Political Commentary

The PAP And The People: Bread-And-Butter Concerns And Much More

I was much interested in and appreciative of, the quick, frank responses of readers to my article ‘The PAP in Critical Transition: Regaining Lost Trust‘, especially the point made by many about the primacy of bread-and-butter concerns over all others, including politically-based ones. I feel it is a point worth taking up and expanding, which I have tried to do in the follow-up article below.


In the current troubled transition following the General Election of 2011, the people’s voice is strongest and most anguished, understandably, when it comes to matters affecting the very sustainability of day-to-day living—unaffordable housing, increasing cost of living and decreasing incomes, loss of jobs, etc. Indeed, these basic bread-and-butter issues have taken on an emotional urgency that demands nothing less than immediate corrective action on the part of the PAP government.

It must be said, in all fairness to the government, that since GE 2011, it has been responding with a plethora of these remedial measures. Almost on a daily basis, one reads about this or that decision to provide more housing, improve transport, build more schools and child care centres, provide subsidies to employers to enable them to raise the wages of employees, tweak existing laws for the hiring of foreign workers to ensure fairness for citizens in the workforce, etc.

Yet although the sincerity of these decisions cannot be doubted simply because the decision-makers are obliged to translate them into immediate action which moreover has high public visibility, the people generally remain unappeased and continue to vent their anger in the social media.

Is it because, as some PAP sympathizers have suggested, Singaporeans have become a spoilt and pampered lot, ready to whine and whinge when things are not to their liking? Or is it because, as many Singaporeans have averred, the PAP’s exercise of appeasement is just too little, too late? Above all, how could such a situation have arisen with a leadership that has always prided itself on solving even the most intractable problems, and a people who despite their grouses against the PAP, clearly do not want a takeover by any of the opposition parties?

I feel that the situation is far too complex and riddled with contradictions, for simplistic explanations or heightened rhetoric, and warrants, instead, serious even if discomfiting analysis.

A useful starting point is the observation that in general, in societies worldwide, bread-and-butter problems which obviously require solutions of the practical, socio-economic kind, nevertheless have a root cause that is a political one, namely, the unlimited exercise of power by the ruling party, usually correlated with long years of fearful acquiescence on the part of the people.

In the case of Singapore, the political situation is of course less direful than that found in many societies in the world, that make horrific newspaper headlines. But it is no secret that Singaporeans have always been resentful of the impact of PAP dominance in their lives. This resentment was clearly reflected, more than twenty years ago, when they pointedly welcomed the new premiership of Mr Goh Chok Tong who had publicly promised a ‘kinder, gentler society’ and chosen as his slogan ‘A Gracious Society,’ that is, one that would be a marked departure from the old dispensation based on the use of fear to silence critics.

Unfortunately, in the years that followed, no political transformation took place. The people, despite their society’s material prosperity which greatly impressed the world, became disillusioned, a disillusionment that continued into the administration of Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the current Prime Minister, since it too adopted the same hard stance against political dissidents.

Still, as long as the government’s policies increased wealth and made possible the acquisition of the famous 5 Cs of material success (Cash, Car, Condominium, Credit Card and Country Club Membership), the majority more or less accepted the trade-off. After all, a well-fed, well-housed and well-shod people cannot get too angry, and so the PAP was comfortably re-elected in each General Election through the years.

But something happened, leading to a drastic change in GE 2011. The old compact by which the PAP would always guarantee competent, accountable leadership in return for full, unquestioning support by the electorate was broken by what the people perceived as the PAP’s dismal failure to keep their part of the compact.

Competence? Where was it when an influx of foreigners was allowed in, to compete for jobs and crowd the trains and buses? Moral accountability? Where was it when the unbelievably easy escape of a top terrorist detainee elicited not a sincere apology from the Ministry in charge, but punitive measures against low-level prison officers involved? Where was this vaunted commitment to the people’s well-being when the PAP leaders paid themselves incredibly high salaries at a time when ordinary Singaporeans were struggling to keep up with the cost of living?

Clearly, after more than 40 years of untrammeled power, the PAP had settled into a deadly complacency and sense of entitlement, that caused them to ride roughshod over the people’s feelings and push through a whole slew of controversial and unpopular policies, including those that would lead directly to the present bread-and-butter grievances.

But even before the people’s anger erupted at the polls, the socioeconomic and political aspects of an issue had already become inextricably linked, with the result that economic problems came to be seen as having an ultimate political cause. Thus the hardships of day-to-day living were attributed to PAP arrogance, elitism and insensitivity, and the flight abroad of bright young talent that would be needed to chart and strengthen Singapore’s economic future, was attributed to the PAP’s continuing suppression of political freedom.

The present badly deteriorating relationship between the government and the people thus cannot be repaired as long as both parties perceive it as no more than one massive bread-and-butter problem, to be broken up into its many separate components which can then be fixed one by one, whether it is about the spiralling cost of resale HDB units, COEs, CPF, GST, increased bus fares, increased hospital fees, maid levies, etc. That would be dealing with the problem only at the surface, not the root. At worst, it could be just a frenzied, uncoordinated exercise of fire-fighting and damage-control.

The situation has become so complex as to give rise to all kinds of anomalies. Hence, even if all the problems were solved to the people’s satisfaction (a near impossibility, given their diversity and intractability), there would still be no proof of a genuine disavowal by the PAP of the mindset that had led to the problems in the first place. Could the PAP be tempted, for instance, to withdraw or nullify a corrective measure if it won convincingly in the next General Election, managed to reverse the losses of GE 2011, and had no more need to placate the people?

Again, even if the PAP had genuinely undertaken a mindset change (another near impossibility, given their decades of entrenched power), the people might be too impatient to wait out the time, possibly years, needed for certain projects to show results, such as those involving major infrastructural changes. Any PAP appeal for patience would fall on deaf ears. It would put a beleaguered government in a most unenviable ‘I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t’ position.

The PAP and the people seem trapped in an intolerable impasse.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. I had suggested, in my previous article, a controversial, somewhat startling political solution: that the PAP voluntarily give up all those instruments of control, such as the ISA, which had marked PAP power at its most fearsome. This large gesture, as I called it, would have not only symbolic but actual value. For despite its origins in the past, it would have two distinct beneficial results for the present and the future.

Firstly, the gesture would mean that all remaining instruments of intimidation, such as the defamation suit, would have to be similarly abandoned, thus removing, once and for all, the climate of fear. Secondly, once launched, the new climate of freedom would only get better, so that by the time of the next leadership, such highly distasteful government policies as the one giving humongous salaries to ministers, or the one assigning a huge proportion of the targeted future population to foreigners, could never even be considered, much less forced through. To a great extent, the kind of problems being seen now, both economic and political, would be prevented at source.

Having argued for a political opening up and a complete removal of fear as the ultimate, long-term solution to all problems, I now find myself in the paradoxical position of saying it probably cannot be done.

The reason is that any massive change in PAP philosophy and governance can come about only when the old dispensation is well and truly gone, in the classic scenario of the Old Order making way for the New.

The present transition is an odd mix of the old and the new, with the former often having greater influence. For Singapore is still very much a Confucianist society with an ingrained respect for those in authority, and as long as the last Old Guards are still around, the leaders will feel psychologically uncomfortable and culturally conflicted about abandoning policies that had been so long associated with these founding fathers of the nation. In common parlance, their hands are tied. Still, given the amazing unpredictability of events in a breathlessly changing world, one dares to hope that even paradoxes may be resolved.

This is as appropriate a time as any for me, a long time political commentator anxiously following developments in a much loved country, to share my thoughts and feelings about what I would like to see in a future Singapore, whether in a foreseeable 2030, or in a distant time shrouded in the mists of the unknown and unknowable.

Whichever political party is in power ten years, twenty years down the road, I would like to see the preservation of the PAP’s core principles of self discipline, competence, accountability and incorruptibility, especially as they were manifested during the early years of Singapore’s development when both the leaders and the people worked hard together in a unity of understanding, trust and aspiration. The principles are, by any standards of leadership, a remarkable statement of commitment and are worthy to be enshrined permanently in Singapore’s political landscape.

If, alas, they have been vitiated over the years by complacency and carelessness, they must be reclaimed in their pristine form. If the bond between the government and people has been badly weakened, it must be repaired, whatever the effort that is needed from both sides.

Since the PAP is the dominant party, with all the resources for action at its command and disposal, including the support of powerful institutions such as the media, it should bear the greater share of the responsibility for initiating the repair of the bond which, even if it is no longer capable of regard, can at least be based on respect.

40 comments below

  1. Glenn
    March 16th, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I seriously doubt they realise the severity of the ill will towards the PAP. I can see the cadres white washing, group thinking during the party meetings and with no cajones to call the emperor having no clothes. This is what u get when u get careerists and opportunists running the show – they will just go with the flow.

    In addition, the way the PAP seem to have suddenly found religion and deciding to enact policies that reverse the decades of policies which effectively sold out Singaporeans to developers and foreigners ONLY after they were delivered tight slaps by the opposition parties will make Sngaporeans realise the value of ending the PAP’s dominance on political and economicnpower in Singapore. If the PAP won Aljunied we would have to live with another five years of plunder and dispossession by the PAP and their policies

  2. Economist 101
    March 16th, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    The PAP govt. must go back to basics. Every policy they make must start with one question: Does it benefit Singaporeans and Singapore the nation in the long run?

    For the past two decades, it would seem every PAP policy started with just one question: Does it benefit the PAP party in the short term?

    With such a mindset, the PAP govt. has become blinded by greed and self-interest, and as Glenn has very well put it, Singaporeans have suffered from “decades of policies which effectively sold out Singaporeans to developers and foreigners…..” and “……plunder and dispossession by the PAP and their policies”.

  3. Paul Peters
    March 16th, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    You expect the PAP to change? Surely you must be dreaming.

    I am not waiting for that to happen. I just want to kick their arse out @GE 2016. There is no need waiting for them to be “nice to us”. If you believe the PAP, you must be believing heaven is on earth now.

  4. Tan Choon Hong
    March 16th, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Simply put, the slew of changes revealed by the government just begs the question, why didn’t they see the shortcomings earlier and took corrective action? There are also deep-seated misgivings that all these proposals are targetted at easing the entry of more people to ramp up the population to 6.9 million.

    Above all, despite serious reservations expressed by non-government economists at home and abroad, the frantic rush to pass the Population White Paper with only 5 days of debate, culminating in its adoption by 77 ruling MPs like so many eunuchs in the forbidden city, has become the only talk in town, eclipsing the national conversation which has largely fizzled out.

    All these suspicions about the motivations of the ruling party’s population policy has cast a dark cloud over the people’s view of their future and that of generations to come. Will the people ever again be humming “This is my island in the sun…?” Only time can tell.

  5. The Pariah
    March 17th, 2013 at 11:59 am

    PART 1 — From Goh Chok Tong onwards, I increasingly realize that PAP have lost their INTELLECTUAL AND POLITICAL HONESTY.

    POPULATION WHITE PAPER: Pay And Profit (PAP) FAILED to explain their desperation to dish out 20,000 to 25,000 Spore Citizenships PER YEAR before GE 2015-16 WITHOUT:

    (1) establishing commitment (loyalty) of PRs/Foreigners through the Test of Time (eg, follow HK example – require 7 continuous stay before giving SC); and

    (2) requiring clawback (inflation-adjusted) of PR/citizenry entitlements upon renunciation of SC from these One-Generation Sinkaporeans.

  6. The Pariah
    March 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    PART 2 — PAP not only lost PUBLIC TRUST (which they have only just realized within the last couple of months). PAP have lost PUBLIC CREDIBILITY and they don’t even know why.

    Budget 2013 is only the teaser trailer. From ministerial test balloons already floated out, I reckon that policy details to be released up to Jun 2013 will likely prove that the Wayang (Play-Acting) is R-rated for stark nudity.

    Market is KING. Govt is EMPEROR WITHOUT CLOTHES.

    LAND USE PLAN: There are 2 sources of land supply in Singapore: (i) Public from Govt Land Sales and (ii) Private from En Bloc Sales under Land Title Strata Act (LTSA).

    In 80-page document with input from 20+ ministries/govt agencies, NOT A SINGLE WORD was mentioned about En Bloc Sales.

    Singaporeans (even those who lost their family homes under under this law calibrated to be Pro-Sale, rather than Pro-Owners) do NOT realize:

    - how a piece of legislation on private property rights was given full RETROSPECTIVE effect: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45870666/Singapore-Land-Titles-Strata-Act-Law-passed-with-retrospective-effect

    From Page 10: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32509450/LTSA2010-ParlDebate-18May

    From Para 8.2: http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.sg/2010/07/part-2-lady-gaga-is-too-stumped-to-go.html

    • ministerial disinterest as proven by lack of monitoring of “Sustainable Redevelopment” policy impact and “Property Speculation” motivation even 13 years after inception of this law in 1999, as manifested by Law Minister’s Written Answer to reply to Parliamentary Questions (bearing in mind above Bloomberg report also cited: “curb the trend of so-called shoebox apartments”): http://www.scribd.com/doc/32509450/LTSA2010-ParlDebate-18May

    After FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEARS (Oct 2007-Mar 2013) with EIGHT ROUNDS of property market cooling measures, both the (i) Private Property Price Index AND (ii) HDB Resale Price Index rocketed up almost relentlessly (only PPPI crumbled during 2008-09 Wall Street Meltdown).

    Oi, Emperor, like that still have PUBLIC CREDIBILITY, meh?

  7. Economist 101
    March 17th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Mr. Tan Choon Hong, you’re right. The rush through of the Population White Paper is the most despicable action that any govt. could inflict on its people, and smacks of a sinister plot to rob, or kill or cause the suicide (accidental?) of a young nation. This sneaky ( similarly sneaky when they increased our population by a whopping 2 million over 2 decades from 1990 – 2010) way of governing Singapore is no better than a third world African country standard.

    Singapore is a small island nation, and therefore we must manage our population increase with the utmost care and concern. Under no circumstance must we allow our population to reach 7 million and become as congested as Hong Kong! Yet the PAP govt. keeps using Hong Kong as a standard for us. Why aren’t they using Switzerland as a standard instead?

    Hong Kong has never been a sovereign nation, and has always been crowded and controlled by the Hongs, or big business empires controlled by the Li Ka Shings and Raymond Kwoks, who form cartels and sign deals over a game of golf or over dinner and drinks in their posh clubs. It is a known fact that they control the property market there and jointly work to push up prices over the years.

    It is perhaps time now for Singaporeans to put their foot down and send a clear message to the PAP that enough is enough, that we don’t want them to act like a Hong, and that Singapore is not for sale, at any price, to foreigners. We don’t want to be like Hong Kong, and we want to conserve our scarce land resource for future generation of Singaporeans. We want a small and beautiful population of about 4 million, which can increase slowly to 5 million, and stabilized there so that we can have enough breathing space for everyone.

  8. The Pariah
    March 17th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    ERRATA: One of the links in my PART 2 above was wrong. My apologies.

    CORRECT VERSION: PART 2 — PAP not only lost PUBLIC TRUST (which they have only just realized within the last couple of months). PAP have lost PUBLIC CREDIBILITY and they don’t even know why.

    Budget 2013 is only the teaser trailer. From ministerial test balloons already floated out, I reckon that policy details to be released up to Jun 2013 will likely prove that the Wayang (Play-Acting) is R-rated for stark nudity.

    Market is KING. Govt is EMPEROR WITHOUT CLOTHES.

    LAND USE PLAN: There are 2 sources of land supply in Singapore: (i) Public from Govt Land Sales and (ii) Private from En Bloc Sales under Land Title Strata Act (LTSA).

    In 80-page document with input from 20+ ministries/govt agencies, NOT A SINGLE WORD was mentioned about En Bloc Sales.

    Singaporeans (even those who lost their family homes under under this law calibrated to be Pro-Sale, rather than Pro-Owners) do NOT realize:

    - how a piece of legislation on private property rights was given full RETROSPECTIVE effect: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45870666/Singapore-Land-Titles-Strata-Act-Law-passed-with-retrospective-effect

    - how the FALLACIES of (i) majority consent and (ii) free market forces were perpetuated by calculated legislative calibration: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45870975/Singapore-Land-Titles-Strata-Act-Possible-fallacies-of-the-free-will-of-majority-in-en-bloc-sales

    - alternative additional option as a solution for qualifying owner-occupiers with only one residential property in Singapore, piggybacking on South Korea’s model of urban rejuvenation: http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.sg/2008/08/so-whats-alternative-in-end.html

    - specific operational/procedural controls at 3 key milestones at (a) beginning, (b) mid-point and (c) tail-end of en bloc sale process, as raised during parliamentary debate for the 2nd round of legislative amendment in 2010 after the 1st round in 2007:

    From Page 10: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32509450/LTSA2010-ParlDebate-18May

    From Para 8.2: http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.sg/2010/07/part-2-lady-gaga-is-too-stumped-to-go.html

    - ministerial disinterest as proven by lack of monitoring of “Sustainable Redevelopment” policy impact and “Property Speculation” motivation even 13 years after inception of this law in 1999, as manifested by Law Minister’s Written Answer to reply to Parliamentary Questions (bearing in mind Govt’s specific policy response to curb the trend of shoebox apartments, Law Ministry’s professed tracking of a single data parameter – “number of units” – is incredulously simplistic): http://www.scribd.com/doc/130528930/Parliamentary-Questions-for-Written-Answers-12-Nov-2012

    After FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEARS (Oct 2007-Mar 2013) with EIGHT ROUNDS of property market cooling measures, both the (i) Private Property Price Index AND (ii) HDB Resale Price Index rocketed up relentlessly (only PPPI crumbled during 2008-09 Wall Street Meltdown).

    Oi, Emperor, like that still have PUBLIC CREDIBILITY, meh?

    Ministers decry that Singaporeans only know how to COMPLAIN. Above show examples of proposed solutions and alternatives.

    Did the PAP Govt professing to be an “HONEST GOVERNMENT” do anything to “address the ASPIRATIONS and NEEDS of ALL sectors of society” and “explain the CONSTRAINTS” as Law Minister Shanmugam HYPED in ST report of 3 Mar 2013?

    Gimme a break. You may be wearing not one thread. But I ain’t no fool.

  9. Emily
    March 17th, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Catherine, I hope you can be one of the speaker in this coming 1 May protest at speaker corner. Really hope to see you in person.

  10. soong
    March 17th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Singaporeans need more real people to come forth and speak out with clarity and conviction that Singaporeans Really Deserve Better Deals fro the government of the day. Just hope Catherine Lim can join hands and rally our Singaporeans Outcries at Hong Lim park . Thanks for your insight and blog posts. Enjoy your reasoning too.

  11. Cck
    March 17th, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Catherine. I have all respect for you but please bear with my profanities.

    Fuck the pap government that has been suppressing us. We should rise us with our fellow bethrens all boot the pap government out of Singapore. Get out of elite ordinary peasants face! Kan ni na buei Cheebye bastard!

  12. jack
    March 17th, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    You should seriously go to the May 1st protest – we the lay Singaporean need people like you to be not just our role model but to be in the flesh.

  13. Al
    March 18th, 2013 at 1:29 am

    The trust has been broken. And like a mirror once broken, cannot be mended.

  14. John C.
    March 18th, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Trust broken is hard to mend, especially when the aggrieved party feels cheated. Like a shaky marriage, the unwelcome intruder is the enemy inside the gate! No amount of pacifying will assuage the aggrieved – not when the offending party hums and haws. Repentance precedes forgiveness, and even then, the latter may not be given rightaway or so easily. A sad fact of life, and no less true even in the world of politics.

  15. Langgar
    March 18th, 2013 at 11:11 am

    There is so much truth in your article. Thank you for articulating it!

  16. Yenny Ong
    March 18th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    You are right, Jack. I was at the last HLP protest and I will be there again this coming May 1st. I also very much like to see Catherine there as a speaker.

  17. henry
    March 18th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Part 1 The Singaporean employee

    Part 2 The Singaporean employer

    In most, we hear more from Part 1 than Part 2 and I wonder why is that so. We are familiar with how Part 1 feels and how Part 1 has been treated. I suspect we do not hear much from Part 2 because most of them are not suffering as much as Part 1. Part 2 has been getting the most attention and the best deals for over 2 decades.

    There is Part 3. These are the academics, the intelligentsia and most are silent, except for some like Catherine. It seems like we have a shortage of Singaporean academics. Most are FTs. and that is perhaps the reason for the silence.

    We need participation of Part 3 people, Singaporeans please… unless these are also the elite who enjoy the wide gap in incomes. Where are you, the Singaporean academic??

  18. George Lam
    March 18th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Catherine, IMO, it would not be possible for the twain to meet, until the govt recognizes the legitimate will of the people. For far, far too long the PAP govt has been the Machiavellian card in its govt – people relationship. It has always been since LKY’s days, a govt game of how to out-manoeuvre the people. A Theory X sort of belief of the govt towards the citizens. You see it in the tight fisted policies towards the poor and unfortunate in our society. You see it in the ubiquitous parking lots drawn to collect parking charges all over this island, sometimes even in the remotest of places. In other countries, vehicles are allowed to park FOC at designated places with a time limit. I must say it is a very civilized way of allocating and sharing limited parking facilities without perpetually resorting to hitting you in the pocket. No place is sacred, we have to pay for parking even at the MacRitchie Reservoir now when previously it was free, when on most days and night there are plenty of lots available for visitors. In the former case, one’s reaction is how money-faced the govt is, in contrast one can truly appreciate the thoughtfulness of the parking authorities of making sure that individual car owners do not monopolize parking in high demand areas simply because he/she can afford the parking charges. The approach to problem solving cannot be more obvious that this example.

    The feeling of being alienated and being distrusted is felt in the bones.

  19. Wilson Wong U S
    March 18th, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    “…the preservation of the PAP’s core principles of self discipline, competence, accountability and incorruptibility, especially as they were manifested during the early years of Singapore’s development when both the leaders and the people worked hard together in a unity of understanding, trust and aspiration.”

    I would say this is the core principles that any government of the people that is formed by the people and for the people will definitely not perish from Earth (Abraham Lincoln).

    The sad fact of the current government is not of the bread and butter issue, but one that is of a vicious and bad perception of those who are governed of those who in are control.

    People are now angry because opportunities are given to correct the issues and new policies are passed with implicit trust of the people in power only to be returned with a sense of betrayal when foreigners are treated so much more better than those born in Singapore.

    I have to agree that the reason why people are not voicing out is the presence of the ISD. However, I would counter that, when our arguments are presented with much thought and poise, when our comments are respectful and sincere, we have no fear of ISD.

    It is unlike those of the 60s when feelings are more prominent in any arguments, inciting social unrest and cause destruction to gain political points.

    So long we approach the subject matter as adults, speak like adults and argue with respect for opponents without the need to be disruptive and destructive, then fear of the government would be irrational.

    You do speak of ISD. I believe it is time to keep that as the back-burner and focus on having the REAL Singapore Conversation.

    Conversation means understanding the feelings of those involved and to be accommodating when policy are passed.

    At the moment, it is passing the policies first and then to be seen as accommodating. And when there are conversations, it is more like a conversation to explain policies rather than gaining ground insights to have better policies. It is this point that the government has totally lost the plot and was made worse by the back peddling witnessed by Singaporeans in Parliament when ‘discussing’ about the white paper.

    It is this point that the government has put the cart well before the horse.

    The sooner they realise this, the better.

    Start with withdrawing the 6.9 Million Population white paper and that is the best signal that they have understood they have erred and willing to change. The white paper is now the proverbial thorn in Singaporeans’ necks.

  20. LC
    March 18th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I think how the announcements of the new infrastructure building and the white paper on population with the backdrop of the Punggol East by-election, simply cause people to lose trust in the PAP.

    The infrastructure building was announced first, as if to say that the PAP has been listening, and will be taking action to alleviate Singaporeans’ concerns over housing and transport. Next, WP won Punggol East. There after, the real intention for the infrastructure building was revealed: to support the 6.9 million population, to be achieved by immigration.

    So, the PAP has not listened, but breached our trust in them by not acting in our best interest. That is why the anger has not subsided. I don’t think the anger is only in people who go online. The vote in Punggol East swung 10.8% against the PAP in a “safe” seat. That means that in the real world, people are still angry and want an alternative to the PAP shoving their policies, which people can very well see no benefits in, down our throats.

  21. LC
    March 18th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I also think that, even if the PAP were to repeal the ISA, there will be little effect on the anger of the people. After all, for most people, what good is the repeal of the ISA to me, if the problems of Singapore are still not solved?

  22. vrede
    March 18th, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I think this system created by them is beyond repair. We need change. We need to vote opposition.

  23. Anon
    March 19th, 2013 at 3:00 am

    We nationals sense how much the government has hidden from us the major losses sustained by their lack of judgement and incompetency in decision-making that caused them to withhold the people’s hardearned bloodsweat money from them which has prevented them from a well-deserved retirement at age 55 or 62, and the trend is expected to continue – no retirement age, work until you die! Can you empathize with ordinary citizens like us? You continue to earn royalties from the books sold at the market, dine at luxurious restaurants, live at high-class condominium? Time and time again the government refused to tell us the real reasons behind the import of huge numbers of foreigners, whose pockets are they trying to fatten? What about the locals who are replaced by foreign workers willing to work for lesser pay and who come in droves to threaten our livelihood and rice-bowls? We feel cheated by them. Are they trying to play us out of the game? Do they really think locals are so stupid that they cannot discern for themselves the wayang shows they have put up to hoodwink us and disguised their hidden self-serving agendas as “national policies” aimed at “improving citizens’ lives”? The locals’ lives have significant deteriorated since the First Generation Old Guards mysteriously vanished out of the political scene – They were the truly heroes of their time uncorrupted, set high standards of discipline and efficiency. They were slowly taken out of the limelight to make way for those who crave for the limelight and seek to raise their own profiles on the world stage. We the citizens of Sungapore are truly sorry for them that they have slowly, surely and in a short period of one generation wiped out all the hardwork, toil and amazing efforts that that the first leaders have sown in our soils.

  24. Ee Er San
    March 19th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    The PAPiigs will not change. Remember the times when they promised that they would, and even cried to convince the dafts? Well, did they? A big fat NOPE!

    If we want a better place to call home the only way to do that is to kick the incompetent, greedy, evil PAPiigs out, the sooner the better. Nothing less will do, no two ways about it.

  25. JOH
    March 19th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    SINGAPORE HAS THE TRAPPINGS OF A CONTRY BUT IS NOT A COUNTRY.

    AS MANY READERS SAY IT IS BASICALLY A FAMILY DYNASTY CENTRED ON THE papies FAMILY AND FIEFDOM.

    ALL POWERS R WIELDED BY THEM AND HAVE BECOME A GENETIC LIABILITY.

    ONLY ThEIR PROPAGANDA SAYS THEY R NO 1 WHICH THE INTERNET HAS EXPOSED AS BULLSHIT.

    THE SO CALLED SCHOLARS R GOOD CIVIL SERVANTS WITH A HEAD BUT WITH NO HEART.

    TO GOVERN A COUNTRY U NEED A HEART AS WELL.

    POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY.

    U R SUGGESTING THEY GIVE UP core of POWER.(ISA)(NEDIA)

    THEY WILL FEAR THE BACKLASH AND WIL NEVER HAPPEN.

    TURNING WATER TO WINE????

  26. Lucas Low
    March 19th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I’m afraid that the PAP government is caught in a Catch 22 situation that the large symbol solution to re-bond with the people as you suggested, Catherine, will see the people respond with a triumphant and critical attitude that will intensify division and oppposition, instead of lessening it. For victories in battle can only spur the conquering spirit of men to identify new battlegrounds in their search for the sweet taste of victory. How intoxicating it is, to stand on the winner’s podium drinking in the adulation of the masses.

  27. Wei Lishi
    March 19th, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Wrong Premise + Correct Deduction +

    Zealous Execution

    Disastrous Outcome

    There are many wrong premises being made by the White that they could not and will not correct as doing so would mean the White will no longer be White. They could not, because they may not know what. And, even they could put their fingers on some of them, they won’t be able to turn the situation around as what once thought to be smart is now irrelevant and the damage has already been done, and the degree of damage is too deep.

    One of the most wrong premises is that critics are anti-white, and worst, they are misunderstood as anti-government. And thus the treatment given to them. Had the critical views been accepted in good faith, many wrong premises would not be formed.

  28. Wei Lishi
    March 19th, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    It should be:

    Wrong Premise + Correct Deduction + Zealous Execution = Disastrous Outcome

  29. Law KH
    March 19th, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I am about to enter the lion’s den with my thoughts. But I am sure Catherine is open to views different from hers.

    Born neither into gentry, nor a “Brahmanic” family but the son of a Swatow migrant, I have no friends amongst the glitterati or the literary class. But 90%, maybe more, of my friends are anti-PAP. I belong, I suppose, to the middle class and my life has closely tracked the development of Singapore since 1960 – such that each decade brought with it improvement in family life, with ever more material gains – until Nov 2011 when I joined the jobless PMEs until now – with a mortgage and 3 tertiary-aged children.

    Each week or any month and even when I held a good-salary job, I cycled, took the buses and sardine-canned onboard the MRT despite the convenience that I (still) have in a modest car. So, even though I have published no literary works nor is it likely that I will win any Lifetime Achievement Award from TOC, I think I qualify to make observations of the current state of affair between PAP and Singaporeans. I am your Everyman, not someone from the literary glitterati who has never boarded a bus or MRT but nonetheless writes about it like she has.

    Catherine observes that the PAP is in ‘critical transition’ and ‘desperate to regain lost faith/trust”. And that “the present loss of trust in the PAP government is …enduring and far-reaching, not merely the outcome of a tumultuous General Election, but a deeply rooted malaise”. I disagree.

    One, the loss of trust is not the issue. It is the expression in response to a deficiency (the Issue) on PAP’s part. Ministerial salaries, housing, transport, and health care matters etc that have come to a head in the last few years. PAP has shown to have faltered, to have failed, not marginally but miserably failed.

    The failures in and of themselves are not uncommon in many, if not most countries. But because they have been unprecedented in Singapore for the past decades under the PAP brand of government, Singaporeans, as we like to say, “cry father, cry mother” over them. The floods are a good example. From Bangkok to KL to Jakarta and, farther afield, even Katherina or Sandy residents would consider a year without flooding akin to striking their National Lottery. But, PAP-governed Singapore? Impossible! Deplorable!

    Adding insult to injuries suffered, from the flood to the flood of foreigners, overcrowding on public transport and residential areas, the reactions from the PAP either rationalized each away (as Catherine righty pointed out) in their “usual…rational, sustained discourse “ or, worse, by being on the defensive and suggesting/implying that we complain too much.

    Which leads me to my second point that, contrary to Catherine’s claim that the loss of trust is “a deeply rooted malaise”, this expression to the failures are a recent development. However, I agree that it is very likely that “the explosive power of the social media” has played a, if not the, key role to spread, acerbate and exacerbate the expression of Singaporeans’ response.

    But let me go back to the issue of the failures. We must ask why? Why did they fail so miserably? Because they lack “20/20 foresight”? If that excuse were true, then it can be applied to every politician in almost any failed situation. (As an aside, sadly, that excuse was in response to a question to the PAP Sec-Gen about the need to be more open with information to be made available to alternative views and analyses. In effect, the answer was, no, the information stays with the government and will not be freely shared.)

    No, the cause of failure is to be found in the seeds of their success and successes. PAP leaders are made up of no more human beings than any other organization. The cause lies in the hubris of success. We know better, we know all. No one else does. With hubris, comes blind sightedness, usually because those inducted into the Party are selected on the same criteria; all meritocratically-processed, honed so meticulously as not to fail – but usually fail they do, to see from a different angle. As an e.g., with a selection process that produces only one MP prepared to stay in her HDB flat still, how can the rest of the leaders actually understand what the average HDB heartlander faces each ticking minute of her/his life? The map produced by their feedback loop is not the territory. Hence, when it fails, it fails spectacularly. How else does one explain an elected government brandishing a 14.2% GDP growth rate, the 2nd highest in the world after QATAR in 2011, only to suffer its biggest ever GE loss?

    Hubris not only brings with it blind sight but also, in the context of governing, a sadly out-of-touch-with-the-governed government. And, more broadly, out-of-touch meritocratic ruling elite and leadership in all facets of the Singapore society.

    Just think of the Population White Paper. Were the political leaders unthinking to time their presentation after all the complaints they were hearing from the populace? If so, that will be a compliment, in my view. Sadly, they were probably thinking and actually believed in “let’s get on with it, after all, we are the government that is not afraid to tell the hard truths”. Hubris. Out-of-touch.

    And the mandarins who prepared and wrote the Paper to look like a brochure for a new housing project with the latest and the best the ‘new” land use the customer will enjoy – and especially the young ones and the older folks! Hubris. Out-of-touch-“get-out-of-my-uncaring-elitist-face” civil “servants” of the people.

    And, look at the parachuted CEOs of the GLCs, so proud to be the first to offer – and indeed, succeed to sell – the first S$1million-dollar leasehold Bishan condo! How about the forthright honest admonition to your customers, “you can always take the next train” (another GLC). Hubris. Out-of-touch narcissists in positions of business leadership.

    Now then, back to Catherine. If my alternative analysis serves just to rethink Catherine’s narrative, then obviously, her 3 “grand overtures” prescription must then be called into question.

    • Making known to the people that if those political dissidents who had been forced into permanent exile abroad, choose to return, they will not be prosecuted. Many commentators have already pointed out that the younger generation Singaporeans are not interested in this matter. Mr Everyman does not count Francis or Tang Liang Hong as personal friends. We see no reason to favour those who have been charged for non-political crimes according to the law to be so excused from defending themselves. If they have failed to get their tax obligations before entering politics, then they are stupid if not unexemplary in their conduct. And Mr Low KT is right to say that he “does not believe in those who say they “aiguo”, but they go to another country to say they “aiguo”.’

    -Likewise, commentators to Catherine’s post have said that the call for a Commission of inquiry by ex-ISA detainees is neither critical nor resonate with both the old and the young but only a small segment of the local social elite.

    -As for abandoning the much feared and hated instrument of control, the Internal Security Act (ISA) that had been used liberally against political dissidents, if the PAP has been liberal in throwing this book at their opponents, then it is a concern. But to PAP’s current leadership credit, one cannot claim that is the case. Furthermore, most of us sleep better if quick actions can be taken or preventive tools are in place to discourage bad elements from trying to make an ass of the law to their own advantage at the expense of Everyman.

    In conclusion, I cannot help but infer that Catherine has either not thought through as incisively as her previous take on the great affective divide. We should ask of her a similar ‘intriguing question’ – how did she come to give such an inaccurate analysis given her previous insightful observations?

    Perhaps, she has friends in Francis and et al and thought or was egged to do them a favour given her ready audience? Or, perhaps, she wants to, among other less open motives, self-serve her most recent Big-News reported observation right to assert that any less-than “gigantic, never-before-seen, never-before-dreamt-of initiative by the PAP will not stop the cynics from saying, ‘The PAP is incapable of reinventing itself, as it claims. It can only tinker with small, token changes at the edges, to placate the people, while it continues to do exactly as it wishes.’”

    Or, perhaps, one hopes not, like her own nemesis, she who has not used the buses, MRT, lived in HDB flat, eaten at hawker centers (except, perhaps at some Makansutra-sanctioned grandmaster) or worries no more about her mortgage but freely masquerading in her writing as if she understands Everyman, about the state of PAP and the affairs of the state. How seriously is one to take her credentials in her social commentary piece that sits almost side-by-side with her advice to her female friends that “if they want to really live their lives well, they must be selfish, no, be very selfish”? One commentator said it right, “Typical work from ivory tower”. (xlandjy)

    In conclusion, as an Everyman, one hopes that the PAP will acknowledge but disregard Catherine and et al diagnosis and prescription of the current Singapore situation. In PAP’s deliberation, I hope they will have the humility to admit their hubris and, yes, reinvent themselves. Apologise and we will forgive. And don’t just “move on” but please “move on to rectify the 2 root issues that will make many of the other hot potato issues cool off, namely, a) drastically rethink and reduce the inflow of FTs and b) reduce the cost of housing and commercial rentals. The former will help further ease the overcrowding of facilities and damage to local PMEs. The latter will work its way to help ease the cost for both employees and employers.

    For the record, I was at the 16 Feb despite the rain as I wanted to show my displeasure with the government even though I care little for the speakers (anyway, where was Catherine Lim and her like social elite then?). And, yes, I have penciled the 1 May date in my calendar.

    Meantime….alright, chaps, send in the lions!

  30. Anon
    March 19th, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Literature is an intoxicating mixture of emotions stretched to the furthest of one’s imagination and by no means an accurate reflection of reality. May the Triune God prevail in this battle of humankind no matter who is right or wrong and extend His righteousness and peace on this island. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42. God is above all men.

  31. Min
    March 21st, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I read with amusement at some of the comments for the improvement of PAP. Surely, they with their stable of purebreds from Oxbridge and the like, they do not need your comments, admonitions and criticisms. The thick hide of arrogance from years of good prosperous living with a docile citizenry is still obscuring them about what is wrong till this very day.

    Like many women who had a partner they trusted and simply refused to believe that they could be so seriously betrayed, they often resort to scolding the offender (decision makers?) and blaming the other party (foreigners?) for the mess in their own lives, hoping that one fine day, the prodigal son will repent, do good and return to her tender loving arms once more.

    As in many of Catherine’s stories, these are lies that the sentimental and maudlin have themselves believe, that by words, they can change a man’s heart.

    I am particularly in favour that that one woman who held out her hands for an egg only to be given a poisonous scorpion. Without a murmur, she closed her fists and tightened on that offensive creature till it was no more. End of pain. End of story.

  32. Habermas
    March 22nd, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Catherine Lim’s perspective is much like that of Joseph Stiglitz – she looks at Singapore from a foreign and privileged ivory tower and the everyday life of Singaporeans is alien to her.

    Only by ignoring the struggle for a fairer and democratic society that anti-colonial movement for independence was, only by ignoring the PAP being the anointed successors of the British colonialists promoting foreign and local business interests against that of ordinary people, only by ignoring the suppression of the Chinese intellectual and working class by a PAP leadership that couldn’t even speak Chinese (never mind the Confucianist and Asian Values bs propaganda), can she claim Singapore is a Confucianist society with an ingrained respect for authority, and the PAP was incorruptible, and can she confuse deception, brute force & coercion with unity & trust between the PAP and our people.

    Only by ignoring Lim Chin Siong, Lim Hock Siew, Chia Thye Poh, etc. and the ordinary people (our grandparents) they represented from her position of privilege, can she dismiss politics being about how we organise our economy and work, and how we distribute wealth, as a narrow emphasis on bread and butter issues, and the materialism of the 5Cs (which the majority never had anyway).

  33. Max Chew
    March 22nd, 2013 at 11:36 am

    When Woody GCT took over from LKY, he promised us a Swiss std of living. After a decade his promise did materialize but only for himself, his fellow Ministers and MPs and other elites. The rest, meaning the rakyat, got the Russian std of living. Today we now realize instead of the Swiss std of living here, we have taken over from Switzerland as the depository of dirty money from all over the world….the latest being the Taib’s millions from Sarawak! GCT and his fellow conspirators must be laughing all the way to the DBS Bank! Is this a joke or what?

  34. Anon
    March 24th, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Yes. People who reaped rewards from the post-British Colonial era by polishing up to the Caucasians’ needs and wants will never fathom what it is to be an average working-class national born with an authentic pink NRIC at the mercy of hiring and firing orders from both Chinese and non-Chinese employers who obviously “follow the law (lor)”. The law says cannot means cannot, the law says can means can (lor). Since when have we had the rights to say No to unfair treatment of employees. Ever heard of stories of pregnant women being terminated during their 7th month because employers could not afford the 4-month maternity leave stories? That is just one of the many stories that reeks of NO labour rights.

    One of the most irksome real-life events ever encountered is how some Chinese after completion of studies abroad started to compare how “advanced” the Caucasians are compared to Asians, they cosy up to them and probably received lotsa love bites, hugs and kisses from these counterparts. We Asians are proud of our heritage and values system. If the wannabes like to imitate the Westerners so much, by all means do so, but don’t criticize, undermine the Chinese and call their beliefs and values “narrow-minded and not ready to accept differences in views and opinions”. Who doesn’t accept? Surprised to find people with tiny brains call themselves “degree-holders” but cannot think – Mediocrity breeds farcity cycle. We fight among ourselves and sell out to foreigners. Stupendous Stupidity.

  35. jeffery tan
    March 25th, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Lky once said new Zealand would still be there 100 years, but he was not sure Singapore would. The ways things are, his doubt may actually happen.

  36. glenn
    March 25th, 2013 at 9:01 am

    If we continue with their tetrible policies, we will definitely be gone. I for one dont buy that self serving lie created by the PAP that without them we will disappear. We deserve better – just look at how lousy their policy making was in the past decade.

  37. Edmond Ang
    March 25th, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Dear Catherine, Excellent article. But I doubt that the PAP is serious about listening to Singaporeans. A friend just forwarded me an advert in a Malaysian press announcing scholarships for Malaysians to study in Singapore. Not only free education but accomodations and up to the university level. No bond, no NS and no other strings attached. Incredible actions by the government after so much criticism about courting foreign talents. If they were scientists or design engineers, I can understand the intent. But to court foreign kids with no proven track record? Why not invest in Singapore children? Will these Malaysian kids stay in Singapore after graduation to contribute to Singapore? Or will they return home after the “Free ride”? There may be valid reasons for doing this – but as you rightly mentioned, once the trust is broken, no long term or strategic actions can be accepted unless it is clearly beneficial to Singaoreans. This is unhealthy and should be addressed immediately. If the current PAP leadership has the guts and gumption – they would act on your suggestions. If they are weak-kneed leaders who listen only to the elder Lee, then they should be replaced by WP in 2016.

  38. Harry Kek
    March 25th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Nothing changes until the Old Fart dies.

    He is around to ensure that nobody and nothing rocks the throne that his son is perched on.

    The recent article about that lawyer coming back to life is to remind us that he can jump out of his grave/coffin to “save Singapore”!

  39. Anon
    March 26th, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Here’s the main problem of those Daft Sinkies, partially blind and chronically daft. Many have woken up due to the 6.9 million shock therapy. Haha, good and thank you. However, as I had said it before, once a daft forever a daft. Nothing can stop that and nothing can change that.

    And again, as I had said it before in the previous thread, as long as the 60% daft still breathing and breeding, PAP can never be defeated.

    “WP” already publicly confessed and admitted twice, that they are not ready to take over as Govt, please correct me if I’m wrong. We got to change our strategy, so to speak. Vote for any Opposition Parties, no matter who they are.

    Now all this while, those 60% daft could only see two ways in their critically shallow brain, “left and right”. They just couldn’t see that they’re many other ways that they can take, examples : Up, Down, Front and Back. Opened their eyes every 5 years due to the sweet dangling carrots, they would only see two, PAP & WP.

    Listen, I’m not highly educated, but I thank God for blessing me the knowledge in which I personally witness, are very much supreme than those highly educated daft.

    PS – @ Ms Catherine, my gut feeling tell me that this won’t be publish at all, as usual. Sitting on ivory tower, how could you understand layman like me ??? Well, I don’t blame you coz, it’s only natural. Stay as you are and please don’t venture into politics. You’re good at this and so, stay put. Besides, right now itself, many elites blokes are wasting tax payers money doing nothing. We can’t take it anymore. Thanks and God bless.

  40. Voteforchange
    March 26th, 2013 at 5:04 am

    It is a pity you, Catherine L, is not part of the OPPO parties in Singapore. With your quick mind and wit and highly developed faculties, you would be a very formidable opponent for the PayNpay party to beat.

    A great pity. Please reconsider.