The PAP are ruthless. That’s why they get my vote

An oft-heard opposition retort towards the AHPETC saga is that the PAP is adopting “bullying tactics” to fix the WP. Or that the WP were given a poor starting hand when they began managing the newly won Aljunied GRC back in 2011. The premise of these arguments is that the WP is playing an unfair game with the stakes stacked against them by the PAP.

And because of this unfairness, one should not vote for the PAP. (This post will not discuss whether this “unfairness” is real or perceived.)

I heartily disagree with this”unfairness” argument. In fact, I would go far as to say the WP does not deserve my vote because they have failed to react well to unfairness.

The hard truth is that life is never fair. Big countries will always have more resources and options than small countries. A small economy like Singapore will always be especially vulnerable to global shocks like epidemics, global recessions, terrorism etc. We live in an increasingly uncertain world, where unfair circumstances can and will plague Singapore. We live in a region where our neighbors are not always friendly and stable countries.

I feel that too much of the election debate has been concentrated on insular issues like AHPETC, foreigner workers, minimum wage, transport, education and healthcare. These problems, as big as they seem to be, are ultimately small matters compared to larger global shocks. Does it matter how many foreigners are squeezing in the train with you, if your company is going bankrupt in the face of another global recession? Are Singaporeans so naive to think that we are immune to the events happening outside our shores?

Hence what matters to me is whether Singapore has strong leaders that can deal with unfairness. In times of great stress, will our politicians be able to face any crisis head-on so that Singapore emerges unscathed or stronger? Or will our politicians be paralyzed by fear or fail to make the tough decisions to save Singapore? We cannot depend solely on civil servants to carry us through these tough times, as the civil servants role is to suggest and implement policy, and not to make the big decisions.

The track record speaks for itself. The PAP has navigated Singapore well through crisis like SARS and the global financial crisis. While the PAP tries to paint itself as a caring government, its actions show that it is prepared to take swift and decisive actions to protect itself and Singapore. No “weapon” is considered too extreme, even bullying tactics. It takes a certain kind of courage and thick skin to say no towards more populist policies, or to deny upgrades to housing wards that don’t vote for the PAP. It takes a certain kind of leader to take responsibility for their past failures and take action to rectify these.

On the other hand, the WP has not shown that it can handle crisis well. The micro-crisis of AHPETC has shown that WP cannot get its act together.  In the face of PAP accusations, WP has failed to produce accounts that its own auditors are willing to sign off for multiple years. WP has provided no satisfactory reason for why it fails to provide auditors with the information it needs. Instead, what we see is a blame game. What we see is a political party that only wants to check on the incumbent, instead of putting in place some credible plan to eventually become the government.

Ask yourself this. When the shit hits the fan, do we want leaders who are willing and able to take responsibility and decisive action? Or do we want leaders who blame others and let the problems fester? We are electing leaders, not saints.

I know my answer. My vote goes to the PAP for this GE. The WP will simply have to do better next time.

In the words of the late LKY – “Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. ” 

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Dear Western Media: Singapore is a democracy and the PAP rules by popular consent

I am sick and tired of reading the western media’s statements that Singapore is not a democracy, but is instead ruled by autocracy or a benevolent dictatorship. This convenient but lazy stereotype needs dismantling. And here’s the proof (extracted from Wikipedia):

election results

For every election since Singapore’s independence, the PAP has won at least 60% of the popular vote. This averages at 69.5% of the popular vote over the decades.  In other words, approximately 2 out of 3 Singaporeans want the PAP, compared to the alternative political parties.

The facts speak for themselves. PAP rules by popular consent.

Contrast this with the definition of autocracy (government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control). You can vote out the PAP. We are not an autocracy.

How about dictatorship? (government where political authority is monopolized by a single person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure the entity’s power remains strong). There are other opposition parties in Parliament and you can always vote in more. We are not a dictatorship.

Retort 1: But the opposition gets virtually zero representation despite gaining over 30% of the popular vote!

That’s because we adopt the “First-Pass-the-Post” system that we inherited from the UK. It’s a winner-takes-all system, but it is also a democratic system. Unless you are insinuating that the UK is not a democracy too?

There’s also the issue of gerrymandering. While this is indeed a problem, it should be noted that other democratic societies like the USA have this problem too, but you wouldn’t use this as an excuse to say that the USA is not democratic.

Retort 2: The opposition performed poorly because the PAP fixed them!

Mr LKY himself has admitted that he has come down hard on the opposition. But this action does not sufficiently explain the opposition’s poor performance. Why? Because the disgruntled voter can see all that discrimination happening and protest against it by either voting for the opposition, spoiling their vote or refusing to vote.

The data shows that even if we include spoilt or non-votes, the PAP still has the majority popular vote.

Voters are not blind and stupid. If they are truly upset at the PAP for “rigging elections”, they can still voice their disagreement by not voting the PAP and spoiling their vote. And indeed, the results show that people have done so. There are clearly not enough dissatisfied people to vote out the PAP. This is an inconvenient truth for opposition supporters. It is still a fact that the PAP has popular consent.

Retort 3: The lack of a free press hampers democracy. If there was a free press that could criticise the PAP, and the voters would not have voted for the PAP.

It is dangerous to assume that a free press would necessarily be in the opposition’s favour. People who make this argument should be careful for what they wish for.

The reason is simple. The press is a profit-making entity. Reporters write to get viewership, which in turn generates revenue to keep the reporters paid. Yes, there are reporters that write in search of truth and to provide an impartial view. But we cannot forget that there are reporters who are paid to write (or incentivised to write), regardless of truth or impartiality.

For proof, look at Fox News in the United States. Fox News was created by Rupert Murdoch, media magnate, in response to a gap in the American media industry. He created a media outlet that was specially designed towards the tastes of conservative (Republican) voters. Fox, with its conservative slant towards reporting and commentary, soon became the dominant news outlet for Republican voters.  By giving conservative voters what they want to hear, Fox News has guaranteed its survival and profitability.


Free press can contribute to a politically polarised society, one where voters are stuck in an echo chamber where they only hear the opinions they identify with, ignoring other viewpoints. This is not the foundation of a good democracy.

It is easy for a free press in Singapore to create an echo chamber because it is profitable to do so. If Singapore already identifies as ~60% voting for the PAP, then isn’t it possible for a free press to spawn news outlets that are strongly pro-PAP (even more so than SPH today)? That could in turn make it even more difficult for the opposition parties to be voted in.

I emphasise this. It is dangerous to assume that a free press would necessarily be in the opposition’s favour. It might work in their favour, or it might not.

Actually, Singapore also has its own “unscrupulous” free press. The Real Singapore is a site that blatantly steals articles about Singapore for re-posting on its website, in order to maximise advertising revenue. Anyone who think TRS is some kind of bastion of free press need to re-examine their thoughts.

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PAP MP Ang Wei Neng needs a lesson in politics


I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read that MP Ang Wei Neng said in Parliament that MOE should send students on mandatory overseas community service trips to rural villages so that youths here better appreciate Singapore’s success, combat the sense of entitlement and inculcate the value of service to others.

Such statements, although well-intended, smack of elitism and a lack of connection to voters. While it is true that going overseas can make one more appreciative of Singapore, this isn’t the way to do it or even say it.

The gripes of many Singaporeans today stem from how Singapore’s success compares with other first world countries. Asking people to compare Singapore against third world countries may bring about a stronger sense of reality of what the world outside Singapore is like, but this is not going to matter much at the polls. The PAP has consistently repeated the message that we have gone from third world to first within one generation. So how can it be fair to compare ourselves against third world places? Does it make sense for the Brazilian football team to compare itself against Hougang United football club?

The students of today are the voters of tomorrow. Mr Ang is doing a good job if he intends to alienate his future voters by claiming that they have a sense of entitlement. It is dangerous to make all-encompassing claims over a diverse body of people. Not all youth have a sense of entitlement. Even for those that do, this isn’t the way to deliver the message into their hearts. There are things that a politician shouldn’t say, which can be better said by third-parties that are not part of the PAP (which could be something like this, even though it is an urban legend).

I can agree with Mr Ang that it is important to have a sense of gratitude and service. If we wish to teach empathy, why do we need to send students overseas for that? There are elderly and/or low-wage Singaporeans who live in rental flats who also need help. If there has to be a structured program for community service, it should start with letting students take care of our own, which also helps them realise that there are people who fall through the cracks of our capitalist society.

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PM vs Roy: Morally and Tactically right?

PM Lee has decided to take Roy Ngerng to court over the issues of CPF and allegations of criminal misappropriations. Is that the right thing to do? This post examines the issue from two dimensions: Moral and Tactics

Is suing Roy morally right?

A lot of people view that it is not right for PM to sue Roy because it is a bullying tactic. It is reminiscent of old PAP tactics where political opponents are silenced and bankrupted with libel suits. Which equates to a loss of democracy and freedom of speech.

I believe that PM is on the moral high ground to sue Roy for accusing him of criminal misappropriations. The case is clear-cut. Roy has no proof, and this is shown by how he “took down” the offending postings. If Roy had a strong case with proof, he wouldn’t take his postings down, not when he is prepared to go to court. If what Roy said is true, then where are the heavyweight opposition party leaders that would be ready to back him up? It is also important to note that Roy has been posting for years, but was only served notice recently. Why? Because there’s a fine line between criticising the Government and accusing someone of being a criminal.

But should PM have been the “better man” and not sued anyway? There are people who think PM should not be suing under any circumstances. I find this puzzling. Is it right to allow anyone to say whatever they like about our leaders without repercussion? Especially when we expect our leaders to be morally upright people that lead by example? Shouldn’t a line be drawn somewhere to define what is unacceptable speech? If it is ok to accuse PM of misappropriating CPF funds, it is ok to call PM a racist? A rapist? An unfaithful husband? Someone who murders his political opponents? We cannot be encouraging people to accuse others of anything they like. Surely there is a point where it is reasonable to defend yourself. Everyone should be allowed fair protection under the law.

Freedom of speech comes with responsibility of speech. It is a lesson we teach our children when they are young enough to learn. Don’t say stuff that you can’t back up with proof. The burden of proof is always on the accuser.

Is suing Roy tactically right?

Many people have said that PM has more to lose than to gain by suing Roy. Just look at the number of online blogs and comments that ignore the issue of criminal misappropriation and zoom in on the perception of bullying. The tale of David vs Goliath is an enticing one. President Obama gets all kinds of crazy accusations from hardcore Republicans, yet you don’t see Obama suing all this people.

So did PM gained more than he lost? Here is my perspective.

To begin with, it is important to note that politics in Singapore is the battle for the middle ground. About one-third of Singaporeans will always be anti-PAP, while one-third are PAP loyalists. So the real question is whether the remaining one-third of Singaporeans living in the middle ground are swayed by PM’s actions.

I humbly submit that PM may have done something right this time. If you observe the blogosphere and Facebook reactions over the past few days, there have been quite a number of posts defending the CPF (or at least clarifying that Roy has seriously mis-interpreted the CPF). In my view, this kind of activity is almost unheard of in online history. Online reactions that are somewhat supportive of PAP policy (as opposed to jumping on the anti-PAP wagon) are as rare as solar eclipses. For more proof, check out the links on over the past 2 weeks. If we take this level of support, and compare it against vitriol when PAP launched the population white paper and makes changes to ERP or public transport fares, we can see that it is a world of difference. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?

I think the PM was also smart to target Roy. Roy’s one-sided argument about the CPF has painted himself as a dangerous element that is trying to incite anger by selectively manipulating his words and statistics. In one stroke, he has unfairly painted the entire spectrum of opposition supporters in a bad light. His “funny business” of taking down his postings when he didn’t really do so, smacks of childishness and mischief. (He made the posts private and sent links to the foreign media.)

So this episode may not have been entirely to PM’s loss. Opposition supporters can cry foul all day long, but what really matters is the net result to the middle ground. Sure, there will still be people who have a bad taste in their mouth due to the perception of bullying, and there will still be people who think they can manage their CPF returns better than government. But it is still bad news for opposition supporters when the Facebook feeds of the middle ground light up with arguments shared by friends that defend PM and the CPF.

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Bad Luck PUB


So there were a few negative comments to my previous post about giving credit to the gahmen for avoiding the problems that the dry spell is causing to Malaysia. Amongst these comments, there were two broad themes that need to be addressed:

Who say we should credit the current PAP govt? It was the previous team that had the foresight.

It didn’t take much googling to find out that the old PAP team… is pretty much the same as the current one. For the past 2 decades, the Minister for Environment and Water were:

  • 1993-1995: Mah Bow Tan (what really?)
  • 1995 to 1997: Teo Chee Hean
  • 2000 to 2004: Lim Swee Say (what happened between 1997 and 2000? Was the job outsourced?)
  • 2004 to 2011: Yaacob Ibrahim
  • Today: Vivian Balakrishnan

Why do these dates matter? Because according to the all-knowing wikipedia, Singapore’s NEWater began with a study in 1998, and SG’s first desalination plant opened in 2005. Without these two sources, it’s just imported water and rainfall. So I think it’s safe to say that the current PAP team can be credited with their watery foresight.

No need to thank these million-dollar ministers. They are already well-paid (or over-paid)

Maybe it’s just me, but I still believe in thanking people for service, even if that is their job to begin with. So I stand by my belief that even over-paid Ministers deserve the occasional thanks.

But what really interests me, was how this comment exposed something even more revealingly sinister about ourselves. In the corporate world, there is a tendency to glorify the “front office” people who start and sell projects, whilst the “back-end” people who do the detailed implementation and maintenance are often forgotten. This same attitude also appears in the comments of netizens.

We tend to forget that the elected minister is just one person, and all this water infrastructure would not have been possible without the army of civil servants from MEWR and PUB who make things happen. There’s also the people on the ground who work in the NEWater & desalination plants, including those from commercial companies like Hyflux. All these people are fellow Singaporeans (and maybe some FTs?), and I think they deserve some thanks too for their hard work. So even if you don’t think the PAP deserves thanks, at least the rest of the gahmen should receive some recognition right?

Thankless Job For Bad luck PUB

PUB will probably never be remembered for surviving this dry spell, but they will always be remembered and blamed for the “once-in-50-years” floods. I think the government is doomed to the fate that it will not be thanked for doing a good job, and always be loudly blamed for doing a bad one.

Actually, I think this is an inherent problem for all governments. Prevention may be better than cure, but prevention is also much harder to give credit for, compared to cure. Here’s a theoretical example: The 2008 global financial crisis could have been prevented if banking regulators had correctly recognised the risk that credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations were causing to the entire system. If regulators had theoretically addressed these risks, would the public be any wiser on the potential consequences of failure?

Truly we do not appreciate what we have, until it is too late. We celebrate the heroics of the fireman, but not the steadfastness of the fire safety inspector.

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Giving credit where it is due


Sometimes, a single picture meme is good enough to replace the entire post.

But if you are still reading, here’s the fuller post.

At the risk of being mistaken once again for being a PAPpy dog, I think we should give some credit to the gahmen for having enough foresight to expand our drainage system and build all those NEWater and desalination plants to allow us to tide through this dry spell. My friends in Malaysia are basically stockpiling water because of looming water shortages and rationing. I am so glad we don’t have to go through that kind of inconvenience. Singaporeans may be known to queue for Hello Kitty quite willingly, but queuing for water is not something a first world nation should allow. So here’s a big “Thank You” to the government of the day for such effective planning.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we should tolerate all the inconveniences that MRT breakdowns are causing. The government still has to take the blame for that mess. Having suffered through a few of those myself, I really hope that the heavier penalty regime will instill the fear of god into SMRT and SBS. 10% of annual revenue (read: NOT profit) is steep. It’s a step in the right direction.

But really the intent of this post is to point out that we are quick to blame and not quick to thank. Is it any wonder that Singaporeans feel unappreciated, if we don’t appreciate others ourselves?

Now I am sure there’s going to be a whole bunch of people who believe that there is no need to thank the PAP ministers when they earn million dollar salaries, since they are being paid for doing their job, and hence we should demand perfect service. If you have this kind of attitude, I guess you are no different from the kind of person who doesn’t treat your waiter nicely because his/her job is to serve you. In which case, this speaks volumes about your own character.

Update: I wrote a “Part 2” right here.

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Reblogged: The 10 Commandments for Bloggers

This is good. Read it.

The 10 Commandments for Bloggers

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