Monday, 26 November 2012

Our SG Conversation 2

UPDATE - S'pore can't go down 'red vs blue' path: PM Lee

Singapore cannot afford to go down the path of countries like the United States, where most states clearly belong to either the Democrat or Republican camp and the victorious political party has to chose whose interests to represent, said People's Action Party secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong.

"If Singapore had a blue constituency and a red constituency, I think Singapore will be in trouble," said Mr Lee, who was addressing party activists at a seminar this morning, the intra-party version of the ongoing Our Singapore Conversation.

"We have tried to make sure that all our constituencies are about the same colour … because we want all the constituencies to share the same interests. Then we can think together and when you represent Singapore, you represent the whole of Singapore."

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PM Lee’s “red vs blue path” analogy flawed on many levels

“If Singapore had a blue constituency and a red constituency, I think Singapore will be in trouble,” Mr Lee told PAP activists at a morning seminar.

He also said: “We have tried to make sure that all our constituencies are about the same colour — because we want all the constituencies to share the same interests. Then we can think together and when you represent Singapore, you represent the whole of Singapore.”

Unfortunately, PM Lee’s “red vs blue path” analogy is flawed on many levels.

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National Conversation important in govt’s decision making: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday spoke of the need to make choices and trade-offs in the governing of the country.

Speaking to activists from the ruling People’s Action Party at a seminar on Saturday, Mr Lee, who is also the PAP Secretary-General, said this also means updating and revising policies, and keeping them afresh.

Developments around the world make a big difference to Singapore’s future and Mr Lee feels it is therefore important to pay attention to external trends, like the growth of India and China, and the disputes in the South China Sea

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Sim Ann heads to China for Our Singapore Conversation dialogues

Sim Ann heads to China for Our Singapore Conversation dialogues
Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of Education) Sim Ann, who is a member of Our Singapore Conversation Committee, will be in China for two dialogues.

On November 22, the dialogue will be held in Shanghai at 7pm at the Singapore Consulate. On November 23, another dialogue will be held in Beijing at 7pm at the Singapore Embassy.

A series of Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) dialogues have been held as part of efforts to reach out to Singaporeans abroad. The first of the series of overseas dialogues began in London on November 3. It saw more than 30 Singaporeans from all over United Kingdom coming together to participate in the dialogue.

Most of the participants were professionals and students based in London. Some had travelled from other parts of UK, including Manchester, Warwick, Oxford and Wales to join in the dialogue.

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NATCON Goes To China and PAP Becomes PTP

Alas, why can't political leaders in Singapore realise that dignity, reputation, honour and fame comes not from being demanding and commanding but from being honest, sincere, trustworthy, helpful and forgiving? If they can only
  • lead by example and not talk through their bottom hole; 
  • if they can walk the talk instead of walking the cock; 
  • if they can speak of the real truths instead of the "hard truths", 
then they would not be at a loss now -  embarrassingly flying all the way to China to hold a NATCON (national conversation) !

Isn't it waste of good money and time to send Sim Ann to China to put forth a wayang to show that the government is 'listening'? I fear the day when they start sending other ministers to to all corners of Mother Earth to NAT CON! Then again, with PAP and "within the radius of 200 metre is not within the 200 metres" [Link], what else would PAP not do?

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Emergence of alternative elite

When a storm is brewing, the little creatures will stir, be they in the sea or on land. They are able to sense the coming of a major climatic change. They are more sensitive than any human made instrument or gadget to detect weather or geological phenomena. A political storm is in the making that will bring about great changes in our national landscape. Some have sensed it coming and have started to rise from their slumber.

The last GE saw the surfacing of many new faces that are professionals in their own right, very credible people, to stand for election as an alternative to the present govt. We are now seeing a continuation of this movement, with more elites standing up to offer alternative views that are equally cogent and coherent and sound. This group comprises mainly the ex civil servants or ex establishment.

The latest candidate is in Yeoh Lam Keong, the ex Chief Economist in GIC. He has joined the ranks of Lim Chong Yah, Tommy Koh and Ngiam Tong Dow. The earlier batch of ex’s is already in the political parties, the likes of Tony Tan, Hazel Poa, Benjamin Pwee, Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian.

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The Conversation isn’t getting very far

I dragged myself, Saturday morning, to a session of the Singapore Conversation, my thoughts swinging between This is stupid, I’ll be wasting my time and I should at least see what one is like.

It was a Stage 2 event, meaning that it was to build upon the conversations of the previous month or two. From those sessions, the organisers had distilled the sentiments expressed into the following themes, and a introductory paper was passed around stating them:
I would like to see a Singapore . . .
  • With more kampong spirit
  • With strong families
  • Where life feels more fulfilling
  • With a strong Singaporean core
  • That is affordable
  • With many definitions of success
  • Where we can grow old with dignity
  • Where we take better care of the less fortunate
  • Where government does less and society does more

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Time to get on with the discussion

The trouble is, aren't we supposed to be having a national conversation about where this country is heading and what it might look like 20 years from now? This, alas, does not seem to be on many minds.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, charged with spearheading the initiative, has a challenge on his hands. With so many more immediate and interesting topics to talk about, getting people to focus on longer-term issues is proving more of a mountain to climb than anyone might have imagined.

Participants at the first few discussions organised by the Our Singapore Conversation committee have been asked to ponder the kind of society they want and to frame their view as newspaper headlines they would like to read in the future, an approach that naturally resonates with me as a newsman.

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Singapore in 2022: Look at Plums to Quench the Thirst

National consultative exercises have taken place before. So taking a leaf from the past, the party decides to have mass chit-chat sessions with the populace.

However, mass chit-chat sessions could be disastrous if not handled properly. If too many angry people participate, the sessions could turn confrontational. Nor would it do to have intelligent people asking awkward questions or harping on the same old problems that are impossible to be erased in the next few years. Inviting the right people is the key.

Moreover, people must be made to think less of the present and more of the future. They need to forget the current difficulties and focus further ahead. They must talk about the future and not the present. By asking them to think and discuss what kind of society and place they want the party to deliver in 2022, it gives them hope amidst their misery. It also makes them feel they have a role in forging the new vision. Naturally, the party, by being the initiator, becomes the beacon of that hope.

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Thinkers 'should join conversation'

Known for speaking his mind on national policies after his retirement from the Civil Service, former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow yesterday called on academics in tertiary institutions here to join the fray on public discourse.

Speaking at the 3rd China-India-Singapore dialogue on higher education hosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS), the NUS Pro-Chancellor challenged the Singapore-based academics among the 160-strong audience - which included academics from overseas institutions - to "help the State to ask the right questions".

Mr Ngiam, 75, argued that this is key to the Republic achieving sustainable economic growth. Rather than boosting population numbers, what Singapore needs to do is to increase its knowledge base - and, in that regard, universities have to do more than just teach "skills and technical knowledge".

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Calling the thinkers for Natcon

My earlier post calling for the elite to step forward to share their brilliant minds for the good of the nation is likely to prove in vain. Who am I to make such a call but a noise in the wilderness of insanity. I am pleasantly surprised to read in the media that Ngiam Tong Dow has stepped up to the podium to make the same call.

This time he was addressing the academia, the place called Ivory Tower, where brains are made of ivory unlike the peasants that are made of mud. Ngiam is inviting the intellectuals, the thinkers, huddling in their Ivory Tower to speak up, to share their precious wisdom and knowledge with the govt for a better future for all citizens.

Then I was slammed right in the face by the comments coming out of the Ivory Tower. Read these words very very carefully. I am quoting them from the Today paper. Eugene Tan, the SMU law professor, ‘cited the fear factor as a possible deterrent for academics to speak out.’ My eyeballs are rolling. Eugene also said, ‘some senior faculty “frown upon their colleagues being involved”, …They regard such involvement as purely non academic and not in keeping with the academic norms.”’

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Opposition politicians can play pivotal role in national conversation


Opposition politicians can play a pivotal role in national conversation dialogues ("WP leaders won't join national conversation"; last Friday).

There have been many good suggestions and views given during the Our Singapore Conversation dialogues, and the participation of opposition leaders could have made it more fruitful.

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim need not worry about whether its leaders' views are assumed to be representative of the party or otherwise; what matters most is the sincerity to engage the Government.

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Is the National Conversation a charade or parody?

There has been so much publicity about the over-hyped National Conversation, a brainchild of PM Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally, that there is a danger that it is bordering on the ad nauseam. The reason is that the Committee spearheading the National Conversation is so heavily loaded with PAP political office holders, headed by Minister Heng Swee Kiat, that it gives the unmistakable impression that it is just a PAP government show to appease the rising anger of the electorate over a litany of unpopular PAP policies among which unrestrained immigration and import of foreign talents take prominence.

The PAP wallahs vowed blindly that the National Conversation must be as inclusive as possible but only that they gave a lie to the word inclusive because no opposition representatives or bloggers were appointed to the Committee. The Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who is on the Committee, gave a far-fetched excuse that the National Conversation was not meant to be "partisan". Only PAP supporters will believe him.

How can it be called a National Conversation when an important and essential segment of the society such as the opposition parties and bloggers is excluded? Would it not be a misnomer? With the Committee heavily planted with PAP political office holders, would it not be reasonable for the non pro-PAP public to view this as a "wayang kulit" (Indonesian puppet show) and that whatever decision taken by the National Conversation is a foregone conclusion of pseudo support of unpopular PAP government policies?

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Our SG Conversation Citizen Dialogue @ National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre (27 Oct 2012)

Many participants spoke about the importance of Values in all that we do, as a country, as a community, and as individuals. It was heartwarming to hear so many participants speak about wanting to help build a Singapore society with Compassion, Graciousness, Empathy, Inclusiveness. There was recognition that everyone had a role to play in developing and building the “Singapore Soul”, from individuals reaching out to neighbours and friends in need of help, communities coming together to celebrate our symbols of Singapore culture, and government institutions being more caring and flexible in administering social support schemes. One participant put it across aptly when he brought up the Mr Kiasu comic he used to read and said that it was time we said “Goodbye Mr Kiasu, Hello Mr Gracious!”

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SG Conversation to move into thematic discussions next month

The national conversation will move into its next phase of discussions in the later part of November.

Committee member of the Our Singapore Conversation, Mr Lawrence Wong, said that in the next few weeks, the committee will start looking at some of the themes that have emerged from the dialogue sessions held so far.

Mr Wong, who is the Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communications and the Arts, gave this update at a citizen dialogue session on Saturday.

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Engaging bloggers and non-mainstream outlets

The Government is looking at changing its communications approach to take into account the fact that Singaporeans are turning to multiple sources of news online.

Signalling that the authorities are looking at how to engage bloggers and non-mainstream outlets as part of the news ecosystem, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday: "Certainly there is a lot more diversity in which news is being spread, news is being received. People are doing a lot more things differently, reading news from different sources and so on ... therefore the whole-of-government communications will have to be restructured to ensure that it takes into account the varied landscape."

Dr Yaacob was speaking to reporters at the Petempatan Melayu Sembawang Mosque where he attended prayers and distributed Korban meat.

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Effectiveness of national conversation discussed at political forum

The ongoing Our Singapore Conversation came under scrutiny at a forum involving tertiary students and representatives from Singapore's ruling party and opposition parties.

The ongoing Our Singapore Conversation came under scrutiny at a forum involving tertiary students and representatives from Singapore's ruling party and opposition parties.

Issues raised at the forum include whether it is representative of Singaporeans from all walks of life.

The forum, organised by the Political Association from the National University of Singapore, is an annual event for tertiary students from various universities to engage politicians in Singapore.

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60 give views at first Our-SG Conversation

Citizen Dialogue Session - ''Our Singapore Conversation'' which was held at NLB, with Minister Heng Swee Keat and Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin in attendance..Photo: Ernest chua. 13 Oct 2012.

From having more empathy and graciousness in society, to becoming more accepting of the elderly, and having 'Singaporean' listed as a race on identity cards - these were among the issues raised by participants at the Our Singapore Conversation citizen dialogue.

Held at the National Library earlier this morning, it was attended by about 60 people from all walks of life, including taxi drivers, professionals, full-time national servicemen, university undergraduates and retirees.

The session to canvass views on Singapore's future mainly saw participants suggesting that Singaporeans' values be improved.

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WP leaders will not participate in citizen dialogues

Workers' Party (WP) leaders will not participate in citizen dialogues under the ongoing national conversation, but its Chairman Sylvia Lim said other party members can attend, if invited in their personal capacities.

None of the three Opposition party members invited to the first national conversation dialogue, held on Oct 13, attended the session. Besides Ms Lim, the other two were Hougang Member of Parliament (MP) Png Eng Huat and National Solidarity Party Secretary-General Hazel Poa.

At a National University of Singapore forum on Oct 17, Non-Constituency MP and WP Treasurer Yee Jenn Jong clarified that both Ms Lim and Mr Png were invited in their personal capacities. Ms Poa had said during the forum she was unable to attend due to work commitments and hoped to reschedule a date to participate.

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S'poreans talking more about values in Our SG conversation

Participants at the Social Narratives

One common thread that has emerged from dialogue sessions of Our Singapore Conversation so far is the desire to have a society that values kindness and graciousness.

That was the observation of Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lawrence Wong, having attended several of the sessions.

Mr Wong, who is also the Senior Minister of State for Education, was speaking to reporters after a youth dialogue on Saturday.

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Dismal response at Our SG Conversation

This facebook page was created on August 7. Almost a month later counting me as well, it had managed only 724 likes. Something like this even 7240 likes is too few.

The folks in charge need to work much harder, but how would they go about it? Why bother to like here when you can just go and like the PM's page?

These guys have a steep learning curve about social media. Keep trying

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Is there a need to stage a conversation?

Recently, Singaporeans were urged to participate in a national conversation. This is actually nothing new. It has been done before in S21 and the Remaking of Singapore.

From the looks of things so far, the exercise is not going to be very much different from its predecessors. The lives of Singaporeans would, therefore, not be expected to improve very much as the problems have already existed for some time and have not really been adequately addressed.

There is really no need to stage any kind of national conversation because Singaporeans have been engaging in political conversations all the time. You can hear or read them on the internet, in homes and in the coffeeshops. However, the PAP prefers the conversation to be carried out in their own way so that they can be seen listening to the people.

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National ConversationS

I was interviewed by a local newspaperman yesterday, and he asked me if a project that I was involved in, was part of the National Conversation. I said to him that like many other Singaporeans  I have always believed in conversations, for I'm sure that only through a robust dialogue, can we decide on a common destiny.  I also believe that every generation, has to have dialogues to envision the type of country we want, for us and our future generations.

But did this conversation start only start a few months ago? I don't think so.

It is a conversation from way before the last General Election. There were many issues Singaporeans were talking about, and it was not about rooftop gardens and senior Olympics, but about immigration, overcrowding, income divide, public housing crunch, inequality and many such issues. And it's not that the PAP Government did not hear these murmur from the ground - they did - which is why the PM offered his apology to Singaporeans at the last GE saying, '...if we didn't quite get it right I'm sorry, but we will try and do better the next time".

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Civil society leaders, SDP call for political change

Civil society and the SDP came together to discuss the future direction of Singapore and to provide a counter conversation to the one held by the PAP Government.

Several of the speakers criticised the National Conversation as being staged and insincere in wanting to listen to the views of the people. They were speaking at the National Conversation Roundtable organised by the SDP at the Quality Hotel last Saturday.

Ms Teo Soh Lung reminded the audience that S21, an initiative carried under the Goh Chok Tong prime ministership and led by then PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, was nothing but talk.

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continued from: Our SG Conversation 1