Tag Archives: Singapore Politics

The Tipping Point

In recent days, I observe signs that things are coming to a brew.

A boiling point. A tipping point, so to speak.

From the pages of wikipedia, I quote

“In science, a tipping point is the point at which a system is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a different state.

Examples are:

Tipping point (physics), in which the system is the position of a physical object
Tipping point (sociology), is the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common.
Tipping point (climatology), in which the system is the global climate”

Many things in Singapore have come to a tipping point.

In May 2011, Singapore’s opposition party the Worker’s Party won the first ever GRC (Group Representation Constituency) in Aljunied . The first ever win for the Opposition in what was considered the ruling PAP (People’s Action Party) stronghold over the opposition. At election rallies, there was such a ground swell of building resentment over what citiizens felt was an accumulation of years of political arrogance.

On 25th October 2011, Singapore witnessed it’s 5th death reported within 5 months at the same Bedok Reservoir. Suicides or at least unnatural deaths had become so common there that the our ex-Foreign Minister and several religious leaders held a prayer and spiritual ceremony at the location. Signboards with SOS helplines were also erected around the reservoir grounds.

On Thursday, 15th December 2011, Singapore’s rail transit system, the SMRT broke down along the North South Line during evening peak hours, affecting 127,000 commuters during the 5-hour shutdown, where several trains that stalled had passengers stuck inside with little ventilation, a lack of air, and some without any light. In one train, a passenger had to break the glass window with a fire extinguisher so that air could come inside the carriage. Two days later, on Saturday 17 December, the SMRT broke down again along the North South Line for seven hours, affecting 94,000 commuters. Prior to this massive breakdown, the SMRT broke down on the Circle line on Wednesday 14th December for some 40 minutes and also for 4 hours in September.

Public transport is very dear to Singaporeans. Both literally and figuratively. The Public Transport Council had approved a 1% increase in bus and train fares that took effect on 8 October 2011, despite many protests (not phyical ones which are outlawed). Then on 12 December 2011, Singapore’s major taxi operator Comfort Delgro announced it’s increase in taxi fares.

Add to this the latest SMRT fiasco, and I can imagine a tipping point coming soon. Things will not be hunky dory or same old same old anymore.

People are starting to question how things are being run. People with pink colored ICs (Identity Cards) as well as blue colored ICs. Heck even the huge numbers bearing the different work passes cannot be mollycoddled.

The strains of packing in so many people on a tiny island in such a short span of time is showing.

When the fat lady sings, how will it all pan out?

For those who wish to hold accountable those responsible for the SMRT breakdowns, you may like to visit the link below to put your name to a petition

Give up your seat Petition | GoPetition

And I had a compelling urge to link this article to another blog which had a masterpiece of satirical writing. A classic. A beautifully composed blog on Singapore titled

Manifestations of the Singaporean Rot

Overcoming doubts and stepping forth

The Straits Times recently ran the following excerpt of Catherine Lim’s speech given in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Studies, on 2 July. I always find wit, humour and logic in Catherine’s exhortations. Click on this link to see the video.

By Catherine Lim

Whatever strategies of communication I may use as a political commentator – directly through exposition, or indirectly through humour, iron and satire – I would like to continue to share my views with fellow Singaporeans.

There is one special group I’m interested in – those who follow political developments keenly and are now wondering whether they should move from being passive observers to active participants in public discussion and debate.

For them I have an urgent message: If you have the following reservations, you can overcome them, as I have:

Firstly, you feel bad about criticising a government that has done so much good for the people. The People’s Action Party (PAP) Government’s achievements have been so spectacular, surely whatever shortcomings it has can be overlooked?

But if you sincerely, strongly feel that the shortcoming is more than minor – that it is, in fact, a real defect of leadership style that could have serious repercussions for society in the long term – then you must speak up.

If giving credit where credit is due is a good thing, then giving criticism where criticism is due is better, for it entails greater effort, even courage.

There is a time and a place for praise and blame, trust and doubt, appreciation and anger. They need not exclude each other; indeed, together they make for a more balanced, integrated view.

I am probably the most seasoned critic in Singapore. But I have repeatedly expressed my profound appreciation for the safety, security, and material well-being of Singapore. Perhaps the most glowing tribute ever received by the PAP Government came from me four years ago at the time of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

I was so impressed by the Singapore Government’s rendering of help to beleaguered Indonesians – help that was noted not only for its generosity but also its quiet tact, calm resolution and warm empathy – that I wrote an enthusiastic article about it that was published in Today.

Secondly, you feel that since you are not interested in going into politics, since you don’t have the makings of a politician, you aren’t qualified to be a political critic. Wrong.

Political life is not for everybody. As long as you are a concerned Singaporean with worthwhile ideas, as long as you are motivated by conviction and good intentions, you can make a valuable contribution to the raising of political awareness and the enlarging of political debate, so sorely needed in Singapore.

I have been challenged, as well as invited, many times to get into the political arena, but my answer has always been no. For I am aware of my limitations, pretty serious ones at that.

For one thing, my personality and temperament make me quite unfit for the demands of political life. Being overly individualistic and solitary, not to mention opinionated and stubborn, I would find it very hard to submit to party discipline and consensus.

I’m sure if I joined any party, I would be booted out within a month. I can claim only two abilities – being able to speak and write. But that’s okay, as I can make reasonable use of them in my role as political commentator.

Thirdly, you fear that as a political critic, you will bring upon yourself the wrath of a powerful and implacable government, perhaps even strong punitive action. Wrong again.

I believe that much of the fear we Singaporeans experience is unnecessary and self-inflicted – which, of course, suits the PAP fine, since it makes its work of control that much easier.

I also believe that even a criticism-averse government must respect, even if grudgingly, criticism that is informed, measured, reasoned and principled, born out of conviction and a genuine concern for the well-being of the society.

At the most, the government might react to your criticism with a sharp rebuke; at the least, it might simply ignore you, as it has been ignoring me for years.

When my first political commentaries appeared in The Straits Times more than 10 years ago, there was initially an uproar, and the government was clearly angry. In fact, there were all kinds of rumours, some downright ridiculous, about how the government was out to get me. But as you can see, I’m still happily around.

You will notice that my operative words are honesty, sincerity, conviction and good intentions. Ultimately, these are the most important qualities to bring to any relationship in any sphere – political, business or professional, in the public or private domain.

So my rallying cry to Singaporeans is this: Think through, speak out, stand up and try not to be too afraid.

The writer is a novelist. The above is an excerpt from a speech she delivered at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy last week.

Catherine Lim: The Inconvenient Truth

Recorded from a speech made on February 22, 2008 at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

See the video here.

Comments: I must say that Catherine Lim remains one of Singapore’s most prolific and vocal political commentators. Whilst she is not aligned to any opposition party, she maintains a passion for speaking out on the relationship between the people and the government. We need more voices like hers to remind people of their freedom to choose, and to remove the unwritten and unofficial air of fear that still pervades the general populace. Keep on speaking out Catherine!