18 Feb 2006

Death to the Singaporean Prime Minister

Originally posted by akikonomu, but somehow the comment facility was removed. Although I have removed the earlier post, I did not remove the comment section from the post. The post and all earlier comments follow. If you want your comment to be removed please email me.

But the questions remain, who deleted the comment section, how did they get access and why?

Written by Tim Brunero
Friday, 06 January 2006

I went to Singapore a fortnight ago and it sucked so much that I’ve decided to condemn its Prime Minister to death. Here’s why…

1) The Beatings To Death

If you import heroin into Singapore, you get hanged. But if you torture then kick to death your Indonesian maid, you only get 18 years – as happened to one poor Singaporean master in 2002.

And if you order your maid out a window to hang washing and they selfishly fall to their death, they could cost you as much as three months jail or a $150 fine.

At least 147 maids have died since 1999. At least in Australia we have the decency to lock up our desperate migrants for years in the desert.

2) The Barbarism

When you flick on the TV over breakfast, you don’t expect to see a heated debate on whether rapists should be castrated or simply jailed and whipped. But that’s what you get in Singapore. Kochie would be appalled to see such an unvacuous discussion taking place before 9am.

A phone poll of viewers found 69% favoured castration after considering the issue over their Weet-Bix, while 20% opted for the soft option of jailing and whipping.

3) The Embarrassing Patheticness

The place is a teacher’s pet’s paradise. While I was there, the government issued a new order for the police to pull over more cars. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, given what we know about the Singaporean police state. Except they were pulling people up to give them “courtesy tickets” for good road behaviour. It’s hard to imagine anything more embarrassing.

4) The Exploitation

The enormous wealth of Singapore is built on its huge pool of exploited foreign labourers. Foreign maids, for example, are specifically exempted from the Employment Act which provides minimum days off and maximum weekly hours. In fact, last month a huge debate exploded over whether maids should be entitled to one day off a month. Some maids are not even paid. But on the good side, at least we know where Howard got his latest workplace changes from.

5) The Bullying and Rudeness

The first thing you notice in Singapore is that everyone wants to order you around. I got busted surreptitously eating a nut on a train when a plain-clothes inspector stepped out from among commuters. And there are bossy signs everywhere. I decided to photograph them.

According to rumour, the Holy Grail of bossy Singaporean signs is the one that tells you the penalty for not flushing the toilet. I couldn’t find one, though because even in the cruddiest places the problem has been solved: Singaporean toilets flush themselves, and without warning – often giving your genitals a soaking. And it seems many individuals have adopted the state’s arrogance. Things are rudely put to you as a fait accompli, in much the same manner as a mandatory death sentence. If you speak to a manager, you simply cop more passive aggression where you are told exactly the same thing, but with a contemptuous grin.

6) The Conmen

Thieves, charlatans and conmen are the employees of choice in many shops. Getting their attention and even the most basic information on products is the first challenge. When you finally do, you are given an elaborate theatrical display with calculators and false ledger books. While waving a carbon copy of a receipt in my face, one guy showed me how the camera he was offering for $400 was a bargain because he’d just sold one for $1600. I didn’t believe it was real, but if I did, was I supposed to be more at ease because he’d just ripped someone else off?

And when you pull your wallet out the price suddenly starts rising – with this tax and that levy. Then, when you get fed up with the snide abuse, the pressure selling starts. One guy dropped an iPod price from $375 to $300 because I walked out of the shop – but insisted on cash. When I returned with the money, the price had suddenly leapt to $345. He’d tried to get me committed by withdrawing cash – and then couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Sure, in Australia we encounter the same kind of people when we buy a house or car – but at least you can let your guard down in Harvey Norman and Woolworths.

7) The Philistines

Singapore is a cross between a hospital, a workplace and a shopping centre. The place has no soul – it’s like Canberra, but even more sterile. There is a monied middle class, but nothing that usually goes with it in the modern world. Singapore is like medieval England with more gadgets.

There is no culture, no spontaneity, no organic grit, no sophistication, no cosmopolitanism, no body politic, and no alternative ideas. But it gave me an excellent taste of what 1950’s Australia was like.

8) The Fourth Estate

Singaporean papers never get stuck into the government. When I arrived, the front page lead story in the country’s leading newspaper, The Straits Times, was about how a disgruntled taxi patron had asked for a $10 refund. The rest of the paper was full of nonsense about crime and celebrities – in other words, a lot like the Murdoch press.

The degree of censorship is so absurd that even a book for quadriplegics called Fun In Bed was banned.

9) The State Racism?

I hate to get back to the maids. But another interesting fact is that only maids from certain countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are permitted to take those jobs. Chinese (the ethnic majority in Singapore) aren’t. It seems that only darker-skinned people are deemed worthy of this demeaning work. I’m sure they’d even get a better deal working for middle-class families here in Australia – perhaps in places like Cronulla?

So what’s the conclusion for Singapore? Well it’s clean, but morally and culturally it's filthy. The virtual dictatorship that has brainwashed and stifled the people and built the country on exploitation is to blame. And those responsible – the ruling party and their cronies – should be held accountable using methods they’ll understand. They all deserve the noose.

Earlier comments:

you should post a link to where Tim posted his entry to, or a source so we can get back to him directly.


"Singapore is a paradise for teachers' pets.."

"Singapore is like medieval England but with more gadgets.."

antipathy, the Title is the link to where the article was published, I have also added a link to www.timbrunero.com.

The fun bit is: isn't that the country where John Howard was re-elected several times?

Ahahahahah...I love this guy. Who is he? Aussie journalist??

like the way he espouses the solution to solve the problem of our "barbarianism" where we talk about castration of rapists on National TV. He recommends the noose and condemns the PM to death.
The Australians are seemingly more and more similarly to the scarecrow in Oz. Searching for a brain.

Anyway, i didn't see the aforementioned incident on TV so don't quote me on its veracity.

And all this from a country that used to recently kidnap their "black aborogines" children and foster them becauses blacks were inferior and didn't deserve to raise kids. And they still ignore the problems they have as long as it is not on the East or West Coast.

hi, honestly we dun like cohooting with druggies, rapist cause we are not a penal colony like

hello, tell me how to build the world biggest reserve using only maids??? then how come the maids exporting countries are dumb enuff to let of such resources.

as for all those signs, i personally dun give a flying fuck, if you are dumb enuff to care, go ahead.

well you are rite, we hav no soul, we sold it to a guy call lee. we still dunno who got the better deal.

you are rite, The Straits Times WILL keep me sedated for a long time

as for censorship, i say only a few bks of relevance are banned.

chinese doesnt equal singaporean
we are allow to hav a chinese, malay or indian maid, but no self respecting singaporean will want to be a maid

culturally it's filthy. there is no culture, its a clean slate. blank, null nuthingness

hi, honestly we dun like cohooting with druggies, rapist cause we are not a penal colony like YOU, we arent decended frm criminals like YOU. ur great great great grand dad some really low life, so guess you can sympathise.

BTW u filty aussies trrops together wif you colonial brit master sold SIngapore and our souls to lee in the 60s, i should bitch more bout youy

Anonymous posted here but related
hi can i ask where is the newspaper reprt by the aussie rapist cum drug dealer

Anonymous posted here but related
hi i post 2 comment bout the australia being a land of criminals. can you tell where iit is now as i want to email it to the writer


Rebeka said...

Hi I'm from Sweden, I went to Singapore last year and really enjoyed it, and I plan to work there this summer. Let me just say what I feel. If you are bent on looking at the bad side of things, and already have a premature conclusion about a country, you're bound to find them, wherever you are - Sweden, Sydney or Singapore. So why does Tim Brunero say Singapore sucked? Because there're no riots and drunkards on the streets? Or maybe the streets are too clean for his liking?

He should have just stayed home, shouldn't he?

rench00 said...

agree with what rebeka said. NO society is perfect. but we can always attempt to move closer to perfection. and each society has to figure out its own way to move closer to perfection. Singapore's way might not be the best, but that's what we are here to for, to constantly find a better way.

and having people criticise our methods is a good thing. i feel that though we might not agree with every single criticism, we should take criticisms in good spirit and use them to improve our society.

Anonymous said...

rench00 you have a point. I think listening to criticism is definitely a good way to improve oneself. As far as criticism and feedback is concerned, we are moving between accepting them and sometimes outright dimissing them.

That said, what this writer did is not a reasonable criticism. I think this is the type of literature that fans hate and prejudice. Although everyone should be able to post freely on this blog, this does not really mean that discernment between something that is well written and trash is completely thrown out of the window. It is quite obvious that this article belongs to the latter category.

If one is to be sarcastic in criticism, there are plenty of better literature out there and this is one of the worst and least consistent one. If the author really feel this way to Singapore, he should have left before he crossed the threshold of Changi taxistand. Apparently he did not but stayed on. Why? How could one be consistent in labeling such a filthy place yet stay on? Perhaps if Singapore is as filthy as he described it, he is just as filthy and hence we need not listen what he has to say.

akikonomu said...

Why is it NOT a reasonable criticism?
Name ONE criticism that isn't based on facts, please.

Weak fines for maid abuse: FACT
Poll where respondents actually suggested castration for rapists: FACT
Courtesy ticket campaign for cars: FACT
Exploitation of foreign workers: FACT
Rude and hectoring signs and fines: FACT
Singaporean newspapers as propaganda sheet: FACT

So what makes it so unreasonable that foreigners point out exactly the SAME things of Singapore that local bloggers write about anyway?

Anonymous said...


Labeling something as 'fact' does not immediately mean that it is reasonable. For example, I can say "Mount Everest is the tallest mountain around, higher than all other mountains", and of which I can say, "Mount Everest is taller than my head". Both statements are factual, but the latter is an unreasonable comparison since it is really incommensurble that my head be used as a gauge to Mount Everest.

On top of this, many of the exaggerated (and somewhat of a bad taste) claims are really based on a very subjective and perhaps even twisted lens that an individual may use to look at facts. For example, on your point about "rude and hectoring signs and fines", nothing semantic on the sign comes across as "rudeness"-it merely says something like $500 fine for eating and drinking of trains and so on. If this comes across to the sensitive soul as 'rude', then perhaps every sign that is out there (like maximum speed 90km/hr or press this button during an emergency [note the absence of please in both instances]) is offending in some form or another. The idea of signs are conciseness and parsimony, not country club politeness.

Truly, do we really want to have a conversation with someone who finds flushing the toilet after his use demeaning, rude or in some way, crude? I don't think I even want to shake hands with this person.

Refutations aside, the main problem I find with this article is the lost opportunity to discuss something properly because of vent and a general idiocy ring to it. For example, to the issue that our wealth is built upon a "huge pool of exploited foreign labor", why is the article so concerned about the lower end of the spectrum (which to any reasonable mind, does not add up even given a high number due to small salaries) and not the upper end of the spectrum, where we have world class scientists or engineers steering our bio/computing power which is more value-added and wealth generating (and perhaps exploited even more in their sophisticated way)? To every of his point, one can raise counterexamples to balance his perspective.

I think that it is indeed an unreasonable assumption to take by saying that a foreigner must not be prevented if he is making the same points as local Singaporean bloggers. The fallacious assumption here is that a reasonable discussion is based on locality or alienness but the truth is that they both can say stupid things (or interesting things) regardless of their geographical genesis. This could have been written by a local blogger AND it would still be an unreasonable one.

I think we have given enough thought to something so facile.

Anonymous said...

Last Anonymous,

I can understand how you feel but that was how Tim felt. He is entitled to his opinion. I may not agree to some of the things he took it as offensive but there is a element of truth.

In a democratic society, there is a wide range of thoughts. It covers from 0 to 100 rating from one's own premise. One must learn how to take the good and the bad. When an article is written with all its positives, I don't see any adverse comments. The rhetoric coming out of Singapore as highly educated, wealthy, clean, safe and efficient, how many took offence to these statements.
Are we educated or just academically qualified if we only want to hear what is pleasing to our ears and sweep the rest under the carpet? Are we wealthy when 80% of the population can only afford to lease a home instead of buying one? Yes, we are clean physically but how clean are we morally? How safe are we when we have to think three times before words come out the mouth or looking over our shoulders before we speak? How efficient are we when we have to work 50 to 60 hours a week to survive when other are doing it in 40 hours or less?

I believe that Singaporean are educated enough to receive both the positives and negatives within the society (for that matter any society). If we can improve on our negatives we will be headings for a better Singapore.

clyde said...

I stand by my opinion that Brunero makes all the classic observations and gives the mockery they deserve. I don't agree with 100% of what he said, but the general observations still remain true. But I'm still trying to grasp the relationship between "fact" and being "reasonable". Was his comparison between Singapore and Canberra somewhat unfair? Isn't "reasonable" entirely subjective as well to individual opinion? Why should Brunero be unreasonable in having a gripe with toilet fines? Perhaps some people do find them as awkward as having a road sign in the toilet...telling you to aim your genitals into the centre of the urinal, flush etc. He did not say he dislikes washing his hands after relieving himself. His gripe is with the toilet FINES. Personally, it doesn't bother me, although I wish people were able to flush without the need for such authoritarian rules in the TOILET. Some people can't comprehend how you can spend the same money for eating a nut on the train as a speeding ticket.

Dont bother trying to discuss anything about Brunero's article. Because he's not even trying to discuss anything. They are nothing more than observations. And why exactly is it that one should choose to discuss the success of scientists and engineers over the issue of exploited foreign labour? Does the former somewhat make the latter redundant?? Do the plus points of a society somewhat redeem its wrong-doings? There's already enough local journalism out there giving Singapore the pat on the shoulder. It's called the Straits Times. It's so typically Singaporean to find pride of nationality in terms of economic success rather than human-rights and social issues.

I can't blame Rebeka for enjoying herself in Sg either. But it's one thing to go on vacation or work there over the summer, and living your entire life there. You don't even face a fraction of the problems that citizens face as a tourist. You both construe Brunero's criticisms as a disdain for a clean, law-abiding society. But read the bottom-line again. His gripe is with the virtual dictatorship of Singapore, as he implies with the article title. It is the authoritarian method that has rendered a country into some sort of clinical state.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone happy with such regulation as to restrict 13-year children from staying away from sg for more than 3 months, will have to report to the authority in sg?

SKL said...

Well said Clyde!!

The article is pure observations and how Brunero chose to interpret them. I fail to understand why some people are so intolerant to other people's view -they have to resort to personal comments.

If "the truth hurts,it hurts" that's it.

Anonymous said...

Clyde, Skl, and Anonmyous,

I do think that the problem of the state is not with the 'virtual dictatorship' or 'authoritarianism' as some people state it, but with the curious problem of why stakeholders are jumping onto the bandwagon dumping discredits onto one's state. In the world of opinions and observations, there are 'reasonable' ones and there are simply the trashy, accusatory type (think morally and culturally filthy sort of comments??). Not supporting a self-congratulatory press does not immediately imply that one should jump onto the trashiest type of vehicle, perhaps all too convenient, to demean one's own state. And yes, there is something call 'reasonable'. If 'reasonableness' is as Clyde say is subjectively dependent, then why is he complaining so much about this oppression and that suppression? Maybe then we should give in to another's mandate given that it is probably reasonable from his point of view?

I do wish I can share your sentiments about something going by the guise of something as neutral (or "pure") as mere observations, if there are anything like that in the world! It is clear that the writer's piece is not only observation, but a skewed and extremely biased statement trying to discredit Singapore in a public sphere. My point is not to make the discussion of cheap low level labor redundant by introducing the upper level labourers but it is precisely to upset the writer's own biased and unreasonable view that one can generalize a claim about wealth by ONLY looking at the low level labor.

I do think it is a real mistake to think that democracy permits the toleration of skewed and biased criticism without an effort to argue against it. There is indeed the good and the bad but simply because there are bad arguments around does not mean that the good ones must go apologetic all the time.

akikonomu said...

Oh dear! According to anonymous, if I ever speak up to voice my disagreements with how things are run here, or to criticise the reasoning behind policies, I'll be demeaning my own state?

That IS precisely the sort of argument that demeans Singapore and other Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

wow...i love this guy - Tim Brunero!

I am a S'porean and I share the same thinking as him!


Anonymous said...

To akikonomu,

Where is the criticism of the reasoning behind the policy? All I heard in this piece of writing is front end bashing? What this writing does is in its best form, disagreeing without explaining the disagreement. And that's my appraisal of it in its best form, which it is not.

To Last Anonymous,

Why are you still a 'S'porean' then? Do you like "filth"?

ted said...

Usually, when someone wants to defend something that he or she believes passionately in, it doesn't matter what detractors say using logic or cold facts. The believer will usually counter with "look at what is happening at oher places".

Rendering any points useful or not useless, except maybe to the academics and the converted.

Anonymous said...

there is too much ranting; PAP has no difficulty fending it off

Anonymous said...


If this is what you believe in, sure. You are completely right that where faith and belief is concerned, no logic or cold fact as you have it will sway these believers. However, I tend to at least hope that, and with some effort, core beliefs do get to come out of the shadow once a while.

I don't think this is necessarily a case belonging to academics or the converted. If one is unable to defend oneself through reason, then one has no minimum rights as a sentient being. Sure, guns and bullets can be the force of the strong but if you do not open your mouth, you lose the only hope that you have.