Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blood On His Hands

The Mumbai terrorists were targetting Americans and British citizens. So why was Singaporean Lo Hwei Yen, 28, shot? Lo is a Chinese lady married to an Indian Singaporean. Her death was confirmed on 28 November 2008 at 9.35 pm Singapore time. She first spoke to her husband at 2 a.m. on Thursday 27 November, informing him hotel staff had told her to move to another level in the Oberoi Trident Hotel. Later, at 6 a.m. she told him she was taken hostage.

An Indian news channel had reported earlier that the terrorists had held the woman at gunpoint and ordered her to tell the Singapore Government to tell the Mumbai authorities to refrain from acting against them or she would lose her life.

Perhaps the clue lies in the ill choice of words in the following communication from one prime minister to another:

HE Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
Republic of India

27 November 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

I was shocked to learn of the series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I convey our deepest condolences to you, the Government of India and the families of the victims .
The terrorists have taken several people of different nationalities as hostages, including a Singaporean . We are already working closely with the Indian authorities on this. Singapore stands ready to assist the Indian authorities in any way to secure the safe release of the Singaporean and other hostages .
I am confident that the Indian people will rally around your government as it deals with the Mumbai terrorist attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice . The Mumbai attacks are another reminder that terrorism continues to be a common threat to all of us. We strongly support your government's efforts in fighting the scourge of terrorism .

Yours sincerely,
Lee Hsien Loong

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Salaries For Fat Cats

In April 2007 and January this year, the salaries of top civil servants and ministers were revised upwards again "to keep pace with soaring private sector salaries". But, in the light of economic doldrums island wide, the Public Service Division apparently had to bite the bullet and announced that the 2009 salary revision for this group has now been deferred (not cancelled). The original game plan was that the already over paid top civil servants and ministers were supposed to get another pay rise in January next year. It was to be the third adjustment to bring public sector pay to 88 per cent of the private sector benchmark, a move announced in April 2007.

Ministers and top civil servants will now get a pay cut of up to 19 per cent next year. The Civil Service is also reducing the year-end bonus payment for this year.

The guiding benchmark, we are told, is set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top eight earners in each of the six sectors: multinational corporations, lawyers, bankers, accountants, local manufacturers and engineers. What piques one's curiosity is that, despite endemic bankruptcies, and wide scale retrenchments in private corporations, the government released data show that all indexed professions in the private sector, excepting accountants (probably the lot working for Lehman Brothers and the like), are earning 11 to 35 per cent more in 2008 than in 2007.

Commenting on the pay cut, Mr Teo Chee Hean, Minister in charge of the Civil Service, said: "Public sector salaries follow the market up and down. The mechanism we introduced last year to link a significant proportion of the salary of senior civil servants to the performance of the economy is working as intended. This mechanism allows salaries to respond more rapidly to market conditions." Maybe the minister has another set of figures for his speech.

The facts on hand seem to suggest that the formula used to calculate the ministrial paycheck is not as straight forward as claimed. Like the formula used to calculate the tariff rate for electricity, the mathematics involved will probably take several man-years to explain.

The Public Service Division also took pains to highlight that the Prime Minister has and will continue to donate all increases in his own salary after the April 2007 revisions, to good causes for five years. Note "good causes" and not "charitable organisations."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Party Rule

Two-party system cannot work here, says PM Lee (18 Nov 2008, Straits Times)

A two-party system cannot work in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

This is because it is adversarial and guarantees neither good governance nor progress.

As long as the People's Action Party (PAP) changes itself and continues to provide clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve, the country is much better off with one dominant, strong, clean party, he said.

Speaking at the PAP annual conference, Mr Lee highlighted two examples of how the two-party system worked: The United States and Taiwan.

Concerning the US, he noted that Mr Barack Obama had campaigned on the theme of 'Change we can believe in'.

The President-elect would now try to change the direction of the country because that was the nature of the system in the US: One party changing what the other has done once it is in power.

The US could afford such change because it was a big country, said Mr Lee.

'It has a big pool from which to find political talent. Mr Obama will be able to find many able people to hold his administration... According to one report, they are all waiting beside their telephones waiting for the phone call.'

He added that while Republican presidential candidate John McCain might have given a 'very gracious' concession speech after he lost to Mr Obama, that will not alter the stark reality of adversarial politics in the US: The Republican Party will be doing all it can over the next four years 'to undermine the Democratic Party, and in the next elections, beat it, and get back into power'.

The US could withstand such an adversarial system because of its size: 'Whatever happens, the US will still be there. Eventually, problems will be put right and life will go on.'

In smaller countries however, there was no guarantee 'that if something goes can put Humpty Dumpty together again', he noted.

He cited Taiwan as an example of how two-party democracy had been detrimental to people's lives.

In 2000, its voters, unhappy with the 'corrupt' and 'stale' Kuomintang (KMT), voted in MrChen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

But after eight years of his presidency, they saw the 'sad results' - a stagnant economy, polarised politics and worsening corruption.

So they voted him out, and returned the KMT to power.

But the KMT found it was not so easy to get the economy restarted or to restore good government and have a less polarised political environment.

The Taiwanese today are disappointed with President Ma Ying-jeou because his campaign promise of instant improvements has not materialised, said Mr Lee.

Yet the alternative to President Ma in the form of the DPP leader would do no better.

Taiwan would qualify as a democracy by Western standards because it has had two changes of government in the past eight years, said Mr Lee, but it was not a political system that worked properly. It was 'malfunctioning'.

'I don't think you want that kind of political system in Singapore,' he said.

So just how well is his PAP team doing under the one-party rule system? Official statistics released show that the budget deficit for 2008 is negative $2.4 billion, revised from the earlier projected $0.8 billion.  In 2007 the government had a budget surplus of $6.5 billion. 
Also, it was reported that the Town Councils run by PAP members of parliament invested $16 million in failed Lehman Brothers-linked structured products. Statutory boards - Civil Service College, Singapore Land Authority, Infocomm Development Authority - incurred a 14 percent loss on investments in credit-linked notes.

The last word from his father is also worth noting: Lee Kuan Yew once told the media that if the PAP fails to deliver, he expects the military will step in.

Monday, November 03, 2008

An Expensive Messenger Boy

The uproar began over a month ago, when SP Services announced that electricity tariffs would increase 21.5 per cent in the last quarter of this year. Consumers already burdened by record inflation saw red, pointing to the $1.08 billion that SP's parent company, Singapore Power, made last year. How would the poor cope, and why couldn't Singapore Power use some of its profits to absorb the cost, many asked in newspapers and internet forums.

After remaining largely silent while market regulator, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) made pathetic responses to news coverage and letters to the press, group chief executive Quek Poh Huat told a media briefing that blaming SP services for high tariffs was akin to shooting the messenger.
"If I'm the lorry driver (delivering) goods to your house, and you ask me how come the price for a bag of rice has doubled, I can't explain to you," said chief financial officer Yap Chee Keong, who, like his boss, draws a superscale salary which is more than double that of a lorry driver.

We are told the transmission charge, which is collected by SP services, makes up 17 percent of the tariff. The EMA sets the formula for tariffs, which Non-Constituency Member of Parliament asked to be revealed in Parliament last month. Expectedly, the Singapore Power lorry drivers are very quiet on this request. At best the public will get a Ong Teng Cheong type answer about how many man years will be required to make the computations.
Singapore Power's profit from the regulated electricity market monopoly here was $423 million last year, representing a 6 per cent return on total assets, which is more than double what the public gets from their Central Provident Fund compulsory savings (2.5 per cent). And it's also higher than the 5 percent promised returns on the Lehman-linked structured deposits, which many retirees turned to because of the pathetic 1 per cent offered for bank fixed deposits.
Reader Daniel Gwee wrote in his response:
"SP Services in not an office boy. It has a higher mandate: That of a negotiator, to get the best terms for us and not pass on what terms have been quoted by a supplier.
We have been told Singapore switched to the use of natural gas as a more competitive source than fuel oil for generation purpose.
Have we been able to get the best commercial financing terms, and is it cheaper than obtaining Government funds?"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shifting Sands At Marina Bay Casino

Las Vegas Sands, the company building Marina Bay Sands resort, one of two casinos championed by PM Lee Hsien Loong, saw its share price plunge from a 52-week high of US$144.15 to Tuesday's (21 Oct 08) price of US$12.43, on concerns about a slowdown at its US operations, profitability of its Macau casinos and high gearing. According to Associated Press, Las Vegas Sand's CEO Mr Sheldon Adelson and his wife lent the company US$475 million this month to meet liquidity requirements and avoid triggering a loan covenant. Sheldon disputed reports that his company was having trouble getting banks to agree to terms.
Mr Sheldon said in February that it had obtained all the necessary financing, amounting to $5.25 billion, to develop the Marina Bay Sands casino, which is due to open at the end of 2009.
Not exactly good news for local banks DBS, OCBC and UOB, who are among the 12 lead arrangers of the $5.25 billion loan. "Although the banks are well capitalised, this may be a significant hit because they are lead arrangers for the syndicated loan," said UOB Kay Lian bank analyst Jonathan Koh. Mr Koh said in a note that OCBC and DBS could still be holding a bulk of term loans allocated, although UOB might have distributed a portion of its term loans to foreign banks.
Already embroiled in the repercussions from the Lehman Brothers collapse, DBS admitted its standards in the sale of the Lehman-linked notes were not followed in some cases and announced investors involved will be compensated immediately. DBS Bank issued and distributed DBS High Notes 5 in Singapore and other Lehman-linked products in Hongkong, and estimated total compensation in Singapore and Hongkong of at $70 to $80 millions. It sold the Lehman-linked structured notes to 4,700 customers in the two economies, who invested a total of $360 millions.
Mr Leng Seng Choon, head of research at DMG & Partners Securities, highlighted that investors in the Marina Bay Sands casino complex should note that there is "some national interest" in this project. "The entire project was first initiated by the Government, I think we have to take that into consideration." Is he suggesting that the taxpayers may be picking up some of the tab?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Unbecoming Police Behaviour

When Mr Tong Mun Cheong woke up following an epileptic seizure on Oct 1, he found himself handcuffed and inside a police lock-up.
The last thing he remembered was waiting for a taxi in Sungei Road earlier that evening.
Mr Tong, 34, said a police officer told him he had been taken in for drunken behavior and refused to let him call his mother for his seizure medication.
"I told them I had fits but the police didn't believe me. I asked them to take me to the hospital, but they said 'no'," said Mr Tong, who has been suffering from epilepsy since 1996.
After three hours in the lock-up without food, water or medication, Mr Tong suffered another attack.
His mother, Madam Er Swee Chew, told the Straits Times that the officers still would not let his son go.
"They told me he was having an attack but there were ambulance staff attending to him," said the 67-year-old housewife.
She had his medication, but the officer would not give it to him, she said.
They also refused to talk to staff at the Singapore General Hospital who could verify her son was epileptic, she claimed.
It was only after Mr Tong's older brother spoke to them that he finally released. "Mun Cheong's brother had told them that if they didn't release him, they had to be responsible for anything that may happen to him," said Madam Er.
The Straits Times (22 Oct 2008) reported that it was not the first time that epilepsy patients, like Mr Tong, have been arrested by the police on suspicion of unruly behavior or drunkenness.
The police force has been hit recently with a spate of resignations, despite being rewarded with substantial salary increments inspite of the complacency attributed to the escape of alleged terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari and security lapses at Changi airport and the surbordinate courts.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Freedom Of Speech

Writing to the Wall Street Journal, Lee Kuan Yew's press secretary relives Bhavani's attack on MrBrown, complete with gross inaccuracy and blatant distortion. Where in the court transcript was anyone labelled "murderers, robbers, child molesters" and "rapists"?

Your editorial ("Democracy in Singapore," June 26), relying on a "partial transcript," has misunderstood the issue in the libel case involving Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his sister.

The case had nothing to do with political freedom. It was for defamation arising from the Chees' false claims that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Kuan Yew are criminals and corrupt. Despite being advised by a Queen's Counsel, they failed to produce any credible defense or evidence to back up their claims.

Having lost, Dr. Chee in open court then called the Singapore leaders "murderers, robbers, child molesters" and "rapists." The Chees also rebuked the judge, ignored her orders and shouted her down. In Ms. Chee's defense, her lawyer could only claim that she was "almost paranoid." This is why the judge sentenced the Chees to imprisonment for scandalizing the court.

Many opposition politicians routinely criticize government leaders, but are not sued because they have not uttered slanderous falsehoods. Contrary to your editorial, Singapore upholds free speech and the right to disagree, subject to the law.

Singapore's laws must be decided by Singaporeans, not by foreigners like Gopalan Nair, who is a U.S. citizen, or by the foreign media. Foreign media are entitled to report and comment on what is happening in Singapore, but they circulate here subject to Singapore law. They have no right to defame, to give a skewed account of court proceedings, or to engage in Singapore politics, for example, by campaigning for their version of Western style "democracy" for Singapore.

Yeong Yoon Ying
Press Secretary to Minister Mentor

When challenged to prove the veracity of her statement: "Dr Chee had called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew ‘murderers, robbers, child molesters’ and ‘rapists’ in open court", the press secretary responded thus:

I enclose p. 115 of the verbatim court reporting transcript of the hearing on28 May 2008. Line 11 onwards reads:

Mr Davinder Singh: “ ... And to conclude on Dr Chee’s submissions, he says that he doesn’t wish Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong ill. In that same breath, he says he stands by The New Democrat article, which alleged that they are ‘criminals, corrupt, and covered up matters in the NKF’. And under his breath he’s now just said ‘murderers and robbers’.”

Dr Chee: “And rapists, too, you might as throw it in, you know, right? Child molesters”.

Mr Singh: “And this is the man who says “I don’t wish them ill”.

Dr Chee has once again lied to Singaporeans.

She must think Singaporeans share her same IQ level.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tangs Chief in Kidneys-for-sale Case

In the first case of it kind, two Indonesian men who agreed to sell their kidneys have pleaded guilty to organ trading offences under the Human Organ Transplant Act. Court documents cite 55-year-old Mr Tang Wee Sung, executive chairman of retail giant CK Tang, as one of the patients who had offered to pay about 150 million rupiah (about $22,200) to Sulaiman Damanik. Although Mr Tang did not get his transplant because police investigations put a stop to the transaction, Ms Juliana Soh returned to Medan after receiving her kidney at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in March this year. Both patients were treated by renal physician Dr Lye Wai Choong, president of the Society of Transplantation (Singapore), who has a clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
The high profile names must present a moral dilemma for Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who claimed that "no matter how desperate the situation is, we must never break the law." The last time he had to face down powerful personalities was when NKF CEO TT Durai and Chairman Richard Yong marched into his office for an opinion on the SPH defamation suit. During a walkabout in the 2006 general elections he stood his grounds about not be able to claim anything for bills that are below below the deductible amount, when a retiree asked for help with his monthly medical bill, which was just $1.00 short of the $20.00 limit. Except for this reneging of his no means test election promise, Mr Khaw's record has proved to be more acceptable than that of his cabinet colleagues. Specifically, nobody can do worse than the Home Affairs Minister with his Mas Selamat Kastari cartoonish escape from the Whitely Road Detention Center, the breakout debacle from the Subordinate Courts lock-up, and the embarassing revelation that a man could sail past airport security checkpoints with a wrong passport. In all three instances, only the "small people" were taken to task, although the public is still baying for the resignation of the Home Affairs Minister.
The duo who sold their kidneys are expected to be sentenced within a week, but what about the buyers, the "runner" and the doctor who made the organ swop in the operating theater?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cabby caught ranting on Youtube

The local press had reported the altercation as “Cabby caught ranting on Youtube”. But MediaCorp Executive (ME) Andrew Teo, who posted his personal video on STOMP, decided to delete it after attracting an avalanche of unsympathetic comments. It serves as an interesting commentary on stressful Singapore living that sociologists will be studying years from now, down to the reference on ex-PM Goh Chok Tong's recommendations. A rough transcript goes like this:

ME: What, you tell me to f–k off, is it?

Cabby: I’m tellin you to f–k off.

ME: He tell me to f–k off, you know, he’s against road directions and he ask me to f–k off! He say, he just asked me to f–k off, I have it on recording, ah. Get the hell out of here, you understand me?!

Cabby: Get out the hell!

ME: This is Medicorp okay, we’re staff here…
You get the hell out of my face now, get out now! Okay!?

CISCO: Sir, I need you to move, sir…

ME: Move, move your ass! Understand or not!

Cabby: You shutup, lah, shutup!

ME: What, shutup? I’m going to stick… no, none of my business… this is a civil, this is a civil… traffic police case, and civil case, against directions, I’m asking you nicely to get out… don’t get out, right?

Cabby: I don’t need you to tell me, okay?

ME: What? What? You get out now!

Cabby: I don’t need you to tell me, okay?

ME: What? I don’t need you to tell me? I’m a civil servant… civil minded ser….
You get out now, hey, get out lah, come on, get out now, get out!!
Two CISCO officers here, you don’t obey orders. Call police, Sally, say harassment now, just call triple nine, call triple nine, say there’s a police officer coming, send … just call triple nine, say…
Ah come on, lah, don’t try to be funny, lah... What do you mean here first, here second? I’m telling you to… arrest… I tell you you are against direction, you tell me to f–k off, right?

CISCO: Sir, I need you to move aside…

ME: No, no, I won’t move, I won’t move, he has to move… see!

Cabby: Okay, you win lah!

ME: No, what win? This is a police case, okay?

Cabby:You win lah!

ME: Not me, the government win.

Cabby: I don’t care if this is a police case..

ME: The government win, okay? The government… so? so? so? so?
You are against direction, you out! Get the hell out of here!

Cabby: (On) what authority, man…

ME: What no authority? I’m a citizen of Singapore, what no authority? What no authority? You are under citizen arrest now. Excuse me, officer, take down his office… his, his particulars now… Ah, go, go, better go, go… You want a citizen arrest or not? You want citizen arrest? Then don’t go, if you got the guts, don’t go! SHC XXXX… What, you are against direction now..

Cabby: F–k off, now, get out of my sight!

ME: No, I won’t f–k off, why should I f–k off?

Cabby: What you, bloody blur lah, on the street, you want to make nonsense…

ME: What? What? You don’t go, if you got the guts, stay one more, stay…
Yeah, stay, good, don’t go ah? Don’t go! Don’t go! Come on.. hey don’t go then don’t go, take down his particulars, officers…

Cabby: Tell him to shut up, tell him to shut up…

ME: No, you don’t go…

Bystander: Tell him to shut his mouth!

ME: If you got guts, don’t go… So! don’t go lah, don’t go… Hey, come on, chicken shit, don’t go! (Cab drives off)
Don’t go, you got the guts, don’t go…
Officer, I need you to be witness… to this, er, this is a crime scene, you know, person harass me, this is penal code 323… yeah. This is, er, this is, er, er, er, criminal, you know, criminal offence, you know… I was just telling him please don’t… park against direction. What’s wrong with..? I’m a citizen, I have the right to, you know…. SM Goh Chok Tong say blow whistle, what’s wrong
with that? I have the right, you know?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Silence Of The Lambs

Using his “People support CPF cuts because there are no protest outside parliament” brand of logic, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mistook Opposition Member Low Thia Khiang’s silence as concurrence that his Deputy and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng should not resign over the Mas Selamat Kastari SNAFU (Situation Normal All F**ked Up). Lee had pointedly asked Mr Low in parliament: “Let me ask the member whether he thinks (Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng) ought to resign because of this.” When Low declined to respond, he followed up with: “No answer. So I think that settles the point.”
Or does it?
A Dharmendra Yadav, purportedly postgraduate student at the National University of Singapore, speculated that:
1) Mr Low did not want to incur the Government’s wrath and end up having to face a defamation suit;
2) Mr Low did not understand that Mr Lee was asking him a question, since he does not have as good a grasp of English as the Prime Minister;
3) Mr Low might have thought that Mr Lee was asking a rhetorical question — and thus merited no reply.
Singaporeans have been muted on more than one occasion, no thanks to the GRC system, amongst other gerrymandering election tactics. The only instance when their threshhold of pain was breached was when graffiti was scrawled over at the entrance of the National Kidney Foundation building. Even Ho Ching, wife of the Prime Minister, recognised the writing on the wall, and wrote a front page article in the morning paper to appeal for calm.
SM Goh Chok Tong is now trying to deflect from the conumdrum of ministers demanding private sector salaries, but not commensurate acountability, by suggesting that the government should move on and focus on rising prices instead. The latter may be a more difficult task than locating Kastari. Who insisted on implementing the full 2 per cent increase in GST despite widespread objection from the populace?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Debrief Of Mas Selamat

Mr X: Well, now that the details of your 11 minutes of fame, for which we paid quite a tidy sum to arrrange, are all over the papers, do you have any questions?
MSK: I must say the ledge in the toilet was just the right height for a man with a limp to step up to reach the window without grilles.
Mr X: That was a bonus, just as was the sawed off handle of the window. What you can’t open, you can’t close either.
MSK: Why the bag of seven rolls of toilet paper on the floor just below the toilet window?
Mr X: We weren’t sure the pipes would bear your weight, given the shoddy work of contractors, as demonstrated in the case of the Nicoll Highway collapse. You did break your leg springing out of your Indonesian cell. The toilet rolls provided a less conspicuous cushion in case you fell. The last thing we wanted to, was to ask you go break a leg. Hah, hah, that’s an American joke.
MSK: Turning on the running tap to mask noises, that I understand. Why did I have to flip my pants over the toilet door? I was supposed to be taking a leak in the urinal, not use the jamban. Hey, me laki laki, not perumpuan.
Mr X: That was the signal you had one minute to vamoose. We are proud you did it within 49 seconds, and you may yet represent us at the Beijing Olympics.
MSK: The covered stairway was a godsend to clear the security fence, but did I have to dump my yellow baju kurung? It was my favorite.
Mr X: We wanted them to be on a look out for a naked man limping on one leg, that is when he’s not walking slowly.
MSK: Heh, heh. How come the CCTV cameras were not working?
Mr X: They have maintenance priority for CCTV monitoring only at election offices, to catch opposition candidates screwing up their filing papers.
MSK: What will happen to the ISD director in charge?
Mr X: DPM Wong already told parliament he knows him for many years, kawan-kawan, so he will probably have a CEO post in a GLC lined up. Did you know the guy in the Istana was a ISD director once, and he screwed up big time in the Laju hi-jacking affair?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Who Cares For Rice

Lamenting that he may have to slave for another 13 years at a paltry $3.6 million++ a year before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong can find a worthy successor, we are told that out of 19 ministers in cabinet, 12 are scholars, i.e. they possess the requisite 4 As in their school report card. We had a clue of how these types think when, in the doldrums of recession, then minister and Colombo Plan Scholar Yeo Cheow Tong famously said, “Only 5% are unemployed. We still have 95% who are employed.”
Downplaying NTUC Fairprice’s recent hike of 9 to 14 percent for “some varieties” of the currently scarce commodity of rice, labour chief and Minister Lim Swee Say attempted to minimise the inflationary contribution by rationalising that “For every $10 you spend, only 22 cents went to buying rice.”
The Straits Times went on to quote Lim, a SAF scholar, as having said, “You don’t go home, eat rice in the morning and nothing else; lunch time, eat rice alone and nothing else; dinner, eat rice and nothing else….”
Understandably, with his monthly pay check as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lim can afford more choices for his meals, such as Filet of Beef Wellington, Escallop of Veal Adriatico, Stuffed Cornish Game Hen with Peaches, Pork Medallions Morella or Paupiettes of Sole Vigneronne. It must be very hard for him to imagine that, with spiralling inflation in Singapore hitting 6%, many people actually have to eat rice at every meal, with or without soya sauce.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Police Mentality

Ex-Deputy Public Prosecutor Thomas Koshy wrote to ask if bid rigging should be treated as a crime. Four executives of pest elimination companies had been found guilty of a bid rigging scam which involved contracts totalling about $1 million, victims of which included public institutions such as Temasek Junior College and Alexandra Hospital. Yet the fantastic four were subsequently elected into the governing council of the Singapore Pest Management Association (SPMA) - one retaining the post of president. Even grassroots leaders have to envy that kind of political clout.
Questions must also arise when a businessman was punched by an American sailor in Wheelock Place, or when a man had four teeth knocked off by a stranger in a void deck of a Bishan flat, and all the police did was to take down the particulars of the parties involved and let the assailant go. The police claims their hands are tied by the law and how it distinguishes a “simple” hurt case from one which is “grievous.”
Asking, “Are we setting too high a tolerance (for violence)?” non-Constituency Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim said the public found the inability of the police to act rather “non-sensible”, and continuing to keep things the way they are would “undermine the public sense of safety.” She gave an example: If she scratched someone’s car, she could be arrested on the spot for vandalism; but if she punched someone, causing a nose bleed, she could walk away.
Recent revisions to the Penal Code had expanded the definition of grievous hurt to include (1) death (Picture the cop with notepad in hand, “Sir, the victim is dead, can we treat this case this as a grievous assault?”) and (2) non-consensual penetration of the vagina or anus. Wait, the exalted law makers provide that the last instance is grievous only if the penetration “causes severe bodily pain.” If the assailant mimicks Marlon Brando’s creative use of butter in the classic Last Tango in Paris, the police may let him go. And Al Qaeda types will freely roam Orchard Road if they tweak their assault tactics, “No bloodshed, internal injuries only!”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bullshit Hits The Fan

Speaking to reporters on his way back from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Father Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told the press: “I do not believe the Chinese economy is immune to a US slowdown, nor is the Indian economy.” As for effect on Singapore’s economy, he said, “Our total trade is 300 per cent of our GDP (gross domestic product). So when the external trade goes down, you tell me how we buffer ourselves.”

Meanwhile at a breakfast meeting with 40 businessmen from the French Business Confederation as he wrapped up his 3-day official visit to Paris, Son Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong is singing a different tune, claiming Singapore and Asia can weather the storm, should the US go into a recession. PM Lee also said the economies of China and India will continue to grow despite what happens in the US, adding: “…in Asia, I think we are stronger and better prepared and we will weather it.”

For the significant portion of the world’s economic movers, shakers and interpreters gathered in the Swiss mountain town of Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum just as markets from Mumbai to Madrid were freaking out, the writing is already on the wall:
“The debate is not whether we’re going to have a soft landing or a hard landing in the U.S. but how hard the landing is going to be,” says Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University. He sees a sharp, possibly year-long U.S. recession and a global slowdown. Despite Asia’s torrid growth, consumers in China and India accounted for only $1.6 trillion of the world’s spending last year, a tiny fraction of the $9.5 trillion spent by Americans, according to Stephen Roach, head of Morgan Stanley’s business in Asia. It’s impossible to pull U.S. spending back without sending ripples through the rest of the world.

What has become evident is that globalization can’t insulate us from recessions. Or justify 21% increases for multi-million dollar “top talents.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

A History Of Bullying

When Parliament sits on Monday, Dr Lily Neo is not going to be content with the fast food pace at which the Speaker moves proceedings to make sure only 90 minutes are available for the 80+ Members of Parliament to deliberate on issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary citizens.
The MP for Jalan Besar GRC has filed a motion of adjournment so she has at least 20 minutes to go in depth into the bullying issue. Apparently one child had been kicked in the stomach while another was kicked in the chest and ribs, but the school principal had put it down to “thoughtless pranks.”
Then there was this principal who broke the hearts and spirit of students from one Secondary 5 class by telling them to GET OUT and apply for places in the ITE as they were unlikely to do well at the O levels, since she wants only 100% passes in her school. Instead of the rebuke expected by infuriated parents, Minister of State for Education Rear-Admiral Lui Tuck Yew claimed the “Principal’s ITE advice ‘had to be delivered.’”
MP Wee Siew Kim said just as much, “people cannot take the brutal truth,” in support of her daughter Wee Shu Min’s vitriolic attack on one innocent Derek Wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) for taking pity on the lot of a cab driver, and telling him to “GET OUT of my elite uncaring face”. Hence Dr Neo says she is also concerned about cyber bullying, which takes place through the internet.
Actually the history goes back further when Teh Cheang Wan was Minister of National Development and threatened to withdraw HDB Emergency Lift Services from blocks which voted for the Opposition. Goh Chok Tong upped the ante by threatening to turn into slums those precincts who cast the wrong votes.
As for personal experience on the receiving end, Dr Neo sighed: “If I asked a question, I can only ask two or three sentences, and sometimes a topic deserves more.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Military Justice, Singapore Style

Mindef spokesperson Colonel Darius Lim said that only the most serious breaches of military conduct result in jail time. Last year, “less than 5 percent” of the people sentenced in court martials and summary trials ended up behind bars, he said.
So how did Private Marcus Ng end up being one of 150 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regulars, full-time national servicemen and operationally ready NSmen, hand-cuffed and incarcerated in the dehumanising cells of the SAF Detention Barracks in remote Kranji? Did he steal a rifle for Al Qaeda, hi-jack one of the general’s Mercedes for a joy ride, or disclose top secret data about the White Horse special treatment for kin of favoured elites? No, his crime was for SPEAKING AGGRESSIVELY to a 50-year-old female 2nd Warrant Officer K Saraswathi in the private confines of his unit’s Operations Room. By comparison, Chee Soon Juan got off easy for yelling loudly, “Where’s the money, Mr Goh” in a very public market place, while directing his query at then PM Goh Chok Tong about the billions promised to Suharto, when Indonesia was a bit cash strapped.
A busybody Master Warrant Officer Ger Ah Kee, a trained Commando, apparently saw the altercation, intervened, and actually laid his grubby hand on the private’s physical body. When Ng shrugged off the Master Warrant Officer’s offending limb, he was slapped with two more charges: one for insubordinate behaviour after the Operations Room argument, and another for improper conduct.
Ng’s defence lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong from Drew & Napier, said a jail term was “the harshest punishment I’ve ever seen for this sort of offence”. Further, the lawyer pointed out to the appeal court that the prosecution had failed to provide relevant documents or offer prosecution witnesses to Ng.
“Nothing undermines morale and discpline more than a widespread perception, rightly or wrongly, that military justice is unfair,” chimed in Dr Bernard Loo, assistant professor in war studies at the Nanyang Technological University.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Good Gracious!

A gracious Singapore? “Not in my lifetime,” was the reported reply from Lee Kuan Yew at a dialogue with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) on Monday night. His idea of a gracious society include “where people are considerate to one another, where you don’t make more noise to upset your neigbour than you need to.” Commenting on Malaysia’s growth prospects, he had said: “I don’t see any economic hardship in Malaysia, but whether you have a happy people… happiness and economic growth are two different things.”
Some may postulate that conglomerate Fraser & Neave (F&N) was definitely gracious to scrap younger son Lee Hsien Yang’s workload as a business consultant and still give him the $1 million anyway as a paid director. Mr Lee joined the property, food & beverage and publishing conglomerate as its non-executive chairman in October 2007, replacing Dr Michael Fam. As a consultant, Mr Lee’s role was “to assist with the overall strategic planning for the group”, and paid the $1 million in addition to the $250,000 he also draws as a non-executive chairman. It was gracious of F&N as Mr Lee does not have the training, experience or track record in property, food & beverage or publishing. Well, he is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, brother of the prime minister, and brother-in-law of the Third Most Powerful Woman In The World. TODAY graciously added that “the company should be applauded for keeping a corporate talent in Singapore and not losing him to foreign shores”, in the same line of logic as certain ministers can earn more in the private sector, Yeo Cheow Tong excepted.
F&N announced that the consultancy agreement will be dissolved on Jan 31. The consultancy fee will be built into the directors’ fees. F&N also said the requirements of Mr Lee’s role remains the same.