Monday, May 16, 2011

A House Divided

MP for Jurong GRC Mdm Halimah Yacob claims the decision of MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong to leave their Cabinet positions was "not sudden". She was speaking to reporters during a community event on Saturday. It was reported that PM Lee Hsien Loong didn't confirm that he would accept their resignations from the Government. We are told he said it's a "major event" and would like to take a couple of days to think before deciding. It looks like Halimah Yacob is the only one who is not surprised by the turn of events. Even junior was caught off guard.

When someone makes a dramatic change in career plans, there're always the push and the pull factors. Since both ministers will lose their executive perks like 24/7 Gurkha security posted outside their residences, and the phalanx of Security Officers escorting them wherever they go, pull factor has to be on the low side. They might even fret about not having access to the VVIP lounge at Changi Airport, or picking up their own luggage from the carousel, as Goh Keng Swee did when faced with the retirement scenario. Charlie Rose might not be calling for another interview any time soon either.

Halimah Yacob also fantasized that the decision was not made as a result of the election. The watershed election, as we recall, started with the shedding of copious amount of water from Lim Boon Heng's tear ducts, and it was downhill from there onwards. SM Goh made it clear at one point that the election campaign was solely under the charge of PM Lee, and no one else. It was PM Lee who distanced himself and his cabinet from MM Lee who had urged local Muslims to "be less strict on Islamic observances". And at the conclusion of the profuse apologies rendered at Boat Quay, he made it abundantly clear that "we don’t try to do it MM’s style". In an instant, he dusted off the efforts of his father's generation, relegating it to the trash bin of history - "it’s a different generation from the Singaporeans who worked with you and built this Singapore in the 1950s, in the 1960s and ‘70s" - to make way for " me, my team, and we are taking it forward ... but doing it our way".

The new internet generation and social media crowd shouldn't be hasty to take credit for the push factors. Professor Ang Peng Hwa of Nanyang Technological University, reported: "We're trying to do this research project and were trying to look for a place where a pro-PAP blogger post would blog. We couldn't find a pro-PAP blog. The only pro-PAP blog was the PAP itself!" Lest we forget, there's still a large number of baby boomers who swear by the old brand name. And one million HDB owners scared stiff about negative asset enhancement. Not to mention those Civil Service card carrying members who hesitate to be seen standing next to an opposition candidate. It would take a couple of more punches to knock the incumbents out. Like the one telling constituency members they would have "five years to repent" if they voted for the opposition.

"The retirement of LKY was long overdue, as he has been seen as disconnecting from contemporary Singaporeans," said Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at the Singapore Management University. Whether that contemporary lot refers to the population at large or within party ranks remains to be seen.


  1. True reform will include the possibility of the ruling party loosening their hold over the various instruments and institutions which control society. I doubt if this is the sort of reform that has been envisaged. All reforms will be designed with the assumption that the current party in government remain the ultimate power broker.

  2. "We're trying to do this research project and were trying to look for a place where a pro-PAP blogger post would blog. We couldn't find a pro-PAP blog. The only pro-PAP blog was the PAP itself!"

    Before 1949, did you find any peasant villages in China mountainous areas who were pro-nationalist government? Contemporary China history tells us that nationalist China government had little control in vast mountainous areas where the Communist Mao could develop its power base. Of course, at that time the communist Mao had play the card well to show they cared for the peasants whereas the nationalist government had lost touch of the ground, was not accountable and not transparent though they had control of cities. But, at that time peasant population was much bigger than city dwellers.

    It is not hard to see the similarity between the 1990s China and current Singapore case. In this information age, the internet or social media is like the "vast peasant mountainous land" that the government has difficulty to control and the Singapore MSM is like the "cities" that were controlled by the nationalist Chinese government. The bloody Chinese revolution started from within the peasant's mountainous areas and eventually consolidated into communist taking over China. Likewise, we can say that in Singapore the non-bloody revolution has actually started in the internet space and it is not hard to image the consequence. The Singapore alternative parties have actually used the internet to their advantage to expose the PAP's weaknesses. On the other hand, the PAP's controlled MSM has all the actions against the alternative parties and opposing individuals. Now, there are many fragments of alternative parties and individual voices on the internet. They will converge soon to represent a powerful voice against the PAP and the government (leaders will emerge like Mao and others before the new China). If the PAP cannot reform itself to a first world parliament that has total accountability and transparency, sooner or later an alternative party could well be the next government. PAP government must understand what the new generation wants or risk to be ousted one day by the 'revolution' from the internet or social media. One thing for sure is that 'revolution' (or Singaporeans call it 'change' or 'political reform') will not exist if the government has the hearts of the people. This seems a repeat of the China communist revolution except that this happens in a different form and on a different time and space.

  3. Looks like the asset enhancement scheme or in simple terms, property bubble, will be pricked slowly as the person who gave birth to the idea will be retrenched. Dead wood will also be cleared and we may have more hard working MPs soon. After all, they are paid handsomely to do so.

  4. "We are told he ..... would like to take a couple of days to think before deciding".

    Don't tell me he is trying to consider using the same trick that they had used on his wife leaving Temasek Holdings ?

  5. Surely LHL communicates with old fart more frequently than before, now that mdm Kwa is not around. I am inclined to believe the famiLee met up with old fart to discuss his resignation over lunch, dinner, supper, and very likely, came up with the idea to include(getridof) woody Goh...
    It appears Halimah is able to anticipate the famiLee's business strategy. LOL

    As to whether old fart and woody Goh will lose their privileges, LHL only need to put in place a ruling whereby ex-PMs will still retain most of their privileges that are connected to security, customs, immigration, etc.
    This will benefit LHL too.

    Having said that, my perception of LHL as a weak leader will not change one bit, not until he puts his own house in order first!
    Retiring his old man is the first step, and he need not procrastinate.
    Next, he must convince HoChing to retire as well. These 2 big steps with a "double confirm" is imperative for LHL.
    It will make kicking the asses of WongKS, MahBT, RaymondL, NgEH, etc, so much easier.

  6. Obviously Prof Ang doesn't read Xiaxue.

  7. @Anonymous May 16, 2011 4:29Pm
    Xiaxue is not exactly a very well-informed girl for the most part. She comes across as not only shallow and materialistic, but more so, stupid, in the nature of the material she posts in her blogs. I doubt that the PAP wants to find a dumb, uninformed girl to be their poster-girl lol......

  8. Haha..

    it seems that MP Halimah knew more than anybody else about Cabinet Affairs.

    How's that so?