Saturday, 14 June 2014

Catherine Lim: The Great Affective Divide

Update 20 Dec 2015: Catherine Lim writes an open letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong
IN VICTORY, MAGNANIMITY, NOT RECRIMINATION: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

Sir, It was with much dismay that I read the report ‘Blogger ordered to pay PM 150k in damages’ in the Straits Times of 18 December 2015. I was less struck by the specifics of a court case that Singaporeans must have been following with great interest over the months – the standpoints taken by the contending parties, the various judicial processes, the assessment of damages to be paid to the plaintiff – than by one stark fact: once again, Sir, your powerful government is putting to use its most powerful instrument for silencing critics, namely, the defamation suit.

This dreaded instrument that had been created in a past era to punish political opponents specifically and instil fear in the people generally, could not have appeared at a more inappropriate time. For this is supposedly a period of sweeping change and new connection with the people, following the PAP’s resounding victory in a highly fraught general election. Charged with new energy, the government has been engaged in a massive exercise of goodwill and generous giving to the people, firstly to consolidate and strengthen the support that they had given in the election, and secondly, to lead them, during this crucial period of transition, into a new era of PAP leadership that promises to be even better connected with their needs and aspirations.

In such a celebratory climate of amity and unity, the continuing use of a political tool that Singaporeans have come to associate with the least attractive, nay, the most repulsive aspect of PAP rule, must surely inject a discordant note. What does all this mean?

read more

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister, We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.

There are two clear signs that the present situation has reached crisis proportions, that it is not just an affective divide, not just an emotional estrangement between your PAP leadership and the people.

Firstly, the people are resorting to forms of high-visibility, high-risk protest never seen before, such as graffiti writ large on public buildings, persistent, strident online criticism despite stern government warnings and threats, an increased frequency of mass gatherings held at the Speakers’ Corner, as well as increased hostility shown at these gatherings.


Letter To PM: A Follow-Up

In the past week, my open letter to the PM generated tremendous interest not only on my website but on other media sites as well. Since I could not respond personally to all those who took the trouble to write in, but would like to answer the questions asked and the comments made, whether supportive or critical, I have decided to make a general response on my website. I shall use the format of a hypothetical interview based on a brisk Q and A, as this will make for quick and easy reading.

Q: Has the PM replied to your letter to him?
A: No. An open letter doesn’t normally elicit a reply which a private, personal one presumably would. But I didn’t want to do the latter, as I wanted to share my views with as many fellow Singaporeans as possible.

Q: Why did you use this Open Letter format, a marked departure from your usual, formal-essay type commentaries?
A: To convey a sense of directness and urgency, in keeping with the seriousness of the issue discussed in the letter.


A Singaporean's Open Letter That Went Viral: ‘The People No Longer Trust the Government’

Popular Southeast Asian novelist and Singapore-based writer Catherine Lim wrote an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong bemoaning the decline of public trust in his government.

The letter became popular on the Internet and was also covered by mainstream media. It sparked a lively discussion about Singapore politics, and in particular the defamation suit filed by the Prime Minister against a blogger early this month. The sudden popularity of the letter reflected the validity of the many issues raised by Catherine. It also affirmed the continuing and rising active involvement of Singapore netizens on socio-political issues.

First, Catherine noted that more and more people are daring to use graffiti, which carries strict punishments, including jail terms and caning under the Island country's vandalism act:

read more

Trust will determine success of policy shifts: PM Lee

Speaking to 250 public service leaders on Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said public servants can help build trust with the citizenry by understanding realities on the ground, operating seamlessly across agencies and with one another, and upholding the national interest - ST FILE PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

As the Government makes strategic shifts in its policies, a major determinant of its success will be citizens' trust, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday.

Speaking to some 250 public service leaders at their annual planning session, he called on them to work together and keep Singaporeans at the centre of what they do, and uphold the highest standards of integrity.

He listed several ways that public servants can also help build trust with the citizenry - they have to understand realities on the ground, operate seamlessly across agencies and with one another, and uphold the national interest rather than get "captured" by special interest groups.

read more

Consistent Inconsistency
"It appears that Ms Lim cannot be trusted to be consistent in her own statement," crowed Janil Puthucheary. So says the pot calling the kettle black.

This newbie citizen (landed in 2001, picked up passport in 2008, sneaked into parliament in 2011) fails to appreciate the angst of the seniors who were once promised their life savings will be available at age 55.

This is how Toh Chin Chye highlighted the inconsistency:
"If I were to put this sum of money in a commercial bank and, on the due date I go to the bank to withdraw the money, the manager says, "I am sorry, Mr Toh, you will have to come next year", there will be a run on the bank!"
read more

Dr Puthucheary gets too personal with Catherine Lim

As soon as Catherine Lim puts pen to paper, she gets the PAP and its supporters all hot and bothered. Her open letter to PM Lee, published in the South China Morning Post, raised the concern that trust in the government was lacking.

First, Singapore’s consul general in KH (Where SCMP is based), Jacky Foo, wrote a letter to the SCMP to insist that Catherine Lim was wrong, citing a study done that showed trust in the government was high, although he failed to mention that the same study showed that trust in individual politicians was pretty low.

Then a certain (or should I say uncertain) Eugene Tan did some statistical gymnastics on the ST Forum page to try and prove that the PAP is highly trusted.


Loss of public trust – why the denial?

Author Catherine Lim, even after 20 years, is still able to ruffle a few feathers up there in the tower.

The responses from the Singapore consul general in Hong Kong and Member of Parliament, Janil Puthucheary, to author Ms Lim’s latest analysis of the level of trust between the Singapore government and the people is a demonstration of the proverbial head in the sand syndrome.

Both the consul general, Jacky Foo, and Dr Puthucheary, the MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, deny Ms Lim’s contention – namely that the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government is facing an “unprecedented crisis of trust” from its citizens.


Trust in Singaporean government remains high despite claims made by writer Catherine Lim

Your report, "Writer Catherine Lim's open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate" (June 9), quotes the writer saying "Singaporeans no longer trust their leaders".

Ms Lim first asserted this two decades ago in 1994. The ruling party had won the 1991 general election with 61 per cent of the vote. Ms Lim thought that was a poor performance and spied "a great affective divide" in Singapore between the government and the people.

Since then the ruling party has taken Singapore through a number of serious crises relatively unscathed - the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, and the 2008 global financial crisis. In addition, it has won four further general elections by healthy margins. But still Ms Lim continues to regularly bemoan a collapse of trust and respect for the government.


Consul-General rebuts HK report on open letter by Catherine Lim

A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report on Monday about novelist Catherine Lim’s comments in an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has drawn a sharp rebuttal from Mr Jacky Foo, Consul-General of Singapore in Hong Kong.

SCMP’s report titled “Writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate” had quoted Dr Lim’s open letter to Mr Lee, in which she said Singaporeans “no longer trust their government”.

In a forum letter to the newspaper published yesterday, Mr Foo said Dr Lim had first asserted this claim in 1994, when the People’s Action Party (PAP) had won the 1991 General Election with 61 per cent of the vote.



First comment on Catherine Lim- by Singapore’s consul-general in HK

The consul-general of Singapore in Hong Kong wrote in to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) after the paper carried an article based on Singapore writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on trust in Singapore’s government and the country’s leaders. The full letter by the consul-general is as follows:

“Writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate” (June 9), quotes the writer saying “Singaporeans no longer trust their leaders”. Ms Lim first asserted this two decades ago in 1994. The ruling party had won the 1991 general election with 61 per cent of the vote. Ms Lim thought that was a poor performance and spied “a great affective divide” in Singapore between the government and the people. Since then the ruling party has taken Singapore through a number of serious crises relatively unscathed — the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, and the 2008 global financial crisis. In addition, it has won four further general elections by healthy margins. But still Ms Lim continues to regularly bemoan a collapse of trust and respect for the government.

There are international benchmarks of trust in government. For example, the Edelman Trust Barometer found only 37 per cent of respondents in the United States trusted their government. The UK scores 42 per cent, and Hong Kong 45 per cent. Singapore scored a respectable 75 per cent.

related: Catherine Lim: responding to comments on my open letter
read more

Singapore consul-general rebuts SCMP’s article on Catherine Lim’s open letter to PM

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) had earlier published an article on the letter by writer Dr Catherine Lim to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong describing an “unprecedented crisis of trust” between his government and Singaporeans. This prompted the Singapore consul-general of Singapore in Hong Kong to respond, citing international studies that vouch for a high degree of trust in the government.

SCMP has described Lim’s letter as an open missive to PM Lee, extracting many segments from her letter that substantiated her claims.

“Lim, who is in her early 70s, said there were clear signs of a trust issue. She cited the recent case of graffiti at a public housing block that was targeted at the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) as well as the rising number of protests and the increased online criticism, among other examples.”



Singapore consul-general responds to SCMP article on trust in country’s leaders

Trust in government in Singapore remains high, says counsel-general in response to HK paper’s report based on Catherine Lim’s open letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has published a letter from the consul-general of Singapore in Hong Kong in response to an earlier SCMP article based on Singapore writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on trust in Singapore’s government and the country’s leaders.

The full letter, as carried in SCMP, is as follows: LINK


Catherine Lim's Very Real Minority Crisis

On its Forum page today, the Straits Times published a letter ("Don't take good govt for granted") by one Eugene Tan. It is a yawner. The writer regurgitated the standard PAP defence: The PAP cannot govern by opinion polls, the people trust the PAP because it delivers, blah blah blah. Tan's letter is unlikely to make new converts as those who want the status quo to remain would have little to disagree with him while those who think that voting the PAP out in 2016 will usher in a golden age for Singapore would probably dismiss the letter as a work of a sycophantic PAP member/IB//troll, etc.

If you cannot be bothered to read Tan's letter, this is the Pundit's ten second summary:
1. Catherine Lim is wrong to say that the people of Singapore have lost faith in the PAP
2. The PAP is working hard to maintain the trust of the people
3. Singaporeans look to the PAP in difficult times

Tan quoted figures to illustrate Point 3. In the 1992 election, the PAP won 61 percent of the votes cast, less than the 62% of 2011. In 1997, it won 65% of the votes . Then there was the Asian financial crisis of 1998 and September 11 in 2001. In the GE 2001, the PAP attained 75.3% of the votes.


Author Catherine Lim writes about trust in open letter to PM Lee

Author Catherine Lim has written an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, this time focusing on the issue of trust between the people and the Government.

Ms Lim, who frequently blogs about politics, has previously written two commentaries addressed to the Government, published twenty years ago, about what she percevied as Singaporeans' lack of affection for the ruling People's Action Party, and the Government's two "conflicting" styles of governance. She received a rebuttal from then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong over one of the commentaries.

In her latest letter, published on her blog on Saturday, she asserted that Singapore is "in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government".


Singaporeans ‘no longer trust their’: Writer Catherine Lim criticises PM in open letter
Catherine Lim in open missive to Lee Hsien Loong. Photos: SCMP, EPA

An open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, written by one of Asia's most iconic personalities in the field of literature, is spreading fast on social media, with many leaving comments on her blog thanking her for speaking up while others are sceptical.

Dr Catherine Lim is a well-known and prominent writer in the region, having published numerous novels and collections of poetry and short stories as well as political commentaries.

Her books have been used in government schools for literature studies. The award-winning Singaporean writer was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and received an honorary doctorate of literature from Murdoch University in Australia.

read more


Singapore author Catherine Lim pens open letter to PM Lee
Catherine Lim receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from Chiam See Tong and his wife, Lina Chiam. (Yahoo! photo)

In a commentary published on her site on Saturday morning, Lim voiced her concern that “the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust”. 

Lim, an acclaimed fiction writer, had in 1994 written a piece in The Straits Times that drew criticism from former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, among other political commentaries she has published since then.

She noted that citizens have taken to the streets in “high-visibility, high-risk protest never seen before”, for instance in the use of graffiti, “strident” online criticism despite government warnings and threats, as well as an increased frequency of mass gatherings at Hong Lim Park’s Speakers’ Corner.

read more

20 years after not joining politics, matriarch-author Catherine Lim delivers yet another political missive

Twenty years after being dissed by then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong for dispensing political insights without joining politics, Singapore’s leading matriarch-author Catherine Lim is back.

On June 7, 2014, Lim penned a lengthy open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the wake of his defamation lawsuit against a blogger.

The 72-year-old wrote that she couldn’t help but write this piece as a personal letter so as “to convey a greater sense of urgency”, and essentially went back to the same theme covered in herStraits Times critical commentary, “The PAP and the people – A Great Affective Divide”, published on Sept. 3, 1994.

read more

Author Catherine Lim’s Bold, Timely Letter to Singapore PM

Just when I was thinking that the Singapore government’s habit of suing people was a thing of the past, a blogger was at the receiving end recently.

But what the government may not have bargained for is that Singaporeans rallied behind the blogger and helped him raise funds to deal with the case.

Now author Catherine Lim has issued an open letter to the Prime Minister raising pertinent points on where the country is headed and questioning if the Government was “hardening its position and going back to the old PAP (People’s Action Party) reliance on a climate of fear.”


Who Made Catherine Lim the Voice of "The People"?

Catherine Lim's recent article, pompously entitled "An Open Letter to the Prime Minister" gives the impression that Singaporeans have repudiated an authoritarian and indifferent Government ("We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.").

For some reason, Catherine Lim has taken it upon herself to represent "the people" and "the Government" with sweeping and inaccurate statements.

No one will deny that Singapore has become increasingly politically polarized. But the Singapore described by Catherine Lim reads more like Beijing in 1989 or Iran and Myanmar in 2008.


Your Letters: A reply to Catherine

Catherine is a noted writer of many fictional articles. She writes beautiful pieces of drama and I must say I enjoy her latest “open letter” in just the same way I had her little stories.

I would like to start this letter by assuring you, Catherine – that we are not in the midst of a crisis where“people no longer trust their government and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust”.

If you want an example of misplace of trust, look no further than our neighbouring countries. Look at Thailand. That my dear friend, is a case of where people no longer trust their government.

read more

Catherine Lim bemoaning a collapse of trust in the Government

It was 20 years ago when Catherine Lim coined the term ‘The Great Affective Divide’ to describe the estrangement of the PAP from the people, when she used ‘alarmist’ terms like ‘a serious bifurcation at the emotive level’ and ‘subterranean hostility is all the more insidious’. Her commentaries don’t make easy reading, where she uses words like ‘modus vivendi’, ‘loyality’ and ‘meretricious’, and I’m not sure if the Consul-General really understood what she was trying to convey in her open letter, not to mention ordinary Singaporeans. 1994 was a time before social media, of course.

Today almost every minister and MP has a Facebook account and then there’s this thing called a National Conversation. And Catherine Lim still believes today that this distrust in our leaders has ‘widened the original disconnect between the PAP and the people into an almost UNBRIDGEABLE CHASM’. Phwroar!

PM Goh would have none of this ‘armchair critic’ eroding his authority back then. In response to charges in another 1994 article ‘One Government, Two Styles’ that he wasn’t his own man and deferred to the elder Lee , he challenged Catherine Lim to enter the political arena, accusing her of ‘going beyond the pale’. To which the author replied that she hadn’t the slight interest, and continues to disdain the offer till this day. Yesterday’s armchair critic is today’s keyboard warrior, and the Government has more than its hands full with this army of discontents, and if you issue such a playground challenge today, you MIGHT just get it. Luckily for Lim, Goh didn’t deploy the famed ‘instrument of control’ then, the defamation suit. It would have vindicated Lim’s opinion that the ‘open and consultative’ style was just a cover for the true LKY-era ‘top-down’ approach that’s been looming there all this while, a ghost beast waiting to unleashed when the PM decides to summon it. Like Satan’s Pokemon.read more

The PAP and the people — A Great Affective Divide

It is no secret that while the PAP Government has inspired in the people much respect for its efficiency and much gratitude for the good life as a result of this efficiency, there is very little in the way of affectionate regard.

It is also no secret that the Government is not much bothered by this attitude. The familiar PAP stance is: better to be unpopular and do a good job than to be popular and lead the country into chaos and ruin. At a time of peak economic prosperity and social stability, an estrangement between the government and the people must appear odd. Whence arises this Great Affective Divide?

The answer lies partly in Singapore’s history. In its early years, the PAP leadership faced enormous hardships including the traumatic expulsion from Malaysia, the earlier-than-expected withdrawal of the British forces resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs, the threat of Communist influence in the unions and schools and the increasing hostility of the Chinese-educated for the newly emerging, socially ascendant English-educated. On top of all these problems was the ultimately daunting one of nature’s remissness: a total lack of natural resources.

read more

Catherine Lim and the Great Affective Divide

– Catherline Lim: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister
– Five Stars and a Moon: Your Letters: A reply to Catherine
– Singapura Pundit: Who Made Catherine Lim the Voice of “The People”?
– Top of the Word: Author Catherine Lim’s Bold, Timely Letter to Singapore PM
– Mothership: Matriarch-author Catherine Lim delivers yet another political missive

read more