Cool Women in White

If there’s anything that will get Singapore’s women in white into trouble, it’s certainly not Facebook.

Tin Peiling is cool. She certainly did not get too heated up on Cooling-Off Day. “[Police] investigations showed the posting [made in her Facebook page on Cooling-Off Day] was made by a friend of Ms Tin who had acted without her knowledge.” (CNA)

Tin’s magnanimity is actually very heartwarming. Although Ms Denise He’s post in Facebook had gotten Tin into trouble and implicated her in police investigations, Ms He has progressed from being her administrator to being her friend.

Or perhaps “administrator” sounds too official for comfort.

Another woman in white, Penny Low, is really cool too. Low attracted a lot of attention online when she was “caught” using her phone while singing the national anthem during the NDP. Being the irreverent cat that I am, I do not care what you do when the national anthem is being played. But it’s really cool to justify it this way:

“I was so caught up in the wonderful NDP 2011 and felt so proud of being a Singaporean that I wanted to capture that moment of pride at the very tail end of the anthem, to share on Facebook with my residents.”

Capture the moment of pride? Was Low actually taking photos while she was singing the national anthem? If not, is that moment of pride so forgettable that she could not have waited another five seconds to post in Facebook?

But Low has bestowed us with a helpful tip. Kids who are schooling, you know what to say the next time the Discipline Master catches you Facebooking when you are supposed to be singing mari kita. It’s really because you are so patriotic that you cannot wait to share the moment with your friends who, for all you know, are also singing the national anthem!

If your Discipline Master is not convinced by the sound reasoning, don’t worry. You can always subtly accuse him of trying to divide the nation. He might just get arrested under the Sedition Act. If you don’t believe my suggested method works, let me show you a precedent.

“If in my enthusiasm I offended anyone, please accept my apologies. NDP is a time to unite, not divide. Majulah Singapura!” (Ms Penny Low, 2011)

An additional lesson to be learnt: After apologizing, you can immediately start accusing others of being treacherous.

Penny Low is a genius. She deserves to be promoted and be Penny Low, Pound High.

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Let’s Play: Shanmugam’s Clarifications on the Elected Presidency

First, Shanmugam “clarifies” for us what the Constitution says about the role of Singapore’s Elected President. Next, he clarifies his clarification. And then he gives a final claim to close the issue. Best of all, he tells us, as reported by SingaporeScene, that “the Constitution [is] very clear on the matter.” Which seems to imply that he has been wasting him time on all the clarification while taxpayers are paying his salary and listening to him so earnestly. I feel betrayed.

But never mind. Shanmugam is not the only person entitled to making clarifications. Neither is he entitled to the final say. His promise (of sorts) to shut up regarding the matter is an open invitation for netizens to scrutinize his dead final words to life.

Amongst Shanmugam’s most interesting remarks are those regarding the Prime Minister’s respect for the President. At the Institute of Policy Studies forum, he says

Whether the president actually wields influence obviously depends on who the president is. If he is someone who commands little or no respect of the prime minister, then of course influence will be limited. (Source, emphasis Molly’s)

Shanmugam now tells us, correctly, that he has never said only a PAP-endorsed President will have the Prime Minister’s respect. But, still, it is implied in his remarks that:

1. It is possible for the Prime Minister to have no respect for the President.

2. The Prime Minister may or may not respect an Elected President voted in by the citizens of Singapore.

3. It is possible that the Prime Minister does not respect an Elected President who is deemed eligible by the Elections Department under ridiculously stringent criteria (an eligible candidate must not be less than 45 years old and must have not less than three years of experience as minister, chief justice, speaker, attorney general, chairman of the Public Service Commission or permanent secretary, chairman or chief justice, speaker, attorney general, chairman or chief executive officer of a Statutory Board or of a company with paid-up capital of at least $100 million). In other words, we may say that the Prime Minister’s respect for the President, according to Shanmugam, relies on more factors than experience and eligibility.

What other factors then determine if the Prime Minister respects the President given thathis qualifications, his experience and the fact that he is chosen by the people may result in possibly no respect from the Prime Minister? Can he blame people for thinking that one of these other factors is whether the President is PAP-endorsed or not, especially since he is still not bothering to specify what these factors are. Or, if he had initially made a mistake in phrasing at the IPS forum, he could simply say so. But he does not.

Instead, Shanmugam makes quite a different claim. According the the CNA report, “Mr Shanmugam said the office itself commands respect and whoever holds the office must be given the respect due.” This appears entirely different from what he had said unless we see that giving someone due respect is not the same as truly respecting someone from the heart. If he had phrased his words wrongly at the IPS forum, he should have told us that his phrasing has created misunderstandings and not to take him “out of context” (one of the favorite terms of the men in white these days).

Shanmugam’s added clarifications holds even less water:

The quality of the advice [given by the President to the Prime Minister] will depend on the person giving that advice and a President who is wise, knowledgeable and experienced will obviously be more influential than another who doesn’t have as much experience or as much wisdom.

If it is about the quality of advice, then it is about the quality of advice. It has nothing to do with whether the Prime Minister respects the President or not unless the Prime Minister is unable to discern how good a piece of advice is and allows his attitude towards the identity of the person advising him to cloud his judgement. If Shamugam is right, it does not bode well for Singaporeans to have such a Prime Minister. But to begin with, does Shanmugam actually think that the Elections Department will qualify a potential candidate who is not knowledgeable and experienced? Apparently, he does not think very highly of both the Prime Minister and the Elections Department.

So never mind. Let’s just hope that Shanmugam will really not comment on the issue further. But well, we know him. When he says that he does not wish to comment on the issue further does not mean that he will not comment on it further against his own wishes.

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