Monday, August 25, 2008

Ultraman can protest at Hong Lim: Superheroes have saved the Singapore Constitution

Approximately a year ago the following article appeared on Reuters:

Singapore anime figurine protesters meet real police
SINGAPORE, Sept 7 (Reuters) - A protest action by a group of Singaporeans with Japanese anime figurines such as the 5-inch tall Ultramen, robots and monsters with placards met some real-life police in the city-state.
A handful of fans of Japanese anime had turned up at a Singapore public park on August 25 with armfuls of the toys to protest against a clampdown on Internet downloading of anime material by Singapore animation distributor Odex.
The incident was not reported in the local press, but pictures and accounts have started circulating on many blogs and political Web sites. (
"The police didn't stop us from what we wanted to do. But their being there was enough to intimidate," the event's organiser -- who only wanted to be known by his online moniker Zer0 -- told Reuters by telephone.
He added that police -- who had four anti-riot vans at the scene -- also took down the anime fans' particulars and that they were filmed by plainclothes policemen. A police spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment.
Public protests are rare in Singapore, where outdoor demonstrations are banned and any public gathering of more than four people requires a permit.

What a long way we have come. At the National Day Rally last week, the PM announced that Singaporeans can now protest peacefully at Speakers’ Corner without a permit. It seems that this can be done from 1st September onwards. Civil Disobedience has worked! Singaporeans may have remained a little fearful of entering into the political fray. But, Ultraman and gang are superheroes with supercourageous hearts and not to mention deadly powers, skills, etc. They have done an excellent job in getting the authorities to relent a little. None of the superheroes were arrested or charged. Now, a year later, it is perfectly legal for all Singaporeans to gather and protest at Hong Lim.

So, it is with great pleasure that I commemorate the anniversary of the Anime protest today. :-)

A note to Ultraman: You still cannot protest at the Youth Park.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

errrrrr..p - Who wrote the rally speech?

National Day Rally speeches are not intended to be funny. I am sure, however, that any good speaker would throw in a joke or two in the speech just to hold on to the attention of the audience. So, how is this for a joke:

'When ERP was increased, we also reduced road tax and improved public transport. As a result, many more Singaporeans can now own cars. With more cars on the road, we need to increase ERP to keep traffic flowing.' - PM Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally 2008

ERP was intended to reduce traffic.
COE system was also intended to reduce traffic.

According to the Straits Times report today (18 Aug 2008): 'He said that since 2000, the Government has been making it easier for many more Singaporeans to own cars. Vehicle-related taxes have been progressively reduced and more Certificates of Entitlement (COEs), which one must have before purchasing a car, have been released.'

This has made vehicle ownership easier and put more cars on the road.
This has increased traffic.

Solution: Increase the ERP.

And then, when it starts doing its job, implement more policies to put more cars on the road. When when traffic gets worse, increase ERP.

A never-ending spiral of ever-escalating costs. A money tree that really grows. Wow! That's brilliant.

To be fair, I merely read the quote in the Straits Times article online. Something could have been lost in the translation. Perhaps there is some nuance to the words that may be better apprehended if one watches the speech. Perhaps it was a candid admission of a flaw in the policy of making car-ownership easier since 2000 and that something would be done to fix it once and for all and that it would not be turned into a cash-squeezing spiral.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

General Elections in 2009?

The PAP prepares for its elections early. There is nothing unusual in that. I think there are some early signs that the ground is being prepared for the next GE. I know. We had the last one in 2006. But, a GE after 3 years is not unusual in Singapore. I predict that there might be one towards the end of next year.

Recently, MM Lee warned Singaporeans about a freak election wiping out all that has been achieved in 5 years. SM Goh spoke virulently about winning Hougang back and urged members of grassroots organisations (who ought to be non-partisan) to question fiscal capabilities of opposition run town councils. We have seen a series of articles about the Singapore brand of governance, always intended to differentiate ourselves from Western-style liberal democracies and to defend our pragmatic bread and butter theory of governance. (A certain someone said 2000 years ago that men shall not live by bread alone.)

On 21st July 2008, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill was tabled in Parliament for the First Reading. Of course, I wondered if they were going to change the electoral system a little bit here and a little bit there. A cursory glance of the Bill reveals that the amendments are directed at overseas voters.

In today’s Straits Times I read that MM Lee has again warned Singaporeans against voting for the opposition. The latest assessment is the Singapore miracle could disappear within 3 to 4 years; not 5 years. In an earlier post, I have addressed this issue of a ‘freak’ election. What I find interesting about the statement in today’s paper is that to placate our desire for more opposition voices, the system might make some accommodations.
'We know that Singapore wants opposition to check the PAP. We'll find a way to have more voices inside the assembly, but not at the risk of voting in a Division 2 or 3 Government.' - MM Lee

I wonder if there are now plans for more Nominated MPs. Maybe, elected Nominated MPs. MPs nominated by a Parliamentary Committee and presented to the people for an island-wide election where the best vote winners get seats. Who knows… I better not give them funny ideas.

I digress… Coming back to my original point, it appears that there is some talk in the air about elections. Not talk of the obvious kind. That would commence when the Straits Times comes out with some opinion piece or other about elections or electoral boundanries. (wait a minute - didn't they recently discuss the GRC system in ST?)
At a time when we are facing inflation and there is a segment of the population that has not experienced wage increases for the last 10 years, some would say it would be foolish for a ruling party to start talking about elections. But, the PAP is very well experienced. They are not going to call for elections the minute talk about elections has been put around. Eventually, they will wait for the 3-year mark to be crossed. The current global economic climate is somewhat uncertain. We will feel some of the effects and it is possible that this would be status quo for the next few years. So, the best strategy would be to get the people to look ahead long term, bite the bullet and stay the course. If this rhetoric of freak elections, our brand of democracy (that we ought presumably be xenophobically proud of), alternative ‘voices’ (not votes) in parliament, economic fragility, etc is maintained for about a year, it will sink into the collective psyche and form part of the overall narrative for the citizenry to accept more PAP years.

But, if the ground is not sweet towards the end of next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the GE will be held off until a sweet spot opens up. So, since I’m not really a betting man, I’m not making any predictions. :-)

Friday, August 01, 2008

A peek under the carpet

I saw this on Diary of a Singapore Mind. But, I think it is important enough to be re-posted. So, here it is - the combined effect of inflation and wage freeze. Not all of us are similary squeezed. But, there is a sizeable part of our population that is suffering. I find it painful to watch old people queue up for food. These are our nation builders. They should be enjoying their retirement.