Monday, May 20, 2013

The Town Council Finger Pointing

Town council management, what is really at stake? The debate has not seriously ventured into what town councils should be by the PAP or WP but lingered on who is more improper. If that is the debate, WP has lost more ground than PAP. WP's press statement on Thursday had a table for "discerning members of the public" on the distinction between AIM and FMSS. WP also issued a challenge that a report can be made to CPIB if there was WP wrongdoing in its management of the WP town council. Thus, at stake are WP's corporate governance and WP's reputation, and WP is not scoring in its report book.

WP's Corporate Governance in Question

By boldly comparing itself with PAP's AIM, and "WP has no interest; directors and shareholders are not WP members" in FMSS, WP attempted to canter away on its blue horse waving victoriously into the sunset. What instead happened is that WP implied they gave fat town council business contracts to its supporters either as reward or incentive for giving support to WP. This is tantamount to a tit for tat transaction, which is part of legitimate networking in the business world, however, legal but borderline unethical in town council corporate governance. Particularly damaging for WP's supposedly impeccable integrity if FMSS' subcontractors are also WP supporters or WP members, and there is a pattern of self-serving business lobby and WP patronage.

Hence, there is the danger of town councils being arms and legs of any political party, be it PAP or WP. It is not in the public interests in the long term as what the MND review stressed. WP and its FMSS are solid proof that it is no better than the PAP and its AIM. Turning the tables back on WP, what scorched earth policy has WP built into its FMSS now in the event Aljunied returned to PAP rule? Aljunied GRC residents should be interested to know as they would be the ones affected the most and 2016 is not that long away.

Discerning Members of the Public and WP's Diminished Reputation

WP challenged members of the public and the PAP to make a police report if there is any WP wrongdoing. PAP then challenged that WP should sue if there was any defamation that WP was wronged. In the end, stalemate although WP has more to lose than the PAP in this ongoing debate. WP's reputation of a clean upcoming party with First World Parliament aspirations, its promise to voters that got it Aljunied and Punggol, is seriously being tainted in the eyes of the "discerning members of the public" who are neither sitting with the PAP or WP.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

People in Town Council Glass Houses: AIM at FMSS

Minister Khaw Boon Wan in parliament hit back at WP, and he did it by bringing up FM Solutions and Services (FMSS). His point was to drive home the idea that town councils are inherently political and WP is no different because FMSS is no more transparent than AIM, and no more apolitical than AIM.

FMSS is WP's Political Embarrassment

FMSS was incorporated in May 2011 by Hougang Town Council staff How Weng Fan and her husband, Danny Loh. How Weng Fan and Danny Loh's history with the WP went back for some time. Both were WP supporters who vouched on nomination day for the WP Ang Mo Kio GRC "suicide team" candidates of Abdul Salim Bin Harun, Gopal Krishnan, Glenda Han, Lee Wai Leng, Melvin Tan and Yaw Shin Leong. Danny Loh and his wife might even be WP members, but it does not matter whether they are or not as they are not apolitical anyway.

Unlike AIM it was not a $2 company, but had a paid up capital of $500,000. The problem with FMSS was that it got the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council contract without tender, and thus might not be the best in the market for the residents of Aljunied-Hougang. AIM was an inconvenient embarrassment when it was found out by WP. But now FMSS is WP's irritating embarrassment when it was dug out by PAP.

An Apolitical Town Council is Possible

Objectively, with AIM and FMSS, two wrongs don't make a right. Town councils are political as AIM and FMSS showed but can they be apolitical, or to what degree they can be apolitical?

The conventional thinking is that town councils are political instruments that cut both ways. If they are good, they win votes. If they are bad and it is so easy to displease voters, they lose votes. That double-edged sword is an inevitable part of politics, unless HDB takes over and resumes its pre-1989 role. Why not, if not HDB then something else existing or new, to make town councils apolitical as best as they can because that is what people want? That idea is not alien as in a democracy, the civil service still runs even if one party comes into power and the other vacates. Why not a town council?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Quotes and Quotes Out of Context in Politics

Quotes from politicians or celebrities have a life of its own e.g. "I can see Russia from my house" supposedly from Sarah Palin.

The world of politics is about making catch phrases, good soundbites, and to misquote or better, quote out of context what your adversary said. In social media, bad quotes and quotes out of context can get circulated faster and further. As MP Zainudin found out recently after his quote from Terry Goodkind, the same Terry Goodkind behind the story about Confessors, Richard Cypher and epic fantasy.

The quote in full,

The offending quote in particular, "gang rape is after all democracy in action", which was attributed to Zainudin by the time it spread rather than Terry Goodkind, and repeated everywhere without the entire quote from Terry Goodkind.

Taking Out of Context is an Old Trick

Obviously PAP critics took it out of context which is the way politics happen. Certainly, the simple social media crowd who mostly shoot before they think wanted Zainudin's reputation gang raped figuratively. However, for NCMP Lina Chiam to opportunistically weigh in without thinking, looking at her airhead reputation, again shows that she can shoot herself in her foot all by herself. For that matter, only SPP foolishly raised its hand in protest while the other parties like SDP, NSP or WP wisely knew that it was a low blow to strike that would boomerang back.

Nonetheless, Zainudin is not without blame, despite his damage control and reasonable explanation and he is naive to put such thought-provoking quotes out there without some qualifier like "what do you think" to give himself an escape route, which he needed one now. The PAP should have learnt about the social media's angry simple crowd - Tin Pei Ling's infamous photo with her Kate Spade bag should have been an important lesson. Innocuous personally, but can be twisted out of context politically.