Monday, September 13, 2010 

New Email

Hi all

Life goes on...

Feel free to email me at the new address

For the lack of creativity in naming my email....anyway, who cares? I am still after the person who deleted my Lim Chin Siong article....

Monday, August 09, 2010 

Happy National Day!

Yes, I am still very much alive.....just busy like every other Singaporean.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 

Politics of Money - Action over Words

Well, just to annouce that I am still alive. It has been such a long time that I last wrote anything. It was also the same time that I last used the "busy" excuse. Guess that is with all Singaporeans that life is a list of priority of priorities. We will just keep listing of important thing over another important thing. Are we a soul-less nation? Yes, I think so.

Before the finger starts pointing at the most usual and convenient suspect (more like convict since people's judgement is without trial), the PAP, we should think of it as human evolution. Every nation now, is and will be economic driven to ensure survival (less Myanmar).

I do read the comments posted in the last round and sure, we will always keep to the idealistic world but how many can match their actions to words?

Just weeks after I wrote the last blog, I was confronted with a situation where I can walk out of my team, which is depleted in number and moral, and join a rival for 40% more pay. Well, this team has taught me everything I know in my line, and to walk out on them is a tough call. Anyway, I sure you will not be interested in the full story. Eventually, I stayed on the same team and forgo the 40%. I am not saying I am a saint or role model. I am not and never will be.

But any Singaporean, confronted with temptations of higher pay, will you always choose the moral high ground? Easy to say yes, when you are not the one on the spot. But when every you are on the spot, make sure you do what you preech.

"He, who is without sins, cast the first stone"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 

Politics of Money II – A Reply

I thank all comments that you’ve posted. To me, all the comments were positive and constructive, and I truly appreciate it. None of the comments were irrelevant or negative. Some prefer not to read my blog after this post, fine with me since there are plenty of “I-hate-PAP-tailored-blogs” out there. Anyway, this blog is not of the consensus of following the “mainstream netizen”.

Think this blog did serve its purpose by getting you all to speak up and throw out some ideas. In my perspectives, politics is speaking out your own ideals, ask questions, challenge the norms, challenge your own ideals and last and most importantly, finding the answer and why things are the way are on YOUR OWN. The problem with us, Asians, is that we either don’t question and allow others to dictate us or ask but are constantly too sluggish to find out our own answers. Do I have my own disagreements with PAP? Of course! But instead of listing my grumbles like many others, why don’t I challenge myself further and answer my own grumbles. Put them to the practical test and challenge them. If you do so, some of your own questions might be answered.

Back to the questions. First and foremost, did I simplify the whole issue to a one-liner, “competition of talents from the private sector”? Yes, I did. I could and I would list all the reasons, logics and statistics into 10,000 words thesis to support my claim, but who would ever bother reading it, not mentioning, commenting on it. Yes, there are more factors to consider. And your inputs are valid. Perhaps having a short and provocative article to spark the answers from you is better than me listing my thoughts and imposing them on you.

Replying to some of your questions, Marc, good point, but I have statistics to represent the contrary to yours. It is not true that Singapore has spent proportionally less on education, health care and welfare for the needy. Kai, I’ve listed the tax rates of the Scandinavian countries for your use n the previous post’s comments. And to Young Singaporean, thanks for your comments. To, twasher and ttg, and Kelvin Lim, I appreciate your comments and your points are well-noted.

Morals Vs Money
I guess most people oppose the statement I made about the monetary competition and the morals of a leader quote. You’ve every right to be. Maybe I am becoming like the Thrasymachus of Socrates age, a pragmatist and realist.

Year 1
Suppose everyone who reads this blog sits in an enclosed room and the LKY asked, “I’ve got confidence in your ability and for SGD50k per annum, I want you to be my minister.” I am sure at least 9/10, if not all, will say yes. Why? He thinks we are capable, we are moral and we are not in it for the money, so despite the pay, we will volunteer our service to the nation. I am sure every one of us WILL think this way. And this is the most common comment I’ve seen in the previous post, ie, moral leader should service his country and not for the pay. I agree with this totally.

Year 5
Part II and this will get more interesting. Five years down the road, you have experienced tiring but rewarding job of making a change in people’s lives. Some will appreciate, but in like every other democratic country, most will criticize you. Every week you’ve spent your time in the Meet-the-People Session answering to issues on the ground. Get scolded by a good number of them. Your family has lost their privacy (see MP Wee Siew Kim’s daughter). While you’ve spent so much time (literary a 24/7 job) planning, implementing and answering to the people, the people thinks you are nothing but a ribbon cutter at events. If you are the Minister of Health, how do you balance the cost of health care against the quality of health care? Either ways, you will be criticized by some. If you are the Minister of Transport, how do you justify the cost of transportation (which is privatized) with the quality? Similar, both ways you will have your opponents. Minister of Finance, how do you balance your budget while setting aside enough for healthcare, welfare and education, with limited taxes (one of the lowest in Asia – aside from HK)? Minister of Manpower, how to do you lower the unemployment rates? Create jobs! How do you create jobs? Get in foreign MNCs! How to you attract MNCs? Lower taxes, provide security and stability…etc! Then you will have issues with MOF, MCYS, MTI and others who will ask you on budgeting issues. All these are the battles you will face in every parliamentary session. In addition to that, your daily running of the Ministry and making key decisions. Bottomline, you’ve realized that being a Minister is not so simply. And for the SGD50k per annum, the answering the people, doing your roles, being accountable and making such public sacrifices maybe quite a stretch.

Year 6
Before you know it, the next General Election is here. Now, a MNC (let’s just say, NOL) asked you to join them for SGD1mil per annum as their CEO. Stress and accountability should be more or less the same. LKY asked, “You’ve proven yourself and I want you in my team. According to the statures, I’ll increase your salary to SGD60k per annum. Are you with me? Now, how many of the 10 do you think will stay? Some will say 10/10 but a realist might say that one term is good enough for some to call it a day, so maybe 8/10.

Let’s just say 1/10 Ministers will leave to join the private sector. Essentially, this would represent and result in a small number of “short-term” thinking Ministers in the Cabinet. As for the ills of short-term-thinking Ministers, you should be able to critically figure it out.

Year 10
Now you are the Prime Minister of Singapore, and to the cohort of moral leaders. Your Ministers are in the position of making laws, approving multi-billion to a few million dollars public contracts and running their Ministries. But because we are all moral leaders who have visited this blog and happened to say “yes” in Year 1, you are confident that they are not corrupted. In every public contract (big or small), there will be disputes on favouritism. Once in a while, there will be complaints that reach to your ear on the corruption of the civil services. Two points arises.

1) How confident are you of your Ministers of not being corrupted since the reward for corruption is much higher than easer for a (subjectively) lower-paid Minister?
2) As a member of public, how confident are you of the Minister for impartiality in the tendering of the contracts?

In such cases, if you are the Minister, I’m sure you are not corrupted. But you, the moral leader will have to face such accusations year-in year-out. To such an extent, you will think that is this all worthwhile, fighting false accusations and for your family to bear the burden with you?

May I suggest, which most of you might disagree is that, increasing the Minister’s salary 1) makes them harder to be corrupt, 2) undertake more responsibility to perform and account and 3) gives confidence to the public of his undertaking of office. Maybe you might not know of this but the implicit rule made known to the PAP Ministers is that if you corrupt, you will commit suicide. Unless you choose to be a coward and will face the humiliation that will slain your name for life. I kid you not on this. A PAP Minister once said this.

Maybe you might be thinking that I’ve seriously exaggerated the scenarios but I can assure you that every one scenario, I can name you a real life Minister living through this. Now, hope that you will just answer the following questions from the perspective that you are one of the 10 Ministers:

1) Year 1 – Will you say yes to LKY to be a Minister? How many do you think will say “yes” from the 10? (eg: 9/10)

2) Year 5 – After all the realization of work and responsibility as a Minister, will you continue? How many do you think will stay on as Minister from the 10? (eg: 9/10)

3) Year 6 – Will you accept the offer from NOL? How do you think will stay on for a second term from the 10? (eg: 9/10)

4) Year 10 – As the PM, are you absolutely confident that your Ministers are incorruptible?

5) Year 10 – If you are the Minister, how many of your peers from the 10, do you think will quit in the midst of moderate public confidence?

I would just like to hear your answers as if you are the Minister and your opinions of your fellow Ministers. The answers to these questions will be the answer to your questions. And I hope you do so with a practical and not an ideal sense. Good night and I await your interesting, and most probably opposing comments.

Thursday, June 21, 2007 

The Politics of Money

Yes, after a long hiatus I’m finally back. Contrary to popular beliefs that I’ve given up on my ideals or that I’ve been arrested by ISD, both didn’t happen (much to the disappointment of some). The reason for the long break from posting any article was that I’ve been really busy with work and could only write this article because I took leave today. For the past months, it was quite a personal struggle to get grips over my career and my future. I was brought down to reality on how brutally realistic the working life is compared to our own utopia of morals, philosophy and politics. Yes, this sentence doesn’t make much sense to you at the moment. Hopefully, I explain it better later on.

I’m in the corporate banking line, a line which is unforgiving and sanitized of feelings. If there is one thing I learned is that loyalty doesn’t pay. Move to a bank, achieve your monetary objectives, and after three to five years, move on the other banks. Why 3-5 years time? This is because you will have enough credibility, experience and accumulate enough clienteles to sell out to other banks. Your value is the highest within this number of years. This is how the game is being played and you are expected to observe this. No one will pay you extra for doing the otherwise.

In the political science of this “world”, is that the people will plan and work with a short term horizon since they may not be here to solve the problems that might pop out only in 3-5 years time. As such, people might just focus all their efforts, rightly or wrongly, on the short term goals to achieve their targets, key performance indicators or similar. There are ethical and unethical people who will do all that they could and to sweep the problems under the carpet for enough time before they leave the bank. You can only hope that you’ve got the right man, with the right morals for the job. But in truth, it might just be a 60-40 issue that for every 10 people you hired, 6 are likely to aim for short term goals. Or you might just believe that man are born good but corrupted by society.

If you are thinking that Thrasymachus has sudden changed his blog from politics to a “daily lives – oh, another xiaxue blog”, you are wrong. Something which I have not commented on was the debate on Ministers’ pay raise. I was “off-the-market” and late in the delivery of this article as I was busy (see above, yes, a circular argument). As such, let me relate the reality of totally realistic and practical world of banking to the unreal expectation and philosophy on what a Minister should be paid.

Paying for a Philosophy King
Maybe for those who have read Plato’s Republic will understand why I’ve sub-titled this “Paying for a Philosophy King”. As Plato quoted Socrates in the book, “Until philosophers are king, or kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoners natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, -no, nor the human race, as I believe, -and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.”

In short, we all know what the ideal ruler should be, kind, intelligent, incorruptible, loving, wise, philosophical, embraces justice and equality and so on and so forth. We all want those qualities in a Singapore Minister, just that we don’t want to pay them. How Singaporean - wanting the best but at the cheapest cost, or if possible, free!

How much do you think England is willing to pay to have Lee Kwan Yew as their Prime Minister when he was aged 60? Probably, less than David Beckham but definitely more than Sven Goran Eriksson. How much do you think China is willing to pay to have Goh Chok Tong to be their Central Bank Chairman? Definitely much more than the amount of money spent on investigating on central bank corruptions. Or do you want to pay just USD300k to a Vice-President who cooks up a story to invade an oil-rich country, only to award all oil-related contracts to the his former company that stills pay him USD1m every year until his death?

The price of all the qualities you want in a politician and Minister is hard to quantify. Yes, a politician and a Minister should not serve not because of money but because of their passion to serve the people. Most people treat this as the central argument of the whole Minister’s pay debate. But this is not the crux of the issue. The issue is sustainability. Can the system, select the leaders among Singaporeans, who has the right morals and qualities without competition from the real world? I don’t think so.

You want a Minister whom has the trust of the nation and that his integrity to serve Singapore, not for a short term of 5 years, but beyond his terms and for decades. One who is forward looking, whose policies benefit not just his electoral results but the nation’s competitive future. You wouldn’t want a corporate banking-like Minister who thinks only on short term basis just to win votes and make him look good. If you think that a Minister’s role is just to attend events and cut ribbons, then that it is really naïve of you. It is really a 24/7 job, thinking and planning. There is more behind the scenes that the media doesn’t tell. Increasing the pay for the Ministers is also to up the stakes that a Minister can’t fail in his task. If we remain short-sighted, the future Ministers will too.

Not many nations will you find the governments lowing taxes to below 20% and yet having a budget surplus. We have that. We are a small nation but even a far-off country like Egypt, our name looms large. Many things that we attributed it to “Singapore” are really the works of a couple of great men who we sometimes fail to appreciate. Until we have a bad government, we may never realize how good our present one is. Without going into all the things each Minister had mentioned about the pay debate, I will only ask of you to consider the differences between reality and ideals. It is easy for an opposition to oppose the hike, but it is even easier to fail to appreciate our current government. I’ve seen a department taking a nose-dive for the worse within 6 months just by changing a single leader and the impact of a crap Minister will just extrapolates this to a greater extent in a Ministry. As such, I urge you to think objectively and be more far-sighted in your judgment.

On a side note, no, I’ve not sold my soul to the finance world. I’ve never given up and never will. I am still dreaming of my own utopia. You should too.

Thursday, March 08, 2007 

Some Political Prophecies That Might Never Come True

After the General Election, all things political in Singapore seem to be as dry and bland as watching “Days of Our Lives” – the never-ending-bore-you-to-tears soap opera. Year 2007 seems to be a year that is politically castrated. Rather, castrated of its politics. In this land sanitized of politics, we can’t look forward to the 10-yearly affair of military coups like Thailand (before Thaksin, it was almost a 2 yearly affair), 4-yearly event when we accuse another US President of election fraud, 2-yearly schedule where George W Bush invades another country, a yearly affair when Italy changes another Prime Minister, monthly fist fights in Taiwan’s parliament or daily dose of “Down with Ah-Bian (Taiwan’s Chen Shui Bian, of course)” street protest.

Watching the political upheavals of our neighbouring and other countries made us wonder what it would be like to have a day of chaos in Singapore. It is almost unimaginable, not even in the most tempting of situations when the IMF/World Bank’s stopover during September last year. As unlikely as Dr Chee Soon Juan becoming our next PM in the next elections, you will most certainly never find me advocating protest for the sake of protest. Once, someone commented that a certain level of fuzziness and messiness would lead to creativity and economic growth. I’d both agree and disagree with that, but to go into the whole argument of that might take another 10,000 words thesis.

So, aside from the all the political pandemonium, which is almost never going to happen, what other political events can we look forward to? Here are some prophecies. Like most prophecies, these come with disclaimers that you know they have got no basis of truth. Just like old times. :)

Old Man Vs Not-So-Old Men
In 2006, we witnessed the retirement of several Ministers. Well, in Singapore, retirement is really used to the dictionary’s definition here. Retirement is often associated with older people reaching to a certain age (around 55 to 60) before voluntarily or involuntarily stop working. But in the dictionary’s definition, age is not requisite for retirement. It is just the removal or withdrawal from service, office, or business.

Most notably, former DPM Tony Tan and Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong “retired” before the recent GE (as correctly predicted in my previous articles months back). While Minister in PMO Lim Boon Heng and MICA Minister Lee Boon Yang are slated to retire, the signal is mixed.
On 28 May 2006, the Straits Times report that: “Labour chief Lim Boon Heng, 58, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, will hand the reins of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) towards the end of this year to Mr Lim Swee Say, who is now the deputy secretary-general. PM Lee said he has agreed 'to stay on in the Cabinet until he hands over in NTUC'.” As for Lee Boon Yang, “Dr Lee, 58, had asked to retire, said Mr Lee, who persuaded him to stay on till mid-term so a successor can be groomed.”

Although we have yet to reach to mid-term, Lee Boon Yang is clearly in the “ORD” mood with most MICA issues handled by Second Minister Dr Vivian and Senior Minister of State Dr Balaji. On the other hand, Lim Boon Heng has taken on new responsibilities in heading the Ministerial Committee on Ageing Issues and deputy chairman of the People’s Association, while retaining his post as the Chairman of PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC). Do not underestimate the seemingly-nominal post of Deputy Chairman in PA and Chairman of PAP CEC. Traditionally, the post of deputy-chairman of the PA was held by high-profile ministers, such as DPM Wong Kan Seng and former Education Minister Lee Yock Suan, and is no minor post since the deputy chairman constitutionally takes charge of the grassroots. (Note: Chairman of the PA will always be the Prime Minister). Also the Chairman of the PAP CEC, an elected post for the highest number of votes by party cadres, he is supposedly the “second in power” after the party Secretary-General. Being the party chairman puts him in the likes of Deputy Prime Ministers such as Dr Tony Tan and Toh Chin Chye.

But the significant point is why there was a U-turn in his earlier announced retirement, as suggested by PM Lee? It is difficult to understand the rationale from an external view. However, we could still attempt to second-guess the PM’s thoughts.

Before elections, he would have got a mental list of the ministers to retain and those he wishes to drop. The dilemma is not whether who to retain or drop (as he should have gotten a clear idea by then) but if he should announce it at all, and if so, when to announce it. It is imperative that such announcement would not swing the electoral votes against him, if he drops a minister just before elections. As cautious as he is, he left most ministers unchanged (except for Dr Tony Tan and Lee Yock Suan, both had stepped down during the term) to head the GRCs and waited after the GE to make the decision and announcement. First to fall was the not-so-popular transport minister Yeo Cheow Tong. Together with the same announcement was the impending retirement of Lim Boon Heng and Lee Boon Yang. While Lee Boon Yang is most likely to step down as planned, Lim Boon Heng’s U-turn was for other reasons. Several possibilities arise. The PM can’t ignore the fact that he has got several “senior citizens” in his Cabinet (LKY, GCT and Jayakumar) and has to make contingency on this. Compared to these senior citizens, Boon Heng is a teenager. But I don’t think this is the reason for his retention. This leads me to my next point. Maybe there is a lack of capable junior ministers taking over him, in the eyes of PM.

Who’s Hot Who’s Not?
The most junior ministers of state (MOS), Grace Fu, Lui Tuck Yew and Lee Yi Shyan have yet to prove their worth or demonstrated to be on par with the likes of Tharman and Ng Eng Hen. The recent promotions of Koo Tsai Kee, S Iswaran and Gan Kim Yong to MOS still needed time to impress. While the female MOS such as Lim Hwee Hwa and Yu-Foo Yee Shoon have certain advantages in the push for female Cabinet ministers. However, they have yet to shine and PM is insistent that he will not promote a female MOS just because she is a female. That leaves us with the “Senior” ministers of state, Ho Peng Kee, Balaji Sadasivan and Zainul Abidin.

Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee has been in parliament since 1991, later, a minister of state in 1997 and a senior minister of state from 2001. Every Cabinet reshuffle, he seemed to be constantly overlooked and younger ministers from the 2001 cohort have leapfrogged over him, into the Cabinet. A possible and positive view of this that he is slated to take over DPM Jayakumar for the Minister of Law, since he is the most and only one qualified for that law position. However, this doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, especially when he is still managing a single member constituency (SMC) ward. I think I’ve mentioned this many times over that in single member constituency, MOS MPs are quite often an indication that promotion is quite unlikely.

Like Ho Peng Kee, Zainul Abidin’s career path is quite similar. Entered parliament in 1997 as the senior parliamentary secretary, promoted to MOS in 2001, and was promoted to senior minister of state last year. As a MP, he was a strong Malay leader and commands great respect amongst the community. His presence in Aljunied GRC certainly swung the votes from the Malay community over. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his position was to handle the Middle East relations and to attract some investments out of the lucrative Islamic banking and finance industry to Singapore. All in all, he has demonstrated to be a good number two, but not quite a number one man. He hasn’t portrait himself to be capable of leading and defending a ministry in parliament. While he might be capable enough, he needs to demonstrate more to warrant a position in Cabinet.

Last, but certainly not the least, is Dr Balaji Sadasivan. Unlike Ho Peng Kee and Zainul, he jumped straight into office as a MOS after his first elections in 2001. While his other peers like Dr Vivian and Tharman has been promoted into Cabinet, he has not. In 2004, he was promoted to senior minister of state of health and MICA and later in MFA. Separately, I’ve already covered the career and political life of Dr Balaji in a previous article and will not be repeating it. Aside from his quiet demure, his chances of promotion seem to be the highest of the lot. But a lot will depend on how he fit into the political ideology and plans of the Prime Minister. Will he be too liberal or conservative for the Cabinet? We shall see in the coming year.

Temasek Holding’s Next Financial Statements?
After the Shin Corp disaster, it will be interesting to see how Temasek Holdings present their financial statements for the financial year. My view is that they will lump all into provisions, and state the group profits without the asset lost or income statement changes due to Shin Corp. This year, by concealing the impact in the provisions, they can hold the issue and present a credible book to the public. By next financial year, when they make the provisions material, the public would have forgotten the issue and Temasek will also have other profit generators to cover the losses.

Anyway, let’s not spoil the fun and wait for the results before commenting further.

Post-65 MPs – Egalitarians or Elitists?
You’ve seen them dance in Chingay ’07, and will have your own thoughts on their moves. But I don’t think I’m too far wrong to say that they will never get any “officer bearer” in Ministry of Sound (MOS). While it’s too early to judge or cast stones at them, they seemed to be more elitist than egalitarian. MPs are supposed to be reflective of their generation. Thus, the question is whether the P65 are reflective of their generation?

If you look at their backgrounds – eg; Christopher de Souza, a lawyer at Lee & Lee, first class honours and formerly from Raffles Junior College. Same with Hri Kumar and Michael Palmer, both lawyers. Teo Ser Luck, a tri-athletic, who rose to become the general manager of DHL Express similar to Jessica Tan at Microsoft. Dr Faisal, a career lecturer at NUS. Dr Lam Pin Min and Dr Fatimah, both doctors.

Yes, MPs are supposed to have credible backgrounds and proven track records in prominent business sectors. But I think having a group of lawyers and doctors, growing up in education fast track, don’t quite reflect the laymen’s concerns and problems. They might be excellence communicators and speech-makers, but in every speech, it must have a soul. The MP must feel for the issue and to feel the issue, they have to experience the issue. We don’t need another blue-nose aristocrat in parliament speaking in flowerily languages. There is a difference between a MP and a Minister. And far too often we have MPs falling in between the characteristics of a MP and a Minister. Ministers have every right to be “unlike” the common people and to be brilliant visionaries that sets the moral direction for the country. MPs are and have to be reflective of their generation and fight with conviction for the thoughts and feels of the people. But the problem is having people who are neither MP-like nor Minister-like. Background near a minister but can never be one, and being a MP that was never quite representative of a generation.

Like I said, the P65 group needs more time to prove themselves, and prove that they are not another academically “straight-As” MP. The reason I ask if they are elitists or egalitarians is that the social character is of this nature. The P65 never experienced the traumatic split from Malaya but was in an era of academic elitism of Lee Kuan Yew. If you scored well, you will be rewarded by having a ladder to climb upwards. Fair or unfair to say that these MPs are the ones who climbed the ladder and made it good in economic and social sense. In that view, they are the elitists who reflect their generation; rather, they reflect the cream of the crop of their generation.

Alternative way of viewing this is that they reflect, not society, but the ideological direction of the selectors (the PAP Ministers). If they land up being egalitarian or elitist, that is the way the selectors set it out to be.

In short, time will tell.
Note: By the way, I "googled" my own blog name and surprisingly found quite a few people convinced that this blog is setup by the PAP government. Rest assured that I'm not in the government, sent by the government, paid by the government, moderately look like anyone from the government, or intent to be part of the government. In summary, this blog has nothing to do with the government. Maybe I should just change the blog address to prevent any misconceptions. I'm just another ordinary blogger with too much political rumour to spread.

Thursday, January 11, 2007 

Short Story of Three Emperors

Well, everyone is well acquainted with this blog writing on Singapore Politics (as suggested by the title of this blog…duh…). Perhaps it might be interesting to write on sometime totally not related to Singapore politics and yet, has much relevance to local politics. This is a true story about the lives of three emperors, in certain country and in certain period of history. Maybe in the end, you might be able to draw parallels with local politics but I stressed that this article has “nothing” to do with local politics. For convenience, let’s just name the first emperor to be Emperor K, the second emperor to be Emperor G and the third emperor to be Emperor Loong.

Emperor K
Emperor K was the longest reigning emperor in the country’s history. He was born and raised in an era political instability, turmoil and power struggle, brought about by decades of war and conflict. His ideology of politics was largely shaped by this period of conflict. Although he seemed destined for greatness and leadership, his path to secure the throne was not a smooth one.

In the early stage of his life, Emperor K was overshadowed by some one (let’s name him to be Official O) more influential and powerful than him. On the surface, Emperor K seems to be leader but in actual fact, Emperor K can’t function without Official O. Official O grew in support amongst the people and other officials. Many dubbed him as the “real emperor” behind the throne. However, Official O underestimated the young and crafty emperor. While appearing to be unison, Emperor K was scheming to oust Official O from power. After a fierce underground political power struggle, spread over several years, Emperor K mustered enough power to oust Official O and condemn O into the depths of prison.

With O out of sight and power, Emperor K can finally have absolute power to manage the country. As a leader, he has a good foresight in choosing and managing talented Ministers. However, the dark side of him is his authoritarian and sometimes despotic nature. He has low tolerance for inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. In the later years, he is wary of succession problems (which will be mentioned later) and distrust most people beside him.

Emperor K was accredited for many great accomplishments. From a war-torn country, he led the country into unimagined prosperity within two decades, making the country a shining beacon of economic prosperity. However, prosperity came at a price in the form of absolute obedience from his people. Anyone who steps out of line will be punished severely. The people were often reminded of the warring past and treasured the peace and prosperous times. As such, there were very few rebellions and the majority chose to remain silent and obedient.

Unlike many other rulers of his time, information of Emperor K was plenty. Emperor K wrote his own thoughts and words in his biography as records and advice to his future generations. In his biography, he portrait himself as a decisive leader never as an authoritarian, and justified his actions by the delicate and sometimes unenviable situation he was in. From his self-portray, he describes his succession dilemma in searching for someone in his mold, the strong and uncompromising. His intended successor was to be groomed from young, as he wanted his heir apparent to possess all the qualities that he has and needed to be emperor. However, the heir apparent was not the officials’ or the people’s choice to lead the country due his character flaw. Officially, the heir apparent was removed based on health reasons. Instead, an unlikely prince was crowned the Emperor G.

Emperor K’s was always remembered as the founder of the empire, although he wasn’t the first emperor of the dynasty. But nonetheless, he was praised, despite his despotic tendency, to be the best and most brilliant of emperors in the country’s history.

Emperor G
In the early reign of Emperor G, he was plagued with rumours about his succession and never really full legitimized himself until his later years. One of the many reasoning for his appointment was that Emperor K adored Prince Loong, the apparent successor to Emperor G. As it was not appropriate to skip a generation, Emperor Y was appointed as his successor to the throne. Some many, Emperor G was very much a seat-warmer emperor for Prince Loong. Prince Loong was Emperor K’s favourite as he felt that Loong's mannerism and ways was very close to his own. Despite these succession rumours, Emperor G reigned for 14 years.

When Emperor G was crowned, Prince Loong was immediated promoted to Prince of the Blood (1st Rank) or the equivalent of a deputy prime minister in the modern days. For Emperor G did not allowed the position of Crown Prince, everyone expected Prince Loong to be the successor, especially when he deputise the emperor when Emperor G was out of the capital.

Emperor G was a tough but very hard-working ruler. G continued an era of continued peace and prosperity as he cracked down on corruption, waste, and reformed financial administration. In particular, he took great focus in curbing and suppressing other writings he deemed inimical to his regime or rumours that spoke ill of him. Another major focus of his adminstration was dealing with a hostile neighbour north of his empire. But he was never able to fully resolve the matter during his reign.

Having battled the rumours of succession problems prior to his ascension, he was determined not to repeat this mistake for his future generations. Thus, he developed a unprecedented system that would allow a smooth transition and identification of the next emperor.

Emperor Loong
When Emperor Loong ascended to the throne, there was never any doubts that he was the chosen one. Since his birth, Emperor K set his sights for Loong to ascend to the throne. Emperor G was merely the “seat-warmer” for 14 years, for Loong to attain maturity and prevent any accusations of going against traditions given his young age.

Many draw parallels of Emperor Loong to Emperor K, but never to the emperor “sandwiched” between them, Emperor G. Loong was like a replica in mannerisim and thinking to K. Contrastingly, Emperor K’s character was molded through hard and tough time during his era while Loong’s character was shaped by the influence and idolation of K.

Loong harvested the fruits of K’s & G’s labour and enjoyed the economic prosperity and social stability. With his country stable and prosperous upon taking over the reins, Loong can afford to concentrate on foreign policies and used his empire’s clout to solve territory issues that Emperor G could not. During Loong’s reign, the empire was at its largest and economically most vibrant. In his early years on the throne, Loong corrected much of the stagnation and strict administrative stiffness inherited from Emperor G’s policies, injecting the country with renew vigor and energy.

Politically, Loong’s era was as strong, if not, stronger than the times of Emperor K & G. But his personal life was a different story. His life was marred by the tragic loss of his favourite empress and son. Since then, he was never same man as he was. However, later in his life, he was attracted to a younger civil servant (let’s name this person to be Official Ho). Official Ho was originally a lowly civil servant, but with the favour of Loong, Ho rose to become the controller of the empire’s wealth. Once securing the Emperor's favour and approbation, Ho enjoyed almost complete freedom of actions. At the peak of his career, Ho personally controlled most if not all of the country’s treasury. This set the beginning of the empire’s degeneration. In addition, the expensive mega-structures by Loong’s later reign exhausted the country’s wealth.

Loong’s reign was in fact longer than K’s but out of deep respect to K, he retired before exceeding K’s tenure. Later generations look to Loong with mixed feelings, as he was brilliant in his early years and careless in his older years. In the end, most would agree that his years was the “watershed” of the empire.

Any guesses on who Emperor K, Emperor G and Emperor Loong are?

Thursday, December 14, 2006 

“The Argumentative Singaporean (Part 1)” – PAP-Bashing with Reasoning

I guess I am one blogger that never comes out with good eye-catching titles. The suggestion of having the title, “The Argumentative Singaporean”, was largely inspired by the book by Amartya Sen titled, “The Argumentative Indian”. If you are wondering if I’ve read that book, the answer is a resounding “no”. But I did catch a glimpse of the book and its synopsis. Guess this book must make its way to my shelves by this weekend! Anyway, the purpose of starting this “PAP-Bashing with Reasoning” thread is to engage any reader into a thought-process to see if our regular qualms and criticisms of PAP are justified. Just like what Amartya Sen argued, “discussions and argument are critically important for democracy and public reasoning”. The argumentative tradition, if used with deliberation and commitment, can also be extremely important in resisting social inequalities and removing poverty and deprivation. Voice is a crucial component of the pursuit of social justice.” Voting and balloting — the inventions of Athens and the ancient West — are just part of a much larger story.

Yes, this is just my little feeble attempt at assessing our own argumentative culture of voicing our grievances against the ruling. For this, let’s keep any open our mind to debates and challenges to our statements. Stand for what you believe in and argue your case. But accept the challengers’ points if they are valid and sound. I believe we are all matured and learned people who are rational enough to assess the validity of the points. The point we should also note is that when we seemingly lost the argument, we shouldn’t resort to petty mudslinging, personal insults and stubborn claiming victory, likening a “Party” familiar to us all.

Just to state my position in this episode is that I am writing a pseudo-govt’s perspective on possibly why they did that or have not done that or did that but no one knows about it. So don’t burn me at the stake or lynch me for my comments. Now, lets move on to your valued inputs and comments. From the 40-50 replies, I think there are some salient points repeated by the contributors. So let’s start with some interesting ones.

Qn: “My main beef with the PAP is that they are close-minded to criticisms. It seems like they care more about maintaining their ego and image than about real debate and feedback. PM Lee keeps claiming that he wants a more open and inclusive society, and encourages people to speak up for issues they are passionate about, but sadly does not match his rhetoric with his actions. Many examples abound, all taken from just this year alone…”

This is just one of the many comments and charges on the PAP not listening enough and slamming down hard on those who gave their piece. I think this encompasses several issues and sub-parts, 1) PAP not listening enough; 2) They closed-up whenever the criticisms get potential sever; 3) They force policies down the throat of Singaporeans regardless of the majority consensus; 4) They words do not match their actions, which is that the open and inclusive society is done at face-value; 5) They adopting an elitist and top-down action in regardless of nature of the policies or problems. While these comments are fairly common and one-sided (against the PAP, of course), I don’t think anyone or any group has adequately looked into this. It is hard to find any middle ground in this, as there is too thin a line to divide one who is in the “mainstream” criticizing the PAP and the other end of what the PAP are saying now. So bear with me in attempting to walk this thin line, as it will be likely that I’d be seen stepping more towards the PAP side (to balance the weight on the other).

In any political action, policy or comment, no party in the world can ignore the political cost involved, not even the PAP. The PAP, or any other parties, will not be immune to the political implications if they make decision regardless of the wishes of the people. One good example is the integrated resorts (IR). When it was first mooted that the PAP government will take the opinions and feedbacks of Singaporeans in deciding whether or not to have the IR, many voiced their opinions and opposition towards it. While there seem to be many opposing the IR, the PAP went ahead with it and allowed, not one, but two IRs. Again, many slammed the PAP for their “authoritarian” action. The question became not whether we should or should not have the IR but was whether the PAP made the effort to listen to the opinions of the people. Many felt that the PAP didn’t. May I just say this, “this is the true democracy at work, and in this aspect, PAP is democratic.” And I don’t mean this with any cynicism or to poke fun at PAP. This is really democracy to its true meaning.

Let’s put this into scenarios.

1) 51% (aka majority) of the people oppose to the decision to go ahead with the IR
2) 51% (aka majority) of the people agree to the decision to go ahead with the IR

If PAP chose (1), they would have suffered the serious political implications of losing a few seats during GE or the whole GE itself. Of course, you will think this is crap and the government will not lose the majority in parliament over an IR policy. But this is precisely how a democratic government should and would function. There will be a tipping point or issue that is sensitive to the median voter and threaten the position of the government. One such example of the “tipping point or issue” is the Shin Corp and Thaksin saga.

So, now we know that the issues or bitter policies that the PAP had implemented were not the tipping point issues, even the recent GST hikes. But the question is really, why then is the PAP able to make unpopular policies and still able to retain a comfortable majority in parliament? Let’s not be overly engrossed in “repressive crap” and fear of being traced and purged rubbish. We can go on and on about these conspiracy theories and have no conclusions. Frankly, to me, these crap hold little water.

From deduction, this leaves us with two other options: a) the policies that PAP implemented has the endorsement of 51% of the majority (likely the silent majority), b) net effect of the unpopular and popular policies are in favour of the PAP. Both are the side effects of the democracy or what the great John Stuart Mills called the “tyranny of the majority”. While we may not be a perfect democracy, but we are a democratic country. The point I’m driving at is not whether is the PAP right or wrong in their policies or actions and calculated move in assessing the tipping point. If there is an issue you felt strongly about, don’t be in the silent majority and grumble behind the scenes. Take your words into action. Back your words with reasoning and debate over your views. If you are wrong, take it head-on and accept the better argument. If you are right, persist and change the norms. Tilt the tide in your favour and be a change starter, not sitting there to wait for things to happen.

Make no bones about whether your views will be taken seriously. If you are serious about your views and your views are serious, people will take you seriously. We grumbled when the GST goes up or when the transport cost goes up. The government has a well-reasoned argument (don’t think you need me to state those again, but if you wishes to, I’ll be happy to do so), but have the critics got one? From the government’s perspective, it is logical and beneficial to the majority, but time and time again, people grumbled when their pockets hurt. We did what European governments failed to do, and they failed because they failed to do what we did. If we continuously fail to think beyond our self-interest and look at the net benefits, we will experience the same decline as many European countries.

I guess this thread should start many talking points and before we move on the other issues, let’s debate over this and not let this sweep conveniently under the carpet.

The Idealist

  • Thrasymachus
  • Propagating In: Singapore
  • The Critic, The Philosopher, The Pragmatist, The Moralist, The Egalitarian, The Confused, The True-Blue Singaporean
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    The author of this blog bears no responsibility for any misinterpretation, libel, defamation, injury and death as a result of reading this blog. Contents are high subjective and readers should read with caution. All readers should be 18 years and above, with half a decent brain to judge the validity of the articles.

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