Friday, September 21, 2012

The Archbishop Letters

This whole episode of the Archbishop’s mysterious letters to Function 8 is very amusing.

It starts with, of all people, Alex Au, a well-known gay rights activist who publishes a blog post claiming that his source had informed him that many months back, the Archbishop sent Function 8 an unsolicited letter, giving them moral support.  Function 8 then wanted to use this letter in a Hong Lim Park event to say that finally the Church or God has forgiven them for their “sins” in the 1987 Marxist Conspiracy. The Archbishop than retracts the letter, supposedly after having lunch with the DPM and here, according to the great “source” of Alex Au,  the Archbishop was arm-twisted to do so.


Then the Archbishop puts out another statement saying that he retracted the letter on his free will after realising that the letter was going to be read out loud and the political implications of the letter being that it will disrupt social harmony.  Alex Au then says that Archbishop is basically lying and insinuate again that he is pressured by some shadowy government force to come out with statement (yes another tip-off from his great source).  The problem with claiming everything has a conspiracy behind it is that it gets a bit stale after a while.  It’s a never-ending spiral; which is why probably the government never wants to give the Marxist people a new hearing; because if the independent panel finds that the Marxist people were guilty as charged … guess what? Yes ….. conspiracy again.

Back to this story … Function 8 and then Maruah (yes it’s that confusing) comes out with statements attacking the Archbishop over this letter and even MHA gets into this statement war by defending the Archbishop and saying that all these people are disrespectful to him.  Alex Au goes on a roll chronicling all these statements and basically attacking the Church for caving in to Government pressure.


Even if we ignore the fact that Alex may have some grievances against the Church, he is the champion of LGBT rights in Singapore after all, and the Church whether Catholic or Protestant is not exactly very gay-friendly; the fact remains: who is this great source of his?

From Function 8? Maybe and probably but then how would a source from Function 8 know so much of the Archbishop and his lunch meetings even?  A source from the Church? Maybe, but than why would a source from a Church want to do this?  How about this possibility? A source that is both close to Function 8 and to the Church?  Whisperings in the Church have more or less already narrowed down who could be this great source.

The problem with Alex is that no matter how hard he tries; he cannot be really objective.  And probably his “source” knows that too.  So in the end, who to believe?  The real story is always the simplest, maybe the Archbishop blindly signed on a letter given to him by this Alex Au “source”, found out that it is a problematic letter and got it withdrawn with or without government arm-twisting.  The “source” and Function 8 got angry and found someone who is willing to be their champion.  And it so happens to be Alex Au.  

Splinter in Your Eye, Log in Mine

This quote by Alex Au is golden: “, “I also stand firm, like the great majority of Singaporeans, against any attempt to mix religion with politics, which agenda partly explains why the new guard at AWARE have to resort  to stealth  

He should really be careful and aware that stealth is not monopolized by government only; maybe stealth is also being used by this great “source” of his.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dr Chee's Bankruptcy

Dr Chee Soon Juan will have his bankruptcy annulled if he can come out with $30,000 from book sales or donations. There can finally be closure for the SDP sec-gen in this case that began in 2001 when the SDP leader shouted at then PM Goh Chok Tong during the 2001 GE, about money lent to Indonesia. According to the PAP lawyers, Dr Chee had questioned their integrity during the hustings, and was thus sued for defamation.

As he lost, Dr Chee owed former PM Goh and former PM Lee $500,000 in damages ($200,000 to Singapore's first PM and $300,000 to the country's second PM) Recently, Dr Chee had made an offer of $30,000 instead to move on and the two former PMs accepted it. This paves the way for Dr Chee to stand in the next GE, assuming that he does not give the PAP another opportunity for him to be sued for defamation.

This is a surprising new twist to the plot as Dr Chee probably did not expect the PAP stalwarts to accept his offer. If he knew that it would have been so easy, he might have dangled it before GE 2011 so that there was a chance he could compete in that, in retrospect, watershed election. Furthermore, if the PAP had rejected his offer of composition then, he and SDP could have easily depicted it as PAP fearing to fairly face Dr Chee as a candidate during the GE.

Can $30,000 be Raised Easily and Quickly?

As it is, if Dr Chee can raise his $30,000, it would show that SDP still has some support left despite its the rise of WP as the leading opposition party. The reverse is also true. If Dr Chee takes too long to find the funds, it would mean he and his party are not popular enough.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The National Conversation and the Education Sector

With the National Conversation, the National Day Rally this year was a significant milestone in government nation-building speeches.

"So I asked Heng Swee Keat to lead a national conversation on Our Singapore to define what sort of country we want and how we can achieve it. So please join in this national effort, think seriously about our future, contribute your ideas, work together to make it happen. In a rapidly changing world, Singapore must keep on improving because if we stand still, we’re going to fall behind."
PM Lee Hsien Loong

The word "national conversation" was mentioned only once in his entire speech but it became the buzzword of the month, something like an "open and inclusive society" was in the period after PM Lee's swearing-in speech in 2004. Twelve years on and still that phrase rings loud and true in questioning whether the PAP consulted in policies in the Casinos, CPF or COE (they do, just a matter of extent and whom).

Coincidence or not that the National Conversation is headed by the Education Minister, among the most significant policy changes to be introduced are in Education. The other signs of Education leading the national conversation were that Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Senior Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong also spoke at the Rally as part of a new Rally tradition, paving the way for PM Lee's Rally speech. 

Listening and then Acting

With complaints of shortage and even substandard preschools becoming a national concern and that children are not prepared enough for Primary One, the Education ministry would look into the preschool sector. They would not nationalise it, but would watch and nudge closely, giving the sector and its schools some quality control. PCF already is striving to have its 330 childcare and kindergartens accredited by SPARK (Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework). There would even be a statutory board overlooking the preschool sector. 

The contradiction inherent in the government sticking its nose into the preschool sector is that it would make schools more academic and as the foundation for primary school. Inevitably this would make preschool stressful. Furthermore, PCF and NTUC are the anchors already. With the talk of more preschool anchors in the industry and setting of academic standards, would that pave the way for more GLC ventures in the preschool sector at the expense of the SMEs or religious-run centres who are into preschool as play and character building? Beware of what you wish for from the government in this "national" conversation.

Talking and Listening to the Silent or the Shouters

So despite the "national conversation", not everyone can be pleased. Some wanted more government interest in the preschool sector, while others resented the intrusion, all for various valid reasons. The government listened but who did it talk and listen to in the end? What is the national conversation all about? The government listening to those who lobbied the best, shouted the loudest regardless if the interests they represented were really representative of the "national" or not.