Every September, a concentration camp

The Formula One race each September speaks of what’s wrong with the Singapore model — buttering up the elite while making life miserable for the ordinary guy.

A large part of our downtown is barricaded for weeks in advance of the race with fencing like in the picture above. Pedestrians have to walk around them — at places detours stretch for hundreds of metres — to cross a road or reach a bus stop. The city looks like a concentration camp.

The inconvenience reduces shopper traffic to the area and every year, shopkeepers (and their employees) complain of reduced business, though things may have improved somewhat with the opening of the Circle Line stations Esplanade and Promenade, permitting underground access to Suntec City. There is also the question of who pays for all this work — putting up barricades and taking them down again. Does anyone know?

I feel sorry too for the average tourist who visits Singapore during this period. I saw a family group from Hong Kong, for example, trying to take a picture of the iconic Esplanade theatres, only to feel frustrated that they couldn’t get the fence out of the picture.

During the three or four days of the race itself, a constant roar of turbo-charged engines permeates the downtown. I was once up on Mount Sophia, about 1.5 km away from the race circuit, and still the noise could not be ignored. Think of all the people who live within that radius. The quality of life for the ordinary bloke suffers just so the glamouritzi get to hobnob and clink their champagne glasses.

Our government however, thinks Formula One has brought great benefit to Singapore:

Around 40,000 visitors are estimated to have attended this year’s Singapore Formula One (F1) night race, said Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang.

[snip]

In terms of benefit to the economy, the first two races in 2008 and 2009 had brought in more than $260 million in tourism receipts, said Mr Lim.

40 per cent of the race attendance were made up of international visitors, which number 70,000. Worldwide, 195 million ‘live’ television viewers tuned in during the races.

Said Mr Lim, ‘The race has given Singapore good international exposure and it continues to enjoy strong support locally and internationally.’

Despite charging a premium for rooms during the F1 weekend, many hotels reported occupancy levels of over 90 per cent. This is significantly higher than usual, Mr Lim observed.

The event also provided a networking platform for businesses with many taking up hospitality suites to host partners and clients at the race. For example, the Singapore Exchange organised a conference at the sidelines of the race to bring together potential investors in the Asian motorsports industry.

— AsiaOne, 19 Oct 2010,  Govt to consider renewing Singapore F1 contract. Link.

As you would have noticed, the measure of “benefit” is, as usual, framed in economic terms, with special reference to the interests of the elite. No mention is made of quality of life.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Under the current contract, Singapore will be hosting the race until 2014. Renewal after that is uncertain.

But senior minister of state S. Iswaran said on Sunday the government would need to weigh up the costs and benefits before making a decision about the future of the event.

“We want to make sure the economic benefits are justifiable going forward,” he told reporters at the Marina Bay circuit on Sunday night.

“I would say the decision to proceed will rest on a robust cost-benefit analysis, and clearly the terms on any deal we get going forward,” Iswaran added.

— auto123.com. 26 Sept 2010, F1: Singapore not certain to sign another contract. Link.

The decision needs to be made in 2012. Presumably we will soon be able to know, by reading the tea leaves of the Straits Times. Either the boosterism will go up, portending renewal, or there will be stories putting the spotlight on the ill-effects of Formula One.  After all, as insider journalist Chua Chin Hon told United States embassy officials, in a wikileaked cable:

Chua noted that how the government intends to push a certain policy is often foreshadowed by extensive media coverage (published before the official policy announcements).

— Wikileaks.org, purported cable dated 16 Jan 2009, Journalists frustrated by press controls. Link.

Frankly, this comes as no surprise. Anyone who has watched the mainstream media in Singapore knows that that is what they are for, much like in the days of old, heralds and criers would precede the king, announcing to townspeople the approach of his majesty so people would know in advance to bow.

Oops, I shouldn’t assume that it’s only our mainstream media. Our leaders, on their “grassroots” walkabouts, still employ the same method. A phalanx of “grassroots supporters” still precede them organising smiles, handshakes and photo opportunities.

What did come as a surprise was another revelation from a different wikileaked cable — that Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim’s wife is an American citizen from Puerto Rico and thus, his two children are also entitled to American citizenship.

His wife is an American citizen who grew up in Puerto Rico. Yaacob told emboff that he has a more open-minded interpretation of the Koran and said his wife converted to Islam to satisfy the conservative standards of Singapore. They have two children, both American citizens, and they travel to the U.S. frequently to visit his wife’s family.

— Wikileaks.org, purported cable dated 3 Feb 2005, Muslim MPs in Singapore, Part 1of 2. Link.

It says a lot about our local media that this has been kept from us all this while.

One the one hand, it could be argued that that’s a private matter, and intrusion into privacy would be a slippery slope that media should not go down. There is some merit to that argument, but it’s not as if it is clear where the line should be drawn. It can equally be argued that the basic facts are pertinent, especially since the man is doing a public job. He has to make decisions that impact us, and the factors that may affect those decisions are surely relevant to us. Sometimes, factors are not conscious ones, but they still have part to play. For example, religious affiliation, interests in commercial enterprises, degree of wealth accumulation, sexual orientation, kinship with other powerful people, are among the many factors that can impact on the way a public servant performs his job.

Surely, that a cabinet minister’s wife and children have potential loyalties to a different country, is a know-worthy factor?  Surely, that the wife of the Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs, was once Christian and only a convert to Islam for the sake of marriage and appearances, is likewise a know-worthy factor, especially for Muslim citizens?

This is not to say that Yaacob’s ability to do his job is in any way diminished by it, but if the public is to judge his performance, as all public servants are subject to, then why does there appear to be a years-long attempt to keep such information from the public eye?

Of course, someone will argue that there was no such attempt at concealment. I find it hard to believe. Very often, ministers go to official functions with their spouses. Am I to believe that his wife never accompanies him? Or if she did, media photographers took special care never to photograph them together? Alternatively, if Yaacob has never been seen with a wife, how come nobody has ever speculated that he’s gay?

(A blog has just published some photos, but they look like photos taken by a private citizen — see The Tide Chaser. See also Raffles Museum News.)

There are so many holes in this, there is no explaining away the silence of our media.

It’s not just that each September that our city becomes a concentration camp. All year round, we may be living in an information concentration camp.

39 Responses to “Every September, a concentration camp”


  1. 1 annon 7 September 2011 at 15:49

    F1 is more a social event for the super rich, than merely a sporting event. Being the host of F1, Singapore introduces our beautiful casinos, shinny buildings downtown and boutique shops in orchard to these individuals. Besides, background social events of F1 serves as a platform for those elites to network.

    And this is the reason tax dodgers, hedge funds managers increasingly setting up shop here. But whether the average Singapore benefit from the event is another issue.

  2. 2 crappy 7 September 2011 at 18:42

    Well, boys must be boys and have their toys. Why should it surprise anyone that our PM is just going through a delayed boyhood – he was deprived of all the teenage and early manhood experiences when he was propelled through an elite stream.

    Let him enjoy the sounds of racing engines and the smell of racing fuel; he will soon have his fill of it.

    In the meantime the GICs, Temaseks and GLCs of our nation can use the occasion to entertain commercially important people at about $8000 a pop in the wine and dine suites.

    That F1 is environmentally irresponsible and bears no resemblance to everyday motoring is unimportant. And it matters to no one that only Bernie Ecclestone makes any money out of it.

    It’s a made for TV sport and it does not matter if there isn’t a live audience, which is why developing countries and those who have a chip on their shoulder spend money to host their own F1 GPs – they’re only trying to raise awareness of themselves.

  3. 3 This is Anfield 7 September 2011 at 18:49

    Unfortunately, as long as this event brings in the tourists and people to the circuit, it will carry on and on. You have to remember that whoever is running this is a mediawhore, ie, using anything that grabs attention. I’ll bet we’ll do anything within our means to please Bennie Ecclestone so as to continue the country’s involvement in this event. The day when F1 leaves our shores is when

    (a) the sport is no longer viable economically, and that is when the govt will themselves happily give up the rights

    (b) Ecclestone proposes something much much bigger than what the govt is prepared to accept

    (c) another moneyspinning market is identified [note that in 2012, USA will replace Turkey as one of the venues, think of the $$$$ going into Ecclestone’s pockets!]

  4. 4 Anonymous 7 September 2011 at 19:46

    This concentration camp is actually known as the matrix. Accountability is totally absent. Ministers who made mistakes are still around, albeit with a different portfolio.

  5. 5 Sgcynic 7 September 2011 at 21:08

    Pity many Singaporeans whose spouse remain on social visit passes, despite every effort to apply for citizenship. At best they manage a PR status. On the other hand Yacoob’s wife and children remain blissfully and privately American. That is all I have to say, respecting their right to privacy, while exercising my right to freedom of (responsible) speech. :>

  6. 6 Edmund Khor 7 September 2011 at 21:08

    I think you left out that the Singapore government is paying to the organiser Ong Beng Seng 60% of the $150 million each year to stage the F1 race here.

  7. 7 Auntie 7 September 2011 at 21:15

    GREED is it. The Government is too into driving the average Singaporeans as economic idiots. Pray so next election comes sooner sooner….

  8. 8 Anonymous 7 September 2011 at 22:24

    I do not think there was any attempt at concealment. Perhaps the family just stay out of the public eye. How many politician’s wives and families – apart from that of the President or high-profile spouses like George Yeo’s wife who runs a foundation – are regularly seen in the news?

    Often, they take pains to stay out of the public eye.

    • 9 SC 8 September 2011 at 12:37

      Something that pops my mind as I read your comment with true belief about the possibilities that it does take pains for the ministers’ family members to stay out of the public eye.

      Yaacob was spotted alone by the media as he went to the voting booth for the recent Presidential Election on a Saturday. My first thought then was why is he alone? Is he still single?

      We (public) are naturally curious on the background of our Ministers (isn’t this why media introduced Teo Ser Luck as a triathlete when he first came into the election many years back?) and this is in fact newsworthy to a certain extent I believe. But, media kept unnaturally quiet about this encounter of Yaacob being alone.

      If personal privacy is a concern here as one may suggest, then why did the media (TNP) publicly questions on Vincent Wijeysingha personal life during the GE2011 then?

      The ambiguity on the reporting standards of our main stream media I thought is pretty clear and loud even in this one example. Our local media is no longer a source of fair information but a tool of political sustainability.

  9. 10 stickers 7 September 2011 at 22:44

    erm.. F1 engines are not turbocharged (yet)

    F1 today has evolved from a competitive, passionate sport (it still is), to a wealthy businessman’s hobby. And so are the countries who are hosting it.

    SG is one country that wants to have a go at everything, getting the limelight and economy gains, but is not willing to ‘sacrifice’ its people, society and environment to achieve it. It doesn’t understand that in order to put up sportsmen, scientists, musicians, artists, etc, it has to encourage people to pursue what they are interested in from a young age, provide the environment and respect for them in order to cultivate passion, instead of dropping them into the rat race to form clones who excel in exams but have no other interests. Even worse, discriminating and sorting them according to their ‘academic ability’ into the various ‘streams’ with all the ranking and stuff.

    Then it complains that there are no talents and imports others in.

    It’s sad that SG hosts the grand prix, but it is one of the countries which hosts it for the sake of it for motives other than for the sport itself. In countries which value motorsports as part of their culture and history, the atmosphere during race day is simply inspiring, passionate and full of excitement.

    I have not been to the SGP yet, but even weeks before the race, you can hardly feel anything besides the odd singtel and other sponsors’ promotions for special discounts.

    In a nutshell, the inconveniences aside, this is another soul-less event to me.

  10. 11 shornlock 8 September 2011 at 00:06

    I think that for once, Alex, you’re a bit off your usual game; this stuff about Yaacob Ibrahim’s wife is silly. Most ministers’ wives are unknown to the general public. All his bios dating back to last century have said he is a married man with kids, so nobody would think he was gay or unmarried. We’ve got stuff in the Straits Times archives of him having drug addicts in the family, if I remember correctly (although I’m not certain of it). He’s been pretty up front without talking about his wife’s family, which is generally the case for ministers. I mean, how many people know Dr Goh Keng Swee’s first wife, Alice, personally?

    • 12 yawningbread 8 September 2011 at 12:05

      My criticism was of the mainstream media and their eagerness to protect PAP ministers. Perhaps the dry facts could have been located by sleuthing past records, but my point was that the general public clearly did not know it — something they considered newsworthy when they finally knew. Why did the mainstream media not serve this public purpose?

      Your statement : “Most ministers’ wives are unknown to the general public” only proves my point — that there is a editorial standard that seems highly protective of PAP bigwigs, at the expense of public service.

      There is no greater proof that the issue is indeed one of public interest than the sheer fact that Yaacob Ibrahim himself had to issue a press statement soon after the cable was wikileaked. He had a bit of explaining to do, and he himself knew it. Why wasn’t this revealed long ago by our own media and explained away long ago? Are we to accept that if it had not been wikileaked, it would have been OK for the public to have remained in the dark that his family members (and thus himself) might potentially have a conflict of loyalties?

      Note, I am not criticising Yaacob, though others might, applying their own judgement of standards. I don’t see that he has done anything wrong. In fact I think his clarification that his son would do National Service when he turns 18 went too far. His son should have a right to choose his citizenship and if he is not interested in Sg citizenship, he shouldn’t be expected to do NS; it shouldn’t be for the father to dictate.

      See also my comment to ajohor.

  11. 13 georgeyeo -not that guy 8 September 2011 at 00:18

    Alex,

    The F1 races must be one of the most boring spectator sports around!
    Those who follow it and pay a huge premium to be ‘with it’ has something seriously wrong with their idea of a sporting activity.

    The thrill is in the driver’s seat and the pit, not the spectators’ stands!

  12. 14 Michael 8 September 2011 at 00:33

    40,000 X 1,000 $ a person spending on hotel, food, sundry, shopping ..

    Do your mathematics … 40,000,000 $ alone on money spent in Singapore and 40 MIL going into the economy .. and shops whining ? ah come on .. during F1, check the branded stores – till they have to engage security to bank in their daily takings .. small shops may get hit, but 40 Million infused into the economy is not something small

    And thats.. apart from the cost of F1 seats, services, flight .. other stuff

    A lot of countries are desperate to get F1, not to loose money .. and not for the boast-factor ..

  13. 16 Mackinder 8 September 2011 at 03:24

    Just chill with the bitterness over the F1 race already..Many of us SIngaporeans enjoy it too…

  14. 17 Fly on the Wall 8 September 2011 at 04:09

    I totally agree with above poster who says F1 is for the jet-setting mega-rich who can afford to own multi-million dollar house on Sentosa. Your ordinary S’porean has neither the time or money to benefit from this pursuit.
    I recall a writer to ST forum wrote (to oppose the F1) 2-3 years ago that in an age where climate change is real and countries in Europe and China are doing lots to mitigate their carbon footprint, it is just dumb to add more CO2 through the F1 races in S’pore. Of course it fell on deaf ears. And it’s not just air pollution, it’s sound pollution and inconvenience to other road users and people who have to travel during the nights the F1 is staged.
    The gov treats these things as gimmicks or sales promotions (like McDonalds with happy kid’s meals with free toys). Afterall, it has free-play with the revenue from our taxes, ERP and COE, so they can afford to play-play. Stage something as a trial (for 1, 2 or 3 years), if it works, then by all means continue with it. If it doesn’t, then end it. But who pays for the inconvenience to the general population, the damages to the roads, cost of running the events etc?
    Same philosophy with the casinos – right now it’s making them lots of $$$, but the social costs (broken families due to gambling addiction, social welfare for those affected and their families, rehab for the gambling addicts etc) and criminal costs (increase in loan-sharking and other crimes) will not be apparent until years later. Who pays for that?

  15. 18 Anonymously Annoyed 8 September 2011 at 07:19

    Alex, you hit the nail on the head with that comment about “grassroot supporters” acting as harbingers of his Majesty’s arrival.

    There has been a growing resentment towards the grassroot folks, and I often wonder if the antagonism is merely an indictment of their supposed-bootlicking tendencies, or something else.

    Much as Singaporeans are loathe to admit it, I think many of them have a tendency to view their elected MPs as some sort of higher being that lesser mortals must stand in awe of. And the presence of these grassroot supporters on the ground only serve to “confirm” the natural order of things in their paradigm. So, an MP is criticised for being followed around by an entourage as though he was a higher being (notwithstanding the fact that us peasants have already placed him on a pedestal, with or without their eunuchs and palace maids), whereas MPs who don’t are lauded for their ability to “connect with the ground” (Ooooooh, such an honour that His Majesty actually deigns to speak with a peasant like me).

    This is in no way meant to serve as a defence for some of the truly odious grassroot supporters. I’m just suggesting that they wouldn’t get under people’s skins so much if they didn’t already see themselves as amoebas in the foodchain, to begin with.

    That aside, thanks for the excellent indictment of the F1, which is nothing more than a sorry excuse for the poseurs and wannabes, if you ask me.

    Cheers!

  16. 19 ajohor 8 September 2011 at 09:56

    YB

    Your arguments are contradictory, thus far in Singapore political context, unless the family members involved themselves, no children or wives/spousal partners are mentioned on either side of political spectrum.

    Unfortunately, this article shows the coarsening of political discourse when family members are now considered fair game even the children,

    Will this not create pyschological distress to them,

    Such political discourse involving family members does not help and frankly, you are to me creating the framework in which even your prefered political party would be having issues.

    Not to mention, most pro opposition Singaporeans who are at the least more amenable to the opposition party which you are not in present favour for, at the least, do not attempt to link as such.

    • 20 yawningbread 8 September 2011 at 12:17

      No they are not contradictory. I am hardly calling for an intrusive media that makes family members fair game. I am calling out the highly protective media that keeps basic facts (note: not exploitative) out of the public domain when these facts may be considered by voters relevant.

      Moreover, this approach by our mainstream media is just impractical in the new media age. It might have worked (if one set aside the right/wrong angle) in the days when mainstream media had a near monopoly. Today, trying to control this kind of information just makes media lose credibility. The better protection against intrusion of privacy is a public that gets more information than they want or need and adopts an attitude of “Oh come on, we’re not really interested in that”. It’s a public that is mature enough to know that families can be messy (divorce, love affairs on the side, runaway children), unconventional (gay, co-habiting, adopting) and cross-border.

      The problem is not really that of knowing. The problem is that of judgementalism, and the cure for judgementalism lies in our minds as citizens, not by having a media that nannies us by keeping information from us. Nannying preserves that judgementalism, which in actual fact weakens rather than strengthen the body politic.

      • 21 ajohor 8 September 2011 at 17:54

        YB

        Quote
        “I am hardly calling for an intrusive media that makes family members fair game”

        What difference than between your article and the slants given as compared to the British tabloids you deplore and News Corp which is in the stands with the other news groups.

        Just because it is newsworthy, hence it needs to be published, hence, any salacious or youthful indiscretions are than fair game?

        well, is it not coarsening of public discourse and hence just coming to the lowest denominator of public values.

    • 22 Poker Player 8 September 2011 at 17:47

      “Your arguments are contradictory, thus far in Singapore political context, unless the family members involved themselves, no children or wives/spousal partners are mentioned on either side of political spectrum.”

      Francis Seow’s mistress would disagree.

  17. 23 shirodka 8 September 2011 at 12:57

    Dear Alex, it is uncharacteristic for you to stereotype and lump lovers of F1 into a single category. I am neither rich, “elite” or a member of the “glamouratti”, but I enjoy the F1 races very much. I enjoy watching the races, the buzz and the activities around it. I will never forget the first time we had the race and how amazing Singapore looked in the night – it was breath-taking. One man’s meat as they say and I for one am glad we took the plunge. Moreover, the inconvenience is temporary. But I agree with stickers that beyond monetary gains it would be nice if the motorsports culture could be more accessible to the common man – but with the Changi Motorsports Hub in limbo I despair of ever seeing that day.

    • 24 tk 8 September 2011 at 14:57

      Quite how an allegedly “land-scarce” country such as this thought they could afford to set aside space (not to mention the money) for a dedicated motor-sports track to cater to ‘thousands’ of enthusiasts is beyond comprehension. The Malaysian track is just a few hours up the road – only a bit further than the Phillip Island MotoGP track is to Melbourne. The fact it has ‘stalled’ is to be celebrated, not mourned. Hopefully they can find a way to turn it into something more useful. Landfill site perhaps?

      The real shame is that the Sports Council did not see fit to include a velodrome in the Sports Hub. Unlike motorsports supporters, Singapore actually boasts a large number of extremely capable cyclists who would quickly come to dominate the region at track events, and not much after become genuinely world-class, all for a fraction of the cost, and space.

      But then, the Sports Council does not seem to be capable at recognising or nurturing the talent is does have – for example the Womens Touch Football team, came 3rd in the recent World Cup, behind powerhouse nations Australia and New Zealand, beating a very talented England, without any support from the National Sports Association. That’s third – in the world. How many people read about that I wonder?

  18. 26 Thor 8 September 2011 at 14:47

    I have become very cynical. I think the relations between the people at the different levels in the government and the private companies in Singapore has become so incestous and opaque, that I am truly, not sure if there are multiple levels of conflict of interest. One example, would be the company running the tampines project where BG Yeo’s wife was involved. Please do correct me if I am wrong, but that was the impression I was left with. Somebody must look into this.

  19. 27 chloe 8 September 2011 at 14:58

    “Yaacob told emboff that he has a more open-minded interpretation of the Koran”
    Hmm, so there’s where LKY got the idea that Muslims could be “less strict”.

  20. 28 anonymous@anor.com 8 September 2011 at 15:01

    To build or not to build?
    To renew or not to renew?
    It’s not just F1. It’s 6.5 million, etc etc…
    Justifications for the one view that’s been pre-decided will be aplenty.
    Think-tanks are blink-tanks😉

  21. 29 Tasha 8 September 2011 at 15:49

    *caveat – didn’t read the whole article- but just an opinion on the F1 from an Aussie

    I arrived in Singapore the week after the 2010 F1 and stumbled onto the track after visting Marina Bay Sands (they were starting to take down the gantry lighting) and trying to find pit lane (you should have seen the look on mine and my fiancee’s face!) and for a couple of f1-nerds we thought it was so cool to be on the street track. We took heaps of photos on the pit straight infront of the garages – much to the amusement of the guys who were removing the barricades and the lights – “stupid Aussies” they must have thought.

    Barriers might look daggy and yeah closeing roads is inconvenient (people in Adelaide complain no end about the Clipsal 500 street track and so do Melbournians about the F1 – which they stole from Adelaide… *ahem sorry*) BUT it is safer than bits of car (especially on the new Perelli tyres that leave bits of rubber everywhere) and it beats having to travel to a dedicated circuit in the middle of nowhere to see the race!🙂

    F1 isnt really a sport that seems to be good on the old cost-benefit scale, it costs a lot of money to host, Bernie gets rich from it, but they can be prohibitive, look at China, they couldnt fill the stands giving away tickets and coercing people to go! But Singapore is so, so unique. It is a great night track – so hair-raising and by the night with those lights it is a beautiful city, a shining beacon in the dark night. Singaporeans, despite the inconvenience, should be so proud to host the only night race in the calendar.

    Even though things get super expensive and accomodation sells out for that week, I’d love to come back to Singapore for the F1. And while I’m there I’d love to see all my Singapore friends, eat some wicked awesome food (seriously, you guys have got that down pat!) and go swimming (it IS pretty humid come on!). Plus, you guys never lost your F1 to your rival city…😛

    • 30 tk 9 September 2011 at 10:55

      as a taxpayer from melbourne who was disappointed we stole the race from “it’s ok” adelaide, i was doubly disappointed as a taxpayer in SG that they also fell for the same sucker lines from bernie. all my colleagues here went the first year, now they can’t see the point, they just watch on tv. and the month-long disruption around one of the best parts of singapore is far worse than closing off melbourne’s lake (the swans get less bread than usual. diddums.)

      perhaps i am an unwitting F1 magnet? in which case, any rich sheiks reading this, please feel free to get in touch for a schedule of my touchstone fees😛

  22. 31 puzzled 8 September 2011 at 15:55

    “One the one hand, it could be argued that that’s a private matter, and intrusion into privacy would be a slippery slope that media should not go down. There is some merit to that argument, but it’s not as if it is clear where the line should be drawn. ”

    This doesn’t really jive with your criticism of Vivian’s conduct in the Wijeyasingha incident does it? Why was it such an affront for Vivian to use Vincent’s sexuality to make a political point and insinuate that he is concealing a political agenda, but ok to assail Yaacob’s political credibility in this way?

    • 32 yawningbread 9 September 2011 at 00:33

      You’re getting things mixed up.

      Vivian Balakrishnan was trying to insinuate that Wijeysingha condoned sex with 14-year-olds. That was what the video contained — a few seconds in which lawyer M Ravi told the audience that in some countries, the legal age for sex was 14. Only much later in the video, was Wijeysingha shown, and shown speaking on a different thread. However his words were something to the effect that we as a community should think of ways to pursue “this”. What was not clear from the video was that the meeting was not about 14-year-old sex but about the repeal of Section 377A.

      The despicable thing that Balakrishnan did was to taint and smear by association AND by taking a video and a spoken sentence out of context, by making an allusion to pedophilia. Balakrishnan’s bait was to ask the SDP what their “hidden agenda” was — words he used repeatedly. Strictly speaking, it would be grounds for a slander suit. I know from inside sources that the top leadership of the PAP was furious with Balakrishnan.

      Should media point out that a politician is gay? Yes, yes yes. (And in the 1990s, our mainstream media failed miserably at that when one minister resigned abruptly.) I firmly believe that no gay politician should try to stand for election without first disclosing that he is gay. If you read my chapter in the book Voting In Change, you will see me criticising the SDP for not being upfront about Wijeysingha’s sexuality from the very start of the campaign.

      • 33 Tan Tai Wei 9 September 2011 at 09:16

        I am surprised, Alex, that you say that a gay politician should disclose his sex orientation while others don’t have to. Isn’t that discrimination on something that should in all truth and fairness be regarded as irrelevant in politics as in most other matters? In the Yaacob affair, his wife’s national orientation, etc., is politically relevant, say as posing a possible “clash of interest” at foreign relations.

      • 34 yawningbread 9 September 2011 at 09:53

        I believe in transparency in politics. In theory you may be right that the responsibility to be transparent applies to both straight and gay politicians, but we cannot ignore the fact that most people assume others to be straight. That’s why in respect of sexual orientation, it is asymmetrical. The same obligation to be upfront applies for other hidden attributes. A new citizen needs to explicitly declare so. A Christian Malay has to stress the fact because most people would assume that he is Muslim. Someone with a criminal record should do so too and explain.

        It is not only just ethical behaviour; it is also the smart thing to do in politics. The more you try to hide something which the public considers (fairly or not) to be of public interest, the more you make it a liability for yourself.

  23. 35 Tan Tai Wei 9 September 2011 at 10:29

    Let’s say Wijey contests in a constituency peopled mostly by gays. He announces at a rally, even before he speaks, that he is gay. Won’t critics say he is unfairly appealing for votes on affiliation rather than issues?

    The reality, however, (given existing social prejudices), is that had SDP so announced about him, it would suggest not only that being gay is relevant politically but that it is unfavourably so, and therefore “buyers beware”!

  24. 36 Rabbit 10 September 2011 at 04:45

    I do not quite regard every minister’s private life as newsworthy unless there is obvious contradiction to what they preached or clear sign of them trying to exploit our systems to serve their family members. A minister should always set by good example to his followers and hold responsibility to what they said in public. GCT calling Singapore emigrants quitters while her daughter is one of them, it made him look like the kettle calling the pot black and thus deemed an irresponsible leader. MSM did not question this contradiction thus reporters were irresponsible to its readers.

    Slipper’s man has no involvement in his family murder case, but msm picked him up as the main focus to indirectly discredit the opposition camp for days. This is irresponsible msm’s attack tactics.

    After Patrick Tan’s prolonged NS deferment incident (and being kept low profile by msm) and one member of parliament did not serve National Service and wanted to claim leadership after returning to Singapore as new citizen, thus the minister being seen as temptation to help their children out of NS should not be brushed away. As such Yaacob’s family news is worth discussing. Like what Alex mentioned, it is too premature to say his son will serve NS and yet kept the dual citizenship options opened. It may be possible that his son will defy the father wish when time comes, as in Janil Puthucheary case, became overseas citizen and than returned in their prime as new citizens to join PAP for election without needing to serve the country. Another scenario could be Yaacob’s became the 2nd malay president and our first lady is actually American borned? Aren’t these worth the news now better than later?

    As for Wijey personal orientation, I see no reason for him to come clean unless his intention is to serve only a minority of the population. Why should he come clean when he is not dirty at all? Similarly why should a minister say he is a Christian, Buddhism or whatever before the election race started? Gay is not a crime or alien from another planet. Anyone can stand for election regardless of race, language, religion or sexual orientation. It will be newsworthy only if Wijey disagree to repeal 377A which contradicted to his sexual orientation or if he claimed in the election application form that he is not gay, than he better come clean with the people.

    If Vivian Balakrishnan didn’t play gutter politics to get media attention and our reporters were ethical enough not to report divisive news, other ministers couldn’t be bothered with Wijey sexual orientation since his SDP is well known for their human rights and non discriminative agenda. Thus was it really newsworthy other than the news eventually back-fired on dirty Vivian himself. Moreover, Wijey is clever and gentlemen enough not to deny his identity (unlike many PAP ministers who dodged questions here and there) and move on with his campaign confidently.

    We want a leader who has substance not his sexual orientation, we want a leader who means what they preached, not an opportunists or rhetorics. Will msm able to come clean and report fairly without any political affiliations, without having to act as heralds and criers for the “king”, without fear and favour? If msm chose to be inadequate in favour of PAP, don’t blame the new media for giving them a further leg up. LHL has tasted its power, should Yaacob be freaked by new media thinking it is another one in 50-year event?

    • 37 yawningbread 10 September 2011 at 10:32

      You wrote: “It will be newsworthy only if Wijey disagree to repeal 377A which contradicted to his sexual orientation or if he claimed in the election application form that he is not gay, than he better come clean with the people.”

      Take Wijey out of your example,

      1. The election nomination form does not ask for sexual orientation.
      2. If an election candidate says he is against repeal, how do we know whether it “contradicts” his sexual orientation unless we know his sexual orientation?
      3. But you say no one should declare his sexual orientation.

      4. It’s naive to think that a candidate’s religion is going to be ignored by electors. It is relevant because religion strongly informs a person’s worldviews.

  25. 39 Raelynn 22 September 2011 at 03:13

    what’s wrong with retaining the F1 race? i mean, although the common folk is inconvenienced greatly, there are businesses that benefit from the increase in tourism, from luxury retail (i suppose not that many common folk will fly to singapore to watch the race) to hotels to singaporean companies who are vendors to the race (for example, companies who are doing the F&B services for the crew, for the race team and their crew, for the VIP boxes and other race related matters). yes, there are foreigners working in these industries but there are also our common Singaporeans who work in these industries. when there’s profit for the company, our working singaporean gets benefitted one way or another, such as increase in commission due to increase in sales. and between the YOG and the F1, i believe that the F1 night race has increased our publicity more. but i do wish that more is done to promote the spirit of the race though. Grid Girl reality competition does not equate to promotion of sport.


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