Chinese fugitive Li Huabo’s PR status revoked

From ‘Former Chinese govt official Li Huabo sent back to China’, 10 May 2015, article in CNA

Singapore has revoked the Permanent Resident status of former Chinese government official Li Huabo and sent him back to China on Saturday (May 9). According to reports, Li was sentenced in Singapore in 2013 to 15 months’ jail for receiving more than S$240,000 in stolen funds in his Singapore bank account.

The money was said to be part of the S$19 million in total that he had siphoned off from the Chinese government over five years.  A spokesman for Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a statement that following Li’s release from prison on Saturday, he “was sent back to China as he has no valid grounds for further stay in Singapore”.

ICA added that it had also revoked the PR status of Li’s family.

Li is a former finance official from Poyang county in Jiangxi province and was on the list of 100 most wanted economic fugitives released by China last month.

In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, ancient Singapore is depicted as a haven for sea pirates, led by Chow Yun Fatt’s Sao Feng. Up till today, we remain an attractive refuge for corrupt fugitives from China or Indonesia, although our government insists that our ICA’s filtering is top-notch and have been doing their darnedest to keep ‘undesirable elements’ out of the country. Snarky, this Disney.

According to Bloomberg, Li pumped $1.5 million worth of investment into the country, lying that he was a GM of an energy company during his application for PR. He fled to Singapore in Jan 2011, only to be caught just 2 months later after a tip-off. By then, the permanent resident had amassed a 3-bedroom apartment in a ‘luxury condo complex’ and a heavy gold Rolex, among other worldly possessions. Li Huabo’s lawyer was none other than the late Subhas Anandan, who argued for a shorter jail-term. If it weren’t for the Skynet operation, he’d be living a life free of ‘healthcare scares, CCP crackdowns and pollution’ in our wonderful country. Worse, he’d be enjoying SG50 perks like the rest of us, or sipping expensive wine in his jacuzzi (after tormenting and spitting at his condo manager into allowing him to do so). God help us if he eventually were to become Singaporean. He doesn’t even help us win ping pong medals like Li Jiawei did. Oh, wait.

So, how conducive exactly is ‘squeaky clean’ Singapore to fugitives, con-men who deceive elderly widows, and white-collar crooks? As early as 1958, Indonesian tycoons of Chinese descent were transferring millions of dollars into the country and sought permission to reside here for good. Today, Indo enforcers continue to scour areas like Orchard Road to snare runaway graft criminals, such as vote-buying businesswoman Nunun Nurbaeti. Even some of our forested areas, like Bukit Panjang for example, have been described as a ‘fugitive’s playground‘, having supposedly harboured the likes of runaway terrorist Mas Selamat. And let’s not forget the most famous fugitive of them all Nick Leeson, who even has a movie made in his honour, including scenes of the lead actor’s (Ewan McGregor) bare buttocks. A pretty boy in a beautiful city with plenty of dirty cash to spare.

It’s ironic that a country once described as ‘Disneyland with the death penalty’ has, at the same time, been accused as a ‘safe haven‘ for tax criminals and absconding corrupt officials. Maybe all the covert ‘laundering’ happening under our noses has contributed to the ‘squeaky-clean’ image. Li is but one of 6 wanted criminals suspected to be in hiding in our tiny island, probably taking advantage of the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries to escape the death penalty back home.  I wonder if fellow Chinese national and PR Yang Yin has sufficient ‘grounds for further stay’ here. An expensive Rolex and a nice house apparently didn’t deter our authorities from sending Li back to the motherland.

Education is like buying equipment from a mall

From ‘Education just like a retail transaction now?’18 April 2015, ST Forum

(Grace Yong Fui Han): THURSDAY’S report fills me with disappointment (“Former RGS student claims she was bullied, sues school”). I was a Raffles Girls’ School student, from the class of 1979. Somewhere between then and now, we lost something, not just for the school, but also for Singapore. The report highlights the symptom of a serious malaise in our society, if left unchecked.

One might argue that in taking out a lawsuit against her alma mater, Ms Cheryl Tan is exercising her right to be compensated for the suffering she allegedly endured. However, gratitude for what the school and teachers have done, and respect and deference for the office of the educators seem to have gone out the window.

In their place is a sense of entitlement. Going to school is no different from going to the mall to buy a piece of equipment: “I paid a price (worked hard to get the right grades) to get into my school of choice, so it must meet my expectations. If it does not deliver, like the item I bought at the mall, I will sue the school in the same way I sue the manufacturer.”

Is there a mindset now that relationships are valued by what one can get out of them, rather than what one can contribute? If the alleged bullying is true, then, were compassion and empathy absent, in that the students were unable to put themselves in Ms Tan’s shoes to see how she might have felt as a result of their actions?

If education were a product, it would be a defective one from the start, judging by the existence of a billion-dollar tuition industry. Frivolous suits have been filed in the past, though not by students themselves. A teacher once tried to sue MOE for FALSE IMPRISONMENT after she got locked out of school and injured herself during escape. A divorcee sued both a principal and MOE when he found out that his son wasn’t using his surname during primary school registration. Come to think of it, when my Chinese teacher threw my pencil box out of the window because I was playing with it, destroying it in the process, I could have easily sued her for damage to personal property.

Cheryl Tan is demanding $220 K to continue her studies at Wells Cathedral School in England, in addition to the ‘pain and suffering’ including an outbreak of eczema when she was involved in some CCA Chinese Orchestra kerfuffle. My guess is Cheryl is also a rabid Harry Potter fan, because her current school looks like goddamn Hogwarts. If her suit turns out unsuccessful (most likely to be the case), perhaps she can come back from Wells in a sorcerer’s robe and cast a hex on RGS resulting in them dropping a few notches down the schools ranking. Being a cathedral doesn’t mean she won’t get into trouble there either. If bullied by twats again she could jolly well sue not just Wells, but the Archibishop and Queen of England if she wants to.

The first 2 words that come to mind is ‘spoilt brat’, and you don’t find them just in elite schools. Parents have filed police reports for alleged abuse of their precious ones, whether teachers are giving their kids horrible haircuts or verbal lashings. Cheryl’s case may well set an ugly precedent for overprotective parents with the money to take their case from the police post to the lawyer’s office. Bullying is no laughing matter of course, but being disliked, back-stabbed and ganged up in school also serves as a precursor for what you’ll get in the workplace. Unlike school, you can’t just run crying to your teacher, principal or mummy and daddy when a jealous colleague shreds your documents in the printer room before you get a chance to retrieve them. As stressed out as Cheryl may be, it didn’t torment her as much as actual studies did for others. Students have committed suicide by jumping from buildings in the past. Cheryl jumped ship, and landed herself on a luxury liner.

Well if that’s the kind of parenting that Cheryl’s parents subscribe to, encouraging the mentality that it’s everybody else’s fault that you are unpopular in school and you deserve to be compensated for every little insult to your ego, then so be it at their own ruin. You could send your daughter to a centuries old prestigious castle but she’ll come out a chronic damsel in distress rather than a jouster armed and ready to tackle life’s challenges. Even if the bullying were seriously damaging to your academic prospects and you are the religiously litigious type who doesn’t want to engage school counselors or professional help, there’s something called the Harassment Act, which you can file against the offender directly rather than try to embarrass a bedrock institution known for producing some of the greatest minds the country has ever known. One less rotten apple to mar its reputation then.

Changi airport would not exist without LKY

From ‘Aviation museum better way to honour Mr Lee’, 13 April 2015, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

AN ONLINE petition for Changi Airport to be renamed Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) International Airport has garnered nearly 12,500 signatures over four days. The list is with Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who said he would bring the matter up with the Government, according to the petition organiser, who goes by the moniker “Remembering LKY”.

When Parliament sits today, Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) will ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to consider renaming the airport after Mr Lee.

In a recent tribute to Mr Lee, who died at 91 on March 23, Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong said: “Changi Airport was his baby, and it has become an icon. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was truly the Father of Changi Airport.” So should the airport take his name?

While the petitioners have good intentions in honouring his legacy in this way, it might not be the best way to recognise his contributions. Make no mistake – without Mr Lee, there would be no Changi Airport. He was the one who pushed for the airport’s move from Paya Lebar to Changi, even though foreign experts disagreed. He foresaw that an airport on the coast would allow room for expansion towards the sea and would direct noise away from the city.

…To take away the name would undo, to some extent, the hard work put in over the past 34 years to build up this reputation. Indeed, one could argue it would diminish the legacy that Mr Lee has left behind. One middle-ground option that could be considered without removing Changi’s brand name would be to rename it Lee Kuan Yew Changi Airport.

The petitioners, who had hoped to go a step further by changing its airport code from SIN to LKY will be disappointed to learn that LKY is already being used by Lake Manyara Airport in Tanzania, Africa.

Well, without LKY, Singapore as we know it today would not exist. Should we rename Singapore to ‘Leekuanyew’ then? But let’s take a few steps back in our aviation history and examine the development of Changi Airport, and whether it’s true that it would not have existed if not for LKY’s calculated risk of abandoning Paya Lebar and going for broke. Along the way, expect to see the forgotten names of some unsung heroes, and unlikely naysayers. To the petitioners I say this: Read up your history before jumping on the petition bandwagon.

In the beginning, there were mangrove swamps and virgin forests on the north-eastern coast of Singapore, save for a sleepy fishing village and a couple of buildings. The serendipity of war led to the initial development of Changi into a state-of-the-art military base by the British in 1942. A year later when the Japanese invaded, POWs were forced to build two airstrips for Japanese fighters to defend Singapore. After the war ended, the Royal Air Force took over until the British withdrew from the island in 1967. If it weren’t for these invading foreigners, Changi would have remained a backwater marshland, nevermind how much blood has been spilled into its surrounding waters.

It wasn’t long before a debate ignited between the two sites, with the Singapore Planning and Urban Research Group (SPUR) recommending Changi over Paya Lebar due to noise concerns for the latter. SPUR consisted of architects and planners from both private and public sectors, including Tay Kheng Soon and William Lim. A Polish town planner named Krystyn Olszewski made the same recommendation in 1971, citing health hazards of having a busy airport in the heart of the city. One disapproving voice against the writing off of 150 million dollars invested in the current airport was Perm Sec Ngiam Tong Dow, who didn’t buy the noise argument. If LKY had listened to the man, the proposal would have its wings clipped, and Changi would today be synonymous with nothing other than an airforce camp, chalets for BBQs and fishing, a haunted hospital, and anyone living around Paya Lebar would need MediShield to cover ruptured eardrums.

1974 brought the first oil shock and slowed the growth of air traffic, and given the delay in building a second runway at Paya Lebar, LKY took the chance to seriously consider an alternative aviation hub and take the ‘$1 billion gamble’, but not without hearing others out. One man who ‘pushed very hard’ for Changi was then Head of Civil Service and future Minister of Defence Howe Yoon Chong, whom LKY referred to as a ‘bulldozer’.  Howe and his Special Committee on Airport Development team did a final re-appraisal and concluded that Changi was the future of civil aviation. In fact, in PM Lee’s eulogy of the man, not only was his ‘vision and tireless energy’ acknowledged, but it was Howe who proved Goh Keng Swee wrong when he insisted that the MRT, and not an all-bus system, was the future of  public transport.

The dirty work of running the project after Cabinet approved of the shift fell to Sim Kee Boon,  who had the unenviable task of coordinating various agencies to turn a shabby military airbase into one of the finest airports the world has ever known. In Ong Teng Cheong’s opening ceremony speech in 1981, he expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the project, Howe, Sim, down to the contractors and sub-contractors. Well, everyone, except a certain Lee Kuan Yew.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Except that with LKY’s passing, his role in the making of Changi Airport has been, rather predictably, exaggerated. It was a series of fortunate, and unfortunate, events (the War, oil crisis), and the foresight and toil of other people, not just LKY, that led to the materialisation of the dream airport that we’ve become so proud of. In fact, if we were to rename Changi Airport to LKY Airport, it would diminish not just the man’s greatness, but those who contributed so much of their lives to make Changi what it is today. Let there be an aviation museum if you will, but let’s celebrate not just LKY but the people behind the scenes, criminally omitted from our history textbooks, without whom Changi Airport would remain a mere flight of fancy.

ACS Barker using pressure tactics to sell carnival tickets

From ‘Carnival tickets: Students feel sales pressure’, 11 April 2015, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A letter by the principal of Anglo-Chinese School (Barker) appears to pressure students to sell tickets for a fund-raising carnival, saying the school would know how many tickets each boy had sold. A 44-year-old mother, whose two sons attend the secondary school in Barker Road, was so upset she sent the letter to citizen journalism website Stomp on Wednesday.

In his letter, e-mailed to all parents and uploaded on the school website, principal Peter Tan said: “As I told the boys, their effort in selling coupons reflects on their attitude. It is less an issue of ‘rich’ friends or relatives, but their willingness to step out of their comfort zone.”

…In the letter, Mr Tan wrote: “A student I spoke with this morning said he did not try to contact or speak to any of his relatives, though knowing that even if they are unable to attend, the coupons will be donated to needy families… I wonder if your son/ward is like him?

“My concern is that this lack of drive becomes a habit that will not do him any good.”

…On ACS (Primary)’s parent support group website, it said the carnival aims to raise $600,000, “which will be channelled towards enriching the education of ACS boys”. The school also started an initiative for students to donate coupons to needy families nearby.

In the letter, Mr Tan also recommended that each boy buy $50 worth of tickets for themselves to use at the carnival, which will have food, drinks and games stalls. He called on parents to help out at the carnival. “Extra pairs of hands ready and willing to help that day would be great! For instance, we have a parent who has offered to drive in his Ferrari and Maserati to add to the carnival atmosphere,” he wrote.

Each boy was given 20 tickets to sell, with each costing $10. One ticket is made up of five $2 coupons, which cannot be sold individually.

If you’re the kind of ACS boy who’s too proud or shy to beg friends or relatives for money, you can post your carnival tickets online for strangers, like what this guy did on Carousell. He may not be graded high on ‘getting out of comfort zone’ but will probably get an A for creativity.

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Of course if you’re passionate about your school or want to score points with your teachers and principal, it’s your prerogative if you want to go balls-out to squeeze money out of other people’s pockets. Your customers may see you as a pushy syncophant, but your principal will think nothing less of you than an inspiration for all ACS boys, especially if your dad has volunteered to grace the carnival with a Ferrari, which you can showcase to the needy folks invited to the event telling them: ‘Too bad you don’t have the money to send your kid to our school because THIS is what they’ll drive when they’re older’. If you’re an introvert with no business going around asking people for money and you just want to spend your career in a lab than be a travelling salesman, then you’re viewed as a weak link, and may be arrowed to be the guy who gets dunked in a tub of water repeatedly in a carnival game since you didn’t contribute monetary-wise.

There are other ways to prove your ACSian mettle, of course, other than going around bugging people to attend a funfair, but principal Peter Tan seems to be using carnival fund-raising as the litmus test of the ACS spirit, that you’ll be judged for your lack of ambition, or even character, if you don’t meet the challenge. If your parents happen to be elites with a bunch of loaded contacts, you don’t need to do much to satisfy the criteria. If they, however, are working round the clock in a food stall keeping you in ACS thanks to good ol’ meritocracy, then you’ll probably have your fill of humble pie, while your rich ass friend has the luxury of preparing for the test next week because his folks are doing all the collecting on his behalf. I doubt the school monitors how you actually went about raising the money, whether it’s out of your own savings, or if you had to service a 65 year old pedophile in a toilet cubicle to get $300 in one night.

In 1987, Victoria School ran a fund-raising campaign with a less demanding target of $25 per student. Naturally someone complained that they were coerced into buying tickets, that success in this project was testament to one’s ‘desire to achieve’. I’m sure there are other meaningful, creative ways to both give back to society and prevent the school building from collapsing at the same time, without having to distinguish your students by how many coupons they managed to sell, like running a charity car-wash or recycling project outside of school grounds, something that better represents the collective spirit of your students, without boys having to compete with each other to see who makes a better contestant on ‘The Apprentice’.

Hey, ACS, here’s an idea. How about chartering a private MRT ride for all the needy families to your carnival then?

Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

Fun pack items a waste of money

From ‘Fun packs should be useful to all’, 9 March 2015, Voices, Today

(Goh Kian Huat): This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is set to be a big affair as Singapore celebrates its golden jubilee. About 1.2 million households are set to receive a free fun pack, so they can join in the celebrations even if they are not at the event itself (“Mega-NDP across Marina Bay area to draw 150,000”; March 6)

To ensure the fun packs are useful to households, some of the items should be different from the ones given out to those attending the parade. For example, things such as face paint, handheld fans, clappers, banners and plastic raincoats are useful only to those who are at the parade. Organisers should consider substituting these items with more useful ones for households, or souvenirs for keeping.

Also, organisers should ensure fun pack items can be recycled or reused as far as possible out of consideration for the environment. For example, the bag for the fun packs can be designed in such a way that students can reuse it as a school bag.

In addition, to avoid duplication of resources, households that manage to secure tickets to attend the parade should not be given a second fun pack. Organisers should find a way of identifying them.

The total cost of the celebrations is expected to be around S$40 million, twice that of previous NDPs. Let us ensure that the resources are put to good use.

Full of fun

Full of fun

This is a nice way of saying that the fun pack and its contents are pretty useless. Even if those at the parade took these out to play, they’re mostly junked once the fireworks have fizzled. 1.2 million households, 10 million dollars. The Fun Pack Song even has the self-prophesying lyric: Attack the Fun Pack,  and the attacks have been relentless. When the government sends a bag of freebies to our doorstep, we either complain that it’s ugly or an utter waste of money, and that we’d rather receive a SG50 hongbao with $10 cold hard cash inside. Such ingrates. Such Singaporeans.

If there’s one thing the SG50 committee hasn’t learned about the Singaporean psyche, it’s that they did not make us QUEUE for the damn thing. Sending the funpack straight to our homes makes it far less desirable than when we’re putting in time and effort to join long, overnight queues to grab ‘limited edition’ goodie bags, like how we drag ourselves out of bed at 4am in the morning to camp outside McDonalds for free Egg McMuffins. Likewise, if you had pitched the funpack such that there are only ‘1 million available’ and forced Singaporeans to fight tooth and nail over it, you would have more people posting their catch on Facebook and showing them off like trophies rather than grumbling about the practicality of banners and clappers. Even if it looks so god-awful that your kid would rather wear your dusty army fullpack to school than be seen slinging a funpack over his shoulder.

But look closer at the spread above and you’ll find oodles of charm and usefulness in every item. The chapteh, for instance, can be used to spice up your bedroom tickle parties in place of a kinky peacock feather if you’re not the sporty type. Face paint can be used as zombie makeup this Halloween, or for your next cosplay event. The ‘commemorative’ publications like the jubilee book can add some zesty patriotic colour to the top of your coffee table. Singapore flag erasers come in super handy when you’re down by the lake in Chinese Garden pencil-sketching pagodas and cranes. And who doesn’t love NEWWATER? This wonderful elixir is the e-pee-tome of our self-sufficiency.

Still, the SG50 folks could have done better with the selection, and should have consulted Singaporeans like how they made us vote for the Jubilee Baby package, bearing in mind that not everyone will be up on their feet dancing on National Day. Some will be doing shift work making sure convenience stores and hospitals are still manned by humans. Others will be worrying about getting food on the table for their next meal. And there are the buggers flying off somewhere for holidays who can’t be bothered about this SG50 overkill.

Here’s my wishlist for a future DREAMpack. I just hope we don’t have to wait until SG100 for this.

1. N95 mask
2. Pre-paid Ezy-link card
3. Hello Kitty Merlion edition
4. A mini rotan
5. Special edition Chope tissue pack
6. An LKY doll with knuckledusters
7. A toy replica of the boat that they used on the set of ‘The Awakening’
8. A toy replica of an ERP gantry
9. A lego diorama of the Istana, with lego Tony Tan.
10. A map of Singapore. 100 years ago.

PAP leaning too much to the left

From ‘Budget 2015: NMP Chia Yong Yong cautions against PAP leaning too much to the left’, article by Siau Ming En, 3 March 2015, Today

While Budget 2015 has been praised be some Members of Parliament (MPs) and observers as being left-leaning, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong today (March 3) cautioned against an expenditure that leans too heavily to the left, leading to members in the House thumping their armrests in approval.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Budget Speech, Ms Chia said: “We have in conclusion, a budget that is arguably very generous, and for which I am also very thankful. We have a budget that has been praised and approved as being leaning to the left.”

“But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” said Ms Chia.

MP Alex Yam, a man of the times, followed up with a sassy line from Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable': ‘To the left, to the left’, while MP K Karthikeyan said ‘If we go too far to the right, it’s not right’. Someone please set things right, or we’ll be left with directional puns all day. From the way Parliament is being conducted these days with all this merciless finger pointing at opposition MPs, things seem to be moving not left nor right, up or down, but going around in circles.

Right on, girl!

Chia’s concern echoes what the Budgetmeister himself Tharman said in a 2013 interview:

If I compare our thinking in Cabinet, or the weight of thinking in Cabinet, when I first entered politics about 11 years ago, I would say the weight of thinking was centrist but there were two flanks on either side of it,” he said. “There were some who were a little right-of-centre, and there were some a little left-of-centre. “Now I would say the weight of thinking is left-of-centre. You still get diversity of views in Cabinet, but the centre of gravity is left-of-centre.”

A ‘left-leaning’ ideology generally indicates belief in ‘socialism, equality and state assistance for individuals’. Like Chia, other MPs were concerned that we were being too generous with the Budget on ‘social spending’, that we risk becoming a welfare state. Hence all the armchair thumping like they were having a fan-girl encore at a Beyonce concert. I have no idea what ‘centrist’ thinking is, though it sounds vaguely like sitting on the fence.

Curiously enough, the PAP in its not-so-humble beginnings in fact started out as a LEFT WING SOCIALIST PARTY, as admitted by LKY himself in 1959, who pushed for his own brand of ‘democratic socialism’.

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Hence the great socialism ‘experiment’ began, and Singapore by the late sixties was proudly referred to as ‘the only democratic socialist country in Asia’. We later became an esteemed member of the Socialist International, but were forced to ‘resign’ in 1976 over ‘anti-PAP’ allegations, namely the mistreatment of political detainees.  Our socialist stance then was seen by some observers as straddling the middle ground between communism and right-wing authoritarianism. Oh look, money for all you poor, hungry people one moment, execute drug traffickers, cane vandals, regulate websites, ban movies about exiles and sue bloggers in another. Socialism, Singapore style, is the multiple personality disorder of politics.

In a 2001 interview LKY brushed aside the socialist label (‘I wouldn’t say I consider myself a socialist. I was convinced that it was a civilized system of government’), reminiscing about how the UK Health system in the 40’s introduced him to what he later refers to as a ‘malfunctioning’ system. Today, however, we continue to espouse ‘democratic socialist’ ideals, which according to our PM Lee, the ex-socialist LKY’s son, entails ‘an open and compassionate meritocracy, a fair and just society’. Having a ‘Singaporean Singapore’ was part of our unique brand of socialism as well. What we can’t decide on is how far ‘left-of-centre’ we have become, a term which suggests that we have been playing it straight down the line all along. Those who believe we’re a fascist state would beg to differ.

Considering how extreme left the PAP once was, maybe we have been steered in the ‘right’ direction all this time. Now, if only there’s a song lyric for that.

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