Friday, April 30, 2010

Reason For Outrage

Romanian Ambassador Aurelian Neagu must have been trying hard not to laugh when the Singapore MFA officials asked, not once, but three times, "whether the Romanian government would consider attending the private party of a karaoke lounge hostess in a karaoke lounge part of the official diplomatic functions of the head of a diplomatic mission". What better place to find out what really goes on in a country, where hair is let down and lips are loosened by the generous flow of alcohol! Does one really expect to read about the woes of a philandering telecoms CEO in the Straits Times? Mr Neagu probably had to maintain a straight face when he told the clowns that his government could not decide if Ionescu retained diplomatic immunity pending investigations in Romania.

Even Interpol has suspended its Red Notice of arrest for former Romanian Charges D'Affaires Silviu Ionescu because of disagreements between Singapore and Romania over his diplomatic immunity. Foreign Minister George Yeo had to eat humble pie and told parliament this is "part of Interpol's procedure that if there are differing views, they will pursue the matter further before reactivating the Red Arrest Notice".

And what's so nefarious about karaoke and karaoke lounges? Haven't we seen enough of PAP MPs hoarding the karaoke mikes at various clan dinners? Is the building of two gambling dens of inquity any better contribution to a wholesome society? If Ionescu had taken a ride on the world's highest train in Tibet, would he also have been asked if that was part of his official duty?

And while George Yeo goes on about underestimating the outrage of Singaporeans, he should not forget that the life support system for 30-year-old victim Tong Kok Wai was prematurely disconnected over the objection of his grieving kin so that the hospital can harvest his organs. Madam Yenni Young found herself having to make the most heart rending decision of her life on Christmas Day 2009; doctors at the National University Hospital had given her 48 hours to pull out the plug of her husband. Because he did not sign the Singapore Human Organ Transplants Act (HOTA) opt-out form. A clause in HOTA specifically allows the state to harvest human organs without the need of direct consent from the dead or his immediate family members. Outrageous!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Focus On The Family In Singapore

The Ministry of Education selected 6 out of 17 applicants to run sexuality educcation programmes in schools. One of them is Focus on The Family Singapore.

Focus on the Family (FOTF) was founded by James Clayton "Jim" Dobson, Jr. an American evangelical Christian author and psychologist. Although he has never drawn a salary from the nonprofit organization, he has used it to promote his related books and publications, yielding him royalties for sales through other venues.

Focus on the Family is unabashed about its anti-homosexuality agenda, and was the weapon of choice when self-style Feminist Mentor Thio Su-Mien took on AWARE in 2009.

Dobson is reputedly America's most influential evangelical leader, with a following reportedly greater than that of either Falwell or Robertson at their peak. It has been said Dobson may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida, the man who sent young men to war in the fictitious hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In the winter of 2004-2005, the We Are Family Foundation sent American elementary schools approximately 60,000 copies of a free DVD using popular cartoon characters (most notably Sponge Bob Squarepants) to "promote tolerance and diversity." Dobson contended that "tolerance" and "diversity" are "buzzwords" that the We Are Family Foundation misused as part of a "hidden agenda" to promote homosexuality.

Critics, such as People for the American Way, allege that Focus on the Family encourages Christian teachers to establish prayer groups in public schools.

In his book The Strong-Willed Child, Dobson advocates strong disciplinary action in bringing up children:
“By learning to yield to the loving authority... of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life — his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers".
Michael Fay should be so grateful for the Singapore lesson.

Dobson declined to vote for Senator John McCain, "as a matter of conscience," echoing other conservative commentators' concerns about the Senator's conservatism. Yet, after McCain selected a pro-life candidate, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, Dobson said that he was more enthusiastic in his support for the Republican ticket. When Palin's 17-year old daughter's fatherless pregnancy was revealed, Dobson issued a press release commending Palin's stance, saying,
“ We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way. That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances."

Will the Ministry of Education programme also support illegitimate pregnancies?

Dobson published a "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America" that proposed that an Obama presidency would lead to: mandated homosexual teachings across all schools; the banning of firearms in entire states; the end of the Boy Scouts, home schooling, Christian school groups, Christian adoption agencies, and talk radio; pornography on prime-time and daytime television; mandatory bonuses for gay soldiers; terrorist attacks across America; the nuclear bombing of Tel Aviv; the conquering of most of Eastern Europe by Russia; the end of health care for Americans over 80; out-of-control gasoline prices; and complete economic disaster in the United States, among other catastrophes. Sounds very similar to the Thio Su-Mien who maintained that SARS virus hit Singapore because of the nation’s involvement in abortion as the contraceptive of choice.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More School Boy Debates

Always dwelling on how to "fix the opposition", his own words uttered during the 2006 elections, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong proposed an extra day of non-campaigning as a cooling-off period just before Polling Day, after wrapping up his attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago on December 2009.

Lee had said: “I think 24 hours after the last excitement of the election campaign period, the rallies, the door-to-door campaigning, the adrenaline flowing, the clash in the mass media as well as in person, perambulating vans blaring away loud speakers, it’s good to have 24 hours to just calm down, think about it – tomorrow we vote.”

Under laws passed yesterday, mainstream media outlets would still be allowed to carry election news on cooling-off day. Potong Pasir MP Chiam SeeTong described the introduction of a cooling-off day as a move designed to disadvantage the opposition, "if the PAP really wants a cooling-off day, it should also ban newspaper reports on Polling Day."

Ms Sylvia Lim illustrated how civil servants could be used to circumvent the ban on election advertising:
"For instance, if affordability of housing becomes an election issue, the Ministry of National Development or HDB could announce a change during the cooling-off period, thus taking some heat off the ruling party. By contrast, opposition parties will not be allowed to put out new responses as these will be deemed election advertising as defined under the Act."

Even NMP Viswa Sadavisan, speaking from his experience working in Singapore broadcast media, tactfully told Parliament that the opinions of editors sometimes influence programmes.

Law Minister K Shanmugam refused to admit what Singaporeans already know: the Straits Times being the Pravda of Singapore. Shanmugam cited US based PR firm Edelman that 64 percent of respondents here found newspapers to be the most trusted source of information, but conveniently omitted that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Singapore 144th out of 173 countries in its annual World Press Freedom Ranking in 2008, in line with previous assessments. He should pay heed to his own words:
"If the media are no more than a mouthpiece for one or the other party, Singaporeans will see through that and the credibility of the media will suffer. Then it will not matter much what the media reports." Ditto whatever the minister utters.

When Ms Lim questioned the need of a cooling-off day now, when Singapore had done without one for decades, Shanmugam resorted to "school boy debate" (his own words):
"She says why now, so I ask her, why not now."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Level Of Debate In Singapore Parliament

Minister of Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng asked of opposition NCMP Sylvia Lim, "if the Workers' Party is so fundamentally against the NCMP scheme, would Ms Sylvia Lim now say that she will no longer come back to Parliament?"

Ms Sylvia Lim, the WP chairman and only NCMP in Parliament, had earlier spoken against the scheme and the proposal for its expansion. She said it was merely making the "bad situation" of an undemocratic landscape better. She argued that increasing oppositon numbers through the NCMP scheme did not address what she saw as the skewed nature of the Singapore electoral system. This was manipulated by the system of Group Representation Constituencies as well as practices like gerrymandering by the ruling People's Action Party.

Wong's antics are not too different from the time when he challenged J B Jeyaratnam to take a cut in in MP allowance if Wong were to do so. Jeyaratnam had objected to the astronomical hike in the allowance, which Members of Parliament, and Ministers, get to collect on top of their regular pay. For many new MPs who sneaked into Parliament via the GRC perversion, the obscene sum, currently estimated at $14,000 a month, is substantially higher than what they earn in their day jobs, such as a deputy public prosecutor or middle manager of a software company. Wong's sparring with Jeyaratnam endeared him to Lee Kuan Yew, who once called Jeyaratnam a "mangy dog" in Parliament.

Sylvia Lim dimissed his childish logic by explaining that the decision to take up the NCMP offer after the 2006 election was made because a sizeable number of voters in Aljunied GRC wanted to see her team elected. The WP team she led secured 44 percent of the valid votes there, an overwhelming confirmation of the people's sentiments.

True to form, as personified in the persistent mee pok hawker in MrBrown's famous podcast, Wong went on like a broken record, this time borrowing from Lee Kuan Yew's lame big pie/small pie logic used in defending the skewed immigrant policy:
WONG KAN SENG: What the PAP is trying to do in this situation is not to have its cake and eat it. We're trying to make the cake bigger and give you a piece of it.
LOW THIA KHIANG: But don't forget your cake remains the same, because the elected members remain the same number. What you're trying to do is probably add some dressing, but the Workers' Party (WP) doesn't need that.
WONG KAN SENG: No, we don't need the WP here to be the wallflower. The question is very simple: Is the WP going to take up the (NCMP) seats if we don't have enough (elected) Opposition members?
LOW THIA KHIANG: That's not a system which we will entrench as a political system, but in reality, this is the situation we have to face. It's the same as us opposing the GRC system; it doesn't mean that we don't campaign in the GRC.
WONG KAN SENG: Mr Low can easily refuse to take up the seat, if unfortunately he happens to be - and we welcome his presence here - one of the best losing candidates.
LOW THIA KHIANG: I won't take up an NCMP seat ... That's the difference between the party and myself as a person ... And if my party insists I take it up, I probably will have to resign, that's all.
WONG KAN SENG: Now we can understand Mr Low better. He's trying to open a back door.(?????)

That sums up the difference between Low and Wong, one of them has honour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stupid As Stupid Gets

Dismissing talk that his call for a partial Central Provident Fund restoration was linked to a general election ploy, which must be held by February 2012, Minister without portfolio and Labour Chief Lim Swee Say had this to say:
"When we help...workers, it must not be because an election is coming. If we do that, we lose credibility - (that) before an election we push for something, then after the election our workplan changes.
People are not stupid, workers are not stupid, union leaders are not stupid."

In August 2003, then DPM Dr Tony Tan, addressing Sembawang Shipyard workers, cautioned them about the need to cut CPF and wages to make Singapore competitive. He quoted the independent research unit PERC in its report that claimed Singapore workers are more highly paid than those in USA and Australia. When challenged about the veracity of his findings, PERC's CEO Robert Broadfoot said it was based on the perception of business leaders, not hard statistics. Perc's methodology in the survey was to ask expatriates what they thought of labour costs in different countries, which resulted in the more laughable finding that labour costs in Vietnam are higher than in Thailand. Minister Tony Tan went ahead to slash the CPF contribution anyway, either because he was too stupid to discern the truth, or that he assumed the people would be too stupid to understand it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will Google Quit Singapore Next?

Google's new website spells it out":
Government requests directed to Google and YouTube
"Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. The map shows the number of requests that we received between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, with certain limitations."

It goes on to say that "we know these numbers are imperfect and may not provide a complete picture of these government requests". The data shows Singapore police have so far asked for information on 62 Internet users ("data requests"), over a 6-month period between July and December 2009, and "<10 removal requests"). The company's chief legal officer David Drummond said that it "regularly receives requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data." Google spokesman Dickson Seow declined to elaborate on the specifics of Singapore's requests. Seow claims that the company always tried to protect its user's privacy and therefore does not automatically comply with every such request. Singaporeans know that the Youtube video about Ho-Ching's $30 biilion loss in Temasek must have been one of those automatically complied with.

Curiously, China is conspicuously absent in the countries listed. Google explains thus, "Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time." In other words, even though Google has decided to quit China, they are still afraid of the repercussions of dealing with that Communist country. So much for that "We will do no evil" promise.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's perspective of Google's exit? He told Charlie Rose in the April interview: "Practically nothing has happened because you can still get Google in China, except now it’s censored by the Chinese rather than by Google." But trust Charlie to have his last word on this important subject, "But on the other hand, some people are applauding Google for standing up, for Sergei Brin saying 'I don’t want to be part of this.' But you don’t agree with it?" As expected, and true to form, just as Pontius Pilate washed his hands off the dirty business, Lee declined to answer in the affirmative.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Bus, Train Fare System Is So Unfair

Forum letter writer Gregory Lou lamented that while two out of three commuters will supposedly see cost savings in the new bus/ train fare system to be implemented from 3 July, one third of the commuters will be paying higher fares. Specifically those who prefer a direct route to their destinations, who want to be spared the inconvenience of getting on and off bus and trains, particularly in the foul weather of the monsoon periods. Lest we forget, the wheel chair bound is inconvenienced even in fine weather.The public had raised their objections when Second Minister of Transport Lim Hwee Hua Wah announced that as the Government takes over the planning of bus routes, it will not add any new cross country routes on the flaky logic that these tend to be delayed by traffic jams, ignoring the fact that shorter bus routes are just as susceptible. As usual, they listened, but paid no heed, confident that, with the gerrymandering system in place, they will never be voted out of office.

Gregory says it's not fair. The reality is that these scholar elites drafting policy don't have that word in their vocabulary. They have a lame idea, and they ram it through. Besides, it's consistent with the party philosophy: what the left hand gives, the right hand takes away. The 2.5 per cent overall fare reduction trumpeted by the press assumes that 63 percent will break their journey to save 48 cents a week, while the targetted 34 per cent who prefer longer single leg journeys will have to pay 31 cents more a week. That's just punishing the group that dare challenge the minister's decision, that's the familiar message of "do it my way, or the highway."

There's another gotcha. The fare bands will be narrowed. Bus fares are now divided into wide bands, each covering several fare stages of 800m each. From July, when commuters pay by distance traveled on each short leg, fares will increase more often. Journeys without transfer will cost even more. Overall fare reduction is just another myth.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Telling It Like It Is

Charlie Rose is the consummate master of the double entendre. He can tell you to go to hell, and get you to thank him for giving good advice. Interviewing Lee Hsien Loong on his Current Affairs program on 14 April, he gave the world the following gems, straight from the horse's mouth:

On his wife
"She’s -- I’m not sure I’d call her a businessperson. I think she’s an employee."

On his father
"He calls himself a mascot. "

On Jeffersonian democracy
"So we’re not trying to approximate you. We are trying to find a formula which works for Singapore. "

On moral authority to govern
"So if there’s any doubt that this is so, and people believe that I’m there because my father fixed it or the whole system is just make-believe, then the system will come down. It’s not tenable. "

On efficacy of suing journalists
"In this case the same journalist and same newspaper had made the same allegation and apologized and paid damages and promised never to do it again. And they did it again. "

On the demographic problem
"I have one coming. That’s one of the reasons why we emphasize babies as well as immigration. "

On his family's legacy
LEE HSIEN LOONG: And if you look at Indonesia and President Suharto, he came to power in a coup, military-backed. But over 30 years he acquired legitimacy, he developed a kind of ideology to legitimize the rule. He had some kind of elections, he had some sort of a political process.
CHARLIE ROSE: But at the end of the day he was a dictator. He was in control.
LEE HSIEN LOONG: At the end of the day he did a lot of good for Indonesia, but unfortunately towards the end the rapacity became intolerable. And he didn’t deserve the end he came to.
CHARLIE ROSE: And if he’d given up power?
LEE HSIEN LOONG: If he had given up power, even in the last election which he contested, or better still the one before that, and there had been three, four years for a new government to settle in and grasp the reigns before the Asian crisis had come, I think Indonesia might not have gone through the traumatic time which is it did. And Suharto would be remembered today as a great patriot.

And how will the Old Man be remembered? Like his pal Suharto?

Lawyer On Traffic Charge Arrested

The Singapore Police Force obviously handled Romanian diplomat Ionescu with kid gloves, literally giving back the keys to his car, despite glaring on-site evidence he had knocked down 3 pedestrians and driven off, frustrated with himself for failing to bed soprano voice teacher Jeong Ae Ree . But when a lawyer with 14 years of practice ran afoul of the law, he was handcuffed and herded to the basement of the police lock-up like a common criminal. Then he had to face a judge via remote CCTV for his release on bond, in another holding cell with jail doors, armed police officers in attendance, hands still cuffed with irons. That's the standard operating procedure for locals.

Loo, 40, did not commit a hideous crime or take a human life. He was alleged to have been caught speeding on the Pan-Island Expressway, whilst heading for the aiport. The police do not need to produce evidence of their measurement instrument's accuracy for a conviction.

But Loo's real grievous sin was committed when his office submitted the wrong medical certificate to the court, to explain he could not attend traffic court as he was stricken down with hand, foot and mouth disease. You may be on time, and still have to wait hours for judge to show up, but the converse is not acceptable. During the days of Chief Justice Yung Pung How, you actually prayed he had a good breakfast.

Thanks to the authority's stickler for rules, when it suits them, Loo could not show up for his client's court hearing, and latter was convicted, and probably went through the same humiliation in the detention cells. If the police warrant was acted upon earlier, instead of being a month late, his client would have been properly represented.

Inspite of the SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up), Loo had to issue the standard thank you note expected of law practitioners in the land: "I am impressed with the professionalism shown by the courts and the Traffic Police in resolving this issue." That's like awarding medals to the Gestapo (which they did).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UN Study Of Xenophobia In Singapore

The skewed immigrant policy that resulted in 1 in 3 of the current Singapore population being a foreigner is going to cost votes, and they know it. The authorities have tried to explain it away vicariously as necessary 1) to address the declining birth rate; 2) provide labour for economic growth; 3) attract talent and money. Whatever the official line, the results speak for themselves: loss of job opportunities, squeeze in education availability, hike in housing cost, to name but a few.

Since they can't sell it to the people, the government is now bringing in a United Nation "expert" to do a first hand study on racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the country. Githu Muigai, a Kenyan national, is here at the invitation of the Singapore Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Already Muigai is spouting the official spiel: "The promotion of harmony among ethnic groups has become a central pillar of nation-building in Singapore." Hello, why are they harking back to the days of the racial riots of the 50's? Whatever happened to all those years of nation building?

Singaporeans are not a xenophobic lot. We are well travelled, and many have studied and worked overseas. We are simply disillusioned and disgrunted about having our stakeholding in the nation of our birth being diluted by the tsunami of newcomers at the stroke of the pen of a grossly overpaid civil servant. The Merlion is not the Statue of Liberty. Minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew tried the line about a smaller slice of a bigger pie being better than a large slice of a smaller pie. By that logic, dad should be allowed to marry a younger, higher income level, second wife to boost the household income. Never mind if mom has been slaving for umpteen years as an unpaid housekeeper to keep the family together. Let someone else have the pie in his face.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Temasek Holdings' Risky Oil Venture

The April edition of Fortune reports how Kleiner Perkins, Goldman Sachs, and other smart investors lost millions betting on Erlend Olson, who claimed to have a new way to find petroleum. One of the "smart investors" was Temasek Holdings, who incorporated Orchard Energy in 2008 to venture into the oil exploration business.

Olson had come to New York that August to negotiate a financing with Temasek, the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, which Olson had been romancing for months. The price of oil had recently soared to $145 a barrel, and Temasek planned to invest $1.1 billion, valuing Terralliance at more than $4 billion.

A bit player in semiconductors for years, the former NASA engineer claimed to have developed an algorithm for telling petroleum engineers where to drill. His company, Terralliance Technologies, a secretive startup in Newport Beach, Calif., hadn't found much oil, but its founder and CEO was so adept at locating cash reserves that he believed he was about to close a deal that would seal his company's future -- and his fortune.

Terralliance's globetrotting CEO may have been an oil industry neophyte, but he had spent like a Saudi prince. His shopping list ran the gamut from oil wells in Turkey and Mozambique to demilitarized Soviet fighter jets.

An auditor had raised red flags about Olson's dealings in the Congo and referred its findings to the U.S. Justice Department for potential anti-bribery-law violations. As troubling, Terralliance had yet to close its books on 2007. Two lead board members, Joe Lacob of Kleiner Perkins and Joe DiSabato of Goldman, informed Temasek's lead negotiator, Nagi Hamiyeh, that they intended to demote the charismatic but free-spending founder to chief scientist.

It was all too much for someone wielding a city-state's checkbook. Instead of signing on the dotted line, Hamiyeh returned to Singapore. In early 2009 the board fired Olson outright. By then the price of oil had cratered, Temasek's stock market holdings had collapsed, and Terralliance had all but crumbled into a heap of litigation, layoffs, and recriminations.

Because of Olson’s “misconduct” uncovered during the audit, the complaint says, Terralliance lost a “potential major investor,” leaving it with inadequate financing. VentureWire previously reported that the investor was Singapore-based Temasek Holdings. Temasek declined comment for that story.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MRT Hike For Circle Line

The 500 guests must be sitting on edge as they listened to Transport Minister Raymond Lim speak at the opening of the Circle Line. "The Circle Line will enhance the quality of commute for the public..." went the Minister, and the audience waited for the familiar refrain: "...and fares will be upped by x amount for the new convenience." After all, this is the guy who threatened to increase the GST when one of his constituents dared beg the minister not to hike fares in a difficult economic period.

Surprise, surprise - no price increase! Skeptics say this is a confirmation that election is just round the corner. But the minister has his final laugh - all the way to the bank.

According to data supplied by SMRT, the existing 32 min ride from Serangoon to Paya Lebar MRT station costs $1.60. The new Circle Line travels the same distance in 9 min, but the fare will be $1.05. A 71 percent reduction in running time (and associated direct and indirect operating overheads) yields only 34 percent in cost savings to the commuter. Any PSLE student will tell you the fare should be 9/32*$1.60 = $0.45. The fare increase is there alright, just hidden in fudged figures. You actually thought Raymond Lim would miss an opportunity to rip off the commuters?

Don't bother to lecture him about productivity and intrinsic cost savings. He'd probably divert the subject to the other court jester, Lim Swee Say.

Friday, April 16, 2010

MFA Did Not Request Immunity Waiver

It's a classic Catch-22 situation. Interpol, the international police organisation with 188 members, including Romania, has issued a red notice against former Romanian charge d'affaires Silviu Ionescu in relation to a hit-and-run accident on 15 December 2009. But diplomatic immunity prevents Ionescu from being arrested and brought back to Singapore to stand trial.

The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains the reason for this stand-off:
"Romania, as the sending state, has not waived immunity from criminal jurisdiction in this case, and the Republic of Singapore as the receiving state, has not submitted any written request to that effect." In point of fact, the Singapore Minister of Foreign Affairs actually allowed Ionescu to fly home unencumbered even though Ionescu was the principal suspect in the fatal accident. A Singapore Police officer actually tesified in court that rules were bent to return the accident vehicle to Ionescu instead of compounding it as evidence per standard operation procedure.

Singapore MFA's limp excuse for their complaceny: "...with effect from Ionescu's recall, he no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity by Romania for the acts in question. Therefore, there there was no need for a waiver of diplomatic immunity by Romania and no need for Singapore to seek a waiver." For the record, Ionescu was recalled from his posting several days after he was allowed by the Singapore authorities to return home safely in Romania. Talk about closing the barn doors after the horse has bolted.

And oh, the Romanian Ministry of Justice also confirmed on last Friday, that the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries prevents Ionescu to return here to answer charges, either as a diplomat or as a private citizen. Ouch!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Trials Of A-G Walter Woon

It was supposed to be the pinnacle of achievement for a legal professional, to be appointed Attorney-General by the President, but Walter Woon said it was the "Longest two years of my life."
In his own words:

On whether he had "annoyed the powers that be":
"Whether or not they're happy with me - this one you've got to ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong."

On what he thinks makes for a good A-G:
"He's got to be a person who's ready to walk off the job if necessary. Because if you have someone who wants the job too much, then he makes compromises which may not be in the public's interest."

On the A-G's role as legal adviser th the Government in civil matters:
"It's not the A-G's job to tell the Government, 'No, this is unwise'. He does what he's told."

On his two years as A-G:
"It was no a job I really wanted or enjoyed. I did it because I was asked to do the job."

The last bit is telling: this sounds like a guy who, when asked to jump, will reply "How high?" Although he confessed aspirations to join the private sector, potential clients may be hesitant to engage this type of solicitor: "I'm not by nature a confrontational person. If you want me to appear in court, I appear in court. I don't like it, I don't enjoy it." You think he'll argue till the cows come home to defend your case? And if you should be dished out serious jail time for a minor misdemeanor, remember his words: "If you don't like the law, go and get the law changed. Don't attack the judge." Makes you wonder what he will be teaching his students as Dean of the Singapore Institute of Legal Education. Perhaps clues may by found in the titles of his two fiction books "The Avocate's Devil" and The Devil To Pay." Truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction.

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.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Invincible Mah Bow Tan

After Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng (the man responsible for the flight of terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari), National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, 61, is easily the least popular in the land. Even Lee Kuan Yew went on record to say that if Mah fails to explain the HDB policies, he deserves to lose his seat in the coming General Election. But will he?

To boost his credibilty, the Straits Times on 7 April published his accomplishments in part as follows:
"Mr Mah graduated with first-class honours in Industrial Engineering from the University of New South Wales in 1971. He received a Master of Engineering in operations research from the same university in 1973.
He joined the public sector as an administrative officer in 1973, and rose to become general manager of the then Singapore Bus Service by 1983. He was then seconded to Singapore News and Publications as CEO of the Singapore Monitor newspaper. In 1988, he was elected as an MP for Tampines GRC, and was appointed Minister of State for Trade for Communications and Information.
In 1999, he was was promoted to Minister for Communications."

What the paper conveniently missed out was that Mah was defeated in a straight fight with Singapore Democratic Party opposition leader Chiam See Tong at the 1984 general elections in the constituency of Potong Pasir. Mah was then parked at Singapore News and Publications to twiddle his thumbs for 4 years (he was no journalist) to await the next general election in 1988, whereby he sneaked into parliament under the protective gerrymandering umbrella of the GRC. He had stood on his own two feet in 1984, and was roundly rejected by the electorate. Like all scholars in the civil service, he was not allowed to be seen to fail. Even before he graduated from his studies, his career path of success was long planned by the Public Service Commission, which is under the purview of another cabinet minister. They tend to look after their own kind. Too bad for the people of Singapore.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bullshit About Romanian Diplomat Silviu Ionescu

Informed on Friday 1 April that the Coroner's Court has determined "overwhelming evidence" Dr Silviu Ionescu was the hit-and -run driver that killed Tong Kok Wai, the Romanian Charge d'Affaires told the Straits Times the Singapore charges were "bullshit" (he probably dismissed it as an April Fool's joke). Even Aurelian Neagu, the Romanian Ambassador to Singapore stationed in Tokyo, maintains that Romania's Prosecutor's Office had yet to receive any evidence related to the case. The bungling of a straight forward case of simple detective work started with the authorities releasing the Audi car involved to Ionescu instead of compounding it as required per standard operating procedure. The officer in charge stated plainly in court the rules were bent because a foreign official was involved. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs Ministry and Attorney General's Chambers, now all have their knickers in a twist because no one lifted a finger to immediately demand a waiver of diplomatic immunity in December 2009. To borrow a phrase from Foreign Minister George Yeo, it was a case of "sitting on their hands."

Meanwhile Indonesia officials were more efficient in apprehending a corrupt tax official who fled to Singapore on March 24, despite the lack of a extradition treaty being in place. Gayus Tambunan, 30, is accused of bribing high-ranking police officials to bury an investigation about his $3.5 million bank account. Indonesian Embassy official Yayan Muliyana said Gayus gave himself up after the Indonesian police, working closely with local law enforcement agencies, met with him at Marriot Hotel on Wednesday morning. The arms of the law have far reach, if only the officials bother to get off their fat bottoms once in a while. For those who follow the Foreign Minister's many travels around the globe, he did visit some East Europeans countries a month back, but somehow deigned to stop over in Romania.