Friday, 1 June 2012

Watz Buzzing - 1 June 2012

Taking a stand: My experience with the COI

On May 10th, I went to court to attend the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing. Prior to the event, I was a little nervous in its anticipation, as I had never been in an inquiry! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

However I calmed myself on deciding that I will just be myself and answer as truthfully and accurately as possible in recalling the events. The experience turned out to be much less frightening. The proceedings were carried out and chaired in a most dignified manner.

Everyone, the COI chairman and members, AGC, legal counsels were most professional, lending an appropriate atmosphere of decorum.

I was on the stand for five hours. The questions were probing but largely within my capability to answer with the knowledge I have. A few, I had to redirect as those queries required the head of trains or current interim CEO to address as I have not had any executive involvement in SMRT since 5th January, more than four months ago.

When I left the courthouse, I finally felt closure to my tenure with the SMRT.

However, the next day when I read the newspapers, I felt uncertain if I have really found closure.

A couple of articles in The Straits Times (ST) reported several incomplete statements from me. I weighed on whether I should react about these incorrect reporting, as erroneous statements give cause to wrong impressions. I recalled how an uncorrected statement could be repeated so many times in the media that it was taken as truth. I almost tremble every time the infamous statement is repeated in the press especially after the December incidents, to portray my lack of empathy to crowded trains and squeezed passengers saying ‘trains are not crowded, you can get on if you want.’

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The Press and the New Media

I can understand Low Thia Khiang’s outburst on the main press media for not being fair to the opposition because my team too felt the coverage of my Presidential election was also biased towards the government choice candidate.

There is nothing that those who opt to differ can do anything about what the main media writes.

So l decided to win support through t...he alternative media. It was an uphill task for me but l had to do it because I believed in my cause.

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Do this, Straits Times, and maybe you’ll be credible and believable

In the midst of the Hougang by-election, the Straits Times put out this report and headline on its front page:

What followed were criticisms directed at the Straits Times for biased and irresponsible reporting. Even WP sec gen Low Thia Khiang accused it of being a “political tool” of the PAP.

The Straits Times, of course, has come out to defend itself, rambling on about its “balanced” report and what not. Here is what the “ST Editor” says. [By the way, I wonder who this "ST Editor" is - is he the Forum Page editor, or the Chief Editor, *Warren Fernandez? Why not put a name to the reply?]
“As professional journalists, we do not see ourselves as cheerleaders for any political party. Our aim is simply to report the news dispassionately and objectively, so that our readers can decide for themselves.”
The simple fact is that the Straits Times is a propaganda sheet, a mouthpiece of the Gov’t and ruling party which controls it. No? Then perhaps the Straits Times would do something similar to show why we all should believe in its integrity, independence and credibility.

It can do this this weekend or next week, after the event at Speakers’ Corner to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1987 arrests and detention of 22 Singaporeans (and a few foreigners) under the ISA for plotting a”Marxist conspiracy” to topple the Gov’t.

To help the Straits Times, I’ve done a mock-up of the would-be report. I’ve followed as closely as I can the original headline which the Straits Times used on that report on the WP.
Go ahead, Straits Times, and prove to us that you are fair and balanced – and independent.

Here’s the original Straits Times report:

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Biased reporting in the Straits Times

I’m not sure what to make of counter protests by the Straits Times and its apologists that it reported the Hougang by-election coverage objectively and dispassionately. Yes those are the words used by the Straits Times editor in its reply to WP’s Low here. As previously written, when then MM Lee Kuan Yew slipped up under oath in 2008, the Straits Times could have spun the headline the same way it did for the by-election such as MM Lee made misstatement under oath, or as it did to WP even something like MM Lee faces allegations of perjury.

But what did Straits Times choose to go with instead? A headline firmly on the MM and PAP’s side: Govt rebuts law group’s attack on S’pore judiciary. Why the inconsistency, Straits Times?

A former Straits Times journalist curiously stated it isn’t just the opposition figures who complain about biased coverage. Apparently the PAP does too, and no less by heavyweight ministers:
Lest people think that only the opposition complains about headlines, well, the PAP does too but maybe not as publicly. I don’t know about this by-election or even the last general election, but I’ve had to face the ire of PAP heavyweights who complain about unflattering pictures or supposedly misleading headlines during past polls or the amount of acreage given to the opposition. Yes, the PAP complains too about media bias.
Then the question here is, why doesn’t the Straits Times make such complaints and their dealings public? Why couldn’t the editor make a decision to publish the content of the PAP complaints together with its editor’s replies and let the public make their own judgement as to whether the Straits Times was consistent and fair in their election coverage? Must it be settled behind closed doors over hushed whispers? As though the Straits Times are politically subservient to the PAP?

Photo choice and placement is another issue. As noted by another blogger here, it’s quite telling that the Straits Times tended to portray Desmond Choo together with his constituents, but of Png simply campaigning for votes.

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Biased Media Did Not Dampen Our Spirits

I wonder why CNA keeps emphasizing that PAP has somewhat reduced WP's margins as if it's more significant than WP retaining the seat. Before PAP gets too engrossed with this fact and view this as a victory, perhaps it's useful to put things in perspective.

The margins for WP dropped by 2% is an expected one, because of the recent events leading up to this BE. But this 2% pales in significance if we consider the following:

1. Yaw's scandal which broke out right at the beginning which led to reported skepticisms about the credibility of WP in choosing its candidates.

2. The reported internal rifts within WP as showcased by the high-profile departure of a couple of WP members who reportedly voiced displeasure about the CEC. This included also the leaked WP CEC minutes which fuelled the NCMP controversy and doubts about WP's unity.

3. The fact that no doubt Png has been around in Hougang since 2006, his profile isn't as high as DC whose presence has been much hyped about by the media since 2011. The media has repeatedly labeled Png as a relatively newcomer compared to DC.

4. Teo CH's jumping out into the fray to mudsling WP about the NCMP controversy.

5. The 'carrots' dangled by PAP, which anyway amounts to nothing much different from the Budget 2012 carrots.

6. Finally, the tears shed by DC at the last PAP rally, which was attended by PAP bigwigs including LHL himself.

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In defense of the main media

Everyone is kicking the main media around like a ball. It has been alleged of biased coverage in the by election to favour the ruling party candidate. It has been accused of putting the opposition party candidate in a bad light with funny pictures. But the main media has improved, like the results of the by election.

It has improved from what it was before. According to Baey, I think, he also noticed that the main media is getting fairer with more coverage for the opposition candidate. Can’t imagine this kind of coverage in the past, I can’t remember what it was like.

At the rate the main media is improving, soon it will be accused of biased coverage against the ruling party. The incremental improvement counts, just like the 2% gain. One election 2%, ten elections will be 20%.

There is great hope that the main media will be better everyday and will do journalism and the journalists proud, one day. Just give it time. Don’t write them off. Hold back the criticisms, afterall they all ‘tan chiak one’ and need to do a good job.

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Hey poor families, here are some one-year ST subscriptions for you!

[photo from Asiaone]

ST runs a VW auction (COE not included)… and the proceeds go towards sponsoring one-year subscriptions to ST for 1,000 low-income families. Liddat is called charity ah? Not even going into the SPH School Pocket Money Fund?
The headline says "The Straits Times to auction Volkswagen car for charity" but it looks more like Volkswagen doing the charity leh.

I am sure poor families are dying to read your paper, Warren Fernandez, but giving cash or groceries is probably more helpful, no? They can read your papers at the RC, CC or library what.

Perhaps after the poor families collect enough of the donated newspapers, they can sell them to karang guni for a few bucks.

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Will SPH Do A Durai on Low Thia Khiang?

In my post on "What Makes PAP a Party Fair Minded People Love To Hate?" [Link], I wrote of the obvious.

I just read Today's report on "Straits Times, Zaobao challenge Low's remarks" [Link] and I was wondering if Straits Times and Zaobao (both controlled by 'You Know Who'?) can do a 'Durai' on WP's Low Thia Khiang. Because Low Thia Khiang does not have golden taps to be entrapped, PAP Tampines MP Mr Baey Yam Keng said: "Sometimes reports may not be what the newsmaker wants it to be, because there may be neutrality by the media, so it's not always what the newsmaker wants."

I'm amazed that Baey calls this "neutrality by the media" Hell, can one man's sense of neutrality be actually be the same man's desperate need to suck up? To hear this from a professional media guy makes it worse! Could it be due to where the butter is spread! Fooking neutrality indeed! Please look again at the big headline and the picture.

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Shoddy Journalism

During a Q&A exchange of the ''Leadership Renewal The Fourth Generation and Beyond" Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at NUS in April 2007, a second year sociology major was trying to complete his question, "... we are doing absolutely badly and this is exacerbated by the fact that although Singapore is a First World country, it has a Third World wage structure - and this is according to the Straits Times, not from anywhere else. And even Professor Tommy Koh ..."

PM Lee cut him off with : "Do you believe everything you read in the Straits Times?"
Low Thia Khiang has made it clear he doesn't, but he's probably more upset about the political innocents who might be mortified by misleading headlines or picture captions. After all, Francis Seow's book "The Media Enthralled: Singapore Revisited" is not easily available at the book shelves here.

The newspaper that was once ranked 154th out of 195 in the "2007 Freedom of the Press World Ranking" by "Freedom House" is crying foul. Never mind if a United States diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks once quoted Chua Chin Hon, the Straits Times' U.S. bureau chief, saying that the paper's "editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line", and that "the government exerts significant pressure on ST editors to ensure that published articles follow the government's line".

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The Straits Times Conundrum

Since when has it been acknowledged that The Straits Times is a neutral paper which is conscientiously objective in its reporting on the opposition, especially during the hustings. The paper is strictly under the control of the Singapore Press Holdings whose chairman is a former minister of the Government, a spin doctor anyway one looks at it.

So how can one run away from the impression that the mainstream media (MSM) is an all embracing propaganda organ of the PAP Government, of which The Straits Times is a prominent member. The paper is so accommodating that any letter to its forum page critical of the Government politically is unceremonously consigned to the trash can.

In its editorial under the guise of "Opinion" entitled "Fallout from the Hougang showdown" today (29 May) the Straits Times attempts to wriggle out of the Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang's charges that the mainstream media was used as a "political tool" by the ruling People's Action Party. It tries to dismiss them as unwarranted and unfounded designed for political effect. Can the Straits Times honestly say that it had not slanted its reporting on the Hougang hustings to portray the WP in an unfavourable light?

Mr Low had taken the trouble to show the slanting of certain reports both in the Straits Times and the Lianhe Zaobao to belittle the WP. Photographs were juxtaposed in such a way to show the WP in a comical situation.

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This isn’t your mother’s army a.k.a. why your bullying tactics wouldn’t have worked anyway

So, Hougang remains firmly in the hands of the Workers’ Party, with 62.1% of the valid votes cast going to the party’s candidate, Png Eng Huat; basically, the PAP got its ass roundly whooped and handed to them on a blue platter.

Of course, by now most of this is old news, as the major bloggers have weighed in on the results, analysing what the 2.7% drop in votes for the WP and the 100+ vote increase for Desmond Choo portends for the 2016 elections, what each party did right and what could be improved in the next round, what the next step for the WP and PAP ought to be, and so on. I personally enjoy the little jibes and parodies of the election sound bites that are flying around most, because I think some people take politics way too seriously.

On a side note, I notice how I tend to post about stuff long after it’s ceased to be interesting news. I like to imagine my Johnny-come-lately-ness as a sign that I’m seriously digesting the information, and coming up with a totally new angle.
Bah, who am I kidding. I did this all the time for my readings in uni. And maybe one or two exams.

I’m lazy. Sue me.

Speaking of suing, following the attacks on Png Eng Huat by DPM Teo Chee Hean, Mr Low Thia Kiang expressed his displeasure at what he termed “character assassination” by certain persons. To which DPM Teo replied,

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SDP's alternative housing policy to address declining birthrate

Singapore faces a grave and urgent problem of a low birthrate. With a record low fertility rate of 1.16 births per female, the percentage of persons aged 65 years and older will reach 19 percent of the population by 2030 compared to 8.7 percent in 2008.

This will have a serious impact as we will have an insufficiently large workforce to sustain the economy. In addition, there will be more elderly Singaporeans whom the younger generation will have to take care of. Clearly, something needs to be done to arrest the population decline.

The factors causing the low birthrate in Singapore are many. One of the biggest cited by young married Singaporeans against having children is the high cost of living in this country, and the biggest living expense is, of course, housing.

The prices of HDB flats have escalated to the point where many younger Singaporeans cannot afford them. As a result, these couples end up having to stay with their parents and in-laws. The lack of privacy and space constraints in such an arrangement is a major hindrance to these couples having children.

To remedy such a problem, the SDP proposes a public housing policy initiative that would facilitate couples of child-bearing age to purchase their HDB flats in the quickest time possible.

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My Posting on PM’s Lee Facebook on 22 May 2012 (no any response yet)
Jane Lim : ‎19-5-2012 2.30pm-4.30pm, 我和义工们在Hougang Blk2 楼下办活动,这是一个由义工和善心人士自己发起的独立活动, 取名快乐天使,是因为我希望看到来参与活动的老人家,都能够像快乐天使一样,那么,在他们回去之后,也把快乐带给家人,邻居或朋友,让全新加坡的老人家都成为快乐天使,到时候,我们高兴看到快乐天使满街是……而不是一再听到老人家说:我老了,没有用了……

On 19-5-2012 2.30pm-4.30pm, my volunteers and me were conducting our Elderly program at Blk 2 Hougang void deck. This is an independent program which is form by a group of independ volunteers and donners named as HappyAngel. My purpose of having this program is to see the elderly feel like an happy angel and when they back home will relate the happiness to others around them, let every elderly in Singapore can live like an happy angel. Finally, we will see the Happy angel all among us in the whole of Singapore and is not just listen to the elderly keep saying : I am old , I am useless……

总理当天于4点左右突然驾到活动会场,受到老人家热烈欢迎,总理也的确笑容可掬,和蔼亲切.我乐见这温馨的一幕.可是,隔天早报的错误报导,令我很惊讶,致电向记者查问之后,让我更惊讶的是,原来是有后港基层人员打电话要报馆刊登那句错误的话. 我相信总理并不知道后港基层的这个举动,烦请总理明查.

On around 4pm that day, the sudden arrival of our Prime Minster at our program was welcome by a group of the elderly during that time, our PM is gentle with smile with all the elderly there, the atmosphere was so warm at the stage of his arrival, but on the next day, LianHe Zao Bao had a wrongly published which caused a miss leading report which lead me to a shock and called up the publisher to question about the publishing on the paper, to my surprise is that there is some one from the grassroot who had called to the publisher to add in the wrongly publishing sentence to miss lead the readers, I beleived our PM is not awared of this act from the grassroot and hope the PM will investigate on this matter.

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To SPP: Don't oppose the Bishan nursing home

The Ministry of Health plans to build a nursing home at Bishan Street 13. This is a good thing and it should be welcome. Too often, Singaporeans are found complaining that the current government is not doing enough for the elderly and the poor. I would, therefore, expect that a decision to build a nursing home would therefore be welcome.

However, as in the past, residents living near the affected area are unhappy with the idea of a nursing home being built in the vicinity of their homes. Whilst welcoming the idea of a nursing home, these residents are not happy that it would be in their own backyard. What's wrong with my fellow Singaporeans? Why such selfishness?

To be fair, it has been reported that some residents welcome the idea. Besides, those individuals that are opposed to the building of the nursing home might well be in the minority. But, the disconcerting fact is that this is not the first time that residents living in a particular locality have opposed the building of a facility that would have served a larger communal goal. Why is the narrow-minded asset-enhancement mentality so entrenched in us that we are so troubled by worthwhile welfare projects cropping us near our housing estates?

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PAP gripes about media bias too: SPH journalist Bertha Henson, 30 May 2012
Explaining that writing headlines is a skill, Ms Henson, a highly-respected mentor to many young journalists, also gave her take on what would have made better headlines.
“The safest route for a sub-editor to take is to write what is known as a “label” headline – unfocused, ambiguous.

So maybe a headline like: PAP and WP lock horns on Png’s NCMP comments…or WP responds to PAP charges,” she wrote.
Complaints about photos and headlines don’t just come from the opposition parties, she said.

The People’s Action Party apparently complains about media bias too.

“I’ve had to face the ire of PAP heavyweights who complain about unflattering pictures or supposedly misleading headlines during past polls or the amount of acreage given to the opposition. Full story

Mr Low Thia Khiang

I share the editorial writer’s view that ‘anyone who claims to promote the idea of a First World democracy should take care to uphold its institutions, including the media’ (‘Fallout from the Hougang showdown’; yesterday).

At the by-election public rally last Thursday, I said: ‘The media is a potentially powerful tool for or against certain political parties. Therefore, it is imperative that the media must become a reliable source of information for the people, independent from the strong influence of the Government… We must not allow the media to be used by the Government as a political tool.’

At the press conference last Saturday night, I reiterated that only with an independent media that presents fair and accurate information, can the people make an informed choice of their Member of Parliament.

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SAF Open House desensitizes young minds that killing innocents is OK

All military organisations know that to win wars, you need to have the support of the people at home, and win the hearts of those overseas. As such, there's always a relentless propaganda of sorts from the military, portraying themselves as heroes, saviours and angels of mercy to the public. Nothing can be further from the truth.

What this article is about - This article is basically an anti-war article. My views given will be direct and may rub war propagandists, as well as misguided loyalists to SAF the wrong way. I hold onto the belief that an armed force is supposed to be for defence, not offence. We need to protect our homes and make it safe, not invade other countries or help invade other countries to make their homes unsafe.

The SAF, in the last decade or so, has shifted its objective from a defence force to an offensive force, meddling in the wars of other people. In the process, we have made enemies when there's none in the first place