Singapore’s vulnerable risk-free democracy


From James Gomez

The respected Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) group has consistently assessed Singapore’s domestic political risk as low. Since 1997, on a scale of between zero and 10, with zero being the best grade possible and 10 the worst, the city-state’s worst grade for domestic political risk was below 3 (PERC 2005). Singapore’s scores hover mostly around the 2 mark. PERC partly attributes Singapore’s low domestic political risk to the fact that it is “very difficult for a formal political opposition to unseat PAP [People’s Action Party] from power even if there were a vibrant multi-party system” (PERC 2005). This observation is shared by Freedom House, an international NGO that publishes an annual report on global trends in democracy: “Citizens of Singapore cannot change their government democratically” (Freedom House 2005).

Thursday, 13 April 2006

by Ooi Can Seng and James Gomez

to continue reading…

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Managing The Internet

An interesting concern found on Sammyboy forum.

Anonymous said…
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sammyboymod/messages?msg=108393.1

Everybody knows SPH has just launched this STOMP website for youths.

Actually, it is a scam to distract youths from private blogs and forums that is Pro- Alternative Parties and centralised all the “Youth Issues” into one website controlled by the authorities.

Even Video is allowed to be uploaded. They hire all the Pro PAP bloggers like Xiaxue and Dawn Yang to spread the gospel.

Whill this STOMP website worked for PAP ?

This STOMP website is PAP’s first trial run to manage,deal and fix the internet.

Will Youtubes and Blogspots truimph over STOMP?

In long run, Singaporeans might only be able to identify with STOMP and everyone MUST go that website to upload videos and speak your mind.

Like how NS men can only go NS Portal to do NS stuff.

This STOMP website might be a competitor against blogs like Yawning Bread, Gayle Goh etc

Youths today and voters of tomorrow might in the end get distorted information about Singapore politics again.

Until STOMP allows us to upload videos like WP crowds,AP Speeches and Chiam See Tong’s Long March to Town Council clips, this STOMP website is considered PAP website.

STOMP is to reinforce people already inside the matrix so that they will never get out.

Maybe someone can try uploading Chiam’s clips into STOMP and see what happen ?

The internet war has just begun and it is still early days.

STOMP was not really mean for us seasoned internet pros.

It was meant for those youths who are about to become seasoned internet pros.

The catch here is that these youths will read Pro PAP news instead of listening to us critisizing PAP.

Then PAP will have a internet following in 10 years time .

Whatever motive PAP have behind in creating STOMP should be self-defeated and make redundant.

STOMP advertisements are relentless and everywhere.

If PAP succeeds, the consequences are unthinkable.

Imagine an entire generation has already passed by for 40 years, hoodwinked into the matrix by SPH and Straits Times without bothering to think of the credibility of the news they read.

I do not wish to see the new generation with internet, sms, mms, 3G etc be also hoodwinked for another 40 years into matrix by the very same media, medium and tools they use to access information.

I can bet on STOMP being a useful tool and gathering point for Pro PAP videos, pictures and stories for GE 2010/2011.

PAP is starting to manage the internet.

I’m the victim here, says Ravi

Lawyer facing action writes to the Law Society
Friday • June 30, 2006
Christie Loh

christie@newstoday.com.sg

Lawyer M Ravi (picture), 37, is facing the prospect of a temporary suspension — or worse, having his licence revoked — for insolence toward a female district judge, a case that comes in the wake of several instances of improper court behaviour.

But Mr Ravi wrote a letter to the Law Society yesterday, decrying what he called “a serious miscarriage of justice”.

He argued that his case did not warrant an appearance before the Court of Three Judges. That is the legal profession’s top disciplinary authority with the power to strike an errant lawyer off the rolls or suspend him for a maximum of five years.

The Law Society’s disciplinary committee had referred Mr Ravi to the highest body after hearing of the solicitor’s rude behaviour during a trial presided over by District Judge Wong Choon Ning three years ago.

Mr Ravi’s poor behaviour included speaking loudly while other cases were being heard, and remaining seated while being addressed by the judge.

Because Justice Wong lodged a complaint with the Law Society, the matter was brought before its disciplinary committee which last week ordered Mr Ravi to pay the Law Society costs of $2,000 and also decided to involve the Court of Three Judges.

Mr Ravi, who has forked out more than $5,000 for four previous transgressions, told Today that he would pay the latest penalty. But he insisted that the Law Society had no case against him.

He explained that Justice Wong had accepted his apology. And because she refused to testify against him, the Law Society should then have either dropped all the charges, or proceeded with the case without the judge’s evidence, which could eventually lead to the charge not being proved.

However, neither course of action was taken, as the Law Society went on to amend the charges, resulting in a less serious case against Mr Ravi.

That confused the disciplinary committee, which chided the Law Society for not having understood the legal implications. But the committee still concluded that Mr Ravi should go before the Court of Three Judges because disrespect for judicial authority is “like poison transfused into the system little by little attracting less than serious attention,” the committee said in its report.

“As a result of a series of misdirections, I am now a victim,” Mr Ravi said in his letter.

When contacted, Law Society’s communications assistant director Shawn Toh said he had not seen the letter.

“I don’t know how the Council will respond. They may choose to ignore it or not,” he added.

Mr Ravi, who is representing the Singapore Democratic Party’s Dr Chee Soon Juan in a defamation case filed against him by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, received support from his client.

Dr Chee said that if Mr Ravi was suspended, it could deprive SDP leaders of legal representation.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Singapore cited in Report to US Senate

29 Jun 06
From Singapore Democrats

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) recently presented its findings on the development of democracy around the world to the US Congress and made a couple of pointed references to the PAP.

On 8 June 2006, Mr Carl Gershman, President of the NED, presented a 52-page report before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Backlash Against Democracy Assistance.

Mr Gershman stated that foreign governments’ efforts to constrain democracy assistance have recently intensified and now seriously impede democracy assistance in a number of states.

Despite these developments, however, the demand for democratic assistance is greater than ever. The report goes on to say that there is a long history of successful democracy assistance, even in challenging circumstances.

In its conclusion, the report outlines a number of concrete recommendations for Congressional actions to counter the new backlash.

The following are what the report said about the PAP:

“As democracy has spread, it has acquired the status of the only broadly legitimate form of government. Today, about three-fifths of all the world’s states—121 of 193 by Freedom House reckoning—are democracies. The collapse of twentieth century totalitarianism removed not only the greatest threats to democracy but also the only systemic and ideological alternatives. Similarly, democratization has largely undermined East Asian exceptionalism and transformed the tiger economies that once seemed to present modernizing authoritarianism as an alternative to democracy for developing economies. Singapore still represents this model and, to some extent, China may be seen as an updated version, offering economic growth—development, not democracy—as an excuse for maintaining authoritarian rule. But even these regimes and their would-be emulators claim to represent or aspire to a variant of democracy, not a serious alternative.”

“Punitive legal actions are another form of harassment, notably in Singapore. In February 2006,opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, was bankrupted and, as a consequence, barred from contesting political office, following a punitive defamation suit brought by former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Chee was barred from traveling to the World Movement for Democracy’s Istanbul assembly in May 2006 when immigration agents impounded his passport.”

For the full report, go to: http://www.ned.org/publications/reports/backlash06.pdf

Thoughts on the SM views of the GRC

I read this a few days back and was very shocked and mulled about it occasionally over with friends and decided to finally blog about it.

The Straits Times Article:

June 27, 2006


GRCs make it easier to find top talent: SM


Without good chance of winning at polls, they might not be willing to risk careers for politics


By Li Xueying

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday gave a new take on the role of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in Singapore politics.

Their role is not just to ensure minorities are adequately represented in Parliament, he said. They also contribute to Singapore’s political stability, by ‘helping us to recruit younger and capable candidates with the potential to become ministers’.

‘Without some assurance of a good chance of winning at least their first election, many able and successful young Singaporeans may not risk their careers to join politics,’ Mr Goh said at an event marking the appointment of members to the South East Community Development Council (CDC).

Introduction

In other words, the GRC system further allows the PAP to convince their choice of select Singaporeans to join PAP, win and serve the people. The GRC system is equated with the “assurance of a good chance of winning.” It is moot that such will only serve the party that has the ability to assure these select Singaporeans a good chance of winning.

There are four questions that could be raised, and their answers, reflect a situation that ought to be properly debated in Parliament.

The first question is whether this coincides with the nation’s best interest.

When the choice of leadership becomes further removed from the heart of democracy: popular choice, what are the potential effects? The PAP is suggesting implicitly that their choice is the right one, and will hence coincide with the nation’s best interest.

Alex Au asks, “Who gets to define talent?” and how subjective this might be. He also suggests that groupthink is a bad thing and this system creates groupthink.[1]

The fear I had and have is similar: the GRC system has the potential of focusing greater power on the hands in a single party. The PAP governs your life today, and now, it appears to indirectly govern the choice of your leaders in the future. This broken linkage between popular choice and leaders might be bad for the nation.

Who should do future leaders aspire to serve under such a scheme? Should they aspire to serve the people or the PAP? Will they aspire to serve the PAP more because the PAP is the party who shall give them the assurance to win? Legitimacy in a democracy comes from the people’s support, not party politics. Intelligent clear-headed inspired leaders will no doubt recognise that their final masters are the people, and no party. We have already agreed that PAP is not Singapore, and PAP is not the people.

The PAP is the ruling party while the people are your masters. Let no politicians, even those who are assured of winning, fail to recognise that. This system however, does not encourage explicitly, especially during election time, our would-be new leaders to recognize that.

This of course could be salvaged by sufficient party indoctrination and education that the PAP serves the People, and that individual politicians ultimate responsibility is the people. But how does that politician really know unless he gets that mandate directly?

The second question is what types of people are the PAP looking for

The article also suggests that some PAP winners need the assurance of victory before joining politics. “Society before self?” In other words, does it not imply that there are current PAP winners who will not have risked their careers to serve the people? The question whether this is a trait of suitable candidates were not questioned. Instead

SM Goh added,

‘Why should they when they are on the way up in the civil service, the SAF, and in the professions or the corporate world?’

In other words, SM Goh feels that this is justified because these people were already so good, they only could lose by joining politics in Singapore and not taking risk is the norm. Are these the type of people Singapore want?

Of course these men and women might be great at their work and will serve Singapore truly well. Yet again, the answer to the second question exposes risks in the recruitment process as such people appear to be willing to put self over society when called to serve. They are not willing to take the plunge and the risk.

This again decreases moral authority. It might be more efficient, might attract “better people” but the GRC system seen in this perceptive places faith in the recruitment process. What if it goes wrong?

The third question is whether there are really risks in joining PAP politics

Let us assume that the first two questions are answered in the affirmative for the PAP; (that this truly serves the best interest of Singaporeans, and that this is the type of people we are looking for) the next question is whether such fears to their careers when they join PAP politics are justified.

I have personally never come across any report since the introduction of the GRC, which shows that ex-PAP candidates have done poorly or terrible relative to their ex careers after retirement from politics (save for those who ran foul of the law.) There are examples that joining the PAP might bring one less monetary incentives but that problem is already supposed to be fixed by the pegging of Ministers pay scale to the private sector.

Being unsure, I have doubts whether this is entirely accurate. In other words, the fears might not be even justified. Should policy decisions be made on fears that are not all that clear yet?

The fourth question is what this does to opposition politics?

By making it easier for the PAP new candidates to enter office, the system might deprive more deserving opposition candidates (deserving defined here by majority ballot votes in an imaginary one on one scenario).

Do Singaporeans want to make it more difficult for opposition members to enter Parliament?

Conclusion

At the end of it all, GRC does not make it easier to find top talent, as the headline suggests. What it does, however, is that it makes it easier for the PAP to pick future leaders for Singapore based on their criteria. A criterion that is explicitly un-required is that these talents do not need to risk their careers – need not risk their careers to serve the people. It creates a system where it is less clear the newly selected’s mandate comes from the people. Finally, it makes things harder for the opposition.

Is that what we, Singaporeans, want?

Elections Department Needs to Explain

My Feedback to TODAY in response to the below article:

I am alarmed by the news report on the glitch causing ballot boxes to be reopened. The glitch puts in place questions on the secrecy and the handling of votes. It is an issue which requires attention and retification since it has occurred both, in 1980 and 1997.

The authorities need to explain how and why it occurred, the personnel involved, and how the secrecy of those voters whose ballot papers are sealed in both boxes will be protected.

This incident also questions the eligibility of voting. The Elections Department must explain why Singaporeans who did not vote for current or previous elections will have their names struck off the electoral list for future elections.

====

Glitch causes ballot boxes to be reopened
Thursday • June 29, 2006
Jasmine Yin

jasmine.yin@newstoday.com.sg

BALLOT boxes from two polling districts in Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) have to be re-opened, as the name lists of people who voted in the May 6 General Election (GE) were mistakenly sealed along with their counted ballot papers, the Elections Department said in a press statement yesterday.

President S R Nathan has directed an Order for Returning Officer Tan Boon Huat to “retrieve only” the name lists of AJ24 and AJ25 polling district voters “for the purpose of preparing the lists of electors in these two polling districts who failed to vote at the General Election 2006”.

All eligible voters are required to cast their ballots in Singapore.

The lists of non-voters “cannot be prepared”, the press statement read, because the names of voters “were inadvertently placed together with the counted papers and other documents by the staff at the Xinghua Primary School counting centre in the ballot boxes and sealed therein”.

According to the Jan 9 edition of the Government Gazette, AJ24 includes the area bound by Upper Serangoon Road and Hougang Avenue 3, while AJ25 includes the area bound by Hougang Avenue 1, Hougang Avenue 3 and Tampines Road.

Aljunied GRC was one of the hotspots in last month’s GE. The five-man People’s Action Party (PAP) team led by Foreign Minister George Yeo won 56.09 per cent of the vote against the Workers’ Party (WP) team.

The Elections Department said this was not the first time that ballot boxes — which are kept in the vault of the Supreme Court for six months after the polling day — have had to be unsealed. Similar instances have occurred in 1980 and 1997.

When told about the unsealing of the ballot boxes, 28-year-old unemployed Aljunied voter Mark Lim said he felt “uncomfortable”, citing the serial numbers that were printed on the ballot papers.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament and WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who led a team against the PAP in Aljunied, would only say: “I would like to reserve comment until I find out more about this.”

PAP Member of Parliament for Aljunied Zainul Abidin Rasheed said: “To me, it sounds like a technical matter and I would leave it to the Elections Department to resolve.”

The Elections Department said that the lists of non-voters in polling districts AJ24 and AJ25 will be published for inspection on or after Nov 6. The lists from other polling districts are now available for inspection at the Elections Department and designated community centres and clubs.

Those who failed to vote at the last General Election can apply to restore their name on the Registers of Electors with the Elections Department.

Visit http://www.elections.gov.sg for more information.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Poorer S’poreans earned less last year

Thursday • June 29, 2006
Lee U-Wen
u-wen@newstoday.com.sg

Lower-income Singaporeans earned less last year than in 2000, with higher unemployment and smaller wages just two possible reasons for the decline.

Last year’s General Household Survey shows the average monthly household income from work dipped to $1,180, or by nearly 20 per cent, for the 11th to 20th percentile of wage earners, and to $2,190, or by about 5 per cent, for those in the 21st to 30th percentile.

This latest survey, conducted once every 10 years by the Department of Statistics, showed that the decline was caused partly by the growing number of homes with retirees and those without any income.

A department statement added that, compared to 2000, last year’s higher unemployment and lower salaries could have also contributed to the dip. Homes with jobless family members typically fall into the lower income groups as the overall income generated from work falls when a person loses his job, explained the department.

The figures, however, do not take into account the various monetary handouts by the Government, such as this year’s $2.6 billion Progress Package, which were primarily meant to help lower-income residents here.

On the whole, all ethnic groups in Singapore enjoyed a growth in their income levels between 2000 and last year. The monthly household income increased from $5,200 in 2000 to $5,600 last year for the Chinese. For the Malays, it went up from $3,200 to $3,400, while the Indian community saw a rise from $4,600 to $5,200.

Ironically, it was the top 10 per cent of wage earners who enjoyed the largest increase in monthly household income. The average of $16,480 was 14.8 per cent higher than the $14,360 earned by this group in 2000.

The average household monthly income across the board last year was $5,200. After factoring in low inflation, the income increased in real terms between 2000 and last year by 1.1 per cent a year.

Besides income levels, this latest instalment of the household survey focused on Singaporeans’ habits when it came to taking public transport, going on vacation and the type of house they resided in. Download the full report from http://www.singstat.gov.sg.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.