NCMP scheme like a duckweed on a pond

From ‘NCMPs have no political muscle, says WP chief Low Thia Khiang, 27 Jan 2016, article by Justin Ong, CNA

Workers’ Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang said that even if Non-Constituency Member of Parliaments had the same voting rights as elected MPs, they are “very different” due to their lack of a local electorate to serve. A party with an NCMP does not gain any advantage or “political muscle”, he added.

“An NCMP is just duckweed on the water of a pond,” said Mr Low, speaking at a Meet the People Session on Wednesday night (Jan 27).

“You don’t have roots, unlike elected MPs where you have a constituency, you run a Town Council, you are in close touch with your residents, and you can sink roots there. NCMPs, make no mistake about it, are not elected MPs. They may be given the same voting rights in Parliament, but that only pertains to Parliament.”

In 2001, ESM Goh Chok Tong referred to Chee Soon Juan possibly getting the NCMP seat as coming in ‘second past the post‘. The entire Parliament breathed a sigh of relief as the position went to political upstart Steve Chia instead. Therein lies the irony of this ‘duckweed’ scheme, that the PAP has preferences only for certain breeds of aquatic plant, the kind that shows that the Government not only tolerates, but embraces, opposition voices, short of them being mere decorative ‘wallflowers’.

The PAP created the post, but fear that by some astonishing fluke, someone with a ‘megalomaniacal’ tendency may sneak in through the backdoor, though he or she may do nothing more than pound some fists and quack rather loudly, in 10 different languages if need be. In fact, even upon its inception in 1988, the Opposition already viewed it as the ‘plum whose seed would choke them’, that it might lull the Opposition into complacency or become used by the PAP as ‘political capital’. Judging by the results of our last election, the plum is already in the mouth, NCMP or no NCMP.

These Opposition folks are called, unflatteringly, the ‘best losers’. For most stints, NCMPs come and go with a feather in their cap, and put their Parliamentary experience to good use elsewhere. Which makes the floating, rootless, ephemeral duckweed analogy fitting.  Rarely does a NCMP move on to run for an actual election, with devastating results, like the case of Chia Shi Teck, who lost as an independent candidate in 1997, and later declared a bankrupt due  to the Asian Financial crisis. Like Chia, others became victims of ‘political suicide’, or what I would call the NCMP CURSE.

Here are some prominent examples.

  1. JBJ: In 1997, JBJ won an NCMP seat after losing marginally in Cheng San. By 2001, following a slew of defamation suits, he was declared a bankrupt and lost his place in the pond.
  2. Francis Seow: He was among the first NCMPs in 1988. That same year he lost it after being fined for tax evasion. And spending 72 days under ISA detention.
  3. Steve Chia: This guy had it the worst. Caught for taking nudie pics of his maid. Massively trolled by an anonymous website. He was supposed to run in Macpherson for last year’s election but has dropped off the face of the earth since.

 

 

 

Israeli diplomat using Singapore flag as a tablecloth

From ‘Israeli embassy apologises for junior diplomat’s misuse of Singapore flag as table cloth’, 30 Dec 15, article in Today

The Embassy of Israel in Singapore has apologised for the behaviour of a junior Israeli diplomat who misused a Singapore flag as a table cloth during an outdoor party. In a press statement, the Embassy said it “was appalled to learn of deplorable behaviour displayed by one of its junior staff members and expresses its sincere apologies”.

“The Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed that requisite strong disciplinary procedure will be adopted against the individual after his meeting with the Singapore authorities, reflecting the severity with which Israel views this incident, especially in light of the close and friendly relationship between Singapore and Israel,” added the statement issued tonight (Dec 30).

Photos apparently showing the incident were posted online earlier this week.

TODAY understands that the Israeli Ambassador was summoned in by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) after a police report on the incident was made and investigations revealed the identity of the diplomat.

singapore_flag_tablecloth_0-Israeli-diplomat-Israel

When an American rock band who call themselves The Used performed in Singapore, a defaced Singapore flag was displayed as a stage prop. Despite complaints and police investigations, nothing happened to the band, which suggests that some foreigners don’t need to have  ‘diplomatic immunity’ to get away  scot-free with flag misuse. On the other hand, we arrest 13 year old girls if they set the same object on fire.

The fact that an Israeli official was involved is bound to set tongues wagging about preferential treatment. Our country has been described as the ‘Israel of South East Asia’, bearing strong similarities in terms of geographical vulnerability and military might. If not for the Israelis, we would not have an army as mighty as we do today, having sought the help of what the late LKY called ‘Mexicans’ to set up shop here right after independence. Which puts us in a difficult position when it comes to making our stance heard regarding the ‘senseless killing’ of Palestinians in Gaza. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, for one, openly condemns Israeli aggression, though the Government as a whole is still relatively silent about the atrocities. Israel has its avid supporters, no doubt, none more so than some Christian communities who proudly declare their love for our ‘brother-in-arms’, that they are ‘very vocal in their support of the Jewish state’.

Netizens slam the tablecloth incident as a case of abusing diplomatic immunity, harking back to the hit-and-run saga involving the late Romanian embassy official Dr Silviu Ionesu. In the Ionescu case, the Romanian embassy argued that the accused had been ‘engaging in official duties’ at the time of the crash, citing ‘Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention’. Official duties here referring to ‘attending a private birthday party of a karaoke hostess’.

In 1956, diplomatic immunity was invoked by a German vice-consul in defence against inconsiderate driving. According to his lawyer, such a status shielded one against more serious charges, even murder. In 1988, the same legal protection spared American diplomat E.Mason Hendrickson from being charged under the ISA for supposedly encouraging Francis Seow to join opposition politics. The US embassy defended their mission delegate, that he was just doing his job as an envoy. Hendrickson was expelled nonetheless and LKY refused to apologise to the US, referring the case to international arbitration. If you could get booted out for interfering in local politics, abusing the state flag should be no exception.

According to Kishore Mahbubani, this power was never intended to protect one against local laws, that it was invented centuries ago to enable diplomats to talk to leaders of enemy states without fear of getting killed. So theoretically, you’re not supposed to enjoy immunity if you’re engaging in any activity ‘outside of official duty’, condo parties included. I, for one, haven’t the slightest clue what diplomats do when they’re not in ‘working mode’ other than sleeping, pissing and shitting. Disciplinary action is in order, though expulsion seems rather unlikely. As for the flag in question, let’s hope it’s washed down with tender loving care rather than ending up in the dumpster. Or how about a discount on our next Protector purchase as compensation perhaps?

SG50 bringing the nation together

From ‘Singaporeans  felt SG50 brought nation together:Poll’, 28 Dec 15, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans polled in a survey said they felt that the celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence had brought people closer, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Speaking at an interview earlier this month, he said the SG50 Programme Office had been doing monthly surveys since November last year to gauge people’s feelings towards SG50.

People were asked if they knew about SG50 and whether they were excited about it, among other things. The polls showed growing interest and participation in the activities organised for the occasion.

Needless to say SG50 was a success, and we had loads of fun thanks to our Government pumping millions’ worth of freebies and promotions into the festivities. But to say it ‘brought Singaporeans closer together’ based on a snap poll seems quite a stretch. I wonder if those surveyed included the same folks who disappeared overseas for holidays during the long SG50 weekend. Have we forgotten that our Speaker of Parliament even had to urge Singaporeans to stay home instead? Maybe we answered ‘Yes we’re closer now’ out of firstly, gratitude, and secondly, guilt, without actually thinking about what unity means.

To cap an awesome year, we have Adam Lambert performing for the grand SG50 send-off. Thanks to this guy, our supposed unity was tested as two camps embarked on an all out petition war, which some international observers called a ‘cultural divide’.  Not all of us were unanimously happy about the SG50 bonus payout either, with some complaining that the rewards weren’t fair to everyone. When Amos Yee bashed LKY and Christianity after his death, we saw another case of ‘us vs them’, those who supported Amos, and those who wanted to give him a slap across the face. So despite all the feels we have for the country and a newfound reverence following the passing of a great leader, there remain issues that continue to divide people no matter how many free concerts and goodie bags you give them: Sex, religion and money, the same stuff that rip the closest of families apart.

But maybe these are just minor defects in the tapestry that is our Singapore. We can’t all agree on the same things. We may complain about how useless the SG50 goodie bag items are, condemn the local movie 1965 as the worst film of all time, or whine about trivial things like not getting tickets for a free BBQ, but when it comes down to a ballot of even greater importance, the GE, most of us seemed to agree that the PAP are doing pretty fine after all, and our ship is being steered by the right people, for better or worse.

It has been a year awash with sentiment, coupled with a very significant death and a climate crisis inflicted upon us by an incompetent neighbour who blames us for not being thankful for their supply of fresh air on non-haze days, so it does FEEL like we’ve bonded as countrymen, in suffering against a common enemy and in mourning of a god-king figure. It just SO HAPPENS to be SG50. Whether this will keep us united, however, we’ll have to wait and see over the coming years. Unity isn’t measured by how loudly we sing the national anthem, it’s how we behave in little situations with little acts of kindness towards your fellow Singaporean. How many of those who felt ‘closer’ were willing to hug a complete stranger but still refuse to say hello to their neighbours? We know we’re united if we don’t need the Government do give us money or holidays just to express it.

If we wake up one fine day and realise we have something similar to what the Malaysians call a Bumiputera-only mall, then all this talk about SG50 bonding and togetherness is a big fat $10 million illusion. If we see a foreigner pinned under a bus and we do nothing, then we know we have failed. If we lock ourselves in our houses in fear of getting caught in a racial riot, then the Singapore as we know it is doomed.

Kampung spirit useful in rail failures

From ‘Rail failures: Kampung spirit can help’ 25 Oct 2015, article by Danson Cheong, Sunday Times

…”This is the kampung spirit that we must inculcate in every MRT station,” said Mr Khaw (Boon Wan), adding that Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo had suggested involving shopkeepers working in the station, so they can play a part in contingency plans.

“Such ‘family-ness’ will be important not just when there is a technical breakdown, but (will be) even more critical if there is a terrorist- led sabotage to our rail system,” he said. He added that he has asked the Land Transport Authority and transport operators to consider the suggestion.

The over-used ‘kampung spirit’ should be evoked only in reference to the ‘village mentality’, whereby neighbours look out for each other, where the doors are never locked, and you could always pop by your neighbour’s house if you ever run out of sambal belacan. When trains break down, you’re hoping for random acts of kindness from strangers, be they Singaporeans or foreigners. They’re not kampung kakis who you grew up playing chapteh with, soaking in the sun chewing lallang. They’re rush-hour passengers who want to get to their destination as desperately as you do.

Shopkeepers are more keen on making money out of stranded passengers than being honorary SMRT staff, and would rather stay behind their cashiers than risk exposing their shops to angry looting mobs. Now our Transport Ministry wants commuters to extend our homely altruism out of our estates into the public domain, so that we can have mass group hugs and singalong sessions on the free shuttle bus rides home during an MRT breakdown. We’re already having trouble keeping the ‘kampung spirit’ alive with our immediate neighbour, now we’re expected to heed the Minister’s call to summon it outside in sweaty work clothes because nothing else can be done to improve our travel experience besides deluding ourselves into ‘loving thy neighbour’.

Come, people, let’s see your ‘gotong royong’, from Pasir Ris to Jurong. Bring a spare umbrella to lend your fellow commuter while he’s forced to march along an overhead track during a breakdown! Keep a tumbler of home brewed green bean soup handy in case someone needs nourishment! Sing ‘Home’ out loud to lighten the mood when everyone is seething with murderous rage! Let’s exude this warm fuzzy feeling wherever we go, whether it’s outside our corridor, around the void deck, or on a shitty train ride home!

Still, where’s this ‘kampung spirit’ outside everyday common-man experience? Does it apply to our billionaires living in penthouses and Nassim Road mansions who zip around in supercars?  Maybe they give it a less ‘rustic’ sounding name, one that involves non-kampungish activities like sharing expensive wine by an indoor pool or loaning your butler to your neighbour while the family’s out holidaying at a private island luxury resort. It’s ironic that our Government bandies ‘kampung spirit’ around to inspire people to pick up trash, volunteer or endure train breakdowns, while at the same time destroying tight-knit heritage estates like Commonwealth’s Chap Lau Chu, thereby exorcising its ‘spirit’ all in the name of ‘redevelopment’.

Kindness in the midst of commuting madness is greatly appreciated of course. But it should be done solely out of compassion for fellow humans, not egged on by ministers who should be focusing on the root problem, rather than trying to soften ugly consequences with tired cliches.

How to get rewarded for reporting litterbugs

From ‘Reward people who catch litterbugs in action, MP Lee Bee Wah proposes’, 12 Oct 15, article by Monica Kotwani, CNA

…Ms Lee said picking up litter is not enough. She is encouraging her residents to look out for those who litter habitually. She also suggested to the authorities to reward people who catch litterbugs in action. For example, after a resident takes a video of someone littering, he submits the evidence to NEA, and he gets to earn half of the summons.

She said: “In Taiwan, every resident is an enforcement officer. They can video, they can take photo of the litterbug and submit to their NEA. And if there is successful prosecution, their NEA will give the resident who reported it half of the summons collected.

…Said NEA chairman Liak Teng Lit: “I think the Government needs to think through what are the things we need to do. If you look at the equivalent of what is happening on the road, many people today have their in-vehicle cameras and not many people dare to make funny claims about accidents because there is a risk that whatever you say could be contradicting what’s on the camera in someone else’s vehicles.

“So certainly having neighbours watching over the environment and watching over each other will be very helpful. For the good citizens, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, people will be filming you doing good things and praising you rather than reprimanding you.”

The idea of a ‘litterbug vigilante’ is not a new one. In the face of weak enforcement, many have called upon concerned citizens of this ‘cleaned’ nation to rise to the occasion and publicly shame our fellow Singaporeans for their inconsiderate behaviour. NEA chairman Liak himself is the sort of guy who would tell people ‘nicely’ if they litter, citing statistics that 6 to 7  out of 20 litterbugs would give him a dirty look, while 1 out of 20 would yell at him to mind his own business. (Liak Teng Lit: 5 million, 70,000 cleaners, that is ridiculous! 16 Feb 2015, ST).

Mr Liak got one fundamental thing wrong about human psychology though; NO ONE will ever bother to take a video of you volunteering to clean someone else’s crap and give you a thumbs up. If you have followed STOMP long enough, you’ll realise that people are more interested in taking pictures of flaming cars, dead insects in food, catfights, exposed buttcracks, people washing boots in food court sinks, or if you’re lucky enough, someone shitting outside an MRT station.

Good Samaritans doing everyday niceties, without risking their lives or losing limbs saving strangers from total disaster, often go unnoticed. If you defend a helpless teenager from a crazy abusive angmo, you’re recognised as a hero. If you escort an old lady cross the road, you’ll be praised as an angel sent from heaven. If you, however, wag your finger and tut-tut at someone for leaving a mess in public, people will start asking: ‘What are you, Captain Planet?’ Which explains why now an MP is suggesting that we need to instill paranoia into litterbugs so that they think twice before launching that filthy booger out of the car window. And that by throwing money at you, hopefully that would encourage you to grow some spine and snitch on your fellow man.

Just last year, the NEA mooted the idea of recruiting volunteer enforcers to go around catching nuisance litterers. It’s a thankless job and no wonder we haven’t heard anything about this project since. It’s slightly worse than being one of those library attendants who go around shushing noisy children. As for filming someone red-handed, it’s practically impossible to whip out your phone and catch someone just at the instant they’re flicking their cigarette butt into the drain or throwing their Old Chang Kee fishball stick by the road. You’d have to start filming people secretly from behind a bush, and who has the time for such undercover stakeouts, half-summons cut or not? You’re more likely to be the one reported to the cops instead because of your suspicious loitering around trying to help the NEA raise their miserable KPIs.

Lee Bee Wah’s idea would probably work, provided you’re in the Old West looking for Billy the one-armed bandit, except that you’re armed with a crappy phone instead of a lasso to round up fugitives. It’s a sad state of affairs when the authorities need to pay amateur mercenaries to do the dirty work for them. Such a move is backward cowboy thinking and should be duly, well, trashed. Then do I have a better solution, you ask? Well, one word: Drones. Yes, flying surveillance machines designed to catch these no-good scum of the earth from way up high. It sure beats clumsy spywork and none of the scuffles or vendettas when things turn ugly. It’s like Robocop with wings.

We’re supposed to be a SMART nation now, MP Lee. Let’s live up to that, shall we.

Voting for the Opposition goes against human nature

From ‘PM to actively push for succession in new Cabinet lineup’, 19 Sep 15, article by Charissa Yong, ST

…PM Lee was also asked whether he was surprised, relieved or vindicated by the election results, which saw the PAP win 83 out of 89 seats and get 69.9 per cent of the popular vote, a near-10 percentage point swing from the 2011 elections.

He said he was surprised and relieved. But he would not use words like vindicated, as “you only know you’re vindicated after 100 years have passed”.

As for what led to the election outcome, he said the PAP will study it but it was hard to say for sure. But it seemed that voters approved of what the PAP Government had done over its past term and wanted them to continue on the same track, he said.

The opposition’s storyline, he noted, was “the Government is doing good; you vote for us, the Government will work even harder”.

“That’s a very dangerous approach and it goes against human nature,” he said. “If you have a friend and your friend is nice to you, you’re nice to him or her.

If the Opposition were a terminal patient rendered comatose by the election trouncing, then PM Lee is following up the defeat not by buying flowers and fruit baskets as a sporting victor should, but putting a pillow over his face.

The analogy here seems to be ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’, that since the Government had done well, says our PM, it is only ‘human’ for Singaporeans to show some damn gratitude and appreciation by voting for them. If you don’t, then well, pay the price and repent for your choice. Politicians comment on hindsight that Singapore has voted ‘rationally’, which implies that the remaining 30% cast their votes on base animal instincts, biting the hand that feeds them. If the Opposition’s share were higher, they either call it a fluke, or sugarcoat the result as a ‘new normal’.

I’m no evolutionary psychologist, but I believe returning favours isn’t a uniquely human trait. Primates groom each other for sex, for example. In the same way, we put a cross next to the PAP box not just as a ‘reward’ for the party’s efforts, but because we expect something in return; 5 years of them doing their damn job. Alas, simple reciprocation is merely one aspect of this ‘human nature’ that PM speaks of. It’s also typically human to be swayed by sentiment. Cue SG50 and the death of LKY.

Conversely one could argue that it’s ‘against human nature’ to vote for the PAP too. By doing so, you’re endorsing arrogant oppression, which goes against the human quest to be ‘free’. You’re endorsing the generous slapping of litigation on critics including 16 year old bloggers, which goes against the human trait of compassion. You’re saying yes to opening floodgates to foreigners, which goes against the human ‘territorial’ instinct to reject invaders who want a share of your pie.

The PAP has displayed the entire range of human traits, altruistic and kind on one hand, devastatingly ruthless on another, bold then fearful, humble then pompous. So to single out an undesirable, supposedly dangerous, action such as Opposition voting based on the ‘make the Government work harder’ premise as ‘unnatural’ is falling into the very human trap of cherry picking. ‘Dangerous’ to who, exactly?

If our leaders continue to congratulate themselves and saying that voting for the PAP is a ‘no-brainer’, many will be wondering if they made a terrible mistake giving them the mandate. But it’s OK, to err is human after all.

NEA making rain to wash off the haze just for F1

From ‘Cloud seeding rumours are false, malicious: MEWR Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’, 17 Sep 15, article in CNA

Rumours that cloud seeding is taking place to induce rain ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix are false, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said.

Addressing a WhatsApp message that has been making the rounds in Singapore, Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook on Thursday (Sep 17): “The National Environment Agency does not engage in cloud seeding and has no plans to do so. Singapore is so small that even if anybody tried to do it, the rain would almost certainly fall outside Singapore.”

He added: “Singaporeans should beware of malicious people spreading false rumours during a period when anxieties are heightened.”

The original WhatsApp message called for people to be wary of what it claimed were “chemically-induced rain showers”, purportedly meant to reduce haze levels in light of the coming Formula 1 race, which will be held on roads in Singapore’s Civic District from Sep 18 to 20.

In 2006, the NEA did in fact conduct a feasibility study on cloud-seeding to combat the annual haze scourge (S’pore may make own rain to beat the haze, 17 Nov 2006, ST). If you go further back to 1963 when the country was drought-hit, we embarked on the first ever rain-making attempt by sending a Royal Australian Air Force DC-3 up into the air. It is not known if that crew was actually successful, or the lack of suitable clouds to fertilise put a damper on their efforts. That probably works on the parched Outback, but not on our little pinprick of an island. Alternatively, you could try to pray for 4 hours, like what our Sikh community did that same year. I wonder what precipitated out of that. So, yeah, the possibility of us ‘playing God’ and dabbling in rainmaking is not as outright incredulous as the MEWR minister makes it seem.

Rumours of using this expensive technique, the science behind which is still rather ‘hazy’, to bring on the showers aren’t new to Singaporeans. We hear of it being done to deplete the clouds of their load so that the National Day Parade would be rain-free. But why hire a pilot and an aircraft full of silver iodide when you could do something far cheaper, and simpler, a method even endorsed by our PM himself: Making an offering chillies and onions to the rain deities.

Conspiracy theorists may recall how the US War machine supposedly weaponised the weather using aggressive cloud seeding over Vietnam. Code named Operation Popeye, the mission was to ‘reduce trafficability’ along infiltration routes. A war euphemism for torrential rain, floods and landslides. Apparently not everyone dreams of making it rain meatballs.

Cloud seeding by our neighbouring countries has also been linked with hailstones, a speculation that was firmly debunked by NEA for the reason that rain clouds formed by such seeding cannot travel such long distances to reach us. Till today, there remains no clear explanation for the freak weather we had post-haze in 2013. Not everyone complains about this ‘raining like ice cubes’, though.

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