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.

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!

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.

 

Singapore first in the world to separate public servants’ Internet access

From ‘Buzz over delinking govt PCs from the Web’, 12 June 2016, article by Carolyn Khew, Sunday Times

Probably the first country to do so, Singapore’s decision to delink its government computers from the Internet could spur other nations to take a similar step.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday that since The Straits Times reported last week that 100,000 government computers will no longer have direct access to the Web from next May, other countries have expressed interest.

“You’ll be very surprised at the kind of responses I received from my counterparts. They want to know how we do it,” he said. “In fact, I was seated at a dinner and one of the ambassadors said ‘We were surprised that you decided to do it and we want to learn from you because we think this should be done’.”

…”At the end of the day, as the custodian of data concerning our citizens and because of national interests, we have to make sure that we can protect that, right?” said Dr Yaacob. “We are constantly under attack…and the hackers are becoming more sophisticated.”

I’m not surprised that Singapore is taking the lead with this ‘novel’ approach to safeguarding data, but Minister Yaacob not revealing which country the interested ambassadors hail from is telling.  Somalia? Syria? Iran? North Korea? Trust the media to pour more consolatory salve on our wounds by emphasising on how other countries think this genius move will thwart hackers the world over. What a shining example we are, a future-ready Smart nation where ‘no one will be left behind’. It’s like the wonder strategy of banning chewing gum. See how smoothly our trains doors have open and shut since. So proud to be a citizen of this role-model nation.

A lot has been said about how this measure is ‘inconvenient but necessary’, but so is taking the bus. Our Ministers may do just fine with split terminals, but asking them to take public transport to work because it’s ‘inconvenient, but workable and just needs getting used to’, is unlikely to make them ditch the car keys. The hackers have gotten more ‘sophisticated’, but we’re using a blunt instrument to get things done. Logic and the history of technological arm races will tell you that the more ‘sophisticated’ ones will find a way around our backward hammer and chisel methods eventually. The hackers will run circles around us like a cool AF geek taunting a dumb blonde.

Which makes this whole IT policy similar to a passive-aggressive dictator boyfriend. He wants to give you space but yet controls who you hang out with. Just look at some quotable quotes from the MCI Minister just early this year about our Smart Nation initiatives vs PM Lee’s defence of this – in his own words – ‘nuisance’.

The platform will support sensor-based services and smart system solutions, and facilitate greater sharing of data to improve Government operations and the delivery of public services. -Yaacob in Jan 16

We’ve decided to do it. Are we happy? I don’t think so, because it will slow us down in terms of day-to-day productivity. In terms of security, safety of our systems, safety of our citizens and information concerning them – it’s absolutely necessary. – PM Lee in June 16

So how, my dear sirs, do we improve Government operations if our productivity will be slowed down?

The possibilities are endless if we put our mind together to share ideas, experiment and co-create solutions to empower our society in our Smart Nation journey. – Vivian Balakrishnan in Jan 16

Through regular dialogues and surveys, we aim to better understand our people’s concerns and aspirations so as to develop policies and programmes that will improve their quality of life. We will also improve our capabilities in whole-of-Government crisis communications – Yaacob in Jan 16

By co-create, you mean brainstorming among yourselves without consulting affected public officers, and then coming up with a painful decision because I’m the Government and I say so and this is for our own bloody good and we’ll all explode and die from cyber attacks if we don’t do it. This is not an experiment, folks. This is set in stone. As stone as the Stone Age. This is what co-creation means in simple layman terms. I create. You obey. ‘Co-creation’ between pharaohs and slaves is what made the Pyramids great. And look how great Singapore is that other people want to copy us.

We will develop the cybersecurity ecosystem in Singapore, and grow cybersecurity talent and manpower. We will also seek international cooperation on cybersecurity to overcome the transnational nature of cyber threats, and work with the private sector to raise public awareness of the importance of cybersecurity – Yaacob in Jan 16

O…K. So this is what the proposed Cybersecurity Bill will look like, described in one single page for succinctness.

Turn off the Internet from Government PCs, stupid

Cybersecurity sounds like a whole high-tech cloak and dagger, biosensor-equipped, eyeball-scanning  infrastruture right out of Men in Black but it’s really this one guy sitting at the console guarding the ‘off’ switch with a baton and a handphone for surfing the Web separately. Ingenious.

It takes some getting used to, but you can do it. So what I have done, I have an email system, I set up another one, which is for internet browsing, and between the two you have what people call an air gap separation, meaning, this is one system, that’s one system. They don’t talk to each other. And hopefully no information can jump over from one side to another or from this side to that. – PM Lee in June 16

Looks like this ‘air gap separation’ doesn’t just exist between our PCs and the Internet. The authorities never ‘talked’ to the users either. I suppose that’s the way a future-ready system is supposed to be, having a lot of air gap separations. Or ‘lobangs’ in other words. Lobangs that our sophisticated hackers are only too eager to exploit.

‘At the end of the day’, there’s nothing that public officers can do except complain and bite the bullet. And then get lead poisoning from swallowing too much.

 

9 religious leaders praying for Minister Heng Swee Keat

From ‘Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in stable condition in ICU’, 14 May 16, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was in a stable condition yesterday, the day after he had emergency brain surgery following a stroke.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who visited him at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), said: “He was sedated. His condition is stable, but he will remain in the ICU for some time.

“He is in very good hands, like all patients at the National Neuroscience Institute.”

…Many Singaporeans showed up at the hospital to ask after Mr Heng’s condition. A table at the hospital’s Heritage Museum was overflowing with flowers, cards and gifts, and had to be expanded.

Yesterday, leaders of nine faiths from the Inter-Religious Organisation came together to pray for a smooth recovery for Mr Heng.

ST_20160514_HENG14SMGA_2290855

I wish the Minister all the best in his recovery, and may the combined healing powers of the IRO bring the good man back up on his feet again. Singaporean leaders are a hardy bunch who soldier on despite terrible illnesses to serve the nation. Our own PM had to deal with both prostate cancer and lymphoma. His father suffered for the country till the very end.

I’m not sure though, if such resilience creates unnecessary pressure on our ministers to carry on despite being stricken with illness, instead of spending more time with their loved ones and, well, taking things easy for a change. No one should expect Minister Heng to spring back to work after this incident, and if he decides to step down for health reasons, no one should fault him for giving up the portfolio or forsaking his Tampines residents either. MPs have quit on us for far more frivolous reasons.

Still, another job for the inter-religious leaders, who recently paid holy tribute to a dead strongman known to be a recalcitrant agnostic.

ST_20160322_PLLKY22_2156836

The power of united prayer even extends all the way to the victims of US school shootings.

cn01_img_11

But it seems like this religious ‘supergroup’ is not done chanting incarnations for sick people or those who’re already dead. They also provide prayer services to newly commissioned SAF officers. I don’t know if this prayer package includes other military lowlife like recruits out of BMT, who also occasionally die due to safety lapses too. Still, not sure if anyone still wants to sign up for OCS if it’s so dangerous that you need the combined powers of 9 religious leaders to make sure shit doesn’t happen to you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 5.36.58 PM

They bless inanimate objects too, such as:

The F1 track

20105869

(Though they should also pray at major marathons. More people have died running marathons than the past seasons of the F1 Night Race)

The newly opened Downtown Line.

17121512373216_1006451436080743_6138278839651215454_n

(A ritual which, unfortunately, couldn’t prevent the recent power/signal faults that led to train delays. Or the Pasir Ris freak accident when SMRT staff were killed on track)

Bedok Reservoir, where the souls of the drowned reside.

st_images_rsprayer06e

(Now this probably worked like a charm. Suicides at Bedok Reservoir are at an all time low)

Last but not least. WORLD PEACE FTW! Keep up the good work, IRO!

Grace Fu on Chee Soon Juan’s lack of relevant experience

From ‘PAP’s Grace Fu questions SDP’s readiness  to run a town council’, 30 Apr 2016, article in CNA

…Ms Fu also spoke about Dr Chee’s plans to be a full-time MP and to make the ward his priority if elected – a point he played up in the SDP’s rally also held on Friday night.

But Ms Fu highlighted the fact that as far as she knew, he had not “held a steady job for many years”. “Let me be clear – I’m not criticising his decision to not hold a full-time job for so long. No, that is his personal choice. But the work experience, or the lack of it, is a relevant fact when we consider the credentials of the candidate,” she said.

She likened choosing between two candidates for a job. “You look at their work experience – what have they done, is the experience relevant to the job. You also seek references from people who have worked with them – their colleagues, their bosses.”

She added that it would “be very interesting” to see if there would be a referral letter from Mr Chiam See Tong, who had recruited Dr Chee into SDP years ago. Last week, Mrs Lina Chiam had said in a Facebook post that her husband had not given his endorsement to any candidate in the by-election.

Name-dropping old Chiam is a low blow, given the known history between ‘protege’ Chee and the elder opposition veteran. But Grace Fu’s main beef with Chee, unlike the rest of her colleagues casting aspersions on his character (‘complete hypocrite’, ‘shouty fellow who disrespects his elders’), is whether he’s up to the job even as a full-time MP, whilst at the same time endorsing a candidate who looks unlikely to give up a cushy position in Rajan and Tann as head of commercial litigation. This despite Murali calling the MP role a ‘sacred duty’. Not sacred enough to go into it full time, apparently.

To be fair, one should ask the same questions about relevant experience of our noob candidates who went on to become MPs. We have a colorectal surgeon and a former host of the Pyramid Game running the PM’s ward. Some call Chee a ‘gangster’ for his past encounter with ESM Goh, but we have a rising star amid the PAP cadre who was in fact, an actual gangster in his teens. You could say having ‘gangsterish’ traits may even be a plus in leadership, like threatening opponents with knuckle-dusters and catching them in a ‘cul-de-sac’. As one would expect, the PAP is magnanimous when it comes to their own people with a dark and checkered past, just not Chee Soon Juan, no matter how he presents himself as a ‘changed man’. Shouting at Goh Chok Tong in broad daylight is a stain you can’t erase.

Full time MPs are a rare breed, but in most cases they still hang on to ‘non-executive’ roles in their previous organisations. Baey Yam Keng quit his directorship in Hills and Knowlton but remains as senior adviser. Others include Foo Mee Har, Tin Pei Lin and WP’s Chen Show Mao. Yet, despite all this emphasis on relevant work experience, Wong Kan Seng once opposed politicians giving up their ricebowls because it would mean them ‘losing contact with people in business and foreigners’.

Yet, a decade back, ESM Goh described being an MP as a ‘full time job’, even if these people are helming advisory boards and councils. So we’ve come to accept the average MP as a dynamic multitasker who is able to juggle a day job and the nuts and bolts of town council management. An MP with little time for his own family but willing to kiss other people’s babies. An MP who not only has to go house visiting but post about it on Facebook as well. In the case of Bukit Batok’s former MP, one who’s able to squeeze in some sideline flings too.

Ultimately, all this talk about work experience doesn’t matter. Thanks to the GRC system where newbies are sheltered by anchor ministers, your disapproval of any single candidate’s CV has zero impact on the outcome. We’ve a track record of voting in doctors, lawyers and military men, but they might as well be former exotic dancers, swimsuit models or drug lords if given the right exposure. Experience is brought up only now because in a SMC contest, one could focus all your energy and judgement on that single candidate. It also serves as spare ammunition once you’ve exhausted the cheap character assassination tactics.

Chee and Murali should both learn from Louis Ng. Despite the relative lack of experience, the animal welfare champion took it upon himself to do ‘dirty jobs’ that would look good on a town council CV. I’m not sure if a high flying lawyer, a PhD holder to writes books about himself or Grace Fu herself would do the same. The only things that politicians seem to do with a broom these days is either raking up the past, or sweeping issues under the carpet.