Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Maybe, PAP Ministers not so talented - Part 2

Dennis, a reader of this blog, shared these thoughts below in response to an earlier post. I thought it deserves a space of its own.


There is a lack of talent of the preferred mound that the PAP traditionally prefers, trained from a certain predictable pool, ex-scholars, first class honours perhaps, subscribed to the same right wing political philosophy, favours the rule of the elite, etc.

It has now reached a time in our country's history when many well-educated Singaporeans do not feel sorry for lack of such talent any more. People coming from this traditional pool have largely run out of passion and ideas.

Obsession with GDP, the yawning gap between the rich elite and the ordinary Singaporeans, consistent failure to do more for our poor and disadvantaged policies, elitist education policies, government making money out of the people at any opportunity, opening of IRs, strange liberal foreigner employment policies, the list goes on and on. We debated over these in the last two elections this year.

Running out of passion

Why passion? Because the ethos of promotion and high pay have become a given in civil service such that many are driven by pay. Ministers do not realise but their frequent admissions of so called talent not joining political service if pay is reduced, is a de facto admission that the people they thought fitted the bill are driven by money, not passion.

Singaporeans should be relieved that these people do not join in the first place as their heart is not with the government and the people. I shudder to think how many 'wrong' people have joined political and administrative service because of the motivation of money and promotion. Maybe that explains the kind of policies we have had over the last 20 years.

"Singapore Inc" is nothing to be proud of. It is an ironic tag symbolising how the PAP government has gone off tangent over the past 20 years because of the love of money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Without the right passion, our people will perish.

Running out of ideas

The PAP government subscribes to a set of right wing politico-economic theories. We cannot assume that the government or the civil service will always be right in their policies. The last 5 years have convinced many people that they are making mistakes in their policies which have serious repercussions for the country be they economic, social, political and even moral.

In the past few months, I met so many educated, well qualified and well placed Singaporeans who have become very concerned with these erroneous policies. Yet post election, basic policy making has remained the same.

PAP is clearly not able to think of their little custom-made box anymore. Clear examples are transport and housing: essentially the government has shirked from taking the hard decisions.

I, like many Singaporeans, are rightly concerned about this business as usual attitude of the PAP government. If the PAP government does not indeed change from within, this serious lack of ideas and the continuance down the same path from last 5 years are quite a worry for our country. Perhaps many other Singaporeans not used to doing their own critical assessment of government policies do not share this view.

However, I take heart that in the past few months, I have met many many Singaporeans who share the same concerns I have (they are well educated and successful in their own careers, well travelled and well versed in world economics and politics).

We are united by one thing: our love for our country and our wish that our country can do better in many areas than under the present regime. There are many Singaporeans whom I am confident will step up to serve because they will not see their country fail or go down a certain undesirable path to which increasingly Singaporeans do not subscribe any more.

There are many Singaporeans who have passion and also, better ideas. We do not need to rely on the current elite in government and administrative service. Many Singaporeans are willing to think out of the box. The challenge for any political party now is how they can harness the passion of us Singaporeans to make a difference, to make Singapore an even better country and nation.


Finally, it leaves me to thank my friend and fellow corporate counsel, Chia Lyn Lynn, for permission to use the image that appears in this post.

Perhaps, the committee reviewing ministerial salaries will take a page from Lynn and Dennis.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maybe, PAP ministers not so talented

My friend, Siva, who used to work at the political desk of The Straits Times, penned the thoughts below.


Lee Kuan Yew says there isn't enough talent for an alternative Cabinet.

Our new President (a former Deputy Prime Minister and LKY's first choice for Prime Minister) ran Government Investment Corporation of Singapore when it racked up huge losses.

The ex-Foreign Minister, whose new supporters mourned his electoral defeat, curtailed the arts and helped a regime that killed its citizens and imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi.

Where was a serving minister when tenders for the SportsHub and MotorHub were screwed up?

Maybe, it is the PAP ministers who aren't that talented after all.

Siva Govindasamy


The case that there has not been enough talent to go around may have been true in a Singapore of past. However, there are signs of increasing lethargy in the prevailing political leadership in Singapore.

More people, who used to support the ruling party, are crossing over to support the work of other political parties. The ruling party has also been hard-pressed to attracts strong talents within Singapore.

More former Malaysians occupy positions within the political leadership in Singapore, that has led some to speculate the ruling party may well be preparing Singapore for reunification with Malaysia.

Many ministers were retired earlier this year. No one is reported to have secured any key positions beyond those created for them in academia and government-linked bodies.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Are lawyers excluded from Yellow Ribbon Project?

The Yellow Ribbon Project was started in 2004 to help ex-offenders re-integrate into society.

Its annual flagship event, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run, around the populated Changi Prison complex will begin in a few hours.

I participated in the run some years back. I also tried to volunteer for the initiative some years ago. I was very excited that such an initiative existed. My enthusiasm has, however, been short-lived.

For various reasons, over the years, I have come away with the impression that there is a conscious attempt to exclude lawyers from this wonderful initiative.

I would certainly like to hope my impression is inaccurate but the information publicly available presently indicates otherwise.

No law association – whether the Law Society of Singapore, Association of Criminal Lawyers or Singapore Academy of Law – is publicly involved in the organising of the event, or even in partnering it.

No legal professional sits on the various committees administering the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

The featured employers and volunteers of the Yellow Ribbon Project do not include any person from the legal sector.

I found all these circumstances rather odd since lawyers play an integral role in our criminal justice system. This responsibility certainly extends to the rehabilitation of such offenders and giving them second innings.

It has been over 5 years since this initiative started. It is time the Yellow Ribbon Project involves lawyers, especially those from the criminal bar, more prominently.

I still support the Yellow Ribbon Project.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

No need to abolish ISA

My own view has always been that the abolition of the Internal Security Act is not necessary.

I would like in place, within the framework of the ISA, certain safeguards to ensure that it is not abused for political purposes.

Some have argued that this was the case with the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, when one Minister is reported to have resigned over the incident. A current Deputy Prime Minister has expressed reservations about these arrests in the past. (No surprise the home affairs portfolio, which has oversight of the ISA, is held by the other Deputy Prime Minister.)

To his credit, the old law minister Shunmugum Jayakumar, the man credited for enhancing sentences through Parliament in Singapore that would attract the ire of some human rights activists - from the use of the cane to the rope - took steps to improve the procedures of the ISA.

The ISA Advisory Board is now chaired by a Supreme Court Judge, with the President holding veto powers to cancel the detention order on the recommendation of the ISA Advisory Board.

This is where the problem currently lies.

The Board does not comprise a majority of judges, who I have no doubt are independent. Rogue ministers or power hungry political leaders could easily fill the majority of the ISA Advisory Board with their own lackeys and tilt the recommendation of the Board in their favour.

The Court of Appeal established over a decade ago that it was necessary for a court to review the executive’s decision to issue a detention order. Parliament then clipped the wings of the judiciary, post-Chng Suan Tze.

I would like the powers of the judiciary to review such decisions returned.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Insensitive advertising by law firm


"I wish to draw your attention to an advertisement on the Law Society website.

The advertisement states, "Roy & Partners are expanding and have vacancies for Chinese Junior and Senior Litigation Secretaries to handle motor claims and personal injury claims."

The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices provides unequivocally, "Race should not be a criterion for the selection of job candidates as multiracialism is a fundamental principle in Singapore. Selection based on race is unacceptable... If a job entails proficiency in a particular language, employers should justify the need for the requirement. This would reduce ambiguity and minimise incidence of misunderstanding between the job seekers and the recruiting party."

One would have expected that a website that represents a noble profession like ours to be more sensitive. The Law Society has a duty not to encourage such unacceptable employment practices. It can do better in working with the National Trades Union Congress to educate law firms about fair employment practices.

I hope corrective and preventive measures will be taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents."


The reply accepted "that a person should be employed on the basis of his job qualifications and not on the basis of his race" and advertisements "will be screened for their contents to prevent a recurrence of such advertisements", in order to prevent it from being offensive for any reason.


The previously controversial sentence now reads, "Roy & Partners are expanding and have vacancies for Junior and Senior Litigation Secretaries to handle motor claims and personal injury claims."

Interestingly, a new requirement has been added - "bilingual in English and Chinese" - with no explanation as to what this requirement has to do with the role. Hundreds of legal professionals, including litigation secretaries, in this country "handle motor claims and personal injury claims" without being "bilingual in English and Chinese".

Law firms like these can be encouraged to adopt the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. The partners that run such firms should be persuaded to attend fair employment training programmes. Perhaps, the Law Society, as an employer, will lead by example and adopt these guidelines.

Dharmendra Yadav

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