11 Nov 2006

Bloggers decry whinging civil servants, call for ophthalmological, audiological examinations

[Author's note: After reading this article, I felt compelled to satirize it, to illustrate how neatly the roles of the Government and the governed can be reversed with little damage to the syntactic, and even semantic, structure of the article.]

[Editor's note: Cross-posted on e pur si muove.]

BLOGOSPHERE: Instead of harping on what Singaporeans can do to bridge the Great Affective Divide, the spotlight in the Topicless Community in recent posts fell on civil servants. And there were some clichés used, too.

"Obsessed with OB markers" and "having selective hearing" were among the sadder - and harsher - labels mentioned. Blogger Alex Au on his blog Yawning Bread started the ball rolling when he wrote "Almost everyone with a political view has critical opinions about the state of politics here, but they have very low expectations that they will be heard should they speak up. Nothing will change, many say, with a tone of either resignation or disgust. It's like shouting across a ravine to the government on the other side and getting no response. Not even an echo comes back [... Ministers] their ears for the feedback that they want to hear, but instead get none. Not even an echo comes back.

(It's not that [some people are silent], but what they say in response is seldom what the government wants to hear. Since the government's ear filters out what their brains don't want to hear, they end up hearing nothing at all.)"

Blogger Xenoboy noted that top civil servants have become increasingly1 reliant on an efficient system that confounds issues on the municipal and national level. The Government has until very recently completely ignored the ramifications of technological improvements such as blogs, having previously dismissed them pejoratively as "idle Internet chatter"; even as recently as two weeks ago, MP Wee Siew Kim demonstrated a lack of understanding of how the blogosphere works by describing his daughter's blog as "private" whose "privacy ha[d] been violated". Wrote Xenoboy, "Despite the attempt at Babel by WSM and her father, the common language of Singaporeans shone through clearly, refusing to be confounded, to be confused."

While not advocating that the citzenry be taken out of the "equation", this blogger hopes to see that the "responsibility to make the2 society work rests not only on the Singaporeans dutifully attending to their daily lives", but also on "the collective interlocking bureaucracy of the Singapore government". For example, the Government should reflect on what they, and not the citizens, had done to strengthen resilience within their own policies, without continually pointing fingers at the common citizen, accusing them of political apathy, without thinking about how systematically they have disenfranchised the voice of the body politic by their selective hearing and selective eyesight.

Blogger AcidFlask called on the Government to be more gracious and compassionate and said the Government is fast becoming a myopic, deaf bureaucracy immune to criticism. While Singaporeans can set the tone, he urged the Government to schedule itself for ophthalmological and audiological examinations.

Even some Members of Parliament appear to agree with the general sentiment espoused by bloggers. A recent TODAY article quoted MP for Marine Parade GRC Lim Biow Chuan as saying ' "What makes a country great? It is not just the laws … the efficiency or the beautiful buildings but the people that make it great" '. Another TODAY article reported that Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Michael Palmer has received some ' "hard-hitting" comments on Singapore. One blogger he quoted felt the Government "doesn't really listen to us anyway" and gave "patronising replies" on online forums [...] "I believe the P-65 generation are … willing to speak up and be engaged… Are we ready to hear them?"

MP Baey Yam Keng also spoke in Parliament, voicing his opinion that3:
[The] New media’s impact on the young, to say the least, has been massive.

Compared to traditional media, new media is much less structured; it is more informal and also more difficult to control. It is a virtual world with its own parameters, rules and regulations [...] It is a force to be reckoned with and most people in the developed world cannot envision a future without it. We are beginning to see its social, political and economic powers.

The differences between new media and traditional media call for different treatments from the authorities. We can allow different platforms for responsible and less responsible expression of views[...] The government should not and cannot hold itself responsible for what the people see or read. Otherwise, Singaporeans risk losing the ability to think, evaluate and judge for themselves. The Mr Brown incident illustrates too clearly how new and old media could have engaged each other better. Having driven negative comments or untrue information about the government underground, into the labyrinth of virtual space, the government loses an opportunity to engage the propagators and dispel the erroneous statements.

As I read comments in the newspapers and compare them with those in blogs and online forums, I sometimes wonder if they are from two different populations talking about two different countries. I do not think that the reality is mostly positive like in the traditional media or like what the new media is portraying, mostly negative and critical[...]

We have to accept that it will be very difficult, in fact, impossible to monitor and rebut all negative online comments against the government. We should also consider relaxing regulations on traditional media to allow people to vent grouses and frustrations, without always demanding for constructive suggestions. Singaporeans can then engage openly in meaningful, level-headed discussions without fear of prosecution. Erroneous assumptions, wrong ideas, narrow mindsets, prejudices and biases, loyalties, tolerance and wisdom can all be brought to the light of day and seen clearly for what they are. I believe in the Singaporean’s ability to discern wisely. Even if we may not be able to do so accurately, that is our judgment and that judgment should be given the opportunity to be sharpened. "
Blogger Molly Meek urged the Government and Singaporeans to live in an environment where "people can run their own race"; she commented on how the Government appears to be living in a different country from most Singaporeans and lamented on how her personal experiences didn't matter as much as official statistics.

This blogger concurs. Using the example of the non-infantile blogosphere, the mutual discussion of national issues through cross-referenced postings, trackbacks and aggregators encourages lively debate and provides a framework that allows a consensus opinion to emerge, which may facilitate the Government's ability to see and hear what public opinions are like. Likewise, should the Government be in the position to require corrective surgery from any potential diagnosis of myopia and/or deafness, the Government should make a speedy post-operative recovery, in the hope that such possible corrective surgery would make "the transition to being able to see and hear Singaporeans much more clearly much better" for the Government.

1. Pedants may note the incorrect non-use of an adverb in the original article.
2. sic.
3. CNA has a digital video recording of MP Baey's speech here.


Anonymous said...

sure you can turn the story around, but the media only report one side; as for blogsphere, you said yourself it is unfocused

Anonymous said...

What happens?


Anonymous said...

Immigration rate increasing!!
From: Sammyboy's.com

Nov 11, 2006
Want change? Young must help make it happen
By Peh Shing Huei

WHILE most young Singaporeans know the lyrics of Count On Me Singapore by heart, there seems concern in Parliament these days that, actually, they cannot be counted on.

The issue kept popping up in the House in the three days of debate thus far, as MP after MP stood up to opine on the apparent lack of rootedness among the young here.

Listening to their worries, it would appear that, at the first available chance, these post-independence rugrats will make a dash across the seas to other lands.

How valid is this perception?

Judging by a survey by Singapore Press Holdings in July this year, the MPs may not be far off the mark.

The survey found that 53 per cent of youth here would consider migration, more than Indians (39 per cent) and Malaysians (28 per cent).

As Dr Amy Khor (Hong Kah GRC) said on Wednesday, it is a 'very telling and worrisome statistic'.

The Government certainly believes so. In President S R Nathan's Address last week, he spoke about the need for a 'new social and political compact' for this new generation and to deepen its sense of mission.

MPs were not short of ideas on just how to do this.

On Thursday, Dr Khor said that, even as the Government entices foreigners here, it must make special effort to retain Singaporeans.

Yesterday, Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Hong Kah GRC) offered something more specific. He asked the Government to do more to remove the climate of fear and dispel perceptions that dealing with it is akin to being on a 'one-way street'.

He said there are these other perceptions, 'that the Government does not listen, that your feedback goes into a black hole, that the Government has already made up its mind when it consults the public or that government policies are drafted by locking three scholars in a room - without any sense of how the issues are viewed from the eyes of ordinary, humble citizens'.

In her maiden speech yesterday, Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim said Singaporeans need to feel they can make a difference before they will feel rooted to the country.

'That they can be agents of change in the society, and on their own terms,' she said of their longing.

The Workers' Party chairman added that 'restrictive laws and policies' like the ban on political films and restrictions on political expression should be repealed.

Will doing what she says keep the young rooted here?

To be honest, I can't be certain.

But I suspect that a lofty, arrogant and even authoritarian government is not the only monster causing the young to yearn for permanent flight.

=> Oh, really?

Another factor could lie with the lack of a romantic ideology that defines what it means to be Singaporean, one that would make this island inhabitants deeply proud of who they are. Pragmatic values are good for making a good living but hardly the stuff that makes you love a place.

As Dr Terence Chong, a fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, was quoted saying in The Straits Times recently: 'Our nation is built on pragmatism and... it doesn't inspire people to stay. They are actually exercising the inculcated pragmatism by leaving for better opportunities.'

To be sure, these are issues the Government is familiar with. As the President's Address hinted, the Government seems aware of the desire among the young for greater freedom of expression.

Said Mr Nathan: 'The P65 generation is better educated and more globally exposed than their parents, and completely at home in the Internet age. They need avenues to try out their ideas and fulfil their ambitions.'

If the Government indeed recognises the restlessness the young feel, then I would argue that it needs to act faster.

Its pledge to open up has often been captured in the metaphor of a group trying to cross a potentially treacherous river, guided by the Government of course, by feeling its way forward, stone by stone.

It may be time to take a bit more risk and do a little skip or two.

Yet, even as the Government attempts to speed up the crossing of the river, the young should not fall back on the pace of change as a convenient excuse for their own inaction and indifference.

In his Address, Mr Nathan also spoke of the need for the more successful among them to feel a sense of mission to help those in need and take responsibility for the country.

Young Singaporeans can choose two routes: Be passive and wait till the Government moves, or take the initiative and start moving.

As Mr Zaqy, 32, said: 'I think my generation will also need to learn to meet the Government halfway.'

Count on me, Singapore? It's your call too, young Singaporeans.


Options Reply

From: anom1010 02:49
To: makapa 2 of 8

123512.2 in reply to 123512.1

>>as MP after MP stood up to opine on the apparent lack of rootedness >>among the young here.

hahaha god damn, not another freaking term to push shit away again! Its 'root/rootedness/rooting' this time is it hahaha wonder what would be the next retarded term these good for nothing comes up with.

What root are shittypore people suppose to have? What would create rooting in the first place, NOTHING except for the non-desire or inability to adapt a new environment. This may hold true for people from the past era where language, knowledge and education limits their ability to thrive overseas or even make any thoughts of leaving this shithole non-existent, but not in this present date and time. These barriers does not exist for most well educated present generation who have thoughts of their own not only what the controllers tell them to think.

Its a two way traffic and basic human behaviour, if the people are treated well, they will inturn appreciate the land that gives them opportunities. Why did these useless bums not examine what caused the 'rooting' of other nationalities in foreign land, the answer is very obvious to anyone with half a brain.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Part III

See also All in the LEE Family

Lee Kuan Yew claims that he is incorruptible and has - successfully - sold this notion to many throughout the world. On the other hand Singaporeans who know better dispute this claim. Let us take a closer look at the facts behind Lee's boast.

Lee Kuan Yew & Sons
If this heading sounds more like the name of a company, that's because it is. Singapore is still run by Lee Senior. Yes, he has given up the post of Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the People's Action Party. But there is still one post that he has not relinquished - Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GSIC) which manages the country's financial reserves of more than $60 billion. Lee knows that in the island republic, money is power and Goh Chok Tong can have all the titles he wants. Lee still calls the shots. He once told reporters that if he senses that things are not right, he would send a note "down" to the Prime Minister.

With his power, Lee knows that he can manipulate the system and push his sons up to positions of power. Hsien Loong, Lee's older son, miraculously (but meritocratically, insists the senior minister) became a Brigadier-General in the army by the age of 38. Fellow cadets who had attended officer training with him reported that Hsien Loong couldn't even pass his marksmanship test. Then there is the second son, Hsien Yang, who is also this incredibly competent soldier to attain the rank of Brigadier-General while in his thirties. Both have no combat experience.

Hsien Loong, according to the PAP, was so brilliant that he left the army to become Deputy Prime Minister and will soon be Prime Minister. Hsien Yang was also so bright that he also left military service to become the head of the biggest and most lucrative Government-run company, Singapore Telecoms.

Lee genes
Of course, all this intelligence had to come from somewhere. Mother Kwa Geok Choo was apparently responsible for all this. She was so clever that she built up Lee & Lee into one of the biggest law firms in Singapore - never mind the fact that all conveyancing work of the government-owned Housing and Development Board flats were channelled to her firm. Today, she reportedly holds major shares in companies such as Wing Tai, a property development conglomerate, and TIBS, a bus company. Information about how extensive the business arm of the Lee family reaches remains a highly guarded government secret.

Even daughter-in-law Ho Ching is so smart that she now holds the top positions in Singapore Technologies (ST), a major industrial holding company, and the all-powerful Economic Development Board. A few years back she suddenly resigned from ST. One month later, she waltzed back in. No one, least of all the subservient local media dared ask why. It was rumoured that she had differences with a former government minister who was also involved in the company. Even when Micropolis, a computer company run by ST failed, costing Singaporeans S$600 million Ho Ching was never made to account.

How about Lee's siblings? Lee Suan Yew was recently caught with his pants down over the HPL saga (see other story). He was not investigated over the matter even though that was clearly a breach of regulations under the law. Unbelievably, he was subsequently appointed Justice of the Peace! Another brother, Freddy, quit the police force under clouds of suspicion that he was involved in an illegal chap-ji-kee (gambling) racket. He is now the chairman of Vickers Ballas, one of Singapore's biggest brokerage firms. The firm suffered enormous losses in 1998 due to the stock market crash. It was quietly rescued by another brokerage firm belonging to the Government-owned Singapore Technologies. Another Lee brother was given a banking licence to start Tat Lee Bank when other more qualified institutions were denied the opportunity. Recently when Tat Lee went bust due to heavy loan exposure in the Indonesia market, the state-owned Keppel Bank came to the rescue to bail the Lee-owned bank. It was a very astute merger, the Government claimed. Corruption by any other name reeks just as foul.

Meritocracy through nepotism
Do Singaporeans know about all this? If they do, why aren't they speaking up? As in all dictatorships, to speak up and challenge the powers that be would attract so much scorn from the dictator that people prefer to keep quiet - at least for now. If one were to so much whisper "Corruption!" by the Lee family, defamation suits come raining down. With a judiciary that has Lee's intimidating face firmly etched in its mind whenever it delivers judgments, verdicts are predictable.

But as with all dictatorships, the time will come when the dirt will surface and the truth is revealed. Perhaps then, Singaporeans will be able to see for themselves how much the Lee family's achievement is due to competence and how much to corruption and nepotism.

By S Chua (pseudonym)

Anonymous said...

From Sammyboy's.com

Alarm over AIS 'bonus' of Bt80 bn

Questions raised as to why TOT cut revenue repayment of Shin's cash-cow

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you have a stupid population,not becuase they do not know how big a house to buy from HDB, what transportantion to take, how many kids to have, how much money to save (who ever told you the 20% deducted your salary all your working life was enough for your old age), believe that they are are whinning bunch of loosers who should get out of all the elite uncaring faces. No this is not what makes us stupid idiots who need to be told that if not for the God given saviours we have from the hoLee family we would still be growing vegetables, killing each other in a racial riot every other day and living in attap huts which gets burn down every now and then, or forget all of the above when we see grown men earning millions shedding a tear ot two on TV. No what makes us stupid is come 5 years or less we pee in our pants while grasping a few hundred dollars in our hands and put the X mark in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

To Anon (S Chua)

This is the universal truth which the whole of Singapore knows but pretends that it does not. At least not till the Master of Marcos dies

Robert HO said...


Dear All Commenters,

My blog [url above] is documentary proof that LKY rigged the 1997 Cheng San GRC election. It is important reading. How to publicise it as widely as possible? I only have 160 page views so far.

These documentary proofs explain many things, in particular why Cheng San GRC DISAPPEARED FROM THE ELECTORAL MAP AFTER 1997. LKY lost Cheng San and could not afford to contest Cheng San ever again.

Robert HO

Clark R. Matt said...

Whenever there is government, their is corruption...

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter. There is only one class of people that can voluntarily select an exit strategy. The majority cannot select exit. For every one of them who exits and does not belong to the retirement class, there is always some one willing to return or enter to continue the status quo. As a matter of fact, more people from the aforementioned class exiting generally contribute to a greater 'welfare' for this 'new' class of master for two simple reason.

One, they have even a greater pool of people whom they can select to be their subordinate, and whom they know cannot challenge them either from a credential perspective, or from an authoritative angle. In another word, the greater the number of the aforementioned class exiting, the easier it is to control with intelligence.

Two, they have no competitors; that is, their occupational hazard is near zero and correspondingly, their occupational security a perfect score. With every person who can select an exit strategy leaving, this function exponentially increases. Remember that for every passing segment of time these 'new' masters sit at their desk, their power increases one notch as well.

Hence, beware of the public rhetoric, i.e. alarm, for those who exit. As long as there is an equilibrium between those who control and those who can be controlled without disrupting either effectiveness and 'efficiency', that lousy smelling word, a place defined for business is called good. In fact, as long as the old masters can enjoy the fruits of their labor secured and guaranteed by the 'new' masters, business is as usual. So for the aforementioned reasons, it is not that alarming that people who can exit choose to exit as long as there are people willing to take their place with their future getting brighter all the time.

In a world like this, not many opportunities hold the security of an ever brightening career as this one.