Tag Archive | "Goh Meng Seng"

Goh Meng Seng campaigning for local grass’ rights to be planted at National Stadium

Goh Meng Seng campaigning for local grass’ rights to be planted at National Stadium

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Why everything angmoh is better? This is cannot.

Support local banana

Support local banana

Insider sources from the People’s Power Party (PPP) revealed that one of their campaign points in the upcoming elections, will be to fighting against the discrimination of local grass.

“The ground is sweet in Moulmein-Kallang GRC. During one of our walkabouts, we found that our local grass was having a hard time competing against foreign and artificial talent. This is discrimination. All spaces in Singapore must be given to local grass first. Then if local grass cannot do, then we use imported grass,” said Jiak Chao, a PPP exco member.

The National stadium is in the midst of upgrading to an artificial turf that can be rolled up and replaced when needed, but also has reserve grass imported from Australia to be deployed at important events when the occasion calls.

“This is emblematic of our entire labour policy. On one hand you have the commoditised contract grass that can be hired and fired at will. On the other hand you have all this chao ang moh sit around and talk to each other without doing anything,” said another PPP exco member, Jiak Hong.

“When I complain to WSQ, they tell me go for skills upgrading then maybe I can qualify to become flower. They say flower market got demand and tell me to consider mid-career change to become entry-level Orchid,” said a patch of grass that used to be in the National Stadium.

“I say I dunch like Orchid leh. But they say bo pian. If I dunch become Orchid I got no job. Kanasai.”

Parachute politics in Singapore

Parachute politics in Singapore

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PAP brings in two new citizens as candidates for the upcoming elections. Will this move cost them?

by Terence Lee

Photo: PETER TAYLOR / Creative Commons

POLITICAL parties here have the nasty habit of springing surprises at the eleventh hour. Candidates are announced only weeks before Polling Day, and right now we do not know where most of them are contesting.

Recently, we were blessed to know that Tony Tan and Hazel Poa parachuted from a wobbly Reform Party jet and into the arms of Uncle Meng Seng, secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party.

He announced with great fanfare that his prized catch will be contesting in Moulmein-Kallang GRC, but even that is now uncertain.

Blame it on the short electoral time frame imposed by a government who would rather get on with business and leave behind messy politics, and messy opposition parties unwilling to reveal their cards early.

But the PAP recently gave parachute politics new meaning: Two of their new candidates, Dr Janil Puthucheary and Foo Mee Har, are new citizens. Janil, a paediatrician at KK Children and Women Hospital, came to Singapore in 2001 but only became a citizen in 2008. Mee Har, the global head of premier banking at Standard Chartered Bank, also became a citizen the same year.

Netizens have roundly criticised the commitment of these candidates, but Janil seems to be hardest hit because – gasp – he did not serve National Service. They also questioned whether new citizens like them truly understand the concerns of native Singaporeans.

I, for one, would not judge so quickly. It’s just like meeting someone at a speed dating event – don’t expect to know someone well within five minutes, let alone through a pithy soundbite or newspaper article. An atas Singaporean who has lived here for fifty years may have never interacted with the poor even once in their wasted lives, whereas a new citizen, concerned about the well-being of his or her adopted society, would volunteer at Meet-the-People sessions.

So time is no indicator of empathy.

But I wonder if everyone thinks the same way? Judging by calls for Dr Janil to pick up the SAR21 and shout “arty, arty, arty!”, maybe not. And I suspect this is a vulnerability the opposition parties will exploit during the hustings. Expect them to call out Janil for not being committed to, or understanding the country enough. Mee Har will not be susceptible because she has been in Singapore since 1989.

Citizenship, to some, is a fleeting concept. So is National Service. Why expect Janil to serve NS when many of us are happier without it? There is no point in making him suffer like us.

So, given the anti-foreigner and anti-immigration sentiments pervading Singapore nowadays, I cannot vouch that they will be readily accepted by voters.

But I can be wrong.

If I were them, here’s what I’ll do: To ensure that I get into Parliament, I would play it safe. Don’t start a blog, or have a Facebook page. Don’t make any controversial statements, or be overly aggressive. Toe the party line, at least until I get elected, or become a minister. Let the anchor Member-of-Parliaments I am contesting with do the heavy lifting. That’s what GRCs are for, ain’t it?

The other alternative would be to portray themselves as the rebel in the camp, but that seems unlikely to happen, given how kosher they have been in their interviews.

They should also keep harping on their credentials. Many Singaporeans who don’t really care much about politics will be hypnotised by the fact that Mee Har is some bigwig at a big bank. And don’t forget: apathetic Singaporeans have a significant influence on voting results (as Belmont astutely pointed out), since voting is compulsory.

The only way for opposition parties to counter this would be to put on the pedestal someone more impressive, maybe the CEO of a bigger bank.

Ultimately, whether these two candidates will be a boon to the PAP depends on where their parachutes land. I suspect these characters will appeal to wealthier, cosmopolitan types – Singaporeans who spend plenty of time abroad to work or study. Much will also depend on how the opposition candidates attack their credentials, and how they deflect them. Soon we will know whether both candidates truly understand the concerns of Singaporeans.

Citizenship, to some, is a fleeting concept. So is National Service. Why expect Janil to serve NS when many of us are happier without it? There is no point in making him suffer like us.

So, in an increasingly cosmopolitan Singapore, it will matter less how much time a candidate spends in the country, and more how a candidate makes the most of his or her time here.

Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

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NSP Sec-Gen Goh Meng Seng needs to stop scoring own goals; the enemy’s the other way.

By Terence Lee

Will Goh Meng Seng (third from left) still be smiling after the General Elections, or will his antics come back to bite him? Photo: TERENCE LEE

BACK in the good’ol days when Singapore football actually meant something, you wouldn’t see Fandi Ahmad tackle  Sundramoorthy on the pitch, even if the opponent were minnows. In fact, underdogs often raise their game when facing a far superior team.

Which makes the recent catfight between the National Solidarity Party and Worker’s Party all the more mind-boggling.

It seems that the People Action’s Party (PAP) was forgotten the week after the new electoral boundaries were made known, despite being the fattest sumo wrestler in the ring, and the most dazzling (or the most kayu) football player on the field.

Instead, you get a silly blog post by NSP Secretary-General Goh Meng Seng criticising the Worker’s Party and its arrogance, to which Low Thia Khiang, his counterpart at the WP, rebutted in Lianhe Zaobao.

Meng Seng, fresh off a press conference on Thursday when he announced NSP’s slate of candidates for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, is unapologetic.

“It’s just an emotional, sentimental post. But people mistaken it as an attack. It’s not.”

Really? Even when you said they have “lost sight” of their mission, or that they are thumbing down on other parties? Even when you insinuate that they are “arrogant”?

He continues: “When you speak your mind of course it’s going to be critical. If I don’t speak my mind I’m a politician. But when I write I’m not a politician, I’m a human.”

What shall I call you then? Uncle Meng Seng? Pops? Granddaddy? Koyok Seller?

So, here’s a veteran politician pretending to be a ranty emo-kid with a personal blog-plaything. He waved away my suggestion that he was trying to use his blog to pressure the WP to give up Moulmein-Kallang. Shrewd politician? Or am I giving him too much credit?

The usually smooth auntie-killer also trips himself up by saying: “There’s nothing (in the blog post that’s) critical about anybody. It’s just a very emotional piece. There’s nothing to do with arguing who’s right and who’s wrong.”

I rest my case.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

But let’s give Secretary-General Sir credit where it’s due. His party is the first to officially announce their candidates at any constituency, beating even the PAP. He has managed to attract credible candidates who left the Reform Party, which indicates some semblance of leadership ability.

His experience probably helped. While Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam comes across as a true noob with poor media management skills, Meng Seng appears slightly better.

He has another thing going for him: He looks like someone you can talk to. He’s not as dashing as PAP man Michael Palmer, but he’s cute, in a cuddly Teddy Bear kind of way.  He’s the uncle who sips kopi downstairs, Wanbao in hand. About as heartlander as you can get.

Ah Seng’s certainly someone who seems down-to-earth, or at least gives that impression. Kenneth on the other hand, seems like the opposite: He uses his poker face and impressive qualifications to hide his political inexperience.

But as much of a veteran as he is, I think the blog post is ill-timed and poorly conceived; a symptom of a deep-rooted problem within the opposition camp: Rampant egos. Calculated move or not, there is no room in politics for undisciplined emotional outbursts. It distracts both opposition parties from the real fight against the ruling party. It gives the impression of a fractured Opposition. It could be a tool used by the PAP against him.

And there’s no guarantee WP will be pressured to give up Moulmein-Kallang, despite NSP’s shenanigans and media posturing. Which means we could be headed for a three-way fight.

In fact, both parties seem to be so focused on their petty squabbles that they literally ignored PM Lee Hsien Loong’s recent jibe: “It seems to me rather exciting day-to-day changes, transformations, quarrels, squabbles, new friendships and old enmities all surfacing at the same time. I look forward to the next installment.”

Perhaps opposition members are suffering from guilty conscience. So I related my concern to a person within the NSP. And guessed what he told me? Be patient. Sure, you can tell me that, but try saying it to the thousands of first-time voters who have watched every episode of this oddball family drama, and who actually appreciate what the government has done for them so far, despite the rising costs of living. Voters are not stupid.

But as far as I’m concerned, there’s still time to get their act together.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

Anything but criticise your fellow opposition member in public, and pass it off as a touchy-feely moment. Even Singapore Democratic Party man James Gomez’s horrible piece on how Singapore will experience a revolution akin to the Middle East will suffice, although it sounds like empty election rhetoric that signals how out-of-touch with the ground he may be.

Yes, I’m that desperate.

More New Nation content on GE2011 here.

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.