MPs paying $1 a day for HDB parking

From ‘Govt should walk the walk on clean wage policy’, 30 June 2018, ST Forum

(Sean Lim Wei Xin): The revelation of MPs enjoying underpriced parking fees has raised eyebrows as, ironically, it goes against the clean-wage policy preached by the Government itself (Elected MPs pay $365 a year for HDB parking; June 26).

The rationale that MPs “do not park overnight or full day at their constituencies” and at Parliament House does not justify the subsidised parking fees. Teachers also do not park overnight in schools, but they will be paying market rate parking fees soon (Parking fees for teachers to kick in from August; March 27).

Singaporeans usually pay $1.20 per hour at public carparks but MPs pay $365 for an annual permit. This boils down to about $1 for a day’s worth of parking at their constituencies or Parliament House.

Based on simple calculations, it appears that this fee is underpriced as $1 a day amounts to only 50 minutes of parking at a public carpark.

[…]The problem is not about whether free or subsidised parking is justified for anyone.

The issue of the “hidden perks” that teachers and soldiers gained through free parking should not have even been brought up in the first place as it is not significantly detrimental to Singapore’s economy.

But as it was raised and a can of worms has been opened, all eyes will be on the Government to reconcile the issue.

In 1985, Senior Perm Sec Lee Yiok Seng came ‘clean’ with the perks that MPs received: Free HDB parking, free telephone service and civil servants’ medical benefits. He also proudly declared that Singapore then had the ‘poorest MPs’ in the world in terms of perks.  Fast forward 30 years later and they’re among the highest paid, but somehow paying less for parking than nearly everyone else.

Perks used to an ugly reality that we’ve come to accept. Kings don’t pay taxes. Celebrities skip queues at clubs. Teachers used to park for free. Grassroots leaders get priority queues for Primary 1 registration. Your neighbour’s mother-in-law gets discounted fish from the wet market.

And what do we make out of all these special individuals getting VIP treatment? That life is unfair. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. We deal with it. After all, we have laws to draw the line between privilege and corruption. Human relations without entitlements, favours or reciprocation, material or intangible, is a communist haven where all your contributions and takings are tracked in real time and unearned extras are returned to the state for nation building.

Enter Ong Ye Kung and his call for everyone to ‘uphold the value of self-discipline’ when it comes to keeping your wage clean and void of any fiscal activity that would get the AGO’s panties in a knot. Yes, that includes you MPs. If a resident offers you bakchang during a Meet the People’s session, it is your moral duty to maintain your self-discipline and reject it outright, saying that you’re already getting parking at a ridiculous bargain and under no circumstances should you receive gifts or favours that would undermine the Govt’s internal system of checks and balances. In fact, if you really want to walk the talk, you should give up your car altogether and move with us towards a car-lite nation.

If the Govt has decided to play the petty penny-pincher, then they must be prepared for us, the electorate, to respond in kind. As a wise man once said: If you want nice chicken wings, you must be prepared to queue.

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Sylvia Lim’s dishonest ‘test balloon’ remark on GST hike

From ‘Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat asks is Sylvia Lim will withdraw ‘test balloon’ allegation on GST hike timing’, 2 March 2018, article in CNA

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat issued a statement on Friday (Mar 2), asking if Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim was ready to apologise to the House and withdraw her allegation that the Government had floated “test balloons” about raising the goods and services tax (GST).

In Parliament on Thursday, Ms Lim said that the Government had floated “test balloons” before the Budget announcement, then possibly “backed down” on an immediate GST hike due to the negative public reaction.

She said: “We do note that in the run-up to the Budget discussion there were some test balloons being floated out about the fact that the Government needs to raise revenue. And immediately the public seized on the fact that DPM Tharman and perhaps other leaders had earlier said that the Government has enough money for the decade. So the public pointed out that ‘hey, you know, is this a contradiction?’

“And I rather suspect myself that the Government is stuck with that announcement, otherwise, you know, if their announcement had not been made, perhaps we would be debating a GST hike today.”

This sparked a testy exchange in Parliament with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who called Ms Lim’s comments “baseless suggestions” that were “hypocritical and dishonest”.

 

According to the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act,

There shall be freedom of speech and debate and proceedings in Parliament, and such freedom of speech and debate and proceedings shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court, commission of inquiry, committee of inquiry, tribunal or any other place whatsoever out of Parliament.

Yes, even in a setting where freedom of speech is codified in law, you can’t bring out ‘suspicions’, ‘honest beliefs’ or even a ‘personal opinion’ without raising the red flag of FAKE NEWS. Poor Sylvia can choose to take back her words like fellow WP colleague Leon Perera, or take the long road like JBJ back in 1982 when he was threatened with possible breach of ‘Parliamentary Privilege‘. Likewise one has no qualms about accusing an Opposition member for being a liar or hypocrite because Parliamentary Privilege that’s why.

These leaders in the House serve as a sad role model for senior management in public service when it comes to dealing with feedback. Don’t complain unless you have substance to back you up. If not, you’re fucking Fake News. It reflects MP Louis Ng’s comment about public officers refraining from speaking up out of fear of retaliation. Turns out that Louis himself floated a test balloon that was promptly burst by Ong Ye Kung’s rebuke that this ‘does not do justice’ to the public service.

Why not let Sylvia’s supposedly off-the-cuff comment serve as a learning point and chance for clarification for the PAP, instead of an opportunity to flex some time-wasting verbal muscle and vindicate everyone’s opinion of the PAP as an uptight, arrogant party who won’t stand for a little intellectual tickle from their political opponents, only to be soothed by the orgasm of hearing someone like Sylvia saying ‘I’m sorry my lord’, like a bawling baby calmed by cooing and sweet nothings.

I say let’s just get on with it, people.

 

 

 

Oxley Castle book not for kids

From ‘Is Oxley castle book really meant for kids?’ 16 Nov 2017, ST Forum

(Francis Cheng): Epigram Books chief executive Edmund Wee says that the children’s book, The Phantom Of Oxley Castle, is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events (Picture book’s launch event cancelled; Nov 13, and Arts House sets out events leading to cancellation of launch; Nov 14).

Who is he trying to kid?

It is obviously a satire or a parody.

The picture book is about a grand castle with 38 rooms, on a tropical island, where two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler named OB Markus live. Its title and storyline clearly bring to mind the 38 Oxley Road saga and the Lee family feud.

Writers and publishers should avoid exploiting a sensitive event that is still unresolved. Those who pick up the Oxley Castle book at another launch venue should note that not all children’s books are indeed children’s books.

Indeed, not all fairy tales should be read by children. Little Red Riding Hood is a metaphor for bestiality. Hansel and Gretel is child cannibalism. The song Puff the Magic Dragon is about drug abuse. And Tango Makes Three is gay marriage propaganda.

Oxley Castle only becomes an ‘exploitative’ parody of a national embarrassment if an adult familiar with the Lee saga reads it. To an innocent child, it’s just a story, one which features a butler who sidelines as a member of Wu Tang Clan. No sane parent would read this to their child and explain that this is actually based on a true story about three elite siblings who don’t invite each other to CNY reunion dinners. Nor would they dare even suggest that the ‘Phantom’ really represents Ah Kong rising from the grave.

Somehow I have this feeling that the story won’t end with ‘And they Lived Happily Ever After’. Still, this gives me an idea for my own children’s story: Samy the Sad Subway Train. It’s about a train that can never get things right; stopping for long hours, getting soaked by the rain, bumping into other trains, and getting on the nerves of its grumpy station master named Khaw Wan Kuek.

 

 

 

 

Who wants to watch live feeds of Parliamentary proceedings?

From ‘Videos of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government: Chee Hong Tat’, 7 Nov 2017, article in CNA

Video recordings of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government which in turn commissions national broadcaster Mediacorp to cover the sittings and show the footage on various platforms, including free-to-air television as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s Parliament micro-site and its Facebook page.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat clarified this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party (WP). Mr Perera had asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings.

He also asked if the Ministry would consider removing the copyright if indeed they are protected by one, and make all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use.

To this, Mr Chee said the public can use the recordings for personal and non-commercial purposes with attribution to Mediacorp. He said the recordings are already used regularly by social media sites and political parties, including the Workers’ Party.

Mr Perera then questioned why Parliament is not given the funding and ability to makes its own live feed and video recordings available with a searchable archive as is the case with countries like Australia, Taiwan and the United States.

Mr Chee said demand for a live feed of proceedings is low.

To be fair, it’s probably true that there are less people willing to sit through a live Parliamentary feed than a Crime watch episode. Mediacorp being a business entity struggling with ratings overall however, has a vested interest in making Parliamentary sessions not so much informative than ‘entertaining’ in bite-size snippets to cater to the general public, yet at the same time refrain from making their political masters look bad, no matter how attention grabbing it would be. Like when they’re caught napping for example.

Beyond intellectually stimulating debates, TV is also the perfect politician toolkit for drama. You have MPs bawling like a baby.

Begging for mercy.

Pointing to the heavens like in Taiwan drama serials seeking divine justice

Could anyone forget the saga that is ‘Tang Liang Hong is Not my Brother’

Some make grand exits like a boss without saying a single word.

And you have the occasional stand-up comedy bringing the House down, like Chan Chun Sing’s ‘Madam President’ skit.

In fact, when Today in Parliament debuted on SBC in 1985, while it was welcomed with much fanfare, there were already calls by Parliament fans for full uncensored telecasts, an act that would symbolise ‘democracy in action’. Though it’s often assumed that PAP speakers would reap the most airtime from these sessions, there were also complaints of opposition MPs hogging the limelight, like JBJ’s ‘unending complaints’ ‘unending complaints’ and ‘belching hot air’.

One MP, Tay Eng Soon, opposed the format of TV broadcasting altogether, recommending that viewers ‘close their eyes’ and listen to the crux of debates rather than picking on visual distractions like a politician’s dress sense, body language, or shiny reflection off his bald plate. But what is politics without its histrionics and theatre anyway.

Despite Chee Hong Tat’s claims of low viewership, I do believe there is value in putting up videos wholesale (by topics at least) as a supplement to the standard edits since the government has always emphasised on digitalisation and transparency, so that hardcore Parliament fans should be given the chance to dissect discussions, warts and all. Isn’t the purpose of the party whip or Speaker to serve as a real-time moderator/editor of the proceedings anyway, so that debates don’t get out of hand?

Besides, in the age of Netflix, TV viewership has been anaemic for years anyway. Given a choice between Parliament and watching a run-of-the-mill drama with actors spouting foreign accents, I’d rather spend my time on the former. The acting may even be better.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khaw Boon Wan thinks main media has gone tabloid

From ‘Biased figures on MRT breakdown rate’, 29 July 2017, ST Forum

(Chan Yeow Chuan): I was taken aback by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s statement that the MRT is three times more reliable now than it was in 2015 (Khaw raises bar on MRT reliability; July 28).

However, after a more careful reading of the report, I realised that this conclusion was drawn from statistics that excluded delays caused by the new signalling system on the North-South Line.

Computing statistics this way is biased and unscientific.

I propose that delays caused by the testing of the new signalling system be factored in when calculating the mean kilometres between failures (MKBF).

If there has been a decrease in MKBF since 2015, this can be duly explained by the delays caused by the tests.

Calculating MKBF this way would give us a gauge as to how disruptive the tests of the new signalling system have been.

I support The Straits Times’ coverage of the recent breakdowns and delays of the MRT (Minister takes aim at press; July 28).

If these disruptions remain largely unreported or are glossed over by the newspaper, it could hurt its reputation and relevance as a news source.

Instead of expressing ‘grave concern‘ for the recent spate of breakdowns like his predecessor, Transport Minister Khaw opted for the deflective strategy of sympathising with SMRT workers and taking Trumpy potshots at the MSM.

“I don’t like the media reporting … Even our main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on … frightening figures, headlines.”

“But I thought they were being unfair to the teams … working their guts out on this re-signalling project. They think it’s so easy, you know, like holding a pen and writing a few articles and get the signalling done. I wish it was so simple. If it was so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporters to run the train system.”

This is the thanks you get for your not-so-subtle PAP propaganda, ST. All these decades helping to keep the PAP on its Iron Throne with your biased election reporting, and you get accused of distorting the facts. Which explains ST wasting no time publishing letters rebuking Khaw like the one above. At least Lui Tuck Yew knew better than to offend the PAP’s media mouthpiece.

In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, Khaw himself claimed that MRT reliability , defined as mean km between failure (MKBF), had increased 3 times since 2015, and excluded delays due to re-signalling because these happen ‘once every 30 years’. I assume this 30 years was calculated based on the very first train ride back in 1987, but it’s a statistical fallacy intended to mislead laymen into thinking that we won’t get another issue like this until 2047. Did Khaw learn anything from Yaacob’s ‘once every 50 years’ figure for freak floods?

But perhaps one reason why commuters still think the figures don’t reflect reality is how they experience a typical breakdown. A failure is defined as ‘a delay lasting longer than 5 minutes’, which means a train stalling for 4 minutes 50 seconds will not be considered as a significant delay. To anyone who’s suffered peak hour crunching, this feels like fucking eternity. So technically a train can continue to clock serviceable miles even if it stalls for 2 minutes every 5 stations and SMRT can continue to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Media will always be media, and sensationalism with catchy headlines and glaring images is simply business as usual, part of the arms race vs the scourge of fake news and social media. While the quality of our MSM can certainly improve, what we really need, as lifelong commuters, is that the quality of SMRT management and their overseeing Ministers improve as well.

Speaking of ‘exciting’ headlines, always remember this, Khaw.

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Li Shengwu surprised that Government is so petty

From ‘Li Shengwu surprised that Facebook post on Singapore court system enough to trigger AGC response’, 17 July 2017, article in ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (July 17) it is looking into a recent Facebook post put up by Mr Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a private post, which was uploaded on Saturday, Mr Li, 32, shared a Wall Street Journal article on the recent Oxley Road dispute, titled “Singapore, a model of orderly rule, is jolted by a bitter family feud”.

He also commented on Singapore’s court system.

The AGC said in a brief statement on Monday morning that it is aware of Mr Li’s post and is looking into the matter.

In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon responding to AGC’s statement, Mr Li said he was “somewhat surprised” that his last post – which was shared on “friends only” privacy settings – was enough to trigger a response.

He added: “I’m surprised that the Singapore government is so petty. Would they also like to trawl my private Facebook feed for seditious vacation photos?”

In the offending post, Li Shengwu, a Harvard academic, shared his thoughts on media censorship, as a side note to a linked article summarising he Oxley ‘political crisis’.

Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.

We all also keep in mind, of course, that Shengwu is PM Lee’s nephew, and PM Lee has declared in public that he would not take legal action against another member of the Lee family as it would besmirch LKY’s name. But that wouldn’t stop the AGC from calling this being in ‘contempt of court’.

Or would it?

This could well be a post-Oxley Catch-22. AGC has taken to task people like cartoonist Leslie Chew and rogue political activist Han Hui Hui.  We should expect them to demand that the offender issue a statement of apology, or least remove the post from the face of the earth. But this is – dun-dun-dunnn – PM Lee’s own flesh and blood.

Incidentally, one possible reason why international media tends to be cautious about commentaries on Singapore’s elite is they may get ‘sued until their pants drop’. Which is what both Shengwu’s uncle and – guess who – late grandfather LKY did when they were accused of running a dynasty by the Herald Tribune. Now that alleged dynasty has been dramatically torn apart.

Shengwu is a grown man and doesn’t need daddy to tell him what not to post on Facebook, even if it’s in ‘private’ setting. He’s also been described as ‘Oxford’s finest debater‘, having won Best Speaker at a World Debating Championship. It’s interesting to see how being a world-renown master debater can get you out of a tangle with the all-powerful AGC. I wonder how ‘seditious’ those vacation photos could be, though. Did he pose with kangaroos in Oz with ‘sensitive captions’?

Maybe Dad and Aunt Lee Wei Ling are drafting their Facebook notes as we speak. It’s Game of Thrones week, but save some popcorn for this one.

UPDATE: Lee Wei Ling just described this ‘petty’ incident as a case of ‘Big Brother’ syndrome and suggested that there’s a FB police monitoring the Lee siblings’ posts, even infiltrating privacy settings. It’s more likely attributed to the very nature of social media itself, rather than a Government hack charming his way into Shengwu’s circle of friends.

No doubt her big brother is watching this intently. Like a pesky cockroach that refuses to die.