Singapore, the Smart Nation?

08.24.17 | Permalink | Comment?

I have mad respect for Min-Liang Tan because he is a brilliant businessman and master marketer who has built a world-class company that is hands down #1 in its category. This guy is our very own Steve Jobs with his own cult following, and if there’s anyone I’m rooting for to win this, it’s him.

But let’s get real. Whether the government decides to take his proposal or go with some other plan submitted by another industry player, what we are going to end up with will still be a nice little walled garden that’s not too different from NETS.

The numbers will be awesome just by virtue of the monopoly the government will bless it with, and at the end of the day they’re all going to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. This system will be many things, but what it will not be is a world-beater, because it will be completely useless to anyone else outside of Singapore.

No National Day Rally speech has been more injurious to the Singaporean psyche than the one just delivered by Lee Hsien Loong. These speeches used to fire up an entire people and inspire them with a vision of the future. No longer. Now Singaporeans have just been shocked into reality — that the people they used to brush off as ‘country bumpkins’ from that massive country up north now see them as ‘suaku’ and very ‘backwards’. Now, it is they that have to play catch-up.

Today, the words first uttered by Sim Wong Hoo some 18 years ago still ring truer than ever before. He observed that in Singapore, drivers are not allowed to make a U-turn unless a sign specifically allows them to do so, while in other countries drivers may make U-turns as long as a “No U-turn” sign is not present. He described this as the No U-turn Syndrome (NUTS), and this phenomenon has wide implications for all of life in Singapore.

With so many things going for it — a highly educated, well-travelled populace; one of the world’s fastest internet speeds and an economy that’s on the crossroads of global trade and finance — could the reason why Singapore hasn’t been able to produce its own Facebook or Alibaba or Uber be that Entrepreneur A is still waiting for a politician to “say the word”, Entrepreneur B is still waiting for some government body to study the proposal, and Entrepreneur C is still waiting for her proposal to be approved?

Even in China where the government is omnipresent, it wasn’t the government taking the lead to make the cashless society happen. It was the business sector (Alibaba, Tencent et al) forging ahead and making things happen on their own. They didn’t need no government to study and approve any goddamn proposal. They went out there and came up with better solutions — ones that went on to completely reshape consumer behaviour.

I appreciate the sentiment of an integrated system built “by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans” but please come fucking on, because in 18 months, the world would already have moved even further. We needed that system YESTERDAY.

There are many questions to be answered and much soul-searching to be done, but for now, we must just accept that Singapore is no longer on the frontier, and it is our destiny to either:
[A] just swallow our pride and copy what someone else has built,
[B] prepare to get deepthroated as we let foreign internet behemoths take the hell over, OR
[C] have our million-dollar ministers study yet more proposals and fall even further behind in the meantime.

The choice is ours to make now. Which rabbit hole are we going to collectively go down?


The Workers’ Party slogan for #GE2015

09.04.15 | Permalink | Comment?

The Workers’ Party has a brilliant slogan for the upcoming general elections, and I think it’s brilliant because it’s the diametric opposite of what the PAP has been hoping to achieve with the never-ending ‪#‎SG50‬ circus: The PAP wants you to keep looking at the past 50 years. The WP wants you to think about the upcoming 50.

Don’t rock the boat, the PAP pleads to the people. Look at all we’ve achieved together. If there are problems, we will get things right by tweaking a bit here and tweaking a bit there, the PM has been on record as saying.

If insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result, then counting on the same people over and over again and expecting new things to happen must also be sheer lunacy.

The problem with the PAP is not just that it keeps using the tools of yesterday to solve today’s problems, the problem is the paradigm through which they view those problems.

If there is one thing I learnt in business school, it’s that you need diverse teams to solve complex problems. That diversity doesn’t seem to be there if you look at the new faces the PAP is rolling out – here a few military generals and there a few civil service stalwarts, and they all went to the same few schools. It’s all getting a bit incestuous.

No matter where you may be on the political spectrum, as you head to the polls this September, please know that this really is about the future of Singapore, not its past. And that the best antidote to groupthink and policy paralysis is genuine diversity. To arrive at those out-of-the-box solutions we need to solve the problems of today, we need a paradigm shift that’s only possible by an infusion of fresh blood into parliament.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The price to pay for giving a small select group of people a blank cheque over and over again is a very high one. And I’m not sure Singapore can afford it.

You don’t have to be a genius or a psychic to see what that sort of a future might look like. You just have to look across the Causeway to see what’s happening right now.


Songs To Inspire A Nation – O Singapura

08.07.14 | Permalink | Comment?

Christianism, Singapore

Why Religious Hysteria Must Not Be Placated: S Rajaratnam on the banning of The Last Temptation of Christ

08.04.14 | Permalink | Comment?

S Rajaratnam, Deputy PM (1980-1985), Senior Minister (1985-1988)

A letter by S Rajaratnam published in ST Forum

23 Nov 1988

Why, it may be asked, am I persisting in what is turning out to be a spirited monologue between me and the censors responsible for banning Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation?

The banning of a memorable book which the vast majority of Singaporeans have ignored for some 30 years without serious damage to their health and mind is unlikely to bring Singapore crashing down.

The worst that can happen, from the censor’s point of view, is that, should the ban be ever lifted, there would be a stampede to borrow or buy the book.

The best that can then happen is that, in diligently searching through the novel for the dirty bits that do not exist, many Singaporeans would have, for the first time in their lives, read from cover to cover a masterpiece of modern literature.

So my persistence is not over the banning of one book but concern over the cast of mind and motive that led to the banning.

This anxiety has been reinforced by Mr Koo Tsai Kee’s response on Nov 12 to my first letter. I find Mr Koo’s reply far more disturbing than that of Mr John Lee (ST, Nov 12). In the latter case, I was broadcasting FM while Mr Lee was radiating on a wave length beyond the range of earthly intelligence.

Mr Koo, on the other hand, is a highly intelligent man, not least of all because of his description of my first letter on the ban “as a brilliant piece of expose which makes for compelling reading”.

Circuitry haywire

My inflated ego soared higher still when he tried to shame our censors by stating that the fact that “the movie and book were not banned in the West in spite of a hue and cry from predominantly Christian societies bears witness to the triumph of sanity over hysteria”.

He then goes on: “If anything the misrepresentations should be exposed. I sincerely believe we are intellectually the poorer because of it (the ban).”

So far so good. We were both operating on FM. Then suddenly I lost Mr Koo. He was inexplicably operating on a wave length well beyond the reach of known human intelligence.

His circuitry suddenly went haywire. He says that nevertheless “I empathise with the sentiments of my Christian friends” in the interests of what he calls “racial and religious cohesiveness” — race and religion unspecified.

He, therefore, “grants our censors… the privilege” of ensuring that, out of regard for the sensitivities of the hysterical, other thinking Christians and non-Christians should “suffer some intellectual deprivation”.

In other words, “racial and religious cohesiveness” can best be ensured in Singapore by enforcing, as a matter of law, what on the basis of Mr Koo’s own analysis is the triumph of the hysterical over the sane — Christian and non-Christian.

I would have thought the best way of ensuring racial and religious harmony would be by compelling the hysterical minority to “empathise” with the sane majority.

This is what Western Christian and even non-Christian countries with also a multiplicity of religions and races have had the courage to do in the face of the baying of the hysterical over this book.

And as far as I know, no religious wars have erupted as a result of the courageous stand. On the contrary, placating religious hysteria is the surest way of encouraging religious intolerance and, therefore, of religious civil wars.

Yet a non-Christian and Asian Singapore applies the opposite remedy.

I do not propose in this letter to back my statement by adducing a wealth of evidence, except to point that, today, there are so many racial and religious wars on a global scale as to justify regarding this phenomena as the rule rather than the exception.

That is why when on the day of my retirement from official politics I was asked by the reporters what my future concerns for Singapore were, I unhesitatingly said: “The danger of racial and religious conflicts”.

Personal encounter

The reason why Singapore has so far been an exception to what is becoming a world-wide rule is that this Government had the courage always to be on the side of sanity against the intolerance of the hysterical.

Singaporeans would be foolish to think for one moment that they have some divine immunity against religious shootouts.

I would like to back this statement with a personal encounter.

I was recently on a holiday in an Asean country. I was visited by a niece of mine on her way to a girl guide campfire sing-song. I remarked that during my boy scout days I enjoyed such campfires.

“Not any more uncle”, she said, with a wry smile.

“Why not?”

“Nowadays we have sing-songs but without campfires”, she said wistfully.


“Because”, she said, “some minor religious sect considers singing around a campfire fire-worshipping and therefore offensive.”

The girl guide officials were advised in the interests of racial harmony and in the interests of “empathy” for the intolerant to dispense with the bonfire.

A triumph of hysteria over sanity, right?

As my niece walked away, I wished with all my heart that, for her sake, sanity had won over hysteria instead.

Transcribed from:

P.S.: Looking for volunteers to transcribe interesting pieces of text and audio recordings related to recent events in Singapore. Please message me if you can volunteer just a little bit of your time.


Open letter to the National Library Board: To be consistent, ban the Bible too

07.13.14 | Permalink | Comment?

Ms Yeo Chee Yan, Chairman of the National Library Board
Ms Elaine Ng Poh Choo, CEO of the National Library Board

Mr Niam Chiam Meng, Chairman of the Media Development Authority
Ms Koh Lin-Net, CEO of the Media Development Authority
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information
Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister

Dear Sir / Madam,

I read with interest the news that the National Library Board has withdrawn — and destroyed — three books from its collection, on complaints from several members of the public that the books were not “pro-family” enough.

I too would like to propose another book for withdrawal from the library for its not so “pro-family” content – the Holy Bible.

Here is a selection of the decidedly anti-family content I have found in the Bible:

Polygamy (Genesis 4:19, 16:1-4, 25:6, 31:17, Judges 8:30, 1 Samuel 1:1-2, 1 Kings 11:2-3, 1 Chronicles 4:5, 2 Chronicles 11:21, 2 Chronicles 13:21, 2 Chronicles 24:3)

Incest (Genesis 19:32-36)

Incestuous marriages (Genesis 20:12; Genesis 17:16; Exodus 6:20)

Human sacrifice (Genesis 22:2,10; Judges 11:29-39)

Execution of disobedient children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17)

Eating of one’s own children (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53; Deuteronomy 28:57; Jeremiah 19:9; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Lamentations 4:10)

Murdering of children (Psalm 137:9)

Burning of family members to death (Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9;  Genesis 38:24; Joshua 7:15, 24-25)

Divorce (Deuteronomy 22:13; Deuteronomy 24:1-2)

Disposal of wives (Deuteronomy 22:13)

Beating of children (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13-14)

Selling of daughters as slaves (Exodus 21:7)

Killing of infants (Numbers 31:15-17; Hosea 9:14; Hosea 9:16; Hosea 13:16)

Rape (Numbers 31:15-18)

I note that most of the above activities are crimes according to the laws of the Republic of Singapore. Yet, some of the characters who engaged in the above lifestyles are given glowingly positive portrayals and emerge as heroes in the overall narrative of the book.

As a Bible-believing Christian at peace with my faith, I must concede that the above passages of the book can be traumatising for children to read (I know, because I’ve been there before). Therefore, for the National Library Board to be thoroughly consistent with its “cautious” and “pro-family” approach, there is no choice for it but to withdraw the Holy Bible from its shelves.

If the National Library Board cannot withdraw the book, then perhaps the Media Development Authority can step in to censor the above passages. We have a duty to protect the children of Singapore from the less savoury parts of the book and help them read the right thing.

I am not familiar with other religious texts, but I would urge both the NLB and the MDA to scrutinise all of them with equal zeal to ensure that we, as a society, uphold the right values and walk down the right path.

Yours Sincerely,
Kenneth Tan



02.25.14 | Permalink | 1 Comment

You want to know what I’m struggling with? I’ll tell you what I’m struggling with. I’m struggling with your hypocritical Christianity, your capitalist Christianity, your unloving Christianity, your pharasaical Christianity, your oppressive Christianity, your political Christianity, your violent Christianity, your talibanist Christianity, your power-hungry Christianity, your Christless Christianity.

I struggle with your double standards. I struggle with your child-raping priests. I struggle with your paedophile-protecting popes. I struggle with your silence at the Christian complicity in kill-the-gay laws being enacted all across Africa. I struggle with your bishops of bling. I struggle with your celebrity pastors. I struggle with your private jets. I struggle with the gold in your temples and the silver in your bank accounts.

My life-long struggle will be with this thing that you call Christianity. It’s empty. It’s ugly. It’s twisted. It’s devoid of Christ. There is absolutely nothing in it that draws me to it.

So this is what I struggle with every single fucking day. And boy do I struggle. I wish I could run away from it, but I can’t because it’s all around me. It oppresses me all of my waking hours. And then it torments me at night.

So please take all of your good intentions and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thank you very much.

Christianism, LGBT, Singapore

Lawrence Khong on FCBC’s role in leading LoveSingapore and fighting against the LGBT movement

08.28.13 | Permalink | Comment?

Faith Community Baptist Church celebrated its 27th anniversary over the weekend of August 17-18.  The senior pastor of the church, “Apostle” Lawrence Khong, used the occasion to launch “Arise and Shine”, a new building project that will see Touch Community Theatre — one of two auditoriums owned by the church — torn down and rebuilt. FCBC wants members to raise S$40 million in two years for the new building which I hear will house new magic shows by the church-owned Gateway Entertainment Pte Ltd, starring Lawrence Khong himself. In a sermon entitled Journey of Faith, Khong starts out by asking how many of his congregants were with him when the church was founded back in Aug 1986 (following a split from Grace Baptist Church). A handful of people raise their hands, the congregation applauds the “diehards” and Khong marvels at how “we have a brand new church” that is “always renewing” — an acknowledgement of the thousands that have left since 2000? The key talking points of Khong’s sermon presentation reads like your regular list of stuff you’d hear from any company chairman blowing the trumpet of the organisation at the AGM, but what piqued my interest was what he said about FCBC’s role in bringing forth the so-called LoveSingapore movement and in resisting advances made by the LGBT movement in recent years. I’ve transcribed that section of the speech below:

[From 21:40 to 24:05]

God used this church to birth the LoveSingapore movement. I want you to understand, this is a very special movement. For 17 years, pastors from all sorts of different denominations come together for a week to pray. And then throughout the year — we have just finished the Day of His Power — how many of you were at the Day of His Power? (hands shoot up across the auditorium) how many of you were blessed? Blessed, right? I can tell you, I just met a pastor who sent a group from another church who have never been to the Day of His Power, and they came back and this pastor reported that, “boy, after the two hours, I never knew what prayer is until I attended the prayer meeting.” It was dynamic, it was with faith, it was exciting, it was a very engaging time of prayer.

LoveSingapore is used by the Lord to uphold Singapore in prayer so that Singapore will fulfill its destiny, and now we are beginning to address the issue of the problem of the aging population. We want to build an Elder Care Network that will encompass the whole of Singapore by pulling all the resources of the church together. So that by the year 2015, any Christian can walk to an old person and say, “I will meet that need” because behind you, there’s a LoveSingapore Elder Care Network that will support you.

Secondly, we are fighting the battle of… making a stand against the LGBT… in making that lifestyle as the normal lifestyle. I have no problem — we never discriminate against them. All of you know that I work in Gateway Entertainment. Everyday I see them — I mean, everyday I’m having my rehearsal — and almost all the guys are homosexual, okay? I am good friends with them, I talk with them, and … but don’t make this a normal lifestyle for Singapore, because that’s not something that’s good for the nation. We’re taking a stand, we’re pulling our resources together, to make sure, to make a difference to protect our nation, and to defend the family. God blessed us with this glorious experience of — this church, I can tell you — our church may not be the biggest in Singapore. You don’t understand the kind of influence and impact that it has across this nation. It’s not something that we want to take pride in. It’s because the glory of the Lord is risen among us in these last 27 years. Amen?


Goldman Sachs meme feat. Bo Xilai

03.15.12 | Permalink | 7 Comments

Just received a letter in my mailbox from none other than Bo Xilai himself! And it sounds suspiciously like this letter by Greg Smith of Goldman Sachs, and this letter by Darth Vader!

Why I Am Leaving the Communist Party By BO XILAI
March 14, 2012

TODAY is my last day as the Chongqing Committee Secretary. After almost 32 years in the Communist Party of China (CPC) — first at the very bottom of the political hierarchy, then 17 years in the eastern city of Dalian, and now in Chongqing — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the people continue to be sidelined
in the way the CPC operates and thinks about generating revenue. The Communist Party of China is the world’s largest and most elite political party and it is too integral to the global supply chain to continue to act this way. The Party has veered so far from the ideological purity of the Cultural Revolution that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but the culture of constant revolution was always a vital part of the CPC’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by the people. The culture was the “la jiao” that made this place great and allowed us to earn the people’s trust for over 60 years. It wasn’t just about making revolution; this alone will not sustain the Party. It had something to do with pride and belief in the Party itself. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for the CPC for many decades. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than twenty years, I recruited and mentored young people through our grueling vetting process. I was selected by Chongqing’s Media Department to send “red” text messages to the city’s 13 million cellphone users. Throughout my tenure in Chongqing, I promoted Maoist quotes, “red” songs, and initiatives to encourage young people to live and work in the countryside.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look my son in the eye and tell him what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about the CPC, they may reflect that the General Secretary, Hu Jintao, and the Premier, Wen Jiabao, lost hold of the CPC’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the CPC’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of leading China’s Ministry of Commerce, overseeing Liaoning’s development into one of the most economically strong provinces in China, and spearheading Chongqing’s social welfare system, red culture movement, and crackdown on organized crime. Chongqing now has a nominal GDP of over 652.8 billion yuan. I have always taken a lot of pride in texting Chongqing’s people to do what is right for them, even if it means less money for Beijing’s bureaucrats. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular in the CPC. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The Party changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money as a Party leader (and are not currently planning to move to the U.S., Canada, or Australia) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the Party’s “Five-Year Plan,” which is CPC-speak for forcibly evicting people from their land so we can sell it to our friends in real estate. b) “Hunt Mice.” In English: get the people — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to give up whatever will enlarge the Party’s coffers. Call me old- fashioned, but I don’t like selling my people a policy that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to pitch any opaque policy with the words “harmony” in it.

Today, many of these leaders display a socialist culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend Party meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help the people. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an illegal alien from North Korea and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that the success or progress of everyday citizens was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously Party leaders talk about ripping their people off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different members of the Standing Committee refer to their own people as “Shagua,” sometimes over internal text messages. Even after the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four, the June 4th Incident, and “My father is Li Gang”? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will the Party push corrupt and complicated polices on the people even if they are not the most logical investments or the ones most directly aligned with the goals of the everyday Chinese citizen? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little the Party gets a basic truth: If the people don’t trust you they will eventually overthrow you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior cadres about rampant inequality
is, “How much revenue did we squeeze from land seizures?” It bothers me every time I hear
it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior cadres sitting quietly in the corner of the Great Hall of the People hearing about “shagua,” “grey profits” and “moving abroad” doesn’t exactly turn into a model bureaucrat.

When I was a first-year cadre I didn’t know how to text “red” messages, or how to down a whole bottle of Maotai during one banquet. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, memorizing passages from “The Little Red Book,” understanding how to govern, getting to know the people and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting admitted to Peking University, being selected as the Mayor of Dalian, and serving as the party chief of Chongqing — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. The CPC today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the Standing Committee. Make the people the focal point of your governing philosophy. Without the people you will not have power. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter their power or position. And get the culture right again, so people want to govern for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this Party — or the trust of its people — for very much longer.

China, Tibet

The Six Ones: The government’s new temple “management” strategy in Tibet

03.07.12 | Permalink | Comment?

Someone has just alerted me to “The Six Ones” (“六个一”),  a new strategy that came out in Nov 2011 by which officials working for the temple “management” committees currently being setting up across Tibet can effectively spy, monitor, and gain intelligence on those under their charge.

Since this hasn’t been mentioned anywhere in the international press, I thought I’d translate it and put it up here. Might hear more of this in the future:


Make one friend. Each temple management official should try to be soulmates with one or several monks/nuns to understand their difficulties in life and what’s going on in their mind.


Visit one family. Each temple management official to visit the families of one or more monks/nuns to understand what’s going on in their homes.


Solve one problem. To solve the most urgent, real problem facing the family of any monk/nun so as to make them feel the warmth of the party and government.


Build one file. Establish a file for every monk/nun to document in a detailed fashion their personal and family situation. This will aid in preparedness, understanding and management.


Keep clear one communication channel. Steady communications should be maintained between temple management officials and the families of monks/nuns through telephone, letters and house visits, so as to educate them to love the nation and love the religion, as well as to obey the law.


Develop one mechanism. To build temple management committees (with full-time officials) that temple management officials, monks/nuns and families are jointly responsible for. This is to develop a mechanism for building harmonious model temples.


The term “PAP activist” never fails to make me ROTFL.

03.01.12 | Permalink | 4 Comments

My dictionary defines activism as “the action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”.

If all that you’re doing is focused on blocking social change, retaining the status quo, and maintaining the government’s dominance in every area of our lives, then sorry, you’re anything but an activist.

I don’t think we have a word for you yet, but please, don’t hijack the word “activist”. =)

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