08 November 2017

Singapore transport failure clown show: The Parliament edition

Singapore's train system has been suffering from one public embarrassment to another, breaking its own record for breakdowns every year while the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Ministry of Transportation double down by releasing questionable statistics to show that in some metrics they cherry-pick, Singapore's train system is doing better than ever.

You would think when senior management staff get caught falsifying systems management records for at least the past year, that the parliament sitting the next week would be a time of reckoning for the ministry, its regulatory body, their too-big-to-fail train operator Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT), and its line of incompetent bosses.

But then, this is the same august body that harboured the delusion of thinking it could proclaim the prime minister guiltless in open parliament, based solely on his testimony of events and not an independent investigation by a special counsel. Minister Khaw Boon Wan's performance yesterday is par for the course, in other words, for the national transport clown show.

03 November 2017

The realities of Singapore's online landscape

Bertha Henson and Daniel Yap have announced the impending closure of The Middle Ground (TMG), revealing that the news website had failed to meet the challenges of sustainability. Earlier last month, the trio of Dr Thum Pin Tjin, Kirsten Han, and Sonny Liew announced the setting up of "New Naratif" and rolled out their vision, accountability, and subscription model.

Bertha Henson has done a great job with TMG and will be back with Bertha Harian
These developments may fit the establishment's Wild West model of Singapore's online news media, where newcomers can rise out of nowhere to carve an empire of their own, then fall just as fast or settle into also-ran status. On a less simplistic level, the online media landscape is dominated and controlled by Singapore's regulatory framework to such an extent that no full-fledged news site can be economically viable. Where the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act empowers the government to shutter presses as it pleases and more insidiously and demand presses award shares to entities it chooses, recent Media Development Authority regulations empower the government to demand any news site it chooses to cough up hefty monetary guarantees, and to demand forfeiture of that guarantee at its discretion.

Singapore's regulatory framework is a deterrence against the setting up of online news sites, and indirectly incentivises bloggers to stay small and stay within the government's OB markers.

13 October 2017

Endgame for the 2017 presidential election

Who won the 2017 presidential election?

The big winner of the 2017 presidential election is not the PAP nor its proxy candidate, Halimah Yacob. This honour goes to the outgoing president, Dr Tony Tan.

09 October 2017

Decoding the social media narratives of the 2017 presidential election

It is significant that during the 2017 presidential campaign, the issues that the social media saw as significant to the election had very little congruence with what the candidates themselves, the People's Action Party government, and even we saw as significant and wanted to talk about. It is significant that instead of lulling the electorate to general apathy, this disconnect has served to galvanise them and stoke up their anger at the PAP.

Were these narratives part of an unofficial, yet highly coordinated campaign? Were these narratives more spin, conspiracy theory, and fake news than a reflection of the legitimate issue, that the PAP had compromised Singapore's national principles of multiracialism and meritocracy? Why does it matter if they were? Did we, the people goof up the presidential election as much as the PAP, the elections department, and the candidates themselves?

04 October 2017

Decoding the narratives of the 2017 presidential election campaign

We have established that Singapore's People's Action Party government and its proxy campaign for candidate Halimah failed to craft a winning narrative for the election that was credible. Big picture concepts like meritocracy and multiracialism were thrown up in order to manufacture a consensus around Halimah, yet the effect was to convince the populace that the PAP had become deluded, self-serving, or completely Orwellian.

But what about the semi-campaigns of the three candidates?

28 September 2017

Breaking the presidency and Singapore, straw by straw

The radical changes to the presidency that the People's Action Party mooted and enacted in 2016 have angered a public originally resigned to seeing the office incrementally remade at the whims of the PAP, for the convenience of the PAP. The old changes fooled no one into thinking they were designed to fix the problems of the presidency; the new changes fool very few as well.

In 2016 when the changes were mooted, it was expected that candidate Halimah, whose hat was thrown into the ring by class clown Chan Chun Seng, would have an easy walkover in the reserved election for a Malay president.

But it was the PAP's proxy campaign for candidate Halimah and its off-kilter messaging that convinced a large section of Singaporeans that the ruling party was intent on endangering the social fabric of Singapore itself, just to ensure a win for its candidate.

The PAP succeeded in wrecking the presidency far better than Wreck-it Ralph

25 September 2017

Before the reservation: The internal contradictions of Singapore's elected presidency

Lee Hsien Loong's People's Action Party (PAP) government began in 2016 its radical reforms to the elected presidency, a rush job of the highest order.

A case was made out for the necessity of the changes at the beginning of the year, a thoroughly respectable constitutional commission was convened, public and expert feedback was canvassed through the commission, the commission's report and recommendations pored through and discussed in cabinet, the cabinet's proposed Bill drafted as a response and debated, the Bill read twice and passed in parliament, the expected constitutional challenges and their respective appeals heard and fended off—all in an attempt to ensure the 2017 election would be run under new order rules. (Note: the exercise still ended missing a crucial deadline: Dr Tony Tan's presidency lapsed before his successor was elected.)

In justifying its shifting of the goalposts to engineer its win, Lee has forgotten what was really wrong with the office of the elected presidency to begin with, and has failed to fix it.

Bob the Builder would've done a better job fixing the elected presidency