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.

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