The NLB fiasco

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By Dr Wong Wee Nam
16 July 2014

The National Library Board (NLB)’s recent announcement to remove 3 children’s books from circulation does not surprise me. Such hasty knee-jerk reactions have happened with the authorities in the past. So is the speed with which the authorities take on the role as a guardian of societal moral values when there is no need to.

The decision to remove the books disappoints me. The decision to pulp the books disappoints me even more. All this while I thought only the Chinese Emperor Qin Shihuang would destroy books that he disapproved of. I never expected NLB to be so dramatic.

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Is There a Need to Sue?

June 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

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By Dr Wong Wee Nam
14 June 2014

There is an old Chinese saying which goes like this: “When a leopard dies, it leaves behind the skin, but when a person dies, he or she leaves behind a name.”

In Chapter Nine of The Romance of The Three Kingdoms, Wang Yun told Lu Bu, “If you, the general, can help the Han Dynasty, you are a loyal minister and will leave a good name in history and to posterity (流芳百世).” To do otherwise (and support the tyrant Dong Zhuo), Wang Yun said, “You bequeath your stench that will last for tens of thousands of years.” (遗臭万年)

The bidding “To leave a good name to posterity” is what most people aspire to do, whilst the idiom “To bequeath a stench that will last a thousand years” is what people would not want ascribed to them.

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Tyranny or People’s Participation?

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By Dr Wong Wee Nam
06 June 2014

In the recent Parliamentary debate on the President’s Address, Mr Low Thia Khiang, leader of the Worker’s Party, chose to focus his speech on constructive politics. He called for a change in the political culture.

Low said, “If the people continue to support a government party that uses high-handed tactics against its political opponents, we are endorsing a bullying political culture.

“If the people support a governing party that uses governmental resources, including civil servants, to serve its partisan goals, we are condoning the abuse of political power as an acceptable culture.

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Mind the Cracks

February 7, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

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By Dr Wong Wee Nam

On 28th January 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the students attending the NTU Students’ Union Ministerial Forum that Singaporeans need to be united and cohesive, with a common purpose and a common goal to make Singapore better. There is nothing profound in this statement and anyone with a bit of commonsense will not disagree with Mr Lee.

There is no doubt the world will change in the next 50 years in ways that we cannot imagine. His reassurances were: “We need to educate our students better, with knowledge and skills for the future, with values and good character to deal with life’s uncertainties.”

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PAP’s Battle Cry

December 21, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

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By Dr Wong Wee Nam
20 December 2013

The PAP is in a combative mood. In the party convention held on 8th December 2013, Mr Chan Chun Sing, its organising secretary, set the tone when he declared the PAP must “continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up, because if it does not, then others will occupy the space and make them irrelevant.”

In the style of Winston Churchill’s famous World War II speech, he said, “We must not concede the space — physical or cyber. We will have to learn from the 1960’s generation of PAP pioneers — to fight to get our message across at every corner — every street corner, every cyberspace corner, be it in the mass media or social media. We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.”

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Reflection of that Midnight Call

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
06 July 2013

People don’t normally call another person in the middle of the night unless it is something very important. Or, unless you are feeling hungry and want someone to go with for supper. Most of the time, it means bad news. In my case, whenever there is such a call at such an unearthly hour, it means either there is an emergency or someone is in trouble, dying or has died.

I, therefore, find it a little strange that a Law Minister should call up a lawyer/blogger at midnight to discuss the consequence of disseminating an article written by a foreign journalist in a foreign newspaper. Even if he had insomnia over the article, could he not have waited till the next day to discuss it? But then someone told me it is common for lawyers to talk to each other at midnight. I am not sure if he was pulling my leg.

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Is the PAP government going back to its old ways?

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
03 June 2013

On the 12th of August 2004, a young man confidently declared that “We will continue to expand the spaces which Singaporeans have to live, to laugh, to grow and to be ourselves. Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate, so as to understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces.”

With these words, he was sworn in as Singapore’s third Prime Minister. At that time, this speech did not immediately raise the hopes of those Singaporeans who were looking forward to living in a less stifling political atmosphere. Nevertheless these Singaporeans did not dismiss the declaration outright and preferred to wait and see.

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Boston of the East?

April 24, 2013 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
24 April 2013

When Mr Lee Hsien Loong watched the news of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, he was inspired by the many stories of people behaving selflessly when faced with fear and danger. In his Facebook, he wrote, “If ever Singapore encounters an incident like this, may we have the courage and the humanity to respond with the same grace and unity as the Bostonians.”

How the people of a society behave depends on the society they grew up in. The cultural, the political and the social environments all play a part in the moulding of a people’s values and their attitudes towards the community.

Boston has generally been socially progressive and politically liberal. It is known for having a passion for politics. There is a great intellectual community and it is a place where progressive ideas are shared. It has a strong, vibrant arts community. There, gays are not frowned upon or criminalised.

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Say No to the Concrete Jungle

March 15, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
15 March 2013

In the recent Budget debate, the Government pledged to commit a tenth of Singapore’s land to nature reserves and parks. According to the Senior Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, the pledge is “significant for a highly urbanised city-state”. He made it sound as if this is a great concession to the people of Singapore. Unfortunately, it is not. In fact, having only such a small plot of green is likely to be detrimental to the physical, mental and social well-being of Singaporeans.

If we look at the map of Singapore, 10% of Singapore would barely be enough to cover our nature reserves and the catchment areas. What then are the types of parks and recreational spaces that we are talking about?

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The Population Debate: The Optimum Size

February 6, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam 

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
06 February 2013

It is not true that the more people we have, the better the economy and the better the standard of living will be for all of us. On the contrary, apart from all the ills of over-population, the denser the city, the higher the cost of housing and taxes. The more buildings there are, the more likely they will block our views, our light and our air.

So what is the optimum size? In The Next Lap, published by the Singapore Government in 1993, it was recommended that “…with careful use of land, we can comfortably house 4 million people.

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