Looking Back On 2013

Chinese character "霾" sums up 2013: Zaobao readers

After three weeks of voting, Lianhe Zaobao readers have chosen "霾" (haze) as the Chinese character to sum up 2013. For the third year running, Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese flagship daily of media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), has organised "Character of the Year" (字述一年)- a review of the year through 10 Chinese characters via a readers' poll to determine which character best characterises major local and international events of 2013.

Ms Han Yong May, News Editor of Lianhe Zaobao, said: "This being the third year we're organising the poll, we are doing it on a bigger scale and across more platforms. We tried out new ways to conceptualise the project, write the articles, produce the online videos and design the webpage to attract more participants."

She added: "More people took part in this year's voting. This goes to show that our new attempts have attracted more people to participate in our project. It is challenging to sum up a year's events with just one word, but this process lets us reflect on the past and the future, and is a worthwhile venture."

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4 reasons that made 2013 great

It's the time of the year to celebrate the incredible wonder of life. Despite the hardships and challenges that abound everywhere, there is much in the human spirit that inspires, and makes the passing of the year an occasion to count our blessings

It was a challenging year for Singapore, but there was also plenty to celebrate.

In this festive spirit, I can count at least four reasons why 2013 was a great year.

The list is a personal one because though it is about the big things that have happened here, I have also been fortunate to have had a personal experience with each of these developments.

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2013 a year of some turbulence for Singapore courts

Suspected "Messiah" hacker James Raj leaving the Subordinate Courts on November 12, 2013. (TODAY/Ooi Boon Keong)

2013 was a year of some turbulence for the courts.

It started with the acquittal of the former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief and convictions of two others - the former head of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and a former law professor.

And in the later months of the year, more high-profile cases came -- from alleged hackings, murders, to the riot at Little India and the charges that followed.

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The Year In Images

Responding to questions on the by-election outcome of Saturday January 26, Ng Eng Hen haughtily dismissed the notion that the result is a report card of the ruling party's performance. Their candidate did perform to script: "Before (my wife and I) moved into our house, in our combined bank accounts... we had $11.50"

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once said "People support CPF cuts because there are no protest (sic) outside the Parliament." From his perspective, the guys at Hong Lim green were just having a picnic.

Episode 7 of the Series 2 Idhayam Pesugirathu talk show demonstrated what a no holds barred National Conversation is really about.

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TOP 10 2013, TNE

10. Kovan Double Murder, July. Senior staff sergeant from the police, Iskandar Rahmat, is suspected of killing a father-and-son duo, over either relationship or monetary issues. A scene was created just outside the MRT station with the roads bloodied by a dragged body. http://bit.ly/1gfTtso

9. Yong Vui Kong gets life sentence and 15 strokes of the cane instead of death, in November, following a legal reform that introduced the discretionary death-penalty regime, following numerous petitions from activists. His lawyer was M Ravi. Singapore had had the mandatory death penalty regulation on drug trafficking. http://bit.ly/1dOHBLA

8. Singapore is alleged to have spied on Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Wikileaks, in November. http://bit.ly/1ipIu2P

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What is the greatest blooper of 2013?

2013 shall be remembered as a very eventful year till the very last day with the massive jam caused by the most expensive crooked expressway in the world. This is kind of hard to beat really. But through the years there were several other outstanding events that really shook this little island like a little tsunami.

Let me recall, the two high level corruption cases involving top civil servants when money was still not enough to stop them from being corrupt. In both cases it wasn’t money that led them astray. This may call for a rethink on what else is needed to keep officers in public service clean short of recruiting monks and priests for the job. 

This was followed closely with a long list of luminaries involved in underage sex with a nymph. Quite shocking that this happened in such a scale and involving so many prominent people, including the scions of famous clans.

The courts really were doing roaring businesses with God’s money being passed around in circles that were called round trippings. And poor God had to apologise to his dear messenger for the mess and putting him under the authority of human judges. The headless body and the numerous crimes were pale in comparison to these events and the Little India riot that saw policemen running for their lives and their vehicles overturned and burnt. It turned out that the culprit was alcohol. 

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Shocking videos from Singapore in 2013

There several videos from Singapore that have definitely shocked the nation this year. (Getty Images)

Remember the man who spit at a lady at Woodland’s bus interchange? Or the “samurai” who scared MRT train commuters?

The viral videos of the incidents definitely shocked Singapore this year. Now take a look back at what happened to them and other events that made a big impression on the general public.

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The year started with much excitement as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a by-election in Punggol East for the seat vacated by PAP Member of Parliament Michael Palmer in December 2012. Set on 26 January, the Punggol East by-election was the second by-election to take place in eight months, after the May 2012 Hougang by-election in which Workers’ Party (WP) Png Eng Huat defeated PAP’s Desmond Choo to retain the WP stronghold.

Unlike the outcome of the Hougang by-election, Lee Li Lian’s win in Punggol East took many by surprise, not so much because the WP candidate emerged victor in a multi-cornered race contested by three other political parties, but because her vote share was a good 10.5% higher than that of PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon.

Any delusion PAP might have about the 2011 General Election outcome as a “freak election result” was shattered by its shocking defeat in Punggol East. It seemed apparent that the need for the party to change and to relook its policies was finally drummed into PAP leadership after that by-election.

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A HAZY 2013

The haze came and gone in June, leaving in its trail disgruntled Singaporeans. At its peak, the Pollutant Standards Index hit 401. Even as many stepped up to distribute masks and purifiers or house those who were affected medically, the G was a convenient scapegoat for the discomforts. A stop-work order was never issued, millions of masks were pushed out to residents and retailers (belatedly, some argue), and geopolitical pressure was applied.

The G must have wondered: damned if it does, damned if it does not.

Six months later, and the smoke has barely settled in Little India. Arrests were made, deportations were carried out, and a committee of inquiry has been commissioned. It is reductive to identify a single causal factor for the riot, but it is nonetheless a timely reminder of the one million foreign workers in our midst, and more importantly a reminder of their rights and welfare. Present proposals to house some migrant workers at nearby offshore islands, or to provide alternative recreation spots “away from residents” – moves advancing the view that they are a part from us – are ludicrous as they are depressing.

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Singapore’s 10 ‘most alarming’ statistics for 2013

Tourists come to look for jobs? Apparently, an increasing number of foreigners are coming as tourists to look for a job in Singapore. For example, tourist arrivals from one ASEAN country – the Philippines – had an increase of 24.5% to 678,000 in 2011, from 2010. Just for the first 6 months of this year alone, the number is already 358,000. Media reports say that such tourists have been able to extend their tourist visa to as long as 4 months to secure a job.

Foreign workers’ levies hit record high? Foreign workers’ levies and fees are estimated to hit $3 billion for the year. It was $2.6 billion in 2011. This may cause prices charged to consumers to increase, and arguably also depress wages for both foreigners and Singaporeans.

Most expensive monthly public transport pass in the world? After adjusting for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) using the same PPP in the Fare Review Mechanism Committee (FRMC) report, the monthly cost for unlimited travel on public transport passes in Hong Kong, London, New York and Tokyo, is S$72 plus, S$162, S$116 and S$100 respectively. This makes them about 60, 15, 39 and 47% cheaper than Singapore’s monthly pass at S$190.  The 2 transport operators have applied for fare increases

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2013 will be over soon but not our problems

The world was supposed to have ended a year ago. Not only it didn’t end but life & living were more challenging. Almost every countries experienced slowing economy, rising unemployment & rising costs of living Singapore was no exception except we continue to bring in foreigners to compete with locals. Jobs were created but with majority filled by foreigners (PRs are foreigners) & locals have to scratch the bottom.

It’s amazing that for every 5 persons, 2 are foreigners, 1 a PR & the last two are Singaporeans. We are fast becoming strangers in our own country. Another fast development is that foreigners who were educated here, went on to work, settle down & became PRs.

A fair numbers became citizens when their babies arrived. Our Singaporean Sons have to serve 2years of NS & after they finish their education, they are 4 years late in working experiences. Alas, who is to protect our Singaporean Sons who protect the country while foreigners feast?

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2013 review part one – a year in justice

Singapore has never enjoyed a strong reputation on justice or the rule of law. As long ago as 1990 the New York Bar Association wrote of “a government that has been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of its political interests”. A look back on some of the biggest cases (and non-cases) of the year reveals little to suggest that the historically subservient relationship between the courts and the government has changed for the better. The (ab)use of legal proceedings to silence critics remains an ever-present, but this year has also seen troubling developments with the government at times appearing to be beyond the law. Is this “a year in justice” or “a year of injustice”? You decide.

Probably the most significant cases of injustice this year are the arbitrarydeportations of those acquitted for involvement in arguably the year’s defining event – the Little India riots. The concept that someone is “innocent until proven guilty“, enshrined in Singapore’s constitution, was no match for K Shanmugam’s pursuit of “cheap justice” wherein bypassing the rule of law was apparently justified in an effort to keep costs down.

But this was a mistake, one which backfired on probably the world’s most expensive law minister when the judicial void created by the absence of any findings of guilt was filled by damaging accusations made by those deported against the Singapore Police Force’s investigatory processes. This is a story which continues to run, withallegations of abuse in custody now coming to light – an all too common occurence in politically sensitive cases.

related: 2013 review part two – a year of U-turns

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A government in dilemma

A government in dilemma

The year began for the PAP government on a dismal note with its trouncing in the Punggol East by-election. And it is ending on the back of the unexpected and unfortunate Little India riot, where the cost is still being counted.

In between these big events, the government muddled through with no clear shape or direction. It veered one way, then another, marched a step forward, then peddled back.

If the intent was to nullify critics by sending mixed signals, by appeasing and then denying, then the government succeeded brilliantly.

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If there is one word to sum up Singapore's experience this year, it would be Vulnerability.

2013 is the year the People's Action Party lost whatever it might have retained of the lustre of invincibility.

In January, it had already lost a seat in the Punggol East by-election and was trying to beat a dignified retreat from the backlash unleashed by the Population White Paper's conclusion about preparing for a population of 6.9 million. By the end of the year, it wasn't just the PAP but the entire Singapore system of governance that had shown its vulnerability.

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A look back at Singapore's first riot in more than 40 years
A look back at Singapore's first riot in more than 40 years

The riot at Little India on 8 December was the first in more than 40 years.

Sparked by the death of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, the riot involved some 400 foreign nationals, left 39 officers injured, and saw 25 vehicles damaged or destroyed.

In response, Little India was made a proclaimed area under the Public Order (Preservation) Act the weekend after. 28 rioters have been charged and 57 people repatriated.

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4 reasons that made 2013 great

ST managing editor Han Fook Kwang

Straits Times managing editor Han Fook Kwang wrote an opinion piece yesterday (’4 reasons that made 2013 great’, 29 Dec) where he talked about the things that made 2013 great and that enabled Singaporeans to count our blessings.

He wrote, “It’s the time of the year to celebrate the incredible wonder of life.” “Despite the hardships and challenges that abound everywhere, there is much in the human spirit that inspires, and makes the passing of the year an occasion to count our blessings.”

He said despite the fact 2013 was a “challenging” year for Singapore, there was plenty to celebrate. He did not say what the “challenging” issues were that Singapore encountered in 2013.

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From Baey Koh Tin to Tharman

MP Baey Yam Keng on an interesting yet unfortunate occurrence in Tampines town

Story of the soiled diaper continues. With GM of Tampines Town Council, we brought the diaper to visit all 11 units of the column where the diaper was found.

Three units have babies. I think we managed to identify which unit was the culprit. Without concrete evidence, I could only warn the maid not to do so. Hope that will born home the message.

Will monitor the situation.

MP Baey Yam Keng claims he is aware some CCC members had voted for the opposition. Isn't our votes secret?

The Online Citizen, 3 Feb 2014

“So, right now I would say that I am happy that grassroots leaders would help me, you know, in reaching out, but I will not deny that it’s not the best, the most effective way… I hope I don’t come across as dismissing that, ‘Oh, I just take it…’. It’s not so, ok?

It is the system now, yes, it doesn’t mean it won’t change. In fact, right now from what we see, people working in PA are very sensitive about, ‘Oh, you know, you’re a political person, therefore I do not want to be seen too close to you.’ There are a lot of challenges now because I think the landscape is changing.

It’s ok, we have to adapt to that. And even among the whole CCC, I’m very sure, I’m 100 per cent sure that not everyone is a PAP member. I’m very sure there are people who voted for opposition. And you have to take my word for that because I know more than you on CCC.” - MP Baey Yam Keng at Young Guns Forum on 29 Jan 2014 Full story

Baey Yam Keng - a startling revelation

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Tampines restaurant that gave discount to PAP MP Baey Yam Keng for his nasi padang has closed

Has MP Baey given Al Madina the kiss of death? What do you think?


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What started out as an innocent Facebook posting has turned into something controversial so much so that even Wanbao also wanted to report on it

It started when Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng made a Facebook posting on Wednesday (11 Dec), saying that he had a nasi padang meal at Tampines Blk 475 coffee shop:

Then one netizen Esther Chia asked Mr Baey how much he spent for the nasi padang dish. Mr Baey replied that it cost him $2.50. He said he eats this “once in a long while”.

Others commented that it was very cheap. Then another netizen, Fernando Fonseca, apparently went to the same coffee shop to order the same dish with the same items and he reported that it cost him $6.00

related: The $2.50 Nasi Padang Furore

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MPs get hands dirty nabbing litterbugs

Two Members of Parliament have been pounding the ground at their wards for a different kind of grassroots work, as part of a push to stop high-rise littering.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) picked up a used sanitary pad and soiled diapers in their respective wards recently, and have been trying to hunt down the culprits.

Mr Baey, meanwhile, was spurred to act after he saw a bunched-up diaper lying on a grass patch between the block where he conducts his weekly Meet-the-People sessions, and the adjacent multistorey carpark.

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The recent “nasi padang” incident involving Baey Yam Keng tells a very different story about the standards office holders in Singapore measure themselves against

Mr Baey received a discount on his nasi padang meal (knowingly or unknowingly) and then tried to justify it by saying the stall was new, the stall owner wanted to reach out to more customers, the stall owner wanted to give a special deal to senior citizens and students and finally, the stall owner wanted to do his part to fulfil his “corporate social responsibility”.

Mr Baey also pointed out that it was “really out of simple goodwill and respect for my work and service in the community” that the stall holder gave him a discount for the meal consisting of 3 dishes and rice. Given the high salary and the numerous benefits that come with this part-time job, one could hardly call their work a service to the community.

While a meal discount is not a big deal, how the PAP MP responds to receiving one speaks volumes of what he thinks of his role as a public servant.


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MP Baey Yam Keng: I am surprised and flattered by the interest in my "selfies"
Mr Baey posed on June 12 for a self-shot in his Tampines Town Council polo shirt. -- PHOTO BY: BAEY YAM KENG
As a politician, Mr Baey Yam Keng is no stranger to public scrutiny

But the MP for Tampines GRC wasn't quite prepared for the sudden buzz surrounding the "selfies" - or self-taken photos of his face - which he posted on his Instagram account.

Mr Baey, who turns 43 on Aug 31, was crowned "selfie crush" by a pop-culture website called Popspoken on Aug 5. It collated what it called the MP's "hottest 10 selfies".

"I was quite surprised and a bit flattered that someone took enough notice of my selfies," he told The Straits Times. "I appreciate it as I thought it's quite a positive article."


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MP Baey Yam Keng takes on senior advisory role at Hill & Knowlton Strategies

Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng said on Thursday he will be taking on a more senior advisory role in the PR company Hill & Knowlton Strategies from 1 December.

Confirming this with Channel NewsAsia, he said this will allow him to spend more time with his constituents and also with his family.

As a senior advisor at Hill & Knowlton, Mr Baey said he will be involved in client contacts but would not be involved in the business management and day-to-day operations of the company.

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Pause And Reflect

Baey Yam Keng (born in the year of the dog) got a lot of flak after telling Singaporeans to reflect upon themselves following foreign talent crap Sun Xu's odious observation that our senior citizens are dogs ('We need to reflect upon ourselves, are we the way they described?").

Now Senior Minister of State for Education, and Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong is using the same "r" word: "we should really pause and reflect, and ask ourselves whether this is the kind of society we want." He was weighing in on the public relations disasters of (1) the Prince William wayang, and (2) the con in the national conversations.

Feigning "some heaviness in my heart", Wong expressed dismay that the politically staged events were politicised. That sentence doesn't even make sense. Next, Wong will be telling us he's not in politics to practise politics.

I know what it's like for a family to struggle: PAP's Koh Poh Koon

“I know what it is like, when all we could afford for a family of seven was a single kuning fish and some porridge. My mom will strip the fish bare of all the flesh, mash it up, mix it in the porridge… and that’s all we get for a meal.

“For her, she will just take the bare bones, the head and the tail because she believed in giving and saving the rest for us. There were times when we could not even afford this," he said to a mixed crowd of people in their 20s and 30s and more elderly folk.

"And those were the days when a tin of biscuits given by my uncle will be the ration for the family for a couple of weeks,” he told the crowd, while adding that he wasn’t relating this to raise eyebrows or create headlines.

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PAP’s losing candidate in the Punggol East by-election held last January, Dr Koh Poh Koon, has resumed his fortnightly visits to HDB homes in the ward. He has been visiting the homes since a few months ago

Dr Koh famously lost to WP’s Lee Li Lian in a four-cornered fight, which was triggered when the previous MP, PAP’s Michael Palmer, resigned over an affair with a female People’s Association staff.

To enhance his chances of capturing Punggol East at the next general elections which must be held by 2016, Dr Koh has launched a voucher scheme for the needy residents there.

A reminder to all punggol east residents not to fall for this vote buying scheme whcih is found in third world countries and its mostly illegal in most developed countries


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In an interview with My Paper, Dr Koh Poh Koon, the losing PAP candidate in the Punggol East By election, reflected on what caused him to lose the election

He expressed that one of the worst things for his political campaign was his remark that "everyone has a car".

The comment, caught on camera, was quickly spread online and used to show that the Colorectal surgeon was severely out of touch with the regular Singaporean.

He had said "Everybody has a car, I have 2, I drive one, my wife drives one, we are both professionals, we need to travel."

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Dr Koh on his Punggol East defeat
Dr Koh on his Punggol East defeat

Finally, the defeated PAP candidate in the Punggol East by-elections has given one of the reasons why he lost.  Colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon – who has no problem calling himself the “arsehole doctor” - diagnosed his defeat this way: being parachuted into a constituency that was quite foreign to him.

That can be interpreted as the grassroots people there not giving him the 100 per cent support he needed. It says something about the protective nature of  local politics here and the disconnect between the PAP headquarters and the people on the ground.

Of course, there were other factors: First, Koh is a newcomer. Being a new entrant in politics is never easy, let alone standing in a single seat constituency.

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Needy Punggol East residents to benefit from voucher scheme

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (C) and Dr Koh Poh Koon, adviser of the Punggol East Citizens’ Consultative Committee Development and Welfare Fund (R) hand out vouchers for needy families at Rivervale Plaza. (TODAY/Ooi Boon Keong)

Some 400 lower income households in Punggol East are set to get more help with purchasing daily needs.

The Community Vouchers Programme has been extended to Rivervale Plaza, with 17 merchants coming on board.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, handed out the vouchers to 15 families on Sunday

related: Retail food outlets at Rivervale Plaza join scheme to help lower income households

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Tin Pei Ling goes after resident who threw sanitary pad 20131027-131449.jpg
A case of high-rise littering raised the ire of the ward’s MP – so much so that she decided to hunt the errant resident down

When the MP for Marine Parade GRC Ms Tin Pei-Ling discovered that a resident had been disposing tampons out of the window, she spared no effort to look for the culprit – even though it meant combing through 7 floors worth of households.

Last week, the Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that residents had complained of ‘diapers’ being frequently found at the foot of Blk 444 at Tampines Street 42. The final straw came when their MP, Mr Baey Yam Keng recovered a diaper that was still ‘warm’, prompting him to search over 12 floors to catch the diaper-throwing culprit.

It therefore came as a surprise when Ms Tin Pei-Ling was caught in the same sticky situation – but with tampons this time.

Tin Pei Ling goes after resident who threw sanitary pad
NEA will be notified if the situation worsens

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Tin Pei Ling explains how she 'discovered' the soiled sanitary pad

Ms Tin Pei Ling being interviewed by RazorTV multimedia journalist, Olivia Chang, over the high-rise litter incident

What started as an investigation on a case of public disturbance led Ms Tin Pei Ling to another find - soiled sanitary pads lying on the floor.

After the Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao had reported about Ms Tin's misadventure with the high-rise litter, the MP for Marine Parade GRC sought to clarify what really transpired, and her approach towards such inconsiderate behaviour.

In a post on her Facebook page, Ms Tin related: "First, it was a confluence of events that led me to "discover" the pad. I certainly was not on stakeout!"

Tin Pei Ling goes after resident who threw sanitary pad
A day in the life of Tin Pei Ling
Softly but forcefully, she wants to be her own person
Pei Ling resigns from Ernst & Young
Life after GE: Tin Pei LingTin

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It has been 3 years since the backlash against her. One of my friend who was from Ernst and Young (EnY) used to work alongside with her before she was fielded as PAP candidate in 2011.

Although he thought she would make a good political candidate, he was surprised that Ms Tin was chosen as PAP could field better govt sector candidates from MOM, MND or MOE as they have a better grasp of these policies so their learning curve won't be so steep during rallies or press interviews.

Nevertheless, he said that in EnY, she was a go-getter and has strong motivational powers to inspire people to bring out the best in teamwork and was a great salesperson in EnY. Perhaps PAP had some reasons for fielding her instead of some govt officer from MINDEF, MOM, MND or MOE.

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MP Tin Pei Ling has agreed to donate her famous Kate Spade bag for Aware’s fundraising event

Her Kate Spade bag will be auctioned on 10 Sep at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel during this year’s Aware annual fundraising event.

Ms Tin said, “In the course of my work in the community, I have met many women, from single mothers to the elderly, who need help and support. I hope that the proceeds from this bag will help to sustain Aware’s crisis Helpline, Sexual Assault Befrienders Service, Legal Clinic and counselling services for women. These are laudable efforts to help women in Singapore.”

“This particular bag received much publicity during the last GE, and I hope to put it to good use. When Aware approached me and asked to put it up for auction, I saw this as an opportunity to raise funds for a very worthy cause.”

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#5 - Tin Pei Ling
Not a very good speaker there...how did she get in again?
That is when the wise sage, MM Lee Kuan Yew,  decides to take a leisurely stroll outside, right at the point when Tin Pei Ling begins to open her mouth in parliament.

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Behind Singapore Ruling Party's Victory, A Rising Star

SINGAPORE, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Singapore's ruling party is celebrating a resounding re-election victory, thanks partly to its economic Tsar, an ethnic Tamil politician whose voter appeal poses an awkward question for its leaders: can a non-Chinese ever become prime minister?

As the People's Action Party (PAP) settles down to another five years in power, the guessing game of who will succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has begun — and the name of Tharman Shanmugaratnam keeps coming up.

The odds of Shanmugaratnam, who is deputy prime minister and finance minister, making it to the top job should be long.

SM Tharman: A stronger and more Cohesive Society
DPM Tharman: "I'm not the man for PM"
DPM Tharman in Focus
Ask DPM Tharman
From Baey Koh Tin to Tharman
Spore pushes for minority race President but not ready for non-Chinese PM
Strong opposition good for party and country
Dominant But Not Dominating

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Although Shanmugaratnam himself had said in July that he was not keen on the job, he did say that Singapore should expect to have a leader from one of the minority groups at some point in time.

Eugene Tan, a law professor at Singapore Management University and a political commentator, said one obstacle for Shanmugaratnam is that he is seen as part of the prime minister's generation, when perhaps ideally a new generation would be coming forward.

"However, if it is assessed that a transitional prime minister is needed while the fourth generation is ready to take over, then ... Tharman is well-positioned to step up," Tan said.

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DPM Tharman’s rally speech is the only reason why people still have hope in PAP

So last night, we saw two seemingly inconsequential rallies from the People’s Action Party (PAP), in two constituencies we deemed “nevermind lah”, in our super awesome GE microsite (have you seen it by the way? If not, you should totally check it out).

The constituencies: Bukit Panjang SMC and Chua Chu Kang GRC.

Of course, it would’ve been easy to write off — after all, there were six other rallies we could have attended and covered heavily — and perhaps many people did, given that the crowd that showed up for this rally maxed out at about 2,000 only.

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Tharman recognised the benefits of a “strong opposition”
Speaking just a month prior to the hustings of May 2011, Mr Tharman recognised the benefits of a “strong opposition”

“Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) treasurer, said that strong opposition is good for both PAP and Singapore during a multi-party forum televised on Channel News Asia,” the Straits Times reported him as having said.

His remarks drew approval from the leader of the WP, Low Thia Khiang. “I think that shows quite a shift in the PAP’s mindset,” Mr Low said, “that they now see that a strong opposition is positive and good for the future of Singapore.”

Has the PAP changed its position as espoused by Mr Tharman? One cannot be sure.

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OPINION: Tharman in the spotlight - Seah Chiang Nee
Malaysia Star, 27 Apr 2013

THIS month, the spotlight in Singapore – quite deservedly – falls on Second Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmu­garatnam. For two hours, Tharman, who joined the Cabinet only nine years ago, gave a polished performance befitting his title as a possible or potential prime minister.

He spoke about the gradual shift of ruling party’s ideology – from centre to centre left – to a new emphasis on social objectives, and more proposed taxation on wealth. Other subjects covered were wide-ranging.

The tone was firmer than the generalities and hedging that the public has been hearing from some leading politicians. Full story

Also read: Lee Hsien Loong scores a nought for political nous - Yawningbread

Finance Minister Tharman upstage his boss PM Lee Hsien Loong with IMF reappointment
Do Tharman make a better Prime Minister than Lee Hsien Loong?

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Singapore’s Second Deputy Prime Minister gives a polished performance in an extensive interview with the media

This month, the spotlight in Singapore – quite deservedly – falls on Second Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmu­garatnam.

For two hours, Tharman, who joined the Cabinet only nine years ago, gave a polished performance befitting his title as a possible or potential prime minister.

He spoke about the gradual shift of ruling party’s ideology – from centre to centre left – to a new emphasis on social objectives, and more proposed taxation on wealth.

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Singapore’s world-class finance man

Our congratulations to Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the first Singapore politician to have won world recognition for his leadership as an outstanding finance minister and contributions to international finance. He has just accepted an invitation to head the International Monetary Fund’s steering committee for another year, that is, until March 22, 2015.

He was appointed chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) for three years in March 2011, and was the first Asian to be given the prestigious position.

Among those who have held the position were Youssef Boutros Ghali, Egypt’s former Minister of Finance, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, who had been Italy’s Economy and Finance Minister, andGordon Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, who chaired the committee for eight years until he became Prime Minister.

related: Who will make a better Prime Minister

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Singapore's Tharman named finance minister of the year

Singapore's Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will receive the Finance Minister of the Year award by Euromoney magazine in Washington on Sunday, local media reported.

The accolade recognizes Tharman's "over-arching role" in shifting Singapore's economic growth model from one dependent on an ever-expanding working population to a steadier platform of increasing productivity, Euromoney said on Saturday.

The shift is taking place even while Singapore's status as an innovative trade and financial services hub to diversified export markets is being maintained.

relatedTharman named finance minister of the year by Euromoney magazine

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S’poreans declare they are ready for non-Chinese prime minister
After his wide-ranging and wisdom-filled interview got published in The Straits Times on April 19, 2013, deputy prime minister Tharman Shamugaratnam has been winning accolades from all quarters in Singapore the last 16 hours.

This is due to some of the never-heard-before ideas put forward by him, which include abolishing the academic caste system caused by the education system, building a more socialist government, allowing more opposition in parliament and encouraging social media to be a check on government policy.

This has led to talk among Singaporeans that Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, a topic that was broached five years ago.

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Singapore leader grades US: 'clearly room to improve'

Singapore's deputy prime minister took a grade-school teacher's approach Saturday to assess the political paralysis in Washington over the US budget and debt ceiling.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, chairman of the International Monetary Fund's steering committee, was asked at an IMF press conference how he saw the US behavior shaking global markets.

"It's a sort of question that requires grading from an elementary school teacher rather than a graduate school professor," Tharman said.

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Two hours with DPM Tharman

Three journalists from The Straits Times interviewed Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last week, and the videos are now online for all to watch.

In the wide ranging interview over two hours, Mr Tharman gamely tackled a slew of questions that had been chosen by readers of ST's current affairs website Singapolitics over a seven day period.

It wasn't easy for the Finance Minister. We made him switch from foreign workers, to politics, back to taxes and the reserves and then to more politics and social media.


ASK DPM THARMAN: The full transcript
ASK DPM THARMAN: Here are the answers


The People's Action Party (PAP) wants to remain a dominant party anchored in society - without dominating in all areas, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

It can do this as an open political party, he said, that galvanises a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions. "I believe we can play a dominant role, retain a dominant position without wanting to completely dominate," DPM Tharman said in an interview with The Straits Times.

"It's in Singapore's interest that you do have a dominant party, but it's got to be one that's open to diversity, welcoming of a responsible opposition."

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Tharman's wishful meritocracy

Tharman's version of meritocracy will still yield a system where some products of meritocracy are more desirable than others. As long as our culture produce and reinforce a social hierarchy (Confucianism!) rather than egalitarianism we cannot escape this result. We would just produce new politically correct behavior of respecting and extolling the less meritorious but nevertheless meritocratic achievement in order to maintain social peace. I think we are too well informed for this bait.

Until we turn around nature trumps nurture to nurture over nature there is nothing to discuss except eventual social break down and chaos. We would have risen and fallen like any society in history when the social hierarchy ossifies and mobility disappears. To use nature to justify success through meritocratic sorting will only lead you to social bankruptcy. The elites would be overthrown, I hope peacefully. Over a couple of decades a new elite would be created and the cycle repeats itself. Terrible way to live.

What we need is a real meritocracy that disbelieve nature over nurture. Therefore the fruits of meritocratic achievement must always be open to fair competition and challenge. Today, much of our society and economy, winners receive the keys to open doors and then quickly shut and lock it after them. So we must also check the abuse of power by the successful to entrench their success, but first we must win the intellectual battle that would remove their claim to power to perpetuate themselves.

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Ministers back DPM Tharman's comments
Ministers back DPM Tharman's comments
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin wrote about the issue on his Facebook page

Several ministers are backing Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's comments that sparked a massive online furore recently.

Minister Tharman, also the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), had said on Thursday (1 Mar) in parliament, that a family earning $1,000 a month can afford to buy a small HDB flat, while those that earn $1,200 to $1,500 can afford a medium size HDB flat. See the story here.

His comments started a lot of heated discussion on the internet with many netizens expressing outrage and disbelief. However, several ministers have since spoken out on the issue to back DPM Tharman's comments, according to The Sunday Times

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Online uproar over DPM Tharman’s ‘$1k flat’ statement

Some of the tweets that turn up from a search of the newly-coined hashtag #maybetharmanmeanttosay. (Screengrab: Twitter)

A comment that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam made in parliament on Thursday has sparked an outrage among Singaporeans online.

Responding to concerns expressed by non-constituency member of parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giamin Thursday's session about Singaporeans being unable to afford a flat here, Tharman said that families with household incomes of just $1,000 can now purchase one.

"I would like to assure Mr Gerald Giam, who might not have caught up with all the developments, that our enhanced housing grants for lower income families are such that a family with a monthly income of as low as $1,000 can now purchase a small flat," said Tharman, who added that a family that earns "a bit more, say $1,500," can afford a medium-sized flat. 

related: Spore Home Prices 'Moving in Right Direction;' No New Measures for Now

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Average S’porean won’t feel effect of high inflation, says DPM
Average S’porean won’t feel effect of high inflation, says DPM

Singapore’s CPI inflation rose by 5.2 per cent in March 2012 compared to a year ago.

“This is a high figure,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. But he added that “it does not mean that the average Singaporean will feel this high inflation.”

DPM Tharman, who is also in charge of the Manpower Ministry, explained that more than half of the headline inflation rate of 5.2 per cent comes from higher COEs on cars and the effect of higher market rents on homes.

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Targeted wage model can better help vulnerable: Tharman

DPM warns against minimum wage system that has affected US and countries in Europe

The wage ladder, which allows workers in low-wage jobs to get higher pay through training and productivity gains, is a targeted approach that helps prevent older and more vulnerable workers from losing their jobs as salaries rise, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

This is why the labour movement’s progressive wage model, introduced in June 2012, is better than introducing a national minimum wage, Mr Tharman told a gathering of 300 service buyers and providers at a symposium, as he reiterated how a minimum wage system has crippled countries in Europe and the United States, particularly in worsening employment conditions.

In most European countries, high minimum wages have been accompanied by high unemployment, he noted, with the impact being felt most severely by the least-skilled.

Targeted wage model can better help vulnerable: Tharman
Cleaners, guards to get pay hike under new system
NTUC seeks pay rise for low-wage workers

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PAP: To remain dominant without being dominating

THE People's Action Party (PAP) wants to remain a dominant party anchored in society - without dominating in all areas, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam

It can do this as an open political party, he said, that galvanises a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions

"I believe we can play a dominant role, retain a dominant position without wanting to completely dominate," DPM Tharman said in an interview with The Straits Times.

"It's in Singapore's interest that you do have a dominant party, but it's got to be one that's open to diversity, welcoming of a responsible opposition."

Ask DPM Tharman
Dominant But Not Dominating

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Being a Minister is so stressful

Being a Minister is so stressful, no wonder they need to be paid higher...

- Lui Tuck Yew worried why MRTs and buses are unreliable and always breakdown
- Yaccob Ibrahim worried why M1 and Singtel are not perform their duties
- Teo Chee Hean worried why civil servants are increasingly corrupt
- Gan Kim Yong worried why there hospitals are short of beds
- Tan Chuan-Jin worried why employers prefer to employ foreigners
- Khaw Boon Wan worried why housing prices are too high
- Ng Eng Hen worried why Citizens not treating others as they would like to be treated
- Lim Hng Kiang worried why SG's FTAs are not working well
- Vivian Bala is worried why NEA cant nail WP for the lapses
- Heng Swee Keat worried why education system is not producing employable citizens
- Chan Chun Sing is worried why there are so many poor citizens in SG
- Lee Hsien Loong worried he feels S'poreans are like a pack of hounds going after him

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