Saturday, May 21, 2011

Small states must think fast, and LTK on S'pore's social compact post-May 7

I will be going on holiday overseas from tomorrow, and will resume blogging on 5 or 6 June. I have two items for today's posting.

Singapore and its international politics 101

New foreign minister K. Shanmugam has restated Singapore's basically Realist outlook in its foreign policy. Responding to reporters' questions on the issues his ministry has to deal with, he said:

"There are several. I will just highlight one broad area. In international relations, size matters. It is an environment where every country projects and protects its interests. The bigger the country, often the greater the influence. If you look at history, tiny states need to protect themselves. Otherwise they disappear.

"Think of it as being in a jungle with animals of different sizes. If you are small, you are usually the first to be eaten. The bigger, fiercer animals are kings. Our task is not only to stay alive, but also to prosper in this environment."

Hmm. I thought of an emailed story I received a while back. I've tweaked it for my purpose here:

A wealthy tourist goes on a safari holiday in Africa, taking her faithful small poodle Cuddles along.
One day the poodle is chasing butterflies in the protected safari park beyond which is unprotected jungle.  Cuddles chases the insects into the woods and becomes lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard moving rapidly in his direction with lunch on its mind.
The little poodle thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in deep doo-doo now!" Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching big cat. Just as the leopard is about to pounce, the poodle exclaims loudly, "Boy, that lunch was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more?"
Hearing this, the leopard halts his attack in mid-stride; a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. "Whew!" says the leopard, "That was close! That little poodle nearly had me!"
Meanwhile, a monkey had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree.
He figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So off he goes, but the poodle sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up.
The monkey catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.
The leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what will happen to that sneaky canine when I catch him!”
The poodle now sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do?"  But instead of trying to run off on his tiny paws, the dog again sits down with his back to his attacker, pretending he hasn't seen the leopard yet.
When the leopard – with the monkey on his back -- gets close enough, the poodle says out loud: "Where's that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!”
Singapore's social compact

Today's Straits Times (21 May) also carried a very good interview with Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang. I like his take on the "new" social compact, ie after the 7 May general election:

"The old social compact was that the PAP would deliver economic benefits and goods and Singaporeans would just have to entrust things to the PAP.

"The second plank of the social compact was that you have been provided with a decent life according to the PAP standard of living, and you should be grateful and should not ask for more.

"But what the PAP Government has forgotten is we are entering a different era and different generation. The younger generation wants to see a fair government, accommodating different views, different aspirations and wants the Government to be responsive to (their) needs...

"I think Singaporeans also want to be treated with dignity whether in terms of retirement, even certain benefits and not one where you are told: This is your life, this is the best for you, you better trust the PAP or else you will repent (emphasis mine) for five years or, you know, your children will become maids in other countries.

"Singaporeans want... to be part of the political process, we are part of the nation, we want to be respected and whilst we are prepared to defend the country, I think the Government must be fair to us.

"I believe that had the PAP realised this much earlier, the ground may not have shifted in such a way. I think they underestimate the unhappiness on the ground in terms of cost pressure in various areas.

"I want to see the Workers' Party actively participate in this social compact, making it happen, and we can bond together as a nation as we move forward...

"The social compact is essentially a mutual understanding and trust between the people and the government as well as, in rhis case I think, the opposition, the Workers' Party... This social compact has, to me, seen the role of an opposition party recognised by Singaporeans -- which was non-existent in the last social compact... And I believe the PAP Government will have to recognise this."         

Friday, May 20, 2011

The big guns on Blakang Mati could only face seawards. True or false?

Like many baby-boomer Singaporeans, I once believed in an oft-repeated myth about the Battle of Singapore (31 Jan to 15 Feb, 1942): that the big guns the British forces set up in what was then Pulau Blakang Mati -- now Sentosa -- were pointed the other way, ie out to sea, and thus were useless when the Japanese forces invaded Singapore from the Malayan mainland.

Some years ago, I got to know of the true picture. But I will let TODAY reader Kwok Jung Yun (19 May, "Alarm bells when film-maker positions his work as history", page 22) explain it in his words. He wrote to the newspaper to disabuse famed American film director Oliver Stone about this myth, as Mr Stone had referred to it in an earlier interview with TODAY. Here's what Mr Kwok said in his letter:

"Historians have, over a decade ago, established with the use of archival evidence that the coastal guns defending Singapore were not pointed in the wrong direction -- they could, and were, turned around to fire inland against the Japanese. The problem was that these were anti-ship guns that fired armour-piercing shells and were ineffective when used in the role of field artillery.

"If Stone were to present and repeat this myth in a documentary series, it would not only undermine the work of historians but, more importantly, it would sound to the less informed as historical truth."

Hear, hear. But I guess we could say the Brits were only half-goondu in this matter. Why have only naval guns, what? There is another myth: that the British sold off Christmas Island -- then administered from Singapore -- to Australia when Singapore was granted self-government in 1959, so as to keep the small but strategically placed island in the Indian Ocean out of our hands as and when we eventually gained our independence . I'll blog about it another time.    

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old (fill in the blank) don't just fade away, they...

I said yesterday that Pakistani premier Gilani, after his efusive "FRANCE" (Friendship Remains And Never Can End) speech ahead of his visit to China, was sure to receive a warm panda bear hug from his hosts upon arrival. Sure enough.

Returning the compliments, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said: "I wish to stress here that no matter what changes might take place in the international landscape, China and Pakistan will remain forever (emphasis mine) good neighbours, good friends, good partners and good brothers."

Shucks, why must analysts spoil all this warm-fuzzy feel-good impression for us with their cynical comments? Here's one such (American, it must be admitted) spoilsport, Michael Green, a top Asia adviser to former US President George W. Bush: "Pakistan will avoid entrapment in either the US [camp] or [the] Chinese camp, and much of this is about subtle warnings to the United States not to pressure Islamabad too hard."

As they say, follow the money. See this link below for how much US aid to Pakistan is being proposed for FY2012:


My other item today is a brief reference to the online buzz (mostly critical) about PM Lee's conferring the title of Emeritus Senior Minister on Mr Goh Chok Tong. Presumably GCT has accepted it. The PM did say that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was asked if he would like the title of Emeritus Minister Mentor but he had declined it. To be frank, I think that was a wiser decision.

The "emeritus" thing has already started to be ridiculed online, with one wag asking if there will be an "Emeritus President" next and another cheeky fella making emeritus into an acronym starting with "Expired Minister..."

I think my late brother Tee Chuan had the right "spin" when he went into retirement. He printed name cards for himself with the title, "Retiree at large". Now that's classy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

The Prime Minister announced his Cabinet today.

I got my prediction about Dr Ng Eng Hen right -- he is now the Defence Minister. But Mr Teo Chee Hean is not the Foreign Minister, something which I had predicted. Apart from being still the Deputy PM and relinquishing Defence, Mr Teo takes on Home Affairs and is also the new Coordinating Minister for National Security.

Mr K Shanmugam is the new Foreign Minister, while relinguishing Home Affairs and retaining Law. (There is a precedent in this twinning of two key portfolios: Prof S. Jayakumar was both FM and Law Minister from 1994 to 2004.) What threw me off were two things: Mr Shanmugam is still relatively unknown regionally, and I had thought -- post 9/11 -- that twinning Law and Home Affairs was still the way to go.

Still, given that Mr Teo is the Coordinating Minister for National Security, another way of looking at these key changes is a focus on the further integration of traditional and non-traditional security templates, as well as a tighter link between homeland security and external security. It looks doable.


My other musing today is the notion of "friendship" among states. Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) famously said, "Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests." Further back in time, Thucydides (c460-c400 BC) said, "Large states do as they will, small states do as they must".

Yet nations will grandstand and unabashedly proclaim true friendship with each other. Pakistan, recently made to look foolish by one big power ally, the United States, in the wake of the US assassination of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory, turned to big power ally China for a shoulder to cry on.

I thought this news report ("China our 'best friend': Pakistan PM", ST, 18 May, page A13) depicted the farce among nations pretty nicely:

"In an apparent dig at the United States, Pakistan's prime minister [Yousuf Raza Gilani] declared China as his country's best friend as he began an official visit to China [17 May].

'We appreciate that in all difficult circumstances, China stood with Pakistan. Therefore we call China a true friend and a time-tested and all-weather friend,' Mr Gilani told Xinhua news agency.

'We are proud to have China as our best and most trusted friend, and China will always find Pakistan standing beside it at all times.' "

Wow. I bet the Chinese leaders will give him a big panda bear hug when they meet him.

Oh, there's one more "friend" saying to round this off: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?" It's apparently an old English proverb.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just who are 'members' of the public? And what's a 'rutting chimpanzee'?

A police report has been filed against rookie Marine Parade GRC MP, the PAP's Tin Pei Ling, for allegedly posting a comment on her Facebook page on Cooling-off Day, when election candidates were disallowed from campaigning in any manner whatsoever.

The police are now investigating the complaint. said to have been made by a member of the public.

My posting today is not about this particular case, except to use it to comment on the use, by the various media here, of the phrase "member of the public".

Apparently, that GRC's since-defeated opposition candidate Nicole Seah (from the NSP) had approached the Elections Department about Ms Tin's alleged violation of the Cooling-off Day. But it transpired that any such complaint will have to be lodged with the police.

Now, it seems, someone -- a member of the public -- has. Both Ms Seah and NSP secretary-general Goh Meng Seng have said that no one from the NSP has done that.

Okay, I'm in my language nit-picking mode now...

Is there such a person as a "member of the public"? If you are a member of something, there must be someone or others who are not, ie, who are "non-members" of this whatever you are a member of.

Think about it. We all -- from those in the highest stations in life to the commonest folk -- are members of the public, which makes the expression totally meaningless, unless there are people out there who are NOT members of the public. So, let's banish this term!

The dictionaries provide synonyms for member of the public, from the direct and  unambiguous someone/somebody to the imprecise man in the street (I'll quibble on this last expression another time!).

Moving on, I was intrigued by this headline in TODAY (17 May): "Strauss-Kahn a 'rutting chimpanzee', another victim says".

The world's media have been going to town on this story, so I won't go into its details here except to say that a French woman had come forward to describe the man who tried to sexually attack her as a "rutting chimpanzee' (un chimpanze en route in the original French version).

But I have yet to see any of the media explain what is "rutting" and why an association was made with chimpanzees.

My online check showed that the appropriate reference here is the "rut" when it means the mating season of so-called ruminant animals (hoofed animals that chew on stuff like grass) such as deer, antelope, elk, moose, sheep and goat etc. But while rutting can mean the male animal's sexual excitement, it also suggests that the rutting season involves more than one male in competition -- locking horns, for example -- with the emergence of one horny winner!

There is another meaning of "rut" -- a deep mark, hole, or groove. Hence, the idiom "to be stuck in a rut", ie, to find oneself trapped in some boring, unexciting or monotonous work routine or lifestyle. But I am sure this is not the intended meaning above!

Finally, the chimpanzee. It is a primate (like humans) and is no ruminant animal, so when the male of the species is horny/wants to mate, it can't be said to be in a rut (both meanings, if you will).

Conclusion: Show me a rutting chimpanzee, and I'll show you a member of the public.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A maid story

Variations of this "maid-themed story" circulated online just before the general election. I think most people just had a good laugh, but it shows how creative some social media critics are:

I need your urgent advice about employing a maid. As a busy mother, I need someone reliable to help out at home.
My maid is from Profits Agency Pte and she has worked for me for a long time. Her mother worked for my parents and did an excellent job, so I had faith in her. For several years her performance has been very good, but recently she has become arrogant and insensitive, and is making lots of mistakes.
For example:
1) She flooded my kitchen –  she told me that the drain pipe has blocked (she was supposed to clear it once a month but didn’t). Then she assured me that it is very rare and won’t happen again in the near future. Guess what? It flooded again within a year!
2) She didn’t close a window and my terrier dog escaped. I was so worried cos he is dangerous and could bite lots of people. After the incident, she didn’t apologise and just shrugged her shoulders saying “What to do, it has happened.” Fortunately my neighbour found the dog and we locked it up again.
3) Without consulting me, she has been bringing in strangers for my house's maintenance work. She says they charge low wages and keep costs down, but they eat my food, make a lot of noise and rest on my bed. I think they even tried to seduce my husband. It stopped feeling like my home, more like a cheap hotel, and I don’t always want to come back at the end of the day.
4) When she first came to work for me, I instructed her to clean the different parts of the house at least once a week. But for some time she has stopped taking care of the bedrooms of two of my boys; these rooms are now dirty and messy. I asked why and she told me that the kids had been disobedient, so she was neglecting their bedrooms as a punishment (she has forgotten that she is paid to clean all the rooms).
Even though my maid has worked for me for many years and I value what she has done in the past, I think she is now getting complacent.  Her attitude is imperious and dismissive. She ignores my comments and basically treats my feedback as "noise". 
I wrote to the agency about her behaviour; they assured me that they are the best agency around and all their maids are “Commited to Serve” – but I think it is just rhetoric and I don’t see that in her actions. Her salary is much higher than maids in other countries, but the agency say this is to keep her honest and stop her moving to another employer. They say there is a limited supply of maids, and Singapore isn’t big enough for more than one good maid agency, so I should not trust their competitors.
I have to decide whether to renew my maid’s 5-year employment contract. When we discussed this, she said that she is now part of a team, and if I want her I must also accept her friends doing part-time work for me. One friend is very inexperienced, can't do basic tasks or explain what she intends to do. I suspect that she is actually underage. When interviewed, she only seemed interested in her days-off and visiting Universal Studios. When she couldn't answer my questions she stomped her foot and exclaimed, "I don't know what to say!" But I am still expected to pay her a high salary.
Now there happened to be a few other maid agencies -- Workhard Pte, New Solutions Pte, Super Personnel Pte and Star Domestica Pte -- that offered me some helpers who seem sincere, genuine and intelligent. They are keen to work, willing to assist me and have a good attitude. I know that they may take a bit of time to learn how everything works, but frankly I am inclined to give them a chance.
People say that the devil you know is better than one you don’t. But I feel that I can’t tahan my current maid anymore. Do you think I should sack my current maid and try out a new one?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Second in a series on great websites

Last month, I kicked off the first in a series on great websites. The second one is posted here today -- a wonderful online anthology of poems, many of which are familiar schoolday favourites. Here is the link:

I decided to search the site for a poem I knew, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) called "The Second Coming".
Given the remarkable overnight change in the political landscape here arising from the "bombshell" news on Saturday night, I felt that the first stanza, reproduced here, is evocative:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

I'll wrap up this posting with one speculation, and one prediction.

Speculation -- I wonder if Mr  Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong's stepping down from the Cabinet has more to do with the internal party pressure for "reform" than with the external challenge of coping with an Internet-savvy Gen Y cohort of voters? Admittedly, it's pure speculation.

Prediction -- Ahead of PM Lee's announcement of his new Cabinet line-up, I am predicting that Mr Teo Chee Hean will become the new Foreign Minister, as he is well-known in ASEAN and regional circles, and is certainly urbane enough to network well internationally. Dr Ng Eng Hen, his deputy now, then moves to head MINDEF. I am sure it's easier to find a new Education Minister than to find candidates for the other two key posts above. Just my two cents worth.     

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The broken record technique

It seems that the so-called "broken record" technique can work in situations where you have to be assertive (and/or when you want to wear the other side down)!
One person who believes in it, Alan Fairweather, self-described as a "motivational doctor", recently wrote an article about this technique in ST's Recruit page (13 May, page C32). Here is his personal experience (I think he's a Brit; for simplicity, I have changed the pound currency he used to dollars):
I recently bought a small number of items at my local supermarket. When the lady at the checkout asked me for $8, I handed over a $20 note. She handed me two $1 coins.
I said: 'I gave you a $20 note, so I need another $10 please.'
She replied: 'Are you sure? I think it was $10.'
'No, it was a $20 note, so I need another $10 please.'
I was under a certain amount of pressure because there was a queue behind me and people had their shopping on the belt.
The checkout lady said: 'I would need to get a supervisor to come and check this and these people would have to move to another till (more pressure).
I said: 'It would be good if you could get a supervisor because I gave you a $20 note, so I need another $10 please.'
The supervisor arrived and she explained how the till couldn't be opened. I repeated my request using the same words in a calm and relaxed tone.
The supervisor said: 'We'll check the till at the end of the day and if it's $10 over, we will contact you. Can you give me your phone number please?'
I replied: 'I understand why you would want to do that. However, I have just given this lady $20 and she has given me change of $2, so I need another $10 please.'
Eventually the supervisor instructed the checkout assistant to open the till and give me my $10. She added: 'We will still need your address and phone number.'
I said: 'No problem, here are my details.' I never heard anything again from this supermarket.
Postscript: This posting is dedicated to my nephew Tan Beng. He will know why.

If it's unbelievable, believe it is so!

[Note: The posting below should have been dated 12 May. But the server seemed to have had a glitch on FRIDAY MAY 13, and it was wiped out, so here is the item again.]
I had to vote again!
Actually, I had gone to an NTUC Income branch to pay an insurance premium. That done, even before I had walked away, I received a text message on my cellphone inviting me to respond to a survey on the service just rendered by the staff member. This was the choice I had to make:
"Pls rate our service from 1 to 6 where 1 is Undesirable and 6 is Unbelievable. We appreciate yr response."
I didn't know how to respond! So I put a 5, telling myself that this number is for "Believable".  (Hmmm... that begs the question, what number would "Desirable" be? For sure, that branch does have pretty counter staff). And in a sense, that NTUC Income survey scale can be analogous to voting in an election, if one is faced with the choice between an undesirable candidate and an unbelievable candidate.
Still in this undesirable/unbelievable twilight zone, my friend Kim Ann texted me to say the relevant authority's letter telling him to renew his dog's licence had arrived in the mail. This is what his text message said:
"Just noticed that in the dog licence renewal notice, my name appears above the dog licence number with sex as 'neutered male'."
Worried for my own manhood, I went to check the licence for my dog. Whew! My dog's licence fortunately had two clearly separated boxes, "Particulars of Dog Owner" and "Description of Dog". Maybe the relevant authority has since changed the licence's format, and the next time I go and renew my pooch's licence, I will have to forgo two of my most precious assets.
Assets-wise, I noticed that, nowadays, those newpaper ads touting "get rich" schemes (from how to become a multiple-property owner to becoming the next Warren Buffett in three easy steps), reclaiming your crowning glory, shedding those unwanted kilos, and improving your "career line" (Google this term if you have no idea what it means) now each carry -- in small print -- a bluntly worded caveat, akin to the "Cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer" label that is mandatory on cigarette packs.
Get-rich schemes -- "All forms of trading and investments carry risks. Such activities may not be suitable for everyone."
Hair loss treatment -- "There is no scientific proof that any product (except certain registered medicinal products) or service can retard hair loss or promote hair growth."
Slimming programmes -- "There is no scientific proof that any slimming programme can achieve permanent weight loss except when accompanied by a balanced diet and regular exercise." [My own comment here: Just a balanced diet and regular exercise usually does the job!] 
Breast enhancement -- "There is no scientific proof that any non-surgical treatment currently available can enlarge breasts."
So, caveat emptor. But if such a mandated "truth in advertising" regime works, why are people still smoking cigarettes? A sucker is born every minute, they say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A thank-you note marked 'Confidential', plus silly legal mumbo-jumbo

Word of the Day: Mumbo-jumbo

The link above gives an interesting account of how the expression "mumbo-jumbo" came to be used in the English language. It means generally the spouting of nonsense -- whether in speech or as written words.

I have a special interest in legal mumbo-jumbo, but first, I'll relate this.

The OpenNet people came to install the next-generation high-speed broadband optical fibre cabling in my home today (OpenNet is the project's national infrastructure provider appointed by the government). The technicians were quite efficient and one of them even handed me a thank-you note before he left. But printed at the top of the letter was the word "Confidential".

Huh? It's a typical thank-you letter to a home owner, not an internal memo! In government service, this classification is just one tier below "Secret" and you can't dispose of such a note without -- and here's an example of mumbo-jumbo -- "following proper procedures".

So, what do I do with it? Hah, I shall write a thank-you note to OpenNet's thank-you note and classify mine "Secret". That'll make them run to the shredder machine to dispose of my note instead of simply crushing it up and throwing it into the bin.

Okay, now for the legal mumbo-jumbo stuff. I'm sure many people will have noticed that, these days,  many emails or letters from all sorts of entities carry as a tag-on something like this:

Any person receiving this email and any attachment(s) contained, shall treat the information as confidential and not misuse, copy, disclose, distribute or retain the information in any way that amounts to a breach of confidentiality. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete all copies of this email from your computer system. As the integrity of this message cannot be guaranteed, neither XXX nor any entity in the XXX Group shall be responsible for the contents. Any opinion in this email may not necessarily represent the opinion of XXX or any entity in the XXX Group.
Wah lau! Let me attempt a simplification.

Hello, if this email was mistakenly sent to you, please delete it. If you pass on its contents and get into trouble -- like getting sued off your pants -- don't blame us. We've covered our ass (at least that's what our lawyers tell us).

Incidentally, this example I'm using is from the mass promotional emails one of my credit card providers send out to card holders. Since the contents are product special offers, dining discounts, etc, one would have thought the company would be urging card holders to pass on the information, to generate more business and to tell others how wonderful this credit card company is!

But a recent newspaper ad, by another credit card company, has, after highlighting all the wonderful advantages of signing up -- and in place of the usual mumbo-jumbo detailing all the conditions and caveats -- this simple tag: "The usual legal mumbo-jumbo applies". Kudos to it; that tag-on small print was clever and creative.

To wrap up, I found this cheeky online send-up on legal mumbo-jumbo:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The fear factor revisited... two views

I enjoyed the TODAY commentary by correspondent Venessa Lee, "A General Election like no other" (10 May). Her interviews with both PAP and opposition politicians drew a consensus, captured  in National Solidarity Party chief Goh Meng Seng's observation that more voters, particularly the younger ones, had adopted a more hands-on attitude as they sought to assess candidates for themselves.

Here is the link to the article:

Also, on the issue of the so-called fear factor that can -- it has been claimed -- inhibit support for the opposition, there appeared to be agreement too that GenY voters especially are less affected by it. Singapore People Party's chairman Sin Kek Tong put it thus: "For those who are 30-plus, 20-plus, where's the fear? Another 10 years, (it'll be) completely gone."

I'm not so sure.

A letter, "Why this PAP voter stuck with the party" (10 May) in The Straits Times, from someone who described himself as from the "older electorate", used this logic in how he cast his vote: "... the decision of the Workers' Party to contest in Aljunied GRC ironically laid the groundwork for the PAP's success in other constituencies at the expense of WP's fellow opposition parties.

"For older voters like me, the fear of a PAP defeat in Aljunied GRC convinced me to vote for the ruling party in Tampines GRC. I voted thus because the WP left me with no choice. In my view, there was nothing to fall back on if voters elsewhere plumbed for the opposition.

"If I had voted for the opposition in Tampines GRC, and it had won, that would have led to a larger cluster of GRC-victorious parties.

"It could well have meant that the PAP might not have been returned to power -- a risk that I wasn't prepared to take."

I think this writer's sentiment reflects that of quite a number of voters, and I suspect this number includes those from the ranks of Gen Y too. If so, both the PAP and the opposition parties will be factoring in this sentiment in their next General Election strategies.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

WP man had no co-driver to slap him awake...

ST missed an opportunity, headline-wise, to give a light touch to a story (9 May) that cried out for an impish touch. TODAY seized its chance with obvious relish.

First, their respective first few paragraphs, which are about identical:

ST: Newly elected Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong, 34, was involved in a road accident near Rivervale Plaza in Sengkang yesterday afternoon.

The Workers' Party organising secretary said he was alone in his car when it hit a road barricade near the Rivervale Lane junction.

He said he had dozed off momentarily...

TODAY: Hougang MP-elect Yaw Shin Leong met with a minor car accident in front of Rivervale Plaza yesterday afternoon. Nobody was hurt in the accident.

When contacted, Mr Yaw of the Workers' Party said he was driving very slowly when he dozed off...

Now for the headlines.

ST: WP's Yaw in minor car accident
TODAY: Hougang MP-elect falls asleep at the wheel

It's a no-brainer which draws the chuckles (readers who are clueless about what I'm driving at, please read my earlier election-related postings).

Meanwhile, this obviously Photoshopped picture below (using a left-hand drive car) has been making the rounds online:       


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who says politics in Singapore is boring?

Today is Mother's Day. The myth is that Hallmark "invented" it. The link below claims otherwise:

Post-election day here in Singapore, strange things seem to be happening. On one hand, some people in Potong Pasir were urging others to sign an online petition for a by-election to get Mr Chiam See Tong a fresh crack at reclaiming the single-member seat he gave up to contest in a GRC. There was even a bizarre claim that if the petition had at least 8,000 signatures, the Constitution allowed such a by-election to take place!

On the other hand, coming from another direction, are online calls for a way to get the just as popular  George Yeo back in Cabinet in his job as foreign minister (note: technically, he can still be FM at least until the new Parliament is called, which can be as late as November, it seems). The bizarre twist here comes from calls for the removal of new PAP MP Tin Pei Ling from her place in Marine Parade GRC, on an allegation that she violated the Cooling Off Day rules by posting a comment on her Facebook page (it has since been explained that an admistrator, not Ms Tin, posted the said comment).

Anyway, as part of the call to get Mr Yeo back as FM, Ms Tin's stepping down would result in a by-election in Marine Parade GRC, in the course of which Mr Yeo can stand as a candidate -- and presto, get his job back!

Meanwhile, defeated Marine Parade opposition candidate Nicole Seah seems to keep getting her act right, post-election, by saying she has already started work on serving the people of Marine Parade. No wonder she is rated the most popular politician in this electoral campaign.

For a summary of the George Yeo/Tin Pei Ling/Nicole Seah nexus, see this link:

Who says politics in Singapore is boring?

Hmmm, since the Presidential election is due by this August, why not have the popular Mr Chiam, the equally popular Mr Yeo, and the immensely popular Ms Seah (at least online) "face-off" for that election? Pity, the onerous rules attached don't qualify them -- except Mr Yeo, I think -- for this S$4 million-plus a year job.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A GRC for an SMC

It is just past 3am Singapore time, and this will be a short posting before I go to bed.

GE 2011 is over, and the result is 81-6, with all six incoming opposition MPs coming from the Workers' Party. WP went for broke and captured a GRC (Aljunied) while retaining its SMC (Hougang). But Chiam See Tong's SMC stronghold (Potong Pasir) has gone to the PAP.

So, in a perverse sense, the opposition and the PAP had an "exchange" -- a GRC (with five seats) for an SMC (a single-member constituency). WP's Low Thai Khiang has proven himself to be a political strategist par excellence. The future is for him and his WP to consolidate -- or to squander. It is five years to 2016.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rhetoric, inspirational and manipulative

I got to thinking about the article on "voter psychology" in the link I posted yesterday, and how memorable political speeches have succeeded in influencing (and swaying) the target audience.

I can think of one famous speech that is inspirational: the American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963. It relies heavily on the use of rhetoric. Here is one link:

Another famous speech -- but fictional -- is the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech by Mark Anthony in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. In this case, while the speech also relies heavily on rhetoric, it is manipulative and designed to rouse a rabble crowd into hunting out the conspirators who had just stabbed Caesar to death. Here is one link and an assessment by Wikipedia:,_Romans,_countrymen,_lend_me_your_ears

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ahead of GE2011, an intriguing article on voter psychology

I came back today from the funeral of my brother Tee Chuan (Dick Khoo to his friends) in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. I think I'll post something on it at a later date.

For now, I want to post here the link to an interesting article on "voter pyschology" since there have been appeals made by some politicians here in the run-up to GE2011 to voters to vote in their self-interest. The conventional wisdom in Singapore's political discourse is that heartlanders are more likely to be persuaded by appeals to their material self-interests, like estate upgrading. But then, how does that explain the consistently pro-opposition results in Hougang and Potong Pasir to date?

Also, the self-interest of the middle class, especially the upper middle class, is to identify with the party that has -- admittedly arguably -- unhindered its interests, goals and aspirations. Yet, in this current general election, a lot of to-the-wire speculation has been going on about Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, undeniably a ward with a strong middle class enclave.

The article in the link below has the provocative heading, "Emotion trumps logic in the voting booth". Read and ponder:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My brother Tee Chuan

My eldest brother died in a Kuala Lumpur hospital late tonight, from complications after cancer surgery. He had a lung embolism. The news came late, around midnight. He was truly the caring big brother to No 7 in a brood of seven children.

Above all,  he had a zest for life and a great -- and impish -- sense of humour. He was in my cast of "literalitis" cases in my second blog posting (1 Nov 2010). Here's the extract:

"I know of someone else,  who when he was a young [naval] officer,
had a sudden seizure of literalitis. It all started when, in the process
of writing up a dress code for formal functions, a project officer had
written "trousers, optional" when he had meant "trousers, gold
lace optional". The brave young officer turned up at the next formal dinner
graced by the top brass -- in his uniform top only (and underwear of course).

"He avoided being court-martialled only because he had a copy of the dress
code manual with him."

I will miss you, Tee Chuan, but I know you are in Heaven this day on.

[I won't be blogging for the next few days.]