Vikram Khanna’s review of the book Hard Choices: Challenging The Singapore Consensus (Donald Low and Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, with contributions from Linda Lim and Thum Ping Tjin, NUS Press) has gotten me to write after — deep apologies — a long break. My thoughts have also gathered as dread mounts over the likely onslaught of propaganda next year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Singapore state’s caesarian birth. I will explore here the ways in which we continue to be traumatised by those beginnings.
More common than the belief in God is the opinion in Singapore that the PAP government is more focussed on economic growth than anything and everything else. Some speak of this focus as understandable; others would describe it as a curse. Few outside of government see this obsession as an unalloyed good thing.
What I have found interesting is how infrequently people choose to explore where this focus (or pathology, if you wish) sprang from. Like mental illness, we have a tendency to take it as something whose origins are beyond our understanding. It just is. It may not be easy to live with, but who knows how such demons of the mind came to roost? Continue reading ‘Time to realise we’re suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome’
A divisional director from the Manpower ministry gave testimony last week at the Committee of Inquiry looking into the Little India riot. Based on a report in the Straits Times, his statements more than support a view that I have long held: there is a strong tendency in this government to confuse theory with practice. There is unwarranted faith in policy papers penned in cloisters. Either there is naive ignorance of the shameful reality out there, or a resistance to unearth empirical facts, or both. That dark reality — often dimmed further by half-hearted or non-existent enforcement — stands in stark contrast to the sunny scenario as painted by stated policy. Yet more (tax-payer-funded) effort is expended by civil servants in protecting an almost self-deluding faith in the theory of how things ought to be (while throwing stones at critics) than in uncovering how things actually are. Remedying the failures in policy seems quite far down the list of priorities. Continue reading ‘Manpower director makes incredible claims about how well migrant workers are treated by ministry’
Published 16 March 2014
politics and government
This August (2014), Lee Hsien Loong will have served ten lacklustre years as prime minister. Enough. Even undemocratic China has instituted a ten-year rule for the top posts in both the party and the cabinet.
In all areas of life, creative destruction makes regeneration and revitalisation possible. In Singapore’s politics, this cannot happen if people stay too long in their offices getting ever more defensive about their record and unwilling to admit that past decisions were wrong and therefore need changing. Continue reading ‘Time for term limits’
Published 13 March 2014
knowledge and belief
The missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is proving to be an unprecedented mystery. We’re now in the sixth day since the plane was reported missing, and no one knows where it is. With no hard facts forthcoming, news feeds were beginning to lose interest until yesterday (Wednesday, 12 March) when two fresh leads emerged — though these too may eventually prove to be unrelated to the aircraft.
Meanwhile, criticism of the performance of Malaysian leaders is growing. Continue reading ‘Malaysia Airlines missing plane mystery extends into sixth day’
Guest essay by Liew Kai Khiun
In May 2013, Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson caused a storm by attributing the limitations of the premises of the theories of the prominent economist John M. Keynes to his sexuality where:
Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes’ famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of “poetry” rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.[i]
Continue reading ‘On academic responsibility’
Most of us, having flown numerous times in our lives, quite likely even on Malaysia Airlines, find ourselves drawn to the current story about the disappearance of flight MH370. Resting, digesting, slowly falling asleep on an aircraft while cruising smoothly, is an experience we can identify with. To hear of a situation where this is fatally interrupted jolts us — though nothing as badly as it jolted the real passengers on that flight. Continue reading ‘Malaysia Airlines MH370: 48 hours a long time to have no clues about a missing airliner’
Published 5 March 2014
homosexuality , religion
When the story first broke, what struck me most was the focus on lesbians. It is far more common in anti-LGBT speech for the reference to be either directed at gay males or framed with reference to gay male sex, at least in Singapore and the West. But coming from a lecturer in Malay Studies, I wasn’t surprised.
Continue reading ‘Lesbians dance before NUS professor’s eyes’
It’s difficult to make sense of what Pastor Lawrence Khong is trying to do. In the past few weeks, he’s taken the lead in attacking the Health Promotion Board (HPB), and now the Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, over the HPB’s FAQ on sexuality. Khong accused the HPB of disseminating a message that “condones same-sex relationships and promotes the homosexual practice as something normal”.
When Gan answered a parliamentary question from Lim Biow Chuan (PAP, Mountbatten) in a manner not to Khong’s liking, Khong turned his guns on the minister too. You can read Gan’s parliamentary reply here. Lim, in case people have forgotten, gave one of the most homophobic speeches in Parliament in 2007 when Section 377A, the anti-gay law, was debated. Continue reading ‘Is Lawrence Khong’s battle flag for victory or for show?’
Published 21 February 2014
politics and government
Singapore is behaving like a petulant child again, throwing a temper tantrum over the Indonesian Navy’s decision to name a warship after two Indonesian marines whom Singapore hanged. Harun Said and Osman Haji Mohamed Ali bombed MacDonald House on 10 March 1965. Three people died and many more were injured. The frigate KRI Usman Harun is named after them. Continue reading ‘Let others have their heroes’
Published 9 February 2014
politics and government
I am sure there are denialists just as there are creationists zombie-ing among us. But I dare say for most Singaporeans, it is as clear as day that the People’s Association is and has always been, an affiliate of the People’s Action Party, in effect if not in name.
The currently trending story about former PAP stalwart and independent presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock having his invitation to a tea party withdrawn throws a spotlight once again on (a) the issue of the politicisation of the People’s Association, and (b) the question of what purpose it serves — even for the PAP.
Continue reading ‘Half billion taxpayer dollars go to People’s Association each year’