Tag Archive | Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Not even half a cent..

.. will I contribute to Roy Ngerng’s defence against the defamation suit that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has brought against him concerning Ngerng’s allegations about the CPF and Mr Lee.

People who make their own beds should lie in them and not ask for help when it comes up all thorns instead of roses ūüôĄ

I am certain I belong to the millions of CPF members who didn’t encourage, let alone, ask him to make a song and dance about my CPF.

So, no, I won’t contribute anything to him, let alone $ to pay for his defence. Not even half a cent, geddit??


Game, set, match? Checkmate?

If I wasn’t alone in my car, I would have laughed aloud yesterday on hearing the 93.8 radio report of the Prime Minister’s reply to an MP’s question on a by-election for Hougang, a Workers Party seat vacated when it sacked its erstwhile treasurer Mr Yaw Shin Leong for alleged personal misdemeanors.

However, I resisted laughing for fear drivers in nearby cars¬†might think¬†me mad ūüėÜ

After a good night’s sleep and waking refreshed to reflect a bit more on the matter, I can’t help laughing still.

As PM¬†Lee said to Ms Sylvia Lim, WP chairman, who asked won’t Hougang residents be unde-represented in the interim while Mr Lee mulls when is a good time for the by-election: well, babe, who brought this on in the first place? Shouldn’t WP have considered¬†such a¬†possibility be4 taking the ultra drastic step that affects not only Mr Yaw but also some 25,000 Hougang residents, the majority of whom had supported WP?

But with friends like the WP, you don’t really need enemies as Mr Yaw has learned and as Hougang residents are learning now.

Add to that the friendly benevolence of high profile lawyer M Ravi. In one fell swoop by representing a part-time cleaner from Hougang to bring the by-election saga to the courts, he has ensured that Singaporeans in and outside of Parliament will be prevented from discussing the merits of the case till they have been decided by their lordships. To do otherwise would be sub judice, usually punishable by jail :(((((

The gods seem to be conspiring to favour the ruling party when every action taken by those opposed to it has turned out so far not to hurt the PAP but the Opposition!


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will call for by-elections in Hougang (reproduced from Yahoo website)

This is PM Lee’s full reply in Parliament to PAP MP Christopher de Souza’s question on a by-election in Hougang:

The Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) seat is vacant after the Workers’ Party expelled Mr Yaw Shin Leong, following several weeks of media reports on Mr Yaw’s personal indiscretions. I intend to call a by-election in Hougang to fill this vacancy. However, I have not yet decided on the timing of the by-election. In deciding on the timing, I will take into account all relevant factors, including the well being of Hougang residents, issues on the national agenda, as well as the international backdrop which affects our prosperity and security.

As for the legal question of whether and when I must call a by-election, an application has been filed in court concerning this, so the matter is now sub judice, i.e. under the consideration of the court. While MPs enjoy parliamentary immunity in this House, our parliamentary convention is that we do not talk about matters which are sub judice, for good reason.

I can, however, remind Members that Parliament debated this issue extensively in 2008, when two NMPs moved a motion proposing to require the Prime Minister to call a by-election within three months of a seat falling vacant. I participated in that debate, and stated the Government’s position fully, after taking the advice of the Attorney-General. I consulted the present Attorney-General again to confirm his advice before answering today’s question. Let me summarise what I said in 2008 about the Constitutional position.

Article 49 of the Constitution states that when a seat falls vacant it shall be filled by election. In an SMC, a seat falls vacant when the MP vacates his office, for example when he is expelled from his political party, resigns his seat, or passes away. The timing of the by-election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not obliged to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe.

This absence of any stipulated time frame is the result of a deliberate decision by Parliament to confer on the Prime Minister the discretion to decide when to fill a Parliamentary vacancy. Then-Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew explained this when he moved the Constitutional amendment in December 1965:

“[This amendment] revokes a clause which was introduced into the State Constitution of Singapore when it entered Malaysia.

Members in this House will know that there was no such injunction of holding a by-election within three months in our previous Constitution. We resisted this particular condition being imposed upon the State Constitution at the time we entered Malaysia, but our representations were not accepted because Malaysia insisted on uniformity of our laws with the other States in the Federation and with the Federal Constitution itself.

Since we are no longer a part of the Federal whole, for reasons which we find valid and valuable as a result of our own experience of elections and of government in Singapore, we have decided that this limitation should no longer apply.”

The Constitution therefore reflects a political philosophy that emphasises stable government, and the view that in elections voters are primarily choosing between political parties to be given the mandate to govern the country, rather than between individual candidates to become MPs. We have kept the Constitutional provision because the considerations for enacting it in 1965 remain relevant today.

Politics of envy & ministerial pay

The lobby against the existing pay policy for government ministers has at long last won a hearing.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night announced a committee to review the basis and level of political salaries. National Kidney Foundation chairman Gerard Ee will chair the committee.

Although I’m one of many Singaporeans who have many things to bitch about the PAP government, the pay for ministers and civil servants isn’t one of them where I’m concerned.¬†I may be in the minority, maybe even a minority of one!

I know why many of my compatriots grouse about the issue. It’s often a case of envy. Most¬† feel that they are as qualified as —¬†if not more qualified than — any of the holders of political office. Yet pay and prestige wise, they aren’t enjoying the same benefits or recognition in their chosen fields.

Worse, many critics¬†believe that if the office holders had remained outside politics, they won’t have made it anywhere in the private sector to draw the sort of pay of the likes of Choo Chiau Beng, to name but one.

Of course none of these pay critics would¬†admit to that four-letter word beginning with “e”. Instead, they would argue from the moral high ground. Serving the country isn’t like any old job; so that ugly five letter word — money — must not come into it.

By putting a price on political office, they aver, is to cheapen that office and diminish, if not destroy, the authority to govern.

Where i’m concerned, the critics aren’t necessarily any better or worse than the highly-paid office holders they lambast, whether¬†in mind, body, intellect, skills, EQ, IQ, no-cue.

It’s just that A chose or was rail-roaded into becoming¬†a lawyer, B a banker, C an entrepreneur, D a media specialist and XYZ a politician in the PAP ruling the best of breed city-state.

So, if the guardian of a multi-billion $¬†shipbuilder is considered to be worth an 8-figure emolument, why¬†shouldn’t 7-figure sums be paid for posts¬†to run¬†a country with hundreds of billion $ worth of assets and a population that’s larger than any of the workforce that’s being managed by our captains of industry, banking and finance?

Thus¬†I’ve no quarrels with the¬†quantums our government ministers¬†are being¬†paid. Nor do I expect to have any quibbles should Mr Ee come up with a formula that cuts ministeral pay.¬†That’s something for Parliament to decide and would-be politicians to weigh up.

What i hope however is that¬†Mr Ee and Parliament won’t be swayed by asinine arguments like those I’ve received of late.

One email in my inbox quoted Mr David Marshall who it was claimed received just $6K a month when he was chief minister. Another citing President Harry Truman of the US said he was awarded an annual pension of US$25K a year.

What these low-pay for high-office disseminators forgot to add was that all that happened in the 1950s.

That was be4 man went to the moon. Britannia still ruled the waves, more or less. Television was in its infancy.¬†Most people who went overseas, other than Malaya, went by boat. My parents bought a terrace house for all of $10K (Straits dollars). I went to kindergarten with just 20 cents for pocket money. My mom’s hair-dressing apprentices were paid $10 a month and there was a queue waiting to join.

Today, you probably can’t buy even a paper house for $10K. There would be no takers, even the hungriest of foreign workers, for pay of $10 a month. TV is so yesterday. The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund won’t be seen dead doling out 20 cents a day¬†to the needy kids it sponsors.

I rest my case.

Incentivise public transport travel

Of all the Cabinet changes announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today, I’m happiest to see a new minister in charge of transport.

Not that I’ve anything against Mr Raymond Lim, the exiting transport minister.¬†Instead, I’m hoping that¬†a new transport minister may be able to¬†“re-think and re-shape”¬†public transport policies in a way that makes bus, MRT and taxi travel cheaper, faster and easier through incentives rather than thru penalties like the over-use of COE and ERP charges.

Here is what i hope the new transport minister, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, would do.

1) Scrap all ERP charges for taxis and buses. It doesn’t make sense to charge these multi-peeps carriers the same way you would private cars. Sure, a taxi takes up as much if not more road space than a private car but if taxis are more plentiful and meaningfully cheaper than private cars, more commuters would switch from car owning to taxi-taking.

2) Scrap COE for taxis, for the same reason as point 1. To deter the unscrupulous from abusing this by masquerading as taxi-drivers to enjoy COE-free vehicles, impose suitably harsh penalties on the abusers when caught.

3) Give non-transferable bus and MRT vouchers of a certain value to all citizens on a regular basis. This will benefit the lower-income groups in particular and may convert the borderline car owners. The cost to the state may not be as huge as implied as most in the top 10 to 15 income earners and their family members are unlikely to be seen dead using the bus or MRT while in Singapore.

4) Let the state¬†subsidise one-price¬†mini buses that loop constantly between clusters of private condos to MRT stations, in the same way that is done in Hongkong (the seamless loops I mean; I don’t know if the mini-buses are subsidised over there). Sure, there are already such buses plying between private condos and MRT stations but they run infrequently and often only during peak hours which make them a poor alternative to cars or taxis.

That’s all for now… and here’s hoping for cheaper, faster and smoother travelling around Singapore ūüėé

More MPs? Remember u read it here first!

Now that election chatter has entered into high gear — following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement that the Election Boundaries Review Committee has been convened — it’s anybody’s guess that the General Election, expected to be a landmark one, is just around the corner.

There’s much nonsense amidst this chatter of course but occasionally there’s an enlightening analysis.

I count that written by Prof Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University, and published¬†in today’s edition of Today,¬†one of the better ones and so have accordingly reproduced it below.

More pertinently, I’ve extracted the paragraph that resonates most with me and have put it in bold:

Given the increase in the number of eligible voters, and assuming that the current MP-to-voter guide ratio of one to 26,000 is maintained, the EBRC may recommend an increase in the number of elected MPs, currently 84.


If the number of MPs (excluding the NMPs and NCMPs) is raised beyond the current 84, then please remember you read this here first 

So hard up¬†for acknowledgement that I must self-claim¬†credit, lah! ūüėÄ


From today’s Today
A 30-per-cent deviation is too wide

Redrawing of electoral boundaries must avoid being seen as gerrymandering

05:55 AM Nov 01, 2010
by Eugene K B Tan

Election talk has been around for much of this year. Last Saturday, the signals got clearer when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the Singapore media in Hanoi, where he was attending the ASEAN Summit, that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) had been convened.

In many respects, the announcement was long anticipated, given that there are only 12 months left to the current Parliament’s term. Further, the fourth Presidential Elections must be conducted by August 2011. Having the two elections close to each other can result in voter fatigue and may unnecessarily contribute to a prolonged politically-charged environment.

The General Election for Singapore’s 12th Parliament will see at least 12 single-member constituencies (SMCs), fewer six-member group representation constituencies (GRCs) and perhaps the reintroduction of four- or even three-member GRCs.

With the changes to the Parliamentary Elections Act, however many they actually win at the polls, the Opposition is guaranteed at least nine seats in the House, with any shortfall made up through the Non-Constituency MP scheme.

The standard terms of reference would require that the EBRC review the electoral division boundaries and recommend changes to them. Typically, the EBRC will focus on population changes within existing boundaries in the context of larger demographic shifts across the island. In essence, the EBRC’s general mandate is to provide for fair and balanced representation through adjusting electoral boundaries by avoiding an uneven distribution of voters.

Given the increase in the number of eligible voters, and assuming that the current MP-to-voter guide ratio of one to 26,000 is maintained, the EBRC may recommend an increase in the number of elected MPs, currently 84.

In reviewing electoral boundaries, the EBRC operates on a 30-per-cent deviation rule. Let’s assume the ratio of one MP serving 26,000 voters is maintained; the number of voters in an electoral division can range from 18,200 to 33,800 (30 per cent plus/minus of 26,000). Extrapolating from this, a five-member GRC can have between 91,000 and 169,000 voters – the difference between the minimum and maximum number of voters being a whopping 86 per cent!

This affects the principle of fair and balanced representation and results in different “workloads” for MPs. This also has implications for the equality of votes. A voter in a five-member GRC with 91,000 voters has effectively more voting power since it returns as many MPs as another five-member GRC with 170,000 voters.

Take the case of the May 2006 elections. The five-member Aljunied GRC had 145,141 voters, while six-member Tanjong Pagar GRC had only 3,000 more voters. Potong Pasir, the smallest SMC, had just 15,888 voters while the largest SMC, Bukit Panjang, had 30,452 voters.

In my view, the 30-per-cent deviation rule is too high. In contrast, the United Kingdom is working towards a 5-per-cent deviation, like New Zealand. Australia operates on a 10-per-cent deviation.

If relatively larger countries with more uneven spreads of population can do with 5- to 10-per-cent deviation, our 30-per-cent deviation seems “overly-generous” in small and compact Singapore.


Of course, a larger deviation rule also means a higher tolerance for the size of an electoral division, which would mean, theoretically, less need to redraw any boundaries.

The committee’s work of redrawing the boundaries should studiously avoid any hint of gerrymandering. The odd-shaped electoral boundaries that we have also erode the voter sense of identity and belonging to his constituency. A commonly cited example is that of Braddell Heights being part of Marine Parade GRC, never mind the fact that MacRitchie Reservoir is closer to the estate than East Coast Park!

The EBRC has to respond to the legitimate expectations of a more educated electorate sensitive to fair play. The EBRC’s recent reports were generally quite sparse in terms of detailing its thought process and reasoning. They need to be more substantive and better articulate the reasoning and justification for their recommendations. This is one area where there can be lots of improvement.

Voters are entitled to know why boundaries are drawn, and how they are done. Otherwise, it should not be surprising if Singaporeans view the redrawing of boundaries as being calculated to undermine the Opposition or, at the very least, not disadvantage the ruling party.

Ultimately, the EBRC’s work and report must not only be non-partisan but must be seen to be non-partisan, as well. This is necessary to sustain confidence and legitimacy in the review of electoral boundaries, since that is an integral part of the electoral process.

Put simply, the process by which electoral boundaries are reviewed is just as important as the specific changes that flow from the review. This is notwithstanding the reality that the redrawing of electoral boundaries is perceived to be inherently political, and that it is probably impossible to have perfectly distributed electoral divisions.

For now, political parties and voters will wait with bated breath for the EBRC’s report.

The writer is assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law.

Copyright 2010 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Include NS men who died in service for new award?

Naturally and understandably¬†NS men who had already completed their training cycle would be disappointed that they won’t be eligible for the National Service Recognition Award (NSRA) announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally.

The NSRA is a monetary award of between $9,000 and $10,500 for each Singaporean NSman, with commanders getting more. And it’s only for full time and operationally-ready NSmen in service from August 29, the day it was announced by Prime Minister Lee. It won’t be retroactive.

“We are also part of the Singaporean nation… We must be treated equally. We have contributed in the past,” said one Singaporean, according to a clip I saw on Channel News Asia last night.

And naturally and understandably too,  the Government would defend its decision not to make the award retroactive.

Prohibitive costs apart (imagine how many $9,000 would have to be given out to all the cohorts that have completed their obligations since 1965!), Minister of State for Defence, Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee, pointed out:

“Government policy has never been retroactive… many generations who have served NS, like many of us… recognise that we have already benefited from previous policies and this policy is for NSmen going forward.”


Yet I wonder why the¬†recognition can’t be extended to those NS men who died while in¬†training or on peace keeping missions? There can’t have been too many in number?

Sure, for each death, the NS deceased would have enjoyed a funeral with full military honours.

But how nice for their still grieving parents or other immediate family members, if after all these years, the Government should give them a little something more than symbolic to help ease their permanent loss and pain!

Marina Bay Sands casino saga continues

Someone on Twitter asked if I won any $ at Marina Bay Sands yesterday. Of cos not, natch!

After all, as a Singaporean, I was $100 down even be4 I walked through the door of the casino, as the levy had to be paid be4 one entered. Couldn’t even step past the entry barriers to take a look first be4 deciding if it’s worthwhile to throw down that money, just for a look see.

Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid $100 when he and some grassroots leaders visited Resorts World Sentosa “to take a look” a few weeks after it opened.

But unlike him and his grassroots leaders, I actually threw away another $250 during the time I was inside the MBS casino, which was $50 more than i had intended.

I had budgetted $300 — $100 for the entrance fee and another $200 for gambling money, reckoning that if I could throw away $300 on a meal at Gunthers, I could do the same at the casino, which is after all Singapore’s duopoly, unlike Gunthers.

But because I could pay the entry levy by credit card instead of cash, as detailed in the post be4 this, I walked into the casino with $300 in my handbag.

From the time I entered the casino at 2.40pm and the time I left at 6.05pm (about 3.5 hours) I managed to fritter away all that money on a host of slot machines, lured by the fact that they were everywhere, offering all sorts of combinations I had never seen be4 and most importantly, I could bet as low as a 1-cent credit.

Because I machine hopped restlessly to try as many as I could —¬†and with some machines needing as much as 5 cents per bet —¬†I soon got hoplessly confused and distracted, as to what strategy to adopt, counting my winnings and losses and trying to remember which machine paid better.

Also, the money evaporated a lot faster than I imagined because while a single bet on a single line might be 1 cent, one could bet as much as 500 cents which is $5. Many machines had minimum bets, eg one must bet at least 10 lines, which even at 1 cent per bet, meant an outgoing of 10 cents per click of the machine.

All the incessant clicking, clanging and loud music pouring out from the various slots soon mesmerised. It was as if I was possessed and couldn’t keep my fingers off the buttons to press and make my money disappear.

But the time¬†of my next appointment made it imperative for me to leave, even if my depleting funds didn’t make it impossible to remain, without raiding my bank account further, from the easily accesible ATMs.

Because I left in such a hurry, I didn’t have time to cash in my cashout tickets, one of 18 cents and another of $49.63.

Which now leaves me with a dilemma: do I go back within the 30 days the cashout tickets are valid and pay another $100 entry levy and possibly incur more losses? Or do I just let the cashout tickets lapse?

If I do go back, I must plan my visit better; stay longer; be more disciplined; have a strategy. Now, if I can stretch my gambling capital to last double the time I was there yesterday, I would consider myself a winner.

Though I won’t mind being declared a real¬†winner as some woman was yesterday when the casino announced over its broadcast system for all to hear that Ms ??? was the winner of $200??? from Cash Express (whatever that is).

the three beckoning fingers