Vikram Khanna’s review of the book Hard Choices: Challenging The Singapore Consensus (Donald Low and Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, with contributions from Linda Lim and Thum Ping Tjin, NUS Press) has gotten me to write after — deep apologies — a long break. My thoughts have also gathered as dread mounts over the likely onslaught of propaganda next year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Singapore state’s caesarian birth. I will explore here the ways in which we continue to be traumatised by those beginnings.
More common than the belief in God is the opinion in Singapore that the PAP government is more focussed on economic growth than anything and everything else. Some speak of this focus as understandable; others would describe it as a curse. Few outside of government see this obsession as an unalloyed good thing.
What I have found interesting is how infrequently people choose to explore where this focus (or pathology, if you wish) sprang from. Like mental illness, we have a tendency to take it as something whose origins are beyond our understanding. It just is. It may not be easy to live with, but who knows how such demons of the mind came to roost? Continue reading ‘Time to realise we’re suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome’
A divisional director from the Manpower ministry gave testimony last week at the Committee of Inquiry looking into the Little India riot. Based on a report in the Straits Times, his statements more than support a view that I have long held: there is a strong tendency in this government to confuse theory with practice. There is unwarranted faith in policy papers penned in cloisters. Either there is naive ignorance of the shameful reality out there, or a resistance to unearth empirical facts, or both. That dark reality — often dimmed further by half-hearted or non-existent enforcement — stands in stark contrast to the sunny scenario as painted by stated policy. Yet more (tax-payer-funded) effort is expended by civil servants in protecting an almost self-deluding faith in the theory of how things ought to be (while throwing stones at critics) than in uncovering how things actually are. Remedying the failures in policy seems quite far down the list of priorities. Continue reading ‘Manpower director makes incredible claims about how well migrant workers are treated by ministry’
Published 16 March 2014
politics and government
This August (2014), Lee Hsien Loong will have served ten lacklustre years as prime minister. Enough. Even undemocratic China has instituted a ten-year rule for the top posts in both the party and the cabinet.
In all areas of life, creative destruction makes regeneration and revitalisation possible. In Singapore’s politics, this cannot happen if people stay too long in their offices getting ever more defensive about their record and unwilling to admit that past decisions were wrong and therefore need changing. Continue reading ‘Time for term limits’
Published 21 February 2014
politics and government
Singapore is behaving like a petulant child again, throwing a temper tantrum over the Indonesian Navy’s decision to name a warship after two Indonesian marines whom Singapore hanged. Harun Said and Osman Haji Mohamed Ali bombed MacDonald House on 10 March 1965. Three people died and many more were injured. The frigate KRI Usman Harun is named after them. Continue reading ‘Let others have their heroes’
Published 9 February 2014
politics and government
I am sure there are denialists just as there are creationists zombie-ing among us. But I dare say for most Singaporeans, it is as clear as day that the People’s Association is and has always been, an affiliate of the People’s Action Party, in effect if not in name.
The currently trending story about former PAP stalwart and independent presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock having his invitation to a tea party withdrawn throws a spotlight once again on (a) the issue of the politicisation of the People’s Association, and (b) the question of what purpose it serves — even for the PAP.
Continue reading ‘Half billion taxpayer dollars go to People’s Association each year’
It’s taken me a while to think of a theme for this end-of-year post. Just in time, I have it: Space. Or rather, the ever-tightening amount of space in Singapore. The space I speak of is not just physical space, but also expressive space. Continue reading ‘As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate’
Just like what happened in the days following the Chinese bus drivers’ strike November last year, the government is bringing out the artillery to pound Singaporeans’ minds with their preferred framing of the riot that occurred in Little India 8 December 2013: It’s wanton mayhem, monstrous criminality, pure and simple. The small riot (blown up big for its usefulness as bogeyman) is entirely a law and order issue. No sociological enquiry should be entertained, the message insistently says, especially any that asks questions whether the prior behaviour of the the ruling class (both government and business owners) contributed to the state of mind of the underclass. Continue reading ‘Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage’
Published 26 November 2013
media , politics and government
A year ago on 26 November 2012, around 170 bus drivers for SMRT, a public transport company, refused to report for duty. This eventually led to new censorship rules restricting online news platforms hurriedly introduced in June 2013.
It was a friend (I am not sure if he wants to be named) who suggested this cause-effect relationship a little while back. The more I think about it, the more I think he is right. Continue reading ‘From bus drivers’ strike to the Yahoo Licence Rules’
Here is the film Boy (2008), by Filipino filmmaker Auraeus Solito. It had been selected for inclusion in Singapore’s 2009 International Film Festival but was one of two festival films banned by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the Orwellian-named department of censorship. Do note, it’s 1 hour 19 minutes long.
Continue reading ‘Watch a banned film today’
A fortnight ago, the Mexican legislature passed two new laws. One imposes a new one-peso (S$0.10) per litre tax on sugary drinks. Another imposes an 8 percent tax on foods that contain more than 275 Calories per 100 grams. Mexico is the latest country to try using tax policy to stem the tide of obesity. Continue reading ‘Mexico tries to tax away obesity’