LTA enforcement officer arrested for affray

From ‘Suspended LTA enforcement officer arrested by police after scuffle with Uber driver’, 28 Nov 2015, article in CNA

A Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officer who was suspended from all duties after being caught on video in a scuffle with another man – said to be an Uber driver – has been arrested by the police for affray.

…In the video, a man in an LTA enforcement officer’s uniform is seen throwing a punch at another man clad in a blue polo tee, and both end up scuffling until a bystander intervenes.

A netizen identified as Amber Pek said the incident happened after an Uber car came to pick her up at the taxi stand along Victoria Street, near Bugis Junction. She had posted the video of the incident on Facebook on Friday (Nov 27), saying that the man involved was the driver of the Uber car she hired.

…In response to media queries, police have confirmed that reports were lodged and a 50-year-old man has been arrested. A 59-year-old old man is also currently assisting with investigations, they added.

…Certis CISCO also released a statement saying its contractual agreement with LTA ended in October 2015 and that the officer involved in the incident is not its employee.

An affray is legally defined as 2 or more people fighting in a public place and disturbing the peace, yet only the LTA officer is arrested while the Uber uncle is ‘assisting with investigations’. By his own admission, the latter retaliated to the first punch, but given the brutality suffered, teeth lost and all, is likely to be given a warning instead of being thrown in the same cell as his nemesis.

CISCO were quick to distance themselves from the culprit. A Sunday Times article (29 Nov 15) later revealed that the LTA officer was in fact from a company known as ‘Ramky Cleantech Services’. An unusual name for an organisation that provides enforcement ‘solutions’, sounding more like a provider of sanitation services.

Indeed, according to their website, Ramky caters to office needs by supplying cleaning aunties, among other things like pest control and washing windows and walls. On the enforcement services side, they supply vehicles, wheel clamping and ‘foot patrolling officers’. Which makes the average motorist wonder: If the ‘matas’ who issue summons and catch you when you park illegally are not from the actual TP, who the heck are they and where do they come from?

It started in 2010 when LTA announced that they would relieve the TP of some functions, including the administration of illegal parking and closing roads for repairs. The work was then outsourced to private companies. In response to letters, LTA assured the public that CERTIS CISCO had a comprehensive training programme to ensure that officers carry out their duties professionally. In fact, before LTA came into the scene, parking offence duties were already outsourced by the TP themselves to CISCO since 1999.

In 2013, Ramky won the tender for providing traffic wardens. You can view the details of the successful bid yourself on the LTA website.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 7.20.40 AM

Following the rulebooks is one thing, the manner in which one stamps authority, however, is another. Some drivers have complained that the real cops can be in fact more LENIENT than outsourced wardens when it comes to parking violations, the latter deemed to be inflexible and very ‘rigid’. One warden actually BOOKED A DAMN POLICE CAR in what was referred to as the ‘summons of the year’.

One possible reason for this overzealousness, as a ST forum writer suggested in 2006, was that ‘external companies are driven by profits which are invariably tied to the amount of fines collected’. In order to prove to LTA that you’re well worth the money, you probably need to set a certain summons quota as an indicator of your performance. As an individual employee, that translates to incentives and promotions. CISCO claimed that salaries are not linked to fines collected. I don’t know about the rest.

Sticklers to the rules aside, a more worrying concern is whether our wardens, without the necessary police combat training, would be able to handle aggressive drivers who would gladly engage you in an ‘affray’ if they don’t like your face, knowing you’re just a hired goon without a pistol or taser. One poor soul got noodles thrown in his face, to the rapturous applause of bystanders. If it had been a TP, the offender could land himself a few weeks in jail for assaulting a public officer.

It’s a thankless job, and I’m sure there are wardens who do exercise discretion and don’t kick fallen uncles in the ribcage. But one does wonder if scrappy fights can be avoided if the duty was carried out by the TP rather than employees of companies that also specialise in toilet cleaning. In the case of this LTA vs Uber scuffle, the shit just hit the fan.

Women are from Venus, Lee Wei Ling is from Mars

From ‘Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter: I’m a Martian anyway’, 20 Sep 15, article by Wong Kim Hoh, Sunday Times

…Hakka women are known for being strong, tough and resilient. Indeed, those who read her (Lee Wei Ling’s) columns will know she has very strong opinions and is unapologetically frank, blunt even, when it comes to issues she is passionate about.

In 2006, she poured scorn on biomedical research directions headed by Mr Philip Yeo, former chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research. “I don’t deny that he’s contributed to Singapore as a top civil servant and he’s still contributing… All I’m saying is that you’re not a doctor, so you’re not in a position to know what is important,” she says.

Two years later, she publicly crossed swords with former attorney-general Walter Woon over the case of retail magnate Tang Wee Sung, who was jailed for trying to buy a kidney off an Indonesian man.

Recalling the case, Dr Lee – who believes that banning organ trading is irrational and medically incorrect – says: “The Indonesian guy who was willing to sell his kidney may well have needed that money to prevent two daughters from going into prostitution for all we know.”

…She does not think being her father’s daughter has made it harder to cultivate friends.

“I’ve never been much bothered by that. Like I said (in one of my columns), I was a Martian anyway. Even now. I have enough friends to count on all my fingers, and these are friends who really count. I know of a much bigger group of people who don’t count on that score.

Lee Wei Ling defines a ‘Martian’ as a term used by medical students in the 70s to describe ‘students who went it alone’. It could also be a euphemism for ‘weirdo’ or ‘loner’, rather than the HG Wells’ version where Martians are vicious extraterrestrials bent on world domination. Since then, ‘Martians’ have been played for laughs, whether as the comedic ‘fish out of water’ trope in the 60s’ My Favourite Martian, or the bungling space invaders in Tim Burton’s ‘Mars Attacks’.

LKY’s daughter is also as Martian as men are to Mars, having once acknowledged in one of her articles that she could pass off as a teenage boy in her younger years. In fact, she may well be more physically endowed than most Singaporean men, what with her running 800 times up and down a corridor or doing burpees on planes. She is, however, no alien to organ trading laws.

In 2007, Lee blasted the ban on organ trading, calling it ‘irrational’ and ‘medically incorrect’. She believes there’s nothing wrong with desperate people selling their kidneys if it saves the life of someone willing to pay. A year later, when elite businessman Tang Wee Sung was sentenced to a day in jail after an organ trade saga, she called it a ‘token sentence‘ just to prove that ‘all, rich or poor are treated equally before the law’, and called out whoever made the decision for lacking ’empathy’ because they put a very sick man behind bars.

Former Attorney General Walter Woon, knowing full well that it might be a ‘bad idea’ to cross swords with the daughter of LKY, clarified publicly that Tang was fined $7K for the offence, but jailed for ‘lying on oath’. Other experts chimed in against organ trading, with a certain Dr Choi Kin saying that it promotes ‘greater social injustice’ because you’re practically ‘prostituting your organ’. Our own Singapore Medical Association were dead against it because donors may get exploited by unscrupulous ‘middlemen’. The ethics surrounding organ trading is as murky as the haze. But what if you erase transplant complications, or the fact that you’re losing a chunk of yourself forever, from the equation? For the sake of argument, imagine one day when our blood banks run out, I needed money desperately and someone is willing to pay me to get hooked up to a machine and suck me dry (though technically blood is tissue and not an organ). I would do it in a jiffy if I could be assured that nothing would go wrong. Nevermind if some people call me a blood whore.

Meanwhile, those who have the money may choose to fly to China or India to get the job done instead of waiting to die (9 years, with 400 people in line for a kidney, to be exact), with 49 Singaporeans opting for overseas transplants in 2005 alone. All this at the risk of complications of course, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you can afford not only to be a medical tourist, but also the best medical care in town when you’re back. In the near future, a transplant could be as hassle free as going to Seoul for a nip-tuck over the weekend. Or maybe you don’t even need to leave the country. By the next millennium you could log into Carousell and auction for someone’s 3-D printable liver that’s compatible with yours, download a copy into a machine that will send an army of nanobots into your body to replace your damaged one in situ, cell-by-cell.

Lee’s argument is essentially a case of the end (life-saving) justifying the means (buying a kidney from someone who’ll do anything for money, including ‘prostituting’ his own flesh and blood). Willing buyer, willing seller. As for Tang, he’s alive and well, owing very much to the donated kidney of legendary gangster ‘One Eyed Dragon’ (Tan Jor Chin), who was executed for shooting a business associate. It’s a situation dripping with delicious irony; Tang Wee Sung is walking around with the kidney of a dead murderer, while God knows what happened to the poor Indonesian fellow who tried to sell his.

Nobody would suggest that Lee should consider herself ‘lucky’ for not running afoul with the AGC after her court-bashing. If it were anyone else undermining the courts’ ruling, they may likely get charged for contempt, or filed for harassment. Maybe her otherworldly Martian powers had something to do with it.

Police report filed over Vivian Balakrishnan’s Facebook glitch

From ‘Elections Dept reins in breach of rules’, 10 Sep 11, article by Siau Ming En, Today

…Screengrabs of a tweet on Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan’s account linking to a Facebook post about an election walkabout — with a time stamp indicating it was published today — had some netizens questioning if electoral rules had been broken.

A spokesperson for Dr Bala­krishnan — who is leading the PAP team defending their seats in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC — said the minister has explained to the ELD that the Facebook post in question, which was first published on Sept 4, had been repeatedly published automatically.

“Despite multiple attempts by the page administrators to stop this, the problem recurred at 1.52am on Sept 10, 2015. We have contacted Facebook headquarters to conduct an investigation into the source of this bug,” Dr Balakrishnan told the ELD.

As his Facebook and Twitter accounts are linked, an associated tweet was also generated today. “We have also requested that the page be locked down to prevent any further postings,” Dr Balakrishnan said. Both the Facebook post and tweet have been removed from the respective social media platforms.

The police confirmed that reports were lodged on the matter, and they are looking into it.

UPDATE: Facebook confirmed on 11 Sep 15 that it was indeed a bug in the system that led to ‘recurrent autoposting’. Which is the internet equivalent of a ‘broken record’.

PAP’s youngest candidate Tin Peiling was accused of flouting Cooling Off Day rules back in 2011 when one of her Facebook posts called out rival Nicole Seah for sympathy weeping. An ‘administrator’ named Denise He took the rap. 4 years later, Tin is a rising star and looks set to sweep Macpherson off its feet, and another breach of Cooling Off Day rules is attributed not to a social media ghostwriter, but a ghost in the machine. Just a few days back, police reports were made against PAP MPs attending getais, which cater to a different sort of ghost altogether.

I suppose we should trust the Minister when he claims that there was a glitch in the Facebook-Twitter matrix. After all, this is the man who delivered an epic lecture about integrity and admitting to mistakes during his hawker centre kerfuffles with the WP. He could have blamed it on a hacker like what Ello Bello did to explain his seditious comments on Facebook. He could have blamed the haze for impairing his judgement and making him lose track of time. BUT NO, he chose to target a bug in the 2 biggest social media platforms in the world. Vivian is also no slouch when it comes to tech, being a self-professed gadget hobbyist himself, so he should know what he’s talking about. The PAP, I’m sure, just like it doesn’t have a ‘history of backstabbing’, does not have a history of obscuring the truth either.

Still, I don’t recall the Minister making personal apologies for blowing the YOG Budget in 2011, putting the fault on the ‘ministry’s inexperience’ in organising such a mega event. He also justified tripling the budget by saying that the YOG couldn’t have been a success otherwise. That’s like ordering a cake too large for a birthday party and then buying more candles to make up for it. Well at least he didn’t say there was a glitch in his calculator then.

If there’s a freak result in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC today, let’s hope the PAP team admits that they simply did not do enough to win hearts and minds, rather than dig into the ballot boxes looking for phony saboteur votes instigated by rogue polling agents. But if they do walk out as victors, my advice to the Minister and his team is to look beyond petty politics, all this talk about being whiter-than-white clean, and focus on the haze immediately instead.

WP’s Daniel Goh filing police report over poison pen letter

From ‘WP’s Daniel Goh refutes allegations of extramarital affair’, 28 Aug 2015, article in Today

Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Daniel Goh this morning said in a Facebook post that he has lodged a police report over the poison pen letter alleging that he had an affair with a former student.

…In a post on his Facebook page just before midnight (Aug 27), Associate Professor Goh, who is a sociologist at the National University of Singapore, said someone wrote a poison pen letter to the WP and the media claiming he had an affair with a former student whom he supervised for her thesis.

“I categorically refute the baseless allegations and I question the timing of the poison pen letter coming immediately after the candidate introduction,” wrote Assoc Prof Goh, who was introduced by the WP on Wednesday as a candidate for the coming polls.

One man who would be interested in this turn of events would be disgraced former WP candidate Yaw Shin Leong, whose downfall began when TR Emeritus exposed his affair based on accounts from ‘reliable informants’. The New Paper soon pounced, Yaw’s silence was taken as a sign of guilt, the PAP questioned the integrity of their council, and before you know it, the man tumbled out of politics altogether. It wasn’t long before scandal swung to the other side, with anonymous SMS tip-offs implicating PAP’s Michael Palmer for screwing around too. Unlike Yaw’s dithering, Palmer readily admitted to his indiscretions and quit the party in a manner that some might describe as ‘honourable’. The only reason why these vicious allegations weren’t labelled as ‘poison pen letters’ nor the media excoriated for ‘gutter journalism’, was that they turned out to be true. Or maybe because it’s, well, THE NEW PAPER.

There Will be Mud

Within days of Parliament dissolving, ‘netiquette’ met the same fate. Politicians are suddenly fodder for dirty sleuthing, and social media has become plague-ridden with one calculated smear campaign after another. NSP’s Steve Chia and Sebastian Teo were at the receiving end of the poison nib, with entire websites dedicating to besmirching their reputations. In the last GE, Vincent Wijeysingha crossed swords with Vivian Balakrishnan, the latter pointing to an online video and accusing the SDP of promoting a ‘gay agenda’. Both Steve and Vincent are as good as gone from politics, and it won’t be long before this poison shroud would start infecting other Opposition parties, with conspiracy theories floating around that these spreaders of falsehoods could either be PAP saboteurs/sympathisers, or even rival Opposition supporters, that instead of hurting Daniel Goh they actually boost his election chances. If WP play their cards right, we have a strong Opposition contender in our hands. Well, whatever doesn’t kill him.

Within a day of Goh lodging a police report, Law Minister Shanmugam did the same against a ‘seditious’ Facebook user accusing him of being an ‘Islamophobic bigot’ after his speech about segregation between Malay/Muslim and Chinese schools in Malaysia. It’s the kind of racism accusation Malaysian politicians would toss at LKY for his thoughts on Malaysia’s social quirks. So things have gotten ugly pretty quickly, and we’ve not even gotten to Nomination Day. You have to wonder if such retaliatory responses have been exaggerated because of this ‘smear frenzy’ that has gotten our candidates all antsy in their pants. Try to screw my election chances by defamation, and I’ll smack the law on you even harder. I figure politicians would turn a blind eye to trolls if polling wasn’t, well, just 2 damn weeks away.

So ‘negative campaigning’ and the revenge attacks associated with it, is the order of the day despite the Elections Department frowning upon it. In Goh’s case, the cowardliness of the attack and the mainstream media’s hyena scavenging somehow reversed his fortune into a positive one, instead of descending into ‘YawGate’.  It’s called ‘election fever’ for a reason; The system is delirious with a sickening contagion, where combatants are pitted not against actual rivals in a war of words or wits, but against anonymous hecklers who just want to see the world burn. In the past, writing poison pen letters that mar the reputation of police officers could land you 6 months in jail. If need be, the likes of “Max Chan” could be charged now under the Protection from Harassment Act, a charge that would actually make sense. Unlike this headscratcher.

So much shit online that threaten to condemn Singapore politics to a mudslinging Woodstock orgy and all our MDA is merely concerned with is ‘Pappy Washing Powder’. I wonder if that works on bullshit as well as tough stains.

UPDATE 29 Aug 15: K Shanmugam decided not to file a police report after meeting his accuser. 

Pappy washing powder video is a political film

From ‘MDA reminds parties to not contravene Films Act ahead of General Election’, 17 Aug 15, article by Faris Mokhtar, CNA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) on Monday (Aug 17) said it will not be taking action against the Opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for releasing a political film, which contravenes the Films Act.

The SDP uploaded two videos as part of its online campaign for the coming General Election. One focused on the local education system, suggesting that the system is stressful and has affected students’ well-being.

The other video is a tongue-in-cheek commercial featuring a made-up washing detergent brand called “Pappy White“. It shows a woman putting clothes printed with words like “transparency” and “democracy” into a washing machine. MDA has classified the video as a political film.

However, the authority said it will not be taking action against the SDP, noting that this is the first such incident. MDA added that parties may not have been fully aware of what is contained in the Films Act.

The authority reminded parties and candidates that they need to ensure that their political films do not contravene the Films Act. MDA also said it will not hesitate to enforce the law should they continue to publish such films.

The Films Act bans the making, import, distribution or screening of “party political films”. However, some films which meet certain criteria can be exempted. These include factual documentaries and manifestos of political parties produced by or on behalf of a political party.

The first ever political film to be shown to public is likely to be 1959’s ‘newsreel’ about PAP electioneering. Opposition parties complained that this was biased towards only one party. Ironically, the same ruling party that came up with the ban decades later could themselves have been breaching the said regulations when they first started out.

SDP’s Pappy washing powder creation has an unlikely connection with Forrest Gump. In 1998, BG George Yeo, then head of the Ministry of Information and the Arts, passed an Amendment which disallowed the distribution and exhibition of ‘political films’. He was convinced that opposition parties had sufficient avenues to disseminate their views. Fellow ‘pappie’ Jacob (Yaacob?) Ibrahim was concerned about the ‘danger’ of digital technology creating false images, as depicted in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ when Tom Hanks’ titular hero was morphed into a scene with JFK.

Which means you can forget about recreating LKY’s CG clone for a future film after all those actors worthy enough to portray him have died.

Today, our dear George is lauded as PAP’s Internet ‘maverick’, and the Films Act has since been ‘clarified’ to exclude certain types of content from the ban. For example, a film that is a live recording of any event (performance, assembly etc) which does not depict the event, person or situation in a ‘DRAMATIC’ way. An classic example of how this apparent ‘relaxation’ of legislation took effect was the decision to unban Martyn See’s ‘Singapore Rebel’. From the video on Youtube, you see scenes of Chee Soon Juan mobbed to fever pitch by the police and bystanders rabble-rousing. Nope, not the least ‘dramatic’ at all. Another of See’s films, Speakers Cornered, also features CSJ, but was passed uncut with an NC-16 rating because the MDA decrees that you need ‘maturity to discern the intent and message of the film’. No such luck for Tan Pin Pin’s ‘To Singapore With Love’. All the maturity in the world can’t offer you a glimpse of the banned, allegedly manipulative documentary.

Even without ‘dramatic elements’ or ‘animation’, an unedited video of someone telling his life story would still fall afoul of the censors if it ‘undermines public confidence in the Government’, as what happened to another Martyn See work starring ‘ex-leftist’ Lim Hock Siew. Vague terms like ‘dramatic’ or ‘factual’ have no place in the Law when the Authority, or its ‘independent panels’, have the wherewithal to decide what is ‘non-partisan’ and what is ‘political’ regardless of what the Act says. Undermining public confidence in the PAP is exactly what the Pappy washing powder implies, though the MDA failed to point this out as a ‘political’ element for some reason.

We’re so used to Mediacorp ‘current affairs’ programmes featuring Cabinet ministers, such as 2005’s ‘Up Close’, that we forget that these too may potentially breach the Films Act. And there are so many other ‘films’ out there with hidden political ‘agendas’ that get off scot-free. Like a cringeworthy, totally non-partisan Young PAP recruitment video about ‘re-igniting a passion for servant leadership’, which was spared because it did not have ‘animation or dramatic elements’. Others that inevitably fall out of MDA’s radar, including those with song, dance and animation, include:

  1. A homemade tribute video on the PAP’s 60th annivesary, with a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino Western. Pappy Unchained?

2. A Steven Lim monologue urging you to vote PAP. Which the PAP may decide to ban for an entirely different reason.

3. This Taiwanese animation on Chee Soon Juan getting jailed.

4. This multimedia presentation that climaxes with a PAP logo next to a thumbs up. With cool retro 8-bit music.

5. This ‘Friday parody of how wonderful Election Day is.

6. Mr Brown parody on our ‘One Party’ leadership.

Which goes to show how archaic our laws are when it comes to catching up with new media. MDA’s ticking off aside, the Pappy video remains online as we speak, and in the meantime, if you need some legal ‘political’ entertainment, there’s this:

901 people arrested for attempted suicide in 2014

From ‘More arrested for attempting suicide’, 18 July 2015, article by Tee Zhuo, ST

More people were arrested for attempting suicide last year, according to latest police figures as of June 8. Last year, 901 people were arrested for trying to kill themselves, compared with 862 in 2013.

The 4.5 per cent increase in arrests, however, may not necessarily be a cause for alarm. Experts said the rise could be due to better intervention by third parties, such as family, friends and the police. Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, those who attempt suicide can be punished with jail for up to a year, or with a fine, or both.

…The number of suicide deaths in 2013 was 422, down from 467 the year before. Statistics for last year have yet to be released.

…While suicide is illegal, those arrested are often referred to professionals. Some are let off with a stern warning, said experts. Statistics from the State Courts show only five cases filed, with at least one charge under Section 309 of the Penal Code, last year. This figure is also the lowest in a steady decline from 16 such cases in 2010.

Lawyer Peter Ong of Templars Law believes the suicide law should be abolished as it does not serve as a deterrent. “Knowing they may be arrested if their attempt fails may push them to complete it,” said Mr Ong.

Like section 377A, the suicide law is an archaic one descended from British colonial rule. According to psychiatrist Chong Siow Ann in an ST article last year, this has roots in Christian theology, whereby St Augustine decreed that killing yourself was a ‘mortal sin’ equivalent to killing God since He made Man in His image. In a 2007 editorial, Dr Chong cites the astonishing statistic that more Singaporeans die committing suicide than from road traffic accidents every year. The rest fail miserably, and either carry on with their unhappy lives with the crutch of antidepressants, counselling, religion, or get arrested if they’re unlucky, a rare few getting charged and put on probation only after 10 unsuccessful attempts.

Which begs the question of what exactly is an ‘attempted suicide’, and how the police differentiates this  from one that is merely attention-seeking behaviour with no real intention to die. A man jumping in front of an MRT train is a clear indication, though he failed so horribly in the attempt that he only complained of ‘back pain’ after falling onto the tracks. Earlier this year, another man was arrested for sitting on a ledge and ‘dangling his legs’. It wasn’t reported if he was threatening to jump or was just there for the view.

Quarrelling couples threaten each other all the time. Antics such as raising one leg over the bedroom window, or holding the kitchen knife against one’s abdomen in the middle of a shouting match may seem more dangerous than someone perching on a ledge all by himself, but these people don’t get sent to the police station. Neither do we arrest those who pop 20 tablets of Panadol thinking it would send them into a blissful eternal sleep when all it does is send them to the hospital, if anything happens at all. One particular patient survived after swallowing 120 tablets.

A published paper explained that 3 conditions needed to be fulfilled before the state presses charges: 1) Repeated attempts 2)Wasted resources 3) When other offences are committed in the process, like injuring another person. In 2006, a man was charged based on the last criteria after falling on and breaking a girl’s leg in his misguided attempt. Both survived, partly because he jumped from the THIRD STOREY of his block.

The suicide law itself may very well be a double-edged sword, on one hand deterring those with half-hearted intent from tempting fate and allowing time for intervention, while pushing others determined enough to complete it.  Since the law is not applied most of the time, it’s probably ineffective in weeding out people who just want to mutilate themselves for sympathy and may not even be diagnosed with depression in the first place, like teens cutting their wrists and uploading their battle scars on Facebook, probably driven by the same reasons behind children their age actually taking their own lives.

Our government may even be AFRAID of repealing it in case it leads to an actual INCREASE in suicide attempts and deaths. So until there are figures that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that decriminalisation works, I doubt they’ll pull the plug on this piece of legislation.

Society will lose out without a natural aristocracy

From ‘PM tackles questions on S’pore system, freedom of speech at IPS conference’, 4 July 2015, article by Joy Fang, Today

…On the dominance of countries such as the US, Sweden and Israel in innovation, science and technology, Dr Zakaria said these communities are common in that there is a culture of a lack of respect for or challenging authority.

“You spent six hours yesterday in a court trying to do this, to instil a culture of respect. And isn’t it exactly the opposite of what you need for your economic future?” the US journalist asked.

In response, Mr Lee said: “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”

A BBC article in 2004 addressed our PM Lee as a ‘philosopher-prince‘ when he ascended ‘to the throne’, so to speak, following in the footsteps of his late father, who is also no stranger to being compared to royalty. In 1961, David Marshall lamented that workers were in the grip of fear under the rule of ‘Emperor’ Lee Kuan Yew, a title used again by ex Malaysia-PM Mahathir to describe LKY’s interventions into Malaysian politics.

When the founding PM passed away, the outpouring of tributes and grief was without doubt a grand farewell ‘fit for a king’. Granted, our leaders don’t go around asking people to kiss their feet or wear crowns, robes or wield sceptres, but if there’s one thing similar between our ‘socialist democracy/meritocracy‘ and any form of ‘aristocracy’, it’s that any dissent towards the elite, the ‘creme de la creme’, will not be tolerated, even if the target of the insult is dead. It’s like Thailand’s lese majeste, just with a lot more beating around the bush before you finally punish the bugger.

Which inevitably leads to, ironically, a paternalistic ‘bowing and scraping’ culture because people are afraid to throw eggs at their supreme leaders. This despite some members of this ‘aristocracy’ sending conflicting messages and assuring us that nobody will sue you if you call him a ‘stupid fool’. Nonetheless, our PM has no qualms about queuing up with everyday people for chicken wings, like a lord coming down to the village for a taste of hearty rat broth.

Ex president Devan Nair, in a 1983 speech at a President’s scholarship award ceremony, had this to say about ‘natural aristocracy’:

..And as in sports, there is a NATURAL ARISTOCRACY of talent in all the departments, disciplines and professions of public life. To abolish the natural aristocracy of talent would be to acknowledge the right of butchers to take over surgical wards in hospitals, or to have your teeth pulled out by carpenters rather than by qualified dentists.

Meaning, as one Total Defence song goes, ‘there’s a part for everyone’, whether you’re a serf, a general, a scientist, or the guy chopping pork at a wet market, and the only way to move up the social ladder is to prove your worth through hard work, sometimes with a stroke of luck.

In PM Lee’s context, however, it’s about ‘respect’, showing who’s boss, that one shouldn’t ‘play games’ and mess around with DA AUTHORITY, otherwise we’d all fall into a state of hellish anarchy, a situation which I suppose includes people not queuing up in an orderly manner for chicken wings anymore. Back in the old days, any duke or baron who got his pride wounded would challenge the offender to a gentleman’s duel. Today, our natural ‘aristocrat of aristocrats’ uses not a sword, nor a pistol, against the likes of Roy Ngerng, but a Davinder Singh.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 375 other followers