On a high horse called Truth and Right, PAP lost in a changing world

When someone says the obvious like it is some kind of epiphany, it tends to stagger us. “Hello, where have you been?” we ask.

That was my reaction when I saw in the Sunday Times of 11 September 2011 this headline and subheader:

PAP ‘must engage with young’
PM says party must not just aim to persuade but also be open to being persuaded

It is shocking that a political party that forms the government needed to be told that they should be open to being persuaded. You mean, all this while, the idea was considered too far out?

Actually, it’s even worse than that. To my dismay, a closer read of the news story indicated that those were the journalist’s words, not Lee Hsien Loong’s. All I could find was a quote from him saying that the party should work with younger Singaporeans, “connect ” with them, and “As they work with us, they change — and we change.”

This is far short of any call to receptivity and self-reflection.

* * * * *

My last post ended by saying that it was false to think that the increasing role of socio-political commentary on the internet was somehow responsible for the rise of anti-People’s Action Party (PAP) sentiment. The evidence suggests that such online commentary merely reflected a trend that was happening as a result of other factors.

Take a few simple facts: About 40 percent of voters voted against the PAP in the May 2011 general election. About 65 percent of voters voted against the government-endorsed candidate in the 2011 presidential election. Yet the survey described in my previous post showed that socio-political websites’ readership was only 12.6 percent of the adult population. So where did all those who voted against the PAP come from?

Yet, looking at the words and actions of the PAP leadership, you can’t help but see that they actually do think it is critical commentary on the internet that is changing people’s minds, thus all the talk about correcting “falsehoods” and striving for “balance” (by encouraging pro-PAP sites). Then there has been the campaign — a little less evident now — vilifying the internet as some kind of dangerous, lawless place full of half-truths and vicious smears.

If only we could tame the internet, Singaporeans of all stripes would love the PAP — the party seems to think.

The very fact that they see agreement with their own policies as the default position (in the absence of a rabid internet) , indicates that underlying this is a belief that they own the truth and that their policies represent the obvious right thing to do. I call this a “universality complex” — a belief that what one believes and what one does is universally true and right for everybody else.  Holding such a belief explains why they so easily think that it is bad press that is failing to make adoring disciples of all Singaporeans. Singaporeans can’t possibly be against the Truth and the Right, unless they have been misled by malicious elements.

Clinging on to this illusion means that the government will fail to re-examine its policies with sufficient thoroughness. It might examine a policy’s execution, but it would be hard to question its starting assumptions, for doing so would undermine its own universality complex. When criticism of a policy arises, there is a tendency to tune it out. Should criticism get too loud, the response is more likely one of censoring. After all, if the policy is unquestionably right, then it is the criticism that is hurtful to the “national interest”.

I think this more or less describes the way the PAP government has operated for decades.

* * * * *

Intrinsically bound to the universality complex is a tendency to see people and the world as unchanging. It must, otherwise how can the claim to timeless Truth and Right be sustained? Technology and the strategic political environment may change, but human nature does not.

The PAP’s conception of human nature is almost shocking when one examines it. They seem to hold fast to the idea that humans are selfish automatons whose responses to inducements and penalties can be calibrated. Much of the policy output from the PAP government rests on this behaviourist assumption.

Yet, humans are a whole lot more complex than that. There is emotion, there is a demand for dignity (an irrational impulse, to the PAP), there is idealism and, with material security and better education, an increase in attention to outside-of-self issues, such as the environment, the rights of others, or animal welfare. The last is a form of altruism, an area where inducements and penalties cannot quite reach.

Again and again, due to the PAP’s blind spot, it is caught flat-footed when the world moves on. It’s a blind spot because their own governing theory does not conceive of a world that can move on.

The latest is the sorry spectacle of the Internal Security Act that allows detention without trial. After Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that his government would repeal it, the Singapore government was quickly reminded that in 1991, it had said it would “seriously consider abolishing” it if Malaysia did so.

In a 1991 interview with Malaysian journalists, then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked why the ISA was still needed in Singapore even though the Communist Party of Malaya no longer posed a threat. He replied that if Malaysia did not abolish the same Act, it must have its reasons. Singapore would seriously consider abolishing the ISA if Malaysia were to do so, he added.

Later that year, then Law and Home Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar said any review of the ISA must take into account the situation in Malaysia as the security of both was closely intertwined.

In 1994, when Malaysia was reviewing its ISA, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, when asked: ‘I haven’t given this matter much thought, but if Malaysia moves, it will be a factor in our calculations.’

— Straits Times, 17 September 2011, Govt: ISA still crucial for security in S’pore, by Li Xueying & Zakir Hussain

They probably never imagined that Malaysia would scrap the law within their lifetimes. But now that it has been announced in Kuala Lumpur, the Singapore government took all of 24 hours to “seriously consider” and determine the law should stay. It further argued that

The ministry further stressed that Singapore has used the ISA ‘sparingly’ – only against those who have acted in a manner ‘prejudicial to the security of Singapore or to the maintenance of public order or essential services therein’.

‘No person has ever been detained only for their political beliefs,’ it said, addressing the widespread perception that it has been used to crack down on political opponents.

— ibid.

Such a claim, of course, is absolute rubbish, though it might hinge on how one defines “security”, “public order” or “essential services”. But if they seriously believe that many detentions over the last 40 years met those tests (by the ordinary meanings of those words), then they are certifiably mental.

Before that, it was the death penalty. Singapore went to the United Nations championing the right of states to kill its own citizens, only to be outvoted because the majority of countries around the world have come to see a deep moral issue over this. Not only did our government do Singapore’s international image untold damage, the move outraged an increasing number of citizens here who have taken an interest in this.

And then before that, it was Section 377A of the Penal Code that makes homosex an offence for men. No sooner had the PAP in 2007 insisted on keeping the law on the books, no sooner had it insisted that it was constitutional despite being highly discriminatory, India’s Delhi High Court ruled that an equivalent law in India was unconstitutional . . . because it was discriminatory. The absurdly behind-the-curve stance of the Singapore government is clear without even bringing up the faster and faster pace at which countries are legalising same-sex marriages.

People grow and change. Other governments and institutions respond. Here, our government staggers from one unanticipated scenario to another because by their subconscious conception, the world should not be changing. Human nature should not be changing. People aren’t supposed to yearn for higher-level self-actualisations. Like freedom of speech. Like caring for the underprivileged.

And the PAP won’t blame themselves for their difficulties. They are in possession of  Truth and Right, aren’t they? So, if the people aren’t applauding their every move and utterance, it must be because of the wild wild west of new media leading the faithful astray.

That is why I  think, regardless of the salutary lesson of the two elections this year, nothing much will change.  The PAP will continue to be caught flat-footed by people’s aspirations and frustrations. They will continually be playing catch-up with demands, because the paradigm they work with does not anticipate — does not even allow for — legitimate new demands. They are smart enough to see the demands when articulated, but they are unable to grant those demands the same legitimate validity as their own core beliefs. They see popular demands like the way parents see the demands of selfish children; something you may have to grant to keep them quiet, but ultimately still not right.  And if you accede, do it in half-measures, so as not to encourage more demands.

In other words, any remedial measures they take will always be tactical — do just enough not to lose too many votes next time. All the while, they will still think that their problems lie mostly in communication, not in the direction and substance of their policies.

* * * * *

Open to being persuaded? I’m not about to believe it until I see ten simple things — none of which costs much money, so they aren’t questions of budget prioritisation:

1. Repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, apply non-discriminatory rating standards for heterosexual and homosexual media content;

2. Scrap mandatory death penalty, moratorium on all death penalty;

3. Repeal laws that permit detention without trial, i.e. the Internal Security Act and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act;

4. Loosen up laws on public speaking and gathering — no licences needed for indoor speaking (even foreigners) whatever the topic, liberal granting of licences for outdoor gatherings and speaking;

5. Scrap all licensing for indoor arts performances; liberal granting of licences for outdoor performances and installations;

6. Scrap Sections 33 and 35 of the Films Act (political films and blank cheque given to minister to ban any film);

7. Scrap all licensing provisions for new media content;

8. Scrap newspaper/magazine licensing regime and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act;

9. Redefine ‘contempt of court’ to a very narrow meaning that covers only disruption of court proceedings and flouting of judges’ orders;

10. Reduce ministerial salaries by at least half.

73 Responses to “On a high horse called Truth and Right, PAP lost in a changing world”

  1. 1 market2garden 21 September 2011 at 11:41

    PAP cabinet fails to understand and recognise the ever-changing human nature – includes value system, social perception and life cycle.
    Blindspot (one-diensional) is inevitable – none of them well-versed in HIstory / Philosophy / Social Policy.
    Another forseeable danger – the so-called 4G Ledership (include the one who defeated in Aljunied Battle) all studied in ECONOMICS.

    • 2 cannedpineapples 21 September 2011 at 18:00

      It is not a problem of the current leaders not being “well-versed in History / Philosophy / Social Policy”. Rather, all systems have a core value and culture around which they function.

      Regardless of an individual’s background or leanings, after joining a system, he or she eventually starts to think as part of that culture or system. Either that, or leave and find a better fit. This applies to politics; organisations; families; everything.

      Of course the individuals make up the system, but oftentimes the system has a way of making individuals adjust to itself.

  2. 3 Phillip 21 September 2011 at 13:30

    I love your 5 out of 10 To-Scrap list. Keep it up!

    Notice PM said “..they change, we change” instead of “we change, they change”. The former suggest that the other party must first need to be open to “their” persuasion, then PAP will change (or meet) half way. At least, that’s how I interpret it – the typical high horse syndrome.

  3. 4 Poker Player 21 September 2011 at 14:21

    I am going to disagree with you here about 377A. What is holding SIngapore back here is not the PAP. You know who the real villains are.

    • 5 Poker Player 21 September 2011 at 14:24

      Thought experiment. Imagine the WP somehow coming into power. Enough said.

    • 6 Gazebo 22 September 2011 at 03:14

      agree! its not the PAP’s fault mainly in this case. nonetheless you can’t say the PAP isn’t responsible at all. their overbearing pragmatism coerces them to ignore basic human rights, in favor of “harmony”.

      YB, great article! best blog of the year so far. 🙂

    • 7 Cosmic Dancer 22 September 2011 at 09:00

      Yes the PAP is acting at the behest of a ( real or imagined) conservative majority. But surely a government which acts against public opinion for what it perceives to be the greater good ( immigration, limited social safety blanket , casinos) should also be willing to act against public opinion in this very clear cut case of granting all citizens equal rights. It seems downright silly that for this one issue, suddenly the function of government seems to be to merely enforce the will of a majority. What is this, a referendum state? Obviously not, the government should stop being hiding behind a banner of pragmatism to hide what is a worrying display of moral flexibility. God i hope the tide of public opinion never turns against minorities, god knows what political pragmatism will lead us to then. No the PAP should shoulder some of the blame. Less educated people ( i DON’T mean this in a patronising and limited institutional sense) tend to think that laws are based on universals/morality and therefore need to be led sometimes like children because they are incapable of higher moral reasoning and are more than happy to ignore the elephant-sized contradictions in their mental world view.

      • 8 Poker Player 22 September 2011 at 15:24

        “therefore need to be led sometimes like children because they are incapable of higher moral reasoning and are more than happy to ignore the elephant-sized contradictions in their mental world view.”

        Who is to say who the “children” are?

        Isn’t one of the things we dislike about the PAP exactly this?

        We suspend this dislike selectively?

      • 9 Poker Player 22 September 2011 at 15:26

        “therefore need to be led sometimes like children because they are incapable of higher moral reasoning and are more than happy to ignore the elephant-sized contradictions in their mental world view.”

        To Christian fundamentalists, the “children” are secularists in favour of gay rights.

    • 10 Jake 22 September 2011 at 11:32

      @ Poker Player, you mind enlightening everyone on who’s holding Singapore back? Very cryptic…

  4. 11 Desmond Lim 21 September 2011 at 15:19

    Well said, they don’t realise that change is the only constant in this world.

  5. 12 See The Light 21 September 2011 at 15:37

    Brilliant piece. Now I finally can understand PAP’s self-deception….and why they’ll continue espousing “in-the-box” thinking…like 2-party system is not good for Singapore, Singaporeans will eventually come around to accept current immigration policy, all that REALLY matters is GDP growth and all and every problems can be easily solved once GDP growth is good, etc

  6. 13 Alan Wong 21 September 2011 at 16:05

    As someone has rightfully pointed out, our PAP still need this blunt & loosely defined ISA to create the atmosphere of fear hanging over everyone’s head in case anyone misbehaved.

    There is really no reason why they can’t introduce a completely new set of anti-terrorist laws to deal with any security situation considering that so much have changed since the ISA was first introduced.

    By the way, our new President has yet to respond to Dr. Lim Hock Siew’s challenge just before the Presidential election regarding the political manipulation of this law ? Is in our PAP govt’s nature to allow such accusations to go unchallenged ?

  7. 14 Thor 21 September 2011 at 16:20

    One factor to consider is that MSM has been forced to cover potentially damaging issues due to the vibrant discussions online. Thus, the online media does have some influence on what is discussed in the public domain. Also, netizens will discuss these issues with friends and colleagues who may not read extensively on net. However, I too feel that the message they have read is a failure in marketing rather than policies. Even worse, that our aspirations may extend beyond the economic realm and that the people want some things too, not just what they think is good for people.

  8. 15 jax 21 September 2011 at 16:30

    bravo. you’ve nailed it. that rogue govt everyone talks of seeing in
    the future is here, right now, governing this country. (i think u’v said
    as much in a roundabout way, in an earlier piece.)

    however, i disagree with you that the pap govt is playing catch-up
    in thinking and policies. it hasn’t, and it won’t. it simply can’t, becos,
    as you rightly point out, it so Totally believes it is the Way, the Truth
    and the Life… and the Only one which is Right. prob is, its ways and
    thinking r more outdated than using a candle for lighting.


  9. 16 georgelamb 21 September 2011 at 16:44

    Singapore is a monogeriatricracy.
    Ruled by one old man!

  10. 17 cl 21 September 2011 at 17:28

    The govt under the PAP is NEVER about the people. Any ‘good’ they do is pure tokenism. It is about making themselves look good and keeping themselves in power.

    Singapore, I would say, is ruled and ruined by LKY and I’m always baffled by how supposedly intelligent and educated people will tremble under his command. Maybe, they are not that intelligent and educated afterall.

  11. 18 Chow 21 September 2011 at 19:36

    Didn’t one local politician (I think it was LKY) comment recently that democracy and all that is rubbish because if you haven’t fulfilled the lower orders of hierarchical needs in Maslow’s pyramid then none of that matters? It’s quite a chilling thought because if it were me in charge and wanting to remain dominant I’d start by making earning a living more difficult. That way the population will be too engrossed in keeping up with inflation and costs of living. At anyrate they have already promised that it was the delivery that needed to be fine-tuned so I won’t be holding my breath because I don’t see anyone in the Cabinet having that drive to change things.

    • 19 guojun 22 September 2011 at 16:32

      hear, hear!

      while basically true (since the first hunters and farmers came together because of shared basic demands) this local politician presumed the system to be static.

      it’s not that the PAP believes that the world doesn’t change. They don’t want it to change. Which explains all the talk about Asian values, conservatism, strongman rule, and the permanent siege mentality of the PAP. They are being besieged by change which they don’t want to adapt to…

  12. 20 Elijah Lau 21 September 2011 at 21:04

    It’s possible that the PAP is not caught out by these changes but simply that they consciously resist these changes, no matter what.

    While there is a growing consciousness among Singaporeans of higher-level actualisations, they still remain in the minority. The majority are still too busy sending their kids to tuition, playing the stock market and chasing the property boom.

    For changes in society to take place, It will take a lot of time and resources of the activists and ‘revolutionaries’ to spread the ideas to the rest of the masses, just like other revolutions in the past.

    So the PAP doesn’t see itself as fighting a losing battle. It believes it has a winning strategy – stop the revolution. And Singaporeans will continue to make babies and contribute to GDP growth and forget about all this high ideals stuff.

    Its actions thus far shows that it’s sticking to this plan.

    Your move, revolutionaries.

  13. 21 Rabbit 21 September 2011 at 21:12

    I may like to add:

    11) Disband People’s Association or at least have its committee well represented by all political party members, to form cohesive ambience and serve residents regardless of their political affiliations.

    Aside from the 12.6% who read socio-political website, it is also interesting to note about 30% – 50% (GE 40% & PE 65% respectively) out of 75% who relied on msm, decided not to endorse PAP style. Why should PAP blame socio-political website when msm has failed to outsmart its askance and discernible readers.

    The increasing reliance on New Media for news is clear sign that Old Media’s fail to meet the zest of inquisitive populace who find too much censored news or mainly PAP political condiments (whether from PAP or its patrons) a bad taste in a diversified world. Calling netizens radical is like the TV blaming computer for taking up the space. Recently, Chua Mui Hoong cried foul over it and blamed readers should have asked and known the pressure mounted on MSM editors but she also argued that reporter’s predicament was part and parcel of life – no shame, end of the day servants served their master (PAP) is the order of things. Sounds like “devil” worship?

    Ironically, the current active citizenry landscape was also a calling to meet LKY’s expectation out of Singaporeans – Less daft and less ignorant, more spur and thriving as our nation moves forward. Probably defeated by their own statements, PAP might just spin another contradictory stunt, selective with words and cases to support, entertaining but flawed – straining our intelligence like how they argued ISA is a non politically motivated tool, when past evidence squarely pointed against MHA reasoning.

    On LHL sideline speeches made after the GE, my immediate impression was they intent to focus on winning back its dismal votes than to make major policies changes as promised – new words with old habbit or the invisible old guard still wield its power, nobody should move or change a thing. They know there is no immediate cure for the problems created, thus might as well concentrate on fixing the people than the policies. Thus People’s Association happily fired its first ammunition under instruction, to fix the dissents in opposition wards – Unity? Getting all Unions and Federations to endorse PAP-backed candidate is the second tempted ammunition, and didn’t quite well conceived despite TT’s eventual new found wealth in Istana. – Divided?

    The next 5 years is not going to be easy for PAP because the 4th generation leader is a huge mystery and probably a challenge to meet, partly they don’t belong to the Leegime mould by blood and nobody can be trusted unless a serious worshipper is spotted.. There is no strong mould similar to LKY and weak leadership like LHL cannot be the chosen one. If not for LKY, LHL will not become a PM. The new cohort of “YES MEN” who scrapped through the bottom of PAP searched barrel, none is likely of leadership material, most would probably joined for monetary considerations so there is some dignity to talk down as master to the people. The potentially good and well-to-do one was reluctant to be part of PAP questionable politics; few bravely took the opposition route out of exasperation for change. The message is clear; PAP has fallen through its own devices.

    If LHL didn’t keep to his promise again, and he has broken it soon after 2006 election, 2nd chance is all he could get provided he has learned any lesson in this watershed election.

    5 years later, the old & uneducated who voted for PAP may no longer be around, more young voters will reach legal age to vote. New citizens who voted for PAP this year may decided to change their mind in the next election, their demand will very much in tune with what Singaporeans are asking for today. Thus the fearful LHL kept harping about connecting with the young, integrating with the new and fall short of talking about how to fix its poor policies, which roused this year 2 elections, is to reach for the wound without a cure.

    Half year will be gone soon, after making all the noises about “connecting” and “unifying”, has LHL arrived with any concrete achievement or was it just another ambiguous sound to buy time and consolidate its power deemed more urgent than helping the people who voted for or against him?

    I have tried to be optimistic, but all that has happened already killed the saint msm tried to portray. If I felt squeezed in town where LHL made his apology and the leader is as good as dead as wood to our daily problems, than don’t blame me for venting my frustration as much as S377A has been a sore to gay people life.

  14. 22 BT 21 September 2011 at 22:24

    You are like Martin Luther with his list of Theses. You cyber-nailed it!

    I hope the Government attains some level of enlightenment.

  15. 23 Gck 21 September 2011 at 22:41

    You are writing totally rubbish!

  16. 24 Cher Yiing 21 September 2011 at 23:18

    The PAP is human, just like every one of us, and is as susceptible to cognitive bias as any human. The behaviour you have just described is another demonstration of confirmation bias, asymmetric insight, and the backfire effect.

    In fact, you may actually argue that people in position of power are more likely to exhibit cognitive failures as our society seem to reward such characteristics. For instance, we elect leaders based on the confidence they exude, the fact that they are ‘certain’ that they are right, the need for someone to give us an “answer”, etc.

    Overall, I’m not sure where humanity is heading but hopefully, in a few millennium (if we survive that long), we can evolve beyond that…of course, then what will we be? Still human? Post-human?

    Hmm…doesn’t matter. I’ll most likely be long gone by then.

  17. 25 Keith 21 September 2011 at 23:58

    Excellent article. A very good answer to ‘what’ happened and ‘why’ the PAP functions in this manner. Perhaps a follow up article on ‘how’ will complete the picture. For example, how did the party end up recruiting people of the same mold. I believe this is worth studying. Just a suggestion.

  18. 26 Miss Leah Quorn Yule 22 September 2011 at 06:37

    Why does the PAP need the ISA when we already have a compliant judiciary?

  19. 28 Dr Gurt Hodel 22 September 2011 at 06:45

    A “universality complex” is universally abhorrent, and ironically so.

  20. 29 Kain 22 September 2011 at 07:31

    A quick comment.


    Blogger has a point. How badly do we Singaporeans want this? Not much I would say. The use of ISA against ‘terrorism’ is an effective narrative, nobody (the silent majority I suspect) wants the government to be soft on possible terrorism on our shores. Well, if a few ‘do gooders’ get caught in this blunt instrument, I guess that’s a price most of them are willing to live with.

    In Malaysia, they have been using the ISA against rising opposition figures. Now that makes them angry, and this is their silent majority we are talking about (who interestingly enough aren’t silent any more). For us to come up openly against ISA would be for the government to check Low and Mao with Section 377A. I hope my analogy is clear enough.

  21. 30 GP 22 September 2011 at 07:32

    Thirty years ago as an undergraduate, I believed that as leadership is renewed, new people will bring fresh perspectives and attitudes more aligned with the times than the old. But no, leaders just pick people like themselves to continue stick-in-the-mud ways.

  22. 31 Cosmic Dancer 22 September 2011 at 08:33

    Amen. Great article, I fully agree with most of what you said. ( apart from the impact of the new media on anti-pap sentiments). While quantitatively small, the qualitative impact of easily available information, and new media consensus on young, previously clueless individuals has been quite profound in my own experience. Based on the fact that the majority of my 20-something year-old friends had no informed political views before facebook, and now many are at least angered by perceived domestic injustice. In any case the picture you paint is pretty depressing but realistic. I don’t think much change will happen here.

    The thing is though, the more I find out about the injustices in the world ( the imminent veto of a Palestinian bid for statehood being the most recent stinker ), the more i am aware of how the rot really extends well past our little nation state and really fills most institutional crevices the world over. The biggest problems facing our world today, (economic, environmental, human-rights based) will not be solved without a major restructuring of governmental systems that frankly will not happen because the wheels of the future are dictated by wealthy and powerful elites, corporate interest and above all, narrow self-interest. I’m not saying that the agency of normal individuals will not make the world a better place, of course it has. But the forces against anything but superficial cosmetic changes to the world are far too powerful. At the unsustainable rate we are going, if endless expansion of production and consumption continues to be the overarching paradigm of our times, Singapore and the current world order will not last another 50 years. Not unrealistic if you realise how young and vulnerable the very notion the modern-nation state is in the greater span of history.

    god i feel depressed. someone put a bullet in my head.

  23. 32 Alan Tang 22 September 2011 at 08:52

    Excellent piece! I fully agree that PAP WILL NEVER change at all cuz they have ben In power for too long. They are too entrenched. Look at KMT of Taiwan. Having lost power and then voted back to power under President Mah which really led to much changes. I am already resigned to this belief tt PAP must lose power one day for it to REALLY WAKE UP. I see them as greedy, blood sucking power crazy control freaks out to retain power at all costs! They are as crooked as anyone but think highly of themselves. They are no angels but they act and thought as angels! Time is running out for them. By 2016, the coffin is there ready for them delivered by an ever conscious electorate!

  24. 33 Govt Out of touch 22 September 2011 at 09:03

    True !!

  25. 34 tocqueville 22 September 2011 at 09:51

    We are ruled by a bunch of technocrats all of whom are fearful of offending the Dispenser of Hard Truths, who is living in a time warp.

    Notice all the people at the top are engineers, economists or lawyers. None of them majored in Greek classics or PPE.

  26. 35 Anonymous 22 September 2011 at 10:05

    I am what people call a “swing-voter”. Not totally for or against the PAP. Frankly, I am becoming tired of all the one-dimensional analysis on the web, such as yours.

    Your article started off with a strong inherent anti-PAP bias. This website will only appeal to those vehemently anti-PAP types. I will certainly appreciate a more balanced approach to your articles.

    For example, the news article in question, can certainly be interpreted in different ways. You chose an extreme interpretation.

    The line “PM says party must not just aim to persuade but also be open to being persuaded” is just like what many business or political leaders would typically say to their team.

    But you found it “shocking”. What is so “shocking” about this statement?

    You interpreted this line as meaning that PAP previously never wanted to be persuaded. This is certainly an extreme interpretation of the story, clouded by personal bias.

  27. 36 market2garden 22 September 2011 at 10:43

    1G Political Leadership -> Shape the System (incl Education Policy) of governance and every breathing space -> Affects Current and Future Leadership.
    1G Political Leadership is strictly economic-minded but ignores importance of value system, social perception, life cycle and ever-changing human interaction. As time goes by, this belief (specialist) deeply rooted in the system and becomes integral part of the culture, which is evidently inadequate in today’s increasing competitive world.

  28. 37 The 22 September 2011 at 11:45

    /// Chow 21 September 2011 at 19:36
    Didn’t one local politician (I think it was LKY) comment recently that democracy and all that is rubbish because if you haven’t fulfilled the lower orders of hierarchical needs in Maslow’s pyramid then none of that matters? It’s quite a chilling thought because if it were me in charge and wanting to remain dominant I’d start by making earning a living more difficult. That way the population will be too engrossed in keeping up with inflation and costs of living. ///

    All too true! The govt does not need you to be in charge to do this – they have been doing this all this while. Pricing HDB flats according to “affordability” means that the bulk of your combined salary goes towards servicing the housing loan. Frequent increases in utilities, transport and various fees means that the population have to keep working harder and longer to stay afloat. And then we have the FT policy which means depressing salaries for Singaporeans. All these will mean that, other than the elites, the rest of Singaporean will be kept at the lower levels of the Maslow hierarchy and constantly running just to keep pace.

  29. 39 kampong boy 22 September 2011 at 16:02

    Good article and observations. I too think that the PAP will stay the same. The good thing is that more and more good people are joining the opposition. So hopefully, in subsequent elections, as more and more opposition members get into parliament, and even form the government, we will see your list get shorter and shorter.

  30. 40 Marley 22 September 2011 at 16:56

    I guess the repealing of s377A will result in common sightings like gays openly french kissing and groping each other in public places just like the hetrosexuals that we see on stomp.

    Although I am sympathetic to gays’ plight on one hand and non homophobic, but I am not prepared to be confronted with a couple of gays kissing right in front of me on the MRT whilst holding on to my child’s hand and wondering what to tell them.

    • 41 yawningbread 23 September 2011 at 00:57

      What do you tell them when an opposite-sex couple french kiss openly?

    • 42 wikigam 23 September 2011 at 09:30

      1) You need any “mental healing” ?

      2) I do long hours “French Kiss” only on the bed. no prefer in the Public… need to wash mouth before and after “French Kiss”…

    • 43 Pauls 23 September 2011 at 15:46

      What do you tell your children if you see a gay couple kissing in public? Here’s one suggestion:

      “Kids, it’s quite sweet that these two wo/men obviously feel such affection for each other. There’s nothing wrong with homosexual couples, after all, as all human beings crave affection. However, it is my personal conviction that public displays of affection between two persons, whatever their sex, are undignified. Hence when you grow up, I hope you’ll consider not publicly kissing your partner in public, whatever his/her gender might be.”

      If you’re truly honest in claiming not to be homophobic, then you should have no reservations about making such a statement, since you frame your concern as one of public decency rather than homosexuality.

    • 44 Vane 23 September 2011 at 18:47

      “Although I am sympathetic to gays’ plight on one hand and non homophobic, but I am not prepared to be confronted with a couple of gays kissing right in front of me on the MRT whilst holding on to my child’s hand and wondering what to tell them.”

      Are you trying to say that its okay for heteorsexual couples to grope each other and kiss in the public but you are not comfortable that two gay men do this.

      Or are you perfectly okay, if the two kissing are lesbians (women). And that you only have issues with GAY MEN doing it?

      Or are you also implying that Gay Men are bad influence and you worried that your child may be influenced?

      Do you believe that Gay Men to leave very special exotic and alternate lifestyle that is drastically different from heteorsexual people?

      Please enlighten me where you are coming from.

    • 45 jem 24 September 2011 at 20:38

      Please stop using your children as political tools. Just come out and say you are not comfortable, instead of saying you worry that your child might be uncomfortable.

  31. 46 Thor 22 September 2011 at 20:12

    As to the repeal of 377A, I believe there is no impetus for it. Above all, pragmatism reigns. The LGBT community is by n large liberal n well read and are unlikely to vote establishment. Why should I alienate the conservative portion of the electorate to appease people who will vote against me anyway. Also, this law is another tool in my arsenal against political troublemakers.

  32. 47 WP 22 September 2011 at 20:24

    I think it’s easy to criticize but no one here actually provide useful or sensible suggestions or alternatives to current situations. Remove this remove that, one might suggest remove the prison system, remove the need to work, remove the need to pay for transport, housing, electricity. Grow up ppl. That’s why oppositions are still predominantly weaklings. Too many silly ideas. Come up with more sensible and useful ideas or the nation please. Do the nation proud, don’t oppose for the sake of opposing.

    • 48 Robox 23 September 2011 at 02:08


      Do you even know what you are saying?

      Remove this remove that and replacing it with nothing IS THE ALTERNATIVE to what exists currently. That’s what abolishment or repeal, in the case of law, means.

      What do you propose should replace S377a for instance? Another piece of homophobic legislation? As for the ISA, countless suggestions have already made to replace it with an anti-terrorist Act.

      And that’s the problem with the PAP mind set: when you reject the porposed alternatives, you somehow also imagine that no proposed alternative was suggested in the first place.

    • 50 Dan 23 September 2011 at 13:56

      You are being very unfair here. Where in this piece was it advocated ‘remove this remove that’ as you alleged? Besides, aren’t the PAP ministers and admin servants paid millions to come up with solutions? Isn’t that their job? Why should the people teach them how to do their job when they are paid pittance and are riduculed for being daft? Finally, PAP has always been in power. Any problem there is is created by it. Shouldn’t it solve the problem? Do just tell us not to oppose for the sake of opposing. Wake up and grow up, for your own good and the good of your children.

    • 52 Poker Player 23 September 2011 at 17:24

      Ever notice that the phrase “oppose for the sake of opposing” is almost never used in the political discourse of real democracies?

      It’s unique to our silly and parochial political lexicon, together with OOB markers, cosmopolitan/heartlander,

      • 53 Robox 24 September 2011 at 03:59

        “Ever notice that the phrase “oppose for the sake of opposing” is almost never used in the political discourse of real democracies?”

        I guess that could go down as yet another leekuanyew idiotism.

      • 54 yawningbread 24 September 2011 at 14:46

        I think “oppose for the sake of opposing” is a fairly common phrase in English usage.

        The more important point to make is that when the PAP dismisses dissent on this ground, it is still making a mistake. Even when the PAP is doing something unassailably right and still finds people refusing to accept it, but coming up with sorts of spurious reasons why the course of action is wrong, that opposition is still a signal. Usually, it is a signal that there is an underlying dislike of the style, even if one cannot fault the logic. That opposition is an indictment of the process of arriving at a decision even if the decision may be a right one. It’s a signal that PAP arrogance is so impossible to stomach, nobody even wants to concede that the PAP is right, even when they ARE right. In politics, being attuned to feedback about style is just as important to feedback about logical outcomes.

      • 55 Poker Player 24 September 2011 at 16:01

        This phrase is never used by the Obama administration to describe what the Republicans are doing. What our local opposition/govt detractors do doesn’t even come close to what the Republicans are doing.

      • 56 Poker Player 24 September 2011 at 16:02

        “I think “oppose for the sake of opposing” is a fairly common phrase in English usage.”

        In Singapore.

  33. 57 WP 22 September 2011 at 20:35

    Malaysia has always play catching up with Spore in terms of meritocracy, racial harmony, economy growth etc, and who thinks that just because they abolish ISA make them sudddely superior ? Anyone who follows politics in Malaysia know that this is done to win votes. Come on, we need deeper and more analytical thinking to beat the PAP. Not emotions and prejudices.

    • 58 Robox 23 September 2011 at 02:13

      It doesn’t matter if Malaysia is abolishing the ISA as a vote winner. The point is that they ARE abolishing it and Lee Hsien Loong had already said that Singapore would ‘seriously’ consider following suit if the event that they did.

      Do you need deep analysis to hold him to account? And where do you see the emotions and prejudices.

      Perhaps it is you who should practising what you preach about not opposing for the sake of opposing.

      • 59 yawningbread 23 September 2011 at 13:42

        Exactly. To concede that the ISA should be trashed is to concede that there is no moral basis for such a wide-ranging, draconian law. One can argue about the merits of any proposed replacement, but the concession that the ISA has lost is moral basis is very important in itself — something which the PAP refuses to do.

      • 60 The 24 September 2011 at 00:03

        I think it is a bit too early to start counting the chicks. Given Najib’s track records and pink lips, this will be just another lip service.

        Whether he can persuade the hardliners in UMNO to support the abolition of ISA. Even if he can, he has already stated that the ISA, if abolished, will be replaced by several other Acts. I think the cure is going to be worse than the disease.

  34. 61 Rabbit 23 September 2011 at 02:12

    @ WP and Anonymous

    If you are keen to read pro-establisment news, there is no lack for pick through the main stream media.

    Are websites mostly anti-establishment? we need to ask ourselves the following before passing your judgement.

    Were there sufferings on the ground? Yes!
    Were there still discriminations in Singapore? Yes!
    Did PAP acknowledge their policies have created problems in our society? Yes, and only during this election.

    Is this year elections very different from the past? Yes! and you should know the reason.

    Is our parliament under-represented since 40% against is PAP and 65% against its style? Yes!

    Has PAP done enough outside lipservice? No!
    Has PAP been listening and admitted to their mistake pior to election? No!
    Are the ministers arrogant and has the grassroots, stat board been partisan? Yes!

    Has PAP misused its power against oppostion ward residents? Yes! at least for 25 years.

    Was there independency in all the institutions set up by the ruling party namely CASE, LTA, NTUC, GIC, election dept, PA? No!

    Has PAP contradicted themselves sometimes? Yes!

    Did you see your PAP elect walked the ground in your neighbourhood like what WP elect did? No!

    Are you sure website bloggers have not been giving feekbacks to the govt and still faced negative reactions from the ruling party all these years? Come out of your denial.

    Have our cost of livings being controlled? No!
    Have our wages been depressed? Yes
    Any effort from the government to make concrete improvement? No!

    Are our ministers overpaid by world politician standard relative to the reserves the country held? Yes!

    Will our govt be transprent about itself if there is no internet? No!

    Have you benefited from new media news? I am sure you know the answer.

    Most importantly, is our main stream media controlled by PAP? Yes!

    With all the questions posted above. Do you still considered the replies are biased with no basis?

    You may have a different answer from mine to all the above questions and even with that, you knew from the bottom of your heart something is not right with our current systems which suffice all the arguments and negative sentiments against the current establisments posted via comments or articles.

  35. 62 Thor 23 September 2011 at 12:14

    Can you feel it? Sense it? Smell it? Yep. The trolls are here to ‘engage the social media’. Paid or otherwise. Guess in a way it’s a compliment to the site. I wonder if yawning bread can track the IP Address so that Steven Kho does not also post as Alvin which happened at TOC.

    • 63 yawningbread 23 September 2011 at 13:39

      Don’t worry about those trolls. Unlike other sites, I practice pre-moderation, and there is a rule that a comment must be meaningful and at least half-intelligible to pass moderation. However, I will also allow some nonsense to pass, so that readers can see now nonsensical the nonsense is.

  36. 65 Simon 23 September 2011 at 13:05

    Dear Poker Player,

    Section 377A-Yes,actually the two Lees are now inclined towards abolish it.As it is inevitable.

    But it is the minds of the conservatives who form a voting block which prevented them from doing do.and it can strip the PAP of its elections victory.

    Who is responsible for the molding of these conservative’s minds,why the Chinese in Taiwan and China can accept this change of mindset.

    The answer is Mr Lee K Y,and this is NOT the only example!I think.


  37. 66 Simon 23 September 2011 at 13:16

    I do hope that P.M. LHL can wake up a little and improve on delivery of his elections promises.

    For example,the political rule of PA,which he defended himself,and we just read the comments in the Straits Times,of old PAP steward and Mr Lee K Y old faithful,Mr Lee Khoon Choy.

    It seems obvious that even PAP old guards are saying it is indenfensible.


  38. 67 boman 24 September 2011 at 09:07

    I gave up thinking that the PAP government would change 5 years ago. When LHL became PM, I was enthused by his National Day Rally speeches in the first 3 years. He talks about creating a more open society, listening and acting upon what its its citizens had to say etc. But if you compare the time when LHL became PM in 2004 to now, its the status quo in all facets of our lives. Nothing has changed for the better. The only thing that has change is that the Internet has given people a greater voice. And that’s not from the PAP 🙂

  39. 68 Kim 24 September 2011 at 22:45


    I believe Cognitive Dissonance is more appropriate than ‘Universality Complex’



  40. 69 gear_sg@yahoo.com 26 September 2011 at 09:51

    “Reform of PAP ” is a mission imposible ?

  41. 70 wikigam 26 September 2011 at 10:03


    Just give the “Speak Right” to steven khoo / Alvin.
    Netizens are promote an ” Equality Speak Right” to Anti-PAP and Pro-PAP. It is a task that can’t achieve by sg govt forum.

  42. 71 Anonymous 26 September 2011 at 17:17

    Aren’t those who argue strongly for the repeal of s 377A equally bound to the “universality complex”? Is the belief that gay people should never be discriminated against one that is/should be susceptible to change? Or is it one that is “universally true and right”?

    Judge a political party’s “openness” not on the substantive positions it has taken, but the depth of engagement with views contrary to its own.

  43. 72 Paradox 30 September 2011 at 22:58

    A Party should not be synonymous to a country’s government. When the Party had been acting as our government this long, with the introduction of other party/ies, the Party has the feeling that it has diluted its power which was rather absolute previously.
    As the saying goes, ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’…

  44. 73 Lewis 15 October 2011 at 09:15

    Interesting comments. You have listed 10 suggestions at the end of your article, which you hope that the government will implement. So going by your logic of the universality complex, your 10 suggestions should also be up for discussion, and PAP should have every right to critique them and decide if they are suitable to be implemented in Singapore

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