Friday, April 28, 2006

Former Brigadier General Battles Former Police Inspector in Aljunied

Two things to write about today for a jet-lagged and overworked irresponsible anonymous blogger. The act of voting and Humility.

Read the following extract :

"I remember that day. I followed my mom to Braddell primary school which is now demolished. It felt almost like being first day of school (although I didn't go to this school) because it was doing something important for the first time and my mom was there to accompany me. :P The process was so simple yet it actually gave me a sense of accomplishment because it was symbolic of, or rather it was my voice amidst a bevy of voices on the little densely populated island. I wonder if other first-time voters felt like that. I wonder when I would get a chance to do that again."

Memories of a Singaporean on his first time voting. A memory that I do not have. A memory that many others like me do not have.

Looking at it, voting really is indeed a simple process. You register, take your numbered ballot slip, walk to a shielded counter and make a simple cross against the party logo of your choice. Simple but yet each individual cross etched, each ballot slip slotted into the box, aggregates into political power.

What about the feelings that accompany this simple action? Is it simple? From this short excerpt, no. Such few words but so many things come through. Do you sense a feeling of empowerment. Do you sense a feeling that this is an edifying moment. Do you sense that this is a significant moment of political learning. Notice the analogy. It was like the first day of school. Do you sense that at this moment, there was a feeling of being a Singaporean. Truly for the first time, a sensation of political meaning. To be a Singaporean. To be doing something important for the first time.
I sense so many things in this articulated moment, so many opportunities, so much awakening and yet it is a simple act of voting.

Sometimes I wish someone elder can tell me how it felt like to cast that vote during that infamous National Referendum for Merger. That simple vote to decide the fate of a country, a nation, a community. I can only guess that the feelings can be distilled into those same feelings as quoted above.

Stop and think. Take a pencil, a piece of paper and draw a cross and imagine that with that cross you join 4 million other Singaporeans to decide what everything means to your life. This is the political power coursing freely through Singapore now. The State can de-politicise you. But during this period, it cannot do so because it has to partake in politics for its own sustenance and legitimisation.

For the many more Singaporeans who are going to vote this time. Cherish this and know that it may not come again.

State participation in politics brings me to the next issue. Humility.The incumbent regime has been so long in power that it seems to have forgotten this simple political emotion, crucial in an election period. In drawing the battle lines and coming out with all guns blazing, their rhetoric has bordered on arrogance. Coming into my turf? Suicide. Polli-cide. MY PEOPLE WILL RETURN ME.

The State has consistently instrumentalised depoliticisation measures such that it requires the talent of technocrats or bureaucrats to operationalise these measures. Practical, procedural, hardly political. But there remains this incovenience of elections every five years. In the past, the PAP Old Guard were visionaries focussing on the political because they had excellent British-trained civil servants to execute the procedural, the bureaucratic. Now we do not have the such civil servants (hence, the need for the Admin Service) and ironically, the "best" of such bureaucrats are then cross-bred into politics.

So during election time, we experience the typical Mandarin attitude. Abrasiveness and arrogance.

But take a look at the wiliest and most consumnate politician in Singapore, Minister Mentor Lee. Feel how he enunciates and listen to his words in various media interviews. Compare the tone, the emotional tenor in these interviews to the forum where he took on the young radical English-educated Singaporeans. There is a difference. A slight difference. Cross examiner transforms into politician. It is not arrogance, it is confidence. He has distilled Singapore politics into its essence, vote me because I will deliver. During the struggle for independence, he persuaded Singaporeans in a marathon rally, his podium piled high with crumpled and still smoldering cigarettes. Today, political experience focusses that oratory power into sound-bite minutes for broadcast consumption.This is what the "young" PAP candidates do not have.

Political savvy no. Administrative savvy yes. Political savvy no.

Just analyse George Yeo's articulations over Gomez's handing in of minority status forms. He would make a good Returning Officer or Election Department Head. This is reflective of his technocratic mindset. This fixation with rules and regulations comes out naturally when he speaks. It is familar ground for a bureaucrat. Gomez failed to adhere to procedures, he lied, he is dishonest. Its the same mindset that perceives u-turns as rethinks because that is procedurally exact.

The political strategy of zooming in on the weakest link in Sylvia Lim's GRC team is correct. But the political method used in exploiting this link fails. And this is expected from a bureacrat's application of politics.

The traditional media compunds this bureaucratic mindset by aping this fixation with the procedural, when as Mr Wang points out, a simple look at Gomez will inform you of his race. The media apes this bureaucratic mindset when staring them in the eyes is such a beautiful media spin : "Former Brigadier General Battles Former Police Inspector in Aljunied" ... who knows the poeple well? who will have had greater operational experience in dealing with the community. "Sandbox Tactics Pitted Against Street Patrol Tactics". So many media opportunities and we waste valuable article space talking about the race of Gomez. He is Indian. No doubt about that. We can put it to a vote.

But I digress. Bureaucratisation of Singapore, Singapore Inc. The media institutions become the organisation newsletter. Grassroots organisations become HR departments. Schools become organisation training institutes. BUT politics abhors bureaucracy and turns it upside down, inside out. And this Achilles will be the single greatest reason why a single dominant party system will not sustain into the long-run in Singapore. To cross-breed two inimical ideas is doomed in the long-run. Singapore Inc cannot last into perpetuity.
And we will, we have to recover Singapore as it is. Because the procedural and the practical leads to statements like this :

"My personal view is, our land is expensive. But we have nearby neighbours in Johore, Batam and Bintan. The elderly want to reach their doctors within half to one hour. So retirement villages in neighbouring countries is possible, barring the cross-border hassle. It is best to find cheap land on short leases," said Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan. ChannelNewsAsia

Where Singaporeans are valued less than the their own land. Their soil. Their home. And shoved to die on short lease foreign soil.

Voting is a simple process. Let us Singaporeans be humble in our expression of political power.

Quotes of the Day --

"If a bureaucrat's superior gives him a directive he considers wrong he should object, but if the superior insists it is his duty and even his honour to carry it out as if it corresponded to his innermost conviction" -- Max Weber, Economy & Society

"... the politician must publicly reject the responsibility for political actions that run counter to his convictions and must sacrifice his office to them. A genuine political leader will be ready to accept responsibility for morally dubious action, since the different parts of our value system are irreconcilably in conflict." -- Max Weber, From Max Weber

"You were, as you say, taken on as a surveyor but we don't need a surveyor . . . The boundaries of our small holdings have been marked out, everything has been duly registered, the properties themselves rarely change hands, and whatever small boundary disputes arise, we settle ourselves.'' -- Franz Kafka, The Castle (unfinished work)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

.38 Smith Wesson vs M-16

as a former NS police man, i would say the .38 will win, more accurate, faster and probably we practice more

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you and Wow, brilliantly written.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kaoz, this is mindblowing writing. Definitely better than the straightjacket times.

5:34 AM  
Blogger gayle said...

Regarding how it felt to cast the vote for Referendum, I sure don't know, but I can hypothesise that already as soon as that the PAP had found ways to circumvent choices. For one, there was no option to vote for separation, and for another, the PAP-dominated Legislative Assembly voted to give themselves the power to turn all blank and spoiled votes into pro-PAP-solution votes, where previously the Opposition's strategy had been to urge everyone to cast blank votes to show their protest against the unfairness of the referendum. Ridiculous.

4:33 PM  
Blogger prettyplace said...

I enjoyed your well articulated, feeling towards your first vote and now picturing mine...which is also a first vote.

And disobeying orders....against their moral values...

a military men was charged,
and sent to a detention barrack, in Britain....
One poor man even took his own life...David Kelly, a scientist who was sent for weapons inspection to Iraq.

All for the Iraqi invasion....which Singapore quietly supports.


10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please call mediacorp as member of the public to say how disgusting we find the misrepresentation of the non-PAP parties during their coverage of the election.

If everyone us call, they will be change. Trust me. Many of the reporters WANT to report the TRUTH! However, they are stopped by their bosses.

We are Professionals & thinking people must do our part by giving them pressure from all sides. We enough pressure and professionals support, the reports will have call in figures to back their desire to want to report the TRUTH.

Many reporters are on our side, many policemen are on our side, they are singaporeans too. We can support them by calling in & writing in.

Let's give them tons of calls and emails to press for TRUTH. We can make a different. Each call can make a different.

MediaCorp News Hotline 68 2222 68

Give us your feedback on our content.

What are you waiting for.....pick up the phone and call, logon and email. Give them support to report the TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH.

Some reporters said they hate the censor and want to resign, they need our support, they need our encourgement, they need to hear from us to know that they are not fighting alone against their bosses.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes i have sent in an e-mail. But seriously i doubt the reporters can do anythin ... they REALLY SHOULD just resign en masse and set up a Malaysiakini equivalent if they have true courage.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many excellent commentaries by Xeno, Yawning Bread, Mr Wang, Void Deck, Sg Ink and these are not even journalists! So if the so-called professional jourmalists start something, it will rock.

Singaporeans need these voices, Hsien Loong keeps saying PAP delivers on its promises but he PROMISED one hundred flowers blooming in his first Rally speech and they all withered before they could even grow a bud. So where's that delivery?

Yea anon 12.22 is right, come on journalists do something!

12:27 AM  
Blogger gayle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:34 AM  
Blogger gayle said...

It's funny that Lee outlined a Maoist propaganda campaign (let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend) as part of his vision for Singapore in his first ever rally speech. Gee, that ended well where it was tried before.

I think Mediacorp is less culpable than SPH. At least Mediacorp publishes Today, which is a lot less govt-dominated, and is the best they can do given that SPH owns 40% of Mediacorp. The Straits Times has been the most unapologetically PAP-dominated publication to date.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was sitting through the CNA reports last night and its pretty one-sided. Then I caught an edition supposedly for foreign news because the narrator is an angmoh and lo behold, this edition macam like got slightly more coverage on opp. ridiculous rite?

2:14 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

hi anon suggesting feedback to SPH. Yes I do know reporters want change. I do know there are journalists chafing at the bit. Let them come out to the Net and speak then.

Evene if 30,000 e-mails reach their ears, they will say well, thats a minority.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we need is one bloody reporter to come out and say what the editors are doing.

Just one.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can do a bit of googling and look up what integrity is all about. For example....

Straits Times 27 May 2004

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sent a letter last month to all ruling party MPs outlining
new rules for holding directorships, which stated that MPs should not sit on the boards of
companies owned or chaired by grassroots leaders they have appointed.

Accord Customer Care Solutions, an electronics services provider, announced two weeks
ago that MP Wang Kai Yuen had resigned as an independent director because of the new

Singapore ST 3rd June 1999
Choo resigns as MP, then pleads guilty
PEOPLE'S Action Party MP Choo Wee Khiang resigned his seat in Parliament yesterday before pleading guilty to abetting his elder sister's common law husband to cheat a finance company into granting an $830,000 loan. His lawyer, Senior Counsel K. Shanmugam, broke the news of his resignation when he asked the court to impose a fine rather than a jail sentence on the businessman. District Judge Jasvender Kaur will sentence Choo, 44, on Monday and give her reasons in writing. Choo can be jailed up to a year, or fined up to $10,000, or both. A fine of more than $2,000 or a jail term of more than a year would disqualify him as an MP under the Constitution. Commenting on the resignation, Acting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Choo had "done the right thing" by quitting Parliament, as well as the PAP, before pleading guilty. "Honesty and integrity are fundamental values of Singapore's political system. "Political leaders must be beyond reproach in their personal ethics and integrity," said Brig-Gen (NS) Lee. Choo tendered his one-line resignation letter to Speaker of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon at 8.45 am yesterday. About two hours later, at the Subordinate Courts in Havelock Square, he pleaded guilty when the charge, under Section 417 of the Penal Code, was read out to him. This is an amended charge which carries a less severe punishment than the original one that he faced: Up to seven years' jail and a $10,000 fine. The prosecution's case: Choo, a director of Mei Marketing, issued a false company invoice in November 1990 to show UMBC Finance that his company had sold $1.18 million worth of equipment to Wong See Kee's Canspar (S) Pte Ltd. He did so even though he knew that there was no such sale. UMBC was thus deceived into granting an $830,000 hire-purchase loan to Canspar. A second similar charge involving a $1 million loan was taken into consideration. Pleading for leniency, Mr Shanmugam highlighted his client's unblemished record, plea of guilt, significant contribution to society and popularity with his constituents. He also submitted a letter, signed by 18 Whampoa grassroots leaders, attesting to Choo's character and how much he had done for the ward. Choo's resignation means that Jalan Besar voters will have three MPs to serve them: Dr Lee Boon Yang, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Peh Chin Hua.

Business Week Online
JULY 2, 2001
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
In 1994, he was fined $1,000 for violating the Official Secrets Act, after economic growth projections were leaked to the press. He was exiled to the Ministry of Education for three years before returning to the MAS.

Ahmad Khalis under disciplinary inquiry by Law Society

12:36 AM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

For many people in Singapore, things have to be in black and white, even though they know that the reality is actually grey.

And perhaps that's why the bureaucracy has such a wide appeal - because it promises stability and a black&white world. Things always go step-by-step.

What is politics, when compared to this promise? :)

7:42 AM  
Blogger feeblechicken said...

Wah.. so this is where u quoted me. This is abit late but for all those interested, you are welcome to read my blog @

10:58 PM  

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