Monday, May 31, 2010

China Beat China To Be World Champions

The Republic's top player, Feng Tianwei, was pivotal in the team's 3-1 victory over mighty China in the 50th World Team Table Tennis Championships, screamed the local papers. Republic of Singapore, that is, not People's Republic of China.

Feng, like her team mates Wang Yuegu, Yu Mengyu, Li Jiawei and Sun Beibei, including coach Zhou Shusen, are all imported from China, feted, housed and salaried at the expense of Singaporean taxpayers. They even write their names in the preferred two-name China style, unlike, say Tan Ah Kow. There's not a token local born and bred in the picture.

When multi-national corporations were introduced in Singapore during the industrialisation growth period, implicit in their contractual undertaking was to train local managers and effect technology transfer. That's what the nation gained from the exercise, and homegrown corporate giants were nutured. Mr Wong Ngit Liong of Venture Manufacturing, for example, was the pioneering manufacturing manager of Hewlett Packard in Singapore. Koh Boon Hwee joined as accounts supervisor, and ended up Managing Director.

The future for Singapore sports has to be ominous if the prediction of Singapore Sports Council CEO Oon Jin Teik is allowed to go unchallenged, "If you look at what the STTA has been trying to achieve under Lee Bee Wah's leadership, it's really a sign of bigger things to come." And what may that be? Buy up the whole Brazilian team, lock, stock and waterboy, to boast "S'pore Beat Spain To Be World Cup Champ"? (Current odds for Brazil winning the 2010 World Cup is 9/2, tied with Spain).

In America, they have football scholarships. Baseball scholarships. So local boys get to be groomed to make their country proud. Can any Singaporean, regardless of race, language or religion, be cheered by an all Chinese victory?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Looming War Of The Widows

The first salvo came from Mr Goh Kian Chee, 66, only son of the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, who broke his silence as he spoke about his father at the Pyramid Club, reported in the Wednesday 26 May edition of the Straits Times, and the time they spent together with his mother Alice Woon. His parents divorced in 1986, and Dr Goh remarried 5 years later. Mr Goh said his 85-year-old mother remains well, but moves about with great difficulty. She lives in a condominium in Bishan with a maid, and Mr Goh, his wife, two sons and three grandsons visit her at least once a week.

Even Jennie Chua of Raffles Hotel repute, Mr Goh's wife from his first marriage, was invited to the state funeral. Alice Woon was nowhere to be seen, either at the wake or the grand nationally televised send off.

"My mother spent the best years of their lives together, supportive of Dr Goh, and standing by him when he was at his creative best, young, hale and hearty, energetic," said Mr Goh. They were married in 1942 during the Japanese Occupation - she, a clerk, was just 17, and he, a tax collector, was 24.
"She deserves a tribute for her role, and the nation ought to remember this when it wants to appreciate Dr Goh's life and contribution to Singapore."

The quick response came in a two full page spread on Friday 28 May (worth $60,000 of advertising space) with Dr Phua Swee Liang, 71, declaring she was Dr Goh's wife, "full-time caregiver, driver, barber, nurse, seamstress, and in the last few years, physiotherapist and occupational therapist as well". They had met in 1979 when she was working at the Ministry of Education as Director of the Central Testing Services. Sensing his overtures, she had proposed a relationship like Mahatma Gandhi had with his female disciples, and even offered to be his adopted daughter. (Since 1947, it was common knowledge that Gandhi was bunking nightly with his 19-year-old grandniece, Manu). He wanted more, the man who could turn Jurong swarm into a industrial mega-complex would not be thwarted by a reluctant lass, and they finally tied the knot in 1991. We are told Dr Goh revealed he "had romantic feelings for her" in 1983, when she fled the trysting halls of MOE to join the Asian Development Bank in Manila as an Educational Consultant. Dr Goh stepped down from political office in 1984. Until his stroke in 1999, the couple jetted around extensively, covering every state in the USA, played golf and went swimming in the Tanah Merah Country Club. "I'm made of sterner stuff," she warned, lest any should cast doubt whether Dr Phua did give up everything to become a full-time caregiver to Dr Goh.

These days she has to look after her elder sister who has a heart problem. All three sisters stay in the Dunbar Walk house that was Dr Goh's last residence on earth.

So what actually transpired between 1983, when Dr Goh set his goal on wooing the younger woman, and 1986, when a marriage of 44 years was severed? This being Singapore, will the inconvenient truth ever see the light of day? Will Ross Worthington, the Australian who documented the slapping of Dhanablan in his "Governance In Singapore", come to the rescue with another scoop?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Oil Slick Still Spreading

President Obama told television audiences that the first thought on his mind each morning upon waking is about the Deepwater Horizon oil platform spill at the Gulf of Mexico. But when oil tanker T Bunga Kelana 3, carrying 62,000 tonnes of crude, and bulk carrier MV Waily collided 13 km offshore Changi East on Tuesday 25 May 2010, the National Environment Agency officials, Minister of Environment and Prime Minister never lost a minute of sleep. Regardless of the environmental damage from the 2,500 tonnes oil spill affecting East Coast Park to Changi beach, and loss of income for yacht clubs and businesses along the sea front, these civil servants will still be collecting their best mid-year bonuses in past 5 years. All civil servants will receive in July half a month's salary plus one-off payment of $300. For the typical minister, the windfall is a cool $80,000++. You don't want to know how much extra the Prime Minister will be collecting. Meritocracy rules.

The oil pollution has now hit the Chek Jawa wetlands on Pulau Ubin, which is home to unique ecosystems and the last refuge of several plants and animals once upon a time common in Singapore. 700m of Changi Beach is now affected by the eco-disaster, and is now closed to swimmers. According to Malaysian press, the oil slick has also reached Teluk Ramunia on the south-eastern tip of Johor.

NEA chief executive Andrew Tan said, "We cannot contain 100 percent of the oil spill out in the open ocean." That sounds eerily similar to the final word on terrorist Mas Selamat's escape from the Whitley Road Detention Center, "What to do? Happened already." Well, they could have sought help from BP experts working on a similar problem. And declining acceptance of the fat bonus payout for a job not very well done is worth considering.

20 volunteers from environmental group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society combed East Coast Park, and found more than 80 oil-slicked creatures dead and alive, including jellyfish, crabs, peanut worms and starfish. NEA said it will assess the impact on marine life only after the clean-up is complete. "Our main effort is returning life to normalcy so that members of the public can go back to the beaches - the safety to the public is what 's most important right now," said NEA chief executive Tan. Makes sense, the marine life don't pay taxes that fund mid-year bonuses for civil servants.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Also Respectfully Disagree With MM Lee

We don't expect him to know Lee DeWyze is the Season 9 American Idol winner, or that the iPad was not designed as a large SMS device for senior citizens. But, speaking to an international audience in a foreign country about another foreign country's history, inaccurately, he should have done his homework. Besides, if someone else had made similar disparaging comments about Singapore, he would have been sued to financial bankruptcy.

I thank Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for his reference to the abolition of the army in Costa Rica in last Friday's report ("MM Lee: US base in Japan boosts stability").
MM Lee was reported to have stated that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the President of Costa Rica for disbanding the army, but this is not accurate.
The army was dissolved on Dec 1, 1948 by the then President Jose Figueres as "a precaution against the militarism that has undercut or permanently thwarted democracy in Central America".
The move also allowed for the allocation for more resources to education and health, indicators that Costa Rica stands for today on the world stage.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was President Oscar Arias Sanchez, who ruled Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to achieve peace in Central America, which was then involved in armed conflicts and instability.
On May 8, President Arias relinquished his office to Ms Laura Chinchilla, who is Costa Rica's first woman President.
I also respectfully disagree with MM Lee's remark that our leaders did not have to worry about neighbouring countries attacking Costa Rica because we had no wealth to talk about.
We have great wealth, it is everywhere, and Costa Ricans have been looking after it for the past 40 years. Our wealth is green, represented by 4.5 percent of the biodiversity known to date; all in a territory wihich constitutes only 0.03 percent of the world.

Juan F. Cordero A.
Amabassador of Costa Rica to Singapore

That's the real danger of using a product that is past it's expiry date. It can be deadly, as in the current reported instance where 17 measles-plagued babies were injected with expired medicine in a hospital in Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. Fortunately for us, Mr Cordero is the consummate diplomat, setting the record straight with immaculate choice of words, without demanding a hefty paycheck from his country's taxpayers or a weird job title that sounds like a multi-hued sugar coated candy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Did Goh Keng Swee Sell Us Out?

A eulogy is an oral memorial that pays tribute to the life of the deceased, it is a way of expressing sorrow, and also of celebrating one's life achievements . It is hardly occasion to dwell on the negative.

In Lee Kuan Yew's eulogy to Goh Keng Swee, he made mention of the following:
"After two years of constant friction and two race riots, in July 1965, he met with then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and Minister for External Affairs Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. I had asked him to negotiate a looser arrangement for Singapore but keep Singapore within the Federation.
He on his own decided, after discussions with them, to have a clean break."

Lee said the same in his memoirs (The Singappore Story, page 633):
"I learnt that he never pressed Razak for a looser arrangement as I had asked him to. He knew they wanted Singapore out of their parliament and went along with them."

Does it sound like Goh is taking the fall for Singapore being kicked out of Malaysia?

But a careful reading of the chapter "42. The Tunku Wants Us Out" reveals that Goh, as usual, did not fail Singapore in any way. Page 629 has Goh, after being away for more than a month in Germany for medical treament, telling Lee than he ran into Tun Abdul Razak who wanted to discuss a rearrangement that would allow both sides to disengage from what would be a disastrous collision. Tunku's explanation to Lee was phrased thus: "So long as you are in any way connected with us, we will find it difficult to be friends... Tomorrow, when you are no longer in Malaysia and we are no longer quarrelling either in parliament or in constituencies, we'll be friends again."

Subsequently Goh met Razak and Dr Ismail again In Kuala Lumpur and told him only Lee, Lim Kim San and E.W. Barker knew of the discussions. Lee recorded that Goh then asked him for a written authorisation to continue the explorations and conclude the rearrangements that he could reach, including, a "hiving off" from the federation.

Goh returned from the meeting to report that Razak wanted a total hiving off, subject to confirmation that 1) Lee was in favour, and 2) the PAP must support it. Goh had told him on 1), "Yes, provided it is done quickly before Lee's commitment and involvement in the Solidarity Convention makes it impossible for him to get out." Razak was relieved for he had "half expected" Lee to reject the idea.

Goh, like the good soldier he always had been, acted as per instructions, and history should accord him the correct interpretation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Conversation With A Wine Connoiseur

The title of the Sunday Times "foodie" article "A Vino With My Zi Char" should have been a giveaway. A wine connoiseur who risks his keenly developed palate for hawker foodfare?

The 50-year old former marketing consultant, whose market crashed after the collapse of the Twin Towers of Sep 11, had set up his Le Vigne wine shop in expat haven Holland Grove Road. So far so good, the French name, the foreigner-trap location. Even the language sounds typical of what is expected to be regurgitated from a wine connoiseur, "Regardless of the price, the balance between fruit and acid, oak and tannins is essential for an enjoyable wine." Even more impressively, he predicts the next big trend in fermented grape juice, "Argentinian Malbec red wine. Once used extensively in Bordeaux blends, the grape does very well on its own, offering deep dark richness in fruit and colour. It often attains very high levels of complexity, while at the same time, it can be velvety and silky." Now, we don't know if this free infomation nugget is culled from books, websites or attending wine tastings, his choice of source for knowledge on the subject.

Then came the $64,000 question. If you could invite someone living or dead to a meal with you, who would you choose? Eurasian Lewis Mitchell, married to Patrican Brtton who, we are told, worked in the wine industry for 16 years, both calling themselves Singaporeans, the oenophile responded thus:
"Prophet Muhammad. He is the most influential person in history."

Or we get it, the treasured Thomson Family Shiraz and Langmeil Freedom will be accompanied by halal char siew rice.

Before the Al Qaeda types waste time plotting a hit, this man's answer to the reporter's final question, "What would your last meal be?":
"I'm not going to die, so this is not relevant to me."

In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
And they say beer kills brain cells.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Legacy Of Bull Dozers

Everybody loves pushing pins into voodoo dolls of civil servants. These are the fat cat bureaucrats who hide behind closeted doors and make life miserable for the ordinary men, while feasting on their income taxes. The Singapore breed is even worse, with their world class paychecks which adfford them pastry cooking lessons in France. Instead of logic and persuasion, they bully their way to get their pipe dreams implemented.

Case one is this Low Sin Leng who wanted a $2 million budget to put a computer in each school. It probably never crossed her mind that one singular keyboard could hardly serve the needs of the 100+ teachers and 100s more students in any one school. A more decent canteen could service more. When approval from the Budget Division wasn't forthcoming, in her own words, "I bulldozed it." She made a telephone call to Minister Goh Keng Swee, who assigned two "big shots", Goh Kim Leong (Permanent Secretary for Education) and Philip Yeo (Permanent Secretary for Defence) as "body guards" for her approval meeting with the outnumbered and outflanked Permanent Secretrary of the Ministry of Finance Budget Division. Even if George Bogaars had no love of horses, he wouldn't have relished the prospect of waking up next to a severed head on this bed.

Case two is Ngiam Tong Dow with his brainwave of auctioning out "hot" numbers for car licence plates to address the bribery problem of clerks at the Registry of Vehicles exchanging cash for favours. The Auditor General, quite correctly, gave him a piece of his mind, "Ngiam Tong Dow, how dare you tax without a law behind it? You have no right. It's illegal taxation." This was way before David Frost got Nixon to shock a nation, "I'm saying that when the President does it, that means its's not illegal." Not only did Ngiam do away with the law, with the connivance of Hochstadt Herman, Permanent Secretary, Budget, he started an accounting entry called "Miscellaneous" to park all the extra cash collected. From the slippery slope right there, everything has to be downhill. Ngiam had the same "mentor" in Goh Keng Swee.

Chua Miu Hoong's book, "Pioneers Once More: The Singapore Public Service 1959-2009", was probably intentioned to sing odes to a coterie of selected Mandarins, but the unintended skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard like the flood waters at Bukit Timah canal after a thunderstorm.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Children Of A Higher Calibre

"What I cannot do now is my own SMS because it is too small and I cannot find the buttons to press the SMS... I am told that the iPad is big and quite easy to work and I will earn how to do that."

We don't know whether the speaker was referring to the size of the mobile or the keypad but we are able to infer from his less than perfect sentence construction, which definitely sounds more Singlish than English, that he does not even know the keys for composing an SMS are the same for using the phone. Maybe his octogenarian eyes need the larger buttons of say, an iPhone virtual keypad. Using the iPad for SMS? That must be one of the useless applications Philip Yeo had in mind.

The same "expert" also advised the Japanese at the Nikkei organised international symposium on the "Future of Asia", held on 20 May 2010 in Tokyo, to choose immigrants who can be assimilated more easily. "If I were Japanese, I would not want to go beyond people who look like Japanese. I will choose people from the high end, so that the children will also be of a higher calibre." If the future of Asia is to be race supremist and discriminatory as prescribed, then surely Adolf Hitler deserves an apology.

But Lee Kuan Yew's racial bias is not new, and best illustrated by what he told a University of Singapore audience on 27 December 1967:
"Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and each needing a blood fusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asia was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development."

Some say it's poetic justice that God gave him as grandchildren, an albino and autistics. He himself, like his own daughter, is dyslexic. So much for "children of a higher calibre."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Have The Right To A Lawyer, But Not In Singapore

Opening the parliamentary debate on proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). Law Minister Shanmugam spelt out the principles that underpin the Singapore administration of justice:
" should not be a system which gives the offender every possible technicality to escape conviction." The corollary of this is that the police has always been given every technicality to ensure conviction, regardless of innocence or guilt.

Said lawyer and MP Michael Palmer, "For too long, defence lawyers had to operate in the dark without sight of any statements or evidence until the trial." This bugbear of criminal lawyers, who say they become aware of what they are up against only when the trial starts. Rules of discovery, what's that? Singapore police are also given the discretion to decide whether an accused person may see a lawyer, which would normally be available when investigations are finally over, typically weeks or even months later. Talk about stacking the cards.

Dwelling on same subject, Palmer asked why the Government threw out a recommendation by the Law Society that an accused person be told of his right to a lawyer upon his arrest. "We should not shy away from ensuring that the accused person's rights are safeguarded and that he is aware of those fundamental rights. " he said. All those hours watching Hollywood movies have defracted us from the ugly truth, that Singapore is a Disneyland with a hanging sentence.

Undaunted, Shanmugan made it clear, lest he has to apologise later for giving the wrong impression like fellow Minister Ng Eng Hen recently did, he will not budge from what would appear to civilised nations as an obvious aberation of human rights: "In Singapore, the law is that the right to counsel may not be exercised immediately upon request, but only within a reasonable time." Period, end of debate. Of course, "reasonable time" is as defined by Big Brother.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mother Of Sweetheart Deals

"The high weighting given to mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is now under review and could be reduced," said Minister of Education Ng Eng Hen in an interview with The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao on 21 April.

Then on 11 May, Ng claimed, "In my interview, I said MOE was looking at options to address the over-emphasis on exams, where “MTL counts for so much in the PSLE.” The MTL Review Committee has not proposed any change to the PSLE scoring system. But I should have chosen my words more carefully and apologise for creating that wrong impression."

For a while English speakers in Singapore were left wondering what and where was the unambiquity in the original statement. Could there be that much difference between their competency of the English language, and the linguistic ability of the Minister?

Bu Ng is now insisting that government statements on the issue has been "clear and direct", with "no need for Mr Low to interpret them further." Mr Low Thia Khiang had earlier made a press statement that the reassurances made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ng at a media conference last Tuesday were tantamount to the Government making several commitments on the teaching and standing of the mother tongue in schools, key of which were:
1) the Government would never again review the subjects's weighting in the PSLE;
2) that it would give the mother tongue "the same weighting in terms of teaching hours" as other primary school subjects.

Reverting again to his manipulation of the English language, Ng (who can't speak Mandarin to save his own life) responded that it was not desirable for the Ministry of Education to prescribe how many hours on the teaching on the mother tongue (and whose responsibility is it then, pray tell?), and in the same breathe, stressed that the MOE was putting more resources into the teaching of the mother tongue in schools, resources which apparently will not be directed to maintaining the same hours of teaching the Chinese language. And in an obvious attempt to waive off accountability for which he is handsomely paid, Ng made it crystal clear that the final proposals will be made by a committee chaired by Director-General of Education Ho Peng. And it will take 10 to 15 years to implement. That's 10 to 15 more (good) years of $2 million annual renumeration, before the taxpayers get to see the product they will be paying for, and he can't even be held responsible for the ultimate mess.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Nation Should Honour Its Heroes

In Chinese funerals, the wake typically lasts for 3, 5 or 7 days, always an odd number, the length being an indication of the family's financial standing. His wife had said she wanted a private funeral, but she had to defer to a request from the Government. When Goh Keng Swee's father died in 1971, he too had insisted on a private funeral, and newspapers were requested not to report on the event. But George Yeo claimed a state funeral will allow Singaporeans to "pay their respects to a founding father of the nation", a public ceremony which was denied the former President Ong Teng Cheong. That means at least 9 more days before the hard-working Goh Keng Swee will be allowed the final rest he so richly derserved.

In Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs it was claimed the life of a boy shot in the riots could have been saved if the communists had not insisted on parading his body around, making political mileage out of a personal tragedy. "Instead of taking him straight to the hospital, however, the other students put him on a lorry and paraded him around the town for three hours, so that by the time he was brought there he was dead from a wound in the lung." (The Singapore Story, page 203). But what is one life if another martyr could stoke up the fire of politics?

Since Friday, when Goh passed away at the age of 91, the local papers and and television media have broadcasted an endless parade of political personalities who trotted out to file past his lifeless body, and the photo opportunity. Goh was incapacitated for a whole decade after suffering a stroke, one wonders how many of those featured called on him while he was still alive? Neighbors of his Dunbar Walk residence could only recall the solitary evening walks with his wife, before he was confined to a wheelchair. Many who knew of his identity dared not speak to him, "We don't feel like we can just approach him," said one. Just another lonely senior citizen forgotten by society at large.

The accolades were piled on, the gratuitous as well as the well deserved. Credited for creating more acronymns than ever printed in one single article - EDB, DBS, POSB, MAS, MOF, GIC, MOE, SAF, JTC, SIA, JSL, etc - if Al Gore hadn't beaten him to it, they would have said he invented the internet as well. And there were the crocodile tears. After stepping down as Deputy Prime Minister in 1984 (the official spiel is that he "retired for personal reasons"), Goh Keng Swee the undisputed architect of Singapore's economic powerhouse, was not given a cabinet position or senior minister/mentor role, despite his invaluable wealth of information which will surely exceed the capacity of the largest thumb drive currently available. Instead he was despatched to China to help Zhao Ziyang with economic reforms. Yes, that Premier Zhao Ziyang who later fell out of favour with Deng Xiaoping and secretly recorded his memoirs on children's cassette tapes while under house arrest. 1984 was also the time when ministerial salaries started its exponential climb to astronomical heights, which must have left Goh and the other Old Guards like Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye gasping in sheer disbelief.

Dr Toh Chin Chye, possibly the last of the Mohicans, also spends his retirement days quietly, away from the public eye. The Straits Times featured Toh twice in 2005 and 2006 respectively, once on May 2, 2005 to pay his last respects to former president Wee Kim Wee. In February 2006, Toh was featured again in The Straits Times paying his last respects to the late former Deputy Prime Minister S. Rajaratnam at his home in Chancery Lane. In the 2009 launch of their Men In White book, the authors mentioned that when they took Dr Toh out for a drive, he did not know the building with the spiky roof is the Esplanade. Singapore has to have a better way to treat its real heroes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

That Sinking Feeling For Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew

Anyone but the daft Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew, could see that his ruling on March 12, which stipulated that all exclusive content deals signed from that day would have to be carried by other pay-TV operators, was a contradiction in terms. Meriam and many other dictionaries define the term "exclusive" as "limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group".

Lui thought he could apply the wisdom of Solomon to solve the problem which stemmed from SingTel nabbing the exclusive contract to broadcast English Premier League games from StarHub last October by overpaying to the tune of several hundred million dollars. Unlike the second-hand submarines he bought for Singapore as Chief of Navy, this issue is not so easily hidden underwater.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) said on 13th May the move hurts Singapore's investment environment and deprives "content owners and creators of their freedom to negotiate contracts in a competitive market". More seriously, the new rules actually breach the rights of content owners under an international copyright treaty, the WTO's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement and the US-Singapore bilateral trade agreement. "Singapore is now in a situation of contravention of all three agreements," said the Hong Kong-based group. Mr Simon Twiston Davies, Casbaa's chief executive officer, said ultimately consumers will suffer as the ruling discourages content distributors from offering new and improved products. Casbaa represents 130 content producers, pay-TV platform operators and equipment and service suppliers in 16 Asian markets, including global competitors such as BBC Worldwide, Bloomberg Television, Disney Media Distribution and Sony Pictures Television.

"The Government and the regulator, the MDA, have made a serious miscalculation of the damage to Singapore's economic interests through this excessively broad regulatory decision," said Mr Twiston Davis.

For over more than a decade, Singapore has made most notable progress in the region when attracting international content companies to the country, despite its repressive measures such as banning the public use of satellite dishes which are easily available in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. With one step, Lui has brought the nation back to the stone age.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Secret Goh Is Carrying To His Grave

Dr Goh Keng Swee, sidelined since December 1984 after being bitterly forced to make way for the next generation of PAP political appointees, probably carried many untold tales to his final resting place. He died early Friday morning after battling a long illness.

For most of us, 9th August is just another occasion to retell the narrative of Singapore born as a fledging nation after being unceremoniously expelled from Malaysia; the materially successful transition from vulnerable reject to accomplished cosmopolitan city-state, marshalled single handedly by modern founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

The story of expulsion romanticizes Lee as a strongman capable of steering the nation to overcome and exceed the difficulties of the early years. The mythology has Singapore, vulnerable and reluctantly thrust into independence, finding inspiration and courage in Lee, and Lee alone.

In Melanie Chew’s Leaders of Singapore, pages 146 on, an interview with Dr Goh Keng Swee reveals two stark truths that goes against the grain of the mainstream narrative:
1) that the separation was negotiated, and that
2) the governance of Singapore in the immediate months post-independence was at best in a state of constitutional abeyance.

Divulging a hitherto state secret, Goh Keng Swee recited from a file codenamed Albatross:
“It should be done quickly, and before we get more involved in the Solidarity Convention.”
‘It’ referred to the separation of Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia. Goh said that:
… on the 20th of July 1965, I met Tun Razak and Dr Ismail. Now this is the 20th July, 1965. [emphasis his] I persuaded him that the only way out was for Singapore to secede, completely.
… I said, “You want to get Singapore out, and it must be done very quickly. And very quietly, and presented as fait accompli.”
According to Goh, Tun Razak and Dr Ismail ‘were in agreement with the idea’. A second meeting took place on the 26th of July. He admitted later that secession ‘was not’ foisted on Singapore.

With this revelation, of which there is no official disclosure as of yet, and will never be, not at least when the senior Lee or his son is still alive, it will be nebulous to suggest that Singapore on the 9th of August was an independent nation thrust unwillingly into a dystopia of gloom and doom. Instead, Goh, a principal architect of modern Singapore’s finance, defence and education bureaucracy, was able to visualize a Singapore independent of a Malaysian hinterland on the 20th of July 1965, and provided hope and optimism – however embryonic – for a new nation in need of true leadership. This has been unfortunately obfuscated in the official spiel, and Goh remains unrewarded with the millions his less worthy successors have been helping themselves to.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Applications For Apple Dummies

Apple is not amused. Philip Yeo, previously chairman of Singapore's Agency for Science and Technology Research, was giving a talk at the Fullerton-St Joseph's Institution when he was asked what he thought of the Ipad. Yeo said that the money Apple makes is not on the Ipad hardware, but from the prices that people are willing to pay for "all kinds of useless applications." You don't want to watch this if your name is Steve Jobs.

Before they take down the YouTube video, here's what Philip Yeo said:
"The money that Apple makes is not in the assets, it's in software. The money is made from Apple store, you must understand that, so there is where people buy 99 cents, one dollar, all kinds of useless applications, but they like it.
You know what I mean, you need gullible customers to make money. If you have intelligent customers....
I always tell my daughter, try to make a product to sell to the dummies. 'Cos there are 99% dummies, maybe 1 or 2 percent genius, there are very few (in the) market you see."

There's truth in what the man says. The money that the PAP makes is not in the assets, but from the sweat and toil of the common people (aka "lesser mortals" and "dummies"). What former civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow calls the "little Lee Kuan Yews" like Philip Yeo are sitting on top of the food chain, feeding useless policies (aka "applications") to the dummies. The 1 or 2 percent who took the Red Pill have already voted with their legs.

Take the anguish of learning Mandarin in schools, that 30 year old mistake of the octogenarian. Philip Yeo was once visiting China when a reporter asked him why, as a Chinese born, Yeo could not speak the language. Yeo's reply was that he has no need to speak the language as someone else can speak it for him.

To appease the upset Apple fans, Yeo has told the Straits Times he has placed an order for the Ipad. No doubt, someone will be making use of the (useless) applications for him.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ng Eng Hen Eating Humble Pie

Wednesday edition of the Straits Times carries a lot of 3D pictures and ads, but fortunately or unfortunately, the scowl on Ng Eng Hen's face was only in 2D.

Obviously one very unhappy man, made to retract his proposal of lowering the weightage of the Chinese language requirement for the PSLE examinations in the face of strong protest from the public, Ng is not used to not getting his way. To save face, he said, "I think I should have chosen my words more carefully and apologise for creating the wrong impression (to reduce the mother tongue weightage)." Since he can't speak Mandarin to save his life, his earlier interview with The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao that broadcasted the planned changes was in English. In that interview, Ng was quoted saying his Ministry of Education was looking at options to address the over emphasis on exams, where "mother tongue language account for so much in the PSLE." So does that mean Singaporeans' command of English is too inept to comprehend his announcement? Maybe Ng will keep the weightage for Chinese, but increase the weightage for English?

The truth is that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is frightful of the impact on the coming elections. In 1992 new Chinese textbooks with more cultural content were introduced to appease the Chinese-speaking community, many of whom were said to have voted against the PAP in the 1991 General Elections, and resulted in 4 seats falling to the opposition.

Once upon a time, Lee Kuan Yew had to retreat when union members protested strongly against the appointment of Lim Chee Onn as union chief. Lee promised that would be the one and only time he gives in to public pressure. After all, it was his boast that his party was one who will not run away from unpopular decisions. Amongst other things, Lim had ruffled feathers by stating, "When union leaders seek only to court popularity and defend their irresponsibility in acceding to wrong decisions on the ground that are the servants of their members, they betray the responsibilities of their office." ("Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party", by Diane K. Mauzy, Robert Stephen Milne - 2002)

Ng must be pondering, or fuming, over the betrayal by his paymaster. Maybe he should have stayed on in the private sector, and earn the 5-times ministerial salary he claims to be foregoing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

London-based Global Witness reported that Cambodia's sand-dredging industry has threatened endangered species, fish stocks and local livelihoods, despite the government's May 2009 ban on sand-dredging. The report said it has tracked boats being loaded with sand in Cambodia and heading to their destination in Singapore.

Singapore was the world's largest importer of sand in 2008 and has used sand imports to increase its landmass by 22 per cent since the 1960s. This development has wreaked havoc on the region's coastlines, with Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia having all announced bans on sand dredging for export due to environmental concerns.

"We are committed to the protection of the global environment, and we do not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries' laws and rules on environmental protection," claimed Singapore's Ministry of National Development, which is headed by Mah Bow Tan. Quite naturally, the buck will never stop at his desk. "The policing and enforcement of sand extraction licenses is ultimately the responsibility of the source country," it added, neatly shoving the responsibility to Cambodia.

In June this year, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, which promotes 'sustainable and liveable cities'. "Singapore says that the import of sand is a purely commercial activity but it also presents itself as a regional leader on environmental issues," sniffed Global Witness' Boden. Short of calling a spade a spade, he added, "If Singapore wants its environmental stance to be taken seriously, monitoring where the sand is sourced and what is being done to obtain it would be an obvious place to start."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Andrea Bocelli Performs For The Privileged

It was billed as a treat for Singaporeans, Andrea Bocelli's free concert at the Botanic Gardens on Saturday. But not everyone got to see him in the flesh, not even on the big projection screen set up on the rain drenched lawns.  Even the public carpark was closed to the general public, only invited guests and cronies were allowed exclusive access.

Among the supposedly 5,000 seated VVIP audience was Singapore President S R Nathan, who got to watch it free as one of the many perks of his $3 million a year "job".  Bocelli was accompanied by the Singapore Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Eugene Kohn.

YTL Corporation (named after founder Malaysian Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr. Yeoh Tiong Lay) managing director Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh was frank enough to admit it was his way of expressing "gratitude" to the city-state (read key government officials) for allowing the foreigner to buy up choice investments in the country.  Among the company's strategic acquisitions here was power generation company Power Seraya. Pulau Seraya Power Station was Singapore's first offshore power station. Operating 9 units of 250MW oil-fired steam generating sets and 2 units of gas turbine with an installed capacity of 3,100MW, it is the second largest power generation company in Singapore, meeting over 40% of the nation's power needs.

Once upon a time, utility companies like power generation and waterworks were considered important security sensitive operations for the country and should always be kept out of the purely money motivated private sector. YTL made their money in power plants because Malaysia could not build sufficient plants for their power grid. Not so Singapore, who did not have the same financial and infrastructure constraints.  The sale of the nation's security asset can only be justified by the rambuctious greed of the bureaucrats responsible.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Renaming Marina Bay to Construction Bay

When the organising committee of the 20th Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) conference was promised the "unmatched guest experience" by Marina Bay Sands (MBS), they got more than they bargained for.

Delegates at the 5-star MBS Hotel spent their first night without air-conditioning. Guests had to use their mobile phones because the room telephones were not working. Some rooms had no hot water or working toilet flushes. At the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, sound quality in the conference rooms was poor, and meetings were interrupted by noise from the ongoing construction works. An IPBA committee meeting had to be convened along a corridor because of loud piped music playing in the meeting room - MBS could not turn off the music because "the sound engineer was not around". And oh, the power went off for more than 30 minutes on Tuesday when the Chief Justice of Australia's New South Wales was speaking.

"The conference has been world class. the venue was presented to us as going to be world class. Sadly, it is not yet world class... I think we should rename Marina Bay Sands to Construction Bay," delegate Axel Reeg from Germany told the assembled lawyers at the AGM. Oh no, Development Minister Mah Bow Tan paid Interbrand $400,000 to rename Marina Bay (to Marina Bay), will the taxpayers' funds be raided again?

Despite promises by Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of MBS parent company Las Vegas Sands that the Integrated Resort (IR) would welcome guests only when it was good and ready, the resort was obviously rushed to open for business in April, with the official opening still scheduled for June.

When lawyers at Chinese restaurant Imperial Treasure were stuck because the only exit lifts were out of order, and the only alternative route was to walk through the casino, they were asked to pay the $100 entry levy. Well, the IR was certainly up and ready for the real business intent of the complex, the gambling part. The MICE (Meetings, International Conference, Events) aspect was just a cover, just as Universal Studios is the cover for the Resort World Sentosa, the other den of vice rushed through parliament by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ng Eng Hen's Waterloo?

Officials of the Singapore Chinese Teachers' Union (SCTU), representing 1,600 Chinese teachers in Singapore,  met with Education Minister Ng Eng Hen  for 1 1/2-hours to express their concerns over a possible cut in the weighting given to mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Currently, mother tongue has a weighting of 25 per cent, similar to that for English, Mathematics and Science, the other three subjects in the PSLE.

In its statement, the union called for this weighting to be preserved "so that it is more in line with the principle of bilingualism and further strengthens the competitive advantage of Singapore in developing bilingual talents".  The alternative could mean reduced Chinese lessons and redundancies in their profession.

The source of the pain is traceable to Lee Kuan Yew's insistence on bilingualism, which he finally admitted in 2009 was “wrong”. His flawed policy caused generations of students to be put off by the Chinese language, and ruined the lives of many who lost out on a tertiary education because of the Mandarin requirement. In a startling reversal of his eugenics fixation, Lee admitted "Nobody can master two languages at the same level. If (you think) you can, you're deceiving yourself. My daughter is a neurologist, and late in my life she told me language ability and intelligence are two different things," he said. If only her daughter had the temerity to tell her father of his misconceptions, much, much earlier.

While Singaporean parents anguished in haplessness as their children suffered in school, the Ministry of Education turned a deaf ear.  However when it was revealed all but one of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's seven grandchildren dislike speaking Mandarin and face difficulties learning Chinese, they suddenly decided to change tack. To the extreme that they talked of requiring Mandarin proficiency in reading and speaking only,  without having to learn to write in the language.

The union is treading on thin ice. In a different era, they could have been arrested for chauvinism, for championing the Chinese language. Just ask lawyer Tang Liang Hong, who was accused of being an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim Chinese chauvinist by the ruling People's Action Party during the electoral battle royale of 1997. Just ask Lee Mau Seng and the detained Nanyang Siang Pau executives who were accused of arousing communal sentiments over the Chinese language. In defense, one of them had said, "Singapore consists of a majority of Chinese. And being a Chinese-language paper, we naturally would encourage the study of the Chinese-language."

And whatever happened to the pugnacious Ng Eng Hen who put down the university dons who dared document the truth that more new jobs were going to foreigners? Why is he turning chicken in front of these Chinese teachers and not calling in the ISD goon squad? It figures, election is round the corner.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Lonely President

Writing a book about yourself is fraught with dangers. There are always hidden skeletons poking through the old cupboards.

Talking to SR Nathan about his book entitled, "Why Am I Here?", ironically a question often asked by many Singaporeans who wondered about the wisdom of paying him $3 million to stay in the Istana, the journalist had probably assumed some heroic acts during the Occupation years.
"Did defying the Japanese soldiers embolden you so?"
"No, it was the other way round," admitted selected elected President Nathan.

Apparently It all started with a Japanese lieutenant asking him: "What is your nationality?" As he hemmed and hawed  to avoid admitting he was Straits born, and thus likely to be locked up or worse, they found out he was Indian. "Okay, why don't you learn Japanese for a change? We'll be here for some time."
So he learned Japanese and they gave him "entry to many things". Whether you were meeting the district officer or the sultan, you had a certain daring, he said.  It figures.  When your godfather wields a Samurai sword, a bit of swagger is expected. To be fair to the 85 year old, he was not the only collaborator with the enemy during the terrible days when Singapore was Syonan-to. Writing in his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew confessed doing translation work for the Japanese occupiers, and who knows how many brave lives of resistance fighters were lost due to his diligence.

Even in peace time, there was always a benefactor.  Journalists protested against his appointment as executive chairman of The Straits Times Press in 1982. Nathan dismisses their outrage with: "That? Nothing. I'd had seen bigger strikes than that! They were wearing black armbands and jumping about." Maybe they should have worn Red Shirts to send a stronger message.

Living such a life, he must naturally attract only fair weather friends. "Each time I changed a job, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sent me somewhere else, they would say, 'This fellow is finished.' Then they see me bouncing back and they come back to you." Apparently this happens to him a lot. "Time and again, I've seen this. Sometimes their wives are even nastier; they can write you off faster than their husbands..."

Perhaps, if he had earned his position in society, he may actually acquire some real friends.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Definitely Out Of His Depth

"The first thing you learn as a small country is to act small and humble. If you go around telling people what to do, they will say, 'You're out of your depth, you don't understand my problems.'

So we keep our mouths shut unless we are asked..." Lee Kuan Yew told the delegates of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association on Sunday.

So has the octogenarian finally learnt his lesson? Most of the neighbouring countries long suffered his uninvited barbs, such as the Philippines, who was insulted as a democracy gone overboard. When he ventured in unsolicited advice on the China-Taiwan issue, Deng Xiaoping, supposedly his ardent fan, told him off in no uncertain terms, "This is between family, you are not family."

But just before the audience thought he had finally mellowed, he's telling the international gathering of legal minds that Shanghai is missing the command of English to become a global banking centre. "You have the brains, and you'll have all the accountants, lawyers and none of yours will be able to speak and work in English and the banking business is in English," he told a lawyer from Shanghai. Someone else then reminded Lee about Tokyo's financial prowess despite its apparent lack of English speakers. Hmm, Korea is doing quite well in their national language too, thank you. Like his French countrymen, who'd rather have a tooth pulled than speak English, Jean-Pierre Lafon, president of the Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE), even delivered a speech at the Shanghai Expo opening ceremony in Chinese.

And what if China, with the strengthening yuan that they refused to revalue, decides to establish a new world banking order? Won't IMF and the like have to start learning Mandarin? China just spent US$30 billion for the Shanghai Expo, if that doesn't draw the attention of the banking community, what will?

Lee narrated the conversation a Singaporean, not an official, had with a Chinaman. In the evening, he was drinking with the Chinese friend, China-Chinese friend, and the China-Chinese says, 'How old is your country?' '40 years.' 'Mine is 5,500 years.'

Lee should learn from that man, ("They got 5,500 years of experience, what more do you want?"), and keep his trap shut.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Origins Of Lim Shee Shee

The ST reporter claims netizens have mocked him online, dubbing him "the most moronic minister for his illogical tales, broken English and bad slogans."

"I was never strong in language. When I speak in Mandarin, people think I'm English-educated. Then when I speak in Enslish, people think I'm Chinese-educated. One day, Catholic High invited me to be the guest of honour for its anniversary. I went on stage; I was very frank with them because they wanted me to speak in Mandarin. So I told them, ' tonight, you'll know I'm Chinese-educated, and my Chinese sucks'."

Lim Swee Say's speech impediment is legendary, but he also confesses his weakness with sentence structure. His excuse for problems with "singular and plural, past tense, present tense, future tense, and I don't know what tense," is this: "When I speak, if I focus on the structure, then I distracted from my content." Okay, that explains the defective logic in his story of the frog who climbed his way up a tower inspite of taunting and verbal castigation of his critics because he was deaf. The same frog could inexplicably hear the question posed to him at the end of his story. For the record, the story was not narrated in perfect English either.

Life is full of ironies. Before his eventual fall from grace, the unpopular Minister of National Development Teh Cheang Wan was once defended by then prime minister Kuan Yew in parliament, "He may not be able to string a complete sentence in grammatical English, but he has a good mind." To which, Teh proceeded to apply in ernest. But we digress.

So how did Lim pass his oral exams and clear the Public Service Commission interview for his scholarship to study engineering in Britain? None of that matters after he collected his piece of paper, because the Singapore meritocracy system then guarantees the scholar can do no wrong, irrespective of the damage he continues to inflict on the human language.

Desperate to credit him for some achievement, we are told that Lim, as Environmental Minister, "was instrumental in getting Singaporeans to drink recycled water - Newater." So now we know who is responsible for injecting up to 5 percent of shit water into the reservoirs. For his contribution, Lim recalls unabashedly to the reporter, he was renamed Lim Shee Shee, local dialect for "drink urine".

In a perverse way, it all makes sense. Lim also reveals how he chooses to flush out negative thoughts - when he is sitting on the toilet bowl. "That is the time I clear my mind. I think about strategies, issues, what to say at the May Day rally." Too bad the crap also comes out of the other body orifice.