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Xenophobia & Racism

December 4, 2011 2 comments

I have been too busy to post although I do have some thoughts to post about, especially on the housing issue. Any how, I saw this video posted on Facebook and thought to myself: Will Singapore ever got to this stage?

My Tram Experience

It is always easy to criticize that the ‘racist white women’ is, well, racist. And as I’d mentioned before in my blog, racism and xenophobia are dirty words. Words that imply intolerance made even more unforgivable in this modern society. The modern times is, supposedly, perceived to be globalized, highly tolerant and racial blind.  The hard truth is, racism is here to stay ever since Darwin coined the term ‘race’. Even Ivy Leagues in the United States could not escape from this controversial topic.

Before we jump into history and start blaming the British that they tasted their own medicine from colonial days, let us look deeper. The question we should be asking is: Why did this British women, presumably educated and aware that ‘racism is wrong’, would do such a preposterous act in public?

Going by her statement on ‘…look! look the whole f****** tram is…black people…” My guess is, she does not feel that her home is home anymore. Does that sounds familiar? No one likes to feel being discriminated. But at the same time, how many of you can really say you are not racist at any one point in time? I admit I do have my racist moments. Such feelings erupt whenever you felt overwhelmed by a body of unfamiliar faces and accents and behaviors that does not fit into your familiar circle of social conduct. It’s a defensive act towards unfamiliarity, to protect the social construct you are comfortable with.

Politicians sweep it off as globalization and harp on that they can do nothing about it. While they cannot reverse the trend of globalization, every government has the choice of softening the impact. The way I see it, I do not wish for the time of heightened xenophobia and racism among Singaporeans to come. And the authorities can, and should do something that can significantly lessen the social distortion that the sharp jump in foreigners bring to Singapore.

Categories: Signs

PM Lee said sorry. Duh!

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I guess all netizens should be very familiar with the news on how PM Lee apologized on national TV in the Central Business District for possible shortcomings the PAP had. It is very subtle but an apology nonetheless. However, I would not suggest reading too much into the statement. Recently, the ruling party had been dangling out another carrot of another kind. Sympathy.

Khaw Boon Wan spoke with great emotion under the pouring rain. George Yeo broadcast a touching and seemingly painful speech on his facebook and youtube which tactically made it’s round around new media. Then comes PM Lee’s apology. I’m not trying to discredit the ruling party. After all, I admit it did a good job, economically. But the recent outpouring of emotional overflow is unlike what the PAP used to do to get votes. It’s a whole new strategy persuading voters to overlook the past mistakes that the opposition parties had been hammering constantly throughout the entire election period.

Many Singaporeans are amazed at such actions by the ruling party. Some might seek to forgive. And some might even forget. But let’s not be fooled. The ruling party’s track record in listening to ground feedback has been insignificant at best. The apology seemed to be aimed at pacifying ground sentiments and an attempt to humble the image of PAP.

An except from the article reads:

[“No government is perfect… we will make mistakes. But when it happens we should acknowledge it, we should apologise, take responsibility, put things right. If we are to discipline somebody, we will do that, and we must learn from the lessons and never make the same mistake again,” said PM Lee.

Yet, he explained the difficulties in making decisions with incomplete information.

For instance, if the government knew there would be a sudden surge in demand for HDB flats in mid-2009 and that foreigners would have created such congestion on the roads, it would have ramped up plans for more flats and MRT lines.

“We’re sorry we didn’t get it exactly right, but I hope you will understand and bear with us because we are trying our best to fix the problems,” he said.

The government will build 22,000 flats this year and open one new MRT line every year for the next seven years.]

It is totally unbelievable on having incomplete information. Being such highly educated and highly paid elites, would you not know the simple logic of housing and infrastructure demands brought along by a higher population growth? Would you not know the social impact a large population of foreigners can cause? Who control the number of foreigners coming into Singapore? Who else but the government!!?? It’s naive to think that Singaporeans will buy this explanation, save for a few nut heads.

The building of 22,000 flats may sound like the government is finally listening to the citizens. But is 22,000 even enough? Opening new MRT line for the next 7 years are also already in the pipeline way before this election. Having more lines does not necessarily mean smoother transport and less congestion. The devil is in the detail–how it is planned, and how to divert traffic flow away from the city. You have witnessed for yourself  that even with the opening of the Northeast Line and the Circle Line, the trains and buses are still getting more and more congested.

MM Lee mentioned that we need to bring in another 900,000 next year, and that does not include E & S Pass foreign workers. Do you think starting an MRT line every year is enough? There’s only so much land in Singapore. While the PAP has been asking the opposition for a concrete plan for Singapore in this election, what is their concrete plan to stem all the current problems and to bring the country forward???

All these signs of desperation only goes to show the benefits of having more opposition in Parliament. Do not be overly worried about your estate being not as well taken of if the opposition is elected. Having more oppositions will mean a fairer government in fund distribution as more voices to demand equal treatment will compel the ruling party to play fair. Also, do no worry about a seemingly ‘incompetent’ opposition. Governing a country is a very different skill set. Having more degrees does not translate to being a better governor. Ronald Reagan was an actor before being elected as President of the United States. And he lead America through one of the greatest expansionary phase of the country.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, do not worry about policy continuation as the civil service will ensure the country remains operational. If leadership can’t connect with the ground, if highly educated ministers can’t fathom the simple logic of more people = more housing demands + crowded roads, do you think they are still capable leaders? Think again.

Categories: PAP candidates, Signs

Haven’t felt so nationalistic in a long while

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Imagine a time where every where you turn is a Singaporean and speaks with a local accent. Imagine the nationalistic fervor that you once felt when you stood in the national stadium for National Day. I managed to reminisce that feeling when I attended the Workers’ Party rally at Serangoon stadium. For once in a long time, I felt like home.

Nationalism is a dirty word in an open society like Singapore. Somehow, it is linked with the word Protectionism. It insinuate unwillingness to be open to foreign elements. Yet, we see how important cohesiveness is in countries like Japan when the tsunami struck and Korea when it jumped back to an economic power a few years ahead of schedule after the Asian Financial Crisis. Do Singaporeaneans felt less nationalistic nowadays? I must say I do. There is so much resonance when a student in NUS told Goh Chok Tong that he doesn’t know what he is protecting nowadays as an NSmen.

I certainly agree with WP East Coast GRC candidate Eric Tan when he said we, as Singaporeans, are not anti-foreigners by nature. It’s the influx of foreigners that made us anti-foreigners. When I looked around in my office and see that less than 40% are Singaporeans, I felt like a minority back in the United States. Then we see news of how new citizens supported the PAP (reported in chinese newspaper zaobao: http://www.zaobao.com.sg/ge/pages/ge110428s.shtml) showing how much love the ruling oparty has for foreginers. The question we now wish to ask is: Why is the ruling party so much more welcoming of the foreigners, giving them more opportunities than their own citizens? Why is the ruling party making so much efforts to attract and kowtow to foreigners pushing away their own talents?

I looked around my office and think about the foreign classmates and colleagues I had. Are they really considered talents? In my opinion, I don’t think so. Then why are all of them allowed into Singapore? Aren’t we being too open? The PAP has lost it. After going to the rally and experiencing so much resonance with what the WP candidates had said, I conclude that the PAP had lost it.

The the drum rolls–Hougang Rally 2011!

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The picture says it all:

WP Hougang Rally 28th April 2011

For more pictures, refer to this link, which shows the pictures of the rally of WP, and some other party (including the MIW of course): http://darrensoh.com/elections/

Such is the massive turnout at the rally of the most successful opposition party in Singapore to date. Turnout was also impressive at other opposition parties’ rally. On the other hand, attendance is pathetic at the rally of the ruling party. What is more important, however, is whether the mass turnout will translate into votes. Support for the opposition is ‘cool’. It’s more interesting to hear what the opposition has to say than listen to the boring incumbents. Everyone loves a dark horse. But ultimately, what matters more is who you would cast your vote to.

There is still a very large part of Singaporeans who are either politically apathetic, or are happy with the way the policies have turn out. Increasing housing prices might be a major issue for this election, but professions such as property agents and well-heeled citizens who are profiting and benefiting from the economy’s rise will no doubt continue their support for the ruling party. The burgeoning Gini coefficient suggest the polarizing of the country as a group of the nation could ride on the economic growth while a rather significant group is being left out in the cold. While there is much hype about this years GE, I am skeptical on whether Singaporeans will push for a change in our political history.

What is clear though, is the ruling party is incapable of rousing feverish support from the people, unlike what it used to be back in the 70s and 80s. Supporters for the opposition camp are generally more outspoken, more passionate and more gunho than the conventionalist and traditionalist. This might be due to the long oppression of an alternative voice yearning to be heard.

The advancement of technology, the explosive growth of the internet, and the birth of new social media is leveling the ground for an equal playing field. The PAP’s control of the old media would only irk the increasingly educated and IT savvy population. Why else would there be so many alternative voices shouting and blasting in the online world? To date, the PAP has prove to be a poor user of social media while the opposition camps have been using social media to their favor. The ruling party should realize that attempts to monopolize information in this era of technology and internet is fruitless and will only render them distrust and distancing from the citizens.

Tomorrow’s Workers’ Party rally at Serangoon will be the one to attend. I will, won’t you?

Categories: Signs

General Election: Officially kicked off

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Today is a very exciting day as news and twitter/ facebook updates on the elections took the country by storm. My office was not spared the excitement as the Singaporeans (well…less than 50% are Singaporeans….) geared for one of the fiercest competed competition in political history.

It is actually quite an interesting video. For a while, I actually felt that the PAP candidates were kind of pathetic. There is no charisma, no anchor message, no sense of sincerity. Then there is the unforgiving boos and jeers from the opposition camp supporters. Goh Chok Tong and Tin Pei Ling must have wished that given a choice, they would leave the stage as soon as possible.

I think the Worker’s Party made a very wise decision to concentrate firepower on the weakest GRC. It is strategic to leave Hougang due to the long support of the citizens staying there and it’s best to take on the ruling party heads on given the unfair gerrymandering PAP did in slicing up the Hougang constituency into smaller pieces, effectively weakening the WP’s core supporters. Such dirty tricks are not welcome, and the ruling party risk their many scheming tricks being used on them in the future.

We have already seen SDP trying to find fault with one PAP nominee for stating in the nomination form as ‘unemployed’ when in actual fact she is still serving her resignation notice period. Of course, given that the government, the civil service, and the nominees for election are the same body, it is of no wonder the PAP gets to craft and control the rules. Should an opposition end in the other side of the coin, I do not hesitate to believe that the PAP would take this opportunity to prevent an opposition to seek nomination for election successfully.

Is this the kind of leadership you want?

Categories: DESPICABLE MEANS!, Signs

Freak result? What freak result?

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1124482/1/.html?cid=dlvr.it

SINGAPORE : Education Minister Ng Eng Hen has warned of a possible freak result if Singaporeans vote the opposition into power in the coming polls.

He said that the opposition must look to form an alternate government, and not just offer alternative voices in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng took issue with the opposition sharing candidates.

They were speaking at the launch of Heights Park in Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC) on Saturday.

After meeting with residents at the opening of Heights Park, Education Minister Ng told reporters that voters need to ask themselves who will best serve their needs.

He said Singaporeans should only vote for the opposition if they believe the opposition can run the country better than the People’s Action Party (PAP).

Dr Ng said: “Every election, it is never about just alternative voices in Parliament, because your vote is very powerful and for every General Election you are deciding on who runs the country. If it is just for alternative voices, the NCMP scheme allows for that, you can raise anything you want in Parliament.

“But as the opposition parties have clarified, that is not their intent. In fact, they want to – Workers’ Party have said they want to block constitutional amendments, they want enough seats in the house not just to provide alternative voices, but really their goal is to form an alternative government – to become the government.”

One of the points in the Singapore People’s Party manifesto is that the government must be held accountable for any security lapses. To this, Mr Wong said he had already dealt with this issue in Parliament.

He said: “I spent one hour detailing what the Committee of Inquiry found, and spent the next two hours answering questions from all the MPs – those who were interested in asking questions. Mr Chiam (See Tong) stood up and asked me a question, and he asked whether the police considered using tracker dogs to track down Mas Selamat.

“That is his only question for me in Parliament, where I spent two hours answering questions. So I made a full public account of it. So if he now says that is not enough, why didn’t he stand up then and ask more questions.”

Asked to respond on Mr Chiam’s comment that sharing of candidates shows opposition unity, Mr Wong disagreed.

He said: “So it means that all the opposition parties have the same philosophy, same principle, same values? By his comments, from what you just read to me, that must be the meaning of it. Well, if that is the case, why so many different parties, why not have one?”

– CNA/ms

____________________________________

The PAP has started their ‘threatening campaign’ as part of every general election. Here, we see another report, that had demonized what would happened should the PAP lose to the opposition. Why would a lost for PAP be a ‘freak result’? Should the PAP always win? What is freaky is if a government is always in power. No government ever rule forever. The election results is a mandate, the will of the Singapore citizens. It is not an election which the ruling party can manipulate and dictate that what the results of the election should be. Is this not yet another sign of low confidence within the party and the loss of touch with the ground?

Categories: PAP candidates, Signs

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

This article strikes a cord with me when I surfed Facebook, exemplifying the disconnection between the PAP government and the ground, as well as the loss of national identity. For the actual article, please click here.

A LETTER TO MY FRIENDS ON THE GENERAL ELECTIONS by Tan Joo Hymn

by Alvin Tan on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 5:21pm

A letter to my friends on the General Elections

by Joo Hymn Tan on Wednesday, 20 April 2011

We don’t talk about politics, but I feel so strongly about these elections, I would like to find out what each of my friends think, and maybe persuade them at least a little!  🙂

Why all the excitement?

Over the last 15 years, I lived in:  Tanglin, Newton and Bukit Timah

Each time I checked the electoral rolls, it was the same:  Tanjong Pagar

Now, without having moved, I am in Moulmein-Kallang.

My neighbourhood was in three different constituencies in the last three elections:

Holland-Bukit Panjang 2001

Tanjong Pagar  2006

Moulmein-Kallang 2011

Question: Is there really a need to redraw boundaries every election?

I have never voted in all my 40+ years. It was always walkover since GRCs were implemented. In 1991, when it was still al Single Member Constituencies, my constituency was contested, and I was 21 years and 9 months old. However, that year, it was announced the the electoral roll of voters was only updated till July 1990!

Question: Has this ever happened before or since? Why the sudden inefficiencies in government?

PAP in 1950s is not the same as the PAP now

Yes, in the early nation building years, the PAP could have been said to comprise of highly principled, intelligent and dilligent people, like Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam, Lee Kuan Yew etc.

The PAP leaders today are completely different individuals (except for LKY), and their capabilities, outlook and values can also be said to be vastly different!

Question: would any of the existing PAP Ministers really be able to handle a crises?

Usual way mistakes are handled

Mistakes made in the last 5 years:

–           Mas Selamat’s escape (and subsequent failure of the police and military to search the homes of all his close relatives)

–           the floods in Orchard Road, and Bukit Timah immortalised in the dramatic photographs of overturned cars

–           the Youth Olympic Games being severely over-budget (and depending on who you speak with, under-publicised oversesas

Policy inadequacies:

–           the over-heating of the housing market, where government housing aka HDB flats cost half a million dollars (where government housing is supposedly for the less well-to-do)

–           the inadequacy of CPF monies resulting in the elderly being cleaners in hawker centres and fast food restaurants all over Singapore

–           the huge and sudden influx of foreign workers, at all levels of employment leading to depressed wages for Singaporeans, and worse, loss of jobs

It’s not about not making mistakes. We are all human, Ministers, civil servants etc not less so. The issue is there is little post-mortem or reflection to ensure that the same mistakes do not happen again. The most important thing is to take collectively responsibility and learn all we can from mistakes to make sure they don’t happen again.

However, the usual focus by the Government is to place blame, remove the offending persons and brush everything under the carpet as quickly as possible. There are few avenues for the public to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Government over important issues.

Question: Did the Cabinet do enough soul seraching and reflection behind closed doors away from public eyes? Were there enough diverse opinions to help them see the issues from all perspectives?

Double standards?

Contrast Mas Selamat’s escape: “It was an honest mistake. Let’s move on”.

With the hoo-ha over James Gomez claiming he had filed his minority certificate when he had not during the 2006 elections. At least 4 days’ worth of campaigning and media headlines were focussed on this minor mistake.

Groundhog day of mistakes

After the first flood, the Minister said that it was a freak accident and would happen only once every 50 years.

Barely a month later, a second flood happened.

A better response would have been to be less defensive and stating that the matter would be looked into to find out the real reasons etc, and acknowledging the public’s concern that overbuilding along Orchard Road (Ion, Somerset 313) may have contributed to poorer water drainage.

An older example:

Remember “Two is Enough” in the 60’s and 70’s?

By mid 80s, it had become, “have 3 or more if you can afford it”.

Around 20 years for a complete reversal of policies.

Round two:

In the early 90’s, the Government limited the number of universities in the Commonwealth where law and medicine degrees would be “recognised” due to oversupply

By 2000, the number of “recognised” universities were increased, and soon after, they were recruting foreign doctors due to short supply.

Around ten years for a u-turn.

Not exactly comparing apples and apples here, but surely some lessons could have been learnt about how an “oversupply” could quickly become an undersupply? And in the second scenario, the reversal came only 10 years after the initial policy.

Yet, there seemed to be no in-depth inquiry into why the initial policies were made and what led to the reversal and what lessons could be learnt to prevent making similar errors in judgment. This unwillingness to take long hard looks at Government policies has really affected the ability to address many issues.

Question: Is the undersupply of HDB flats now another example of this short-sightedness?

Fixated on the same solution whether or not it works

1. Throwing money at the problem when main issue is not money

Since the 80’s, the Government has been encouraging WOMEN to have more babies, with very little success. AWARE has brought up the issue of paternity leave since 1989, but has always been rejected, seemingly right off the bat without serious consideration or research to back it up.

The Government’s preferred solution? Throw money at the problem.

Round One: Baby bonus and tax breaks for women having 2 or more children below 30 years of age

Results not good. Solution? Throw more money at the problem:

Round Two: Baby bonus and tax breaks for all women having 2 or more children

Results still not good. Solution? Throw yet more money at the problem:

Round Three: Baby bonus and tax breaks for all women having children

(Note: Babies must be Singaporean at time of birth, and babies’ mothers must be married to babies’ fathers to enjoy benefits, so single unwed mothers and their babies are discriminated against and disadvantaged even as the Government keeps emphasising that human resources are all we have.)

It has been said time and again by various organisations and individuals that financial matters feature to only a minor degree in the decisions to have children, yet the Government seems “deaf to all criticisms” and suggestions yet again. The more pressing concerns such as work-life balance arrangements, including flexi work, quality of life issues, education stress etc, were all not adequately dealt with.

2. Not throwing money at the problem when the issue is chronic need of money

Contrast this with the issue of the poor who are on Public Assistance. They have to be unable to work, have no assets and little or no family support to be eligible in the first place. Clearly an area where some extra money would be an enormous help.

In the debate to increase it by around 10% to $290, in reply to arguments for larger sums by MP Lily Neo, the Minister replied infamously, “Do you want three meals in a restaurant, food court or hawker centre?”

3. Throwing money at everybody whether or not they need it

Contrast again to the new Grow and Share package (and previous New Singapore Shares etc etc), where each citizen receives at least a few hundred dollars. The top 20% certainly don’t need this handout at all. So why waste money by giving them any money at all? Wouldn’t it have been better to allocate it to the lower income groups?

Question: What kind of persons could blithely vote themselves 8 months’ bonus while quibbling for $100 increase in Public Assistance for the poorest of the poor?

Rich-poor divide reaching alarming levels

There are 100,000 households earning less than $1000 per month. That is households of 4 members (default definition by Government. Could actually have more than 4 family members). And over 800,000 employed persons earn less than $1000 a month. In a country where costs of living are spiralling upwards and even the middle classes are feeling the pinch.

Question: Whatever became of social support and social harmony?

So, what?

So what would more Alternative Parties members in Parliament achieve? At the very least, more debate on issues and and more reflection. Each MP is only allowed 15 minutes max (I think) to speak on an issue. So the more alternative voices, the more points of views can be raised, and more food for thought, not only for the Parliament but the public at large, to generate more informed debate.

Why now?

It’s also important to vote in Alternative Parties members now, because I believe in the tipping point theory of 30%: you need at least 30% of new people to feel the effect of the change. Which probably explains why the 22% women in Parliament have not been able to make their presence felt.

It is also because as Workers Party has said, they are not able to form the government right now. We need to give Alternative Parties time to grow into the political process and mature. Because I believe there will come a time when the Alternative Parties form the majority in Parliament.

To me, it’s not a question of if, but when. At the last elections, 66% voted PAP. I do not think it will take that long for the 16% to erode given all that’s happened, even with the influx of new citizens and the constant redrawing of electoral boundaries. At some point, the balance will tip, and the “unimaginable” will happen. And honestly, I rather that it happened when Lee Kuan Yew is still around. Whatever criticisms has been levelled at him, at least he is capable, and more than anyone currently in government, I trust him to handle a crisis. Most people predict rifts in the PAP after LKY’s demise, so that a swing to Alternative Parties after that is even more likely. Hence, I rather it happen now. (see also http://flaneurose.blogspot.com/2011/03/when-pap-loses-election-it-will-be-time.html   for discussion on why it will be sudden and not gradual).

Chasm between rhetoric and reality

There are many many more reasons why I will unhesitatingly vote Alternative Parties, given my experience as a volunteer in AWARE and elsewhere, I saw such a huge chasm between policy/rhetoric and what was actually happening on the ground, and the hypocrisy of it all. And now as a mum of a primary school child, I see how flawed the education system is. I hear horror stories of students being kiasu, nasty and perfectionists from a very young age because of the environment. I fear for the future of our country.

Learning from history so as not to repeat it

Maybe I’m more pessimistic, but with politicians with such a non-reflexive mindset, I am not sure we can make it through many more uncertainties and crises. There are more than enough examples of corporates being taken over or wound up, and historical examples of empires and dynasties falling into decay when their leaders stop listening to the public and insist on doing things their way.

Please do consider my points, and I’d like to hear what you think!