Category Archives: Society

Teo Chee Hean Fails in his Duty to Guard Singapore and Protect Our National Interests.

Like many other Singaporeans I was shocked when I heard about the case of  the UK  mother divorced from a Singaporean husband and the ensuing  bitter custody dispute over their son. Custody battles and marital breakdown are never pleasant but what shocked me most was the light this case shed on our Ministry of Home affairs whom it appears have been literally asleep on the job. Who actually is guarding our Island and protecting our interests?

To recap on the case. The mother had obtained  a court order in the UK giving her custody of her son but the boy’s father had successfully applied for an injunction in Singapore to prevent her taking the child whom he had taken to reside with his Singaporean parents. I do not understand why the father was able to block enforcement of a UK court order granting the mother custody and I sympathise with the mother who was able to convince a UK court that she was a fit person to have custody. However, what she did next was extraordinary.   She hired a former London Metropolitan detective to help her recover her child and to abduct him back , by return as it were.
I do not understand why the agency she hired, Child Abduction Recovery International, did not advise her to use the legal route rather than embark on this course of action. But whatever the  reason we should be grateful that and the former London Metropolitan detective, Adan Whittington she hired was able to uncover a huge breach in our National security. After just one day of reconnaissance in Singapore  he found out a universal truth about Singapore and they were able to easily enter Singapore illegally (see link).

The universal truth he uncovered is that (particularly wealthy) foreigners enjoy privileges and freedoms in Singapore denied to us lesser mortals -( the locals).  In this case Mr Whittington soon identified a bastion of privilege and wealth, almost another country in itself, namely Raffles Marina.

Yet again our border protections and security services have been shown to be inadequate and the personnel charged with enforcing border security incompetent if not criminally negligent. The former Met detective should actually be praised for his public service to Singapore in highlighting the huge flaws in our security. In a day he was able to establish that our marinas are unguarded and an easy entry point into Singapore for any potential terrorist with a dirty bomb or biological weapons or dirty funds for laundering or indeed human trafficking. I am often told by anti-death penalty activists that drugs are still very easy to obtain in Singapore despite the well used death penalty and now I understand why.

It was not as though the couple landed on a beach or secluded inlet. Why are yacht marinas which one would have thought would have been an obvious weak point, not under 24 hour surveillance and security? If no immigration personnel are on duty between 6pm and 9am then surely it should be impossible to access or exit the marina? Perhaps the PAP Government’s over eagerness to establish Singapore as a yachting hub for gambling millionaires makes them unwilling to subject owners of yachts to the same laws that lesser mortals like you and I have to obey. After all the PAP’s thinking is probably that anyone who owns or is a passenger on a yacht must be a person whom we want to attract.

flotationdevicemas selamat

Mas Selamat

The fact that this kind of blunder has happened so frequently would be farcical were the implications for national security not so grave. There was the Mas Selamat incident in 2008, though there the security services were unable to prevent him leaving the country rather than entering. Recently there was the case of the Malaysian woman who was able to get through the Causeway checkpoint by tailgating another car. She was able to drive off before the immigration officer raised the alarm or lowered the barrier. Then she was able to give the police the slip for three days. She actually had to drive into the MFA and create a disturbance before the police were able to apprehend her.

This failure at the most basic level of border security is inexcusable, particularly when contrasted with the amount of money  spent on defence and defending our skies. This amounted to some $12.5 billion in 2014 or 3.4% of GDP. By contrast Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia spend much less than Singapore on defence as a proportion of GDP (see link). Parliament is not provided with a breakdown of this spending between equipment and manpower  so once again we are left to speculate. My conservative guess would be that more than one-third of this goes on equipment purchases. Recently Jane’s Defence Weekly speculated that Singapore had increased the number of F15SGs, one of the most advanced fighters in the world,  it operates to 40. Coupled with over 70 F16s we have by far the most powerful air force in ASEAN.

I am not advocating cutting defence spending, particularly at a time of rising external threats. There is certainly no economic need to do so since the PAP Government is running a budget surplus of about three times the current level of defence spending. I support the reduction of NS to twelve months or less and a larger professional army which may even lead to higher defence spending. However, I do feel that we need to evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of existing weapons programmes and proposed future purchases, particularly when the Government is unable to prevent what next time could be terrorists landing at a regular marina in Singapore without any kind of border control or screening. Without surveillance what is to prevent them offloading miniaturised Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) such as dirty nuclear bombs or lethal biological weapons. Even conventional weapons could be smuggled in.  We are an Island and our coast is a natural barrier but also a potential weakness. Let us spend a fraction of what we spend on sophisticated air weapons like the F15 and the proposed F35 Lightning II purchase, on ensuring these basic security lapses do not recur.

Having such negligent border oversight demonstrates that the Home Affairs Minister, Teo Chee Hean, is incompetent and should be replaced.  In any other country sch a serious lapse would result in a public enquiry and heads would roll. How did he get to be Admiral without understanding seaborne threats to our security?  At the very least he owes us Singaporeans an apology. He is clearly not fit to be a Minister drawing over two million dollars a year plus his MP’s allowance. What are the chances of him doing the decent thing and resigning?  I think the chances are close to zero but  the people of Pasir Ris-Punggol deserve better and presumably can make their feelings known at the next election!

When immigration stops being the elephant in the room and becomes the great white shark in your parliament.

Elephant-in-the-roomOn April 23 the Straits Times (ST) hosted a roundtable to sit around and discuss a survey of people’s perceptions of key policies, three years after the 2011 General Election. The panelists were the usual PAP-approved pundits.  A safe group carefully selected to be more interested in the con than the conversation.

One of this panel was Eugene Tan, who is now seeking a second term in that affront to parliamentary sovereignty the NMP position. Even though I would never be invited and my alternative model is never represented in the media or in forums, I noted that my ideas are very much NOT non-ideas.  I have seen them enter the mainstream of Singaporean political thinking to such an extent that on this occasion Eugene Tan could not avoid paraphrasing me. He even used  a title and the ideas from an article I wrote a few years back.  This is what Eugene Tan said:

I had some issues with how immigration came out in the survey, the issue was ranked rather lowly in terms of the different concerns. I look at immigration as the mother of all issues in our political landscape. You can trace all the different complaints about transport, housing, cost of living, national identity very much to immigration. So I think like in 2011 GE, immigration is a dog that didn’t bark in the survey.

 Immigration is the elephant in the room, it will be very much in the hearts and minds of voters and candidates in the next GE.”

My article, published in December 2011, was entitled “Immigration is the Elephant in the Room”.   I was prompted to write it because of an article I saw  in the ST on rising inequality in Singapore. While two economists in that article rightly brought up the subject of stagnation in real incomes for the majority and absolute decline for those in the bottom 20%, they could not bring themselves to mention the main cause. The main cause of rising inequality which I highlighted – is the fact that the PAP government implemented an open-door foreign worker policy with no minimum wage or protections for Singaporean workers.  Here’s a quote from that article which you have probably all forgotten by now.

However they fail to mention the elephant in the room, which is immigration policy or the lack thereof. Undoubtedly the government’s determination to allow our wages to be determined by those in the poorest economies in Asia has played a major part in depressing real wages, particularly for the lower-skilled workers. Not only was there very little restriction on foreign labour, and no restriction at all for those earning more than $2,500 a month, but there appears to have been lax enforcement of what rules there were and ample loopholes. This has been demonstrated by a recent case where an employer was jailed for putting phantom Singaporean workers on his payroll to allow him to bring in more foreign Work Permit holders.

 Whether we have a minimum wage, or a cap on foreign labour (which amounts to the same thing), this is The Elephant in The Room whose emissions are causing the inequality. Unfortunately, we risk the Elephant turning into a Raging Bull if the xenophobic ranting in cyberspace is anything to go by. What we need now, and urgently, is some serious and open and reasoned debate on the future of Singapore.”

Not only does Eugene seem to be channeling me in this recent discussion but my predictions about the raging Bull make it seem as though I had a time machine.

Since I wrote that article the Elephant in the Room has indeed metamorphosed into the Raging Bull. Witness the current declarations of war ( metaphorical) over the Philippines Independence Day Celebrations.  Sadly kicking those weaker than you is not an appropriate way for Singaporeans to vent their anger with the PAP government’s policies. Not only is it not appropriate it is also plays into the PAP’s hands as it allows the government to paint those  people as xenophobes and continue to divide and rule. Fanning the flames of anger and hatred will probably ensure more seats for the PAP in the next GE.

Raging BullSomeone posted a marvelous quote on the Facebook tribute page for my late father recently. ” If your Dream starts to fade,wake up!”   Well the 10% of the elites in Singapore are fully awake and benefitting just as the  bottom 20% are fully awake and unable to dream due to suffering  but when will everyone else wake up?. Will they wait for that fading dream to become a full-blown nightmare?

The problem is simple. The PAP government knows only one economic model. That model which I first pointed out and which these days is explained back to me by taxi drivers is this. It is a sausage making machine.  You feed in additional inputs of labour at one end of the sausage machine to produce additional units of output, or GDP, at the other. In between there is no rise in underlying productivity. Despite a Budget devoted to productivity in 2010 and Tharman’s promise to raise productivity growth to 2-3% per annum and real incomes by 30% by 2020,the facts show that productivity growth was -2% in 2011 and 0% in 2012. That’s a clear sign for you. Wake up!

A Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman exposed this same model in the 1990s when he debunked the Asian economic miracle and that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1990. This is a basic model of economic development that has been around since 1954 when Arthur Lewis first propounded it (“Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour”). Sooner or later this model just runs out of steam or collapses because there is no innovation. The PAP have just put off  the day of reckoning by opening the floodgates to cheaper and cheaper labour supplies from the developing countries of Asia.

Eugene Tan seems to be saying that the PAP have only to solve the Immigration issue to win back the voters.  I wonder if that is true? But even if that was the easy solution to another 50 years of PAP rule, it is not that simple. Firstly, I don’t think PAP can abandon their model. It would remove their raison d’être. Not only that, but it would lead to a severe economic slump at least in the short-term.  The answer is surely to change the economic model by putting a better one in place and that would mean removing or fatally wounding the PAP government.

The unfettered population issue is not just about crowding on the SMRT. Everything in Singapore, from ceaseless construction activity to inflating property prices, is dependent on continued population growth. That growth through immigration depresses wages and increases returns on investment. Without continued population inflows, the whole fake bubble of inflated values for HDB leaseholds will collapse. It will no longer be economically viable to regularly tear down old HDB blocks to put bigger and taller ones in a smaller area of space. The illusion of ever rising prosperity for HDB owners will be destroyed. Already Khaw Boon Wan is warning you that SERS will only happen where it is profitable for the government.

The real reason you need to wake up dear readers is this. To the PAP, Singaporeans have no value in themselves. The only value is in the real estate and then only because of Singapore’s strategic position. The PAP’s ideal is to dispense with citizens altogether and just have a disenfranchised global population who come to Singapore to work and then go home or get deported without ever being a burden on State services.

The PAP government is the principal owner of land and capital. By transferring resources from us the workers to themselves, facilitated by the role of immigration in depressing wages and pushing up land prices, that wealth stays out of our hands. Make no mistake, in the last 50 years that wealth could have been used to develop a strong middle, each generation better off than the one before, free universal education, joined up health care, a professional paid army, benefits for the most needy.
Instead our sick are housed in tents like the wounded in a war zone and that wealth disappears abroad into unaccountable entities controlled by Temasek and GIC. Every year Tharman makes the pretence that part of the returns is recycled back to us but as I have exposed in 2012, this is an accounting sham (see “Smoke and Mirrors in the Government’s Accounts“)

Any attempt by Singaporeans to gain any information about the true level of assets and investment returns,  as well as the remuneration of the PM’s wife and relatives who work for these entities, is met with the arrogant and contemptuous rebuff that the disclosure of such information is not in the public interest.I should know having taken the government to court in an effort to get them to live up to their obligations of due process and accountability.

Great WhiteSo immigration is not the elephant in the room everyone is trying not to mention.  It is  the doomed policy of a Great White Shark. The shark is a dangerous, efficient but fairly primitive organism that can only survive if it continues to keep moving and water flowing over its gills. If it stays still it drowns.  In the same way the PAP must continue to keep our population growing rapidly as it is the only way they know to create growth. This leads to the myth that  somehow the laws of Economics don’t apply to the PAP and that they alone have invented an economic miracle.

The only miracle here is that so many blindly believe in this myth that the PAP have fabricated.  I’ll end with an uplifting quote from the song Mac the Knife in the Threepenny Opera by Kurt and Weil.

“Oh the shark babe has such pretty teeth, dear. And he shows them pearly white.”  

Links

http://sonofadud.com/2013/02/01/the-paps-white-paper-on-population-reveals-that-the-government-has-all-the-benefits-of-surround-sound-and-a-wide-screen-picture-at-the-cost-of-losing-the-plot/

http://sonofadud.com/2014/04/04/cpf-and-hdb-10-real-dirty-tricks/

http://mafhom.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/23-things-they-dont-tell-you-about-capitalism.pdf

 

 

Madame L from Pioneer Generation Package to Cardboard Collecting Pittance

IMG_0193

With Budget 2014 fresh in our minds I thought that now would be a good time to update my readers on the case of Madam L. You can read the previous blog entries from September last year, if you are not familiar with the case or need to refresh your memory. (“Homeless in Singapore’s Island Paradise” and “Homeless with a Handcart against Singapore’s Grand Prix”).

Mdm L has been homeless for 2 years, sleeping on the streets and turned away by everyone until she came to me for help.  So, I was not her first choice! But she had always been a supporter of JBJ so she came to me.  She has been living in the street on around $8:00 she earns a day, on days when she is well enough to push her trolley around collecting cardboard.

Despite repeated calls to the Social Service Office in the months following our first meetings, dealing with her case we seemed to have hit a brick wall. Despite Madam L being homeless and destitute it seemed impossible to unlock the aid to which according to the ComCare website she was entitled. ComCare promises $450 a month Public Assistance to those unable to work and without any other means of support. Madam L does have children but is estranged. In any case I went to visit her son and they have several children of their own to support and are in the low-income bracket.

The refusal of the authorities concerned to give her the support that she was promised is typical of the way our government operates. At Budget time our Finance Minister always waxes eloquent about the support given to the poor and needy in Singapore and the myriad schemes that are available but the situation on the ground doesn’t bear the fruit being promised.

Who can forget our PM’s comment at Davos”If you’re poor in Singapore, it’s no fun, but I think you’re less badly off than in any other country in the world, including in the US”. This breathtaking falsehood, fed to foreign journalists, politicians and academics, has unfortunately been swallowed without any independent corroboration by Nobel Prize winners like Stiglitz. This is Stiglitz’s original article and my rebuttal, which the NY Times declined to carry.

Anyway there is some good(ish) news to report. Mdm L has now been granted an allowance of $300 a month from Comcare for a period of six months. I feel this is a measure of some small success.  It wasn’t really hard to take her around to the various agencies and to keep phoning and pushing the various parties who should be assisting her.  All she needed was some guidance, hand holding and someone to unravel the bureaucracy for her.

She was adamant at all times that she didn’t want charity despite the many offers we received from readers because she lives in fear of being “put away “. She was also offered a shared room soon after I took up the case on her behalf but the proposed room-mate was unsuitable.  However, I believe that once she does have a room of her own she will be in need of your generosity to furnish that room and provide her with a buffer to pay the rent so that she can ease back into a home situation with less stress.

The aim is still to see Mdm L suitably housed. She also needs medical care. I will make sure to review with ComCare before the end of the six-month period and to pursue her other needs.  Mdm L and I are due to visit HDB together next week. I hope that the evidence of offers of support and donations and the Comcare allowance will persuade HDB to find her a room, this time.  I am still questioning HDB over the action they took in evicting her in the first place.

Before I finish just wanted to say a word about the much hyped Pioneer Generation Package. How does that help Madam L and the thousands like her who were never formally employed and thus do not have any CPF funds?  So many like her are from the Pioneer Generation and yet are reduced to collecting cardboard and hawking tissues.

In any case the Pioneer Generation Package and its hyped $9 billion cost is a fraud. As I pointed out in Budget 2014: A Very Generous Amount of Wool Pulled over Your Eyes, the actual projected cost is more like $400 million a year of actual spending. And the actual overall cash cost is likely to be considerably less.  The Finance Minister provides no breakdown of the estimated cost of the different elements. However 40% to 60% off Medishield Life premiums is not a cash cost when the Medishield fund is still massively in surplus. The government may recoup the cost by raising premiums for the rest of Singaporeans. In any case Madam L and many like her are not enrolled in Medishield and could not afford the premiums anyway.  The same is true with the Medisave top-ups, where only a tiny fraction of the fund is withdrawn each year. Madam L has no Medisave anyway. Finally the Disability Assistance Scheme will doubtless be as difficult to access as Public Assistance has been for Madam L.

We will be having a meeting at the Reform Party office at 18A Smith Street in Chinatown  this Monday evening from 7pm to coordinate donations and help for Madam L. All are welcome.

Mdm L was born in 1948. She is truly one of our Pioneering Generation. She wants what is her due, just a room of her own and she surely deserves that. Is that so much to ask?

Please watch the short video interview with Madam L above

 

 

Homeless with a handcart against Singapore’s Grand Prix.

Singapore Grand Prix 2013IMG_0118

 

This is an update on thee homeless in Singapore case.

At about the same time that Sebastian Vettel roared across the finish line at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, Madam L was also crossing the daily finishing line in her own race to collect enough cardboard to survive.  She is the one in the lower picture. You can recognise her by the absence of champagne.

While the details of the deal between Formula One and the PAP government are not disclosed, the one thing we can be certain of is that the Grand Prix is only possible because it is heavily subsidized with taxpayer funds and GLC monopoly profits.  Madam L, who by contrast is a model of self-reliance, only collected $8 yesterday from her six to seven hours of hard work.

However we still had a  win of sorts on Monday .  After our calls to various offices last week  two representatives from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre (FSC) came down to  our office on Monday afternoon to interview Madam L.  (They were accompanied by a young woman from the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities)  As I only started working on Madam L’s case on Thursday I am pleased by what has been achieved  in 5 days. Especially when you consider that Madam L has been  living on the streets for over a year now. We should pause for a moment to appreciate our overstretched social workers. Their job is frustrating, often thankless and always poorly paid. They  do a commendable job despite the meanness and contradictory ideology of our PAP government.

The social workers listened patiently to Madam L. pour out her very real grievances with the manner of her  treatment by HDB and other government bureaucracies. Their first response was that it would be a time-consuming process  for her to apply for Public Assistance (PA) although I believe that she is undoubtedly entitled to it.

Next the social workers cautioned that she could not expect to collect the whole $450 since her children would be required to contribute as well. I pointed out that this was going to be difficult as her son already had three young children to support and Madam L had told us he was not in regular employment and only had work as an odd jobs man to support them.

But at least we got the ball rolling. We submitted Madam L.’s NRIC to them and they will make the application on her behalf.  We can work on the actual amount later.

The representatives from AMK FSC asked what Madam L’s immediate priorities were. I felt that after a year on the street getting a roof over her head came first. Medical care is another priority as she has not seen a doctor in over a year. When she lost all her possessions as a result of her ejection from her flat she had also lost some braces supplied to her after an operation.

I asked about the possibility of putting her up in a hostel. They said that was going to be too expensive and suggested she enter a home for the destitute. This is a s 20th century Singaporean version of a Dickensian workhouse. Their idea was that she could stay there while her family circumstances were checked out and start receiving medical care whilst that was happening. Madam L was very adamant that she would not enter a home for the destitute or the elderly.  She is also suspicious of charitable hostels. She is after all only 65, doesn’t see herself as fit for the scrap heap and just wants what she feels are her rights.

Another suggestion from the  leader of the AMK team was that they would supply a mattress so that she could sleep on the floor in her son’s unit. Again we explained that her son and his wife already have three young children and only a small flat. Clearly Madam L has some pride  and deserves to be able to keep her dignity. Apart from that we suspect some history there. Like Facebook says, “It’s complicated”

The social workers then said that if she were unwilling to enter the home for the destitute then they would not be able to do anything further till her application for PA was processed. In the meantime they said she should liaise with the young woman from the charity for help although I have to say that with Madam l’s hostility to charities that is unlikely to happen. Clearly the  Ministry needs to be able to provide immediate and temporary  emergency accommodation in situations like this where the social workers need time to investigate the family background.

While we wait for the PA application to  work its way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy,  our next step is HDB. I want to try to find out exactly why she was evicted and her possessions lost , including her medical equipment and her birth certificate. In fact I have noticed that Madam L gets very agitated on the subject of her birth certificate. It clearly has enormous symbolic importance to her integrity as a person.

According to Madam L , HDB said they would  arrange alternative accommodation for her by matching her up with another single renter but that was over a year ago and she has heard nothing. Actually that’s a lie. She has heard from HDB. They are vigorously pursuing her for over $5,000 in arrears via letters sent to her son’s address, Charming!  The social workers suggested this sum might also include lawyers’ and debt collection fees. I don’t really care where that sum comes from.  I  find it incredible that they would pursue a homeless person for this and not write it off.

After listening to Madam L’s outpouring of the injustices done to her, in which she switched from Hokkien to Malay to Teochew to Cantonese to Mandarin, the social workers hinted that there may have been a problem with hoarding which led to her eviction by HDB. Given that hoarding behaviour often has an emotional or underlying mental health issue , it seems even more incomprehensible that HDB would evict her rather than refer her for treatment. Finally our social workers got up to go , promising to get back to Madam L and us as soon as possible with positive news about her application for PA.

You will recall the woman from the Charity. She was a nice young woman from Hong Kong but Madam L was never going to  see herself as a charity case. After all she works for a living.  Well the young woman presented Madam L with a large yellow bag from the Goodwood Park Hotel. It contained a packet of cookies and a box of mooncakes. I was struck by the absurdity of giving this poor woman, with all her other pressing needs, a box of mooncakes as though that would somehow solve her problems.

Madam L is no fool, though. Once the social workers had gone she looked at the cookies as though they might contain poison. “I won’t be eating that”,  she laughed. “Any  hand-out from the PAP is always past its sell-by date. “

I might make that my quote for the week.

Homeless and Living on the Streets of China Town update.

Just to let you know that today  Ms J from the Family Centre in Ang Mo Kio did call us back but only to say that Madam L’s case has been referred to the China Town office. This leaves Madam L homeless over the weekend. We are actively trying to find her a space in a shelter. If you have any suggestions or information about vacancies please do let me know asap. Donations of food and clothing would also be appreciated. You can leave your suggestions in the  comments here.
Thank You. Kenneth.

Homeless in Singapore’s Island Paradise

madam L

You may recall that I wrote about the sad case of Rebecca Loh and the tragic consequences of our government’s callous policy of self- reliance at all costs. Recently I was saddened again by the plight of another victim of similar callousness though as yet still mercifully without the same tragic consequences.

I know of Madam L’s case because she had called our office to ask for help.  Yesterday I met up with her along with the assistance of one of our Hokkien speaking members. Before this our means of communication had been restricted to Malay. (My generation of Singaporeans were taught in English but non-Chinese learnt Malay as a second language.)

I will tell her story as she told it although we are still working on her case and no doubt more details will emerge.   I believe it is not atypical.

As with the case of Rebecca Loh , Madam X had been through a divorce and her ex husband had in fact passed away some years back. She had been renting an HDB unit until last year when she was evicted. Which is why she is now living on the streets.  She is currently being pursued by HDB for rental arrears of over $5,000 (US$4,000).  Strangely Madam L keeps the letters of demand from HDB on her person, folded into her clothing inside a plastic envelope. They constitute one of her few remaining personal possessions.

This is more remarkable for the fact that she is illiterate and has no job other than a small amount that she is able to make by collecting cardboard (according to her she gets paid about 8 Singapore cents a kilo).  She looked as though she had not been able to wash or launder her clothes for some time.

It is the cornerstone of PAP policy that elder citizens who hit a rough patch must move in with their children. Naturally HDB told her to go and live with her son. However he is already a non home owner, renting and subsisting in a one room HDB unit which he shares with his wife and three children. He survives by doing odd jobs.  Madam L says she has never had a regular job and thus had no CPF savings. Apart from her son she has a daughter but had become estranged from her many years back and has since lost touch.

The address on her NRIC card is that of her son and this is how HDB are able to contact her regularly with demands for the arrears.  In fact I wonder if this listing of relatives on NRIC cards is how the PAP are able to claim that there are no homeless people in Singapore? Technically I suppose she is homed in the one room unit with her son and his family.   HDB rules do not allow single people to rent a room and as moving in with her son was impossible, HDB had promised to match her up with someone to share with. However that was over a year ago now and the only communication she has had from them was in connection with the above mentioned arrears.

Although we were able to help her with her most immediate needs she clearly needs somewhere to live long-term as she is still only 65 and this is where she was primarily asking for my assistance. Madam L had immediately recognised the picture of my late father in our office saying, “Ah there is JBJ.” Unfortunately she mistakenly believed me to be a lawyer too. I’m not sure that being a lawyer would have been much help anyway. In fact, after going through this case and seeing how she had fallen through one gap after another I felt like I was back writing to the President of Singapore asking his office for a straight answer to the question, “ Did you approve this loan”. We all know how that got shunted from pillar to post.

As she was destitute I thought that she should qualify for Public Assistance. In the last Budget this was raised to S$450 (US$360) per month for a single person. She met the qualifying criteria since her lack of qualifications and advancing age would make it difficult to find a regular job and she had no other source of income. Her son already had several dependents and was presumably earning below the limit of $1700 (US$1360) per month.  Though S$450 is not a princely sum, she told us that her HDB rental used to be S$50 (US$40) per month so she should have had something left over for living expenses.  Clearly collecting cardboard is not something our elderly citizens should be doing.

We phoned ComCare but they referred us to the Family Centre in Ang Mo Kio. When we called that office their attitude at first was that of not being bothered. Eventually however an employee phoned us back (we will refer to her as Ms J).  She at first tried to fob us off by asking us to call Samaritans of Singapore, though it is hard to see how a counselling service for the suicidal (incidentally set up by my mother in Singapore) could help an elderly woman who was destitute. We asked that they send somebody down to interview the woman and see how they could help her, given that she clearly qualified for Public Assistance. Finding a roof over her head is obviously the most urgent priority.  I said that her situation was pretty desperate and she should not have to wait too long. Would they be able to come down on Friday and meet her at or near our office?

Ms J did not sound very hopeful but said she would get someone to call us back about possibly coming down on Friday at 4pm or failing that on Monday at the same time. As of today we are still waiting for them to call us.

It seems incomprehensible to me that the public housing agency would make a senior citizen without a job or any means of support homeless, even if she had run up rent arrears. They could at least have referred her to ComCare for assistance. Madam L had also used up her savings and meagre CPF on medical treatment which involved having a body brace fitted. She also told us that she had lost all her personal belongings when she was evicted including some medical equipment that she was using after that operation. Naturally, I will be following up the arrears demands with HDB after we deal with the more pressing needs.

Just as in the case of Rebecca Loh, it seems incomprehensible that a country where the government has accumulated surpluses amounting to several hundred billion dollars over the last few years should place so many obstacles in the path of its citizens in genuine need. After all the reserves belong ultimately to the people not to the government and the people produced that money that is the reserves.  They are the financial equivalent of Hotel California. You can put them in any time you like but you can never take them out! If you want to know more about our reserves read here and here. For my views on the losses accumulated by MAS read this.

I also wrote that Rebecca and Gabriel were known in her neighbourhood, that they were not recluses behind hidden doors.  Madam L is also known to the organisations that should be assisting her.  Although I have found again and again that even the limited amount of assistance available is frequently not taken up because those who need it do not know it is there or have trouble accessing the information. When people do apply then mean-minded bureaucrats often reject their applications on dubious grounds. Even in the case of something that should be automatic like Workfare, many of the poorly educated are not even aware of the scheme’s existence or how to apply.

I will update you shortly on whether the Family Centre has responded to her need for assistance. Meanwhile we are contacting various voluntary organisations to find Madam L a place in a hostel where she can have access to a bed and washing and laundry facilities. That can only be a temporary situation and really I don’t see why our genuinely deserving are reduced to begging for charity in the midst of so much government affluence?

I feel the same way about the Straits Times pocket money fund. Every year they raise a few million dollars and this amount is celebrated. But why should families be reduced to asking for charity to provide meals, clothing, basic stationary and books so that our children can attend school because in fact education is not yet free? After all the Straits Times’ profits are inflated because it enjoys a government monopoly through the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.

I will finish up here by quoting from my piece on Rebecca Loh where I explained my use of the rice bowl metaphor:

“….Remember I wrote this in February 2011 two and a half years before Gabriel died. If it sounds prophetic it is not. I was only stating the facts of life under the PAP then and they have not changed. Here is what I said,

“Sometimes the rice bowl slips from our fingers and cracks or breaks through sheer ill luck. There will be precious little sympathy for you in a porcelain rice bowl State should you be foolish enough to be retrenched, to have elderly parents, a chronic or terminal illness, a child with special needs or to be caring for a mentally or physically challenged dependant.”

The sad case of Rebecca Loh

The tragic life of Rebecca Loh and death of her son Gabriel has moved me more than any story to come out of Singapore in recent years. Who cannot be horrified by the thought of that poor boy’s last moments without also recognising that his mother must have been struggling with mental and physical trauma  beyond our normal capacity to comprehend. I have thought long and hard before deciding to write on the matter. Firstly I don’t know the family or enough of the details  to write in any qualified manner, secondly it seems almost callous to reduce the family to a set of circumstances and finally Gabriel’s grandmother now has to bear not only his passing but the trauma of the trial. I  extend my deepest condolences to the family.

Nevertheless I was encouraged by Rachel Zeng’s sensitive handling of the case in her blog and so on the basis that we  do less harm by talking about this with compassion than by sweeping it under the carpet, I have decided to  write a few words.  Read Rachel’s thoughts here. http://rachelzeng.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/some-thoughts-regarding-the-case-of-rebecca-loh/

When I first started this blog over two years ago I wrote an intro which you can find under the ABOUT button on the menu. This explained my choice of the name “Rethinking the Rice Bowl”. Looking back on it today it seems like a load of guff. The intro talks about iron rice bowls and porcelain rice bowls in an attempt to demonstrate how the PAP government model is faux communist but with a harsh, ” spur in the side” element.  Please do spend a couple of minutes reading that Intro if you can.

As you read further down the page you will find the following. Remember I wrote this in February 2011 two and a half years before Gabriel died. If it sounds prophetic it is not. I was only stating the  facts of life under the PAP then and they have not changed. Here is what I said

“Sometimes the rice bowl slips from our fingers and cracks or breaks through sheer ill luck. There will be precious little sympathy for you in a porcelain rice bowl State should you be foolish enough to be retrenched, to have elderly parents, a chronic or terminal illness, a child with special needs or to be caring for a mentally or physically challenged dependant.”

I regret not having added single parent to that list back then. Rebecca’s rice bowl did slip from her fingers and Gabriel died. But Rebecca didn’t exactly slip through the net , she was not invisible. The media reports said,

“.an unemployed single mother, she was often seen pushing Gabriel around in a pram.

She would lift him from the pram to the chair and back at a nearby coffee shop, neighbours told The Straits Times.”

Rebecca was known in her neighbourhood, Gabriel was known, they were not recluses behind hidden doors.  The Police were even called out several times due to violent arguments at the home.

It seems that Rebecca would have qualified for Public Assistance and the PA grassroots organisations in West Coast GRC have not come forth with any information as to whether she received assistance or not. We do know she was totally reliant financially on her mother, Gabriel’s grandmother who worked full time to bring home $1000 a month. Caught by Catch 22 this took Rebecca’s sole contact, her mother, away from the home all day. Her future must have seemed interminably bleak.

I am reminded of the work of Raymond Fernando who often writes about the stress of taking care of  a dependent relative full time.  You can read a piece he wrote on this blog called, ” Who Cares for the  Care-Giver”, here.  http://sonofadud.com/guest-spot/who-cares-for-the-caregiver/

Life sometimes deals you a series of circumstances which you cannot overcome by hard work alone. That is why i wrote that back in 2011. With the hindsight of this case surely there are few amongst us who can defend the PAP’s harsh an regime.

Here comes the economics- Make no mistake, I am not advocating a Welfare State. Particularly as those Nations with bloated welfare systems are desperately trying to cut them back as we speak. The last thing I want is for Singapore to regress to some 1950’s Socialist model with an iron rice bowl mentality. What we need are safety nets and a tiny fraction of the assistance that citizens in developed Nations enjoy- ( not to mention the freedoms).  We don’t even have free education! Look how many millions have to be raised by charities every year to allow children of needy families to go to school with breakfast or to buy pencils and text books or lunch.

Anyone who reads my blog or follows my work will be familiar with the list, Minimum Wage, freeholds to our property, HDB reform, pension reform, CPF reform, NS at slave labour rates reform,  joined up health care , free education and so on. What has also always been clear is that there simply is not enough provision by our state for children with special needs. For every child who is lucky enough to get a place at the one flagship school for autism- a centre of excellence in fact_ there are 5 more children shut away and denied an education or a place in our society at all. Any support for these young people is derived solely from charities and religious organisations. That is better than nothing but every charity supporting a family is letting the PAP off the hook.

Naturally the PAP demonstrates no remorse. Here is what they said in response to an article  critical of our  government’s failure to provide safety nets which appeared in the Economist back in 2010. (anyone who has read the Economist or  its sister publication, the Financial Times, recently such as Gillian Tett’s puff piece on our health care system based on her experience of being treated  as a private, fee-paying Ex Pat will hardly recognise the Economist of 2010)

Reply to the Economist’s  “The stingy nanny” of Feb 13th.
“Each society has to decide for itself the appropriate balance between unconditional welfare and self-reliance. Singapore has concluded that we cannot afford European-style state welfare, not because of dogma, but because our circumstances are different. We face competition from some of the most vibrant economies in the world, we have no hinterland or natural resources of our own to fall back on, and our future depends on being a dynamic and self-reliant people who strive our utmost to excel and create wealth for ourselves, our families and our society. Each generation must earn and save enough for its entire life cycle.

Our approach is based on time-tested values of hard work, self-reliance, family responsibility and community support for those in need.”

What was Rebecca supposed to do?  Her Community dd not support her evidently. There was no way this young woman could ever have saved up enough  for her and her son’s life cycle. Notice in all this story there has been no mention of the absent father. How was Rebecca supposed to create wealth for herself, exactly? Did Gabriel die because Rebecca failed to be dynamic and self reliant enough for the PAP model?

While we are here that story about no natural resources is wearing thin. We inherited one of the busiest ports in the region which was  historically already prosperous under the British who left us the deepest dry dock in Asia and a large well educated middle class. We are at the centre of the world’s trade routes. Most of the world’s oil passes through the Malacca Straits via Singapore.  We don’t have any rural areas either and we should compare ourselves to Manhattan or central down town Tokyo or London.

This is the regime that likens Democracy to gang rape. Shameless. But do we bear any less shame for turning our heads away from Rebecca and for unquestioningly swallowing the PAP’s dogma. As my father liked to say, Wake up.

 

Presidential Candidate Tan Kin Lian speaks out on unconstitutional IMF loan, donates $1,000.

Mr. Tan Kin Lian , candidate for Elected President of the Republic of Singapore and economics and finance expert,  just put the following up on his blog. (This is after making a generous donation of $1000 towards the $20,000 needed by Tuesday in order to lodge a bond with the AG’s office so we can launch an appeal.)
“MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2012

IMF Pledge

I have made a donation to the fund for Kenneth Jeyaretnam to take up the issue of the IMF Pledge. He is doing it on behalf of all Singaporeans and deserve our support. Please donate generously.” See  http://tankinlian.blogspot.sg/2012/11/imf-pledge.html for details.

Mr Tan Kin Lian has previously written twice about the constitutionality of the loan that Singapore made to the IMF. He is kinder than me in his writing style but he comes to the same conclusions.   And this is a man whom the select panel deemed fit to run for President of our Republic!  He thinks the loan was unconstitutional and he wants to help me appeal it on behalf of all Singaporeans.

On July 07th 2012, Tan Kin Lian  had raised the issue of constitutionality of the loan here:

http://tankinlian.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/did-imp-pledge-violate-singapore.html

Of course he did. As an EP candidate how could he keep quiet? He said, “I am surprised that MAS would give the above type of explanation – as it seemed to defy logic and common sense.”

On July 12th 2012 he wrote an open letter to the Straits Times forum. Here is some of what he said:
” I am. therefore, amazed by the arguments put forward by the Monetary Authority of Singapore that the pledge given to the IMF, as it now stands, did not breach the Constitution. If the position of MAS is correct, it is better for the Constitution to be re-written to reflect the position taken by MAS.

The Constitution is perhaps the most important legal document in the land. The citizens should be assured that they can trust the Constitution to mean what it says, and that the wordings are not interpreted in a manner that defy logic or common sense.
I do not understand why the pledge of this large amount is not submitted for approval by required under the Constitution. Even if there is an urgency for the pledge to be given, it can be given on a provisional basis, and be subject to obtaining the required approvals. I believe that most countries would follow such a process on a matter of great importance. This would reflect a high standard of governance, which is what the Government aims to promote in the corporate world.
Rather than justify an action that is already done, I suggest that the MAS should submit the pledge to Parliament for rectification by Parliament and the President. It is all right to make a mistake and to learn from it.
Tan Kin Lian”
Clearly a man who knows his liabilities from his assets and a man who knows how to have the courage of his convictions. Thank you Mr Tan Kin Lian,  on behalf of all Singaporeans who want to keep their constitution alive.

“I find this argument highly insulting and hugely dangerous”

 A very good opinion piece  has just gone up on TR EMERITUS about how the learned Judge’s ruling in the IMF case effectively means that a member of  one race cannot speak up for a member of another race.

As the author Andy Wong says:

I find this argument highly insulting and hugely dangerous.

I have pasted the article here but it is well worth going over to TRE in order to read the comments attached. http://www.tremeritus.com/2012/11/15/why-i-am-donating-to-support-kenneth-jeyaretnam/

Why I am donating to support Kenneth Jeyaretnam

 November 15th, 2012 |  Author: Contributions

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.”

- Martin Niemöller (A German pastor who talked about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.)

I read with interest the judgement in Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s IMF loan case [1].  Whilst there are many aspects of the ruling that trouble me, for now I would like to speak on just one point. The ruling brought to mind a famous poem by Martin Niemöller [2] titled “First they came … “, which speaks eloquently of the need not just to speak up for our own rights, but also for the rights of all members of our society.  You have just read it above. If we do not do something to protect others in our society, we will have no reason to expect ourselves to be protected in the future.

The relevant section of the judgement in Kenneth’s case is paragraph 47, it is about “locus standi” and who, if anyone, has the right to challenge the government if they pass an unconstitutional law. It quotes a previous case and includes the follow argument:

Every citizen has constitutional rights, but not every citizen’s constitutional rights will be affected by an unconstitutional law in the same way. For example, if there is a law which provides that it is an offence for any person of a particular race to take public buses, this law would clearly violate Art 12. [...]

However, the mere holding of a constitutional right is insufficient to found standing to challenge an unconstitutional law; there must also be a violation of the constitutional right. In this fictitious scenario, the only persons who will have standing to bring a constitutional challenge against the unconstitutional law for inconsistency with Art 12 will be citizens who belong to the race that has been singled out as only their Art 12 rights will have been violated. Persons of other races will not have suffered violations of their Art 12 rights and will thus have no standing to bring a constitutional challenge in this scenario.

I find this argument highly insulting and hugely dangerous. The reasoning is that I, as a member of one race, cannot speak up to protect the rights of my friends of another race. But are we not all Singaporeans? Do we not have national service to protect all Singaporeans, regardless of race? If a Chinese lady, married to an Indian gentlemen for example, cannot speak up to protect the rights of her husband, then what have we become? But the argument in this case is not really about race, it applies equally to any way to identify and categorise those people who may, versus those who may not suffer some loss in the face of an unconstitutional law. To paraphrase the poem that I begun with:

First they came for the newspaper men,

and I didn’t speak out because the high court of Singapore ruled that only newspaper men can speak out for other newspaper men, and I as an accountant do not have locus standi to speak out on this topic.

But my husband is a newspaper man, imprisoned without trial for seventeen years, and I fear I will never speak to him again.

I am not a lawyer, but from reading what has been published, I understand that this argument regarding locus standi is what Kenneth (at least in part) seeks to overturn in appeal.  I will donate to his cause not only because I think this is an extremely important legal principle, but also because I feel strongly in protecting the rights of all people in our society, not just any one particular group.

.

Andy Wong”

Andy Wong  has hit the nail on the head. What kind of society will we living in if this judgement goes unchallenged? And make no mistake that the implication is that even if the government has acted unconstitutionality_  yes, that’s right,  when the government HAS broken the constitution, you can’t challenge that if it is a constitutional breach that affects all Singaporeans or a race or group of which you are not a member. Because you need to prove personal damage to be considered to have Locus Standi.

Do you want a Singapore where the high income groups will not speak out against unjust laws that hit the worse off because they haven’t suffered any personal damage?Landed property owners not challenging though a legal suit an  HDB  illegal policy because it doesn’t affect them. It makes a mockery of our way of life , our society, our multi ethnic mix, the basic principles of our representational government if each individual  Singaporean is not also representative of all Singaporeans.

Hard Truths or Plain Racism?The Government’s Hypocritical Outrage over Amy Cheong

While we can all condemn Amy Cheong for the unthinking racism of her remarks, we should wonder whether they just reflect the tone of institutional racism that is projected from the very top of the government. Her crime was perhaps that she took her cue from the frequent racist utterances from of our former Minister Mentor which instead of being condemned are labelled “hard truths to keep Singapore going.”  Recently even the Australian PM praised MM Lee for his “straight talk” from three decades ago and said “We never forgot his warning that without reform we would be the “White Trash of Asia”

She obviously did not realise that the latitude accorded to the gods do not apply to mere mortals such as her.  The PM was quick enough to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation from PAP ministers but has been noticeably silent about his father’s remarks. That surely ranks as hypocrisy or double standards to say the least.

She undoubtedly violated her corporate code of conduct. However she was dismissed without being given a chance to defend her actions by going through the company’s usual disciplinary procedure. Should not a reprimand or a written warning have been the first stage as she had already issued an apology? It was a salutary reminder of how few employment rights Singaporeans have. As Subra points out in his Article 14 blog (http://article14.blogspot.sg/2012/10/race-responsible-speech-and-hasty.html) it is particularly shocking, or would be to a naive observer, that a so-called government trade union should dispense with due process.

The question of whether she should be prosecuted is another matter. Most countries ban hate speech directed at an individual or group on the basis of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. The US is perhaps alone in protecting hate speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution dealing with the right to freedom of expression.

One must be careful not to curtail free speech rights just because they give offence to a particular group (for example fundamentalist Christians would no doubt wish to stop the teaching of evolution theory on the grounds that it is offensive to their beliefs). However against the belief in an absolutist right to free speech there is an important argument that hate speech undermines a public good which Waldron (“The Harm in Hate Speech”, reviewed in the NYT, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/the-harm-in-free-speech/) “identifies as the “implicit assurance” extended to every citizen that while his beliefs and allegiance may be criticized and rejected by some of his fellow citizens, he will nevertheless be viewed, even by his polemical opponents, as someone who has an equal right to membership in the society. It is the assurance — not given explicitly at the beginning of each day but built into the community’s mode of self-presentation — that he belongs, that he is the undoubted bearer of a dignity he doesn’t have to struggle for.”

To quote Waldron again, “In its published, posted or pasted-up form, hate speech can become a world-defining activity, and those who promulgate it know very well — this is part of their intention — that the visible world they create is a much harder world for the targets of their hatred to live in.”

But postings like Amy Cheong’s do not occur in a vacuum. It is no accident that we get these numerous instances of hate speech in Singapore. There is not only Amy Cheong but also Shimun Lai, Sun Xu and Jason Neo.  A few years back there was the case of Chua Cheng Zhan, the PSC scholar, who made racist remarks about Indians dominating the Singapore association (perhaps he could not stand the competition!). Yet he was allowed to apologise and let off whereas Amy Cheong was sacked for saying something much milder!

Before that there was the case of MP Choo Wee Khiang who said in Parliament that “One evening, I drove to Little India and it was pitch dark but not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around.”   Surely, if they had not been protected by parliamentary privilege, his remarks could have been construed as inciting racial violence. They are qualitatively in a different league from Ms. Cheong’s. I myself have had to endure an onslaught of anonymous online postings calling me “ape-man” and “son of Ah Meng”.

It is because of a climate of institutional racism that is fostered from the very top and that is explicit in the racist attitudes and utterances of Lee Kuan Yew himself. If every citizen should have an implicit assurance, as Waldron puts it,  that he will be viewed as someone who has an equal right to membership in the society, then this is lacking in the case of minorities in Singapore, and in particular in the case of the Malay minority. The latter have always been viewed with suspicion as potential fifth columnists. Many Malays were excluded from national service or when they were enlisted assigned to low security classifications or part-time service. This served and continues to serve to stigmatize them in the eyes of employers.

Similarly the Ethnic Integration Act treats minorities as second-class citizens by denying them the right to live where they want. It also penalizes them economically because they are often unable to sell their property to the highest bidder if the quota has been filled.

The proportion of minorities who are selected as government scholars is also so much lower than their share of the population (and many of those classified as minorities are new immigrants or children of mixed-race parentage). From 2002-2010 the proportion was 5.8% (http://theonlinecitizen.com/2011/02/government-scholarships-a-case-for-greater-representation-of-minority-races/) but of these only 2.3% were Indians and 1.2% Malays. Surely in any country that wanted to portray itself as not institutionally racist there would be an inquiry and steps taken to either remove cultural bias in the selection process or remedy deficiencies in the education system.

It was only in 2009 that MM Lee gave an interview with National Geographic (http://www.news.gov.sg/public/sgpc/en/media_releases/agencies/pmo/transcript/T-20091228-1.html) where he said about Malays that “The influence from the Middle East has made them have head-dresses for no rhyme or reason.”  Later in the same interview he said “Well, we make them say the national pledge and sing the national anthem but suppose we have a famine, will your Malay neighbour give you the last few grains of rice or will she share it with her family or fellow Muslim or vice versa?”

In January 2011 the Association of Muslim Professionals felt obliged to issue a statement in response to LKY’s book “Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going”:

The Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) deeply regrets certain comments made by Minister Mentor (MM) Mr Lee Kuan Yew in his book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going. These comments are in relation to the practice of Islam by the Malay-Muslim community (MMC) where MM Lee had urged the MMC to be less strict in their practice of Islam in order to facilitate integration, and in relation to the issue of gaps between the MMC and other communities in Singapore, where MM Lee opined that the MMC will never catch up with the other communities. We note that these views of MM Lee are not new. It is not clear why MM Lee has chosen to repeat them at this point.

Some of LKY’s other memorable quotes may be found at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Lee_Kuan_Yew.

His pseudo-scientific theories of racial superiority were acquired apparently from Toynbee, a British historian of the early twentieth century, who published “A Study of History”. While it is now universally discredited and hopelessly out-of-date, it still seems to command a certain support among members of the PAP elite, judging by quotes on George Yeo’s FB page when he was a minister. Toynbee naturally put the white races at the top. Lee Kuan Yew has modified this by putting East Asians at the top above the whites, South Asians in the middle and South-East Asians at the bottom. From his often-quoted comments on the IQ Bell curve, he clearly believes Africans are some way off being human which makes me wonder how he got on with President Obama when they met.

In this climate of officially condoned institutional racism, it is not surprising that Amy Cheong should have felt that her posting was acceptable.  PM Lee was quick to condemn a little person like Ms. Cheong:

“Fortunately the person has promptly apologised for her grievous mistake. But the damage has been done, and NTUC did the right thing in terminating her services.” 

However it is regrettable that he did not adopt the same moral tone in dealing with his father’s comments. Perhaps he should consider setting up a commission of inquiry into what has led to this climate in the first place and what steps can be taken to remedy it. It would seem difficult for the police to act against Ms. Cheong when they have turned a blind eye to some of MM Lee’s more outrageous comments.

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