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Setting straight SPH’s tale on WP “discontent”

In CPF, Political governance on 01/08/2014 at 4:39 am

I refer to this “Discontent among WP’s old guard” in the New Paper. Typical of “constructive, nation-building” media. When the PAP changes members of the management team, the media praise it  for” self renewal”, “New blood”. when an Oppo party does the same thing the emphasis is on “discontent”, splits of the losers, malcontents.

I was going to deconstruct the article, given that I’m not too well-informed on the WP’s internal workings (My Morocco Mole has his agenda when telling me stuff. And he had a howler ). But my FB avatar came across a detailed analysis (deconstruction and factual) on FB by a WP member. As we didn’t ask permission, I will not name the person. But if she wants to be named, I will amend this piece to give credit where credit is due.

The New Paper published a report masquerading as a factual analysis of the dynamics at this year’s Organising Members Conference held at the Workers’ Party HQ on 27 July 2014. The article was mischievous and misleading. But more importantly, errors were aplenty. The following are my brief comments.

1. A binary between veterans and younger members who hold degrees was constructed. Supposed “facts” were thrown into this binary framework to create a seamless understanding of what has transpired and to provide analysis of and/ or an account of the situation.

In the article, John Yam and Somasundaram are conveniently labelled as part of the “old guard”. In that case, it appears that both of them were labelled as such due to their physical age in relative to the previous council members who were voted out, such as Ng Swee Bee and Koh Choong Yong who are in their 30s and early 40s respectively, rather than their experience in the Party. If the journalist had done his research, he would have realised that John Yam and Somasundaram joined the Party in 2009 and 2006 respectively. They are in no way “veterans” alluded to by the journalist as being “around for more than 15 years.” In fact, Swee Bee has been in the Party for the last 10 years, longer than John Yam and Somasundaram.

In listing down the reasons for the unhappiness of the “veterans”, he cited that “newer and younger members who hold degrees are preferred over veterans. In that case, the two “older members” who were elected does not in any way fit this caricature. Dr. John Yam holds a PhD and Mr. Somasundaram holds a Masters degree. Swee Bee on the other hand, for the longest time since she joined the Party in 2004 did not have a university degree, but she has been holding the position of Organising Secretary for many years.

The journalist also pointed out that former members, “Mr. Mohamed Fazli Talip and Sajeev Kamalasanan” were veterans of the Party. They were not. Fazli joined the Party in and around 2009/ 2010 and Sajeev joined the Party in 2006. To put it into perspective, Swee Bee and Choong Yong joined the Party in 2004 and 2006 respectively. This binary of “veterans”/ “old guard” vis-a-vis the younger and educated members is clearly misleading and in his attempts to construct a “Other” in the Party, does more harm than good in helping readers of The New Paper understand what had transpired at 216G, Syed Alwi Road on 27 July 2014 and more importantly, the implications/ significance of the new Council in the lead up to the next General Election.

The fundamental point is this. The journalist contradicted himself with the use of the terms “old guard” and “veterans” to mean the same group of people or to construct a faction within the Party from thin air. As he writes on, even he became confused.

2. The journalist displays his lack of understanding of the operations and functions of the Workers’ Party. He did not bother to do his research and check his facts.

The Workers’ Party do not and would not parachute in their candidates. In the article, it was pointed out “candidates are parachuted in, despite not having walked the ground.” Anyone with a basic understanding of the Workers’ Party knows that this is not true at all. The journalist would also be interested to note that the Workers’ Party fielded an ITE graduate at the 2006 elections.

The reasons for Dr. Poh Lee Guan’s sacking, Mr. Eric Tan’s resignation (why Mr. Gerald Giam was made NCMP ahead of Mr. Eric Tan) and the earlier resignations of Mr. Fazli Talip and Mr. Sajeev were made clear to members, cadres and non-cadres at the annual members seminar of the Party. In particular, Mr. Low had explained to the entire membership the reasons as to why candidates were not guaranteed a cadreship. This point was consistently explained to the membership whenever it was brought at internal meetings. For the case of Dr. Poh Lee Guan, Mr. Low had made the reasons clear in his interview with the press after the nomination of Mr. Png Eng Huat during the 2012 Hougang by-elections.

Thus, the journalist was simply mischievous in attempting to illustrate a lineage of discontent and dissatisfaction in the Party. He accepted the comments of these former members at face-value, without trying to better understand the respective motivations/ intentions of these former members. Not too sure whether this is journalism or gossip.

3. “How bad was it?” / “Is there a split?”

In situating his piece in the context of an election drama and an internal party split, the journalist tried his utmost to fit his analysis with the gossip and rumours he picked up with members at the coffeeshop under the party’s headquarters. He had no intention to put up a accurate report.

4. The journalist do not understand the historical context behind Sylvia Lim’s statement.

Sylvia Lim told the cadres that the “WP could not afford to have internal problems or disunity.” Any responsible political party with an understanding of the period in Singapore’s political history (1991 – 1997, Singapore Democratic Party) would make a similar appeal to its members. A quick search would also find Lee Hsien Loong emphasising party unity to his members.


If a political party was nothing but a monolith, with the entire membership parroting the leadership, then I guess something is really wrong. It probably would be inherently broken. As a member of the Party, I am glad to say that this is not the case. The Workers’ Party is growing, its membership is growing and with that will come more competitive internal party elections. Different individuals with different views, ideological inclinations and backgrounds and experiences join the Party at different junctures in their lives. This can only be good for the long term development of a Party. As the case of Mr. Yaw Shin Leong and Dr. Poh Lee Guan had clearly shown, no one is above the institutions and standing orders laid down in the Workers’ Party. WP is a professional organisation and a well-oiled political machinery.

By the way, I attended the conference last Sunday. There were more cadres than the physical space at HQ would allow. It was packed, very packed. No wonder WP needs a new HQ for its continued growth and development. I like to think that this is not very newsworthy for The New Paper.

BTW, I’m sure that TRE ranters who call me a PAP mole, ISD person will say this post confirms what they have been saying, ’cause it sides with the WP. For the record, I think the SDP has the best policies for S’pore, 10-15 yrs into the future. It’s the only party that talks about

De-couple housing and healthcare from CPF.

The major reason why Singaporeans are left with insufficient retirement funds is because the PAP gives Singaporeans no choice but to use what is their retirement money to pay for their HDB flats and hospital expenses.

The SDP plan ensures that HDB flats are sold without the inclusion of land cost (see here) and that the Government stops profiting from healthcare (see here) In this way, our CPF savings are left unmolested for retirement.

Solving the problems around retirement, public housing and healthcare require solving all three issues together.

Yes, yed, I know that in the long term, the SDP’s retirement and healthcare policies will be very expensive for S’poreans but

The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again.

Here’s an explanation of what Keynes meant:by Simon Taylor

Keynes wrote this in one of his earlier works, The Tract on Monetary Reform, in 1923. It should be clear that he is not arguing that we should recklessly enjoy the present and let the future go hang. He is exasperated with the view of mainstream economists that the economy is an equilibrium system which will eventually return to a point of balance, so long as the government doesn’t interfere and if we are only willing to wait. He later challenged that view in his most important work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1935). arguing that the economy can slip into a long term underemployment equilibrium from which only government policy can rescue it.

 

 

 

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  1. I’ve heard some comments also that CPF should be decoupled from housing. My view is that if we could go back 20 years, that might have been a good way of doing it. I’m not saying its a bad idea. If we could go back in time to set the record straight, then yes, lets do that.

    To do it right now however, is another matter altogether. I wonder how many Singaporeans still enjoy being able to use CPF as a means of funding their housing? A more calibrated rate of usage could be implemented, but to decouple it totally? If the price of BTOs lower sufficiently, it is fine, but what about resale flats, condominiums, and landed property? Property in Singapore can only be made to be that cheap. Its not just decoupling, its also the wages that must increase in order to meet the housing costs if CPF is no longer used. Otherwise, everything is relative. You make housing cheaper by decoupling CPF from it, but you put the same burden on low wage families by not allowing them to use their CPF as an additional means of funding. So those particular low wage families, while being able to save a lot for their retirement because their CPF is untouched, are more cash strapped in the present. In the meantime, the rich and middle class, who aspire to more expensive and comfortable living, how will they be able to meet those dreams, without being at least able to use part of their CPF.

    Singaporeans are saying that 2.5% interest is too low for CPF to beat inflation as a retirement fund. But yet they want to deplete CPF for housing. I say lets let them continue to do so. But with calibrations and limits, so that more of them are able to meet the minimum sum. In the meantime, if you are CPF poor but cash rich, it is up to everyone to be financially educated, not splurging cash on other things but invest wisely to beat inflation. After all, since you are not relying on CPF to fund housing, we need other investment vehicles to beat inflation, no?

    SDP may have a good idea, but one must also see how well it works in the present. It also remains to be seen if SDP will be able to have the chance to sell those policies in parliament as they very often come across as idealists, fighting for “freedom and human rights” type of issues as compared to more practical ones. Singaporeans are practical, we don’t want policies that provide difficulties for 10-15 years. Not right now. The present day Singaporean wants instant solutions, or minor tweaks to existing policies that will relieve burdens in the short to medium term. This is why, thus far, the WP brand sells as opposed to SDP.

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