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.





Toa Payoh hawker centre couple punished by society

From ‘Public backlash making us live like fugitives’, 13 Aug 2017, article by Lester Hio, Sunday Times

The couple caught in a viral video verbally abusing and shoving an elderly man at a Toa Payoh hawker centre said they believe they have been “punished by society” over the past four months.

Mr Chow Chuin Yee, 45, and Ms Tay Puay Leng, 38, were fined in court on Friday for the use of criminal force and harassment on Mr Ng Ai Hua, 76, in April.

Ms Tay was fined $1,200 for using abusive words on the retiree, causing alarm, while Mr Chow was fined $1,500 for using criminal force.

Asked about comments from netizens that they had got off lightly with a fine, Mr Chow told The Sunday Times yesterday that they have been “living like fugitives” to prevent any further public incidents after facing backlash both online and in public.

The last time individuals were ‘punished by society’ because of some online fracas, they decided to leave the country. Think Anton Casey or Amy Cheong. As if a fine and a blemish on their reputation isn’t enough, the Chows felt compelled to play the victim card, breaking down on national TV and dragging an grandmother with dementia into the fray. Telling everyone that you lost it because you had a bad day isn’t going to cut it.

Somehow they seem to be getting it worse than men previously convicted of having underage sex. Because of the bullying incident, the Chows-run Novel Learning Centre got a thrashing on Google reviews, with a total rating of 1.2 stars. More like Centre for Kids Learning How to Steal other people’s Lunches. Oh, wait.

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It’s unfortunate that they happen to be educators, and were caught being total assholes to an elderly man, but as a society that places so much emphasis on filial piety and graciousness, perhaps we should also aspire to one that exercises compassion and forgiveness, rather than stooping to their level of tormenting others for purely selfish reasons.

Maybe we should reflect on the moments when we kicked mud in the face of another human being but were lucky enough not to get caught and shamed on social media. You could be the professor who screams vulgarities as a service staff for being slow. Or just a nobody who treats your elderly mother at home as a slave. In most cases, you’d be punished only by karma or divine justice, not a society generally oblivious to your everyday behaviour. You could be a moral vigilante one moment and find yourself at the receiving end of a social media witch-hunt the next.

The problem with society being labelled as judge jury and executioner is that it changes our motivation for good behaviour, that it’s no longer about respect or due consideration, but a fear of mob repercussions, that we’re safe only when we’re out of the panopticon that is the public eye.

Toa Payoh couple, be remorseful, make amends, but stop assuming that ‘society’ as a whole gives a shit about you and your self imposed fugitive exile.

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.




DAG Hri Kumar ‘hitting below the belt’

From ‘Tan Cheng Bock hits out at Hri Kumar for ‘highly inflammatory comments’ over EP challenge’, 8 July 2017, article by Faris Mokhtar, Today

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has slammed Deputy Attorney-General (AG) Hri Kumar Nair over remarks in the latter’s court submissions against Dr Tan’s legal challenge on the coming reserved Presidential Election, calling them “hitting below the belt” and  “highly inflammatory”.

Dr Tan’s challenge was thrown out by the courts on Friday (July 7), with Mr Nair — who was representing the Attorney-General’s Chambers — describing Dr Tan’s case as “entirely self-serving“, “purely selfish”, and having “no regard for the principle of multiracial representation” 

Writing on Facebook, Dr Tan, who was not present in court when the ruling was delivered in chambers, said Mr Nair had encroached into “dangerous racial politics” with his words.

Dr Tan pointed out that as a public servant and a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Nair “should not have made such a statement”. Mr Nair was a two-term MP who stepped down in 2015, before he was appointed as Deputy AG in March this year.

“This case is not about race. It is about process and procedures. It is about upholding the Constitution. Let’s keep it that way,” said Dr Tan, who is also a former PAP MP.

On the appointment of Hri Kumar as DAG, peers heaped nothing but praise for the ex-PAP MP. Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said he was the ‘best among the best’. The Law Society president describes him as ‘incisive, diligent, fair-minded and yet for all his intellectual rigour, affable to a fault.’ Surely this can’t be someone capable of ‘hitting you below the belt’, a term usually thrown at opposition MPs, or even PAP MPs for that matter?

Blunt personal attacks may be tolerated if you were still an MP, but as a High Court judge, it seems rather unprofessional. It may be called the ‘Chambers’, but surely there is no room for mud-slinging or shit-dredging here.  You can easily be in contempt of court for the slightest insult, but that doesn’t mean the court should treat you with contempt, especially if you’re a past President-elect.

TCB didn’t charge into this fight unarmed of course, having sought advice from Queen’s Counsel lawyer Lord Pannick who opined that Section 22 of the President Elections (Amendment) Act 2017 was unconstitutional. Section 22 is basically a roster of mostly dead presidents and what race they were. It’s strange, though, to say a President ‘belongs’ to a specific community when he, the PRESIDENT, belongs to all peoples, regardless of race, language or religion.  Also, one people, one nation, one Singapore. Never forget.

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To sum up the whole argument, TCB contends that Ong Teng Cheong should be the first elected President. The law says it should be Wee Kim Wee because although he wasn’t elected per se, he acted like one. Hence if you use your fingers to count five terms based on the hiatus-triggered model, the next President should be a long-overdue Malay one. Take that, Lord Pannick! Take that, Her Majesty!

Incidentally, DAG Hri was appointed by President Tony Tan (another ex-PAP man), ‘under the advice’ of PM Lee Hsien Loong.  He joins Lucien Wong  (PM’s previous personal lawyer and now AG) to oversee the laws of the land. The Government has full confidence that their links with the PAP (and ex-boss) has no bearing on their duty to uphold our ‘rule of law’ whatsoever. Why? Because they say so, that’s why. Justice is blind, and so are we.

There’s a scary resonance with the recent Oxley saga here – people quarrelling over dead men’s bodies. In LKY’s case, his residence. In this case, their claim to being an ‘elected president’. We already have one ex-leader coming to haunt us this Seventh Month, let’s not add 2 more ghosts to the list.



Parent suing ACS (Barker) over confiscated phone

From ‘Parent sues school over confiscated mobile phone’, 7 June 2017, article by KC Vijayan, ST

Should a school hang on to a confiscated phone for three months?

This issue has reached the courts after a parent felt that the penalty was too harsh. The parent is suing a secondary school principal for damages, but has not succeeded in getting the school to return the phone.

The parent’s request to have the phone returned immediately was turned down by District Judge Clement Julien Tan. The judge ruled that the principal was justified in holding on to the phone, as the school rules had made it clear that any student caught using a phone during school hours will have it confiscated for at least three months.

…The father, represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, is claiming that retaining the phone amounts to the tort of conversion – which involves denying a person’s rights to his property. He asked the court to get the school to return the phone while the case is being decided.

Curiously enough, this isn’t the silliest reason ever for suing a school. A UK Dad sued a private school because his kid flunked his GSCE exams. Parents in a US school sued because their daughters were forced to wear skirts as uniform. If I had known Andrew Hanam then, and had rich as fuck parents, I could have hired him to sue the cranky pants off my Chinese teacher for making me stand outside in the rain as punishment and risking death by pneumonia.

Worse things have happened to kids in schools without having Mum and Dad file torts willy-nilly. They’re given nasty names by bullies, they break their limbs from playground falls, they get psychologically abused by fierce teachers to the point that the police need to be called in. We get knocked about by the system because that’s what school used to be, preparing the next generation for adversity and hardship beyond the stuff you memorise in books and forget months later.  You screw up, you lose your phone. Live with it. Grow up. A 3 month phone hold may sound like a harsh punishment, but if you can’t obey a simple commandment like not bringing a phone to school, then you’re screwed when you enter the working world.

In the past when you got your Walkman swiped by the discipline master, you either deal with it or plot revenge with thumbtacks, because bringing the matter up to your folks would only mean supplemental lashing at home. Not so these days. Parents sue if they have the means, or make police reports if they don’t. The rest demand that you share their sob stories on Facebook. Anyone to blame except themselves if the kid wets his pants the moment he puts on an army uniform during NS.



Pedestrians should have a code of ethics

From ‘Establish a pedestrian’s code of ethics’ 20 Jan 2017, Voices, Today

(Tay Yong Hong): Cyclists and personal mobility device users will soon be regulated by laws on the proper usage of roads and paths. I believe that pedestrians should not be spared (“Jail, fines to combat reckless use of personal mobility devices”; Jan 11).

Sometimes I feel ashamed of how some of us walk on footpaths and park connectors with disregard for our own safety and that of others. Before the new laws take effect, we should establish a pedestrian’s code of ethics. 

Pedestrians should always keep left on the path and should use only the footpath if there is a separate cycle path. Parents should hold their children when using a shared path.

Pedestrians should not use headphones to listen to music and should not read and text on their mobile phone. When a shared path is narrow, they should walk in a single row so as not to obstruct others.

With such rules in place, it would be fairer to users of all modes of transport.

6 years ago, another writer proposed that pedestrians should all walk on the RIGHT. More recently, someone conjectured that commuters should stick to the LEFT of escalators instead of climbing them. Today, we brush against pedestrians glued to their handphones. In the past, we condemn them for wearing Walkmans in the streets.

Swimmers protest that people are not making their laps in only one direction. Runners request for standardisation on how jogging tracks are used, clockwise or counter-clockwise. Maybe we should put a speed limit on joggers too, or have signs to ban the use of selfie sticks as maids tend to do as they traipse along Orchard Road on Sundays. Before you know it we’d all be marching along to the beat of a metronome.


Thankfully, the only rule that you can break if you’re a walker is if you cross the road illegally. If the authorities decide to issue guidelines on ethical walking, then you can’t take a relaxing stroll without worrying if you’ve overstepped your boundaries, or be judged as a nuisance if you’re roaming around holding hands with a loved one. You can’t even bend down to smell a flower without being finger-wagged at for disrupting pedestrian flow.

Have we underestimated the Singaporean capacity for common sense and due consideration to warrant a safety manual for how to walk in public? Or has everyone on the streets gone so berserk, whether it’s rogue e-bikers,  Mercedes drivers in the wrong direction or goddamn buses careening into pavements and void decks, that we need to saddle our pedestrians with more regulation?

Time to put on your walking shoes and jive before cool strutting becomes unlawful.


Cats banned from HDB flats

From HDB letter to resident circulating online, 8 Jan 2017

All felines are banned from HDB flats but not various pedigrees of cat-sized toy dogs. HDB’s rationale for the ban has been the same for the last 4 DECADES. In 1978, HDB issued a statement ‘categorically’ banning cats from flats because they tend to stray ‘by nature’ and cause a nuisance to residents. Cat experts would subsequently protest that most cats are perfectly fine being confined within 4 walls and the ‘pussy gone wild’ excuse is a gross misconception. In that letter, roaming cats were also blamed for inciting fear in certain people and can ‘damage public property’ with their CLAWS. Yes, provided people hang their curtains OUTSIDE their flats.

Dogs, on the other hand, whilst enjoying this privilege, do not have the tendency of invading homes or leaving pawprints on your car, though occasionally, unlike the most ferocious of kitties, may BITE A CHUNK OFF YOUR FACE. 

Of course it doesn’t take just a cat to ‘disturb good neighbourliness’ by shitting indiscriminately, shedding fur or cauterwauling in the middle of the night. By the same token, not only should we ban shedding, barking dogs (though HDB has a solution of ‘debarking‘ noisy ones), but we should evict humans who smoke and burn incense in corridors, blast music in the wee hours of the morning, or take a piss in the lift. 

Surely HDB should be aware of the Love Cats pilot project in Chong Pang, a program endorsed by our cat-loving Law Minister himself, and let everyone know if the results have altered their perception of cats in any way. Even if they’re still pussyfooting around the regulations, it’s hardly useful to demand that an owner ‘remove’ the cat without offering any humane suggestions, considering that stray cats have been victims of horrific barbarism of late. Is HDB going to knock of the doors of every ‘old cat lady’ there is and round up all their cats? Wouldn’t the ban encourage more people to feed strays indiscriminately? Are the cat abusers out there rubbing their hands in masturbatory glee?

The approach to household pet management should be consistent across the board, whether it’s a dog, cat, goldfish or chinchilla: Enforcing responsible ownership. A blanket ban on cats based on their ‘nature’ has no scientific basis and reeks of an innate bias from watching too many campy spy movies with cat-stroking megavillians.


Perhaps our Law Minister or other ‘angels in power‘ can do something about this.