Category Archives: Politics

Singaporeans, no longer just keyboard warriors

So over the weekend, Hong Lim Park was transformed in to this:

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Picture taken from Al Jazeera

Picture taken from Al Jazeera

You would have thought that there was a concert being held in Hong Lim Park, since that seems to be the only event that is able to draw so a huge number of Singapore to a location together. But no, this was a protest rally against the  Population White Paper, which suggested that by 2030, Singapore will have a population of 6.9 million, which almost half of the population will be foreigners.

Surprised by the huge number of people, which some estimates put it at almost 5000 coming out to protest? Don’t be. The anger and the unhappiness with the broken system of the Singapore government has been festering since the 2011 General Election. The release of the White Paper was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, which drove so many Singaporeans away from their comfortable position behind the computer’s keyboard to standing in the heavy rain in Hong Lim Park to protest.

I’m so glad we are no longer keyboard warriors or armchair critics, because letting our voices heard is the most important thing. The Singapore Government wants a National Conversation? The people have spoken. Now, its your turn to listen.

Picture taken from The Straits Times

Picture taken from The Straits Times

For further reading:

Rare mass rally over Singapore immigration plans

Singapore seethes over population plan

In Singapore’s Immigration Debate, Sign of Asia’s Slipping Middle Class?

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Filed under National Conversation, Politics, Singapore

National Day Rally 2011

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his annual National Day Rally speech at the University Cultural Centre last night.

From his speech which was focused more on issues at home, I was glad that he spoke on an issue that has caused a sore point with Singaporeans.

The issue at hand is the competition that local students faced from foreigners in getting a place in a local university and local professionals who face stiff competition from foreigners for jobs.

After acknowledging that the difficulty in getting a place in a local university because of the intake of foreign students is a major bug-bear for parents and students, PM Lee announced that local universities will add 2,000 places over the next four years. All 2,000 places will go to Singaporeans.

He added that though the Government will always put Singaporeans first with it’s ‘Singaporeans First’ approach, he appealed to Singaporeans to look upon the presence of foreign students as ‘healthy competition’ that will raise the standards of local students and prepare them for the real world.

As for stiff competition in the jobs sector, PM Lee announced that the salary levels for foreign professionals to qualify for an Employment Pass (EP) will be raise again, the previous increase was in July, to pacify discontented white-collar Singaporeans.

He also added that the educational qualifications for foreign professionals seeking to apply for an EP will be tightened to make sure that they will have ‘real skills’ valuable to Singapore.

At the recent General Elections, PM Lee admitted that the Government was not doing enough to ‘listen to the ground’.

If last night speech, which at times was in a conciliatory tone, is a move by the Government to show that it has learned from it’s past sins and is ready to change, I would say that the problems PM Lee addressed was a small step forward in gaining back the trust which the Government had lost over the past few years.

PM Lee ended his speech by asking what kind of a country Singaporeans want Singapore to be in 20 years.

After listening to PM Lee’s speech yesterday, I want a Singapore which in 20 years time, doesn’t need a Prime Minister to give another speech to promise changes to the system in order to gain back the trust of Singaporeans.

I believe I speak for all Singaporeans when I say that for the next 20 years, we want a Government that listens to it’s own people.

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Potong Pasir residents ‘repented’…and a MRT station opens

Woodleigh MRT station was closed for 8 long years.

8 years later, SBS has decided to open Woodleigh Station to celebrate NEL’s 8th anniversary. Now wait a minute, which organisation worth it’s salt celebrates something that has only be around for 8 years? Call me a consipracy theorist, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

The People’s Action Party recently took back the opposition leader Chiam See Tong’s former stronghold of Potong Pasir in the recent General Elections after 20 years and less than 2 months later, Woodleigh MRT Station is suddenly operational.

For those who don’t know where Woodleigh Station is, the station, while only a few minutes away from the Potong Pasir MRT station, is located in Potong Pasir.

8 years ago, when Chaim was still in charge of Potong Pasir and  the North- East Line (NEL) was opened, SBS Transit was asked why Woodleigh wasn’t opened. The reason given to the public then was “the population in the area had been deemed insufficient to make economic sense to operate”.

Now 8 years later, Chiam is gone, PAP has taken over and SBS has decided that there is now a ‘sufficient population’ to take the train at Woodleigh Station.

I’m shooting in the wind here, but my guess is that the ‘sufficient population’ in Potong Pasir who are rejoicing over the opening of the station are the same population who, to borrow LKY’s words, ‘repented’ and decided to vote for the PAP instead of the opposition.

Whether SBS was strong-armed  in to opening Woodleigh Station or not, my guess is as good as yours.

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Filed under Opposition parties, Politics, Singapore, SMRT

Why I’m satisfied with this election

I know that some people are unhappy that PAP is back in power. But change can’t happen overnight. It took 5 years for a GRC to fall. But it finally did. I think patience is the key here.

Look at the results from another perspective. The overall votes for the PAP have fallen greatly and we now have 6 opposition members in Parliament, more to come if the best losers take up the NCMP offer.

Granted, they still don’t have the numbers to block or approve any policies. But this election, or for the past few elections, has always been about having an alternative voice in Parliament.

Now, we have 6 alternative voices in Parliament, not a lot, but it is a breakthrough. We should be thankful for this.

But this is not a sign for the opposition to rest on it’s laurels. This is a platform that the opposition needs to works on. The ultimate goal will be forming the Government.

Personally, I feel that those who voted for the PAP are those from the older generation. The fear factor is still there. But the fear is slowly but steadily being eroded away, with many of the younger generation being eligible to vote.

I believe that there will be another breakthrough in 5 years time, when my generation gets to finally vote. Our forefathers feared the PAP, we don’t.

I hope in 5 years time, there will be a team that is as brave as the Aljunied GRC’s Workers Party team (picture above). I also hope that in 5 years time, there will be voters in a GRC that is as courageous as the voters in Aljunied GRC.

I can’t wait for the next 5 years.

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Pampered soldiers? Blame the parents

It’s coming to a year since I last blogged and when I saw the picture below, I couldn’t resist finally writing in my Moleskine notebook. How apt is it that the last post on this blog is the same topic too.

A little background on the picture. This picture of a recruit in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) who made his maid carry his field pack was first posted on Facebook. Soon after, it went viral. STOMP picked it up, The Straits Times picked it up and as you can always expect from Singaporeans, a big brouhaha was created.

Suddenly every man in my generation who has ever served National Service (NS) or who are serving NS were stereotyped with statements like ‘Aiyo, Gen Y soldiers are softies leh’, ‘Gen Y soldiers too pampered lah’.

But I understand the angry and disappointed reactions from men who have been through NS. Men’s Health writer, Khazmin Juma’In summed it up best when he wrote ‘For many of us guys, it’s a big slap across the face because we’ve all been through (NS)’

Let me put on record that for every Gen Y soldier that you see in the picture above, there are thousands more who are fiercely independent. So nope, Gen Y soldiers are not ‘sisses’, ‘softies’ or whatever that is being labelled on us just because of one picture.

While I draw the line at maids, or even parents helping their sons/employer’s son to wash their uniforms or picking them up from camps, carrying their field pack is downright disgraceful and unacceptable.

Yes, granted that we men have no choice but to serve the nation since it’s a conscripted army, most of us understand that through this process, it will toughen us up and help us grow up.

Basic Military Training in the SAF includes a mandatory confinement where new recruits are not allowed to go home for 2 weeks and are forced to be independent in a new surrounding with new friends and with commanders barking orders at them.

BMT changes a boy’s perception of things, forces him to think of who will he defend when Singapore goes to war. This process is what changes a boy in to a man. Looks like the boy in the picture above did not learn anything.

The boy (I’m refusing to call this recruit a man or even a soldier), has sadly, not seen the significance of serving NS.

There is a belief in some quarters that Gen Y soldiers are ‘spoilt’ and ‘soft’ because their parents pampered them or allowed their maids to treat their sons like kings.

I fully agree with that observation. Yes, the boy is in the wrong in asking the maid to hold his field pack, but the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents.

If you think that this Gen Y is too ‘soft’, it gets worse. In a previous blog post, ‘Spoilt kids: Whose fault?’, I observed maids and parents still feeding kids who looked old enough to eat their food themselves.

General Elections are upon us soon. Calls for the voting age to be reduced from 21 to 18 has been getting louder since the last election.

The argument is that since 18 year olds are already taught to hold a rifle (18 is the age where Singaporean males are conscripted), why can’t they have a say in Singapore’s politics? I hold firm to this argument. But pictures like those above doesn’t help people like me in our quest for the voting the age to be reduced.

It is a vicious cycle. This boy in the picture is being treated like a king by his maid, and he will most likely allow his children to be treated the same way.

Parents, get the picture already? We need men, not boys to defend Singapore when push comes to shove.

 

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Filed under National Service, Politics, Youths

Is the Marina Barrage really working?

Its time for government officials to tell us the truth.

In a TODAY interview on 12th of July, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor said:

The Marina Barrage reservoir did help in preventing a bigger disaster during the recent flash floods…The Government has spent at least $2 billion to improve the drainage system and will continue to review the current system, she said.

As for the impact of climate change on rainfall patterns, Dr Khor said that the Government had undertaken a vulnerability study but rainfall patterns were difficult to predict and there was a need to wait for new inputs on improving forecasting method.

Oh really? Then how is that there are 3 floods in a month?

Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim then said that the first flood in Orchard Road was caused by debris, but then change his tune in Parliament, saying that the Stamford Canal was actually ‘not adequate and could not drain quickly enough’

So which is which? And my question to both Dr Khor and Dr Ibrahim is: Is the Marina Barrage actually doing it’s job?

I like what Siew Kum Hong wrote in his post, ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’:

Nevermind that the original reason given by Dr Yaacob for the first Orchard flood was that the Stamford Canal was blocked, but otherwise it was adequate — but now actually it was not adequate and could not drain quickly enough (front page news today). Nevermind that it took three, yes three, floods in two months before our million-dollar salarymen could figure out that it might be a good idea to issue public warnings about potential flooding (and even now that’s still not been decided.

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Singapore Government bans another political film which is ‘contrary to public interest’

The Singapore Government has banned this video recording of a speech by former political prisoner Dr Lim Hock Siew which was filmed by Martyn See . Dr Lim was Singapore’s second longest-held political prisoner.
The prohibition will take effect on Wednesday 14th July 2010. The Government has also asked Mr See to remove the video from YouTube.
In a press release, the Ministry of Informations, Communications and the Arts said:
The film gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Dr Lim’s arrests and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963. The Singapore Government will not allow will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore’s interests in the past, to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities, give a false portrayal of their previous activities in order to exculpate their guilt and undermine public confidence in the Government in the process.
Martyn See’s first film, Singapore Rebel, filmed four years ago, was also banned by the Government. But the censors passed it with an M18 rating in September 2009. It became the first political film to be passed after the Films Act was amended in March to relax the rules on such films.
The press release which Dr Lim mentioned can be found here. Perhaps the Government banned this film because of the potential ramifications it will face by letting the public know it asked Dr Lim to ‘save Lee Kuan Yew’s face’ by saying he was justly detained
The highlight of the exchange between Special Branch and Dr Lim:
Special Branch – You must concede something so that Lee Kuan Yew would be in a position to explain to the public why you had been detained so long. Mr Lee Kuan Yew must also preserve his face. If you were to be released unconditionally, he will lose face.
Dr Lim Hock Siew – I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew’s face. This is not a question of pride but one of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable. In the light of what you say, is it not very clear that I have lost my freedom all these long and bitter years just to save Lee Kuan Yew’s face? Therefore the P.A.P. regime’s allegation that I am a security risk is a sham cover and a facade to detain me unjustifiably for over 9 years.
In his swearing in speech, Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong said that Singapore is ‘an open society’. So is this what he meant by ‘an open society’? By banning this film and denying Singaporeans the truth? This poor man was declared a terrorist and thrown into prison without trial. As Lucky Tan puts it best:
Dr. Lim tells us that the authorities wanted to extract a ‘repentence’ from him as a condition for his release from detention. Dr. Lim does not need to repent…the people who locked him up for 19 years should be the ones repenting their atrocious inhumance actions.
Download the video before it’s banned. Here are the links:
(h/t: Thanks to Martyn for providing the video download links)

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