policies right? After all, the pap doesn’t do things that are popular, it only does things that are right for the country. Therefore, when you know you’re right, you should just do it. We don’t care about opinion polls or what people think, do we?

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A Presidential System For Singapore?

With the pap’s love of parachuting ‘potential ministers’ straight into Parliament via grc’s, would a Presidential system serve both the pap and the people of Singapore better?

I can’t find the quote now, but I recall lky said grc’s helped the pap bring in potential office holders who were otherwise reluctant to step forward because they had to stand for election with no certainty of winning. Just like what happened to mah bow tan when he lost embarrassingly to cst in 1984, if I might add.

But my take on this is not so much about how such office holders are unworthy because they get into Parliament by a ‘back door’, as some ‘opposition’ supporters love to grumble. It is to recognize that perhaps a Presidential system may serve pap better. And Singapore too, for that matter.

Under such a system, only the President is elected. He nominates anyone he wants to his Cabinet, subject to confirmation by the congress. In other words, he is the politician who is elected and accountable to the people, while the ministers are his appointees, who serve at his pleasure.

It should work very well for pap because all these top civil servants, scholars and private sector head honchos they love to parachute into office aren’t politicians and really don’t want to be. That’s why they aren’t in the pap youth wing already. That’s why they have to organize so many tea sessions to find them and convince them to take up a party membership. And that’s why they have to bring them in via a grc.

If we had a presidential system, there’d be no need for all this. LHL could run for president, and if he wins, he could appoint anyone to be his ministers. Thus he could appoint the very best man for each cabinet position, and not just those he can ‘persuade’ to “enter politics”. None of these guys would have to surrender their souls to the pap by taking up a membership, so a lot of tea would be saved.

None of the cabinet appointees would have to claim to be interested in grassroots work or worry about awkward meet the people sessions. Nor would they have to kiss babies or shake hands. Best of all, they wouldn’t need to worry about election or re-election, all they have to do is be good at what they do, whether it is transport, defence or home affairs. No one would have to worry about losing his job thru no fault of his own, like George Yeo. And LHL would not have to guard against the possibility of a cabinet coup, since none of the cabinet would have any mandate from the people. How much better can it get for pap?

Such a system would also address some peoples’ desire for checks and balances against the pap, which would be enhanced if the House was switched to a proportional representation system. In a parliamentary system, mp’s of the ruling party cannot effectively check the govt because it is career suicide for them to oppose their own party leaders. No one who ever hopes to be called into cabinet will risk criticizing their pm or his cabinet colleagues publicly. Further, any dissent among the back bench can spark a motion of no confidence, which can have dramatic consequences. Thus it is usual for ruling party mp’s to close ranks on motions as long as the govt is stable.

This does not occur in a presidential system. Mp’s have to win election on their on merits, which means they must oppose whatever the president proposes if it is not in their voters’ interests. Of course, mp’s still have to watch out for their party’s majority in the House, and they still have a party whip to answer to. But they know they will definitely lose their seat if they do not oppose something their voters don’t want. They also know that defeating a piece of legislation does not mean that the govt will be dismissed thru a motion of no confidence and possibly fresh elections called. Hence, they can be more effective as checks and balances.

Overall, I think such a system will potentially serve pap and possibly Singapore much better. Pap backbenchers have little hope of being called into cabinet anyway, since the party leadership prefers to parachute ‘ministerial calibre’ candidates into office via grc’s instead of promoting loyal backbenchers. On the other hand, rather than wasting so much tea convincing people who aren’t politicians in the first place to join pap, a presidential system would allow pap to install anyone they want as ministers. The people can get a House that can truly check on the executive. And if there is proportional representation on the house, even ‘opposition’ supporters should be happy. Isn’t this a wonderful win-win solution for all?

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On Singapore’s ‘Obsolete’ Primary School System

This is a response to a heartfelt letter in the Straits Times, where the writer claimed primary schools are doing everything wrong.


1. On the “Necessity of tuition”

Actually, tuition is not necessary. If parents believed the moe line, that every school is a good school, then they don’t need tuition. Indeed, there are a lot of poor kids who don’t have tuition because their families can’t afford tuition.

But many parents want their kids to do well, to go to top schools. So they hire tutors.

All champion boxers have trainers. Golf pros have swing coaches. Pro tennis players have coaches. So do swimmers. Etc. Some even have psychologists and nutritionists on call.

Amateurs, on the other hand, rarely have personal coaches.

The implication is obvious. You want to play at a top level, you need a coach.

Singapore parents want their kids to compete, so they hire coaches for their kids.

And it’s not just academic. Do you know how kids get admitted into School of the Arts? They audition for it. Guess what kinds of kids turn up for auditions? The kinds of who personal music tutors. Who have weekly piano or violin lessons. Who have had such lessons since they were old enough to walk.

Same for Singapore Sports School.

That’s the reality of Singapore

2. On “sole reliance on academic results for progression and placement in good schools”

Actually, it’s much more than academic results. They want kids who represented Singapore in international sports, or at least represented their schools in national competitions. Or kids with some special talent. Or who can contribute to the school in some way, eg wushu champion. That’s in addition to meeting the academic criteria for entry.

So yes, it’s bloody competitive.

But that’s why those schools are top schools. If they admitted any Tom, Dick or Harry, they wouldn’t be top schools any more, they’d be no different from neighbourhood schools.

How to resolve this contradiction?

3. On teaching “more creativity in schools”

Yes it’s true that moe teachers stick to their rubrics and children are told to solve problems in standard ways.

But (1) I don’t think school teachers in general can teach creativity nor do I think creativity (or entrepreneurship for that matter) can be taught; (2) use of standardized methods does not amount to rote learning or memorization.

In fact, open book exams are common at university level now, which shows exams are not about regurgitation of memorized facts any more, but of demonstrating ones ability to understand and apply concepts. Even at the primary level, those who memorise do so because they haven’t really been taught to understand. That’s not the fault of the rubric or the syllabus, it’s due to a lousy teacher or a poor student.

4. On “Learning at own pace, identifying and enhancing the child’s strengths, and encouraging him to succeed”

There are various paces, such as normal and express, and there are elite and non-elite schools, which push students differently. But it seems a lot of parents want their children to go to elite schools, even if the child is not suitable. They’ll volunteer, they’ll donate to the school, they’ll move to within 1 km, they’ll hire tutors for every subject, send them for enrichment classes etc.

Is it moe’s fault if this pressurizes the kid?

5. On “A students end up working for C students”

There are undoubtedly entrepreneurs who were school dropouts. However, the author does not offer any statistical evidence to support his assertions. More interestingly, one should ask why C student bosses hire A-grade students and not C students.

Notwithstanding the above, the letter writer may not be aware that companies these days look for far more than just A grades when hiring. They look for people who are the captain of the school football team or have represented Singapore in swimming, or karate or whatever. Why? Because that is evidence not only of leadership potential, but also of killer instinct, of a strong competitive streak. In other words, they’re looking for winners. Not just bookheads.

Does anyone think such people are lesser in their hunger, drive or competitive nature than any school dropout? Anyone thinks such people end up as administrators?

Anyone who still thinks good grades alone is enough will be in for a rude shock.

6. Summary

The school system is a microcosm of society. If society is competitive, schools cannot be relaxed. If society is elitist, there will be elite schools.

Singapore society is competitive. So I don’t think the education system can be otherwise. Not even at primary level.

One must note this is not just Singapore. It’s Asia in general. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China– all have schools that are highly competitive where lives revolve around doing well and studying like mad. I think it’s an Asian thing, not just a Singapore thing or a PAP thing. So I don’t blame the PAP in this instance.

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Principled But Unrealistic

Let’s call a spade a spade.

To the extent that Prof Cherian George was denied tenure at NTU due to non-academic grounds, lets just accept that it is so, unless the university takes the traditional (Singaporean govt) route of calling in Ms Sue to persuade the good professor to retract his statements and publish an apology.

So what?

Does anyone think that tenure should be awarded purely on job performance?

In the real world, people can be fired from their jobs for reasons other than job performance. Remember a guy who complained about how filthy Singaporean public transport was when his Porsche was in the workshop? What happened to him and his wife? Not only did he lose his job, they had to flee the country, right?

Remember another woman who made some remarks about Malay weddings? She lost her job at NTUC too right? Where is she now?

Remember some Speaker of Parliament who had an affair and had to quit his post and his party, prompting a by-election?

And so on.

In other words, job performance is not the only factor in a company deciding to retain the employment of any employee. What the employee does outside of work matters too, if it embarrasses a company or creates a liability for the company by their continued association.

No company wants to be seen as ‘condoning’ unacceptable non-work behaviour of an employee, even though technically it has no right to interfere in a person’s private affairs outside of work. They do not want to offend their stakeholders (customers and the public in general). This is what the public expects, more so in a social media age.

And so it applies in Prof George’s case.

He is a veteran journalist. He knew the political players. He knew the system. He knew the boundaries.

Yet he chose to take the PAP on.

Did he really expect NTU to stand on his side? Offer him tenure, despite his criticisms of the PAP govt? How could NTU do so, as a public university that looks to the very same PAP govt for funding? How can NTU offend its major stakeholder? In the same way that companies fire undesirable staff to avoid stakeholder backlash (or worse, a public boycott of their products), so too NTU cannot afford to offer Prof George tenure if it wants to maintain good relations with the PAP Govt.

Is this fair?

That depends on whether one has double standards. One can take the view that ntu should not do so, despite real-world examples which show companies can and do fire employees who embarrass them. One can claim that educational funding is public money, not PAP money, and thus should not be affected by political criticism.

However, if one is realistic and accepts that no Govt willingly funds its critics, the PAP least of all, then one will see that the NTU’s actions are no different from those of real-world companies and organisations.

A similar practice is seen in the case of the National Arts Council, which does not fund PAP critics, and in fact, occasionally even requires arts productions to be toned down before funding is given. Of course, those denied funding complain big time. But realistically, it is how the world operates. You want freedom of speech—no issue, but don’t expect the PAP to pay for it.

Prof George knew all this, yet he chose to continue his stand in an institution that could not support him. He chose to gamble his career in Singapore on it, believing that he would be awarded tenure despite his strong criticisms of the PAP.

Principled, I’m sure, but highly unrealistic.

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