Oct 21, 2011


Link to full speech: Chen Show Mao's speech (Debate on President's address)

An impressive maiden speech by Chen Show Mao, especially the Chinese part, which I imagine must have left not a few "effectively bi-lingual" PAP MPs not catching the proverbial ball that Chen has thrown at them as his opening salvo in parliament.

While his references to profound sayings by dead Chinese philosophers and idioms may have challenged the incumbent MPs scrambling to Google what the hell he was saying, they might discover in the process that CSM was actually taking a dig at the them, and even the PAP as a whole:


The full saying of “君子和而不同”, is actually “君子和而不同,小人同而不和。” Confucius has already said 3000 years ago: "The gentleman is harmonious with his fellow man, although he does not necessarily agree with them. The non-gentleman, on the other hand, agrees with others views on the surface, but deep down harbours discontent and dissent in his heart."

Did Chen deliberately leave out the second part of the saying, to suggest that some (or all) non-gentlemanly members of the PAP camp are toe-ing the party line to keep out of trouble, but secretly harbouring (shock!) dissenting views? Very guai lan, indeed, Mr. Chen.

Jun 3, 2011

Healthcare insurance - The view from Taiwan

Of all the many rally speeches I've heard over the course of the 2011 GE, one that stands out for me is that given by NUH Senior Consultant Paul Tambyah at the SDP's downtown lunchtime rally on May 5, where he points out the dire inadequacies of Singapore's healthcare system and how ordinary Singaporeans fall through the cracks in the events of major illness and disease, due to inexorably costs of medical care.

"You can afford to die, but you cannot afford to get sick", NUH Professor Paul Tambyah said to rousing cheers, obviously striking a common chord with the crowd.

“As a medical doctor, I come into contact with patients on a regular basis. I hear them tell me that in Singapore, you can afford to die but you cannot afford to get sick. I see people who have to sell their homes and move into rental flats to pay for their medical bills. Do you think this is right?”
The problems with our healthcare system are known to you all – mostly they are about money.

He further gave an example of the financial burden of one of his patients due to medical costs:

"A Patient of mine has an infection that has caused him a stroke. He needs medication that costs more than $250 a day. There is no subsidy for this medication . It is recommended in all the guidelines including local guidelines. If he does not take this medication, he will most likely have another stroke and could even die."
"I tried to help him by appealing to the medical social worker. We received the reply that he was unlikely to get help as he lives in a private condo with one of his sons. The other five siblings are not well off but this one son living in a condo disqualifies this citizen of Singapore from financial assistance. We even went to the extent of writing a prescription so he could buy his medications in Johor Baru but this did not work."
"How many people do you know living in condos with their own families can afford to pay $250 a day or $7500 a month for medications for three to six months on top of the needs of their own families???"
"There is something seriously wrong with our system."

I agree that there is something very wrong with our healthcare system, and the "can afford to die, but can't afford to get sick" refrain is an often heard one, even my mother said that one before. Quality, timely healthcare in Singapore is expensive, there's no denying. A week's stay at Mount Elizabeth (where wealthy Indonesian tycoons and Saudi sheiks rub shoulders) by my late grandmother racked up a bill in the region of $10,000, but that was no problem because my entrepreneur uncle could well afford it.

But that set me thinking, can my modest salaried income support my mother's hospital bills if she really needed the medical care in the future? Will it bring me and my family to financial ruin? This is a disturbing question to ponder, more so after listening to Dr. Thambyah's anecdote. And I'm sure, I'm not the only sandwiched Singaporean with such concerns.

But before I give my two cents, let me state for the record that having spent my entire working life in Taiwan, I have absolutely no idea how Medisave, Medishield and Medifund work, except that the first one is a paltry number that shows up in my yearly CPF statement. Hence, I will not attempt to make any comparisons.

I will instead give a picture of a healthcare system that I am familiar with and use on a daily basis - the Taiwan National Health Insurance (NHI), and let you, fellow Singaporean, to judge for yourself the difference between the two systems. I'm not a medical professional, just someone who uses the system, so I don't know what it's like from the healthcare provider's (i.e. the doctor's) point of view. If you're interested in the economics of health care in Taiwan, you can check out this paper.

Having lived and worked in Taiwan for the past decade, I've been enrolled in the NHI. In fact, all Taiwanese citizens and permanent residents are enrolled by default and must pay the monthly insurance premiums. So how much premium does one have to pay? It basically depends on two factors - your occupation and income.

Firstly, let's look at occupation. This determines the contribution ratio, or how much the individual, employer and government has to pay in terms of insurance premiums. So if you're an average employee in a public or private company, you pay 30%, the company 60% and the government tops up the remaining 10%.

People in the military, veterans and low-income households get full government assistance and don't have to pay any insurance premiums at all. Self-employed people pay 100% of their premiums.

Secondly, income. Basically, the more you earn, the more you pay. The average adult in Taiwan pays around NT$749 (~S$32) a month out-of-pocket in insurance premiums per person. If you're married have children, you can choose to peg the insurance premiums for your kids to the spouse with lower income to avoid paying higher premiums. An average family of four can expect to pay about NT$3000 (~$129) a month for healthcare insurance.

Okay, so you pay the compulsory NHI premiums every month. What do you get in return?

For starters, you'll be issued an IC card by the NHI, which entitles you to seek medical services at any NHI-registered clinic or hospital. The IC card above stores all your medical data and treatment history, so no doctor has a monopoly over your medical records, hence you're free to seek advice from any doctor, knowing that he or she has access to your medical history instantly and can make more accurate diagnoses based on it. Practically every man, woman and child in Taiwan has one. My daughter was issued an IC card on her birth.

In Taiwan, almost every single clinic or hospital, large and small is registered with the NHI. This means you can pick and choose which doctor to see, at your preference and convenience. No need to queue at some polyclinic for hours, because clinics are available everywhere. Only in the event of emergencies (or on Sundays when most clinics are closed) then you go straight to a hospital. If there are queues, people do so voluntarily because they prefer the doctor for some reason, not because they have no choice.

When you see the doctor at a clinic or hospital, you have to pay outpatient charges as a form of copayment, this is to avoid abuse of the system through overuse. For ordinary neighborhood clinics, one usually pays around NT$100 (~$4.30) for a visit (NT$50 for consultation and NT$50 for appointment fee). Disabled people pay a flat fee of NT$50 for medical care no matter at hospitals or clinics. Visits with referrals cost less than those without referrals.

After the consultation, comes the medication costs. For everyday illnesses like flu or cough, usually you don't have to pay anymore for the medicine. Only if the actual cost of the medicine exceeds a certain amount, only then you'll have to make up the difference. Medication co-payments are capped at NT$200 (S$8.60), so regardless if the medicine costs NT$2000 or $10000, you only pay NT$200.

If you have chronic illnesses such as hypertension or diabetes, you are exempted from the co-payments, and are eligible for "chronic illness refill prescriptions", i.e. you can get your medication straight from a pharmacy without having to visit the doctor.

Finally, let's look at coverage. What does national healthcare in Taiwan cover? Besides outpatient care at clinics and hospitals, it also covers:

  • Chronic Disease Patients (includes cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc.)
  • Catastrophic Illness Patients (click here for full listing)
  • Occupational Injuries or Disease
  • Rare Diseases (click here for full listing)
  • Emergency Care when Travelling Aboard

So what this means that all the major illnesses like cancer and diabetes is fully covered by health insurance. While this means escalating medical costs to the government, it makes a world of difference to the patient, especially those who are disadvantaged to start with.

And there you go. I know it's not a comprehensive report, but I hope it covers enough for you to get an idea of what it's like to be part of an affordable healthcare system. I don't have to worry about exorbitant medical costs breaking my piggy back, because I have an army of decent doctors (many with overseas degrees), dentists and ophthalmologists to take care of me and my family in case anything goes wrong.

Of course, it only covers the basics, so if you want extras like the latest medicine, high-tech medical tests and a single hospital suite all to yourself, you still have to pay extra. But forget the high-end, the rich can afford quality healthcare no matter the price. It's how we take care of the people at the lowest rungs of society that really counts, I feel.

May 26, 2011

The perfect ending to the 2011 General Elections

Original article by Lianhe Zaobao, May 25 2011. Photo taken from Pritam Singh's FB album.

The perfect ending to the 2011 General Elections

"May we take a photo with you?"

When former Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew heard the request from opposition party leader Low Thia Kiang, he gladly agreed, even exchanging a few words with him.

This was after last Saturday's Cabinet Swearing In ceremony, in which around 700 guests attended the subsequent reception at the Istana Gardens, the country's political patriarch Lee Kuan Yew and the Worker's Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang, together with five other Worker's Party elected MPs and two NCMPs, were gathered together in this precious photo.

Low Thia Kiang: "I respect MM Lee's contributions to Singapore."

This photograph is not only of historic significance, it also leaves a lot to the interpretation of the imaginative viewer.

It turns out at that time, the eight Worker's Party MPs were taking a group photo near MM Lee's seat, so when Low Thia Kiang saw him, he walked over and asked if MM Lee would like to take a photo with them.

When answering questions from our reporters last night, Low Thia Kiang remarked: "MM Lee is Singapore's founding father. Although I oppose some of his policies made during his term in office, and am unhappy with the way he ran the country and some policies, including the closing of Nantah University, this also led me to join opposition politics. His achievements in bringing Singapore to where it is today is there for all to see, and I respect that. The Worker's Party MPs asked to take a photo with MM Lee before his retirement from the cabinet out of respect for him."

In the recent elections, Low took the bold step of leaving his familiar Hougang ward where he defended successfully for the past 20 years, to lead a team to contest the neighbouring Aljunied GRC, and took five steps from the PAP in one fell swoop. His successor in Hougang, Yaw Shin Leong, also successfully defended the single seat constituency.

In addition, Worker's Party candidates Yee Jenn Jong and Gerald Giam were offered Non-Constituency MP seats, as a result of being the losing opposition candidates with the most votes.

According to the Worker's Party MPs who took the photo with MM Lee, even though they only exchange a few words with him, the atmosphere was very cordial and MM Lee and Low Thia Kiang were all smiles throughout. This may reflect on the beginning of a new, sophisticated political era, making it the perfect ending to the fierce competition that was the 2011 elections.

Reform starts at home

Barely a fortnight has passed since the end of the elections, that two PAP MPs have made a fool of themselves for making inappropriate comments, one on Facebook and the other on mainstream media, no less.

Obviously not taking a lesson from Tin Pei Ling to be careful of what to say on social media, Tampines MP Irene Ng made a comment on Facebook complaining about the extensive media coverage of the Meet-The-People sessions of the Worker's Party in Aljunied GRC (implying she's not getting any):

Her sour grapes comment brought her no small amount of flak, since being the incumbent in Tampines GRC (to which unfortunately I belong), the RC with its air-conditioned office and hordes of eager grassroots leaders at her beck-and-call will be as she left it before the elections. So of course she can start work two days after the elections.

Compare that with Low Thia Kiang and team having to take over Aljunied GRC (which will take another 1~2 months pending account audits) from scratch, and having to conducting MPS in void decks Hougang-style sans air-conditioned offices, which one is more newsworthy?

Irene Ng, your constituents are not stupid, we will know if you have served us well whether or not your trumpet it on social media (and shooting yourself in the foot in the process) or not. It's your mindset that the mainstream media is the sole entitlement of the PAP that is really off-putting.

Not wanting to be outdone, barely two days later, ‎MP for Nee Soon GRC Dr Lim Wee Kiat expressed how he felt about cutting ministerial salaries to the Lianhe Wanbao:

“If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain abit of dignity.”

After recently starting a review of the contentious issue of ministerial pay, it seems that PM Lee is really serious about reform. But all that effort (whether going through the motion or not) will go all tumbling down if more MPs like Dr Lim continue making such stupid remarks that clearly do not show that they're not in it for the money. In fact, money equals dignity in the value system of your average PAP MP, which I'm not sure if the kind of characteristics we are looking for in our future leaders.

In a rally speech at Raffles Place on May 3, PM Lee once remarked:

“Supposing you have a Parliament with 10, 15 or 20 opposition members out of 80, then instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I will spend all my time, I have to spend all my time thinking of what is the right way to fix them, what’s the best way to buy my own supporters over”.

If PM Lee is really serious about reform, he should get his own house in order really soon, to avoid further embarrassment by his own party MPs. Otherwise, instead of spending his time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, he'll have to spend all his time thinking of how to stop the nitwits within the party from embarrassing themselves and the PAP.

Time to get the Whip out.

May 23, 2011

Taiwan talk show on LKY and Singapore politics

A recent Taiwanese talk show devoted an entire program to cover the recent 2011 General Elections, the Lee dynasty and Singapore politics. Although there are some inaccuracies in the commentary, it is an interesting look at Singapore from a Taiwanese perspective.

May 20, 2011

China misreads Singapore model

Interesting article in the Hong Kong based Asia Weekly magazine on the 2011 General Election, see through the eyes of a Chinese political academic. The original article (in Chinese) can be found here.


Retuning to Beijing from Singapore to observe the 2011 General Election, Chinese political academic Li Fan remarked: "The Chinese government's interpretation of the "Singapore model" (of governance) is wrong, they only see the surface and are ignorant of the fact that Singapore law also controls their ministers, allowing civil rights, and the right to form parties, including opposition parties."

Specializing in "election studies", Li Fan also found a mirror of reflection for China. The Director of the World and China Institute (WCI) made a trip from Beijing to Singapore specifically to observe the elections. He spent nine days in Singapore observing and comparing the election process to that in China.

On May 10, just before boarding the flight back to Beijing, he told Asia Weekly excitedly:

"I recognized that these Singapore elections will be especially important, and sensed that historic changes will take place. As an academic who studies China elections, I felt I should be part of the Singapore elections. And as expected, breakthrough changes did in fact take place, this trip was worth every cent."

For the past number of years, China has sent batch after batch of officials and academics to Singapore to observe and learn the "Singapore model" of governance. Li Fan explained that in the eyes of the Chinese government, the "Singapore model" meant continual economic development in a ideally harmonious society where the citizens could live in safety and find enjoyment in work; a clean government free of greed and corruption; no democracy where the ruling party rules with a monopoly on power, with the opposition never winning over governance of the country; Singapore's laws have effectively controlled society, and create an obedient populace.

China's leaders have taken a seemingly logical stance: "Look, it doesn't matter if a country has no democracy, so long as there is a comprehensive framework of law to control society, and control it with an iron fist. As long as the government is clean and there is continuous economic growth, the people will be happy, and it wouldn't matter if there is democracy or not".

Li Fan pointed out that besides the features pointed out above, the Chinese government has ignored an important aspect of the "Singapore model", where Singaporeans enjoy the basic civil rights, and have the right to form political parties and societies, including opposition parties. The Chinese don't understand that Singapore has so many opposition parties, where China has none. Singaporeans have the right of conscience, although it cannot be denied that the Singapore government still welds strict control over the media, its laws are not as the Chinese government sees it as only controlling the citizens, it also severely restricts its own officials. The very fact that the opposition could have this breakthrough, is due to the election rules which makes it hard for the incumbent to play dirty. The Chinese Communist Party's interpretation of the "Singapore model" is wrong.

Li Fan said: "(For China) to really learn from Singapore, the first thing is to give the citizens basic civil rights. China does not have the right to vote, freedom to form political parties, nor freedom of speech. Fortunately we still have the Internet in China, but it is not as free and open as that in Singapore. Although Singapore is lacking in democracy, society does not go into chaos even though the incumbent party has been ruling for so long, because the people have these basic civil rights."

Academics from China coming to Singapore to observe the elections include those from the Shanghai East China University of Political Science and Law, Shenzhen University Singapore Research Centre, and Shenzhen University School of Management, mostly by invitation of the NUS East Asian Institute. Some of the Chinese mainstream media, like the Nan Feng Chuang and China News, have also sent correspondents to Singapore for coverage. The following is an excerpt of Asia Weekly's interview with Li Fan:

After observing the most hotly-contested election in Singapore since independence, could you give us a summary of the main points of this election based on your observations?

I will summarize it in two main points. The first is the election breakthrough. The PAP have blocked the opposition from entering parliament for a long time, and the opposition parties have organized themselves very successfully in this election to achieve an important breakthrough with the Worker's Party winning a historical record of six seats.

A GRC requires that candidates form a group to contest a large constituency where winner takes all. The opposition Worker's Party consolidated their star candidates into one team with Secretary General Low Thia Kiang at the helm and won the Aljunied GRC. Since the introduction of the GRC system since 1998, this is the first time the opposition has won a GRC, and handed heavy losses to the PAP. Three ministers were unseated as a result of the loss of one constituency, which included Foreign Minister George Yeo.

But most importantly, one of the ruling party's young candidates who was slated to be a 4G future leader, also lost the election. To the ruling party, this must be the biggest loss of all. For decades, the opposition has finally made a breakthrough, and this is obvious for all to see.

And your second point?

The second point is very important, and is my personal observation. Singapore has made a great leap forward in terms of freedom, and at the core of it is the elevation of civil rights. I've attended multiple opposition rallies, and they constantly encourage the voters to vote bravely and not be afraid.

The voters were quite worried in the beginning, because the government made some changes in the election system for this election and added serial numbers to the voting slips. Actually, this change prevents election rigging and election fraud. But because there was a serial number there, voters were afraid that the government would be able to know who they voted for and give trouble to them. From an elections angle, the serial number is actually a good thing for the opposition. The opposition has also explained this, but there are still many voters who are worried. But the final results showed that voters still dared to exercise their rightful vote.

What is the significance of this?

The significance of this, is that people do not care about the repercussions (of voting opposition) any longer. Therefore, elections and the improvement of human rights goes hand-in- hand: human rights pushes elections forwards, and elections in turn enhances human rights. Overall, this gives more freedom to the people, and this is a major trend where democracy and human rights in Singapore move forward interchangeably.

What lessons will these Singapore elections bring to China?

In these Singapore elections, I've often heard the opposition say that they want to let the citizens voice be heard, and allow ordinary citizens to participate in policy making. If China wants to learn from the real Singapore, it should guarantee the basic rights of its citizens, then push for the development of democracy. This is the first point. Secondly, in the course of the elections, the ruling party expressed a wish to become more open and reform itself. It initiated changes to the elections system half a year ago, redrew the SMCs and GRCs, added serial numbers to the voting slip, and introduced a "Cooling Off Day" before Polling Day. These measures helped the opposition to win seats in the election. An example, besides the 87 parliamentary seats, there were a total of NCMP seats reserved, up from three previously, where the best losers from the opposition could enter parliament, albeit without voting rights.

Ruling party initiates reforms

Actually, this tells voters that the changes in the election system is advantageous to the opposition, and were initiated by the ruling party in order to better gauge voter sentiment. During the hustings, Lee Hsien Loong said that his father Lee Kuan Yew should keep his mouth shut, these incidents have allowed the opposition to make a historical breakthrough, and has major significance to China. Singapore can read change in the ground and hope itself up to reform and respond to the dissent in its citizens. If China is to move forward, it must do the same as well.

You mentioned Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. What is your impression of him?

Lee Hsien Loong is an exceptional man, who is brave enough to apologize to voters for things that had gone wrong. Since when has the PAP openly apologized for anything? How can the Communist Party of China possibly say "Sorry" to its citizens? Lee Hsien Loong reiterated that this election is a watershed for Singapore, and marks a point where politics in Singapore will enter a new age.

How did the Singapore media fare in these elections?

The Singapore media played a big role in allowing the opposition to score a breakthrough. In the past, the media only reported on the ruling party's views, and even though a large part of media coverage still centered on the ruling party, it started to report on the opposition in a large way. Also the effect of new media, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, which the ruling party could not control, the majority of young people on the Internet supported the opposition.

In summary, how will these elections inspire China?

For China, firstly, the government must have an open attitude and allow citizens to have dissenting voices. In this modern age, it is impossible for the government to totally control society and its citizens, so it is better to maintain an open attitude. As Premier Wen Jia Bao recently said, "We must create the conditions to allow ordinary citizens to criticize the government."

Secondly, I believe the best way is to enter parliament to express dissent. The Singapore opposition only could criticize the government outside the system before, and finally have the chance to do so in within the system. The government should now be aware that if you let the populace scold you outside the system long enough, they will topple you one day when push comes to shove. '

Thirdly, give the citizens more civil rights, and allow them to organize themselves.

Fourthly, I hope the Chinese government will keep an open attitude towards the upcoming grassroots level elections, and allow grassroots voters to stand up and voice their real concerns. In the long run, China should concentrate on developing a civil society, and expand civil rights.

May 19, 2011

I hereby present to you - The New Cabinet!

PM Lee presented his new cabinet lineup yesterday. Some highlights:
  1. Teo Chee Hean replaces Wong Kan Seng as Minister for National Security, perhaps a taller guy can better look for escaped fugitives?
  2. Lim Swee Say remains in the Prime Minister’s Office, happily counting the zeroes in his CPF account
  3. "Yakult" Ibrahim is now Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts because he has the most "culture" (by @TheRealLeticia)
  4. Can't afford a flat? Now Khaw Boon Wan will tell you to buy one in JB! For only $8!
  5. Vivian Balakrishnan showed how much he loves gutter politics, so PM Lee granted him his wish and sent him to manage the longkangs
  6. Gan Kim Yong, architect of Singapore's hugely successful foreign talent policy, will be tasked with doing the same for our health sector.
  7. Singaporeans now have a new swear word when stuck in overcrowded buses or the MRT: Tuck Yew!
  8. The Gen Y can now look forward to more hand raising activities (how about a Kee Chiu workout?) and rousing speeches on small island republics, now that Chan Chun Sing is Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports

May 17, 2011

Chen Show Mao on cover of Asia Weekly

"Singapore's political breakthrough"
"The opposition's elections Great Leap Forward"

The Worker's Party, Low Thia Kiang and Chen Show Mao were featured prominently in the article, the focus being the political tsunami that was the fall of Aljunied GRC to the WP and subsequent retirement of George Yeo. Praise given to LTK for his "mission impossible" gamble to leave Hougang to contest Aljunied.

Also mentioned were Nicole Seah and Tin Pei Ling, and their respective receptions by the younger voters, as well as the effect of social media on the election results of GE 2011. The Worker's Party victory at Aljunied was hailed as cementing the foundation of a two-party parliament in Singapore.

May 10, 2011

Yam Ah Mee iPhone ringtone

This must be the best Yam Ah Mee music mix around, practically begging to be made into an iPhone ringtone. So I made two versions, and you can download them here and here.

After downloading, just double-click on the file to add it to iTunes and sync to your iPhone. Go to Settings > Sounds > Ringtone > Select ringtone under "Custom", and you're done! Enjoy!

May 9, 2011

My thoughts on GE 2011

The people of Singapore have spoken, and the voters of Aljunied GRC have opted to repent for the next 5 years, a fitting end to the most exhilarating elections in memory, and sleepless nights catching up on election news and rally videos on the Net. Finally, life can return to normal in Singapore.

Or can it?

GE 2011 marks a watershed event in Singapore politics, that much is obvious. Besides the landmark feat of a GRC falling to the opposition for the first time, it marks the political awakening for many Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, due to social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, tools which did not exist in the mainstream in 2006.

Although I've been blogging for some time now, you can see that prior to this election season that I've neglected this space for quite some time. I have these elections to return the blogging streak in me that has disappeared for so long.

Also, I've had a Twitter account for some time, but only really began to use it in earnest to catch up on the latest election news and tweets. I even got a tweet back from @mrbrown! Turns out he's also one of the many Aljunied repenters.

When the election results were returned by "Returning Officer Extraordinaire" Yam Ah Mee, the tweets from the #sgelections tag were flashing non-stop way into the wee hours of the morning. It was really quite remarkable and comforting to see my fellow Singaporeans so interested in the outcome of their future, even for once. I hope this enthusiasm does not diminish in the coming five years to the next election. Then we would have really matured as a nation, and will no longer be labelled as docile, unquestioning sheep of the ruling party.

Cartoon from sei-ji rakugaki

Speaking of sheep, one designer bag toting, foot stomping example was voted into parliament while a Foreign Minister was voted out, both the result of the controversial beast that is the GRC. Actually, the opposition and Singaporeans in general have much to thank Tin Pei Ling, for she has exposed the fallacies and arrogance of the ruling party that no opposition candidate (save maybe Nicole Seah) ever could.

Getting elected into parliament has practically ensured that netizens will be scrutinizing her every move and word she utters for the next five years, ready to pounce any slip-up that undermines to her status as an MP (which is basically everything). The opposition could not have asked for a better aid for their cause, not even Nicole Seah.

Photo from Alvinology.com

As a former resident of Potong Pasir, I was disappointed at Chiam See Tong's failed gamble to win the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, and even more so when I learned in the early hours of May 8 that Potong Pasir had fallen to the PAP by a margin of less than 100 votes.

A figurehead of opposition politics and David to the PAP Goliath for the past 27 years, Chiam See Tong is, and will always be a true hero of Singapore, fighting for the residents of PP to make Potong Pasir what he is today.

"I am not actually a brave man, but I love Singapore and I love Singaporeans", Chiam said in a recent rally. It is very sad that the less than half of the voters of Bishan-Toa Payoh and Potong Pasir reciprocated that love. I'm afraid it is the end of an era for the Chiams. Perhaps it is time for him to retire in ernest and let the next generation of Benjamin Pwee and company to take over the reins.

What is my biggest regret for these elections? Besides not being able to vote this time, my biggest regret is not being able to help in the opposition efforts for this election. I would volunteer my time as a counting agent or distribute flyers at a moment's notice if I could. It would have been an unforgettable experience. Maybe in five years time, that would really be an interesting election.

May 5, 2011

Vote wisely. Vote for Change.

Dear fellow Singaporean,

I know you will do the right thing. Vote wisely. Vote for Change.
See you again on May 8.

"I was wrong" says ex-PAP supporter

I came across this post in Facebook, and would like to share it with everyone here, because the original post cannot be accessed anymore. Originally from here.


‎"I was wrong" by Rena Tan
Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 3:16pm

For the most part of my life, I see myself as a conformist. A traditionalist. A conservative. I believe strongly in the concept of loyalty - to my friends, families and loved ones, my job and undoubtedly my country too.

I grew up feeling a strong sense of pride in the nation that has been transformed by the likes of Lee Kuan Yew and other forefathers - from a small fishing village to the multicultural first world city state that it is right now. I swell with pride too when people from other countries complimented Singapore of being a safe, clean, green and stable country, something many of us tend to take for granted, especially for the younger generations of Singapore who never had to go through the devastation of war/terrorism.

Never mind that people are laughing at us for our chewing gum policies, our tough stance on vandalism and the fact that we have campaigns to remind ourselves to be courteous, kind and gracious. At least we don't have kids running around in schools gunning down other kids, or citizens trying to blow themselves up in front of our embassies. I was steadfast in my loyalty to the country I grew up in, and I accepted the fact that although we were not perfect, our leaders have tried their best.

I believed in that for a long time. When I first became eligible to vote, I have no qualms expressing my allegiance to the ruling party. I couldn't understand why my parents and the older generation I speak to think differently. Couldn't they see how far we have come, the progress we have made, the strides we have taken and the brand we have established for ourselves on the global platform - despite being such a tiny island state? I never knew why they were so embittered, why they were always full of angst, and why they were always frustrated and emotional, especially during the election period.

I have always brushed them off as a bunch of grumpy old people who probably have nothing better to do than whine and gripe, an aging population who was always finding fault and perpetually impossible to please.

I stepped into my mid-20s and was once again eligible to vote. By then I had a job, but was struggling to make ends meet as I was laden with education debts and the need to support my family, having lost my dad at age 12. Being the traditionalist that I am, I thought it was normal for a young professional like myself to go through such struggles - as everyone around me seemed to be in the same boat. It wasn't a big deal - you just have to work hard.

I never thought to rely on the government because I believed its money and time would be much better spent on people who needed them most - the poor and destitute, the aged and lonely, and the handicapped and terminally ill. My struggles were nothing compared to these people, hence I made absolutely no demands on the government to help ease my financial burdens. I scoffed at those who complained incessantly, and assumed that they were merely a bunch of spolit brats and ingrates who had unrealistic expectations of a government who had already done so much.

My vote once again went to the people I felt then would be the best team to sustain Singapore's growth, the team who could best take care of Singapore and its people's interests.

I stepped into my early 30s and for the third time I was given the opportunity to vote. For the first time in 10 years, my belief, trust and blind loyalty to the system - started to waver. People who know me would know I worked extremely hard, depended largely on myself and am a hopeless optimist. My glass is always half full, unless you emptied it.

But at age 30, I was still struggling to make ends meet. I had no savings and I saw no way out of this low-middle class life except to work, pay my bills, pay my taxes and leave whatever morsel of income I have left for basic necessities. I started to understand why life was getting tougher, why our belts were getting tighter and why my money was always getting smaller - no matter how hard I worked or how much I earned.

In the last 10 years, the cost of living would have doubled in some areas, tripled in others. My salary only increased by a single digit percentage - supposedly to curb inflation or to offset the pain of GST. It was no longer enough to work hard. I couldn't see my money at all because they all went into the necessary living costs that I must incur just living and breathing as an ordinary citizen. Food costs, utility bills, transport costs, income tax, healthcare costs - all of which increased year on year, subtly draining me of the very little resources I have left. I started to wonder if my votes have created a money-sucking monster, and the warnings of my parents and the old people I have scoffed at previously for their lamentations and gripes, started to haunt me.

For the first time in my life I wondered - what if what they have been complaining about all this time were actually true?

Despite the nagging feeling that something was not quite right with the system, I fed the monster for the third time. Why? Because at that time, I chose to be logical and rational. The Opposition was unfortunately not united and were, I thought, an irrational bunch. Some went on a hunger strike, some lashed out at the PM in public, others were merely stirring up emotions of the people by focusing on petty issues. All I could see was the Opposition fighting among themselves and falling out with people who they were supposed to ally with to build a stronger case for themselves as to why we needed an Opposition party.

My vote of confidence hence once again went to the party I thought would let me down - less. It was probably a decision I'd live to regret for the next five years to come. The speed of growth - although good for the Singapore economy, has left me gasping for air. The bills kept piling, the taxes kept increasing, and the costs kept escalating.

I started to wonder: Why couldn't the leaders I have voted for slow down a little and see that our salaries have not grown at the same accelerated rate as the economy? I couldn't keep up. I needed a break - a significant and long-term one. Not one in the form of a $400-$500 share package for the entire year, which adds up to meagre sum of less than $2 a day. Hell no. I couldn't even take a train AND the feeder bus back to my home with that amount.

Five years have passed and once I again I find myself standing at this same crossroad - with the power to exercise my vote. This year however, I started to view politics in a very different light. I started to take it more seriously and read voraciously to help me understand the systems I have helped created with my votes. I started to attend rallys, read their manifestos, devour all the online and media reports from various alternative sources, and critically scrutinised each and every speaker on the Opposition parties - just so I can understand what they have to offer.

This time, they have not failed me. The Opposition have reconciled their differences and got their act together. I witnessed a strong sense of unison and a deliberate effort to orchestrate their campaign strategy - so that they could contest in almost every constituency. I can see the silent respect each party attributes to one another, and the consistent message all the parties try to bring across to everyone - in terms of the challenges we have been facing, the pain we are currently going through, the feelings and emotions that are raging in all of us in response to a government who seems to have stopped listening to and caring about its people.

For the first time, all the Opposition parties have put in place people I can look up to, people who have the amazing passion to make a difference, people who genuinely wants a positive change and people who wants to do it the right way. I salute each and every one of them for their selfless sacrifice - as every Singaporean knows, the path of an Opposition is one that is often fraught with difficulties, obstacles and persecution. Just like the Christian way of life.

In its pursuit of growth and profits, the system has stopped listening, stopped caring and stopped consulting. As I read stories after stories of how the financially strapped citizens were kicked around various government organisations in their quest for financial assistance; how brutal some officials were in oppressing those who couldn't afford to have a proper meal much less pay their utility bills; how families were coerced to sleep in tents on the beaches or void decks as their homes have been seized by the government for defaulting on loan payments; how some have resorted to throwing themselves in front of an oncoming train because they have no one else to turn to - my heart broke and I realised how wrong I was. I was wrong to trust that the people whom I've put in place with my votes would take care of them.

I was slapped with an even harsher reality as I read with utter disbelief, the breakdown of salaries these leaders get to earn as ministers. No wonder they were blind to the plight of the people. No wonder they were ignorant of the struggles we go through. No wonder they could not emphatise with our pain. No wonder they have lost touch with the people and were deaf to their cries. No wonder. The amount of money and power they are reveling in - have completely de-sensitized them to the reality of the lives of the ordinary Singaporean. They are no longer obligated to serve the people wholeheartedly and fight for their causes. They simply have too much to lose.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this note - to apologise for my oversight, and for feeding a monster time and again and allowing it to balloon to such catastrophic proportions. It is my folly, and I am sure the folly of many young people to come - because I was once that young, impressionable, nationalistic, idealistic, loyal and passionate voter who believed that our leaders could do no great wrong, and who could bring us to greater heights better than any other parties could.

I now know why I had a thought once, that if I ever have a kid, I will send him/her overseas - as Singapore has become too costly, too rigid, too stifling for any kid to grow up with their own voice and freedom to be creative and expressive. I never knew what sparked that thought - but I guessed like so many people, although I have felt the effects of an uncaring system, we were still in denial - choosing to believe in the best of the people we have voted for.

I have no wish to influence anyone with this note, as it was written more for myself, as a piece for my own self-reflection. But if you happen to be reading this, just know I have come one full cycle, and I have been on both sides of the fence. Know that I have read, heard and seen enough to form my perception of the system I have once trusted, and I am committed to make a change.

As a Chinese saying goes:"When a student fails, the teacher is at fault. When a kid misbehaves, the parents have failed their duty." Hence similarly, when the system turns its back on the very people it is obligated to serve, the voters who put these leaders in place are responsible.

Come 7 May 2011, I urge all of you - please vote responsibly.

May 3, 2011

Dear Politically Apathetic Voter

Dear Politically Apathetic Voter,

In case you haven't noticed, the Singapore General Elections will be held on May 7, and chances are you will have the chance to vote this time around because 82 out of 87 parliamentary seats are being contested by the opposition.

If you couldn't care less about the election, and don't wish to bother yourself with the headache of choosing which candidate(s) to vote for, please do all other Singaporeans a favour and don't vote on election day.

It is NOT a crime if you don't vote. Don't believe me, go check out Section 43 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. It doesn't say anywhere that you will be punished for not voting.

Your name will only be struck off the register of electors.

What's the register of electors, you ask? It's simply a list of Singaporean citizens that are eligible to vote in the current election. People who did not vote in the previous election for any reason will have their names struck off and won't be able to vote in future elections.

I know it's ok because I did not vote in the 2006 elections as I was overseas at that time. I didn't get fined or caned or put behind bars. It only meant that I can't vote in the 2011 GE. That's all.

So since you don't really care about elections, it's simple really. Just stop voting and you won't be bothered by the Elections Department ever again.

Just don't vote on May 7. Go watch a movie, or go and chiong the night away or something.

The rest of Singaporeans who give a shit, thank you.

Some useful quotes for GE 2011

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." - Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister of Nazi Germany

"Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play." - Joseph Goebbels

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it" - Adolf Hitler

Hitler's Nazi government was a master of propaganda, and the PAP must be a great follower, to obfuscate, confuse and paralyze the electorate with fear:

"In politics stupidity is not a handicap." - Napoleon Bonaparte

No, in fact, it can even earn you a GRC seat behind a Senior Minister!

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber." - Plato

Politically apathetic? Well, then you deserve the government you choose.

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives." - John Stuart Mill

Afraid to rock the boat? Or change the status quo? Even if it means the future of your children and grandchildren are at stake?

Apr 29, 2011

GE 2011 Rally Venues

View on a larger map Singapore GE 2011 Rally Venues

I've combined the list of Election Meeting Sites published by the Singapore Police Force, with the opposition parties and candidates contesting for the 2011 GE. Hopefully this will be a useful guide for all of you wanting to check out an opposition rally near you.

Update: Added nearest MRT station and bus services for all venues.
Update 2: Added Youtube links to rally speeches and photos. If you'd like me to remove any photos, please leave a comment.
Update 3: Added placeholders for rally dates

Apr 26, 2011

Vivian Balakrishnan : How low can you go?

The Limbo must be the dance of choice among the PAP recently, as each candidate tries to outdo each other's attempts to attack the opposition candidates personally, instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. How low can you go?

Ignoring SM Goh's call to "have a clean fight", Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan stooped to unprecedented lows by making a personal attack on WP candidate Vincent Wijeysingha's sexual orientation, and even venomously hinting that he was a paedophile for extra measure.

This opened a very large can of worms with the Internet community and the response from netizens was fast and very furious. Scathing criticisms from blogs and Twitter feeds notwithstanding, Vivian Balakrishnan's own Facebook page saw a wave of criticism and disappointment that such a low punch had been pulled by an MP like VB, who enjoyed a decent image among Singaporeans until the incident.

The response from netizens was so unprecedented, that VB and his "internet caretakers" must have been taken aback, and within minutes all negative comments were deleted and errant posters (like yours truly) were banned from commenting. A little while later, they probably decided to save the effort and disabled Wall posting from fans all together (although the last time I checked you can still leave comments).

Fortunately, I've managed to do several screen captures of one particularly interesting post, with an ardent supporter "John Tan" vehemently defending his MP, albeit with quite controversial views. Happy reading!

Only weaklings suffer no criticism

I really like Audible, the grand-dame of audiobooks on the Internet, because it helps me get my reading done on the go, listening to them on my iPhone while driving. Best of all, it allows me even try to tackle such monumental works as William Shirer's "The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich"- which weighs in at more than 1200 pages in print - without having to lug around a brick all the time.

A few chapters into the book, the author recounts the famous Marburg speech made by then Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, which is said to be the last speech made publicly in Germany against Nazism. Although what von Papen was describing in 1934 was essentially Hitler's Nazi party, he might as well be referring to the PAP in 2011.

"Open manly discussions would be of more service to the German people than, for instance, the present state of the German press. The government [must be] mindful of the old maxim, ”Only weaklings suffer no criticism. . .

Substitute "The Straits Times" for the "German press" and you'll have the state of the media in Singapore today. It is no secret that the paper is a mouthpiece for the ruling party especially during election season (although they have somewhat expanded their coverage for the opposition candidates).

The media landscape is as is today, because the powers that be have deliberately constructed it be so, because give their glorious "track record", they are saintly and even god-like, and cannot be criticized in any way or form. So letters to the ST forum either disappear into thin air, or are edited so much that they resemble a botched nose job.

The men-in-white (MIW) are so accustomed to having ST, Today and CNA covering their media backsides that the recent onslaught of criticism and opposition support from social media such Facebook and Twitter has taken them totally off guard. And they're still struggling to "get it".

Try to piggyback Tin Pei Ling on Goh Chok Tong's back for easy ride into parliament? The online public tore her to pieces and liked Nicole Seah very much instead. Instead of just reading about him in the mainstream media, Singaporeans actually got to see and hear from the man who was slated by the PAP to be the next PM, and judge for themselves if he indeed deserves the job.

"Great men are not created by propaganda"

The PAP propaganda machine is like an antique car. So like an antique car, to keep it in mint condition, you have to take it out for a short drive from time to time to make sure everything is running smoothly. Then once in a while, say every five years, you give it a gleaming polish job, tune the engine, rev it up and parade it in all its glory in an antique car show.

Also like an antique car, the rhetoric we hear in every election is only a rehash of past glories, achieved by a PAP that now longer exists, replaced by a newer generation of leaders piggybacking on the "track record" of the party, protected by the gentle hand of the GRC for safe passage into the hallowed ranks of MP-hood. Not needing to really walk the ground to win elections, do these people really know what's happening on the ground level? We even have MPs who have retired without having ever contested for their constituencies.

PM Lee Hsien Loong once said: "Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong, Steve Chia. We can deal with them. Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I'm going to spend all my time thinking what's the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week's problem and forget about next year's challenges?"

It is precisely this kind of mindset, of not needing to consider how to win your supporters votes, that results in the serious disconnect between PAP MPs and constituents today.

"If one desires close contact and unity with the people, one must not underestimate their understanding. One must not everlastingly keep them on leading strings."
"No organization, no propaganda, however excellent, can alone maintain confidence in the long run."
"It is not by incitement...and not by threats against the helpless part of the nation but only by talking things over with people that confidence and devotion can be maintained. People treated as morons, however, have no confidence to give away."

PM Lee said: "Never forget that we are servants of the people. Always maintain a sense of humility and service." Well spoken, but actions speak volumes louder than words.

Time and again, the PAP addresses Singaporeans in an arrogant and condescending manner, talking down to us as mere serfs to the magnificence of their benign autocratic rule. A Moulmein resident was utterly shocked by the way her MP Lui Tuck Yew handled a walkabout incident which she was involved in. It is really quite sad that most residents of Ang Mo Kio GRC only knew of their MP Wee Siew Kim through the uncaring, elite face of his daughter.

Singaporeans are not stupid, and nobody appreciates being taken for a fool. But come election time, we are still barraged by idle threats from the PAP about "freak election results", "parliamentary deadlock", "no more upgrading if you vote for opposition", etc. Even more insulting are the blatant pre-election sweets given out to the public. In Taiwan, election candidates can be fined and jailed if found guilty of distributing gifts or money to voters in excess of NT$30 (less than S$2). At least in Taiwan, the money comes out of the candidates pockets. Here, we are bribed with our own money.

Maybe it will take a "freak result" for the PAP to finally understand that really listening to what the people are saying really matters. Being a former Chief of Army or PSC scholar does not give you the right to talk down on anybody, especially to your voters. Just as the famous quote from Abraham Lincoln goes:

"You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you cant fool all of the people all the time."

Apr 20, 2011

About the election deposit

So Parliament has been dissolved by the Grand Prata Man and polling day for the General Election set for May 7.

Looking at the press release from the Elections Department reveals several interesting points about the deposit that must be paid by each candidate standing for election:

According to the Parliamentary Elections Act, the deposit per candidate is 8% of the total allowances payable to an MP in the preceding year and rounded to the nearest $500.00. The deposit for a candidate shall, therefore, be $16,000.

The deposit this year is $16,000, up from $13,500 from the previous election. Since the deposit is pegged to 8% of the total allowance payed to an MP in the previous year, it follows that the average MPs pay has risen 18.5% in five years since the last election.

Given the way our world class MPs are apt to pat each other on the back and give themselves large raises for a "job well done", this increase should not be a surprise to anyone.

But the very idea of pegging the election deposit to 8% of an MP's pay means that each time they give themselves a raise, they are raising the bar of entry to opposition candidates at each election by increasing the deposit as well. $16k might be chump change for a PAP MP, but not so for your average opposition candidate. Smaller opposition parties will have to work hard to canvass funds to field say a 5 or 6 member GRC fight.

Devious, the lightning party.

Taiwanese press predicts a "landslide victory" for the PAP

A look at how the Taiwanese media views the coming Singapore GE. Ask any Taiwanese about Singapore and they envy our growth and prosperity. But few people are aware of what is going on in Singapore beyond its polished global image marketed to the rest of the world...

Original version here: http://news.chinatimes.com/world/50406039/112011042000163.html

5/7 Singapore election - Lee Hsien Loong expected to be reelected Prime Minister
  • 2011-04-20
  • China Times
  • 【Liang Dong Ping / Bangkok】
  • The Singapore Government announced on the 19th at 15:00, President Nathan, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has dissolved parliament, and announced that election day will be held on May 7, and nomination day on April 27 . It is believed that it will still be a landslide victory for the long-governing incumbent People's Action Party, with Lee Hsien Loong expected to continue as Prime Minister.

    The last Singapore general election was held in 2006, and the upcoming 12th parliamentary election will have three additional seats for a total of eighty-seven member seats. Significant changes have been made in the election constituencies, with single-seat constituencies increased from nine to twelve, and GRCs increased by one to fifteen, for a total of twenty-seven constituencies.

    With the exception the Potong Pasir and Hougang constituencies, the ruling PAP still controls eighty-two seats, forming the majority in parliament.

    As in previous elections, it is generally expected that the PAP will have a landslide victory. This is because under the leadership of the PAP, Singapore's performance has been brilliant in recent years. Although Singapore was also affected in the global financial crisis, the government took effective measures which resulted in an early recovery followed by a strong rebound, which was the envy of the world. Singapore reported an economic growth rate of 14.5% in 2009, and is expected to grow from four to six percent this year.

    In the face of various crises, the People's Action Party, is often also able to hit the nail on the head and propose and implement effective programs, the controlling of property prices is one example. Singapore's leadership is also not monolithic, and several years ago went out on a limb and approved the construction of casinos.

    Since the beginning of last year, casino operations has proven to be a major contributor to reverse the economic contraction. But Singapore government also implemented restrictive measures to prevent their own people from getting addicted to gambling, and these acts have gotten the support and recognition of their people.

    However, The Wall Street Journal also pointed out that the ruling party is likely to face the its biggest challenge so far (in the coming elections), due to too many foreign workers, wage stagnation, rising prices, the wealth gap and discontent over inflation. Opposition parties said it would field candidates in all constituencies, hence the opposition's seats are likely to increase.