14 July 2022

Did the New Naratif Civil War destroy New Naratif?

In April 2022, New Naratif raised the alarm. For the very first time, despite several years of releasing "accountability reports" to his subscribers and the public at large, Dr PJ Thum, the managing director of the website and director of its holding company Observatory Southeast Asia Pte Ltd, admitted to a crippling financial shortfall. Subscriber numbers have been misreported, subscription fees not collected, leading to a corrected revenue shortfall of USD 40,000. Not soon after, he appears to have let go almost all his editorial staff. Even now, New Naratif's restructuring is still in progress as it pivots to a different business model, publishing angle, and reason for existence.

This is par for the course for any financially distressed enterprise—until the staff laid off by Dr Thum chose to fight it out in the public. They allege that Thum misled both his readers and staff. Thum accused the staff of attempting to subvert his management, and furthermore accused them of waging a disinformation campaign. The staff stand by what they said, noting that documented evidence (presumably in the reports and subscriber emails) supports their narrative, not Thum's.

English Civil War woodcut in pamphlet, c.1643

In a fit of madness, Thum and his former employees have fired off the equivalent of ICBMs in a mutually-destructive civil war. Both sides may refuse to issue further responses but the damage is done.

16 March 2022

Was it wise for Singapore to impose sanctions on Russia?

As war wages on in Ukraine, American president Joe Biden leans on reluctant NATO allies in Europe, long dependent on Russian gas, to stand with the Ukrainians against the invasion. Russia must be punished, yet not hard enough that it could spark another World War. Biden instigates his European allies to propose and vote to condemn the war in the United Nations, while many others refrain from taking a stand. Like most of the world outside NATO, in fact.

Mykhailo Khmelko depicts the Treaty of Pereyaslav in a 1951 painting.

The few Asian nations to impose sanctions on Russia are America's closest allies: South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. And then, there is Singapore. This move has international observers scratching their heads. It is unexpected, uncharacteristic, and unprecedented. Singapore does not live in the shadow of Russia nor is it a NATO member. Nor would most people describe it as a close ally of America. Singapore's brand of diplomacy has been quiet and low key; it rarely sticks out, if ever, from the ASEAN consensus position.

There are those who argue that Singapore should have stayed on the sidelines like its neighbours. That it should play the role of a neutral peacemaker. That Singapore's pro-Ukraine positioning is too extreme, and going further to impose sanctions against Russia is a mistake.

14 February 2022

When will it be safe to support the Workers' Party again?

On 10 February 2022, the Committee of Privileges presented its official report on Ms Raeesah's Khan's lies to the Singapore Parliament.

Here are some of the salient points from the report.

For all intents and purposes, the fat lady has sung

09 February 2022

Will the PAP pay a political price for the committee of privileges?

Politics is a funny business. Both sides of the political divide in Singapore can agree on several immutable facts: Worker’s Party MP Raeesah Khan told several lies in Parliament for months, eventually admitted, apologised, and resigned for lying, a complaint for breach of parliamentary privilege was filed, and a committee of privileges convened to investigate the matter.

According to certain online commentators, given the same facts, it is the People’s Action Party that must pay a political price because the committee of privileges allowed Khan to implicate the leaders of WP (notably Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and Opposition Whip Sylvia Lim) for their possible role in abetting her lies, and then to investigate these allegations. When did they know of the lie? What did they say to Khan over the course of 3 months? Why did they keep silent for 3 months? Why, the PAP will pay for the committee going in this direction, not the WP!

19 December 2021

Should Singaporeans trust the parliamentary Committee of Privileges?

Every night for the past two weeks, Singaporeans watched as the Committee of Privileges investigated Raeesah Khan, formerly MP for Sengkang GRC and leading members of her former political party, for lying in Parliament.

Is the Committee of Privileges politically motivated? Is this investigation a witch hunt and a prelude to "fix the opposition"?

Illustration of the Newcastle witch hunt of 1650 from Ralph Gardiner's account in 1655

18 May 2021

Who should we blame for Singapore's second Covid lockdown?

Ship of fools, woodcut, 1494 Basel

Singapore returned to a state of lockdown on 8 May 2021. With all indoor sports, indoor dining, mandatory work from home, and social gathering severely restricted (and with all schools switching to home-based learning), this is a mere quarter-turn of the screw away from the complete lockdown ("Circuit Breaker") from April 2020.

Much has been made about the quality of decision-making of Singapore's Interministerial Covid Task Force in this matter.  Once again like the initial dithering and delays that led to travellers from Wuhan colonising Singapore with the Covid virus, our leaders dithered for a month while India reported its worst Covid spikes in a year. Just like in the Wuhan case, Singapore's leaders sat on their hands long after India announced the lockdown of its capital. Singapore's leaders allowed travellers from India into the country, in increasing numbers, even after the Indian government blamed the outbreak not on the record crowds at the Kumbh Mela river festival but on the "India variant" of the Covid virus.

It was only when the UK declared its travel restrictions on India that Singapore followed suit, on the same day. Yet why do Singapore's leaders blame Singaporeans for its own India variant Covid clusters and the subsequent lockdown?

13 January 2021

Can we live together with TraceTogether?

Why is trust in TraceTogether at an all-time low?

Singaporeans should be celebrating. After nearly a year of lockdown, Singapore has entered the elusive "Phase 3" despite the inter-ministerial covid task force tripping itself over and over again with poor communication skills and crisis management and a tendency to allow PR agendas to trump medical-scientific expertise and set policy. By refusing to hold daily televised coronavirus briefings during the initial darkest months, this team failed to reassure, educate, guide, and rally the public and to shore up the government credibility and authority during the pandemic. Yes, it's time to talk about TraceTogether fiasco, where this credibility and authority is finally found wanting by the public.