经济学家杂志把新加坡列为世界上生活费最高的国家，但许多新加坡人的薪金却没有随着生活费上升而增加。这意味着新加坡人的购买力是发达国家中最低的 – 低于香港，与印度不分上下。
新加坡国立大学(NUS) 副教授Tilak Abeysinghe 的研究显示新加坡收入最低百分之30的家庭每月开销是收入的百分之105到151。
在1963年，当时的政府对多过一百名反对党，工会与学生运动的成员展开政治攻击。政府利用内安法(Internal Security Act, ISA) 在未经审判的情况下扣留了这些新加坡人。
再此，根据Lim Chong Yan教授的推荐，增加中等收入与低收入国人的工资，并调低租金以让公司在成本方面有更大的灵活性。而且，研究也证实，工资增加百分之10，只会造成食物价格上升百分之4，一般价格则只增加百分之0.4。
I knew what I was getting myself into, but I still fought.
In fact, when I first started writing 2 ½ years ago, I knew that one day I would lose my job. But I still wrote.
When I first started writing, I wanted to advocate to the government for change. I thought that perhaps the government hasn’t heard us, so if I could reach out to them, they would start listening to Singaporeans and change the policies to protect Singaporeans.
How naïve I was.
Less than a year into my writing, I realised that the PAP government does not care about Singaporeans. After analysing the new policies that they would introduce, I realise that there is always a caveat – the policies will always be crafted in such a way that would benefit the PAP at the expense of Singaporeans.
I still remember that after Budget 2013 was announced, I broke down.
It was then that the shock sunk in – they didn’t listen. They were not going to! I cried. To think I had naively believed that the PAP would actually listen.
That night, I met a friend. We discussed how Singaporeans needed to vote right so that we can vote for the opposition into the government, to protect Singaporeans.
But I went home dejected.
I did not know if I could continue writing, after realising the truth – the PAP was not going to take care of us.
Thus I snigger when I hear the PAP say things like, “The PAP will always be on Singapore and Singaporeans’ side.”
If the PAP is truly on Singaporeans’ side, they wouldn’t have come out with policies since the early 1980s to hurt Singaporeans.
For the past 30 years.
When I got home that day, I did not know if I could write again. For the next few days, I felt betrayed. Could I write again? The PAP would not listen.
[Photo credit: Channel NewsAsia]
But soon, I picked myself up. I started compiling the statistics about Singapore. I was on a new direction – I needed to let Singaporeans know the truth.
If the PAP wouldn’t listen, at least I needed to let Singaporeans know.
The journey wasn’t easy.
First, I had to learn to think all over again.
When I first read about how it is the responsibility of the government to subsidise its citizens so that we would be taken care of and protected, I was taken aback.
“You mean, the government is supposed to take care of us?”
After being told for years that you either rely on yourself or you fail, I have learnt to believe that if I am not good enough, then it is because I simply wasn’t good enough.
The more I read, the more I realised how I have been taken for a ride all this while.
A government is supposed to take care of its citizens. Why weren’t we ever told that?
Why were we only told that if we fail, that’s because we are stupid?
By May this year, I was on a rampage. I had gone on a crash course over the past two years, learning what the PAP has been doing to us for the past 30 years.
I needed to let Singaporeans know! I had to let Singaporeans know that we are being abused!
What I didn’t know was that Singaporeans weren’t ready to know.
Or to face up to the reality of things.
When the suit finally came, I thought to myself – I have to fight this.
I fought because I believed that a few months down the road, the people would rise and fight together.
It never came.
When I first discovered that the government was taking our Central Provident Fund (CPF) retirement funds to earn 6% in the GIC while only giving back 3% to Singaporeans, I couldn’t wait to let people know.
There was no reaction.
Or what about how the government was taking our CPF to keep for themselves and how we are losing as much as half of what we should have gotten back? This would have gone into the hundreds and thousands or even millions for each Singaporean.
Still no reaction.
Or what about how the government is also on the GIC Board of Directors? Isn’t there a conflict of interest?
Still, there was none.
I was disillusioned. I fought because I had hoped.
I had hoped that Singaporeans would join in in the fight.
If they knew how their lives were being marginalised, maybe this would compel them to stand. Maybe this would make them rise and take their lives back.
And as I kept writing, I started to question if this was ever going to happen.
Since May, I have written about a hundred articles which exposed how the government was taking our CPF to earn for themselves.
With each protest I spoke at, I asked myself – so what? Would things change? Would people stand?
But I needed to keep up with it. I needed to give people hope.
But within me, the fire was flickering. How could I keep fighting, when people aren’t? When they wouldn’t?
But I pressed on.
By the end of September, we made some bad mistakes. We got ourselves cornered.
The bad publicity rushed in like the mad cow disease. So did the PAP ministers and members of parliament run amok in their criticism.
They had a field day tearing us apart.
But that was fine.
What could be worse than what I was already going through?
Moreover, I have always believed that my conscience is clear. And I know that I could hold my head up high because I have always done what I believed was right and always acted with integrity.
I have done what I could.
But what disappointed me was not the PAP. I hold no grudges against them.
I even waved at Deputy Prime Minister Tharman when I saw him in parliament once. His head a bit shiny but otherwise a nice smile he would always put, that was until I questioned him at the forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.
Still, it wasn’t the PAP that disappointed me. I had grown accustomed to their actions by them.
When some in the opposition parties and civil society activists also criticised us, I was … shocked.
Of all people, I would expect them to … at least understand.
I wasn’t doing this just for myself. Yes, I want a more equal society, I want a more just society. I want our people to be treated right. I want the poor and the old to be able to live with dignity in our country.
I want a better place to call home.
Yes, I was also rash, impatient, impulsive. I ran too fast. I didn’t wait. And got myself into all sorts of trouble.
But it shouldn’t be about me, should it?
I was doing it because I believe in a better future. Could we all invest in this future together? It doesn’t have to be me fighting for the cause. It could be someone else. I just happen to be the face of it, for now, for then.
But I would gladly have someone take over.
When even the opposition and activists criticised us, my heart sank.
Now, I am not angry with the opposition and activists. But … I was disappointed.
In this time of oppression in Singapore, the least we needed to do was to unite against the oppressor – the PAP.
We might have our differences but I believe that we need unite against a common goal, so that once we achieve freedom, we would be able to recreate our home.
But I do not blame the opposition and activists.
I understand why they did what they did. If I am a politician, I would do the same.
The PAP has created a culture of fear where even the opposition and activists have internalised it. You have to play on the safe side so that you won’t be eaten up alive.
That was something I never understood. I only knew how to barge. I was impatient. I have seen their cruelty and I didn’t want to wait.
I understood why the opposition criticised me – if they could distance themselves, at least it protected them from the wrath of the PAP to come.
It worked, and I am glad for them.
I will soon become unelectable, but the opposition parties need to preserve themselves for Singapore and Singaporeans. They know that. And they know that they needed to play the game.
And so I understand.
And Singaporeans, you must understand.
The opposition has done a great deal.
Some might think that the Worker’s Party has been quiet. I personally wish that they could speak up a bit more.
But in the two years that I have written, it is also because the Worker’s Party has spoken up that has allowed many among us bloggers to shed light on what the PAP is really doing.
Because of the Worker’s Party and the Singapore People’s Party’s questioning in parliament, we get to know things like how of the $66 billion we have contributed to Medisave, we are only allowed to use 1.3% in a year. And we are only allowed to use 3% of the Medifund funds that have been set aside.
I also thank Dr Chee Soon Juan from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for speaking up for us when the incident happened.
For all his life, Dr Chee has dedicated his whole life to fight to bring democracy to Singapore. I do not think that I can ever live up to what he has done for Singapore.
I will be honest here – it has been unfortunate that Dr Chee has been labelled as crazy by the PAP and this image he stayed with him.
Have any of you met or spoke to him before? I have, briefly. But from what I have seen, this is a very smart man who has a vision for Singapore – he wants to bring equality to the people. You can see it in the policy papers that the SDP has released.
But has he deserved the respect that he should rightfully have? Because the media gatecrashed his image and Singaporeans fell for it?
Just as they have once again.
The National Solidarity Party has also taken pains to meet with the SDP and the Singaporeans First Party (SingFirst) to look into collaborating more intensively with the other parties.
The parties are doing what they can, in quiet steps, to see to it that change can come to Singapore.
I understand why they have to do what they do. I hold no grudges.
But what disappointed me as well – when Singaporeans as well were swayed by the PAP’s propaganda.
I wrote for two years and fought for five months precisely because I hope that we could awaken to the truth and straighten out our minds.
But when some Singaporeans got sold to their depiction of the story, I became dejected.
No! I fought because I wanted Singaporeans to know.. but now, it was going down the drain.
They knew it, they had planned for it, and they managed to turn things around for themselves.
They won. I lost.
That doesn’t matter.
What matters was that Singaporeans would understand.
But when that started being lost as well, I realised what it all meant.
I don’t know if Singaporeans are ready for change…
I fought because I hoped that a few months down the road, Singaporeans would rise.
It wasn’t going to come.
But again, I understand why Singaporeans do what they do.
The people closest to me have told me too – you have to understand, I have my flat to pay for, my children to take care of. I can’t stand up. If I do, what will happen to my family and my children?
Which is why I envy the Hong Kong people. In interviews with the media, they say – because of my family and my children, because of my future, I will stand up. I will fight.
I was touched when I read that.
But this is the state that Singapore has become – the fear so deep-seated that our logic is now ruled by fear.
As much as we put the blame on foreigners for coming into Singapore, many are able to come in, and recognise what is wrong in Singapore almost immediately – they can tell how the PAP is f***ing Singaporeans up. They do what they need to do here, then they leave.
They can go back home.
But Singaporeans, this is our home. We do not dare to acknowledge what is going on, because we feel powerless to do anything about it. And so we decide that things are acceptable, we hope that things will go away, hoping that one day, Singapore will become a better place.
And so, we backtrack on our anger sometimes. We turn our anger into repressed feelings of frustration.
But by doing so, we are doing ourselves in.
Over the past few months, as I waited for Singaporeans to rise and join the fight and when nary a few came, this is what I learnt to understand.
The foot soldiers were never going to come.
Now, my friends, let me tell you a grim reality – your hero is going to die. And you know it.
But you were waiting and watching, hoping that maybe he is strong enough to fight the battle and will come out alive.
I am sorry to disappoint you. I am only one person. And they know that they can beat me up alive. And they have.
I thank you for your support. I thank you for raising funds for me to fight this battle.
But you need to understand, as long as you don’t join in, there is little else I can do.
When the battle is over and done, I will be left in a corner, picking up the pieces.
Another hero bites the dust and you will be left going back to your days of silent repression.
You might also hate me – why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I plan better, so that I wouldn’t allow myself to fall into a trap? Why wasn’t I smart enough?
And you might blame the people around me. Why was Hui Hui so impulsive? Why did she not think for Roy?
For the faults that Hui Hui has, she was one of the very few people who stood by me and fought.
And the some of the people who have come for our events and have been dragged down with us as well.
The reality is that no one can save us, unless we save ourselves.
I was a blip, like many of the blips that had come, some survived and are living to fight another day, like Dr Chee, while some died fighting for Singapore, like J. B. Jeyaretnam.
Some have continued strong and silently, like Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong who remains in our hearts and minds.
But no matter who comes along, only you can save yourself.
Only you can help yourself.
But will you?
Someone asked me – I am worried about my job, my house, my life etc. I want to stand up but I am afraid of losing this. Can you tell me what I should do?
I cannot give you an answer.
But what I can tell you is this – I have lost my job and my life here (for how many will employ me again?), but I stood my ground.
What Singaporeans do not realise is this – if hundreds and thousands of you decide tomorrow that you want to rise against the tyranny of the PAP, what can they do?
Send in their soldiers? These soldiers are the boys, and men, and women in Singapore – our family. Will they lift a finger to hurt us? Maybe the few aligned to the PAP will but the soldiers who really matter? Will they?
The PAP knows this as well. They know that if Singaporeans decide tomorrow to stand and fight back against them, they will fall.
And Singaporeans will be liberated.
You will keep your jobs. And your homes.
But they are also betting that if they can continue to scare one or two people, they can set an example for the rest.
They didn’t succeed with me. I fought. And I fought because I thought you would.
To your question on what you can do if you do not want to lose what you have? Fight together, that’s the answer.
When all of us rise and fight, we get the PAP out, we will still keep our jobs and our lives.
Will Singapore collapse without the PAP? Don’t kid me, c’mon. You honestly think that after the years of education that only the PAP is good enough to run the country?
If no one else among us can run the country, then I will say our country never had a future to begin with.
The PAP knows this as well. And that is why they try their darndest to fix the opposition.
You have a chance, Singaporeans. You know it, but you don’t dare to take that step.
Fear is very powerful, but fear can also become a source of strength. Do we want to wait for our lives to collapse before we finally see the reality of things?
Many among those who went to Hong Lim Park to hear us speak went because they have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. And that is when they finally feel the pain.
Before they lost what they had, they were also believing in the PAP, trying to hope that if they do not see the bad side of things, the bad will never come to haunt them.
But you know that it is only a matter of time that if you do not do something about it, you will be the next one on the chopping board, or your children.
It is only a game of hide and seek.
Remember how mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you are still playing with it.
But I don’t hate the PAP.
The PAP is doing what they do because they have to. If you want to fight for your own survival and your own wealth, you would do the same.
It will be selfish for us to blame the PAP for doing what they did to us. When it is us who gave them the chance to.
If our first instinct is to scold the PAP and get angry with them, without first doing it to ourselves, then we are hypocrites.
Then we are cowards. Which we are.
The PAP are only a few people who have been enshrouded in a belief system that they have been brought to believe in and which makes sense to them.
Just like I have a belief system which makes sense to me – and a few others. I believe in a more equal society, a fairer place where the young and old, the unemployed, whether you are gay, lesbian or bisexual, or transgender, or whether you are disabled, or whether you like animals, are a cyclist, etc, that this is a place we can share and grow together in.
At the end of the day, it is our growth as human beings that matters.
This is what I believe in.
Does the PAP believe in that? Maybe some of that but they have other priorities as well – how to grow their own wealth, for example. Every time they increased their own salaries in 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2007, income inequality in Singapore rose with it. So did the share of income that goes to the rich.
Today, the rich-poor gap in Singapore is the widest among the developed countries.
But a country is not made for only a few who control the resources but is made up of all the inhabitants that live in the country.
A country’s pathway has to be decided together by all its beings.
And this is where we have gone wrong, but no means only the PAP’s fault. For we let them.
If Singapore is the way it is today, you have a part to play in it. It would be unfair to blame the PAP.
We had a chance but did we take it? We could speak up but did we do it? We could speak to others to change things but did we do it?
If things are the way they are today, every single one of us have a responsibility as to how things turn out.
It would be childish and irresponsible to keep blaming the 60% of them. Aren’t we all Singaporeans? If we truly believe in a Singapore, why are we dividing by ourselves?
Yes, they might use the divide and conquer method. But that doesn’t mean we fall for it.
You really think 60% of Singaporeans voted for the PAP? I reckon it is much lesser. Or would have been.
Thing is, does it matter who the PAP is? Does it matter who the opposition is? Does it matter what this country is.
At the end of the day, the question you have to ask yourself is – what do you want of this country and what are you willing to do for this country and for your fellow countrymen?
If you wouldn’t do it, then don’t expect it from others. If you wouldn’t speak up, then why complain?
If we truly want change to come to Singapore, then we have to decide what we want to do for it. For if we choose to remain silent, then silence it will be for Singapore and change will not come.
I am tired. I have fought but I have had also a unique opportunity to look at things from a vantage point – to observe how Singaporeans have acted, and how the PAP has acted.
It has been an eye-opener.
I have fought but I do not know if I have the energy to keep fighting, or if I should shrivel away into my hole, and hibernate for a while.
I have to tell you the truth. The PAP has managed to press down on me. They have won this round.
But my life doesn’t matter. Someone told me this and I agree with him – one day I will be forgotten as I will soon be, and as many others have.
Now and then, you see people from the looney fringe – yes, you can feel free to call me that – come out and do some stupid things like challenge the government (or rather, the PAP) because you want to stand for integrity and justice and you fight your way through.
Some people fall, some people get co-opted. Some people fade into oblivion.
But change will come not by one or two but by the many who believe enough in it to want to stake their lives and fight for their lives.
Perhaps some are right to say that in Singapore, our tolerance level is so high that even as our lives are even more marginalised by the PAP, that we are willing to take our tolerance to a whole new level – and this is not a compliment.
For until collapse comes then, only then will Singaporeans and the PAP alike feel the pinch.
I want to appeal to Singaporeans and the PAP to come to our senses and to come together for our country’s future.
But I do not know if I still have the energy to do this.
I write this with an aching heart, as a soreness drills itself into the depths of my chest, disheartened.
The High Court has passed its judgment today on the defamation suit that the Singapore prime minister has sued me with.
I have received the judgement. I am disappointed as I have never intended to defame the prime minister.
I will still continue to speak up on the CPF and other issues that concern Singaporeans.
There needs to be transparency and accountability on the CPF, so that Singaporeans’ lives are protected and our elderly can retire with dignity.
This was what I ever stood for.
A pre-trial conference will be held next week, on 13 November 2014 at 10am.
Since the people in Hong Kong would march onto the streets to show their disdain to their government but Singaporeans are willing to just sit back, it must mean that the people in Singapore are really contended with their government, right?
Singapore and Hong Kong are sister cities in many ways, but yet when it comes to stepping up and taking a stand, why do the people in Singapore differ so much from Hong Kong?
Is Singapore a really better place to live in than Hong Kong?
On the surface, the Umbrella Movement, as the month-long protest in Hong Kong is called, is a call for democracy by its citizens.
But rooted in this demand is the fact that the cost of living in Hong Kong has increased and income inequality has widened to the extent that livelihoods have become more difficult for the people in Hong Kong.
The people in Hong Kong have attributed this to a government which only looks out for business interests while allowing the lives of ordinary Hong Kong people to languish.
Singapore and Hong Kong: Sister Cities United in Cronyism and Inequality
Indeed, Hong Kong is ranked first on The Economist’s crony-capitalism index.
But Singapore is not ranked far behind. Singapore is fifth. Singapore is the fifth easiest in the world for someone to get rich if they are politically-affiliated.
In fact, estimates put the Singapore government as owning as much as 60 percent of the Singapore economy. The Singapore government owns two investment firms, GIC and Temasek Holdings, which also owns the major companies which provides essential services in Singapore.
Hong Kong is the most unequal economy in the developed world but Singapore follows immediately behind, being the second most unequal.
Not only that, Singapore is also the most unequal country in Southeast Asia – yes, even more unequal than countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
But this is perhaps up to where Hong Kong can be seen as doing worse than Singapore. On other measures, Singapore performs even more disastrously.
But Singapore is Even Worse Off than Hong Kong
The rich-poor gap in Singapore is the highest among the developed countries.
The executives in Singapore are the highest paid among the developed countries. Hong Kong only comes in third.
The Hong Kong government implemented a minimum wage in 2011 and defined a poverty line last year.
In Singapore, however, the government has been heavily resistance towards implementing a minimum wage and refuses to define a poverty line, claiming that this will create a “cliff effect”.
Singaporeans still do not know how a poverty line will lead to a “cliff effect” or what a “cliff effect” actually means.
Singapore’s De Facto Minimum Wage of $1,000 is the One of the Lowest in the Developed World
Earlier this year, the Singapore government finally decided to increase the basic wage of cleaners from $850 to $1,000. Last month, they said that security guards would receive a basic wage of $1,100 (up from only $800 now), but the government will only allow this to take effect after two years, in 2016. By then, the real value of $1,100 would have decreased.
Cleaners and security guards form the bulk of low-income workers in Singapore.
Even though the Singapore government insists on not implementing an official minimum wage, the $1,000 that cleaners would be getting can be taken to be the de facto minimum wage.
But even this de facto minimum wage is even lower than the $1,300 that the people in Hong Kong get and when compared to the other developed countries, Singapore has the lowest, if not the lowest minimum wage.
For countries with a comparable level of national wealth and cost of living, Japan has a minimum wage of about $2,000, Australia and Switzerland has roughly $3,000 and the lowest-paid Norwegians earn around $5,000.
Even as Singapore is now ranked the most expensive city in the world by The Economist, the lowest wages that Singaporeans receive mean that Singaporeans have the lowest purchasing power in the developed world – even lower than Hong Kong and on par with India.
Singapore’s Poverty Rate is Estimated to be 30 Percent
A study by National University of Singapore (NUS) Associate Professor Tilak Abeysinghe has shown that the poorest 30 percent of Singaporean households have to spend 105 percent to 151 percent of their incomes.
In fact, the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) 2012/13 showed that the average monthly income of the poorest 10 percent of households is only $1,043 but they have to spend $1,844, which means that they have to spend a whooping 177 percent of their incomes!
Not only that, only 55 percent of their income was derived from work, while they are forced to beg for financial aid from the government for the rest of the 45 percent.
Thus in spite of not having an official poverty line, the poverty rate in Singapore is estimated to be around 30 percent (and link here), and up from 20 percent about a decade ago.
Today, 30 percent of Singaporeans earn less than $2,000 in wages every month.
But the depressing conditions do not stop there.
The Singapore Government Spends the Least on Healthcare among the Developed Countries
The Hong Kong government spends about 50 percent in health subsidies while the Singapore government is only willing to spend 30 percent.
The Singapore government also forces Singaporeans to pay into a national health insurance scheme but in this Medisave scheme, where Singaporeans have put in $66 billion, Singaporeans are allowed to use only 1.3 percent of the money accumulated.
The Singapore government also provides Medifund subsidies for the poorest of all Singaporeans but even in the $4.1 billion accumulated, the government is only willing to return Singaporeans only 3 percent.
This has resulted in Singaporeans paying the highest out-of-pocket expenditure among the developed countries.
Whereas the people in Hong Kong only need to pay a cap of S$20 for daily inpatient care and treatment, there is no similar cap in Singapore. One operation can set a Singaporean by an average of more than $1,500.
And if someone would need to go for multiple operations in a year, it would set them back by several thousands of dollars.
For lower-middle income Singaporeans who do not receive adequate assistance from the government and who are barely able to save for their expenses (two-thirds of the middle income have only enough to buy what they need but not anymore else), this would ensure that they go into certain debt.
It has become more commonplace now to hear of Singaporeans who have had to sell their homes or even chosen to die because they cannot afford to pay their healthcare bills.
And when comparing the hot potato topic of the retirement funds, the Hong Kong Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) earns annualised returns of 5.5 percent every year, while Singaporeans only earn an average of 3 percent on the Central Provident Fund (CPF). And when you compare with other similar provident funds, even the Malaysian Employees Provident Fund earns a much higher 6.35 percent and the India Employee’s Provident Fund earns nearly triple the amount of 8.75 percent.
Singapore’s Wealth are Not Being Returned to Singaporeans: The Government Takes the Money away for Themselves
Are Singaporeans doing better off than the people in Hong Kong?
Not really. In fact, Singaporeans fare much worse.
The South China Morning Post has shown how the personal consumption expenditure as a percentage of GDP for the people in Hong Kong has maintained itself at about 65 percent. However, for Singaporeans, this has gone down to 35 percent.
All these even as the GDP per capita in Singapore has risen much faster than Hong Kong, and Singapore today has one of the highest national wealth.
But why are Singaporeans still the poorest among the developed nations?
It does not help that the Singapore ministers pay themselves the highest salaries in the world – the Singapore prime minister earns a reported $2.2 million which puts him at the richest 0.1 percent in Singapore.
The Members of Parliament are paid $15,000 a month which puts them at the richest 5 percent in Singapore.
Half of Singaporeans do not even see $3,000 every month.
When compared to one the most equal countries in the world, the lowest-income Norwegian earns $5,000 a month while the Norwegian prime minister earns only $25,000. The wage gap in Norway is only $20,000, as compared to the gap of nearly $200,000 in Singapore. It would take only five years for a low-income Norwegian to earn what their prime minister earns, but it would take nearly 300 years for a Singaporean to do so.
The Singapore government has been controlled by the same ruling party for the past 55 years. In recent years, they have increased their own salaries in 1984, 1994, 2000 and 2007. With each increase, income inequality rose, followed by the increase of the share of income to the rich in the following year.
The country is getting rich, yes, but the wealth is not being returned to the people. The current ruling party, which has controlled the government, businesses, labour unions, media and pretty much everything else has allowed the wealth to stay at the top while any claimed trick-down economics never happened.
Singapore might rank 5th on the crony-capitalism index but the real extent of the situation is worse than that and goes unreported.
It is clear Singaporeans’ lives are in many ways more compromised than the people of Hong Kong. Yet, why have Singaporeans not spoken up? Are they contended to live in slave-like conditions?
If not, why do Singaporeans not speak up?
The Singapore Government Clamped Down on Singaporeans’ Rights and Free Speech
In 1963, the current government launched a political attack on more than a hundred opposition members, and labour and student unionists. They detained these Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act (ISA), and without trial.
Some of these Singaporeans were imprisoned for more than 30 years and released only when they are very old, when the government felt that they no longer could pose a political threat to the regime.
Recent revelations by the British archives showed that the Singapore government had no reason whatsoever to arrest these Singaporeans. The government claimed that the people they arrested were communist insurgents but it has been revealed that when the British intelligence had then investigated, they found no evidence of this.
Over the next few decades, the government continued to use the ISA against Singaporeans who spoke up against the government’s policies.
In 1987, another more than 20 activists, social workers and lawyers were rounded up and imprisoned, some by more than two years, before the government was pressured to release them after more than 200 organisations around the world protested against the Singapore government’s actions.
From the late 1980s, the government started to use the defamation law to sue opposition politicians to bankrupt them and to prevent them from running for elections. The defamation law was also used against the international media if they were to critique the Singapore government. An opposition party member was sued for more than $8 million.
By last year, the defamation law, Sedition Act and the charge of Contempt of Court were also used against ordinary Singaporeans.
Even as the Singapore Constitution allows for the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to assemble and protest, the government has but then made it illegal for a group of five people or more to assemble. In 2009, the government created the Public Order Act to make it illegal for even one person to protest.
The only space that Singaporeans are allowed to protest today is at the Hong Lim Park, in a secluded part of town. However, two weeks ago, the government backtracked on this and charged six Singaporeans for joining a protest there.
Even as the lives of Singaporeans are being withheld from them, the Singapore government disallows them from being able to speak up about their plight, causing Singaporeans to live and suffer in silence.
The people in Hong Kong can stand and fight because they are aware of their rights and have the space to protest against the tyranny of their government. However, the Singapore government has used the law to their advantage to marginalise the rights and lives of Singaporeans.
The irony is that the people in Hong Kong know that against China, they have minimal influence but for Singaporeans, if as many people as in Hong Kong would stand and fight, the current ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) would fall.
However, blinded by their fears, Singaporeans choose not to stand up. Singaporeans also choose to rationalise themselves into believing that their lives are acceptable.
Clearly, it is not.
The Dual HDB-CPF Mechanism to Control Singaporeans’ Lives and Tie Them Down
The Singapore government has also used several tools to entrap Singaporeans into a state of institutionalised submission.
The dual institutions of public housing and the CPF retirement funds has been used to great effect, to siphon off Singaporeans’ wages into these “assets”, to then trap Singaporeans into a situation of perpetual work to pay off these “assets” which they have been led to believe that they “own”.
The government controls the public housing programme and sets the prices. Nearly 90 percent of Singaporeans live in public housing. Singaporeans do not own these Housing Development Board (HDB) flats that they have been made to “buy”. They only lease it for 99 years – it is long-term renting.
As Singaporeans do not earn enough in wages to pay for the flats, they have to use the CPF to pay for these flats. Today, Singaporeans have to sacrifice 37 percent of their wages into the CPF retirement funds – or the highest social security contribution rate in the world.
However, even so, Singaporeans actually have one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world.
The reason is because the government unilaterally increase the flat prices – Singapore has the most expensive public housing in the world and one of the highest property prices in the world today.
The Singapore government also incorporates land costs into 60 percent of the flat prices even though Singaporeans do not own the land the flat sits on, and the government has actually acquired the land very cheaply in the 1960s.
Singaporeans then use their CPF to pay into ever-increasing housing prices, which saps away their retirement funds. Today, Singaporeans have to pay an average of 55 percent of their CPF Ordinary Account into housing mortgage loans.
As such, the Singapore government’s dual control of the HDB and CPF allows the government to siphon off Singaporeans’ money into these two “assets” which they have led Singaporeans to believe that the people own.
On top of the lowest wages that Singaporeans are made to earn and with one of the highest prices in the world, this means that Singaporeans are forced to work for the rest of their lives because they can never save enough to even retire. This also explains why there are so many elderly Singaporeans who continue to work as cleaners, labourers and cardboard collectors.
Meanwhile, the government takes Singaporeans’ CPF retirement funds to invest in the GIC to earn about 6 percent in annualised returns but returns only an average of 3 percent to Singaporeans’ CPF. The government claims that they have mixed up the funds that the GIC uses and is thus unable to return the full 6 percent to Singaporeans. However, it is likely that the all the funds that the GIC uses are made up fully of Singaporeans’ CPF, when including the money that is not being returned.
As such, the government has no right to retain the additional 3 percent. Such retention is unethical, for lack of a better word.
Yet all this while, even as they take Singaporeans’ CPF to invest in the GIC, the government still denied doing so several times in 2001, 2006 and 2007, before they were forced to admit the truth by May this year.
The Singapore Government Profit from Singaporeans across All Sectors
In fact, the government profits from Singaporeans across all sectors – in healthcare, housing and retirement (as explained above), and also in education and transport etc.
In education, the government makes Singaporeans pay about $400 million to study in local public universities. However, the government gives away close to $400 million to international students to study for free in Singapore, and public universities save more than $400 million in surplus. The tax collected from Singaporeans do not go back towards investing in Singaporeans but are siphoned off for other uses, or absorbed into the government’s own coffers.
Similarly, in transport, Singaporeans pay enough in transport fares to cover for the operating expenses of the transport operators. Yet, Singaporeans also pay tax. In most other developed countries, the government would use the tax collected to subsidise half of the transport fares.
The government also owns the major companies in Singapore, as well as the companies which provide essential services in Singapore, such as healthcare, education, telecommunications, public transport, public utilities etc, and jacks up prices of these services unilaterally which squeezes Singaporeans to the brim.
In fact, the Singapore government’s lack of transparency goes all the way to the top – last year, there is an undeclared surplus of $23.1 billion that the government did not report to Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are Angry
It is not for a lack of anger that Singaporeans are not speaking up.
The latest iProperty Asia Property Market Sentiment Report showed that more than half of Singaporeans felt that resale flat prices are not affordable.
A Blackbox Research survey also showed that more than half of Singaporeans believed that the CPF is unfair. Among low- and middle-income Singaporeans, a higher 60 percent believe that the CPF is unfair.
A survey by medical students from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine also showed that more than half of Singaporeans felt that healthcare in Singapore is unaffordable. 72% of Singaporeans felt that hospitalisation, day surgery and chronic disease follow-up procedures are too expensive.
Another survey by the Lien Foundation found that medical costs are Singaporeans’ top fear of dying, with 88 percent of Singaporeans saying that it scares them the most.
A survey by this author of nearly 3,000 Singaporeans also showed that nearly 90% believe that a minimum wage of between $10 and $15 per hour should be implemented.
Singapore has A Lot of Money Which Can Be Used to Improve the Lives of Singaporeans
It is also not for a lack of funding that Singaporeans cannot be taken care of.
Last year, Singapore has an undeclared surplus of $23.1 billion. In fact, since 2005, there is a staggering more than $200 million that has not been declared by the government to Singaporeans!
There is more than $65 billion in Medisave and nearly $4 billion in Medifund that is not given back to Singaporeans. This represents 98% and 97% of the funds that are not being used, respectively.
In education, the public universities have at least $450 million in surplus. The government still has excess to give another nearly $400 million away for international students to study in Singapore.
For transport, one transport operator SMRT announced that it saw a 75.5 per cent rise in net earnings to $25.3 million just for the second quarter of this year (which ended on September 30) alone.
HDB earns at least 60 percent in profit from each sale of a flat that it is estimated that they could easily have earned between $100 billion to $200 billion in profit over the years.
There is a total balance of $265 billion inside the CPF retirement funds, of which Singaporeans were able to withdraw only $15 billion to use last year (or less than 6 percent).
Of the interest on the CPF earned by the GIC, it is estimated that close to $200 billion has not been returned to Singaporeans.
There is also possibly another trillion in the Singapore reserves (with GIC managing an estimated $400 million, Temasek Holdings managing $223 billion and another $340 billion in the Official Foreign Reserves managed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore).
In total, there are hundreds of billions of dollars, or even trillions, that the PAP government has siphoned off from Singaporeans that would very easily be able to give all Singaporeans, and even non-Singaporeans in the country, free healthcare and education, and allow all elderly Singaporeans to retire today.
Singaporeans would also be able to truly afford their homes and would not have to spend their whole lives paying off the flat mortgage.
It would only take another $20 to $30 billion to ensure that all Singaporeans can be properly protected and taken care of – only a tiny fraction of the billions and trillions that the government has stashed away, yet the government would rather let Singaporeans suffer but would shower themselves with the highest salaries in the world.
The Singapore Government Falls Short on Every Count and Does Not Protect Singaporeans
Of course, Singaporeans are not demanding free services across the board, but where countries with a similar level of national wealth would spend between 70 and 85 percent on health, provide free education and heavily subsidised childcare education, as well as to subsidise half of transport fares, Singapore falls severely short.
The Singapore government only subsidises 30 percent for healthcare. But in Norway where the national wealth and cost of living is similar to Singapore, a Norwegian only needs to pay a cap of $400 every year for healthcare. There is no cap for Singaporeans and medical bills can go up to the tens of thousands. The people in Hong Kong only pay a cap of $20 per day for inpatient care and treatment.
Also, Singaporeans have to pay the most expensive university tuition fees in the world while for other countries with a similar of national wealth such as in the Nordic countries and Germany, university education is free.
Singaporeans also possibly pay the most expensive childcare fees – Singaporeans pay an average of $951 every month for childcare while Norwegians only need to pay a cap of $430.
Singaporeans pay enough in transport fares to fully subsidise the transport operators and also pay for the most expensive public housing in the world, all these coming out of one of the lowest wages and lowest purchasing power among the developed countries.
This is not forgetting that Singapore is also the most expensive country in the world to buy a car, so for families with children in tow who need a convenient form of transport, they can forget about it.
Now, mind you, the Norwegians earn a minimum wage of five times that of Singaporeans and a median wage of more than twice as high, yet they only need pay a cap for healthcare and childcare and are able to go to university for free. You do not even have to do the maths to realise that Singaporeans are forced to earn meager wages to pay overly-exorbitant prices.
It is modern-day slavery.
The Singapore Government Would Rather Hide the Problems and Benefit Themselves
The PAP government might do its darnedest to pretend and hide this knowledge – to the extent of artificially reducing the income inequality statistics across the years over subsequent annual reports and to remove the wage distribution statistic from the CPF Annual Report.
But removing or fudging the statistics does not mean the problem will go away.
In fact, the PAP government’s actions is aimed only at preventing Singaporeans from knowing the full extent of the problem, so that they can continue to perpetuate their model of marginalising the lives of Singaporeans.
Where the government has more than enough money to ensure that social protection expenditure increases to take care of Singaporeans, it is despicable when the government continuously refuses to do so, claiming that this will reduce the country’s reserves when it already spends the lowest in social protection among the developing countries – only 3.5 percent of GDP (In comparison, Norway spends 22.9 percent), while at the same time justifying their salaries to sky-high levels so that they can afford their several bungalows and private property, while Singaporeans live in ever-decreasing flat sizes since 1994.
The hypocrisy of the PAP government knows no bounds and it is beyond deceit and conceit.
The social problems are massive – because of having the highest income inequality among the developed countries, Singapore also has the highest prisoner rate, the lowest levels of trust, one of the lowest social mobilities and Singaporeans also have the highest rate of self-enhancement, or a sense of seeing oneself as better than others.
This is the Singapore Model
In a nutshell, this is the Singapore model – restrict the freedom of speech and oppress the people so that you can grow the economy, hell bent on making sure that only you benefit from it so that you can pay yourself the highest salaries in the world (including your cronies). Meanwhile, depress wages and increase prices across the board, since you own all the companies, and earn the highest profits in the world off the people.
Then take the people’s wages and with whatever is left of it, make them pay it into what was a retirement fund but is now really a holding vault for you to siphon the money away to invest and earn money for yourself. At the same time, also siphon off the people’s money into the public housing which you control as well, make the nearly 90 percent of them who are not your cronynies stay in these flats and siphon even more money away from them by jacking up the housing prices. And make-believe to them that they own the homes they buy, which you will take back at low cost, so that they will lose even more money.
It is a sure win for you if you operate on the Singapore model – the economy grows on slave wages while you continue to siphon off the wealth for yourself.
But this comes with a whole host of psychosocial problems – possibly the highest rate of mental problems and suicide rates that go under-reported, and a ruptured society where Singaporeans have become the second least likely to help a stranger in the world, have one of the lowest levels of happiness and have learnt to repress our emotions, being the most emotionless people in the world, since we are not allowed to express ourselves anyway.
And a country on the brink of collapse, but in massive denial of it.
Countries which collude with the ‘Singapore Model’ know full well that by partaking in this model that the economy might look like it can grow but this is at the expense of the large majority of their populations who have to work on suppressed wages, only so that profits and the salaries of the rich can grow. To champion the ‘Singapore Model’, yet knowing full well what its pitfalls and social degenerative effects are, smacks of hypocrisy, especially when promoted or tolerated by international organisations which claim to work in the interests of the world.
Here are the Solutions to Improve the Lives of Singaporeans
Solutions? Plenty. And easy.
Indeed, hundreds of academics and civil society individuals have already voiced out on them over the past few decades, only to be ignored or slammed down by the government.
For a start, define a poverty line, implement minimum wage to that level or a combination of minimum wage, and subsidies for those who fall below the poverty line.
Increase wages for the low- and middle-income, pretty much like what Professor Lim Chong Yah had recommended, reduce rents to ensure companies have the breathing space to adjust around for costs– moreover, a study has shown that a 10 percent increase in wages will only result in a 4 percent increase in food prices and a 0.4 percent increase in general prices.
Purchasing power will increase.
Higher wages have also been associated with higher employment and higher productivity, increased consumer spending and higher profits for businesses – in the end, higher economic growth.
Increase health subsidies – in fact, follow the wisdom of countries where patients need only pay a cap on healthcare every year. A healthy population is a more productive one.
And if we truly believe in the education and investment of our people, provide free education at all levels.
Housing prices pegged to the purchasing abilities of the people and should not rise over and above the increase in their wages, as in Germany’s case.
Reduce work hours.
And return the interest of 6 percent earned on Singaporeans’ CPF back to them.
What will we get?
A less stressed out population which will be more committed and motivated at work.
Productivity will increase, Singaporeans will become happier, fertility rate will increase, more babies, and a society which will be strengthened, where a common purpose will develop.
And once again, Singaporeans will understand what it means to be proud to be Singaporean – something that we no longer understand today.
So, do we know the problems? Yes, we do.
Are there solutions? Yes, there are.
But is there political will to implement these solutions to better Singapore?
Unfortunately, as long as Singapore remains under the rule of the PAP, things will not change. The PAP has mandated since 1982 that their priority is on “self-reliance”, having changed their manifesto from achieving “equality” to one where its focus is to reduce its assistance on Singaporeans and to push them to rely on themselves, dead or trying.
The PAP Does Not Care about Singaporeans, Will You Believe It?
Thus it is not that Singaporeans’ lives are better off. Neither is it because the Singapore government has run the country well.
Instead, as compared to the other developed countries, Singaporeans are treated the most inhumanely by their government and some would argue to be even worse than other developing countries.
The Singapore government also prevents Singaporeans from speaking up against such mistreatment by curbing their rights to speak up against the government’s atrocities.
To that end, they have used the law to prohibit any dissent from preventing Singaporeans from being able to do so.
Meanwhile, the PAP would shower itself in massive salary growths that outstrips that of ordinary Singaporeans and would lament Singaporeans’ lack of effort in trying to better themselves, when it was never the PAP’s interest to create an environment that will be conducive for Singaporeans to do so in the first place.
In the end, the PAP government’s priority is not to take care of Singaporeans. It is clear from their marginalisation of Singaporeans and by the policies that they have concocted to trap Singaporeans that their intention is to earn from Singaporeans at every step of the way.
There is no other way to say this – the PAP does not care about Singaporeans and if Singaporeans continue to blindly believe in the PAP because we believe that there is no other option, then we have given up on our lives and are putting not only our lives, but our children’s lives at risk and in danger as well.
The Only Solution – Vote the PAP Out
For me, the solution in Singapore is clear. For a start, I would put in a weak government where Singaporeans will finally be able to regain our power and strength. When that happens, demand that the new government act on the solutions that the thinks tanks, academics, civil society and ordinary Singaporeans like you and I have been championing for, for the past several decades – solutions that have been thoroughly researched on, to improve the lives of Singaporeans.
The whole crap about how the opposition is not strong enough to run the country and how the country will collapse – all a fallacy.
There are tens of thousands of people in the civil service who will be able to act on these solutions and bring hope to Singaporeans. Tens and thousands of Singaporeans running the essential services that you use.
If we are only going to get 90 puppets in government now anyway, then we might as well make sure these puppets count. I would put in at least two-third of the government as opposition members, so that for once, Singaporeans will finally have a chance.
What you want is not a government that has all the power that it can decide what to do with your lives at its whims and fancies.
What you want is a weak government, or rather, a new government that would listen to you and is independent of the other estates of governance – civil service, judiciary, media, labour unions, academia, etc, so that these institutions will work separately and together, to uplift the people in the society.
What you want is a government with a heart, and a society which will also learn to nurture its own heart.
So, this is my parting remark to you – we either stand up and fight or we go down without ever putting up a fight. When the time comes that Singapore eventually breaks on the seams, we will only have ourselves to question – why didn’t we ever take that step?
It is up to Singaporeans now to be willing to admit to the state of their lives, so that we will take the affirmative action to change things. However, if Singaporeans continue to live as willing victims under the current ruling party PAP’s repressive rule and policies, then Singaporeans would have to brace ourselves for the collapse that will ensue, as all unequal societies in history have faced. Then, the question would be whether Singaporeans would have the resilience and strength to overcome such an event.
But where Singaporeans have shrunk from standing up in these times of oppression, the ability of Singaporeans to act when required is now being called into question.
So, there you have it – problems, solutions and how to do it all in this article. The question is, what would you do?
When there was a change of government in 2004, one thing that the PAP did not understand then was that you cannot allow for more freedom of speech and still expect to be able to earn more money from Singaporeans, yet expect that no one will question your behaviour.
In 2004, PAP embarked on a bold belief to allow for more free speech. Lee Hsien Loong said in his swearing-in speech as prime minister in 2004, “Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate, so as to understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces.”
When the new government came onboard, it seemed that they wanted to establish themselves from their predecessors. In their minds, they would have thought – more free speech, higher GDP growth, more wealth, let’s make it look like we are a “progressive” government and win the hearts of the people!
Indeed, Lee Hsien Loong also said in 2004, “Through our hard work and dedication we have together built a cohesive and progressive nation that is founded on the principles of meritocracy, social justice and compassion.”
From a marketing perspective, all these looks very nice. But from a fundamental perspective, the new PAP got some things wrong.
PAP Underestimated the Dejection of Singaporeans with the Government
First, for the first 40 years of PAP’s rule prior to 2004, the PAP criminalised public protests and demonstrations (except for the token allowance at Hong Lim Park from 2000). They also controlled newspapers, and TV and radio stations. In effect, they were able to limit the grievances and outpouring of Singaporeans, by sculpting the story the way they want it – Singaporeans were happy and fortunate, and lives were beautiful. Doesn’t matter if this is not the reality, PAP needed to make themselves look good and appearances matter more than reality, for aren’t looks deceiving?
Alongside, during the first 40 years, PAP began to increase their own salaries, reduce subsidies for essential services for Singaporeans and made Singaporeans pay more than is required for these essential services. Meanwhile, PAP also reduced tax for the rich while making the rest of Singaporeans pay more of our wages into CPF. This caused inequality and poverty to rise in Singapore. Poverty is estimated to be about 30% in Singapore today.
However, because the PAP was able to control the media and restrict the freedom of speech, they were led to believe in the illusion that because Singaporeans were not speaking up against what the PAP was doing, Singaporeans were generally contended, or rather that Singaporeans would not have the guts to speak up against what the PAP was doing.
So, in 2004, the PAP would have thought – we have a new government, let’s make ourselves look progressive by allowing more freedom of speech, but not knowing what the impact will be. Yet, at the same time, they wanted to continue to earn more money and make Singapore a more unequal place. Herein lies the next fundamental issue that the PAP doesn’t understand.
You Either Have Free Speech or North Korea
Since 2004, over the past 10 years, income inequality and poverty have risen, housing prices have risen while wages have remained stagnant, purchasing power has declined, and the cost of living in Singapore has risen to become the most expensive in the world.
Alongside this, more and more Singaporeans have harder lives and more Singaporeans are speaking up against the lack of protection of the policies to protect our labour rights and livelihoods.
Naturally, as people’s lives become harder, they would only continue to speak up further.
However, from the PAP’s perspective, they are beginning to realise that you cannot want to continue to siphon money away from the citizens and cause inequality to widen, while at the same time allow people to speak up.
You either choose to be North Korea, where you prevent people from speaking up against you and make all the money you want, or you become a truly progressive country where you allow people to speak up, to voice out what’s wrong, what solutions can then be implemented, so that the country advances as a whole, inequality lessens and the country truly progresses.
In short, the PAP cannot have its cake and eat it as well. This was the second fundamental point the new PAP did not understand.
Progressiveness is Not GDP Growth
Which leads us to the third fundamental point which the PAP does not understand. Progressiveness is not just about how rich the country becomes or how much the rich can earn. Progressiveness is about how your citizens as a whole advance, how your country becomes more equal so that everyone can advance altogether, which also explains why progressive taxation is one where the rich are taxed more, so that the wealth can be redistributed to allow the poor to advance as well.
When the new PAP came into government in 2004, these were three fundamental points that they did not understand, and they could not because they were trapped in their elitism bubble. Yes, apparently being in the ivory tower has its pitfalls too.
PAP Started the Internet Brigade in 2007
As the PAP’s new but disjointed strategy started to take shape from 2004, PAP realised the mistake of its follies – you cannot give people the freedom of speech, if you still want to make money from them. You have to silence them, if they start questioning you. No wonder the old PAP wanted to instill fear in the people, to prevent them from speaking up, but it was too late for the new PAP to backtrack then. They wanted to upkeep their appearance as the modern, cool and relevant government.
So, in 2007, they got some of the younger PAP members of parliament to spearhead a team of people who are now known as the Internet Brigade (IB), with the aim to go online to steer the conversation. If people were going to speak up against the PAP, then let’s steer the conversation back to be in favour of the PAP.
Their efforts failed disastrously. PAP saw its lowest votes in the 2011 general election.
PAP Descended the Laws Onto Ordinary Singaporeans
No matter, last year, PAP went even further. At the most basic, there are three tactics that the PAP have been using to “convince” the people – (1) persuasion (such as via the IB), (2) rules and (3) laws.
The first tactic by using the IB failed miserably and for a while, the PAP was not ready to use the law to the full extent on Singaporeans yet. So let’s come out with a stop-gap rule, and so the Licensing Rule by the Media Development Authority, aimed at committing bloggers and online commenters to financial penalties for speaking up against the government, was created.
The rule backfired terribly against the PAP, as many bloggers were riled up and protested in one of Singapore’s largest protests in recent history. The PAP silently shied away from the ruling, perhaps with the intention to implement it closer to the date of the next general election (which is expected to be held soon).
What PAP did not understand is that there cannot be freedom of speech, and yet expect people to want to curb themselves from speaking freely (but of course, responsibly). Such an irony exists in the minds of the decision-makers within the PAP but such disjoint does not in the logical minds of people.
So, since both persuasion and rules did not work, the PAP decided that the use of the law was the only way out for them, to protect their wealth, as much as it was heavily unpopular.
And thus what transpired with well-known blogger Alex Au and comic artist Leslie Chew, and so on.
However, at this point, all the curtailing of rights and the backpedalling on letting Singaporeans have the freedom of speech was confined to the restriction of online discourse.
Clamping Down on Free Speech at Hong Lim Park
Then, the PAP felt that it unnecessary to act on the protests, as the protests had yet to get traction and the PAP was able to deride the protests by giving them minimal and distorted coverage in the mainstream media controlled by them, so as to limit the spillover effects of the protests.
PAP would have also understood that it is necessary for people to “vent” their frustrations, so that the pent-up anger would have lesser of a chance of exploding in the face of the PAP, where revolution might then take place, and thus the creation of the Speaker’s Corner in the first place to prevent that.
However, since last year, with several protests attended by a significant number of people, numbering in the thousands, the PAP started taking the threat that the protests would pose to their rule seriously. We can stop what the media we control say, but we cannot control what the bloggers and online social media is saying, and they are beginning to gain more traction than we do, and not just online but in physical space!
So, the PAP decided something needed to be done.
Fear Takes Root in the PAP, Creates Insecurity Among Themselves
The PAP’s next steps became more disparate and rushed. Over the last few weeks, they have been seen to change their tactics desperately. From the non-coverage of the protests, they decided to cover them, but with a strong negative slant. Specifically, the PAP targeted the protest organisers and participants, this in itself a recognition by the PAP that the protests have gained traction and that the protests and their organisers have become a threat to the PAP.
In the next desperate move, the police started investigating the organisers and participants for criminal acts.
Before we even go into analysing the futility of such actions, the PAP’s actions only go to show one thing.
The PAP is desperate. And because of their desperation, their bad planning is beginning to show. To act on their plans without the proper think-through of the consequences, or if they knew the consequences and yet still carried them out, goes to show how feeble the attempt the PAP has in trying to protect themselves.
Gone are the days of the old PAP who knew what they were doing, who had thought through their actions, anticipated them and carried them out exactly – to the full impact of victimising Singaporeans. These days, the PAP runs around like headless chickens, ironically they themselves fearing their loss of their power and thus as they act out their fears, they allow their bad planning to befall on their plans as well.
Limit people’s freedom of speech, give them a token space to speak, then charge them for breaking the law while they exercise their basic right as a citizen at that space. This is like taking a lollipop away from a child, then deciding that maybe the child can still have the stick of the lollipop and when the child starts licking the stick, smacks the child for doing so.
It simply does not make sense.
To Fear or Not to Fear?
But if one is to appraise the PAP’s actions over not only the past few weeks or months, but years, we begin to see a story coming through, a story of a new government which wanted to continue to establish itself as a forerunner in the world, but without the deep-rooted understanding that its predecessors had, committed themselves into a promise that they realise they could not and did not want to hold on to, and as they could not reverse what they had done, they started to rely on old methods to hopefully ensnare Singaporeans back into a fear, which would allow them to then continue to advance their plans – to continue to earn from the people.
The ultimate question at this point is – would Singaporeans allow the PAP to ensnare you back into fear?
This is why maybe the rhetoric that it is not important for Singaporeans to study for degrees. Maybe Singaporeans do not need to be given to many statistics because it is not in your personal or national interests to know.
And why not? The more you know, the more you will know what the government is really doing to your money and your CPF. And if you do, what are you going to do?
The (new) PAP regrets saying that they wanted to open up the Singapore society. And with what has happened over the past half a year, the PAP cannot be even more flabbergasted by how badly the situation has backfired on them.
At this point, for the PAP, they will do anything to bring back security for themselves, and this means using fear and the law to prevent people from speaking up. At least if they can reverse what they would deem as damage that has been done, they would then be able to embark on their plans (to keep earning money) with much lesser interference.
Because honestly, if China can do so with 1 billion people and keep the control, why not the PAP?
Well, because China does not have elections. The only saving grace for Singaporeans now is that we have elections. The PAP is going all out to silence dissent and instill fear so that at the next election, they can still be kept in power. God knows what will happen if they are put back into power. Will all hell break loose? Will we see another Operation Coldstore or Operation Spectrum? All signs point to a PAP which would be more willing to take hardhitting action to keep themselves in power, and this means moving closer towards the North Korea option.
For Our Families, Will We Fight Back or Hide?
The final question for Singaporeans now is this – is our survival important enough for us to know that we need to speak up and fight back, if not at Hong Lim Park, but at least in the voting booth? Or is our survival so important that we will fear and shrink back into our shells?
Both forms of survival are quite distinct. For one, the fear lies in the fear of what will happen to our bodily self and how we fear the pain that will affect us as one person alone, and thus choose to accept the oppression and keep quiet.
The other lies in knowing what is at stake for our country if we do not speak up and do what is right and in knowing that for the greater good of our country, we need to do what is right to protect ourselves and our families, and to vote for a government that will take care of us, to give us a new lease of life.
At this point, it is up to Singaporeans now. The PAP can very easily clamp down on one or two or a few Singaporeans and stop the efforts to demand for change, but the PAP would not be able to stop hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans who feel similarly and prevent the PAP from sashaying themselves into government anymore.
If Singaporeans were to take up the mantle and brave the courage to fight as the people of Hong Kong is doing now, change will not only be a determined outcome, it is only a question of a matter of time, and sooner than later.
The PAP government wants to play itself to look like a democracy, then perhaps it is time Singaporeans learn to act as citizens living in a democracy. If the people of a country recognise their power, they do not know how much this will cause their government to tremble in their knees.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself – what do you really want? Do you want your lives to really get better? Do you want a government that will no longer just sit on the problems that this country is facing, but would take decisive action to solve these problems and to improve the lives of not just a few Singaporeans at the top, but for all Singaporeans, so that we will truly achieve equality as our pledge says and so that our country and our people will grow and advance as a nation, and Singapore can have a new beginning, as we search for the pride that we once had but have lost, and to rebuild our country together once again.
This is something you have to think about.
If you would like to find out how I am doing recently, you can read my update on Facebook here.
10 years ago, when Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as prime minister of Singapore in 2004, he gave a speech, ‘Let’s Shape Our Future Together’.
A key message he said was, “We will continue to expand the space which Singaporeans have to live, to laugh, to grow and to be ourselves. Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate, so as to understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces. We should recognise many paths of success, and many ways to be Singaporean. We must give people a second chance, for those who have tasted failure may be the wiser and stronger ones among us. Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore.”
Last week, the organiser of the #ReturnOurCPF protest, Han Hui Hui, some of the speakers, supporters and volunteers were hauled up by the police to be investigated for illegal assembly at the Hong Lim Park.
This is the state of the “confidence” that the PAP government has, to “engage in robust debate, … (to) understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces”.
Perhaps the PAP government needs to take a leaf out of its own book. It is those among us “who have tasted failure (who) may be the wiser and stronger ones among us”.
It is time we help the PAP to become wiser.
You can read his speech full below.
Friends and Colleagues,
and my fellow Singaporeans,
1 I am deeply honoured to be sworn in as the Prime Minister of Singapore. I am grateful for your support, and will do my utmost to serve you and Singapore. Let me begin with a few words in Malay and in Chinese.
(English translation of Malay speech)
2 Tonight’s occasion belongs to all Singaporeans. Through our hard work and dedication we have together built a cohesive and progressive nation that is founded on the principles of meritocracy, social justice and compassion. We worked hard to achieve our shared dream of a better future for all Singaporeans. All our communities have progressed. We have helped those who needed help.
3 The trust that you have placed in Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong who have both discharged their responsibilities admirably, is now given to me. I am humbled by this honour. I will do my best to rise to the challenge. And so I ask you to work with me to build a Singapore that will care for all our citizens, educate all our children well, and give everybody full opportunities to fulfil their aspirations.
4 The future holds many challenges and opportunities. We will take the good and the bad together and we will succeed as a nation. As your Prime Minister I will work hard to achieve what is best for all Singaporeans. Let us shape our future together.
(English translation of Mandarin speech)
5 When Mr Goh Chok Tong asked me to stand for elections in 1984, I was reluctant. I was then in the army, serving as a regular. I was a single parent, with two young children. Entering politics was not in my mind. But Mr Goh persuaded me. He has guided me since as a mentor and a friend, for which I am personally grateful.
6 Tonight, I take over as Prime Minister from Mr Goh, I feel deeply honoured to take on this challenging responsibility. Today’s Singapore is different from the one which Mr Goh took over in 1990 when he became Prime Minister. I will strive to fulfil the aspirations of our new generation. At the same time, we will take care of older Singaporeans who helped to build today’s Singapore.
7 Let us continue to build on the foundations laid by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong. Let us grow our economy, and create more good jobs for our people. Let us make Singapore our best home. Let us shape our future together, so that we all feel a sense of belonging, and we can all live fulfilling lives in a good home in Singapore.
Friends and Fellow Singaporeans
8 When Mr Goh Chok Tong persuaded me to enter politics in 1984, it was a big change from the army. I had gone to university on government scholarships, and benefited from the Singapore system. As a boy, I had watched Singapore become independent. Then, as a young man I saw it grow against tremendous odds, and strengthen year by year. Those were my formative years, and it left a deep impression on me.
9 I wanted to contribute to the Singapore story. Entering politics was a way to do this, and to repay the obligation which I felt. Since then, I have served in the government with Mr Goh for 20 years.
Tribute to Mr Goh Chok Tong
10 I am indebted to Mr Goh for his guidance and support through these years as colleague, friend and mentor. As Prime Minister, Mr Goh has fulfilled his promise to keep Singapore thriving and growing. But he has done much more. He built a strong team, involved Singaporeans in the issues which affected all of us, and brought us all closer together.
11 Today’s Singapore is quite different from the country that Mr Goh took over in 1990. It still bears the imprint of Lee Kuan Yew and the founder generation. Today’s Singapore is more vibrant and open, more resilient and cohesive. It is in sync with the times, and ready for tomorrow’s challenges. In his own quiet way, Mr Goh has transformed Singapore.
12 Tonight, on behalf of all Singaporeans, I thank Mr Goh Chok Tong for his sterling and selfless service to the nation, and for his lasting contributions to Singapore as Prime Minister.
The Fabric of Our Nation
13 I am deeply conscious of my responsibility as Prime Minister. I thank my Cabinet colleagues for choosing me, my fellow Members of Parliament for having confidence in me, and my fellow Singaporeans for supporting me and my team. I will strive to be a Prime Minister for all Singaporeans.
14 I am glad Singaporeans from many backgrounds are here to join me for tonight’s ceremony – community leaders and national servicemen, teachers and nurses, hawkers and taxi-drivers, business leaders and artists, and many others.
15 I would also like to acknowledge the many more Singaporeans who are watching this ceremony over television, and especially the residents of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Teck Ghee, who have supported me loyally for these twenty years. Tonight’s occasion belongs to all Singaporeans.
16 Together, you represent the diversity and richness of our nation. You symbolise our commitment to join our hands together to weave the different multi-coloured threads of our lives into the Singapore tapestry – the fabric of our nation.
17 We are one nation together, building a future for ourselves and our people. As we prosper, all communities will progress and no one will be left behind. We will look after the less educated and the elderly who have helped build Singapore. And we must also have a place in our hearts and our lives for the disabled, who are our brothers and sisters too.
A New Generation
18 This political transition is not just a change of Prime Ministers, or of a Cabinet. It is a generational change for Singapore, a shift to the post-independence generation in a post-Cold War world.
19 The majority of Singaporeans today were born after 1965, after independence. They grew up in a different Singapore compared to their parents. My Government will stay in tune with their needs and aspirations. We must tap the energy and minds of our people, and involve them in the choices which affect their lives. That way, every citizen can have a hand, in big ways and small, in shaping our common future.
20 The next generation of leaders must come from our post-independence generation. Mr Goh Chok Tong was scouting for talent long before he became Prime Minister in 1990. This was how I entered politics in 1984, in my early 30s, together with four ministers now in my Cabinet, plus the Speaker. This process of renewal has continued with each successive general election.
21 Hence, leadership succession will be one of my top priorities. We must continue to search for younger Singaporeans in their early 30s and 40s to rejuvenate the team, to inject new perspectives and to prepare for leadership succession at all levels – ministers, MPs, at the grassroots, in the trade unions.
22 Therefore do not wait to be invited to tea, but step forward to make a difference to yourselves, to your fellow citizens, and to Singapore. Let us shape our future together.
An Open and Inclusive Singapore
23 We may be a small island but we are a global city linked to the whole world, offering exciting opportunities and experiences. We are an open, multiracial and cosmopolitan society. We enjoy a good reputation in the world. Because we have come far, we can now set higher goals for ourselves, and fly higher.
24 We want to build a vibrant and competitive economy. That is the way to create good jobs, and improve the lives of all our citizens. Without the resources that come from growth, we cannot achieve much. But prosperity is not our only goal, nor is economic growth an end in itself.
25 We want to educate our children well. As we prosper, we can afford to invest more in our young, and we will do so. We want our young to think independently, to explore with confidence, and to pursue their passions. We must nurture them into stout-hearted, upright adults. Education is not just about training for jobs. It is about opening doors for our children, and giving them hope and opportunities. It is more than filling a vessel with knowledge – it is to light a fire in our young people. They are our future.
26 We will continue to expand the space which Singaporeans have to live, to laugh, to grow and to be ourselves. Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate, so as to understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces. We should recognise many paths of success, and many ways to be Singaporean. We must give people a second chance, for those who have tasted failure may be the wiser and stronger ones among us. Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore.
27 Even as we pursue individual ambitions, we must also deepen our sense of common purpose and identity. We can stand tall only if we stand together. Our years in school and national service, our shared joys and sorrows, our attachment to familiar places, our bonds with family and friends – all these reinforce our sense of being one Singapore family. Already, a Singaporean is readily recognisable anywhere in the world. We must continue to widen our common ground, and care for one another. Our unity gives us the resilience to weather every storm and thrive as an independent nation.
Adapting to a Changing World
28 Our future is full of promise, but we must be prepared for the unexpected. In a globalised world, we must re-think our assumptions, take bold and fresh approaches and adapt nimbly to changing conditions.
29 We depend on a stable and peaceful Asia, and will have to stay alert for signs of danger in the region or the world. A mishap in cross-straits relations can derail growth throughout Asia. The war on terrorism can strain our racial and religious harmony. We must help our less educated, older workers to learn new skills so that they can stay employed and look after their families. And we must deal with complex and sensitive issues such as the ageing population, immigration, and encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have more babies.
30 We will overcome each new challenge, as we have always done – by recognising it, by putting our minds together to find imaginative solutions, and by tackling the problems resolutely as one people. Only then can we rise above our problems, and bring our people and our country to a higher level.
Writing the Next Chapter
31 Our prospects are brighter than ever before. Our economy is growing strongly again. We are well-positioned at the centre of a continent which is on the move. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us if we make the effort, take calculated risks and stay united. Singaporean companies and businessmen are all over Southeast Asia, China, India, and increasingly in the Middle East and further afield. As a nation, we are stronger, more cohesive, and have more resources than ever before. The future is ours to make.
32 Let us strive to keep Singapore a haven in an uncertain world, open to all for business, safe for citizens and friends, a welcoming home that gladdens our hearts every time we return from our travels.
33 Let us build a nation where every citizen has a place, where all can live in dignity and harmony, and where we all have the opportunity to raise our children and realise our dreams.
34 Let us be a dynamic city that is open and inclusive, a meritocratic society that is compassionate and caring, and a confident people with clear minds and warm hearts.
35 Join me to write this next chapter of the Singapore story. Work with me to make Singapore a home we love, a community we belong to, and a country we are proud to call our own.
Hello everyone, I have written to YMCA last night to request for an opportunity to meet with the children with down syndrome and their parents, to meet with them and to find out how they are doing. I hope that we can have a chance to heal the wounds.
I have had a further think through of what has happened over the past few days. It has been hectic, I have learnt much and thought to share my thoughts here.
I started writing on this blog more than 2 years ago, in June 2012. What started me thinking was when Lee Hsien Loong had then compared Singapore with the Nordic countries and claimed that Singapore was doing as well as they did, or better, in terms GDP per capita and economic competitiveness. But I wanted to dig deeper to find out the truth for myself. I was not convinced.
And from what I found, I realised that even though for Singapore, the country as a whole is one of the richest in the world, but the wealth is very unequal. In fact, I realised that the inequality in Singapore is the highest among the developed countries and Singaporeans earn one of the lowest wages in the world.
That started me on my journey to wanting to find out what exactly is happening in Singapore – why is it that Singaporeans are so rich but Singaporeans are so poor?
I was shocked by how my first article went viral and how it was later picked up by The Online Citizen. I didn’t know it then, but deep down, among many Singaporeans, they already knew that things were not right. The PAP had then kept telling Singaporeans that Singapore was doing well, but deep down, Singaporeans already had a niggling suspicion that the government was not telling us the whole truth.
And when I dug up the statistics which clearly showed how in spite of the economic wealth that the PAP has garnered for itself, Singaporeans weren’t actually receiving the supposed “trickle-down effects” of the wealth that we should be getting.
The statistics convinced the people’s suspicions that the PAP was keeping the wealth for themselves, and preventing the wealth that Singapore should be earning (from Singaporeans’ labour) from reaching us.
I didn’t know then how PAP had prevented it, nor did I knew the PAP was preventing it from happening. Being the naive me then, I had hoped that if I could advocate to the PAP to return to Singaporeans our wealth, Singapore can become a better place.
And so I set up The Heart Truths. A friend helped me come out with the name, actually. I wanted to speak up about the truth and wanted it to come from the heart. And so, he suggested, why not The Heart Truths? And since then, I have been writing on this blog.
In the first few months that I was writing, I continued advocating to the PAP, hoping and believing that they would be reading my blog and would make the relevant changes to improve the lives of Singaporeans. A year after my writing, I was also informed that at least one PAP MP was reading my blog. I felt that perhaps, just perhaps our voices were being heard.
However, the more I read and learnt, I began to slowly realise that the PAP would not change.
As I learnt to analyse the PAP’s policies and to read between the lines, I realise that the PAP has come out with a systematic way of devising policies which would allow them to increase subsidies on one hand, but further increase the revenue they take from Singaporeans, so that whatever subsidies and payouts they give to Singaporeans would not come out from their own coffers but would be extracted from Singaporeans.
And thus they would always be able to gain political mileage and credit by claiming that they are giving back to Singaporeans, while making Singaporeans pay for the increases by ourselves. This shocked me.
But apparently this wasn’t new knowledge. It was new knowledge to me. But many Singaporeans already knew this – many Singaporeans whom have analysed things for themselves and some of them whom have left.
What I knew was already common knowledge to many Singaporeans. I was just one of the few who in my eagerness, wanted to put out what I had found out online.
It was about a year ago that I started speaking at protests. The first protest I spoke at was at the #FreeMyInternet protest to protest against the PAP from introducing regulations to prevent Singaporeans from being able to express our ideas on our blogs. I was concerned. If the PAP could stop me from sharing what I have learnt and found out, how else would I be able to let Singaporeans know what I had discovered? I wouldn’t be able to do so!
PAP would be able to continue to put out their own propaganda to mislead Singaporeans and I could not let that happen! So I spoke up.
And when Gilbert Goh invited me to speak at the third protest for the Singapore Population White Paper, I spoke as well. I decided that every speaking opportunity was an opportunity to allow more people to know.
By the end of last year, Ms Han Hui Hui and I decided that we could organise discussion sessions to create a space for Singaporeans so that we could invite speakers to provide facts and information, which would allow Singaporeans to be able to discuss, analyse and create solutions for ourselves.
Early this year, I embarked on several major discoveries of the Singapore economic and political system. In a 10-part joint article series that I wrote with Mr Leong Sze Hian, we discovered that Singaporeans are actually paying almost the same as what the Nordic citizens are paying in tax and social security/CPF to the government, but we get back considerably much lesser back from PAP and not only so, we have to fork out cash from our own pockets.
The next major macro-perspective article that I wrote was how the PAP had claimed to create policies to aid the growth of the economy, such as the Productivity and Innovation Credit, the Wage Credit Scheme and Foreign Worker Levies, but when you look at the impact of these, not only do they not have the propounded effects of economic recovery, the PAP was once again able to devise these policies in a way which would allow them to enrich their coffers.
In the third article which I had written with Singapore Singaporeans (whose Facebook account has since been closed down after the Internet Brigade (known to be set up by the PAP) launched an attack to get Facebook to close the account down, and many others as well), we exposed the CPF-HDB contraption where we discovered that when Singaporeans buy the HDB flat or a property with the CPF, we would also have to pay a little-known CPF accrued interest where by the time our flat reaches 30 years old, we would actually not only have to pay for the housing loan, we would have to fork out more than twice the price of the HDB flat. I was flabbergasted. The PAP has created a scheme which would allow them to earn several times over from our CPF. The article has since been viewed more than 450,000 times, according to WordPress.
In a fourth article that I wrote, I discovered to my horror that when you trace the PAP’s policies from 1984, a pattern can be seen where the PAP would systematically make Singaporeans double-pay into essential services such as healthcare, transport and education, which they control as well, such that they are able to earn from the double-paying from Singaporeans and systematically create debt for Singaporeans. It was horrendous.
I need to give you this background because I need to let you understand my train of thought.
In the past half a year, I was able to find out the way the PAP was contorting the Singapore economy and how they have been systematically creating policies to earn from Singaporeans and to compromise on our livelihoods!
Last year, my learning convinced me that I had to speak up.
This year, my knowledge aroused my senses. This is not the way a government should treat its people! This is not the way a government should systematically marginalise the lives of the people. It is wrong.
After I wrote these macro-perspective articles, the law suit came.
Later on this year, I also wrote two more revealing and damning articles.
In the first article, I traced how the PAP had started using the CPF of Singaporeans to build the infrastructure of Singapore, but not only that, they continued to siphon off more and more of Singaporeans’ CPF to earn money via housing, healthcare and education, and which allowed them to earn via GIC and Temasek Holdings.
In the second article which I published last week, I summarised how the PAP has taken our money to use, to earn for themselves, and to enrich and benefit themselves.
This year, I finally awoke to the idea that for your own freedoms, you have to fight for it. And thus I embarked on this fight to protest at the Hong Lim Park to #ReturnOurCPF to not only raise further awareness among Singaporeans about what I have discovered but to also demand for a change of government.
I was very worried. If Singapore continues under the PAP, not only will the lives of Singaporeans be at risk, Singapore as a whole will see our country’s future at stake. I couldn’t just sit down and wait. I had to speak up!
Some Singaporeans ask me – why do you stand up and speak when things won’t change? But if that is what we believe, then things will never change. The PAP is relying on Singaporeans feeling disempowered to keep themselves in power. By ensuring that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world, earn the lowest wages among the highest-income countries and where 30% of Singaporeans have to spend more than what they earn and have to live in poverty, the PAP has been able to create a system that is able to keep Singaporeans feeling so squeezed that Singaporeans would be too fearful of our own lives to fight against the atrocities of the PAP.
But I believe. I believe that if you speak up, if you fight, at least we have a fighting chance and at least we will be able to take our country back from the PAP and start rebuilding our lives and to give our people, our children and our families a chance. At least then, we can start to put Singapore back on the right track so that we can have a chance to create the lives we want.
But do I have to do this? I don’t. When the lawsuit first came, some people told me to close down my blog and to run out of the country.
But I believe in staying true to myself and living to my conscience. I had to do what my heart tells me and I have to do what is right.
Over these past few days, much has happened. It was emotionally surreal. I paused and questioned – what am I doing all these for?
I know what I could see. I know what I have learnt, discovered and confirmed from other people who have studied the system or have the inside knowledge, that Singapore was heading towards a collapse under the PAP’s control. However, some friends were still resistant to what I shared with them – I am too busy with my life, I have a property to upkeep, what about my $10,000 salary, they ask?
It is perhaps sad that the PAP has managed to create a system whereby many of us believe that we have too much to lose – our HDB, our CPF etc, so much so that we are not ready to speak up, not knowing that the very things that we are scared to lose – CPF, HDB etc – is also what they have created to earn from us. We are slaves without knowing it, or without admitting to it.
Thus when the PAP was once again able to use the media to deride my character, I was disappointed. I was disappointed not so much because of what has been done to my character – that doesn’t matter. Our lives and reputation matter only as much as to the ego we attach to them. At the end of the day, it is what we do and our (real) honesty that truly matters.
But I was disappointed – I was disappointed that in spite of our knowing that the PAP would use the mainstream media to so easily discredit and malign those whom they deem as their opponent and political threat that Singaporeans would still so easily lap it up. I was disappointed because for the past 50 years, they have been able to use their propaganda to work the system for their own benefit and social engineer a Singaporean mindset in their favour, and it looks like things have still not changed.
So, I asked myself – what am I doing all these for?
I still don’t have an answer.
At the end of the day, my life, my character and my reputation does not matter. I have long stopped to worry about what people think of me for I know who I am deep within and I hold on to my values and ethics through and through. The PAP can disfigure my personality but they cannot hurt my soul.
It doesn’t matter what people think about me. At the end of the day, my goal has always been clear – one day, we have to stand up and fight for ourselves so that we can fight for our own lives and create the live we want for ourselves.
If I fall, I am only one person, but the rest of Singapore and Singaporeans have to fight. It doesn’t matter if I lose, but it matters that Singaporeans would take up the mantle and stand up for ourselves. Will you?
I just cannot sit back and let things go, without trying. I cannot allow such treachery to our people when the PAP is able to make Singaporeans pay $66 billion into Medisave but only give us back 1.3%. I cannot do it when the PAP makes Singaporeans pay enough in fares to cover the operating expenses for the transport operators while make us pay tax as well – where did the tax go? I just cannot sit back when the PAP would take $400 million of our taxpayers’ money to give to international students to come to Singapore to study, accumulate more than $400 million in surpluses in the public universities, yet make Singaporeans pay $400 million by ourselves to study in the public universities. I simply cannot sit back when the PAP buys our land cheaply but would now make us pay for land for 60% of the flat price, so much so that we have to max out our CPF, and yet while the PAP claim that the HDB is losing $1 billion every year, they have actually earned $74 billion over the past 6 years from land sales.
It doesn’t feel right to not speak up when the PAP takes our CPF to give to GIC to earn 6% but only give us back 3% and it feels even more wrong when whatever the GIC manages could actually all be our CPF and the interest that is not returned. And if so, there is no ethical or moral right for the PAP to keep the interest and our money without returning it!
You see, after all these, I could not sit and not fight. We could not allow the PAP to tell Singaporeans that we cannot protest or we will arrest you or we will sue you. They do so because they knew that if you did protest, if you did fight, their whole structure would unravel. What they have built for themselves, to earn from it, will unravel. And they cannot afford to let you do that.
It is your lives or theirs. And they have chosen. And it is not yours.
My question to Singaporeans now is this – what will you do? I am ready to take a backseat when I am not needed. Who am I anyway? I am nobody. But the lives of everyone in Singapore matters. Every person who would stand up for our own rights mean winning for every person. Every person who stands up would add up to many who will be able to fight for our own lives.
When will Singaporeans decide to stand up and fight for ourselves? At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide, whether there is too much at stake now or if there will be too much at stake if we don’t fight now.
Photo credit: The Straits Times
Two years ago, I set out wanting to write and to let more Singaporeans know what was going on. I hope that I have been able to achieve what I had set out to do. Today, there are nearly 4 million views on my blog. I hope that I have done my part for as well and as far as I can. I have made some mistakes, and there is much I need to learn. I thank everyone for being with me every step of the way and in supporting me on this journey.
I will continue to fight in whatever I can or whatever way matters to the people. Perhaps we might one day understand that change will come not when one or two fight but when all of decide to stand and to what is right for ourselves and for our lives. Change comes not by waiting for the fight of one man to succeed but for the fight of all to make that one success.
I do not care about my reputation or character. That does not matter. But what I care about is that the lives of others are treated right and we get a fair chance at living the lives we want. It’s up to you as well, my friends.
Photos credit: Tan Yunyou
Hello everyone, it has been barely 24 hours after the #ReturnOurCPF ended yesterday and there has been an avalanche of news coverage on the protest in the mainstream media, not so much on the protest itself, but on the “heckling” incident. I will be as frank and honest as I can be in this statement.
It is unfortunate that the discourse was so fervently shaped by the PAP. For critical thinkers, it was obvious that PAP and the mainstream media took the opportunity to launch a massive attack and campaigned against Hui Hui and I – why they would think that the state machinery is necessary to outbid two ordinary Singaporeans who want to fight for the rights of Singaporeans is obvious.
Perhaps one would need to question – why was it so well-timed that PAP managed to get someone to film the video, and very quickly within a few hours, trampled over all of mainstream media with the news of the “heckling”.
If I may, may I remind everyone of what happened when I was fired. When I was told that I was sacked, I had to pack my things in an hour and was forced out of office. During that time, I could not bid my farewell to my colleagues. They were kept within the confines of their offices and they were not allowed near me. Some of my colleagues teared and were sad to see me leave. But they were not allowed to come near me.
Within an hour of my sacking, the first media to report on my sacking was not the state media but a blog controlled by the PAP, Five Stars and a Moon. Then, the hospital sent out a media release and the PAP, via the Ministry of Health, also sent out a media release to denounce my conduct. After I left, my computer was taken away – I am not sure by who and what they did with it.
When I was sacked, the only thing that was on my mind was – I felt really bad that this was happening to my employers. I knew that it was coming. I had spoken up at the first #ReturnOurCPF protest days earlier and I knew that the sacking was imminent. PAP needed to weed me out. When I was sacked, the first thought that came to my mind was – I needed to put up a status update to protect the hospital. I knew from external sources that the hospital did not want to fire me. They had actually wanted to protect my job, but PAP forced them to.
When PAP sent out the media release via the Ministry of Health to condone the sacking, which they have a direct hand in, that was when I realised that it was a political move by the PAP to weed me out, and that was when I realised I have apologised but this instead allowed myself to be put at the firing line for the PAP’s machinery.
Yesterday, it felt like that all over again. You would think that after months of “practice”, that I would have the smarts to “play” the politics. Sorry, but I am never a player. Even when it comes to dating, I cannot read signs. How to you expect me to read the minefields that they have planted. Silly, perhaps. But my goal has never been to play the game. My goal has always been to find out what is not right in Singapore, to fight for truth, honesty and justice and hope that things will change. It is as simple as that. I am not a seasoned politician and neither do I aspire to play the game. If I do that and lose who I am and what I stand for – to be true, how am I different from those in the PAP who take every opportunity to play politics.
As they had yesterday.
The same tactics used when the PAP fired me from my job all over again
Yesterday was a repeat of what happened all over again when I was sacked. Once again, somehow it was Five Stars and a Moon which was one of the first to report on the “heckling” – it is clear now that this website was set up as a target against me. Then the mainstream media lapped up on it. And soon, several ministers and MPs jumped on the bandwagon like lustful dogs in a dog pound, without collar restrain. But then again, in a country controlled by the PAP, the dogs have cleverly learnt to put collars on Singaporeans while the PAP run like amok in their madhouse.
If you had noticed, a clever reader would have picked up the signs – why were they all, the mainstream media and the PAP ministers and MPs, using the word, “heckled” altogether? Was the PAP’s vocabulary so limited? Similarly, why did the media keep using the word, “derisory” then?
Marketing 101 – use the same word and repeat it over and over again and people will get it.
Marketing 102 – report on nothing else about the protest but the “heckling” and the whole world will only know the “heckling” and nothing else, and it was as if time stopped and we spent 3 hours at Hong Lim Park “heckling”. Yes, #ReturnOurCPF became a “heckling” event.
Now, Singaporeans, please allow me to be a bit harsh here. We know the drill. We know the game the PAP plays. We know how they control the media. And we fell for it. And you know what, I fell for it too.
When I read news of the “heckling”, I thought to myself – that is horrible! I deserve it. It was wrong. Truth was, at the protest, when I saw the children came out onto the stage, I remembered how I felt – I felt so bad, I felt so bad that we had to protest even as they had to perform. As someone who had performed in the past, I understood the amount of effort it takes into practicing and rehearsing for an event. I understood the immense pressure and stress it takes to go up onto the stage, to let yourself shine, while trying to remember your lines, your steps etc. It was not easy.
And they were children. When I watched the playback videos, and saw how the children were asked to go onto the stage just as we got to the area where the audience was, another emotion tore through me. Wait – what, did they just push the children out onto the stage, so that they could create news for themselves? Would the PAP stoop so low as to do something like that? Of course, this is a rhetoric question.
As I watched the video, I was very saddened, very disappointed. These were children who had trained hard for this. If I was YMCA and I was truly concerned about the children being “heckled”, I might have changed the plans. I might have waited. But they got the children out.
At that point, I felt very sad. You can hurt me. I can withstand it, for hasn’t the PAP done their utmost to hurt us bad enough? It doesn’t matter. But as some online commenters have pointed out, why use the children as “shields”?
You wanted ammunition, and you go it. PAP, bravo, job well done. You wanted to use innocent Singaporeans for your cause, you got it. When it was to your advantage to arrest hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans and accuse them of something they never did, and detain them without trial, you did it as well.
Shame on you, PAP. You are a hypocritical a**hole and I am not going to mince my words here.
Video credit: Terry Xu from The Online Citizen
But is that to say that all was well and sundry on our side? It wasn’t. I am thankful for the many Singaporeans who have defended me. I know that you can see through the hypocrisy and the coordinated attack on us, and that’s why you have decided to stand up and speak up for us.
To be frank, it wasn’t easy. This morning, I read the news and comments and I asked myself – remind me again, what am I fighting for? I am not aspiring for fame or glory, to save the world and have my name etched onto some plague or bridge to be remembered for all eternity. No, I do not need a school of public policy named after me or a scholarship named after me, all the while claiming that I do not care to be remembered.
Honestly, whenever it is time for me to stop what I have to because my cause has ended, I will exit. To tell you the truth, my dream life is to live by a lakehouse reading a book by the lake, with the mountains at the back, as the cool wind blows on my face. This is my dream.
But why do I fight? The reason I do is because – it is only right to do so. You give up some of your dreams, your life, as you fight for your rights and your freedoms. Some people give up their life to fight for money, some for love, as I used to. But today, some of us fight for our rights and our freedoms. But it is nothing compared to some of the other Singaporeans who spend 10, 20 or 30 years sticking their neck out for their beliefs in prison, imprisoned for no valid reason, as the PAP continued to terrorise them.
The PAP committed grave crimes and atrocities against innocent Singaporeans, but who will prosecute them? Can we ask Lee Kuan Yew to stand trial for the past misdeeds that he has done? Will the police arrest Lee Kuan Yew? Will the courts trial him?
Yet, when Hui Hui and I fought for our legal right to speak up, the police threatened us. Fine, let them come. You would use the law against innocent Singaporeans while let those who have committed larger and graver atrocities against Singaporeans go.
I hope that it is ample clear to Singaporeans by now that our country is hitting rock bottom, when our civil service and our police can be used by simple tools by the PAP, to be made use of at their whims and fancies, to come down on innocent Singaporeans who are fighting for our rights and freedoms.
What am I to do, in the face of such treachery? Smile and move along, that is what I will do. For at the end of the day, if they want to hurt us, no matter how much we play nice, they will come down on us. You simply do not speak up against your government, if their main aim is to keep themselves in power. And once you do, you are a thorn in their flesh which they will use every means to get rid of, as they have.
There were some things we should have done better, for that I am sorry.
But back to the protest – we made some mistakes. We did. There were some things we could have done better. If we saw the children coming out, we could have moved away faster. To the credit of the other protestors, I understand that some of them had toned down and had applauded for the children when they came out. There was a show of solidarity, we are moreover all Singaporean.
Beforehand, I had thought to myself that there would be older Singaporeans and the disabled who would be attending, and so we have to also be watchful and be careful with what we did. But to be honest, I did not expect them to bring out the children just as soon as they saw us near the stage. But I do apologise for the stress that was caused to the children.
However, apologies are also in order for Hui Hui and I, and for Singaporeans. When Hui Hui, the organiser of the #ReturnOurCPF protest, had wanted to set up the tentage on Thursday, she found that YMCA had set up their tentages all over the main field at Hong Lim Park. Where we would usually set up a tentage, we could not. And so, we had to forgo the tentage.
It was only when we got to the park on the day of the protest itself that someone who identified himself as a director of NParks came to speak to us, and brought along an entourage of self-identified policemen with him (and possibly from the Internal Security Department among them). The NParks director then insisted that we use only a portion of the park in a more secluded area. It was not a choice given to us, there was no discussion or compromise. It was dictated to us like we were toothless children who couldn’t bark.
Facebook video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152445632614141
I asked the director – but isn’t this double standards? If NParks had truly wanted to resolve the issue, would it not make sense that when they realised that there were going to be two potentially big events that were going to be held, that they had arranged with the two organisers to negotiate on the use of the space? Why did NParks not stop YMCA from constructing their tentages all over the main areas of the park, so that we could discuss first?
Also, why did YMCA not come and negotiate the use of the space? Why was it NParks which had to dictate to us to move, and had to use the police to intimidate us into doing so? Were we less Singaporean and did we have lesser rights, simply because we were protesting on the CPF issue? Was it less of a concern? Should YMCA have more right to the space because they had a PAP minister as a guest-of-honour? Are PAP ministers and MPs always higher up the ivory tower than Singaporeans?
The issue could have been managed amicable right from the start, but did NParks attempted to? Just as PAP used NEA to drag the Worker’s Party into the fray, so did they use another statutory board to create another fracas yet once again. But why should our civil service be used by the PAP for their own political gains, against our very own Singaporeans and the opposition parties?
No matter how you look at it, had we been treated fairly right from the start?
But this is not even the question. Lee Kuan Yew started out his political career protesting and leading protests. But when he took control of government and Singapore, he made it illegal to protests. And then, the PAP gave us a small Hong Lim Park which if not already secluded, would allow them to effectively blindside themselves to whatever would go on there, until yesterday.
If Singaporeans are only allowed to protest at Hong Lim Park and the space is taken, where else can Singaporeans go? Is this another way of the government trying to curb our rights and to take back our space? We knew that we had to stand our ground. If we had backed off, our right to the only space we have to protest will be compromised in future. And we had to take a firm stand.
Did we ever have a chance? Did Hui Hui and I ever have a chance? We are not politicians. We are simpletons out to fight for the rights and freedoms of Singapore and Singaporeans. But the PAP knew what they were plotting at the back of their minds and they knew how they were going to get back at us. They have shown how good they are at plotting and distorting the story with the arrests of innocent Singaporeans in 1963 with Operation Coldstore, with the many arrests in the 1960s and 1970s and in 1987 with Operation Spectrum. The PAP knew their game and they were already plotting.
When they managed to use the media to swing the tide by claiming we have “heckled”, they won. Singaporeans bought it and we were defeated. When our critical thinking is marred and where we be so easily swayed (as even I was) by the PAP and their pervasive use of the media, what hope was there for Hui Hui and I?
There were so many good things that had happened at Hong Lim Park yesterday and they all went unreported. How about the hardworking volunteers from the YMCA (a friend was there) who were there early to help set up? How about the elderly and disabled who were there to enjoy the performances by the YMCA?
How about when some of the volunteers and I had helped those on wheelchair who had come to attend the YMCA event, by helping them across some obstacles, so that they could move to the stage area? Or how at the stage, there was a man on a wheelchair who waved his clappers at us and another couple who stood under YMCA’s tent who smiled and waved at us as we marched across?
There were so many human stories of help, of working together and of support. All of these went unreported, all of these the mainstream media could not report. PAP controlled the media. PAP decided how they want to make some Singaporeans look bad and went ahead with it. Whatever happened to the hard work that the YMCA volunteers put up, and whatever happened to how the volunteers and attendees at the protests had supported one another? Were these not human stories of kindness and unity that we want to see in Singapore?
For a PAP that claims that Singaporeans need to unite and yet drive a wedge among Singaporeans, is this that of moral integrity by the PAP?
Perhaps the PAP also conveniently ignored many of the salient points that were also brought out at the #ReturnOurCPF protest. At the protest, we had pointed out that not only has the PAP made money off Singaporeans from our CPF, the PAP has also made money from our housing, healthcare, education and transport. I have detailed them in short excerpts here.
Pretty much the PAP has created a system from at least 1984 to systematically cut down on Singaporeans and to earn from us, while our livelihoods have continued to be marginalised and our lives are being compromised.
Perhaps it is too convenient for the PAP to ignore these because the PAP knew that they are indeed making money off Singaporeans and they had no answers for it. They had no answers to the demands of the protestors. They could not answer Singaporeans. What were they to say to Singaporeans? – Yes, I took your money but I still want to be your government. Is that OK? (Read more here.)
To his credit, Teo Ser Luck (who has guest-of-honour of YMCA’s event) could have confronted us but as I observed Teo Ser Luck, he continued smiling and mingling with the attendees at YMCA’s event, in spite of the immense pressure. From the back, while waving the Singapore flag, I thought to myself how uncomfortable that it might be for him but this is the nature of democracy and of protests – citizens have their right to speak up and politicians should be able to withstand the questioning. And in truth, if the government does its job, would citizens fervently demand for such change? If we have to, then something is quite amiss, isn’t it?
On the overall, the protests garnered a skewed publicity because of how PAP could skew it around by their control of the mainstream media and the online platforms set up by them. There were also many spies who sent to pretend to be supporters and volunteers. Yes, we know who you are. They cut the wires of our sound system and tried to disturb the event.
The Most Groundbreaking Protest in Singapore since 1965
But in the end, what we were able to achieve was immense which the mainstream media did not report at all. For the first time since Singapore’s independence, this was the first time that we were able to march and not only march, but in front of a minister as well. The minister did not respond but being able to march in front of a minister is in itself a feat. Listen to us and we are going to make our demands!
The mood among the crowd was ecstatic. We had our right. It was a packed protest where we were able to outline clearly how the PAP has been making money off Singaporeans, and to do some of the many firsts – a first march since Singapore’s independence, the first march in front of a minister and the first time to have an audience – all of which the PAP had wanted to deny by confining the protest to a small space at Hong Lim Park.
And not only that, the volunteers and attendees to the YMCA’s event were also listening intently to our speeches.
We would most probably never have this opportunity again. PAP had a one-time opportunity to hijack both the YMCA and the #ReturnOurCPF protest for their own political agenda. And they would not let themselves have an opportunity to face the wrath of Singaporeans again, not unless we vote them out and have a new government.
For me, the protest was groundbreaking. There were some things we could have done better and planned better, so that we could take into account the other parties involved, and planned for events that could run successfully on both sides. If we had known the programme of the other party, as they could have known ours, then we could at least plan to match each other’s events better and prevent a play of what has transpired in the media.
I will be writing to YMCA to meet the children
I will be writing to YMCA to see if I could have an opportunity to meet with the children with down syndrome to volunteer with them, and to also meet with their parents. What we did could have caused the children stress. If YMCA allows, I would be able to take some time to interact with them and to give my sincere apologies. I had used to volunteer and also worked as a therapist with autistic children and would appreciate the opportunity to do so. This would also allow us to mend the bridges with YMCA. On my side, there are no hard feelings.
YMCA might have been retooled for a political purpose at the protest, but there are good people at the YMCA, as we have seen among the volunteers and attendees at the event yesterday.
This was a dear learning opportunity for me and gave me another deeper insight into the politics at play. I might have to learn from this episode more keenly but at the end of the day, my aim is to raise awareness, be able to write more and let people know more. Whatever happens is inconsequential, be it to my character or personality. At the end of the day, if things change in Singapore and Singaporeans are able to regain our rights and freedoms and to be protected, when a new government is in place, then that’s all that matters.
Other Singaporeans will need to be prepared to take a stand
But I think this episode also taught me one thing. I hope that Singaporeans understand that we cannot just rely on a few of us – Hui Hui and I, for example, to lead the change and wait for the change to happen. PAP is waiting for every opportunity to gun down on the key activists so that they are able to maintain their control and power. If they succeed this time, we will be relegated to the side.
When that happens, what will Singaporeans do? That is the crucial question. At this current time, we might be judged but that is OK – that is the natural progression of human psychology. But moving forward, who else will stand up, or will anyone stand up? Who else will lead the change, or how many more people will do so? Change does not happen with one or two but when many are ready to take on the change.
We had a groundbreaking protest and march yesterday but a few thousands Singaporeans turned up – do we have enough people? I do not mind what is done on me, for as I have maintained before, my conscience is clear. Also, this time, I do think I have things to learn and improve on and I will do that.
But Singaporeans need to think about this – the PAP wants to play a political game, we either let them succeed or we don’t. Also, when they use the mainstream media to swing the tide, it is also up to us to be able to critically appraise what happened, so that we do not fall into their trap. I say this of myself as well.
This is what I have to say for now. Meanwhile, I will take a rest for a while. This has been overwhelming and has been exhausting.
Photos credit: Tan Yunyou
To read more about what was said at the protest, you can read the short 13-chart article here. This will give you some perspective as to why the PAP wants (and needs to) to ignore what was highlighted at the protest and needed to deride the protest.
Below is a video taken by Terry Xu from The Online Citizen. It will give you perhaps a more objective and transparent picture of what actually transpired at the protest.
It is unfortunate that the mainstream media is controlled by the PAP and would only report what the PAP wants to put out. Perhaps if we could take a step back and think for ourselves, when faced with such pervasive state-controlled news which put out a version of a story and which wants to shape the news, how would we seek to find out more information to discern for ourselves what really transpired and make an independent assessment by ourselves of what happened. This is the mark of a mature and critically-thinking electorate.
When Lee Hsien Loong and I sent out our affidavits and then he responded to mine, the mainstream media only chose to report on his affidavit and response. They did not respond on mine. I emailed them to ask why they did not, but none of them replied.
I will leave readers and Singaporeans to decide for ourselves what and how best we can consider and reflect on the issue, me included. If my role here is done, I will exit. And I will let the PAP take it from here.
I issue a challenge to the PAP ministers. Let’s have a one-on-one debate about the CPF. Time to stop playing games and using distractions. How did you take Singaporeans’ CPF to use, to earn money for yourselves? Let’s talk openly and honestly, live, in front of Singaporeans. If you dare. It is hypocritical to use others as shields for you, and pretend to care for them. If you truly care for Singaporeans, then actually help Singaporeans.