Sunday, June 26, 2011

Political Sabbatical

I am stepping down from Secretary General of National Solidarity Party from today onwards.

It has been an exciting 1 year and 4 months of leading NSP as SG in its preparation and contesting in the last General Elections. There are "crisis" like NEA summon which I have to manage. But I am glad that we have managed it very well by NOT paying up the fines, else the impact would be unimaginable... can you imagine ALL opposition parties being banned from selling our publications and newspapers during our weekly regular outreach? It was a TOUGH but RIGHT decision and judgement made. A very important lesson and experience for all of us.

I have mixed feelings about the GE results NSP has achieved during my tenure as SG. It is the BEST electoral result that NSP has achieved since its inception but it is still not up to my expectation of winning seats in parliament. This is one of the small regret I have so far.

I will NOT be contesting for a seat in the NSP Central Executive Committee as well. I will go into Partisan Political Sabbatical for at least 2 years. I feel that as the outgoing Secretary General, I should refrain from staying in the CEC so that I would not be seen as undermining the authority of the New SG under any circumstances. But for the time being, I will still stay as a Congress member of NSP.

I will leave behind a stronger and better platform for my successor as well as Singaporeans who wish to contribute to the opposition movement to work on.

10 years in politics is a very tiring process. There is one saying, 1 year in politics is just like 10 years in life. It is very true indeed. But looking back at my initial motivations to get into partisan politics, I guess the two key missions I have set out to achieve, have been accomplished; though they might not be directly achieved by me.

The first mission is to break the hegemony of PAP power by breaching the first GRC. I believe that once the first GRC falls into opposition hands, there will be rapid changes which will create a more balanced system. This has been accomplished by Workers Party in GE2011.

The second mission is to bring justice to my generation of people who are so adversely affected by the so called "Asset Enhancement Scheme" created by the Goh Chok Tong administration. I feel that NSP has provided a good platform for me to elaborate on the ills of such irresponsible scheme which promotes GREED in the guise of "asset enhancement" but in actual fact, will cause great wealth disparity across generations. GE2011 is a very special event which allowed me to elaborate on the ills of the insane Asset Enhancement Scheme which was coupled of false sense of affordability of HDB flats propagated by the PAP.

Thus I should safely say that if I have to quit politics altogether now, I will gladly do so PROUDLY. I could finally tell my children and grandchildren wonder stories about my political involvement in Singapore in future!

However, the biggest regret I have during my tenure of SG is the death of my eldest brother in the tour of duty of helping me out during GE2011. His death has provided much grief as well as inspiration for me during this period.

What will I be doing during this Political Sabbatical period?

In the coming couple of months, I will try to help Mr. Tan Kin Lian out in his Presidential Campaign as much as possible. This will be just another small effort on my part to try and institutionalize REAL checks and balances in our political system.

I could be looking into getting myself involved in various international NGOs where I could further practice and enhance the Core Values of Democracy, Social Justice and Human Rights. I am currently looking into the World Problems of Refugees.

I could also be looking into more business opportunities else where so to earn more money to provide enough financial support for my late brother's family.

I could even be setting up a think tank with some other people who are interested in providing non-partisan policy views.

Whichever the case, I think it is about time to take stock of my future directions now. This timely Political Sabbatical will provide me the necessary breather to do just that.

Someone may ask me whether I will be back to stand for the next GE. Honestly, I have no answer to that now. It will depend on situations there and then.

But for my readers of this blog, I will still write periodically about my various thoughts whenever I have the inspiration to do so. Especially so for the coming couple of months, I will be writing more on the Presidential Elections.

I wish to thank all my supporters for all these years. Some of you have been truly great to me.

Last but not least, I also wish to thank my colleagues in NSP who have given me the support and opportunity to serve and lead the party for the past year.

Goh Meng Seng

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Elected Presidency - Why Tan Kin Lian?

In my previous post, I have stated PAP's intentions when they first set up the Elected Presidency system. I have also stated that back in 2008, I decided to turn the table around and try to beat PAP at their own game and rules. That is why I approached Mr. Tan Kin Lian.

But why Tan Kin Lian?

I have known Kin Lian through his writing to the ST Forum as well as his blog. Though I do not agree 100% with what he has said (eg. his stand on Casino) but through his writing, he is always positive about things, even when he disagreed with certain policies or views. He would always try to suggest alternative solutions etc. He also appears to be quite FAIR in his comments and approaches.

Most importantly, I get to know Kin Lian much better through a mutual friend. An unassuming person who judge people on their performance and abilities, not merely on their education certificates and family background. These were just some of the information I gathered before I met him.

I finally met him over a drink to talk about the need to have a truly independent minded Elected President so that the separation of powers coupled with checks and balances within our political system could be enhanced. He agreed in principle of such needs but he said he wasn't ready to consider candidacy for Elected President. However, he put up his views on how PAP has changed over time and the very core values (eg. Public Service) which are so valuable have been eroded.

Even thugh he wasn't ready to stand as candidate, but he mentioned that if he ever stand and become President one day, he will donate off a big portion of the salary of the President to charity. This is because he feels that the salary of the President is just too excessive as this is basically Public Service. Although I may not have "achieved" my initial aim but I am glad to have met Kin Lian and have a friend like him.

As an opposition member, it is naturally for me to hold certain views which will have a tendency of bias against PAP. Most of the time, Kin Lian is able to balance it up with his Fair deliberations. I have learned the value of Fairness through Kin Lian in my various subsequent meetings with him.

When the Minibond saga exploded, many people wrote to Kin Lian to complain about how the structured financial products have been sold to them. Subsequently, Kin Lian decided to hold protest rallies at Hong Lim Park to help Minibond victims to gain access to Fidrac. He has also held meetings and discussions with lawyers to explore various legal options.

Kin Lian subsequently found out that there were quite a large number of victims who could only understand Chinese. After failing to secure help from his PAP friends, he finally approached me. That is how I get myself involved in the whole Minibond saga.

After much research into the various financial structured products, we are convinced that there is no way layman on the streets could understand these products well before committing their investment. We also believe that the banks and financial institutions should not put up these products for retail banking and MAS should not have approved such move. Massive mis-selling of such products is possible because we believe that even those promoters at the front counters did not really understand Minibonds fully. All signs of mis-representation and mis-selling were all there but most Minibond victims did not get a Fair treatment and Justice.

Kin Lian has tried his very best to uphold his values of Fairness by getting involved in the Minibond Saga. It proved to be a long drawn battle which died off because Fair Justice cannot be obtained within our system without committing hefty cost. Unlike Hong Kong whereby the pressure put up by the opposition parties in their Legislative Council has paid off and most investors were able to recover more than 70% or even 90% of their losses. In Singapore, those who are successful in recovering substantial part of their investment are very limited.

By then, I was told Kin Lian has resigned from PAP. Kin Lian, in return for my help in the Minibond Saga, promised to speak on my Rally Stage if I stood for elections. He kept his promise in GE2011.

I have written this lengthy essay on how I meet Mr Tan Kin Lian and what happens in between just to show readers why Tan Kin Lian is a person who can be trusted to perform the critical role of Elected President. He has not only spoken dearly about the core values which he believes in but when the need arises, he will stand up to the challenge to uphold his values of Fairness and Public Service. His courage to stand up for justice to the Minibond victims and even risk clashing with his ex-PAP colleague, Mr. Goh Chok Tong who was then the Chairman of MAS (Kin Lian has served as his branch secretary before) is commendable.

We need a President with the MORAL Courage to stand up for Justice, Fairness and the welfare of the people. This Moral Courage must be huge enough to overcome fear and even barriers of personal relationships. By standing to lead and help the Minibond victims in time of needs and desperation, Kin Lian has demonstrated the kind of public spirit needed in a caring President.

To put it simply, NONE of the MPs in parliament have stepped forward to help the Minibond victims. Even though some of the town councils which were run by PAP MPs were hit by Minibond and lost millions, they just kept quiet and mention the losses in such a "matter of fact" way that gave people the impression that it is just a SMALL MATTER to lose just that millions.

Some people have viewed all his doings in contempt. They would say he did all these because he was planning to run for President all along. As one of the persons who have tried to persuade Kin Lian to run for Presidency, I must categorically refute such unfounded accusations and insinuations. He just tried his best to help out when he saw the unfairness Minibond victims faced.

He wasn't even thinking of running for General Election as opposition candidate, least Presidency. The only reason why he spoke at my Tampines Rally to campaign for me is basically to fulfill his promise made earlier on. I initiated it by calling him up to request his presence and support.

Kin Lian may be strongly opinionated at times but he is prepared to change his views if he is being convinced otherwise. The prime example is the views he held against Dr Chee Soon Juan. Initially, he has bad impression of Dr Chee just like most Singaporeans. But after having close contacts and observing Dr Chee for sometime, he realizes that Dr Chee isn't that "evil person" that the PAP and Press made out of him. He has since openly made an apology to Dr. Chee for his past views.

Having said all these, Kin Lian is definitely not a Saint. He will have some shortcomings just like anybody else. But most importantly, in my opinion, after all the contacts I have made with him, I feel that he has the necessary qualities to be a good and effective President in performing the role of safeguarding our reserves. Someone who is fair minded but yet has the moral courage to stand up against all odds to ask the necessary and difficult questions. Up to the point of risking his own personal friendship with his ex-PAP colleagues, in safeguarding the interests of the People and the Nation.

Thus, my personal support of Mr. Tan Kin Lian in this Presidential Election.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Elected Presidency - What Kind of President?

By now, most people who follow the news of the pending Presidential election closely would know my support for Mr. Tan Kin Lian to contest for Presidency.

My endorsement of Mr. Tan Kin Lian as President comes a long way but before I explain why I support Kin Lian, let me address some of the views which have been made by various people, including past and present Ministers on the role of the Elected Presidency.

The gist of the messages from the PAP ministers is that the Elected President has limited power and His Excellency could only act as the custodian of the reserves with some limited veto power. He cannot comment or influence the investment directions of any reserves, may not even question the accountability of various people and organizations who may make huge losses of the reserves they are in charge of. His role is only restricted to preventing the government of the day to spend the reserves when he deems fit.

One could easily see the biggest irony here. The President does not have the power to direct investment decisions nor extract accountability from those who are appointed to invest the reserves, when they make huge losses to the reserves. However, he has the power to prevent ELECTED GOVERNMENT of the day from spending the reserves!

As for the appointment of key appointment holders, the President must appoint key appointment holders ACCORDING to the advice of the Cabinet and the Presidential Council whose members are basically, appointed by the Cabinet. Interestingly, the PAP leaders have said several times that if there is a "rogue government" voted in, presumably not PAP, the President could help to prevent it from making various key appointment so to preserve the integrity of the system. This is in fact a contradictory motive and power distribution.

Basically it means, if PAP is in power, the President will have to listen to it and his power will be curbed. But the PAP has also planned for the day when it loses power, then it could make use of the President to curb the power of the "rogue government" or even cripples it totally. Why? This is because the President will be there to protect the PAP appointed individuals on the key positions from being removed by this "rogue government". Yes, this includes the Chairman of GIC.

This is the kind of system PAP has designed for Singapore; or rather, for its own self interests. PAP leaders have once said, if opposition is to form the government consecutively for two terms, Singapore will be finished. Actually what they meant was that for the first term, PAP could still try to cripple the rouge government but by the second term, this rogue government would have people who will be qualified to be President and the system would actually deprive PAP from making a come back to be the ruling party again. It is PAP which is going to be finished, to be exact.

This is really a kind of irony, really. It is just like the GRC system. It will be very advantageous to PAP as long as no opposition party is good enough to win any GRC. But once a GRC is lost, it will become the biggest nightmare to PAP's hegemony of power or it might become the beginning of the end of PAP's ruling status.

Similarly, the Elected Presidency will only be good as long as no "non-establishment" individual could win it. They may not be the cute little puppet that PAP wants him to be. PAP thought that as long it is in power, this will not happen. But the late President Ong Teng Cheong has proven to be too inconvenient for it to handle.

The incoherence of the Elected President system arises because of the conflicting aims of PAP's intention under different scenarios and situations. i.e. they just want to have the cake and eat it. By right, if the Elected President has so limited power, PAP should not be too concerned about losing the post to someone whom it may not endorse. However, PAP cannot disarm the power of the Elected President totally because it may end up compromising the original idea of using it as a means to cripple the rogue government. It is really a Catch 22 situation. Thus the best outcome is to continue to make sure that only the people PAP endorse will become the President.

Logically, as an opposition member, I should be opposing this Elected Presidency system. Any rules or system designed with the intention of protecting PAP's interests will have to be opposed.

However, I have second thought back in 2008. I would want to beat PAP at their own games with their own rules. I would rather to take this opportunity to turn this around so that some real checks and balances could start right now, via the Elected President.

PAP wanted a President who is preferably performing mostly ceremonial roles and not exercising any real influence or power of checks and balances on them. i.e. A President who will just sit there and not say anything which could embarrass the PAP. The President may have no real executive powers, but it doesn't mean that he could not make timely comments on issues which will affect the people in various ways. An Elected President should not be robbed of his voice, his freedom of speech with respect to the welfare of the people.

Thus, what kinds of people should we be looking for to be our President? I always tell people around me, we should not be looking for a SAINT to be our President. There is hardly any SAINT around here in Singapore, least one who could qualify as a Presidential candidate with such materialistic criteria and measures. Maybe we may have a monk or pastor or any other religious leaders who are saint-like but most probably they won't be CEO of some companies with $100 million paid up capital, least a politician.

We should be looking for a person who have an independent mind, FAIR, HONEST and most importantly has the moral courage to speak up for the people. The moral courage to stand up and question the government of the day if there are problems with the reserves or otherwise.

There are a lot of nice people around but nice people may not be the right people to perform the role of the Elected President.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. I will write about why I find Mr. Tan Kin Lian the right person to be our President in my next post.