Lee siblings not invited to Lee reunion dinner

From ‘Lee siblings welcome PM’s offer to settle dispute in private’, 6 July 2017, article in Today

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings said on Thursday (July 6) they welcome his offer to manage their disagreement away from the public eye, and they would stop posting on social media “provided that we and our father’s wish are not attacked or misrepresented”.

Two days after the parliamentary debates earlier this week over their allegations that saw 29 Members of Parliament speak about the issues, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling released a seven-page public statement on Facebook putting forth the background to the dispute and their reasons for going public.

…They claimed that PM Lee quarrelled with them on April 12, 2015, the day their father founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s will was read. And he had allegedly not spoken to them since.

They also added that PM Lee was the first to invoke lawyers, a move that “gobsmacked” them since they were “were siblings discussing (their) fathers’ house”.

Shortly after he wrote to them that he had hired Mr Lucien Wong to deal with the situation and asked them for their lawyers, all direct communication ceased. They added that the first Chinese New Year reunion dinner following Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, all relatives were invited except them.

The younger Lees may have decided to take their beef with PM Lee offline, but they couldn’t resist one final parting shot, one that exposes the pettiness of our leader. I’m not sure what’s worse, suing your own flesh and blood for defamation, or not inviting them for reunion dinner. If there’s anything Ah Gong and Ah Ma would have wanted, it would be the family getting together at least for Chinese New Year.

LWL/LHY also accused big brother of having two faces – but then again which politician doesn’t? One moment our PM channels a seminal moment in LKY’s march to independence and opens the floodgates in front of national TV, the next we hear of him refusing to speak to his own siblings except through a lawyer. And we continue to trust the same man and all his flaws to steer this ship through stormy waters.

While it looks like this ‘Korean drama’ has reached its uneasy epilogue, with the PM resorting to making a public apology and all, what’s intriguing to me about this saga is not so much the lies, deception, hypocrisy, apple-polishing and political charades, but the choice words coming from the mouths of all dragged into this CIRQUE DU SO-LEE.

Here’s a look back at ‘The Best (words) of Oxley’, and how they can be used in everyday speech:

  1. ORGANS OF STATE
    ‘Do not question the authority of the Government or face the wrath of the organs of state!’
  2. RECUSE
    ‘I recuse myself from this Whatsapp chat group’
  3. DOGSBODY
    ‘I spent the whole weekend doing dogsbody work for my best friend’s wedding’
  4. GOBSMACKED
    ‘Your dad went to Pink Dot? I’m gobsmacked!’
  5. WHITEWASH
    ‘I would have read Men in White if it wasn’t so whitewashed’
  6. ORWELLIAN
    ‘Ownself defend ownself is so Orwellian’
  7. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
    ‘I have shares in Pfizer so I’m not participating in the generic Viagra trial on erectile dysfunction due to conflict of interest’
  8. PARTY WHIP
    ‘Please don’t forget to bring the party whip at the next BDSM teadance’ 
  9. MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE
    ‘Let’s set up a ministerial committee to discuss the terms of reference for ministerial committees’
  10. BESMIRCH
    ‘You besmirch my father’s honour by casting Adrian Pang as him in that movie’

‘For what it’s worth’, I guess what we can take away from this episode is one, the Lee family is human after all, and two, journalists who cover angry exchanges over Facebook have the easiest job in the world. It also sets an awkward precedent for other public figures with relatives dying to expose them but afraid of getting ‘sued still their pants drop’.

May the Lee clan have a peaceful Seventh Month this year.

 

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

PM Lee doing a jump shot in Moscow

From ‘Don’t be afraid to make a mistakes: PM Lee in Youth Day Message’, 3 July 2016, article in CNA

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because that’s the beauty of being young,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Jul 3), in a message to youths on Youth Day.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lee wished the “young and young at heart” a happy Youth Day.

…“Your dreams today can become your passions tomorrow,” he said. “You can experiment, try things out and discover what you can be. The future often looks daunting, but go forth and create your own!”

Mr Lee also posted a photo of him attempting a “jump shot” together with wife Ho Ching, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo and Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Lee-p of Faith

Lee-p of Faith

If the beauty of being young is getting to make mistakes, then the beauty of being old is getting to act cute. Our PM is always game for youthful antics, whether it’s jump shots, taking selfies with his Malaysian BFF or inserting emoticons or lols in his Facebook messages, which is like watching your Dad struggling with Whatsapp messages so you could post screenshots on social media as ‘Funny Shit My Dad Says’. Except that clueless Dad doesn’t sue you for defamation. Dr Koh’s leap is the most characteristic of the PAP. It’s how he would pose in a victory rally after being elected MP. PM’s sporty jump, on the other hand, is one good enough to clear a log obstacle in the Spartan Race. He’s been practising, apparently.

lee-hsien-loong-jump-shot

Same jump last year.

And here is more youthful cuteness overload.

Acting Minister of Education Ng Chee Meng shares the same view, that we should encourage our students to have ‘productive failures’. NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin urges us to kill the ‘kiasu/kiasi’ mentality. In Singapore, it’s not business gurus who overstate the usefulness of failure as a skill set and character-building tool, but our politicians, without accompanying them with anecdotes of their own personal failures. Often when politicians or institutions admit mistakes, it would have been already too late. Especially ‘honest mistakes’.

Mistakes can be made by anyone regardless of age, and the younger you are the more you can make out it, and that’s the take-home message that PM Lee wants to spread on Youth Day. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Don’t cry over spilt milk. Stay foolish. A stitch in time saves nine, etc. Yet, there’s also the boy ‘who cried wolf’, a tale of a rascal making the mistake of raising false alarms, and villagers making the fatal mistake of not continuing to listen to him when shit gets real. When the political elite make horrible mistakes for the first time they usually get away with it. The worst that can happen is that they voluntarily resign after being caught with their pants down.  For the rest of us, a fatal mistake can set us back for life, no matter how ‘beautiful’ the act of making it seemed to be.

So, PM Lee, if making mistakes should be encouraged whilst we’re young and foolish, we also expect our old and experienced to be more forgiving when screw-ups happen. If our system of harsh punishment and stigmatisation continues to rear its ugly head at youth who have erred, it’s unlikely that those of us with a tragic burden to bear – a criminal record, a shitty PSLE grade, unemployment because you have a reputation for casually inciting violence on social media or accusing leaders of corruption – would live to do jump shots in our mid 60s like you have. The only jump we want to make but can’t, is the one back in time.

 

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.

A godless society is problematic for Singapore

From ‘We welcome criticism within constraints, says Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong’, 23 Jul 2015, article in CNA

The governing authorities are open to criticism, but the ability to exercise of the freedom of expression comes with limits, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, referencing the cases of bloggers Amos Yee and Roy Ngerng. Yee received a four-week jail sentence for posting an obscene image online and posting content intended to hurt the religious feelings of Christians – a sentence and conviction he is appealing.

“In our society, which is multiracial and multi-religious, giving offence to another religious or ethnic group, race, language or religion, is always a very serious matter. In this case, he’s a 16-year-old, so you have to deal with it appropriately because he’s (of a) young age,” Mr Lee said in an interview with Time, published on Thursday (Jul 23).

The peaceful co-existence of religions is something that takes work, the Prime Minister said.

“Overall, we think religion is a good thing. I mean, if we were godless society, we would have many other problems, the communists found that out,” said Mr Lee.

“But religion is a good thing provided we are able to bridge the differences between our different faiths, provided there’s give-and-take, provided we are able to get along together and not offend each other by aggressive proselytisation, by denigrating other faiths, by being separate and, therefore, having suspicions of one another, which can easily happen,” he added.

Well, religion is awesome, as 50,000 Christians proved to PM Lee when he joined the godly masses for the Jubilee Day of Prayer. It’s also great to see different faiths coming together and praying to purge evil spirits from suicide reservoirs. I can’t imagine what Singapore would be like if we all didn’t believe in the Almighty; no heritage churches, Sultan Mosque, temples. No multimillionaire pastors. No Lawrence Khong magic shows. Gasp, no Sun Ho! We’ve got 99 problems but God ain’t one.

PM Lee’s reference to ‘godlessness’ echoes his father’s sentiments towards the Red Scourge back in 1964, which he calls ‘a godless philosophy that leads to trouble’.  Soviet communism has given atheism a bad name, and has been described as an ideology that started on a godless premise.  The same term was used to describe the Nazis, though both regimes had similar elements of worship and idolatry – the deification of Lenin and Hitler come to mind. Atheism has since been recognised as philosophy based on logic and science rather than violent heresy, and the word ‘godless’ itself was just another Dark Ages relic label like ‘infidel’, until its resurgence around 1958 as this Ngrams graph shows. This was around the time the USSR launched Sputnik, and Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.09.18 PM

Today, despite their inherent godlessness, we see branded Che Guevara images and ‘Hitler chic’, with its Nazi themed cafes, weddings and even cosplay. Mao propaganda posters have become hip marketing gimmicks. Godless commies have become trivialised in pop culture, though our Government refuses to let it go still. Look what happened to ‘To Singapore With Love’, banned like an exorcist casting away Satan. Even if we don’t worship a literal supernatural father figure, there’s one god that every successful, capitalist country, especially one among the richest nations in the world, looks up to in reverence: Money. Or at least a personification of money. Like Cai Shen Ye.

Unless there is anthropological evidence that any society without the pillar of monotheistic faith is doomed to fail, with or without the godless Red Star Armies, our PM’s assertion on the social advantages of religion as compared to no religion, remains up for debate. Religion has its share of problems, obviously, if you think of all the horrific tragedies in human history , from the Crusades to ISIS, done ‘in the name of God’. Wonder what PM Lee’s sister, a self proclaimed ‘atheist’ thinks about elder brother’s quip. As for life without God, we can only for now, well, Imagine.

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.