Parti Liyani: Acquitted but not that innocent?

Parti Liyani probe : hard truths that didn’t fit our convenient underdog narrative

All of us love an underdog story. We are sentimentalists at heart. We want to be the underdog champion. We want the good guys to win. We want the bad guys to be punished. We back the poor and needy. We offer disdain for the rich and powerful, particularly those who earn millions, own big houses and look down on the rest of us.

So, like many of us in Singapore, I joined in the chorus to celebrate when I first read that a humble little maid from Indonesia has taken the powerful family of Liew Mun Leong all the way to the High Court and won. Bravo to the criminal justice system. Kudos to the brave judge. Salute to the NGO and the pro-bono lawyer who cocked a snook at the establishment. 

We are all busy people. We have no time to be discerning. Our brains pick what we want to believe. Ms Parti is the victim. The Liews are the bad guys. It fits into the romantic narrative in our heads. We put Parti on the pedestal and worship her as our Malala.

But is that the case now?

From the new facts that arose from Parliament session this week – phew, the Law Minister went on and on – for three hours I’m told – it looks like sentimentalists like us are now faced with a lot of inconvenient truths.

We have to ask ourselves a few hard questions. As a society, are we going to be honest enough to admit it when we got it wrong when new facts present a different uncomfortable scenario. Or, as some of the Western media love to say, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story?

First and the most important, if the news reports are correct, and none of the writers or even the Minister is prepared to say it outright given the new facts, it would appear to me that the probe is suggesting that Ms Parti is not so innocent. But then, we don’t want to be out of step with the populist narrative that the poor maid is the underdog and the victim. Worse, we do not want to be accused or seen as siding with the rich and powerful. Parti is after all acquitted by the High Court judge and it would be difficult for the Government to suggest a different decision.

Which brings me to my second point – the High Court’s strange decision. If I read the news reports correctly, the probe is suggesting that the High Court judge – while he is entitled to make a judgemental call on the evidence submitted – may have made a giant leap and took a sweeping view and decision on the case without any strong  evidence. 

What he has decided essentially was this: I think there are doubts about the Liews’ statements, particularly the incoherent son Karl, and then made an inference, Oh, they have a motive to fix her and she must therefore be innocent. With that, he completely disregarded all other incriminating evidence and inconsistencies in Parti’s statements and let her go. She basically got off on technicalities, not because all the incriminating facts, evidence were demolished beyond reasonable doubt in court. It is like saying a robber is caught red handed in CCTV camera with all the loot and weapons in his body but because the victim was not consistent with his statements, we disregard all the facts and clear evidence and then make a  big leap to acquit the robber.

For me, the biggest smoking gun came from Parti’s own admission. “I only took about 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging to my employer’ s husband. I admit that I took it without informing my employer or her husband…I only admit to taking the 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging of my employer’s husband without consent. I DID NOT STEAL ANY OTHER ITEMS.’’ Can someone please tell me how is that not theft. And then, she said the watches found in her were gifts from a friend. And then she changed her alibi to say they were found in the trash. She also said the Gucci bag was a gift from previous maid. And then she changed again to say she found it from somewhere else. And then she went on with many other inconsistencies in her statements to the police.

No matter, the High Court judge chose to disregard all these glaring facts. He somehow arrived at the conclusion that there were suspicions – which were not challenged – that the Liews had a motive to fix her. He reckoned they wanted to prevent her from coming back to Singapore in case she reported them to MOM for illegally using her at Karl’s house for work. But that didn’t make sense at all because the Liews themselves had admitted to the police they used her for work at Karl’s house. Plus, she doesn’t need to be in Singapore to report to MOM on any abuse; she can report them online from overseas. In any case, it appears she had originally wanted to complain about the short notice and not about the illegal deployment. With the motive angle demolished this week, what we are saying here is the High Court made a wrong call in acquitting her of all charges.

I have followed many court cases before including recent medical saga where doctors got off but with a scolding. What I couldn’t fathom now is why didn’t the High Court judge convict her on those valid charges that were clearly beyond reasonable doubt – many of these items were found with her when she returned, and these have nothing to do with the so called tampered boxes. And she has already admitted to taking some items. Deal with her on those and at the same time disregard the Liews’ inconsistent statements and acquit her of other charges. And then publicly tick off the Liews for their “cavalier’’ attitude.  I am not a lawyer and I may be wrong, but I would have thought that was quite a reasonable decision. Alas, the High Court decision is final and we have to accept it.

Now what is my biggest take from the session this week. Or rather my biggest worry.  As a medical doctor, if a poor patient accused me of any impropriety, would I want to defend my honour and dignity and take her on in court? What would all the netizens and trolls say? What if I lose on appeal?

I hire a maid at home.  I leave her at home most of the time. If for some twist of fate, she decided to go bonkers and start stealing from my flat, would I still want to make a police report against her. 

After seeing the ordeal and damages done to the Liews, I am afraid I am unlikely to jump on the first cab to report her to the police. 

I worry for the employers of the 250,000 maids in Singapore.

Your maid is about to get an increment of $700 a month, if Pritam has his way.

Mr Pritam Singh says he wants Singapore to impose a minimum wage of $1,300. All well and good. It may help us even in cutting back our reliance on foreign workers. For most Singaporeans who earn salaries for a living, it is not going to make any difference. Because most of the them earn more than $1,300. So, it is meaningless to most voters.

But the question we need to ask is this – who is going to pay for this? Every household who hires a maid. Every hawker or market stall owner who hires assistants.

The first group of people who should welcome this news – I can already see them jumping for joy in Lucky Plaza – are the domestic maids. For a start, any minimum wage imposed on a country must apply to all workers, Singaporeans and foreigners. Otherwise, businesses would be sacking Singaporeans and replacing them with foreigners. And the Workers Party complained about having too much foreign talent!

If your hawker stall assistant suddenly sees his pay jump from $1000 to $1,300 – which probably amounts to having to sell few hundred more bowls of noodles to make up the difference –  the owner would hire a more hardworking and friendly PRC or Malaysian instead. Singaporeans lose out .

Now come let’s come to the painful part. There are easily over 250,000 foreign maids in Singapore. Assuming each maid works for one family ( I know some hire two or more), we are talking about 250,000 families affected. One in every five households in Singapore hires a maid. 

While there are guidelines from their embassies on how much they should be paid at the minimum, most maids typically start with around $450-$500. Assuming they are paid $600, a minimum wage of $1,300 should immediately more than double the salary costs for the 250,000 families, a jump of $700 a month! Mind you, employers are already paying living expense for their maids – such as food allowances, rest day allowances and medical. Not forgetting placement fee and a maid’s levy of $300.

Now the hawkers. There are about 114 government run hawker centres in Singapore. And then, there are the additional coffeeshops, food courts and standalone food shops. We have an excess of about 15,000 food stalls in Singapore. They are all expected to sell delicious and more importantly, cheap food for almost the entire Singapore population. The minimum wage will definitely hit them hard, whether they are paying for a relative or an assistant, local or foreigners. But who pays for the extra costs? You and me. Say goodbye to chicken rice and meepok at $3. We are now looking more at $5 if minimum wage is implemented. Some stalls may have to close altogether since there are controls on food pricing.

I guess it is all about trade-offs. How do we ensure our people get decent jobs and a decent living and at the same time, control the influx of foreign workers? The calibration has to be right.

So if Pritam has his way, these are the numbers you and I have to go back to talking to our domestic maids. An increment of not $100, not $200 but $700 a month. I hope Pritam has done his calculations. And that the 250,000 families are not his voters.

Suet Fern and the great Lee descendent.

Suet Fern and the great Lee descendent.

I didn’t really want to weigh in on the Lee versus Lee saga. But latest comments by Lim Suet Fern – yes, Lim, because there is only one Mrs Lee in that first family and that’s Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, and not Ms Lim – really got me riled up.

Suet Fern must be learning from Donald Trump. When fighting the mainstream media as an underdog, perhaps any news is good news. Even if it means saying distasteful things about your own family members. Just get into the news cycle and hopefully things will spin for you. Talk about getting desperate after the recent decision against her for acting inappropriately on the will of her father in law.

Now talking to Yahoo! News – the poorly edited news portal that would run anything negative about the government – Ms Lim actually said this about her parents in law and the birth of her son. “They wanted a male grandson and this was the male grandson  they were waiting for. My mother in law clucked with pleasure. Shengwu’s birth was the biggest event for them on a personal level…they were deliciously, deliriously happy.’’

She just couldn’t help it, can she? If she is looking for a turnaround in public opinion, me thinks it has achieved the opposite effect. It betrays the kind of person she is. How could anyone decent, least of all a person supposedly of high intelligence and social status say something so awful. In short, my son is the favourite descendent of the great Lee Kuan Yew family.

More important this. Forget the fact that there is in fact an eldest grandson born years ahead, a super smart, well behaved and decent boy called YiPeng. He may not be a Harvard graduate nor an eloquent economist. But he is a son no less. And more important, he is a male decent human like everybody else. Even if it is indeed true that the grandparents had been excited about the birth of Shengwu, it is still a horrible, horrible thing to say. And then, there is a sister to YiPeng. In one fell swoop, Suet Fern dismissed the existence of a special needs kid and his sister. At this age of cancel culture, no less. The grandparents are no longer around to prove her wrong.

This has been the most unfortunate as Ms Lim fights for her rightful place in the Lee family. These are just sideshows in her bigger scheme of things. One can only hope that some sense will prevail. I have no interest in their family affair, whether it is her relentless contest for the family interests or in Lee & Lee or 38 Oxley. But Suet Fern, do have some care and some decency on the next generation who should be kept out of it.

Workers Party no longer the party for the Chinese heartlands

Workers Party no longer the party for the Chinese heartlands

What’s happening to the Chinese heartland champion Workers Party?

Under the new leadership of Pritam Singh, the party has appeared to have abandoned that valuable branding that endeared them to the Chinese heartlands in the East, particularly the Teochew speaking crowd.

To be fair, that shift had begun from about 10 years ago when Western educated professionals were brought to the fore. By 2015, Low Thia Khiang was boasting about his slate of candidates like they were PAP candidates, trotting their credentials such as Oxford, Cambridge degrees, easily forgetting how they used to attack the ruling party for having scholars from top schools.

But never would one imagine Pritam would carry this that far and abandon the whole party branding altogether. This is no longer the party that could speak directly to the heartland uncles and aunties in Hougang, Aljunied, Serangoon and  Bedok Reservoir.

Sample what happened last one week. First, the party failed to turn up a representative on the National Debate because they could not produce a single candidate who could speak Mandarin proficiently. Sure, Low, Png Eng Huat, Chen Show Mao have left the centre stage. Now surely, there are others. Not one. My conclusion : speaking Mandarin proficiently to connect with the heartlands is no longer a pre-requisite for the party. With it goes that important branding and affiliation with the Chinese voters.

Second, they have gone left on social issues. Last couple years, they recruited the likes of Daniel Goh who began to champion causes such as LGBT which was misaligned with his party’s official platform of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, essentially the status quo.

And now it goes even further recruiting privileged class activist Raeesah Khan, daughter of businessman and a former Presidential candidate Farid Khan. Her unfortunate rant on her Facebook – on top of her attack against the police – include a line that suggested rich Chinese are getting unfair better treatment from the police.

Ouch, if you still have doubts that Workers Party has given up on the Chinese party brand, that should do it. Workers Party today is no longer the Workers Party of Low Thia Khiang.

Interestingly, what the party has become now is not just PAP lite as suggested by PM Lee where they take PAP’s policies and just add and minus a couple of percentage points. It has also become SDP lite as well with liberal causes such as LGBT and human rights. In fact, the recruitment and resulting unprincipled rebranding has turned the party into a strange political animal. We no longer know what they really stand for.

Speaking of party stand, the leadership would do well to state unequivocally where it stands on issues brought up by Miss Khan. Does the party agree that the police here favours one or two races at the expense of others? Does the party agree Chinese and Christians are getting unfairly better deal than the minorities in public institutions? Does the party agree that mosques are being harassed? Not a word from the leaders on such key issuses. If it had been uttered by a PAP candidate, the likes of Kirsten Han and Cherian George would step up the self righteous podium and deliver their standard boiler plate lines on equal rights, and care for all races.

Mind you, these are legitimate questions one should ask of a candidate who made such radical assertions. Pritam seemed to suggest he tolerates it by saying he doesn’t want his candidate to whitewash their past behaviour. But if he doesn’t he better clear it up fast before the Hougang Teochews turn on you. Over to you, Pritam.

 

Oppo also elite now

Oppo also elite now

Ok, I haven’t been blogging for a while, thanks to the Covid-19.

So General Elections is here.

And possibly for the first time in recent history we have a televised political debate. That’s nice progress. Good for our country. We are maturing as a society.

Missed out on the Chinese debate. So nothing much to comment there, other than the shocking discovery that the Workers Party – the party ironically prides itself to be close to the Chinese heartlands – not showing up for such an important platform. What has happened to the party led by the Nantah champion Low Thia Khiang. Can’t they even find one bloke to come in and present their manifesto? In any case, I hear Mr Ong Ye Kung won this round hands down.

This underscores an interesting development in the latest GE. For the longest time, I have been troubled by this populist and silly argument that the ruling party is now run by elites who are now out of touch with the masses. The easy-to-bite narrative is these are scholars, civil servants, intellectuals, doctors, financiers etc. They do not understand what it is like to be the poor heartlanders. All silver spoon. How can they understand our plight?

Now with the latest GE, this narrative becomes difficult for the Opposition. Sample this : the English language political debate last night. Two RI boys and two ACS boys expounding complex social inequality issues over the heartland and elite schools. Dr Vivian was a medical doctor from ACS. Dr Chee was a PhD in neuropsychologist and yes from ACS. An RI boy, economist Dr Jamus Lim picks up degrees like he collects stamps – will take too much space here to list all of them here. An American accent to boot. And finally, Francis Yuen, a former SAF scholar and air force colonel who used to be CEO of Hong Leong Asia.  Wait, did some Opposition supporters just say air force scholars should not be running public office because got no relevant experience. How ironic.

I woke up this morning receiving a fun meme from a friend. It asks an interesting question which has been on my mind all this while. What if “Kee Chiu” Chan Chun Sing was a WP candidate – the narrative would then be humble background, one of us common people, speaks dialects, Mandarin, Malay, down to earth. And has a single mother who worked two jobs. We laughed at his Ah Bengness in 2011. But what if degree collector Jamus was a PAP candidate?  Why Angmoh accent, so action, elite background, won’t understand common people. Enough said.

So this out-of-touch elite narrative has become inconvenient for PAP critics. Sample PSP. Besides Francis Yuen, founder Tan Cheng Bock was himself an RI boy and medical doctor. His key leaders – Hazel Poa, PSC scholar in  Government Admin Service from Cambridge, elite to the max; Leong Mun Wai, overseas merit scholar in Government and chief executive of OCBC. The whole party is now made up of elites : admin service, army scholars, doctors, businessmen, and yes, former PAP cadres.

And we haven’t talked about the Workers Party yet. Once a upon a time, they had Chen Show Mao who was an ACS boy with a lucrative multi-million dollar legal career. The party is now filled with Western educated lawyers, accountants, professors, civil servants, etc. To the point that they had no confidence to produce even a proficient Chinese speaker to present their manifesto to the heartlands during a national debate.

Ironic also is Opposition supporters have now suddenly suffered from collective amnesia. Now they are telling Singaporeans on Whatsapp that PAP should not be telling voters about the humble background of their latest batch of candidates – many who came from poor families and worked their way up the corporate ladders. Some of these candidates even gave up careers to run charity organisations to help the needy.

The truth is anti Government critics who used the elite line missed the point. Elitism is never about the family or education background.  In fact, most societies in the history of mankind have been governed by the elites. People like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton who speak passionately about the poor were law professors in elite colleges.

Never forget who were the first generation leaders. Lee Kuan Yew was a top lawyer; Goh Keng Swee, a LSE trained economist; Toh Chin Chye, university don; Rajaratnam, an editor; Lim Kim San, a banker and businessman. All elite and this was the 1950s but yet able to connect, campaign, mobilise and lead the country out of poverty.

What we want are sincere, honest leaders who are able to connect, identify key issues and help lift the lives of the people. Opposition supporters should do well to have some intellectual honesty and consistency. So with this historic GE and the emergence of the elites in the Opposition camp, it is time we dropped this nonsense about academic and professional background and focus on the real issues at hand.

Apologise for FW dorms? Shut up already.

Apologise for FW dorms? Shut up already.

Imagine this scenario. A terrorist bomb goes off near a government building. Dozens of people are badly injured. Some have died. There is panic. You are a doctor who happens to be nearby and quickly runs to the scene to help. Everyone around you comes in to help, cleaning wounds, bandaging, comforting victims, calling their families, carrying them to safety. Everyone performs superbly. Selflessness everywhere.

But among the onlookers, there is one retired uncle who is not doing anything. While we are all busy trying to salvage the situation, he is hovering around over us, going on and on about how it is all the Government’s fault, he knows terrorism was going to happen sooner or later. We should have done this. We should have done that. And then he asks you, “Are you going to apologise for all these now?’’

Recently, an NMP with an activist background asked if the government would apologise to the foreign workers for the conditions of their dorms. Previously, she had asked government to give migrant workers GST relief money.

Let’s put aside several glaring facts.

One, that an apology would not help the workers themselves at this moment. And indeed, if there is evidence and ground to show that an apology is needed, is this even the time to discuss it? The government already said it will review the whole crisis.

Two, that the dorms were actually built to provide enough facilities for the workers, and that they are much better than the unregulated cramped dwellings workers live in elsewhere. The FWs would have seen pictures from their compatriots before they chose to come here. Activists insist on blowing up only the cases with bad conditions, and linking them to Covid spread with little evidence, to misrepresent the entire situation.

Three, that we are spending our taxpayers’ money to feed, entertain and heal the FWs, unlike some countries. Many FWs have openly praised and thanked the government for this. Actually, many cash-strapped Singaporeans are already begrudging this, without the expensive changes that the activists are asking for. For god’s sake, they are getting assured salary, free wifi, recreation facilities, ATMs inside dormitory premises, food delivered to their premises. Check with their compatriots in Malaysia where employers are asked to pay for testing for workers.

I could go on and on.

But what I really want to do, is to think about what scenario the activists are asking for.

From TWC2’s website:

–          “A little more living space and a few more showers won’t fix it.”

–          “With some 300,000 workers in dormitories of all kinds, we will need to move about 150,000 out to reduce density by 50%.”

–          The root problem is “(Singapore’s) addiction to cheap labour”.

TWC2 suggests using carparks and bomb shelters to house workers. Are those exactly great living conditions? And what about after the pandemic? After all, they are the ones who say conditions must improve permanently. 150,000 is the same size as Ang Mo Kio town. Do we use taxpayers’ money to house them in HDB flats? Sell and rent to them at discount? Do we give them the same subsidies we get in polyclinics and public hospitals? Send their kids to compete with us for primary school places? Queues will lengthen, taxes will go up, and if we mandate employers to do more, prices will also go up significantly.

I have actually heard an old schoolmate suggest that we give all FWs citizenship because they built our nation. Actually the PAP might be happy about that- the FWs know how it is to have corrupt infighting governments, and will overwhelmingly vote PAP. Let’s see what the activists say then. Bet you the same activists will go ballistic and accuse the PAP of using foreigners to win votes.

Too unrealistic? Let me give you a more realistic scenario then- the activists will actually get what they want. The dorms will be thinned out- not because of any activism, but because the economy will slow down significantly, especially construction.

To mandate better dorm conditions in a hurting economy will actually incentivise employers to cut corners in other ways. Fewer FWs, lower wages, less training, less safety precautions. It will also mean a double whammy to our economy, and higher prices at a time when many Singaporeans will be jobless.

And all for what? To change something that most FWs willingly chose and are grateful for?

Back to the busybody uncle. If you are not helping, if you don’t have better workable ideas that also take into account the costs, please step aside. And shut up.

SG bashed for being too diligent

SG bashed for being too diligent

I know the first rule of the internet is “don’t read the comments”. But with the circuit breaker, we are all bored at home and inevitably we start spending more time on social media. That’s how I saw many comments questioning whether Singapore’s circuit breaker was ineffective, since the case numbers are still high.

Imagine this: A Singaporean foreman works side-by-side with a foreign worker who has Covid-19 but doesn’t know it. The foreman goes home and infects his family, including his elderly parents, wife and 2 teenage children. His children go out to have supper with 2 friends each. That means 10 secondary infections, at least 2 of which are likely to be life-threatening.

Now multiply this by 5,000 infected foreign workers. That’s what would have happened if we hadn’t gone into circuit breaker. The fact that we are seeing 20 plus community infections a day, and not upwards of 2000, shows that circuit breaker is working. There was simply no alternative.

Some are rightly asking, but how did we get here in the first place? How did the infections among migrant workers get so widespread?

The workers’ living conditions can certainly be improved. But epidemiologically speaking, the key was probably not the conditions per se, but simply communal living. One has to remember this: about half of dormitories are infected – including the best equipped and designed ones. We also saw the virus spread like wildfire on one of the most advanced US aircraft carriers. If we hadn’t stopped BMT, the same scenarios would have happened too to our NS boys.

Look, if a student brings home the virus to a condominium flat, it is most likely the whole family will get infected because of close proximity. When you eat together, use the same dining table, utensils, bathrooms, appliances and leisure facilities, your chances of infection is very high. It has little to do with living conditions.

I would caution all the champagne socialists not to be too quick to use an “inequality and ill treatment” narrative to explain the spread. Many of these workers chose Singapore over our neighbours and more importantly, their own countries, to come here to make a living. They know conditions here are better than many places, And the Government, to its credit, has come out strongly to help them, pledging taxpayers’ money to protect their jobs, income and their healthcare needs should they fall ill. Do not be too quick to judge. By contrast, in India, Modi just declared shutdown within hours and let millions of his own walk hundreds of miles, with many starving to death. People like Prof Tommy Koh and Tay Kheng Soon were spending most of their life enjoying the good life and nowhere to be found near the migrant workers. Suddenly they are scolding the government, like they were the only ones who care for the workers?

Could government have moved in earlier to lock down the dorms or thin them out? Easier said than done. If we had locked down the dorms without any sign of viral spread inside, people would have accused us of discriminating against the workers, violating their human rights, blah blah blah.

Thinning them out? Even now, for the 7,000 essential workers in purpose-built dorms, only some have been moved out. Some are being separated within the dorms. That shows how hard it is to accommodate 7,000 workers. Rehousing even half of 200,000 would mean using every scrap of space we have. How many would complain if the unsold unit next to theirs was used for this?

Remember, it was only recently that we know the virus spreads asymptomatically. In February, the government would have decided to treat migrant workers like any other group- if there’s a (symptomatic) case, contact trace and isolate. Like all governments around the world, we were caught by surprise by the asymptomatic spread.

The difference between Singapore and other countries is that we are attempting to trace and stop this. It’s the right thing to do. But instead, people are bashing Singapore when this uncovers high case numbers. Actually, other countries could well have hundreds of thousands of undetected cases. After all, antibody tests suggest more than 20% of New Yorkers test positive.

By the way, that’s also why we’ve changed our stance on face masks– because of new evidence on asymptomatic community spread. The WHO is also reviewing its face mask guidelines accordingly. No one could have known this even a few weeks ago.

I know, the idea of asymptomatic spread is scary. It’s one of the worst case scenarios for us GPs. It means that while the medical world is racing to find a vaccine, the only hope of containment involves widespread distancing and circuit breakers. Yes, with an “s”. They will be incredibly painful. The government will probably have to dip further into the reserves to help people through this.

We all want someone to blame. But blaming the government for not predicting the future will not make the virus any less scary. Let’s stay the course and fight this as one united people. If you’ve read till here, whether you agree with me or not, let me remind you- stay home, stay safe.

Malaysia-It’s All About the Money

Malaysia-It’s All About the Money

Immediately after the defeat of UMNO by a fragile coalition led by Dr Mahathir and his former rival Anwar Ibrahim in 2018, naïve political analysts and unthinking liberals like Bridget Welsh, Thum Ping Jin and Kirsten were quick to jump on the bandwagon to praise the New Malaysia. Swept by all the electoral rhetoric and false promises, they began to tout Malaysia as the beacon of democracy we should all look up to. Not forgetting a few nice photo ops with Dr M himself.

From day one, it was clear from comments made by some in our own establishment that no one truly believed that was going to happen. We humoured them by congratulating them on their new-found enlightenment. Like a good neighbour, we always wish them well and pledge to work with them,

But let’s face it. Insiders all know it that it has always been about Malay supremacy, power and control. What happened in 2018 was not because the Malays were ready to go for a true meritocratic non-race-based society and share wealth and progress equally with others. That was wishful thinking.

What happened then? It was the Malay elites’ own reckless manoeuvering and realignments without regard for national interest that unintentionally landed voters with an unprecedented slate of electoral choices that they were unprepared for. This ironically split the Malay votes that tilted marginally towards the multi-party coalition led by Dr M and Anwar. Oops, suddenly everyone realised this was not what we signed up for. Before you could learn how to pronounce Pakatan Harapan, Dr M and his team were already declaring they would not be keeping their campaign promises.

Anyone who wants to control the Government needs the Malay votes. Pakatan Harapan took one third of the votes and with the help of other races sealed the victory. But one third of Malay votes are not enough to secure a stable government. In any case, that was not what the Malays had wanted. Not good for Malay supremacy and special rights.

What most have forgotten was the 2018 results were mainly a response by the same Malay leaders who have controlled the wealth in the last few decades and who have decided one of their own has taken too much – namely Najib Razak. It was never about giving up Malay supremacy and sharing with people outside this elite group – a corrupt elite that appears to be comfortable with working with anyone, including current and former enemies, to keep the looting going. It was naïve to think only Najib was guilty of kleptocracy.

With that shock new permutation where a group of senior UMNO leaders were now kept out of the loot, the realignment started almost immediately. Anwar was seen on video having discussion with Hishammuddin. Dr M were seen with UMNO and PAS members. Azmin and Anwar split became public. The discussion appeared to be – how can we go back to the bad old days of clear Malay control and keeping power and wealth within ourselves? Malaysian Chinese who thought this time was for real had to be kidding themselves. Is Dr M really going to share power with DAP? Now with MIC and MCA completely obliterated, do they seriously care for the minorities? Dr M has jailed almost all his top coalition partners before. Is he really now friends and comrades with them? Never forget how Anwar had openly accused Dr M of making his own sons rich through shady deals before cutting the 2018 deal with him. Dr M, for his part, had declared for years, that Anwar was not fit to be Prime Minister.

When Singaporeans pointed those out, wide-eyed Malaysians slammed Singaporeans for being jealous of their new found democracy.

But the events of the past week have proven us right. It looks like liberal ideals of a two-party state will not come true, and the balance of power between races is even more one-sided than before.  As usual, we Singaporeans wish our friends up north well.

COVID-19 shows the world Singapore works- and we didn’t say it ourselves

COVID-19 shows the world Singapore works- and we didn’t say it ourselves

No prizes for guessing what a medical professional like me has been busy with in the last month or so. But it is time to come back to my blog to get things off my chest.

Lucky Singapore has thrived in the last five and the half decades by living off other people’s ideological mess, poor governance and idiotic politics. And thank god, that appears to be continuing.

Fresh from independence, we leapfrogged past others during the Cold War when half of the world went to sleep. China, India, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Latin America were all caught up with the nationalistic politics and proxy wars.

By the 1990s, everyone appeared to be waking up and joining the economic race. It was not good for us – small Singapore.

But look at what’s happening in the last few weeks again. Suddenly, all the liberal media and global institutions are becoming a fan of Singapore, when their lives are being threatened by a bug.

The world now faces one of the most serious potential pandemic crises. Singapore was one of the first to catch the virus. The Government acted decisively. Save for a couple days of panic buying of toilet paper and rice, the population was generally resilient, cooperative and rose to the challenge. The frontline staff had been superb.

Not surprisingly, World Health Organization repeatedly hoisted Singapore’s firm and serious response as a model for others to follow, saying they were very impressed by the city state which is leaving no stone unturned. Our effective efforts in testing, contact tracing, quick treatment, quarantine was quickly recognized worldwide. Even the token mask distribution ( a signalling PR exercise at best) as well as our response to the panic buying in the stores impressed our rival city Hong Kong. South China Morning Post was singing praises of our Government’s firm control of the situation while slamming the Carrie Lam Administration which has, of course, lost trust with the public.

And we are winning fans from our usual critics. Sample some of the recent global media reports. Bloomberg, not a big fan of Singapore, complimented Singapore more than once. In its headline last week, the wire said Singapore has emerged as the “litmus test for coronavirus containment’’. Yahoo! dutifully carried the story.

Telegraph’s headline said “Singapore shows how to stop coronavirus without bringing the world to a halt’’. And a Harvard University study said “Singapore’s Gold Standard of Covid 19 detection is far more effective than rest of the world’’. And we got a rare compliment from the New York Times for our effective handling of the cases. Of course, the liberal newspaper had to add that Singapore method works because we are rich and that our response may not be sustainable in the longer term. I don’t see our usual opposition parties or media critics jumping in to dispute these reports for being biased.

Meanwhile, what’s happening around us as the virus spreads wildly in Japan, South Korea, Italy and others. USA and Japan’s leaders continued to mess around with mixed messages sending the stock markets crashing.

Closer to us, Indonesia, with a population of 300 million stubbornly claimed for weeks they don’t have a problem. Sure, if you don’t detect, you get no cases. With the tens of thousands travelling from Indonesia to Singapore every day, I really worry about the spread from there. Without clear leadership and conviction, the country is not ready for the monumental task. (Now they say they have two cases, do you believe them?) As if it was not laughable enough, its Health Minister says the absence of COVID -19 is a blessing from God. And it didn’t help that a learned Government official could actually say within the same week that strong sperm from male swimmers can make women pregnant in swimming pools.

Meanwhile, instead of focusing their energies on fighting this serious pandemic, politicians in Thailand and Malaysia are more eager to engage in manoeuvres to kick one another out of power. In the same week, Thai Prime Minister had to survive a no confidence vote in Parliament while Dr M’s coalition collapsed and Anwar’s ascension to premiership is again derailed. By now, Thailand has firmly established a governance system that has free elections that will be interrupted every few years by military coups. Malaysia’s multi-party system dominated by constant bickering by different greedy Malay segments will continue to rock its political stability. As it is now, there is no meaningful minority representation in the new coalition – dominated by many former corrupt UMNO members and Islamic conservatives in PAS.

Countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia should be doing a lot better than Singapore, given their massive amount of natural resources and talent. In Singapore, we always say we need political stability in the region for us to develop and survive. That said, we also need all these dysfunctional countries politicking within themselves to continue for us to stand out in the region as the real beacon of democracy and economic development.