Catherine Lim bemoaning a collapse of trust in the Government

From ‘Consul-General rebuts HK report on open letter by Catherine Lim’, 14 June 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report on Monday about novelist Catherine Lim’s comments in an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has drawn a sharp rebuttal from Mr Jacky Foo, Consul-General of Singapore in Hong Kong. SCMP’s report titled “Writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate” had quoted Dr Lim’s open letter to Mr Lee, in which she said Singaporeans “no longer trust their government”.

In a forum letter to the newspaper published yesterday, Mr Foo said Dr Lim had first asserted this claim in 1994, when the People’s Action Party (PAP) had won the 1991 General Election with 61 per cent of the vote. Since then, the ruling party has taken Singapore through a number of serious crises relatively unscathed and has won four further general elections by healthy margins, he pointed out. “But still, (Dr) Lim continues to regularly bemoan a collapse of trust and respect for the government,” he said.

…In a follow-up post on her blog published yesterday, Dr Lim clarified that Mr Ngerng’s defamation suit was not the direct cause of her writing the letter. She had been observing with increasing dismay at a series of happenings in the political scene, culminating with the defamation suit, she said.

Addressing criticism that she was being too much of an alarmist, Dr Lim stressed that “it is a crisis, or at least a crisis-in-the-making”.

It was 20 years ago when Catherine Lim coined the term ‘The Great Affective Divide’ to describe the estrangement of the PAP from the people, when she used ‘alarmist’ terms like ‘a serious bifurcation at the emotive level’ and ‘subterranean hostility is all the more insidious’. Her commentaries don’t make easy reading, where she uses words like ‘modus vivendi’, ‘loyality’ and ‘meretricious’, and I’m not sure if the Consul-General really understood what she was trying to convey in her open letter, not to mention ordinary Singaporeans. 1994 was a time before social media, of course. Today almost every minister and MP has a Facebook account and then there’s this thing called a National Conversation. And Catherine Lim still believes today that this distrust in our leaders has ‘widened the original disconnect between the PAP and the people into an almost UNBRIDGEABLE CHASM’. Phwroar!

PM Goh would have none of this ‘armchair critic’ eroding his authority back then. In response to charges in another 1994 article ‘One Government, Two Styles’ that he wasn’t his own man and deferred to the elder Lee , he challenged Catherine Lim to enter the political arena, accusing her of ‘going beyond the pale’. To which the author replied that she hadn’t the slight interest, and continues to disdain the offer till this day. Yesterday’s armchair critic is today’s keyboard warrior, and the Government has more than its hands full with this army of discontents, and if you issue such a playground challenge today, you MIGHT just get it. Luckily for Lim, Goh didn’t deploy the famed ‘instrument of control’ then, the defamation suit. It would have vindicated Lim’s opinion that the ‘open and consultative’ style was just a cover for the true LKY-era ‘top-down’ approach that’s been looming there all this while, a ghost beast waiting to unleashed when the PM decides to summon it. Like Satan’s Pokemon.

After the ‘Great Affective Divide’ fallout, Lim cut the Government some slack in 2000 by acknowledging that Singapore was ‘more open’ then compared to 1995. In a 2001 interview, she said that ‘it’s good that the Government is reaching out…in Singapore if you speak honestly and authentically and respectfully, they accept it’. It seemed like she had changed her mind about the Government’s attitude. That is until she penned a ‘open letter to the PM’ in 2007, another tedious read which spoke about PM Lee’s ‘strategy of fear’ and ‘paterfamilias’ (sounds like a Mexican curry puff to me) style of governance. The defamation suit is a recurring example used throughout her observations about ministerial style, and the Roy Ngerng debacle seems to be the same trigger sparking off this latest war of words.

So what is this ‘Edelman barometer’ that Jackie Foo speaks of, that tells us that a whopping 75% of people trust the PAP? Isn’t it really a subjective, selective survey with a fancy name that makes it sound like a validated scientific instrument? In 2012, the Barometer told us that 65% of the ‘informed public’ trust the media. According to an Edelman results slideshow. Singapore has been among the rank of ‘trustees’ since 2011, joining the likes of China and Indonesia, of all nations. Yes, the same China that bans Facebook and Google. There’s also a gap in overall trust between the ‘Informed Public’ and ‘General Population’ (73% vs 64%). So it really depends on who you’re asking then. What Jackie Foo didn’t mention was the level of Singaporean trust in fact DROPPED from 82% to 75% from 2013 to 2014, though still higher than the distrusting Americans and their paltry 37%. Still, it’s the usual ‘blast them with statistics’ method which may appeal to the head, but sadly not the hearts of average Singaporeans.

Trust in the limelight

I ‘trust’ that PM Lee won’t apply the same formula like his predecessor did 20 years back. That would mean that in spite of all their efforts to connect, to bridge that unbridgeable chasm, even if it means queuing up for chicken wings….nothing much has changed.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Luckily for Lim, Goh didn’t deploy the famed ‘instrument of control’ then, the defamation suit. It would have vindicated Lim’s opinion that the ‘open and consultative’ style was just a cover for the true LKY-era ‘top-down’ approach that’s been looming there all this while, a ghost beast waiting to unleashed when the PM decides to summon it. Like Satan’s Pokemon.After the ‘Great Affective Divide’ fallout, Lim cut the Government some slack in 2000 by acknowledging that Singapore was ‘more open’ then compared to 1995. In a 2001 interview, she said that ‘it’s good that the Government is reaching out…in Singapore if you speak honestly and authentically and respectfully, they accept it’. It seemed like she had changed her mind about the Government’s attitude. That is until she penned a ‘open letter to the PM’ in 2007, another tedious read which spoke about PM Lee’s ‘strategy of fear’ and ‘paterfamilias’ (sounds like a Mexican curry puff to me) style of governance. The defamation suit is a recurring example used throughout her observations about ministerial style, and the Roy Ngerng debacle seems to be the same trigger sparking off this latest war of words. According to an Edelman results slideshow. Singapore has been among the rank of ‘trustees’ since 2011, joining the likes of China and Indonesia, of all nations. Yes, the same China that bans Facebook and Google. There’s also a gap in overall trust between the ‘Informed Public’ and ‘General Population’ (73% vs 64%). So it really depends on who you’re asking then. What Jackie Foo didn’t mention was the level of Singaporean trust in fact DROPPED from 82% to 75% from 2013 to 2014… I ‘trust’ that PM Lee won’t apply the same formula like his predecessor did 20 years back. That would mean that in spite of all their efforts to connect, to bridge that unbridgeable chasm, even if it means queuing up for chicken wings….nothing much has changed.  […]

  2. […] Catherine Lim: Letter To PM: A Follow-Up – Everything Also Complain: Catherine Lim bemoaning a collapse of trust in the Government – TOC: Gov’t looks to foreigners for vindication – The Independent, SG: Catherine […]

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