Friday, 18 May 2012

Watz Buzzing - 18 May 2012

Sari, we made a mistake?

Sometimes, you want to give the mainstream media the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes, it is also hard to do so.

This post is not to point the finger at the individual reporter in this case. It is, however, to point out that the mainstream media – being professional news organisations staffed by professional editors, reporters, journalists, and with resources which citizen journalists like myself and my colleagues can only envy from afar – should at least be mindful of simple mistakes which show up its lack of professionalism.

In the ongoing court case with regards to the Prime Minister’s discretionary powers in calling by-elections, the mainstream media’s reporting has, so far, been below par. (Caveat: I’ve also been following and reporting on the case for and Yahoo Singapore, with the reports also published on TR Emeritus.)

Take this recent report on 16 May:

What’s wrong with the report? Two things:

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PRC new citizen blamed deceased taxi driver Cheng Teck Hock for causing fatal accident at Bugis

While many Singaporeans are outraged at the PRC Ferrari driver Ma Chi for dangerous driving and causing a fatal accident in Bugis costing the lives of two innocent persons – Singaporean cabby Cheng Teck Hock and a Japanese woman in her 20s, one PRC new citizen pointed his finger at the cabby instead.

In a comment posted on Hardwarezone forum which drew immediate criticisms from fellow netizens, the PRC new citizen ‘Martin’ who uses the moniker ‘Jennet’ wrote: 


[Source: Hardwarezone forum]
According to Hardwarezone forumers who have met him, Martin came to Singapore a few years ago together with his parents and has obtained Singapore citizenship. It is not known if he has served National Service.

Family of PRC Ferrari driver Ma Chi scolds Singapore netizens: Hold back your ‘poisonous’ tongues!

Instead of apologizing to the victims of the fatal Bugis accident and offering them compensation, the family of the late PRC Ferrari driver Ma Chi lashed out at Singaporeans instead for not being ‘sympathetic’ towards him!

The accident was caused by an intoxicated Ma Chi who beat the red lights and rammed into a Hyundai Sonata taxi at a junction between Rochor Road and Victoria Street.

Ma Chi was pronounced dead on the spot. The Japanese female passenger in the taxi died hours later in hospital while the Singaporean cabby Cheng Teck Hock passed away on Sunday evening, leaving behind three children between the ages 16 and 21.

The shocking accident fuels rampant anti-China sentiments among Singaporeans with many venting their frustration and anger on Ma Chi online.

The insensitive comments appear to rile Ma Chi’s family who asked a friend to lodge a complaint to a local Chinese tabloid:

“The rich is not always at fault. We urge netizens to hold back their poisonous tongues.”

Young sexy PRC girl in Ma Chi’s Ferrari rumored to be an ‘Ang Pai’ in a local KTV lounge

Ma Chi, the driver of the Ferrari involved in a fatal accident at Bugis on Saturday morning was described as a ‘loving and caring’ husband by her pregnant wife. What then was he doing with another young PRC woman in her twenties at 4.50am in the morning?

According to reports in the Chinese tabloids, Ma Chi’s PRC passenger is an ‘Ang Pai’ (红牌) hostess in a popular KTV lounge located in the city.

The mysterious woman sustained fractures to her right leg and is currently warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Speaking to queries from the media, Ma’s wife Ting Ting (pic left) said her “was an introverted person who liked to drive at night as there was less traffic.”

She was surprised to learn about the young female passenger in her husband’s car as nobody, including his friends know who she is.

However, Ms Ting Ting said she trusted her husband because he was a loving father and husband, adding that it was ‘normal’ for him to send a ‘friend’ home after meeting up with them.

Ms Ting Ting already had a child with Ma Chi and is currently pregnant with another child.

Why we need Opposition in Singapore

A year after the GE 2010 and now Hougang is fuelling the sentiment of Singaporean again.

If you asked yourself, did you life got better of worst after PAP re-took Singapore in 2010 I am sure most of us know the sad truth.

Even with the new President life in Singapore for the ordinary folks had gone from bad to worst.

Inflation, record COE, MRT breaking down, still influx of foreigners, increase utilities price etc etc.

Why things are not getting better? Although Hsien Loong asked for some time but a year is not a short so why are things not improving?

I think the reason is simple, the PAP has lost touch with the ground, they are prioritising on the wrong issues.

Most of the time they are busy making life good for the rich and not the poor, whether they are doing it on purpose or not I do not know.

I personally had met people from PAP and the opposition although they are all friendly but there always seem to be a barrier when I talked to the PAP.

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Hougang Bye-Election: The sideshow

This is perhaps one of the most boring local election in my memory. I can’t seem to think of anything much at stake although the printers for election materials should be smiling from ear to ear. WP will win this as Singaporeans continue to want a bit more opposition representation in parliament. WP will continue to milk the romanticism behind Hougang as the last bastion of opposition politics and the sacred kris that will slay PAP, if needed. But, PAP will improve their losing margin.

Both candidates are equally boring and I don’t see how they will add much to the plate that we already have. Png looks sincere certainly but I wonder how much edge he has over the current crop of WP MP and NMPs we have. Desmond is just pathetic with his constant plastic smile and assertions that he is his own man (he reminds me of a body builder, don’t ask me why).

I rather see him coming out with all gloves off and hammer away at the Hammer, attacking them on policy and party matters. But he plays the nice guy and underdog, and oh, the ground issues guy, whatever that means…could also mean he has no idea about issues outside of Hougang?

What seems more interesting is actually the sideshow that is going on. A chance presents itself to observe Singaporeans participating in politics.

Khaw's swipe at WP shows PAP has nothing new to offer

Surely if PAP has something new and wonderful to offer to Hougang voters, it would gloat about it over and over. Not only it gloats over nothing, it takes a swipe at WP, hoping whatever advantage WP has would be eroded - which is a clear indication that PAP truly has nothing new to offer!

WP disunity is worrying: Khaw Boon Wan

THE chairman of the People's Action Party (PAP), Mr Khaw Boon Wan, took a shot at the Workers' Party (WP) on Wednesday, criticising it for its disunity and warning about what it could mean for voters.

A party that had members being sacked or quitting due to unhappiness with its leadership, he said, would find it difficult to run a country.

If it were in power and had ministers resigning or being sacked, he observed, it would be 'very troublesome for Singapore'.



'Hougang has been served by Mr Low Thia Khiang for 20 years. Last year, he moved on and handed it over to Mr Yaw Shin Leong.

'Unfortunately, Mr Yaw got into trouble, disgraced himself and disappointed all the voters. And the worst thing is to leave just like that without a word. Not a single word of explanation or apology.

'I don't know why. I find that utterly irresponsible and in fact arrogant. He takes the voters for granted.'

PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan, commenting on Mr Yaw Shin Leong's actions

'If within the party, you cannot remain united, can you imagine if you're in power?' asked the National Development Minister. 'How do you run a country.
I think what is truly worrying (for PAP) is that it has to resort to downing WP because it truly has nothing to offer. Very telling.

In any case, while Khaw may feel that the internal strife is weakening WP, externally, it is doing very well indeed. 

A look at the support from outside WP -

As usual, the lappydog Mainstream Media (MSM) (like Khaw) would seize about anything to discredit the opposition. In the last few days or so, we have seen how they up played the internal strife of the WP. Resignations, allegations of unfair treatment with a racial slant, etc.

But while the above may indicate there are internal cracks within the PAP, the fact is that external support is not only strong, but gaining traction from non-WP supporters as well.

Former SPP members helping WP at Hougang Town Coucil

Workers' Party supporters holding WP flags as they prepare for Wednesday's Nomination Day. -- ST PHOTO: LEONARD LIM

Several former Singapore People's Party members have arrived at the Hougang Town Council to support the Workers' Party.

Some members of presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock's campaign team could also be seen helping out as the Workers' Party readies for the nominations.

That's two non-WP groups giving support to WP for this Hougang by election.

Changes in foreign worker law: who benefits?

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is groaning under the weight of foreign manpower-related cases. There are all sorts of job scams going on, and thousands of short-payment and work injury claims.

In its latest attempt to address the problem, the ministry has proposed, in a consultation paper, to amend the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), but the changes seem to me to be more concerned with punishing those who flout the ministry’s rules than those who abuse workers.

It doesn’t take much exaggeration for me to reduce this to one pithy statement: You can abuse your workers as much as you like, just don’t disrespect the government. 

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Singapore, Just a one large business park

Singapore is simply one large business park for the world. It is very easy for anyone from anywhere to move to Singapore for business. Labor is cheap since there are no laws on minimum wage.
There are no laws in place requiring jobs to be given for citizens first. Workers have no job security. They can be hired and fired any time. There are no real unions since they protect employer’s rights, not the workers. Workers cannot strike because strikes are illegal.
The law courts are controlled by the government which will ensure that business owners are protected from their workers. There is no social security or any retirement funds for the old. Central Provident Fund which is Singapore’s retirement fund requires both the worker and the employer to contribute. As workers are allowed to draw on this fund to lease their costly government owned apartments in which the vast majority live, they enter their old age penniless since there is nothing left after paying for these costly leases. 
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An unnatural country’s take on democracy

Dear Ms Chan Heng Chee,

I refer to your 8 Mar 2012 speech at Yale Law School [1].

Singapore isn’t the only economy cited for success. We are just one of four East Asian tiger economies collectively cited for success. The Singapore model isn’t the only one we hear reference to. Taiwan too has been referred to by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman in his New York Times article [2]. On other occasions, the Singapore model is being questioned for lack of home-grown technology giants, little to show for heavy government investment and failure to commercialise products [3]. All see, not just a Singapore that enjoys sustained economic success but an East Asia that has been enjoying sustained economic success.

Our foreign minister Mr Shanmugam always emphasise the need to compare Singapore with other cities rather than with states comprising several cities. Singapore’s per capita GDP lags behind those of many Western cities:

City2008 GDP ($bn PPP)Population (millions)per capita GDP ($000 PPP)
San Francisco/Oakland3013.586.5
Washington DC3754.485.5
New York1,40619.273.3
Dallas/Fort Worth3384.969.5
Los Angeles79212.662.9
Hong Kong3207.344.0
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global City GDP Rankings 2008

While Singapore is well governed and well run, it is by no means best governed. Countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are simultaneously better governed than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both well-governed and democratic at the same time.

CountryGovernment effectivenessDemocracy Index
HONG KONG1.945.92
Government Effectiveness Worldwide Governance Indicators 2011

Our invitation to US Education Department summits could simply be due to the easier adaptation of our English based education materials for the US compared to education materials from Taiwan, South Korea, Germany or Finland. For all the knowledge industries and cutting-edge stuff we are doing, we haven’t got a thing that comes close to the IPhone.
Our top five ranking for non-corruption means there are four other nations less corrupted than us. These four are New Zealand, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. These nations are simultaneously less corrupted than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both non-corrupted and democratic at the same time.

Country / TerritoryCPI 2011 ScoreDemocracy Index
New Zealand9.59.26
Hong Kong8.45.92
Corruption Perceptions Index 2011

The Yale-China association was founded in 1901 as an essentially missionary movement, hardly comparable to the Yale-Singapore partnership in question today. The association’s move to Hong Kong in the 1950s coincided with the end of democratic China and the rise of communist China, an event not inconsistent with the concerns of Yale academics today. The return of Yale-China to China in 1979 was primarily for collaboration in English and medicine, not liberal arts. Once again, this turn of events doesn’t really contradict the concerns of Yale academics today.

It is wrong to say that Singapore is a democracy because information flows freely. A sizeable chunk of information is missing from our press and can only be found online. Reporters Without Borders ranks us 135th in the world for press freedom. It is also wrong to say that Singapore is a democracy because it is egalitarian. Our Gini coefficient is amongst the world’s highest. Many Western nations are simulaneously more egalitarian than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both egalitarian and democratic at the same time.

CountryIncome GINI coefficient 2000-2010
Hong Kong43.4
United States40.8
New Zealand36.2
United Kingdom36
Korea, Republic of31.6
Czech Republic25.8
Income GINI coefficient from Human Development Report 2010, UN

If Singapore is a democracy, why does the Economist Intelligence Unit classify Singapore as a hybrid regime between flawed democracy and authoritarian regime? Why does Freedom House classify us as only a partly free country?

Singapore falls short even when considered against the Westminster model. Does the Westminster model allow all newspapers to be grouped into one company with the majority of shares held by government linked companies and chaired by important ex-ministers?

Does the Westminster model allow political opponents to be locked up without trial? Does it allow several constituencies to be lumped together to be contested as one? Ours is but a mockery of the Westminster model. The confusion in our presidential election arose from an attempt to dumb down the president. Please explain to our friends in Yale that our president is not allowed to speak with his conscience unless approval is given by the government and see if that does not cause confusion.

Democracy is more than just free and fair elections; it also requires a free press which we do not have. The GRC makes our elections less than fair as it allows one minister to win five, six constituencies. We are no more egalitarian than the US or India as our GINI is higher than theirs:

CountryIncome GINI coefficient 2000-2010
United States40.8
Income GINI coefficient from Human Development Report 2010, UN

The many less liberal Asian democracies have fundamentally different societies, culturally and religiously. We should compare ourselves with Asian democracies like South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong that have similar cultures. We pale in comparison to them.

While it is fashionable for the ruling party to portray our independence as a matter of survival, the truth is that we have been prospering long before our independence. In 1960, our per capita GDP was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status [4]. Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy; the King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century; a fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911; Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s and in Aug 1967, while speaking to American businessmen in Chicago, Lee Kuan Yew had already acknowledged then that we were already a metropolis [5].

Whatever the link between democracy and growth, the case is clear from the examples of South Korea and Taiwan that embracing democracy is no impediment to prosperity. Singaporeans voting on the performance of the government does not preclude their voting for democracy.

Populist movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street embody the spirit of democracy and show that democracy is alive and kicking in America. Americans can always count on their democratic DNA to turn their country around whenever their elites steer them off course towards destruction. Singapore too needs democratic DNA to rein in an elitist government bent on growing our nation to destruction.

While ministers can lose seats, only two ministers have lost their seats over the last 47 years, hardly typical of democracies. The slight progress made in democracy over the last few years was in spite of PAP policies.
Singapore is no more unnatural than Israel, another small nation surrounded by much larger Muslim states. Israel’s situation is much worse considering that they actually fought three wars of survival and continue to experience rocket attacks today.

Yet, Israel’s democracy index of 7.53 is much higher than Singapore’s 5.89. South Korea too is in an unenviable situation of having to live with a militant, nuclear capable North Korean neighbour while Taiwan has to live under the shadows of the China juggernaut. Yet both South Korea and Taiwan have relatively high democracy indexes of 8.06 and 7.46 respectively. Israel, South Korea and Taiwan show that an unnatural situation is no excuse to sacrifice democracy.

Our being surrounded by 200 million Muslims is no excuse to take away our right to assemble in groups more than five persons, no excuse to restrict press freedom beyond religious matters, no excuse for the GRC when only one out of the five or six constituencies in the GRC will be helmed by the minority representative. We might as well dictate that one particular constituency to be minority contestable only.

Singapore wasn’t born but became independent in 1965. Our birth goes back to 1819. Neighbouring hostility amounted to no more than two bomb blasts.

We may not have oil, gas or water but we are gifted with one of the most valuable geographical locations that became the basis of our prosperity. All four East Asian Tiger economies prospered without oil or gas. Hong Kong too depends on China for water.

The Scandinavian nation corporations cited by Professor John Ruggie score very high in democracy index. They show that the tendency for smaller nations to corporatize is no excuse to sacrifice democracy.

CountryDemocracy Index
Democracy Index 2011, Economist Intelligence Unit

Our government may be responsive but its response is increasingly detrimental to the wellbeing of our people. Social rights are still at their infancy. Greater openness is an illusion as are accountability and transparency. Accountability is meaningless when based on misrepresented data. Transparency is meaningless when the truth is polished until it disappears.

It has always been convenient for the government to blame inequality on globalisation until the recent Institute of Policy studies which showed that our construction workers are severely underpaid compared to those of other nations exposed to the same forces of globalisation.

The West’s continued prosperity and dominance in creative innovation shows that democracy doesn’t necessarily impact competitiveness. Despite China’s rapid rise, it is still a net recipient, not creator of technology. In this technological world, it is the technology leader that leads the world.

The Singapore government may be responsive to the needs of businesses and corporations but not the needs of the people. People were asking for more to be done to rein in property prices years before the government finally took action. People were asking for more to be done for public transport but nothing significant came about until the recent major MRT breakdowns. The government is not responsive enough to the needs of the people that befits a democracy. Singaporeans are not demanding for more and more entitlements but merely seeking fairness and dignity in our own country.

The 2012 Global City Competitiveness Benchmark commissioned by CitiBank shows that New York is more competitive than Singapore despite US political discourse. The IMD 2011 World Competitiveness Report also lists USA as being more competitive than Singapore. Thus, the notion that too much democracy affects competitiveness is misplaced. India’s problems aren’t so much of too much democracy but the fact that it is a complicated nation as LKY once explained.

CountryWorld Competitiveness Scoreboard
Hong Kong100
IMD 2011 World Competitiveness Report

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