Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hard Talks About Singapore

...your system is coming to a crossroads or a turning point...
It was not the kind of soft balls lobbed by a compliant press that Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was accustomed to. At the "An Investigative Interview: Singapore 50 years After Independence" segment of the 45th Gallen Symposium, host BBC HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur was pulling no punches.
  • Do believe in Singapore exceptionalism?
  • You know what, Singapore's gone as far as it can go, there are other places we can put our money and see it bear fruit better than Singapore in the future.
  • And being constant, does that mean that Lee Kuan Yew's family will always be in charge?
Taking in the cue that Sackur might not be slammed with the Protection from Harassment Act - the weapon of choice these days - others joined in the feeding frenzy. A member from Mexico steered straight into the hornets' nest:
Given your determination to control immigration, could that run into a clash with your desire to see foreign companies headquartered in Singapore, developing their operations in Singapore, because one might run against the other?

A member from Uganda invoked the spirit of Harry Truman,  admired for his plainspoken common sense, his zero tolerance policy for bullshit, his sharp wit, and blunt honesty:
Does Singapore today consider itself a developed country in the Harry Truman sense of "developed" and "development"?

The member from Armenia probably heard stories about our civil servants veering on the side of the political wind:
Is it (Singapore development) thanks to the political will, or did it start from the bottom civil or economic level? And what is the level of democracy between the political right and the economic right?

And then there was the surprising lesson from China. Their representative, despite not having visited the country, saw through the smokescreen - one haze issue we can't pin blame on the Indonesians - mouthed the Amos Yee question:
But you mentioned something like you would actually make life harder for people who are not willing to work in Singapore...  you know if your society works this way, won't you deprive the freedom of people who just want to be wild and anti-establishment?

Sackur must have been losing patience with the "official lines" that Tharman was obviously regurgitating, especially when his pointed question about a social safety net was parried with another "clever" one-liner. Sackur, at wits' end:
I believe in the sometimes simplicity of yes-or-no answers. What about this this idea of a safety net? Does Singapore believe in the notion of a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?

Tharman's answer ("I believe in the notion of a trampoline.") has to those heartless responses that is worthy of 3 weeks' jail for a tight smack. So what happens to those who are physically or mentally unable to climb onto the trampoline without assistance, and can't possibly survive a leap into the air without incurring further damage to the body or mind? Sackur surmises it best: "You mean you're a bit more ruthless. Is that what you're saying?"


  1. Haha. Getting straight answers from the Minister, or any MIW, is like pulling teeth from a pig's mouth.

    1. I remember vaguely on the Ch8 news when some professor here advocated minimum wage for workers in Singapore, and the rebuttal from a certain PAP minister was so utterly lacking in real content that he might as well be a robot spewing words at random from the dictionary. I have never seen anybody else in this world that can say so much and mean so little.

    2. I am reminded of the saying, if you don't say what you mean, how can you mean what you say.

  2. Many politicians are typical hypocrites. When faced with the western press, they try to say Singapore is meritocratic and then try to compare with some worse country like India. But I bet he wouldn't dared put it that way if he is faced with the press in India.

    If we are indeed a 1st world country, there is really no need for our press to be controlled as if we China or North Korea. No ifs and no buts. Anything else is simply an excuse to bluff other people.

  3. Here is the youtube of the interview with Tharman.

    Here is the version of the interview.

    1. I used to have a high opinion of Tharman.
      I listen to the interview, and I hear the same ideology or "Hard Truths"
      Now I know. They are all the same.
      Even if Tharman is Prime Minister ... I now know ... thing are unlikely to change.

    2. I used to have a high opinion of Mothership.
      But these days, they read like the digital arm of PAP or SPH. Who's behind their back?
      New nation is at least still giving it as good as they have, with their satirical.

    3. is actually a pro-PAP online journal. The editors are backed up by the PAP.


      This link shows you how is intrinsically pro-PAP and backed up by former civil servants and the likes of George Yeo, a former MP himself. It does not read like the digital arm of PAP; it is part of the digital arm of the PAP without knowing it.

    Most countries including 3rd world countries have satellite TV.
    Except Singapore which does not allow citizens to own and operate satellite tv.
    Maybe because satellite tv allows you unrestricted access to worldwide news channels?

    Food for thought

    1. It mattered in the past. But today with youtube, the only purpose is to protect it's tv franchise.

  5. Can someone pls define what exactly is a trampoline here ? Is the workfare a trampoline ? The PG is a trampoline ? Wtf is he talking about. Or is it only the safety net that scdf uses when someone is doing suicide from high rises ? How many fallen through the cracks have they caught with these mini trampolines. Only good enough for children issit?

    1. "Trampoline"
      Cliff effect
      And the list of meaningless words that seems to avoid the crux of the matter goes on and on

  6. Many are just idolising.
    Be it for Tharman, George Yeo, Ong Teng Cheong, Tan Cheng Bock and Lim Chong Yah.

    Luckily those with PRINCIPLE NEVER WAVER; Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Lim Chin Siong, Tan Lark Sye, Robert Teh, Francis Seow, Tan Liang Hong, JB Jeyaretnam Chee Soon Juan, Tan Wah Piao all were and are steadfast.

    Anyway, I beg to differ with DPM Tharman; me am of the View that majority of the Cabinet Members do not move freely alone in Sinland which they rule.
    THEY MAY HAVE THEIR REASONS and I surmise that they do not feel safe to do so. BUT, I do not know what causes them the Fear.


    1. The fear is that they will be mingling among the peasants. Their long term insulation from the body guards and gurkhas, plus an army of grassroots sychopants and volunteers have given them the shield, plus the meetings of world leaders topped with the salaries are making them feel important and their ego inflated. They are too good to be seen among us.

      In Denmark, elitism is a dirty word. In fact, in a nation with few outward signs of a pampered elite, people often can see members of the royal family bike to drop off their children at a public daycare centre. Even the Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was seen shovelling snow outside her home in Copenhagen.

      Do you see any of the leaders practising and actually believing in egalitarian? The only thing close to it is eating at hawker centers once in a blue blue moon, pretending to queue up and only nearer to election time they show up.

      Why don't we just have hard talk like this, debating style with the Opposition parties in the coming election? Why must it all be so scripted?

    2. "Why don't we just have hard talk like this, debating style with the Opposition parties in the coming election? Why must it all be so scripted? "

      If I can win the elections without doing any real work ... why not?

  7. Martino Tan of Mothership is an ex civil servant. Used to work for MDA or MICA if am not wrong.

  8. you can watch the interview at

    it just reaffirm that PAP contains come some of the world's highest paid clowns in the world

    1. Tharman's hesitation at 32:17 when asked about the dynasty rule is telling. Sackur had to rescue him with the refernece to the Bushes.

  9. With so many examples of MIW sprouting nonsense in answer to hard questions, the SG idiots still continue to support and vote these money-grabbing fools in parliament!

    Its time to wake up and vote them out!

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