Relying on showcasing, it’s the PAP that loses track of reality

Looking at two recent controversial events, I am going to argue here that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is too ready to embrace stage-managed show in lieu of substance, with serious consequences on its ability to understand what is truly going on among people.

In a Facebook post, Senior Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong whined that too many online comments ridiculed the display put up in Queenstown for the visiting Prince William of Britain and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Wong wrote in a post dated 24 September 2012:

When the British royal couple came to visit, PA and HDB organised an event at Queenstown to give them a glimpse of the diverse activities in our heartlands. Singaporeans young and old volunteered readily to be part of this event. Yet, they were mocked online for taking part in a “wayang” show.

I am not the first one to be pointing this out, but it struck me too when I saw those remarks that Wong either didn’t understand what people were saying or was trying to pit citizen against citizen in order to let the government off the hook.

The ridicule was not directed at those who took part, but at those — and now we know it’s the People’s Association and the Housing and Development Board — who came up with the foolish idea and put it into action. And since the People’s Association has become an arm of the People’s Action Party, and the HDB is an arm of the government, the ultimate object of the mocking is none other than the party and government that Wong represents.

Before Wong’s comments, Indranee Rajah had valiantly tried to save the sinking ship. The sham production had two objectives, she proudly told the media:

One was to showcase HDB living. The other was to showcase the various cultural and community activities of Singapore.

“At the same time, the organisers were also given a very short timeframe of about 25 minutes to show all of that,” she [Indranee Rajah] said, adding that they felt the best way to achieve it was to “do it in little exhibition spots.”

The playground was chosen as the venue to show the type of facilities in a housing estate, such as exercise machines and playground equipment.

— Singapolitics, 13 Sept 2012, Queenstown visit was an exhibition, by Tessa Wong, Link.

And so, as you can see from the Reuters picture above, they got an elderly man to dress up in some satiny stage costume to show the prince “real life” in Singapore.

Singaporeans have the right to laugh out loud at it, but it didn’t fool the visitor either.

Ms Indranee said that as she toured the area with Prince William, he had asked her if Singaporeans actually practice taichi and silat in the afternoon.

“I explained that they wouldn’t do so at 3pm because it’s hot, and that these groups were just here to demonstrate… So it was explained to our visitors that we were just showcasing activities,” she said.

— ibid.

In other words, they didn’t tell the prince beforehand that it was all fake. He caught them redhanded. Did the organisers really think they could fool him?

I find it very troubling that they had not told the visitors beforehand, because it indicates to me a mindset that does not question putting on a show in lieu of substance. It didn’t occur to them that non-PAP people would find make-believe something to be sceptical of.

To what extent, I wonder, has this blindsidedness been the result of decades of stage managing ministers’ walk-abouts? Of decades of media control that has produced mainstream media that, daily, “showcases” the government’s  achievements? Of carefully organised feedback sessions and surveys whose primary objective is to provide confirmation of the PAP’s and the government’s cognitive bias?

* * * * *

Lawrence Wong then accused critics of “politicising” the issue. He needs to go back to English class. “Politicising” is one of those words that has been so overused by people to mean what they don’t mean that the word has now lost all meaning.

Critics were criticising the decision to make Queenstown a Potemkin village. There’s nothing wrong with criticising, but Wong chose not to use the word “criticising”, using “politicising”  instead.

Was it just a gauche choice of a word, or manipulative smearing?

Through decades, the PAP has tried to make “politics” a dirty word. Primarily, they tried to restrict its meaning to the activities of those who dared to join opposition parties or stand for election against them. In doing so, they seeded in ordinary people a fear of being labelled political, lest they be seen as dissenters and challengers, risking character assassination, job loss, defamation suits and detention without trial.

The word “political” came close to the same meaning as “subversive” or “seditious”.

So, when Wong describes criticism as “politicising” an issue, the effect is to tar critics with that brush, casting them as social and political trouble-makers. Fortunately however, times have changed. Where in years past, others would steer away from repeating similar criticisms to avoid guilt by association, now some will just slam the minister harder. And they are right. Think about it: If criticising the Queenstown sham is “politicising” the issue, what might Wong have imagined to be not politicising it? It can only mean not criticising it.

But how is not criticising what one considers a bad decision the best way forward for Singapore?

* * * * *

The other issue Wong accused critics of “politicising” was the presence of at least seven identifiable PAP members among the 50 carefully-selected members of the audience in a TV forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, and PAP members of parliament Indranee Rajah and Intan Azura Mokhtar about two weeks ago.

Online, Singaporeans had a field day ferreting out the party members. Naturally, the subtext was that having seven (and maybe more) party members out of 50 strongly indicated deliberate skewing.

Lawrence Wong, in the same Facebook post, 24 September 2012, wrote:

No one was invited because of his or her political affiliation. But it so happens that among the group of 50, a handful were PAP members.

Does he really believe that it was all by chance, as implied by the use of the phrase “it so happens”?

A more plausible explanation for the outcome can be found in Straits Times’ Singapolitics blog:

But more so than any of the questions asked, it was the make-up of the 50-member audience that caught the attention of many netizens.

Many scoured the footage of the televised forum to try and spot PAP members.

Over the weekend, dozens began questioning the authenticity of the forum, posting pictures of some audience members identifying them as PAP or grassroots activists.

The issue picked up steam again on Wednesday when a picture began circulating on social media giving the background of 36 participants. Netizens accused them as being linked to or “friendly with” the PAP.

A CNA article published before the forum said that the 50 audience members were drawn from “various quarters of society, including business leaders, professionals, tertiary students, unionists, non-governmental organisations, social entrepreneurs, new citizens and others”

A check with the attendance sheet distributed to media outlets found that some attended in their capacity as grassroots members.

They include Ms Hamidah Aidillah Mustafa, a grassroots leader from the Keat Hong citizens’ consultative committee (CCC); Mr Tay Xiong Sheng from the Woodlands CCC; Mr Budiman Mohamed Salleh, assistant secretary in the Kaki Bukit CCC; and Mr Daniel Ho, member of the youth executive committee for the Boon Lay Community Centre.

— Singapolitics, 19 Sept 2012, No special invites to PAP, PA, says CNA, by Tessa Wong. Link

Let’s take it at face value: that  the intent was that the forum guests were to be grassroots leaders and representatives of “various quarters of society”. Firstly, is this another example of “showcasing”? Secondly, and more seriously, the outcome confirms what most Singaporeans know of the profile of grassroots organisations, etc: they are filled with party members and sympathisers. Once someone decides to have “grassroots” organisations included, inescapably, there will be heavy skewing to PAP members.

Yet, the government depends on these structures to provide ground-feel for ministers. How much filtering takes place? Groupthink? Does the system leave ministers in a bubble, out of touch with the real Singapore?

If what happened over the question of single parenthood is any indication, the answer looks like Yes.

One of those at the forum, fashion designer Jo Soh, said: “If I can’t find a husband that I want to marry, why can’t I have a child as a single woman? Or why can’t de-facto couples be recognised? Why can’t de-facto couples have children and still have the same access to subsidies and rights?”

It was a question that prompted PM Lee to ask for a straw poll on the issue – should non-married couples have children?

The vote was split almost equal – 46 per cent voted “yes” and 54 per cent said “no”.

— Channel NewsAsia, 14 Sept 2012, S’pore will stick to policy of encouraging traditional families: PM Lee, by Imelda Saad. Link.

The news story went on to report that the result of the straw poll “took Mr Lee by surprise”. No prizes for guessing that he expected a much more conservative and moralistic poll outcome, for he quickly dismissed the revealed opinion, saying, thank you very much for your views, but the government will stick to its policy of encouraging traditional families.

So much for a National Conversation, critics will say.

But my point — and I think it is a more damaging one — is this: If a carefully selected audience, loaded with party members, can produce an opinion that takes the prime minister by surprise, what does the poor man really know of what Singaporeans think?

66 Responses to “Relying on showcasing, it’s the PAP that loses track of reality”

  1. 1 Ping 28 September 2012 at 20:15

    Great insights. I read Minister’s post and wondered: why is he offended by the use of “wayang”? Would it have been less “politicising” if the criticism was it all appeared “contrived”? Is he aware that critics of Workers’ Party call them “wayang” party? Would he have felt more comforted?

    • 2 patriot 1 October 2012 at 14:41

      Expect them to be offended if they were/are parts of the script and or ‘acted’ out their roles as scripted. Wayang is a Malay Word for ‘acting’ which means pretending to be the actual real people and events that happen naturally and spontaneously. It will also means any participation voluntarily or of own volition.
      However, ‘showcasing’ and ‘window dressing’ have always been the most used propagandas throughout human history. So, it should not be surprising if they are conducted. Nor should one be surprised that the ones putting up the ‘wayang’ felt offended when their acts are seen as pretension and make-up for showcasing and window dressing that bear little or no true nature.


  2. 3 LT 28 September 2012 at 20:20

    It is like how parents always feel they know the best for their children; the poor man’s father similarly feels he knows the best for the poor man; and obviously now the poor man will feel he should know what’s the best for his people.

    Monkey see monkey do.

  3. 4 passerby 28 September 2012 at 20:25

    While I agree with many of the points in this post, I have to ask: do you actually, honestly believe that “the real Singapore” would be as supportive of single parents as the TV poll shows? If you do, I’d say that you’re the one who’s out of touch, Alex.

    As much as I’d like to believe that as well, I think PM Lee is correct in thinking that the bulk of Singaporeans are still woefully conservative on this issue. His surprise, on that point, is understandable. (The TV forum also skewed fairly young and middle-class, which might explain the more liberal views.)

    • 5 ape@kinjioleaf 28 September 2012 at 23:52

      There’s a slight difference between ‘supportive of single parents’ and ‘non-married couples having children’. The former can mean differently to be a bias towards (encouraging) single parents or helping single parents.

      If we’re talking about encouraging single parenthood, I agree majority will say no. Helping single parents? Yes.

      Non-married COUPLES have children? I say yes if all bureaucracies can do away with looking at marriage certs but just rely on birth certs for the child’s school enrolment, medical subsidies etc. How many Singaporeans with me on this? I don’t know but based on the poll mentioned, more than what I can hope for.

      • 6 voiddecker 30 September 2012 at 02:00

        Agree with ape here. The question was not clearly framed, mixing single parenthood (and all the connotations of broken marriages, premarital pregnancy, etc) with unmarried couples (couples who simply choose not to marry, gay couples not recognised as married in the legal sense, etc) who are perfectly capable of raising kids well and providing strong family support. We will never know if the audience is saying yes or no to which definition.

  4. 7 Mike Zeng 28 September 2012 at 20:47

    I couldn’t have said it better….thanks Alex, u took the words out of my mouth.

  5. 8 For our future's sake 28 September 2012 at 21:27

    PAP using tactics that are at least 30 years old on today’s citizens who are more educated. Silly fools, I am sure some of the daft 60.1% have by now seen through their fake facade.

    • 9 Lye Khuen Way 29 September 2012 at 11:52

      Sure hope so.
      You see, there are many who just could not bring themselves to reject what the ruling party dishes out.

      The decades of mind control, if I may bravely says it, does pay.

      Seriously, the facade is superb.
      The charade well rehearsed. That, as Alex pointed is why they just could not believe the Prince could have asked.

      Anyway, I can vouch, that day by day, their antics are being exposed and among the 60%, a few are seeing “the Light”.

  6. 10 Bktan Wenkang 28 September 2012 at 21:30

    Well written!!! The Pappies like to wayang a lot lah , I never forget when I was still in navy how the bloody oguicers forced the soldiers to go through domestic in the weekend just to impress the commanders/ministers coming onboard for ops. Back then i was asking is it more important to dress up the ship or use the time to train up instead.So now i know this wayang culture is cultivated down from the Pappies garhmen!!!

  7. 11 stngiam 28 September 2012 at 21:49

    Doesn’t the “unexpected” result of the poll on non-traditional families prove that the participants were capable of independent thought regardless of how they were selected ? Caveat: The poll was conducted electronically and anonymously. Had it been show of hands the result might have been different. Also, how do you frame the question ? Is it about signalling of “approved” family structure, or is it about penalizing children for the sins of their parents ?

    • 12 Peter 29 September 2012 at 01:42

      Does the survey prove anything that those PAP people have independent mind different from PM ? This question is pretty harmless whether they agree or disagree or not within their own party. It is only when more critical OB question is asked that we begin to see whether these PAP people have independent mind or just “YES-men” mind that know how to please their masters to keep their bread and butter. OB Question such as “Is ISD necessary consider that it is still a viable political tool , and it create fear for people to speak up ? “, “Why TH/GIC doing creative accounting discovered by Christopher Baldings, and quickly coverup and pretend nothing happen, and where is the accountability and transparency in that ? ” , “Why still resort to gerrymandering and still PAP can proclaim they win majority vote ?”, “Why PAP using inverse logic to
      insult the educated citizens ?”, “Why PAP as ruling party using state fund to promote their party interest and agenda ?”

      the PAP still think that they can selectively choose “safe” easy question , and it is up to them to re-frame the issue as they like it ?

  8. 13 Ian 28 September 2012 at 22:27

    Awww… just like DPRK, well not really, DPRK is so much better with this wayang than Singapore.

  9. 14 Eric 28 September 2012 at 22:44

    Ha3. Another great post, Alex. I like your last line best “… what does the poor man really know what Singaporeans think?”.

  10. 15 Jentrified Citizen 28 September 2012 at 23:29

    It is very disappointing how they persist in living in their ivory tower. They are so used to doing things their way, stage managing everything that they have really lost touch with reality. and the sad thing is it comes across as if they don’t really care what the masses think so long as they can hold on to their power through all ways and means of control. Even more disheartening is that their newer and younger ministers are singing the same tune and failing to understand the people.

  11. 16 Patrick Lee 29 September 2012 at 01:05

    I’ve followed both issues quite closely and would like to offer my views. Do not be too quick to judge things at face value.

    Firstly, on the ‘wayang’ for Queenstown, the organiser had known in advance that the royal couple will be touring the area in the afternoon for a very short period. There was every intention to showcase the area and the types of events that take place at a typical playground, even if the time of the day was not right. These are limitations every event organiser will face on the ground. If there was no intention to showcase the living environment of Singaporeans so that the royal couple could have a better understanding of the Singaporean lifestyle, they would simply see empty blocks and void decks. Ask yourself if it would be beneficial for their understanding? What is the purpose of bringing them there in the first place?

    For the Singapore conversation, that was the first telecasted program for the series. I believe the composition of people will change each time. To reach out to the masses, is it wrong to seek out the grassroot activists who have been working the ground in each of the estates or is it better to randomly pull someone off the street and put him on TV? If 60.1% of Singaporeans voted for the PAP, how many people out of a TV audience of 50 would you expect to be ‘siding’ with the PAP? Only 7? The fact that if there are only 7 shows that the event organisers actually went their way to make sure there are less pro-PAP people involved.

    Rather than sit on your chairs and criticise or ‘politicise’ these trivial events, why don’t you sign up for the national conversation and be prepared to say your piece on TV? I know I will.

    • 17 yawningbread 29 September 2012 at 10:00

      You wrote: “the organiser had known in advance that the royal couple will be touring the area in the afternoon for a very short period.

      Firstly why MUST the visitors go to Queenstown? I notice you don’t question this, but accept as fact that they must be there.

      Secondly, even if they go to Queenstown and want to see a bit of Singapore life, there are plenty of alternatives at 3 pm without need for a performance of “real life”. For example:
      1. Go to a fast food outlet and see how many kids there are cramming for exams; talk to them about their dreams and aspirations;
      2. Go to a hawker centre, and watch how messy the table is when the average guy finishes eating and gets up; then talk to cleaners about their salary levels;
      3. Stand beside a road and observe the percentage of taxis with “Changing Shift” signs at that hour;
      4. Wander around the void decks, talk to retirees;
      5. If weather is inclement, they could stay under shelter, somebody hands them a phone and they can try to call any government department and see whether they manage to get a human on the other end of the line within the 25 minutes they have.

    • 18 Idiot 29 September 2012 at 11:02

      I keep hearing this from the mainstream media – Given that 60% voted for the PAP, what’s wrong with having “a handful” of PAP supporters in the TV Conversation?

      There’s nothing wrong, if the audience were unbiasedly selected. Flip it another way – since 40% of the population don’t support the PAP, why is it that out of 50 “randomly” selected people, not a single one seems to have a different opinion from the PAP?

      Secondly, it is a fact that certain bloggers were originally invited, then uninvited. Ravi Philemon, Kristen Han etc. In other words, they did “sign up for the national conversation and was prepared to say their piece on TV”, as you put it. But their views were explicitly rejected. I guess the PM cannot handle public dissent, so better not embarass him?

      The issue isn’t just that the 50 were not randomly, or unbiasedly, selected. Putting all the anecdotal evidence together, it becomes apparent that it is a staged show, with carefully selected audience. We call that a “wayang”.

      Not so different from a staged show at Queenstown at 3:45pm.

      Get it ?

    • 19 Simon 29 September 2012 at 16:08

      Hey Patrick,

      If only 7 it is ok. As pointed out by some netizens, they identified 36 pro-PAP people (not 7) in the audience. That is a whopping 72%. But where are the anti-PAP people, where are the opposition grassroots? KOSONG. ZERO. NOUGHT. 60% voted for PAP, but they are represented by 72%. The remaining 28% doesn’t represent the oppostion. Who knows, maybe all of them voted for PAP. IF THIS IS NOT WAYANG, THEN WHAT IS???

    • 20 Chanel 1 October 2012 at 11:16

      Patrick Lee,

      What is wrong with letting the royal couple “…simply see empty blocks and void decks”?? If that is the situation at 3pm, so be it. For that matter, I very much doubt if the couple could see traditionally attired tai chi and silat practitioners at the playground even at night!! Ditto people playing chatek and well-mannered children playing.

      60.1% of voters voted for PAP for many reasons. Remove the GRC, dismantle the PAP-controlled media, remove the threat of non HDB upgrading, remove the threat of ISA, remove the threat of bankrupting political opponents, etc. Only then can we see how many would actually support PAP!!

      • 21 yawningbread 1 October 2012 at 11:52

        You wrote: “Only then can we see how many would actually support PAP!!”

        I think we got a glimpse of an answer in the presidential election 2011. About 34%.

  12. 22 Tan Wa Lau 29 September 2012 at 06:24

    Alex, if the pm agreed with the single or non married couple having children gaing access to subsidies, he likely knows that the next pressured group will be the gay group. Now lets face it, likely 98% of the people are not gay and that is why human as a specie can still progress. So do you think he can accept that? My personal opinion is it is unlikely as 98% of the people will not support that.

    • 23 yawningbread 29 September 2012 at 10:01

      Spoken like a true conservative. The world must NEVER change.

    • 24 Chow 29 September 2012 at 13:43

      You are mixing up the word “progress” with “reproduce”. The word progress implies a movement towards a goal. We may progress but yet not reproduce. At the same time, we may reproduce but not progress.

      I think you meant “reproduce” and in this case, the world is severely overpopulated as it is.

      At the same time, I don’t quite get your arguments. What has being accepting of others and creating an inclusive society (their words, not mine) have anything to do with homosexuality? Surely you don’t mean that inclusive is only extended in cases of homogeneity?

      • 25 Tan Wa Lau 30 September 2012 at 11:19

        Chow, if the human race does not reproduce, you can forget about progress as there is no one left to progress anything after all the existing people are gone.

        I don’t think I am against gay people. I just don’t think we should encourage it as it is against the order of nature would you not agree?

        As regards to Alex comment that the world must not change, I think the world has already changed a lot in respect of perception of gay community. Again while we have to accept those who are practicing the gay lifestyle, we as a society should never encourage it as that would be the end of the human race.

    • 26 S 30 September 2012 at 16:12

      I guess that’s why in countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Denmark, where homosexuality is celebrated publicly (through gay marriages and otherwise), the human race is going extinct!

      …except that these countries have much higher birthrates than Singapore.

    • 27 Mark 30 September 2012 at 20:19

      By that logic, pretty soon the government will start banning ladies from being educated, so the human species in Singapore can progress. This is completely ridiculous thinking. Think twice before you decide to comment such thoughts.

      • 28 Tan Wa Lau 1 October 2012 at 05:53

        Mark, your logic is totally illogical. What has what we discussed got to do with banning ladies being educated? It will only retard the progress of the human race further.

      • 29 S 1 October 2012 at 12:37

        The point Mark is making is that increasing the education of women reduces the birth rate. Your claim is that to “encourage” homosexuality would result in the “end of the human race”, presumably because you think gay people do not have children.

        Quite apart from this being factually untrue (celebrating homosexuality does not turn straight people gay; gay people do in fact have and raise children), your argument, when taken to its logical conclusion, implies that any activity reducing the birthrate must be discouraged. This includes female education.

    • 30 Chow 1 October 2012 at 13:12

      Tan Wa Lau,

      I am unable to ascertain what your first paragraph in your reply to me is driving at. If you meant that “If nobody reproduces, then there will be none left and the human species cannot progress” then it is a valid statement (but obvious). If you meant it as a rebuttal to my point I raised that you mixed up ‘progress’ and ‘reproduce’, then you have only reinforced my point: That reproduction and progression are two separate matters. At most, progress is incidental only because we are capable of abstract thought, communication, translating thought into action, and having a means of passing on collective knowledge. It is a very long and potentially complex debate but I will try to summarize my stance even if it does not do justice to the issue.

      First, we need to agree on what is meant by ‘progress’. If one thinks of it as humans on an escalator, ever moving upward toward some superhuman ideal then it is clear that it is not necessarily the case. This is because at heart we are still not much further from our pre-historic ancestors. We have not evolved much from there. Perhaps the only thing we have ‘better’ in a sense is civilized society where we accept certain rules and traditions that facilitate the continued functioning of society without it breaking down into a free-for-all. But this is also observed in other animals that live in groups. These rules are artificial and when there is poverty or shortage, these rules will break and change. Observe what happens in riots, revolutions, and natural disasters. If you mean that technologically we are more advanced, then it is true but remember that technological advances have also meant that we are more than capable of (a) wiping out the world with weapons that can kill more people than ever, (b) potential disastrous climate change leading to famine and drought due to over extraction of resources and a rapidly expanding population, and (c) a very real threat of worldwide epidemics that can kill larger and larger numbers of people due to air travel and trade.

      As one can see, ‘progression’ in terms of moving toward a superhuman ideal is misconceived. If we assume that progression means ‘technological advancement’, we find that technological progress is really independent on the sexual orientation of the person. Alan Turing, who was one of the pioneers of computing, was gay. It is this mistaken idea that we are continually ‘progressing’ and therefore it is important for us to keep reproducing that I take issue with. You may still counter (as you have) that “someone must still give birth to all these people and that means that reproduction is important” is still valid but as I have said, technological progress is independent on sexual orientation.

      But this brings us to the next point, which is that sexual orientation is NOT a lifestyle or a choice as one would choose to drink wine on Monday and beer on Wednesdays. You wrote that “it is against the order of nature” and I disagree. The ‘order of nature’ you are thinking in terms of is just one of the many world views that have been subjectively imposed based on culture and other narratives. Again it has been observed that many animals also exhibit homosexuality. I will admit that I am not as conversant in this area as others may be but the idea that it is ‘against the natural order of things’ is bad reasoning by itself and especially more so when used the way it is used.

      Furthermore, Mark’s point that it is just one step away from banning education for females is not as illogical as one would assume. In many cultures and religions, the woman are considered inferior and should not be placed above a man (because in the ‘natural order of things’, God first created Man and then Woman). This point has been used to deny the rights of women for a long time. The use of certain supposedly ‘natural’ traits to exploit and enslave people of different colours is similar to this. You may want to read Stephen Jay Gould’s book ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ and see how IQ testing was used to discriminate and create a huge underclass.

      Your fears about the end of the human race because everyone turns gay if we ‘promote’ that ‘lifestyle’ is certainly unfounded. Let me tell you why. I am male and despite spending 2 years in an environment that was almost exclusively all male, I never have experienced any urge to become a homosexual. Even with all that ‘permissive and alternative lifestyles’ out there I cannot change my sexual preference for women. What can change my reproductive habits is really the high cost of living, wage stagnation, and a hyper stressful environment for my children.

      • 31 Tan Wa Lau 1 October 2012 at 17:49

        Chow, I think one of us is in the sun and the other in the moon. We are not communicating. You went on and on about things that I have no interest to debate with you.

        If the whole world is gay and without the latest artificial technology to reproduce human, the human specie will disappear. So is it not against the order of nature?

        I am not against gay people or lifestyle but I seriously don’t think we should encourage it.

      • 32 yawningbread 1 October 2012 at 23:37

        You wrote: “I seriously don’t think we should encourage it.

        You can’t encourage or discourage homosexual orientation any more than you can encourage or discourage iron from being metallic.

      • 33 Chow 2 October 2012 at 06:00

        Tan Wa Lau,

        I appreciate your point of view and I am not here to slam you or denigrate you. I have, myself, once viewed homosexuality based on the same arguments (among others) as well but eventually I realized that those arguments did not make sense to me so I dropped them and changed my views. I don’t expect you to change your views based on a few forum posts. It takes longer and goes further than that. What I hope for is that both of us go away with new perspectives and we continue to think about things thoroughly and search out more material and evidence so that we can make informed choices we can honestly support. If you can convince yourself and be able to reason things through, then so be it, regardless of your stance. If in future I find myself being unable to honestly support my view any longer, I will change it again. An insightful and critically examined life. That’s all I ask for.

      • 34 LT 2 October 2012 at 19:52

        Dear tan,

        I am not gay but I totally understand that being gay is not a ‘lifestyle’ choice as you have put it.

        It is not the same as ‘ I want to be a hippie’ or ‘I want to be a vegetarian’.

        People are not gays because they CHOOSE to be gays! It is not a lifestyle choice.

        Maybe you should put away your current preconceived notions for the time being and read more about homosexuality first. Perhaps then you guys will be on the same page.

        A straight talking girl,

  13. 35 dolphin81 29 September 2012 at 08:55

    I really dun understand why Mr Lawrence Wong should get upset about the critics.

    The Queenstown Visit is similar to reviewing a military parade.

    A parade is a form of ceremonial exhibition which is also a form of wayang (Stage show).

    A parade is an idealized/edited representation of a real life situation.

    The visit is not a detailed fact-finding mission. The organizers never intend the presentation to be realistic.

    Mr Wong is just paranoid about any form of expression of unhappiness.

  14. 36 Merry-go-round-N-round 29 September 2012 at 09:04

    Nope, there will be No surprises, the whole National Con version has been taped and edited, so there won’t be any unforeseen things happening.

  15. 37 The 29 September 2012 at 10:37

    Showcasing indeed. This is the hallmark of the PAP and it has been the practice since they came into power. Get the local media to say all the good things about Singapore and its leaders, and badmouth other countries. Hide all the bad. Very good at self-praise and marketing. Round up the beggars, though some can still be seen. Hound the homeless. Install separation bars on benches so that the homeless can’t sleep on the benches.

    This wayang for Kate and William isn’t the first time. I remember the Queen’s visit in 1972 to the Mandai reservoir. All the squatter huts along Upper Thomson Road and Mandai Road were hoarded up so that the Royal retinue cannot see the real Singapore – abject poverty and slums and squatters. This facade – this wayang – I remembered this vividly although I was only a teenager then.

    On the other hand, billions of taxpayers money are poured into iconic projects and events that have very little benefit for the locals, but are aimed largely at attracting foreigners to settle in Singapore or as tourists. I don’t know if I am among the very few Singaporeans who up to now have never been to the Singapore Flyer, Durians @ Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Resorts World, Gardens by the Bay and F1.

    Yes, I have been a regular to the Singapore Grand Prix. Those great events in the 1960s attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands to the Old Upper Thomson Road circuit. The sand bags and the hair-pins. And how we as kids would bashed through the forest, climbed over barbed wires just to have free show.

    Singapore for Singaporeans is long gone. Singapore is now for show and for foreigners.


    • 38 liew Kai Khiun 29 September 2012 at 16:48

      “Singapore for singaporeans is long gone. Singapore is now for show and for foreigners” . A very stinging comment, but just want to qualify for certain types of privileged foreigners as well as some Singaporeans,, not our migrant workers and a majority of Singaporeans.

      • 39 The 1 October 2012 at 09:06

        Yes, you are right. That is what I meant and I stand corrected:

        Singapore for common Singaporeans is long gone. Singapore is now for show and for the rich and famous (local elites and foreigners).

    • 40 Saycheese 30 September 2012 at 02:14

      “I don’t know if I am among the very few Singaporeans who up to now have never been to the Singapore Flyer, Durians @ Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Resorts World, Gardens by the Bay and F1.

      Yes, I have been a regular to the Singapore Grand Prix. Those great events in the 1960s attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands to the Old Upper Thomson Road circuit.”

      I have not been to those places you mentioned but I recalled taking pirate taxis to Upper Thomson Road for those GP and I remembered there was a local lady racer.

      They have just announced building more facilities for the elderly but I doubt I will have an opportunity to use them. I fear I may end up in Batam if I outlive my usefulness in the land where I was born.

  16. 41 Patrick Lee 29 September 2012 at 12:53

    you question why the visitors have to go to Queenstown. Queenstown is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore and was named after Queen Elizabeth II, as the visit to Singapore is part of a nine-day Asia Pacific tour to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it would seem apt for them to visit, isn’t it?

    Actually, the estate to visit is not the key. Whether it was Queenstown or Ang Mo Kio, the point is to showcase SIngapore life. If a visitor comes to your house, would you not tidy it up before entertaining guests? The tour is not meant for overseas guests to see how our country needs to be improved or how bad life is here, unless you think that the Singapore government is not doing a good job and we as a sovereign country should be managed by the British. While we have grouses with our own government, it should not be a matter for other countries to interfere. To me, its a matter of national pride.

    • 42 Sgcynic 29 September 2012 at 20:17

      I I think the Singapore government has done a poor job over the past decade. What do you think? Btw, being a good host does not mean putting up a show for the guest. Do you wayang when your friends go to your place?

    • 43 Patriot Lee 29 September 2012 at 23:06

      It is ok to wayang to foreigners, but why need to wayang with our locals? It only shows that the PAP government is insincere in addressing the citizens’ concerns and is more keen to push its own ideology and propaganda. Lee Hsien Loong should just step down if he can’t empathize with the people.

    • 44 Bluex Spore 30 September 2012 at 01:01

      Tidying up your house to host guest equals asking your family members to put up song and dance for said guest under hot sun? Patrick Lee, something’s wrong with your logic.

    • 45 Gard 30 September 2012 at 11:19

      The value of visitors’ tour of the housing estate would have been diminished assumes that the objectives of the visitors are congruent to the objectives of the organizers. It is clearly not. Take, for example, you want to visit a typical village in North Korea; but what you are really getting is a ‘showcase’. You would also be second-guessing if the people there are indeed the residents there. Can you then reasonably conclude that you have observed North Korean village life from this performance?

      Singapore is not North Korea, whose definition of national pride is about putting up a show for visitors; and it is not even a matter of ‘pride’ because North Korea is ashamed to let visitors see real state of affairs. Are the authorities ashamed of the ‘real’ Queenstown with its idyllic settings, playgrounds and hawker centres at 3pm? Are the authorities afraid that should the visitors speak to the residents, the residents would bad-mouth the government?

      In economic terms, ‘wayang’ creates opportunity costs. The visitors and residents would have been able to do something else to generate value for the visit without the ‘wayang’ (the government intervention). This is not to say that all forms of intervention are inherently bad; but the episode does raise the question, from the perspectives of the visitors and residents, if the authorities are intervening in the right way or to the right extent. And if a similar visit were to be carried out in the near future, would we, as proud Singaporeans, want the authorities to repeat the episode?

  17. 46 Norman 30 September 2012 at 00:15


    To me, respectfully, it seems you miss the point by focusing on whether the Queenstown show was right or wrong. Like most issues, it could be argued either way, but the point is that it should be fine to criticise something without being accused of being political or, implicitly, anti-Singapore.

    As to your suggestion in an earlier comment about being willing to sign up and say one’s piece publicly. I think many non-establishment commentators and bloggers would love to, if only they were allowed to. That is why many were upset with the lack of cognitive dissonance in the first TV forum.


  18. 48 Cricket 30 September 2012 at 14:22

    Political or not, the Queenstown showcase could be the royal couple’s greatest joke when they return home to tell the Queen and their friends about their visit to Singapore.

  19. 49 faiz zohri 30 September 2012 at 19:25

    your article’s image is so perfect….
    A staged taichi show! two levels of taichi at once!
    wonderful!! : )

  20. 50 Patrick Lee 30 September 2012 at 23:44

    Perhaps I’m the only one who doesn’t understand what’s wrong with a “staged” culture showcase in Queenstown. When I go overseas as a tourist to visit certain cultural landmarks, there are similar displays. How else can you see what really goes on in that country/town/village if there are not these educational showcase, especially at the time of the day where people are usually working or napping 😉 ? Furthermore, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, you can’t really go any where and mingle with any crowd without security checks and prior arrangements.

    I agree that people should have a right to criticise without being accused of anti-Singapore or being political. However, my personal feel about complaining and criticising on the Internet is that it only amplifies the negativity without being constructive. Singapore must be an inclusive society where we must be able to agree to disagree, but in a civil and non-confrontational manner. Do you agree?

    • 51 Bluex Spore 1 October 2012 at 01:47

      Patrick Lee, what you are trying to say does not make any sense. Are you saying it is wrong to criticise? Are you saying that all criticisms must contain solutions in order to be constructive? That would mean we keep quiet even when we see problems, which is unhealthy and leads to stagnation and decline. Are you saying that criticisms must not contain anything negative? That’s a paradox. Logically impossible. I don’t think we need to insult the Prince’s intelligence by asking people to put on a special show under the afternoon sun so that the Prince understands what taiji on the empty space looks like and what the monkey bars are used for (or did Singapore invent monkey bars?). I also don’t think we need to insult our people’s intelligence by suggesting that the show with all the bells and whistles of traditional blue silk Chinese costume etc is anywhere close to mirroring authenticity. But if the aim was to fake it up for embarassing hilarity, I agree the mission is accomplished.

    • 52 Gard 1 October 2012 at 11:54

      Try a ‘copy-replace’ function on Patrick’s text: replace all references to ‘Queenstown’ and ‘Singapore’ to ‘Pyongyang’ and ‘North Korea’ respectively.

      1) Tourists do not go away thinking that they have seen what really goes on in North Korean villages based on ‘staged’ cultural showcases. (Well, maybe not all tourists are that cognizant….)

      2) Tourists do not have to be a member of the British royal family to realize that anyone cannot go any where and mingle with any crowd without security checks and prior arrangements in North Korea.

      3) “In the past, when North Koreans had complaints about the government, they could only criticize it secretly and just talked to people whom they could fully trust.”
      Source: Open Radio from North Korea, 5 Sep 2012, at

      Surely, by allowing North Koreans to use the internet to criticise and complain, North Korea would become a less inclusive society than before.

  21. 53 Alan 1 October 2012 at 00:52

    Remember the British Archives revealing the fact about LKY threatening newspaper editors not to publish any smiling photo of him after he had shed tears on National TV, it is already more than 5 decades and yet now they are still trying to fake everying or fool everyone.

    What a joke, PAP!

  22. 54 Norman 1 October 2012 at 02:08


    Certainly we should be inclusive and civil. I think this discussion has been that. Re constructive and non-confrontational, why shouldn’t differing views be such? For example, I take your point about the Queenstown episode being a show designed to show off Singapore in a certain way. However, others may well think that this is not the best way to do it, and have constructive suggestions for more authentic displays. These differing viewpoints can be forcefully argued without resort to personal confrontation. In the end, with all views given a public airing, a decision can be made on the way forward.

    The Internet is largely unedited hence you do get some poorly expressed views. But there is a lot of good, considered, constructive stuff, too. Singapore needs less distinction between Internet and non Internet. The opinions and suggestions are there, it is just a question of how they are able to be aired.


  23. 55 Chanel 1 October 2012 at 11:09

    1. The implied one-in-50-year event of the 50 members of the National CONversation being mostly made up of PAP supporters arose from a lesson LKY many years ago. Many years ago, the former Solicitor General, Francis Seow debated with LKY on national TV. The witty and quick-thinking Francis Seow out-debated LKY, who became red-faced with anger. Needless to say, thsi is the same Francis Seow who was detained under ISA thereafter. Since then, the PAP has learnt (the painful way) not to engage in frank and open debate on national TV.

    2. Indranee Rajah tried to bullshit her way through the royal wayang fiasco by claiming that she informed the royal couple of the staged show. However, the Straits Times let the cat out of the bag when it reported that the prince asked Indranee whether people really exercise under the hot afternoon sun. The truth is, Indranee wouldn’t have told the couple about the staged performance if they didn’t ask. I’m sure the journalist and editor got a scolding from PAP.

    3. The latest tactic of PAP seems to be getting citizens to pit against citizens or one group against another. This tactic was recently used against Function 8. It was also used against the maligned residents of Toh Yi, Bishan and Upper Bukit Timah who opposed to nursing facilies being built very close to their HDB homes. Some of these residents pointed out valid concerns. No only does that cut no ice with PAP, the latter shifted attention away from the poor planning by the govt by labeling these residents as exhibiting “nimby”. The truth is: prime plots of near-by vacant land aren’t considered for the nursing facilities because the govt wants to sell these at high prices to property developers.

  24. 56 Anon_mk32 1 October 2012 at 12:35

    Patrick, may I put it to you that perhaps when you go overseas and you’re quite happy to see whatever “wayang” they have put on for you, it might be that you’re less interested in having a real understanding of other cultures than in having your own perceptions of it confirmed?

    Since you say that you don’t really mind even if it’s something fake, it suggests to me real understanding doesn’t matter to you. You could go to a Karen village, for instance, with the belief that Karen women in Burma wear rings around their necks, and they make handicrafts for sale. You go there, and you see that they are making handicrafts and wearing rings around their necks and you go, “Ah! That’s exactly the way they live!” And you go back home without thinking critically about what you’ve just seen.

    Critical questions like, “Is that how they live daily?” , “Do all Karen women accept wearing the rings around their neck?” , “Are they being forced to wear those rings because tourists want to see them?”

    Prince William, obviously, is capable of critical thought. And by “critical” I don’t mean “criticising”, but just having a curious and questioning mind.

    I think the reason for the criticisms of that visit stem mostly from the fact that the PA and the PAP are representing Singapore, and they have represented Singapore in a way that we, Singaporeans, disagree with.

    Singaporeans want Prince William and Kate to know real Singaporeans. The people who rush to join long queues for food at hawker centres during lunch hour, the children who are hurrying to their next enrichment class, and the office staff who are working at 3pm on a weekday afternoon. Instead of having a “exhibition” showcasing an idealistic idyllic existence, perhaps a “meet the people” walkabout might have been more fruitful for the royals and more welcomed by Singaporeans.

    While it is admirable that so many people from the RC’s and PA had volunteered their time and effort to participate in the exhibition, their efforts do not absolve the event from criticism. Lawrence Wong missed the point when he lamented that we are not giving our fellow Singaporeans due credit for their volunteerism. We are not criticising the people who performed taichi or the kids who swung on the monkey bars, but we have an issue with the way the event was organised.

    Since he’s an appointed political leader in Singapore, I hope that Minister Wong can learn to differentiate criticism of an event from criticism of the people involved in the event (as the Chinese mantra goes, what is 对事不对人 ). Granted, some netizens may take the criticisms too far, but there are many reasonable voices online such as YawningBread. Instead of criticising the critics and accusing them of “politicising” the issue (a gross generalisation since there are PAP supporters who also think that the showcase was a stupid idea), the MOS should try to better understand differing opinions, so that the organisers of such visits can do better next time.

    • 57 octopi 2 October 2012 at 06:07

      I’m actually a little puzzled by the hoo hah over the this wayang act. We post pictures on 9GAG showing the difference between the fitness centre at 3pm and 3.30pm, and laugh about it. That is perfectly fine.

      If you want to criticise the fitness centre display for being wayang, there are a few things to bear in mind. First, to a certain extent this wayang is necessary. The question ought to be, will the Royals learn a little more about Singapore with the wayang than if they were visiting an empty playground? Answer is: certainly. So I don’t really understand why people think there is something fundamentally wrong with this wayang.

      Second, is there any aspect of the life of a Royal that does not involve wayang? Obviously, no. That is the life of a constitutional monarch. When we criticise our own fitness centre display for being a wayang act, we forget that the Royals are an even bigger wayang show than anything else we Singaporeans can conceive of. That is what the royal visits are about. You put on a show and we put on a show and as long as both shows meet the minimum threshold of what constitutes an acceptable standard, we both go home happy.

      Third, do we think that Duke William is so daft that he can’t see the wayang? He sees this with a critical eye and is not duped. The more discerning among us see this with a critical eye and are not duped. We know that the truth is not that the fitness centres are full of enthusiastic septuagenarians in the hot tropical sun. But we also know that this is not a completely made up fiction and that there are people who use the thing. And we know that the truth is somewhere in between. We get it, he gets it. He’s Duke William, not Dupe William. Some people won’t get it, but it’s OK, we don’t care about them either.

      Now, when we criticise the “National Conversation” for being a wayang show, it is something altogether more serious and something else that merits a greater consideration. It’s not something we want to wayang about. We are supposed to talk about real issues, not watch a bunch of sheep nodding away when the Prime Minister is there to “clarify” his point of view which was not “communicated properly”, because if it was, the peasants would see that his conclusions were inevitable and correct. It’s alright to criticise that. But I just think we should leave the royals out of this.

      • 58 The 2 October 2012 at 11:11

        /// If you want to criticise the fitness centre display for being wayang, there are a few things to bear in mind. First, to a certain extent this wayang is necessary. The question ought to be, will the Royals learn a little more about Singapore with the wayang than if they were visiting an empty playground? ///

        Wrong question. The question you should ask is why bring them to a outdoor fitness at 3pm? Why not indoor gym? Better still, why not to a hawker centre which is more representative of HDB living. You can be sure there is no need to put up a wayang at hawker centres.

      • 59 octopi 2 October 2012 at 17:13

        Indoor gym: there is nothing particularly Singaporean about an indoor gym.

        Hawker centre: see my point about the Royals being a bigger wayang show than anything Singapore can produce. You receive the future King of England and you dump him in a place with flies everywhere?

  25. 60 medtechadminus 1 October 2012 at 21:07

    your article is way too long to read comfortably… also have you thought to inquire who set the schedule for the visit? eg the ridiculous time of 3pm for a glimpse of singaporean life… perhaps squeezed into the rest of the royal’s busy schedule? Could it perchance be the British Foreign Service? Would that put things in a different light to you? Ah, no. I thought not. You want to see things your way, no?

  26. 61 Anon mk32 2 October 2012 at 00:25

    Blaming it on the Brits? Singapore is not dead at 3pm. There are plenty of places the royals could visit. For example, the kopi tiam at Strathmore, the secondary schools nearby – how abt Queenstown or Queensway Sec? And what abt Commonwealth? It’s also named after something close to the Queen’s heart. The shops there are always abuzz with activity. Obviously the PA were so lacking in imagination that the only Singaporean activities it could think of were those that do not take place at 3pm. It’s very odd. I suggest that the PA calls for suggestions from the public for future engagements. It needs to get out of the ‘taichi, line dancing’ box. There’s much more to Singapore.

  27. 62 The 3 October 2012 at 10:42

    /// octopi 2 October 2012 at 17:13
    Indoor gym: there is nothing particularly Singaporean about an indoor gym. ///

    At least you don’t submit the Royals to our unbearable heat. So you are saying that outdoor fitness and playground are uniquely Singaporean?

    On the contrary, hawker centres are truly a Singaporean way of life.

  28. 63 Johhny Reb 3 October 2012 at 16:49

    This incident has made me wonder about something: Would Singaporeans have been better off under continued British rule? (ie. being a parliamentary democratic dependency under a constitutional monarchy, like Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, etc.). Even the Royals are more connected to the ground than the PAP.

  29. 64 Real Madrid 4 October 2012 at 04:35

    Seems like this Williams guy is a sharp fellow. Well educated and has been on military missions aboard, this dude is worldly-wise and not some ’emperor without cloths’. It seems to me people are more likely to impress him by just being ‘real’ rather than ‘fake’. Anyway, don’t you think the British Foreign Service people are well informed and likely to have briefed Williams.

  30. 65 Real Madrid 4 October 2012 at 04:40

    Anyway, Williams want to be in military service full time but was not allowed to. Why is he on a tour of commonwealth countries? Perhaps, he could be appointed the next King as his father may decline his opportunity.

  31. 66 liu 6 October 2012 at 06:49

    Another way of showcasing will be using the mainstream media. Take for the channel 8 variety show loosely translated as neighbourhood cooperative(lin li he zuo she). This show will get two people to lead two teams to try and find people living in a certain area, which will include new citizens to take part in contest demonstrating the area’s heritage. Isn’t it a case of showcasing the camaderie among neighbours from different background and nationalities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: