Tag Archive | "TOC"

In George we trust

In George we trust

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Cherian George haters be damned.

By Belmont Lay

Cherian George has been researching about media ever since "The Internet" was known as "Cyberspace".

In the past few days, a lot of haters have come out to lay the smack down on NTU’s Cherian George.

Why? Because they are unhappy with what they deemed to be Cherian’s unwarranted criticism of The Online Citizen’s lax reporting standards.

Cherian, you see, pointed out that one of TOC’s blogivists applied quotation marks rather luxuriously on Seng Han Thong’s mis-speech on BlogTV, fudging the meaning of what the beleaguered MP actually said and meant.

I don’t know about you, but let me insist on this: Haters, be damned.

Look, Cherian plies his trade as a media academic. It is his right to speak authoritatively, especially about media-related issues, without fear or favour.

If TOC cannot use quotation marks properly, he can tell them to get their shit together and learn how to better punctuate.

No big deal.

Moreover, I am certain that long after this debacle featuring Seng Han Thong is over, I, for one, can still count on Cherian to continue his scholarship in media research and related topics in Singapore.

What can the haters contribute?

It doesn’t take a savant to understand this: Most of Cherian’s scholarship will continue to go towards informing our understanding of policies and politics in Singapore from the media’s perspective.

Plenty of his past work have helped countless students, academics and lay observers appreciate and manoeuvre the profundities of the Singapore system in the media domain and beyond.

Obviously, Cherian’s sagely advice will be dependable in the future when it comes to the media because he has been where almost no one else in this country has been: From going up the ranks in the SPH news room to the hallways of NTU where he lectures and researches from.

His experience is vital. And his comradeship even more so.

Basically, he’s been at it ever since “The Internet” was known as “Cyberspace”.

Last but not least, I definitely can trust Cherian to sustain a logical, principled argument.

It is pretty evident that after three blog posts into discussing his perspective in this messy Seng Han Thong debacle (check out blog posts number 1, 2 & 3), the only things still left standing and intact are Cherian’s principled approach and logical stance.

You will unwittingly notice how the dissenters and haters conspicuously decline in volume in the comments section with each passing post.

To sustain an argument is not so much for Cherian to have the last word.

Rather, it is for him to hone his rationale and methods to ensure they become unimpeachable – long after the haters have dissolved in their own bile.

Because he is, after all, a man with a reputation. A reputation which is a by-product of the good work he has done so far.

You can go take a look for yourselves. The books and articles he has edited and published under his name are for everyone’s scrutiny.

For further proof, observe his blog posts in addressing the haters, public-at-large and even himself.

In his introspective and almost-apologetic-bending-over-backwards concession that he might be “selfish” when dealing with this present issue, he explains thoroughly why he is not siding with TOC or going after the PAP.

And you know why? It is because he steadfastly refuses to turn the tables on whichever of his critics at the moment by employing PAP’s or haters’ tactics of arm-twisting and name-calling.

He simply does not want to mimic the ways of such hardliners that he cannot respect in the first place.

Cherian even writes charitably: “So I treasure truthfulness in politics, and – since I am not seeking votes or eyeballs – would rather lose a battle of words than push an untruth”.

How fucking cool is that?

In comparison, three days in, just where have all his haters gone? (As of now, Dec. 26, 2011, 4 a.m., there are no comments on his third post.) They have neither the intellectual stamina nor fortitude to see through a proper argument.

And I’ve yet to hear a squeak from Sonia Suka, the original blogivist who is credited for breaking the SHT story on TOC.

If you, dear reader, had to take sides in this issue, I have only this advice to offer: Place your bets on whoever is in this for the long term, or even for good.

You should know who to choose by now.

And with regards to TOC? What can be said about them choosing to go head-to-head against Cherian George?

It shows two things:

Their resolve to prove that they are right at the expense of conceding a point is laudable, but their display of pig-headedness is unfortunate.

Because to insist there is outright racism on Seng Han Thong’s part by jumping up and down and crying out loud that there is, the case, nevertheless, is still insurmountably difficult to prove.

Even Alex Au of Yawning Bread pretty much calls it much ado about nothing. (In fact, Au’s exact words are: “…it is difficult to make too much of those words (by Seng Han Thong)”.)

And for TOC to insist on being right on this issue, regardless of what naysayers think, would only solidify the consensus that they have an agenda in going after the PAP.

Whatever political capital they might have accumulated in the days leading up to last week, some of it is inevitably lost in the past few days.

Simply put, for those of us who are not thoroughly convinced of TOC’s point-of-view on this particular matter, their phoniness has been exacerbated.

As with Cherian haters and dissenters, it shall be the same for TOC once this moment has passed.

They’ll be off banging on about some other topic in time to come.

For Cherian, it is back to doing the grunt work. Whatever reputation he has attained inside and outside of academia, will always be a by-product of the consistency of his thinking, research and his even-handedness.

In other words: Cherian will still be around doing what he does best.

And here’s the point of today’s missive: For that reason, I’m counting on him.

With TOC, unfortunately, all bets are off for now.

United PAP, divided Opposition?

United PAP, divided Opposition?

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More work needed to increase credibility of the Opposition.
By Terence Lee

Chee Soon Juan (left) and Chiam See Tong talk after being presented with appreciation gifts by The Online Citizen, organiser of the Face to Face forum. The two had an acrimonious past while working together at the Singapore Democratic Party.

Chee Soon Juan (left) and Chiam See Tong talk after being presented with appreciation gifts. The two had an acrimonious past while working together at the Singapore Democratic Party. Picture from THE ONLINE CITIZEN.

LAST WEEK’S Face to Face forum, which gathered all the major opposition parties into a hotel ballroom, was fascinating in many ways. Rarely do you find them gather in such posh settings, under air-conditioning that actually works.

I am more accustomised to see them hawk party newspapers at the food centre near Bedok MRT and shouting party slogans in their polo-tees.

Images of Chiam See Tong, secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party, conducting his Meet-the-People Sessions at the HDB voiddeck comes to mind too.

The forum was orchestrated down to the minutest detail – including how the opposition members came in, which seats they occupied, and the time allowed to ask and answer questions. The format of the Q & A session was deliberate: Choo Zheng Xi, moderator of the forum, told me that it’s same model used for the US elections.

But the event seemed like a kick-ass public relations exercise for the Opposition.

Chiam, the most seasoned of the group and the first to come through the front door, was promptly greeted with warm applause. As he sauntered up the stage, he was helped to his seat by Goh Meng Seng of the National Solidarity Party.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, whose arrival at the political scene once led to Chiam’s ousting from the Singapore Democratic Party, shook hands with his former mentor. Chee exchanged pleasantries with Chiam, displaying no sign of animosity.

There’s no doubt who was the star that night. Although Chiam’s voice was sometimes weak and muffled, the audience hung on to his words and heckled when he poked fun at the PAP. Although past his prime, his piquant wit was still on display.

…given the similar ideologies and outlook of these political parties, I am surprised more isn’t done to promote common causes between them.

The event painted a picture of a united opposition front, and Chiam is the leading advocate of that unity. His formation of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), a conglomerate of three political parties, represents his crowning achievement in bringing together disparate tribes.

But conflict had erupted around the totem pole. Late last year, rival factions from the Singapore Malay National Organisation, or PKMS, took their infighting literally to the streets. Five people were injured.

This year, a spat between right-hand man Desmond Lim and himself became public. Chiam attempted to oust Lim as the sec-gen of the SDA, but the Supreme Council of the Alliance rebuffed him by voting that Lim serve out his full two-year term.

The Alliance’s inability to keep their house in order has hurt the Opposition’s image, especially among those with a mild interest in politics. The PAP, on the other hand, have presented themselves as a cohesive fighting team. You don’t see Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan strangulate National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in public.

Internal dissent, if present, is either congenial or unpublicised. Perhaps the presence of strongman Lee Kuan Yew and an obliging mainstream media helped.

Such public spats wouldn’t matter if this is the United States, where senators and representatives frequently clash with one another and vote against party line. But here, disunity is seen as a sure sign of weakness.

Seen in this context, the forum became a perfect opportunity for the Opposition to rehabilitate their image. And they took full advantage of it.

Speaking to Goh and Gerald Giam of the Worker’s Party, I seemed to get the sense that all is well and dandy within the Opposition. Oh, we’ve never gotten along so swimmingly well, they said. They mentioned as proof about how cross-party talks occur frequently behind the scenes – an uncommon occurence in the past.

Goh added that no singular platform for the Opposition is necessary, and avoiding three-cornered fights is a sufficient form of cooperation. Diversity is good, he said.

But given the similar ideologies and outlook of these political parties, I am surprised more isn’t done to promote common causes between them. Lower ministerial pay, greater civil liberties and political freedom, a stronger social safety net, and greater transparency in governance – these are pillars around which a common platform can arise.

Perhaps a flexible arrangement that takes into account the differences in the factions while spelling out the similarities would work. Putting up a common, broad manifesto would be a good first step. Establishing cross-party research teams to develop alternative policies is a possibility, and so are issuing joint press releases to denounce certain government policies as the situation calls for it.

These small, but workable ideas could help convince a skeptical electorate that the Opposition is worth voting for. When all the streams flow as one river, you hear the deafening rush of water.

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

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HDB’s housing policy skewered at townhall meeting between opposition party leaders and ordinary Singaporeans.

By Terence Lee

What Mah Bow Tan would have said

We can be sure the minister would put up a spirited defense for HDB if he was there. Looks like imagination will suffice. Below is a summary of what he probably would have said:

HDB has good reason to resort to market-based pricing.
“A cost-based system means that the same price would be charged for different flats in the same project, regardless of their location, floor, direction, and other attributes. It would be unfair for the buyer of a second-floor unit to be charged the same price as a 40th-floor unit with an unblocked view, because the latter would clearly fetch a much higher resale value.”

HDB’s financial reports show that the housing agency has been losing money.
“Some have contended that with the market-minus pricing, the HDB is making money from Singaporeans. This is quite wrong. Every year, the HDB publishes its audited financial accounts. In these accounts, the HDB’s proceeds from the sale of new flats are shown to be far below what it costs the HDB to build them. Over the last three years, the average loss on the sale and development of HDB flats was about $600 million a year.”

HDB flats are affordable.
“Whichever objective measure we choose, it is clear that there are enough HDB flats within reach of today’s homebuyers. They range from smaller, no-frills flats in non-mature estates to premium flats in mature estates, catering for different aspirations and budgets (see table above). I hope buyers choose carefully, taking into account their budgets and aspirations. Housing affordability is decided not just by the options offered by HDB but also the choices of homebuyers.”

For deeper reading

If you want to understand the issue better.

Pricing flats according to their value. By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Are HDB flats affordable? By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 1. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 2. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

HDB Annual Report : Deficit has doubled – really? By Leong Sze Hian for The Online Citizen.

IF THE Housing Development Board (HDB) was a lady, then she must have felt dejected. Opposition party leaders let rip yesterday at the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) for over two hours, with the HDB bearing much of the criticism.

Curious timing indeed, considering how National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan was just recently left out of the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee for obscure reasons.

Exciting theatre might have resulted if he, or at least a Member of Parliament (MP), was there to defend her. But while one MP did express interest in attending, he was “unable to seek clearance”, said Mr Choo Zheng Xi, co-founder of The Online Citizen, the current affairs website that organised the event.

Not to say that the meeting, dubbed the “political event of the year”, wasn’t exciting enough. Turn by turn, opposition leaders lampooned the government in response to a question from the floor on HDB pricing.

More transparency, please

Mr Chiam See Tong (Singapore People’s Party), Dr Chee Soon Juan (Singapore Democratic Party), and Mr Chia Ti Lik (Socialist Front) expressed concern about the apparent lack of transparency in the government outfit’s financial accounting.

“We need to make sure that the HDB remains a zero-profit venture,” said Chee, adding that this can be achieved if they reveal the exact breakdown of development costs for HDB flats.

Chiam, an old stalwart of the opposition force, was more biting in his criticism.

Wary of what he calls “paper subsidies” issued by the government, he illustrated how the HDB prices flats at $3 when it is in fact worth only $1. They then sell the flat to Singaporeans at $2.50, calling that a discount.

“We’ve all been hoodwinked to believe that the govt is helping them with housing but actually they are not,” he warned.

Another common criticism raised by the opposition leaders was the supposed lack of foresight by the HDB, which led to the rapid rise in resale flat prices earlier this year.

Said Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam (Reform Party), who graduated with Double First Class Honours from Cambridge University: “They’ve done a poor job of managing supply. Over the last ten years, house-building has tapered off while population has grown enormously.”

The government’s immigration policy, which saw a massive influx of foreign workers and expatriates into the nation, was a major factor in the population growth, charged Mr Gerald Giam (Worker’s Party).

Offering solutions

In order to mitigate the high costs of flats and make them more affordable for Singaporeans, Giam advocated that these apartments should be fully paid with a 20-year housing loan instead of the usual 30.

“The price of new HDB flats should also be pegged to the median income of Singaporeans rather than price of surrounding flats,” he said.

More solutions were offered by the other political parties, although insufficient time was devoted to explaining these alternatives in great detail. The audience, consequently, were left with little chance to consider whether these policies were half-baked or solid.

Chia, for one, promoted the idea of create a separate category of flats for young couples and needy Singaporeans which has a lower price scale and a shorter lease period which further drives down costs.

Jeyaretnam, on the other hand, saw merit in allowing residents to own their flats indefinitely so that they can enjoy the profits reaped from rising property values. But Mr Goh Meng Seng (National Solidarity Party) does not favour this approach.

“You do not use home as investment; you use your property as an investment,” he said.

In addition, Goh added that couples applying for resale flats should not receive housing grants because such practices inadvertently raise prices by fueling demand.

Implementing something like that though could be tricky, considering how unpopular such a policy might become. But he is undeterred, believing that politicians are responsible for selling difficult measures to the skeptical masses.

Giam agreed that unpopular policies are usually flawed ones.

“The government’s immigration policy was bad, but they had this dogma that they must bulldoze an unpopular policy through Parliament. They did not consider that if many people voice out, then it may be wrong,” he said.

Do share with us whether you agree with the Opposition’s proposals on lowering HDB flat prices.