How the PAP Can Get it Right

Whilst Kuan Yew is telling Aljunied residents that they will repent (or that he will make the repent?) if they allow the opposition to win Aljunied, his son is busy sounding repentant. Indeed, it appears to be a conscious attempt to swing votes from voters who might want to vote for the opposition in order to send a message to the PAP that they can no longer accept the effects of the PAP’s policies that have been bulldozed through a field of Singaporeans.

 “If we didn’t get it right, I’m sorry. But we will try better the next time.” (PAP CandidateLee Hsien Loong)

PM Lee, what do you mean by “if” you did not get it right? Please admit it unequivocally if you have gotten it wrong. Try? Try better? You mean you won’t get it right? Next time? No, thank you.

Voters need to ask themselves if the Lee Hsien Loong who was our Prime Minister, and may continue to be our Prime Minister after May 7, even has a good sense of what the PAP has gotten wrong.

Citing the Mas Selamat saga and the floods in Orchard as examples, he tells us that “No government is perfect… we will make mistakes.” (If I’m not wrong, he is using the future tense in the last clause. Is that an election promise?) And we are made to feel bad. I’m sorry. I’ve been expecting the government to be perfect! My bad. Lee certainly knows that there are several issues that have caused much discontent—congestion in public transport, for instance. But if there is anything he and his party has yet to realize that he has gotten wrong, it is the PAP’s insistence that there is a need for the PAP to maintain an overwhelming presence in the Parliament. Singaporeans are not only unhappy with the PAP’s mistakes; they are increasingly also unhappy with the fact that there are hardly any opposition MPs in the Parliament to present alternative viewpoints and to speak up when the PAP may be making mistakes.

Sure, not government is perfect. And no political party is perfect either. Is that not why it is important to have a truly democratic political space? It is reported in Yahoo! News that Lee made the point that

if the government knew there would be a sudden surge in demand for HDB flats in mid-2009 and that foreigners would have created such congestion on the roads, it would have ramped up plans for more flats and MRT lines.

Apart from the PAP’s appalling inability to anticipate the obvious logistical and infrastructural demands the PAP’s own policies of bringing in foreigners would exert, could Singapore be a very different place today if there had been 30 opposition MPs since 1997, all of whom could have pointed out the problems with the PAP’s policies—assuming that the PAP is actually willing to hear the opposition out instead of treating them as troublemakers that need to be, in Lee’s own words, fixed. No matter what Lee or any PAP candidate says now, it remains that one of the fundamental mistakes the PAP has made—and will most probably continue to make without acknowledging that it is a mistake—it its denial of alternative voices in the Parliament, it’s the way that it has turned the Singaporean political environment into a sterile space infused with a blend fear and obsequiousness.

If you want to get it right, you have to do more than to solve the bread-and-butter problems you have created.

If you want to get it right—or simply try better—get the Straits Times to provide fair coverage of opposition rallies instead of making itself look like a stack of PAP political advertisements.

If you want to get it right, abolish the Public Order Act and the laws on party political films.

If you want to get it right, vow that you will never again to sue opposition politicians for defamation.

If you want to get it right, allow voters to get rid of you through the General Election without telling them that upgrading will go to PAP constituencies first.

If you want to get it right, show that you truly know what you have gotten wrong.

“If we didn’t get it right, I’m sorry. But we will try better the next time.” Lee may be asking voters for another chance, but voters will do well to remember that they ought to be giving themselves a first chance. With the opposition.

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The KPIs of Reality

THERE are global agencies that use known key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine whether a country has reached First World status or is still a developing country.

If a country is First World, it is logical to conclude that it must also have a First World government, otherwise how could it have transformed into a First World country? It is also logical to conclude that having a First World government also means there is a First World Parliament.

Based on these global agencies, Singapore has already reached the status of a First World country. So it is logical to conclude that we have a First World government and, similarly, a First World Parliament.

Logical? What sort of warped logic is this? If there are, as you say, KPIs to determine whether a country has reached First World status or not, they are economic KPIs. It cannot possibly be logical to conclude that a country that is rated as First World economically also has a First World government unless you assume, quite baselessly, that all a government does is to develop a country economically and that the quality of a country’s government is the sole factor determining its economic success. But it is clear that a country that is “First World” economically may not have a “First World” government. What a First World government refers to is yet to be defined. What a First World parliament refers to is also yet to be defined.

Does Singapore have a First World government with the PAP as the ruling party? If you are only looking at KPIs (perhaps the KPIs the ruling party has set for itself), yes. But we have to remind ourselves that meeting the indictors of a particular quality is not always the same as possessing that particular quality. Indicators may or may not be reliable, and no matter how reliable they are, they cannot fully define what the quality is.

But what else do we have other than KPIs? Are we not bereft of a standard of measure without KPIs? And we know we must measure. Perhaps we need to consider the deficiencies of the set of KPIs themselves—that which is not included in the given KPIs and the inadequacies of what is given. Using a non-political example, the given KPI for youth may be skin that is firm and does not sag. But it does not mean that a post-face lift patient whose face looks unnaturally taut has youth. Perhaps the KPI we have is not enough. Perhaps the KPI itself fails, quite inevitably, to define the undefinable.

It is possible that the government’s KPIs are excessively focussed on economic growth and neglect human rights. Even the focus on economic growth is worth examining. It may, for instance, be concerned only with numbers that can be attained in multiple ways and the means by which the number is attained might be detrimental to the people it is supposed to benefit.

The KPI obsession is perhaps itself a key indicator (or shall I say proof?) that a society that has perversely corporatized itself at the expense of common sense, a society that is bent on rationalizing performance of all sorts in order to attain the recognition of performance without performing, a society that embraces simulacra to the extent that it is consumed by simulacra.

*****

A copy of the original letter (that perhaps has been edited from the original original):

Spell out the KPIs of a First World Parliament


THERE are global agencies that use known key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine whether a country has reached First World status or is still a developing country.

If a country is First World, it is logical to conclude that it must also have a First World government, otherwise how could it have transformed into a First World country? It is also logical to conclude that having a First World government also means there is a First World Parliament.

Based on these global agencies, Singapore has already reached the status of a First World country. So it is logical to conclude that we have a First World government and, similarly, a First World Parliament.

Singapore’s model of government and Parliament is unique, just like the governments and Parliaments of other First World countries. Each government and Parliament is unique to the particular needs of the country, its history and its people.

If the Workers’ Party wants to move Singapore towards a First World Parliament, it should spell out the KPIs of such a Parliament. Without known KPIs, nobody would know whether the target of having such a Parliament has been achieved.

As Singapore is part of the global economy, it is important that the KPIs defined by WP be recognised globally.

Desmond Ng

Election Madness: Flogging a Zombie Horse

From the ST Forum:

Gay issue: Voters have right to know

I agree wuth Dr Vivian Balakrishnan that the gay issue should be laid to rest (“Objection raised but rivals stay cordial”; April 28), but it should not be allowed to die. Not many people are well read, especially the older generation of voters. I am glad Dr Balakrishnan brought up the video, otherwise I would be in the dark about it.

Whether a candidate is gay or not is a private matter, but if he is seeking public office, then voters have the right to know. In that light, the goal has been achieved.

It is not right to brush off the issue completely. Being gay is not something to be proud of in our Asian culture; it is different from acceptance.

Raymond Chan

Laid to rest but not dead? I suppose you like zombies a lot, Raymond.

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Based on your argument, does it not mean, then, that every person contesting in the General Election should declare his/her sexual orientation, including those who are married—after all, a married person can be bisexual or even gay/lesbian but is using marriage to conceal his/her sexual orientation. In that case, why don’t you write to the incumbents and ask them to declare their sexual orientation one by one, starting with Kuan Yew, Hsien Loong and Chok Tong? In fact, write to our President as well since he’s er . . . elected. This does not mean that I think any of them are gay or bisexual, but since the public has a right to know, then they should just declare their sexual orientation anyway.

If gays were to made known their sexual orientation, might they not be accused of playing sexual politics and trying to buy the pink vote? After all, if a Chinese person like Tang Liang Hong can be accused of being a Chinese chauvinist, a gay person can very well be accused of being a gay chauvinist.

Using the logic that gay people have to declare their sexual orientation because “being gay is not something to be proud of in our Asian culture,” should we expect to know everything about a politician that is “not something to be proud of”? And that may include something like having a mole in one’s armpit, for instance.

And since lust is nothing to be proud of as well, should every single politician come clean about any feelings of lust that have crept into their clean, incorruptible hearts since their adolescent days? And greed is nothing to be proud of, so I suppose every politician declare that he/she is not joining politics because of the possibility of earning a million-dollar salary that comes with a pension. And certainly, every politician should make it clear to the public if they have ever eaten excessively at a buffet because gluttony is nothing to be proud of. And wrath! Nothing to be proud of in our Asian but multi-racial/religious little island! Should politicians make sure that they are all mild-tempered little rabbits? The public has a right to know if, for instance, Kuan Yew has ever been wrathful.

*Disclaimer: This article is not suggesting anything about anything politician. It is merely saying that politicians might be expected to declare lots of information about themselves just because the public has the right to know. Right? What right?

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