Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leaders of negativity

“Leadership must begin with commitment; with conviction. This, in the end, is what I think leadership is about. You should be able to fulfill the need of the people who are willing to be led by you. They are willing to be led by you because you fulfil their need for hope, their need to believe in themselves. If you cannot make those people you are trying to lead believe in themselves, you cannot really be a leader.” ---- Aung San Suu Kyi.  [Link]

On the contrary, our “leaders” derive utmost pleasure from running down their people and the country, specifically the country before PAP took over. Remember, Singapore was still a small fishing village before PAP came to our salvation.  

They have a range of infamous vocabulary for us, such as “daft”, “lesser mortals”, “quitters”, “poor”, “ungrateful” and “xenophobic”.

They must have the hardest time in governing this hopeless island and therefore the justification of the size of their salaries which is still astronomically high even after the pay review.

Our land size, our population and our lack of natural resources are all perceived negatively and selectively and persistently ingrained into us.

It makes one wonder why would the British set their eyes on this island based on the forlorn description painted by PAP. Singapore eventually became the crown colony. And yes, we know that the British were not looking for tin ores or oil fields but a strategic harbour for their trade. They saw beyond the size, population and the natural resources to appreciate what Singapore has.

The Arabs may have the oil but they do not lead the world. India and China may be populous but that could also be a disadvantage for now. It is just not about what we do not have but what we have. And even what we do not have may also be an advantage if we look at it POSITIVELY. It is about working around the constraints, staying focused on our goals and overcoming challenges. More importantly, it is also about the kind of leadership exhibited.

But PAP conveniently forgets to share with us the advantages of our land size and population in the planning and building of infrastructure for a young country; the added advantage of exerting easy control over the population. Having a small population size also reduces the pressure of creating sufficient jobs. Look, our political leaders were desperate enough to bring two casinos onto our shores to create jobs opportunities, implying the challenges of job creations that they face.

Someone just dispelled the myth that our land-scarce island is ill-suited for agricultural. A vertical farming was created with cutting edge technology right on our island. [Link] At an individual level. It goes to show that with the right conviction and determination, even at individual level, one can achieve the near-impossible.

We are repeatedly handed “death sentences” by our leaders, about our inability to be anything worthwhile. We cannot be the price setters for wages, we cannot enjoy cheap public housing (yet, we can afford tens of golf courses), cannot do without foreign investors and foreigners, cannot groom our own sports talents, cannot do without huge GDP growth, cannot grow jobs without the presence of casinos.

And the worst thing that we cannot do is that we cannot do without PAP. If it is really so, then that would the biggest failure of PAP’s 48 years of governance of failing to establish a strong social, economic and political systems that are independent of political entities.

We understand too well about how PAP enjoys playing their cards with our “weaknesses” as a means to inflate their “successful” leadership. To prove that PAP has the right talent to transform worthless rocks into gold wherever they lay their fingers on. That is the way to which they legitimate their monopoly on local politics.

“So that, simply, to me, is the mindset of leadership; the determination to serve, not to lead. And it’s a determination and commitment to serve that decides who is a real leader, not the desire to be a leader itself.” ----Aung San Suu Kyi.    [Link]      

Two female politicians and an unGraceFu one

 (Photo source: Asiaone )

A photo speaks a thousand words in this case.

Two female politicians standing next to each other. It just struck me that there is never a bigger contrast to see these two women in the photo.

One of the women in the photo once moaned about her “sacrifices” during the period of ministerial salary review, expressing displeasure of being subject to pay cut due to voters’ pressure. [Link] Excruciating sacrifices include the loss of privacy for herself and family, to subject herself and her family to the public scrutiny, the loss of her own personal time and the drop of living standard for her family. There lingers a huge sense of self-entitlement for this woman being a politician in a country where political remuneration is the highest in this universe.

The other woman politician too had her sacrifices all too familiar to the world. She was compelled to forsake her husband, her two young children and personal freedom in order to pursue the democratic path for her people. But she perceived her “sacrifices” more of a choice than a sacrifice.

“If you choose to do something, then you shouldn’t say it’s a sacrifice, because nobody forced to you do it.” ---- Aung San Suu Kyi.

For one who is calculative of her losses and gains, the word “sacrifice” became a loose word. Conscious of personal “sacrifices” and therefore conscious of the returns in exchange. For those who intend to give, the thought of “sacrifice” and returns are both non-existent.

When these two women stood next to each other, they contrasted each other like day and night. It is remarkably to see these two beings, one who glitters like a diamond in the night while the other shuts the daylight out of your day.

Happy for Myanmar, sad for Singapore

And we went as far as flaunting our expensive and new-found toy F1 to none other person than Aung San Suu Kyi. We acted like some children who have yet reached their full intelligence to grasp the meaning of life and sufferings, eager to show off our newly-prized possession to implicitly shame those who have no possession of it.

We have taken our devotion to material goods a yard too far.

“I want to learn a lot from the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve but I wonder whether we want something more for our country.”----Aung San Suu Kyi. [Link]

And Aung San Suu Kyi simply pricked the bubble of our materialistic minds, exposing our emptiness beyond that magnificent façade which we built our self-esteem on and from which defines our success. LHL must have found it hard to understand her when Singapore has already so much more of GDP and infrastructure and wealth than Myanmar, what else could Aung San Suu Kyi be asking for?

The one thing that LHL is tenaciously proud of is the same thing which Aung San Suu Kyi has chosen to shun. And for someone who trumpets about his own success of building a one and only Marina Bay in the world, his understanding of success for a country is narrowly and shallowly focused on economic-digits and hardware. There is no meaningful understanding beyond numbers and hardware.

“….there is only one Marina Bay in the world.”----LHL 

And here lies the difference between a nondescript being and a leader. Here is a leader whose vision for her country that is not circumscribed by the tangibles but beyond.  

Aung San Suu Kyi did not specify what she meant by “more”. Definitely not a reference to F1, Marina Bay, Garden by the Bay, the casinos or expensive shopping malls. More likely to be looking towards the human spirit that is unfortunately not even worth a cent in economic terms. And therefore is beyond LHL’s understanding.

GDP is not an evil by itself. It is needed, provided that it triggers to all strata of the society that contributes to the figure, to ensure a basic standard and quality of living for the people of a country. Nevertheless, it should not be pursued to the extent of reducing quality of life for the majority of the people in the process. And GDP alone does not define the spirit and the soul of a nation.

I may not guess what exactly Aung San Suu Kyi wants for her country. But it should be closer to the heart and further from the pockets.

It is easier to build a house than a home. Doubtless to say that LKY has successfully built a dazzling-looking house. But it is a house, and not exclusively meant for his people who have built it with him.

Aung San Suu Kyi is thoughtful and looks far ahead for her country whilst LHL is still fanatically collecting all models of the LV bags and through the adornments of these bags to shout to the whole world out there about his prominence and success.

A sense of sadness simply overwhelmed me at the thought of LHL.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The defeatist mindset of our leaders

Imagine that you are leading your men to an imminent battle. And all you can do is to pick on your men’s weaknesses and coerce them into believing that victory will never be won.

That doesn’t help at all in inspiring your men does it?

Instead of encouraging your men to rise up against the odds, you simply send them to perish fighting for your battle while you stand aloof to watch.

未战先败。Losing a battle without even fighting it.

A defeatist mindset is the worst trait that one can find in a leader, especially a political leader. One who unabashedly shies from challenges and unthinkingly compromises the welfare of his people for easy alternatives.

The result of a defeatist political leader is catastrophic for a nation like ours. One which is deeply-seeped in political influence in every aspect of our lives—well beyond political spectrum. Where “values” of filial piety can be dictated through laws and “anti-family” behaviour of the unmarried individuals could be rectified through public housing policy. Even personal matters such as to what languages to speak and what we should put into our mouth could be decided politically.

Ever ready to surrender on all fronts

“There is no way in which you are going to be able to protect either Singaporeans or Singapore because we are a small country.”

- DPM Tony Tan, 1998 [Link]

How resolute do you think a leader is in fighting for his people when he already hands out a death sentence to them? When the death sentence is merely a subjective judgement of his.

The fact that we are a small country needs not be interpreted as a disadvantage. It could be an advantage by itself. Additionally, and more importantly, being a small country should not be the indicator of resigning ourselves readily to whatever fate the currents of globalization should bring. Neither should that deprive us the liberty to prioritize our own values and goals. With certainty, our size is neither a determinant to the amount of courage for our leaders to take on challenges.

“We don’t set prices. We are a price-taker, not a price-setter,”

- DPM Tony Tan, 1998 [Link]

Our political leaders readily surrender our people to external and internal unfavourable circumstances in which they claim that both are beyond their control.

Blame it on the globalization, they said instead. And shirking their responsibilities to our domestic inflation, hot property prices, soaring healthcare costs or even our transport woes in the name of globalization.

On our wage costs, our leaders choose to stick in the third-world mentality of offering cheap labour as the only means of competitiveness. They place our workers who hail from a first-world living cost to work at a third-world wage price as the most convenient way out to enrich their economic pie.

Globalization may be a fact but given the talents of our political leaders and the purpose of formulating policies, we could do, really, is the decision, with the necessary determination, to minimize the impacts of globalization. We may be a small country but we are a sovereign country and therefore entitled to control the extent of “openness” of our country.

If we have allowed “globalization” to wrench our power from calibrating how “open” our economy is, does that not reveal the fact that our near 5 decade-old economy/nation that we have come to build is an unsustainable one? We have built an economy and a nation that we have no absolute control over against external economic influence? Yet, we have absolute maneuver over our internal political landscape.

The inconvenient reality is, the sky is the limit for the greed of our leaders who pursue economic growth at the expense of the masses and who reserve a larger portion of economic pie for smaller group of people like themselves.

Our vulnerabilities are not justification of surrendering our people without even a pretended attempt to fight for them. It should be the spur for us to explore ways to insulate ourselves from the volatile world.

But no, let’s surrender. It’s easier to do so. Said our leaders.

On fertility woes, aging population worries our political leaders to the extent of instant mass humans import. However, their inert response to the increasing needs of an aging population in the areas of affordable nursing homes and healthcare costs just bare their pretentious concern about the aging issue.  

Khaw Boon Wan took it a step further by urging Singaporeans to consider living in nursing homes in neighbouring JB. [Link] That will save him the hassle of addressing local healthcare issues.

LHL threw in MediShield Life through increased premiums to buffer us against healthcare costs, which is just a disguised way of getting us to pay more for our people without forking out a single cent from the deep pockets of the PAP-led government. [Link]

On transport, our private train and bus companies privatized profits but socialized the operating costs and their inefficiency costs. These companies are given the green light to do so.

“Not only would people have to pay more, nationalising the operators could result in a stagnation of service quality or efficiency over time”

- Lui Tuck Yew, Transport Minister, 2011. [Link]

A simplistic assumption about nationalization and a few illustrations of failed nationalized transport systems were cited to maintain status quo for our public transport system.

Our leaders oversimplify the failures of others, lacking an apparent courage to tread where others have failed; lacking the conviction and confidence to create our own path.

Yes, there are others who have failed due to reasons which we may not have fully grasped. Yet, our leaders recklessly determine our own fate based on the fates of others. No, our leaders say we can't succeed and therefore we will resolutely fail.

On the environmental issues, they are equally defeatist and hide themselves behind climate change. They are averse to challenges and reluctant to address the changes either brought about by climate changes or by our own swift pace of urbanization.

"You can't design for rainfall of this level, it is just too huge. The thing we can accept is that we can only design our canal of a certain size, and at the end of the day, we have to live with some of these occurrences which occur once in 50 years or so".

- Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim,2006.[Link]

It is not possible... to plan for every event. Thursday's weather... occurs once in 50 years. If we design for the largest rainfall or highest tide, then we are going to have huge canals in Singapore.'

-Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Environment and Water Resources Minister, 2009. [Link]

When VB took over NEA from his predecessor, he threw money at the installation of CCTV cameras to monitor flood situations. CCTV cameras do not alleviate flooding. It is another way of passing on the flood problems back to the people.

“Somethings are beyond (that); it’s an act of God unless you want to lose half the roads and have canals.”

-MM Lee Kuan Yew, 2010. [Link]

Spiritual forces were also roped in to justify the defeatist mindset. An irony considering the fact that the same person who resigned our floods to God is the same person who clinched and created every political opportunity, however slight the opportunity might be, in extinguishing Lim Chin Siong’s political life during the 60s to pave way for his own mighty dynasty. He persevered to achieve his goal and did not leave things to the will of God…then.

When haze descended, NEA and MOH were ill-prepared for crisis management. Our law minister came into the scene more promptly to defend our leaders’ helplessness than ensuring our access to N95 masks.

"If it was within our control we will never allow this to happen. My point to Singaporeans is we will continue to do our best, please understand the limitations of international relationships and foreign policy and the fact that every country is sovereign and we have limited control over what happens in Indonesia.”

- Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, 2013. [Link]

He was quick to highlight that they are legally unable to change the situation for the better. Deliberately leading us to focus on what they cannot do.

We need no law minister to enlighten us on the fact that Indonesia is a sovereign country. Neither do we need leaders who could only persuade us into resigning our fate to any of our current unfortunate situations. We are in dire need of real leaders who could LEAD in crises.  

Instead, our premium leaders could only lead us to surrender to whatever problems that cross our paths while they remain 100% insulated in their ivory towers.

Selective determination

Being told that we are a small country with no natural resources and thus to resign ourselves to being a price-taker.

Unexpectedly, our size did not deter the political will to build up a strong and expensive defence. Contrarily, our size intensifies the determination of having a formidable defence force, leading to the search of possible alliances to expand our safety net for our little red dot.

On the issue of our defence, our political leaders refused the fate of a “price-taker”; they chose the more difficult option, to defend this tiny island with a dwindling local population. 

On other matters, they choose to give up. Bukit Brown is one. The possibility of engineering an underground tunnel to preserve our oldest cemetery is shot down quickly, yet they toy over the daunting idea of an underground city to cater for even more population growth when our flooding woes have yet receded; they gave up on Singaporeans and declare anyone foreign as talent; they endorse Singapore’s openness and subject Singaporeans to unlevel competition with foreigners, yet guarding meticulously at the doors of our political arena, quick to slam the door at any alternative political parties that may threaten PAP’s own survival. 

It is demonstrated of their selectiveness as to where to put forth their tenacious fighting spirit. Fighting spirit is strictly reserved for matters that concern their own survival.

Shirking responsibilities

The last thing we will want is to be caught in a tsunami situation with a leader who could only shift our attention to his broken record of what he CANNOT do instead of what he can do or at least try to do. Or hoping that in the process of monitoring the situation, the tsunamis would have a change of heart and target elsewhere.  The tsunamis is on the brink of sweeping us away, should we just abide by our leaders’ sacred words to accept our fate as there is nothing they could do?

Succumbing to the first sign of adversity is an act of an opportunist, not a leader. Yet, we are paying out-of-the-world salaries to these people whose only solution that they can offer in times of difficulties is their inertness.

We may not be necessarily guaranteed of success in whichever decision we make for ourselves, however, the least we could do is to give up a battle without even trying to fight.

We are not living in a perfect world void of problems. There are understandably problems and challenges. We do, however, expect political leaders who are entrusted with the task of leading our nation and people, to LEAD. To lead us in search of solutions, to err when necessary in the pursuit of the right path and to admit and address mistakes before moving on. Place the well-being of our people first before nation or themselves. 

The nation has to be built for the people and not the other way round. Else, it is just another hotel in disguise.

Let me remind myself that a third of our current Cabinet ministers hailed from the army. Our current Cabinet is led by someone from the army too. These people led their men in the armies; and they are supposedly to lead our people.

But if Singapore was to face an imminent threat of tsunamis now, how different do you think our current batch of leaders would say?

Somethings are beyond (that); it’s an act of God. It is not possible... to plan for every event, and at the end of the day, we have to live with some of these occurrences. We will continue to monitor the situation. Bear with it. Either you survive the tsunamis or you will perish.

The above was purely my conjecture.  

After all that is said about them being defeatist, it is the money-at-all-expense mentality that drives them to be what they are.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tanjong Pagar GRC productions

Don’t we love Tanjong Pagar GRC to death for the breed of ministers that it brought to us in its last two decades of uncontested record:

1991: Lim Hng Kiang, who is now our Minister for Trade and Industry

1997: Lim Swee Say, who is still a Minister with no portfolio

2001: Khaw Boon Wan, who is now our Minister for National Development

2006: Lui Tuck Yew, who is now our Minister for Transport

2011: Chan Chun Sing, who is now Minister for Social and Family Development

That total number of ministers who enter our political arena via Tanjong Pagar GRC alone accounts for about a third of our current Cabinet Ministers. Each election sees Tanjong Pagar GRC producing ONE ministerial material candidate who will eventually be promoted to a full minister.

Sunday, September 01, 2013





















FT’s contributions to our social wear and tear

The 2012 crime rate is the lowest in 29 years.

That is the “right” thing that I am allowed to read and I am not trying to challenge that. It is with great optimism and humility that I am looking at the crime/behaviour of foreign nationals in our little red dot.

They caught my attention as far back as 2009. Wasn’t that long ago, really. And it doesn’t take a sharp observation to notice that the innovations and vibrancy that they bring to our island.

They impress me in a way which the locally-produced crime fails to. We have our own fair share of crime too, not that there isn’t any, but the pace and its forms pale in comparison to these foreign talents. Ours tend to be too ordinary and predictable. The recent case of the Kovan murders stood out though and beats our imagination. 

On the bright side, these crime or misbehaviour “demonstrated” by the foreign nationals make great contributions towards our society in a positive manner as they help stick spurs in the tides of our own police force and people who have been complacent for too long.  

Sticking spurs into the tide on SPF—kicking and scratching
Some foreign nationals assault the authorities, an action that few of our people would think of. Nevertheless, these foreign men and women were not afraid to challenge the authorities physically. They kicked our police and one even demonstrated the talent of a martial art master and took on 3 police officers alone. A female Chinese national scratched our SMRT staff during a dispute.

These are certainly good real-life opportunities to train our police to be always in their top combat form on the ground. SMRT ground staff might need to upgrade themselves and take up some form self-defence as part of their job scope should such physical challenge become a norm in the imminent future, especially with predicted greater influx of people before 2030.

Sticking spurs into our tides—land and air and MRT too
Singaporeans are a complacent lot in our low-crime environment that we tend to let down our guard whether in the air or on the ground.

On flights, we leave our belongings in the overhead cabins and engrossed in the world of onboard entertainment. When we place order food at food courts and cafes, we trustingly hang our handbags on chairs and leave our handphones and even laptops on tables. We place too much faith in our low-crime environment.

Thus, syndicates responded to our faith.

Interestingly, the Chinese nationals came up with the idea of stealing in the aircrafts. With insecure cabin overheads and passengers engrossed in their on-board entertainment gadgets, it is indeed an ideal and safe environment for thefts. Our local thieves are really daft!

Some came as far as South America to help themselves with $10 000 worth of our valuables on the ground, prying at food courts, shopping malls and cafes. Singapore lives up to the name of one of the richest nations in the world.

MRT is not spared. Our world class transport attracted even overseas thieves to expand their territories to Singapore to operate their activities on trains and stations. They reminded me of my travelling experiences in some crime-common countries where I have to pay special attention to my valuables on public transport.

A big thank to these foreign syndicates who taught us to be vigilant whether on ground or off ground.

Contribution to Sing Post
On the bright side, thefts sometimes create positive job opportunities to our local companies.

Between 2010 and 2011, two groups of South Americans came to Singapore for a “stealing spree” and mailed their loots back to their home country, creating more parcel transactions at our Sing Post and help create more jobs at Sing Post.

Hijacking of taxi and flying public bus stunts
Like a TV drama. Taxis could be hijacked and taking a public bus that could “fly” across a road.

And these are all conducted by ordinary people, not some stuntmen. 3 Anglo-Saxon Caucasians  hijacked a taxi before revelling in bashing up the cabbie and a passer-by. Chinese national took a step beyond hijacking taxi and pulling punches, he drove the taxi straight into an unfortunate cleaner.

Another Chinese national somehow managed to allow our public bus to skid off the road while negotiating a bend and send the bus “flying” across the road before it overturned and killed one of the two passengers on board. That is a 50% fatality rate travelling on a public bus.

Increased competition on housebreakings pie
Many are coming to share the pie of housebreakings.  

From Columbia to China. Fret not. 

With the imminent increase of population, the pie for housebreaking is growing. Nevertheless, even with an increase in the absolute number of housebreakings, it is only a proportionate increase to the increased number of homes appearing on our island.

So chances of our houses being broken into are still as slim as before. The down side is, our local burglars will certainly feel the competitive heat from these foreign talents and their livelihoods might be adversely impacted.

Extra-ordinary violence
Fights involving local gangs are often brutal as we have seen in the papers. Slashings and brutal violence are not uncommon. Such violence, however, no longer restricts to gang members.

Foreign nationals bring their social habits to our boring island and spice up our social happenings.

Even a hawker who originate from China took to a chopper to stop teens from hogging onto computers. Another man drovehis car into his teacher girlfriend and killing her for reasons unknown. Or another boyfriend slashing his girlfriend 17 times on the face during a heated argument in Choa Chu Kang blinding and killing her in the act. Or a husbandmurdering his wife, in Choa Chu Kang too. It has to be a cultural or social habit in some countries with the preference of violence as a means of solution.

Not only the locals have a bone to pick with our cabbies, foreigners too. A Swede and a Norwegian added vibrancy to our animosity with cabbies. The Swede managed to flee from our island while the poor Norwegian has to serve his time behind bars.

Globalization takes place in our prison cells
Internationally famed little red dot we are. For the wrong reason perhaps. Attracted people from all corners of the world to this little island with the intention to challenge our laws or unconsciously provoked to challenge our laws.

We are already seeing an increase on the pace of globalization within our prison cells too. It might create a little over-crowding issue to our cells and availability might be an issue. KBW has relieved the pressure on our BTOs but are our cells prepared for the worst-case scenario of 6.9 million population?

With the large foreign influx allowed onto our island in recent years, there are inevitably some law-breakers who are isolated cases and not representative of their home countries. Nevertheless, with the growing range of nationalities that we have on this island, isolated cases will eventually accumulate. On the bright side, that certainly adds more international colours to our cells!

Changing social landscape
We certainly cannot overlook the fact of the social wear and tear contributed by our local people. We are not as crime-free as we are made to believe even before the lax immigration rule. The casino presence makes its contribution too.

On a brighter note, with the increasing openness of Singapore and our welcoming arms to the world, foreign influx spices up our society and contributes enormously to the new possibilities of wear and tear to our landscape and pushes us for more effective and varied solutions to our social ills.