26 December 2005

More improbable iPod fashion items

Are you happy to see me, or is that an iPod in your briefs?

(Okay, fine. Not the most improbable iPod fashion item, since there's a ladies' accessory involving iPods, batteries, and vibration...)

23 December 2005

NKF roundup

The auditors from KPMG have spoken, and their 442-page report is damning.

Agagooga compiles the juciest quotes from their report as a public service, in his "National Education Lessons we can learn from the NKF scandal" series, in 3 parts.

We suspect KPMG had a fun time writing the report. As rench00 also notes, the lessons and failures of NKF are far too close to what we know about the governance of Singapore.

Even Ong Soh Chin of the Straits Times compares the NKF to the Matrix. And for the past 5 or so years, the Matrix has been compared to Singapore...

Note the similarities:
Heavy reliance on lawsuits to silence critism.
Concentration of power in one person.
A system of checks and balances that actually act as a rubberstamp (NKF board. Parliament backbenchers.)
Failure of board to challenge decisions or even discuss them. Unanimous voting.
And so on.

Then, there was that live press conference yesterday, where Minister Khaw Boon Wan admitted that he now "looks silly", having stalwartly defended NKF for the past 3 years.

But no, he did not explain how the Ministry of Health renewed the IPC status for NKF (enabling donations as tax-deductable) less than a month after the National Council of Social Services withdrew the IPC status. Minister Khaw did not mention what the auditors from MOH found that actually proved the NCSS complaints wrong. He did not reveal what criteria the MOH used to give NKF a clean bill of health. There should be an official inquiry and investigation on MOH's actions in January 2001, since the Minister is not forthcoming with the details.

The media should also be taken to task. The Q&A session of the press conference was not telecast live and unabridged. This is not the time to protect the Minister from embarrassment - he should by rights resign from his post for this.

20 December 2005

The Great Singaporean Novel

In your opinion, what should the Great Singaporean Novel be about?

Some answers from offline people so far:

Protagonist(s) contemplating emigration
A taxi driver (perhaps contemplating emigration... to Perth?)
Compilation of Xiaxue's online posts
A researcher/scholar finding out some discrepancies between official history and actual history (Major whoopass and conspiracy follows??)
The rise and fall of civilization with 3 generations, a story of transition and transience.

What is your opinion? Consider this an open thread, or post the reply on your site, or ask other people you know!

14 December 2005

Daughter of Papalee, Sister of Minilee

They say the fruit never falls far from the tree.

Recently a letter Dr Lee Wei Ling wrote to the Straightened Times forum titled "Prestigious school not always the wisest choice", shows that credulity towards crackpot theories is indeed hereditary.

Like her sire, who believes in the superior glands of the Chinese race as the contributing factor to their dominance in Singapore, Dr Lee writes that
Our meritocratic system, and the fact that academic intelligence (some would call it IQ) is to a large extent genetically determined, has already allowed the cream to float to the top.


On the heritability of IQ, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (2002), The Inheritance of Inequality, report after a meta-analysis of existing IQ research:
A person’s IQ — meaning, a test score — is a phenotypic trait, while the genes influencing IQ are the person's genotypic IQ. Heritability is the relationship between the two. Suppose that, for a given environment, a standard deviation difference in genotype is associated with a fraction h of a standard deviation difference in IQ. Then h^2 is the heritability of IQ. Estimates of h^2 are based on the degree of similarity of IQ among twins, siblings, cousins and others with differing degrees of genetic relatedness. The value cannot be higher than 1, and most recent estimates are substantially lower, possibly more like a half or less.

It is NOT a fact that intelligence is "to a large extent genetically determined". It is irresponsible and possibly a breach of ethics for Dr Lee to mislead readers so, and worse yet, fail to provide figures to illustrate (or rather disprove) the extent of genetically determined IQ.

It is also sheer incompetence and disconnection from reality that Dr Lee cheerfully advises academically outstanding students not to worry if they don't get into elite schools. After all, it's not as though the Old Girls/Boys Network actually exist. In Singapore, people succeed due to sheer intellect, not their connections and social capital!

The posthumous pardon of Devan Nair

Chengara Veetil Devan Nair died in exile in Canada, aged 82.

Much has been made about Papalee's character assasination of President Nair, which continued years after the latter's forced resignation in 1985. Even more has been said about how Nair was to survive, for the next 20 years, in Canada, where he stepped up criticisms of the authoritarian rule of Papalee, his proscription of various opposition leaders, and his perversion of NTUC (whose independence was guaranteed in its founding constitution) into a branch of the Whiteshirt Party. Absent in the national propaganda press's coverage and state-coordinated posthumous pardon of Devan Nair is his outspoken support of the opposition movement in Singapore during his exile.

It amazes me that Malaysian blogs constitute the vast majority of online writing about the passing of Devan Nair, reporting with more objectivity and honesty than the Singaporean press.

Dear Reader, you can find them easily, and I shan't repeat their talking points and accurate historical narration. Instead, let's examine why the need for Papalee to invoke the vast machinery of the state to pass what is effectively a posthumous pardon for Singapore's 3rd President.

One might note that amongst Papalee's Old Guard, Devan Nair stands out as the most politically loyal (until his forced resignation). He was the only leftist member of the pre-schism Whiteshirt Party who did not cross over to Dr Lee Siew Choh's Barisan Socialis. He was the father of the national union movement that proved to be a shortcut for Papalee's control of the masses. And yet the stalwart soldier became the voice for a non-authoritarian polity, even deterring Papalee from one of his trademark suits against the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, in 2002.

Despite his forced and dishonourable resignation, despite the years of character assasination that followed, Devan Nair's credentials as former Lee loyalist, patriotic anticolonialist fighter, and father of the NTUC gives him and his later criticism of the Lee regime credibility. This makes Devan Nair more dangerous in death than in life.

If Papalee could not finish his character assasination properly, the sensible action would be to pardon the former President, let the NTUC hold a memorial service for the dead hero, just in case a genuine love by the natives for Devan Nair turns him into Singapore's Hu Yaobang.

12 December 2005

NTU Blogging survey: questions and answers


While blogs in Singapore are largely accounts of personal lives with the odd post on social and political issues, several prominent blogs have appeared that choose to focus on such issues, including at least three by opposition politicians. This paper will thus examine the effects the sedition incident and other recent incidents involving online speech have had on the local blogging community. Through interviews with 20 bloggers, the paper explores if a "chilling effect" is being produced among those who blog on political subjects, given the vagueness of the laws and code of practice that govern online discussion of political issues. Also, the paper looks at how bloggers who discuss such subjects negotiate the various legal pitfalls that surround online communication. By doing so, it is hoped that the paper provides an insight into the future of blogs as applied to social and civic discourse in Singapore and the potential effects that these non-traditional sources of information are capable of invoking.


What is your blog about?

This blog is a practical application of cultural studies, rather than a springboard for cultural theory. Inasmuch as current issues (say, the economy or politics) are raised on Illusio, I am more interested in the cultural significance of these issues. Other topics claimed by Illusio: comparative literature and cross-cultural studies.

You may say Illusio is an academic cultural (practical) blog, in the sense that its posts ensure (in the words of Bourdieu) the social world loses its character as a natural phenomenon, that the question of the natural or conventional character of social facts can be raised. This blog combats orthodoxy, straight, or rather straightened opinion that aims at restoring the primal state of innocence of doxa (the natural, undiscussed, and undisputed), and instead become heretical, heterodox, to alert consciously to readers of the existence of competing possibles and the sum total of the alternatives not chosen that the established order implies.

Who do you want to read your blog?

There are 2 important questions: Who are my ideal audience, and who actually ends up reading my blog?

Let us examine Illusio. It does not operate in a vacuum, but exists in the wider field of blogs. Like any social field, there are positions to be taken, an investment of interest and reputation, by both participants and spectators who are invested, taken in and by the game. To be interested is to accord a given social game that what happens in it does matter, that its stakes are important and worth pursuing.

Identify the position my blog occupies in the field of blogging and you will have the profile of my 'ideal reader'.

Now, do a technorati search to see who links to Illusio. Those are players who have invested and positioned themselves through linking to me. Then do a survey on who I have linked on my blog. Do they match the profile of A) your analysis of the positioning of Illusio, and B) the associated profile of who you'd expect to read this blog?


Regarding the AcidFlask and racist bloggers incidents, were the actions taken against the bloggers in each incident appropriate? Why or why not?

My opinion on the racist bloggers have been expressed in an earlier post (see 3 down, 1 to go and no, it's really about the internets).

Illusio has not commented on AcidFlask previously. All I'd say is we'd better look at the historical records on the eccentricities of Chairman Yeo and how he wishes to control public discourse on his A★★ agency. You'll find in more than a few parliamentary debates in the Hansard record, of his demands that MPs and ministers send him drafts of any speeches mentioning his A★★ agency. Then imagine what would happen when an ex-scholar attempts to break the iron curtain of non-transparency of his agency...

Were the actions taken against AcidfFlask appropriate? It was an extrajudicial silencing. Chairman Yeo and AcidFlask need to answer this question, not I. Was the action expected? Definitely, with that consistent pattern of behaviour from The Chairman.

How have these two incidents affected your blogging activities?

Were the bloggers punished because of what they did, or were they punished because they were bloggers? Or were they punished because the internet must receive the extension of the legal authority/policing of the state and the extrajudicial authority of Chairman Yeo's A★★ agency? Or were they punished for things that they would've been punished for if they had committed their acts offline? Note that not all of these possible intepretations require Akikonomu's blogging activities to be affected.

However, it may be noted that Illusio has never shied away from commenting on Singapore's leaders, and instead you may find it has increased in such commentary, and even provides links and citations to the more outrageous or courageous assertions made in blog posts.


In your understanding, what makes an issue political?

A. The political is the realm of the disputed. Disputed positions, facts, membership, positioning make things political.
B. The political is whatever touches on issues, events, anything related to the polity.

How do you blog about political issues? If you don't, why not?

Let's assume you mean to imply that Singaporean bloggers who are political are conflicted because of a popular interpretation on a law banning political publications and broadcasts. Then you should be asking the original crafters of the law, or lawyers, or politicians, on whether the issues raised on selected blogs in your study are political.

Let me reiterate: I blog about cultural issues as a practical application of cultural studies (as opposed to blogging on cultural theory). Given the blog's purpose to denaturalise the social world and its undisputed, commonsensical facts, you can call it political (in the sense of politics as the realm of the disputed). Any more and I would be repeating what my blog is about.

What do you think of current levels of control on blogging?

There's the comments feature. There's the linking. There's the whole goldfish in a fish tank, voices in an echo chamber feature and the public lynching thing that's so charming about the blogosphere. Bloggers and their readers police their own pretty well. Do a study on BBSes, internet newsgroups, and see what sorts of control evolve on their own.

But that's not what you're asking, is it? Can the entire internets be controlled? What is the current extend of control Singapore government holds over the internets? Compare that to the current levels of control on blogging, and compare that to whether blogs can be controlled. There's that neat cross-national study on state control of blogging and internet access by the Electronic Freedom Frontier that you may wish to consult instead (it's linked by Singabloodypore somewhere).

Ideally, how much control should there be?

There's the comments feature. There's the linking. There's the whole goldfish in a fish tank, voices in an echo chamber feature and the public lynching thing that's so charming about the blogosphere. Bloggers and their readers police their own pretty well. But... that's not what you really wanted to ask, was it? Can the entire internets be controlled?

Do the current laws/regulations help you understand what can or cannot be said in blogs?

Certainly there shouldn't be defamation or incitement to crimes. I write on cultural issues, in a semi-academic style. The rules of my positioning as a certain type of blogger constrains and enables me to write on certain subjects in a certain manner, with a certain agenda. Cultural studies, with analyses that open up the field of interpretations on taken-for-granted "social facts". Those are the rules of the game that I am governed and am empowered by. I occupy the position of a cultural studies blogger, not a political blogger.

You wanted to ask "Do the current laws/regulations help you understand if something blogs are allowed to be political" or something along the lines. That didn't prevent Chairman Yeo from taking an extrajudicial, extralegal action against AcidFlask. That certainly didn't prevent the 4 bloggers to be found ex post facto guilty and punished under a law that has never been used for the purpose of punishing those crimes.

Indeed, as your abstract points out, there is this "vagueness of the laws" that pervades the whole issue. Let me tell you it is the vaguenss of the legal code in the Political Broadcasts Act, in the whole political-legal arena (re: Papalee sentencing proscription on Capt Ryan Goh for "breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered".

Ex post facto criminalisation is the constant threat when a state operates with vague laws and unspoken rules. For a political blogger, that would be the gravest thing. For myself, it's merely a topic to blog about, to analyse its cultural significance and implications.

10 December 2005

Academic and critical writing

Newly graduated with a masters in economics, Wei ponders over a book he just borrowed from the National Library, Critical intellectuals on writing (Olsen G, Worsham L, eds; 2003). The anthology consists of interviews of leading scholars by the editors, on being intellectuals.

Interestingly, Wei notes their introduction attempts to delineate the difference between academic and intellectual writing:

Simply stated, the distinction is this: academic work is inherently conservative inasmuch as it seeks, first to fulfill the relatively narrow and policed goals and interests of a given discipline or profession and second, to fulfill the increasingly corporatised mission of higher education; intellectual work, in contrast, is relentless critical, self-critical, and potentially revolutionary, for it aims to critique, change, and even destroy institutions, disciplines and professions that rationalise exploitation, inequality and injustice.

I never noticed the distinction between academic writing and critical writing - or rather, that distinction was not adhered to when I wrote my honours thesis. Of course, most of my classmates were trying to game the system...

Then, my reading material consisted of Pierre Bourdieu, who had this to say in Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977):

The social scientist has an obligation to see to it that the social world loses its character as a natural phenomenon, that the question of the natural or conventional character (phusei or nomo) of social facts can be raised. Academic discourse, in the universe of discourse or argument, must combat orthodoxy, straight, or rather straightened opinion that aims at restoring the primal state of innocence of doxa (the natural, undiscussed, and undisputed), and instead become heretical, heterodox, to alert consciously to readers of the existence of competing possibles and the sum total of the alternatives not chosen that the established order implies.

It's a completely different view altogether: ideally, academic writing is critical writing.

09 December 2005

Let all the poisons hatch out...

The latest revelations about the NKF hardly come as a surprise. We knew all along that NKF was poorly managed, that they had a creative approach to accounting, that without any transparency, Durai and his minions got away with their misdeeds for years.

Previous NKF coverage on this blog:
Get that Man a Peanut!
He who lives by the peanut
and The peanut that launched a thousand ships.

So far, all my accusations and analyses have proven true, and Matilda Chua is apparently the next in line for a Durai treatment.

I urge Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan to step down after investigations are over.

1. Minister Khaw knew about the massive reserves and defended them last year. Khaw now muses regretfully why NKF got away with it for so long. The fact is NKF's excesses had always been under public scrutiny for the best part of the past 5 years. The fact is Minister Khaw and his precedessors at the ministry had always risen to NKF's defense. The fact is, with the backing of the Minister of Health, who would dare go up against NKF?

2. Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the government taxman, and the commissioner for charities have all audited the NKF's books for years and found nothing objectionable or illegal. I urge all of them to step down from their posts as well. They're bloody incompetent since it didn't take too long for Gerard Ee and his gang of newcomers to pick apart NKF's game plan.

3. If Minister Khaw says NKF can't be run by an emperor like old China, why should Singapore be run by an emperor like old China?

07 December 2005

Julius Caesar is not amused

Apparently students in Temasek Junior College in Singapore think Chia Thye Poh, the prisoner of Sentosa, was an urban legend.

At their student forum page, the fruits of 20 years of tertiary History syllabus and incorporated National Education subliminal messages are shown for all to see.

rehtse: the ISA is used to deal with not just terrorists, but ppl who pose security threats to S'pore. however, the foreign media chooses to interpret it as "ppl who pose POLITICAL threats to the ruling party". that's their main reason for objecting to the ISA.

Solos: Yes, that's right... but I have not seen it used on any political figure as yet.

ashke: ummm... about out of point but wasn't there this fellow who's been exhiled to sentosa???

Solos: You mean exiled to Sentosa??? Never heard of it before... care to elaborate on it.

ashke: that's the problem, I've only /heard/ of it, it's like some kind of Singapore urban legend kind of thing or something...

Rench00, if you're reading this post now: THIS is the ultimate failure of Singapore education.

06 December 2005

Condi Rice Jedi Mind Trick!

With more than half of Europe up in arms from reports that the CIA has been flying terror suspects to secret jails in Romania and Poland for torture and questioning, US Secretary of State unveils her Jedi Mind Trick.

So onwards with the top 5 Condi Rice Jedi Mind Tricks, all of which are preceded with the customary wave of the hand!

#5. "The US does not engage in torture."
#4. "These are terrorists, not terror suspects."
#3. "Renditions are legal."
#2. "It is US policy that questioning is to be conducted without using torture."
#1. "I just answered your question on whether the US operates secret prisons in Europe."

Yes, folks: the perpetual scowl on the face of Condi Rice (or what Jon Stewart calls her "stinkeye") is the result of constant concentration needed to pull off Jedi Mind Trick 24/7.

29 November 2005

Rome II: Julius Caesar lays the smackdown

The Lone Gunman took a look at Roma Uber Alles last week and accused me of obscurantism. While it doesn't exactly take a training in Classics to figure out the ghastly parallels between Rome and Singapore (aside from having 7 or more hills), the link wasn't that clear in the previous post.

Here then, is your history lesson. I'll try to make it as interesting and entertaining as possible, like Julius Caesar laying the smackdown and leaving broken heads all over the Appian Way.

Proscription: Uniquely Singapore or Ancient Roman?

Proscription (Roman): The dictator, upon coming to absolute power, proclaims his political rivals as enemies of the state. These people are either stripped of their Roman citizenship (which means you could murder, torture, or crucify them), their properties confiscated, heirs dispossessed, and their wives prevented from remarrying (and hence condemning the entire family to penury).

Proscription (Singaporean)

A very long history, but let's start with the most recent cases.
Captain Ryan Goh, a Malaysian with a Singaporean PR, was stripped of his residency, expelled, and refused all future entry to the city state, for his central role in as a pilot in organising a wage negotiation movement in the pilots' union of Singapore Airlines. Papalee, the Father of the Nation and Minister-Mentor-for-life, declared the offending movement of the union as "breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered". The heads of these people must be broken, he claimed sternly.

Tang Liang Hong, candidate in the 1997 elections, lost in the first real (and close) contest in a gerrymandered GRC constituency, Cheng San. The candidate and his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, thanks to a last moment smear campaign by the Whiteshirts alleging Tang of being a Chinese chauvinist. Upon his loss, the police seized his documents for supposed tax evasion while he fled the country, but interestingly, the charge laid out was that of defamation. Like old fashioned Roman proscription, his wife was also dispossessed of his fortune by the state.

Let's not get into old-fashioned Singaporean proscription of the 1960s-70s, where the Barisan Socialists were shut down, their leaders exiled or jailed indefinitely...


Principate (Roman): The emperors after Julius Caesar were so afraid of getting assasinated by republicans that they did not dare call themselves King, but merely Princeps (First citzen, the first among equals in the Senate). The political reality of autocratic rule by the Emperor was still scrupulously masked by forms and conventions of oligarchic self-rule inherited from the political period of the 'uncrowned' Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC) under the motto SPQR.

Principate (Singaporean): The hagiography (official biography, snivelling chroniclers at the Propaganda Times, etc) of Singapore's first Emperor also insist that he was the "first among equals" in a Cabinet graced by the genius that were Lee's Lieutenants.

Roman Succession: The emperor, while pretending to be just a First Citizen for life in a republic, still managed to name his heir, i.e. the next person to rule Rome. A strong emperor could even control the succession to the 3rd generation, while discreetly making sure the immediate successor isn't his son. No, his son would be the emperor after his heir.

Uniquely Singaporean Succession: The emperor, while pretending to be just a First Citizen, decided to hand over the reigns by naming his heir, i.e. the next person to rule Singapore. That strong Emperor even controlled the succession to the 3rd generation, while discreetly making sure the immediate successor was Mr Peanut and not Minilee. No, Minilee would be emperor after Mr Peanut.


Treason Trials (Roman): Lots and lots of them! Ex post facto criminalisation!
Treason Trials (Singaporean): Catholics branded Marxist for setting up maid union! Left-wing politicians branded Communist for being socialist! Ex post facto criminalisation!

Pandataria: Small rocky island 3km by 800m. Favourite exile destination of noble Romans like Vipsania Julia and Agrippina the Elder.
Sentosa: Small rocky island of 5 square kilometres. Chia Thye Poh was exiled there after 22 years of solitary confinement, detention without trial, and a good old-fashioned Roman purge.

22 November 2005

Roma uber alles

roma uber alles

From the final episode of HBO drama Rome, a screencap of Julius Caesar surveying a map of the city. Caesar intends to divert the river to reclaim land for the expansion of Rome. Strangely enough, the city has about the same shape as some other familiar place... No wonder our leaders have such delusions of grandeur, yes?

(Incidentally I find to my horror that Singapore is also a city of seven hills...)

18 November 2005

The best man for the job

Apparently the spokesperson for this year's Speak Mandarin Campaign is actor Hossan Leong.

Notable facts from the interview article from the Propaganda Times:

Hossan claims that he used to get F9 in Mandarin as a student, but has now "mastered the language". He also claims that none of his friends believed him when he told them of his appointment as spokesperson - as they've never seen him speak Mandarin before.

Mmmm yes. He's mastered the language without anyone noticing that he speaks it.

I mean... GURMIT SINGH has a better claim to mastering the language than Hossan.

14 November 2005

And if you are not queen, my dear

My colleagues at Singabloodypore have covered cut and pasted press articles and statements regarding the PLU/NLB affair extensively. Singabloodypore is a groupblog distinguished by the stringent analyses its contributors make on local issues and public policy, but in this matter, PLU has been given a free pass on the critical thinking treatment. After it has become apparent that no one here is willing to rise above their positions as PLU minions cheerleaders, I will have to make a sober assessment of the matter.

Let's go through PLU's initial announcement of the forum event on 1 November.
So we're going to hold a meeting there where the public can see real lesbian and gay people... talk about gay stuff. The public are of course free to wander in and listen. We're even going to allow members of the public to speak and offer their views. However, we will set one condition. If anyone wants to speak, he must take on the persona of a gay or lesbian person and speak from that perspective.

That's a stunning vote for free speech, don't you think? Especially when PLU was aware that the purpose of the NLB-sponsored open committee meetings was "allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with."

The whole idea of fighting for gay and lesbian rights rests on the refusal of homosexual people to continue speaking up and acting in society under a default heterosexual persona. And here they are, stipulating the public can only speak at their event if they take on a gay/lesbian persona. I'm sorry, but do you seriously think you'll get a sympathetic understanding from any straight person from this "How does it feel to have the boot on your face for a change" exercise? No one from the left would support this lack of free speech. No one from the centre will be won over by this unfair rule of engagement. No one from the right will be... well, they never were anyway. As a festival open to all, the programming needs to be accessible and have a broad appeal - and this PLU event has a broad repugnance.

Today's reporters and PLU's steering committee clearly know what the real objection of the NAC was. Here, they backpedal and play down the significance of their silly rule: "While we are discussing, members of the public are free to offer suggestions. In a way, it's also interactive theatre." Yes, Alex. The public is free to give feedback, as long as they speak in the appropriate persona. I however fail to see how interactive theatre would not have been served if the audience were allowed to speak up as their real selves.

Then, there has been some form of defence for the rather odd rule. Put simply by pleinelune elsewhere, the gag rule is there to deter some homophobic zealot from grabbing the mike and hijacking the meeting/forum/theatre. Yet the founding father of the Singaporean struggle for gay equality denies this: In the Today article, he estimates that "not more than 10 PLU3 members and only a handful of members of the public would have turned up".

Now, if your event is so unpopular that only a handful would turn up, the NAC should give the venue to a more popular group - and one that doesn't attract so many disruptive homophobic zealots. And if among that pitiful handful, there is still a "homophobic zealot" (and what about free-speech zealots?), who then will ensure that the zealot will follow the gag rule? And should the zealots make a scene about the gag rule and flout it at the same time, who shall control them? The security guards of the NLB? Armed officers from Singapore's counterterrorism squad? Special officers from the NAC? One of your well-built committee members?

Now, this is purely from the point of view of the idelogical audience and the organisation of the event. What about the authorities? The state worries that if the event proves it is effortless, harmless, and equally human to speak from a gay or lesbian persona, it will lead to the normalisation of gays and lesbians in mainstream society. This is tantamount to the criminal act of promoting homosexuality and homosexual lifestyles! Yes. This gag rule was in effect a very good excuse for the machinery of the state to shut the event down. Why did PLU give them such a convenient excuse?

Then, there's the issue of the agenda. Note that the initial release didn't mention anything about the agenda - Spell#7 had just gotten the in-principle, preliminary go-ahead from NAC, which had not been in communication with PLU at that time. Yes, that's precisely what I just said. Read carefully the extract of NAC's clarification email to Spell#7:
Would you mind writing up a brief outline of how you envisage conducting the meeting, and what issues would be addressed? Perhaps if you have any other information about the PLU(3) group, and a list of its recent state interactions and public profilings, that would also be useful.

Now, when PLU says it got an "initial approval" from NLB, we must understand that
1. Spell#7 as the organiser of the series had definite approval of the series. It then got preliminary approval for the PLU event, not definite approval from NLB/NAC.
2. NLB/NAC was never in communication with PLU when it was alleged to have given its "initial approval".

Let it be known that the NAC tried to signal to PLU that it had to do a better job at selling its meeting. First, the original agenda was inappropriate:
In the planned Open Closed Door Session, a few of them, about 5 to 6, plan to talk about a Quarterly forum they are organizing in January and the forums after that. Possible forum topics are "The Singapore Constitution and Gender Issues" and "The Home Affairs Ministry's Review of Sex Laws"

Let's see. A public forum on state property, funded by state organs. Possible forum topics all lead to: we oppose these following policies of the state. And then you want to involve the audience, as part of performance theatre? This is of course more subversive than any piece of performance theatre (which is usually less direct) practised in Singapore.

When asked by NAC to reconsider the agenda, PLU's reply was a masterpiece. "The purpose of a committee meeting was purely organisational (i.e. we would be talking about setting up events and how to get speakers, venues, publicity, about attending other conferences, and arranging meetings with researchers, reporters and other activists coming to Singapore)". And the purpose of the series of events hosted by NLB is (just a reminder) allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with. I'm sure the purely organisational stuff is something the public is keen to observe and engage with.

After news of trouble with the higher bureaucracy, PLU hastily changes the agenda to:

1. Quarterly Forum (Dec) - speaker(s), exact date, venue options?, publicity arrangements
2. 2006 Pride Month - activity proposals from JC, venue status, time to call for papers
3. Asia Pacific Network conference Kuala Lumpur (2nd week Nov)
4. Upcoming visit of PJ (4th week Nov) - meet and dinner
5. Asia-Pacific Queer conference 2006 - discuss possibility?
6. MC's idea for a Gay and Lesbian Film Festival - discuss possibility?

Great. Work. At. Getting. Support. From. Non-gays.
Yes, a Pride Month would definitely get the sympathy of the public. As with a film festival - Singaporeans watche an average 8 films a year? And the purpose of the series of events hosted by NLB is (yet another reminder) allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with.

There's a time and place for everything. I have no problems with both agendas of the PLU, and the set of events in the second agenda seem interesting to cover in SBP in the future. Both agendas were inappropriate for the NAC's purposes - they wanted a safe and entertaining show, not this. And both agendas could be discussed in any other private meeting by the PLU committee; they didn't need the NLB/NAC event at all.

PLU clearly didn't try its hardest to get the event. It botched the negotiations with the wrong agendas and the wrong gag rules. So why the free pass at critical analysis? If Singabloodypore prides itself on dispassionately dispatching bloopers and objectionable policies from the establishment, why not do the same for alleged members of civil society? Equal opportunity, I say.

Also, refer to other mistakes made by PLU, the première [note: premier is spelt without an e and without the silly accent] Singapore advocacy group for gay equality.

Si non dominaris, inquit, filiola, iniuriam te accipere existimas?
And if you are not queen, my dear,
Think you that you are wronged?

08 November 2005

Solidarity Vigil Review

The Solidarity Vigil for Nguyen Tuong Van was organised by Think Centre and the Reach Out Campaign and held at Asia Hotel on 7 November. For today, I have no comments on the death penalty - readers already know my views through the discussions at Singabloodypore. Instead, I'll give a review of the vigil, which will serve as an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this campaign/movement against capital punishment.

The Ticket

The vigil for Nguyen follows a different format from Shanmugam's vigil in September this year. Instead of a flower child and hippy poet procession-cum-performance reading session, this month's event is a soapbox parade of opposition politicians and civil society activists.

When you have a diverse group on the same campaign, giving speeches at the same event, the ticket is expected to show some unity and discipline. That was lacking, however. Signs of trouble first showed themselves when JB Jeyaratnam began to speak after Alex Au's introductory fact-laying. The veteran politician (the first opposition member to win a parliament seat after Independence), a fiery orator, never warmed up, giving a hestitant and sententious speech.

That is not a problem. The problem was with how his fellow panellists and fellow campaigners on the ticket showed their utter boredom during his speech. Au took off his spectacles and buried his face into his palms, while Anthony Yeo propped his jawbone with a hand. At least the ticket was not further disgraced, as Dr Chee and a Brother from the Catholic church sat attentively, looking and listening to the speaker.

When you're on the same ticket, even looking at your watch while another speaker is giving a speech is taboo, as any greenhorn campaign manager will tell you.

Message Discipline

Chee, Yeo, and the Brother stayed on message. They had just one point to make in their speeches (The Burma Question, the psychological harm to the family of the executed prisoner, the stand on the Catholic church on the matter), and delivered that one point to its conclusion. Contrary to public impressions of Dr Chee as an out of control slanderer of authority figures, the real loose cannon of the night was Nguyen's lawyer, Ravi, who had too many points to make and many more irrelevant points as well, including frequent jibes at the Nominated Elected President, SR Nathan.

There is a place for all things, and a vigil to drum up support for opposition to the death penalty is not the best avenue for politicking or political comedy - something that Jeyaratnam and Chee understood. One wished Ravi had paid attention to the lack of politicking by the two opposition leaders, who went before him.

Unity of Message

This simply means that for a properly organised campaign, speakers on the same ticket cannot afford to contradict each other. Yet, we have

Alex Au: I read a lawyer's account on the internet that the jury system was abolished shortly after Independence because Singaporean citizens were reluctant to convict a member of their peers, if it meant execution.

Jeyaratnam: That's not true. I was a prosecutor during that time and I assure you Singaporean juries never made adverse verdicts - that is to say, finding a clearly guilty man innocent because it would mean the capital punishment. That claim about reluctant Singaporean juries was first made by Lee Kuan Yew in order to justify the abolition of the jury system.

Yes. The poster boy of the internets shows the power of online research... Having contributed to several academic anthologies on the construction of gender, Au forgets to apply the same discourse theory to the lawyer's account he finds on the internets, and also neglects to put proper footnotes and citations for the statistics in the handouts for the audience. Plain embarrassing to have someone on the ticket to correct you like this, really.

Then, we also have, during the Q&A session, Ravi trying to blame everything on Nathan. He would've gotten scot-free and the audience none the wiser had not this exchange taken place:

Ravi: Why does Nathan, upon being nominated (audience laughter) - sorry, elected - as President, refuse to grant clemency to any of the over 100 criminals on Death Row during his tenure?

Jeyaratnam: Constitutionally, the President can only issue a clemency after being advised by the cabinet, which has to be advised by the Attorney-General.

Ravi: That's the elected President, yes? Who has less power than the ceremonial President? (audience laughter) All his predecessors, as ceremonial Presidents, managed to grant clemency to several criminals! So Nathan...

Jeyaratnam: Actually the ceremonial Presidents also could only issue a clemency upon the advice of the cabinet and the AG.

Clearly, one of these men here is wildly uninformed and wrong about how the presidency works. One is a lawyer of over 50 years. Another is a laywer who is currently petitioning the President for clemency for Nguyen. The horrors, the horrors! Ergo, no message unity.


For a campaign organised by a political group, there is clearly insufficient organisation per se, little coordination, little preparation. Just requiring the speakers to submit their points to each other for vetting would've prevented all this.

JB Jeyaratnam was lacklustre during his own speech. He had very little to say about the case itself, admitting at his opening statement that he is unfamiliar with the details of Nguyen's case, and what he had to say was put forth in tortured syntax that - given his reptutation as an orator - disappointed the audience. Yet his best contributions were as a fact-checker, to rein in the excesses of the claims by Au and Ravi...

One would've expected Think Centre to place Jeyaratnam as one of the last speakers, instead of being the second speaker. That way, he would've had some inkling of the case by the time he was due to speak...

Thankfully, the final speaker, Madam Letchumi Murugesu, Shanmugam's mother, gave a touching and sincere speech on the futility of the death penalty and its nihilism. She is the true poster child of this campaign, not Nguyen, and not Shanmugam. Think Centre and the Reach Out Campaign would do well to realise this.

Special mentions

Au, the so-called "founding father of the Singaporean struggle for gay equality", made the worst fashion faux pas ever for the vigil. In an event with dozens of video cameras by major news organisations (including Reuters), the dapper man wore a shirt with checked patterns. The rest of the panel, being much more media-savvy and fashion-conscious, wore solid colours. Au will be known as the Hypnotist or Mr Moire due to his satorical choice.

01 November 2005

Sedition by the numbers

3 down, 1 more to go

Usedbrainsforsale, my fellow writer at Singabloodypore, reports the capitulation in court of the third blogger to be charged with sedition (for posting racist remarks online) in Singapore.

As xenoboysg (another fellow SBP writer) points out, we are witnessing an incredibly efficient legal process at work: the machinery of the state moves on relentlessly, crushing all miscreants in its way. This is not hyperbole, by the way.

Even the token arch-conservative member of SBP - marked by his espousal of the doctrine of police infallibility and dedication to a strong crime and punishment style towards our polis, is awed by how the state has handled the trial of the bloggers. The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney assigned to the case are top-notch pillars of the legal community. Judge Bala used to be the most senior deputy public prosecutors persecutors around, with his hardline stance - a stance which Mr Wang neglects to inform readers, may have continued in his tenure as a judge. The prosecutor for the case is Jaswant Singh, a "top guy" in the attorney-general's office. On defence was Edmond Pereira, an ex-judge and DPP.

Mr Wang is convinced that with the best of the crop involved in this case, justice will be impeccably served. Trust these men, he seems to say. Be assured that whatever sentence is meted out will be fair, just, and legal.

Now, all these blogging trials are remarkable. They involve young men shooting off their mouths online and having their politically incorrect remarks read by people who weren't expected to read them. This crime is of such national, political and racial important that it warrants the mobilisation of the Big Guns. Or, you could look at the identities of the judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer and say that they were impeccably selected to ensure a very entertaining and informative show trial. Propaganda through the courts.

So: 3 down, 1 to go.

The Internets problem

Also, gay dating websites with members-only galleries like www.sgboy.com and www.fluffboy.com were fined and shut down respectively. Despite fluffboy being hosted overseas...

Some political bloggers in Singapore have quietly stopped updating their sites, or completely changed the focus content. This is not to say that they can feel what may be in store soon: a political website and blogger(s) being made an example of, under the Political Broadcasts act. Their fear is overstated - the point about the sedition trials is Singapore has passed the age where the state can, with impunity, charge people who are really seditious (spies, traitors, guerillas) with sedition. We are reduced to having people who are nowhere seditious to be hammered with the sedition law. By the same reasoning, the upcoming shutdown of a select few political blogs will not affect any real political blogs.

It's not about racial harmony, promotion of undesirable lifestyles, or political punditry by ordinary citizens. It's about the internets.

No really, it's about the internets

Singapore has an efficient legal system where judges, DPPs and the police will pounce on any criminal and process his case swiftly finish him off.

I want to know why no sedition act was thrown at the following people for making certain racist, antireligious, and misogynistic remarks that were much more offensive and shocking, in view of their status as national leaders and the very public avenues their remarks, which have caused popular condemnation or moral outrage in their time:

Former MP Choo Wee Khiang, in 1992, made a speech to Parliament "One evening, I drove to Little India and it was pitch dark but not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around."

Then-Brigadier General (Reservist) and cabinet minister Lee Hsien Loong, in February 1987, clarified in Parliament the reason behind the non-existence of Malay figher pilots: The Government saw armed conflict with Malaysia as a possibility when he defended the policy of taking limited number of Malays into the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) and then not placing them in militarily critical roles. Minilee argued that the policy was intended to avoid dividing soldiers' loyalties between their nation and their religion. [The Pacific Review Vol. 4, No. 3] (Minilee leaves it to us to decide whether Malays cannot be trusted to defend Singapore because of their race or their religion.)

Then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in September 1999, remarked in the "Tanjong Pagar Singapore 21" public consultative forum reiterated that Malays cannot be trusted to defend Singapore in stronger terms than Minilee: "If, for instance, you put in a Malay officer who's very religious and who has family ties in Malaysia in charge of a machine gun unit, that's a very tricky business. We've got to know his background."

As a prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew in December 1967 gave a lecture to the nation's top students at the Premier Institute for Social Engineering on the superior glands of the Chinese race (reported by Michael D. Barr, Journal of Contemporary Asia v29, n2 (1999). The lecture began with an anecdote: "Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development."

Remarkable racism, and very public racism at that.

Note that the text in the Sedition Act do not specify race as a basis to identify groups that are clearly offended and divided from the state by a sedious remark. How about sex/gender as a group?

1990. Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, on a tour of Australia, expressed his regrets about extending higher education and equal rights to women. (Facts on File: Asian Political Alamanac, p387) "The government was young, ignorant, and idealistic," said Lee. In 1986, Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that it was "wrong, it was stupid" to introduce monogamy.

It is certainly my belief that the current crop of seditious bloggers being tried is a testament to the dictum that leaders aren't subject to the same laws they impose on their followers. There are lots of people online who defend the prosecution of the 4 racist bloggers as necessary, legal, and just. Where are they when our leaders shoot their mouths off?

15 October 2005

Tharman's Grand Vision - an allegory

Because rench00, myself and coupdegras are interested in the recent announcements of (yet another) educational reform, here's something to chew over: Will the reforms really do away with educational elitism? Names have been changed to protect actual civil servants.

Also, refer to the excellent essays by Wei, who is reading for his MA in Education.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately ivory tower decree:
Where once there was but only one
There is now a multiplicity
Of routes newly hewn;
So all may according to their ability
Rise to the peak on paths of their own.
And here the imperial message thunders,
Trumpets blaring from bannered towers.

But oh! In the courtyards among the flowers
A powdered courtier leisurely paces.
In tones hushed and dulcimer,
Immeasurable with prophesy or weariness
He twitters, a crone hand on your shoulder:
"But if every man were allowed to excel,
And to the fullest extent, fulfill himself?
Who then, shall command? And who then shall serve?"

09 October 2005

Singapore's Climate of Fear


My tuition kid has deconstructed, at the tender age of 13, the Straits Times forum page!

It's easy to get a letter published there, following 5 simple rules.

1. Describe an incident/series of incidents that happened to self or self witnessed.
2. Describe danger, trauma, anguish, or frustration experienced or may potentially experience.
3. Extrapolate to put entire population at risk.
4. Make your point: I VERY SCARED (or angry)!
5. Query: Will the relevant authorities please look into this?

Examples (in both ST and Today) include:

Ceiling tile at shopping centre fell, narrowly missing self. I VERY SCARED.
Can mosquitoes spread dengue from one person to another? I VERY SCARED.
Blogging is so dangerous! I VERY SCARED.
My son was advised by one doctor to wear specs and another not to. How? I VERY SCARED.
Taupok is very dangerous to our kids. I VERY SCARED.
Will the relevant authorities please look into this?

As you can see, Singaporeans live in a perpetual climate of fear.

07 October 2005

Cultural Arrogance Supremacy

Mr Wang gets into fits whenever he reads the Straits Times. Consequently, more than half the entries in his blog fall into the category of "ST stupidity of the day". I get annoyed by our national newspaper propaganda press, but not to that extent. The media of my choice has to be television. Whenever I turn on the set to any of our national stations, the random stupidity of the news and the lack of quality in its tv productions would make me scream within 5 minutes.

When Twiddledum and Twiddledee merged early this year, Channel U was spared the chops. Viewers should now be happy that the "revamp" of the station (the programming hardly changed) and its new branding will ensure more of the same dramas that MediaworksTV has been showing.

Of course, the cosmetic revamp (in part to delete all traces of MediaworksTV's existence) has to be accompanied with a new ad campaign to be played incessantly on every channel: 带动亚洲流行!

Will someone please tell those yellow skin chauvinists that Asia is not HK, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan? Where oh where are the trendy Indian, Iranian, Indonesian, Egyptian, Turkish, Middle Eastern dramas on Channel U?

06 October 2005


My recent posts have attracted some email feedback from readers.

I'll say this just once: I'm not a school superintendent in charge of a certain western cluster in Singapore. In fact, I'm not even employed by the Ministry Of Education. There may be a low-level witch hunt going on to find out the identity of the snitcher who's posting all the embarrassing photos of schools in Singapore, and it's fair to pre-empt the loss of innocent livelihoods and career advancements by making this statement.

That said, this will be my final school story for some time to come.

We were at another primary "super school" in the west of Singapore. Yes, there are super schools even at primary level, and even the Ministry uses such language in everyday conversations. It wasn't too long before all of us noticed a most unique thing about the students - a few of them had uniforms decked with more badges than an active scout.

We counted: these students had 6 to 8 badges, some shaped like name-tags, some like circular military badges. And we took a close look. The badges were:

Star Pupil
Group Leader
Science Monitor
Maths Monitor
Arts Monitor
Energy Savings Monitor

When we raised the issue, the teachers explained that:
1. Good pupils tend to be given positions of authority
2. Those who lead in one area can obviously lead in other areas
3. Therefore, there are a few students in each class who wear badges, and when they do, they wear many badges.

Yes. I can see why we must start them young, so that the students can be groomed into future leaders of Singapore, who are dedicated to the concepts of meritocracy and incorruptibility.

This is Napola. These are Minilee's Elites.

28 September 2005

Dear Singapore: While you were sleeping...

Chua Enlai stars in Separation 40, a play written by Jit Murad and Haresh Sharma, about the fiercely competitive twin nations of Malaysia and Singapore, whose leaders use identical political means to suppress dissent in their citizens. The play will be staged in Kuala Lumpur from 29 September to 2 October at KLPac.

Now, there's a danger in going too far with the "Singapore and Malaysia aren't at all different" routine. According to Bernama News and Xinhua Agency, Malaysia has one thing Singapore doesn't: A nuclear power plant. And soon, another nuclear power plant.

Yes, while Singapore was sleeping, Malaysia built the 1 MW TRIGA Mark II nuclear power plant in Bangi, Selangor, for research purposes for 5 mil. Ringgit in 1985, and is due to build a 1000 MW nuclear plant within the next 15 years. This means Malaysia has nuclear scientists!

Meanwhile, Singapore's biotech scientists are busy crowing about their pee-powered batteries. Go, Singapore!

27 September 2005

Meanwhile in Eye-rack...

Readers will know that my coverage of US affairs have steadily declined, especially this year. It's pretty simple: look at my blogroll. There's the best source of news and debate for American and European interests, as well as Singapore.

Hence, my silence on Katrina or the tsunami.

However, there are times when issues I'm interested in aren't covered by the links on my blogroll. This is one of them (ironically, Iraq! War abuses! Torture!).

The Porn of War

On November 15, 2004, a report on CNN.com briefly described a clash in the Iraqi city of Baquba, including an insurgent attack with rocket-propelled grenades on members of the First Infantry Division, in which four American soldiers were wounded. CNN did not post any images of the battle, and the incident wasn't given much attention in other media.

But visitors to the amateur porn website nowthatsfuckedup.com were given a much closer view of the action. Originally created as a site for men to share images of their sexual partners, this site has taken the concept of user-created content to a grim new low: US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan are invited to display graphic battlefield photos apparently taken with their personal digital cameras.

Go. Read. It.

24 September 2005

Tharman's Grand Vision

Amidst all the talk about the great educational reforms of Tharman, as promised in Minilee's speech, we have here a prime exhibit of how well things are moving on the ground.

Exhibit A: In a prominent primary school in the west of Singapore, an 11-year-old student draws a rendition of a classic painting. Instead of counselling the kid, his parents, or his teacher, school authorities fall in love with his artistry and frame the painting in the student gallery.

I bet they'll make tonnes of moneh when the kid kills himself in a few years. Singapore, education and arts hub of Asia.

21 September 2005

Banned in Singapore

Via Chris Loup:

Banned in Singapore: DVDs too hot for Singapore

As the site author of Banned in Singapore explains,
Singapore has banned movies for sexual content, extreme violence, excesive drug use, and extreme religious views that may encourage violence. The list are movies that can be purchased at amazon.com. I've learned of the extent Singapore bans films via my position as a Customer Service Liaison.

One task is processing returns that have incomplete information and the Media Development Authority sends back just enough information for me to process the undeliverable shipments for the confused customer who only gets part of their order.

Sometimes we receive keepers. That's when the the viewer thinks the DVD is so nefarious that it must be kept in Singapore for further inspection. As of late there have been fewer keepers and some aren't even inspected just refused.

I note that the DVDs too hot or sensitive to order into Singapore include:

The Ten Commandments
Madame Butterfly
American Beauty
American Pie 1/2
Basic Instinct
Monty Python's Flying Circus (they showed half a season on TV here 3 years ago?!)
Samurai X (ANIME - shown on artscentral)
Princess Mononoke (Anime - shown in cinemas here)
Bubblegum Crisis
Terminator 1-3
Vampire Hunter D

Oh, forget it.

As Amy Chua, the head of the MDA's said last year, "the Board of Film Censors, which I supervise, does not function as society's moral guardian, or arbiters of taste and decency, and has never set out to do so. It can only reflect, at best, community standards and what society considers to be generally acceptable."

This is the only appropriate response to the jackasses and prigs at Singapore's customs and MDA, who have driven many a sane Singaporean shrill, through their sheer incompetence, malevolence, and mendacity!

18 September 2005


or, what the blogosphere missed.

The big news in Singapore yesterday was not that a third blogger was charged with sedition; nor was it Minilee's vows to crack down on racist speech online, or his pathetic attempts to paint Singapore as a fragile Jenga block that would collapse from 3 bloggers few people have even read of; or even the somewhat promising but vague promises by Singapore's leaders to craft a more appropriate legislation for hate speech.

No. The big news was the report that Singapore's birth rate in 2004 was its lowest in history. Then, there is the revelation that 9 months after Minilee's "This is not just another baby bonus" parenthood package scheme (Harlow, you want upsize this?), the birth rates for May to July have increased by an earthshattering 3%.

Now, readers will know that I have little patience for people and bears of little brain, so do excuse my tone for the rest of the article.

1. Vivian Balakrishnan obviously knows more than we do. What on earth are citizen births, for instance, that he and the rest of the mainstream media continue to harp on? Singapore's Department of Statistics compiles figures for total live births and total live resident births.

2. Over the past 20 years, annual increase (when there was an actual increase) in births ranged from 15% (Dragon year effect) to 2%.

3. The 3% increase for May-July this year are hence insignificant and pathetic gains - contrary to Vivian Balakrishnan's attempt at brownnosing Minilee.

4. Our national propaganda press has been at it since last August, actually, reporting anecdotes of couples giving it a go after Minilee's 2004 NDRS, to surges in hospital visits by expecting parents. As with all Leninist states, reports of good news to the Dear Leader may be slightly exaggerated.

5. Note the figure for 1999-2001. Mr Peanut Goh's baby bonus plan was unveiled in 1999, causing an 8% spike in births (Minilee, this is the figure you MUST BEAT so that you won't lose your honour!). The downward trend resumed the very next year.

6. It's not this year's figures that we should be concerned about - stupid Singaporeans will breed because of the novelty of the parenthood scheme. It's next year and the following year that will give a clue to the effectiveness of Minilee's scheme.

7. Note this is the first year that the Malay birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate.

8. Note that the Malay proportion of the population has been falling even from 1990, despite their tremendously high birth rates then, compared to everyone else...

9. It is time for the government to cease recruiting, on a racial basis, immigrants from China and India, if they want to preserve the current racial fabric of Singapore.

10. At the time of independence, Malays counted at more than 30% of the population.

Sources: Singapore Hansard, Singapore Department of Statistics Population Trends 2005.

17 September 2005

Start them young!

Another primary school in Singapore. This time, the theme is propaganda of the North Korean variety... It's just a matter of time before Singapore has its own Youth Cadets for Minilee.

15 September 2005

In a school in Singapore...

What is Lenin's tomb doing in a school in Singapore???

Filed under: bad architecture, koi ponds, Leninist state

14 September 2005

And now, for something completely different

Taken the morning after the final day of the Hungry Ghost Festival, celebrated on the seventh month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

Jogging tracks have multiple uses.

13 September 2005

Reason #54987985 why the gay rights movement in Singapore is infantile

Reports that 2 men have been separately charged on the same day, for making outrageous racist jokes on forums under the Sedition Law in Singapore has largely drawn murmurs of shock, horror, and consternation from all quarters.

(For more information, please follow the coverage of the issue by SingaporeInk, epursimuove, the Sprangle, and Chris Loup)

Yet on the vast internets, there are life forms who are cheering on the application of the Sedition Act. On Signel, the forum for Singapore's premiere gay intellectuals, Roy Tan notes with glee:

We should consider making use of the Sedition Act to stop any local online homophobia dead in its tracks. For once, we may have the police on our side.

Then, Yawning Bread, the mastermind of the premiere spokesgroup of Singapore's gay intelligentsia and some say the founding father of the Singaporean struggle for gay equality, follows up with a very earnest meditation, possibly formulating his latest plan of attack for gay equality:

"Would the same Sedition Act be applicable in cases of hate speech targeting gay people?

I think yes. Clause 3(1)(e), after all says, "feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore."

He also goes in for the kill, and suggests that the White Elephant affair at Buangkok be investigated under the Sedition Act.

The gay movement in Singapore should kill itself now, okay? It's just a total embarrassment to everyone fighting tooth and claw for a wider, stronger, civil society, for a smaller government, for free speech, for a country where the government doesn't clamp down on people using the most unexpected and draconian laws available.

Please lah. Gay people here complain that the charging of homosexuals under the outrage of modesty, obscenity, and public order and nuisance acts is heavy-handed and inappropriate, and even believe the sodomy law is wrong. And then they go shoot themselves in the head with this kind of "GOSH we can use the Sedition Act against homophobia!" nonsense.

Note to civil society: when Singapore liberalises, continue to withhold gay rights from the homosexual lobby, while letting lesbians have equal rights. They fully deserve this.

In case you missed reason #54987984 why the gay rights movement in Singapore is infantile, here it is.

12 September 2005

Poets Without Irony

Chinatown train station, at the waiting bays.

A moving poem lionising the Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore in the 19th century. Yet the choice of words in the second stanza suggests a glorious lack of irony or self-awareness of the present.

They are destined to live and die on this small island.

I'm sure Tan Shie Hwee has won some dubious poetry award for this.

11 September 2005

Reason #54987984 why the gay rights movement in Singapore is infantile

Photos taken from the official website for IndigNation, a festival in August organised by members of PLU, Singapore's unofficial gay advocacy group premiere spokesgroup of Singapore's gay intelligentsia.

The "Quarterly" was held on 23 August as a forum for queer and straight people to discuss "nationhood, our society and the world".

My heart just sinks bounds with joy, looking at the pathetic obsequiousness patriotism in these pictures and their actual captions.

Patriotic PLU members singing the National Anthem, "Majulah Singapura".

Members of the audience dutifully complying with the request to stand and sing the National Anthem.

The gay movement in Singapore should kill itself now, okay? It's just a total embarrassment to everyone fighting tooth and claw for a wider, stronger, civil society, for a smaller government, for a country where fair comment and criticism can be levelled by any member of the public without them having to preface their statements with "As a patriotic Singaporean" and close with "I wish to thank our gracious government for letting me have the chance to air my views".

Does AWARE have to sing the National Anthem and recite the patriotic pledge at the end of any public meeting held in August? Wouldn't we bat an eyelid if the Nature Conservation Society had to affirm its good moral character by urging members and the audience to sing the national anthem at the closing of its meetings?

I won't be surprised if lesbians get equal rights first in Singapore.

And by the way, so much for the inclusiveness of the gay rights movement. Note the audience is overwhelmingly male.

10 September 2005

Separation of Church and State

I'm surprised at myself. Usually August is the month where I go slightly batty with all the stupid propaganda patriotic displays by the island's citizens, civil servants, and leaders. Imagine, if you will, Singapore flags flying everywhere - not because citizens hang them up themselves, but the town council and "grassroots leaders" feel they have to show that their housing project is celebrating National Day. And then the town councils forget to take down the flags even when September has come.

At times, it gets a little ridiculous. I take the train to work every morning on the East-West line, and somewhere between Commonwealth and Queenstown is a multistorey carpark draped in flags ALL OVER. Singapore: Where even carparks must show their patriotism.

And then, there is the sublime.

This image fascinates me in its simplicity. There's a subject, an object, and a verb: Sheng Hong Temple salutes Singapore. Yet the visuals trump the text, add an indeterminacy to the message, reverses the relation, and finally melds the subject and object into one cacophonious whole.

Sheng Hong Temple. Salutes. Singapore.

But in the picture, who is doing the saluting? We have a boy scout, a soldier, police officer, SCDF officer, and various uniformed people, of different races. They can only be read as a representation of Singapore. To be precise, a fascist fetish of Singapore.

Yet if Singapore is saluting, who are they saluting? In the infinite distance, in perpetual deferment, the hidden object. There is only Singapore and Sheng Hong Temple. Singapore then salutes Sheng Hong Temple. The Singapore lion crest salutes the Merlion.

Yet the text says "Sheng Hong Temple salutes..." It insists the persons performing the action are Sheng Hong Temple. Who are doing the saluting? Through careful semiotic slippage, Sheng Hong Temple has become Singapore...

The very fact that this banner exists and is displayed in a prominent place (outside Pandan Primary School at Jurong East), also signifies that Singapore's grassroots leaders and the various layers of bureaucracy in the town councils approved of this poster. Sheng Hong Temple, it appears, has the ear of Singapore and the sanction to impose its image in the holiest of Singapore's secular calendar.

Separation of church and state in Singapore: nonexistent.

27 August 2005

There is no angst in my Singapore

And the streets are paved with bliss!

More on Minilee's incredible NDRS last Sunday.

It’s good luck, it's good government, it's strong people. You look at the other countries which have reached this point after independence, after the war. The problems that have beset them, the existential angst they feel.

Look at Israel at this point in their history which is probably about 1990. The problems are almost insoluble for them but for us with prosperity, peace with our neighbours, with our people looking forward to a better future and when you have the parade, the same spirit, the same togetherness, that same conviction that we will do our best for Singapore.

Minilee's speechwriters and historians must be from Raffles Institution? They seem to have slept through the past 10 years of Singapore history, which has seen:

Queer poet Alfian Sa'at winning a literature prize for writing poems like "Singapore, you are not my country".

Hordes of post-Independence Singaporeans writing poems critical of the Merlion.

Catherine Lim getting slammed as "disrespectful of authority" by Mr Peanut Goh for pointing out the existence of a Great Affective Divide between the PAP and Singaporeans, and urged to start her own political party if she wanted to comment more on the Government.

Jack Neo and Raintree Pictures breaking local box-office records with films capitalising on issues like: Unemployment, Chinese-speaking heartlanders' fears of getting left behind, Gambling as a financial investment scheme by the poor, Life in the HDB underclass.

Young gay and lesbian Singaporeans exiled by their parents to Australia, out of sight and mind from relatives.

The government's continued anxiety over how Singlish is associated with Singapore causes Phua Chu Kang to take English lessons.

Complaints by Singaporeans for being treated as second-class citizens in their own country, worse off than "foreign talents" from UK, America, Australia, HK and China.

The author of Singapore's Elected President law, Thio Li-Ann, musing in the national paper that the office has become useless, ceremonial, and contrary to its original purpose.

The harassment of filmmaker Martyn See, by the police, for making a documentary on an opposition politician and sending it for film festivals abroad.

The increased unemployment and shrinking labour force participation rate, despite the "recovery".

Singapore's only adult cabinet minister, Tony Tan, ominously hinting that Singaporean workers are too expensive, compared to their counterparts in China and India.

The outrage of Singaporeans over the fraud of NKF and the government's blind support of the organisation.

(I plan to make each item linkable; unfortunately I can't recall or even find the articles that should exist... ie. I need your help)

Filed under: Helicopter vision

24 August 2005

National Day Rally Speech (Quickie Version)

Diary of a Dragon Prince Edition

1. Much improved from last year. Incidences where I pause for applause and audience misses cue are lessened. University Cultural Centre MUST be retrofitted with APPLAUSE signs!

2. Should consider giving the NDRS next year at Hong Lim Park.

3. Made a minor blunder in Chinese speech by mangling the Chinese idiomatic saying into 行行出英雄. Was reminded by private tutor during intermission (that's the real reason for the break, incidentally!) and then used the correct idiom in the English speech.

4. Haul up the government's speech archive on the internet and get them to perform some historical revisionism. I NEVER want people to remember I said 行行出英雄.

5. Haul up any Chinese newspapers which said I did.

6. Now, for the repeat telecast of the NDRS for this weekend, maybe should get Mediacorpsuckers to reshoot that 5 second segment?

20 August 2005

A Noble Sentiment (i)

The Ugly China Tourist?

About 4 Sundays ago, the Straits Times had a feature on the strange behaviour of tourists from China. With the recent increase of the Chinese middle classes finding they can afford foreign vacation, unfavourable reports have slowly come to light. There was an incident where they staged a sit-in protest at a Malaysian hotel, which had issued them food coupons stamped with pictures of a pig. Pictures are available here. On a different occasion, a plane delay caused another group of Chinese tourists to stage a sit-in, effectively grounding the aircraft until the airline had to pay them off with a small sum ($50). These major incidents, coupled with other lesser anecdotes on the poor graces of the China tourists, led to ST pondering if we have a problem of The Ugly China Tourist.

I thought the answer was obvious, yet the ST still did not say it the following week, when they ran an update on the issue. It then falls to me to say it: their protests and sit-ins are indicative not of boorishness, but of a far nobler sentiment. In China itself, protests are staged regularly against perceived national insult (Yasukuni, Japanese textbooks, sex tourists...), poor administration at village or factory level, and so on. Far from discouraging these sometimes violent, but always boisterous demonstrations, it is understood and communicated by the media that these patriotic displays are good, and are to be encouraged.

The average urban Chinese is accustomed to demonstrating, almost at the drop of a hat. At home, under conditions of political repression by the one-party state, regular incited protests act as a valve, to ensure pent-up public ire is directed away from the Communist Party, and to stoke an ever-present sense of nationalist pride and suspicious of the foreign devil, who is always out to 'get' them.

Once abroad, it is inconceivable that the same Chinese citizens not react vocally and vehemently to perceived slights. It's a matter of national pride, one might say.

On patriotism

Elsewhere on the internets, as part of an admitted exercise to invoke nationalism in time for the General Elections (see the Tagboard here - and just for the record: What does nationalism have to do with a General Election??? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Is voting for the non-preferred party an act of not-patriotism?), someone laments the fact that Singaporeans react with cool and studied indifference to national slights by foreign politicians. Look, he says, why are you turning a blind eye that someone just called our country a little red dot, a piece of snot? Why do you keep finding fault with your own country? Do you hate it so much? Why don't you just go away, he asks...

Well, look at the Patriotic China Tourist - I don't ever want to be like them. It's very common for politicians to create a bogeyman during politically difficult periods, by diverting unwanted criticism of domestic policy to a foreign enemy. A great piece of political theatre that benefits even the foreign enemy, who then has a chance to whip up fervent support from his countrymen and override his own political weaknesses. Readers will probably recognise this principle in Malaysia-Singapore relations during Dr Mahathir and LKY's reigns ("Turn off the water!", "Water is our sacred national right, enshrined in the partition agreement!", and the more bizarre instance where Singapore mobilised its reserves during a National Day to prevent an invasion from someone), or between Malaysia-Indonesia relations, even.

And no. "My country, right or wrong" is not patriotism. True patriotism is holding one's country to high standards, to speak power to the truth, to point out where things are wrong, and when the Emperor is wearing no clothes. This is the patriotism of Thomas Paine.

17 August 2005

Taiwan Independence Movie

(Via Kerim, for Tim)

Taiwanese filmmaker Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) is planning on making the “first Taiwanese epic,” about an Aborigine uprising against the Japanese which took place over 75 years ago. The film is tentatively titled Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊). It seems they are still attempting to raise the money necessary to shoot the film on such a grand scale, but there is now a web site where you can download a demo preview of the film with English subtitles.

Keywords: Taiwan Independence

Of Englishmen and Mad Dogs

Seen, in today's ST, on page 12 of the Home section, an advertisement:

Prime Freehold Land
Central Bangkok

For Sale

On the instructions of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland, we are seeking preliminary expressions of interest in the acquisition of 14,000 sq.m. of Prime Freehold Land fronting Ploenchit Road Bangkok.

They decided to use the official name of the UK and still got it wrong? This notice, then, is less credible than the Engrishy Nigerian scam emails.

Filed under: Ad agency needs better editors, Bangkok property scams

Are you sure you want to admit you did this?

An advertising agency in Singapore designed and produced a poster for the DPAS, and proudly mentions it did it pro bono at the bottom of the poster.

Out of kindness, I'm not going to name them, since the poster text read

Are you deaf to the disabled people's cry for the equalisation of opportunities?

Filed under: English police citation, advertising agency needs better editors.

15 August 2005

The shelf life of one-party states

Soci notes that a group of people at the danieldrezner website are discussing if Singapore can continue to be a unique non-democratic, properous, capitalist state.

Whenever people start talking about the interrelationships between regime type, the rule of law, economic development, and political corruption, the outlier is always Singapore.

And so on...

The shelf life of one-party states

We used to group Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore as the 4 Asian Tigers in the 1970-80s, for their apparently resistance to the global stagflation and recession, and for the exotic charm of being non-democratic, yet economically successful regimes.

Singapore's Qin Shihuang has famously taken this happy coincidence and formulated the Confucian values theory and the Asian development theory, which inform popular perceptions of the 2 propositions in the danieldrezner dicussion:

A. Long-term economic properity requires democratic governance.
Not A. Authoritarian governance is a better guarantor of long-term economic prosperity.

Every year, Habibul Khondker of NUS looks at these two propositions in his Political Sociology class, and goes "that's interesting, but the argument is slightly inaccurate". First, none of the current Great Powers were democratic until the 1920s. The US is famous for not extending suffrage to its African-Americans until 1965. By the 1920s, all the Great Powers were already economic giants whose rise were achieved under more authoritarian or absolute forms of governance.

Similarly, Taiwan et al. cannot be held to represent of how authoritarian governments in modern times can lead to economic riches. Postcolonial countries (those achieve independence after WW2) that are authoritarian tend to perform overwhelmingly poorer.

Where are Taiwan and South Korea now?

Taiwan: KMT forces retreat to island in 1949. One-party state withers in 1988.
South Korea: Dictatorship since 1950. One-party state withers in 1987.
Mexico (Not very prosperous, but still...): PRI rules from 1929 to 2000.

Pay attention, Minilee: Sic transit gloria mundi.

Ronald Inglehart has been saying since 1977, that prolonged stretches of economic prosperity tend to lead to a liberalisation of political attitudes towards leadership and governance in a country's population. Since 1977, the European Values Survey and its successor, the World Values Survey, have proven his theory right.

Why is it so important? It's one thing to claim that people will want more political say, higher accountability, less authoritarian leadership (i.e. become more godlessly liberal) as they prosper. Your country's leaders will say, "Well, it's just a theory. As you can see, we're not going to move towards total chaos anytime soon, hahaha." But when there are more than 30 years of survey data and longtitudinal studies to prove the survey, perhaps it's time Minilee and Papalee start worrying about the inevitable.