Saturday, 26 May 2018

In perverse fashion, the Malaysians might have done the PAP a favour

Update 7 Jun 2018: What Tommy Thomas thinks of Singapore's legal system

This speech in 2009 by newly appointed Attorney-General Tommy Thomas is being shared and commented by netizens in Singapore.

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“We are hundred times better than Kiasuland”: Malaysia’s new AG’s comment on Singapore law goes viral

nine-year-old speech by Malaysia’s new Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, in which he slammed Singapore as “Kiasuland”, has been going viral on social media here.

Contrary to speculation that the AG’s remarks comparing constitutional law between Singapore and Malaysia is recent, the AG’s sharp criticism was actually made on 9 Dec 2009 at a public forum in Petaling Jaya. The speech was actually made months after the Perak constitutional crisis, during which Perak’s one-year-old Pakatan Rakyat state government toppled.

Asserting that Malaysia was fortunate to be a member of the Commonwealth nations – since this means it could refer any constitutional disputes with fellow countries who share similar legal systems that originated from the “intellectual home” of Britain – the 66-year-old cited several examples of nations that he considers to have “constitutional courts of respect”.

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“Singapore does not have a constitution”: Malaysia’s new Attorney-General, Tommy Thomas, in 2009

In a speech froom 2009 which focused on where Malaysia's constitutional lawyers seek inspiration and precedents from, the current Attorney-General ("AG") of Malaysia and constitutional expert, Tommy Thomas highlighted the jurisdictions of India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In listing these jurisdictions, he made reference to how their constitution and the constitutional courts have developed a robust system over the years.

However, in addition to stating where their constitutional lawyers seek inspiration from, he also stated, in no uncertain terms, that the one place that they never look to is across the causeway.

"The one place that Malaysia's constitutional lawyers never look to is to Singapore. Singapore does not have a constitution. It does not have a constitutional court. It does not have constitutional judges. It does not have lawyers. So I cannot make this speech in Singapore. So whenever we criticize Malaysia, we must remember that it is a 100 times better than kiasu-land." - Tommy Thomas, Malaysia's AG

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Wake Up, Singapore shared Martyn See's post Yesterday at 18:50

"The one place Malaysian Constitutional Lawyers never look to is Singapore. Singapore has no Constitution. So I cannot make this speech in Singapore. Whenever we crticise Malaysia, we must remember that we are 100 times better than kiasu-land." - Tommy Thomas, the newly minted AG of Malaysia

Following the precedent set by the prosecution of Jolovan and John Tan (, who merely made the observation that Malaysian Judges are more independent than their counterparts across the causeway, will Lucien Wong, in the spirit of consistency, also charge his fellow AG for scandalizing the judiciary?

Martyn See Yesterday at 18:31 · Will Singapore's AG Lucien Wong, a former personal lawyer to Lee Hsien Loong, prosecute Tommy Thomas for scandalising our judiciary?

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Martyn See Yesterday at 9:31am

Will Singapore's AG Lucien Wong, a former personal lawyer to Lee Hsien Loong, prosecute Tommy Thomas for scandalising our judiciary?

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In perverse fashion, the Malaysians might have done the PAP a favour

The consensus is that the PAP government has been dealt a major blow. But in one sense, it could be argued that the Malaysians have actually gifted a favour to the PAP. The toppling of Barisan Nasional after 61 years in power has certainly woken the PAP up big time.

Prior to the shock election results, the PAP was seeping into a state of we-know-it-all complacency and omnipotence. Its stance was that Singaporeans should place unconditional trust in the government. Critics were being belittled (think Thum Ping Tjin) and the Opposition being intimidated (think Sylvia Lim) and even laughed at (Low Thia Khiang when he said in Parliament that the GST hike would be debated at the next elections). But the Malaysian government got swept aside, and lo and behold, the PAP started playing a totally different tune.

Last week, in Parliament, the likes of PM Lee Hsien Loong, Chan Chun Sing and Heng Swee Keat were communicating in ever so soft and measured and cordial tones:

  • heaping praise on Low Thia Khiang for his contributions to Singapore
  • welcoming the Workers Party to play a role in Singapore’s political landscape
  • promising that 4G leaders would listen with humility and respect
  • assuring Singaporeans that they are free to disagree with the government
  • imploring Singaporeans to put the interests of the country first

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We try to guess why MPs were laughing during Low Thia Khiang & Ng Chee Meng’s verbal spar

The feisty exchange between WP chief Low Thia Khiang and Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng turned a few heads.

On Feb. 28, during the Budget Debate in Parliament, Low called the announcement of the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike an “unnecessary distraction”, which prompted Ng to rise and say that he was “increasingly baffled” as he listened to speeches from WP MPs.

You can read the full transcript of their exchange here: Low Thia Khiang calls GST hike announcement a distraction’, Ng Chee Meng responds

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Heng Swee Keat berates WP for indicating they might debate GST hike at next election

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had a lot to say about the Workers’ Party’s remarks on the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike at the Budget debate.

First, the Minister took WP assistant secretary-general Pritam Singh to task for “adopting a wait-and-see posture” instead of “taking a principled stand”.

Singh had proclaimed at the Budget debate on Tuesday that his party does not support the GST hike and that the government should consider alternative approaches instead of raising taxes: “GST may well have to rise, but Singaporeans could be more likely to accept it if the Government considers the pros and cons of moving from the establishing orthodoxy, and consider new approaches that improve social protection thresholds for all.”

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The Chan Chun Sing Puzzles

In the aftermath of the toppling of Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional after 60 years in power, the front runner to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister has said a number of things which are strange and bewildering. What made Chan Chun Sing come up with these puzzles?
  • Place on record the government’s appreciation for Low Thia Khiang’s contributions. Low is still a Member of Parliament. He merely passed over the reins of secretary-general of the Workers’ Party to Pritam Singh. Even The Straits Times noted that it was a “rare accolade.” Need we say more?
  • Politics is not just about winning votes but about serving the people and the country. Another head scratcher. To serve the people, you first have to win their votes. So it IS about winning votes first, then comes the service to the nation. Just exactly what was Chan trying to say.
  • Winning votes by stoking anger and unhappiness may be a common practice elsewhere, but this is negative politics and not constructive. So the government decides how political parties should go about trying to win votes? Surely, it is the task of politicians to tap on the angst and unhappiness (and sometimes anger) of voters. By “elsewhere” does Chan mean Malaysia? The tsunami that swept the country towards electoral change is clearly on his mind.
  • Agreeing with us (the government) is not a prerequisite. Agreeing to put Singapore first and foremost is the prerequisite. This is like scoring an own goal! Putting the country first was the reason why the Opposition coalition in Malaysia swept to victory. Malaysians rejected race politics, corruption and oppression. They wanted to start afresh and build a better future for the country. They made Malaysia Boleh! more than a slogan by putting their country first.
So, four puzzles from Chan Chun Sing in a Parliament speech, following the Malaysian elections. Perhaps he and his colleagues have already done a post-mortem and any spillover effect is cause for concern.

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Thumping of PJ Thum over ‘fake news’ hearing
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugan questioned historian Thum Ping Tjin for 6 hours in front of the committee in March. FOTO: GOV.SG

Historian Thum Ping Tjin maintains that a 1963 round-up of leftists in a swoop code-named Operation Coldstore was motivated by political, not security, reasons & that this larger point in his submission to the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods still stands.

His views were set out in a follow-up submission to the Select Committee on Thursday (May 3), which was also published online, the latest development in the continuing controversy over Dr Thum's appearance in front of the committee in March.

At the hearing, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, a committee member, questioned Dr Thum for 6 hours, arguing that Dr Thum's interpretation of documents from the Special Branch - the agency that preceded the Internal Security Department - was flawed.

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Shanmugam and Sylvia: the Clash of the Nemesis
Not since the days when Lee Kuan Yew and J. B. Jeyaretnam had frequent fiery clashes have we had two Parliamentarians so intent on having a go at each other

Sylvia Lim has the knack of getting under the skin of K Shanmugam who does not mince his words and gives no quarter. The Workers’ Party MP and Law and Home Affairs Minister have crossed swords numerous times, the latest being the testy exchange over the impending GST hike timing.

Both are lawyers, both do not suffer fools gladly. Sylvia has the tendency to wade into Shanmugam’s “territory” and he being ever protective and combative, is always up for a battle. The result: they have become each other’s quintessential nemesis or adversary.

Shanmugam is the one with a no holds barred approach, accusing Sylvia of being “hypocritical” and “dishonest” about her questioning of the GST hike timing. Sylvia, typical of such exchanges, stood her ground, but did not resort to name calling: “I can understand why he wants to accuse me of various things because he probably was not happy about past debates, where I had disagreed with some of his legislative changes and in typical fashion he always accuses me of dishonesty, when as far as I’m concerned I acted honestly.

related: The 'GST Float Balloon' Saga

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ST editor to PAP: Beware of mini-tsunamis that could add up to one large-tsunami

On Sunday (13 May), ST Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong wrote a piece entitled ‘Malaysian General Election: 5 takeaways for Singapore’.

Yet if Miss Chua’s article is anything to go by, Singapore’s share of “mini tsunamis” are more prevalent that one might think. How many Mini Tsunamis have we seen in Singapore:
  • Last September, the Halimah Yacob was inaugurated as President without a single vote being cast
  • After controversy and international media attention, PM Lee later responded that this was the “right thing” to do.
  • That June, PM Lee's two siblings came out and said that they were “disturbed by the character, conduct, motives and leadership” of their brother and had “lost confidence” in his leadership
  • In March this year, 4G Ministers ganged up on Worker’s Party Chairman Sylvia Lim and demanded an apology for her comments that the government was “test[ing] balloons” for a GST hike
  • A month later, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam subjected historian Thum Ping Tjin to a 6-hour grilling over the latter’s allegations that the late Lee Kuan Yew was spreading falsehood early into nationhood

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The Economist suggests govt in S’pore should change peacefully in wake of M’sia election
The Economist is being cheeky with Singapore again

In a May 10, 2018 article, in the aftermath of the tsunami unleashed in the Malaysia election, the United Kingdom-based weekly magazine made the suggestion that a peaceful change in government up north, might be a good thing if it can become a contagion.

The article explicitly talked about how the loss of the ruling party in Malaysia will pave the way for reforms and a cleaning up of past detrimental practices. This effect can then hopefully spread to surrounding countries in the region, resulting in the same peaceful changes and establishment of new governments.

The last paragraph of the article, “Mahathir’s back: Malaysia’s chance to clean up”, presented as a flourish with the most sting, said:
"Perhaps the new government will succumb to infighting and fail to get much done. But its very existence is a potent reminder to Malaysians and their neighbours that governments can and should, from time to time, change peacefully. With luck, Cambodians, Singaporeans, Thais and Vietnamese, among others, will begin to wonder if something similar might one day happen to them".
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A Warning Shot to the PAP

Apart from the pull factor of the irrepressible Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, analysts have identified two other key factors that led to the shock Opposition victory in the Malaysian elections.

Firstly, the 6% Goods & Service Tax (GST) introduced after the 2013 elections has been a sore point with Malaysians. While the country’s macro economic fundamentals appear sound,  the majority of Malaysians have found the going hard, with the cost of living surging beyond their means. The Opposition’s promise to abolish the GST – which Mahathir has reaffirmed since the election victory – has been a sweetener to voters.

Will the Singapore government take heed? It has yet to make a compelling case for the impending hike in GST and the genuine fear for Singaporeans is that costs will keep surging once the hike kicks in.

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How will Malaysia's elections shocker affect bilateral ties with neighbour Singapore?

Analysts are divided on the impact of the new leadership, but some said key infrastructure policies need to be watched.

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s coalition party, Pakatan Harapan (PH), delivered an unexpected win in Malaysia’s general election, scoring a simple majority with 113 seats in parliament. The results have broken the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional party and could now break the previous characteristics of the country's policies and relationships, especially as Mohamad has campaigned for reform and a new government under his rule.

Singapore has immediately responded to the outcome of its neighbour's elections. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in a Facebook post that they are now awaiting the formation of a new government.

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Mahathir's victory a warning shot for Singapore's PAP

Malaysian voters chose to forgive Mahathir Mohamad his many authoritarian moves while he was in power last time.ies.

For far too long, Malaysia and Singapore have been exceptions to the rule that rapid development tends to bring democratisation in its wake. Among their East Asian neighbours, as the economies of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan advanced, their political systems came under pressure to open up and democracy expanded a notch or two.

This did not happen in Singapore or Malaysia. While their economies expanded in leaps and bounds, both remained one-party states. The two share many other similarities,

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Lessons from Malaysia Polls: Expect the Unexpected from Voters

The Washington Post published a very perceptive column on 5 May with the headline, ‘Is Malaysia about to follow the path of Erdogan’s Turkey?’

The key takeaway here, as elsewhere, was that incumbent Prime Minister Najib tun Razak was set to get a third term in office. After all, he has been part of a coalition that has ruled the country every single day since it acquired independence in 1957.

Drawing parallel with Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the column observed that if he wins, “Najib looks set to potentially transform Malaysia, which has been a semi-authoritarian state with some degree of the rule of law, into a more illiberal, politically Islamicised autocracy.”

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Why Malaysia's Surprise Election Result Should Be A Wake-Up Call For Global Leaders

Another national election has produced yet another unexpected outcome. This time it was Mohamad Mahathir’s stunning upset victory over Prime Minister Najib Razak—which ended 60 years of rule by the National Front party—and caught many observers of Asian politics off guard.

But Malaysia’s 14th general election results should come as no surprise. This latest event is affirmation, yet again, of the convergence of fundamental forces that are sweeping the world: digital disruption and its economic and social consequences; a middle-class backlash against entrenched and corrupt elites; and, like it or not, the growing influence of China.

How is this playing out in Malaysia and beyond? Among other things, Mahathir has said he would repeal Malaysia’s hugely unpopular General Services Tax (GST) of 6% and re-examine Malaysia’s big infrastructure projects—including the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail link. He’s said that he wouldn’t seek “revenge” against Najib, but rather, that he would “restore the rule of law to Malaysia.” For many, this could be interpreted as a return to heavy-handed, authoritarian governance.

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PM Lee said Najib has the confidence in GE14 results 4 months ago

During the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Annual Retreat, which was held in Singapore in January this year (16 Jan), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an off-the-cuff remark on the 14th Malaysia GE looming then at the retreat's press conference. Video of his remark immediately went viral, especially in Malaysia.

Speaking to the media at the time and in response to a journalist's question, then-former Malaysian PM Najib Razak said that the outcome of the Malaysian general election (GE14) would not change the nature of relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

Najib's remark then drew an immediate response from PM Lee, who said that this is "because you have confidence in the result", which saw the two leaders laughing.

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4G leaders must sincerely listen to the people and make changes to avoid similar fate to BN: Ex-PAP MP

Former PAP Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Mr Inderjit Singh, has opined that the fourth-generation leaders of the country must sincerely listen to and try to understand what Singaporeans are tired of in order to solidify the people’s trust in them.

Drawing lessons from the historic Malaysia General Election that unfolded yesterday – in which the opposition snagged a stunning majority in what became the nation’s first transition of power in the past 61 years – Mr Singh seemed to imply that the 4G leaders need to do this to avoid a fate like the one Barisan National suffered last night, where he felt people got tired of issues and “spoke at the elections through their votes.”

This is not the first time that Mr Singh has shared his opinions on hot button topics in Singapore, since he retired from politics in 2015 after serving the Kebun Baru ward within Ang Mo Kio GRC for 19 years.

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A former PAP MP on what Singapore’s leaders should learn from Malaysia’s political upheaval

In the wake of the political upheaval with our neighbors up north, parallels have been drawn between the historical defeat of Malaysia’s ruling government and our own situation here.

Like Barisan Nasional, Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) have enjoyed continuous power over the country since independence. Unlike Malaysia’s ousted regime, however, PAP has maintained a corruption-free status, and a reputation for pragmatic efficiency — but at the cost of having a supremely heavy hand on citizen lives and privacy, among other things.

Though he’s stepped down from his position as a PAP Member of Parliament (MP) in 2015, Inderjit Singh remains a key pundit in the political arena, thanks to his 19 years of experience in the civil service.

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Tale of 2 Finance Ministers: One abolishes GST while the other increases

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who became the 7th PM of Malaysia on Thurs (10 May) announced yesterday (12 May) that Lim Guan Eng, also the deputy president of Pakatan, would be the new Finance Minister of Malaysia.

The Star reported that Lim's appointment as Finance Minister has been lauded by businessmen and observers.

“This news of Lim Guan Eng being the Finance Minister is great and very encouraging,” said the president of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia. The view is that the son of DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, who was once a political detainee, will be able to understand better the financial needs of ordinary Malaysians.

Relations between Malaysia and Singapore went through a thawing period under Najib Razak, but things might get cool again as Mahathir Mohamad – and his ‘my way or the highway’ approach – returns to power

Does Mahathir Mohamad’s return to power in Malaysia mean Singapore will soon find itself fending off – once again – the veteran leader’s grand plan for a so-called crooked bridge between the two countries?

Mahathir’s second time at the helm as prime minister is not only rattling Chinese investors. Singapore, which endured periods of being his main whipping boy during his turn as premier from 1981 to 2003, is having anxieties of its own. The crooked bridge is one of several projects pundits and policymakers are watching as they try to anticipate how ties will change between the neighbours – which were one country before they split in 1965.

The idea for the bridge dates back to 2001, when Mahathir wanted to replace the 1km causeway that links Malaysia and Singapore with a bridge to improve traffic flow and – crucially for the Malaysian economy – allow ships to cross the Johor Strait, providing a boon to the ports in Johor, Malaysia. Singapore never agreed, saying the project was unnecessary because the causeway was in good condition.

A viral message against LHL

1. Next time when you partying with your new friends, don’t forget your old friends outside the gates. When you were eating Durians with Najib and Rosmah you did not even pay a visit to the old man Mahathir to say hello? Well I guess I was a pariah and you did not want to be associated with me. I understand. But good and insightful politicians never assume fallen leaders people can’t make a comeback.

So don’t just visit me or Anwar, make time for Najib later after all he is still your Friend is he not and who says he can’t make a comeback? Look at what I have done at 92. Najib still has some years to go.

2. There is no need to wear a batik shirt and smile all the time when you come to congratulate me. We are both PMs and are equal in status. If you are filled with humility and respect it will show in other ways so no need to put it on show.

I did not care much for your father and disagreed with his policies but I respected him for his firm resolve and standing up to other countries when it mattered. He was a true leader and had balls.

3. Be wise in placing your bets and if you lose it is Ok but never do a Tony Fernandez. When your horse doesn’t come in don’t go around telling people it was a mistake or you were forced to make the bet. People will lose respect for you. Don’t forget the same horse may win the next race. I am a good example.

4. Choose your cabinet ministers wisely. Scholars and Generals may be fine in intellect but are they leaders with courage and conviction who care enough for the Rakyat? Look at my team. Many have been imprisoned, persecuted and ostracised by BN and their henchmen but they stayed and fought for the Rakyat.

Guan Eng has done wonders for Penang. He was jailed twice but he had steel in him. He did not migrate but stayed on to fight because he believed in Malaysia. Now that’s what I call true leaders of the people not those who have high IQs and come out with fantastic income generating policies that contribute to GDP and GNP but with no real benefit for the Rakyat.

5. Choose men and women with backbones. Don’t choose people who always say yes to you. Look at Khairy, BN’s former Youth Minister. He is an Oxford grad and highly intelligent. But what did he do when BN was thrown out? He said “Oh we should have spoken out and it was a mistake not to tell Najib that his policies were wrong, etc.” What bullshit!

He had no guts to say no to Najib because he was a Yes man and enjoying all the perks of a Minister. You know what happens when you have Yes men in your cabinet? They think only of themselves. Like Judas they will disown you when the chips are down because now they hope they will be absolved of their past crimes.

6. Always remember to govern your country with a paramount emphasis on the rule of law. I admit I did not do so in the past when I was PM and that was a bad mistake. When you politicise the police, the attorney general, the civil service, heads of statutory boards, etc, they take the liberty of enforcing your rule with strong-armed and undemocratic tactics and practices.

That is not only wrong but harms your integrity, your people’s integrity and the reputation of your country. The world distrusted us because of it. I realised this when I was in the wilderness and part of the Rakyat.

7. Don’t get your wife too involved in the affairs of the state. Look at Rosmah. She did not hold any official appointment but she did give orders to many government officials and they obeyed because she was the PM’s wife. Plus Najib was under her spell.

Your Father was wise, your Mother played a very supportive role. I do the same with Siti Hasmah. She like your Mother are highly educated women but they stay in the background and are detached from any form of role that has a say in government, state investment or what to do with the state’s coffers.

You must remember the Rakyat  will always talk and such talk can also contribute to a tsunami which happened in our case.

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Old Mahathir could be frosty with Singapore: New Mahathir?
GST hike: Damned if they do
In perverse fashion, the Malaysians might have done the PAP a favour
Goh Chok Tong & Tan Cheng Bock ‘do a Mahathir’?
A Political Elite Class in Singapore?
The Chan Chun Sing Puzzles
Dawn of a new era, in our own backyard!
The protege toppled by his mentor
3 veteran ministers step down for 4G leaders
Singapore 2018 Cabinet Reshuffle
ESM Goh wants 4th-Gen PM to be picked this year
Next Prime Minister “likely” to be already in the cabinet
Fourth generation of political leadership
Fourth generation political leadership taking shape
From Chan Khaw Teo to Vivian
Chan Chun Sing & Lee Kuan Yew