|The numbers keeping changing, as does the storyline|
“Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it” - Lee Kuan Yew on what would happen if a profligate opposition government touched Singapore’s vast monetary reserves. (Straits Times, Sept 16 2006)
We had sneak preview of how the generals would be deployed on Saturday December 1st, when the Ministry of Manpower announced in a statement that 29 Chinese national drivers' work permits had been revoked and immigration officials "will be repatriating them" for involvement in the 26th and 27th Nov two-day work stoppage to demand better pay and working conditions.
Brigadier-General Tan Chuan-Jin (wearing the hat of Acting Minister for Manpower) first declared on Tuesday 27 Nov that the no-show at work by SMRT PRC bus drivers was an “illegal strike”. Earlier on Monday, even The Economist picked up the local media's reluctance to use the word "strike" and said, "... the Straits Times, a pro-government daily, termed it an “action”, “protest”, “episode” and “wage dispute”. Asked if the workers will be sacked or sent back to China, BG Tan refused to answer by saying police investigations are going on and the matter should be “left to due processes”.
Lieutenant-General Desmond Kuek (wearing the hat of SMRT President and CEO) in his first public appearance on Friday 30 Nov after returning from a nice holiday, said that if the drivers' action had been confined to Monday, there would not have been a police probe, implying that a one-day strike is not illegal in Singapore. Kuek did not confirm who in SMRT actually filed the police report, unless he did it via remote control since he claimed "I was constantly updated and made decisions collectively with my management team." He probably would have conducted a war similarly if he was still in uniform.
On Black Saturday the PRC bus drivers were rounded up from both the Woodlands and Serangoon foreign worker dormitories and escorted by police officers to Admiralty West Prison for immediate processing of their deportation on same day. As on Sunday morning 2 Dec, they are still locked up in the prison compound without due access to legal representation.
Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Loong is the current Prime Minister. Other ex-army officers and two Rear Admirals are also in the existing Cabinet, ever eager to be called to duty and flex their muscles. Only one brigadier-general decided not to go against the flow after he met his Waterloo at Aljunied.