Friday, January 26, 2018

Lee Hsien Loong Infighting with Goh Chok Tong

Speaking to reporters yesterday (Jan 26), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not hide his contempt for his predecessor Goh Chok Tong, saying that the former PM is just watching:

“ESM Goh is speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to make it happen. I think we know it’s a very serious matter.”

Holding the position of Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM), Goh Chok Tong had earlier last month complained that Lee Hsien Loong is taking too long to choose his successor. ESM Goh Chok Tong had also told state media reporters that Lee Hsien Loong would retire by 70 years old, which the Prime Minister had never commented to the public when he intend to retire.

The infighting between the two PAP leaders have a long history. The above slap from Lee Hsien Loong is the second public appearance with the first during GE2011, where Goh Chok Tong expressed his unhappiness with Lee Hsien Loong-allocated MP Tin Pei Ling sitting in his Marine Parade GRC. Tin Pei Ling was then removed from the GRC in GE 2015.

According to sources close with the Prime Minister, Marine Parade GRC’s Tan Chuan Jin was demoted from his ministerial position because he was too “pro-Goh Chok Tong”. The handful of “pro-Goh Chok Tong” MPs are mostly dissatisfied with the current administration of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but are too fearful to speak out. Many of these MPs want Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to be the next Prime Minister, but Lee Hsien Loong prefers former army general Chan Chun Sing as the latter is more obedient.

There has been an ongoing infighting between Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing for the PM position, as both refused to give up their claim. Although Chan Chun Sing’s MP supporters are outnumbered 3-to-1 against Heng Swee Keat’s MP supporters, most of them heavyweight ministers like Grace Fu, Lawrence Wong, K Shanmugam, Khaw Boon Wan and Indranee Rajah.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why Are Parliamentary Session Not Attended by PAP Members of Parliament

In a post by the States Time Review, "More than 70 PAP MPs skip Parliament on Tuesday", it is said that "According to a screenshot of a Parliament session on Tuesday (Jan 9), an estimated of more than 70 PAP MPs did not attend Parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the only senior Minister present, and none of the three Prime Minister runner-ups - Minister Chan Chun Sing, Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister Ong Ye Kung - was present."

Now, the opening paragraph of the article would have informed the reader that what was true at that moment of the screenshot, might not be exactly true for the entire day.

If one were to refer to the Parliament records, one will be informed that only five MPs and the Speaker of Parliament were marked absent for the day.

But it is true that the MPs and Ministers were not present during the speech made by Minister Grace Fu as shown in the video, so why are the MPs and Ministers marked as being present at the Parliament session?

If we look back to the Parliament records, late Lee Kuan Yew was marked present on the sessions he attended even though he sat often less than five minutes on his seat, being escorted in and out by parliament staff during the mid of Question and Answer sessions. If not for this occasional turn-up, he would surely have gotten zero for his attendance in Parliament.

Using that as a benchmark, we can assume that so long the MP show face at the Parliament for a while, sit down in the Parliament for a few minutes, one can be marked as being present. But of course, few MPs do that.

After the embarrassment caused by Nominated Member of Parliament, Eugene Tan for highlighting that quorum was not met in two passing of bills, leaders of the People's Action Party have taken steps to ensure MPs from their party are present during the passing of bills.  To ensure that quorum is met, one-quarter of 101 MPs need to be present or 89 MPs for the passing of constitutional amendments.

As one who frequents the Parliament, the MPs present in the Parliament can at times drop down to 24 MPs during speeches made during debates.  The Ministers might not be even present when the speeches made were addressed to them during lengthy sessions such as the debate on the Administration of Justice bill, but it doesn't matter because the speeches are written by civil servants from the ministries on behalf of the ministers.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why the government refuses to live stream its parliamentary sessions so that people are not informed how engaged are their MPs in representing them in the parliamentary debates.

Note that there is already a live stream being broadcasted to the various media agencies in Singapore, which is why the journalists can do live-tweeting so it will take a minimum of effort to live-stream the sessions via Youtube or Facebook.

Despite the constant excuse that there is no livestream because the demand for the livestream is low, the resources and manpower required to make this happen is minimum, in fact, so minimum that is it almost free to the government. Since last year, The Online Citizen had volunteered to stream the livefeed to public for free, but Parliament has not replied to TOC's offer till date.

Contrary to the good practices by many democratic first-world countries that offer real-time streaming of parliamentary sessions and public access to parliamentary video archives. The refusal to perform such an effortless duty as a public good, will simply imply that there are things which the government does not want the public to know.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Corruption in Our Neighbourhood

With the “Corruption” being the buzzword lately, many of us were quite disturbed on the Keppel news and our Govt’s (non)reactions as the news flashed across the world.

Most Singaporeans were relieved that the old man is no longer around to witness such tragedies with PAP in power.

As a bird enthusiast, I visited Serangoon North 1 recently. As you can see in the photo, it’s stressfully shocking to see how common areas have been invaded by shopkeepers with the display of goods.

With so many bird shops, all are trying to outrun each other, as common areas outside shops have been ‘taken over’, leaving minimum space for people to walk.

Back in 2014, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: “Unfortunately some shopkeepers go overboard, with indiscriminate stacking and display of goods that spill beyond the yellow boxes. This can inconvenience shoppers and compromise fire safety”.

For the record, one in four HDB shops is in breach of the guidelines on displaying goods outdoors.

You may wonder what this got to do with Corruption.

Understand from some bird enthusiasts that most of the shopkeepers are illegally occupying, with “blessings” from HDB and Resident Committees, who turn a blind eye due to the massive “donations, sponsorship, hampers, red-packets” that are being given to community events, with even some businessmen sitting in various organizing committees.

Is this tantamount to Corruption at grassroots level?

When safety and well-being of shoppers are inconvenienced or compromised, authorities from HDB and grassroots leaders from Resident Committees must ensure compliance to rules and regulations are enforced with heavy fines and penalties. But what’s the point when such people are from the “same camp” going to these businesses for monetary support.

CPIB’s definition – “Receiving, asking for or giving any gratification to induce a person to do a favour with a corrupt intent. There are many kinds of gratification, including money, sexual favours, properties, promises, services and etc. Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs. Favours also come in different forms such as seeking confidential information, leniency, special privileges, contracts and etc.”

Common sense suggests that Corruption is the root of the non-action or blind-eye approach by authorities in such cases, which has been going on for many years, like the recent Keppel incident.
Showing leniency or non-enforcement by officers is definitely allowing favouritism to these shopkeepers, as they flout rules and safety, in order to receive “financial favours” for events.

Incidentally, most of the community events are actually organised by People Association, the propaganda mouthpiece of PAP through its community centres, similar to GLCs-run corporations.
Corruption is a criminal offence; regardless the scale as it harmful to humans and society.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Chan Chun Sing Leading the PM Race over Heng Swee Keat

For several hours last Monday, the digital coffee shop conversations of Singaporeans were animated by news that a member of the government had put up his hand to say he was willing and able to be prime minister. Chan Chun Sing, a 48-year-old minister, was quoted by Reuters as saying he was “prepared to become next PM if called upon”.

 The report on Chan’s remarks at the Foreign Correspondents Association lunch was immediately refuted by the government, which accused the wire agency of publishing a “fabricated” headline. Although Chan was responding to a direct question about his own desire for the top job, his answer referred to all members of the government needing to be prepared for the role. The next day Reuters amended its headline to say “Singapore minister says he, and his colleagues, all prepared to become next PM if called upon”.

 Chan Chun Sing, whose name has been linked with the prime minister job. Chan Chun Sing, whose name has been linked with the prime minister job. The headline brouhaha has since subsided. But it underlines both how curious Singaporeans and observers are to know who will take over as the next prime minister, as well as how anxious the government is to keep the succession question open until a binding decision is made on the matter.

 Any impression that a minister is jockeying for the position is frowned upon in the Singaporean system, where “naked political ambition” is anathema, according to Eugene Tan, a Singapore Management University law professor. The anxiety, if not impatience, to know who will take over is because of a long-established precedent.

The conventional wisdom has been that for the sake of stability and foreign investor confidence, a successor must be made known early and the actual succession must be an uneventful exercise. Hence, the “absence of an anointed successor seems particularly alien to many, if not most, Singaporeans”, said Chong Ja Ian, a political science researcher. Going by that precedent, the selection is overdue.

The current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has set 2022 as the year he will retire. Lee, 65 and in power since 2004, has for some years voiced his wish to stand down before he turns 70. He repeated that hope in a CNBC interview last month, and further raised eyebrows among the chattering classes because of a suggestion that he might even bring forward the handover date. Asked by CNBC whether he was ready to step down in the next couple of years, Lee replied in the affirmative but added the caveat he needed to make sure “somebody is ready to take over from me”.

However, he has given away few clues about whom that might be. As the deadline draws closer, the Lion City is finding itself in the unfamiliar position of not knowing just who will be its next leader. Singapore has gone through only two leadership successions since 1959, and in both cases little room was given for speculation. The current premier, Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son, was elevated to deputy prime minister 14 years before becoming the country’s third premier. In his unique case, Lee Hsien Loong was an heir apparent the moment he entered politics.

That assumption was so strong that Lee Kuan Yew’s immediate successor, Goh Chok Tong, had to contend with the widespread assumption that he was only a seat-warmer for the younger Lee, though Goh eventually served an impressive 14 years. Goh was also anointed as the chosen one long before taking office. He was named Lee Kuan Yew’s deputy five years before the late political patriarch handed over the baton in 1990, after having been selected by his peers the year before. In sharp contrast, none of the members of the so-called fourth generation, or “4G”, leadership team has yet been made deputy prime minister.

That title is held by two ministers who are just between two and five years younger than the prime minister. One of them is Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 60, whose rare mix of technocratic brilliance and empathy has made him a favourite of many Singaporeans.

However, Tharman has been discounted as a potential successor because of his age and race: the ruling party is operating under the assumption that majority Chinese Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese premier. Lee has acknowledged that the run-up period for succession has shrunk significantly, but insists he will not jump the gun and handpick his successor. He has maintained that the fourth prime minister will be picked the same way he and Goh were selected: the sitting premier stays out of the succession process, and gives that responsibility to younger ministers who choose one among themselves as the first among equals. The most that can be said is that the field may have narrowed.

The Straits Times, which rarely strays from the official narrative, last week ran a picture of three ministers with the label “front runners”: Chan Chun Sing, Heng Swee Keat and Ong Ye Kung. Ong Ye Kung, education minister, has been linked with the top job. Photo: Handout Ong Ye Kung, education minister, has been linked with the top job. Photo: Handout Two others appear to have fallen out of the race. Tan Chuan Jin, 48, was moved out of the cabinet in September to become speaker of the parliament. Another newcomer, Ng Chee Meng, 49, and of the same generation, does not appear to have made it to the top league.

 Chan’s remarks to foreign journalists this week are not the only reason eyes are on him. A former army chief, he is the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) whip, and leads the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the government’s grass roots network known as the People’s Association (PA) – organisations with immense mobilising clout in the city state. The PAP-aligned NTUC is the only body of its kind in the country, and has some 900,000 members – about a quarter of the citizen population. Coy and cautious as his remarks may have been, they are the fullest about succession made by a “4G” minister to date.

His high profile in domestic politics as well as a rising involvement in foreign affairs have given rise to speculation that he could be a front runner to succeed Lee. Lee’s decision to move him out of the social and family development ministry and into the NTUC in 2015 was hailed at the time by the former premier Goh as a sign that Chan was “poised to play a bigger role in politics”. In external affairs, Chan’s solo trip to the Chinese cities of Chongqing, Nanning and Guiyang just weeks ahead of Lee’s official visit to Beijing in September showcased the premier’s high level of trust in the young minister.

Chan met Chongqing communist party boss Chen Miner, a key protégé of President Xi Jinping, in that visit, and was also part of the prime minister’s delegation for the Beijing visit. Heng Swee Keat, 56, is the finance minister. He has headed high-level committees, including one tasked with restructuring the country’s economy. He suffered a stroke last year which temporarily halted his quick political rise, but has since returned to the political front lines. He is regarded as a safe choice because of his proven ability in economic management. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, also tipped as a possible successor to Lee. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, also tipped as a possible successor to Lee. Ong Ye Kung, 47, is currently education minister. Like Chan and Heng, he was fielded as a candidate for the first time in the 2011 elections, but was among the PAP’s losers in that contest. He won in 2015 and was immediately installed as one of two education ministers.

 Asked by The Straits Times in January about talk that he was “PM material”, Ong, the son of a 1960s MP who defected to a camp opposed to the elder Lee, said: “When the time comes for the team to select a leader, I will support the person who emerges.” In the meantime, Chong thinks there has also been too much attention focused on the first among equals, rather than on the team. “Individuals, even if they form a team, are susceptible to various human weaknesses especially given the pressures and temptations [that come with] holding authority,” Chong said.

 But Singapore Management University’s Tan said the “4G” leaders themselves are trying to forge a “collective mindset” with their cautious statements about sharing an equal sense of responsibility. Meanwhile, with a dearth of clues on the succession in the public domain, Singaporean palace politics watchers have little choice but to wait for the next milestone in the process – the elevation of a minister to the post of deputy prime minister. Lee Hsien Loong has said he would carry out a major cabinet shake up some time next year, likely after the budget debate wraps up in March.

In the CNBC interview, Lee said the “4G” team was likely to come to a consensus on their new leader “in time”.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Keppel Bribery Saga Why Isn’t AGC and CPIB prosecuting those involved

One corruption on top of another corruption?

I read that AGC has only given “conditional warning” to those involved in the bribery acts..

My question is why didn’t CPIB press charges to those involved?

This seems rather unusual to me. Why would Corruption act of such scale warrant only a “conditional warning” ?

I’ve worked in large Fortune companies and frankly what Keppel did, ie. Funneling bribery money through an intermediary with an arm length approach is common practice AND it is done with the knowledge of the highest level (CEO and CFO). It is certainly not just some antics by mid level executives. So mid level or even director level being fired are just scapegoats in such cases.

You think anybody else other than CFO and CEO could sign off some $50m payments and without the CEO, CFO asking for details of such payments?

Muddy Waters


Several former executives of Keppel Corp have been arrested by Singaporean authorities in a probe related to charges its rig-building unit bribed Brazilian officials, Singapore's Straits Times newspaper reported on Friday.

Keppel Offshore & Marine in December agreed to pay $422 million to resolve investigations into the matter by authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore.

But Singapore's Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said at the time that investigations regarding the individuals involved were ongoing.

The Straits Times said more than six people were currently out on bail connected with case.

A CPIB spokesman said he was "unable to comment as investigations against the individuals involved are still ongoing". The AGC declined to comment.

A spokesman for Keppel Offshore & Marine said: "We are unable to comment on any investigations by the authorities."

Keppel Offshore & Marine has taken disciplinary action against 17 current and former employees in relation to the bribery charges, court documents showed.