On February 24th, Leon Perera, a Workers’ Party (WP) member of parliament (MP), stood up in Parliament to make an impassioned plea. “The [ruling] People’s Action Party (PAP) seems to be doubling down on this incorrect assertion, using its tremendous PR and communicative machinery.” The PAP’s claim, repeated relentlessly for weeks, is that Singapore’s housing shortage would be worse if the government had listened to … Continue reading Did the PAP mischaracterise the WP’s housing proposals?
I am also grateful to Today and CNA for offering me the chance to respond, and for accurately covering my position. Good to know that mainstream media journalists are also eager to put out unbiased narratives. This will be my final piece on the matter. (Err. I hope.)
But first, why the fuss now? The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will was published last July. There was no response from the government then; no newspaper critiqued the book, as might have been expected if somebody took issue with it. Instead, last Thursday, Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, the PAP MP for Chua Chu Kang, who has suddenly developed a keen interest in Oxley Road, asked Teo Chee Hean (TCH), senior minister, a random question out of the blue, offering him a chance to say whatever he wants about me and my work.
Minister hantaming ordinary citizen in a protected setting—a uniquely Singaporean way of debating. Yes, most likely I’m collateral damage in some bigger fight between the Lees, with the presidential election (due this year), and possibly even to do with the general elections (due by 2025).
“When elephants fight, the grass suffers, but when they make love, the grass suffers also,” LKY apparently used to say, playing on an African proverb. As I said in the book’s conclusion, I hope that Hsien Loong, Hsien Yang, Wei Ling, Ho Ching and Suet Fern eventually kiss and make up—sorry to put that thought in your head—but for now, I’ll assume the elephants are fighting.
And all I, a blade of grass, can do is try to elak, while also nurturing our plot. On that note, it’s great that over this past weekend Jom, the weekly magazine about Singapore that I co-founded last year, has seen a spike in our paid subscriptions. Thanks for the support: we now count well over 700 people of many nationalities as subscribers (I make the point only because some worry that foreigners can’t subscribe. Of course you can. We’re like any other subscription product. Forget Netflix; get Jom.)
Jom is a proud, Singapore-incorporated independent media company. Our only source of revenue is reader funding—we believe this is the best way to guarantee our independence.
Some readers of my free e-book have asked how they can contribute. The best thing you can do is to get a paid subscription to Jom—there are different price points for people of different means. Every dollar counts. Jom publishes weekly, but we also have three big investigative projects planned for this year: one social, one political, and one corporate investigative, which I believe is the big gap in Singapore.
We’ve got a great team. Read about our values here. We are only a quarter of the way to breaking even. Before you continue reading about TCH’s Ministerial Committee, take a minute to help us get there.
So, why was the formation of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road (MC) problematic? Readers will know that this was a tangential topic, which is why I relegated it to the book’s appendix. But since TCH is again so interested in the affair, it’s only fair that we talk about the MC that he led.
First, it’s important to note my book’s statement on this controversial point: did LHL orchestrate the formation of the MC by directing his ministers, as his siblings suggest? I found no evidence of this. The available evidence, in other words, supports Hsien Loong’s perspective on this, not Hsien Yang’s or Wei Ling’s. And the book says so (p. 22-23).
Still, there are three problems I found:Continue reading “The problems with Teo Chee Hean’s MC on Oxley”
As Teo Chee Hean noted in Parliament today, the book, The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, is the product of a year of research by my team of researchers and me. It does not include any primary interviews, because I didn’t want to interview only a select few family members. I believed that that would be a biased approach. Instead, it is based … Continue reading a response to Teo’s response to the book
Image: “Barisan’s Lost Candidates” published in 阵线报, the defunct official Chinese language paper of the Barisan Sosialis. Thursday was the 60th anniversary of Operation Coldstore, in which Lee Kuan Yew’s government arrested and jailed over 120 people in Singapore. Yesterday Fiachra Ross and I co-wrote an essay for Jom. Be The world still lives with the scars of the 20th century’s Communist conflicts. On the … Continue reading Operation Coldstore: my first ever piece
Many in Singapore cheered the sight of Henry Kwek, a People’s Action Party (PAP) politician, at last week’s Pink Dot. It was apparently the first time in 14 years that a ruling party politician had attended the event.
In another picture Jamus Lim, a Workers’ Party (WP) politician there in his personal capacity, is seen next to an attendee carrying a placard, “Change starts now”.
The sight of these two politicians there is remarkable because one of the things the PAP and WP have hitherto agreed on is that there will be no change, both seemingly content with the status quo: the maintenance of the S377A law that criminalises sex between men accompanied by a sort of legally contentious *wink wink* caveat that the cops won’t enforce it (an oddity in this supposedly “rules-based” society).
At least the PAP and the WP have been clear about their positions. The two other major parties, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), have not. (The SDP called for repeal as far back as 2007 but in recent years has appeared to dodge the issue.)
So why was Kwek there? Rumours suggest that the PAP has decided to repeal S377A. One theory is that it will be a swansong of Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, before he hands over the party’s reins to heir apparent Lawrence Wong, a sort of sop to Singapore’s long-disaffected liberal segment (that the party hopes to win back).Continue reading “The politics of repeal”
This is what K Shanmugam, Singapore’s home affairs and law minister, called for this week in response to some quite awful anti-Indian incidents around town.
Yes, I agree with him. The opposition should. We all should. It is a daily battle.
However, we should also recognise the efforts made by the opposition over the years to distance themselves from racist and xenophobic strands. Here are two examples.Continue reading “Should the opposition be speaking out more against racism in Singapore?”
Today we heard the news that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is spinning off its media unit, including The Straits Times and many other publications, into a non-profit entity. This follows years of consistently poor performance amid digital disruption and other changes to the media industry.
Wiser minds will engage in more thorough post-mortems—has anybody seen Ho Ching’s feed today?—but I wanted to spark a small conversation on the culture of elite governance in Singapore.
“If not for the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), the loss would have been a deeper S$39.5 million,” Lee Boon Yang, SPH’s chairman, said in reference to the media business’s first-ever lost of S$11.4m, for the financial year which ended Aug 31 2020.
(Which includes management salaries. In case you missed it, since the JSS began in February 2020, the Singaporean taxpayer has helped pay even more for the upkeep of numerous millionaire elites.)
All this got me thinking. Why exactly is Lee Boon Yang the chairman of SPH?Continue reading “The elites have run The Straits Times into the ground. What’s next?”
Over the past few days many in Singapore and overseas have expressed surprise at the seeming paucity of political leadership talent in the ruling People’s Action Party.
I actually think this has been a long time coming, and in many ways is just reflective of our city-state’s economic and democratic maturation, about which there is plenty to cheer.
I explain why in a commentary, “Concerns about ‘seeming paucity’ of PAP leadership talent”, published in The Home Ground Asia, a new Singapore-based media outfit.Continue reading “Why is there a paucity of political leadership in SG?”
This is the last of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. If you have enjoyed this series, please consider making a donation here to support my future work.
The pandemic has been tragic. Yet the assorted losses and disruptions to ordinary life have also prodded many Singaporeans to think about better ways of doing things, of living the good life.
Some are enjoying more time with old friends and family; others have opened their hearts (and wallets) to migrant workers they hitherto ignored.Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: Lawrence and Pritam”
This is the fourth of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. See here for the third, on Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, 61, minister for law & minister for home affairs
It may seem odd to include Shanmugam, never touted as a potential leader of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), in this series. Yet he is clearly a, if not the, power behind the throne. And observers do wonder if he harbours even greater ambitions.Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: Shan, the phenom”