Lee family Oxley saga a ‘petty dispute’

From ‘Singapore will not be dragged down by Lee family’s ‘petty disputes’, says Goh Chok Tong’, 17 June 2017, Today

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Friday (June 16) weighed in on the Lee family spat over 38 Oxley Road, by urging Singaporeans to “not be dragged down by a family’s petty disputes”.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Goh noted that Singapore has “prevailed through crises and adversity”. “We are a hardy people, built our family and nation from humble beginnings,” he wrote.

Mr Goh succeeded founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1990 and handed over the baton to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2004. He added: “What is happening in public between Lee Kuan Yew’s children is not us and should not be allowed to define who we are. We are bigger than our troubles, stronger than our differences. Whatever damage Singapore may suffer, willfully inflicted or otherwise, I know Singaporeans will not lay meek… We will always look forward, to fight real battles and create a better future for ourselves and our children.”

Yes, most Singaporeans we know have humble beginnings – relative to the Lees, that is. We don’t have an army of lawyers to draft our public statements. We can’t afford to have a sister-in-law or cousin to draft a high-profile will for a dying strongman father. Our kids can grow up to do their own thing without getting dragged through the mud by our aunties and uncles with claims that Dad has political ambitions for them. The only holiday we know is the one where you can chill in peace without someone Facebook posting viral shit about you at 3 am in the morning.

To most of us, a petty family dispute is when second brother forgets to message that he’s eating dinner, Mom overcooks and Dad complains why the fish was steamed instead of being deep fried, while youngest sister threatens to walk out of the house because second brother gets to iPad while she doesn’t. To our overlords, it involves National Heritage, personal integrity on a much grander scale, sung to the tune to $24 million dollars. And in the case of a a certain Lee couple, being forced to leave the country in fear of ‘state organs’. It also gives Chinese microbloggers a chance to laugh at us.

Yes, it’s an ugly state of affairs which may or may not have an impact on our everyday lives. Government will remain Government, as darkly Orwellian as the PM’s estranged brother believes it to be. Lee Wei Ling will continue to bitch about her brother being a ‘dishonourable’ son. Eventually, whether or not a certain Demolition clause is enacted, the Oxley house and all the lawyers behind it will go to dust, just as the Lees along with all of us, this land, this country, would fade into nothing, leaving a mere insignificant blip in this vast cosmic eternity that is bigger than any of us, including LKY, could ever imagine.

 

 

 

Singapore must steal other people’s lunches

From ‘Singapore must steal other people’s lunches to stay ahead of competition’, 30 Apr 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

Amid growing competition, and workers hungry to learn in places like Chengdu and even further away such as Russia, Singapore must not only protect its lunch but steal other people’s lunches, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged.

…Ms Zuhaina Ahmad, a career guide at the NTUC Youth Career Network, said she has spoken to a few young Singaporeans “who feel that they’re in an era where they’re entitled or privileged to what the Government is giving”.

“If you study up to a degree level, this is what you’re entitled to. Not all of them are like that, but I think we need to manage their expectations as well,” she said.

Mr Lee said in reply: “It’s something that we have to work on, always. You must always want to do better, but you cannot always want to hope for the sky, and that’s the challenge. Because if you’re not hungry, you wouldn’t try, but if you’re unrealistic, you’d be disappointed.”

Of course our PM meant ‘stealing other people’s lunches’ as a figure of speech, just a darker version of ‘punching above our own weight’. The language of success is often filled with bloodthirsty metaphors:  We’re told to ‘seize’ the day and ‘conquer’ our doubts, words usually used in military parlance to mean plunder and destroy. We ‘grab’ the bull by the horns and ‘eliminate’ the competition in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world. The harsh truth is just that – success usually means having to tread on some heads along the way, and there are people who excel in their careers at the merciless expense of others’ ‘lunches’. These days, others’ trust seems to be an even bigger bounty than actual money. Just ask Kong Hee and gang.

Even Teamy the Bee, our forgotten productivity mascot, makes a living by ‘stealing’ nectar from flowers. Corporate banditry happens all the time; a small start-up gets chewed to bits when a bigger company copies i.e ‘steals’ its ideas. Aspiring inventors fall prey to patent disputes with entities armed to the teeth with lawyers. The use of the phrase in the context of ailing productivity, though, seems to suggest that it’s time for workers to switch to survivalist fight-or-flight mode, that in the event that we may not be able to punch above our weight, sometimes we just have to hit below the belt for our lunch money. But still, the only thing stealing our lunches eventually will not be other people, but robots, which makes our PM’s statement, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately redundant, like what most blue-collar workers will be in the silicon age. Needless to say a politician’s job is robot-proof and he doesn’t need to worry about lunch for the rest of his life.

‘Lunch’ is always a sensitive topic for food-loving Singaporeans. You could tell by how aggressively we reserve tables at hawker centres. When an ex Transport Minister told Singaporeans that ‘there is no free lunch‘ during a public transport hike, we went ballistic as the Toa Payoh couple refusing to share their table with an old man would.

Yes, there’s a time to be hungry and rise up to the challenge when it comes to our precious lunches, but we are also in desperate need for compassion. Beg, cheat and steal like Robin Hood if you have to, but share your ‘lunches’ with less fortunate human beings, especially those who can only afford 3 meals a day at a hawker centre instead of restaurants.

So let’s take PM Lee’s metaphor with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle it on our lunch of the day before someone sneaks up from behind to steal it.

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.

pm-lee-abbott-balloon

LKY’s name sullied by an ‘dishonourable son’

From ‘Lee Wei Ling’s accusations ‘completely untrue’ PM Lee’, 10 Apr 2016, article in CNA

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Apr 10) responded to comments made on Facebook by his sister Lee Wei Ling. In a statement on Facebook, Mr Lee said: “I am deeply saddened by my sister Dr Lee Wei Ling’s claim that I have abused my power to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing in order to establish a dynasty. The accusations are completely untrue.”

He added: “The first anniversary of a person’s passing is a significant moment to remember him and reflect on what he meant to us. The more so with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The Cabinet had discussed how we should mark the occasion. My advice was that we should leave it to ground-up efforts. Groups should keep their observances in proportion, and focused on the future.

…In one of the emails released by Dr Lee, she said that she “and HL are at odds on a matter of principle” with regard to the commemoration, and that Mr Lee had “no qualms abusing his power to (have) a commemoration just one year after Lee Kuan Yew died”.

She added: “Let’s be real, last year’s event was so vivid, no one will forget it in one (year). But if the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY’s daughter will not allow LKY’s name to be sullied by a dishonourable son.”

LWL somehow managed to take everyone’s attention off her alleged plagiarism, but instead of throwing a smoke bomb, she decided to drop an atomic one. It’s a shame that family relations have to come to this after the passing of a patriach. The elder Lees would be saddened to see their own flesh and blood fighting over how a dead man should be remembered. LKY may have asked to have his Oxley house demolished, but it would pain him to see this pair explode into the sibling rivalry of the year, and a family torn apart.

So now that our PM’s reputation has been ‘sullied’ by his own sister, you’d have to wonder what drastic measures would need to be taken to ‘protect his honour’. One individual would be particularly interested. His name? Roy Ngerng. LWL has deleted the offending post, so perhaps that will keep Davinder Singh away for now.

As a son and PM, LWL’s brother had every right to commemorate Daddy’s 1st death anniversary, as many Singaporeans would come to expect as part of traditional custom. If he had decreed that a grand pagoda made of pure gold 10 storeys high be built just for LKY, then you could consider it an ‘abuse of power’. As for ‘honour’, well, we’ll leave it for the professor from NNI to elaborate further. As long as PM Lee doesn’t appear on the Panama Papers ‘honour roll’, then he’s fine.

Don’t expect any juicy bits from LWL’s Hakka Woman memoir, though. The ‘powers that be’ would have none of it. What everyone should learn from this episode is this: Don’t screw yourself over writing incriminating emails that any bugger can forward and post in the public domain.

UPDATE: PM’s wife Ho Ching apologised for inadvertently posting a picture of a snow monkey flipping its middle finger, explaining that she was a newbie at Twitter and deleted it as soon as it was construed as a response to her sister-in-law’s comments. A handy excuse for anyone ‘accidentally’ posting campaign material on Cooling Off day, as what a Facebook glitch did to Vivian Balakrishnan last year. Some levity on a very grim family matter then.

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When you pay peanuts, you get..

 

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.

Society will lose out without a natural aristocracy

From ‘PM tackles questions on S’pore system, freedom of speech at IPS conference’, 4 July 2015, article by Joy Fang, Today

…On the dominance of countries such as the US, Sweden and Israel in innovation, science and technology, Dr Zakaria said these communities are common in that there is a culture of a lack of respect for or challenging authority.

“You spent six hours yesterday in a court trying to do this, to instil a culture of respect. And isn’t it exactly the opposite of what you need for your economic future?” the US journalist asked.

In response, Mr Lee said: “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”

A BBC article in 2004 addressed our PM Lee as a ‘philosopher-prince‘ when he ascended ‘to the throne’, so to speak, following in the footsteps of his late father, who is also no stranger to being compared to royalty. In 1961, David Marshall lamented that workers were in the grip of fear under the rule of ‘Emperor’ Lee Kuan Yew, a title used again by ex Malaysia-PM Mahathir to describe LKY’s interventions into Malaysian politics.

When the founding PM passed away, the outpouring of tributes and grief was without doubt a grand farewell ‘fit for a king’. Granted, our leaders don’t go around asking people to kiss their feet or wear crowns, robes or wield sceptres, but if there’s one thing similar between our ‘socialist democracy/meritocracy‘ and any form of ‘aristocracy’, it’s that any dissent towards the elite, the ‘creme de la creme’, will not be tolerated, even if the target of the insult is dead. It’s like Thailand’s lese majeste, just with a lot more beating around the bush before you finally punish the bugger.

Which inevitably leads to, ironically, a paternalistic ‘bowing and scraping’ culture because people are afraid to throw eggs at their supreme leaders. This despite some members of this ‘aristocracy’ sending conflicting messages and assuring us that nobody will sue you if you call him a ‘stupid fool’. Nonetheless, our PM has no qualms about queuing up with everyday people for chicken wings, like a lord coming down to the village for a taste of hearty rat broth.

Ex president Devan Nair, in a 1983 speech at a President’s scholarship award ceremony, had this to say about ‘natural aristocracy’:

..And as in sports, there is a NATURAL ARISTOCRACY of talent in all the departments, disciplines and professions of public life. To abolish the natural aristocracy of talent would be to acknowledge the right of butchers to take over surgical wards in hospitals, or to have your teeth pulled out by carpenters rather than by qualified dentists.

Meaning, as one Total Defence song goes, ‘there’s a part for everyone’, whether you’re a serf, a general, a scientist, or the guy chopping pork at a wet market, and the only way to move up the social ladder is to prove your worth through hard work, sometimes with a stroke of luck.

In PM Lee’s context, however, it’s about ‘respect’, showing who’s boss, that one shouldn’t ‘play games’ and mess around with DA AUTHORITY, otherwise we’d all fall into a state of hellish anarchy, a situation which I suppose includes people not queuing up in an orderly manner for chicken wings anymore. Back in the old days, any duke or baron who got his pride wounded would challenge the offender to a gentleman’s duel. Today, our natural ‘aristocrat of aristocrats’ uses not a sword, nor a pistol, against the likes of Roy Ngerng, but a Davinder Singh.

Grassroots workers getting tickets for 50 BBQs

From ‘Poor ticketing mars Aussie barbeque’, 1 July 2015, ST Forum

(Marc Lim Swee Keat): I applaud the Australian High Commission’s goodwill and generosity in organising 50 Aussie-style barbecues on Sunday evening (“It’s barbecue time for a taste of Singapore life”; Monday). Having been a beneficiary of the Australians’ big-hearted hospitality previously, my group of friends and I had looked forward to being part of the festivities.

To our dismay, however, we were turned away at Bishan Park, as the organisers’ personnel indicated that a ticket was required to enjoy the food provided. This was contrary to what we had understood in earlier reports of the event being freely open to the public (“Steak feast to mark 50 years of ties”; April 18).

Much as our group understood the need for crowd management, the means of ticket distribution left much to be desired. The People’s Association was engaged as the local community partner for the event. But only a select few community clubs had publicised the ticketing requirement prior to the event.

A sizeable majority of the ticket-holders were decked in grassroots attire, though we understood that it was not an exclusive event. Many visitors were left disappointed and confused.

However, many, including my group, were undeterred and had picnics along the river to enjoy the street performances, while soaking in the atmosphere. We had looked forward to an enjoyable evening of Australian hospitality, delectable food and entertainment.

But the poor public communications on the ticket allocation system had marred the true spirit and intent of our gracious Australian counterparts.

Sir there’s a cock on your head

This 50 BBQs event comes fresh after the two nations’ ‘koala diplomacy‘. Much has changed since PM Lee’s late father called Australia the ‘poor white trash of Asia‘. Today, his son, being the good sport that he is, is wearing silly balloon hats with Tony Abbott. We borrowed their marsupials and fired up the ‘barbies’. What next, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman starring in a Mediacorp drama series? Malaysian PM BFF Najib Razak must be jealous.

For anyone who’s been here long enough, free steaks for everyone is simply too good to be true, and Singaporeans would fight tooth and nail to get a taste of Down Under without paying a bloody cent. The organisers only catered for a max of 1200 people, but 4800 tickets were given out to people on a first-come-first-served basis, which means there are likely to be ticket-holders who went home with an empty stomach. Incidentally, STB once launched a tourism campaign aimed at Australians, telling people to ‘GET LOST’. This steak fiasco is our retribution. You can smell and hear the sizzle from afar but can only stare and drool, as all these VIPs, who probably know shit about Australian history, sink their fangs into a juicy, oozing ribeye hot off the grill. I wonder how much a BBQ ticket would be worth on Carousell. Not more than the $400 NDP ticket I hope.

Grassroots members getting perks like priority steaks is nothing surprising anyway. They get priority for Primary 1 registration and parking, among other goodies as reward for serving the community. Once they’ve got their kids’ placing and Aussie steak, some will simply quit the job and go back to being an afterthought ordinary Singaporean like the kiasu buggers that they are. Wouldn’t it be a better idea if the Australian High Commission and PM Lee had flipped burgers for underprivileged orphans and grilled steak for old folks who’ve never been to Jack’s Place in their lives instead of promoting an unrealistic free-for-all meat orgy, causing many Singaporeans to ‘go off like a frog in a sock‘? Otherwise, there should have been a selection process for this, really, like inviting only the top 100 finalists of a ‘Waltzing Matilda’ karaoke contest.

Bring AC/DC here and all will be forgiven.