Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Electoral System Under Scrutiny

Recently five empty ballot boxes used for 2012 Presidential Elections were found idling in a school compound. The newly promoted Minister Chan has replied in parliament to brush it off as a non-issue as these were not "controlled items" anymore. That is utterly nonsense.

Maybe the Minister has not gone through any elections since he was "uncontested" during GE 2011 and he didn't know how the whole electoral process is carried out. But I am surprised no one, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE in parliament has challenged him on such nonsensical claim by pointing out the obvious contradictions to what the actual electoral process is about.

Let me run through the process in counting centers to illustrate this point:

1) After the polling is closed, all ballot boxes will be transported to the relevant counting centers. No polling agents nor counting agents are allowed to escort the boxes. This has been raised by Tan Jee Say. This should be improved and agents should be allowed to escort the ballot boxes.

2) When the ballot boxes reached the counting centers, they are separated into different precinct level for counting. A typical counting center will have six precincts, meaning, six separated tables for counting with different supervisors and counting agents.

3) The number of total ballots for each precincts was not announced before counting. This should be improved because the Election Department should have such data since it has been computerized. This is the make sure that the number of votes cast should equal to the number of votes counted.

4) After counting, they will submit the vote counts for the main supervisor to tally. There after, they will announce the vote tally.

5) If there is no objections, the Election officials will put every single thing, including counting documents and ballots BACK into the SAME BALLOT BOXES and sealed them up. This is done because it would be easy for future checking if there is any electoral dispute on the results. These boxes will then be sent to be stored at High Court Vault.

6) There is no other carriers used in the whole process. Thus, logically there SHOULD NOT BE EXTRA BALLOT BOXES lying around if this stringent process is followed thoroughly.

Thus, unless Minister Chan can show us that the whole counting process has been changed, there is absolutely no reason to believe that these boxes are discarded instead of "extras".

P.S. Add-on:
I am not saying anybody is lying because the electoral process has been changed over time. eg. Last time we used to have metal boxes with locks instead of paper boxes.

But any changes made to the whole process must not compromise the integrity or the perception of the integrity of the electoral process.

The reason to preserve ALL critical material used in the electoral process because if there is any dispute after the elections, investigation will have to be made and even boxes could be evidence or clue to what actually happened.

Thus, if there are more than one box in a precinct, all boxes must be preserved and kept until it is sure that no contest or dispute on the results warrant any recount or investigation, then these boxes will be sent to incinerators together.

This concept is about keeping the evidence of the first scene in any criminal investigation.

What the Minister has said is totally illogical because it would mean that critical evidence like the boxes would be "declassified" and throw away even before there is certainty that no investigation or dispute raised. That is absurd.

It is only logical to consider these boxes as controlled items even after vote count because it could create unnecessary doubts on the electoral process if there are boxes lying around that would give rise to suspicion of frauds. 

The Electoral Process must not only be done properly but it must also be SEEN to be done properly. Thus, all processes must be taken with great care. The addition suggestions I have made here must be considered seriously:

A) Election or Polling agents from both sides must be allowed to escort the transportation of ballot boxes.

B) Before the counting starts, counting agents and observers must be told about the ballot cast in the respective precincts. Total vote cast for all precincts must be declared as well. This could be done with the help of modern technology. This is to make sure that the possibilities of frauds will be minimized. 

This is a serious matter as it has great impact on the perception of the whole electoral process and the legitimacy of the people being elected in every elections. This is especially important when the last Presidential Elections was so closely fought and the vote difference between the elected candidate (Tony Tan) and the first runner up (Tan Cheng Bock) was just a few thousand votes.

An independent Parliamentary Inquiry Committee consisting of both ruling and opposition party MPs  should be set up and called to investigate about the matter instead of relying solely on statement made by the PMO which was the department in charge of the Election Department. A separation of power should be constructed to exercise true checks and balances of such important matter that concern the integrity of our electoral system.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. Some said that the counted ballots should be contained in new boxes instead of old. I disagree. This is because if there is a any dispute later on, investigation will be made and all details of the electoral process will be scrutinized. Old boxes contain such details and it should be preserved.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Half Way Bell Check on SG Political Parties - WP Part II

It is always difficult for me to write an assessment or critique of Workers Party not only because it has apparently the largest "Internet Troopers" on New Media who would readily curse and swear at people who criticize WP but on top of that, I was once a member of its CEC.It will be a kind of internal struggle within me but since I have set to be truthful to myself and to the words I write, what have to be done, will be done accordingly. It is for the greater good of learning for our constant evolving and emerging democracy in Singapore.

It was exciting for anyone who have worked decades for a better development of democracy in Singapore to know that opposition party WP has finally "made it" to break through the stranglehold of the GRC system which was deemed as the "impenetrable fortress" of PAP heavily guarded by its ministers. I was no exception to such excitement. However, barely six to eight months right after such historical breakthrough, reality started to set in for WP.

WP fought GE2011 with a rather "sexy" slogan "Towards First World Parliament" which actually lacks philosophical and ideological depth but it works and they won. At first look, it doesn't really  matter as long as they could win seats. However, things to fall apart when parliamentary sitting starts.

What is WP's Policy Ideological Stance?

First of all, it seems WP has flip flopped on its stance on Million dollar Ministerial Salary. It tries to use some technical terms like MX-9 without a full understanding that their approach will end up similar to PAP. It is a kind of embarrassment for WP trying to show that it has "alternative" and different from PAP but ended up like a side-kick of PAP instead. I really wonder whether WP has done a thorough internal policy exploration and debate or not before it went on to parliament to present its stance.This is especially important when its new maverick MPs try to "show off" their "intelligence" by embarking on a path that result in the upheaval of present policy stance, due diligence must be made.

The most horrified thing to happen in parliament is WP's stance on 6.9 million population direction. It just gave a "discount" to PAP's 6.9 million to 5.9 million. It is another glaring attempt of WP trying to show it is different from PAP by having some pseudo "alternative" without really understanding the real issues around them. Plucking figures from the air isn't going to show much credibility on WP's policy front. Their proposal is in effect, a 15% increase from the present population figures and I wonder if they really think Singapore could cope with a further 15% increase in population or not.

Apart from all these, the most unbearable thing to see is WP going into parliament to raise municipal issues of cats, dogs and bird droppings. Have they run out of idea or policy matters to talk about in parliament?

All these could be excused, said WP apologists, because WP MPs are new to parliamentary culture and policy debates. But I would remind them that WP SG LTK has over 20 years of parliamentary experience and Sylvia Lim is not new as well. They should have provided the needed guidance to their "green colleagues".

It is also important to note that WP lacks real team building and shared core political values. Well, we can't expect much from opposition parties at this stage because most of the time, even for TEAM A of the opposition party, it is only assembled at the very last minute. Most important of all, for some odd reasons, you don't really see the WP MPs giving active support to each other in parliamentary debates. Communication and intense policy discussions among key members is a very important way to get political stance clear and everybody stick to it instead of flip flopping during public forums and parliamentary debates.

The most embarrassing contradiction and glaring fumble that exposed WP's apparent lack of Democratic ideology is the Vote Buying Saga in one of its HDB upgrading voting exercise carried out in its Aljunied Town. Lucky Draw for voting yes. Isn't this similar to PAP's strategy of vote PAP for HDB upgrading kind of pork barrel politics? Apparently WP only pays lip service to Democracy and attack PAP for vote buying just to gain votes. But when it comes to its own little management of a town, it would even go a step further by using privileged information of voters' preference (because it is not a secret ballot) to carry out its vote buying exercise!

Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and Competency

The unfortunate YSL adultery saga is the first major blow to WP. But apparently, the impact is very limited as the two by elections in Hougang and Punggol East have demonstrated that voters are unfazed  by such scandal. But up till now, due to WP's abrupt dismissal of YSL after keeping totally mum about the rumors, most Singaporeans will not know the truth at all. The truth may mean little to most people but the way WP handles this issue gives a glimpse on the opaque way WP deals with matters. It is unfortunate for an opposition party like WP who fights on the Democracy principles of Transparency and Accountability would end up tripping itself all over them. The only face-saving act was to sack YSL in double quick time when more evidence surfaced on the media to show that YSL has erred in his personal life.

Plagiarism is not acceptable in any field but apparently WP doesn't see it as a problem, even if it means suffering embarrassment when Pritam was exposed right in parliament. Apart from all these, there is also a small little drama of Secret Squirrel Saga happening right in the middle of Hougang By-elections which directly questioned WP Png Eng Huat's integrity when it shows documented WP internal CEC minutes that Png was listed as one of the potential NCMP candidate as contrary to what he has claimed. 

But these aren't the greatest evil yet. Town Council management and WP's managing agent FMSS seems to its biggest problem so far.

Town Council management used to be WP's Comparative Advantage against all other opposition parties but apparently it is loosing its plot over this field. First of all, the initial appointment of FMSS as its MA raise eyebrows. We have attacked PAP for giving out contracts and goodies to cronies but in the end, we find WP doing the same in its own backyard. So it seems that being FIrst World is to learn from PAP's First World bad practices in dealing with public contracts. But at the very least, when the Brompton bike saga blew up, PAP took actions against its errant civil servants.

WP's TC management was put in doubt for various issues:

1) For some reasons, the Independent Auditors didn't want to sign or comment on AHTC's account. This is rather unusual and we don't know why up till now. WP didn't offer any explanation at all and such opaque management style is really worrying.

2) WP blames some of its TC management problems to PAP's AIM. Although PAP's AIM saga involved politically motivated transactions, but apparently, from published documented emails, WP is supposed to have a smooth hand over since 2011. This was reiterated by WP's Sylvia Lim that there was a smooth transition. So it is quite puzzling to hear WP back tracking and blame on PAP for its own incompetency.

3) The most intriguing and disappointing happening is the Hawker Ceiling Saga. Here again, after it is apparent that there must be something wrong with FMSS management of the TC, inconvenient truths are just swept under the carpet. Accusations made against FMSS key manager insisting of additional payment was brushed aside while unsolicited quotation to the hawkers by its subcontractor was explained as "private deal"! It is really mind boggling  and when you thought LTK is going to do some serious investigation on this issue, a sudden twist happens and everything is quickly swept off and WP just pretends nothing happens. It is a typical incident that exposed doubtful integrity, non-transparent and total lack of accountability on WP's part.

4) Dubious sacking of TWO pregnant women by FMSS within a year has put serious doubts on WP's political standing. Some have argued that FMSS is not WP but we must always remember that FMSS only serves WP's AHTC and WP is the boss that employed this management agent. If the MA it employs has bad management practices that contradicts the party's political philosophy or ideology like eradicating discrimination of women, single women, pregnant women etc, then it has the political moral authority to correct FMSS. But so far, nothing heard from WP on such standing.

Despite of all these failings hitting hard at the basic fundamental core values of WP's Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and Competency, I guess most die-hard opposition supporters and WP people would still pledge their support for WP. This is a big silver lining for WP. However, there might be a small group of well educated middle ground voters who will have their confidence shaken by all these happenings. But I guess this group will be quite insignificant, taking the two by-elections into account.

Political Ground Movement & Engagement

WP remains as the only opposition party which has the most consistent political ground engagement on the front. It is a strong tradition that keeps the party moving, consolidate and provide ground activities for their activists. At the same same, it also provides an important revenue source to pay rent for the party HQ.

WP also has the advantage of controlling the TC in which provides a platform for it to organize various activities for residents, like Durian Tours etc. On top of that, they have consistent door knocking and block parties.

These are tested and proven to be effective political work that will help to fortified their gains as well as opening up new frontiers.

Intra-party Dynamics

On the surface, Mr. Low TK seems to hold a tight ship. However there are signs that all are not well.

First of all, it is the matter of ethnic balance. The departure of Sajeev and Fazli, both candidates of WP in GE2011, has shed some light of the perceived "Chinese" image of WP. Some may argue that these are just exceptional cases but that is not all. WP tried to woo "minority members" by holding some talks specially for Malays but the attendance by non-party members was pathetic. It has tried to appease the Malay community and its members by promoting some of them to cadre members. It has also "elected" more Malays and Indians into its Youth Wing CEC. But the fact still remains, its recent "helicopter co-option" of three "elite" members into its CEC has further tilted the racial balance within its top leadership.

The situation may aggravate if these members have seldom participated in any Hammer sales or door knocking. It is quite unusual for WP do a "helicopter co-option" of CEC members more than 1 year after its OPC. I remember back in the early days, they tried to co-opt a Malay lecturer but failed because the reason given was, WP should respect the will and votes of the cadres... well even when it is a good potential Malay candidate. Of course, the Malay lecturer left the party thereafter.

Apart from that, it is fascinating to observe LTK being "over-ruled" subtly in the Hawker Ceiling Saga. He has openly declared that he want to find out who asks FMSS contractor ATL to send the quotation to the hawkers. But subsequently, he retracted his stance by saying there will be no more investigation done. Although LTK has stepped down as Vice Chairman of the TC but he is still the SG of WP and member of the Board of TC. When there are issues arising from the TC which will put bad publicity and doubts on the party, he will need to step in to clear it up. Thus, it really makes me wonder whether he is still in control of the party at all when he has to do a U-turn like this publicly.

Many view the co-option of the three CEC members as "good development" but I would see it as a signal that there is intense tension within the CEC so much so that LTK has to use co-option as a means to tilt the balance to ensure stability within. But such co-option will create more quiet discontent among cadres and party activists especially so when it is perceived as "elitist" without considering the party's culture of "merits" based on participation of ground work like Hammer Sales and Door Knocking. It will disillusion them that WP is becoming too similar to PAP's management. It is not a good sign at all.

There has been long standing rumors about factional friction and even "fight" within WP but I would say that it would be foolish for anyone to rock the boat when all of them are sitting on its tip.

How is WP Performance so far?

Very disappointing. This is not just my assessment but some WP ardent supporters and even members who have put it plainly to me.

Chen Shao Mao has been "over-sold". He is the only one with "International Perspective" but he lacks depth in understanding issues in Singapore. This is why he could only go on lofty ideas but hardly any beef or insights on specific local issues. He may have well prepared speech delivered in parliament but as a lawyer, his debating skills is really agonizing. Although I don't like LKY at all but I have to agree with his observation of CSM, he is disappointing and cannot debate properly. It is a necessary but insufficient strength to recite a prepared speech properly in parliament. You need to be able to debate about it as well.

Then we have the maverick smart alec type, Pritam Singh. There is nothing wrong if you want to use somebody's else articulated points and this has been done quite frequently in parliament. But the only decent thing to do is to credit the source or raise it as "I have read this point from a blog....etc". But if you try to make it sound as your articulated point, then you lose your plot and integrity as well. Not to mention how he went on to conduct the "Vote Buying exercise" in his ward for HDB upgrading poll which is really a brutal and cruel way of diminishing the very democratic values his party is supposedly fighting for. Of course, his fumble over publicly saying that WP will be ready to be PAP's coalition partner in a post-GE2011 forum is really premature. The worst part is his role in the Ceiling Saga which he responded with that kind of smart alec attitude.

LTK is right that at present, WP is not ready to be the government yet. You may not need "elites", top lawyers or top scholars to form government but at the very least, you need people with REAL International Perspective and REAL Understanding of policy issues with indisputable integrity first before you can move forward to become ruling party. Apparently WP is very weak in this aspect. Sylvia Lim may be proficient in Legal issues while YJJ has good points in education policy, but that are about all they have. It would be very dangerous for WP to become ruling party with more of the likes of Lian and Huat. Nothing personal and nothing to do with "paper qualifications" but running ministries will need people with better ideas in policy matters. Learning from other countries is not a sin, but not knowing the issues and where to find solutions, will be devastating.


WP will definitely continue to win popular votes and more seats in the coming elections. Their ground political activities and engagement is superb and will allow them to gain more seats. However, that is purely not enough for a political party to win seats but unable to deliver in parliamentary debates or proper running of TC. It is just not enough to become a "social club" kind of political party where the party focus more on social gatherings and activities rather than serious policy discussions and deliberations.

Although it claims that it is not ready to be government, but it has to start somewhere, to groom itself to be a real alternative to PAP. It has to get its acts together, be it administrative running of its TC, policy debates in parliament, strengthening of their core values or just plain common sense.

Even if WP is really like what Pritam said, wanting to be a coalition partner of PAP, it will have to make sure that it has the people with necessary learning and exposures to become ministers.

What WP needs to do at the moment are:

1) Strengthen its internal political education process. It is just not enough to fill up members' time with Hammer Sales, Door Knocking and various social gatherings (temper dinners, Christmas party and such). A political party like WP will have to start political education to keep its members and activists deeply rooted in policy stance, political ideology and beliefs.

2) It must start to set its standards of good governance starting from TC management. It is totally unacceptable to allow its MA to create unnecessary political embarrassment and incidents that contradicts the party's political standing. WP must be the one which lead and guide the MA in management principles and not the other way round. It has to act as the boss of FMSS instead of allowing it to pull its nose around. Keep it under control.

3) It has to change its cultural mindset and change the perception of Malay and Indian communities if it wants to stay relevant to National political platform. Sense of Fairness and Justice is human inborn nature and you couldn't fool people all the time.

4) Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and Competency are easy slogans to shout about but definitely a heavy burden to practice. As an opposition, WP cannot lose the "Moral High Ground" by using the argument "PAP also like that" to justify its shortcomings. Worse still, learning those "legalized" but marred with all sorts of "conflict of interests" methods to run its daily business will definitely not give us any confidence at all. It has to set it straight and enforce a mechanism to get things right. Shying away from potential scandals and embarrassment by sweeping inconvenient truths under the carpet isn't going to help them grow. We are not asking WP to be filled with saints but basic integrity is a necessary ingredient to survive in Singapore politics. Just admit there is wrong if things really went wrong and promised to correct the situation. Supporters will understand and forgive people who are ready to learn the better ways but will not tolerate the lack of integrity. It is how you manage scandals and crisis that matters, not merely why they happen matters.

5) WP will have to keep its unity intact. Any signs of infighting or power struggles will definitely reduce voters' confidence tremendously. The lesson of SDP's internal struggle way back in 1990s is an important lesson for WP. While unity is important, WP cannot be run like a machine under dictatorial rule. It must learn to respect diversity of views and ideas, allowing its members, including future potential candidates to learn how to deal with public space and messaging. Curbing members' meaningful participation in internet forums, blogs and new media to express themselves of their various political and policy views will do more harm in their grooming. Instead, WP should ban or discouraged its members from involving "Internet Brigade" which aims to flame, troll or suppress critiques from commenting on its shortcomings. A political party that truly believe in Democracy and Freedom of Speech would encourage RESPONSIBLE SPEECH, discussions and discourses instead of encouraging or set up Internet Brigades to flame, troll, disrupt and suppress other people's freedom of speech.

The next step of democratic development for Singapore is to deprive PAP ABSOLUTE POWER in parliament, to cut its seats to less than two third of parliamentary seats. Thus, last but not least I hope that WP could work with all other opposition parties to achieve this aim instead of embarking on its predatory path of "I walk my own path" kind of mentality and start to prey on smaller parties by going all out for multi-corners fights to wipe them out.

WP has to realize that it has many shortcomings and it alone, may not achieve "greatness" in any sense. It will still need cooperation with other opposition parties to push on meaningful political, democratic development for Singapore.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, September 09, 2013

Half Way Bell Check on SG Political Parties - PAP Part I

This is approximately the MID Term point of the present parliamentary term if you believe the next General Election will be held in 2015.

Before I start to write this article, there are three interesting Political News and happening in Singapore:

1) One of the most promising political star in SDP, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha has call it a quit over LGBT issues.

2) PAP has announced its latest promotion of ministers. Chan Chun Sing has been promoted while Tan Chuan Jin has unexpectedly missed out of this promotion exercise.

3) WP has announced the new co-option of three members into its CEC. One of them was a candidate in GE 2011 while the other two are relatively new "elites". One of them is a lawyer while the other is an Associate Professor lecturing in NUS.

4) For NSP, after half a year of neglect of their website (yes, no updates, not even on CEC information), they have started to act. However, some curious things I have observed. The Secretary General Hazel is missing in action for all NSP recent activities, so is her husband Tony Tan. Even for important press statement, it was issued by Nicole Seah, the second aassistant secretary, not Hazel. On the other hand, Apparently, the newly co-opted CEC member cum Head of Media Team is missing from the CEC list as well.

These are the four main political parties (sorry for the exclusion of the others, including SPP, DPP and others) that I am going to examine at this Half Way Point.


The context of present situations is Post-LKY ERA. What will happen or how things will develop with the final phase of POST-LKY ERA in the making? It is clear by the day that the days that Singapore will live without the physical presence of LKY will come soon. Transitions into such era or even into change of ruling power have been discussed openly and intensely recently. The fundamental questions are:

1) Will PAP break with the passing of LKY?
2) Will PAP lose power after LKY pass on?
3) How will the political landscape change with the passing of LKY?

LKY has stepped down right after GE2011 along with Goh Chok Tong. There are common whispers that he did it in order to use his last influence to clear out the main internal challenge posed by the "GCT Camp" to his son's rule. This is just like old kungfu show that the old master uses his last political breathe to save his disciple from the great opponent, killing both the master and the opponent altogether.

The recent promotion exercise is also seen as a bid to look for someone "acceptable" by the Lee camp to take over as Prime Minister once the present PM Lee steps down. Apparently, Chan Chun Sing and Heng Swee Kiat are the front runners while some people think that Lawrence Wong may be the third contender.

Many people say that Heng Swee Kiat is "intelligent" guy and he should be the PM. But I beg to differ. LKY wasn't the smartest (as compared to Dr Goh Keng Swee) among his peers back in the 1960s, neither was he the most charismatic (as compared to Lim Ching Song) but he became the PM. Leadership cannot be built upon intelligence alone. Dr Goh Keng Swee might be the smartest guy among his peers but he lacked the charisma, especially public speaking skills, to be Prime Minister. Intelligence alone is only a necessary but insufficient condition for Prime Minister-ship. As for Chan Chun Sing, I cannot imagine us, Singapore, to have a Kee Chiu General to be our Prime Minister.

In fact, I think Tan Chuan Jin, who has been left out of promotion this time round, has the few critical criteria to become the next Prime Minister. He is a "thinking" minister who can make amends to his positions from time to time to suit changes in various situations. Although it is unfortunate that he has to face a couple of crisis in these couple of years which he may not have handled exceptionally well, but from my observations, he can make necessary reflections and adjustments quite responsively instead of sticking to stagnant stance like former MND Mah BT who kept insisting on his HDB pricing strategy and policy even though many people have shown him that his HDB policy is really screwed.

But nevertheless, whoever tries to become the next Prime Minister under PAP will definitely find himself in the worst position in history. PAP is after all, a "sunset party" and what it has relied heavily upon, the total monopoly of power and assurance of winning elections on every seats have diminished. It will find itself more and more difficult to recruit talented people to join them because they can no longer fulfill their promise easily as there will no longer be a "sure win" elections even under GRC system.

In view of that, it would naturally be a regression down hill development for PAP into mediocrity as it can only attract second or even third rate candidates in subsequent GE. 

PAP: Epoch Change? 

Apart from such development, on numerous occasions, PAP leaders have reiterated that they have changed and will make efforts to revamp their various policies. Most important of all, they are saying they will listen, starting with "National Conversation".

The government controlled (yes, it is a direct physical control via Press Act, giving government management ownership and huge voting rights) SPH and Main Stream Media (MSM) have hailed PM Lee's recent policy announcements made in his National Day Rally as "Epoch" changes made but is that really so?

Well, to continue to work towards 6.9 million population is anything but Epoch change. Having just a tiny tweak to their multi-million dollar ministerial salaries to yet, multi-million dollar ministerial salaries isn't really big change at all.

All these are more like Public Relations exercise rather than any serious game changer kind of policy shifts. Look, calling their tweaks in healthcare policy as "Universal Healthcare Insurance" scheme is just a bad attempt to hoodwink Singaporeans. Giving more HDB grants doesn't change the fact that their pricing mechanism is the key primary problem of spiral prices that have made asset inflation out of tune with normal inflation and salary increments for the middle-lower class. 

The bare truth is, Singaporeans continue to face the fundamental problems caused by PAP's reckless population planning which causes runaway asset inflation, runaway healthcare cost coupled with inadequate hospital beds, break down in public transport system especially for MRT and not to mention the constant flooding due to over-urbanization and Marina Barrage which was created to cope with higher water demand.

Most importantly, apart from the horrendous 6.9m population policy, their tweaks at Housing policy, healthcare and transport policies aren't exactly anything revolutionary at all.

This is especially true for HDB housing policy. Minister Khaw BW has tried his very best to deliver his promise of delivering 13,000 flats or so for this year but what he did not realize that housing problem is a long term stablizing problem. First and foremost, we need a total revamp of the wrong concept of taking HDB flats as an "investment". HDB is a home, not an investment. Secondly, we must make sure that HDB price inflation should not be higher than income increment trend. This will need a total revamp of the pricing mechanism. Third most important point is that HDB land pricing should not be used as a forever input into our Reserves. There is absolutely no reasons to pursue an indefinite growth in Reserves.

Has PAP turned the tide?

How successful is PAP in turning adverse public opinion against it? Some people opined that although PAP didn't really make great changes in these key areas but it has managed to convince and woo middle ground skeptics. I am not so sure that the middle ground could be so easily woo over.

This is especially so when PAP's crisis management skills are rather bad. This is especially so when the HAZE broke out, they couldn't even get their logistics right to deliver the masks on time as promised. Not to say about the weather warning mechanism is totally out of date and serve no purpose in safeguarding citizens' lives. Not for the HAZE warning system, neither for heavy rain and flood warning system.

If PAP cannot get both immediate crisis management, governance and future forward looking policy direction right, I am afraid that it has started to roll down the slippery slope of mediocrity. Pure lack of competency and Vision for the future will be PAP's undoing for the next GE. PAP used to provide basic fundamental competency at daily management and administration of the various systems in Singapore. At least, train doesn't break down that often, flooding doesn't occur that often as well, neither do we have constant crunch on hospital beds as well as public buses and train. I am afraid that all these basic competency has been replaced by complacency.

PAP has never been good at crisis management. I remember during the crisis of Silk Air 185 crash incident back in 1997, the then Transport Minister Mah BT was so stressed up that he actually blew his top on reporters. Now that we have all sorts of small and big crisis from time to time, ministers just acted in a reactive manner. They are just treating problems in isolation instead of taking a more holistic approach. In Chinese, we call that "脚痛医脚,头痛医头“, literally mean when the leg pain, just treat the leg, headache, just treat the head. It seems that their ability of "Helicopter View" has crashed landed.

I suspect PAP has got its priorities all wrong right from the top. Growth at all cost is still the master guiding principle. The push for 6.9m population plan is one glaring example of such "strategic thinking".

To make matter worse for PAP, its GOLDEN MANTRA "Whiter than White" has been put in serious doubt by various incidents. Integrity and Morality are something MORE than legality. What seems to be "legal" may not mean it is done with Morality and Integrity intact. 

Apart from the many big and small scandals on TOP civil servants taking bribes, the AIM saga makes PAP looks even worse, putting doubts aimed directly at its core value of "Whiter than White". Well, some may even put Michael Palmer saga as part of this deterioration and erosion of Core Value of PAP but we should not forget what happens to WP's YSL saga as well.

The most important implication of these scandals is directed at the Core Management Principle of PAP : High Pay = Eliminate Corruptions. Well, some may view that as "legalized corruptions" but it doesn't matter now. It would also mean that alternative system or methods should be explored to upkeep a clean system.

It simply means that we can no longer depend on an authoritarian system which pays its political appointees and civil servants high pay to ensure clean governance. The CORE Values of Democracy, Separation of POWERS should be established to enhance checks and balances on the various organs of governance to enhance clean management.

Apart from that, the concept of "conflict of interests" should be instilled and boundaries of good practices should be established. Due to the authoritarian nature of PAP's rule, the concept of "conflict of interests" has never been institutionalized as part of our Rule of Law, if any. With the empowerment of Internet Era, I think increasing demands on transparency, accountability and good governance will naturally raise expectation on what constitutes "Rule of Law" and "good management practices". But it seems that both PAP and WP failed to realize or understand such a shift on popular expectations.

On the other hand, PAP seems to be confused by its own promise of "light touch" approach to public opinions expressed on the internet by throwing spanners, threats of law suits, criminal persecution etc etc on bloggers, cartoonists and activists at large. It would be seen in a very bad contrasting light whereby PAP is lax towards its own morality and integrity while exercising draconian precision attacks on little errors made by citizens. In Chinese, this amount to "宽己严人", i.e. strict towards others while lax towards its own kind.


If PAP is determined to regain some ground it has lost, it should seriously reflect upon itself on all these grounds:

1) Readjustment to their Philosophy and Ideology of Governance, thus really revamp their various policies towards the new philosophical or ideological directions.

2) Improve their competency at governance, including crisis management.

3) There is a serious need to rethink on the issues of Integrity, Morality, Transparency, Accountability and Good Practices. It would mean to institutionalize Separation of Powers and strengthen the Rule of Law by putting more emphasis on issues of Conflict of Interests.

4) Whether PAP likes it or not, the internet or the New Media has become the important Fourth Institution of emerging Democracy in Singapore and it will replace PAP's controlled MSM totally if PAP still have any fantasy about using MSM as its propaganda tool or mouth piece. If PAP chose to revert to its old dictatorial ways of dealing with dissenting voices, it would end up losing more seats and power even more rapidly than it could imagine. It will have to relearn Public Relationship and Media management instead of relying on obedient, compliant media, editors and reporters to save them from public embarrassment. 

Last but not least, I give PAP an E as a ruling party which failed to evolve and adapt to the new reality on the ground as well as the internet.

Goh Meng Seng


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Singapore Thrid World Weather Warning System

I have written about this topic before but I guess I need to write about it again because I hate to see our children and young students being put through unnecessary danger by the incompetency of PAP's governance.

I am now spending most of my time in Hong Kong and apparently Hong Kong has a more "HUMANE" weather warning system that is targeted to serve its residents, not merely for its commercial interests only.

Most Singaporeans are ignorant of what modern weather forecast and warning system can do for them. Most don't even know how it works to serve them, prevent losses and even save lives. Some even protest that we cannot expect the government to "predict weather". This is understandable because they are ignorant of what modern weather monitoring system can do and Singapore government has not made available critical weather information free to all but except via commercialized payment for such information.

Who can blame Singaporeans for such ignorance when even our former PAP minister George Yeo didn't know how to react when he was facing his first Typhoon Number 8 warning in Hong Kong? It is not true that Hong Kong have more frequent adverse weather than Singapore apart from the seasonal typhoons. Sometimes, I feel that Singapore has more worse thunder storms than Hong Kong but Hong Kong has a proper colour coded weather warning system even though it has less incident of thunder storms than Singapore.

In Hong Kong, different colour coded warning means different actions required for different sectors. Most of the time, thunder storm warning applies more to certain sectors like swimming pools, construction sites and most importantly, to kindergartens and schools operations. If it is Red storm warning, kindergartens will be closed and kids are not expected to go to school. If it is Black storm warning, most schools will be closed. It would also possibly means that flooding will occur.

Now, can you imagine kids and young teenagers to go to school under the situation shown below? It is actually pretty dangerous for youngsters to be caught in such situation. 

Before some ignorant people start to accuse me for nitpicking PAP government, let me put it straight, with the huge amount of money we have spent in setting up our weather monitoring system catered to our airport which is one of the most busiest airport in the world, we are definitely adequately equipped to provide such weather warning system for public service. If Hong Kong can do it, I don't think we are any inferior to them.

Hong Kong could even predict typhoon path one week in advanced and put up necessary weather warnings in advanced but we do not require that in Singapore. What we need is just a few hours advanced warning to Singaporeans and schools to make the necessary preparations.

We in fact have such advanced warning system in place but it is a paid service. For those in the army, you would know that you can call in for weather advanced forecast. They use Cat system. Even when there is no storm, you could well get a Cat 5 for presence of thunder.

Thus, the most important question is, why is PAP government reluctant to provide such advanced coded weather warning to the public? Don't they care about our young children at all? Since huge public money has been spent on various advanced weather monitoring equipment, including weather satellites and such, we should demand the PAP government to provide such FREE PUBLIC SERVICE that serves to prevent unnecessary injuries and worse, loss of lives and property.

Why would we risk the lives of our students to get to school but in the end, finding their schools or lecture halls being flooded like the ones in NUS? Or like those students ended up like this at their school?

I would urge the PAP government stop being crowded with such a Third World mentally and start to take the welfare of our citizens seriously. After spending millions in weather monitoring system, we deserve better public service from the weather system, not just some ambiguous announcement and warning which means nothing at all. We need to set up a proper categorized and colour coded weather warning system to protect our citizens, particularly our students from being exposed unnecessarily to the dangers of adverse weather.

It may affect some of our economic activities and lower our economic growth a little, but the safety of our citizens' lives is more than growth digits. 

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, September 04, 2013






亚水虽然不是“精英”,英文不好,但是他却是每年后港中秋节猜灯谜的主将,灯谜都是由他一手准备的。 他也曾是工人党的组织秘书,在中委里经常都扮演重要的制衡角色。