Written by Dr. Wong Wee Nam
29 May 2008
Exemplary Leadership: People First
“Those who are wise do not dispense political decrees (to the people)” Laozi
On 12th of May, a terrible earthquake, one of the worst in decades, hit the Sichuan Province of China. To date, almost 70,000 have been killed and many are still being buried in the rubble.
This earthquake was so great it devastated not just small towns and cities, but shook places as far as Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi and Bangkok.
Even as the buildings were still collapsing and the news were trickling in, the Prime Minister of China, Wen Jiabao, was already in the disaster area, comforting the survivors and directing operations in the midst of after-shocks.
There was really no urgent need for Mr Wen to risk his life and limbs by visiting the disaster area so early after the event. There was no re-election to seek and no political mileage to attain. There was no way anyone could guarantee his safety. Yet he was there, at the centre of action.
The television footages captured his emotions vividly – a compassionate face expressing genuine concern. We could see an inspiring personality displaying the highest quality of leadership at the gravest moment of crisis, calming his people and exhorting them to be brave.
Written by Seelan Palay
31 May 08
Three weeks ago, during one of our casual activist gatherings, some friends and I started discussing about ramblings in a local Internet forum (Sammy Boy), where some forum participants were unable to reconcile with the fact that Yaw Shin Leong voted for PAP MP Teo Ho Pin in GE2006.
I told them I had already read about it on Yaw Shin Leong’s blog.
I agree with his view that it is a trait for humans to operate within the paradigms of subjectivity and objectivity. Personally, I too do not believe in opposition for opposition’s sake. In this regard, he believes there is nothing inherently wrong for him to vote for an MP, regardless of his/her partisan background, whom in his opinion is the better man/woman who can better serve the interests of Singapore and his community (Bukit Panjang SMC).
However the “better man” in this case represents the PAP, a party that has a track record of suppressing fundamental freedoms of speech, expression and assembly. The PAP has done nothing to speak out against the unlawful detentions of numerous journalists, unionists, lawyers, activists and other Singaporeans over the decades. These issues will surely affect me when making a decision such as voting.
For example, I’m a vegetarian and so was Hitler. Does that mean I would have voted for Hitler despite knowing his party’s background?
Consciously (or unconsciously), Yaw Shin Leong has given his vote to keep the PAP’s authoritarian machinery in place. The rationalization of his voting a PAP MP in the interests of Singaporeans does not work well enough for me as the general interests of most Singaporeans may not be the general interests of mine.
In other words, being a forefront non-partisan activist, myself am of the view that a not a single candidate from the ruling regime deserves my vote. Ling How Doong should perhaps try harder too, if he wants to ‘get there’.
If I was given the choice to vote for either Yaw Shin Leong or a PAP MP next week, I’ll be in JB eating Roti Canai.
Editor’s Note: After Dr Chee’s letter which is reproduced below, there is a brief explanation on the background of this whole saga.
By Dr Chee Soon Juan
Published in Straits Times forum page (Print edition), 30 May 08.
IF TUNKU Abdul Aziz is concerned about the integrity of Transparency International-Malaysia (TIM), then he must be careful who he gives his awards to (‘Ex-KL Transparency Int’l head rejects Chee’s claim’, yesterday).
TIM’s website says that it depends on, among other things, transparency, accountability, democracy, and respect for human rights to ‘guide its work’.
Then it gives the award to Mr Lee Kuan Yew who has imprisoned opposition leaders without trial, closed down newspapers and amalgamated them under Singapore Press Holdings, introduced unfair election rules, and continues to disallow speaking in public areas and peaceful protests.
Mr Lee, when confronted with these facts, does not refute them. Rather, he skirts the issue and says that without him and his style of governance, Singapore would not have $300 billion in its reserves, that the court would not have modern facilities, and I would not be living in an HDB flat. The presumptuousness and disingenuousness aside, it is clear that Mr Lee doesn’t deny that he is no practitioner of democracy.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Singapore around 140th out of about 167 countries in world press freedom.
Washington-based Freedom House rates Singapore’s press as ‘not free’ and states in its annual report that ‘Singapore citizens cannot democratically change their government’.
When I broached this matter with Tunku Aziz in a conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he qualified that he didn’t give the award to Mr Lee for his human rights record. This contradicts what is stated in TIM’s website.
How Mr Lee can be given an award for transparency and accountability while ignoring his human- rights record, which includes crushing a free press, is incomprehensible. When I approached Dr Peter Eigen of the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) at the same conference, he said: ‘We had nothing to do with that (referring to Mr Lee’s award). It was our Malaysia chapter that gave the award. We had nothing to do with it.’
When I pointed out that TI in Berlin had endorsed it, Dr Eigen replied: ‘Everyone knows that Lee is no democrat. Talk to Tunku Abdul Aziz about that. He leads the chapter in Malaysia. They are autonomous as far as setting their own agenda.’
The point I raised in court on this subject was that the process of vetting the nominee is not made clear. The TIM website, despite its name, does not make the award process transparent. How much Tunku Aziz admires Mr Lee is not quite the point.
The episode confirms my view that it is sad that Mr Lee will cite an award whose process is not transparent and carries little weight in the eyes of the international community.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
Editor’s Note: My comment to Goh Meng Seng’s article is posted below in the Comments Section.
Written by Goh Meng Seng
28 May 08
I have been dragging my feet to write about this article about CORE VALUES ever since I have attended an Army Logistics course last year. Finally, the recent saga of my ex-WP comrade Yaw Shin Leong voting PAP instead of SDP in GE 2006 has prompted me again to contemplate about this critical issue.
Many people in internet forums and blogs have their say about this saga, mostly unfavorable about Yaw’s vote for PAP in his constituency. Personally, I respect each individual’s vote. Politicians must be first a citizen then a politician. And each citizen’s vote should be sacred and kept secret. Unfortunately, in spite of kind advices, Yaw has chosen to declare his vote to various people and even through his blog. This is a grave mistake to start with.
But my assessment is that the damage is not as big as some would think. The fact that SPH’s Chinese papers have not publicized and politicized this issue so far, demonstrates that there is a concern from the establishment that the silent majority of Chinese voters may not think badly of Yaw’s choice of vote. The truth is, the Chinese papers have been portraying SDP in very bad light and it would only serve WP or Yaw’s position if they publicize about Yaw’s vote against SDP in the last elections.
By Ng E-Jay
On 21 Apr, DPM Wong Kan Seng gave an update to Parliament on how Mas Selamat Kastari escaped, and on Monday 26 May, he explained to Parliament the various disciplinary measures taken against those deemed responsible for the escape. In the interim period, the Ministry of Home Affairs has also given periodic updates on the latest developments in the ongoing search and investigation.
So far, all aspects of the saga have been explained or elaborated on except for one crucial facet: DPM Wong’s own culpability in the matter.
The Committee of Inquiry has maintained that there were no department-wide systemic mistakes or policy failures that led to MSK’s escape.
I find that statement most onerous.
Whatever information released by the Committee of Inquiry so far has not proven in any way that there were no systemic failures.
MSK’s escape was attributed merely to an unfortunate series of lapses on the part of individuals. In the absence of further information, I am extremely skeptical that is the whole story.
The COI executive summary that was released in Parliament, for instance, leaves many questions unanswered. For example, how is it that a limping man is physically able to scale a perimeter fence, climb onto the roof of an enclosed staircase and walkway, and jump over the converged inner and outer perimeter fences, all in record-breaking time?
Even ignoring MSK’s limp, it is obvious that something must be seriously wrong with the operational procedures at WDRC that allowed MSK to make such an outlandish escape completely undetected. A likely explanation is that the COI executive summary that was released did not tell the full story. The truth is out there.
I believe that there are indeed system-wide failures present in ISD’s Operational culture, contrary to what the COI executive summary would have us believe. At the very least, there has been widespread complacency. Surely this point cannot be in doubt.
DPM Wong Kan Seng has been Minister of Home Affairs since 1994. Having served in that capacity for 14 years, it is logical to conclude he is responsible for letting complacency seep into ISD’s Operational culture.
Hence, my opinion is that DPM Wong should also be considered culpable, and must be disciplined. At the very least, he should be stripped of his ministerial post, transferred out of MHA, and not serve as a minister ever again.
In Parliament on Monday, DPM Wong also said that the Director of ISD should not be blamed as that would amount to placing an “unreasonable and overly onerous burden” on him, given his broad responsibility over the actions and performance of the whole organisation.
DPM Wong further added, “‘It was not shown that the Director of ISD was aware of any of these lapses but took no action to rectify them. Neither was it shown that he ought reasonably to have known of these lapses.”
To me, all this are excuses to shield the higher-ups from blame. My point again is that complacency was clearly shown to be widespread, with the possibility of systemic failures and lapses, and these in turn imply that the entire chain of command including the Director of ISD up to the Minister himself must be held accountable.
24 May 08
Mr Low Thia Khiang (Secretary-General)
Ms Sylvia Lim (Chairman)
When the mainstream press broke the news that Mr Yaw Shin Leong, your Organizing Secretary, had voted for the PAP in the last elections and also publicly announced it on his blog, I was naturally disappointed with his actions.
I blogged about it and offered very harsh criticisms to Mr Yaw. I shall not repeat all my criticisms, but in summary, I thought that Yaw should not have publicly announced that he voted for the PAP, especially since he is not only a leading figure in the Worker’s Party, but also stood as a candidate himself. If Yaw told his supporters to pluck up the courage to vote for the WP, wouldn’t his supporters feel let down or even betrayed to some extent that he has voted for the PAP instead (even granting that in his ward, Dr Teo Ho Pin was standing against a candidate from another party, namely the SDP)?
Other netizens also aired their disappointment, ire, even anger at Mr Yaw. Some even called for Mr Yaw to step down from politics or even be sacked by WP as he had lost the confidence of his supporters and betrayed their trust. Who would want to vote for an opposition candidate who was so proud of voting for the PAP that he had to brag about it on his blog and let the whole world know?
Even then, I did not join in the call for Mr Yaw to resign or be sacked. I still felt his political future could be salvaged, provided he took positive steps to repair the political damage.
But now, I have reversed my earlier stand, as I now know more about what really happened during GE 2006.
According to The New Paper interview with Dr Teo Ho Pin, Mr Yaw had told Dr Teo two weeks before nomination day that he and his mom intended to vote for him.
Two weeks before nomination day, SDP had not even decided to send Mr Ling How Doong to stand in his ward (Bukit Panjang SMC).
May I also remind everyone that Mr Christopher Neo whom Mr Yaw seems to favour over all other SDP candidates was still an SDP member at that time, and could equally have been filled in Bukit Panjang SMC.
Mr Yaw Shin Leong’s assertion that he could not bear to vote for Mr Ling How Doong may be a true statement spoken from his heart, but it COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE INFLUENCED HIS ANNOUNCEMENT TWO WEEKS BEFORE NOMINATION DAY THAT HE HAD ALREADY INTENDED TO VOTE DR TEO.
In other words, Mr Yaw Shin Leong had lied when he said he voted for Dr Teo because of the bad impression Mr Ling How Doong had left on him. All of that is utter rubbish and hogwash.
Clearly Mr Yaw launched a personal attack on Ling only to justify his voting for PAP and bragging about it on his blog. Mr Yaw had decided beforehand that his vote would go to PAP MP Dr Teo, even without knowing which opposition candidate would be fielded in Bukit Panjang SMC.
Yaw Shin Leong is a political brickbat, a liar, a washout, a dishonest charlatan.
Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim should sack Yaw Shin Leong from his Org Sec post with immediate effect and not attempt to co-opt him back into the CEC at the upcoming OMC.
To do anything less than that would cause WP to lose any and all of its remaining credibility as an Opposition Party.
by the Singapore Democrats
21 May 2008
In a brief session this morning, District Court Judge Jasvender Kaur found Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Yap Keng Ho guilty of speaking in public without a permit.
She, however, postponed sentencing because the Deputy Public Prosecutor wanted time to finalise its position on the remaining charges. Dr Chee and Mr Yap are charged a total of eight counts under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act.
All the charges relate to events during the elections in 2006 while Dr Chee and his colleagues were out selling The New Democrat to raise funds for the campaign. Today’s conviction was for the second charge.
Read the full article here.
(Singapore Rebel) Censorship in Singapore sank to a new low today (Sat, 17 May) as officers from the Board of Film Censors turn up at Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel’s Tulip Room to demand that organisers of a film screening hand over the video for classification (half-way during the screening itself).
The invitation for the screening of “One Nation Under Lee” had been circulated via email with the explicit note that it was to be a private function. Still, the BFC delivered a letter to the Singapore Democratic Party’s office last night, warning the organisers that Section 14 of Films Act requires all films (and they do mean ALL videos, including videos stored on your mobile phone) to be submitted to the Board for classification.
Read more of the Singapore Rebel article here.
Read an article written by SDP here.
Netizens have felt so betrayed by WP Organizing Secretary Yaw Shin Leong’s recent fiasco over the publicizing of his GE2006 vote that some have called for further action to be taken, even resignation or sacking.
DamnBore said, “Internally if they will not sack YSL there will be mutual suspicions amongst WP member. Imagine having candidates thinking “Will my own cadre sabo my campaign?” No one will want to join WP to be its candidate when you can allow members to undermine thier own party candidates.” (Sammyboy link)
Pro-Singapore (Deenlee) said that Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim are in a fix now as “to admonish Yaw will also lead to further controversies … it is up to Yaw to decide how he should take responsibility for his indiscretion.” (Sammyboy link)
However I disagreed in the same forum thread. My opinion is that calls for resignation/sacking should be strictly reserved for PAP ministers and MPs, with DPM Wong Kan Seng being the foremost example. Furthermore, I still felt that WP could do damage control and repair Yaw’s political career provided this incident was merely a major slip-up and not reflective of a deeper character flaw in Yaw.
Scroobal2 was of a different view. “The convenant with the people has been broken. He has rationalised the decision to such an extent that there is no going back. No man is bigger than the party or any party. Its best that the party acts decisively. A clear signal has to be sent to the public, its members, its supporters in order that the trust is regained.” (Sammyboy link)
In a New Paper article published on Friday 16 May entitled “Opposition candidate stirs Net debate when he says he voted PAP. MP says: I knew because he told me“, it was revealed that Yaw Shin Leong had told PAP candidate Dr Teo Ho Pin a couple of weeks before the nine-day election campaigning started that he and his mom intended to vote for him.
Before the story broke, Yaw had also written in the Comment section of his blog posting, “Admittedly I deliberated on the point, ‘for the better serving interests of Singapore’ that I should perhaps just vote for the SDP candidate. However, in view of Mr Ling’s past performance & antics, I just could not bring myself to vote for him.”
Mr Yaw told The New Paper, “It doesn’t mean that you’re at the forefront of the opposition means you have to vote for the opposition.”
The New Paper article mentioned that Yaw “does not see any contradiction in being an opposition member and voting for the ruling party“, and he had no regrets publicizing his vote.
IMPORTANT NOTE: New information I obtained has led me to adopt a much harder stand against Yaw Shin Leong. I now feel a full censure against Yaw is necessary on the part of WP.
This was what I posted to Scroobal in Sammyboy Forum:
Yaw Shin Leong has neither honesty nor guts.
In fact, he is a liar.
According to the New Paper interview with Dr Teo Ho Pin, Yaw had told Dr Teo two weeks before nomination day that he and his mom intended to vote for him.
Two weeks before nomination day, SDP had not even decided to send Ling How Doong to stand in his ward.
May I also remind everyone that Christopher Neo whom Yaw seems to favour over all other SDP members was still an SDP member at that time, and could equally have been filled.
Yaw Shin Leong’s assertion that he could not bear to vote Ling How Doong may be a true statement from his heart, but it COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE INFLUENCED HIS ANNOUNCEMENT TWO WEEKS BEFORE NOMINATION DAY THAT HE HAD ALREADY INTENDED TO VOTE DR TEO.
Yaw Shin Leong is a political brickbat, a liar, a washout, a dishonest charlatan.
Mr Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim should sack Yaw Shin Leong from his Org Sec post with immediate effect and not attempt to co-opt him back into the CEC at the upcoming OMC.
WP candidate publicized on his blog that he voted for PAP, draws flak on the Internet. My personal take.
According to a Straits Times article in the Online edition (15 May 08), it began with just an innocuous message on Yaw Shin Leong’s personal blog that PAP candidate Teo Ho Pin was a good MP and that Yaw had voted for him in GE 2006. (The Straits Times will release a fuller article in the Print edition on 16 May 08.)
Yaw Shin Leong is the Organizing Secretary and a CEC member of the WP. He stood in Ang Mo Kio GRC against PM Lee’s team in GE 2006, along with other WP stalwarts like Lee Wai Leng and Melvin Tan.
Yaw Shin Leong, a Bukit Panjang resident, had revealed in his blog that he voted for the PAP’s Teo Ho Pin who was contesting the single-member ward against SDP chairman and former MP Ling How Doong.
The disclosure on Yaw’s blog was just a one-liner: “Teo Ho Pin (MP) – Good MP. I voted for him in GE06“. And it was hyperlinked to Dr Teo’s blog.
However, that message appeared in the Sammyboy Coffeeshop Forum recently, and Yaw was prompted to post a further explanation on his blog. He said that he did not believe in opposition for opposition’s sake, and in his own words, “… there is nothing inherently wrong for me to vote for an MP, regardless of his/her partisan background, whom in my opinion is the better man who can better serve the interests of Singapore and my community (Bukit Panjang SMC).”
Clearly Yaw was implying that he felt PAP candidate Teo Ho Pin would make a better MP than SDP’s Ling How Doong, thus justifying his vote for the PAP.
Yaw also said, “The interesting question perhaps would be, if a WP candidate is to offer himself/herself for election in the constituency I reside, will I vote for this WP candidate? Partisan considerations will certainly weigh heavily in my considerations. Having said that, ultimately this WP candidate has to convince me that he/she has what it take to better serve the interests of our country and the constituents to win my vote.”
Yaw’s blog posting sparked a outrage amongst Sammyboy forum participants who expressed their disappointment, ire, even anger.
Personally, I think that Yaw should not have publicly announced that he voted for the PAP, especially since he is not only a leading figure in an opposition party, but also a candidate himself. If Yaw told his supporters to pluck up the courage to vote for the WP, wouldn’t his supporters feel let down or even betrayed to some extent that he has voted for the PAP instead (even granting that Teo Ho Pin was standing against a candidate from another party, namely the SDP)?
In the run up to GE 2006, Yaw Shin Leong himself said that the reason they contested Ang Mo Kio GRC was to allow people the chance to vote against PAP and balance out the playing field. Isn’t that opposition for the sake of opposition itself — in a positive way? Why then does Mr Yaw contradict himself now in his most recent blog posting, by saying that we should not have opposition for the mere sake of opposition?
How opposition members themselves vote must depend on the prevailing state of affairs at the national level. Are we already a stable multi-party democracy where rights are respected? Or are we still struggling to achieve political plurality against a party that has almost 100% domination of Parliament? Unfortunately in Singapore the latter is the case.
Since we are clearly very far from achieving political plurality, opposition must vote with one clear voice. Mr Yaw has deviated from that ideal. If we feel certain Opposition parties are inadequate or have flaws, let us approach them and give them constructive feedback, rather than just posting on our blogs that we voted against them. Wouldn’t that be much fairer?
A vote for the PAP is not just an endorsement of its candidate, but more importantly, is an endorsement of its policies. In Mr Yaw’s zeal to endorse MP Ho Teo Pin, perhaps he forgot about this.