Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Venerable Venereal Straits Times

I haven't wrote in a while. But today's headlines on the by-elections in Hougang in the venerable The Straits Times (Singapore) was sufficiently venereal to motivate me to awake from my slumber. 

Compared to another friend, who almost got a stroke reading the same news, my reaction is perhaps muted.

At least three websites, whose writers have, to some extent, informed insights into the workings of the Singapore Press Holdings, have addressed the coverage of The Straits Times. If you would like to understand my reasons for taking issue with The Straits Times, you can read this link, this link and this link.

What I want to write about is why I think this is happening and why it may be the return of an old normal that readers of The Straits Times should get used to.

If the general elections coverage of The Straits Times was the beginning of a new dawn for a newspaper under a valiant editor wanting to remain relevant to a readership disenfranchised with its less than objective coverage, the Hougang by-elections coverage of The Straits Times is the rehashing of an old story by an editor fearless in driving a blunt wedge through its readership, even if it means polarising a populace frustrated by a ruling party showing signs of complacency.

In February this year, The Straits Times replaced its former editor with the honourable Warren Fernandez. Warren believes he is a true son of independent Singapore. He has a written a tome about the founding father of the People's Action Party. He has gained immensely from the meritocratic system espoused by the PAP. He has waxed lyrical about the PAP's success in managing Singapore in columns aplenty, which I once followed as a young student. Read his book, if you would like a flavour of these insights.

It is therefore not surprising for someone like Warren to think that to be loyal to Singapore is to be loyal to the PAP in pushing the agenda of the PAP. I accept he owes a great deal to the PAP system for what he is today. After all, at least until he was invited back to The Straits Times, he may well have been working in a multi-national oil conglomerate bringing home twice his current annual salary in bonuses alone.

As such, I admire his deep-seated desire, willingness and ability to want to give back to our motherland.But there is a fine line between blind faith and good faith. The coverage today of The Straits Times was a display of the former.

In my view, there was something more important that was clearly more newsworthy and deserved the front page coverage. This, the solidarity of Singaporeans from all walks of life in that pelting rain in a cause they believed in.

I once said his book "represents Warren Fernandez's version of Singapore. If, as a reader, you do not like it, ignore it. Alternatively, you can choose to be engaged and offer your own version in return."

Likewise, The Straits Times is fast becoming Warren Fernandez's version of Singapore. Ignore it or embrace it.

Thinking about whether this is the kind of your newspaper you want to subscribe to in Singapore is allowed.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Feel free to react below or leave a comment.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Singapore Parliament replies on its accessibility

This was a response I got from the Clerk of Parliament in relation to certain queries I made about parliamentary proceedings in Singapore.

Since then, I note MediaCorp now makes parliamentary recordings available to its viewers much quicker than before. I am not sure why should only MediaCorp be given the complete video footages. I wonder if any other media has applied to Parliament for such recordings, and how Parliament has responded to such request.

Dharmendra Yadav


The press has full access to parliamentary proceedings and speeches made in the House. For TV and online news coverage, MediaCorp also has the complete video footages of each sitting. As the extent of press coverage of speeches made by Members is entirely a media decision, Parliament does not interfere with the coverage nor impose any restrictions.

We currently publish the Singapore Parliament Reports containing the verbatim speeches of Members on LawNet, and on our website within a week after the end of proceedings.

We regularly review the feasibility of other avenues to make parliamentary proceedings more accessible to the public and will take your feedback, including their cost considerations, into our review. While video streaming of speeches is certainly something that is on the radar, the cost issues are not small and extend into tens of thousands a month for such a service.

We value your suggestions and wish to thank you for your interest in our parliamentary proceedings.

Ms Ng Sheau Jiuan
Clerk of Parliament

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Feel free to react below or leave a comment.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ministerial Salary Review in Singapore


I was asked what I thought about the benchmark of pegging ministerial salaries to the top 1000 earners in Singapore. Some of these remarks were published in The Straits Times on 6 January 2012.


It is really a “no-choice” benchmark.

The Prime Minister had to deliver on a promise made in the heat of the general election: an announcement to cut political salaries. His announcement caught many by surprise, including those within his own party.

The Committee reviewing ministerial salaries was limited by its terms of reference. This was due in part to what the Prime Minister would be able to push through within his own political party.

Look at how the whole announcement on the review of ministerial salaries was carefully managed. The Prime Minister went to his own party MPs to prepare them before the committee responsible for the review was able to make public its recommendations.

The Prime Minister would have faced a lot of trouble selling the changes within his own party if the cuts had been deeper. It could have thrown the party into chaos, with possibly some ministers resigning.

As it is, we are already seeing warning signs within the party ranks. Consider what Grace Fu said recently and Lim Wee Kiak said last year.


Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State: "When I made the decision to join politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor. Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my family and loss of personal time were. The disruption to my career was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office."

Lim Wee Kiak, Member of Parliament: "If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister's ideas and proposals. Hence, a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity."


It’s really the kind of people the PAP has attracted. When the party asked all these people to join politics, they said that we are going to pay you a competitive salary, come and contribute. Now you’re turning the story around and telling them, it’s public service so you have to take a discount. Any benchmark that would have been too far away from this principle of paying a competitive salary would have been unpalatable.

If you want another benchmark, it is not going to happen with the PAP at this juncture.

Maybe, if the PAP starts attracting a different talent pool - those driven by public service rather than money - we could see further cuts in future, or even a different benchmark. But it is not going to happen now.

Plus, the PAP Government is not going to adopt any other benchmark now because that is what the opposition parties are advocating. And the PAP has never been known as a party that looks to the opposition for solutions.

If you are unhappy with the changes and want another benchmark adopted, you will need to vote in a different government because, like it or not, it is not going to happen with the PAP.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Feel free to react below or leave a comment.