04 September 2004

Time for some Clarifications

A Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Edition

How are all of us doing, 2 weeks into MiniLee's dynamic reign of Singapore? Despite the lack of details in his speech, some critics gave the new emperor the benefit of the doubt, and some were even overwhelmed by his apparent reformist bent and wrote tearful letters to the Straits Times forum page...

Yet 2 weeks is all it takes for every major point in MiniLee's National Day Rally to be "clarified" by all the King's men and horses.

In no particular order (since every major 'promise' laid out in MiniLee's speech has been clarified), let's look at the lying lies and the liar who told them.

1. Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom!

Rally speech: MiniLee promises that there will be no need to apply for licenses to speak or even hold an exhibition at the Speakers Corner in Honglim Park.

"One: for indoor talks — we are going to do away with licensing."

Clarification: The Police Entertainment Licensing Unit (PELU) declares a few days later that talks that have foreign speakers or are held by organisations affiliated to foreign NGOs still have to apply for a permit to hold a talk.

2. Let a Hundred flowers bloom! pt 2

Rally Speech: "The second thing we are going to do is to open up the Speakers' Corner where you can go and make any speech you like and we are going to say, 'Well, if you want to go there and have an exhibition, go ahead.'"

Clarification: PELU declares on the same day that although you don't have to go to the police station to apply for a permit to hold a speech or an exhibition at the Corner, you still need to go to the police station to register. And you can only have the speech/exhibition between 7am and 7pm, where everyone else is still at work. And you still can't use any megaphone or microphone.

3. Let the Singles go!

Rally speech: "We originally allowed singles to buy flats if two of them paired up and were aged above 35 years... this year we have gone further and said you can buy 4-room, 5-room or bigger flats anywhere on the resale market."

Clarification: Singles can buy any public housing as long as they don't earn more than $3000 a month. The old limit was $8000 a month.

My beef: Do the math. The ceiling has been lowered by more than 50%. IF our omniscient MiniLee and Mah Bow Wow are confident that "not many singles will be affected", they should release full figures to show just how many singles are left behind. As a former sociology student dealing with actual figures in my university, I can assure you at least 25% of singles eligible (under the old "pre-liberalisation" scheme) have now lost their right to buy a home.

4. Making Babies

Rally speech: The government has a solution for everything! The new 5-day workweek will solve our underpopulation problem!

Clarification: New scheme unveiled just yesterday aims to solve Singapore's population problem by making it EVEN EASIER for any foreigner to get Singapore PRship and citizenship and jobs.

5. We welcome all post-1965 Singaporeans to join the political process!

Rally speech: "We want you to be part of our team. We don't mind if you have different views but you must have some views."

Clarification 1: Goh Chok Tong sternly states that MiniLee "will not change just to please the Western-influenced liberals who desire to apply their concept of democracy, pluralistic politics and freedom of the press unthinkingly to Singapore. He will take a practical approach of what works for Singapore."

Wonderful. Presumably they will listen to you as long as you apply MiniLee's concept of democracy...

Clarification 2: Opposition MPs were not invited to the rally speech. That's akin to opposition MPs getting shut out during the SOU address. Presumably, "Opposition MPs have never been invited to the National Day Rally as they cannot be expected to help the Government rally the ground to support its policies". At least MiniLee's saying this himself, and not through a proxy like Mah Bow Wow, Goh Chok Tong, Wong Can't Sing, or PELU.

What do we make out of this?

The summary of MiniLee's leadership so far:

1. Make a big speech that promises the sky and claim to be an inclusivist leader.

2. Get your cabinet ministers to explain the very fine print in the weeks to come.

Doesn't this remarkable leadership style remind us of some other great leader in the world right now?

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