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Posts Tagged ‘Chiam See Tong’

Waz petition lady’s game?

In Political governance on 25/06/2012 at 4:31 am

(Or “Were lawyers in the past so dumb and cowardly?”

The court case on whether the PM has unfettered discretion to call a by-election will soon be heard. Despite it being overtaken by events, the petitioner, Mdm Vellama, is continuing her suit after the AG refused her request for the AG not to ask for costs if she withdrew her petition.

She has juz doubled yet again. She will give up her court case if PM makes declaration on by-elections in Parliament . The AG has told her to bugger off (of course politely). She had juz raised the stakes, wanting PM to testify.

Waz her game? Is she a principled, brave citizen? A publicity hound? Qui lan lady? Clueless? Or juz badly advised?A worrying tot is that her love of doubling her legal “bets” could mean that she is a compulsive gambler by nature.  

To recap, she had asked the court whether the PM has unfettered discretion to call a by-election in Hougang. She was afraid that she might not have an MP to seek help from. 

Her lawyer helpfully pointed out that thrice, no by-elections were called:

– In 1983, when the Havelock seat became vacant, then PM Lee Kuan Yew said: “There is no reason why the people of Havelock should have a by-election.”

– In November 1986, the JBJ was disqualified from holding the Anson seat. In his answer to opposition member Chiam See Tong’s query in Parliament, Minister S Dhanabalan said : “He  has been convicted of a criminal offence and fined and sent to jail. They [Anson constituents] have to learn to live with the consequences of their choice.”

– In December 1986, the Geylang West seat became vacant after its MP, Teh Cheang Wan, committed suicide. Then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong explained that there would be no by-election in the ward because the government was “contemplating introducing a Bill to form Town Councils.”

I wonder why no-one had petitioned the court to get the government to call a by-election until this year? Surely there were lawyers* at that time who are as smart and brave as Ravi** ? As Chiam was an MP on two of the above instances, perhaps someone should ask him why he never bothered to bring a case? Does he agree that the PM has an unfettered discretion on whether to call a by-election or not to fill a vacancy?

Whatever it is, the lady is likeky to end up with a huge bill to pay: AG’s costs.

As AG has rightly pointed out, a by-election has been called and held, so there no need for judge to decide anything. The petitioner is wasting court’s time and should be “punished” (my word, not AG’s) by having costs awarded against her. Technically, AG is right.

As a trained lawyer who did some court work as a very junior lawyer, I think the original petition was brought too early. The petition should have been brought on 16th May, three months*** and a day after the was seat vacated, the day incidentally that PM announced the date of the by-election.

But the lady was too impatient it seems to have an MP to look after her needs. Or was she badly advised? Her lawyer was the same guy who advised TRE to fight a request from LKY’s younger son to remove some defamatory material. He wanted to go to court and argue that the request was unconstitutional. TRE settled instead without paying anything, and on fair terms. If it had gone to court, the legal bills would have huge, win, lose or draw.

Let’s hope that when costs are awarded against her, the people who promised to fund the petitioner’s costs will folk out the money. Otherwise the lady petitioner may have to clean the AG’s offices for free for the rest of her life to avoid being made a bankrupt. Her day job is a cleaner, remember.

Doubtless she will be thanking Ravi the lawyer while she cleans and sweeps the Chambers. And doubtless, the other Ravi, P the social worker, will be trying to help her.

——–

*There was JBJ who although, not very smart, was brave. And there was Francis Seow, a former Solictor-General, a good litigator with the brain of an intellectual, and the heart of a lion. He is still alive though not in practice. He is a Harvard Fellow, wanted by the S’pore government on some tax charge. He was detained under the ISA for a short while in the late 1980s.

**The lawyer who argued that a drug mule who refused to testify against an alleged drug lord should have his conviction set aside because the state should have compelled said drug mule to testify against said drug lord: fortunately the judges saw thru the Alice-in-Wonderland logic of lawyer Ravi, even if he and other “Free the mule” groupies didn’t.

***Three months is some kind of marker among activists because of a previous constitutional provision that a by-election had to be held three months after the seat was cacated. This requirement was later removed. I’m simplifying the issue.

Chiams: Please “go gentle into that good night”

In Political governance on 06/02/2012 at 5:11 am

(Or “Why the Chiams should sit down, shut up and fade away”)

Second nasty piece in a row abt opposition parties. No, I’ve not been seduced over to the Dark Side or being paid by the PAPpies to slime the Opposition, or gone wacko like QuanYifeng (I mean she seems to take pride in being violently wacko: she gave an interview in “8 Days” before the CNY hols justifying herself. Wonder when she will trash her daughter’s primary school and beat up the daughter’s teacher, given that the gal “did not do well” in the PSLE?).

But the WP’s and MP Yaw’s silence (my rant here) and now the Chiams talking nonsense have gotten my blood pressure to very dangerous levels. Even medicine doesn’t help bring it down. So to lower it, I got to to rant (my version of trashing stuff and beating up people, less violent, and safer for everyone. QuanYifeng might want to start blogging as therapy).

Before CNY, I wrote this of Chiam: Better to be alive and productive than to die and be remembered like a legend. Lions like Dr Chee and JBJ live too dangerously for “lesser mortals” like self. Be like Chiam**: Do the right thing in a low-key but determined way. The water buffalo can be just as dangerous to its enemies as the lion.  (***Taz not to say I agree with everything he does. Brickbats after the CNY hols.) I had planned to grumble that there was no renewal at the juz concluded party convention. I didn’t expect the resignations etc.

Now this got me very upset. In particular:

I am aggressively building up the next batch of potential leaders, consistent with the public statement the party made recently.

 – I believe in the merits of a consultative, collective leadership.

S’poreans may admire him, but we are not stupid. As this vv gd analysis  by Yawning Bread shows Chiam has a bad track record on these two “motherhood” statements. Juz reasserting these “motherhood” statements will not convince S’poreans. S’poreans are not “daft”. Actions are need.

Talking of “motherhood”, I tot it was extremely silly of Mrs Chiam to gush, “Alex … He is like a son to me”. I was planning to let readers read for themselves and decide whether Mrs Chiam is right to dote on him. But unfortunately, Alex Tan’s FB note is not available anymore. So readers have to read this instead.

The Chiams should realise that Mr Chiam’s “sell-by date” has expired. Pls leave the stage, so that Mr Chiam’s reputation is not damaged any further. Please.

Or if the Chiams want to hog the limelight, they should get some professional public relations and communications help on how to present Mr Chiam in a better light, or at least gild the wilting lily or rotting woodwork.

SPP: Changing of the guard?

In Political governance on 13/11/2011 at 7:07 am

Sometime back, ST reported that Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Sin Kek Tong is retiring. He told ST that he is stepping down and will not be running in the next central executive committee (CEC) election, due to be held at the party’s conference in late November.

Speculation is growing among SPP members and supporters that secretary-general Chiam See Tong will decide to run for the chairmanship. Under the SPP constitution, the secretary-general is the most powerful office bearer. So if Chiam becomes chairman, it means he will be giving up much of his formal power. It will also show that he is serious about “renewal”.

As usual, the Chiams are not saying anything.

If Chiam moves on, then either Benjamin Pwee or Wilfred Leung, both currently assistant secretary-generals, will run for the secretary-general post. I understand that Leung has a full-time job in Shanghai, so this may be an obstacle in him standing given that the duties and responsibilities of the post require the holder to be based here. So it is likely to be Pwee, if Chiam decides to move on to be chairman.

If Pwee gets the post, it would be a most a meteoric rise.  By his own admission, he only got to know Chiam only a few weeks before the May GE. He would therefore have outshone fellow scholars Tan Jee Say (presidential candidate), and Hazel and Tony (NSP CEC members, with the former being secretary-general), in rising so quickly to the top in Opposition politics. In the NSP, the president, not the secretary-general, is the most powerful official, while TJS has no organisation to take advantage of the votes he got in the presidential election (25%).

Someone who has had dealings with Pwee recently says as befits a scholar and ex-admin service person, he is analytical and methodical. He also has gd inter-personal skills. He is a charismatic speaker as I can testify having heard him speak at TOC’s dinner honouring Chiam.  Tan Cheng Bock, as earlier reported, is believed to be advising Pwee and other SPP members who helped him in his recent presidential campaign. He is helping them plan the transition from brand Chiam, and how to get support in Western S’pore, his territory.

Note that Chiam has a liking for brainy people. Remember his going out on a limb trying to help unproven, untested newbie Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party takeover the Singapore Democratic Alliance? Even after KennethJ proved himself bereft of management and EQ skills, I was told, he offered KennethJ a place on his Bishan Toa Payoh team. KennethJ declined as it would mean resigning from RP (where he was in charge of a deserted, sinking ship sampan) to become an ordinary SPP member. It seems he insisted on being made a CEC member if he joined SPP.  

I don’t know much about Leung except that he has walked the Long March with the Chiams and other SPP members since 2005, so I can’t comment on his abilities.

Note that in typically S’porean fashion, there will be only one candidate each for the chairman’s and secretary-general’s post. There will be the usual back-room deals in the name of “unity”. Some things never change.

Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam is likely to remain as second vice-chairman. But “new faces” are likely to run for key positions.

Let’s wish the SPP well.

TJS: Right attitude, wrong project?

In Political governance on 30/09/2011 at 6:49 am

I’m one of those 75% of voters who didn’t vote for TJS in the presidential elections. I wasn’t convinced that he was sincere (to be frank,I thought he was an opportunist); and the lack of a verifiable track record, career-wise, since 1991 was of concern. My thoughts on whether he was a hero or bad guy.

And there was the issue of S$60bn. “[S]mall change”, but not to his fan websites, and the party he resigned from the SDP.

But 25% of voters voted for him which shows that he convinced a quarter of adult S’poreans that he was sincere and competent. I accept their judgement. I am happy that he has rewarded (or should it be repaid?) their trust by saying he will continue fighting for his articulated principles and convictions.

But is trying to unite the Opposition a good use of his passion and talents? I think not.

Chiam tried it twice. First with the setting up of SDA and then by trying to help KennethJ take over the SDA. The latter ended with Chiam taking the SPP out of the SDA, and with both Chiam and KJ looking stupid and arrogant. Chiam recovered his reputation, KJ never did. But KJ was playing for high stakes. If he had taken over the SDA, he would have established himself as a master tactican.

Next, why would the WP and SDP want to team up because of TJS? They have distinct brands, and appeal to different voters. If the parties worked together closely, WP would not be able to attract the swing voters. They would not to be associated with the “radicals” of the SDP. Although not true, that is the image that the swing voters have of SDP members, an image that the constructive, nation-building local media, PAP and government helped build and maintain. Though to be fair, until very recently, SDP members made it easy to caricature themselves.

It is no surprise they have not commented on what he has said.

Then there is the state of the other parties. The SPP punches above its weight because of brand Chiam. The NSP (forever reinventing itself between elections), RP (remember who this is?), and SDA are sick parodies of political parties.

See who are the parties that welcome his initiative, and are willing to join the “Coalition of the Hopeless”: the SPP, NSP, RP and SDA.

Finally, the present arrangement of all the parties not fighting three-way contests suits everyone except the SDP.  In particular, the WP benefits from having the SDP’s supporters having no choice except to vote for it. See this.

True in 2011, the WP refused to give way to the SDA in one area (but it was vindicated when the SDA candidate lost his deposit) and there were rows between the WP and NSP, and between the NSP and RP on seat allocations. But the bigger party bullied the smaller party into submission in both cases. Goh Meng Seng was bullied by the WP, and he in turn bullied KJ.

This co-operation may not be possible after the next GE. The parties, especially the WP and SDP, may raise their ambitions, but that is in the distant future.

So I hope TJS finds something more doable and constructive, taking into account his talents and weaknesses. What that could be I hope to explore in a future post. 

Meanwhile, “Tan Jee Say, Ho Say Leh”: so long as he repays the trust that 25% of adult S’poreans have in him.

Do we need more political parties?

In Political governance on 16/09/2011 at 6:58 am

So now there are voices calling for Tan Jee Say and Dr Tan Cheng Bock to each form a new political party. And I’m sure, there are voices out there asking the “Voice of the People” to make a fool of himself again (this time with his daughter by his side) by forming the VP Party or VPP.

I’m sure some of these callers are thinking, genuine and sincere people, while some of the callers are PAP activists hoping to split the votes of voters unhappy with the PAP. But most of these calls are coming from very daft, but sincere and genuine people.

Think of where the parties of TJS and TCB will position themselves.

There are two slightly left-of-centre parties, the Workers’ Party and the Singapore People’s Party. Further left (but not on extreme left, despite what the local constructive, nation-building media say), we have the Singapore Democratic Party and somewhere between the WP and the SPP, and the SDP, there is for the moment the National Solidarity Party.

The NSP is forever changing shape in between general elections and, at the moment, is undergoing yet another metamorphoses. The WP and SDP have strong brands and active supporters, while the SPP is finally trying to make a serious effort to move away from brand “Chiam”. Let’s hope it succeeds. Chiam deserves to leave behind a political legacy. He showed us that an ordinary, decent man could take on the PAP and survive. There was no need to play the matyr game.

Now where will brand Tan Jee Say fit in? Based on his behaviour during the presidential election, his party will be further left of the SPP and WP, and right of the SDP. A space that the NSP, with two of his scholat mates in its management committee, is now trying to make its own. Kinda crowded, aint it?

As for Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the man, who waffled on during the election about not being the preferred PAP candidate and abt unity via footie and multiracialim (If I sound mean, I remind that I voted for him. Yup I can be that irrational), where will his party stand? Right of the WP, and SPP most likely, based on his waffling.

Even if it occupies some of the right-of-centre space dominated by the PAP, it will be fighting for some of the very moderate left votes.

The space on the left is crowded, with these six parties. There may not be enough seats to satisfy the ambitions of these six parties in a general election. There may be three-way contests. Then there are the absolute no-hopers, Singapore Democratic Alliance and the RP: making a total of eight parties on the left. The only place left field unoccupied is on the extreme left.

Establishing a new party is not easy. Remember the Reform Party? Set up by the late JBJ, it had to be resurrected by his son, KennethJ,  because of JBJ’s death soon after its founding. Despite all the goodwill that the memory of JBJ attracts, the RP had problems recruiting. And anyway, the newbies soon left, leaving King KJ to play and fantasise alone.

So please, let’s not encourage bored men with large egos, deep pockets and axes to grind to form new parties of the left. The field is crowded left of centre with eight parties.

Now, there is plenty of space on the extreme right. Anyone bored with a big ego, deep pockets and an axe to grind interested? I’m sure one LKY will be the party’s patron if the party ideology is a mixture of fascism, capitalism, socialism and his Hard Truths.

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