Nothing controversial or scandalous. Just lots of funny trivia about our ministers, dictators in Singapore, and China snubbing Singapore.
By Fang Shihan and Terence Lee
After combing through some 700 diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks on Singapore, our reaction was: Really? That’s it? No revelation that our Prime Minister is gay? No allegations of corruption within the government’s top ranks?
On the Richter Scale, the release didn’t even register. At most, tremors were felt, but not enough to topple buildings or shake foundations. Expect business as usual on Monday — save perhaps for one poor Straits Times journalist.
At most, the leaks make for good gossip fodder. So for your sake, we’ve compiled the best bits below.
1) Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, has two children, both US citizens (link).
“His wife is an American citizen who grew up in Puerto Rico. Yaacob told emboff (embassy officer) that he has a more open-minded interpretation of the Koran and said his wife converted to Islam to satisfy the conservative standards of Singapore. They have two children, both American citizens, and they travel to the U.S. frequently to visit his wife’s family.”
So Yaacob likes Caucasian women. So his two children (one son and one daughter) are Americans. So?
Accusing him of wanting his son to skip NS is too big a logical leap. So is the notion that Yaacob has no confidence in the Singapore system. It could very well be that the two children were born in the States and the parents saw no urgency to convert them back to Singapore citizenship. He’ll be wise to ignore the speculations online and not address them.
But he might find it difficult to ignore allegations that his roots are already elsewhere. So what’s in it for him to stay rooted to Singapore?
2) The Young PAP, the youth wing of the ruling party, has failed spectacularly since it has produced only one Cabinet Minister so far (link).
The recent Wikileaks disclosure is highly embarrassing for the Young PAP who are either portrayed as highly uncritical or plain opportunistic.
Or simply close-minded.
YPAP places little emphasis on substantive thinking or on trying to influence public policy. Joel Leong, chairman of the International Relations sub-committee, says he has got no opinion about the state of bilateral relations between US and Singapore.
Phyllis Chng, Executive Secretary, claims that YP has the closest relationship with China’s Communist Youth League.
The irony isn’t lost on anyone when Leong said that ties with Malaysia are a little harder to maintain. The reason? Malaysia has an active opposition while China doesn’t. Well, not that Singapore’s opposition isn’t active, it’s just that they are stifled, right YP?
When asked how YP is an effective conduit for transmitting feedback or ideas of youths, Leong and Chng were hardpressed to give a concrete example of this.
Two other young Singaporeans claimed that they considered joining YP not out of affection for the People’s Action Party but because it might enhance career prospects.
With membership figures hovering around 9,000, it is a historical fact that only one former YP member ever made it into The Cabinet. Who would that be? Everyone’s beloved George Yeo. Sadly, since his demise from Aljunied GRC after May 2011, YP has the dubious honour of producing no one who is in an important position in parliament.
So you’re 40 years old and below? Still keen to pick up a membership form?
You should, if you’ve no interest in leadership renewal.
3) We’ve got Mugabe by the balls (link)
Robert Mugabe, famous dictator from tinpot little African nation Zimbabwe (which has an inflation rate of around 1000%), had prostate cancer and came into town for cancer treatment.
His presence in Singapore appears to be one of an open secret – mysterious sources who leaked the information to Wikileaks, The Times Online and The Zimbabwe Mail were not named. Probably just as well since Wikileaky-gate just put all informants within the over 250,000 cables in danger.
The government of Singapore in usual fashion, has denied the presence of this internationally despised dictator, just as they have for all other dictators that have passed through and admired the soft-authoritarian garden city.
4) The U.S. finds Lee Kuan Yew cantankerous too (link).
Ike Reed, economic and political chief at the U.S. embassy in Singapore confirms this. Here’s a wonderful quote:
Lee’s keen strategic vision and wealth of personal contacts remain assets to Singapore. However, his continued overshadowing of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, acts as a brake on political modernization and his cantankerous scolding of younger Singaporeans increasingly makes him look out of step.
Lee’s eventual passing will not likely be a catalyst for radical political change, but it will certainly be indispensable to any significant political reform.
5) China shows Singapore who’s boss (link)
It’s now confirmed that Singapore knows its being treated like China’s little bitch. During a State visit to Singapore by Chinese President Hu Jintao, China made clear that it was more important to Singapore than vice versa. However, it will keep good relations because of Singapore’s strategic location along the Straits of Malacca as a point of control during times of conflict.
According to Professor Huang Jing at the Lee Kuan Yew school of Public Policy, the PRC is likely to send an aircraft carrier to Singapore for its first international port visit between 2015 and 2020. The PRC would then likely seek to formalize access to Changi naval base as a major logistical port for its fleet.
Rogue diplomat Lee Kuan Yew, who called for a greater U.S. presence in Southeast Asia to balance a growing China in a separate speech also, thankfully, resulted in minimal political fallout. The PRC delegation to Singapore did not make an issue of the speech, but neither were they particularly chummy with the hosts, choosing instead to focus on interacting with the other major countries attending APEC.
The overwhelming coverage of two cute but rather useless Pandas by the “government-influenced Straits Times newspaper” was also noted.