Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Politics Of Invitation

When someone says “sorry, you were wrongly invited’’, you have a right to feel miffed and the inviting party should go red in the face. If the inviting party deliberately rescinds an invitation for no good reason other than “we changed our mind about having you here’’, then it’s a sure bet that the inviting party wants you to feel miffed.

So we have two sets of “invitations’’ in the news.

The case of “sorry, you were wrongly invited’’ So PA chief Lim Swee Say calls Dr Tan Cheng Bock to say “Hey, sorry doc, someone in PA looked at the wrong list when we invited you to the Istana. Actually we just changed our policy to only invite ex-MPs who stepped down in 2011. Sorry, doc, you didn’t make the cut. Paiseh. So sorry. You left way too early in 2006’’
The case of the “sorry, we just cancelled your invitation’’ So Singapore did a little tit-for-tat. You name a warship after MacDonald House bombers, I cancel your tickets to my air show. So the Indonesian Navy chief and his 100 officers or so won’t get to come here for the grand affair.  Mindef isn’t confirming the Indonesian media reports but it isn’t denying them either – which means they’re true.
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An Exercise In Brinkmanship

It was a cinch for Lim Swee Say to uninvite Tan Cheng Bock, since both of them have roots from the same political camp. Tan may have ruffled a few feathers by going public with the insult on social media but, like the neutered Ngiam Tong Dow, he's quickly put in place. Uninviting the military top brass of the world's fourth most populous country is altogether a different exercise.

The strongest words to date on the fracas kicked up by Teo Chee Hean et al came from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). Speaking through his spokesman on foreign affairs, the message was stark and devoid of rhetoric: Singapore risks overreacting on warship issue.

Indonesia's Defence Ministry confirmed on Sunday the chain of dominoes started tumbling when Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing cancelled a scheduled meeting with their Deputy Defence Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin. Slighted, Sjafrie decided to give the air show a miss.

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Singapore cancels invites to Indonesian officers

Indonesia Air Force's Jupiter Aerobatic team showing their aerial display at the Singapore Airshow 2014 on Feb 9, 2014. A top Indonesian naval officer and other military staff have been told that their invitations to the Singapore Airshow had been cancelled. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Indonesia's Defence Ministry's public communications head Sisriadi Iskandar said Singapore had pulled the invitation to Indonesian navy chief Marsetio and 100 Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) officers last Saturday.

The move comes amid a diplomatic row following Jakarta's decision to name a navy ship after the Indonesian marines who bombed an Orchard Road building, MacDonald House, in 1965 that left three dead and 33 hurt.

Brigadier-General Sisriadi also said Indonesian Deputy Defence Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin decided not to come to Singapore after his counterpart, Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing, cancelled their meeting due to take place tomorrow. But sources said it was rescheduled.

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The Straits times reported today that the Indonesian delegation has "pulled out" of the Singapore Airshow.

Indonesian officials, including deputy defence minister Lieutenant-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, will not be attending the air show which is scheduled to start on Tuesday.

Usually, Indonesia conducts a jet acrobatics display at the Singapore airshow and a large Indonesian delegation attends the event. This year, it appears that due to diplomatic tension over the naming of an Indonesian navy ship, Indonesia will not be taking part in the annual show.

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S’pore rescinds invite, Indonesia withdraws top brass from Airshow

After Singapore rescinded invitations to the chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy and to a group of 100 junior officers from the Indonesian Armed Forces, Indonesia has responded by withdrawing its top brass from the military from the Singapore Airshow altogether.

An Indonesian military spokesman said he believed Singapore pulled the invitations of the 100 lower-level officers because of Indonesia’s decision to name a navy ship after two Indonesian marines.

The Singapore Ministry of Defence (Mindef) “did not deny this latest development” when it was queried by local media on the withdrawal of the invitation.

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Singapore apparently "uninvited" 100 delegates from Indonesia to the Singapore Air Show scheduled to start next week.

It is believed that the sudden cancellation was a response to the recent dispute over the naming of an Indonesian navy ship after two "terrorists" who bombed Singapore in the 60s.

Several ministers voiced their complaints about the name saying that Indonesia was re-opening old wounds.

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You are “un-invited” to the Chinese New Year Garden Party.

On 27 Dec 2013 I received an invitation from People’s Association to the CNY Istana party (9th Feb 2014). I told them I will come with my wife as usual.

Then on 8th Jan 2014 l was informed by Minister Lim Swee Say, deputy chairman PA that this was an error! He conveyed to me by phone and email. There was a change in ‘policy’ to invite only those ex-advisers to grassroots organisations, from the immediate past GE (2011). I did not fit into this category as l stood down in 2006.

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Un-inviting TCB – An embarrassment to PM?

Lim Swee Say has boasted of "pinching" half boxes of toothpicks at Din Tai Feng restaurant

The withdrawal of the Istana party invitation to former People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP), Tan Cheng Bock, is a curious case.

For one, it highlights the inability on the part of the organisers, the People’s Association (PA), to appreciate what is social etiquette.

As letter writer to the TODAY newspaper, Aileen Tan AI Ker, said, “No one sends an invitation and retracts it, especially after it has been accepted. This is unacceptable in any culture, by any social standard.”

related: Lim surprised Dr Tan brought up CNY invite issue

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Lim Swee SAy clarifies withdrawal of invitation to Tan Cheng Bock to attend CNY Garden Party

Staff at the People's Association had sent out invitations to this year's Chinese New Year Garden Party at the Istana for grassroots leaders using an outdated guest list.

And this was why an invitation to Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former Presidential Candidate and former People's Action Party Member of Parliament, was subsequently withdrawn.

PA's Deputy Chairman Lim Swee Say says this was "most unfortunate" - and he had called Dr Tan and the other affected invitees personally to explain the mistake, and also followed up with a personal email apology.

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Tan Cheng Bock “uninvited” from LNY party due to outdated invite list

The use of an outdated invite list resulted in former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock being invited to an upcoming Lunar New Year party at the Istana, and then told by the organisers later that the invitation had been sent by mistake.

Dr Tan, a former Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency, wrote on his Facebook page on Friday morning that he was "uninvited" last month from the party.

He said this happened after he had accepted the invitation to the party, which will be held on Sunday.

Tan Cheng Bock “uninvited” from LNY party - A Case Study of East vs West Mindsets

The "Uninvited" Chinese New Year Party Incidence is a good case for understanding the East and West Mindsets. The incidence is described in Channel Newsasia Report

The Eastern mindset, especially for the Chinese, goes by 情 (relationship, giving face), then 理 reasons/rationale, then 法 laws.

Whereas, the Western mindset goes in the opposite, first 法 laws, then 理 reasons/rationale, then 情 (relationship, giving face).

Zorro & PA make PM look stupid, cheap-skate, ill-mannered & ungracious

I think the whole episode of “uninviting Lim Cheng Bock came out badly” in the eyes of many Singaporeans. It showed clearly as long as someone is against the PAP, they do not deserve to be a Singaporean, notwithstanding his or her past contributions to nation building. At least I view it this way as a Singaporean from this episode. Because Tan Cheng Bock, an ex PAP member dared to stand up against the current PAP policies, it seems he is more an outlaw today, and whatever credit he chalked up in sacrificing his youthful years in nation building became a zero and does not deserve any recognition at all.

Secondly, with Lim Swee Say’s explanation, it also reflected badly on the PA as an organization. It looks like in coming up with the first list of invitees, they did not even know exactly what criteria to use to come up with the selected people for the Istana Party. All these days with the PM loudspeaking his sincere wish to recognize the first generation people who contributed to our nation building, it looks like at the end the selection was morely likely based on a preferred list, which is not surprising at all. Woe betide once again!

Thirdly, Lim Swee Say came across as unconvincing at all, especially when he is also the Labour Chief who needs to have a heart full of empathy in the first place. But by executing the order to uninvite a fellow Singaporean who was already invited, it just reflects clearly that our leadership is uncompassionate and also unkind. Even if the case was not about Tan Cheng Bock per se, but if any ordinary Singaporean who got invited to the Istana to be informed later that he was univited because of an error, have the government given any thought on how the affected person would feel. He or she could have already announced to all the friends that he was invited by the PM for the Istana Party.

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What Is Surprising Is...

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock is a 20 year veteran of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). He is also someone on the out with the PAP leadership for contesting in the Presidential Election against the official candidate of the PAP.

As a 20 year veteran of the PAP, most of which were sent in Parliament as a PAP backbencher, it was no surprise when the PA (People’s Association) invited Dr. Tan to the PA Chinese New Year garden party at the Istana. Just as it was no surprise when he was “uninvited” from the garden party shortly after.

So far so good as I personally can’t see how any of this came as a surprise to anyone. Yes, it’s pretty to uninvited Dr. Tan but you have to be realistic about such matters. The PA leadership is not going to go against the PAP leadership especially when Dr. Tan came within a whisker of embarrassing the PAP; after all he lost the 2011 Presidential Election in 2011 to the official PAP candidate, Dr Tony Tan, by just 0.35%.

Tan Cheng Bock - I invite, I disinvite

There are many ways to look at this comedy. I like to call it so and I am going to drum about it. What I am saying is pure drumming as there is no element of truth in it. Just for a little giggle.

Think that this invite could be real, intentional, carefully choreographed. I invite you to this grand party. I know you like to be there as it is the right place to be at this time of the year. Then I disinvite you. This is like telling the guest, see, you could be there. All I need is to send you the invitation. But you must know which side is your bread buttered. Now I am letting you know that you could be there but I decided not to let you be there.

The above of course is based on the assumption that there is no mistake in the invite. But it could be a simple mistake. It could happen in several ways. One way is that the junior executive that sent out the invite was just doing a routine job. Get the list compiled which is an annual exercise and sent it out with the clearance of the immediate boss. They have been doing this every year. It is like second nature.