Thursday, November 25, 2010

Slaying of the Celtic Tiger....

Ireland announced a 4 year economic austerity plan today[Link] as the govt solicit EU and IMF aid. Graffiti in South Dublin

Ireland needs about 85billion Euros (S$145B) to stay afloat. This figure is massive for its population of 4.4 million people. It is more than Singapore's sovereign wealth (GIC + Temasek) which took 40 years of "squeezing the people" to you can imagine how long the Irish people will be squeezed by the IMF. The problems that Ireland faces today cannot even be imagined a few years back when Ireland was called the Celtic Tiger. The term "tiger" seems to be jinxed - 14 years ago, another group of countries known as Asian Tigers were caught up in what became the Asian Crisis which ended with a few of them (Thailand, S. Korea) going to the IMF for aid. However, the Asian Crisis seems to be miniscule now compared with the problems faced by some of the European countries. Thailand, for example, needed "only" US$17B which it repaid within 3 years.

Ireland as the Celtic Tiger [Wiki Link]had a fast growing economy that was envied . Its growth rate of 6-11% in the mid 90s to 2006 elevated Ireland from being one of the poorest countries to the wealthiest in Europe within a decade. During that period, the technocrats running Ireland were widely praised for good sound economic policies that attracted multinationals such as Microsoft, Dell and Intel through subsidies and co-investment by state agencies. A few problems that emerged from Ireland's rapid economic growth were "the growing consumerism during the boom years eroded the country's culture with the adoption of American capitalist ideals" (ref: Wikipedia). and rising income inequality - Ireland is the 2nd most unequal country in Europe. The problem that got Ireland into is current economic mess is the rise of property prices ...i.e. the housing bubble.

Housing prices in Ireland peaked in 2006 after about a decade of steady rise. Prices were steady in 2007 and started to fall in 2008-2009. When price of property fell, banks which made big loans to property buyers and developers became insolvent and needed to be rescued (here's a good report on Ireland's banking crisis : Link). When I go through various reports and articles about the housing bubble in Ireland one fact that struck me was the speculators and developers in Ireland became very confident that prices would keep rising because Ireland had an open door policy to attract immigrants from Eastern European countries. By 2006, the foreign born population in Ireland reached 10% and developers confident that they will keep coming and demand will keep rising borrowed heavily to buy land.

This is what "Irish housing bubble" looked like in the form of a chart (source wikipedia) :

I looked at the above chart for a while and realised something:

There was no period in the Irish housing bubble when prices rose as rapidly as they did in Singapore in the past 2-3 years when housing prices rose by more than 70%. For a long time, the PAP govt denied that we have a housing bubble. In Aug 2010, when the govt finally decided to implement cooling measures after Singaporeans expressed concerns about property prices for more than a year, Mr. Mah said this:

“We think that if we do nothing, there’s going to be a bubble. And when the bubble bursts – not if – there will be severe implications for individuals as well as for the economy as a whole,” said Mr Mah, Aug 2010.

Prior to that, Minister Mah spent much of his time telling ordinary Singaporeans that HDB flats were still affordable and so on. Well, I think we already have a bubble and when it bursts, there will be severe implications for individuals who took up big loans to purchase a home. There are many lessons from other countries (US, Spain, Ireland, UK etc) that tells us that we should have acted sooner and govts should be more proactive when tackling such problems. Minister Mah implemented the BTO scheme which under-supplied the public housing market as the number of immigrants coming to Singapore rose. Good economic times don't last forever and when bad times comes, it will become clearer to everyone what should have been done.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mas Selamat was staying in his brother's home...

I'm taking a break from blogging until the elections is announced or the new year comes which ever comes first. I'll be travelling a little these few weeks but will try to write if I can find the time.

Remember when Mas Selamat escaped and the whole island was put on alert? There were posters of him at the exit doors of buses and MRT trains. We were told to report anyone who looked like him. He could have been staying in the woods, living in the wild and so on. There were (unverified) stories about NS men who were made to comb the Malay graveyard next to their camps because some suspicious shadow was spotted. The whole country was put on a hunt for Mas Selamat - almost every primary school kid knew his name and what he looked like.

It turned out the search for Mas Selamat could have been narrowed....right down to his brother's home where he was staying before he escaped to Johor.

People Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they were surprised he managed to gain shelter in his brother's flat in Tampines.

"I would think that's the first place they would check, the family's homes?" said one of those interviewed.

- CNA Report (see below)

Mas Selamat stayed at his brother's home and it is strange that the authorities did not do a simple search for him at the homes of his relatives but instead combed various parts of the island. I think the public assumed that they had already done the common sense thing of monitoring his closest relatives before doing anything else.

I think the lesson for everyone here is you cannot assume people in charge do the most obvious and logical thing before they spend lots of taxpayers money and mobilize public resources to solve a problem. When the light shines and the truth is out, we get plenty of surprises....

Public shocked and surprised after Mas Selamat escape revelation
By Satish Cheney | Posted: 23 November 2010 1835 hrs

SINGAPORE: The reactions of Singaporeans were one of shock and surprise when asked about the help Mas Selamat Kastari received from his relatives, after his escape.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugan had revealed in Parliament on Monday how Mas Selamat was given assistance by his brother's family and also how he disguised himself as a woman with make-up and a traditional tudung headscarf.

When Mas Selamat Kastari escaped detention in 2008, he was certainly the hottest topic everywhere, from offices to coffee shops and now, he's once again in the spotlight.

People Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they were surprised he managed to gain shelter in his brother's flat in Tampines.

"I would think that's the first place they would check, the family's homes?" said one of those interviewed.

Another agreed that checking with relatives of the accused should have been done earlier: "Had I been an investigator I would have probably first checked with his relative. One hundred is also not that much of a big number to monitor."

Reactions were mixed when it came to the issue of blood being thicker than water.

"For me the most important thing is the country because that is something which is giving you your bread and butter, so your allegiance to your country is beyond your allegiance to your family members."

Others felt that it depends on the individual.

"You have to weigh between personal and national and so it's going to be a very difficult decision."

Everyone Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they do not see any racial or religious sensitivities coming up due to Mas Selamat's relatives harbouring him.

While Mas Selamat's escape has generated a lot of buzz online as well.

A doctored picture of Mas Selamat disguised as a woman, has been making its way via FaceBook and Twitter.

Many online users have also been making jokes about the incident.

On some popular online forums, users wondered if the sentences meted out to those who harboured Mas Selamat was too lenient while others expressed sympathy for the family.

There were also questions on why the authorities did not stake-out Mas Selamat's family members' homes.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry said it plans to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Nur Aini - with a view to dismissing her, as she's been found guilty of harbouring a prisoner of State.

Nur Aini is the niece of Mas Selamat Kastari.

The Ministry said it takes "disciplinary action, including dismissal," against teachers who have been charged and convicted in Court for a criminal offence.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Truth and Reality on the Ground....

Here are political broadcasts in 2006 by Ms Chee and Ms Slyvia Lim for the last elections. You can replay most of it for the coming elections because few of the problems raised have been solved and many things have worsened for a segment of the populace. What I notice while reviewing the 4 yr old political broadcast is Ms Chee of SDP spoke about bread and butter issues while Slyvia spoke about the unlevel playing field for the opposition - the public sometimes think that SDP is all about democracy and WP is more concerned about bread & butter issues. Perhaps the actual differences among our alternative parties are not as large as we think and they differ mostly in style and how they choose to engage the PAP. I will take a detour to a popular topic - gangs- but will discuss a little more about the elections later.

After the murder of teen, Darren Ng, MP for Pasir Ris said that the incident was an "isolated one". Shortly after he said that, another gang related attack occurred in Bukit Panjang[Link], a woman was attacked by a gang at pub[Link] and the police arrest many gang members found many weapons[Link][Link][Link]. Apparently, gang activities have been festering among our 'lost youth' and it took a murder and a bunch of unruly gang members from a teenage gang called 369 to wake everyone up:

Dr Teo Ho Pin, MP for Bukit Panjang, also urged residents to play a part in keeping the estate safe.

He said: 'It is important that residents remain alert, vigilant and provide information if they see any suspicious or incriminating activities.'

He, however, maintained that the area is safe, and that he had never seen a single gang fight in the area in the last 14 years.

But residents The Straits Times spoke to said that the area has been known for gang activity for years, and that recent years have seen a rise in such activity and also more rowdy teenagers in the area.

One of them, who wanted to be known only as Raj, said that he believes the increased audacity of teenage groups could be a result of a temporary neighbourhood police post in Fajar Road being closed down.

A neighbourhood police centre was opened farther down in Segar Road.

Mr Raj, 47, said he has e-mailed Dr Teo and the police for about two years, since he started feeling that his neighbourhood was unsafe and brimming with illegal activity.

He felt the fencing up of the area has done little to keep teenagers away from the area, as they have resorted to staying out late at the blocks' void decks and the barbecue pit instead.

He said that it is not uncommon to see teenagers from nearby schools in their uniforms smoking in the vicinity. Some even sport tattoos.

- Lifestyle hub a haunt of rowdy teens, Straits Times, Nov 12, 2010.

The above article from our very own "fair and objective" Straits Times quoted MP Teo Ho Pin saying that his ward Bukit Panjang is safe, he has not seen a gang fight in 14 yrs and wants residents to be pro-active, take responsibility and give information if they see suspicious activities. Later in the article, one resident, Raj, said he has been writing to the MP and police for 2 whole years about the neighborhood which is "brimming with illegal activities". Other residents said they feel unsafe in the area where rowdy teens with tatoos hang out frequently. I brought up this article not to talk about gangs but how the perception and thinking of leaders can be very far removed from the reality on the ground. In this case, an MP who is suppose to close to the ground doesn't know what goes on in his neighborhood, denies the place is unsafe when residents feel a lot more has to be done. He asks for more information when residents have already provided feedback on the matter for more than 2 years. This particular MP is believed to be one of the better MPs around[Link].

For 4 years now, Singaporeans have been coping with the problems that Ms Chee spoke about in her 2006 political broadcast. Little has been done - in fact the govt ignored what is felt on the ground and has gone ahead with its own agenda and taking care of its own interests. In the first part of her speech, Ms Chee spoke of high minister's pay vs low income many Singaporeans have to struggle many Singaporeans feel that this is unfair and unjust. One of the 1st things PM Lee did after getting elected was to increase the pay of ministers and MPs....slapping Singaporeans in the face (figuratively). Ms Chee spoke of the rising cost of living and how tough it was for Singaporeans to cope as a large segment of the populace have faced stagnant wages for the past decade. The PAP govt response to that was to increase the GST after the elections...and prices of many other things after the elections. Ms Chee spoke about the problems caused by the large influx of foreigners. the PAP govt went on to increase the influx causing great strain to housing, transport and medical services. If you want things to be fixed and your interests addressed, you cannot simply give feedback and write emails ...that was what the people of Bukit Panjang did and their problems only got worse. You have to send a strong signal in the next elections...a signal so strong that it cannot be ignored for things to change for the better and to make Singapore a better home for all Singaporeans.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quantitative Easing Explained...

A few months ago, I wrote about a prophetic book "Debt and Delusion" by Peter Warburton [my earlier posting here]in the 90s that predicted the high debt levels in Western countries will eventually lead to govts printing money as a last resort to delay the day of reckoning but the attempt to shore up the system will prove futile.

In a game of chess, when the end game is reached, there are few pieces left on the chessboard. The remaining moves and possibilities are limited and expert players can calculate how the game will end if both sides play it optimally. Sometimes one side has a disadvantage that cannot be overcome no matter how well the moves are played...all the player can do is delay the inevitable end and hope for an outside chance that his opponent makes a mistake.

We may be seeing the economic end game of the past few decades being played out in the coming months. Govts have exhausted almost their the US the only game left is QE2 (Quantitative Easing 2...aka printing money round 2). Earlier in the crisis, western govts tried to spend their way out incurring massive deficits. Many have given up on this and implemented painful austerity programmes - some are forced e.g. Greece, Spain and Ireland while others like the UK govt recognised that they are better off taking the pain early than being forced to do it later - the coalition govt there incurred the wrath of the students tripling university school fees and have announced they will cut those who refuse job offers from welfare. There was an interesting article in the Straits Times a week ago "The Lessons from the Great Depression" by Harold James[Link] that explained that the fiscal tightening during the Great Depression was brought about by events in the capital markets - a sort of forced move rather than mistakes on the part of govt as it is often seen by Keynesian economists. The lesson from the Great Depression is it will get ugly once there is widespread revulsion against all government debt in particular US govt debt - interest rates will rise and overrun all the positive soothing effects of QE2 ....In Asia and emerging markets, all the bubbles (stock & housing) will quickly deflate as speculative money flows out as quickly as they came in the past few months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Obama on Democracy...

"Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the rights of human beings for the power of the state. But that is not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another......

The nations of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny, and the United States will strongly support that right. But the people of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny as well. That is why we condemned elections in Burma that were neither free nor fair. That is why we are supporting your vibrant civil society in working with counterparts across this region. Because there is no reason why respect for human rights should stop at the border of any country.....

Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty."

- President Obama in his speech to Indonesians, Nov 2010.

I'll discuss what he said a little deeper later today. Think about what he said and what has happened to our country in recent years.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A young man's plight.

Something is very wrong with Singapore if this young man does not get his citizenship.

While the govt hand out thousands of citizenships to new citizens who are here, more often than not, for pure economic reasons and do not serve NS, they denied citizenship to an NSman , Ogawa Ryuju, due to procedure. It is not hard to understand how he can be confused over his citizenship status. Having received his pink IC from MP Heng Chee How and receiving notices to serve his reservist duties, he thought that he has Singapore citizenship and went on to renounce his Japanese citizenship. But it turned out that there was some other technicality involved requiring pledge taking before age 21 which he he is not a Singaporean.

Read his story below. I think he deserves his Singapore citizenship as much anyone else. Now it is up to the authorities to do their part....are they robots that follow rule mechanically or are they able to overcome their own rules so that the outcomes are fair and just.

Singaporean or Not Singaporean? That is the Question..
By Ogawa Ryuju

When i was told that i am no longer a Singaporean citizen, i was appalled that such complications can happen to someone who has served the nation in national service and has been living IN Singapore for more than 15 years, i know that some of you might be thinking, "what do you mean no longer a Singaporean?", well let me start my story from the very interesting beginning.

My name says it all. As you can see, I'm not what you might call an average Singaporean, it all started when my mother, a Singaporean, wishing to seek more experience for herself travelled to japan 30 over years ago to open up a pub called "Singapore", where she met my father. Wishing to bear a child, as ludicrous as it may sound, an agreement was made between them to have me with a branded watch as a reward for my father, well that sums up what an independent spirit my mother is. We went along fine for about 2 years, and as my mom runs her pub, my dad would step in as a caretaker at home. An incident occured when my dad and his friends left me at home and left the door ajar, i guess being a curious 2 year old child i decided to explore the beautiful outside world of Japan, and being 2 years old, being lost when you're alone is bound to be a part of the equation, so as i roam the world looking for my mother, a stranger (a regular of my mother's "Singapore") recognizes me and brought me to "Singapore"! (according to my mom, i kept repeating the word "Singapore" so it was pretty lucky he didn't send me to the airport!). Seeing me in a strangers arm angered my already strong willed mother and an argument was sparked between my mom and dad. Begrudgingly, we packed our bags and left Japan and came back to Singapore so that i can be closer to my familly here, the Japanese “Singapore” was still around, and god love my mother for her sacrifices as she painstakingly travelled between this 2 great nations for her job and her child, and this went on for about 3 years.

Wanting a paternal role model for me, my mom finally thought that we had found the perfect person to join our interesting family while she was in Japan and decided to settle down with then my stepfather. “Singapore” in Japan served its last drink, and our family was finally complete as they move to Singapore to start a fresh new life here with me, 2 years went on as we live our life happily. But things took a turn when my stepdad parents wanted us to move in with them in Japan, once again our suitcases was called for duty as we packed for Japan, I had just completed my primary 1 education here when we left.

Things did not turn out to be as happily ever after as we had hoped it to be. Though it seemed like we finally had our complete family, most of the time, my mom and i was an outsider looking in, being a “Step” grandchild wasn't easy, especially with a conservative “Step” grandparents to work with, the biased treatment that my mom and i received from our Japanese attached family was blatant, we had average meals while my stepdad dine with luxury, and i was confined to the house while other kids my age was playing outside. I repeated my primary 1 education in Japan, and things in school was just as bad, being “UnJapanese”, i was constantly bullied and taunted by my classmate for being different. Push comes to shove, my mom had enough and finally stood her ground and left my stepdad, and our loyal suitcases was once again called to move on to Singapore.

So, at the age of 10, with a third grade Japanese education, and no understanding of written english, I was enrolled back to school here in primary 2, and as you might guessed it, school life wasn't all peaches here either, not only was i older than everyone else in class, i was still considered an outsider due to my paternal heritage, so the taunting and bullying continues here, but school and life in general goes on, not without difficulty, but we persevered as a family, and though it was tough, my mom and i had a blast, just the 2 of us.

My mom applied for a 3 room HDB flat, and to support our little family, my mom drove a taxi for a living, at times with me alongside her (the suprised look of her passengers faces when they saw a mini assistant to the driver still puts a smile on my face when i think back!), and this went on for a couple of years, and because of her love for children, my mom trained herself how to twists balloon and do face painting so that she can start something of her own here, in the year 2000, she started her own balloon entertainment company called BalloonArts, and things were good, in 2007, although i only finished my N'Levels education, being older than my schoolmate, the call of duty to serve the nation comes, and i went through what most of our male Singaporeans do, Natoinal Service, being half Japanese and serving the army got the attention of the press, that it was even published in a local newspaper!, it was one of my proudest moments as a Singaporean, next to being on stage and shaking hands with a Member of Parliament Mr. Heng Chee How As i took my oath and received my Pink IC on stage at an acceptence ceremony, I remember proudly thinking to myself, finally, this is home, and i belong here, i decided to renounce my Japanese citizenship at the age of 21, and be a full pledge Singapore citizen, for there's no other place that i would call Home.

Things when on fine for a few years, until recently, when i went to the ICA to renew my Passport, i was informed that I was no longer a Singaporean, because i did not take my pledge, and that i could no longer stay here in Singapore, i felt betrayed, unjustified, and most of all, i felt lost, i finally have the chance to take over my mothers company so she can retire, and i finally can move on with my life when all of it is taken away from me, i am now stuck with a dilemma with no obvious solution, i can't go back to Japan for i had renounce my citizenship there for Singapore, but i can't stay or do anything here because officially, I'm not a Singapore citizen, and unfortunately, i can't go anywhere else because i do not own a passport anymore. In hopes to settle this predicament, i went to my local MP, Mr. Lee Boon Yang, to see if he could help me with this issue. Though with his good graces, Mr. Lee help me send a request to reinstate my citizenship, it was rejected due to a no provision law, not wanting to give up, i went to seek the help of another MP, 1 that had shooked my hands as i received my NRIC Mr. Heng, and as my status as a Singaporean lingers as the unknown, i hope that i can settle this issue as soon as possible.

Not Local, Not Foreign, i wonder what my outcome would be.

"We, the citizen of Singapore"

My pledge was not taken because i got confused by an inaccurate information given to me on my Citizenship. I took my first pledge from the SAF when i was enlisted into the Army, My second pledge was taken when i received my Pink IC from the MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Heng Chee How during the Citizenship Ceremony on the 20th June 2008.

And as for the inaccurate information I have mentioned earlier, this was how it went:

11 Jan 2010,
I needed to travel overseas but my passport had expired, so i went down to the ICA(Passport @ 2nd Level) to renew my passport. I was told that i am not able to renew my passport until i have renounced in the Oath-Taking ceremony in regards to my Japanese citizenship before the age of 22. (I did managed to get my passport extended for a month after I questioned the ICA staff, "I need my passport to travel back to Japan to renounce my citizenship, don't I?" however I did not make it to Japan because the trip is too expensive in such a short notice.)

15 July 2010,
I renounced my Japanese citizenship at the Embassy of Japan(in Singapore), the Embassy gave me a letter stating that Ihave renounced my citizenship but it is under currently under process. From a normal human being's point of view, If you are told to renounce your citizenship, the word 'process' does not mean 'completed'. So i waited for Embassy of Japan to send me a letter to confirm that the renouncement of my Citizenship in Japan has been completed however, as of today, I have not received any notice.

4th Oct 2010,
I promised a friend to travel to Hong Kong to catch LUNA SEA's live concert. We bought the tickets to the concert and I made my way down to the ICA(Passport @ 2nd Level) again to renew my passport with the 'Renounce in Process' letter. They referred me to the 6th level as they claimed this is not within their scope. I proceeded to the 6th Level and showed them the letter. This was when they told me that I am no longer a singaporean because i did not take the Oath Taking and i was already 22 years old. They also mentioned that i could have taken my pledge with the 'Process' Letter which i was not informed of at all earlier.

I explained to the officer that i have not received any letter from the ICA regarding the Oath Taking. Tthe only letter I have received was on the Oath Taking during the Citizenship Ceremony with Mr Heng Chee How. They claimed that they have sent two reminders about my Oath Taking; first reminder was on 31 August 2009 which was my 21st Birthday (however, I did not receive any) and the second reminder was six months after my 21st birthday via a postman as a registered mail, which I believed no one was home during that point of time and the postman supposedly left a note for me to collect the mail at the Post Office however I never received this note. They also informed me that the second reminder was bounced back to the ICA and they showed it to me with a statement written 'Unclaimed'.

I explained to them that i was given inaccurate information from the Officer i spoke to at the Passport Section @2nd Level, they responded saying that they are a different Section and I should have gone up to the 6th Level to obtain correct information. I felt very unjustified as they ceased my Singapore citizenship after all the effort I went through to renounce my Japanese citizenship and despite my truthful explanation, they are nonchalant towards the fact that the ICA Passport Section was the one that gave me incorrect information. If I had received clear and accurate information in the first place, my pledge would have been taken promptly and I would not have become stateless as I am now.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Freedom of Speech in Singapore....

Article in the Economist : You can cage the singer.
University World News : Conviction casts doubt on Yale tie-up
Straits Times :US style not for S'pore

Alan Shadrake's conviction for contempt of court adds to the pervasive fear among Singaporeans for speaking up. Shadrake's case just add to the long list of people who have been convicted for their criticism of our politicians and the system. In 2009, it was the WSJ that was found guilty of contempt of court for 2 artcles in its paper[Link] about the Singapore judiciary. In 2007, IHT was threatened with a lawsuit and made to apologise for an article that merely listed members of the family who occupied high positions[Link]. In 2008, FEER was found guilty of "defamation by imputation" by Singapore courts[Link].

In 1997, eleven defamation suits were filed against JBJ for saying the following words in one of the election rallies: "Mr Tang Liang Hong has just placed before me, two reports he has made to the police against, you know, Mr Goh Chok Tong and his people"[Wikipedia]. JBJ was made a bankrupt when he was unable to pay the damages. I leave to you to find out how someone can be found guilty for holding up a police report and saying what was essentially true.

These cases have caused widespread fear among Singaporeans to speak up against authority even when there is a real need to do so in the interest of justice. Countries 10 times to 100 times the size of Singapore can be governed without such a lawsuits against citizens and the media so why is there a need for it here? What we have today are obedient citizens, fearful and accepting of what is handed down to them. We need to get rid of this fear so that old ideas and rules are challenged, so that we can be innovative and progress as a society. In the NUS-Yale tie-up, Yale is concerned that the limits academic freedom and freedom of speech will stifle the ability of students "to express themselves in scholarly publications, in the classroom and on campus" [Link]. Even in the other areas of education such as engineering and basic sciences, we need students to vigorously challenge old ideas and break free from rules to innovate...and we are not going to have that in the current environment.

Read about our Home Affairs and Law Minister's speech to students in Columbia University. I wonder if there were Singaporean students among the audience and how they stopped themselves from laughing during the speech (you want to know about what he said during the speech below). With ministers like Shanmugam who spend time to invent weird logic to justify the status quo, we know nothing will change for the better with this set of leaders in power.

US style not for S'pore

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said Singapore cannot withstand, nor it is prepared to accept, the harmful consequences of having its media like American press. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

NEW YORK - WITH its small population and short history, Singapore cannot withstand - nor is it prepared to accept - the possible harmful consequences of having its media become like the American press, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam.

The US media has a wider and freer role than the press in most other countries. But American society, being large, rich and stable, is strong enough to endure the potential damage of having a media that does not always live up to its ideals of being judicious, fair and independent, he said.

Is he telling American audience that Straits Times is fair and independent while American media is not? ...This is really weird and bizarre...especially when Straits Times has close ties with the Singapore govt.

Mr Shanmugam drew these comparisons in a speech outlining Singapore's perspective on the role of the media at Columbia University on Thursday.

The US, he told the audience at a university forum on A Free Press for a Global Society, 'has in-built stability'.

'There can be fringe lunatic behaviour, but mainstream Americans are sensible and rational, and extremist sentiment will not threaten the very fabric of society,' he noted.

...and Singaporeans are not sensible.

This is the first time I hear someone say Americans behave better than Singaporeans. After 40+ years of PAP aren't Singaporeans the most obedient docile and law abiding people in the developed world? ...There is more extremism in little Singapore?

In many developing societies, however, the glue holding society together is not as strong and 'these societies can easily rupture along tribal, ethnic and religious lines,' he said. In Singapore's case, racial and religious fault lines can be easily exploited.

Singapore is like a developing society that can erupt along tribal, ethnic and religious lines? Gee I thought all those Racial Harmony days and the quotas on races for HDB blocks were working. Today, the problems with integration is not between races or religious groups but between Singaporeans and foreigners ...and there is also a growing class divide among Singaporeans that can prove destabilising in the long run. Anyway, how can the religious + racial fault lines in Singapore be deeper than those in America where almost any form of belief is allowed and extreme views can be expressed?

Read the full report in Saturday's edition of The Straits Times.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lim Zi Rui : I don't know what I'm defending anymore.... Part 2

It is telling when a senior leader such as SM Goh was not able to answer such a question when asked....surely he must know what is of such great value to Singaporeans that they are expected to sacrifice their life for. We have put hundreds of thousands of fine young men through national service expecting to risk their lives when the time comes....but what is it that is worth dying for? How come SM Goh was unable to say ...?

Freedom....throughout the ages men have fought and died for freedom. Many have died fight against dictators and tyrants who ruled and exploited them. Your forefathers fought against British colonialists. Why? They fought for the freedom to plot their own destiny, the freedom to choose their leaders and freedom to speak their minds and be heard. If you're fighting for your freedom in Singapore, who would be fighting against? Not an invading army but a system of control put in place that limits your liberty and takes away your rights. I'm sure elsewhere leaders would not hesitate to tell people to defend their freedom with their lives....but in Singapore it is hard to say that.

Defend your family. When the 1st missiles fall on our soil, where will your family be?....

"My parents called a family meeting in their bedroom soon after Saigon fell. My father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore’s Prime Minister, told us: ‘Mama and I will stay here to the bitter end. Hsien Loong is already in the SAF and must do his duty. But the three of you need not feel obliged to stay." - Lee Wei Ling, Straits Times, 1 Feb 2009.

Thanks to the honesty of Lee Wei Ling, we now know that when Saigon fell, (part of) the Lee family was considering leaving the country. Hey, Saigon is a long way from Singapore and Thailand + Malaysia would have to fall first and no bombs were falling on Singapore, yet they considered leaving. That is afterall the practical thing to do. What is the point of risking the life of your family when you can afford to buy them air tickets to get out. That is the logical thing to do especially for the wealthy who have homes all over the world. In many poor countries, people actually fight to defend their families because they can't move them out of the country...they have to leave by foot and as refugees to escape the invading forces which is dangerous so it makes sense for men to defend the country for the sake of their families.

Defend your HDB flat & assets. Although this may seem a little funny at first but it makes a whole lot of sense. Many Singaporeans spend a large part of their life servicing their HDB loans and a large part of their net worth is sunk into HDB flats...for some people losing their HDB flats is like losing everything....that surely is enough motivation for people to fight. The problem with Lim Zi Rui is he doesn't have a HDB flat and have not had the experience of paying for it over many years so he finds it hard to answer his own question. The problem with this notion is many HDB flats are now owned by PRs....I don't think PRs will be around to defend their HDB flats - they will probably depend on you to preserve their assets.

Defend your way of life. Suppose you have a happy life - a good retirement to look forward to, no worries about medical care, good work environment, great friends...all possible only because you live in a good that cares about its citizens....a way of life that you want for your children, nephew and nieces. You think it is worth defending? I'm sure some people would think so. Suppose you live in a country where you're afraid to get sick, where there is no retirement and you have to work for your whole life, where the pace of life is so stressful, all you think about in your spare time is how to emigrate, what do you do when you're asked to defend this way of life with your life?

Imagine on of the first thing to happen when the risk of war is imminent is the departure of the foreign workforce. Given our high dependence on them, everything grinds to a halt and the psychological impact of seeing hundreds of thousands of people leaving you behind will quite devastating to those who are thinking of staying behind and fighting.

Defend your fellow Singaporeans. There is a reason why all of us haven't left and are still staying put. Many capable Singaporeans who have the ability to leave for countries with better weather, better healthcare, higher incomes, better opportunities, choose not to do so for the simple reason that we consider Singapore our home. We like living among other Singaporeans, people speak the same language (Singlish) as us, people who have gone through the same good and bad times as ourselves, people who can understand us. ....we, Singaporeans, have a unique identity something that you can never remove from a true-blue Singaporean. Human beings feel a certain duty to help and defend people they can identify with.

“When I was younger, I was very proud of being a Singaporean. But that was about five, ten years ago. Five years later, with all the changes in policies and the influx of foreign talent, I really don’t know what I’m defending any more.."- NTU Student, Lim Rui Zi

When excessive immigration start to destroy this unique identity, this sense of duty to defend your fellow Singaporeans is also destroyed. Everyday, you go to work in buses crowded with foreigners speaking languages you don't understand and when you get to your workplace, more foreigners who are more at home with each other than they are with you so much so you feel rather foreign in your work place. You get home again to be surrounded by foreigners because your Singaporean neighbors couldn't take it and emigrated to New Zealand. You'll start to feel like Lim Rui Zi - you will still do what you can for Singapore but you won't be able to understand why you're doing it and the danger is one day when you search your heart for reasons and none exist, you may not be able to what Singapore needs you to do.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Shadrake Case : Real Test to be applied.

Read the breaking news from The Online Citizen[Link]

Several months I wrote that if the Inherent Tendency Test is applied in this case, the only way for Shadrake to win is to prove that he didn't write his book, Once A Jolly Hangman[Link].

The judge has ruled that the Real Test will be applied in this case i.e. Shadrake has a chance to win. The presecution needs to show there is "more than a remote possibility that a significant number of people who have read Shadrake’s book would believe his claims.” The defence will have a chance to show evidence for the statements made in the book.

In choosing the Real Test, the judge has broken away from 4 decades of legal history.