Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

Blank Space

Blank Space

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

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

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

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

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

Chee Soon Juan is a ‘political failure’

From ‘Chan Chun Sing rebuffs Huffington Post for running articles by Chee Soon Juan’, 16 Jan 2015, article in CNA

Your website has given Dr Chee Soon Juan considerable but undeserved attention and space. You perhaps believe that he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind. Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20 per cent of the vote.

The party he now leads, the Singapore Democratic Party, was once the leading opposition party in the country. But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore, political friend and foe alike, regards as an honourable man.

Indeed, it was Mr Chiam who brought Dr Chee into the SDP in 1992. He mentored the younger man and promoted him. Dr Chee then proceeded to betray Mr Chiam, isolate him and force him out of the SDP, a party that he had founded in 1980 and had nurtured over 14 years. Since then the SDP hasn’t won a single seat in Parliament, though Mr Chiam himself went on to win elections repeatedly.

In 1993, Dr Chee was dismissed from the National University of Singapore for misappropriating research funds and for other serious misconduct, including surreptitiously recording conversations with university staff.

He has been sued for defamation not only by ruling party politicians, a fact that he likes to trumpet in the foreign media, but also by the doyen of the opposition in Singapore, Mr Chiam, a fact that he doesn’t mention because it is embarrassing.

…It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure – not because he was persecuted, as he likes to pretend.  His party is now one of the weakest political parties in Singapore principally because voters do not regard its leader as an honourable man.

…As he has done in the past, he has looked to the foreign media for redemption, chiefly because foreign journalists don’t know him as well as Singaporeans and he believes he can beguile them into believing he is the Aung San Suu Kyi of Singapore politics. Dr Chee, however, claims he is forced to publish in the foreign media because he has been silenced in the Singapore media.

But this is false. There are several socio-political websites in Singapore, some with as wide a reach among Singaporeans as the Huffington Post has among Americans. They have run several articles by Dr Chee. The local press also has carried several of Dr Chee’s letters.

Dr Chee’s problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans. His problem is that they have.

Aung San Suu Chee

The PAP probably keeps a checklist of all the things that make Chee Soon Juan a shitty, hopeless politician, while using Chiam See Tong, the ‘doyen’ of Singapore politics, as a counterweight role model, but only because they no longer feel threatened by the latter. For decades CSJ has been the archetype of everything that’s wrong with opposition politics, and while not exactly a hero to many amongst us, the PAP insists on demonising him as the Wicked Witch of Singapore politics, and can’t wait to banish him from the Emerald city.

A ‘failure’ is just one of the many insults that CSJ has had to bear since his masochistic run with politics in the early 90’s. You might say he has already gotten used to it, as evident from his surprisingly calm response to Chan’s verbal thrashing. Here’s a sample of insults which make Chan’s assault seem like a thumb to the nose in comparison. If the James Bond franchise ever runs out of villains, CSJ might just fit the bill.

1. A ‘political gangster, fraud, liar and cheat': In 2004, CSJ, rather unsuccessfully, tried to sue LKY for defamation for mouthing these words. The reason for then SM Lee’s wrath? CSJ’s dramatic allegation of a $17 billion loan by Goh Chok Tong and LKY to Indonesia during a walkabout (a ‘rescue package‘ that never happened). Chan forgot to mention that CSJ also ‘cheated’ when he consumed glucose during his 10 day hunger strike after his 1993 sacking from NUS.

2. CSJ has been diagnosed with a series of mental disorders, most memorable being LKY’s ‘psychopath’. ST editor Chua Mui Hoong cited ‘antisocial personality disorder’, a euphemism for the former ‘psycho’, while Charles Chong used ‘megalomaniac’. Our PM himself, however, has admitted that the PAP can be rather ‘paranoid’ at times. Chan Chun Sing’s furious rebuttal of the Huffington Post articles betrays a sense of, well, ‘anxiety’ perhaps. It’s a madhouse, this politics thing.

3. CSJ’s cosy association with foreign media has earned him the ridiculous title of ‘Sarong Party Boy’, again thanks to Chua Mui Hoong (The Sarong Party Boy of Opposition politics, 30 Oct 2001, ST). In 2011, he was awarded the Liberal International ‘Prize for Freedom’, joining, ironically enough, the ranks of Aung San Suu Kyi. Not something any ol’ bimbo would win. Chan’s assertion that even the ‘local press’ has carried several of Chee’s letters is laughably misleading, because these are often censored, if not outright rejected.

4. CSJ’s ‘milking of public sympathy’, familiarity with prison cells and bankruptcy have earned him the label of a ‘martyr’. Chan’s use of words like ‘redemption’ isn’t helping to steer us away from the idea of CSJ as a rebel messiah with a cult following willing to impale himself on the Singapore flag for us all. CSJ  thrives on bashing, and Chan eagerly took the bait.

If there’s one thing that CSJ has accomplished despite his dismal showing at the elections and run-ins with the law, is the publication of actual books. Chan, to his credit, has introduced us to XO Chai Tau Quay and made us reflect on kueh lapis. He may even have rolled around in trenches during his time in the Army. Explains all this to-and-fro GUTter politicking then.

Here’s an idea for a campaign theme song for the upcoming GE, CSJ. Chumbawamba!

Workers’ Party’s deafening sound of silence

From ‘WP town council and the sound of silence’, 10 Dec 2014, article by Lawrence Wong, Opinion, ST

…Every year that the Workers’ Party (WP) has run AHPETC, the town council has been consistently flagged “red”, both for its service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears management and its corporate governance.

…MND is naturally concerned. It has queried AHPETC several times. But so far, all we have got from AHPETC are prevarications, non-answers, and sweeping assurances that things will be all right.

…There is a disturbingly familiar pattern in how the WP responds whenever questions are raised about its conduct. It has happened again and again – cleaning hawker centres, running illegal trade fairs and, now, managing S&CC arrears.

First, its leaders say it is not a big deal. Then, when they can no longer pretend it is not a big deal, they blame someone else – the National Environment Agency, the People’s Action Party, even the AGO. Then, when their excuses are exposed one by one, they say “we are looking into the matter”, or that things will be explained – in “due time”. And then, more silence.

Perhaps, the WP hopes that by lying low and keeping its head down, the matter will go away. The public may forget, or even better, not notice. But it will not, and the public will not. Instead, the WP’s credibility and integrity are slowly but surely draining away.

After my colleague Desmond Lee, as well as many residents and commentators in the media, raised questions, I was expecting the WP to issue a prompt and full reply, and end its long and damaging silence. Sadly, nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, there is silence – one that is growing more deafening by the day.

Lawrence Wong and Desmond Lee aren’t the only ones unimpressed by the WP’s ‘sounds of silence’. Hri Kumar compared the WP’s tendency to avoid ‘difficult questions’ and fence-sitting to Humpty Dumpty in a Facebook post similarly inspired by a Simon and Garfunkel classic. Ng Eng Hen had strong words for the opposition party back in 2008, that they were ‘fudging’ on national issues and were guilty of ‘cop-outs’ and ‘double-talk’. Even when one of their own, Yaw Shin Leong, was caught pants down, there was a ‘kind of hush’ within the WP camp. Ironically, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, one of the WP’s fiercest critics, was once no fan of the PAP himself, before he was successfully ‘co-opted’ into the regime.

The PAP considers such dithering an integrity breach, while some observers think this golden silence is a ‘shrewd’ tactic, designed to make their accusers look like quick-tempered, impatient bullies looking to score brownie points while offering no solution of their own, whereas the outnumbered WP are the quiet, stoic ones who don’t need to bark in Parliament all day to get the job done on the ground where it really matters, as the name of their party suggests. Low Thia Khiang once referred to himself as a ‘watchdog’ over the PAP, and later a ‘co-driver’ who would not hesitate to slap the driver if he falls asleep. But it has become obvious by now which ‘driver’ is the one being repeatedly slapped in the face.

3 years on, and the WP doesn’t look like any of these things, spending more time defending their honour against PAP MPs lining up to call their bluff, demand for useful opinions over culturally sensitive issues like hijab as part of uniformed groups, or outright calling them ‘false and untruthful’ because they know they can jolly well get away with it, in the spirit of LKY’s blasting of James Gomez as a liar. Is this our ‘watchdog’s’ idea of a ‘First World Parliament’ or ‘constructive politics’? Will we see the day when Lawrence Wong sends a handwritten Xmas card to Sylvia Lim and gang with the message ‘Keep up the good work’? Instead of collaborating, our politicians find themselves constantly embroiled in a fault-finding circus, PAP members shaking hands only during the National Day Parade in front of camera, after which they go back to the normal high-horse routine of ‘Which WP MP shall I pick on today?’

Maybe it’s time for the PAP to dig deeper rather than pick on the most convenient of targets, because what’s more worrying is the silence of their own members when it comes to their own policies. The last MP I recall providing the slightest semblance to internal feedback was Inderjit Singh’s problem with the White Paper, where he called for plans to ‘delay further population growth for now’. Yet, when it came to the crunch, he ‘was not present during the vote’. It’s not so much a quiet, minority opposition that bothers me, but a group of yes-men blindly following the party line, taking the easy way out without a fight. The silence that’s most deafening is not the disgruntled, sulky WP type, but the slavish, obedient one.

Nuisance neighbour not opening door for Teo Chee Hean

From ‘Hand wringing over neighbour from hell’, 24 Nov 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The authorities have drawn a blank in efforts to deal with a nuisance neighbour who is said to have plagued a Pasir Ris block for more than five years. Residents of Block 612 at Elias Road claim Mr Liew Chien Siong, 33, is responsible for round-the-clock noise, leaving items dangling dangerously outside his flat and assaulting a neighbour’s son.

Two households even plan to move out because of the noise. Numerous complaints have been made to the Housing Board, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and police – to no avail.

“Even when our MP Teo Chee Hean came, he also refused to open his door,” said Mr Ismail Jan, 64, who lives in a unit above Mr Liew’s. He told The Straits Times that Mr Liew, who lives alone on the second storey, bangs on his walls and ceiling at all hours with what sounds like a solid object. He added: “Police came but said they have no authority to force open the door. I don’t know how long I have to suffer this.” All three agencies told The Straits Times they have received complaints but have been unable to contact Mr Liew.

Mr Siew Wen Chang, property manager at the town council, said it “manages only common property” and therefore the HDB and police must deal with the occupant as “the noise is within the flat”. In August, the town council cordoned off an area below the unit after it spotted a blind dangling outside the kitchen window.

The neighbour from hell is yet another example of PM Lee’s proverbial fishball stick analogy. The police can’t barge in guns ablazing and the town council won’t do anything about this ‘internal noise’ even though everyone else has been terrorised by it for 5 years, to the point that even the building’s structural integrity needed to be checked after all the banging and shaking. To show that they’re genuinely concerned for public safety, the town council even placed a token barricade in case Mr Liew’s dangling blind turns into killer litter. I don’t see such special arrangements for residents with potted plants hanging precariously form their window ledges. Why stop there, how about giving away free mufflers for distressed neighbours? Or maybe a pirate’s eyepatch just like what some of our ‘relevant authorities’ wear on a daily basis?

Are the authorities AFRAID of some guy who goes around dressed in army uniform and quite clearly a nutcase? Is he a soldier gone rogue trained by some secret militia with the ability to despatch an entire SWAT squadron if it had to come to that stage when tactical infiltration is the only resort? The HDB really ought to roll up their sleeves and flex some legal muscle instead of going around roping in mediators to possibly try and talk some sense into this menace to society, or at least get staff from IMH to assess if he needs to be tranquilised or put in a strait jacket. Now that Liew’s snubbed even the DPM himself, it will be utterly useless sending down inspector, social worker, MSO officer, or even the goddamn Chief of Army to put a stop to this potentially violent madness. Short of slipping a smoke bomb under his door or getting the CIA to go undercover as pizza delivery boys, HDB may want to consider the more rational tool of EVICTION.

In 1980, exactly such a tough stance was taken against any family who ‘persists in encouraging or supporting acts’ of housing block vandalism. A man who threw a VCR out of his window was evicted by HDB in 1984, in addition to being jailed a month for killer litter. You could even get kicked out of your HDB flat if you sublet your room to Thai prostitutes, or engage in ‘religious activities‘ such as setting up an entire temple or a cult seance within your house. If we were back in the 80’s, Mr Liew would have been booted out long before Teo Chee Hean even needed to step in. Instead of banging walls all day long, he’d be out there roaming the streets longing for a wall to even lean on. Has HDB, gasp, gone SOFT over the years? That it would allow someone to play a ‘Greatest Accordion Hits’ CD at full blast 24 hours a day without serving even a warning letter?

Probably not. Just 2 years ago, a HDB bully got an eviction notice, with full endorsement from Minister Tan Chuan Jin, for abusive acts of spitting, soiling laundry and vandalism. In 2013, a dog-crazy woman was evicted because her pets’ piss and shit caused a massive stench and were barking all night long. What will it take for HDB to use the whip of justice on Liew? For a distraught neighbour to go bonkers from the noise and start attacking Liew with a chopper? Or will we have to send in the artillery and wrecking ball to coax him out of his demonic fortress, at the risk of collateral damage? Will we be forced to demolish an entire building to eliminate one man-sized cockroach?

Now that TCH made his move but failed, it’s unlikely that another minister or MP will up the ante and make our DPM look bad. Maybe it’s time to send in THIS guy, who’ll probably do a better job than some shitty barrier underneath a window.

UPDATE: Liew was eventually arrested under section 7 of the Mental Health Act and referred to IMH for psychiatric assessment (Mental health check for Pasir Ris neighbour from hell, 28 Nov 14, ST).

SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Paypal account suspended

From ‘Sim Lim Saga: Online vigilante group says Paypal account suspended’, 10 Nov 2014, article in asiaone.com

Online vigilante group SMRT (Feedback) has said its Paypal account has been suspended due to “suspicious activity”. According to a statement on its Facebook post on Saturday: “So Paypal has suspended the account due to ‘suspicious activity’ which is usually associated with criminal gangs or terrorist activities.

“Come to think of it, actually that’s true. We are terrorists. Sim Lim terrorist – terrorizing the hearts of errant retailers floorwide.”

Second Minister of Home Affairs S Iswaran urged ‘restraint’ whenever netizens try to be ‘judge, jury and executioner’ in dispensing online justice, and instead ‘let DUE PROCESS take its course’. This due process involves CASE ‘INVITING’ the rogue store to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), this after 18 complaints over the course of 10 months have been lodged against Jover Chew and gang. Due process, sir, is too NICE to be even effective. SMRT Feedback believes that a ‘necessary evil precedes a greater good’, even if that evil deed means forcing the enemy to flee the country, like Anton Casey did. In Jover’s case, he got pranked with 3 large Pizza Hut pizzas delivered to his home.  ONLY THREE?

‘Vigilantism’ didn’t always have a ‘Gotham’ feel about it. In the 60’s, the government set up what was known as the ‘Vigilante Corps‘, a group of dedicated individuals who volunteered their services in case of civil emergencies and ‘nation-building’. They acted within the law and were practically the equivalent of today’s SAF Volunteer Corp. They didn’t have a ‘death wish’ like the original 70’s street vigilante Charles Bronson had, and were assigned to non-vigilante tasks like donating blood or helping out at old folks’ homes. Like Boy Scouts, practically.

PM Lee has already warned against this ‘lynch mob mentality’, yet there’s something romantic and gratifying about DIY justice, whether you call the crusaders a ‘one-man army’, keyboard warriors, digital bandits or witch-hunters. We all root for the masked renegade who gives plodding law enforcement the finger and takes matters into his hands.  Without the spirit of vigilantism, we wouldn’t have random commuters apprehending molesters on the train, nor would give give out medals of courage to people who chase down grandma-robbers. If we all waited for ‘due process’, we’d yell ‘Mata Mata’ all day long when a crime against humanity is committed, and by the time the police come knocking, snatch thieves and potential rapists would have long escaped the clutches of justice. If the police question you on your inaction, you can retort that you were simply taking Minister S Iswaran’s advice, allowing the all-powerful ‘due process’ to make things right. That is, when the cows come home.

SMRT’s takedown of Jover Chew is a digital extension of such acts.  And then some, bordering on harassment, even ‘cyber-bullying’ (leaked gross topless pictures of Jover sprawling on his bed). SGAG, another ‘satirical’ site, followed up with a ‘You Don’t Chibai‘ shirt personally delivered to Mobile Air. In PM Lee’s cowboy town, SMRT Feedback is the mysterious gunslinging stranger who walks into the salon and starts taking out the trash one by one, broken bottles and all. Steven Seagal would approve. 3 years active, the very first post in 2011 by the collective had nothing ‘vigilantic’ about it at all. In fact, it sounded dead serious.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.48.02 PM

The group then took on a bigger challenge, getting into an argument with veteran actor Tay Ping Hui after calling him a cheapskate. You know you’re ready for big time trolling if you can cross swords with Tay Ping Hui. Today, SMRT is no longer just mocking train breakdowns or fighting arrogant celebrities. They’ve become – and there’s no cheesier way to put this- a force to be reckoned with.

But it’s not just conniving bastards or racists who face the wrath of online vigilantism. We should be especially careful of those who blame and shame lesser criminals, like people who can’t PARK, for example. If you’re a married man checking out the Geylang night scene, be wary for the female vigilantes from ‘Geylang Checker’.  One vigilante baits horny men online by posing as a 14 year old girl. His mission: Rid the Internet of  perverts and paedophiles. You could go vigilante on people who don’t return trays at hawker centres, joggers who run with their pets on a leash, or the worst of the lot, people who drink shark’s fin soup!

There is one very well known portal that probably kickstarted this whole ‘online vigilantism’ spree in the first place, a website dedicated to ‘citizen journalism’ that catches anti-social behaviour in the act, exposing and shaming ordinary Singaporeans in an act of trivial folly. Yes, that’s none other than STOMP, and here is the owner of the site SPH reporting via the ST about online vigilantism ‘going too far’ in the Sim Lim Saga. Jover’s wife has already made a police report about SMRT (Feedback)’s actions. She should really have hired an anti-vigilante vigilante to do the job instead.

Battle for Merger a reality check for revisionist views

From ‘Reprint of the Battle for Merger will provide reality check for revisionist views’, 10 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The re-publication of a book of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s radio talks from 1961, The Battle For Merger, will provide a “reality check” for revisionist views, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the launch event on Thursday (Oct 9).

“I hope it will awaken interest among younger Singaporeans in the events of this crucial period in our history, educate them into what actually happened, what the battle was about, and why it was so crucial that the right side won,” he said in his speech at the launch.

Originally published in 1962, The Battle For Merger is a book that contains a series of 12 radio talks delivered by Mr Lee between Sep 13 and Oct 9, 1961, giving a vivid account of the ongoing political struggle over merger.

Among the many superlatives used to describe LKY’s radio sermon, the best come from his son, the current PM, himself, who recalls the ‘superhuman‘ effort of 36 broadcasts in 3 languages, and how the Battle of Merger still reads like a THRILLER today. In TCH’s speech, he called it a ‘gruelling’ exercise which left our founding PM ‘thoroughly exhausted’, but later makes a too-brief mention of the critical event that is the 1962 referendum.

..In the referendum on merger held in September 1962, 71% supported the PAP’s position while 25% cast blank votes as advocated by the anti-merger group.

Although public support for merger was unequivocal in 1962, and Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia on 16 Sep 1963, the differences in views between the Singaporean and Malaysian governments as to how a multi-racial, multi-religious nation should govern itself caused merger to fail.

The essence of a good thriller, or any book worth reading, is to ‘leave out the boring details’. In politics, such filtering is de rigeur in government propaganda, and to refer to one supreme leader’s personal, ‘self-serving’ account of history as a ‘reality check’ is an insult to the entire study of History as we know it. A reality check is a painful reminder of how real life works, like failing in business if you pursue a naive fantasy of starting an organic ice-cream parlour. The ‘Battle of Merger’ launch, instead of extinguishing the ‘revisionist’ spirit, is more likely to add fuel to the fire.

It’s probably true that without the PAP’s tactics in securing the merger and subsequent break-up, we wouldn’t be where we are today, even if some would label the short-lived marriage with Malaysia as a ‘mistake’. While we generously laud our pioneer politicians as hardworking, tenacious and selfless in their fight for freedom, we refrain from other adjectives that contribute partly to the success of the ruling party and hence modern Singapore. ‘Cunning’ and ‘Opportunistic’ would be a couple of them.

For a quick summary of what the Battle for Merger was all about without downloading all of LKY’s speeches, this ‘Diary of a Nation’ episode from the 80’s would suffice, though we all know who are the ones penning their thoughts in this ‘diary’. Maybe the MDA will re-telecast this entire series on national TV, crappy music and title credits and all, and give it a G rating so your babies can watch it too.

The SG50 committee is not interested in telling you how the PAP twisted the electorate’s arm during the 1962 referendum, from the strategic use of the Singapore flag in one of the 3 options to the screening of movies on how to vote for merger, or how you couldn’t even vote ‘NO’ to the whole idea. They want you to know that it was ‘unequivocal’. Digging further into ‘history’ will suggest that perhaps ‘unequivocal’ was an exaggeration. The SG50 doesn’t want you to know David Marshall once described the Referendum as ‘dishonest’ and ‘immoral’, an insult that deserves to be published in full glory, by the ST itself no less.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.07.05 AM

Any history student, or thinking Singaporean, would be obliged to find out exactly why some people thought the Referendum was a sham. For starters, this was what the Referendum form looked like, which may give you some inkling of whether ‘unequivocal’ is the right word to use here. You may also want to read further on how the PAP decided to handle ‘blank votes’ (defaulted as Alternative A).

TCH also doesn’t explain what a ‘revisionist’ view is, probably alluding to the commentaries from the recent banned Tan Pin Pin film, which attemp to ‘revise’ history as written in the textbooks. It seems to me like a polite term for a radical deliberately creating strife by distorting events, or through outright LIES, when most of the time it’s really an attempt to ‘fill in the blanks’ behind the scenes, or give this ‘thriller’ that is the Singapore Story, a not-so-happy ‘ending’.  No one ever calls for Singaporeans to reject ‘denialist’ views, or victors who prefer to leave the ‘convenient truth’ intact and arrogant enough to tell you what ‘reality’ is when they were too young then to know what the hell was going on.

There may indeed be a book out there written by someone free of all bias, one which gives the most accurate account of the merger history, warts and skeletons and all, but it’s probably so boring and painful to read that it went out of print a long time ago. In the meantime, there’s Dennis Bloodworth’s The Tiger and the Trojan Horse, which offers juicy details amid a colourful cast of characters beyond LKY, including Lim Chin Siong, the ‘Plen’ and Goh Keng Swee, with many twists and turns as a proper thriller should have, instead of one man hogging a microphone for days. Still, our DPM is right about how this would ‘awaken interest among young Singaporeans’, except that the PAP, through merciless rebuttal, censorship and instigating fear of us even discussing Communism in public, continues to underestimate the public’s ability to ‘think independently’, a skill that we’re all urged, ironically, to develop in school. That is, don’t just rely on ONE source to form your own judgement of events, ESPECIALLY if it makes better reading than the Da Vinci Code.

Lim Kay Tong as LKY in 1965 movie

From ‘Lim Kay Tong to portray Lee Kuan Yew in SG50 film’, 8 Oct 2014, article by Genevieve Sarah Loh, Today

After an extensive two-year search for the right actor to play the nation’s founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the upcoming SG50 film, 1965, producers of the movie have picked veteran local thespian Lim Kay Tong to fill the role.

The film has been five years in the making, starting off as a biopic about Mr Lee, but evolving into a story about the time the nation experienced racial riots. As the film’s executive producer Daniel Yun told TODAY last month, it was about “how fragile racial harmony can be and how we can take it for granted”.

In their search for a leading actor, the producers spoke to almost 20 people, including local actor-turned-Hollywood mainstay Chin Han.

Interestingly, Lim Kay Tong was cast in the lead role of the 2004 local film Perth as a taxi driver prophetically named HARRY LEE. Though LKT seems to be a shoo-in for the role despite the lack of physical resemblance (LKY is taller, for example), I would be more interested to see who the other candidates were besides Chin Han. I’d expect the criteria to be English-speaking, Singaporean with some Hollywood experience preferred, and I can’t even count the number of other local actors who could meet the minimum standard with one hand. In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, Chin Han in fact beats Kay Tong hands down if you go by number of appearances in movies, though his roles were largely restricted to bit parts, with the exception of the Dark Knight where he played a typical Asian scumbag (which LKY is so obviously not). Chin Han’s age of a youthful 44 also matches that of LKY in 1965 (42). Maybe having ‘Masters Of the Sea’ as part of his filmography was the deal-breaker.

I can only think of a total of 3 other actors who could fit the bill. Edmund Chen, for example, is effectively bilingual, though Hollywood may only remember him for his role in Street Fighter:The Legend of Chun Li, where he gets a few kicks in with the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s Balrog. I’ve a feeling he may be too good-looking for the role too. Adrian Pang, a solid dramatic actor and recognised thespian himself, worked alongside Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in Spy Game. The last one is the just married Ivan Heng, who was in Luc Beeson’s Fifth Element. So who were the other 15, I wonder. Could Mediacorp staples Pierre Png or Tay Ping Hui possibly have cast their lot in the mix? If Huang Wenyong were still alive, could he have been considered for the role despite the language handicap?

Before LKT, there were rumours that HK acting god Tony Leung would be chosen for the role. LKY was also depicted by Chinese actor Zhang Guang Bei in a Deng Xiaoping drama series. LKT’s heavyweight role may very well overshadow all the other aspects of the 1965 movie, the fact that Joanne Peh and hubby are in it but not playing lovers, that there’s a Singapore Idol in it (the last one, perhaps), and 2 of the main cast are not even Singaporeans (Qi YiWu and Deanna Yusof). But most telling of all is that 1965 is bankrolled by none other than the MDA and MCCY, and PAP bigwigs like the PM himself and Yaacob Ibrahim will be invited to the movie premiere and, regardless of how bad the movie actually turns out to be, praise the film not just for LKT’s powerhouse performance but that it is an ‘objective portrayal’ of events, not in the least ‘self-serving’, ‘one-sided’, nor does it contain a single ‘distortion’ or ‘untruth’. Not like some other film about other people fighting for independence. 1965 is a film immune to criticism or censorship, and I sympathise with the reviewer assigned to rate it once it’s out.

I’m just surprised that the responsibility of directing didn’t go to Jack Neo. Maybe he’d have come up with a more interesting title than the boring ‘1965’. Like ‘Lao Lee’,  ‘Ah Lee to PM’ or ‘Where Got Riots?’. If the PAP decided to make a movie about the ‘watershed’ 2011 GE, I have my own selection of actors to play the ministers/MPs.

hC2565E2A

 h1CD68001

hDAED4AA3

And of course Baey Yam Keng. As himself.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 322 other followers