Monday, April 12, 2010

Competition Is Good For Politics In Singapore

The quote is attributed to Education Minister Ng Eng Hen who is best remembered for castigating the early findings of two academics that more new jobs went to foreigners than Singaporeans. Professor Lim Chong Yah was also co-author of the prescient report, but was spared Ng's political vitriol, probably because Lim's daughter is married to Lee Kuan Yew's second son.

Prisoner of the State is the memoir Zhao Ziyang secretly compiled by recording over some 30 low quality toy cassette tapes to evade the attention of his captors. Zhao was the lieutenant of Deng Xiaoping tasked with the economic reform of China. Among the many revelations of the Communist system of government is how Zhao returned from political exile.

Apparently Chairman Mao, architect of the upheaval that also victimised Deng Xiaoping, had one day suddenly asked an attendant, "Whatever happened to Zhao Ziyang?", the man who ran a successful economic policy in the provinces and became Party chief in 1965 at the age of 46. When told Zhao was purged, Mao expressed his displeasure of the excesses of the purification effort he personally launched with the Cultural Revolution: "Purging every single person? That's not what I want..." With that, Zhao Ziyang was rehabilitated.

Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaratnam had commented that Singapore's one party system would lead to a society closed to new ideas, with too many "yes-men" appointed, not elected, to office. The greater evil is that such appointments are determined by the whim and fancy of one man. Lee Kuan Yew himself said of Wong Kan Seng, he was more than an MP, before making him minister. The same saved Wong's hide when latter should have resigned over the debacle of Mas Selamat Kastari's escape. Lee decided on the complacency verdict, instead of sheer incompetency. About one quarter of the PAP's slate at each election is new blood, selected not through popular vote, but by the anointment of one man. The same system also brought in Mah Bow Tan, was was originally rejected by the people at the polls in 1984. The same guy who paid Interbrand $400,000 to rename Marina Bay.

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