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Our Dissident voices are learning from the Russian dissidents?

In Political governance on 05/02/2017 at 4:51 am

Yesterday The Agora hosted  FOSG (Future Of Singapore).

SOSG had a second conversation on Singapore economy past, present and future led by Yeoh Lam Kwong, former chief economist of GIC held at the Agora. A 3-hour long discussion with a full house audience. More young people than the previous one!

Lam Keong summarised the early period under the rubric of a “socialism that works” this was followed by a “capitalism the didn’t quite work” the future from 2011 is towards a social democracy that hopefully works. This is the challenge given the resources of the “estate of the state”. That in comparison to OECD standards Singapore has a lot of scope to improve. A lively discussion ended with a video presentation on the highlights of “Singapore 2.0 – Aging in Place” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjlGE2VfA_I&t=81s). There was a sense of energy throughout the discussion. Please look out for announcements on future sessions on FOSG.

Three cheers for The Agora, SOSG and Lam Keong.

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“Educate, agitate, organise.”This was George Bernard Shaw’s famous call to action for the British left-wing. He’s best remembered today for the musical “My fair Lady” which is based on a play of his . He hated the musical. I like the ending of the musical better.

In his heyday he was both a leading intellectual (he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society, still influential in moderate left-wing circles in the UK), and a commercially succesful playwright.

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The Agora, SOSG and Lam Keong are educating S’poreans and perhaps this is better than the posturings of Mad Dogs like Amos, Dr Chee and M Ravi, and the BS of cybernuts like Philip Ang, Tan Jee Say, Roy Ngerng etc.

What follows is a long extract from the Economist on how the Russian intellectuals are using public lectures, intellectual discussions and cultural events to push back against an authoritarian, repressive state that brooks no dissent (Sounds familiar?).

Although the state today suppresses independent civil and political activity, it allows a lot more personal freedom than it did in 1979 … Since the mainstream media are mostly pumping out government propaganda, Russia’s modern intellectuals have got involved in cultural projects. Public lectures by notable scholars, both Russian and foreign, on subjects from urbanism to artificial intelligence gather mass audiences. Tickets to such talks sell out within hours. Every night dozens of events take place in Moscow and other cities. Book fairs attract queues to rival those for pop concerts. A new shopping centre in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, has organised a book round-table as one of its opening events.

Public lectures, intellectual discussions and excursions have evolved into a business. “Ten years ago, to raise money from investors, you needed to say only one word: ‘media’. Today all you have to say is ‘education’,” says Yuri Saprykin, a former editor of Afisha, a listings magazine that helped shape the tastes of the urban middle class. The trend started a few years ago when a site called “Theory and practice” began to provide a wide variety of courses and lectures. The young are wild about classical music and art museums. “If you are not learning something outside your work, you are a loser,” says Ms Kosinskaya.

Mr Dziadko, the grandson of Soviet dissidents and human-rights activists, and a group of friends have launched a popular multimedia education and entertainment project called Arzamas, a name borrowed from a 19th-century literary society of which Pushkin was a member. The subjects range from Elizabethan theatre and medieval French history to the anthropology of communism and the mythology of South Africa. A few months ago Arzamas organised an evening lecture about Joan of Arc, including a recital of medieval music, at Moscow’s main library. “We thought it would be attended by a few intellectuals. But when we turned up 15 minutes before the lecture, we saw a long queue of young people and hipsters trying to get in,” says Mr Dziadko.

The boom in “enlightenment” projects is not so much a reversal of the rise of consumerism in the previous decade but a complement to it. Just as Russian people were suddenly presented with a vast choice of consumer goods, they now have a large array of intellectual pursuits to choose from. And whereas Russia’s government can impose a ban on imports of Western food, barring the spread of knowledge is much harder.

The main producers and consumers of these enlightenment projects are young Westernised Russians who are part of a global culture. Their pursuit of a wide range of knowledge is a way of fighting the isolationism and aggressive obscurantism imposed by both state and church. This takes many forms, from banning modern-art shows to organising anti-gay campaigns, promoting anti-Darwinism and attempting to stop abortions.

Popular books about biology and physics currently sell better than detective stories. Yulia Shakhnovskaya, the director of the Moscow Polytechnic Museum, where Evgeny Yevtushenko read his poetry in the 1960s, says that education and science have become a form of resistance to politics. “We can’t win but that does not mean we should stop resisting, so we try to grow a garden in the middle of hell.” She says her main target audience is teenage schoolchildren, who are desperate for knowledge: “Good marks are no longer the main prerequisite for getting a good job in Russia…but the demand for knowledge is still there, so we try to satisfy it by other means.”

Ms Shakhnovskaya’s patrons include Igor Shuvalov, the first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, and Anatoly Chubais, the father of Russia’s privatisation programme. They are helping to promote an educated and emancipated elite that could gradually begin to change the system, which is what happened in the 1980s.

For now at least, the educated urban class does not pose a serious political threat to Mr Putin. But it represents a different and more fundamental challenge that has to do with values and ideas. Some of the most striking independent public-lecture projects recently launched had titles such as “The return of ethics” and “Public lies”, involving both Western and Russian philosophers, economists, sociologists and writers.

This new generation of educated young urbanites has criticised Russian politicians and opinion-formers of the 1990s and 2000s for viewing human-rights abuses and the lack of independent courts as unfortunate impediments to business and foreign investment, rather than bad things in themselves. Yet “despite the total amorality of politicians and bureaucrats, or maybe because of it, the demand for ethics in the public sphere is growing, not falling,” says Andrei Babitsky, a former editor of the Inliberty website that organised the lectures on ethics and lies. The power of ideas should never be underestimated, especially in Russia.

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21708882-young-people-are-finding-new-ways-signalling-dissent-tell-me-about-joan-arc

“Dissident Voices”

In Uncategorized on 14/02/2014 at 4:43 am

When I opened a copy of my friend’s latest book “Dissident Voices”, and saw the dissidents featured (Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and Vincent Cheng Lim), I tot how come no JBJ* and Lee Siew Choh? After all, they too stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And they too paid a heavy toll for their beliefs … But they never broke. In fact, Catherine Lim is a nobody when compared to those giants, JBJ and Lee.

When we met, he explained to me that he and Marshall Cavendish (the publisher) had agreed a tentative list of names. More than one book was needed to do justice to the names on the list.. The author thought the subjects he chose for the book “S’pore Dissidents” would resonate more with readers who wanted to know more about personalities who dared to be different – and paid a price. There are plans for another volume to cover JBJ and Lee Siew Choh for sure. Other names that could appear are: Alfian Saat, Martyn See, Ng Ho, Low Thia Khiang, Ong Teng Cheong, Devan Nair, Chee Soon Juan, Ho Kwong Ping and Teo Soh Lung.

If he included co-driver Low and Mad Dog (or is it  Coyote?) Chee, what about Chiam? As said, the list is being worked out, so don’t get worked up if your hero is left out. Just tell me and I’ll tell the author. BTW, Ng Ho is the father of another friend. Both father and son were detained under ISA. Despite being detained, my friend is a true-blue S’porean patriot and a poster boy for the meritocracy preached and practiced by the PAP Old Guard: example all his grandchildren are now in elite schools despite him being poor when young.

Whatever it is, the proposed list doesn’t do justice to the contemporary scene of voices. Voices like TOC, TRE and Alex Au. Maybe a third volume is needed? Watch and wait. Let volume II come out first.

Coming back to “Dissident Voices”, it’s written in straight-forward prose. ST’s style of writing at its best.

People of around my generation should read it to refresh or correct their memories, impressions of the late 50s and early 60s because the book covers Lim Chin Siong, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew and Said Zahari. The other four are “dissidents” from other more recent periods.

Younger S’poreans should read it because it tells them a bit of the history of S’pore: about S’poreans who stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And all but Marshall and Catherine Lim paid a heavy toll for their beliefs – deprivations, long prison terms, lonely lives in self-imposed exile. But they never broke.

They may learn of a time (late 50s, early 60s) when being called a “socialist” was not a sneer or an insult: even one LKY was proud to identify himself as a “socialist”. They may also learn that leaders can come from any level of society, and that it wasn’t necessary to have good academic results to be a leader: the ability to sway the masses was what counted. They may start to understand the background of today’s SAP schools, and why there are older S’poreans who decry the schools’ as an insult to local Chinese culture and traditions.

Readers of this blog like Jack, AuntieLucia etc should encourage their younger relations to read the book. Maybe even buy copies as birthday presents or rewards. Its prose is simple enough for secondary school kids who can learn that once upon a time life was hard, really hard and when S’poreans could not be called apathetic. Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/im-invested-in-spore-spore-in-50s-60s/

More about the author’s background:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/wanted-expertise-on-organising-a-legal-strike/

– Publisher’s media release

DISSIDENT VOICES

by CLEMENT MESENAS

One of the first of its kind–this book

Introduces ten unique individuals who stood

by their beliefs and the ultimate price they

paid for that legacy.

The personalities featured are:

Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim,

Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall,

Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew,

Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and

Vincent Cheng

ABOUT THE BOOK

They stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. Some paid a heavy toll for

their beliefs – deprivations, long prison terms, lonely lives in self-imposed exile. But

they never broke. Some will say the unflinching attitude of these dissidents against

what they perceived as coercive authority has been an exercise in futility. Yet other

say the course of Singapore’s history might have been altered if their will had

prevailed.

Their stories need to be told. The first of it’s kind, this book will inform and educate

rather than to glorify their tough stance. These short memoirs are a record of

human endurance, exemplifying the extremes sacrifices some people will make in

pursuit of their ideals.

Written by veteran journalist and author Clement Mesenas, this book chronicles the

lives of ten leading dissidents.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clement Mesenas started his career in The Straits Times in 1968, cutting his teeth in

journalism as a young crime reporter before moving on to the sub-editors desk and

then to the field of magazine publishing. He left Singapore in 1979 to become

managing editor of the Kuwait Times for a decade before moving to the Gulf News in

Dubai, where he was deputy editor for another decade. He returned to Singapore in

2000 to join MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper as one of its pioneering editors, before

he retired in 2011. He now publishes a number of community publications and is

working towards establishing a global network through digital media platforms.

—-

*Didn’t expect Chiam or Dr Chee to appear as they are still active politicians. As to Low, bet you he’d sue if he was called a dissident. He is the PAP’s self-appointed co-driver, a courtier who accepts the PAP’s hegemony. BTW, seems the co-driver and courtier needs a good accountant. Wonder what my friend Eric Tan is doing now? Smiling?

Silencing fake news and inconvenient voices: two sides of the same coin

In Internet on 24/03/2019 at 6:15 am

TOC accused (rightly) The Indians Idiots Sg of unprofessional behaviour even though TOC should be careful of throwing stones since it’s living in a glass house: ST etc can make the same accusation (rightly also) against TOC: Tweedledum v Tweedledee or TOC v The Idiots Sg.

This row reminded me how the PAP govt can kill two birds (fake news and dissident views) with one stone.

This is how to screw alt media without appearing to be repressive: make use of the fear of fake news.

Egypt’s Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media was given the power to block websites and social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers if they publish “fake news” or incite people to break the law.

The watchdog will also be able to fine them up to 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,500; £10,900) without obtaining a court order.

BBC report

OK, OK, the Egyptian way is too crude. What do you expect of paper generals not real ones? The Egyptian army loses to desert nomads in the Sinai. Only good for coups.

Here’s the British way: according to a UK government report, technology groups should be forced by a new regulator to ensure their platforms distribute quality news.

Our ang moh tua kees cannot in all honesty oppose such a law because it comes from the UK: they lick ang moh’s liberal ass, thinking what comes out is manna from heaven.

Seriously, if this law is passed here, Terry’s Online Channel, The Indians Idiots, Goh Meng Seng etc can no longer appear on Facebook given the unreliability of their original reporting and plagiarising of the local MSM. They can’t even copy and paste accurately.

Especially Meng Seng. When he recently pontificated “I am only the supporter of truth based on facts”, I couldn’t help laughing. Surely, he must mean “I am only the supporter of lies based on mistaken, spurious, apocryphal, fanciful, mendacious, untruthful, fictitious, deceptive, concocted, fallacious, incorrect, inaccurate, wrong, sophistical, casuistic, Jesuitical, misleading, delusive, imaginary, illusive, erroneous, invalid, deceiving, misrepresentative, fraudulent, trumped-up, facts”? As evidence, I cite Meng Seng: fake news propogator and What Meng Seng and TOC don’t tell us about dispute with Tun.

Related posts:

Why TOC’s Danisha Hakeem is a menace to the credibility of alt media

TISG: “useful loudhailer” for PAP administration

“The Idiots — S’pore” keeps on promoting divisiveness?

Sad.

Strong legacy of forgotten dissident & party

In Political governance on 21/02/2014 at 6:09 am

I feel the need* to remind readers about Lee Siew Choh, a dissident that even LKY, no sufferer of fools, respected**. Ironically, while he may be forgotten, and the party he helped found no longer exists, their legacy lives on, troubling the PAP’s hegemony. LKY’s respect is well-founded.

We all know all about that lion, and the reviver of opposition politics, JBJ, but who remembers Lee Siew Choh? The name doesn’t ring a bell among many younger S’poreans. And even people like me get their recollections of him muddled. Example: even though he was a medical doctor and studied at one of KL’s leading English language schools, I tend to think of him as Chinese-educated.

The basic, factual info about him can be found at NLB’s  Singapore Infopedia, a very useful site on things S’porean. (Sorry can’t link to the article ’cause NLB says must get its permission***. I don’t want AG to prosecute me, but where got time to ask permission to publicise an NLB product on a not-for-profit blog? Seriously, getting permission to link is so totalitarian or Big Brotherish. But then librarians are worse than teachers, policepersons and PAPpies in their authoritarian, “must have our permission” instincts. I was one in RI.)

Sorry, back to Lee. Part of his early life reads like an adventure and romance novel or film script. Born in KL, he came here to study medicine. He married a nurse he met at KK Hospital. Shortly after his marriage, in 1942, the Japanese sent him to work (as a doctor) on the infamous railway*** *made famous by the movie Bridge on the River Kwai.

You’d have tot that when he got back alive, he’d focus on getting rich and spending time with his wife. Well he did set up a medical practice at Hill St and they had three children. But he was a socialist who wanted Malayan and S’porean independence from the British.

One Dr Goh Keng Swee suggested he join the PAP: big mistake for him and the PAP. A yr after joining, in 1959, he was elected as Legislative Assemblyman for Queenstown. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry in 1960. He was a coming PAP man. He might have even made it into the book “Lee’s “Lieutenants”*****.

But in 1961, Dr Lee and 12 other PAP assemblymen and other leading PAP members  (35 of the 51 branches of PAP and 19 of its 23 organising secretaries) broke away from the PAP over differences with LKY and the other “conservative” PAP leaders over the proposed merger with Malaya. They formed the Barisan Sosialis with Dr Lee as the chairman. There were heated rows in the Assembly: WP should study what the BSoc did there to see how to hold the PAP govt to account: no co-driver BS. In 1961, he made the longest speech in the history of the Legislative Assembly: seven hours on the subject of Singapore’s proposed merger with Malaya. I don’t think this record has been bettered after S’pore became independent.

Anyway, the decision to form Malaysia was made (There was a referendum where voters had to vote for some of merger, rejection was not an available option, not even casting a blank vote as the BSoc recommended: blank votes were deemed to be votes in favour of LKY’s preferred option), but BSoc continued to oppose the PAP govt on merger. And on other things too: like workers’ rights and welfare. They were to the left of the PAP (who remember called themselves “socialists”). So far left of the PAP, that when the PAP called them “communists”, the label tended to stick.

In 1963,  Operation Coldstore removed from politics (by detaining them under the ISA) many of the leaders of the BSoc, a few months before the 1963 general elections (Some for our PM to learn from?). Dr Lee was not arrested but the following senior party officials were

Lim Chin Siong, secretary-general (like in the PAP, this was the most powerful post)

— S Woodhull, vice-chairman

— Fong Swee Suan, executive committee member

— Dominic Puthucheary, committee member

Many members were arrested too (e.g. Dr Lin Hock Siew.)

Lee led the party in the 1963 elections, in which they won 13 of the 51 seats. But he lost his contest with Dr Toh Chin Chye by a handful of votes. BSoc won 33.2% of popular votes but won only a quarter of the seats. The PAP won 37 seats with about 47% of the popular vote. The BSoc claimed they were cheated of victory. While they couldn’t prove the allegations, it is a fact (not a Hard Truth) that anti-PAP vote was split, with multi-cornered fights.

Even though the BSoc was proven right on M’sia (it didn’t work did it?), and S’pore left M’sia in 1965, sadly for S’porean democracy, BSoc in a fit of collective madness boycotted the first post-independence parliament, and general election in 1968, allowing the PAP to win all 51 of the seats in Parliament. Lee apologised to S’poreans for this collective mistake by the party in a 1980 election campaign speech. But to be fair to BSoc, the ISD was arresting members (think Chia Thye Poh, an MP) between 1965 and 1968, so one can understand BSoc’s decision.

The party never regained a meaningful role in politics after 1968, and in 1988, the party merged with the WP that JBJ had by then revived.

At the 1988 general election, Lee stood as a WP candidate in the Eunos GRC and the WP lost very narrowly to the PAP. As the WP was eligible to nominate two members of its team from Eunos to become Non-constituency MPs, the WP nominated Lee and Francis Seow to become NCMPs. Seow fled before he could take up his NCMP seat: he wanted to avoid income tax evasion charges, alleging the charges were politically motivated. Lee became Singapore’s first-ever NCMP. In Parliament, he raised issues  of justice including the ISA, cost of living and welfare.

Lee again stood in Eunos GRC in 1991, the WP again losing narrowly. However no NCMP seats were offered as the opposition parties won a total of four elected seats. Sadly two of the SDP MPs turned out to be clowns. Lee would have made a better opposition MP. He, Chiam and JBJ would have been a formidable trio.

Lee left the WP in 1996, saying he had differences with JBJ. What these were were never made public.

As to his legacy? Here are some tentative musings. The areas where the WP holds power is where the BSoc had its power base. Hougang was a BSoc stronghold and the ex-BSoc team there worked for Low and formed his power base. After he became Sec-Gen of the WP, the WP changed from a group of bicycle thieves, ex-Woodbridge patients, opportunists and “JBJ is always right” groupies held together by JBJ’s charisma (though not his organisational skills) into the disciplined, serious-minded force that it is today, PritamS notwithstanding.

The people that helped Low do this were former BSoc cadres and other activists from the Punggol area. I may not respect the WP’s attempts to hold the PAP govt to account as self-appointed co-driver, but I respect the discipline, purposefulness and hard work that enabled the WP to win a GRC and two SMCs, and nearly winning a third. And attracting members of the calibre of Chen Show Mao and JJ. Too bad about Pritam though.

While today’s WP is no longer the WP of JBJ (for which S’poreans should be grateful), one could argue that today’s WP is BSoc reincarnated. Even WP’s cautious stance, it could be argued, can be traced to the WP leaders wanting to avoid the mistakes BSoc made. Example: It was easy for the PAP to demonise the BSoc as “communist” because activists used the language of people like Mao: “class struggle”, “revolution” etc.

——————————–

“When I opened a copy of my friend’s latest book “Dissident Voices”, and saw the dissidents featured (Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and Vincent Cheng Lim), I tot how come no JBJ and Lee Siew Choh? After all, they too stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And they too paid a heavy toll for their beliefs … But they never broke. In fact, Catherine Lim is a nobody when compared to those giants, JBJ and Lee.” ‘

When we met, he explained to me that he and Marshall Cavendish (the publisher) had agreed a tentative list of names. More than one book was needed to do justice to the names on the list.. The author thought the subjects he chose for the book “S’pore Dissidents” would resonate more with readers who wanted to know more about personalities who dared to be different – and paid a price. There are plans for another volume to cover JBJ and Lee Siew Choh for sure.”

(https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/dissident-voices/)

**Part of ST’s report on death of Dr Lee in July 2002:

Recalling that, the Senior Minister wrote [to his widow]: ‘It altered the course of
his life, and the part he played in Singapore’s politics helped change
the course of history.’

Despite their strong political differences, Mr Lee felt ‘no personal
animosity’ towards the opposition leader.

‘In many ways he was a likeable man; he was open and transparent if
somewhat impulsive; he had a sense of humour, and often laughed at
what he was saying,’ added SM Lee.

‘And I felt partly to blame for getting him involved in a field not
his forte. So I was glad that he accepted my invitation for both of
you to accompany my wife and me on our 10-day visit to China in
October 1990.’

***You also may not, without the permission of NLB DIGITAL LIBRARY, insert a hyperlink to this website on any other website or “mirror” any Material contained on this website on any other server.

****The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre: Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

*****Incidentally, the implication of the title is that they were LKY’s subordinates. While they regarded him as the leader of the pack, the evidence shows he was regarded as merely first among equals to the likes of Dr Goh, Toh Chin Chye, Baker, Lim Kim San. It wasn’t like the master slave relationship that LKY had with GCT, Dharnabalan, Wong Kan Seng and others. .

Fear of Harry lingers?

In Political governance, Uncategorized on 19/09/2014 at 4:29 am

Like the smell of stale perfume? Or stale beer? Or tobacco? Or sweat?

I tot the above, when I read this on Facebook earlier this week

For those who are itching to see the move: To Singapore, with Love, but cannot make it to JB, you might want to pick up my book: Dissident Voices, on sale at Kino. Several of the personalities in To Singapore, with Love are featured in my book… Lim Chin Siong, Dr Lim Hock Siew (Operation Coldstore), Tan Wah Piow, Vincent Cheng (Marxist Conspiracy).
In my interview with The Independent Singapore, I said I did have some initial worry about writing about people who had incurred

See More

An interview with the author of Dissident Voices, Clement Mesenas How and why did you write the book? I was commissioned by the publishers, who told me that they had a grant for such a book. The idea was that that such a book would…
theindependent.sg

I reviewed the book here. Aimed at students, given that there is nothing not factual in the book, and that the author was a strike leader (he had balls despite being a ST journalist), I find it strange that he said he had some fear when he wrote the book. Either he was exaggerating, trying to puff his book or himself (ST journalists are very insecure), or the fear of one LKY was at the back of his mind. He became an adult at a time when the ISD was pretty busy*, and when LKY was intimidating and bullying, opponents and the voters. Only the Malayan ruling elite (Chinese and Malay) were not impressed by his behaviour: uncouth and unseemly. And S’pore got kicked out of M’sia, putting an end to his ambition of being PM of M’sia..

Seriously, given the way the govt is trying to ensure that only the “right” narrative is available for public consumption, we should only be interested in the “wrong” narratives, i.e. those banned by the “govt”.

Once upon a time, “banned” products were not easily accessible. But today there’s the internet (and YouTube).

Mind you, accessing the not “right” books are a bit more problematic than films. But alternative narrative authors should embrace e-publishing, Cheaper to produce and easier to access, if “banned’. And being “banned” is free, good publicity.

—–

*Another strike leader (another friend) had been “questioned” by the ISD because his dad was an oppo politician.

WP should resurrect its 1984 manifesto and 1991 speeches?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 21/03/2014 at 4:55 am

(Or “Back to the future for WP in next GE?

In the course of helping the author of Dissident Voices in the research for the sequel, I borrowed the WP 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book from the National Library, Marine Parade branch. I couldn’t find it on the shelves so I asked the librarian if it was “protected” by an invisibility field or was only available to the “right” people. No, it wasn’t hidden away under lock and key. It was openly displayed on the shelf near the PAP’s 50th anniversary book. But it is such an inconspicuous volume that I missed it.

The book told me things that the ST never reported about the 1984 and 1991  general elections. Remember that these events happened before the internet age. If the media didn’t report something, it didn’t exist for practical reasons (Somewhere I blogged on how the 1988 results for Eunos GRC came as a surprise: WP nearly won).

I learnt that the 1984 election manifesto was entitled”Wake Up to Your Freedom , It’s Time”. calling for the people to vote for “the Hammer for a caring society”. The WP called for

— Free and adequate medical care for the needy

— Commission to review education policy

–Free schooling and equal opportunities in education for children from poor families

— Workers’ rights

— Reduced CPF contributions and the right to take your CPF savings at 55

— Adequate care for the aged

— Greater share forSsingaporeans in the economic wealth

— Help for the disabled

— Abolition of tax subsidies and privileges for the rich

— Reasonable compensation for acquired properties

— Abolition of tax on water, light and telephone services

— Review of all fees paid to government and statutory boards

— Guaranteed personal for every citizen

— Freedom from exercise of arbitrary power and protection of citizen’s rights

All this in response to the younger PAP’s ministers call to vote for the PAP for a Swiss std of living.

Compare this to the 2011 manifesto (Key Highlights) which has since been watered down. No more public tpt nationalisation.

I find the 1984 manifesto more stirring and, more importantly, rationally relevant today. True the ideas in the manifesto sounded like pie-in-the-sky in 1984 (when I voted for the WP because I believed that a one-party state was bad for S’pore even though I was happy with most of what LKY, Dr Goh and the other Water Margin “bandits” were doing for us: ya I that ungrateful), but the ideas are no longer rubbish.

According to the PAP we now have a Swiss standard of living (huh? OK, like us the Swiss are unhappy about immigration, so unhappy that in a recent referendum they told the govt to restrict immigration)), and it’s a fact that we got oddles of money in the reserves (though you wouldn’t think so reading Chris Balding and his mindless “hate S’pore” groupies) thanks partly to Dr Goh’s ideas: doesn’t this mean we can now afford the things WP was calling for in 1984?

As regards the danger of overspending, we got the capital, and part of the income from it locked away from the govt in power, whether it be PAP or not. So the govt can only spend what it raises in taxes and the like, what with borrowing requiring the president’s approval.

So the ground is fertile for trying shumething new without worrying that the new policies cannot be reversed.

Another interesting fact I learnt is that according to the book in the 1991 GE, speeches centred mainly on bread-and-better issues:

The PAP would give beautiful promises before elections but there would always be strings attached — service charges would see a hike soon after.

— Under PAP’s reign, it would be difficult to maintain a family and provide decent education for the next generation.

— Their policies have promoted social inequality and a widening of the rich-poor divide.

— Job security for the workers was pathetically limited.

Sounds familiar?  Back to the future?

So, all in all, JBJ and his merry men of bicyle thieves*, ex-Woodbridge patients* , opportunists and economic illiterates were prescient. More prescient than me at least (trained lawyer and wannabe corporate financier). They were prescient earlier than Dr Chee who was still in shorts in 1984. Remember he had been banging away since the 1990s about growing inequality etc as the SDP rightly never fails to remind us. Well JBJ and his merry men had been doing so earlier.

With this track record, why doesn’t WP remind us that it called the future right in 1984 and 1991?

One reason could be that Low is a modest man, not prone in triumphalism; he was Organising Secretary in 1988. Another reason could be that the WP thinks that in the real world the public has a bad impression of the WP in those years even though JBJ is fondly remembered in cyberspace. History began only in 2001, after Low took power from JBJ.

It’s a fact (not a Hard Truth or a Heart Truth) that after the 1997 GE, the WP went AWOL (or is it MIA?).

It went so AWOL or MIA that it could only field two candidates in 2001. It had wanted to field a GRC team too but one James Gomez** it is alleged screwed up, even though publicly Low took responsibility for the balls-up. In 1988, in the first GE under the uber gerrymandering GRC system, it fielded 32 candidates of uneven quality and contested 6 GRCs and 14 SMCs. In 1991 it fielded 13 candidates in 2 GCs and 5 SMCs. in 1996 it fielded 14 candidates in 3 GRCs and one SMC (Houygang). The candidates in 1991 and 1997 were the kind of people voters were comfortable with.

True the leadership had a major distraction that started when JBJ as the editor of the Hammer, even though he didn’t understand written Tamil, published a letter written in Tamil. Let these extracts tell the story.

Legal Action: An Tamil Article Published on THE HAMMER
In November 1995, the Party and the whole of its Central Executive Council found itself the object of two defamation suits filed by five PAP Tamil MPs and eleven members of the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week arising from an article published in the Party organ, “The Hammer”. The Plaintiffs’ complaint in both suits was that the article implied that their efforts to promote the Tamil Language had been less than sincere.Members of the Central Executive Council under suit by PAP Tamil MPs and the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week were:-
Chairman Dr Tan Bin Seng
Vice-Chairman A. Rahim Rahman
Secretary-General J. B. Jeyaretnam
Assistant Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang
Treasurer Sim Say Chuan
Organising Secretary Ng Ah Chwee
Committee Member Lim Ee Peng
Committee Member James Teo Kian Chye
Committee Member James Tan Joo Leng
Committee Member K. Mariappane
Committee Member Chan Keng Sieng
Eventually, in September 1997, the Party and its Central Executive Council members agreed to pay the five PAP Tamil MPs by 6 instalments, damages for defamation of $200,000/- (inclusive of legal costs). The suit by the eleven members of the Organizing Committee was in the course of hearing at time of writing.
 …

Judgment: A Tamil Article Published in THE HAMMER
By the said Judgment given at the High Court on the 30th November 1998 that Jeyaretnam, A Balakrishnan and the workers’ party were collectively and severally ordered to pay ten of the plaintiffs in the said suit a total sum of $265, 000/- for damages and costs to be taxed.The Worker’s Party’s appeal against the said judgment was dismissed on 21 April 1999. By then the total sum had snowballed to close to half a million dollars, inclusive of legal costs.

(Above extracts from http://archive.is/lSomP#selection-1561.0-1583.184)

(Update at 6.52 on day of publication: More on nuances of the defamation case: http://article14.blogspot.sg/2012/03/who-got-facts-wrong-kenneth-jeyaretnam.html and http://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lrwc.org%2Fws%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F03%2FDefamationinSingapore.pdf&ei=N3ErU56GM877rAfhr4D4BA&usg=AFQjCNEGC0kB5Gwv5vdRztQr1ooO1060KA&bvm=bv.63316862,d.bmk)

Whatever the reason for not invoking the past in the past since 2001, the WP should seriously rethink the strategy of trying to be near-clones of the MIW. It was the right strategy in the noughties, and it culminated in the victories in 2011 (it campaigned as the voters’ co-driver to the PAP), 2012 and 2013. Huat ah.

But is it the right strategy for the next GE? For the reasons given above, I think not. It’s like the by-election strategy that was adopted by accident in 1991 (JBJ didn’t want it but he couldn’t get enough WP candidates); gd idea for its time but by the end of the decade had outlived its usefulness.

What do you think?

Especially if the ideas expressed here (http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/19/truth-exposed-how-the-pap-will-crash-the-singapore-economy/take root in the real world), not juz  cyberspace i.e.”cowboy towns” (actually paper-warriors’ alternative reality).

As someone who wants for starters, an opposition that deprives the PAP of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, I don’t want the next GE to be a rerun of the 1997 one.

*OK, OK . Only one of each.  But there were many “strange” MP candidates, pre 1988. But thinking about it only those who perceived reality differently from other S’poreans would have dared take on the PAP in the 70s and 80s.  Remember LKY was no wimp like Goh or Pinkie; he was the leader of Water Margin “bandits”.

**Yup the same Gabra Gomez of 2006. His instructors in BMT would sure have been real nervous during range, and grenade throwing. In 2011, SDP made sure he kept away from the form filling.

JBJ: cub & young adult yrs

In Uncategorized on 07/03/2014 at 6:39 am

I’m helping the author of “Dissident Voices” (reviewed here) on his follow-up book (DV II) which will include JBJ and Lee Siew Choh by doing the basic research. Here are my notes and observations on JBJ’s life up to the historical Anson victory. I’m publishing it (and subsequent notes and observations on JBJ etc) because my piece on Lee Siew Choh helped garnered some delicious tit-bits from readers that if verified can be used in the planned book e.g. that he was brilliant academically, winning prizes, and that a son was jailed for refusing to do NS. Hopefully, this berry-picking can be repeated for JBJ etc with yr help.

JBJ: cub & young adult yrs

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam or J. B. Jeyaretnam  or more commonly and affectionately  “J.B.J.” was born on 5 January 1926,  into an Anglican family of Christian-Tamil descent in then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) when his parents were on “home leave” from Malaya.

As his father was working in Muar [Who was his father’s employer? What was his occupation?], Malaya, he first went to school at a French convent in Muar.  He then attended Muar’s Government English School When his father was transferred to Johor Bahru,  he studied at the English College there.

Here’s something from a blogger* (who also said he was the only male in his convent class: wah got harem so young leh) that I had not come across anywhere elsewhere on what he did during the Japanese Occupation.

He enrolled in Japanese classes/schools in JB and Syonan (Singapore’s Japanese name) to further his studies as he put it – ‘at the time we didn’t know if this was truly the end of the British Empire’.

Having gained some proficiency in Japanese, he was quite naive when his Japanese tutor told him to follow him and start a Japanese class in Muar. He wanted to go, but his father put a stop to it and instead found him a job at the Census Dept. Later he moved on as an interpreter in the Transport Dept, when the Census Dept closed down. He was forthright in admitting why – at the time the Japanese started recruiting young men to work in ‘the Death Railway’ at the Siam-Burma border. Having a job meant that he wasn’t likely to drafted in service at the notorious site. The job paid little but it gave him a chance to buy stuff like tapioca which became his family’s staple food during the 44 month Japanese Occupation.

He would go on to admit that the occupation moulded him into what he would become later. He was a shy and timid boy, but war forced him to take initiatives and be a man. It made him more out-spoken and independent.

After the Japanese Occupation, he came to Singapore to study at St Andrew’s school. (TRE and TOC readers’ would be cursing him and the govt for this today?)

The same blogger reports that his father wanted him to study medicine; but he won, via a correspondence course (reported the Guardian in its obituary), a place to study law at University College London. According to the Guardian, “There, a lecture by Nye Bevan inspired his early socialist beliefs.”

But it sure didn’t show because after he was called to the English Bar by Gray’s Inn, on his return home, in 1952, he joined the Singapore Legal Service.  Not for him the life of a socialist activist in private legal practice, the path followed by one Lee Kuan Yew (LKY). But to be fair to JBJ, he came from a less wealthy background than LKY.

JBJ served as a magistrate, crown counsel, deputy public prosecutor and district judge (becoming the equivalent of today’s Chief District Judge), and as the registrar of the Supreme Court+. He resigned from the service in 1963and entered private practice [Which firm did he join?],  setting up his own law firm in 1968.  The JBJ version was that he was disillusioned with the direction the Legal Service was heading under the govt of LKY. The LKY version was that he resigned because he was bitter at not being appointed a High Court judge. (The usual promotion for the Subordinate Court’s highest judge then and now). Most probably the truth lay in between. LKY and his govt had little time for those who they believed believed in the colonial values. After all, his sons were expensively educated here and in the UK: not for them a local education, where even in schools like RI and ACS, 40 students in a class were the norm. Today our elite schools follow the posh British fee-paying schools with about 25 to a class.

He had married in February 1957, Margaret Cynthia Walker, a British law student he had known in London, and their relationship had endured his return to S’pore. JBJ’s best man at his wedding was Tan Boon Teik, who would become Singapore’s longest serving Attorney General (AG), and JBJ’s nemesis in later years.

The 1960s and early 70s must have been the time that his eldest son Kenneth J, alluded to when he said that the family had a driver, lived in a bungalow and had a dog called “Rusty”. It was a gd time to be an upper middle class professional. But JBJ must have been restless.

In 1971, Jeyaretnam led a group of lawyers [Any idea who they were? Was Gopalan Nair one of them?] who took over the zombie that was the Workers’ Party and became the party’s Secretary-General.  The WP had been founded in 1957 as his personal vehicle by S’pore’s first Chief Minister, David Marshall, after he resigned office. It now became JBI’s personal war chariot until he was deposed as the WP’s leader in 2001, 30 years later.

In the 1972 and 1976 general elections he was thrashed by the PAP candidates he stood against. But he kept on battling away even though he was thrashed again in by-elections in 1977 and 1979. He exemplified what Samuel Beckett the playwright wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

In 1978 (or was it 1977?), Lee Kuan Yew successfully sued him for defamation. The courts found that JBJ had accused him of nepotism and corruption, and of being unfit to be prime minister**. Mr Lee was awarded damages and costs. An appeal to the Privy Council in London was defeated. While I find most of the other defamation suits problematic because they were petty whatever the law says, in this case, I think that LKY had every moral right to sue and win damages.

JBJ and his groupies, ang moh journalists, anti-PAP paper warriors, and ang moh tua kee S’poreans make such of the fact that  “such comments in many democracies would not lead to libel actions but be regarded as part of the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary politics.”. True but up to a point only. They forget that the leaders of political parties don’t make remarks alleging corruption about govt leaders unless they have evidence. When was the last time you heard Republican presidential candidates or the Republican leader of the House or a Republican senator call or imply the president of the US corrupt? Or the leader of the opposition in the UK call the PM corrupt? JBJ went too far this time as he did in the 1990s where he published a defamatory letter the contents of which he didn’t understand (it was in Tamil) and getting not only himself, but other WP leaders into trouble. More on this when I cover that period.

In 1980, he lost again in a general election, though the margin was now a very respectable by 47.0% to 53.0%. His wife died that year of cancer, leaving him a single parent with two sons, and debts. It was not a good year for him. But “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better,” seemed written for him.

In 1981, he became the first opposition politician since Singapore’s independence in 1965 to win a seat in Parliament.  He defeated the candidate of the governing People’s Action Party (PAP) at a by-election in the Anson constituency. It was a famous victory; made sweeter because the by-election had been held because the govt nominated Anson MP and NTUC Chief, CV Devan Nair for the post of president, on the death of President Sheares.

In subsequent posts, I’ll share my notes and takes on his later life and what I see as his enduring legacy. Certainly not the WP or the Reform Party or his style of defamatory rhetoric, but still a legacy, though there are parts that would pain him.

—-

*http://anyhowhantam.blogspot.sg/2013/10/remembering-singapores-lion-of.html

**At a rally in 1977 he said “… I’m not very good at the management of my own personal fortunes, but Mr Lee Kuan Yew, has managed his personal fortunes very well. He is the Prime Minister of Singapore and his wife is the senior partner of Lee & Lee and his brother is Director of several companies including Tat Lee Bank in Market Street, a bank that was given a permit with alacrity, banking permit license when other banks were having difficulty in getting the license”. He paid dearly for these words with damages and costs being awarded to LKY. And as his son Kenneth J said, the family lost the driver, bungalow and dog.

+Update on 14th March 2014 at 6.30pm: He was also tutor in legal philosophy and criminology at the University of Malaya in S’pore. (The WP 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book 1957-2007)

 

 

“Antics Of Civil Society Activists Endanger Opposition Cause”

In Malaysia on 11/09/2018 at 10:04 am

Not me but Ajay a writer to TRE. The relevant extracts reproduced below as is the full piecebelow. Needless to say, the reaction to it and the earlier reaction to my WTF! With PAP on the ropes why this self-inflicted distraction? showed that like PJ Thum, Kirsten Han, Jovolan Wham, the TRE cybernuts do not wish S’pore well: because Tun (like them) hates the PAP, they (the TRE cybernuts) are happy to team up with him overlooking the fact that he also hates S’poreans.

(Aside I was planning to stop posting on this topic but Tan Wah Piow, cybernuts and their ang moh tua kee allies want to keep the conversation going, helping the PAP distract attention from bread and butter issues. With enemies like these, PAP is very lucky.)

As Chris K posted on FB

The philosopher and sometime novelist G.K Chesterton once noted,

“Evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin.”

The PAP is always lucky to have its “splendid dupes” among its critics and opponents. If you think “splendid dupes” is too cheem, then use the more common “useful fools”. The fools should give their brains a chance and not fall in love with the sound of their own voices.


PAP govt a point

“The three individuals [I assume this means Crazy Rich Asian PJ Thum, his side-kick Kirsten Han and Jovolan Wham] claim that they are patriots. It is not patriotic to invite any foreign leader to intervene in Singapore politics, especially the leader of a country who has declared his desire to increase the price of water to Singapore by more than 10 times, and with whom we seek to maintain close and friendly relations.

——————————————————————————————-

Back to Ajay, here are the most impt bits of what he has to say:

The problem with civil society activists and far left Singaporeans is that they are living in a bubble, unwilling and unable to see how their radical beliefs are unpalatable to the conservative Singaporean electorate. Are they so accustomed to their echo chambers that they do not go out and interact with everyday people living in HDB flats? The average Singaporean is not bothered about greater freedom of speech, freedom of expression or harsh defamation laws. He does not support sodomy and does not want gay marriage to be legalized in Singapore. He also does not want drug traffickers to be spared from the death penalty. Nor does he care about the incessant whining of ISA detainees about their supposedly wrong detention in 1987 or about some old folks detained under Operation Coldstore for allegedly being communists. Yes, yes, these are all issues that a bleeding heart liberal would care about. But they are not bread and butter issues and are thus of no concern to ordinary people.

The civil society activists’ approach suggests that they think that making the loudest noise will help their cause. They are out of touch with Singaporeans. Instead of spouting rhetoric about the kind of Singapore that they want to see, they should be working with the Singapore that exists before their eyes. What they are doing is akin to pounding one’s head against the unmoving wall. They can talk about their pet issues, but if they want to achieve any more than that, they should go door to door and have conversations with Singaporeans and try to win them over. That would be the more effective approach. The more they are in the public eye for controversial antics such as the Mahathir meeting, the more they hurt the opposition cause as swing voters do not view their actions in a positive light and unfortunately lump them together with the credible opposition figures.

In the lead up to GE2015, attention was taken away from the rising cost of living, the influx of foreigners and the difficult job market resulting from the stagnating economy. Part of this was due to the antics of diehard anti-PAP fanatics like Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui and Amos Yee. The political narrative shifted away from the PAP government’s shortcomings. Instead we heard disorganized chants of “Return my CPF” as a small bunch of protesters heckled special needs kids, and credible anti-PAP voices were drowned out by the noise about donating to self-styled freedom fighter Roy Ngerng who was being sued by the prime minister for posting defamatory comments on his blog.

[ ]

The reason I write this is not because I want to pour cold water on the enthusiasm of hardcore opposition supporters itching to blame the PAP but because I want readers to learn from history. How does it help the opposition cause when activists create controversy, get in trouble and then play the victim card, claiming political persecution? These activists should think of the optics. Swing voters are not moved the slightest. Contrary to what they think, the PAP does not fear a confrontational opposition. A confrontational opposition is actually easier for the PAP to defeat because of their tendency to go off the rails at times while being passionate about a cause. Like Roy Ngerng, these civil society activists will find themselves alone if they end up sued or arrested, should any of their hare-brained antics go wrong. Keep the narrative focused on bread and butter issues such as the affordability of HDB flats, the retirement age, the rising cost of living and the scarcity of jobs, and people will take note of the opposition. That is the only way to win seats in a politically and socially conservative nation.

I remind that Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole tell me that think PJ, think the Youngs of Crazy Rich Asians. And his side kick Kirsten Han, although poor, doesn’t know S’pore is in SE ASia, and    says nothing wrong in asking Tun

Ajay’s piece in full. Btw, Terry Xu says that the first para contains false allegations. As far as I’m concerned they are fair (albeit unfair) comments on what PJ and gang did.

Antics Of Civil Society Activists Endanger Opposition Cause

I was aghast at the antics of the Singaporean activists last week. It was categorically wrong for them to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir and request for him to promote democracy in Southeast Asia. This was potentially damaging to Singapore’s international reputation as these activists may have portrayed Singapore negatively in front of a foreign politician. I also strongly disagree with Dr Thum Ping Tjin’s facebook comments (LINK) that suggest Singapore should merge with Malaysia. The last thing most Singaporeans want right now is merger with a country that practices bumiputera policy which discriminates against capable and competent Chinese and Indians, and forces them to live with the fear that they could be ruled by sharia law someday.

On 30 August, former SDP member Teo Soh Lung posted on her Facebook page (LINK) that “PAP government should take note that today’s young citizens will not bow to unreasonable pressure and they have access to leaders in the region”. This was followed by another facebook post on August 31, in which she stated her view that “Association with foreign leaders, whether in government or in opposition should be the norm” and justified the meeting because everyone has “the right of association”.

From the first post, the implication is that Singaporeans can seek help from foreign leaders in the region if they do not like the PAP government. The view Ms Teo has expressed in the second post is erroneous because the nation’s carefully cultivated international reputation could be in tatters in days if every political dissident runs to a foreign leader and badmouths Singapore in front of the media whenever he or she feels like it. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Ultimately, Singaporeans will suffer, not just the PAP. This sort of scorched earth approach is not one a loyal opposition would take. A loyal opposition would not resort to mudslinging whenever the opportunity arises nor would it resort to destabilizing an elected government in order to seize power. A loyal, constructive and responsible opposition would disagree with the PAP within Singapore’s boundaries, contest elections, argue passionately before the electorate and offer alternative ideas to drive the country forward. A loyal opposition would understand that despite differences in political beliefs with the PAP, they should align themselves with the government of the day when it comes to foreign policy and issues of Singapore’s sovereignty. Why? Because criticizing Singapore in front of foreigners is not patriotic, nor is it helpful to the average Singaporean who is struggling to make ends meet.
This brings back memories. In 1995, Dr Chee along with two SDP members attended a dialogue at Williams College where a Singaporean political dissident and fugitive, Francis Seow criticized Singapore’s judiciary in front of a foreign audience
(LINK).

Neither Dr Chee nor the SDP members present rebutted Francis Seow or even voiced a mild opinion that Singapore was not like that. This behaviour was strongly condemned by the Singapore parliament, including then opposition MP Chiam See Tong. I urge TOC readers to look up Mr Chiam’s speech. His words are still true and they are apt for this recent incident involving the activists meeting Dr Mahathir. The Dr Chee of the past made several similar missteps, including this cringe-inducing video (LINK) in which he asked US president Barack Obama to take note of the human rights abuses in Singapore and take actions to get Singapore to join the ‘community of democracy’. The Dr Chee of today is more restrained, politically mature, willing to work within the Singapore political system and has focussed on bread and butter issues, but his past mistakes still weigh heavy on the SDP, especially during elections.
Both the activists of today and the Dr Chee of the past believed that foreign interference in Singapore politics is necessary to bring democracy to Singapore. But they do not consider the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans who do not want liberal democracy in Singapore. If you ask the general public in Singapore, most of them will agree that there is already enough democracy in Singapore. You may call them brainwashed or ‘the 70%’ but that changes nothing. Singapore’s politics is for Singaporeans to decide. Any attempt by a foreign power to impose a liberal agenda on Singapore will only result in a conservative backlash against the opposition. That was what happened at GE1997. The SDP lost all its seats and has failed to attain 40% of the votes in any constituency ever since. As the impatient far left seized the political narrative and focussed on abstract and irrelevant civil rights issues, the opposition as a whole suffered. Moderate opposition parties were also affected by the taint and became unable to win more than 2 seats for 14 years until the Workers’ Party won Aljunied GRC in 2011.

The problem with civil society activists and far left Singaporeans is that they are living in a bubble, unwilling and unable to see how their radical beliefs are unpalatable to the conservative Singaporean electorate. Are they so accustomed to their echo chambers that they do not go out and interact with everyday people living in HDB flats? The average Singaporean is not bothered about greater freedom of speech, freedom of expression or harsh defamation laws. He does not support sodomy and does not want gay marriage to be legalized in Singapore. He also does not want drug traffickers to be spared from the death penalty. Nor does he care about the incessant whining of ISA detainees about their supposedly wrong detention in 1987 or about some old folks detained under Operation Coldstore for allegedly being communists. Yes, yes, these are all issues that a bleeding heart liberal would care about. But they are not bread and butter issues and are thus of no concern to ordinary people.

The civil society activists’ approach suggests that they think that making the loudest noise will help their cause. They are out of touch with Singaporeans. Instead of spouting rhetoric about the kind of Singapore that they want to see, they should be working with the Singapore that exists before their eyes. What they are doing is akin to pounding one’s head against the unmoving wall. They can talk about their pet issues, but if they want to achieve any more than that, they should go door to door and have conversations with Singaporeans and try to win them over. That would be the more effective approach. The more they are in the public eye for controversial antics such as the Mahathir meeting, the more they hurt the opposition cause as swing voters do not view their actions in a positive light and unfortunately lump them together with the credible opposition figures.

In the lead up to GE2015, attention was taken away from the rising cost of living, the influx of foreigners and the difficult job market resulting from the stagnating economy. Part of this was due to the antics of diehard anti-PAP fanatics like Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui and Amos Yee. The political narrative shifted away from the PAP government’s shortcomings. Instead we heard disorganized chants of “Return my CPF” as a small bunch of protesters heckled special needs kids, and credible anti-PAP voices were drowned out by the noise about donating to self-styled freedom fighter Roy Ngerng who was being sued by the prime minister for posting defamatory comments on his blog. Ngerng posted videos and wrote blog posts, expressing that he had “believed that within a few months, Singaporeans would have thronged the streets and the PAP would be unseated” (Source). He compared himself to a ‘hero’ and apologized for being unable to be a MP for Singaporeans. In the general election, he lost miserably, barely managing to get 21% of the votes. Clearly he was no ‘hero’ in the eyes of most Singaporeans and it had all been for nothing.

Another loud and distracting political saga was the “Free Amos Yee” movement in which the rude kid Amos insulted religion and denigrated the memory of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister at a time when emotions were still raw about his passing. In the controversial video, Amos even claimed that he had talked with a SDP member. In the wake of his arrest, he was warmly supported by activists and some opposition politicians but they performed a flip flop and turned against him after he slandered Vincent Law. Nevertheless, the opposition suffered because of these events, especially since the election was held at a time when Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy was at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

I am a proud opposition supporter. The reason I write this is not because I want to pour cold water on the enthusiasm of hardcore opposition supporters itching to blame the PAP but because I want readers to learn from history. How does it help the opposition cause when activists create controversy, get in trouble and then play the victim card, claiming political persecution? These activists should think of the optics. Swing voters are not moved the slightest. Contrary to what they think, the PAP does not fear a confrontational opposition. A confrontational opposition is actually easier for the PAP to defeat because of their tendency to go off the rails at times while being passionate about a cause. Like Roy Ngerng, these civil society activists will find themselves alone if they end up sued or arrested, should any of their hare-brained antics go wrong. Keep the narrative focused on bread and butter issues such as the affordability of HDB flats, the retirement age, the rising cost of living and the scarcity of jobs, and people will take note of the opposition. That is the only way to win seats in a politically and socially conservative nation.

Ajay

M’sia: Don’t anyhow blame Najib

In Malaysia on 16/05/2018 at 11:02 am

Be more nuanced.

Couldn’t stop laughing

But translating the alliance’s manifesto into action — including sweeping political reforms meant to repair checks and balances eroded under Najib.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Malaysia-election/Mahathir-moves-with-practiced-skill-to-assert-control

What a really dumb remark,”repair checks and balances eroded under Najib”.

I mean Najib was able to do what he did because one Tun M had in his tenure as PM got the Auditor-General and the Chief Justice Lord President removed, cowed the king and sultans, and finally sacked Anwar and was complicit in him being roughed up in custody. Najib was juz following precedents, juz like when the electoral districts were redrawn to BN’s advantage. All Najib’s actions were from Tun’s playbook, including muzzling the voices of dissidents

Btw, Najib was right about Tun’s desire for council of elders.


Tun M

is forming a council of five elders including palm oil tycoon Robert Kuok, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and Zeti Akhtar Aziz, who led Bank Negara Malaysia for 16 years. The people will be tasked with advising the cabinet and probing government personnel.

Bloomberg

———————————–

Najib had said:

“I think he’s obsessed about control, about calling the shots, in fact, when we were quite close together he even suggested establishing a council of elders,” said Mr Najib.

“Of course, you can imagine who’s going to chair the council of elders and a sitting prime minister after every Cabinet, I suppose I would have to march to his office to get his consent.”

“He wanted me to do his bidding,” Mr Najib said.

Bloomberg via https://www.todayonline.com/world/najib-predicts-hell-extend-grip-power-malaysia-election-after-2013-vote-scare-1mdb-mistakes

Najib on Tun M

I’m sure that he’ll make sure that the Council of Eminent Persons he installed will remain beyond the 100 days he says it will last. And that he’ll retire to an institutionalised Council of Elders when Anwar becomes PM.

Then truly A New Hope will be followed by The Empire Strikes Back and not the Return of the Jedi: in the movies.

Coming back to “repair checks and balances eroded under Najib”, here’s a more nuanced remark:

Mr Najib, who tightened the screws on Malaysia’s already authoritarian system

As the FT is now part of the stable of the publisher of the first quote, time for FT to send trainers to teach the Orientals.


On 20th May 2018, amended to reflect that he sacked the Lord President on the CJ. In the M’sian judicial system, the Lord President is the most senior judge.