Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jeannette for Mountbatten

I have a soft spot for lawyers in politics, especially those that muster the courage to put themselves up in single-member constituencies against the dominant party.

I think, as the history of many democracies shows, many of them go on to be strong politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

They also go into Parliament, with a sound understanding of how the legislative process works. They ask the right questions, and they will do a much better job keeping the Executive on their toes.

I get really annoyed when I see candidates from the dominant party sleeping in Parliament! I find it shameful to know that there exist some laws in this country that may have been passed, while these persons were sleeping on the job.

I only wish that someone would identify the candidates, who have slept in Parliament the last 5 years, and put up a list of them.

Moving on, lawyers that have been involved in building up law practices tend to do a decent job in building up the constituencies they manage and keeping their constituents happy. For example, my own PAP MP relies a lot on his lawyer wife to know first-hand what is going on in our constituency and, in part due to her efforts, he has done a wonderful job.

I first heard of Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss a couple of months ago. I do not know her personally but the fact that many of her supporters went around wearing T-shirts, which read “Jeannette for Mountbatten”, made me stand up and take note.

Over the weeks, I have taken time to find out a little more about Jeannette. I think my assessment of her is best summed up by what a senior member of the Singapore Bar told me. He shared, “Jeannette speaks at least 3 national languages. You cannot get more Singaporean than her. She is always pleasant and presentable. She makes an impression.”

Reading her website, I also sense she truly cares about the people of Mountbatten. I am also aware that she is spending a lot of time to know the ground, if she doesnt already. The dominant party and their supporters there are also not giving her an easy time. Nevertheless, she perserveres and she is putting a lot at stake for the people of Mountbatten.

I guess it was these positive traits that prompted a business hawk like K Chettiar to give way and endorse her candidacy. I know him. If he feels strongly about certain things, he will do what he can to enforce his rights. He successfully sued a key Government ministry on one such matter. K Chettiar would not have endorsed Jeannette fleetingly.

I also watched Jeannette’s inagural rally speech, which reinforced my above assessment of her.

I hope the people of Mountbatten will give her a chance to serve them. Test her out for the next 5 years. If she doesn’t do well, bring back the dominant party.

If you live in a different constituency and can’t vote for her, buy a T-shirt from her. I just ordered mine!

Alternatively, if you know of people who live in Mountbatten, send this article to them.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Complaint about HDB car park in Yuhua

Elections are regularly held in a democracy. In these times, it is not just the duty of the public service to ensure that political parties participate fairly. Voters also have a role to play by providing feedback to the public service. This is one such example of what an ordinary voter can do.



I am a resident of Jurong. I attended a political rally by the Singapore Democratic Party at Jurong East Stadium. I had initially intended to walk over to Jurong East Stadium from my place, which would take me about twenty-five minutes. Instead, I decided to car-pool because I was late for the rally and I felt a little unwell.

I knew that there were ample parking lots available. A relative, who arrived there earlier, also confirmed this.

When I arrived, I was told I could not enter the car park as the lots were unavailable. I then parked at a relative’s place some ten minutes walk away.


I walked over to the stadium only to realise that there were ample spaces available. I was furious. I approached the public servant on duty there, who appeared to be managing the car park. He identified himself as Mr Lee Seng Huat, and he confirmed to me that the Housing and Development Board was responsible for the car park.

At the outset, I must commend Mr Lee for behaving politely and professionally. In this process, he also managed to calm me down.

I asked him why attendees of the rally were not being allowed to park at the car park. He told me the spaces were reserved for season parking holders. I pointed to the sign board at the entrance of the car park.

I told him that there was nothing on the sign-board that said this was the case. In fact, the sign said otherwise, that is members of the public could use the car park.

I then asked Mr Lee if HDB had looked into how many season parking holders there were and how many spaces were available for all others. He said HDB had done so. I told him to give me the most recent figures at that time, based on the cars that had arrived at the car park. He could give me no answer.

I sensed Mr Lee was unprepared for such questions but it is due to no fault of his. As he is an elderly gentleman, I urge you to look into some training for Mr Lee to better manage such queries.


Then, I informed him that I would be writing to you as you were ultimately accountable for this situation. He agreed and encouraged me to do so. (I think he was probably relieved too! With the benefit of hindsight, I also think I was wrong since it is really Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, who has ultimate accountability for this situation.)

I cannot believe that this is a situation that has never arisen before. The stadium has been there for a while now. Events are regularly held at the stadium. Parking would have been an issue before. Yet, this appears to have been glossed over by the HDB.

The police must have identified and selected this venue some time back. It is reasonable to expect that the HDB would have been consulted on this. If parking was going to be such a grave concern, HDB should have highlighted this to the police so that the police and HDB could work together on making available alternative parking spaces.

Incidents such as these do not do justice to the incumbent People’s Action Party responsible for that area. In the heat of hustings, allegations that the PAP has discriminated against attendees of the rally can easily follow - as much as I accept it would not have been the intention of the PAP to do so.

In these sensitive times, the public service has a prime duty to be whiter than white and maintain, on a best efforts basis, a level playing field between the political parties.

You also have a secondary duty to ensure that members of the public can arrive hassle-free at such venues and, in doing so, facilitate their eventual choice on Polling Day.

As a result of this whole situation, I am now running a fever. I could have avoided this if I had been allowed to park at the car park. I decided to write to you, while the incident is still fresh in my mind.


I hope that corrective and preventive measures will be taken to address this situation.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Public Servants, Political Realities & Prime Minister Sylvia Lim

I read this and I felt I should add my views for what it's worth.

I have many friends and relatives, who are public servants. They work for ministries, statutory boards, organs of state and other government-linked bodies in Singapore. Many of them are fiercely loyal to the party in power because their loyalty to the Executive of the day demands it.

However, it is sad that some of them develop an awkward and displaced sense of loyalty. These bunch feel they should not be voting independently; they should be voting for the PAP simply because they are public servants.

Nevertheless, I can confidently say that all public servants have the capacity to act independently.

I accept there are circumstances when they, under the directions of their political masters, adopt partisan positions. For example, when public servants write official letters to newspapers to defend the PAP.

Conversely, I know of several instances when public servants have shown they act independently. I am sure we have our own stories to tell but I will relate one incident that has left an indelible impression on me.

This happened at an event in Singapore some years ago, after the last general elections. The then Minister for Law was the chief guest of the event, and he was to be received by a top public servant. Just before the Minister arrived, the present Workers Party Chairman Sylvia Lim walked in. That senior public servant immediately sprung up and received her. He treated her as he would treat any ruling party leader.

Later, I went up to the senior public servant and raised this incident. His candid reply remains unforgetable. He said, "She deserves the same level of respect we give any member of our political leadership. If one day our electorate decides to vote out Prime Minister Lee, she could end up our Prime Minister. As civil servants, we stay out of the fray but we work within the political realities."

If not for the fact that we have a dominant party with over two-thirds majority in Parliament, there will probably be more such stories of public servants displaying their independence.

I find it unfortunate that public servants get a bad name because of the dominant presence of one political party in Parliament. Public servants are hardly blameworthy here. The voter that gives a political party such hegemonic power in our legislature should bear this responsibility.

Dharmendra Yadav

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No Emo Dilemma in Aljunied Obviously

Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to meet friends from both sides of the political spectrum in Aljunied GRC. Some newspapers are doing a very good job in underscoring the case for the ruling party. That is not surprising, given where their loyalties should lie.

George Yeo recently spoke about the "emotional dilemma" of the Aljunied GRC voter. With respect, I think he was probably referring his own emotional dilemma, including that of the PAP and his team.

Most voters in Aljunied GRC are decided whether to vote one way or another by now, and that is why some have told George to not take things personally. But I want to touch on two reasons that Aljunied GRC voters have shared about supporting the PAP.


"I am concerned about the management of my estate and that my property values will fall. I will also miss out on other upgrading, " says one.

If the Workers Party was really such a bad estate manager, they would have been voted out of Hougang long ago. To these voters, I say take a walk in Hougang. The estate may not look as new as those in certain PAP wards but the managers have done a decent job.

I think both Potong Pasir and Hougang have remarkable character. There is still a 'mom-and-pop' or 'mama' shop in Block 102 Potong Pasir Avenue 1. You would be hard-pressed to find a similar shop in other estates, which have now been replaced by 7-11 or NTUC or other government-linked franchises. Of course, that does not mean to say you can't find no 7-11 in Potong Pasir; it does exist too.

I have been trying to purchase a property in Potong Pasir for some years now. The apartment that would have cost me S$700,000 some years ago is today going for nearly S$1,000,000.


Someone else shared, "We will lose so many Ministers."

If you don't vote for PAP, you will be sacrificing:

a. George Yeo, Minister for Foreign Affairs

b. Lim Hwee Hua, Minister, Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Transport

c. Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

Let's look at what's really at stake.

George and Zainul are at the end of their political careers. They have one term to go, if not two.

In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is run almost totally by the Foreign Service, if not the Prime Minister's Office. If you don't believe so, go get this book and read it.

The Prime Minister has also said that he intends to ship Zainul out of Government to Parliament, if Zainul wins. This is possibly to create spaces in Government for the new blood that the PAP is bringing into its fold. The Prime Minister is right that Zainul has a knack for relating to people. But, with such a strength, why would Zainul be best placed as Speaker of Parliament?

My own view is Zainul would be better off as President of Singapore, and I hope he runs for the Presidential elections if he is voted out of Aljunied GRC. It is his high time that Singapore has a President from a Malay background, especially a personable individual like Zainul.

Finally, we come to Lim. That answer is in the very title she holds. What does a Minister in Prime Minister's Office do? In effect, this means a minister that holds no portfolio but draws a remuneration package worth millions! Concurrently, she is also "Second Minister" but to me this only means she is second choice.

In effect, what you have presently in Aljunied GRC is PAP's B-Team of Ministers, a team they will not miss much in Parliament.

The Workers Party has sent its A-team comprising leader of the opposition Low Thia Kiang and other key members of the Workers Party. The current and future leadership of Workers Party hangs in the balance.

Sometimes the message is obvious.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Game-Changing Union Man

8287 – if some of you tried to buy this number at your neighbourhood 4-D shop yesterday, you would have been sorely disappointed. It sold out!

We learnt yesterday that 82 out of 87 seats in the Singapore Legislature will be polled on 7 May 2011. I want to touch on one game-changing moment of the day, while I accept there were many others.

Unionist Steve Tan is going into the history books of both PAP and the National Trades Union Congress, the king-makers of PAP.

Early in the day, we learnt that he was withdrawing from the PAP slate in Tampines GRC, led by the current godfather of Singapore’s public housing policy, Mah Bow Tan.

Mah responded like a cool-cat to the development. After all, that is the chilling effect the godfather’s award-winning neighbourhood has left on at least one other person.

Some years ago another potential PAP man, Ahmad Nizam Abbas, did the same thing to Mah and PAP, albeit Ahmad’s withdrawal from the PAP slate didn’t happen so late in the game and was not as significant.

As a result, supporters of Baey Yam Keng learnt early in the day that he would be moved from Tanjong Pagar GRC to Tampines GRC. If you have met Yam Keng – I have known him for almost a decade now since the days we both lived in England – you will know he is a gem of a person. He pours a great deal of passion and sincerity into the things he does. He believes fundamentally in public service, notwithstanding that he has now entrenched himself in the private sector. It is thus no surprise that Yam Keng’s departure left tears in the eyes of those who had worked with him.

So far, we have only seen unionists cry. Today, we learnt a unionist can make other people cry too. In this light, union man Steve has a lot of explaining to do.

All he has said so far is that he is leaving for “personal reasons”. Even the Prime Minister gave a lengthy eulogy about Steve's departure but it just boils down to “personal reasons”. What really these reasons are we know not.

Thanks to Steve’s sudden flight, the grassroots and electorate of Tanjong Pagar GRC will now have to live with an MP-elect they know very little about, and who may find it tough to match Yam Keng’s legacy in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Steve was probably recommended to PAP selection hawks by the NTUC leadership. Given NTUC’s symbiotic position with the party, their recommendation of Steve would have been treated as a matter of priority. A lot of time and money must have also been invested in preparing him for the hustings.

Union man Steve cannot therefore couch his departure behind the veil of “personal reasons” and simply run back to his old union yard. Steve surely owes a more comprehensive explanation to the electorate of Tampines GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC, and the supporters and members of PAP and NTUC. This should come sooner rather than later.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PAP Provokes $179 Grow and Share Package For SDP

Ordinarily, I would rule out contributing to a party like the Singapore Democratic Party. I still cannot forget how the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was treated by one of its leaders. My view is, whether or not we agree with the views of the party in power, the Prime Minister as head of the Executive deserves some level of respect and decorum. I also find unacceptable the past attempts of some SDP members to undermine the independence of the Singapore judiciary.

However, the circumstances set out in the letter below provoked me to do otherwise. As guardians of justice, members of the legal profession have a duty to protect and exemplify rules of fair play. I hope this helps to make a difference in building an inclusive secular Singapore.

I also take comfort in the fact that my PAP Member of Parliament has responded swiftly to my feedback yesterday to express appreciation and offer empathy. No response has been received so far from the recipient of the letter below.


I write to you as a fellow Singaporean and particularly as a fellow member of our legal brethren in Singapore. I refer to your recent statement, which in effect is a character attack on a person standing against you in the coming general elections.

I have no standing to address the rest of your team but I must add I am greatly disappointed that you agreed to sign such an unfortunate statement. It is reflective of a colonialist dark age which sought to divide and rule. It will hurt our society in the long run.

For someone who comes from a profession that is greatly inclusive and tolerant of diversity, I wished you had not done so.

I cannot hold you accountable for your views. That is the prerogative of your voters.

However, I think I have a duty to show that your views do not represent my views, as a member of the august fraternity we belong to and as a Singaporean.

The Singapore Government has announced a package, which will, among other things, provide cash hand-outs to Singaporeans. We have been encouraged to donate this money.

As I disagree with your unfortunate statement, I will donate $179 from the cash hand-out I am due to receive to the team that is running against you; $1 for each word that appears in your unfortunate statement.

I will encourage other members of our profession, who do not agree with your statement, to do the same.

Finally, I appeal to you to campaign respectfully and positively in this general elections. Let’s not divide our society more than it is already.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Appeal for Clean Campaign


I write to you as your constituent. Many of us have pledged our support to your candidacy in the coming general elections.

Your fellow party members have asked us to step back, and consider the value of the team and party in considering your candidacy.

If we were to do so, I am afraid there may be more reasons not to support your team and party as opposed to your candidacy. This will not be fair to the many years of wonderful work your have carried out in our constituency.

For example, I am particularly concerned that some of your fellow party members appear bent on dividing the support for your party in their apparent desire to stay in power.

They have now embarked on a process of character desecration in what comes across as an attempt to appeal to particular religious lobbies. This is an unfortunate attack on the secular nature of our country. It is reflective of a colonialist dark age to divide and rule. It will hurt our society in the long run.

I hope you will persuade your party members not to embark on this treacherous path.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Unfold the Untold Mas Selamat Story

Individual ministerial responsibility for the escape of the limping Mas Selamat Kastari from Whitley Road Detention Centre is an issue I have touched on in the past. As this is something I feel strongly about, I have had to revisit it in light of some new revelations.

Addressing this incident, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng recently reflected, “I told Parliament, that a mistake was made, there was a lapse in the security and I apologised for that and we will do everything to find him, eventually it took us a while after he ran away and we gave the Malaysians the information, where he was hiding. Having done all that. I think people did understand that yes, indeed we have done what we could, of course the first mistake cannot be obliterated it was there. I owe up to it, as the minister, I took responsibility for it, that's the right thing to do and I think people will look at that, and see on the whole based on what I have done here in the last 27 years, is that one lapse by a department fatal, fatal to their decision on electing me or not.”

It appears DPM Wong is now prepared to be held accountable directly by the electorate for the oversight of a department that came under his direct purview, subject to certain qualifications.

DPM Wong must be credited for delivering on his promise of finding Mas Selamat. However, the price of this credit note is financed by an equally heavy loan from the people of Malaysia.

Assuming this debt has not already been redeemed, it will now be for the people of Singapore to pay it back one day. What form or shape this takes we do not know yet.

When Mas Selamat escaped, DPM Wong made one other promise.

In establishing a Committee of Inquiry, he said, “When the COI completes its inquiry, we will give a full account on how Mas Selamat escaped and what has been done to prevent another escape.”

The COI completed its inquiry in February 2008 but the inquiry report left various evidential gaps.

In particular, the report noted, “There is no conclusive evidence of the exact route Mas Selamat took to escape... The COI did not make any findings as to the route Mas Selamat took after jumping over the converged perimeter fences.”

Given these findings, one would have expected the COI to be reconstituted when Mas Selamat returned to Singapore so as to fill these evidential gaps.

Instead of a COI returning to fill the gaps it had left behind, all we got was a ministerial statement which, among other things, stated that the “account given by Mas Selamat was consistent with the findings of the COI”.

Yet, that same statement went on to add, “He has not been entirely forthcoming. He has changed his story several times. In some instances, whether his accounts are completely truthful cannot be fully verified.”

The statement also disclosed actions taken against those relatives who had knowingly harboured Mas Selamat.

Unfortunately, the hearings of these persons were conducted away from the public eye or media glare. The court records, such as the judge's grounds of decision, which are usually released for such high-profile criminal proceedings are also not available to the ordinary person.

Bottomline post-COI inquiry: we have a ministerial statement and follow-up questions to the statement in Parliament, but no independent document relating to the contents of this ministerial statement has been disclosed.

If DPM Wong promised a full account of the flight of MAS Selamat, the story remains untold.

In light of these realities, DPM Wong’s willingness – albeit qualified – to be held accountable for the unfortunate escape of a prisoner of State held by a team under his direct purview should be welcomed.

The electorate is rightfully entitled to ask for more information. Perhaps, the untold Mas Selamat story will now unfold.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reply From ST: Give me a choice, ST

The Straits Times Editor, Han Fook Kwang, responded to this letter I sent about giving me a choice to suspend my subscription to ST during the General Elections period in Singapore.

I responded to the ST Editor a few weeks later to express my reservations about ST's ability to report things fairly.


I'm sorry you've found our political reporting less than objective. Of course, I beg to differ. We've reported both the ruling party's and the opposition parties' activities as and when they happen. That's how we view our job - keeping readers informed of what's happening on the ground. We keep our news reporting objective, and we do not allow our own personal biases to influence the objectivity of our news reports. In this particular case of reporting on the run up to the General Election, the news so far on several days has been dominated by the introduction of the PAP's candidates. The opposition parties have not formally introduced theirs.

As for you suggestion, I'm afraid it can't be done. No newspaper I know offers this to its readers.


I delayed responding to your e-mail for a while because I wanted to give The Straits Times an opportunity to show that it is being fair.

I accept you are covering the opposition parties more now than previously. But that is still far from providing a fair playing field.

For example, you talk about introduction of PAP candidates in your reply. Your team dedicated one report for every PAP candidate that was introduced. The same has not been extended to candidates introduced by the opposition parties.

Perhaps, it is because there are other more important things to report or that your majority readership does not want to read about such alternatives, which brings me to my next point.

I accept that you do not allow personal biases to interfere with how matters are reported. But there is an editorial bias, which must favour the PAP.

I also do not dispute why you have to support the PAP. Your team has been very transparent and said so clearly. As a supporter of my current PAP MP, I should encourage it too.

It is part of your duty to your shareholders since several shareholders of the Singapore Press Holdings are key supporters of the PAP. If you don’t do so, you may get a call from PAP supporters - not necessarily such shareholders - and it will put you in a very difficult place. Your newspaper’s loyalty must therefore lie with those that fund your pay-masters.

However, I cannot accept such a state of affairs as your reader, since I expect you as a newspaper to be fair. In such a situation, you should give readers like me the option of not reading your propaganda-driven reports.

You allow your readers, for example, to suspend their subscriptions temporarily when these readers go away. I cannot see why this flexibility cannot be extended further to cover the elections period.

Please allow readers like me to do so.

Dharmendra Yadav

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