Reserved Presidential Election is the Right Thing to Do

From ‘Reserved Presidential Election would cost votes but is the right thing to do’: PM Lee, 29 Sep 17, article in CNA

PM Lee Hsien Loong knew that the reserved Presidential Election would be unpopular but went ahead with it, as he strongly believed it was the “right thing to do“, he said in a dialogue session held last Saturday (Sep 23).

“Did I know that this subject would be a difficult one? That it would be unpopular and cost us votes? Yes, I knew,” he said at a People’s Association Kopi Talk held at Ci Yuan Community Club.

“If I do not know that these are sensitive matters, I cannot be in politics. But I did it, because I strongly believe, and still do, that this is the right thing to do.”

Mr Lee acknowledged that there was “some unhappiness” following the reserved election. “I can feel that; you do not have to tell me,” he said.

Three Malay candidates came forward to contest this year’s reserved election. while all of the candidates in the 2011 election were Chinese. Although businessmen Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican and Mr Farid Khan did not qualify, resulting in a walkover, they would not have come forward in an open election, Mr Lee said.

“So why didn’t they come? Because they knew that in an open election – all things being equal – a non-Chinese candidate would have no chance,” he said.

When the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, they knew it was – to put it mildly – an unpopular decision but to them it was the ‘right thing to do’. When the Nazis embarked on ethnic cleansing and conducted vile experiments on Jews for the advancement of science, they too strongly believed that it was the right thing to do. When Darth Vader ordered the destruction of the planet Alderaan by the Death Star…You get the point.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are no good or evil men in this world, just men with what they believed were ‘right’ intentions. But this is what we’ve come to expect of a dominant party anyway, a smiling Nazi-nanny pushing divisive policies for our own good, and deciding for the nation how multiracialism should be handled, even down to the ‘right-ness’ of the stuff we read on the Internet.

Yet, history has proven, by the PM’s own admission, that HE and his PAP COULD BE WRONG.

In 2011, PM Lee said sorry to the nation, admitting ‘mistakes’ made that included overzealous foreigner intake and problem gambling as a result of the IRs.

‘And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry but we will try better the next time.’

When the next election comes around, given the ‘political cost’ of this unpopular PE, I wonder if he would apologise again – that they didn’t get it right at all. That they should have trusted the Chinese majority race, that we should have been given the dignity of casting our votes, that the ONE survey that the PAP likes to quote justifying the reserved PE (because Singaporeans, particularly the Chinese, are inherently racist who prefer to vote for a president of the same race), is a flaming pile of horse-shit.

If someone who was NOT from some prestigious institution had come up with a casual survey with the same results, he or she would have been hauled up for sedition and threatening racial harmony.  If someone who’s NOT the PM said stuff like ‘all things being equal, you being non-Chinese would have no chance’, he’d be branded as a straight out racist. The walked over candidates Marican and Khan threw their hat in the ring because they believed they could make a difference, not because they had no Chinese threat to deal with. Implying so is an insult not just to their ability, but to the idea of equality altogether. Also, has anyone wondered why it’s called CIMO and not MCIO or ICOM?

Let’s say I’m hiring a head waiter for a Chinese restaurant. My executive chef is Chinese,  my marketing director is Chinese, even the dishwashers are Chinese. ‘All things being equal’, fluency in Mandarin included, it shouldn’t matter if I hire a non-Chinese to do the job. The only reason I decide to hire MIOs only is because it’s better to have at least one non-Chinese on my team to placate my racist non-Chinese customers.

No sir, it’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the far-right thing to do too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Speak Mandarin Campaign video on classifying round things

From ‘Video draws flak for wrong use of Mandarin’ 12 March 2017, article by Koh Xing Hui, Sunday Times

A Speak Mandarin Campaign video has drawn some flak for its erroneous teaching.

The video, produced by the Speak Mandarin Campaign and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Chinese Drama, shows a woman teaching her friend the right use of classifiers for nouns such as apple, paper and clothing.

A classifier is used in East Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese when nouns are being counted.

In the video, the woman corrects her friend’s use of “yi ge” to “yi li” for apple and ball, saying “yi li” should be used for all round objects.

The video, posted on Wednesday on the Speak Mandarin Campaign Facebook page, has since attracted comments and was shared by various users, including Chinese radio station 95.8FM.

Many said it was embarrassing that the campaign was promoting the wrong use of Mandarin.

Responding to The Sunday Times, the Speak Mandarin Campaign said: “NUS Chinese Drama will follow up with another video to address usage of ‘ge’ and ‘li’.” Dr Kang Ger-Wen, a Chinese studies lecturer, said the NUS Chinese Drama students had good intentions but were teaching the wrong things.

“Normally, for small and tiny things, we use ‘yi li’ or ‘yi ke’. For an apple, it should be ‘yi ge’.” But if one were to translate from Hokkien, which would use “ji liap”, then it would be “yi li”, he added.

However, a Chinese-language teacher who declined to be named said students here are taught to use “yi li” for apples and balls.

The Chinese academic didn’t explain how these classifiers apply to round, but massive objects. Somehow telling the durian seller that you want ‘yi li’ Mao Shan Wang doesn’t sound right, or that our Earth only has ‘yi li’ Moon. Personally my problems with classifiers occur when I’m ordering food that isn’t fishballs. Is it 4 ‘li’ or 4 ‘ge’ chwee kueh? Is it ‘yi zhi’ otah or ‘yi tiao’? My hunch, despite my limited Mandarin prowess, is these are, to some extent, interchangeable. Some things, obviously, like planets or the infinitesimal like atoms and molecules, sound more ‘ge’-lish in my opinion. Then there are things which are not exactly round, like watermelons, eggs, a snowflake or grain of sand. Nor would you denigrate roundish body parts like testicles or boobies.

The original intention of the SMC, of course, was to eliminate dialects from society and streamline the bi-lingual drive, not dwell on technical nitty-gritties. Today, this has taken a dramatic U-turn with dialects making a comeback to appease the greying population, while at the same time correct use of Mandarin continues to be drilled into us. Despite- or because- of this lexical balancing act, outsiders associate our official spoken language with broken, hodgepodge English, or from a more generous perspective, a ‘rojak’ of cultural influences. Even during conservational Mandarin, most of us do away with connectors altogether, peppering our speech with, ‘but’ or ‘then’.

Good intentions by the NUS people, but whether concurrent campaigns seeking to refine the respective languages help Singaporeans improve in BOTH English and Mandarin while preserving our forefather-speak and singing a National Anthem in Malay remains to be seen. So now tell me, is it ‘yi ge’ or ‘yi li’ melting pot?

Grace Fu on Chee Soon Juan’s lack of relevant experience

From ‘PAP’s Grace Fu questions SDP’s readiness  to run a town council’, 30 Apr 2016, article in CNA

…Ms Fu also spoke about Dr Chee’s plans to be a full-time MP and to make the ward his priority if elected – a point he played up in the SDP’s rally also held on Friday night.

But Ms Fu highlighted the fact that as far as she knew, he had not “held a steady job for many years”. “Let me be clear – I’m not criticising his decision to not hold a full-time job for so long. No, that is his personal choice. But the work experience, or the lack of it, is a relevant fact when we consider the credentials of the candidate,” she said.

She likened choosing between two candidates for a job. “You look at their work experience – what have they done, is the experience relevant to the job. You also seek references from people who have worked with them – their colleagues, their bosses.”

She added that it would “be very interesting” to see if there would be a referral letter from Mr Chiam See Tong, who had recruited Dr Chee into SDP years ago. Last week, Mrs Lina Chiam had said in a Facebook post that her husband had not given his endorsement to any candidate in the by-election.

Name-dropping old Chiam is a low blow, given the known history between ‘protege’ Chee and the elder opposition veteran. But Grace Fu’s main beef with Chee, unlike the rest of her colleagues casting aspersions on his character (‘complete hypocrite’, ‘shouty fellow who disrespects his elders’), is whether he’s up to the job even as a full-time MP, whilst at the same time endorsing a candidate who looks unlikely to give up a cushy position in Rajan and Tann as head of commercial litigation. This despite Murali calling the MP role a ‘sacred duty’. Not sacred enough to go into it full time, apparently.

To be fair, one should ask the same questions about relevant experience of our noob candidates who went on to become MPs. We have a colorectal surgeon and a former host of the Pyramid Game running the PM’s ward. Some call Chee a ‘gangster’ for his past encounter with ESM Goh, but we have a rising star amid the PAP cadre who was in fact, an actual gangster in his teens. You could say having ‘gangsterish’ traits may even be a plus in leadership, like threatening opponents with knuckle-dusters and catching them in a ‘cul-de-sac’. As one would expect, the PAP is magnanimous when it comes to their own people with a dark and checkered past, just not Chee Soon Juan, no matter how he presents himself as a ‘changed man’. Shouting at Goh Chok Tong in broad daylight is a stain you can’t erase.

Full time MPs are a rare breed, but in most cases they still hang on to ‘non-executive’ roles in their previous organisations. Baey Yam Keng quit his directorship in Hills and Knowlton but remains as senior adviser. Others include Foo Mee Har, Tin Pei Lin and WP’s Chen Show Mao. Yet, despite all this emphasis on relevant work experience, Wong Kan Seng once opposed politicians giving up their ricebowls because it would mean them ‘losing contact with people in business and foreigners’.

Yet, a decade back, ESM Goh described being an MP as a ‘full time job’, even if these people are helming advisory boards and councils. So we’ve come to accept the average MP as a dynamic multitasker who is able to juggle a day job and the nuts and bolts of town council management. An MP with little time for his own family but willing to kiss other people’s babies. An MP who not only has to go house visiting but post about it on Facebook as well. In the case of Bukit Batok’s former MP, one who’s able to squeeze in some sideline flings too.

Ultimately, all this talk about work experience doesn’t matter. Thanks to the GRC system where newbies are sheltered by anchor ministers, your disapproval of any single candidate’s CV has zero impact on the outcome. We’ve a track record of voting in doctors, lawyers and military men, but they might as well be former exotic dancers, swimsuit models or drug lords if given the right exposure. Experience is brought up only now because in a SMC contest, one could focus all your energy and judgement on that single candidate. It also serves as spare ammunition once you’ve exhausted the cheap character assassination tactics.

Chee and Murali should both learn from Louis Ng. Despite the relative lack of experience, the animal welfare champion took it upon himself to do ‘dirty jobs’ that would look good on a town council CV. I’m not sure if a high flying lawyer, a PhD holder to writes books about himself or Grace Fu herself would do the same. The only things that politicians seem to do with a broom these days is either raking up the past, or sweeping issues under the carpet.

I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.

i-love-children-ad-10-data

It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.29.00 AM

From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

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.

PAP winners humbled by landslide victory

From ‘PAP wins in a landslide with 69.86% of votes’, 12 Sep 15, article in CNA

…Among the winning PAP candidates, clear common themes arose in their victory speeches and interviews: Gratitude to voters, the humbling mandate, and the work to be done.

For example, Cabinet Minister Grace Fu – one of the first winners to be announced on Friday night – said that while she was happy to see her share of the vote in Yuhua SMC improve from 66.9 per cent in 2011 to 73.54 per cent, she was “very humbled” by the mandate and would work hard to prove herself worthy of voters’ trust.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his victory speech for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told voters: “We are very grateful and happy but at the same time humbled by the result, by the trust you have put on us, by the responsibility we have taken on to serve you.”

In any sporting contest, to be ‘humbled’ usually refers to an unexpected result when a crowd favourite suffers defeat at the hands of a less worthy opponent, such as Man U were humbled 1-2 by Swansea City. In 1984, one would celebrate with champagne upon seeing the ‘mighty PAP humbled’ post-election. If you use it in the first person, however, it expresses something rather different, a feeling of surprise and gratitude mixed with mild self-deprecation. Like ‘I’m not a man with many friends, therefore I’m humbled to see all of you here at my wedding’, or ‘I’m a terrible writer, so I’m humbled to see people clicking on this blog’.

So the PAP, sensing that they may be in for a tough fight, decided to thank their supporters with some syncopatic grovelling when they were rewarded with a rock-solid victory margin. Being ‘satisfied’ , ‘happy’ or ‘relieved’ (or as Lim Swee Say would say, ‘heng ah’) isn’t enough. You need to give the masses the illusion of authority, that you, the MP, are the ‘chosen’ one, that you’re proud to assume the role as a servant of the people, a steward, a ‘JAGA’, as PM Lee described. That you’re so honoured by the overwhelming mandate that you could drop on your knees and kiss our feet for this opportunity to serve. Like we’re 18th century plantation owners buying you out of a life of tunnel digging or dragging boulders up a hill.

For a while at least, we, the PAP voters, are made to feel like the masters of our fate. The people have spoken, and whether you call it a mandate, upswing, or some severe ‘groupthink’ on the part of the electorate, we always bring out a crouching, simpering tiger during the victory parade, but come SG51, let us brace ourselves for the searing heat when that familiar fire-spewing dragon emerges out of its subservient shell. I suspect most Singaporeans already know this, that the U-turns, the misguided policies, the preservation of a conservative status quo, can be seen a mile away, but they decided that they would rather live with a painful, but apparently successful formula, than put their faith in the Opposition. Which makes us, well, political masochists who love complaining, who attend Opposition rallies and raise their candidates to the pedestal of heavy metal gods, but when it comes to the crunch, go for the only option that will enable us to continue complaining, to live in fear of getting arrested for defamation, to huddle with more sweaty bodies on the train, to save up for more goddamn Walls ice cream promotions. As long as someone is putting up a sheltered walkway, a lift upgrade, a new hawker centre, or giving away the occasional public holiday for no good reason.

As Kenneth Jeyaratnam sourly observed, Singaporeans got the government that we deserve. It’s only a matter of time before we see this charming humility being shed like a snake moulting its scales, and for the PAP to revert to its old highfalutin ways, with men and women with not just IRON in them, but willing to push policies with an iron fist as well. Until then, revel while you can, rest assured that with the PAP cruise ship restarting its voyage, and the mango fruits of election promises just starting to seed, there won’t be any dead founding fathers rising out of the grave to set things right anytime soon.

Police report filed over Vivian Balakrishnan’s Facebook glitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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