OK chope! making fun of Najib Razak

From ‘Mediacorp Channel 5 apologises for offensive segment on Ok Chope’, 5 April 2017, article in CNA

Mediacorp Channel 5 has apologised for a comedy segment that contained comments on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that some viewers found offensive.

After the segment on comedy show OK Chope! was aired on Mar 29, the channel received feedback from viewers that it was offensive, it said in a statement on Wednesday (Apr 5)

In response to media queries, Mediacorp’s chief customer officer Debra Soon said: “Channel 5 and the production team behind OK Chope! wish to sincerely apologise to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for a segment on last week’s episode.

“OK Chope!, a weekly live show, features comedians providing humorous takes on news and current affairs. Last week’s episode included references to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak which were in poor taste and offensive. We have thus pulled it from repeat telecast with immediate effect. We apologise unreservedly for this mistake.”

When Malaysia banned the comedy classic Zoolander over a storyline that involved the assassination of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Singapore followed suit in order to be ‘sensitive’ to our neighbours. We would have no issue with the countless movies that depict villains trying to kill the POTUS, for example, probably because we don’t share the same brotherly love with the US as we do with our immediate neighbours. I doubt we would flinch if someone made a movie about killing the mayor of Batam.

The OK chope jibes against Najib were rather harmless, even juvenile. Unlike allusions to corruption that got another local comedian Fakkah Fuzz some heat from Malaysian authorities. Curiously, both Najip (with a p) and Fuzz apologised for roasting the Malaysian PM, though both would have no qualms slamming comedy fodder like Trump for the sake of a few laughs (and dollars).

Which puts the state of local satire in awkward jeopardy; that you’re more afraid of insulting another country’s politician than your own. Of all the discontent going in the country, it’s strange that Najib symphatisers should focus on a Singaporean rip-off of Who’s Line is It Anyway, rather than sending the Thought Police to scour their own forums and comedy clubs for anything that suggests foul disobedience against a man treated like a god-king.

Singaporeans and Malaysians tease and joke about each other all the time. We mock their accents, they slam our kiasu-ism. We’re like two buddies in the shower room slapping each other on the butt-cheeks with wet towels, but always in good humour without any malice. It’s unfortunate that one tiny slap from a little known show from the Little Red Dot could cause so much butthurt over the Causeway.

Perhaps Najib and his lackeys could learn a thing or two from our self-professed ‘flame-proof’ PM Lee. 

 

PM Lee against yes-men who say ‘three bags full,sir’

From ‘Leaders must be able to take criticism and acknowledge mistakes’, 26 Feb 2017, article in Today

The most important philosophy that a leader must have is “not to take yourself or your philosophy too seriously”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when asked to share his leadership mantra at a closed-door dialogue with about 100 technology innovators and disrupters from around the world.

Speaking at the event held on Friday (Feb 24) by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India, Mr Lee also stressed the need for a leader of a nation to be close to the ground and not surround himself with yes-men. In addition, he must be able to accept differing views and criticism, as well as acknowledge his mistakes and change decisions when merited, Mr Lee said.

“You have to see the world, you have to talk to people, ordinary people. You have to have a sense of what it looks like not from the point of view of the policymaker, but from the point of view of those who are at the receiving end of your policies,” he said, based on the transcript released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.

Mr Lee added: “I try not to surround myself with ‘yes, sir’ men. That is important because if all you have are people who say ‘three bags full sir’, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous.”

One can imagine all the ‘yes-men’ in the audience guffawing politely at PM Lee’s nursery rhyme joke, just like how he entertained a totally different group with a swipe at China with his pork soup joke. Suffice to say, it’s hard to pick out a BLACK sheep among today’s PAP, and considering that his listeners are ‘innovators and disrupters’, I doubt he could easily pull the WOOL over their eyes. Or anyone else familiar with the regime’s intolerance for dissension for that matter.

This is the same leader who once described his skin to be so thick that it’s ‘flame-proof’, though some of his harshest critics got severely scorched in return. Yes, when one’s integrity and honour are at stake, there’s no way you can ‘not take yourself seriously’. People like Roy Ngerng and even his own sister Lee Wei Ling come to mind. One lost his job while the other stopped writing articles for ST completely because of their besmirching.

So it’s a bit rich that one thinks criticism is a good thing, while having a penchant of sueing not just individuals, but entire publications for defamation before even engaging in productive, lively debate. Yes, we welcome naysayers, but if you don’t watch it I’ll still set my legal hounds on your ass.  As for admitting mistakes, you’ll need to go back 2 GEs ago, when PM Lee made a rally apology for fiascos such as the Mas Selamat escape and Orchard Road flooding. Those were, of course, pre-70% days.

Maybe Lee was in his not-so-serious ‘balloon helmet’ element here, imagining that he was a shepherd of our yes-flock, giving an inspirational TED talk.

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Singapore needs more naysayers

From ‘Why Singapore needs more naysayers’, 25 Feb 2017, article by Charissa Yong, ST

Singapore needs more people to speak up and challenge authority, said a panel of academics and former senior civil servants yesterday.

They lamented the reluctance of civil servants to pose contrarian views when facing political office-holders, and the reticence of university students in asking questions at conferences.

…Said Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani, 68: “We need more naysayers.” He argued that Singapore cannot take its formulas for success developed over the last 50 years and apply them to the next 50 years, as the world has changed drastically.

“We need to create new formulas, which you can’t until you attack and challenge every sacred cow. Then you can succeed,” he added.

…Above all, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, 79, felt that differing points of view should be valued.

He said: “When we appoint people to boards, we can also appoint challengers who are subversive and who have alternative points of view. That’s the kind of cultural change we want to see. It makes Singapore stronger, not weaker.”

Interesting choice of words. A ‘naysayer’ is traditionally a vocal, niggling obstacle to something you want to achieve, be it establishing a semi-autocratic society  or pursuing a dream job as a kids’ party magician despite having a medical degree. In any quest for happiness or greatness, one is usually expected to prove people like the naysayers, the skeptics, the keyboard warriors, wrong – but now, experts are telling us otherwise, that having ‘naysayers’ is a good thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not a role that’s welcome with open arms in Parliament. Our rulers view robust debate as slowing down policy implementation, that having a one-party system may benefit Singapore as a whole. We also know what the Government has done to famous political naysayers in the past: sent them into exile, sued their pants off, or put them in jail. LKY labelled trade union shenanigans in the 1950’s as ‘subversive elements‘, the same adjective Tommy Koh uses for ‘challengers’ today.

Which probably explains the ‘reticence’ of students and civil servants in front of politicians. Decades of critic-silencing has ingrained within our society a climate of fear when it comes to freely speaking our mind. Refraining from challenging the status quo has become part of our Singaporean identity, our DNA. It’s not so much that we’re afraid of losing ‘face’, but rather we don’t want to end up with a defamation suit because we’ve grossly undermined the authority of a figurehead. If you present an ‘alternative view’, there’s a chance you may be dismissed outright as a vile fabricator, or sued for harassment by an entity that doesn’t qualify as a ‘person’ (The Government). If a public officer so much as posts about his disdain about a particular MP under the ruling party, he may risk losing his job as well. Silence, especially the Singaporean kind, is Golden.

Ultimately, the Government DECIDES what needs to be challenged and either ignores or , at worst, deals severe punishment to those who transgress predetermined boundaries. If you challenge the anti-gay law you’re not a maverick but a liberalist troublemaker. When civil servants moaned about the impending Internet Separation, the Government adopted it’s ‘Government knows Best’ attitude. Nobody asks about ministers’ salaries because we know this will never be answered, despite it being the biggest elephant in the room. Yes the world has changed drastically, but some conservative circles are still clinging on to obsolete ‘Asian values’ and waxing lyrical about our moral fibre, the sanctity of human life or marriage, but the Government is wary of offending this bunch at the expense of staying relevant on the world stage because VOTES.

So, really, what we need is not MORE naysayers, but a bold incursion into traditionally taboo subjects to naysay about. Let’s talk about the death penalty, medicinal cannabis, gay marriage, poverty, euthanasia, genetic testing. Otherwise all the naysaying in the world will do fuck all to coax the authorities’ head out of the sand.

Singapore should treat Donald Trump with respect

From ‘Treat China and Trump with respect in 2017’, 11 feb 17, article by Kishore Mahbubani, ST

…So, let me conclude with another controversial point. We should also treat Mr Trump with respect.

Why? Because we live in a small state. We are price-takers, not price-makers. We have no choice on who becomes the US president. Only the Americans can choose their president. When they do so, we have to accept and respect their choice, even if the chosen candidate has criticised Singapore. Small states must develop a thick skin. Even a relatively large state like Canada has decided that it must be pragmatic. A recent New York Times report noted that even though Mr Trump’s “personal style and policies are widely disliked by Canadians”, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite his personal beliefs, “swiftly turned the machinery of Canada’s government towards finding a way to get along with Mr Trump”.

We should emulate Canada: Ignore rhetoric and focus on interests. There are many good reasons for working cooperatively with China. There are equally good reasons for working cooperatively with the US. We should maintain good relations with both.

Prof Kishore addressing DJT as ‘MISTER TRUMP’ is telling. Respecting the decision of the US electorate and respecting the MAN himself are two completely different things. As a tiny red dot, there’s a thin line between respecting DJT vs appearing submissive and kowtowing to a world power. He also says Singapore should develop a ‘thick skin’, which implies ignoring whatever Trump thinks of our country. Even if he believes that we’re a province in CHINA. PERIOD. ALTERNATIVE FACT.

No sir, the job of respecting shitty presidents is not the job of Singaporeans, but of Singaporean politicians who need to find the right balance between admiration and grovelling to keep our sampan afloat. For the ordinary Singaporean, DJT will remain as a source of endless satire and mockery, known more for his Apprentice TV series, multiple wives and lewd ‘pussy’ catchphrases than the leader of the Free World that he’s supposed to be. We don’t have to deal with him, tolerate, appreciate or much less ‘respect’ him.

DJT is a personification of what Singaporean leadership should NEVER become – TWEETING IN CAPS for one, firing Attorneys willy nilly, shooting down companies for not supporting his daughter’s fashion line, forming a cabal of administrators that resemble the Sinister Six. In local parlance, DJT is the political equivalent of what we call a ‘negative demo’.

Save your respect for your elders, our Olympic sportsmen, the single-mother prostitute who has to earn a living to support her child’s education, even Emperor Palpatine, but a billionaire ascending the throne to become the most powerful man in the world using nothing but the rhetoric of fear and hate – I’ll pass, thank you very much.

Singaporeans drowning in self-help books

From ‘Can Singaporeans read’, 14 Jan 2017, article by Kishore Mahbubani, ST

Many Singaporeans, especially some of our businessmen, were surprised and troubled by this obvious downturn in China-Singapore relations. Some were completely surprised by these events. They did not see them coming. Yet, some of these challenges in China-Singapore relations could have been predicted. Indeed, they were predicted. I, too, have made such predictions.

…In short, the warning to prepare psychologically for a rough road in US-China relations was given almost two years ago. Why was it not heeded? Perhaps not enough people knew or read about that prediction of mine. Another simple answer is that Singaporeans don’t read enough. And when they do read, their reading is narrowly focused.

One clue to what Singaporeans read is provided by The Sunday Times’ bestseller list. The list of non-fiction books should be seen as a national wall of shame. Instead of looking at the world and trying to understand how it is changing, Singaporeans indulge in self-help books.

…Week after week, Singaporeans drown themselves in self-help books. The underlying assumption of many Singaporeans seems to be that if I take care of my individual self, I will be fine. This assumption is a massive act of folly. We don’t live in a large, secure country. We live in a small, highly exposed, indeed, the most globalised country in the world.

Our destiny is more likely to be rocked by events happening outside of Singapore. Hence, if we don’t read books written about our external environment, we are committing national suicide.

The title of this essay should really be: ‘Can Singaporeans please read my book ‘Can Singapore Survive’? Because apparently, through the magic of non-fiction books, you can make a difference to Sino-Singapore relations. The esteemed Prof has harsh words for the state of our literacy and knowledge of current affairs. Basically, his piece can be summed up as: Singapore is FUCKED, so stop reading shit like this –

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Time to take out the broom for CNY spring cleaning, because such statements are sweeping.

I’m not a fan of self-help books, but where is the evidence that Singaporeans do not read about WORLD ISSUES. Has Mahbubani checked with the NLB on the borrowing rate by Singaporeans? Has he done observational field studies on the MRT or the bus? Granted, according to a 2015 survey on e-books, NLB reported that ‘the majority of English e-books borrowed are works of fiction such as thriller, science-fiction and romance novels. Non-fiction titles on self-improvement are also popular among adult readers’. This says as much of our current-affairs reading habits as ‘bestseller’ lists tell about people walking into bookstores. Even if it’s true, that we’re suckers for motivational schtick, maybe we should examine why Singaporeans  need to feel inspired and want to level up all the time, instead of decrying this habit as a terrible, soul-crushing shame.

His key source of reference is the Sunday Times BESTSELLER LIST. Firstly, we’re not even sure if his claim is accurate. According to the latest list on Jan 8 2017, the top bestseller is about the memoirs of a dying surgeon, there’s a biography about the Tesla visionary, and just a handful of books that teach you how to make shitloads of money or think like a champion.

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Also, we can’t tell from bestseller lists if these people are grunts merely supporting the author by throwing money at them, or just collecting titles on the bookshelf to impress guests at a party. Just having a book cover with a successful person’s face on it will give others the impression that you’re a driven, ambitious optimist, serving as a talisman boosting your self-confidence and hopefully, success. Nevermind that the only thing in the book you actually read was the blurb and accolades by other famous people about how the book will change your life.

So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a ‘7 Habits’ or a Stephenie Meyers kind of reader, reading in general benefits EVERYBODY, as pasttime or for serious study. Yet, you can be a scholar of Chinese military history and still do absolutely fuck-all about the situation right now. Or you can be some guy who complains about Singaporeans not reading enough and then indulge in publicity for your own work on the side.

Instead of fear-mongering and putting the blame on our political cluelessness, perhaps it would be more useful to educate Singaporeans with bite-size nuggets of history and geopolitics in a way that would titillate and intrigue them rather than literally throwing a collection of great speeches by LKY at us and saying ‘Nah, READ dammit!’. We live in an age of instant gratification and wasp-sized attention spans. The days of blowing dust off old tomes and being dazzled by the musty smell of paper are long over. If I want to know everything there is to know about Jack Ma, I’ll watch a documentary on Youtube, not buy an Omnibus of his Life story.

Yes, China is a monster, US is in shambles, and Singapore, the little red dot that people still think resides in the very same China monster, is a splinter of driftwood in a tumultous sea. Maybe there should be a self-help book on this, like ‘Negotiating with Big Bullies for Small Farts’.

Terrorism is like a spring

From ‘Terrorism is like a spring – stretch it to make it lose its strength’, Today Voices, 31 Jan 2016

(Ng Chee Keon): The spate of attacks in Germany, Turkey and Jordan suggests that it is tough to prevent such terrorist acts, notwithstanding the plots foiled in Indonesia and Australia (“World needs a better plan to confront threat of terrorism”; Dec 22).

Terrorism is like a strong spring; compress it with military force and the recoil will be just as hard, with more retaliatory attacks. Overbear it with military successes in Mosul and Raqqa, and the attacks spread from the Middle East to Europe, South-east Asia and other countries.

Another way to handle such a spring would be to stretch it. The world could start by attempting to appreciate and address the terrorists’ sources of hatred and any grievance suffered, real or perceived, as part of the deradicalisation process.

The next step could be to identify common ground and explore possible win-win solutions to the problem. I am sure that, barring any groupthink or wish to be seen as politically correct, many terrorism experts would know of other ways to elongate this spring slowly so that it loses strength over time

And I hope the scourge of terrorism may thus abate steadily.

In 2002, then DPM Lee Hsien Loong compared the JI threat to a stubborn cancer that refuses to go away. The analogy to a condition once stigmatised as the ‘Big C’ has stuck ever since. Terrorist groups are called ‘cells’. When legions expand, they’re described as ‘metastasising‘.

Like cancer, the war on terror demands a multi-faceted solution, and not just rely on precision killing or sweeping obliteration. The problem with this metaphor is that cancer can actually be defeated and most healthy people don’t need to be reminded of getting it in the first place. On the other hand, this anxiety over the scourge of terrorism will live on with us for posterity as long as warped religious doctrine, guns and large vehicles continue to exist.

Yes there are things we use to describe the war against terror like the ‘Crusades’, a disease, an epidemic, and then we have the writer above with the bizarre insight to peel away the layers of bloody violence surrounding the idea of terrorism and compare it to something innocuous that goes ‘boing-boing’. If terrorism had a name, it would be King Coil. With a crown made of flaming blades. Dealing with terrorism may be the ‘new normal’, but there is such a thing as over-normalising something that makes young children bomb-strap and blow themselves up with other innocent human beings.

Regardless, analogies are useless even if people understand them. Calling terrorism a deadly, insidious plague, a sprawling weed in your backyard or a satanic bouncy mattress won’t make it go away. If there’s anything that needs to SPRING into action it’s getting everyone to play a part in slowly excising this growing cancer at its root.

Grassroots leaders skipping immigration queue

From ‘Png Eng Huat stirring hate and anger with Facebook post: Tan Chuan-Jin’, 19 July 2016, article in CNA

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin said on Tuesday (Jul 19) that Hougang Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat was “stirring hate and anger” in a Facebook post about how Mr Tan and his entourage were given expedited clearance at the immigration checkpoint at Tuas.

On Sunday, Mr Tan and a group of residents and volunteers returning from a durian trip to Johor Bahru were able to skip the immigration queue. In a Facebook post on Monday, Mr Png wrote that he too, had been at the checkpoint with his residents after a trip to Desaru, and that they were among other travellers at who had had “to wait patiently for hours for their turn”. Mr Png added that one of his residents was 89 years old and another had been injured during the tour.

The opposition Workers’ Party MP wrote: “If these two elderly residents can wait in queue patiently for their turn, so can all my volunteers and grassroots members.”

In response, Mr Tan wrote on Facebook on Tuesday: “It was not about the old folks,” he wrote. “It was aimed at stirring hate and anger, not only to be directed at me, which I can understand politically, but also at my residents and volunteers (who organised as well as helped guide each bus), as well as our officers who secure our borders. It’s unfortunate that (Mr Png) and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue.”

Mr Tan stated that he had been on an official visit to the Malaysian Deputy Home Affairs Minister’s Hari Raya open house but that he travelled by bus so that he could be with his residents and volunteers during the trip. He added that on their return journey, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) facilitated the clearance for him and his security officers who were carrying their firearms, as well as the residents and volunteers on his bus.

In a statement earlier on Tuesday, the ICA clarified that it is normal practice for ministers on both sides of the Causeway, as well as members of the Malaysian royalty, to be given expedited clearance at the land checkpoints.

It’s also ‘normal practice’ for grassroots folks to get free tickets for a BBQ among other perks, such as Primary 1 registration. Cronies and syncopants of important people jumping queues is nothing new at all. If a minister wanted to bring a personal entourage to an exclusive Pokemon Go launch and they get priority booking, then that’s just how it is with politician groupies the world over.

To call Png Eng Huat’s complaint as ‘stirring hate and anger’ is probably stretching it though. The world is facing violence on an unprecedented scale. Policemen in the US are getting man-hunted, lone wolf ISIS obsessives are attacking random people on public transport, racist Brexit supporters are taunting immigrants and Turkey just suffered from a bloody coup attempt. There is ‘hate and anger’ being stirred in all the shit that is happening globally where lives are at stake, but hardly in this case. Not out of some Opposition MP nitpicking on FB over a Minister and his minions cutting queue at Woodlands checkpoint after a durian trip.

Not all Ministers exercise their queue-jumping privilege though. Not when it comes to Redhill chicken wings.  Apparently our PM realises that most Singaporeans wouldn’t mind cabinet VIPs passing immigration before them, but deprive a hungry citizen of his chicken wing and you’re asking for trouble.

But what really bugs me about this thorny debacle is not about preferential treatment or whether Ah Png is making a big deal over the incident. It’s rather NOBODY told me that you could actually sign up for durian trips with your MP! If you could get priority clearance at ICA, imagine the quality of durian you would get during the excursion!