Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Singapore’s Elected Presidency. Time for a Change.

Singapore’s Elected Presidency. Time for a Change.
Honestly, I had no idea what the Elected President (EP) scheme was until that day when I parked myself in front of the TV and listened to President Tony Tan deliver his annual address. “KFC Uncle” then mentioned that the Government might be reviewing several schemes with the EP being one of them.
After some quick Googling, this is what I found out about the EP:
Number #1. The EP refers to an institution where Singaporeans elect a Head of State, otherwise known as the President, who then has custodial powers over Singapore’s past reserves and the appointment of top public service appointments.
Number #2. What this means is that the President gets to have a say in picking our Ministries’ Permanent Secretaries, and he watches over the hard-earned money our forefathers helped us accumulate.  He however does not get to make any policies or any executive decisions as that is what our Parliament is for.
Number #3. The President has a team of advisors, known as the Council of Presidential Advisers, who he has to consult when exercising his veto powers on reserves and appointments.
From what I understand, the EP scheme was first mooted by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1984. LKY’s argument was simple. In order to prevent a rogue government from destroying Singapore, the country needed two-key safeguards for our reserves, and the integrity of the public service. The President, being the Head of State was seen as the natural person to hold this key.

For a country with no natural resources, protecting Singapore’s national reserves is integral to the continued survival and success of our country. After all, it was the product of Singaporeans’ hard work over the years. To put it bluntly, our national reserves is our natural resource.
The public service on the other hand was also deemed equally important because it was the machinery which kept the country running. Singapore has maintained strict meritocracy and impartiality in the public service and this has been our unique selling proposition to the world. It is because of the efficiency and effectiveness of our public service, that Singapore has been able to prosper. A gatekeeper was thus needed to ensure that if a rogue government was ever to come into power, the public service would not be destroyed.
In 1991, after two White Papers, the Singapore Constitution was successfully amended and the EP came into being. Sitting President Wee Kim Wee automatically assumed the new role. The rest, as they say, is history.

Given that the EP has remained changed for the past 25 years, we believe that there is merit in doing a review at this juncture.
It is interesting to note that this system is quite unique to Singapore. No other country has a President with custodial powers in a Westminster system. A quarter of a century later, it seems justified that the Government is reviewing one of its key tenets of governance. Over the years, changes have been made to the scheme, as the Government tried its best to formulate the best way to execute it. Singapore has grown and prospered tremendously over the years, and it is necessary to ensure that the institutions of governance are refined to serve the interests of Singaporeans. 
If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how to better the EP scheme, while still meeting the original objectives that it set out to achieve.
After all, what good is a government institution if it is outdated?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

AHTC Court Case - Pritam Singh

Apparently serving his in-camp training (ICT), WP's Pritam Singh showed up in Court in his No. 4 uniform. To many NSmen, this is clearly a cheap trick as it takes mere minutes to change out of uniform. Sources also tell us that Pritam had been similarly excused from ICT before to attend court cases and in each of those instances he had changed.

Pritam's appearance in Court in his No. 4 can therefore be seen as a cheap attempt to play the patriot card. This same tactic was used most famously by Oliver North during the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Unfortunately for Pritam, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon did not fall for the trick and issued Pritam an ultimatum. AHTC now has until Friday to appoint an independent accountant. Failing which, the Court will appoint. CJ Menon also concluded that AHTC and or its lawyer Peter Low was less than truthful in their earlier affidavits and, essentially implied, that AHTC was playing a delay game.

The end of AHTC, and the Workers Party, has begun. Once an independent auditor is appointed, the truth about the missing funds will be revealed. We wouldn't be surprised if The Workers Party now suddenly comes clean and pleads for voters forgiveness. In fact, the WP only managed to do 1 of the 2 transfers of sinking funds ordered by the Court. So money is definitely missing.

While some may consider this a loss for democracy in Singapore, we believe that it is more dangerous for Singapore to have opposition members without the correct values.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Open Letter to Chee Soon Juan


Dear Dr Chee,

I saw the  video you made with your family. I struggled over the last week with the question whether you are really a changed man and in the end, I decided to mind my own business and let sleeping dogs lie. I am not interested in your politics. I am also not interested in the confrontational brand of political activism you employed in the past although I did disapprove of your  tendency to do these things to court foreign media attention during international events in Singapore.

What I am concerned about is more personal. You see, I know what you have done to Chih Mei in the past.  The first time I heard about your beating her during your hunger strike after being dismissed from your uni job, I was shocked and just could not believe it.  I was even more appalled to learn that it was not the first time you had laid your hands on her. I left it at that wanting to believe that you must have been under tremendous pressure at that time. After all Chih Mei forgave you each time you come back remorseful.

Some years later, I learnt again of your mistreatment of Chih Mei.  Even when she had a miscarriage and was depressed after returning from KL after her D&C, you could not control your temper and beat her. And when you learnt that she confided in her friend, MT, you exploded and beat her again.

I really don’t know how Chih Mei puts up with you all these years. The tears she must have cried in silence. I asked God how can a man be so heartless and brutish. Your mum and sister may forgive you. So too has Chih Mei because she is a devoted, Chinese woman who is a loyal wife and a doting mother. Family is everything to her especially the girls and the little boy – her children are her everything. For that, she would sacrifice all and suffer in silence.

Today I saw a media article on another candidate called Luke and it reminded me of you. Once again, strong feelings of disgust and anger rose in me that dishonourable   men like you who beat your wives can put up such a hypocritical show for the world. I asked myself whether Singaporeans need to know.  This is not about your politics, it is about who you are as a human being. But who you are as a person must be directly relevant to the public office you seek to attain because it rests on the trust of so many people who you are seeking support from. You should be honourable and come clean by yourself and not be exposed.  

I really do hope you are a changed man. And that you are not the same monster who repay a loyal wife and devoted mother of your children with cruelty and unkindness, that you are not the same closet wife beater  I know of from the past.

I hope you are changed and that you will do the right thing and be a real man, a gentleman like how you want to the public to see you before you are exposed.

From: Someone who  despises men who beat their wives.

open letter chee soon juan

Monday, 18 January 2016

Rebutting Chee Soon Juan

My rebuttal to Chee Soon Juan’s article ….

Authoritarian rule and the impending crisis in Singapore If Singapore was indeed authoritarian rule, how can Chee Soon Juan continue to put Singapore down internationally, let alone write this article, and still roam free in Singapore?

By Dr Chee Soon Juan

“We have learned that any solution to our problems require much more that the piecemeal measures attempted in the past. It demands nothing less than a fundamental change in our approach to the idea of development, a paradigm shift toward the parallel pursuit of democracy and a market economy.” How can Singapore not be considered a market economy when practically everything from housing to car purchase is determined in a free price system?

So said the late Kim Dae Jung, South Korea’s former president. When the country was undergoing its economic throes in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Kim knew that South Korea needed radical changes in order to resuscitate the economy. South Korea was emerging from a long period of dictatorships and a command economy dominated by the the political elite and chaebols (conglomerates owned by wealthy families).

When Kim was elected president in 1998, he ditched authoritarian rule and took the country on a sharp turn towards democracy. The result? South Korea’s economy bounced back with a vengeance. Today, corporations like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SsangYong, Kumho, etc. compete on the international stage with the world’s leading brands. What sharp turn? Nothing has changed in Korea. The chaebols still dominate the economy.

And it’s not just gadgets and cars that South Korea is exporting, the country’s pop culture have found its way into the hearts of people far and wide. Korean television dramas are popular not just in Asia but places as far away as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. The musical genre of K-pop has become a mainstay in the teen subculture all over the world with the Korean boy band, BigBang, even becoming the “gods of pop” in Indonesia. In 2012, Korean musician Psy took the globe by storm with this Oppa Gangnam Style dance video. Is this a product of democracy, or simply shifting preferences. If this assumption was true, why are television programmes from countries like the UK and Australia not popular around the world?

Somewhere in here is a lesson for us in Singapore. When I met Kim before he became president, he had repeated to me that it was unfortunate that much of Asia was still under undemocratic rule which stymied the development of our societies. LOL! Sorry, I can’t rebut this as I was not there. Not sure if anyone else can verify this too.

It is a view I share deeply. Innovation does not take place in the halls of government buildings and it cannot be kindled from ministerial pronouncements. Innovation thrives in a culture that not just tolerates but celebrates openness, diversity and, yes, dissent; it flourishes in an environment where people have free and full access to information. What information are Singaporeans denied that will impede their innovation? Apart from pornographic sites, Singaporeans can access practically everything that is available online. Including rubbish articles like this by Chee Soon Juan.

Financial analyst Michael Schuman expressed this point perfectly, writing in Timemagazine in 2010: “Fear caused by political control doesn’t foster an atmosphere conducive to free thinking. Censorship and limitations on information curtail the knowledge and debate necessary for the generation of new ideas. I’m not the only one who believes this is true. Some Koreans…argue that the country couldn’t have become more innovative without democracy.” It is no accident that freedom of expression and innovation are so commonly juxtaposed in the entrepreneurial world.

But even before the 1997 meltdown, economist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman had pointed out that Singapore’s top-down, input-driven growth model was unsustainable: “One can immediately conclude that Singapore is unlikely to achieve future growth rates comparable to the past.” This is because, Krugman explained, “Singapore’s growth can be explained by increases in measure inputs. There is no sign at all of increased efficiency.” Is Paul Krugman the same guy that pushed for Governments to embrace globalisation? Isn’t globalisation what is putting Singaporean jobs at risk from developing nations like India and China where labour is cheaper?

But instead of liberalising our society and encouraging the hard work of innovation like the Koreans did following the financial crisis in 1997, the PAP took the easy way out by transforming our city into a tax haven and attracting the super rich of the world. Instead of making policy adjustments to retain our local talent and investing in our people, our rulers found it expedient to bring in foreigners by the millions. What is SkillsFutures? What about the National Technology Plan? The SME21 plan? What about the Economic Review Committee and the Economic Strategies Committee? Chee Soon Juan slams them in subsequent paragraphs of this article, but didn’t the Government make the effort?

Of course, these measures generated GDP growth but it was growth that masked deeper structural problems of our economy. For one thing, labour productivity levels remained dismal even as GDP expanded. The problem persists to this day with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lamenting that we have “maxed out” on easy ways of achieving economic growth – a tacit admission that Paul Krugman was right. A case of the rooster crowing?

“Productivity is very tough to do,” Lee acknowledges. Indeed it is. Analysts observe that it is harder now to retool Singapore’s economy. The PAP has done everything – or almost everything – to kickstart the productivity engine. In 1991, it came up with the National Technology Plan to propel Singapore into the “major league of a world-class innovation-driven economy by 1995.” Five years later, it launched the SME21 plan to “promote SMEs is to help them tap into global networks.” This was followed by a 2001 report from Economic Review Committee (ERC) which promised to “make Singapore a knowledge economy powered by innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.” Nine years later, another committee, the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC), was formed to “make skills, innovation and productivity the basis for economic growth.” Now in 2016, the government has reincarnated the ERC and ESC in the form of theCommittee on the Future Economy, or CFE, to (predictably) “recommend strategies to enable companies and industry clusters to develop innovative capacities.”

In between, there were a myriad of schemes – costing taxpayers more that $20 billion – to boost productivity. They included promoting R&D, enhancing of public-private sector collaboration, upgrading workers’ skills and capabilities, increasing foreign-worker levies, subsidising businesses in purchasing IT equipment, and so on. Bodies like the National Productivity Board, SPRING Singapore and, more recently, the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council were established to lead the productivity chase.

And yet, for nearly two decades, productivity gains continue to elude us, and we have produced few innovative enterprises that are able to compete internationally. Such a scenario does not paint a bright future of our economy. In fact, Nomura’s Global Markets Research predicts that the failed productivity drive will be a drag on economic growth until the end of this decade. Productivity rates in Singapore are still higher than the rest of the world. Please be fair Mr Chee.

We have tried everything except the one that is key: Freeing our society from authoritarian rule. It is clear that the anachronistic paradigm of undemocratic, one-party dominance – where debate, a free media, and a fair election system are non-existent – is the proverbial albatross around Singapore’s neck. If this was not a democractic country, how did the Worker’s Party win their seats? Or could it be a case that Singaporeans see you for who you are and have rejected you Mr Chee.

And because we have taken the easy way out all these years, we are ill-prepared to weather the global economic storm that is about to descend upon us. There is gloom in our housing market, our dollar continues to weaken even as we spent $40 billion of our reserves trying to prop it up, our oil-rig builders Kepple and Sembcorp Marine are under severe strain from cancelled projects; our flagship shipping company Neptune Orient Lines collapsed under unsustainable losses and was sold off; household debt of Singaporeans soared to become one of the highest in the world and, perhaps most frighteningly, China’s economy seems on track to becoming the epicenter of the next global economic meltdown – an economy of which we are the biggest foreign investor. The gloom and dangers that come from the housing market and the high household debt is a direct function of a market economy. Isn’t this what you wanted?

Assuredly, we will not be able to avoid the upheaval. The question is, when we emerge from it, will we divest ourselves of the many excuses we have put up to defer from opening up our political system, or will we continue down the dead-end alley of authoritarian rule? I think Singaporeans have clearly spoken at the last GE.

Dr Chee Soon Juan is the Secretary-General of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). This post was first published at Huffingpost, Dr Chee had submitted this post for Straits Times for publishing consideration but was rejected. The Straits Times has journalistic integrity and will not publish pseudo research articles like this.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Why The Reform Party is a Joke ... to be blunt!

Why The Reform Party is a Joke!

Since his outburst at the Singapore General Elections 2015, Kenneth Jeyaretnam has been busy attacking Singaporeans as well as the Government every chance he gets. In his famous post-GE comments to the media, Kenneth called Singaporeans cowards for not having the courage to vote for him. Kenneth was recorded as saying “What I see are similar margins in North Korea and China, it’s just like the Chinese Communist Party. And I guess Singaporeans get the government they deserve, so I don’t want to hear any more complaints.”

In his most recent post on The Reform Party’s Facebook page, Kenneth Jeyaretnam continues his illogical attacks on the Government and its policies. This time, Kenneth took issue with the use of the character “Yuan” in our schools’ Chinese textbooks. According to Kenneth, our Chinese textbooks should use “dollars” instead of “Yuan”.

reform party fails

This is where we say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If Kenneth had made an effort to even Google the word Yuan, he would have found out that Yuan actually means dollars and is not exclusively used for the China currency which, incidentally, is known as the Reminbi. Perhaps Kenneth is so blinded with rage that he sees conspiracies and wrongs in everything. Not surprising, the States Time Review, helmed by Alex Tan carried Kenneth Jeyaretnam story.

On a side note, we are happy that more Singaporeans are beginning to see through the lies that Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Alex Tan perpetuates. Kenneth’s continued outbursts only further discredit him.

We sometimes wonder why Kenneth cannot be more like his brother Philip Jeyaretnam who serves the Government of the day and who was even appointed to the Public Service Commission by the President.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

WP Lee Li Lian Snubs NCMP Seat

Of Duty to Country vs Personal Gratification

Lee Li Lian NCMP child motherhood

So it is confirmed. Lee Li Lian has vacated her NCMP seat.

When asked, she posted a photo of her swimming (supposedly in a condo) with her cute baby in her FB and said: “… I understand that the procedure is for me to be absent twice before a Motion can be moved to have someone take up my place … Catching up on family time in a serious way! Have an awesome weekend.”

Noble thing for any normal mum to do. But she is not normal. She carried the hopes of more than 15K voters who voted for her, and was given a chance to represent them as NCMP so that their voices can be heard. She dropped them like a bomb.

She is not the only young mum in Parliament.

Tin Pei Ling just gave birth. She continued to work hard pre-GE, during GE and post-GE.

tin pei Ling motherhood

Sun Xue Lin has a daughter. She spent whatever time she has with her before attending Parliament. Not to mention Ms Sim Ann has three young children and she continues to pound her estates aggressively (as seen in her FB post).

There is choice here for women, a difficult choice. Ironically, as Sylvia Lim aptly said in her FB yesterday evening: “Women for Good! There are still not enough women in Singapore politics. As mothers,  daughters, wives and as equal citizens, our contribution is vital to Singapore’s well-being.”

Li Lian got an opportunity, but she dropped it as quickly as she lost the GE. It is as if she wanted to lose and then gave “noble” excuses about the NCMP scheme. That is crap. If she did not want to serve, then don’t run. When you run, you are responsible to your voters. Worst, she vacate her seat and gave the opportunity to lesser men (in terms of vote shares) in her Party.

Sylvia Lim wp

Maybe the truth is, after 5 years of MP allowance and doing nothing much, she now have enough money to tide over the next five years. We may see Li Lian again 5 years later when her money runs out and the MP allowance will be useful again.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

AHPETC High Court Appeal - Pritam Incompetent or Dishonest?

pritam singh ahpetc alex chai

I have been closely following the court case as, like many of my friends, we had high hopes for the WP to be the alternative to the PAP. Sadly, the WP imploded with its mismanagement of its Town Council and, in my opinion, this contributed significantly to their dismal performance at GE2015. Whether it was incompetence or financial impropriety, AHPETC is the albatross hanging around the heads of Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh.
From the newspapers reports, I learnt that  Ajunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) nominated an essentially one-man operation called Business Assurance to be the accountant to solve their many problems.  HDB asked some questions presumably because it has concerns about the company’s capabilities. The TC declined to reply and referred the issue to the Court. Last week, the Court directed the TC to provide more information on Business Assurance.
I am really surprised that AHTC chose this company because if they had bothered to ask around in the industry, they would have discovered some interesting facts about this one-man operation owned and managed by Alex Chai Chon Fatt. Being an accountant, I am aware that it is fairly common knowledge among many of us in the industry that Alex Chai has failed his Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP) and that he is restricted from conducting audits of companies for a period of 1 year. In fact, this is the second time that Alex Chai has failed his PMP.
For those that are unsure about what the PMP is, the PMP is the regulatory instrument to promote audit quality. Audit quality is the cornerstone of market confidence in the reliability of the financial information upon which the market makes capital allocation decisions. The PMP provides quality assurance to the market through ascertaining whether public accountants have complied with the prescribed auditing standards, methods, procedures and other requirements. This assurance gives users of financial reports increased confidence in audit opinions.
Did Pritam Singh know all this when he selected and nominated the firm? If he did, he was pulling a fast one to mislead HDB and the Court. If not, he has been sloppy because there is every reason why he or his GM should have conducted due diligence checks to ensure that the company is in good standing before selecting and nominating them. They would have found out if they had asked Business Assurance directly because I don’t think Alex would lie about failing the PMP and is under restriction as these are unavoidable facts.
I eagerly await the unfolding drama in Court this week. MND and HDB will definitely be aware that Alex Chai is no longer qualified to conduct the audit. In fact, a quick Google check will tell you that since 14 Nov 2014, Alex Chai had joined Transcorp Holdings as its financial controller. So what is the WP and Pritam Singh up to?  If you ask me, it is likely that Pritam  will now waste the Court’s time by giving some excuse to avoid answering the question directly as to whether they knew or whether they didn’t bother to conduct basic due diligence checks on  Business Assurance and Alex Chai’s professional standing before selecting and nominating it.
BTW while I cannot confirm this, I also heard talk in the industry that AHTC’s latest auditor was Audit Alliance and its senior partner, Lee Tai Wai had also failed his PMP. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

AHPETC - WP Misleads Public with Creative Headlines

The Worker’s Party continues to mislead the public with their creative headlines.

Workers Party AHPETC High Court appeal


In an amazing announcement, Pritam Singh, Chairman of Aljunied Town Council (AHTC) announced that the "AHTC welcomes the Court’s rejection of the submission of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (representing MND & HDB) that AHTC’s conduct of its defence during the course of the hearings at the High Court and at the Court of Appeal was egregious and somehow improper.”

In their subsequent statement published on their own website, the WP claims that “at the hearing on 7 January 2016, AHTC, the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) have been ordered to bear their own legal costs.” The WP also claimed that they welcomed the “the Court’s rejection of the submission of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (representing MND & HDB) that AHTC’s conduct of its defence during the course of the hearings at the High Court and at the Court of Appeal was egregious and somehow improper.”


Firstly, the Court usually requires litigating parties to bear their own costs. So by arguing that the WP had won as the HDB and MND had to bear their own cost, is the same as saying that HDB and MND had also won as WP had been ordered to bear their own legal costs. It makes no sense.

Secondly, MND and HDB never asked for carte blanche to look into AHPETC’s financial affairs. In fact, AHTC had tried and failed to get the court to prevent the appointed independent accountant from looking into FMSS and FMSI. The High Court had in fact extended the authority of the independent accountant to look beyond FMSS and FMSI if it is necessary to recover money lost.


What we can say is that the WP is skilled in the art of manipulation. They realise that people seldom read beyond the headlines and as long as they push out misleading headlines, they will win war of public perception. In order not to be deceived, and to see the WP for what they really are, we urge Singaporeans to take a second look at what they are saying, and then to verify the facts.