PAP’s succession planning in their DNA

From ‘Succession planning ‘part of Government’s DNA’, 1 March 2015, article by Lim Yan Liang, Sunday Times

Succession planning has long been a part of the Government’s DNA, and the next team of leaders who will helm the country is taking shape, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.

A key tenet of governance here has always been to ensure that good people will be in charge, he said after attending a Chinese New Year lunch with grassroots leaders from Geylang Serai constituency.

“Mr Lee Kuan Yew has always emphasised political succession, and when I took over, likewise, I planned for succession,” he said. “Prime Minister Lee is also working very hard to plan for succession.”

His comments to reporters came as the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Perc) said in its risk rating update last Thursday that health issues affecting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew have put political succession in the spotlight.

…”It is hard for many Singaporeans even to imagine an island without a member of the Lee family at either the helm or being groomed for it, but that is another reality Singapore will have to face,” it  (Perc) added.

When one uses the analogy of ‘DNA’ like ESM Goh has you are implying that people, or organisations, are innately predisposed to a certain behaviour or characteristic. For example, ‘kiasuism’ is in our DNA, but without the right external trigger (PSLE) I wouldn’t be lining up to register for primary school at 3 in the morning. You don’t say ‘queuing’ is in our DNA. What he really means is that the PAP is ‘well prepared’ when the top man is suddenly removed due to unforseen circumstances, that ‘succession planning’ is really more a company ‘philosophy’ than a trait. In other words, ‘foresight’ is in your DNA, while succession planning is the natural outcome of it. Alas, according to PM Lee, there’s still room for improvement in that department.

It’s interesting how ESM Goh uses ‘DNA’ in this scenario, given that there are actual bloodlines running within the PAP, other than the world famous father-son link. Desmond Choo’s uncle is ex MP Choo Wee Khiang. Grace Fu and her dad James Fu is another example. Chua Mui Hoong once commented that the PAP should ‘change their DNA’ of ‘wonky leaders’ (policy wonks, she clarifies). Which makes me wonder if she passed her secondary school Science because you can’t ‘change your DNA’ unless you expose yourself to nuclear radiation. Law Minister Shanmugam says ‘looking after people‘ is in the PAP’s DNA. Again, confusion over what one actually does (look after people) vs what predisposes one to do (compassion). I’m not sure if the PAP has much to brag about either. What they do need is a refresher in biochemistry before using catchy buzzwords willy-nilly.

‘Succession planning’ is a whole business process by itself, but what it boils down to is who gets to rise, why he deserves it and who decides that he’s the chosen one. In the case of GCT himself, he was selected not by the people, nor the MPs, but an ‘inner circle’ of ‘cabinet ministers’. Back in 1985 he addressed murmurs that he was merely paving the way for LKY’s son by saying: ‘If Singapore will be better led by someone else, if I’m just to warm the seat, then so be it.’ A year later, everyone already knew what was in store for the younger Lee, when Goh was reported to have said that it was ‘unlikely’ that BG Lee would take the top job ‘immediately after LKY’s retirement’. Which makes ‘succession planning’ more of a formality of transparency. Up to now, we have been led by a successions of PMs fondly referred to by some as ‘The Father, the Son, and the Holy Goh’. God knows who’ll be the next in line. It’s easy for the ESM to glorify succession planning, but we may have a genuine problem on our hands if an heir apparent isn’t identified NOW.

As for our current PM, he intends to leave the decision of his successor to the ‘younger ministers and their generation‘. While we Singaporeans sit by, watch and place our bets. ‘Risk-taking’ through gambling is also in our DNA after all. So what would Singapore be like without a member of this ‘Lee dynasty’ at the helm then? There are those who believe that we’re not ready for a world without LKY. Perc seems to think the end of the Lee era would be unthinkable. PM Lee himself has mentioned that he does not envision his kids doing politics, so it’s very possible that the bloodline stops here. It’s up to us Singaporeans then to make sure the beating heart of the country doesn’t, whoever the baton is passed to. As LKY himself eloquently, and rather accurately, put it in his memoir ‘Lee Kuan Yew: The Critical Years 1971-1978 Vol 2:

…There is one fundamental quality we (Singaporeans) have, which nothing can change, and that is the verve, the vitality, the drive in our people. Call it what you will – the DNA – the double helix – whatever you like to call it, it is in us.

MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

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In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ‘emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.

Playing musical instruments banned during Thaipusam

From ‘Ban on playing music at Thaipusam aimed at ensuring peaceful procession:Iswaran’ 5 Feb 2015, article in ST

The ban on playing music at the annual Thaipusam procession was introduced because of past incidents of fights breaking out between competing groups which disrupted the procession, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran. The ban, which has been in place since 1973, also applies to all processions, and not just Thaipusam, Mr Iswaran told reporters.

Given that Thaipusam is the longest foot procession in Singapore which goes through major roads in the heart of the city, it is even more important to make sure that the procession is conducted in a peaceful manner, he added.

…His comments followed the arrest of three Singaporean men over a scuffle that broke out on Tuesday evening during the annual Thaipusam procession. Police said organisers had asked a group of people to stop playing traditional Indian drums as it was not allowed under the event’s police permit.

Following the incident, some have questioned the ban on musical instruments at the annual procession. Responding to this, Mr Iswaran said the authorities have in fact made special concessions for Thaipusam and a couple of other Hindu foot processions, pointing out that there is a ban on religious foot processions, which has been in force since 1964 following “some very bad episodes and experiences“.

Back in 1981, the police had a different explanation for the banning of music from religious foot processions, that it wasn’t so much the music itself that was disrupting the peace or inciting people to beat the hell out of each other like alcohol does, but that it moved people to DANCE all over the streets and block traffic in their spiritual ecstasy. The 1973 ban, of course, didn’t stop people from bringing on the bongos still, and things got ugly when the police tried to seize drums from participants in the 80s, with one cop suffering a black eye for performing his party-pooping duties.

‘Musical instruments’ back then included portable radios and cassette players, and I’m not sure if the police would swoop in to restore order and silence if devotees were playing ukeleles, harps or doing mass accapella instead. In 1984, there were Thaipusam near-fatalities after a fight and stabbing in Serangoon, music or no music. The ST did not mention if those involved ‘smelt of alcohol’. Nor did anyone consider the possible theory that maybe it’s not thumping music or dancing that’s responsible for a religious procession turning into a Little India riot. Maybe it’s, I dunno, dangerous WEAPONS perhaps? Instead of looking for parangs, the police are raiding boom boxes. If someone rolled in a grand piano, they may just gun the damn thing down before it hypnotises people into a murderous trance. It gives new meaning to the term ‘killer beats’.

The penalty for holding a parade without permit in honour of some deity’s birthday, Hindu or not, can earn you a $1000 fine, or up to 3 months jailtime back in 1989. The police won’t do anything, however, if you decide to hold a funeral bash, banging drums, gongs and cymbals included, for a deceased loved one. Best not to anger the spirit of a dead grandmother I suppose, compared to say Lord Muruga or the Monkey God.

It’s interesting how it’s only parades on foot that are illegal. What if I went around on top of a tooting bus cheering at the top of my lungs in a victory dance interfering in people’s business and getting them to wave at me? Wait, you mean this has actually happened before? With no police around to grab people’s loudhailers and telling truck drivers to STFU with their horning? The audacity!

Khaw Boon Wan citing Chinese opera Butterfly Lovers

From ‘Sengkang columbarium: Khaw Boon Wan takes questions from MPs’, 29 Jan 2015, article by Lester Hio, ST

.. Mr Seng will know a very popular Chinese opera, Butterfly Lovers, or Liang Zhu. It describes the period of old China when girls, unfortunately no matter how talented they were, were not allowed to join schools. So there was this very young, beautiful, talented young lady, Zhu Yingtai, who wanted to study, so she disguised herself as a boy and succeeded in attending the school for three years.

… People just assumed that girls won’t turn up, and because they made the assumption, they discovered it only later and (asked) ‘why didn’t you know’. So they thought this one looked a bit girlish – but it turned out (she was) a girl.

So it’s a similar situation here, that the officers assessing the tender just assumed that it must be a company affiliated to some religious organisation.

I’m no expert in Chinese folklore, but from Khaw’s storytelling, I would figure that the cross-dressing fable of Zhu Yingtai is more about the rise of women against male oppression and discrimination in ancient China than how to hoodwink the Government, which was what clearly happened here when Eternal Pure Land bypassed the system. You could reference Little Red Riding Hood getting conned by the Big Bad Wolf disguised as Grandma, but resorting to fairy tales doesn’t make you appear as learned and refined as citing Chinese opera.

Of course it’s too easy to simply apologise for an error, you need to impress, or bamboozle, your parliamentary mates with your in-depth knowledge of the Chinese classics to explain how you were deceived, and move on quickly by promising to ‘restore the planning objective’. By the way, Khaw was tipping his hat to Seng Han Thong before he started the parable, the same MP who once uttered in a televised interview that ‘some SMRT staff, because they are Malay, Indian, can’t converse in English well enough..’. Which reminds me of this Chinese saying 五十步笑百步, about a soldier retreating 50 steps laughing at those retreating a 100. It makes me sound more intelligent than if I just said ‘the pot calling the kettle black’.

Another minister known for his fine storytelling prowess, and I’m sure also a devoted scholar of Chinese opera, is Lim Swee Say. One of his favourites is the tale of two enemies and a magic lamp, as an analogy for the conflict between the opposition and PAP. In 2010, he enthralled his listeners with a tale of a deaf frog climbing a tower and becoming a champion among the ‘kingdom of frogs’, suggesting that we can conquer all as long as we don’t give a shit about what our critics think. Till this day, no one is able to verify if such a parable even exists at all, or Lim simply croaked something up. There is one about a frog in a well though.

Some references are too literal and deep for the layman to appreciate. WP’s Chen Show Mao cited a self-praising Tang dynasty analogy, comparing the PAP to Emperor Tai Zong and WP as wise counsel Wei Zheng. He should take a leaf out of his boss Low Thia Khiang’s colourful ‘明知山有虎﹐偏向虎山行‘, a rally cry to attack the ‘tiger on the mountain’ during the revolutionary Aljunied campaign. Others, like Lui Tuck Yew’s ditty about a village ravaged by poisonous mushrooms, are just mind boggling.

If you’re not equipped to recite, or make up, an entire opera (literally ‘wayanging’) by heart, proverbs could do the trick. Now this, even our PM is capable of. In a recent speech he quipped  ‘You must go after the tigers, as well as the flies‘ (拍蝇打虎) to describe Singapore’s zero-tolerance towards corruption. In 2007, he used 树倒猢狲散 (when the tree falls, monkeys scatter) to describe the WP’s no-show in Aljunied GRC during the election campaign (Looks like the monkeys returned with a vengeance, climbed to the top of the tree and made it their home). He even has swoon-worthy romantic poetry up his sleeve, recently posting on his FB ‘沉舟侧畔千帆过,病树前头万木春.’ to describe a withering tree in Upper Peirce Reservoir (thousand ships sail past, million trees springing from a dying one). Now there’s a pick up line for the ladies, guys.

Khaw’s ‘Mulan’-ish fable is refreshing, nonetheless, otherwise we’d be bombarded by more tales of monkeys, frogs, tigers and trees. As for this columbarium condundrum, he may be assuring the public not to ‘杯弓蛇影’ (see a snake in a cup when it’s actually just a reflection of a bow’). But I believe, like most people would whatever their religious inclincation, that “人在做,天在看”. (Heaven is watching).

ESM Goh on Singapore becoming a Garbage City

From ‘S’pore may end up as a ‘garbage city”, 29 Jan 2015, article in Today

The Republic may end up as a “garbage city”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong today (Jan 29) following reports of how a part of the Gardens by the Bay was covered with rubbish following a music festival.

His remarks come a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a picture on his Facebook page, which showed rubbish strewn on the ground following the 2015 Laneway Festival at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. About 13,000 people attended the Saturday event..

…In a Facebook post, Mr Goh wrote: “Our reputation as one of the world’s cleanest cities is going down the rubbish chute. It looks like a case of ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’.” He noted that Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places.

“The Japanese take their snack wrappers, empty bottles and ponchos home to dispose. That is why Tokyo is a fine city without ‘fine’ signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.”

Mr Goh added: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are. “

While our PM Lee was calm in his criticism of the ‘Landway Landfill’, using the more nuanced ‘cleaned city’ to describe our dependence on an army of labourers and shameless sense of entitlement (some Laneway goers interviewed in a ST article assumed that cleaning services were included in the festival ticket), our former PM has no qualms about trash-talking and putting our disgusting habits in the spotlight. Interestingly, he has summoned the analogy of ‘monkey see monkey do’ to describe the contagious mimicry of littering. And what do monkeys eat?

Here’s a clue, courtesy of Mrs Goh Chok Tong herself in reference to a certain NKF chairman’s salary, in full uncensored glory.

For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, $600,000 is peanuts as it has a few hundred millions in reserves.’

As they say, if you pay peanuts, you get..well – you know.

But back to Garbage by the Bay. The Laneway fallout isn’t new. We have been called ‘Garbage City‘ since 1983. Anyone who has stayed back after the NDP festivities to witness the mess left behind would hang their head in shame at the average 15 TONNES of rubbish per show. We can forgive Laneway hipsters, whose fashion accessories actually aspire towards ‘litter-chic’. We may even put the blame what one would expect to be a large non-Singaporean crowd among the audience. But to desecrate a parade ground after the nation’s birthday and singing along with Kit Chan to ‘Home Truly’ is just unforgivable. It makes a MONKEY out of National Day. It’s like blowing out Singapore’s birthday candles on a giant stadium sized cake, and then pooping all over it before we leave.

Even the phrase ‘cleaned city’ is recycled. Vivian Balakrishnan used it in 2012. Liak Teng Lit says that being called a ‘clean city‘ is a JOKE. But nobody’s laughing. It’s easy to rubbish our selling point to the world as a spick and span little red dot. Changing the mindset of the typical litterbug, however, takes more than a cute frog mascot, a public campaign with Ah Boys to Men singing in it, some ugly bright yellow CWO outfit to show the world you’re an incorrigible, lazy excuse of a human being, or slapping a outrageous fine on someone caught tossing cigarette butts out of his HDB window. A picture of the Laneway aftermath ought to speak a thousand words, yet no one seems to be listening.

So fine. We’re a bunch of spoilt ungracious louts with poor ‘character’. But what’s also annoying, though, is the tiresome comparisons to ‘spotless’ Japan every time some venue transforms into a junkyard after celebrations. ESM Goh says ‘Tokyo has NO rubbish’, which, from personal experience in my travels there, is a cliche and an exaggeration, though it still is generally cleaner than the little red rat-infested dump that we’re living in now. You don’t need a major event to show our true colours. I’ve seen people dumping an old TOILET BOWL in my void deck. Old folks still spit without repercussion. Drains are clogged after void deck events. Trays are not cleared. Don’t get me started on our toilets.

Sadly, the Japanese’s culture of shared responsibility and concept of ‘homeland’ has yet to sink in, and we’re struggling to work through the hypocrisy of celebrating recycling and Earth Hour on one hand, but on the other brushing parking coupon tabs to the ground when no one is looking. Our children are taught phonics before they are trained to throw their crap into dustbins.

We’re still haunted by the proverbial fishball stick. Unless something is done to address the psyche of the littering Singaporean who expects to be picked up after, we’ll get poked by the same issue again and again, relying on some reporting app launched by the MSO to complain about things lying around when it’s faster for us to pick it up and throw it away. While we look to the Land of the Rising Sun for inspiration in vain, this sunny island in the sea is fast becoming the ‘Land of the Rising SLUM’.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

From ‘Right to speak freely and responsibly must come together':Yaacob on Charlie Hebdo, 17 Jan 2015. article in CNA

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciates a decision by a local printer of The Economist not to reproduce a page with the latest cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We have no doubt that there’s no such thing as freedom of expression without limits. As I have said before, the right to speak freely and responsibly must come together,” Dr Yaacob said to the media on the sidelines of the JFDI.Asia Demo Day on Friday (Jan 16),

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said the circulation of the cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore. He later posted on Facebook that “there are longstanding laws against causing offence to our races and religions” in Singapore. The page in the Singapore edition of The Economist was replaced with a statement informing readers that the magazine’s “Singapore printers” declined to print it. The magazine hit local newsstands on Friday.

“I think Singaporeans understand the sensitivities and we must continue to protect our racial, religious harmony. So I appreciate the sensitivities shown by the printer and I commend them for the decision,” said Dr Yaacob.

…Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community is “by and large offended” by the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. “But I think they also understood that we need to act rationally and I am quite impressed at how the community has come together to respond to this particular episode,” he said.

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Instead of the actual image, our local printer (Times Printers) agreed to allow a link directing the reader to the cartoon, only without the disclaimer ‘Click at your own risk. We are not responsible for any bloody riots taking place on the streets over this’. As the head honcho of all Muslim Affairs we’re supposed to take Yaacob’s word that ‘by and large’ a cartoon of the prophet shedding a tear expressing solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie movement is insensitive to Islam. Hebdo has published worse, of course, with images of His Most Exalted One being subject to gross humiliation and explicit violence. The creator of the latest cartoon has already explained the meaning behind it, that it wasn’t meant to poke fun but imply that the prophet would never have approved of these mindless killings. Angry Muslims elsewhere have already taken to the streets slamming the resurgence of Charlie as an act of defiance. To some, it’s an act of WAR. Well, Sacre bleu!

Since the time someone was investigated for posting an image of a pig on the Kaaba in Facebook, Singaporeans have become all too familiar with the consequences of breaching boundaries of ‘free speech’. The publisher’s ‘self-censorship’ is similar to the restraint exercised by Singaporeans from expressing their honest views about such a ‘sensitive topic’. We don’t talk about it in school, at work, even around the dinner table, letting the controversy drift by while we argue instead over the ethics of Xiaxue vs Gushcloud. Opinion leaders straddle an overcrowded fence, saying that ‘I am not really Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Killing is bad, but free speech has its limits’. One moment we’re condemning the murderers, the next we’re saying ‘Hmm, maybe those cartoonists went too far’. The usual refrain is ‘There is no excuse for murder, this has nothing to do with religion…’. Then there’s this big ‘BUT….’.

Some go to the extent of calling out countries for hypocrisy, such as Saudi representatives at the Charlie Hebdo march, who hail from the very same place that sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes for denigrating Islam. Maybe our publishers just really wanted to play it safe in case they get a similar mode of punishment in Singapore, or their office gets razed to the ground by insurgent syndicate members. We can’t blame them for that really, but one can’t help noticing the double-take when a public figure goes on to commend them for muzzling themselves over a cartoon that anyone can find online at the click of a mouse. In particular THIS cartoon. Our local FHM magazine has published a caricature of Jesus Christ with a shotgun previously, which in my opinion is more offensive than the Prophet with a glum face holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Today, FHM is still in business, though focusing more on boobs, thighs and butts, which ‘by and large’, doesn’t offend the general populace. MDA must be thanking the heavens that the publisher censored themselves otherwise they’d have some work to do. Thank you for acting ‘rationally’. Hey wouldn’t it be more ‘rational’ if you removed all links and references to Hebdo COMPLETELY? Here’s a broom and a rug, guys!

The irony was evident from the moment our ministers lined up to ‘strongly condemn’ the act, even sending dignitaries to march with the Parisians. The French ambassador took Singapore’s deep condolences as a gesture of support for the French people, and ‘solidarity in the fight against terrorism’. Yet, we knew that Singapore would have banned Charlie Hebdo all along, whether they’re slamming the Prophet, Buddha Jesus, or the Supreme Court for that matter, as one of our own cartoonists Leslie Chew found out the hard way. It would be a matter of time before the awkwardness hits home, when a ‘controversial’ image from the ‘survival edition’, meant to symbolise resilence against terror, is taken out because people are afraid of the consequences. By branding the latest cartoon as ‘religiously insensitive’, MDA is throwing the ‘context’ out of the window and going for the safer option of a blanket ban. The failure to appreciate context, of course, is the reason why extremists kill people in the first place, and a ban is exactly what they have always hoped to achieve.

The French ambassador may want to take a second look at our condolence signing and look for the small print that says: ‘We feel you, bro, but Charlie Hebdo is still a no-no here. Sorry’. As for us, maybe looking up ‘solidarity’ in the dictionary might be a good idea before jumping on the Hebdo sympathy bandwagon.

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