atans1

Posts Tagged ‘Low Thia Khiang’

The testing of Low Thia Khiang

In Political governance on 24/02/2012 at 6:04 am

The first months of the Dragon year has not been kind to Low.  He must be reminding himself, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

First came the allegations about Yaw’s extramarital activities, an issue that Low and the WP mishandled. Instead of either coming out to say that the matter was a private one (and thereby incurring the anger of the moralists*) or saying that the WP was investigating the matter, the WP opted for stonewalling silence and evasion (Examples**). This from a party that fought a general election on the need for transparency, openness and accountability, and the need for a first-world parliament.

When the noise got extremely loud, the WP announced Yaw’s expulsion from the WP. Low explained, “[A]lmost a month had passed between the first media allegations and the WP’s decision to expel Mr Yaw Shin Leong. Mr Yaw continued to remain silent on the matter, and refused to account to the WP Central Executive Council (CEC). The WP had no choice but to invoke clause 22(a) of the WP Constitution to expel him.” 

This reduced the noise considerably, as otherwise rational netizens, and the usual WP and Opposition groupies rushed to blog that the WP was “whiter than white” or at least “whiter than the PAP”. And that Low was a strategist, the equivalent of Mao, Sun Tzu, Sun Pin, Chuko Liang or Fan Li. (One of these days, I’ll blog on why Low is not a great strategist. But I’ll wait until he is riding the crest of a wave again.) 

Then ex-PAP Ho Kah Leong wrote to the Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao’s forum pages suggesting that Low should take responsibility for the matter and scolded him for wasting public funds because a by-election had to be called.

Instead of his usual silence when attacked (remember his silences in parly when asked to state his views on certain issues), Mr Silence became Mr Chatterbox, replying, “Even though I was familiar with Yaw Shin Leong’s background and I have met his family and attended his two wedding ceremonies, I have no way and no authority to inspect his private matters and personal life. I am a Member of Parliament, not a private investigator! Ho …  said I should take responsibility for the Yaw … saga. May I ask how I should take responsibility?”.

Well he may not be a “private investigator”, but having worked with and mentored Yaw for many a year, he has to accept the responsibility of being partly responsible for choosing Yaw to defend Hougang for the WP. He also has to accept part of the responsibility of the WP’s stonewalling silence and evasion. Finally as leader of the WP, he has to accept responsibility (albeit partially) for a systems failure. “The Workers’ Party has a system to select its candidates,” he said, so that Yaw could become a candidate shows some flaw in the system surely?

And on the issue of wasting public funds, he should have kept silent. Ho said a stupid thing. But by citing Goh Chok Tong’s call of a by-election (not a good example) many years ago, Low allowed GCT to take a nasty dig at Low (and the WP) in the process.

All in all, Low’s performance is less than satisfactory.

But don’t count him out yet. Don’t understimate the man. Who would have thought in 1991 that he would lead the WP to its first GRC victory in 2011, and that Hougang would become Fortress WP?

Also, don’t underestimate the goodwill he has from S’poreans, even from critics like me (Even I have said nice things about him). It will take a lot of mistakes to make him lose that goodwill. S’poreans will readily forgive him, or give him the benefit of the doubt. Remember, S’poreans were very forgiving of the PAP, when they perceived it as the equivalent of a bad-tempered and mean hawker who sold delicious food at very reasonable prices, while giving his enemies food poisoning that sometimes hurt accidentally an innocent customer. Even after the food ceased to delicious or good value, S’poreans supported the PAP. In economics, this is called “stickiness”. Low now has stickiness.

Let’s hope he raises his game. Perhaps, a modern-day Wei Zheng should advice him on what to say and do? If that happens, I hope Low can be Tang Tai Zong.

——-

*But the WP would be tapping a new source of voters: the New Paper recently reported that 20% of Singapore women cheat on their husbands based on a survey done recently. And as Lucky Tan says, “For husbands the number is likely to be worse – you can take the 20% and double or triple it.”

**

– “if it is rumours …” (Yaw),

– “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?” (Low himself), and

– “We have to think carefully about our response” (deputy treasurer of the WP, a Mr Png).

These comments left me wondering if the Law Minister had been moonlighting after his pay cut, or if MP Baey’s PR firm had been advising the WP.

The “new poor” revisited

In Political economy, Political governance on 08/02/2012 at 6:05 am

“Tan Jee Say, an opposition politician, said such global accolades ["the top marks S'pore scores in global surveys on the ease of doing business and low corruption levels"] often had little bearing on the lives of Singaporeans, many of whom who have seen their incomes stagnate over the past decade” (article), reminded me of what the Sage (not Stag) of Hougang said in 1997 or 1998 during the Asian financial crisis.

Low Thia Khiang (then the sole WP MP) spoke of the “new poor” and was roundly condemned and attacked by PAP ministers and MPs, and the local media for using of this term.

Well he was right wasn’t he? “The new poor” S’porean is a growing species. Leong Sze Hian pointed out a few days ago that wages have stagnated for many S’poreans for the last ten years:

10 Years – hardly any increase?

If we look at the data for the last 10 years, for example, the income of Singapore citizens at the 20th percentile level, grew by only 25%, from $1,200 in 2001 to $1,500 in 2011 (excluding employer CPF contributions).

In real terms, I estimate the annualized growth to be about 0.2%.

This is a far cry from the 2.2% real annualized growth for the last five years (including employer CPF contributions).

(Full article)

And the “new poor” continue to face the triple whammy of high living costs, low wages & purchasing power.

And didn’t Low have foresight when he asked in the late 90s for help for the “new poor? Something that was again rubbished by government ministers, PAP MPs and the local media, but which is now the part of the PAP’s strategy for regaining lost ground in the next general election: Bread and perhaps Circuses. The government is even planning to strengthen the almost non-existent social safety net, something which was taboo in the past.

So while S’poreans are rightly upset with the silence of the WP (Low is the leader) and MP Yaw (a married man) over whether Yaw had an affair with another married WP member, let’s not go overboard in flaming the WP, even though Yaw’s demotion (OK resigning as Treasurer and leaving the party’s politburo) tells us everything.

Cut it some slack because Low got the issue of the “new poor” spot on all those many years ago, and because he (and Chiam) kept the flame of opposition alive in parliament and on the ground, when it was most unfashionable to be associated with the Opposition.  Example: one TJS was quietly working away in fund management. Remember too, Low has played a big part (he became the party leader in 2001?) in the WP becoming the force it has become. And finally, he did nuture two next generation leaders Yee Jann Jong and Gerald Giam.

So while I think the WP is damaging itself by being more PAP than the PAP itself by refusing to comment on “rumours” about Yaw, let’s hope the damage done is not too great.

In case if anyone is wondering, the WP did not pay me for this “ad”.

A final mean, very mean, unrelated tot: “Is TJS speaking from experience when he talks of ‘incomes stagnate’?”. Declaration of interest: My income has collapsed in the last decade. And even then it was a fraction of what I was earning in the mid 90s. I was, and am, part of the “new poor”. But no need to cry for me. Being poor is relative as Grace Fu and friends should realise.

And anyway:

Let what will be, be.

Tis labor lost thus to all doors to crawl,
Take thy good fortune, and thy bad withal;
Know for a surety each must play his game,
As from heaven’s dice-box fate’s dice chance to fall.

Don’t talk rubbish Mr Low

In Political governance on 11/10/2011 at 8:13 am

The Sec-Gen of the WP was reported to have said that the composition of Parliament is a reflection of the people’s expectations, a MSM freesheet reported. As more than two-thirds of the MPs are PAP MPs, and the PAP won 60% of the popular vote, this means that the WP admits (rightly) that the majority of voters prefer the PAP to the WP and other Opposition parties.

So how can he go on to say on behalf on these voters, “They expect the Government to be responsive and accountable. They expect a responsible Parliament in which policies and issues that affect them are seriously debated and rigorously scrutinised. They want clear and transparent explanations from the ministers at all times.”?

Hey Mr Low, 60% of the voters voted for the PAP. If they wanted these things, they wouldn’t have voted for the PAP. They would have voted WP or other Opposition parties.

He can logically and, at best, claim to speak of the expectations of the 40% of S’poreans (self included) who voted for the Opposition. 

I hope the other WP MPs and NCMPs do better when they speak, and that Low ups his game. Otherwise like 1991, 2011 may prove another false dawn. And we have to wait until 2031 to try again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers