Saturday, February 16, 2013

Grassroot leader to PM : You Did Not Listen .

Letter from a Grassroots Leader to PM.
Dear Prime Minister,

I am one of your grassroots leader. I’ve voluntereed and served in one of your constituency for the last 20 years. I’ve had these thoughts percolating in my mind for many months. With what I observed in the last 2 weeks, starting with the Punggol BE then the White Paper, I decided to take the risk and go ahead and send this letter to you. I hope you do not take
any of these the wrong way.

After the GE2011 elections, the PAP was dealt a big blow with the unprecedented loss of a GRC. You did a post-mortem with us, and with your MPs. One of the message we tried to send you then was: You (meaning the PAP leadership) just didn’t listen to us. We told you there were many problems on the ground, you did not listen. After the GE, you said PAP will change.

The next challenge came in Hougang BE. You picked a great PAP candidate and for a while, we thought he could pull off a win. But against the advice of the candidate and the PAP grassroots, you deployed your big guns (KBW, TCH etc) and hijacked the message on the ground. You did not listen.

The Punggol BE decisive loss was unexpected. The PAP grassroots told you to send one of us, a grassroots type person, to the fight. You chose to parachute in an unknown, someone who just joined the party weeks ago. He commited gaffe after gaffe. You did not listen.

And right after the Punggol BE, you unveiled the White Paper.

I know that those close to you, including the mainstream media, are praising you for daring to take on the problems of the future, of not sweeping things aside. But let me tell you this : I think you, and your top leadership, screwed up big time.

I am sorry I have to use this language. You see, I’m a business leader too. I know what its like to be surrounded by people reporting to you, who are naturally disposed to tell you what you want to hear. Or are all molded in the same way. I am outside your – sorry to use this word, “bubble” – so from the outside, sometimes, I can see things a bit more clearly.

Virtually all your PAP grassroots leaders and members were taken aback by the White Paper. And it became obvious very quickly that so were all the PAP MPs. Seah Kian Peng said he’s skeptical about the White Paper and thought the targets should be scaled by to 80% (how's that different from WP's 5.9 million?). Jessica said that she, and a few other MPs, would not have been able to support the White Paper in its present form. Even Tin Pei Ling said she supported the amended proposition with a heavy heart.

Why didn’t you bother to run through the White Paper with your fellow MPs before you publicly released it? They could have told you how toxic the Paper came across and how to refine it. Why didn’t you do that?

In other words, once again, why didn’t you listen? Time and again, our team scored our own goals because of the sheer arrogance of the top leadership.

And look at how your top leaders handled the White Paper since its
roll-out. Within days, KBW started back-tracking saying 6.9 million was just a “worst case target, which we hope we never reach, that is for planning purposes only”. And you quickly followed suit, saying you agree. And the rest of the Ministers echoed the same language.

And then it was pointed out to you that in the past, PAP had also used the words “worst case target” or “planning purposes only”, only to have those numbers quickly exceeded.

And you actually got ESM Goh, Mah Bow Tan and Wong Kan Seng to speak in defence of the Paper? With MBT saying “lets go for the maximum”? Are you and your leadership team really that tone deaf? These are the very guys who are most associated with Singapore’s “lost decade” – a decade where we seemingly pursued GDP growth for its own sake, where the social fabric of Singapore was put under tremendous (and some say, irreversible) stress,
where you yourself said to have “lacked 20/20 vision” in infrastructure planning. And yet, you actually got these people to speak? Do you know what message you are sending – you are essentially thumbing your nose at Singaporeans and saying, “So?”.

I now know why MBT, WKS, VB, RL, etc did not show the slightest remorse over their egregious mistakes during their tenure. It is because you, the PM, set the tone at the top. You did not see these as any big deal, and that tone filtered through your entire organisation. In other words, you still do not listen.

On the very last day of the Parliament debate, you said that the population numbers for the future is for future generation to decide. Huh ???? What then have almost 60 MPs been debating these 5 days ? You put up a White Paper, you start back-tracking and now you think that just because you've muddied it up, its become palatable?

Why did you put the party through this? Did it have to be handled in such a – pardon my language again – incompetent way? And how do you think we, your faithful foot-soldiers, feel ? You put us in the difficult position of having to defend something we did not agree with. How do we answer to our family members and friends, who asked what are we fighting for, what's wrong with today's PAP leaders?

Let me tell you something honestly. The reason I, and some of my friends, volunteered was because we were grateful for what the Old PAP did for this country. We believed in its policies and its leadership. But in recent years, you and your team have gradually undermined this reservoir of goodwill and support. You know, I heard that in the Punggol BE, some PAP grassroots members actually told their family members to vote opposition, while they put up the show of canvassing for KPK’s support. In my heart, I also sometimes root for the other side, especially the WP. I know. I should not feel this way. But you guys just don’t listen.

Let me tell you something else too – I personally like you. And I think many Singaporeans do too. You gave a good speech in Parliament, just like you did in the last day of Punggol BE rally.

But you know – after I actually got over the emotional high from your speech, and think through about what you said, more doubts actually crept in.

“Growth is not for its own sake. But growth is not unimportant. If you are in the top 5, 10% of the population, you may say, well, I have enough, I can manage .. (but) if you are in the bottom 10, 20% of the population, would be patronising for us to say growth is unimportant… Our experience has shown that in fact when the economy is growing, the low income Singaporeans get benefits, their incomes go up.”

Mr PM, do you know that in the last 10 years, the bottom 10% and 20% didn’t see their real income rise at all? If the last 10 years of growth, with 1 million increase in population, didn’t increase their income or make their lives better, how do you expect Singaporeans to believe you that the next 10 years of growth will be different? And Mr PM, did you realise that, until Lim Chong Yah came up with his radical proposal, even the top Union leader did not even realise that incomes of cleaners etc have not risen over the years, and didn’t realise they (the Union) have done nothing about it? In other words, they – the Union – was caught with their pants down (sorry to use this analogy, I know, Palmer-gate still hurts).

“Singaporeans, "feel together" as when the nation grieved with Mr and Mrs Francis Yap when their two sons, aged 13 and seven, were tragically killed in a Tampines accident last week. And when Singaporeans triumph, as Mr Nickson Fong, 43, did in winning an Oscar this year for a new animation technique, the country celebrates with him, said Mr Lee. .”

PM, Singaporeans did not feel together when Ma Chi crashed his Ferrari. It became a symbol of how Singapore threw its door open in wanton abandonment to the rich, and how they lived it up in Singapore. And Singaporeans feel divided, not united, when the China-imported table tennis team won medals in the London Olympics. It became a symbol of the "instant tree" mentality of the Govt. And I guess you now no longer cite the example of Feng Tian Wen as a unifying factor because she'd said bye-bye to Singapore and moved back to Beijing.

You see, Mr. PM, you cannot just quote examples in isolation, take us to an emotional high, and assume it assuage all of our raw wounds. Its almost like you are burying your head in the sand, when it comes to examples that do not fit with your idealised notion of how it should have been. We do not exist in that alternate reality. When I think through these parts of your
speech, I actually wonder if you are disconnected from us.

“He concluded with the promise that the Government will "watch the numbers" and make sure Singaporeans are clearly in the majority. It will always treat citizens better than non-citizens, he said”

Mr PM, you may not realise this, but in our public spaces – like the MRT, bus, Chinatown, Little India etc – we Singaporeans already no longer feel we are in the majority. My children tell me of attending classes in University, where Singaporeans are the minority and they feel they are in a foreign country. Do you realise that in some offices, large cliques of Filipinos or North Indians prevail, and they tend to hire their own? You see, you work in the Civil Service –when you look out of your office, everywhere you look, you see Singaporeans. It is not like that in many other offices. How do you “watch the numbers” when you do not even have an accurate sense of the current ground reality?

“For Singapore to thrive, we Singaporeans must always stay lean and hungry," he said. "If we lose our drive, we will lose out."”

OK, I now get it. Its all about money isn’t it? You are afraid that whatever counter-proposal anyone comes up with – whether it be reducing our reliance on foreign labor, or improving SME productivity, or reducing income inequality – you are afraid that it basically means touching the reserves.

But isn’t your proposal to give additional grants for children also raiding the reserves? And when KBW said that he (yes, not “we” but “he”) has decoupled BTO flat prices from the resale market by essentially increasing subsidies, isn’t he also – in the words of MBT – raiding the reserves?

“You said that 6.9 million is a worst case, and you see that the number for 2030 will be significantly below that. But that 6 million proposed by the WP will be too low and it will be higher than that. And that after this, you expect that the population will flatten out. The resident population is going to stabilise and the non-resident population will also eventually level off”

Mr PM, do you know what you just did? You, and your team, have made the argument strenuously that there is simply no way to grow the economy without population increase. And that as the population ages, we have to supplement with foreign labor.

And yet you are saying that between 2020 and 2030, this need will magically disappear. In other words, there is no intellectual coherence to your argument.

And do you know what this sounds like? You sound like someone who’s hooked on drugs or gambling. And he’s saying : just give me one last sniff, or just lend me another $100, and after that, I promise, I will not need it anymore.

And the worst part is this – nobody is going to believe you that 6.9 million is not real. Because come 2016, as long as the population increases from today’s 5.3 million to 5.6 million, the WP can easily say : See, the PAP is going along the trajectory in the White Paper. Ignore all their talk. Its already happening. If you vote PAP, you will have 6.9 million people.

In other words, you have fallen onto a trap that you dug yourself. How sad.

Let me end with the same words you used in your speech. You said you and your colleagues got into politics to improve the lives of Singaporeans. I do not doubt your sincerity. As I said at the very beginning, many Singaporeans like you and want to see you succeed, even though they disagree with your policies.

I am a grassroots leader. I’m spending time helping the PAP party because I believed that this will help Singapore and Singaporeans. I’m not paid for this. I’m doing it out of my own free will and with my sacrifice of time.

I’m rooting for you to pursue the right policies. I’m rooting for you to succeed.

But just like in GE2011, or Punggol BE, or in the recent White Paper – you do not listen.

At this rate, you will continue to erode the trust (yes, trust) and support of the people. Including people from the older generation who remembered and are eternally grateful to what LKY did for Singapore. In fact, the White Paper had turned out to be a big wake up call to Singaporeans - they better think twice about putting the PAP in such a dominant position in Parliament, if they want to maintain the Singapore they know.

So what do I want from you, other than “listen to us”? A hallmark of a successful, good leader is not his charisma, or his heart, or his eloquence, or his intelligence. The starting point is always this – who is he listening to? Whose inputs do he value, whose has he learnt to discount?

Some of the lousiest emperors in China surrounded themselves with eunuchs who told the emperor what he wanted to hear. Some of the best, like Qian Long, disguised himself as a commoner to understand the true situation on the ground.

You do not have to listen to me. But find your own channels to listen to the ground. Seriously think again about who constitutes your inner circle.

But, listen, you must.

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Tan Ah Kow

Saturday, December 22, 2012

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Enjoy and Glad To Live The Goodness of Him

Receiving The Riches of His Goodness


The riches of His goodness - Romans 2 : 4

MOST people reckon their riches in terms of the American DOLLAR or some other national monetary unit ; and in most countries there have been three metals of coinage - copper, silver, gold. We scarcely ever see gold coinage in circulation today, but the older among us can remember when it was common currency. There is an interesting parallel between those coinage-metals, copper, silver, gold, and the "riches" of God towards mankind, as revealed in Holy Bible.

First , we read about the " riches of His goodness". Romans 2 : 4 , asks, " Despisest thou the riches of His goodness . . . ? These "riches of His goodness " are, so to speak, the copper coinage of the divine treasury. The goodness of God is no new idea. It is as old as the rainbow and the seasons of the year. When the Anglo-Saxon ancestors of the English-speaking peoples wanted a name for the Supreme Being, they called Him " God" . their word for good.

The " riches " of His goodness " all of us enjoy. God is good to all His creatures without partiality or favouritism. He is no of persons, except that He respects us all alike. "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The psalmist had every reason to exclaim, " Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness."  And all of us , if we have seeing eyes, can say, " Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. "

There is no meagreness in God's goodness.
Romans 2 : 4 calls it " The riches of His goodness " .
1 Timothy 6 : 17 says, " The living God giveth us richly all things to enjoy. "
And James 1 :5 echoes , " God giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not ."
The vast majority of us have good reason to be thanking God all the time for food and clothing, friends and loved ones, home and shelter, sunshine and rain, singing birds and lovely flowers, sympathetic trees and restful green countryside ; health of mind and body, use of limb and muscle, eyesight and hearing, individual liberty and many social comforts, like Facebook, twitter, blogsites , etcs.

But " The riches of His  goodness " are most meaningful  of all in their spiritual  intention. Read Romans 2:4 in full verse : " Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? ". What influence is so likely to make us repent of wrong which we have done to some person, than that person's heart-melting retaliation of kindness in return?
Even so, the munificent, undeserved, continuous goodness of God is meant to beget within us a turning away from evil , to uprightness and godliness. " He hath not dealt with us after our sins ; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities " - Psalm 103 : 10.
Oh, to repent at His goodness, rather than at last tremble before His righteous wrath !

How oft have my footsteps
To ruin drawn near,
In quicksands deceiving
By precipice sheer !
Yet there, in the shadows,
My Watcher has cared ;
My poor soul has been rescued,
My life has been spared.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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Monday, December 17, 2012

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Friday, December 7, 2012

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Honorable Former First Elected President of Singapore

In Memory of First Elected President of Republic of Singapore

In 1992, Mr Ong Teng Cheong who was then Deputy Prime Minister, was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system.

Republic of Singapore Very First  Former Elected President Ong Teng Cheong died at 8.14 pm local time, Friday, 8 February 2002.
He was 66 years old.

Member of Parliament, Labour Chief, Deputy Prime Minister, Elected President.

A man whose first loyalty was to the people of Singapore.

Mr Ong Teng Cheong is remembered as a gentleman, one with a passion for the arts, and an even greater passion for the people's welfare.

It was this sense of service that first brought him (*age 36) into politics as MP for Kim Keat in 1972.

While many Singaporeans may recall his contributions to the union movement, Mr Ong was also the man behind the Mass Rapid Transit system which many take for granted today.

Appointed Communications Minister in 1978, he had pushed for its construction.

"This is like a 20-year affair from conception to delivery. 
Now that the baby is born, to say that I am happy and
pleased is an understatement!" Ong Teng Cheong
Ong Teng Cheong
In 1992, Mr Ong who was then Deputy Prime Minister, was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system. 

But this did not keep him down. 

"I intend to live every minute of it as fully as I can,
 and press on with the work. There are so many
 things to be done!"Ong Teng Cheong
Ong Teng Cheong
Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said Mr Ong "had shown a special knack, the ability to get on with ordinary people, and empathise with them."

This special quality helped Mr Ong become Singapore's first Elected President.

"Some people still ask whether my long previous association with the PAP will stop me from acting independently. The answer is "no". My loyalty is first and foremost to the people of Singapore. It has always been so and it will always remain so." Ong Teng Cheong
Ong Teng Cheong

And he displayed this conviction a year after becoming President.

This was when he made public his disagreement with the PAP government's interpretation of the Constitution on the powers of his office.

He then asked for the matter to be referred to a special High Court Tribunal, chaired by the Chief Justice.

When the Tribunal ruled in favour of the PAP government, President Ong graciously accepted the decision.

Mr Ong also left his mark on the Singapore arts scene.

As Acting Minister for Culture in the late 1970s he was determined to transform Singapore from a perceived cultural desert to a city of the arts.

This led to the first Singapore Festival of the Arts, now an established event.

An accomplished musician himself, Mr Ong also lent a hand to various welfare causes.

In 1993, he launched the President's Star Charity, an event that has raised millions of dollars for local charities annually.

Six weeks before his term was up in 1999, President Ong announced that although his health was fine, he would not seek re-election.

"I find no compelling reasons to do so. Six years is a long time.
 I've achieved what I've set out achieve when I took office 
6 years ago." Ong Teng Cheong
Ong Teng Cheong
In a tribute to him, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke of Mr Ong's contributions as Singapore's first Elected President. 

He commented, "Singaporeans now know better how our system of a President with custodial powers works, and how decisions and actions have to be publicly justified whenever questioned. Mr President, you have discharged your responsibilities well and fully. You have upheld the standing and prestige of the Presidency. We and our fellow Singaporeans will long remember your many contributions to our nation and society."

"I hope I have not disappointed the people of Singapore 
who elected me to this office. I have enjoyed their
 concern and support for the past six years, and I 
want to thank them." Ong Teng Cheong
Ong Teng Cheong

Ong Teng Cheong (Chinese: ; pinyin: Wáng Dǐngchāng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ông Tíng-chhiong; 22 January 1936 - 8 February 2002) was the first directly elected President of the Republic of Singapore. He was the nation's fifth President, and served a six-year term from 1 September 1993 to 31 August 1999.

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All the Presidents of Singapore to date have been men. Nonetheless, in a 2008 poll of 1,256 Singaporeans conducted by, a lifestyle research portal run by SingTel, 63% of women respondents and 58% of male respondents said they would vote for a female president. Those aged 50 and older were the most receptive to the idea.
1.Yusof bin Ishak
2.Benjamin Henry Sheares
3.Devan Nair Chengara Veetil, also known as C. V. Devan Nair
4.Wee Kim Wee   
5.Ong Teng Cheong 
6.Sellapan Ramanathan செல்லப்பன் ராமநாதன், Cellappaṉ Rāmanātaṉ 
7.Dr.Tony Tan Keng Yam 陈庆炎