Political Commentary

Official Response to my Open Letter to PM

Last week the South China Morning Post published my Open Letter to the PM, and subsequently, a response from the Consul-General of Singapore in Hong Kong, Mr Jacky Foo. The Straits Times reported on Mr Foo’s letter on 14 June, and published my reply ​to this report on the Forum page on 16 June. My reply is reproduced below.

Reply to Straits Times Report 14 June

14 June 2014

The Editor, Straits Times


With reference to the report in the Straits Times, 14 June (‘Govt refutes author’s claims over public trust‘) I wish to make the following comments.

I share Mr Foo’s admiring acknowledgment of the many achievements of the PAP government, especially their skilful handling of global-size problems such as the financial crises of 1997 and 2008 and the SARS epidemic.

But I disagree with Mr Foo’s argument that since the government has achieved so much, since it has won every election and finally, since it meets the Edelman Trust Barometer benchmark, it surely has the people’s trust.

This depiction of the Singapore political situation fails to take into account its evolving dynamics, and omits unflattering facts such as the shocking General Election of 2011. Even though the PAP won, they must have been forced to admit that the people’s trust had been seriously eroded, as shown by the startling post-election effusion of apologies from the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and their promise to ‘listen more’, ‘communicate better’, use the ‘light footprint’.

Three years after GE 2011, the trust has not been regained. The best proof lies, not in the graffiti, the mass demonstrations or the raucous social media, but in the most unlikely place—within the PAP camp itself. Here there are voices urging the leaders to connect better with the ground, reflecting awareness that the problem has become serious enough to warrant attention at the highest levels.

Hence I would like to point out that the mistrust is very real, even if it only involves a minority. Its impact can be seen in the Roy Ngerng defamation case. Although, as Mr Foo has rightly pointed out, the Prime Minister has every right to sue, to protect his reputation, the alarming truth is that an angry crowd will choose emotionalism over rationality, and insist that the defamation suit is one more instance of PAP bullying.

Mr Foo commented on my long history as a complainer. I have been writing political commentaries for 20 years now. Their central theme is the need for a robust, trusting relationship between the government and the people, which, I strongly believe, is the only guarantee for a small country to survive in an increasingly perilous world.

Catherine Lim

32 comments below

  1. Francis
    June 16th, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Trust is something lost very easily, especially each and every touch point the government has a feet or hand in it, everything we get shit from these touch point, we lamblast in our mind, what can we do they are the government or owned or partially owned via confusing ownership. I.e. COE,ERP,singtel, m1,starhub,hdb,sp power, town council, unions,NTUC, meet the MP…. Definitely at least one of these parties has tick you off the wrong way. Since we are in world cup fever, what can we do about singtel and starhub overbidding on world cup and force down our throat if we want to watch the match in the comfort of our home.

  2. Mauvais Minton
    June 16th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    The question is who do you speak for ? the rational or the emotional ? It would appear that you are choosing the former, and if so, why are you suggesting the Prime Minister pander to the latter ? who did you sold your soul to ? Don’t you owe your readers your disdain over their “coloured perceptions” ? or is honesty no longer in vogue ? If “mistrust is very real, even if it involves only a minority.” than it also means that trust is just as real and it involves a MAJORITY. Maybe you are the one with the affective divide… plus a forked tongue.

  3. Firenz
    June 16th, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    @Francis, re what can we do about singtel and starhub overbidding for the world cup, when you want to watch the matches in your home: you watch the matches Online – Free.

    You get to see your soccer games and you make it clear you will not put up with singtel’s extravagance

  4. My Reply To PAP's Jacky Foo
    June 16th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Dear Mr Foo I fully agree with your facts and its interpretation thereof. PAP is indeed fortunate and blessed to have people such as your goodself to counsel PAP’s Prime Minister Lee on the accuracy of Catherine’s feedback. I hope you will continue your good work for the PAP government for many more years to come.

    Yours Sincerely Die Hard Opposition Voter

  5. L H TAN
    June 16th, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    When I read Catherine Lim’s Open Letter to the PM, I saw it as a friendly exhortation written with sincere concern about Singapore. Surely, there would be those who did not see it that way, not least the government.

    How nice it would have been if the government had acknowledged her concern but reserved judgement, instead of retorting, of all places, in the noisy and nosy Hong Kong!

  6. Ally
    June 16th, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Well… surely someone has to say something to retort Catherine. They can’t all keep quiet. That would be weird.

  7. Hear Only The Good Stuff
    June 16th, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    This 30 second Singaporean video advertisement always reminds me of PAP Ministers and their cronies.



  8. Loyalty
    June 16th, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Possible words Roy Ngerng could say to PM Lee:

    “You can put me back on the street for all I care but let’s make one thing clear: You will never have this — loyalty. You can’t buy it, you can’t own it, you can’t force it. It comes only out of love and respect for the people who believe in you. … And it is something that you will never know. Enjoy your kingdom.”

    – Marcel Gerard, TV Series “The Originals” http://vampirediaries.alloyentertainment.com/the-originals-the-river-in-reverse-quotes-120213/

  9. EK
    June 17th, 2014 at 4:21 am

    I saw Ms Lim’s letter as a friendly reminder, from a concerned citizen. Its sad to see the backlash treating her like some traitor. IMHO, it is the duty of a loyal citizen to point out things that are wrong, whether it affects the majority or minority. Over 1000 years ago, Emperor Tang Taizong respected Wei Zheng for his views, even though they are contrary to his (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wei_Zheng). In SG, Weizheng would be made a bankrupt as an example to the rest to remain quiet and subservient.

  10. 7117
    June 17th, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Look like Jacky Foo is doing a personal attack on Catherine Lim than on her letter.

  11. The
    June 17th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    If only then PAP government has taken note of Catherine’s 1994 love-letter (A Great Affective Divide) and do the damage control then, they would not be in this fix now.

  12. Singapura Pundit
    June 17th, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    “Catherine Lim’s Very Real Minority Crisis”:


  13. Power Concedes Nothing Without A Demand
    June 17th, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

    Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

    The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” ― Frederick Douglass

  14. Chicken Joke
    June 17th, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    Because the elite chicken told them to.

  15. lee
    June 17th, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    ,the deadly real reality is our govt is in Brothel operation (ideology), prostitutionalize their country for globalisation, what can we do

  16. ToTo
    June 17th, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    You provide a stage, actors are going to rise to the challenge. Actors have an irrepressible believe in themselves. Almost god-like or idol worthy. And people loves heroes. Today is LKY . Tomorrow maybe another charismatic hitler like figure. Since leaders are not immortals, nobody can be certain what comes next. But one thing for certain though, the people will be ruled by a grave mistake sooner or later because they are no wiser than a stadium filled with spectators watching a couple of grown men chasing after a ball.

    You provided a stage for such foolishness because your leaders believe in themselves and you believe in them. By your submission, you will be ruled and played. Like a frog in a slow boiler, you will feel the heat.

  17. Wee
    June 18th, 2014 at 1:19 am

    I really hope the govt for once, just listen and think that they maybe wrong before rebutting and proving that they are correct.

  18. Ask Before Voting
    June 18th, 2014 at 5:15 am

    How does it benefit me and my family if I vote for PAP?

    Benefit me and my family. Not Singapore. Because what is good for PAP’s Singapore may not be good for you and your family.

  19. PAP Chicken Joke
    June 18th, 2014 at 5:41 am

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    CHICKEN: After 50 years of hard work and sacrifices, even a daft chicken will want to cross the road to change the regime.

  20. Robin's Karma
    June 18th, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I have to agree with Mr Foo to some extend that actual “trust” in the PAP government is still strong. People still trust the Singapore government to provide everything for them and complain whenever there is any lapse in such “service”. Despite what they say, they still “trust”.

    What you are describing is an increasing “culture of suspicion” which is described by the political pPhilosopher – Baroness Onora O’Neill. The internet and social media had done more harm in sensationising and building this culture of suspicion. And of course, the PAP government has lost its communication skills in this too.

    Trust is on the decline, and we need to rebuild it??? That’s a commonly heard suggestion for making a better world … but, says philosopher Onora O’Neill, we don’t really understand what we’re suggesting. She flips the question, showing us that our three most common ideas about trust are actually misdirected.


  21. ChickenBrain
    June 18th, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Why did the chicken cross the road? The chicken trust that the road is safe to cross.

  22. KongHeeHee
    June 18th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Without faith or trust, it is impossible to plea$e the god$. And the god$ are plea$e, very plea$e indeed.

  23. PAP Chicken Joke
    June 18th, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

    LUI TUCK YEW The chicken could smell the alcohol across the road.

    LEE HSIEN LOONG The chicken did not want my “mee siam mai hum” anymore.

  24. A Singaporean’s Open Letter That Went Viral: ‘The People No Longer Trust the Government’ · Global Voices
    June 18th, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    […] replied to Foo and emphasized that ‘mistrust is very […]

  25. Regular Chicken
    June 20th, 2014 at 11:09 am

    There is no trust in a pyramid scheme.

  26. PAP Chicken Joke
    June 21st, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    WONG KAN SENG: A1: The chicken is either on our side of the road or it is not.

    A2: I told Parliament, that a mistake was made, there was a lapse in the security and I apologized for that and we will do everything to find Mas Selamat … I mean the chicken.

  27. Garfield
    June 21st, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    They build, you slave. Good deal ya?

  28. PAP Chicken Joke
    June 22nd, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

    CHICKEN: The pigs ate all my food. Jiak Liao Bee.

    Q: Why won’t the chicken return?

    CATHERINE: LIM: The affective divide on the road has widened into an unbridgeable chasm.

  29. MsDee
    June 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Dear Ms Lim,

    I’ve been following the development of your open letter to the Prime Minister with much interest and intrigue. While my political knowledge is but minimal and my ability to write political comments is nothing to be proud of, I would love to give my personal views grounded in humanistic viewpoint.

    Let me start with the five basic principles of humanistic psychology, something which is so core yet not taken into account in many instances.

    1) Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.

    2)Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.

    3)Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware – i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.

    4)Human beings have some choice and, with that, responsibility.

    5)Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.

    Fear and distrust are two additional fatal factors that further negate man’s flourishing. Fear impose on others due to insecurity will breed feeling of frustration that result in the lost of respect and the desire to rebel. Distrust that is caused by lack of transparency and honesty in action and words lead to doubt, suspicion and disunity.

    If only we can spend a little more time to reflect on our actions and re-frame our thoughts by subtracting the feeling of insecurity and fear and adding in a huge dosage of integrity, honesty and respect for others…

  30. Ms Dee - Simplified
    June 22nd, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda (Star Wars)

    Yoda’s summary of Ms Dee @ 22 June above.

  31. ChickenShit
    June 22nd, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    What did the chicken cross the road? Because we can be human.

  32. Interpreter
    June 22nd, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Mr Lame said: “Instead of thinking about whether you can spend your savings in the CPF at the age of 55, I think we should think about how can we help our Singaporeans to continue to remain slaves, to continue to help ivory loiterers earn a good living, continue to have create good jobs for ivory loiterers, and at the same time to continue to contribute to the CPF because the more money they have in CPF, the longer they defer the use of the CPF — this will mean they will have more for their funeral.”