Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Unforgettable Night

In the past week, I have had at least two men facing separate allegations of outraging the modesty of women approaching me for guidance on appointing suitable legal advisers.

This is unsurprising. I am hearing of more such cases. Perhaps, we are opening up too fast as a society, or becoming trigger-happy in expressing our feelings. Alternatively, it may be due to an incapacity to control one’s rage or urge.

The men involved usually went to clubs to party. They met random women. A misunderstanding occurred. They were accused of molesting the women.

Those cases where one is charged and convicted form only a tip of the iceberg.

A lot of times, it is all a major miscommunication. The police are called in, but no investigation is initiated. Sometimes, an investigation by way of police questioning is triggered but no charges are pressed.

Then, there are those who are charged but a composition by way of settlement is mutually agreed to, and the cases are accordingly discharged. In one case many years ago, the woman expressly told the man to offer her a certain sum of money and she would, with the consent of the court, withdraw the case.

I am told such instances are not isolated, and women obviously know what their rights are in such situations.

However, this does not mean the man is free even though the court effectively acquits him. The record of the charge follows him for life.

It will come up in background checks. He will be deprived of certain jobs like joining the financial services sector or work in the protective services industry.

I am worried by this trend, that a man is black-marked for life for what is essentially a miscommunication or misunderstanding, or a lack of sensitivity in handling a member of the fairer sex.

My own sense is that we may have set the bar too low for a woman to claim she has been molested. If this is not the case, there may be a need to look at the process to enable some kind of “without prejudice” mediation or adjudication of the matter, particularly in cases where the circumstances do not justify a criminal record.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Honourable Tin Pei Ling MP

I was asked to share my views on her today, and so I will.

Her credentials, her past, her actions, her values – they are all out there in the open. These have been scrutinised until her critics have gone black!

Whether one likes it or not, the bottomline is this. She is now an honourable Member of Parliament of the Republic of Singapore. The voters of Marine Parade GRC have placed in her their trust and confidence, and given her a clear signal to be their voice in the Legislature.

She rightfully deserves the minimum level of respect that any elected Member of Parliament deserves. She also deserves the opportunity to undertake the work she was elected to do.

If you cannot accept the decision of the majority, well, too bad. Unless you wish to challenge the validity of her election in the courts, you will have to live with it at least for the next 5 years, if not more.

Fact: the Honourable Tin Pei Ling, Member of Parliament of Marine Parade GRC.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Policing & Magistrate's Complaints

Some people have written to me to ask what they can do about the alleged breach of a law against campaigning over a particular period by one candidate during the recent general elections. Some people have lodged police reports against the candidate. Others are frustrated by how fast the police investigations are moving. For some background, read here (but note that I do not agree with the author's views on the rule of law).

If you lodged the police report, you are entitled to ask the investigator assigned the matter for an update.

If the police investigator does not give you a satisfactory reply, you can write to the police commissioner to lodge a complaint against the investigator.

If the police commissioner fails to act on the complaint, you can see your Member of Parliament. Persuade your Member of Parliament to raise the issue with the police. If the police investigator does not reply to the Member of Parliament, there is still the option to raise it in Parliament and to get the Executive to address the issue.

Alternatively, if you live in the affected constituency, you may wish to take legal advice and explore the option of filing a Magistrate’s Complaint.

Many criminal lawyers in Singapore take out such applications on a regular basis for their clients because the police fails to act in certain matters. For example, in 2009, about 4500 Magistrate’s Complaints were filed. If you need to find a suitable lawyer, contact the Law Society of Singapore.

Don’t just whine that the police force is sitting on your complaints. As a citizen of a democratic republic, you have certain rights. Use those rights.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Open Letter to Presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock


Honourable Tan Cheng Bock Sir,

I welcome your willingness to put yourself up for selection and then election as the next President of Singapore. I can only hope that more individuals will follow your example, and put themselves up for selection and possible election.

I studied in schools not very far from the constituency where you were elected as a Member of Parliament, and where you enjoyed insurmountable popularity. Naturally, I have many friends who lived in your constituency. I am told you were game enough to attend some of their private celebrations and other events, notwithstanding your then busy schedule. I know you will be more than prepared for the ceremonial duties of the President but a President of my country is more than ceremonial.

The President of this great republic of ours is a defender of the constitution of my country and a protector of the faith in my country’s judiciary.

In this respect, I welcome the following remarks by you: “This country needs a unifying force. A unifying president... [who] can do the job of bringing together Singaporeans from all walks of life. Young and old, new citizens and old citizens.”

I recently learnt of your involvement in the detention without trial of some Singaporeans many years ago. This is documented to some level in the book, “Beyond the Blue Gate”, which was published just last year and can be purchased online. If you have not read it, you should.

The Court had decided that the detention was unlawful. I am given to understand that you were among those, who could not accept this. Your parliamentary comrades, with your support, used their dominant power in Parliament to deal with this unprecedented judicial courage. As a result of a move that you endorsed, the wings of my country’s Judiciary to review such matters have been clipped, for now.

This has left my country’s judiciary in an unfortunate situation. It is from time to time pelted with unfair allegations that it is not independent. We now have the sorry state, where a lot of judicial time and state resources are expended to deal with such allegations.

It is also public information that at least one of your parliamentary colleagues, who was in the Executive, resigned, among other reasons, over the decisions made in respect of this detention.

I think it is important for Singaporeans to scrutinise your support of this detention. I urge you to initiate a public discussion on this matter with the detainees, whose detention you supported.

If you wish to be a unifying force, reconciliation with these detainees must surely be the first step.

Further, I would like to know what you, if elected, will do to restore the powers once enjoyed by our Judiciary, and the steps you are likely to take to ensure that my country’s judges will not be unfairly accused of not being independent.

In closing, your remarks that the role of the President “is about principles, independence, common sense and the ability to ask the right questions and do the right things, without fear or favour” are felicitous.

One can argue that, without fear or favour, these are perhaps the right questions to ask of you, and the right things to request for you to do.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ministerial Salary for Leader of the Opposition?


At his second swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong continues the tradition of using that august platform to send a message to Singapore and its citizens.

This time round, he wants a comprehensive review of political salaries. He has appointed the Government's preferred "correctional player", Mr Gerard Ee, to undertake the controversial task. It is the right signal to send.

Firstly, Mr Ee is not in politics. He will be able to reach out to individuals on both sides of the political spectrum.

Secondly, Mr Ee has a track record for plugging areas where the executive has failed. For example, when thousands of people lost millions of their hard-earned savings to shoddy investments dished out by Singapore's financial institutions, Mr Ee was the man tasked to work out amicable settlements and other confidence-building measures in the financial system.

In taking on his latest job, Mr Ee has already indicated that ministerial salaries will likely be cut. He told one journalist: "PM has said in his speech that salaries must reflect the values and ethos of public service ... The final answer must include a substantial discount on comparable salaries in the private sector and people looking at it will say, 'these people are serving and making a sacrifice'."

This is no surprise. There is no other way to deal with the tsunami of discontentment over high ministerial salaries. But should Mr Ee's work be limited to those of appointed ministers and their salaries? The scope of his task, as set out in the terms of reference of his committee, is "to review the basis and level of salaries" of such office-holders.

In his speech, Mr Lee had said that in reviewing existing policies, "nothing should be sacrosanct". Some have observed that the very review of political appointees' salaries shows there are indeed no more sacred cows.

If this is the case, there are two other things Mr Ee should take the opportunity to look into: Pensions for former and current ministers and the additional allowances given to parliamentary office-holders.

During the recent hustings, many were surprised by revelations that members of the top echelons of the public service still continue to draw pensions from the age of 55. People were surprised as pensions have been abolished for most of the public service and that the pension entitlement age remains at 55 even though the retirement age has been increased to beyond that.

The reactions were so strong that efforts were made to allay concerns, with the secretary to the Prime Minister, in a letter to the media, pointing out that the maximum annual pension of a minister retiring today would be 10 per cent of his annual salary, and that the entitlement age would be reviewed.

Surely - notwithstanding that the pensionable component of a minister's salary has remained frozen since 1994 - the new committee, in reviewing the basis and level of salaries to be paid to political appointees, should take into account the effect of pensions on the overall income that an office-holder would eventually receive from the state.

If it deems necessary, the committee should recommend the abolition of pensions for such political appointees, in alignment with the current practice applicable to a majority of civil servants since 1986.

On another note, the recent General Election has been widely described as a "watershed". People within the ranks of the ruling party have attributed this to a clamour for more alternative voices in Parliament. Like the presence of the dominant party, an Opposition voice is likely to be a permanent feature of our Parliament; the Prime Minister has said he wants an inclusive Singapore, regardless of political swing.

Currently, the Party Whip, Leader of the House and Deputy Leader of the House enjoy allowances for the additional duties they undertake on top of being Members of Parliament. The committee could concurrently review the allowances paid to these parliamentary office-holders, as well as the possibility of remuneration for the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition (which, in some other democracies, is considered a political office of stature).

Mr Ee's work in the review of ministerial salaries will have to achieve reconciliation on an issue that has divided Singapore. This will require a comprehensive approach taking into account the pensions and other allowances paid to political appointees.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My First Internship

As the school holidays are around the corner, some students have written to me about securing internships. They are motivated to do this for different reasons. Some want to gain valuable work experience and others want to make money.

For a lot of internships, I am often told that something’s gotta give. You either get experience or make money. You can’t have both. I beg to differ.

My first internship was with a start-up IT consulting company. I did something absolutely different from my peers, who had secured internships in top law firms or companies. I did not wish to use my holidays sitting and ruminating in a law library, or spend my precious hours standing by the photocopier.

That was the phase when every young person’s dream was to set up a .Com company. I didn’t have the money to do so but I certainly wanted to be a part of that wave and earn some money in the process.

I remember the company had advertised numerous positions in the newspaper. The advertisement gave me the impression that the company could do with some extra help in its Singapore office.

I wrote to the late managing director of the company. A day later, I received call from one of its managers, and they invited me for a discussion.

At the meeting, I sensed they liked my passion but I think they were concerned about my lack of experience and knowledge. I took a chance. I offered to work for them without pay, and told them that I would leave it to them to decide my value at the end of eight weeks.

The time passed in the blink of an eye. On my last day, they took me out for dinner at my favourite restaurant. At the end of the dinner, I was given a $5,000 cheque in appreciation of the work I did for them. I never expected it. It was ten times more than what my peers received for their internships in top law firms or companies!

A year later, the company hosted me in their new office by a beach in Phuket. I spent a small part of my holidays helping them with legal issues in their property development arm. I was exposed to the law of a foreign jurisdiction, while having the luxury to go into my office in beach-wear. All my expenses were taken care of. I went back to school with some pocket money.

Dump convention. Be creative when searching for internships. The experience and memories is something you will cherish for a long time to come.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Bring back Al-Jazeera English on cable


Firstly, I wish to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Minister for Information, Communication & the Arts. Your appointment could not have been more timely and I am sure we will see certain changes in the way the desires of viewers, readers and listeners are managed. Insyallah.

Secondly, I write to request that the Al-Jazeera English channel be allowed to be carried over our cable television channels. This channel used to be carried by Singtel Mio TV but the plug was pulled on it last year with insufficient justification.

At least one viewer has suggested, “Perhaps Al Jazeera has rattled the nerves of the ruling elite with a host of programs scrutinizing the socio-economic problems in Singapore, more so than any other news channel (including the venerable BBC World News).”

Singapore is the only country in our immediate neighbourhood that does not have this channel. Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia all carry this channel. Unfortunately, this unavailability of the channel is a damning testament of our commitment to access to current information.

As a person who travels to these countries often, I find the information Al-Jazeera shares insightful. It clearly provides a different perspective to developments in the world. As a premier Middle East channel, it also gives one unprecedented access to the Muslim world. I am sure as the Minister also responsible for Muslim affairs, you of all persons should appreciate the importance and value of such access.

If I want to watch this channel on the television in Singapore, the only way for me to do so is through an Internet connection to my television. This is not hassle-free and the feed is grainy.

I have tried to engage our cable providers about making this channel available, only to be told that the broadcast of this channel was not palatable to your predecessor. If this is true, your predecessor’s position does no justice to the viewing population in Singapore.

Let me give you an example of a recent incident to underscore this. At the press conference to announce his new cabinet line-up, the Prime Minister was asked if Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had plans to be the next chief of the International Monetary Fund. The Prime Minister denied knowledge of this and laughed it off. Now, if the Prime Minister could watch Al-Jazeera as an ordinary viewer here, he would know that Al-Jazeera had named his deputy as a leading Asian contender for the position.

I hope you will allow our cable providers to bring back Al-Jazeera to Singapore. Viewers in Singapore should not be denied access to this source of information.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Friday, May 20, 2011

A Cabinet Without Lee Kuan Yew

Many years ago, I wrote about the legacy that Goh Chok Tong could leave towards the end of his political career. The view, which follows below, was published in Today on 12 April 2003.

It took 8 years for Goh to achieve this, and I am glad he finally persuaded his predecessor to make a grand exit with him. Singapore was ready for a future without Lee Kuan Yew more than a decade ago.

Dharmendra Yadav


Not too long ago, Ravi Veloo - a product of the Lee Kuan Yew Government - argued the legacy that his Prime Minister (now Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew) could leave behind towards the end of his political career: a split People's Action Party. [For Ravi's view, see here]

Today, as a product of the Goh Chok Tong Government, I wish to argue the legacy that my Prime Minister could leave behind as he gets ready to step down: a Cabinet without Mr Lee.

I do not mean any disrespect to Mr Lee. In fact, I do appreciate what he and the Old Guard have achieved for Singapore.

However, I raise this issue in the interest of the very country his team has dutifully shaped. I also acknowledge that this suggestion may be seen as controversial and, perhaps even extreme or radical, by some circles.

But we are in the business of "Remaking Singapore", aren't we?

During his recent visit to India, Mr Goh announced that he wishes to implement plans for a third generation of leaders to be tested as full ministers.

A Cabinet reshuffle is in the works.

It is no secret that Mr Goh wants a new PAP leadership to be ready by the next General Elections, due by 2007.

Bearing in mind mankind's brutal history of power struggles, Mr Goh's vision is indeed noble.

As such, this seems to be the best time for him to invite and permit Mr Lee to join the backbench. Such a move will allow the Cabinet's level of preparedness to be tested without the presence of a long-serving and seasoned politician.

Consequently, this would establish the Cabinet's ability to perform and deliver tangible results without the guidance of Mr Lee.

On several occasions, Mr Goh has asserted that Singapore can survive without Mr Lee. What better way to prove this conclusively?

Of course, like any change, this will be a difficult process. Nonetheless, true nation states are known to outlast the legacies of their leaders.

Considering the current Cabinet's track record in managing highly volatile uncertainties, it would not be too difficult a process for the Cabinet to adapt to Mr Lee's absence.

In addition, such a move by him, if it does happen, will coincide with a similarly scheduled move by one his political counterparts, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

This may, in turn, enable the leadership of both countries to look at their outstanding problems with a fresh set of lenses and possibly progress innovatively towards resolving these matters.

Furthermore, Mr Lee's skills set can be put to better use outside the Cabinet.

We rarely hear him, the great orator, in Parliament these days. Perhaps, this stems from his desire not to overshadow his Cabinet colleagues.

If former Parliament Speaker Tan Soo Khoon's return to the backbench is a benchmark (don't mind the pun), I dare say Mr Lee's presence there will steer other MPs to perform even better.

After all, some of Mr Lee's more revolutionary speeches were made as an opposition politician. In the backbench, he will also not be bound by the Cabinet principle of collective responsibility.

Plus, a father is often said to be his son's best and most-informed critic. (At least, I know my father is!)

It is now highly likely that, Mr Lee's son, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is likely to be Singapore's next Prime Minister.

As such, with the Senior Minister as a "check-and-balance" in the backbench, the future PM may perform even better.

Separately, in this post Cold War era, a number of large countries no longer exist.

This has led to the growth of many small countries, which increasingly look to Singapore as a role model.

Similarly, large states in certain countries have also been divided into smaller states.

Such countries and states also view Singapore as an example and often look up to Mr Lee for advice since he is an eminent member of the global community. Freeing him from Cabinet duties will mean that he will be better able to share his expertise with such groups, if he so chooses.

Mr Lee's enhanced commitments in the international scene will not only raise Singapore's international profile but will also effectively position it as a credible knowledge base in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Mr Lee's departure will also clear the way for Mr Goh to test himself as a Senior Minister.

During his tenure as head of Government, Mr Goh was impressive in establishing that his decisions were in the interest of his country. Mr Goh should be encouraged to continue this tradition by serving our country as a Senior Minister. If we truly desire to "remake Singapore", we must quickly get used to a future without Mr Lee.

The time for us to say goodbye to the Senior Minister is drawing close. Will Mr Goh take the opportunity to introduce a Cabinet without Mr Lee?

* The writer is a Singaporean law student in England.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Interview on transition of power


In your blog Think Happiness, you published two posts from an Aljunied resident, who in his first post said he noticed that the notice boards had been stripped, and also that rubbish and litter around the estate were not cleared. The second post clarified that a few days after Sunday, he went back to look at the estate again to find that most things had been cleared. Could I get your comments on these concerns that are circulating online? Why do you think they are emerging now? You mentioned in you blog post that perhaps "the Aljunied resident was perhaps reacting with mimosa-like sensitivity to the situation". Could you elaborate?

There are some segments in Aljunied that are expecting a lot from this transition. This view reflects that. They are also edgy about what happened in relation to the handover of power in Hougang and desire a seamless, cooperative transition.

People regard that as a benchmark, but it's not fair, as people must realise that the PAP is a different one today led by a different Prime Minister, who I think is sincere about accommodating dissenting views and encouraging a rigorous debate about such views to foster a more inclusive society.

It was important to get this view that I posted on the blog out in the open and to see what people think about it. And the reactions to this view speak for themselves. The view is, for lack of a better word, dramatic. It represents that of a person in the minority in Aljunied. The reactions to it show people will not be influenced by such over-exaggeration and are willing to give the transition time.

The reactions are comforting and I am glad that rationality has prevailed. And it shows, contrary to a prevailing perspective, that social media is and can be fair to the PAP.


"While the letter writer chose to remain anonymous, the owner of the blog, Dharmendra Yadav, a lawyer, told Yahoo! Singapore the claims have been exaggerated.

"I felt that the writer was over-reacting," he said, before adding that he published the letter to show how an Aljunied resident felt.

Yadav also said that some people might be feeling this way because they have high expectations of the incoming WP team, which comprises the likes of party leader Low, party chairman Sylvia Lim and "star catch" Chen Show Mao...

Even the anonymous letter writer, who went back the next day to check on the cleanliness of the same block, told Yadav that most of the workers are back and the chutes have been cleared."

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feedback to Challenging Times by Aljunied Resident

Thank you to all readers who have offered their feedback on this posting. I am especially grateful to those, who checked the issues raised with the relevant town council and/or provided your own assessment of the situation on the ground. I am also appreciative of the journalists, who helped verify the situation and confirmed that this was not the case.

Based on your feedback, I asked the Aljunied resident for his response, in particular which areas he checked and if he had checked these areas again. He replied, “121 bedok reservoir road in front the coffeeshop... I just went around again... Most workers are back... The chutes have been cleared... Only one with the recycling bins were out.”

Unfortunately, he did not take photographs of what he saw so his views are at best subjective.

On account of your feedback and his response, I think the Aljunied resident was perhaps reacting with mimosa-like sensitivity to the situation.

I should add that, at the end of the day, this is one person's impression of how the estate was managed. I had suggested to the Aljunied Resident that he make himself known but he has some very personal reasons to remain anonymous. I am happy to respect his wish. While I do not agree with all that he has disclosed, I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or intentions.

Some of you have also replied to offer help. For those of you who are keen to offer help, please do contact the new leaders of Aljunied directly.

Some of you have questioned my motivation for making available the posting; my motivation is disclosed here.

A journalist asked what I thought of the situation. I think most of your responses go some way to show that participants of social media are responsible and, contrary to a prevailing view, not necessarily pro-opposition for the sake of being so. It also shows people do approach issues they read on social media critically, which is a positive development.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Update from Aljunied resident: Challenging Times

Some days back, a friend wrote about his choice in Aljunied. Today, he wants to give you an insight into what is happening now that he has exercised his choice. Essentially, they need all the help that they can find. [Note: Please read the follow-up here.]

Many years ago, I told Sylvia Lim, if she were elected in any constituency, I will come help her make a difference on a non-partisan basis. I am pleased that I will finally make good on that word.

Dharmendra Yadav


Dear friends of Aljunied and Singapore,

I wish to thank my dear friend, Dharmendra, who has graciously allowed me to voice my thoughts here. I also thank the brave souls of Aljunied who have taken the leap of faith with me. And the many many many of you who have showered us with your blessings, your comforting words and your love. We at Aljunied are indeed a privileged lot. Or are we?

Today, after mulling over for many times over, I decided to write this second essay. This time, addressing what is the situation on the ground and what needs to be done urgently.

So let me start.

When the Workers' Party won by a margin that was more than they probably dreamt of, the only member of the winning team who knew what to expect was Mr Low Thia Khiang. By this, I mean that he and only he alone knew what the PAP would be doing next.

As everyone is aware by now, rumours have been flying around that cleaning services have been terminated and thus, refuse is just lying around, making it a “slum”. And now, the rest of us know.

Now now, my dear friends, this is not the problem. This is a temporary hurdle that we need to cross. And everyone is watching, those who support us, as well as those who deride us.

This piece is from my heart. And I hope you will receive it in faith and address the immediate concerns at hand, which I believe will be solved with everyone's help. Those of you who have friends in cleaning services or any of the activities listed below, please help us out.

Daily Life

On the surface, nothing has changed in Aljunied. But hear hear, a great deal has changed. And not for the better mind you. The day after the Great Day, notice boards were stripped of everything they held save the brackets. I believe even that was due for taking down as I saw some of them trying to remove those boards to no avail.

Rubbish bins placed around the neighhourhood were immediately removed so people now had to go back into their houses to throw things away. Suddenly, everything WAS MADE TO STOP WORKING.

I am only thanking my lucky stars that the water in my pipe and the electricity has not stopped.

I drove around the whole of Aljunied yesterday from 8am to 3pm. The sights of what I saw will be what I will be sharing with everyone shortly.

In a lot of places, rubbish has not been cleared. Cleaning contractors do not don their familiar t-shirts bearing the Aljunied Town Council logo any more. A lot of them (those who I saw working) were wearing their own clothes. The posters of the PAP have been removed. In their places, bare rostrums of steel gleam brightly awaiting their next banners.

A lot of blocks have not been swept. There is litter and leaves and what nots on the grass that the little children play on. The green grass that the elderly walk on. The green grass that the cats eat when their stomachs are in pain.

I do not understand this. Why are the children, the babies, the elderly and the innocent being punished like this? Won't we recoil in horror if we saw our little one walk and pick up a piece of rubbish on the ground and put it in her mouth?

Would we not yell out in horror if our aged mother or father slipped and fell? Or shake our heads in utter disgust when the stench in the air is so powerful and yet our aged parents cannot walk fast enough to escape the smell due to their age?

Is this what we pay our taxes for? Is this what we call a First World Nation? Is this what is called “Care”? What happened to the 45% who voted for PAP? Are they supposed to suffer as well? What about their children? And their parents?

Where are you, George Yeo? Where art thou? He who speaketh of reform!

But frankly, there is no need to panic my dear friends. We have committed on a journey. We will see it through. And we do not need our former poster Ministers to aid us. We will do it ourselves.

But that which unfolds over the next few days and weeks, will reveal to the people, in graphic detail, how we will be chastised by the establishment and yet, how brave a people we are in Aljunied.

And more importantly, how this current Government will “listen” to alternative voices and “care” for everyone. I mean, that is what our pledge says right? Regardless of race, language or religion.

Our immediate concern: We need help in getting some cleaners into our estates really quickly. Those who have the means or contacts or friends, please do so... quickly!

MPS (Meet-The-People Sessions)

Let me touch on this briefly. I will be outlining in a separate piece on the mechanics of it again later.

MPS is currently the only way that our MP can now interact with us. It typically happens once every week and that too, within a certain time period.

We need to find a way to circumvent this limitation. Otherwise, everybody will be overwhelmed. Let me explain.

When a PAP MP writes a letter, residents will accept whatever the petition writers told them.

“They will reply you in two weeks.”

“They will let you know in a few days, you just wait for the letter.”

With our new crop, people will be coming in to DEMAND. And I will naturally think that these will be “orchestrated” for some reason, or genuine, I really don't know.

I expect the first session to be challenging. But hell, we are used to challenges by now. So those of you who can volunteer time, stationery, water, writing materials, printers, laptops and so on, do speak with our team (Mr Low and company) and determine how we can solve this quickly.

Our new MP will need all the help he can get. So those of you who are professionals – lawyers, doctors, lecturers and so on - please put aside time to aid those who need help. People who cannot write letters can type the letters. Those who cannot type can call out the numbers. Those who cannot call out the numbers can do some translation work.

There is work for everyone my dear friends. And we need to turn out in numbers to aid those who need our help. To ensure that NO ONE WILL BE LEFT BEHIND. Even in these trying times.

My dear friends of Aljunied and Singapore, we the residents need you to rally around us to lift us. We have made history by making the impossible possible. Now, join us in our journey to rebuild our country, one step at a time, one person at a time. Join us in our endeavour to never let ANYONE bully us into submission.

I leave you with the wise words of Winston Churchill: "One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half."

Humbly yours,
An Aljunied Resident

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Send message to leaders of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

I attended the inaugural Pink Dot because, among other fundamental rights, I believe in the right to life, which to me includes the right to live a life without fear. To me, this is more important than keeping or repealing controversial legislation. I didn’t attend it subsequently because I felt I had no further value to add by attending the event.

This year, I will make it a point to attend Pink Dot because a message must be sent to some of our leaders, in particular the freshly elected leaders of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

I was very ashamed to know that a fellow lawyer, in the pursuit of political office, attempted to politicise the issue of what one is and to use that as a tactic to cast doubts on a person’s ability to act in the interests of our country. I wrote to the lawyer, and I have neither received an acknowledgement nor a reply.

Like many other Singaporeans I know, I was sad that this team was eventually elected into political office. Nevertheless, it is the will of the electorate. As an adherent of the rule of law, I must respect that decision.

However, I think it is important to underscore to such leaders that, despite their election to political office, what they did still remains wrong.

We live in a gracious, inclusive society. We want legislators that get elected into Parliament on the basis of the policies they stand for. We want a state of play that is respectful and fair, no matter who stands on the opposite end of the spectrum. Smear campaigns should not be tolerated. They should not divide or even attempt to divide our society more than it is already.

Indeed, a message must be sent to our political leadership to impress upon them that what a person is should not be an impediment to his or her ability to serve in our country.

If you stand for these same values, mark your calendars and come make Pink Dot with me on 18 June 2011 at the Speakers’ Corner.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, May 09, 2011

2011 General Election Media Monitoring

Before the General Election, I took issue with The Straits Times about its past elections coverage. The editor of The Straits Times and I have exchanged further correspondence on this and it follows below.


I delayed replying to you because I thought you should have the benefit of reading The Straits Times' entire coverage of the General Election. Now that it is over, I hope you have changed your mind. If you have not, I think we probably have to agree to disagree on whether we did a professional job in our coverage.

In fact, The Straits Times did very well in terms of sales during the period leading up to Polling day on May 7. We attracted more readers to the paper as a result of our election coverage. As we reported in the paper today, our daily circulation increased by more than 12,000 every day from Nomination day to Polling day. We put out a special noon edition on Sunday, and it was snapped up by readers, all 70,000 copies of it.

I took that as a vote of confidence in the paper, and more specifically of our coverage.

Thank you for being a reader of The Straits Times. I hope you will continue to read us.


Thank you for your reply. I do appreciate it.

I agree your coverage for this general elections was unprecedented, driven by a desire to provide more balanced coverage. This is probably also due to more gracious newsmakers in the dominant political scene (as much as I am given to understand that some of them had reservations or concerns about your coverage).

To qualify my observations further, I should add that I know of several people, who stopped reading The Straits Times during the same period. I am also told that at least one major opposition party consciously refused to entertain media queries, due to the probability of skewed coverage.

Since I was not able to suspend my subscription and the Government encouraged us to donate the Grow and Share package disbursed, I made a donation to MARUAH in support of their media monitoring initiative. The results of this initiative provide much information to reflect about. I hope you will peruse this and, if you find it newsworthy, make this known to your readers. The results are available here.

On a more tongue-in-cheek note, I know that thanks to the headlines '81-6' on Sunday, the 4D numbers 0816 and 8160 were sold out. I think you should ask Singapore Pools to donate part of its collections on Sunday to your School Pocket Money Fund – it will bring more smiles to the kids you help!

Finally, as your reader, I can only hope that your coverage continues to improve and gets more balanced, as time passes.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Aljunied Resident On His Vote Today

An old friend who lives in Aljunied and does voluntary work in the neighbourhood took the day off yesterday to think about his choice today. He has made his decision, and asked me to make his assessment available on my blog. His thoughts follow below. You decide whether or not you agree with him.

Vote in the manner that you think is right today. I will be doing the same too. Majulah Singapura!

Dharmendra Yadav


Dear friends of Aljunied,

I wish to thank my dear friend, Dharmendra, who has graciously allowed me to voice my thoughts here.

I am a very privileged person in that:
a) I am a resident of Aljunied, and maybe more importantly,
b) I have had the unique opportunity of seeing the inner workings of the PAP as an insider and yet, at the same time, be a recipient of its draconian oppression.

At the end of this simple note, you will not be told who to vote for. But you will have the benefit of hindsight of checking off the incumbents and its competition in a fair, objective manner. So let me start.


I have written many letters for residents who have come in for unheard of problems, untold horrors, and situations which you and I, may never hear about anywhere – the type of things that make Nicole Seah cry her heart out for weeks and weeks. Some of these things that I am about to relate will sound familiar, the others, not very common. They are not yarn spinned from my imagination but rather, the very cases that Meet The Peoples' (MPS) sessions see. Uncensored.

True life everyday situations of the 60+ year old cleaner lady who sleeps at her Senior Citizens' Corner every day because her family has abandoned her, surviving on a meager intermittent income of $400. Unable to rent a room because room rentals are too high. But yet, having $50,000 in her Retirement Account and nothing much else anywhere else.

Or like the pretty, dolled-up mother who dragged her child in and was busy chiding him whilst pouring out her predicament on being unable to pay for her home mortgage because she is a divorcee and not working. Not working? So how then do you pay for your bills ? (Hesitation... and then in a low voice, I service men in my other room to get by. You mean you...? Yes, I have to, my maintenance sum was not paid and I was retrenched when some foreigners came.)

Can you just pause and reflect on this? She is “working” in the one room, while her children are studying in the other.

I can just go on and on and on, but that is not my intent. What we need to realize here is that, there is a crack in the system, and a rather huge on at that. I wish I can tell you about how some families sleep in tents by the beach, waiting for some kind relative to render them some assistance. About how some families get by, about how the banks will come for their houses due to their arrears, about the man who went to jail for not paying his ERP summons! (yes you heard me right!) The list just goes on.

But the point I am trying to drive here is simple. Somehow, with all the usual rhetoric about how many schemes are in place to help, a huge many people need help, in one way or the other. Don't believe me? Go down to MPS session and get a perspective on things.

Which brings me to my point.

What is my MP doing about it? Is writing a letter to appeal for so and so going to solve the problem? I don't think so. The problems are more deep seated than just that. Ministers who ask pointed questions on how much is enough should take a chair, sit down and wonder how those words can escape from their mouths.

So how do we solve the problem? Frankly, I do not know. But I do have a view. And let me share it.

I have heard many wonderful things about how Mr Low bothers about the well-being of his residents. I need that attention in my Aljunied. We the residents deserve more, than merely Ministers who come around for functions to shake hands, take photos, smile and be chauffeured away. I don't need a poster boy Minister. I need someone who can take care of the people who need help, the voiceless, the helpless, the desperate and the destitute.

I need love and compassion in my ward – and that my friends, George Yeo and company cannot provide. Either due to their hectic work schedules or their packed travel schedules. The only one who might be able to help is Cynthia Phua. And may I remind you, that I have witnessed first hand how she is when she speaks. I wonder why the papers did not pick up on the fact that the low IQ boy did not throw the chair on the numerous OTHER times he came to see her. All I can say is, this woman can improve her tone of voice.

My point. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his team will do a better job here. Sincerity is one of those strange things like love, it can be felt yet not seen.


Next up, power.

During the formative years, the desire to serve the people burnt in the heart of men. Now, I fear that the desire to retire in a comfortable home overrides all else.

I am not against million-dollar salaries. But I do disagree if my MP is being paid a few million dollars and only appears during elections, and that too with his many bodyguards. I disagree with this line of argument that you have to pay the top dollar to attract the talent. That is absolutely untrue!

Men and women who have servitude written in their hearts will put service for the people first. Not the paycheck. If the salary is a strong contention point, then obviously we are attracting the wrong kinds of voices to be representative of the people.

My dear friends, George Yeo mentioned that he wants to reform the party from within or something. Let me tell you, this will NOT HAPPEN!

He tried to do that when he was new in Parliament. Vivian Balakrishnan tried that. Now look at them, both poster boys for PAP and its policies.

Why wouldn't this so called take place? Ah, this is what the public has been missing for so long.

You see my dear friends, the power lies in the hands of only a select few. The rest of them merely string along. And if that is not enough, the constitution has been tweaked to guarantee that.

So the ones who disagree or ask too many questions will be subject to a dismissal (stepping down in the name of renewal), public humiliation (Devan Nair) or covertly moved around.

This power now rests with the ruling party. Not with the people any more.

Which is why there is no need for them to consult us on anything. To avoid answering questions which are asked. To defend their kind should there be the rare debate. And naturally, to tweak the boundaries even further so that the votes come swinging in their favour.

Your MP is impotent in Parliament. Your MP cannot be asking any hard questions. Your MP will not be allowed to ask any questions that run contrary to the doctrine. Debate will be for the sake of debate and not much else.

All the best intentions and promises have no bearing when put forward to the Council of Elders. So you think people like Cynthia Phua or Zainul Abidin or George Yeo will ask any questions?

Let me put it another way, when was the last time you heard them speak in Parliament?

My point. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his team will do a better job here. They have an agenda which is different from the PAP and that will serve my family well. It is good to have some debate on the things that matter. Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh have a fiery attitude that can be harnessed to good use. In Chen Show Mao and Low Thia Khiang, we have the breadth of experience and the depth of corporate knowledge.


Accountability is next. (Bear with me here, we are near the end :-))

The PAP does not need to answer to anyone now. My MP in Parliament was often caught snoozing on camera and I suspect things are not going to change. I believe some debate will help everyone do some work before coming into the House.

I cannot fathom why and how people like Tin Pei Ling can serve. Maybe she can. Maybe she cannot. I don't know. And I don't wish to know. Because, I believe, she might just stomp her feet if her higher ups stare down at her. She is not the decision maker. Merely one of the numbers required to form the consensus.

We need to know our current situation on a lot of things. There is nothing secret really. You think Malaysia or Indonesia have nothing to do except look at our reserves and drool? Come on. Anyone who reads a balance sheet can put one and one together to form at least part of the actual picture. So no surprises there really.

My point. Mr Low and his team will be able to ask questions on a huge spectrum of issues. Why GST is at 7% ? If not 7% then how much? Why so much of this and not that? Why Why Why?

Because no shareholder in his company will be able to sleep at night if he does not know the fiscal position of his company. And my friends, we are all shareholders.

I want to touch on my last point very briefly. I believe this is something that can help the middle 50% or so voters who are undecided on who to vote for.

Let me begin my opening my argument on PAP since they seem to have the upper hand on literally everything.

Minister George Yeo is an engineer who went on to perform really well in his portfolio. I know the man and he is warm. Pritam Singh might just be right. GY is in the wrong party. But if you dig deeper, you might notice that he too did not say anything when his pay increased. I suspect reform from within is merely an aspiration.

Senior Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Minister George Yeo. He is slated to be the next speaker. And truthfully, he is also a warm man who has a ready smile for everyone. But smiles do not solve problems. And I cannot recall he spoke about anything at all in Parliament.

Mdm Lim Hwee Hwa has a flourishing business outside of politics. But what irks me is that she questions without examining her conduct first. She was the one who could not / refused to give official figures when asked.

Mdm Cynthia Phua is a walkover. So is the other chap.

Next, Workers Party.

Mr Low Thia Khiang, politician and parliamentarian for the past 20 years. Has a proven track record to caring for residents and their well being. Might not sound very good in English, but I can see his heart resonates with us.

Ms Sylvia Lim, lecturer and politician. Ms Lim is a grounded lady. I have seen her on numerous occasions and am also keen to hear her speak on issues which the incumbent MP cannot broach on. Her speech on Ministerial Salaries was positively a stunner given the candour and demeanour she dished it out.

Mr Pritam Singh is a fiery chap who is able to rouse the crowds. I believe his vigour and sincerity will come through when he leverages on his legal background to ask some very touchy questions with a straight face.

Mr Chen Show Mao is indeed a celebrity. He has all the makings of an extraordinary human being, but with a heart. Let us think for a moment, why would anyone in his right frame of mind come forward to be taunted and tried by joining the opposition? Why would he want to come forward when he has to forgo his million dollar salary package and perks to come walk the ground with his colleagues? Surely, the PAP would have died to have him in their ranks. The only reason I can think of is his humility and his magnanimity.

No views on the Malay candidate.

So, to round things up, I wish to say this.

The foundations and mechanics of the system we have today have been laid by our forefathers. People like David Marshall, Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam, Lim Chin Siong and so on. The system is already operational, and it does not require any drastic changes to keep it from running.

The current crop of leaders have inherited a “franchise”. All they need to do is to be present to operate it. It is a turn-key so there is not much there to do.
Having said that, competition is real. Be it globally or from within. And our leaders, save a handful, might not be able to appreciate that.

So it is only fit and proper that someone who has international exposure to look into how we can tweak this further. That man is Chen Show Mao. He will be the one who can, with his experience, look at things objectively and make a call. He has within him, the calibre to ask the right set of questions.

And trust me, none of the current Cabinet have anything even close to him. The closest match I see will be Mr K Shanmugam.

And so my dear friends of Aljunied and Singapore, my vote is for the Workers' Party.

Yours faithfully,
An Aljunied Resident

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Vote Wisely

Tomorrow, Singapore goes to the polls. My sister sent me this message. She said this message, which she thinks is "well-researched" and "orginal", summarises developments in the past days.


"There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction." - Winston Churchill


"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." - Arnold Bennett


"The key to change... is to let go of fear." - Rosanne Cash


Whatever you decide, vote wisely. For the avoidance of doubt, please remember your vote is secret.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

New compact or script doubtful

Many people have welcomed the Prime Minister's recent speech. Cherian George has written about a new compact. Patrick Daniel, a key leader of a press corps fiercely loyal to the ruling party, has said: "Whatever the (election) result, this is the starting point of a new script."

I am not as hopeful. The Prime Minister made similar remarks to the Harvard Club in the period leading to his ascendancy, and the fruits of that speech are there for all to see today.

What we have is a divided ruling party. Some of its leaders fortunately remain true to the ideals of its founding fathers. Unfortunately, there are also some others more determined to preserve their own legacies.

The frustration, resentment and anger of the electorate has come as a shock to the ruling party leadership. It is even more disturbing that the ruling party, which is known to have a good sense of the ground, did not see this coming.

There are many factors attributable to this. Many are quick to point to the arrogance of some of our leaders.

However, I think it has more to do with a deterioration of the institutions that the ruling party relied on once to get a sense of the ground.

I will touch on the destruction of one such institution. The current Prime Minister inherited from his predecessor an Executive that had built itself up on the principles of consultative leadership.

One such institution was the Feedback Unit, which used to conduct regular feedback sessions on a range of issues with individuals drawn from across society. Today, that institution has been renamed Reach but, as the negative sentiment against the current leadership shows, the only remarkable thing about this institution is its lack of reach.

I know of several persons who were once active in this institution and who are now active in supporting leaders from opposition. They tell me we now have a government that is only told the things it would like to hear rather than the things it should be told.

Such deterioration is not limited to this institution.

As a result, we see more former disgruntled public servants coming out to openly disagree with the ruling party leadership.

The fact that the man some would like to see as the next President of Singapore, George Yeo, has had to come out and say he wants to be a voice of youths is perhaps testament to the track record, if any, of the Minister appointed to deal with such youth issues.

The ruling party cannot be blamed for this deterioration. The voter that returns the ruling party with a hegemonic prominence in Parliament must bear this burden of a leadership that is out of touch.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister

My dear Prime Minister,

I refer to your speech at the rally of your political party yesterday. As a first-time voter under the age of 35, I felt I should respond to you.

At the outset, I must state that I welcome your candid remarks and advice to voters like me. I know from your own track record that, when you say something will be looked into, it will be.

However, I only wish your candid remarks had come sooner rather than a few days before our country goes to the polls. The fact that these remarks came days after questions after questions had been raised by opposition parties is likely to underscore the need for a Parliament that has a good number of elected opposition Members of Parliament.

With respect, as much as I accept your speech is well-intended, some may also argue that your speech is an election gimmick.

You say ours is a multi-party democracy with a dominant party. I am prepared to accept a dominant party that has majority control of Parliament but not to the extent that it frustrates the existence of the office of my President or hampers the ability of an opposition leader to act in the interests of the constituents he or she represents in Parliament.

There must be a sense of fair play and, as a dominant party, your party has a duty to lead by example. No less should be expected from an incumbent.

For example, while I appreciate that you may not have sanctioned some of these practices, the way some of your candidates have conducted themselves to score points in these elections leaves one bitter.

The overt manner in which some mainstream media go out of their way to misconstrue the national interest as that of the PAP is also an attack of this sense of fair play. An independent watchdog set up by former Nominated Members of Parliament is currently monitoring their coverage during the elections period, and their interim results indicate that the coverage is not balanced. It is also shameful that at least one newspaper report in recent days has sought to demonise an opposition leader by spreading misinformation about that person’s activities. The coverage of our mainstream media is so skewed that some voters are saying that they [the media] will do all they can for the PAP this Friday and Saturday, when no campaigning is allowed.

If I were a voter in the PAP wards of Aljunied, East Coast, Mountbatten, Holland-Bukit Timah, Yuhua and Bishan-Toa Payoh, where the opposition has put up strong candidates, my choice would be clearly to vote for the opposition for the reasons above. I do want a dominant party that plays fair for the next 5 years.

Fortunately, for the PAP, I live in Jurong, where the performance of my one PAP MP overshadows all the opposition candidates currently slated in this constituency. My choice therefore is an obvious one.

Despite being a core member of your Cabinet, this MP is in my constituency about three times a week. He knows many residents. He takes a personal interest in their welfare and enjoys a celebrity status here. Come visit if you believe me not.

In his initial years, this MP would walk around with writing paper on which he would note concerns raised by residents. The notes he made would eventually translate into initiatives with measurable outcomes. He still does so at dialogue sessions. In the last five years, he has done house calls almost every year. (His predecessor, who almost killed the great legacy Ho Kah Leong left, only came once every five years.)

When this MP is away, he sends his stand-in colleague. His stand-in colleague has done such wonderful work that her fame reaches across the island; she was commended by an opposition candidate in Aljunied recently!

As a result of their consistent credible work, they haven’t had to use any unfair tactics to win over voters. In fact, on Nomination Day, they were gracious enough to point out for amendment errors they found in the nomination forms of the opposition party candidates contesting here. Thus, a lot of the angst one feels against your party has been absorbed.

We can only hope the same can be said of the other constituencies in which your party is contesting. It would not be unfair to add that some complacency appears to have seeped into the mentality of some your candidates, perhaps attributable to the walkover culture that had entrenched itself in our political system. I wrote to one of them more than a week ago about an issue. I have received neither a reply nor an acknowledgment. I also know of several persons in this country, who have not heard from their Members of Parliament in years, let alone met them.

I continue to remain grateful for your candour and humility, and I wish you a resounding victory in your constituency on Polling Day.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

My President's Millions

A few months ago, some people reacted negatively upon learning that the worth of the Singapore President is about S$2.5 million in remuneration. They felt that the pay was unjustified, and that the President didn't do much to be worthy of such an amount.

The President's stupendous silence in the face of this criticism and the fact that he left it to the Executive to defend him also did not help his cause.

I believe the President's worth is defensible.

The President is the Defender of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. Among other things, the President has responsibility for the protection of minority rights. The President can also veto the budgets of the government and key government-linked bodies and the appointments of government nominees to key posts. Singapore's law minister has further explained, "The elected president controls a second key to our reserves so that a government cannot take something that belongs to the reserves and just spend it unwisely - this for our future generation, our children and grandchildren."

Depending on the nature of the matter, his powers are ordinarily exercised on the advice or recommendation of the Council of the Presidential Advisers or the Prime Minister / Cabinet.

However, a political party with a two-thirds majority in Parliament can easily bypass the exercise of some of these powers. In the worst-case scenario, such a dominant party can also amend the Constitution to limit the President's effectiveness.

Given a pliant media that reports in the government's interest and the sensitivities of some of the things that the President does, a lot of what the President does tends to go unreported.

Resultantly, what you find at the end of the day is a great deal of public information about the ceremonial activities of the President.

The President is not to be blamed for the lack of use of his executive powers or the lack of publicity when he does indeed use such powers. In the face of a Parliament where the party in power enjoys two-thirds majority, any such exercise of power can also easily turn out to be an exercise in futility. Thus, in light of the prevailing political climate, the President is best positioned to merely carry out his ceremonial role.

The voter that returns the ruling party with a hegemonic prominence in Parliament must bear this burden of an allegedly unworthy President worth millions.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Is the great leader PAP’s loose cannon?

I must thank The New Paper for inspiring me to write this. The New Paper stands by its story but I think there is an arguable case of bad journalism here. I was at the said rally, and I can confirm that no such incident happened.

The New Paper's report probably did no justice to the police. I understand from certain sources that additional police resources have been activated for duty at such rallies.

The police on duty may also have been taken to task for the disclosures in the report, which is why at another similar rally yesterday police were following the relevant opposition leader closely with portable cameras.

Neither am I a subscriber of The New Paper nor a purchaser of that particular copy of the newspaper. If you are and you feel this story is an example of journalism you would not like to see in Singapore, you should make your views known to the Media Development Authority. They have an advisory committee to look into such matters. Feel free to let me have a copy of your complaint.


Coming back to the point of my posting, I will use three examples to illustrate the motivation behind this posting.

Some days back, MM Lee said, “If they choose (the opposition), then I say, good luck to them. They have five years to ruminate and to regret what they did. And I have no doubts they will regret it.” (emphasis added)

With respect to the great leader, ruminate is what mammals like cows and sheep do. This may have been insensitive to the voters of Aljunied GRC.

MM Lee must have realised the additional meaning behind his words. One day later, he repeated what he meant differently. He remarked, "If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and repent."

Secondly, in the same interview, MM Lee added it will not be “a major setback if the People's Action Party (PAP) loses” Aljunied and not “the end of the world”.

PM Lee has now had to come out openly and disagree with his father. He rebutted, “I am running the election, MM is expressing his views.”

Thirdly, MM Lee has also stated that Aljunied was the “only hot seat”. The PAP rank-and-file appear to be at odds with this position. One candidate has said, “MM has his own opinions, some of which I may not 100 per cent agree with.”

Is he, the great leader, PAP’s loose cannon? You decide.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Lee Kuan Yew unjust to PAP MPs he campaigns for

As I expected, the opposition strategy of not contesting Tanjong Pagar GRC is going to cost these opposition parties. It has freed up MM Lee Kuan Yew, along with his loyal press corps, to focus on other areas that are being contested.

MM Lee has jumped on the opportunity, gone into over-drive and is now running on adrenaline. He is grabbing the opposition bulls by their horns and throwing them across the field.

MM Lee is pelting allegations after allegations, whether or not they have a basis. It will now be for the opposition parties to respond to these allegations. If, in responding, they get their facts wrong, the defamation suits will follow for calling MM Lee a liar.

For illustrative purposes, let’s take MM Lee’s example of Shadow Cabinet. He has asked the Workers Party to name this.

MM Lee has been away from England for some time now and he cannot be blamed for forgetting how the Westminster style of parliamentary democracy works. Any student of constitutional law will know that the Shadow Cabinet is drawn from elected opposition Members of Parliament (emphasis added). In addition, the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Chief Whip and the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip are paid salaries for these additional roles. To learn more, read here.

This is not the case in Singapore. The issue of a Shadow Cabinet cannot arise where there are no elected opposition Members of Parliament and where the current system makes no provision for additional remuneration for opposition party office-bearers in Parliament.

No doubt that the pliant media is doing a great job in giving prime coverage to MM Lee. They haven taken pains to ensure that his every word is covered. With all this coverage, it is not reasonable to wonder if it is MM Lee or PM Lee in the driver’s seat.

Unfortunately, the journalists that cover these issues will not even bother to do a basic check of what MM Lee says against the facts. Their attitude will be if the great leader has spoken, he must be right. In their failure to do this, they will do a great disservice to their readers, who rely on them for accurate information.

Voters of the constituencies affected should ask important questions here. What does MM Lee’s campaigning of the PAP candidates he is endorsing say about these candidates? Can these candidates really stand on their own and defend their turf? If they can, MM Lee has done them no justice by turning up and campaigning for them.

The comfort I take from this fact is MM Lee has not come to campaign for my current PAP MP, including his team. To me, this shows that they need no special endorsement from the great leader and it gives me great confidence in their competencies and capabilities.

I accept, however, it is still early days to tell. If MM Lee does indeed come to campaign for my PAP MP, I will know that I will need to look further into the track record of my PAP MP.

Dharmendra Yadav

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