Archive for Rants

Current Affairs – Hong Kong

The protests in Hong Kong has been ongoing for more than a week and it has always been my considered opinion that in the end the protesters will gain nothing out of this. Whatever they demanded is not in the authority of the Hong Kong government to give, but that of Beijing’s central government. If this persists, whatever in this article may well come true, and I certainly have no complaints about that even though I am skeptical. After all, the pragmatic leaders of China certainly wouldn’t like the idea of an outflow of investments into Singapore and I suspect that the Shanghai Free Trade Zone is probably part of their contigency plan. That’s not mentioning, everybody wants to be China’s bitch these days.

Furthermore, the position of some of those making the demands has left no room for Beijing to negotiate, while they accused Beijing of having closed the door to negotiation completely. Some of them believes that negotiating with China would be “bargaining with the tiger for its skin” (与虎谋皮). I wondered how their current course of action will actually make the tiger just give them its skin. On the other hand, some believed that the Chinese government is completely evil. While vilifying the Chinese government may give them the moral high ground and thus enforce the notion of the nobility of their cause, the question on how they are going to achieve their objectives remains. Simply put, whether they stand chance to succeed or not is moot when they have denied themselves any chance to achieve their objectives right from the start by considering China their enemy, when it should not be so. On top of which, it is not beyond Beijing to sit back and give this a cold treatment. After all, it is an “evil government” that basically treats human lives as nothing more but mere digits. Nevertheless, I felt China’s central government in Beijing has only itself to blame for this lack of trust.

Anyway, from an utterly selfish point of view, I don’t really give a damn how long the protesters wants to drag this if it ends up benefiting Singapore. I don’t really give a hoot about the grades and the learning of those students either because I fully believe people should live with the consequences of their choices and decisions. Some may believe that the economy will not be affected, but with a lot of paper wealth evaporating from the stock market itself and tourists avoiding Hong Kong as a destination, sooner or later there will be some effect on the chap on Main Street. In fact, Hong Kong’s economic share in the Chinese economy has fallen from 25% in 1990 to a mere 3% today. None of these political struggles will help add value to Hong Kong to improve its competitiveness. If Hong Kong still has any importance left to China today, it is political. The “One Country, Two Systems” model must succeed, in order to provide China its bargaining chip in any future negotiations with Taiwan for reunification. Should China believe that the model has failed, it will view it as a setback to its plans to reunification and I shudder to imagine China’s response. In other words, the success of the “One Country, Two Systems” model will be Hong Kong’s “talisman of protection” (护身符). China will continue to maintain a pretty much hands off approach as long as everything goes “according to plan”.

The jury is out on whether China has reneged on its ‘promises’ to give Hong Kong democracy. In my opinion, China may have kept to the letter of law but not the spirit of it. To put it into an analogy, if I promising to give you a treat and then proceed give you only a bowl of rice without the associating dishes and thus consider my obligation completed, you have all the right to protest. Whether I give a flying damn and give you the dishes you expected is another matter entirely.

But it is not as simple as the analogy. I agree it is utterly meaningless for the kind of universal suffrage whereby Hong Kong is only allowed to vote for candidates that were pre-determined. That, would be of no different from the elections opf North Korea, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It is however, within China’s right to demand that the Chief Executive be someone they can trust, such that they can hold him responsible for any actions which would in anyway violate Beijing’s interests. It thus appeared that the people of Hong Kong and the Chinse government are at an impasse, but do they not have a middle ground?

Before I get to that, let me back-track a bit. Why do the people of Hong Kong call it a ‘fake’ universal suffrage and likened it to the elections held in countries like North Korea? The main dispute lies in the 1200 member “nomination committee” (modelled on the existing election committee which elects the Chief Executive), which the people of the Hong Kong do not consisder to really represent them. The composition of the Election committee is detailed here in this article.

As an example of why the Hong Kong people complains about this committee. Take a look at the “Agriculture and Fisheries” subsector which has 60 members, a good 5% of the seats in this committee. It is said that not only does this subsector not take up an equivalent proportion in Hong Kong’s ecomony, the manner in which the members are elected is hardly democratic. Whether that is true I have not verified, but Hong Kong is highly urbanized so there may be some truth behind it. Above which, the people of Hong Kong felt that all the members representing these subsectors are more interested in serving the agenda of the rich (if not China itself), and has partly blamed it for the many social issues currenly plaguing Hong Kong. It is thus understandable how the people feels about any Chief Executive candidate approved by this committee in 2017.

So, where is the middle ground? The middle ground would be to broaden the representativeness of the nominating committee. Sadly, Beijing has closed the door to that which is why the people are now on the streets.

To end, I want to point out that the Chief Executive has a very limited set of powers granted to him by the Basic Law and the power to enact and amend laws is with the Legislative Council (or LegCo for short). What would be more important would be to ensure that the people retained the full rights to elect anyone to this council, whereby all its members will be elected by universal suffrage in 2020. LegCo can then serve as a check on the powers of the Chief Executive himself as specified in the Basic Law.

Thus, it is also my opinion that these students (and a lot of these protesters) are really misguided, if not used by some people with ulterior motives and agenda. There is without a doubt that someone is financing the tents, and the supply of free food and water to those who are still occupying Mongkok and Admiralty in Hong Kong. Perhaps the students believed that all those stuff are donated by a supportive public, but it would be wise to ask who is collecting all those donations and who is organising the logistics to bring these things to the areas now occupied by the protesters.

Current Affairs – The Fracas at Hong Lim Park

It is with a mixed feeling of disappointment and annoyance as I watched the video of Han Hui Hui’s confrontation against the NParks official and one of the police officers posted on Roy Ngerng’s own Facebook wall.

There are many aspects of that disappointment, and I will attempt to explain them one at a time. Firstly, I am disappointed on how a good cause of letting the government know that improvements should be made to the CPF scheme is now hijacked by such extremists. To put in it an analogy, a good pot of porridge is now ruined by a few pieces of rat shit (几块老鼠屎坏了一锅粥). In my opinion, whatever can be said about the shortcomings of the CPF has been said. Now what is left is wait for the response from the government, which to some extent we have heard from the Prime Minister himself during the National Day Rally. Frankly, what else is there to say right now? Return our CPF? To everyone, right now? Pray tell how we actually expect the government to actually even achieve that. Pray tell how voting the PAP out will make that happen. Which alternative party is insane enough to actually promised that as part of their political platform?

Next, I am disappointed with the NParks actually approving the event when they should have record the YMCA event which they have given prior approval. It allows the conspiracists to call this a deliberate “trap” set by the authorities which culminated in the confrontation that took place, such that Han and Ngerng will look bad to turn public opinion against them. While I not so politically naive to deny that such a thing may not be too far fetch as documents declassified in the United Kingdom has shown that such set-ups may have been used in the 50s and 60s, how does that justify the uncompromising, uncooperative attitude Han Hui Hui has displayed in the video Roy Ngerng posted? When I read those declassified documents and about how Lim Chin Siong was set up and betrayed, there is a well of indignation. But if I was a reader reading about Han and Ngerng, and watching that video 50 years later, I would not be surprised to have felt completely nothing at all!

I admire the calm and restraint of the NPark official and the police officer on site, but I was utterly disappointed that they did not come prepared with the knowledge of what are the laws granting them the authority. It is my considered opinion that the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Chapter 257, and PEMA for short) would have given the NPark official the authority to revoke the permit given to Han Hui Hui and her group at any time. A friend had pointed out that if he was the NPark official he wouldn’t have the patience to even bother to convince her to compromise and move to the unoccupied part of Hong Lim Park, but would have taken out a Blackberry (if he is issued one) and sent her the written revocation of the permit right away. An ex-police officer told me that the revocation would then allow the police officer on site to act under Section 18(b) of PEMA and if she refused to cooperate, to put to good use their standard issue “Rolex Kings” (aka handcuffs). All of these are on the Statutes for those who would bother to read them and I did not just make it up.

It is my sincere hope that this lesson will now improve how civil servants deal with some of the more belligerent members of the public in the future, and in the future come fully prepared with the legal knowledge on what laws grant them the authority to act. Even though I do not appreciate a high-handed approach by government officials, people like Han Hui Hui who thinks they know a lot about the law and thus could “legalise” their otherwise repulsive actions and behaviour should be smacked so hard that they learn the lesson that ‘children should not play with fire’.

Finally, I am utterly disappointed with how some people can subject their moral compass beneath their political stand or ideologies. I am no fan of the PAP myself but there is nothing that would stop me from pointing out what is wrong. Heckling* the other event is simply wrong, especially when that event is held by an organisation that has nothing to do with government and the ruling party. All the more so when it was an event for special-needs children, the aged and the under-privileged. Failing to make the best out of a bad situation, and refusing to compromise and cooperate, not only demonstrates Han Hui Hui’s lack of wisdom, but also her conceit and selfishness. There is even now an attempt to justify the heckling of the other event by arguing that the YMCA emcee has been provocative. If we are to twist the facts and to justify what is wrong as right, or use the law to legalise what is wrong, then we have no moral authority to criticse the PAP for the same in the future. In fact, for those of them who now justifies Han and Ngerng, just what moral right do they have to condemn the PAP on giving its town councils contract to AIM in the past? Do not forget that granting that contract to AIM may well have been all legal under the law, but there are very few of us who would equate that with the morally right thing to do.

To end this post, let me point out that Han and her band of merrymen has not only done nothing to help to bring about more meaningful change and improvements to the CPF system, their actions may have irked some middle-voters into deciding that it may actually be wiser to vote for the PAP again. And that to me, would have been the greatest setback for democracy in Singapore.

There will be those who would say that I am getting things wrong because I was not on site myself. Say whatever you want, but for a more or less unbiased report I suggest that they refer to this article on Yahoo Singapore, and not the Straits Times or the likes of “The Real Singapore”, for reference. In general, Yahoo has been way more balanced in the articles posted on Singapore’s current affairs and the politics compared to the two I have named.

* – I have chosen not to amend this part even though I have promised to amend it. The reason being that though strictly speaking none of the performers were really heckled, the word heckle is synonymous with the terms disrupt, interrupt, and harass. In my opinion, that was exactly what happened to the event itself, even when the special needs children were not specifically heckled.

Random Discourse – All that fuss about the CPF

I read this recently. If I understood it correctly, the entire premise of that post seem to be that the so-called “Roy Clique” is detrimental to the opposition and that it will sort of deter the middle voters which have in recent years drifted towards voting for the opposition camp. If not, it suggest that this clique will actually draw the rabidly anti-PAP crowd towards them and thus would hurt the moderate parties which have chosen a less confrontational path in their politics.

I can’t tell the future so I cannot say it will not turn out the way as the author of this post has predicted. However, for those who are “ABP” (anything but PAP), it really doesn’t matter whether an opposition party will ride on the coattails of the “Roy Clique” or not. Any opposition party will get their votes, which typically made up about 25 ~ 35% of the total votes. I will not be surprised that certain opportunists may capitalise on the CPF issue in the next election to try and win votes, but the condition whereby a split in the opposition vote will only occur in a multi-corner fight. Should the ruling party thus win with a small margin and less than 50% of the votes cast in such a situation, then instead of pointing fingers at who has divided the votes and caused the electoral defeat, the opposition parties should sit down and reflect upon their own political discourse and evaluate why it has not drawn the other voters towards them. They will have to make themse;ves stand out among the rest. The Punggol East By-Election has demonstrated that an opposition party can stand out among the rest and consolidate the opposition votes in itself. I personally hope that isn’t a one time effect, but an example of a maturing electorate.

Back to the matter “advocated” by the “Roy Clique”. I have bothered with none of the CPF-related “protests” at Hong Lim Park so far. Does it mean I do not care?

No. I certainly have my own unhappiness about the minimum sum, and I am not particularly happy with the returns in both the Ordinary Account (OA) and the Special and Medisave Accounts (SA & MA). I certainly isn’t happy that we cannot withdraw our CPF in a lump sum in our old age. However, I do not see what the likes of Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng will achieve. Han and Ngerng can ramble on and on about the problems or the issues of confidence we have about the CPF, but what outcome are they expecting in the end? I am not asking them to propose solutions, but at the very least tell us what they believe is the best for us, and it is up to the million-dollar paid bastards to tell us whether they can (or cannot) do it.

Roy and his merrymen seem to want to convince us of a few “facts” – that a large part (or perhaps even all) of our CPF monies have been mismanaged and lost, and that we are short-changed in terms of returns. Contradictory in some sense, because wouldn’t asking for more returns for something that may already be gone make the hole even deeper?

As for whether the CPF monies are still there or not… I’ll make two assumptions. Firstly, assuming the worst case scenario where the money in the CPF (Central Provident Fund, for those outside this country who are not familiar with our abbreviations) is indeed all lost, then there can be only one outcome – i.e. the value printed on our CPF statements will not even worth the paper it’s printed on, one way or another. That also means whatever Singapore currency in your wallet and outside the CPF is going to be pretty much worth shit as well. If you don’t get it, that will be the result either because of the complete collapse in confidence in Singapore’s financial viability, or the Singapore government printing more money to cover the hole. In short, whether I liked it or not, it would be better to “live the lie” so some people can continue to draw out their CPF in parts during their old age instead of everybody seeing the value of their money gone.

Next, assuming that the CPF monies are still there (i.e. just invested and cannot be cashed out immediately or suffering a shorfall as a result of paper losses in investments), then the main bone of contention would be the minimum sum and why CPF members are not allowed to draw it all out in a lump sump.

We often heard that this is to stop people from messing up. But I disagree. From a completely selfish point of view, the main reason for this to be done is to avoid having to bail out anyone who has misused their CPF monies either through womanising or gambling, regardless how few these people are. Really, everyone can say I am good enough to manage my own money, but no one will stand up and admit “I screwed up” when they failed to live up to their word. It really doesn’t matter to me when people messed up their own lives, but there will always be those who complain that the government isn’t doing anything to help these people, and even advocate for the government to do something. For those who are all so noble, they can put their money on the line and pledge it to help those people. After all, it shouldn’t really concern anyone to make that pledge, if they believe everyone can be responsible to themselves and also live with the consequences of their own choices.

Back to some of the common complaints about the CPF, I have sort of notice that there are some things which are not very well publicised. They are unfortunately all on the CPF website for those who make a bit more effort to look. But really, more can be done to better inform the people about them. Here are some of them:

  1. It is not entirely true a person cannot get better returns with his CPF. There is the CPFIS (CPF Investment Scheme). While it is limited in its scope in what it can be invested in to make more returns, it is not true at all that there is no avenue whatsoever beyond the first $20,000 in the OA. The downside means the person will also have to take the risks that comes with the scheme, and it all depends on your risk appetite / tolerance.

  2. It is also not entirely true that the government has done nothing to help the returns of the CPF catch up with the minimum sum. The first $20,000 in the OA and then the first $40,000 in the SA & MA combined (i.e. the first $60,000 in all 3 accounts) pays an additional 1% p.a. on top of the current CPF interest rates. Consider the power of the compound on the long run. It may not be really a lot, but it is in my opinion baby steps in the right direction. We can all hope that the extra interest that is paid on the first $60,000 can be adjusted according to inflation, or that some form of dividends on top of it can be paid to our CPF accounts when the country is doing well.

  3. The minimum sum seems unachievable for all. However, most Singaporeans should be able to “own” a HDB flat, even for those who consider it a long-term lease. The value on that flat itself would probably have surpassed the minimum sum. While we cannot pledge all of that as the minimum sum, the fact most of us will still have a shelter over our heads which will allow us to cover one of our basic needs. Even at its barest, some of us can still rent out a room to make a small amount of money.

Before I end, I will point out that there will be those who doesn’t have more than $20,000 in their CPF accounts and thus not be able to get that 1% additional interest nor invest their money. There will also be those who don’t own a flat. This group of people is worse off than the lot of us who are unhappy about not being able to see all of our CPF money again. The next worse off group would be those in need, who can only look at the figure in the CPF statement but not utilise it. I have no solutions for them and in my case, whether I liked it or not, I need to have some alternate savings and make some sacrifices now. Hopefully when I am old, whatever I managed to save together with the monthly amount doled out from the CPF will be enough to meet minimum subsistence level.

There are also those of us who felt we have been betrayed and that the CPF system that we were once promised no longer serves its purpose. That may perhaps be true. But it is completely meaningless to whine about it. We can demand someone to make things better, but we still have to plan for ourselves if things don’t go our way. So for those of us who still can, make the best of whatever tools and means we have now to go as far as possible.

i Light Marina Bay 2014

This is the second in a series of backlog blog postings.

This event was held between 7th ~ 30th March 2014 at the Marina Waterfront.

As with any such events, there is always a crowd of people and it usually takes a lot of patience (something I truly lacked) for one to be able to get a shot of the installation without the usual annoying obstructions and hinderances.

Just like the Doraemon Expo, some of the other visitors can really drive a person who is trying to get a photo crazy. Some people can hog an exhibit (or installation) for many minutes trying to get their ‘perfect shot’ oblivious to the people around them. In one particular case, there were two cosplaying girls that were hogging one of the exhibits taking photos in various pose. Perhaps the drool from some of the lecherous mutts standing spurs them on in their display, but I would hope they would just get lost so I can get a shot and move on.

If it weren’t these idiots, then there are those who would obstruct the exhibits and check their photos after they are done. Common sense is sadly… uncommon. I wondered what happened to the traditional upbringing because my parents would often berate me for being a hinderance and inconveniece to other people. If they were children I would understand, but not so when some of these are adults. As if that isn’t infuriating enough, some of them even have the cheek to ask those standing around waiting to take a photo for them. Talk about rubbing salt on an open wound.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. Enjoy the photos of some of the exhibits and some of the sights in the area, though my lack of skills at photography really don’t do some of them any justice.

On Roy Ngerng and Derisory Compensation Offer

I have ceased to follow much of the news these days, which is basically why I have stopped writing for quite a while. It is not that I no longer cared, but rather I believed that while some of the things maybe a concern there is very little I can do that would effectively influence or change it presently.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Mark Twain popularized this saying,There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” And that is the basically the attitude I adopt when presented with statistics. All the more so when someone presents statistics to make the government look bad. Or the government doing so to make the people believe it’s not really the case.

I am no fan of the government, but over my slightly more than 4 decades of living, I have learnt to be wary when someone keeps saying the things I liked to hear. Either this person really is doing this to keep everyone informed, or this person wants you to align yourself with his agenda. On top of which, anyone can paint a different picture with statistics but as long as that picture is not how the majority experiences it, then it is a lie. That is the reason why I read a lot of Roy Ngerng’s articles with a pinch, if not a bucket, of salt.

I am not surprised that Roy Ngerng has steadily gained a following. After all, the Internet is the last place left where anti-government views more or less flow unimpeded. Worst of it all the “state media” in the form of Singapore Press Holding’s (SPH) many newspapers, is generally not helping at all. The politically awakened, who are convinced that no truth can be found in our local newspapers, readily flocked to the Internet to seek out such information. Social media like blogs, Twitter and Facebook makes it easy for such information to be distributed.

It is my considered opinion that Roy Ngerng got carried away as his reach, if not popularity, grows. After all, the government has not actively refuted some of the things he said. For those who are rabidly anti-government, it further convinced them that there is something for the government to hide. Some believe that the government has refused to “join battle” simply because it will be exposed just like what happened with the cases on AIM, and subsequently that matter with the hawker center cleaning. They are utterly convinced that Roy Ngerng has found the government’s “Achilles Heel” and coupled with the stuff a Christopher Balding has been writing, they believe they now have the once mighty Singapore government “on the run”, or even “cowering in fear”.

On the contrary, I believed the government ignored Roy Ngerng simply because there is really nothing to refute even when I disagree with the justification for the CPF minimum sum. Similarly, I also think it is utter nonsense to argue that since the government has higher returns from its investments, it should give us all that earnings even when I agree that the returns on my CPF monies hardly covers inflation. My only peeve is that it is not fully explained where the rest of the returns has gone to. And I suspect I will never be able to find the right question to ask, much less get an answer to that. As for Minister Tan Chuan Jin’s assurances on the CPF, my thought is that he is right as long as those people who have able to withdraw their CPF money are able to get their money back regardless whether it is the full sum, or a part of it. In other words, your CPF is about as safe as your money saved in or invested with a bank. I believe I need not further elaborate on that.

Anyway, to openly refute Roy Ngerng would give him a bigger platform to air his views. Clearly, other than those who actively follows his blog or come into contact with those articles, the rest of Singapore are either blissfully unaware of all the statistic wizardry Roy Ngerng has employed to present a horrifying picture of the state of our Central Provident Fund (CPF), or that they don’t really care. As for what I think, my take is: assume the worst cases scenario whereby we will never get all our monies back, and make contingency plans.

Anyway, I am not surprised even Roy Ngerng believes that he has the Singapore government “on the run” when he foolishly drew comparsion between the Prime Minsiter and the City Harvest case that’s still being heard in court. I do not need to explain the implication of what he has written has finally provoked a response. To put it simply, there following four Chinese words will adequately explain Roy Ngerng’s predicament:

I understand this will hurt the feelings of a lot of people sympathetic to Roy Ngerng’s plight, but well I prefer to call a spade for what it is. Face it, blogger “Mr Miyagi” has pointed out that he has written more or less the same stuff Roy Ngerng has written about the CPF, but he has not gotten any letters from the Prime Minister because “Mr Miyagi” has not made any accusations. So really, let us bloggers not flatter ourselves. The People’s Action Party (PAP) really doesn’t care very much about our opinion on the Internet, even when it might affect the decision of other voters or even suggest how the individual blogger would vote.

~ * ~

Derisory

I almost laughed when I heard the term used on Roy Ngerng’s offer of $5000 for compensation. Perhaps Roy Ngerng should have offered peanuts, the golden kind that cost S$660,000. Get what I mean?

I personally don’t think the offer was derisory. In fact, depending on how much Roy Ngerng is earning, that amount might even be a very substantial portion of his liquid assets. If I was as stupid as Roy Ngerng to have made those accusations, I would even have offered a token compensation of just $1. I do so not because I want to insult the Prime Minister. I do so because even though I understand the Prime Minister is serious, I choose to believe he is a different person from his father. After all, why even offer me the choice of offering compensation and not just sued my pants off in the place?

How much does the Prime Minister expect Roy Ngerng to offer? Every cent in his account? And then Roy should sell his backside to pay an annual interest of 2.5% on that amount until he is 62? The Prime Minister should jolly well understand this analogy:

There are those who understand that the farmer has no choice but to go down into the mud to wrestle with a pig that kicks mud at him. The farmer will know he’ll get dirty anyway. But to expect the pig to offer gold in restitution, and then complain it’s derisory when all the pig had to offer is its vomit is some what a self-inflicted humiliation.

Spare us this charade! Just meet Roy Ngerng the old fashioned way ~ in the cul-de-sac with a hatchet. Neither this charade nor the old fashion way will endear the PAP to those who have already lost confidence in its ability to guide Singapore into a better future.

As for those who are giving the chap money to “fight the bully”, it is your money and thus no one could fault your choice in doing so. I have only this to say to you all: Roy Ngerng made his bed. He should sleep in it… alone.