Misinterpretation, Misquote and Ministerial Salaries

Dr. Lim Wee Kiak has come forward to clarify that his remarks have been taken out of context. Which brings us to the question of what the context was. Let me quote from his clarification (though perhaps I am quoting out of context again):

I have mentioned that the responsibilities of our ministers are not any less than that of our corporate heads. Although their pay should not be equal to corporates [sic] as there is the element of service to country and it is not a job, it should not be too low. So in concluding [sic] , I told the reporter jokingly, that there will be at least some “face” when the minister meet [sic] the corporate chief.

I admit it is a bad example that is [sic] quoted out of context.

Huh? Are you admitting that it is a bad example or are you claiming (or, as your sentence goes, admitting) that you have been quoted out of context? What is “it” a bad example of and what exactly is “it”?

In saying that you have been quoted out of context, you are suggesting that your words have been twisted to mean what they do not mean. However, when you claim to have been joking, it would seem more like you are saying you have been misinterpreted and people are taking your words too seriously when they are not meant to be taken seriously. That is not taking you out of context.

Assuming that you have indeed been quoted out of context or misinterpreted, why are you admitting that “it is a bad example”? If you have given a bad example, then perhaps you have not been misinterpreted or misquoted. Rather, it would simply be that you have not communicated the intended point to the intended audience well and it would be a matter of you not representing yourself properly instead of others getting you wrong. Your clarification contradictorily combines self-exoneration and self-blame.

Based on your clarification, it seems that you do still hold the belief that a salary of $500,000 per annum is too low for a minister even though it is an amount that some of the most impoverished citizens under your care will take decades to earn (without even factoring in inflation? You still seem to be implying that “low” salaries will affect the dignity of ministers even though it is perfectly reasonable to say (without asserting that ministers should be lowly paid) that any lowly paid person, minister or not, can be dignified in the face of anyone in the world. Because even the most lowly paid person is earning an honest living. On the other hand, one wonders how dignified a group of people, with an illustrious history of helping themselves to million-dollar salaries because they have the power to decide, can be.

Dr. Lim Wee Kiak Enlightens Us

Nee Soon GRC MP Dr. Lim Wee Kiak should be praised for his outstanding contribution to exposing how hollow the rhetoric of change initiated by the PAP after the May 7 General Election earlier this month. Commenting on the issue of ministerial salaries, he said:

如果新闻、通讯及艺术部长年薪只有50万,当他和身价数百万的电讯公司总裁开会商讨政策问题时,可能面对一些困难。因为总裁们可能认为没有必要听取部长的意见与建议,因此合理的薪酬将有助于维持一点尊严。(Source)

Translation:

If the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts earns an annual salary of only $500, 000, when he meets and discusses policies with the CEOs of telecommunications companies who earn millions of dollars, he may face some difficulties because the CEOs may think that there is no need for them to listen to the minister’s views and suggestions, so a reasonable salary will help to maintain the dignity of the minister.

Thanks to the wonderful talents like Irene Ng and Dr. Lim, the layers of make-up that Lee Hsien Loong has applied on the PAP leopard in order to conceal its callous spots are being washed away. Even if we were to believe that Lee is totally sincere about changing, we can see the overwhelming difficulty of the task. In less than twenty days since the election in which the PAP won with a percentage impressive by the standards of democracies but dismal by the standards of authoritarian states, the PAP is at it again, as though they are getting sick of the new charade. Same old illogic. Same old attitude. Now, this is the PAP we know. Welcome back!

From Dr. Lim’s words, we can say that:

1. He thinks that PAP ministers have nothing worth the respect of private sector CEOs but ridiculously high salaries. This may not be true, but it says something when a PAP politician thinks that PAP ministers’ worth are determined by how much they earn, not the quality of their contributions.

2. It is likely that someone earning millions of dollars does not take seriously someone who earns $500,000 per year. Using the same theory, it is easy to understand why million-dollar ministers never seem to take the views and suggestions of common folk. No wonder all our views are dismissed as noise.

Using the same theory again, even when a minister earns $500,000 per year, he may not take us seriously. Because most of us earn maybe 100-500 times less.

3. Dr. Lim considers a $500,00 annual salary low for ministers. Bearing in mind that people tend to cite hypothetical figures that are somewhat exaggerated for illustrative, perhaps we can say that Dr. Lim is expecting ministerial salaries to be much higher than $500, 000.

Obama earns US$400,000 yearly. Convert that to S$ using the current exchange rate and we will feel sorry for him. We now know why no one takes him seriously. Even when he says that Osama is dead, no one believes him and instead comes up with conspiracy theories about how Osama is lying to the world. To gain more credibility, Obama needs to at least triple his current salary.

It’s a harsh world we live in. Actually Molly feels even more sorry for Kuan Yew. Now that he has left the Cabinet, his MP salary is going to be so appallingly low that he will never be able to raise his head high again. Maybe he will be inspired to write Hard Truths II. But who is going to bother about it if he is not earning a few million dollars a year?

On Ministers Leaving the Cabinet

It may come as a surprise to us that Goh Chok Tong and Kuan Yew are leaving the Cabinet. Looks like Kuan Yew’s “I’m not the Prime Minister” refrain can have an additional line now: “I’m not even a minister.”

But what is the use of having a Senior Minister and a Minister Mentor (who has once been the Senior Minister) to begin with?

I would be more impressed if they had decided to leave the Parliament altogether. And hold by-elections. And apologize for retiring late and drawing so many additional years of million-dollar salaries. And pledge to donate their pensions to Molly the Cat Welfare Society. And perhaps Kuan Yew should also step down from his role as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the GIC.

The move by the two established politicians seems somewhat disingenuous especially for Goh Chok Tong as many Marine Parade GRC voters must have voted for the PAP team because they did not want to lose a minister. (I shall not elaborate on my opinion of those who actually think this way.) Coming only a week after Singaporeans have three ministers who contested in Aljunied GRC, Singaporeans may start suspecting the rhetoric which goes that Singaporeans need to vote for the PAP because they cannot afford to lose their highly talented ministers. One retired quite unexpectedly not long before the General Election. Two are leaving the Cabinet after the General Election even though they remain as MPs for the constituencies. And three were not voted into the Parliament. It is a good reminder that no minister is (or should be) indispensable.

The question that may never get answered is the question of motivation. If the two are retiring because they can or have been getting in the way of the Prime Minister, it leaves me wondering about the strength of the latter’s leadership. If they can get in his way of setting a new leadership direction, he ought to be the one asking them to leave the Cabinet or even retire totally. But, as he tells us, it is their own decision to leave the Cabinet.

On the other hand, if they are leaving to allay the public’s concerns (which may not be justified), would the move not be rather superficial, calculated to change the image of the PAP? An extreme makeover does nothing to change one’s character even if it gains one favorable attention.

What is important to this feline member of the public is a deeper, more fundamental and more thorough change in Singapore—a change that, sacrilegious as it may sound, is amounts to an obliteration of Kuan Yew’s legacy in the Singaporean psyche. When we have such a change, the PAP will no longer be virtually synonymous with the government or Singapore. People will be able to understand and perceive the differences between the PAP, the government and the country. The civil service and the mainstream media will no longer be/ be viewed as being singularly partial towards the PAP. The PAP can become the dominant party after a General Election, and it can well also become an opposition party.

The exit of the MM and SM from the cabinet may signify the end of a certain leadership style, but it does not necessarily imply a change beyond the style. Perhaps it even marks the end of an era of politics characterized by defamation suits against opposition politicians. But in no way does it represent a willingness on the part of the PAP to loosen its stranglehold on Singapore society. If we remember the past, we may recall the Marxist conspiracy of the 1980s and the defamation suits of the 1990s-2000s. When using a pair of iron hands to throttle seems to be something of an overkill, you can simply order your victim not to breathe with the iron hands on standby. When ordering your victim seems excessively highhanded, you can tell your victim to breathe all he wants but stealthily deprive the room of ventilation. The techniques differ, but the effects remain and may even be intensified.

For the PAP, true change cannot be an attempt to gain favor in panic. True change is accepting the fact of life that you may not always be popular. True change is not a means to an end. It should stem be the end result of a certain belief. If we get the impression that the PAP is changing or trying to look as though it has changed in order not to lose more votes in the next election, we should also see that true change will ultimately defeat the purpose behind the change.Because Singaporeans do not want PAP dominance to continue to be an inevitability.

We can imagine three possible scenarios:

1. There is no change in the PAP, so the PAP continues to lose support.

2. There is superficial change in the PAP that is done in an attempt to “connect” with the people, but people are discerning to see through it so the PAP continues to lose support from Singaporeans who continue to feel alienated from the PAP.

3. There is real change in the PAP, and therefore the myth of the necessity of PAP dominance is dispelled once and for all. The PAP will not enjoy the dominance that it has always enjoyed, something it almost takes for granted.

There is, of course, a fourth scenario. Singaporeans buy into the superficial changes naively and continue to allow the PAP to enjoy its dominance. Singaporeans have proven to be a disappointing lot election after election. So this is entirely possible, if not likely.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Expect no Change, Singapore

It is the hardest truth universally lamented that Singaporeans can expect zero change from their ruling party after the 2011 General Election. After the euphoria felt by many upon the loss of Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party, the optimism and hope dissipate, as per every Election ever since Singaporeans started secretly wishing that the PAP would lose. In the past, the announcement of the election result of each constituency would deal the optimism a blow, culminating in the death blow in the form of the final, decisive announcement, in the unbelievable percentage of votes that the PAP has garnered in spite of itself. Singaporeans have, time and again, proven that the majority of them would rather give a party that has done wrong in their eyes a chance to do more wrong than give opposition parties a chance to fight to set things right, perhaps resulting in a form of uncanny self-disgust on the part of the electorate found nowhere else in the democratic or autocratic world (because those in the democratic world will not behave like that and those in the autocratic world have no choice). Is this who I am? Is this the society of which I am a part?

But this year, the optimism is set to last longer. It was the best of times because it was the worst of times for out of the most deplorable era, a most ravishing hope is conceived. Only to be aborted, ravished before its time. The more we are intoxicated by hope, the more crippling the hangover. Hope is systemically built into the Singaporean psyche as a kamikaze sacrifice. And we buy into it because it is only luxury we can afford. Our hope is not artificial—it never is. Our hope is real, but hopelessly transient. Singapore allows us to hope only so that we can despair. This year, we are led by a rare degree of defiance into hoping for the fantastical whilst fully knowing the inevitable. The non-apology with the word sorry by the man who continues to be our Prime Minister might, too, have fed the hope of Singaporeans. Only we can expect no change. To be sure, we can expect to be informed about changes. To be sure, we will be expected to believe that change has taken place. To be sure, some of us will be led into thinking that there is change, much to the frustration of those who just see otherwise. To be sure, the status quo will remain and be enhanced.

The grand narrative of Singapore as printed indelibly in the books of the PAP is now made grander, endowed with the irresistible seductiveness of change. It is, without a doubt, a cheap rhetorical seduction and not a substantial one. But, still, we succumb. We either surrender to it with our beliefs or we surrender to it with a cynical smirk because we know that even lip service provides more pleasure in the long run. While Power in Singapore has long combed and styled every fiber of the society with its peculiar coat of rationality, it is now threatening to encroach into the realm of the ineffable. Lee Hsien Loong tell us:

To secure our position economically, we must get our politics right. We have to maintain political support for policies which benefit Singaporeans,” he told an audience of about 800 GIC staff, clients and business partners.

He tells us:

It goes beyond specific items, where you can calculate dollars and cents, to a sense of reassurance and concern and empathy.

His words perhaps reveal more than he had intended. It is not reassurance, concern and empathy that he is striving for, but a sense of these undefinables. The fundamentals of the discourse remains uncannily, in fact rather disrubingly familiar: “rapid changes,” “standards of living are rising,” “progress,” “raising people’s income,” “GDP,” “upgrade productivity,” “challenging tasks,” “job ready and deployable” workers, “the restructuring of Singapore’s industries.” And most importantly, “To secure our position economically, we must get our politics right. We have to maintain political support for policies which benefit Singaporeans.” Show support for us and we will show empathy. We are good enough to pass the Voight-Kampff Test.

Elsewhere in the news, the police have stopped an illegal assembly of rebellious subjects petitioning for a by-election in Potong Pasir and the Aljunied Town Council suspending its services before the Workers’ Party MPs take over the management of the constituency. We know these have nothing to do with the PAP or the way it has shaped Singapore. We should watch in anticipation as the PAP changes its image to please us and prepare to applaud them for their successful efforts.

Change for Singapore is an unattainable possibility that has to be taken as an attainable impossibility. More than ever, Singaporeans have to struggle harder for change because the static has now grafted the mask of change onto its face. Somehow, though one may never articulate how, resistance is futile has to be taken as resistance is fertile.

我们是新加坡公民
只怕祸从口出,哪怕花言巧语
只要海誓山盟,不盼情深意重
只需海市蜃楼,就能心满意足

Blogged with the Flock Browser

PAP in Denial Over Aljunied?

Screen cap from PAP website.

WP Won Aljunied with Fewer Votes than PAP

WP Won Aljunied with Fewer Votes than PAP???

Honest mistake?

How did the Workers’ Party manage to win with fewer votes?

On a PAP Victory

Molly decided to trick the senile See Nao into thinking that the PAP has won all 82 contested seats in the General Election and writing a letter to the ST Forum on the topic so that readers would be vaccinated before the deluge of smug letters to the ST that will likely follow a PAP victory.

Dear See Nao,

I would like to invite you to pen a model post-Election ST Forum letter now that the PAP has won the Election with a 66.6% majority in every ward. Do you have anything to say about the General Election results?

Molly

*****

Dear Molly,

I am pleased to oblige. As everyone can guess, I voted for the PAP. On my way to the polling center, I vaguely heard many people saying that they are cross with the PAP. I was glad and you could see me beaming with PAP pride.. Despite all the emotions that the opposition has stirred, people are putting their cross of endorsement for the PAP when they vote.

Singaporeans have voted wisely and shown themselves to be rational voters who would choose a party that can deliver. They have proven to be immune to the lame attempts by the opposition to connect with the electorate emotionally.

While the opposition makes promises it can’t keep, the PAP makes promises that it will keep. When the His Eminence Lee Kuan Yew said that people would regret, people will regret.

The opposition talks about giving the people a voice. Unfortunately, they are not giving people a choice. They are not giving people a choice to have a voice or not. This shows that the opposition has failed to understand Singaporeans. Singaporeans do not want a voice. They want the PAP. The PAP’s victory is the people’s voice. Beyond that, Singaporeans do not want a voice. There are already a lot of noisy Singaporeans and having a voice aggravates the situation. And since they have voted for silence, let the PAP silence them.

Now that the PAP has emerged overwhelmingly victorious in what has been said to be its toughest Election ever, Singaporeans can now sleep in peace. There are no freak election results and my reservist unit won’t be activated to deploy snipers to set things right.

Majulah Singapapura!

Lee See Nao (Mr.)

%d bloggers like this: