Thursday, June 30, 2005

National Identity

National Identity

Tomorrow is 1st of July, the day when Hong Kong celebrates its anniversary return to China Mainland. It is also the day of “tradition” whereby democrats in Hong Kong will organize street protest and march to register their demand for more openness and democracy. The record attendance for the 1st July protest march is 500,000 people taking to the street to demonstrate their frustrations of the Hong Kong government's mediocre performance.

The 800 strong Hong Kong delegates have just chosen the new Chief Executive on behalf of Hong Kongers. Mr. Donald Tsang, a high level civil servant both in the British colonial Hong Kong administration as well as post-colonial Hong Kong government has been chosen to become the new Chief Executive for the next two years. Even though Mr. Donald Tsang is a “more acceptable” choice for both the democrats as well as Hong Kongers in general, the point of political argument is that he is not chosen based on universal suffrage. It is still being viewed as “selected” and “appointed” by the Beijing government, using the 800 delegates as proxies. This is against the fundamental principle and spirit of the Basic Law, Hong Kong to be governed by Hong Kongers, both in essence as well as in effect.

Thus, there will be Hong Kongers taking to the streets to stage their protest. The end results may be the same but the process of universal suffrage is of utmost importance to the spirit of democracy. This is what Hong Kongers are fighting for.

There are some Hong Kongers who are initially persuaded that Beijing Government’s selection of their Chief Executive isn’t that bad after all and it has taken Hong Konger’s general preferences into account. However, when the police come out with a list of 48 conditions for in-principle approval of the protest march, it has angered the masses and reminded them that there is still an invisible hand that want to tighten control or exert autocratic governance on Hong Kong. The reason being that this list of 48 conditions is double of the usual 24 conditions set for in-principle approval for past 1st July protest marches.

I listen to the radio call in program and it amazes me that Hong Kongers treasured their freedom of democratic expression so much. Many of them have claimed that they have decided to turn up for the 1st July protest march just because of the unjustified conditions imposed by the police on the organizer.

Many of us have thought that Hong Kongers are materialistic and “pragmatic” lot. However it seems that for something as abstract as democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, protest and march could be so appealing to them, so much so that they are willing to spend time, effort and even money to defend them. There isn’t much to be “gained” for those who turn out to protest, really. Not in terms of individual’s gains. They are fighting and defending something what we call “public goods” in economics. From another perspective, it takes people with altruism, passion, idealism and public spirit to do such thing.
Such altruism must be built upon a common identity as a group, society, nation or country. Based on this identity, they believe there are things that are good and meaningful for this identified group of people which must be done.

I have the very same feeling when I visited Taiwan during its Presidential Election period last year. There are Taiwanese who would take the trouble to fly back to Taiwan from other countries just to cast their votes in the Presidential Election. I have met these people in their airport, some with banners and flags. It is touching in every sense, regardless of which party they were supporting.

It makes me think about Singapore and Singaporeans as a whole. Our national day is just around the corner and it is timely for us to reflect upon ourselves what have we achieved for the past 40 years of independence as a nation, in terms of forging a National identity. Have we really created a solid National identity after all these years? If so, why are we suffering big brain drain, with citizens migrating to other countries? The report card is even clearer with rapid globalization of the world. How many people who have left the country to work overseas, decided not to come back to Singapore for the rest of their lives? Would any Singaporeans overseas ever bother to fly back to Singapore just to cast their votes during General Elections or even Presidential Elections?

When is the last time we, as Singaporeans, fought bravely and firmly on anything “non-materialistic” as a people and a nation? Has there ever a time in Singapore’s history that Singaporeans as a people, feel strongly that something as abstract but relevant as democracy, human rights and freedom of expression should be defended and preserved in this land? Yes, there was a time when all these have been fought for vigorously, ironically, by the PAP back in the 50s when they were in the opposition. And we weren’t even “Singaporeans” just yet! All were lost under the pretext of the war against communists’ threats.

National Identity is a crucial tool for a small country like Singapore to survive in this big wave of globalization. Altruism is a critical ingredient in forging National Identity. PAP itself has indirectly admitted that its ministers are not those people who would make great sacrifices but need to be enticed by million-dollar annual salary in order for them to step into politics and public service. If those at the top lack that sense of social altruism, public service and spirits, could we at the bottom cultivate that kind of social altruism and public spirits? We will only become calculative.

A Nation that has lost the spirit of social-political altruism is a Nation that has lost its soul. And Singapore is definitely a Nation that has lost its soul.

Goh Meng Seng

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Why HK is beating us

The following article is written by TalkNoACtion in Sammyboy's Forum.

Some very emotional words but I think it is more about the passion of the people in HK as compared to Singapore, towards their homeland.

HK used to suffer massive brain drain in mid-1990s basically Hong Kongers felt the anxiety of a communist take over as well as the potential lost of their way of life.

It is only when there is certain assurance or belief that things aren't that bad and Hong Kongers could carry on their way of life, then there is a slow back flow of Hong Kongers that have left earlier.

Throughout the eight years of self-governance, there are struggles put up by Hong Kongers to preserve their pseudo-democratic system. And Hong Kongers found out that they could in fact effect political powers through a fuzzy system of checks and balances via both the Legco and media. This is the sense of ownership that Hong Kongers treasured and will defend against any manipulation by the authorities or Beijing.

National identity could only build up by forging and cultivating such sense of ownership and belonging, not by merely singing patriotic songs on National Day.

Some may frown on such fuzzy notion of "National Identity" but in fact, it is vital and critically important for us to cultivate this lost identity in the sea of globalization. Opportunities aside, what keep globalized citizens stick to their identity to a country is their sense of belonging towards a place they could call home.

Goh Meng Seng


When Tung Chee Hwa wanted to implement a set of anti-subversion
laws in Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens
when on the streets to protest. Man, woman & could
see alot of passion in the people for freedom. The people have opinions and are fearless acting on it. There are numerous newspapers and the media has the full freedom to publish the truth. But such energy and spirit carries into the workplace and in business to fix what is wrong and unjust, to make things better...

  • How the People of Hong Kong made Chinese Dictators Blink

  • When the Singapore regime passed the Printing & Presses act there was hardly a whimper from the people, when the now notorious Film Act was passed, no body dared to speak up. When the regime opened the floodgates to foreigner causing high unemployment, no one protested. When the regime poured money in Suzhou, nobody screamed for accountability and everything was kept secret. (Note: Well, not everything was "secret" and it was revealed years later after the problems were serious enough to be brought up to the table.)

    Something happened to our people under 4 decades of authoritarian rule. Nobody seems to give a damn about anything. Singaporeans seem willing to keep silent in all matters. At the workplace, people just do what they are asked to do and try not to get into trouble. We have been turned into sheep, our eyes are always looking down oblivious to things around us. The regime through its control of the press, use of secret police, unjust laws and repression of the people has created so much fear, the people have been turned into sheep. The energy has been drained from the people. The propaganda press put the wool over the people's eyes.

    All this will begin to show as our economy decline, although the regime controls everything, the elitist leadership will quickly put the blame on the people - not skilled enough, not hardworking enough, not resourceful enough...etc etc. It has happened before when our economy got into trouble - instead of help those in trouble the regime called them "fussy workers". The elitist leadership actually thinks the people are not good enough to deserve their "leadership".

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Election Fever

    Election Fever

    The recent Chinese Newspaper Zao Bao report (14th June) has speculated that the General Election would be held by the end of this year. It also seems to suggest that Workers’ Party is the biggest opposition party in town and that opposition and due to limited resources, we do not want to start to work the ground for the coming election “too early” as it would tire out our people.

    I do not know whether Workers’ Party is the largest opposition party in town because I do not have access to other opposition parties’ membership list. Nevertheless, no matter how “big” we are now, I would say we have not reached the critical mass yet. For a political party to function well, it needs to have enough people to provide a number of critical functions, including but not restricting to grassroot organizations, political outreach and recruitment, policy research (think tank), public relationship etc. A conservative calculation would give us about 200 ACTIVE members to fill up all positions.

    Politics in Singapore has become merely a part time interests to those who are involved. We do not have full time professional politicians, except for the multi-million dollar ministers. And even PAP has to depend largely on National organs like PA, CCCs or RCs to help them with their grassroot activities. This is especially true when the PAP candidates are engaged in election campaigning. Sometimes even union members are being mobilized.

    Having say that, I would say that at least for Workers’ Party, our members have been very consistent in our groundwork. Many weekends have been burnt and even weekday evenings are spent on walkabouts. We are definitely not a party that was described in the Zao Bao report, only start to work when there are speculations of eminent of election in sight. We have started groundwork way before the PAP MPs move their butts.

    Election Fever or not, we will always be prepared for it.

    Goh Meng Seng

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Presidential Election & Protest Voting

    Presidential Election & Protest Voting

    So far, 13 forms for Presidential Election have been taken, but none has been submitted. Will we have a contest in Singapore?

    Even if there are submission, the applicants must get “COE” from the selection committee. The constitution says that the President shall be “ELECTED” by the citizens. But it seems that before you could do that, the committee has already screened through and determined for you who are eligible for your selection.

    Of course, the reasons given are all good. It seems that the committee has better judgement on each applicant’s character to determine whether he is a man of great integrity. Even if they have satisfied all the stringent criteria, the committee will have the final say whether the applicants have good character and integrity. We need the “safe guard” to make sure the “safe guard” of the National Reserves is good? So who is the ultimate “safe guard”?

    However, looking from another perspective, don’t they trust us as the citizens and voters that could make good judgement and vote for the right man to be our President? If not, then the argument could extend forward to General Elections of MPs whom may be appointed to be Ministers that have more executive powers!

    When PM Lee HL took over the baton last year, he talked about cutting the apron string. However, isn’t this system of Presidential Election a big apron string needed to be cut? We don’t need to be told who we could or could not trust and vote for.

    The problem lies not in the “quality” of the presidential candidates. The problem lies with the habit of “Protest Voting”. Back in 1993, the first election of President was effected. Former DPM, Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, endorsed by the PAP, stood against Mr. Chua Kim Yeow, a relatively unknown civil servant. Mr. Ong, backed by the union and his ex-party colleagues, campaigned aggressively while Mr. Chua only did a symbolic appearance on TV.

    Surprisingly to many and alarming to PAP, Mr. Ong won with a mere 58.7%, in spite of his good reputation and aggressive campaigning. Many political observers take the result as a reflection of “Protest Votes” cast by many Singaporeans, against the PAP government. It has many implications. It means that there is a big bulk of voters who are unhappy with the PAP, instead of Mr. Ong. They have taken the opportunity of the Presidential Elections to demonstrate their unhappiness.

    This is an unhealthy voting pattern, even though from the opposition’s perspective, it is to our advantage if there are more “protest votes”. Voters become “irrational” when they start to treat their votes as a good mean to “signal” to PAP their dissatisfactions. Mr. Ong has proven himself to be a great president that is daring enough to stretch his limits and even risk stress in the relation between him and his past comrades in the attempt to institutionalized the new system of Elected President.
    “Protest Voting” phenomenon is not healthy at all. And from the past elections when PAP started to use HDB upgrading to “lure” voters, even to the precinct level to counteract such “Protest Voting”, we could see that protest voters are quickly subdued. Most Protest Voters would consider twice about using their votes as protest when their immediate well being is being affected by their actions. Ironically, they should protest even more when such unfair tactic is used instead of giving up their protest! I feel that such Protest Voting is the result of the “love-hate” relationship the voters have with PAP. Most voted PAP for multiple reasons but least about “strongly supporting” it. They may even dislike PAP but due to the threat of their surrounding turning into “slump” is made, they will vote PAP. On the other hand, some may just vote according to their emotional frustration rather than rational choice.

    Both type of voting are undesirable as it seems that nobody in these categories vote according to what they think is best for Singapore. Individual’s immediate well being supercede Nation’s well being or even the macro bread and butter issues.

    This is even so during the Presidential Election basically because to these protest voters, since the “safe guards” and committee has “ensured” that the candidates are trustworthy, there is practically no difference on who become the President. I would say, there isn’t even need for such election at all. And voting for the non-PAP endorsed candidate wouldn’t have got them into “trouble” of not having HDB upgrading and such, they would be more willing to use the opportunity to cast “Protest Vote”.

    Voting should start from an altruistic perspective. It is not just about your emotional or materialistic needs but rather, the whole Nation’s needs. PAP understands how protest voters’ minds work from an individualistic perspective and thus, the use of materialistic threat is used to counteract their behavior. “Social responsibility” cannot be cultivated by such means. Such tactic could only aggravate and strengthen such individualistic behavior and mindsets. It is a strong poison that deters social progressiveness towards a more socially responsible and altruistic society.

    More has to be done for political education, instead of using the crude and primitive way of enticing votes. Those stringent “safe guards” for Presidential election should be scrapped as it encourages irresponsible voting. Citizens must learn about the responsibility befallen them when they cast their votes. It is not about their own flats’ upgrading, not about their emotion needs of venting their frustrations, but it is all about the needs of this Nation.

    Goh Meng Seng

    Criteria for Presidential Candidate

    The President

    17. —(1) There shall be a President of Singapore who shall be the Head of State and shall exercise and perform such powers and functions as are conferred on the President by this Constitution and any other written law.

    (2) The President shall be elected by the citizens of Singapore in accordance with any law made by the Legislature.

    (3) Any poll for the election of President shall be held as follows:

    (a) in the case where the office of President becomes vacant prior to the expiration of the term of office of the incumbent and a writ for the election has not been issued before such vacation of office or, if so issued, has already been countermanded — within 6 months after the date the office of President becomes vacant; or

    (b) in any other case — not more than 3 months before the date of expiration of the term of office of the incumbent.

    Presidential Elections Committee

    18. —(1) There shall be a Presidential Elections Committee whose function is to ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications referred to in paragraph (e) or (g) (iv) or both such paragraphs of Article 19 (2), as the case may be.

    (2) The Presidential Elections Committee shall consist of —

    (a) the Chairman of the Public Service Commission;

    (b) the Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority established under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority Act 2004 (Act 3 of 2004); and

    (c) a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights nominated by the Chairman of the Council.

    (3) The Chairman of the Public Service Commission shall be the chairman of the Presidential Elections Committee and if he is absent from Singapore or for any other reason unable to discharge his functions, he shall nominate a Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission to act on his behalf.

    (4) The office of the member of the Presidential Elections Committee nominated under clause (2) (c) shall become vacant if the member —

    (a) dies;

    (b) resigns from office by a letter in writing addressed to the chairman of the Committee; or

    (c) has his nomination revoked by the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights,

    and the vacancy shall be filled by a new member nominated by the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.

    (5) If the member of the Presidential Elections Committee referred to in clause (2) (b) or (c) is absent from Singapore or is for any other reason unable to discharge his functions, the Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority or the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights shall appoint a member of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority or a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, as the case may be, to act on his behalf.

    (6) The Presidential Elections Committee may regulate its own procedure and fix the quorum for its meetings.

    (7) The Presidential Elections Committee may act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership.

    (8) Parliament may by law provide for the remuneration of members of the Presidential Elections Committee and the remuneration so provided shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.

    (9) A decision of the Presidential Elections Committee as to whether a candidate for election to the office of President has fulfilled the requirement of paragraph (e) or (g) (iv) of Article 19 (2) shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal or review in any court.

    Qualifications and disabilities of President

    19. —(1) No person shall be elected as President unless he is qualified for election in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

    (2) A person shall be qualified to be elected as President if he —

    (a) is a citizen of Singapore;

    (b) is not less than 45 years of age;

    (c) possesses the qualifications specified in Article 44 (2) (c) and (d);

    (d) is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45;

    (e) satisfies the Presidential Elections Committee that he is a person of integrity, good character and reputation;

    (f) is not a member of any political party on the date of his nomination for election; and

    (g) has for a period of not less than 3 years held office —

    (i) as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary;

    (ii) as chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board to which Article 22A applies;

    (iii) as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency; or

    (iv) in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.

    (3) The President shall —

    (a) not hold any other office created or recognised by this Constitution;

    (b) not actively engage in any commercial enterprise;

    (c) not be a member of any political party; and

    (d) if he is a Member of Parliament, vacate his seat in Parliament.

    (4) Nothing in clause (3) shall be construed as requiring any person exercising the functions of the office of President under Article 22N or 22O to —

    (a) if he is a member of any political party, resign as a member of that party; or

    (b) vacate his seat in Parliament or any other office created or recognised by this Constitution.

    Term of office

    20. —(1) The President shall hold office for a term of 6 years from the date on which he assumes office.

    (2) The person elected to the office of President shall assume office on the day his predecessor ceases to hold office or, if the office is vacant, on the day following his election.

    (3) Upon his assumption of office, the President shall take and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice or of another Judge of the Supreme Court the Oath of Office in the form set out in the First Schedule.

    Discharge and performance of functions of President

    21. —(1) Except as provided by this Constitution, the President shall, in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other written law, act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.

    (2) The President may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions:

    (a) the appointment of the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 25;

    (b) the withholding of consent to a request for a dissolution of Parliament;

    (c) the withholding of assent to any Bill under Article *5A, 22E, 22H, 144 (2) or 148A;

    *Article 5A was not in operation at the date of this Reprint.

    (d) the withholding of concurrence under Article 144 to any guarantee or loan to be given or raised by the Government;

    (e) the withholding of concurrence and approval to the appointments and budgets of the statutory boards and Government companies to which Articles 22A and 22C, respectively, apply;

    (f) the disapproval of transactions referred to in Article 22B (7), 22D (6) or 148G;

    (g) the withholding of concurrence under Article 151 (4) in relation to the detention or further detention of any person under any law or ordinance made or promulgated in pursuance of Part XII;

    (h) the exercise of his functions under section 12 of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (Cap. 167A); and

    (i) any other function the performance of which the President is authorised by this Constitution to act in his discretion.

    (3) The President shall consult the Council of Presidential Advisers before performing any of his functions under Articles 22, 22A (1), 22B (2) and (7), 22C (1), 22D (2) and (6), 144, 148A, 148B and 148G.

    (4) Except as otherwise provided in clause (3), the President may, in his discretion, consult the Council of Presidential Advisers before performing any of his functions referred to in clause (2) (c) to (i).

    (5) The Legislature may by law make provision to require the President to act after consultation with, or on the recommendation of, any person or body of persons other than the Cabinet in the exercise of his functions other than —

    (a) functions exercisable in his discretion; and

    (b) functions with respect to the exercise of which provision is made in any other provision of this Constitution.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Spirit & Soul of Our Nation

    I have written this piece dedicated to the coming 40th National Day celebration.

    It is time for us to reflect upon our own Nation, what we have achieved throughout the 40 years of Nation Building beside economic prosperity.

    We, as citizens, have totally neglected the development of our political landscape. We should reflect on such neglect so that our nation could grow stronger.

    Goh Meng Seng

    Spirit & Soul of Our Nation

    When the people of United States of America was fighting against the British colonists more than two hundred years ago, they have created a great declaration of independence that has signified the values, vision, spirit and soul of their new nation. However, such spirit and soul of “Freedom” and “Liberty” could only be “formally” institutionalized in their laws and constitution back in the 1960s. This is about 180 years after their independence.

    For a young nation like Singapore, we do have great virtues and visions during our foundation years of independence. At the very least, in the face of the multi-racial and religious environment, we have embraced EQUALITY, Democracy and Justice. These are all embedded in our National Pledge which is recited by our children everyday in their schools.

    “We, the citizens of Singapore
    Pledge ourselves as one united people
    Regardless of race, language or religion
    To build a democratic society
    Based on justice and equality
    So as to achieve happiness, prosperity & progress for our nation”

    However, we are just like USA which has gone through turbulent times in history to get the actual spirit and soul of their nation building implemented through their laws and governments. The Americans have fought civil war over the liberation of human slaves. Have gone through difficult times of struggle for equal rights for their non-white citizens. They have specifically included Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in their government to enforce this spirit of equality. The only difference in Singapore is that after 40 years of independence, our citizens have little concerns about how laws are being changed unless they affect their pockets. The process of de-politicization is so successful that most of our citizens are only concerned about “bread and butter” issues. When Singapore no longer offer them a comfort materialistic living, they would just leave this place altogether.

    There is no will nor interests in the politics of Singapore among our citizens anymore. After the political cleansing of late 60s and 70s, the whole generation of Singaporeans has been practically de-politicized and we have become a political desert in this world. Our citizens have chosen to let PAP to do whatever they want to the direction of this country, as long as they could provide them material prosperity.

    The spirit and soul of this Nation depends NOT on PAP but on its people. If the people lose interests in every political amendment to the constitution and laws that govern them, we have lost the spirit and soul of this Nation altogether. Unfair laws have been passed without any strong dissidence from the PEOPLE, not merely oppositionists who are directly affected by it. The recent out cry on the Film Act is one great example. Nothing was heard from the people when this act is being amended to include political films. Nobody asked why such discriminative law amendments is necessary when it only benefits the ruling party to extend their monopoly on the powerful media tool of films. Nobody asked why such great discretionary powers are given to government and ministers when there are so many “mandatory” laws passed to restrict judges’ discretion in their course of duties.

    And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are election laws being amended to disadvantage the opposition parties which the citizens are aware of but have no political will to send a strong signals to PAP that they do not want such laws. They have even turned a blind eye to gerrymandering by PAP, continue to vote PAP and allow them to win almost all (except two) seats in parliament.

    The American pledged their lives to fight for their believe, their believe of liberty and rights. In Singapore we are politically culled by the atmosphere of FEAR and apathy, despite having our children reciting the National pledge of Justice, Equality and Democracy everyday.

    We only “talk” about racial harmony and equality but did nothing specifically in setting up “Anti-discrimination” law, nor setting up “Equal Opportunity Commission” of any kind to protect citizens against discriminations of all sorts. The citizens did not see the necessity of setting up such laws too!

    We only “talk” about Democracy but did nothing to protect and enhance the system of checks and balance. Instead we have allowed the ruling party to make amends to our constitution, to discourage political competition and thus weaken the element of checks and balances within the system. Electoral participation has dropped tremendously over the four decades of independence. Less than one third of Singaporeans have participated in the voting process for the 2001 election but it seems that nobody really care about that.

    I have met friends who are even “HAPPY” about not being “FORCED” (voting is compulsory in Singapore) to go to the polling stations so that they could enjoy the “holiday” fully! I practically told them off that in other countries on this EARTH, people shed blood to fight for their right to vote their own government.

    I have even heard about PAP supporters feeling “ANGRY” about people complaining of not having the chance to vote during the General Elections! This is absurd and it demonstrates that they preferred their party to be “unchallenged” at all!

    I have even heard about those in the 30s or even 40s who did not have a chance to vote at all in their whole life! This is the sad situation in Singapore. It is not only about having deprived the citizens their political participation in the long run. It is about the “spirit” (or the lack of it?) and apathetic attitude that Singaporeans hold towards exerting their rights to the Nation via the participation in the electoral process. Such deprivation of citizens in exercising their voting rights will have great consequences in demolishing their sense of ownership and belonging in the long run.

    We are developing towards a Nation without Soul. A Nation without Spirit. This is the result of a combination of multiple factors. We used to have people with great ideas, ideals, passion and spirit towards all the spheres of life on this land. All is gone within four decades of nation building. The Americans started off with a majority of them indifference to nation building, but they worked towards better nationhood over the two centuries, never let their spirit and soul of the Nation diminished. Throughout the centuries, they have fought bravely in different times to enhance such spirit and soul of their Nation. Our people started off with great desire for an Independent Nation but such zeal of political struggle has eventually destroyed totally by the era of white terror. Total apathy has replaced our Spirit and Soul of our Nation. We have started from “one extreme” to another extreme.

    The sand storms of our political desert will eventually wipe us out as a Nation. If we do not awaken the souls of this Nation, we will eventually be buried under the tons of sands of this political desert.

    Goh Meng Seng

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    What's wrong with our "Education"?

    This is an article I wrote about our Education System while replying to a forumite in YPAP Forum

    I find this relevant when I read about people complaining about those violent acts happening in our schools recently. There are even people asking the Ministry of Education to re-introduce Religious Studies in our schools to strengthen the morals of our young.

    The debate will go on and on but we must first get the fundamentals right.

    Goh Meng Seng

    Dear Lai

    You have written quite a bit of thought provoking pieces here in YPAP forum. But Alas, those from YPAP are only interested in "defending" and bombarding your views, instead of really examine the root cause of all these problems. Thus, I really doubt Wong KS's invitation of young people to join PAP so that they could really "influence" the policy making process. If YPAP couldn't even take criticisms as it is and try to critically examine them, how could we expect those at the very top to take our criticisms seriously? That is why I always believe that if you really want to make the difference, joining the opposition parties and working towards the alternative politics is the ONLY way to make better this country.

    Let me share with you my views on this issue. In my opinion, this has got to do with our "EDUCATION" system. We no longer "EDUCATE" our students in schools; in the late 80s and 90s, our schools are just "factories" that keep stuffing technical knowledge to our students, but not "EDUCATING" them to become a human being with decency. "EDUCATION" was left to "chances" and each individuals' natural inclination. Now, it is even worst. Our schools have shifted their attention to "AWARD WINNING".... Principals are more interested in winning awards after awards for the school so that they could beef up their portfolios, profiles and achievements; they could even make students sarcrifice their studies just to make sure that they win awards for the "school" (but in actual fact, it is for the principals' own profile filings).

    This shift in "Education" system has got to do with the so called "advancement" of society. When the economy needs a great supply of "techincally trained" (note, not "educated") population to fill up factories' position, our "Education" system was turned into a factory that is only interested in chunking out "products" that are equipped with technical knowledge. Well, not that it is wrong to do so, but on the expense of the deliberate neglect of character training in TRUE EDUCATION of the populous into a "HUMAN BEING" was too high cost to pay. When they find out this "problem" of over emphasis on "technical training" (in terms of results orientated), they come up with another sets of "measurements" that they thought could "balance up" the "education" system; yes, using the number of "non-academic awards" to measure a school's "success" in "education". This is rubbish.

    This has resulted in principals (especially the young ones) to put in all efforts in winning "awards"...all kinds of awards. This is no "character building" at all. The casualties? Students. Especially for those below average neighbourhood schools... those principals know pretty well that with that kind of "academic quality" of students, it is impossible to impress their bosses at the Ministry level with "academic achievements". Thus, to them, to win all sorts of awards are their top priorities. Teachers that could help the schools win awards will be treated as "jewels", never mind about their teaching abilities. Examinations could be postponed or even break into two different time frame, just to let students prepare for activities that could possibly win awards for the schools! Never mind whether the students could cope with their school work or not....they are not "top quality" students anyway... use them as tools to win awards to glorify principals' achievements lor!

    I know all these funny things happening in Singapore schools because I have many friends in the teaching profession. It is really disheartening to learn all these crazy happenings in schools. Schools no longer "Educate" morality, not even provide "academic/technical training", but has become a "award winning" machine for principals to glorify their own profiles! Beside "award winning" mentality, principals "glorify" themselves by spending unnecessary monies on landscaping, monuments...etc etc...Who to blame? Of course the chief of MOE has to be blamed!

    This "glorification" culture has extended into all sectors of the civil service; that is why you see all sorts of funny and "designer" buildings built for the civil service.... there are more than seven wonders in Singaproe! That is why we could spend $600million on the two durians, knowing that we are going to spend another $50million in ANNUAL maintenance fees!

    This is the decay we are facing right now... friendliness and civic minds? How could we cultivate all these when the whole government, from the top to the bottom are all obsessed with self glorifications?

    Goh Meng Seng

    Film Act--- Void Deck interview

    This is the interview done by Void Deck on the issue on Film Act.

    The Void Deck Interviews Goh Meng Seng on Political Films

    TVD - People get the impression that CNA "Up Close" officially not political film, but unofficially is one. Wat is a political party film in your opinion? When it is made by a political party or its members? hehe or....When the Pappies say it is one?

    GMS - It is not just about "people's perception", it has been "written into law" that such double standards are acceptable to the PAP govt.

    One must try to understand why the film act is amended to include "political" film in the first place. Audio-Visual presentation is a powerful political tool of propagada. PAP used to have monopoly over it through the national media. The entry barrier for video/film production was pretty high in the past due to cost factors but the technological advancement has lowered such barriers and provide almost equal opportunities for everyone, especially those in partisan politics, to make use of this powerful media.

    Thus, I think PAP attempted to prolong their monopoly of this powerful tool, and they have to amend the film act to prevent their opponents to utilize this form of marketing tool to equal their standing. This basically means that in my view, they do not believe in equal, level playing field.

    The primary objective of the political film act is to prevent opposition parties from producing films that introduce their own parties. However, PAP has put great discretionary power onto their own minister and govt by stating that any films sponsored by the govt or approved by the minister would be exempted by the Act! This is the inherent double standards installed into the film Act. Such great discretionary power also put films made by individual film makers at the mercy hand of PAP govt! It has widen the scope of "political film" to potentially any films that criticize PAP that it doesn't like!

    In view of the Singapor Rebel film vs the Up Close done by CNA, there is practically no difference between the two in terms of content concept except that Up Close is being screen through the TV station! So why should Singapore Rebel be discriminated? You could try to test out the law and expose such double standards by doing the same thing that MDA has done, lodge a police report on CNA's Up Close and see whether they will investigate CNA on producing such features or not.

    In a truly democratic society, there isn't a need for any govt to restrict political films or advertisement at all. US and Taiwan are good examples. For the following link, you could find Taiwan DPP's website which they have one section dedicated to all the past political advertisement they have done over the years.

    As for what constitute a political film, I think almost any film that touches on social-political issues may be considered as political films. If one starts to define political films narrowly as some films produced by political parties, then I would say that's basically a technique used to discriminate and victimize individuals that have chosen the partisan path. This is against the spirit of our constitutions that state that everybody should be treated equally.

    TVD - Have you watched Singapore Rebel? hehe from the Internet? Wat you think of it? Is it so controversial that Pappies scared we watch it we dun vote for them or spoil our vote or vote SDA, SDP, WP (not in order of preference)?

    GMS - I have watched Singapore Rebel from the internet. For one who wants to make use of the political film Act to silence or restrict its opponents' access to the powerful audio-visual tool as it has enjoyed, it will definitely want to kill off such production. For any serious academic, one may view this as a documentary of the historical development of Singapore's politics.

    There is nothing controversial about the film. It is basically a film that recorded the various (political)events that have happened to a local politician in Singapore. The only possible "controversial" about the film is that it has challenged PAP's monopoly of the powerful audio-visual media.

    TVD - SDP keep denying in their website Martyn is SDP member, they fight for him and ironically instead draw more negative Pappy attention to him! How do you think the investigations against Martyn See will turn out? Wat is best way of handling the matter if you had a say?

    GMS - Martyn, as I know him, isn't a member of SDP. SDP may feel obliged to "fight" for him basically because he got into "trouble" making a film on SDP SG, Dr. Chee. But in my opinion, it is unwise for SDP to jump the gun and shoot off from its hip. There are two perspectives in this issue:

    1) Help Martyn to get out of legal trouble.

    2) To raise public awareness of the unfair law (i.e. Film Act)

    Partisan "connection" is the least desirable element that Martyn needs now. We should leave the issue on KIV instead of making press statements over this. We should not try to gain political capital out of other people's plight.

    If the police, after their investigations, wanted to charge Martyn for breaching the film act, then we could act on this issue. There are a few options or approaches which I will not want to reveal here for strategic considerations.

    TVD - When now can upload films in the internet, with the gahment trying to be more open, with people more educated and can decide for themselves, do you think the party political films act should be reviewed or even repealed?

    GMS - The political film act shouldn't be there in the very first place! It should be scrapped totally if PAP govt is sincere about creating a more open society! The film act should instead include films that would potentially create racial tensions or hatred. Or any films that are made to undermine Singapore's National security. The act itself should be very specific about the scope and aim of defending the society's interests, instead of a political party's interests.

    TVD - If Pappy so insecure abt totally allowing political films, should there be a classification for party political films? Or could there be censorship as well? Or become like R(A) films?

    GMS - PAP could claim that we are "matured" enough to decide for ourselves whether to go for casino gambling, but not matured enough to view political films or advertisement?

    There isn't a need to have a special classifications basically because those below 21 years old would not have the chance to vote. Political advertisement doesn't have any ill effects at all. And it would only be good to educate the young of political-social issues, letting them to have alternative source of perspectives and views on various political-social issues, rather than subjecting them to the one and only one "National education" process! This would make them more narrow in outlook and perspective in general!

    TVD - Any concluding thoughts or things we left out?

    GMS - The issue of Martyn See's Singapore Rebel in contrast to CNA's Up Close is a good educational process for all Singaporeans.

    We aim to be a HUB for everything, including film making and TV stations. But look at the draconian and strict Film Act in totality and you will know that there are many outdated laws in it, in veiw of the great accessibility of equipment and competition in the global film market. Read about it in Martyn's website:

    It is time for Singaporeans to see clearly how unfair laws work in Singapore. It is time for Singaporeans to think for themselves, what kind of "Open Society" PAP has promised us. It is time for Singaporeans to think for themselves, whether they would allow their children or future generations to live in such an "open" society as promised by PAP. If they are unhappy about it, they could either choose the easy way out by taking the option of emigration or they could play a part to change the whole direction of our society's development.


    This is an article that I have dug out from Sammyboy forum which forms the foundation of my the other article A Singapore without Singaporeans.

    Dear Avantas,

    There are hopes that you have refused to see.

    It is true that we are facing the crude reality that even PAP is feeling hopeless about it; PAP's strategy so far is to fill up the holes by importing "Foreign Talents" whom might just forever remain "Foreign".

    You are suggesting that we are fast becoming a Nation without Nationhood, a Singapore without Singaporeans in every essence. It is not a wrong observation which I have to agree; in spiritual or psychological sense, when the Nation's citizens are only thinking about migrating somewhere else and treating their citizenship as "temporary refuge", there isn't a Nation in existence in essence.

    After doing a careful study on our CPF and retirement fundings, I cannot help to feel that it is only "natural" for people to want to migrate when their productive life "expired". It is a big irony for PAP govt to suggest to raise the retirement age when people in their 40s could not even find a job! PAP govt is overly too "functional" in their approach and they have lost the crucial touch on the ground. They don't want to be burdened by the aging population and thus, the only way out is to ask Singaporeans' to extend their retirement! They wouldn't even care if you migrated out of Singapore when you are over 45 years old! That's all the better for them!

    And in essence, you are right. With such attitude from such govt, it is only right for the citizens to take this place simply as a "hotel". PAP is only worried about young people like yourself to be migrating out. That is why there is an interesting shift in PAP's approach lately, to "appeal" to the young. It is not only about political votes but simply because you are still at the productive life cycle.

    And I cannot blame you to think in such a way simply because you are just learning from what you see from those who are being discarded when they reach 45 years old.

    The hope is always there, it is a matter of whether you want to give it up or not. No matter how small the hope is, it is only right for us to groom and make it grow. Even if there is no hope, it is up to us to create one for ourselves.

    As I always remember the jabbing that I get which has spurred me to take my stand politically, it is up to you to make your stand.

    "Why would you support the opposition that have no working faculties at all?"

    For a person like you, you may just agree and keep quiet, working towards migrating out without seeing any hope in the whole picture. For a person like me, forever a fighter, will take it as true but choose to join the opposition forces and make it happen. Same scenerio will breed two different reactions. You say this city is just a merchant city, merely a hotel; but that's not entirely true. There are people like me, who are willing to be the suckers to sarcrifice time and money just to fight for something that seems so remotely possible.

    In short, it is all up in the mind, your mind and mine.

    Goh Meng Seng