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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Singapore 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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They bless inanimate objects too, such as:

The F1 track

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(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.

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(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.

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(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!