"We are pro-workers oi oi , we are pro-business oi oi...."
- Upturn the Downturn Song
I've never heard of a workers union anywhere else that is pro-workers and pro-business at the same time.
The PAP does not make these changes out of generosity - they are doing this because there is a rising risk of losing more ground without these tweaks. PM Lee himself said these changes were made in response to the changing aspirations of Singaporeans. They are clearly tweaks of the existing system because there are mainly changes in numbers not the system itself. The main message is to tell you that you don't have to vote for the opposition, they will get in anyway as NCMPs. But to understand why the PAP govt feels the need for these changes one has to look at the bigger picture....
40 years ago, Singapore was the most democratic nation in the region. The Thais and Indonesians were under martial law and the Philippines ruled by a corrupt dictator. S. Korea had a succession dictators and generals running the place. Taiwan was under the control of KMT which had the country under martial law. Where are all these countries today relative to Singapore in terms of political progress? As these countries transform to vibrant democracies in the past decade, the Singapore govt took many steps backwards culling the opposition, reducing the freedom of the press and taking away the rights of the people...all the infamous acts (Printing Presses Act, Film Act, Public Order Act) that took away the freedom of people to gather and exchange ideas. In the late 80s, the citizens realised that it was in their own interest to have more opposition members in parliament and there was a clear shift in support for the PAP as seen from the rising % of votes for the opposition. To preserve its hegemony, the PAP govt introduced the GRC and linked votes to estate upgrading. That was the most blatant form of pork barrel politics in the world. Later they introduced the NMP & NCMP schemes to persuade the people that they don't have to vote against the PAP to be heard. The pattern is always the same, whenever there is a shift towards the opposition, the PAP tweaks the system to preserve its own power and the system becomes less democratic with every change. These changes I believe will ultimately hurt not just Singapore but the PAP itself - I will explain this a little later. Whatever change they can invent, the one thing they cannot do is remove the "one man one vote" system.
When the PAP govt created the GRC, the initial size was 3 but the grew it to 6 over time. The GRC tied in very nicely to the PAP internal system of selecting candidates to run for MPs. They selected from a list of elites that consisted mainly ex-civil servants, SAF officers, GLC directors etc. According to PM Lee's own account, many of these people were reluctant politicians who had to be persuaded to run for office. The GRC provided a 'guaranteed' way enter parliament on the coattails of more established politicians usually ministers. In a true democracy, politicians have to spend time campaigning to connect with the people. Using the GRC system, the PAP could bring onboard many part time politicians with busy careers into parliament. The GRC is probably the main reason why we ended up with so many disconnected MPs who show no passion for the job and no compassion for the people. Many of them won't get in without the GRC - why would anyone vote for an MP who hardly speaks in parliament and can barely squeeze in the time for meet the people sessions. These mollycoddled MPs were chosen primarily because they have succeeded within the PAP govt's elitist system and are unlikely to rock the boat ...not for their ability to represent and serve the interests of their constituents.
PM Lee talked about the need robust leadership when he announced these changes to the system but wouldn't we have more robust leadership had they kept our democracy intact and politicians have to compete fairly for votes. I believe the PAP govt has gotten itself and the country into more trouble in the long term continuous tweaking the system in the wrong direction.
For a long time, the PAP received strong support as a result of rapid economic growth. In the 70s, 80s and early 90s, living standards improved every year and every 4-5 years when elections are held, people voted for the PAP simply because they were better off since the previous election. The one-off economic transformation when Singapore became industrialised and many people move from the poverty into the middleclass is now over. We are starting to see a generation of people whose lives are no better or sometimes worse than their parents. The bottom 20-30% see their lives are worsening year after year for more than a decade due to the growing income gap. Many Singaporeans travel or are educated overseas can see for themselves the freedom they are missing in Singapore. The Internet broke the PAP's monopoly on the dissemination of views and information. The PAP runs a system that cannot meet the aspirations of a growing number of Singaporeans, many of whom want a fair, transparent and open system. The latest tweaks does not take us one inch closer to what many Singaporeans want.
Our forefathers fought for Singapore to be freed from the shackles of colonialism and for us to be able to run this country for our own interests instead of those of our colonial masters. Two generations later we find ourselves struggling again to restore democracy and bring about a govt that works for our interests instead of its own.
The CEO of SMRT goes to work in a Mercedes. She deserves it because the profits of SMRT has doubled in the past few years. Even as the economic crisis put thousands of Singaporeans out of the job, the SMRT's latest quarter results show another increase in profits. Yes, the CEO deserves the credit for this success and along with it, her Mercedes Benz. As the CEO of SMRT, her main KPI is PROFITS - the more, the merrier. You may think that being a virtual monopoly makes it easy to turn a profit - it is not like Singaporeans have many options when it comes to public transport. You may think of it like this lower frequency of trains = higher profits, higher density packing of trains = higher profits, higher fares = higher profits, and so on. There is little to be gain in the way of efficiency when it comes to public transport after operating for a few years so the gains have to come from the customers. You guys might want to scream about being packed like sardines on the trains or the countless fare hikes. But I asked you to hold back. It is not even your turn to complain yet. It isn't even the turn of the poor people struggling with the fare increase - they too have to wait.....and those students in poly who complain about the lack of subsidy...please wait. See, in the pursuit of profits through the endless squeezing of Singaporeans (financial and in the MRT trains), they have really squeezed the people all the way ...even the handicapped are not spared. Last weekend, in Hong Lim, a group of them gathered to protest for higher subsidies. It is already hard enough for them to get a decent job and they too are made to struggle with those high fares.
The CEO of SMRT deserves her Mercedes ride to work but the blind, deaf, and wheelchair bound don't deserve a subsidy so that their lives can just a little better. The Mercedes comes when profits grow and giving the poor, disabled and old a more affordable fare does not help with the maintenance of that Mercedes. If that is the spirit with which we run our 'public' transport system....what does that say about everything else?
This supposed evil mastermind Tan Wah Piow is now a human rights lawyer in England. He now spends large part of his time helping immigrants seeking justice. His career choice probably says a lot about how credible the mastermind accusation is. After the detainees were released, a number repudiated their confessions and wanted to sue the govt, they were rearrested and detained.
.Why should we not forget what happened to this group of Singaporeans 22 years ago? Because nothing has changed - the same law (ISA), the same govt (PAP) and the same media(ST) that helped to perpetuate this unjust act exist today as they did 22 years ago. Forget the fairtale Marxist Conspiracy theory...what this whole thing is about a group of men who wanted to preserve their single-party hegemonistic rule through repression.
"Do we want a Singapore where only because of a slight dissent against the Government, people are arrested? Do you want a country that has a widespread fear, apathy?”
- Chiam See Tong in parliament, 1987
There is no reason for the PAP govt to keep the ISA as it is except to be able to use it again to preserve its own power. The Malaysians have taken steps to review the ISA [Link] and it is likely they will replace with an anti-terrorism act. It is useless to talk about wanting an open inclusive society when such a draconian law exists to permeate a climate of fear among the people.
"Singapore's acquisitive Temasek is up to its old tricks again, buying high selling low...." - Financial Times [Link]
If you have seen the 2 videos, you may be wondering what is the point of this posting. The 1st video shows how money is created, the 2nd video shows the US Federal Reserve is able to create trillions in new money. The 3rd part is an article by Larry Haverkamp (aka Dr. Money) a columnist with the New Paper : [Link]. An extract from his article:
"US$200 trillion in world wealth is small compared to the new centrepiece of this recession: derivatives. They are US$1,232 trillion, which is - get ready - US$1.232 quadrillion. A quadrillion is 1,000 trillion, or 1 followed by 15 zeros........looking at the value of all derivatives. As explained, it stands at US$1,232 trillion, which is six times the US$200 trillion value of the world's wealth." - Larry Haverkamp.
Analogy is something like this : soccer is a game that many love and players earn their income by entertaining the fans, clubs earn money selling souveniors, ticket sales, TV broadcast rights etc. At the side, another game take place - soccer betting. Suppose the betting game grows and the money involved in betting on soccer games become larger than the money generated by the game itself. What happens? The players in the second game start to try to fix the actual soccer game and influence the outcome.
In the past, the amount of speculative money in the financial markets is a small fraction of the total wealth in the world. A small amount of speculation is good for markets because it helps to make markets liquid and more efficient. But through leverage and use derivatives the total amount of money used for speculation has grown to an amount several times the total wealth in the world. The 2nd game - that of speculation in the financial markets - now has great influence over the actual economy. Speculators acting in herd-like fashion can create a recession by betting that there is going to be one. During the Asian Crisis, Dr. Mahathir was ridiculed for calling currency speculation 'evil'. ..he was laughed at for trying pin Malaysia's economic woes on someone else and also for being a naive authoritarian who couldn't understand and accept the natural outcome capitalism. Looking back weren't those speculators attacking the ringgit causing a loss of confidence that made investors flee thereby bringing the Malaysian economy to its knees. ...that was downright evil....no different from the Somali pirates who hijack ships for a ransom.
Why is all this important? We, the good people of this earth, study hard, work hard and obey the law yet our lives can be disrupted and even ruined by people whose activities are unproductive and unbeneficial to society...whose goal is to line their own pockets with money.
If you watched the earlier video, you might want to watch this video in which the US Inspector General is questioned about the Federal Reserve...listen to it carefully.
A small but growing number of Americans are calling for the Federal Reserve to be shutdown and the ability to 'create money' put back in the hands of the US govt. Given the current crisis can be traced back to the actions of the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan and over-leveraged banks, Americans are beginning to ask if the entire system is rigged so that while ordinary citizens work like slaves servicing their debts, another group of people just sit around creating and lending money earning interest and manufacturing inflation that eats away the savings of ordinary folks. ....
The facts are plainly Indonesia caught Mas Selamat handed him over to Singapore, Singapore lost him and couldn't find him, and Malaysian authorities caught him in April in Johor. Yesterday's Straits Times had these headlines about "Singapore's role arrest" and "Lead came from Singapore" . It was as if Malaysian authorities were guided by Singapore to capture Mas Selamat. Strange isn't it....because our home affairs ministry seemed to believe that he had escaped to Indonesia[Link][Link].
“We believe he fled to Indonesia soon after he escaped from the detention centre amidst a major manhunt mounted to recapture him in the island state.” - A spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs[Link].
WayangParty did an interesting comparison of Singapore and Malaysian reports on the capture[Link] and The Online Citizen also had an article on how Singapore authorities"congratulated itself" for the capture of Mas Selamat by Malaysian authorities[Link].
Singaporeans interviewed by the Straits Times have forgiven the govt for the escape and are appreciative of his arrest:
'I was so proud when I read that the Malaysian authorities caught him with help from Singapore intelligence. We may have made a mistake when he got away, but I think we've more than made up for it with this arrest', said Mr Mirza Khan [Link].
'His arrest will bring closure for those who were responsible for inadvertently letting him escape last year. I hope they will feel better, and not blame themselves so much now', said Ms Clara Loy[Link].
I think we should all be relieved that Mas Selamat has been captured. He is afterall our most dangerous terrorist. Many Singaporeans are genuinely happy with his capture - but to spin this whole episode into a success story that Singaporeans should be proud of is really hard to swallow.