If history repeats itself: A Timeline

Singaporeans are not known to be very creative and have a penchant for allowing history to repeat itself. Working under the assumption that history can be used to predict the future, Molly has created a time line of things to come. A few events with no historical precedence are randomly thrown in for the reader’s benefit.

17 August 2011: 2011 Presidential Election Nomination Day

18-20 August 2011: PAP fear-mongering strikes at full-force with the help of the Straits Times. Singaporeans will be told 20 times per minute that they must vote for the right person or end up a President that will allow the executive branch of government to squander Singapore’s past reserves and cause an irreversible fragmentation of society. Tony Tan appears in even in nightmares thanks to the relentless “news coverage” he gets.

21 August 2011: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh assures everyone that Tony is truly independent despite his close links with the PAP. Tony Tan can check the government if it does anything wrong, just like how PAP MPs can function like an opposition MP.

22 August 2011: Kuan Yew goes around warning people that if Singaporeans elect the wrong person as President, they would be responsible for turning Singapore into a mass grave. He insinuates that the average Singapore is an inferior stupid who needs to heed the wise advice of the PAP in all matters, including the Presidential Election.

23 August 2011: Netizens have a fun time slamming the Emeritus Ministers

24 August 2011: Hsien Loong tears up and says sorry, begging everyone vote for the PAP’s preferred candidate. A Hollywood director offers him a role in his next movie.

26 August 2011: Tony Tan’s administrator, Mr. Dennis Ho, accidentally posts a comment on Tan’s facebook, deriding another Tan.

27 August 2011: Voting Day, some Tan makes a police report about the facebook post.

28 August 2011: Tony Tan becomes President

September – October: Tony Tan makes a few remarks here and there to show the people that he is independent and will speak up against the PAP

November 2011: With the two elections of 2011 and their accompanying charades are over, a collective sigh of relief is heard from the PAP.

December 2011: Singaporeans do not need to dream of a white Christmas. They get one. Still no news on police investigation regarding the 26 August facebook post.

2012: Some guy on death roll appeals to Tony Tan for clemency, but gets rejected. TOC runs articles on the death penalty. Singaporeans generally don’t give a damn.

2012-2016: Things become more and more expensive. Recession. Transport Minister tells, “See, it was a good thing that we allowed a transport fare hike in 2011. Surely you don’t want a hike when there is a recession?” Thanks to hare-brained re-employment policies, it gets harder than ever for people in their 50s to find jobs, but people get told that they cannot retire even when they die—now their ghosts have to work for Singapore as well. “Productivity beyond the grave” becomes the Ministry of Manpower’s campaign slogan. The SAF starts by having an operationally-ready Ghost Division.

Pre-2016 GE: The PAP reminds everyone that it has a half a century of experience and a proven track record, and how dangerous democracy. We are told that Aljunied has become a slum whereas Potong Pasir, which is expanded into a GRC, has become undergone massive upgrading. Kuan Yew will still stand for election.

GE 2016: PAP wins landslide victory with 80% of the votes thanks to its dumb old-citizen support base and fawning new-citizen support base. There is one opposition MP.

Presidential Election 2016: Kuan Yew is asked if Singapore is now ready for a female President. Kuan Yew replies that Singapore is ready for any President that is endorsed by the PAP, and not ready for anyone else.

2018: Kuan Yew dies, but continues to hold political office because, according to his colleagues, he “can still contribute.” No by-election. Kuan Yew still has a team of secretaries working for him just in case Singapore needs him to make good his promise to return.

Lunar 7th Month 2018: Kuan Yew returns for a media interview and sues people for defamation.

2021: Kuan Yew becomes the world’s first dead man to be voted into Parliament.

2022: Singapore renames itself Utopia. Misery is punishable by death.

The Most Idiotic Economic Solution Ever?

If there is any talent common to all our PAP leaders, it is the ability to seize every opportunity, or transform any non-opportunity into an opportunity, to promote its brand of authoritarianism and demonize democracy at the expense of the national sanity index.

If I were a PAP minister, I would actually be secretly glad about the terrible state of the global economy. After all, even if I were to retire, I would draw a pension that most untalented workers cannot even dream of attaining even if they were to slog forty-eight hours a day. At the same time, when the economic outlook is bad, the political outlook is good. But, still, my personal happiness should not allow me to propose idiotic solutions to economic problems.

Speaking at a National Day dinner at Bukit Batok, Tharman Shanmugaratnam offers us ways to survive. According to this report:

He highlighted four broad strategies which could help Singaporeans stay afloat during this troubled environment and look forward with optimism.

These include the need for Singaporeans to keep the spirit of consensus and avoid divisiveness.

The idiocy of Tharman’s “solution” does not lie in its ineffectiveness but in how a serious issue is twisted to complement the PAP’s obsession with unchallenged power. In Singapore, consensus means: don’t argue with the PAP (but you can sue and put dissenters behind bars). Disagreement with the PAP will divide the country even if 80% of the population are against the PAP. Learning how to shut up and obey the PAP is the best way to cultivate national unity. Without a doubt, I am single-handedly lowering Singapore’s GDP by just blogging.

Tharman does try to explain why:

He noted that the country needs to avoid the problems seen “vividly” in the US and Europe, where although they have mature democracies, they also possess “dysfunctional politics”.

“The debate in the US over the debt ceiling was a symptom of that — a divided Congress unable to agree and willing to take a risk with the American economy and people.”

This, he said, is the reason why it will be of extreme importance to sustain “a tone of openness, respect and understanding” in discussions in the mainstream media and online.

Tharman’s ideas are so trite, even by the PAP’s standards, that even banging one’s head against the wall is a more productive exercise than arguing against them. (At least repeated banging may tear down walls.) But what else can we do?

I doubt we will ever find out how the problems with the US congress makes it important to have a respectful tone in mainstream and new media discussions here in Singapore. But we get Tharman’s drift. “Western” democracy is bad. Don’t even think of playing with the idea of having more opposition in our Parliament because—as the old story goes—nothing will get done. Tharman is conveniently forgetting that without democratic debate, things do get done but there is no guarantee that what is done is any good. In a particular Southeast Asian immature democracy where politics is totally functional, the government has risked the economy and the people, and the result is not a better society or economy. Absurd economic policies that generate economic growth in statistics whilst slow poaching the people to death are implemented and celebrated. The population itself is divided between a fascinating range of brain-dead products of world-class ideological engineering and a number of dismissed, disenfranchised silent/silenced victims. In Singapore, political rape occurs with no resistance, and the lack of any sign of struggle is broadcasted to the world as the proof of consent. A spirit of consensus indeed.

A people that is already paying dearly for years silence must not come to a consensus on the ideology of consensus.

The Presidential Election or the PAP Election?

Members of the PAP establishment, in particular the law expert Shanmugam, have time and again clarified for the public the role of the President and the limits of his powers, saying that the President does not have executive powers and has no say in policymaking. This is a strange phenomenon that can trigger at least two retorts that are not exactly compatible with each other but can work to undermine the position of the PAP:

  1. “So you are finally admitting that the President is nothing but the PAP government’s rubber stamp?”
  2. “You are rjust telling us that we must not vote for a candidate who is anti-PAP because the President cannot do anything against the PAP. But if the President cannot do anything against the PAP, why do you care who we vote for?”

In the first instance, it would seem as though the PAP is openly, if unwittingly, making a mockery of the farcical political system that it has created. In the second instance, the PAP is showing itself to be unable to conceal its anxieties. Its behavior makes it seem like a petulant kid who has a lot of growing up to do. Furthermore, simply by appearing so worried that the next Elected President may not like them, the PAP is single-handedly feeding the persistent suspicion that perhaps—just perhaps—the Elected President may be able to be more than just an expensive rubber stamp. The multiple reminders we are getting about the role of the President may seem like a lowdown way of pushing the people to vote for the candidate endorsed by the PAP. Silly political hard sell tactics discount the credibility of the PAP and that of the candidate who is preferred by the PAP.

In other words, it would actually be wise for the PAP to just shut up. The more anxious the PAP appears, the more the people get the idea that they are afraid of an Elected President who wants to check their powers. And the more they seem to be afraid, the more faith we have in such a President. The PAP’s obsession with having its way by ideological hammering may even erode the good will that an apologizing Prime Minister had managed to coax out of the electorate.

One other retort people might have to all the “clarifications” is simply: “If the President does everything as ‘advised’ by the PAP government, then why the hell are we voting?” If it’s all about who the PAP likes and how it wants everyone to choose, let the PAP vote and decide everything. And call it the PAP President. There is no need to have an election so that it seems that the Singapore citizens actually think like the PAP and risking the possibility that the people actually think differently.

Whether it is the General Election or the Presidential Election, it is typical of the PAP to forget that elections are not about objectively evaluating candidates based on a common standard, much less the one standard set by the PAP. No one can really interfere if I frivolously decide not to vote for someone because I hate his hairstyle. No one can stop me from voting for a candidate who hates the PAP’s guts despite knowing very well that he is unable to do anything against the PAP. Elections necessarily allow for multiple standards. It is not a matter of objectively marking three exam scripts according to a rubric imposed by the government to see who scores the highest marks. We do not even need to read the introductory chapter of a dumbed down idiots’ guide to politics to understand this. But even experts on the law and seasoned politicians can be absolute airheads when it comes to understanding the workings of politics if they are used to dictating others.

There are, without a doubt, those who try to tell us what standards we should have when deciding who to vote for. People do not call Singapore a nanny state for nothing. Shanmugam, for instance, tries to tell us that we gave to consider who has the knowledge and skills to protect Singapore’s reserves, amongst other criteria. He even tries to tell us what we should not take into consideration: “What I would call the ‘wrong questions’ would be: Who is going to speak up publicly? Who’s going to contradict the Government? Who’s going to engage publicly on political issues? These are wrong questions because the president can’t do any of these things.” (Source) Has the Presidential Election become a multiple choice question where the right answer is obvious?

Has the Presidential Election become a guessing game in which we are supposed to guess the PAP’s favourite? It is reported that “Mr Shanmugam said that Singaporeans should ask [. . .] who can influence the prime minister and Cabinet.” In Shnamugam’s words: “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) In short, according to Shanmugam, we have a Prime Minister who will be influenced by someone he respects and not by someone he does not. You mean the Prime Minister does not consider proposals and views objectively, but allows himself to be influenced by those he happens to respect? I am reminded of our good old Asian values about filial piety and respecting one’s parents. Applying Shanmugam’s theory, will our Prime Minister be influenced by, say, his father whom he surely must respect very deeply—never mind what views the father has?

Thanks to Shanmugam, we might just have stumbled upon a theory that explains the state of politics in Singapore.

While Shanmugam’s words are certainly enlightening, we have to ask another question. What if the Prime Minister only respects people whose views are congruent to the PAP’s? Firstly, this would of course mean that a President who takes it upon himself to check the PAP’s power and whose views may clash with the PAP’s will have no influence. (Shanmugam’s rhetoric: Why vote for someone who has no influence?) Secondly, it would mean that a President whose views are in line with the PAP’s will be influential when there is no need for any influence. In other words, it no longer matters if we have a President. In fact, the only possible influential President is one who serves as an ego boost to the PAP. No doubt, this is if the Prime Minister only respects those whose views are the same as his party’s. But would anyone like to give me a non-debatable example of a person who is respected by Lee Hsien Loong but whose views run counter to his? (Molly’s rhetoric: Isn’t it worse to vote for someone who has the influence to make the PAP more full of itself than to vote for someone who has no influence at all?)

We realize, and lament, that, the Presidential Election, like everything else in Singapore, is about the PAP. And the PAP is about tyranny. As if tyranny over the people is not enough, it is moving on to tyranny of semantics. When Shanmugam tells us that the President “must follow the advice of the Cabinet in the discharge of his duties,” he is practising his usual irritating verbal twist. Since when has it become obligatory to follow advice? The correct word is “orders,” not “advice.”

We should acknowledge that the Elected President of Singapore is unlikely to be able to do much to check the PAP government. But this only reminds us of the importance of not letting the PAP have its way all the time. We preserve some dignity by trying despite the impossibility of triumph. I would advise all Singaporeans to vote for someone who does not draw millions of dollars every year by masturbating the PAP. Of course, given the new definition of advice, I doubt I’m even empowered to advise.

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