2015: Is Singapore Ready For An Indian Prime Minister?

Some years ago, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew famously said Singapore was not ready for an Indian prime minister when he dropped S Dhanabalan from consideration for the job. Though Mr Lee’s words were racist and hurtful to some, as a young boy then, I mistakenly thought it made sense because if the PM is elected by the people, an Indian who couldn’t speak Chinese dialects would not be able to win elections.

30 years on, now that I understand politics and democracy much better, I realise how little relevance his words have, how we’ve all been misled by the old man.

PM

First and most importantly, the people have no choice in the matter. Under our system, the PM isn’t directly elected by the people, unlike the US President. The PM is selected by Parliament, and traditionally the Secretary General of the party in power assumes the position. Which means the PM is really elected by PAP party cadres in their own CEC elections, though in practice it’s the party elders who determines the leaders. Does anyone seriously believe the PAP will lose the next General Election if it chooses a non-Chinese as their next secretary-general?

Second, this is politics. While no one seriously expects any challengers for the party leadership as long as the old man is still around, who’s to say that there won’t be a leadership tussle once his son retires? While some may view such leadership tussles negatively, I think it is important to have an open contest for the most important job in the country. I don’t think the system of the current PM nominating his anointed successor and grooming him for the job is at all healthy for Singapore. It’s too much patronage.

Third, if there is an open leadership race, I can think of a few Indians who could mount serious challenges. Shanmugam and Tharman are both powerful contenders. Both are highly respected, capable and powerful politicians. Who’s to say they can’t win if they made a bid for the PM post? If it really comes down to a slugfest, the winner will be whoever will do whatever it takes to get the necessary votes from the rest of the Cabinet when they hold their ballot to choose a new PM. I bet they could prevail against the likes of Chan Chun Sing or Tan Chuan Jin if push came to shove. Indeed, I see no reason for senior Cabinet figures to step aside meekly while junior politicians are groomed to take over. It goes against the order of nature.

Lastly, I don’t think the race of the PM matters very much to the people of Singapore any more. Everyone speaks English now, effectively. I think race matters very little in votes now. What people want from a PM goes way beyond race. They want to know, what kind of person is he? An uncompromising conservative bastard, full of pay-and-pay crap? Or is he an enlightened liberal who understands the times are changing? They will want to know, what will this PM do for me? Will he repeal 377A? Will he spend more on social services and less on defence? Will he continue to push Singapore on an endless treadmill? Or will he understand that there is more to life than KPI’s and GDP? Etc etc. For all these questions, it’s the man himself, much more than his race, which will win over Singaporeans.

2015 is a crucial juncture for both Singapore and PAP. For the former, it is a chance to build upon the results of the 2011 watershed election and and completely break the PAP dominance for good. For the PAP, it is a chance to elect a new leader and by extension a new PM, and to do so in a democratic fashion with open competition, regardless of race or patronage, rather than as a planned succession.

It is time to put the old man’s words to rest.

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Posted in OTP Series, Politics | 4 Comments

The Gay Anomaly

Gays and Lesbians. They think the rest of the population is against them, doesn’t understand them, refuse to accept them, looks down on them, wants to take the moral high ground on them, preach to them, criminalize them, etc.

They argue they are what they are, they were born that way, what they do is perfectly natural and innate, they should not be penalized. In fact, they want to be treated as equals, they want an end to discrimination, they want to be able to live openly and love freely, without fear.

Have I got it right?

But I wonder if they realise if it is precisely because they were born the way they are that shows something is wrong.

Not wrong as in morally wrong, religiously wrong or legally wrong. No, wrong as in biologically wrong.

I agree it’s not their fault, but can they agree they were born biologically incorrect?

Man belongs to the species of animals that procreate through sexual reproduction. Sex is for the purpose of mating to produce offspring, to ensure survival of the species. Yes, Man may pervert the purpose of sex, use it for pleasure or entertainment rather than procreation. But that does not change the biological design and intent of Nature.

To have any member of a species born sexually oriented to their own sex instead of the opposite sex surely indicates some fault. If genes are responsible for everything from the colour of our eyes to how tall we become, then is it possible that genes are also responsible for sexual orientation? And if so, would it be fair to say that gay/lesbian orientation is a genetic anomaly of some kind, like being born albino?

No one who is born with a genetic defect claims he’s normal. They may achieve great things, like Stephen Hawking. They may even overcome great odds, like Chang and Eng. But they understand that what they were born with is not desirable and not normal at all.

Given the above, one can ask:

1. Should consensual gay sex be criminalised? I think not, because if one is really born that way, it’s not one’s fault. But can you see why it should be discouraged? The lawmakers of the 19th century may not have understood the above when they criminalised gay sex, but I think it’s reasonable for them to send a message that gay sex is not right, and the only way Parliament speaks is through its laws. Why would they want to take a chance that gay sex can become an acquired taste for heterosexuals?

2. Should gay marriage be legalized? Well, marriage as an institution came about because of social norms, specifically to legitimize offspring and to recognize a man’s sexual rights over one or more women. Marriage was created to facilitate inheritance and propagate a (legitimate) family line. It is only in modern times that one sees childless marriages and marriages of convenience.

Knowing this as a background, does gay marriage make any sense? There is no possibility of naturally born children, no family line to propagate. Recognizing the sexual rights of gays amounts to society saying gay sex is right, which doesn’t follow from the above. Knowing that gay orientation is biologically wrong in the first place, why would society agree to institutionalize it through gay marriage?

3. Freedom and acceptance. Yes, gays have rights too. But I think that, if gays understand that what they are and what they do is not right biologically, they’ll be able to find greater acceptance. Ironically, the more militant they are, the more resistance they’ll find.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Indonesian Lessons For Singapore?

Has anyone been following the Indonesian Presidential campaign? I must say I’m impressed.

First, there’s enough time for the candidates to tour the country, to allow people everywhere to see them and hear them.

Second, there are televised debates, where candidates are asked what their priorities are if elected, probed for their views on difficult issues, and also to explain their past records. So people really know what each candidate stands for, and how they might handle the economy, defence, foreign policy, infrastructure development, etc.

Third, both candidates have serious, well-funded operations. They have campaign managers, speechwriters, press handlers, strategists on their campaign staff. One of them is even rumored to have a bomoh on the campaign staff.

What lessons does this offer for Singapore politics?

Is 9 days enough, or should citizens demand a longer campaign period so they can get to know candidates better?

Should we have televised debates so we can see how parties stand on various issue? Should we have town hall sessions where voters can ask parties difficult questions and judge them by their answers?

Should we have serious, well-funded candidates? Or do we want to continue to see DIY candidates who can barely afford the election deposit and attempt to do everything by themselves?

Do we just want to have candidates who can only speak from prepared transcripts, or do we want candidates who can speak from their hearts? Do we want to go to election rallies just to hear candidates crack anti-pap jokes, complain about the cost of living and talk about check and balance? Or do we want to hear what vision and what plans the candidates have for the country, and be able to question them on how they would achieve those plans?

I know what I want. What about you?

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Things I learnt from the Costa Rica-Italy and Costa Rica-Uruguay Games of 2014 World Cup

1. A small party can beat a big political party.

2. But the temperature must be favorable. In this case, the political temperature must be right for the small party.

3. Teamwork is very important. Having a strategy is very important.

4. Soccer is about winning, not about check and balance. So is politics.

5. There is no need to win every game to advance to the next stage. Similarly, one does not need 87 seats to form a govt. A simple majority of 50 seats is more than enough. All it takes is 20 strong candidates and 30 electable candidates, and we can kick the PAP out of power.

6. FAS Goal 2010 is a joke. One cannot use population size as any kind of excuse. Nor can one import foreign talent to make it to the World Cup. Fail just say fail, ok?

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

The real trouble with the Minimum Sum…

…is that it was a knee-jerk reaction by the PAP, a manifestly inadequate attempt to correct a real and massive problem.

And what problem is that? Why, the problem of cannot retire, of course!

Consider this: Minister Tan says that the Minimum Sum of $155K is only enough to fund CPF Life’s payout of $1,200 monthly for about 10 years. He says $1,200 is practically the minimum one can retire on in Singapore, and that’s why the Minimum Sum (first implemented in 1987 at $30k) was raised to $120K (in 2003 dollars, now $155K in 2014 dollars) in 2013.

But the real problem with the Minimum Sum, especially the $120,000 in 2003 dollars, is that it ignores the real problem. That Singapore is way too expensive and CPF has lost its mission.

Many years ago, the PAP allowed CPF to be used for housing, then investment, then children’s education.

It seemed a good idea at the time, and it was very popular. To some, it allowed them to buy multiple properties without paying ‘cash’. To others, the low-income earners, it allowed them to buy their HDB flats and still have cash left over for renovations.

When property prices rose dramatically due to the release of CPF liquidity, PAP ministers even called it ‘asset enhancement’. PAP ministers even boasted that HDB flats were affordable because even young couples could own flats on a 30-year loan fully paid for by CPF.

No one seemed to realise then that the fact that people couldn’t afford to buy flats without draining on their retirement savings (aka CPF) signaled that something was terribly wrong with property prices in Singapore. No one seemed to realize that Singaporeans were draining their life savings away.

When they did, instead of reversing their policy, PAP decided to up the Minimum Sum to $120K (in 2003 dollars).

See the contradiction? You want people to save for retirement but you allow them to use their CPF money to buy property. We call this 自出矛盾。

The real problem is that Singapore is too darn expensive. Even the Economist can see that. The only people who can’t see that are the PAP.

Raising the Minimum Sum cannot solve this problem, especially if half the CPF members can’t meet it anyway. It’s a joke.

Locking people’s CPF savings away for 10 more years cannot solve this problem either. You force people to postpone retirement, but honestly, do you think that people can’t do their sums? Do you think that people can’t see that their meagre CPF savings won’t last them more than 3-5 years if they stopped working? Do you think aunties and uncles work at McDonald’s because you don’t allow them to withdraw all their CPF at 55? Or are they still working because they realize CPF no enough, even if you gave it to them at 55?

What worries me is that this Govt does not know how to solve the real problem of the world’s most expensive city, and the only thing they do is keep raising the Minimum Sum as if that will make our retirement happier. History has shown that one cannot solve a cost problem by simply getting people to save more.

The real problem with the Minimum Sum is not that you cannot withdraw it at 55, or that the Govt keeps raising it, or that it’s being used to cover Temasek losses (as some conspiracy theorists allege).

The real problem is that even if you could withdraw it, it’s no longer enough for your retirement. And the big problem behind that is that this Govt has run out of ideas to make it possible for the average person to retire comfortably in Singapore, other than by raising the Minimum Sum.

PAP are like a bunch of animals in denial, who refuse to believe that Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, claim HDB flats are affordable and reading their CPF statements make them happy.

That is the real problem that the Minimum Sum represents.

Posted in OTP Series, Politics | 8 Comments

Same Old Story… Same Old Ending?

The prelude has happened exactly as before:

Roy publishes defamatory story
Roy gets lawyer’s letter
Roy buys time but eventually “apologised”
Apology not accepted
Roy gets sued
Roy gets sacked by his employer

The rest of the story goes as follows…. Will it come true?

Roy gets slapped with huge damages for defamation
Roy fails to meet payment deadline
PM initiates bankruptcy proceedings
Roy becomes bankrupt
Roy loses his passport
Roy cannot find a job
Roy gives interviews to the foreign press
Roy turns to writing books for a living
Roy lives on the fringe for 20 years
Roy talks about how rich he feels with the friends he has
Roy joins a political party but cannot take part in elections

Will all this come true?

More importantly, or will the well-wishers who donated more than $90,000 to him so far donate another $500,000 or more to pay the damages in full to PM Lee, so he doesn’t have to spend 20 years in the wild?

Or will Roy have to spend 20 years out in the cold before he can settle at $30K with the Prime Minister? And will PM Lee settle at $30,000 or will he take the view that since Roy has crowd-funding support behind him, he should be able to raise whatever amount is awarded as damages?

Time will tell…

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Choices for the PM

1. Sue his pants off. Bankrupt the guy. Take away his passport. Make his life hell for the next 20 years. Probability: Likely.

2. Go for pre-trial negotiations. Settle at $30K, just like the Old Men. Probability: Possibly.

3. As above, but settle at $15K (ie same share as what each of the two old men got). Probability: Not likely.

4. Drop the suit. Lose face. Lose credibility. Probability: Highly unlikely.

5. Claim the whole thing was an ‘honest mistake’, blame it on the Environment Minister for the freak weather which clouded his judgement. Probability: Once in 50 Years.

Posted in OTP Series, Uncategorized | 16 Comments