Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Commentary, A Late Night Phone Call and A Fracas

Eric Ellis is a left thinking journalist, no insult intended to the Mid-East news icon, a Robert Fisk-wannabe in his agenda-driven journalism. Like Fisk, he never intended to be objective, just to achieve his objective of changing readers' views to his. Eric is an Australian and has criticised the European monarchies as spongers and deadweights in European democracies rather than understanding them as cultural-historical anchors. In his compliments to Der Speigel, he liked the German publication's scrutiny of the rich and powerful, taking the successful down a peg or too at every opportunity. He rejoiced when Murdoch's media empire took a hit over the UK phone hacking scandal as Murdoch's right-leaning media was too industrialist and capitalist to his liking and stood tall at the opposite end of his political view.

An Australian Outsider View

Eric has a typical outsider white man's burden over Singapore's development path - from criticising Singapore's zero-tolerance capital punishment policy for drug mules like Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van, to Singapore's ties with fellow ASEAN neighbour Myanmar, to his xenophobia of Singapore Inc buying up of overseas assets including Australia's. His latest rant was on Law Minister Shanmugam, with a slightly racist quip coming from the Australian, "K. Shanmugam, as he’s less tongue-twistingly known".


This set off a series of events. Shanmugam saw that Eric crossed the line. The Australian had made defamatory comments about Shanmugam and his involvement in companies in Indonesia that caused the recent haze problem.  Eric's article was circulated by the usual suspects in the Internet who jump at any news real or false to sling mud at the government. Shanmugam then called Remy Choo Zheng Xi about the matter as the TOC blogger-Peter Low lawyer-WP activist was a key broker in the Internet community.

Kirsten Han blogged about the late night call after hearing it from Remy and packaged the call story as a minister bullying a blogger because such stories sell. Kirsten's agenda was unsurprising as she is among those locals who are against the death penalty, support an earlier Western-led disengagement of Myanmar and continued isolation of an ASEAN neighbour, someone who bought Eric's political views in bulk. Unfortunately for Kirsten this time, as Shanmugam and Remy have come out in the open to put into context the phone call, Kirsten's version of the event was inaccurate if not even fabricated to spread fear among her readers that the government was going to crack down hard on Remy and others.

The Last Laugh

Eric must be grinning right now - in one stroke, he made Shanmugam, Remy and Kirsten all look bad.

Friday, June 28, 2013

All the President's Hecklers

So Andrew Loh hurled some vulgarities at the President and has since apologised after public pressure, "The words I used were harsh and insulting, and the sentiments I expressed about the President unfair and untrue."

What made the former WP member, former TOC editor, and current Yahoo writer lapse into an uncouth lout is a big mystery. Maybe problems in his personal life, a bad brush with a neighbour or something equally mundane that happens to all of us. However, as a public figure and activist-journalist, while he added colour to his character, he wasted away his public image by being a foul-mouth monkey and reverted to his crass peasantmonky days in Sammyboy.

Common though for people to be angry and even swear and curse, to swear and curse in public knowing that his rant would spread in the Internet is poor judgement, class and control. Andrew Loh should have been wiser than Rueben Wang, the SAJC student who thought it was cool to swear at DPM Teo Chee Hean. Or more savvy than YPAP member Cheo Ming Shen.  

Maybe that is what Andrew really wanted with Free My Internet in which he was a key party of, to freely verbally and vulgarly abuse anyone.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cleaning Up Hawker Centres WP Style

When WP took over a GRC in 2011, there was optimism that they can do a better job with economies of scale. People were already tired of PAP-run town councils that had frills in landscaping and decoration in the estates that ultimately drove up operational and thus conservancy costs. By all accounts from the latest news, WP is no better if not worse in keeping costs down.

A Misstep in Who Foots the Bill

In the latest battle of who can run town councils after better, fairer and cheaper after AIM and FMSS, WP is again under the spotlight as it passed the cost of cleaning the roof and ceiling of hawker centres to the hawkers instead of absorbing them as was in the past practice under the PAP.

NEA, who acted after the WP GRC stallholders complained, said that it was the responsibility of Aljunied-Hougang-Punngol East town council to pick the tab as hawker centres were common area, and not pass the buck to the stallholders.

So soon after the FMSS-AIM saga,WP is again not doing too well in this tit-for-tat on who can run the show better. WP's popular folk image is that it is very grassroot-oriented and not distant from the ground, unlike the PAP who has forgotten its roots, as the coffeeshop talk goes.

From Spotless Hawker Centres to Spotless WP

However, by asking the humble and ubiquitous stallholders to pay for the cleaning of some of the common areas is a departure from the blue-collar worker empathy of the WP. WP is already trying to recover and stated that cleaning of the ceiling and support beams of the hawker centres was not due and there was miscommunication about hawkers footing the bill. Too little too late. This shoulder-shrugging and focus on semantics is typical of the PAP and goes to show the WP might not be  as spotless as they made themselves out to be.