Hello everyone, next week is the hearing for the defamation suit that I am currently facing from the Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The hearing will be held from 1 to 3 July, at 10am everyday, at the Supreme Court, at Court 4D.
The hearing will be an open trial. It is open to the public.
The hearing will be to determine how much I would have to pay the prime minister. The prime minister has filed for the suit in the High Court which oversees cases of more than $250,000, so this is at least how much I might be expected to pay him.
It is with a heavy heart that I go into the trial.
I still believe that there are better ways to allow us to manage this issue.
My intention has never been to defame the prime minister. It has always been to fight for the CPF (Central Provident Fund), the pension funds of Singaporeans.
As such, I am taking this picture to affirm my stand.
For the past one year since I got sued, I have written about 100 articles to raise further awareness on how the Singapore government is using the CPF pension funds of Singaporeans to earn and not return it. I have written more than 200 articles on the CPF since I started the blog in 2012.
If you would like to support the fight or to ask the Singapore government to #ReturnOurCPF, you can also take a picture of yourself and send them to me at my Facebook at Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, to The Heart Truths Facebook page or to my email at email@example.com.
When I first started writing about the CPF three years ago, I was concerned about how Singaporeans’ CPF is being used by the government.
There were many rumours that the CPF is invested in the GIC and Temasek Holdings but no one really had the facts to know for sure.
Worse still, over the last decade or so, more and more elderly Singaporeans simply could not save enough inside their CPF and could not meet the CPF Minimum Sum, and could not retire.
The sight of seeing so many elderly Singaporeans work at the hawker centres and toilets as cleaners, and on the roads as cardboard starting becoming a common sight.
How do you help them, really, unless we are able to change the policies to increase their CPF, so as to enable them to be able to retire?
Finally, early this year, the government amended the CPF policy ever so slightly. For elderly Singaporeans, aged 55 and above, they would receive 6% in interest on (only) the first $30,000 of their CPF.
For elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above, they would receive $300 to $750 every 3 months, but this is only for lower-income Singaporeans, and only if they are eligible.
On the surface, it looked like there were finally changes.
But the PAP hasn’t fundamentally reformed the CPF.
For all Singaporeans, the CPF interest rate is still just between 2.5% to 4% – still the lowest in the world among pension funds. Also, the CPF Minimum Sum underwent a name change to the Full Retirement Sum, but it will continue to increase every year, trapping more of Singaporeans’ CPF inside. This year, it was increased to $161,000.
Also, $300 to $750 given out only once every 3 months is actually just only $100 to $250 every month, which is clearly too little to support the needs of the elderly.
In short, the CPF has not fundamentally changed.
A few days ago, I met a person who volunteers at the PAP’s Meet-the-People’s sessions.
“But if the CPF is not given to the GIC to use, then the GIC would have much lesser assets,” he said.
Yes, but the CPF monies are the people’s retirement funds.
You cannot take the people’s money and not tell them how you use it, I told him. The GIC has no transparent reporting.
Worse still, when Singaporeans are unable to save enough to retire today, it is even more unreasonable to want to continue to take their money to let the GIC and Temasek Holdings earn.
The CPF monies are hard-earned money which belong to Singaporeans and need to be returned to Singaporeans.
“But where will the money for the GIC come from then,” he asked.
Do you know the government has $20 to $30 billion in surplus, or more, that it does not declare to Singaporeans every year? This money can (and actually is) being invested in the GIC and reserves.
In fact, the Reform’s Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam has calculated that the government has accumulated surpluses of a total of more than $300 billion since 1999.
But the government does not report the majority of these surpluses to Singaporeans.
So, it’s not just the CPF. It’s also the tax revenue that the PAP takes from Singaporeans but does not return.
Where has our money gone?
Look, plainly, the CPF is Singaporeans’ retirement savings. You cannot route it somewhere else to earn from it, and not let Singaporeans know where our money is going, or not return it.
The CPF should be invested as it is – with the CPF, whatever returns it earns, whatever is given back to the people (minus the administrative charges). Singaporeans should have the right to decide how the CPF is invested and how it is used, I told him.
The CPF is the people’s money.
The GIC can take whatever tax revenue and surplus to invest and earn. Not the CPF.
But he said, the government implements the CPF Minimum Sum to ensure that Singaporeans would have enough to retire on.
No, I told him. If you really want to increase people’s retirement funds, you increase the CPF interest rates. Once you do that, everyone will be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, every Singaporean would have enough to retire on, and they would be able to withdraw their CPF.
You won’t even need to put in a CPF Minimum Sum.
You increase their wages, then they would be able to set aside more into their CPF, and be able to save enough to retire.
But the government doesn’t want to do that, I told him. Wages have been depressed for the past 10 to 20 years and the CPF interest rates have been depressed to 2.5% and 4% since 1999.
The government keeps increasing the CPF Minimum Sum without increasing wages and the CPF interest rates. How then are Singaporeans expected to be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum?
They would not be able to, I told him.
If so, it looks like the PAP does not want Singaporeans to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, does it?
If the solution is to increase wages and the CPF interest rates, why would the PAP not do it but increase the CPF Minimum Sum to lock up Singaporeans’ CPF instead?
But do you know many poor people come to the Meet-the-People’s sessions and they would beg for money, he said.
But do you know why they have to do that, I asked him back.
They are too poor. Do you know that poverty is estimated to be 30% in Singapore? 30% of Singaporeans simply cannot earn enough to even spend on basic necessities.
Do you know that research has shown that when people are forced to live in poverty, their brains shrink as they are forced to spend too much time thinking about how to make ends meet. They are then forced to beg for money because they simply are not allowed to earn enough, to have enough to use.
By not paying people enough, we are crippling them!
The PAP knows this, I told him. The PAP knows that people are not earning enough. The PAP can implement a minimum wage to reduce the poverty rate in Singapore, but why doesn’t it want to do so?
Why does it want Singaporeans to beg them, I asked him.
And do you know that research has also shown that where the poor are given more money, they would invest the money in the education of their children, social mobility will increase, and their children will be able to find better jobs and move up the social ladder?
Research has shown all these, I told him.
You don’t want people to keep begging for money at the Meet-the-People’s sessions, the solution is very simply.
Implement minimum wage.
But you have to pay people what they are worth, he said.
How do you determine how much people are worth, I asked him.
Do you think it is right that the PAP ministers earn millions of dollars but pay cleaners only $1,000 a month?
If the PAP so claims that Singapore is in a precarious situation, then shouldn’t they reduce their own salaries? If they don’t, then why don’t they increase the wages of Singaporeans?
I told him, if the government did not increase costs to such an extent, today, minimum wage could be $1,500 and many Singaporeans would be able to benefit.
But as it is, the PAP tells Singaporeans, you cannot be a First World country without having First World costs.
Why then does Singapore have Third World wages, I asked him.
Also, the PAP keeps increasing rents, and then tell Singaporeans it cannot increase our wages because of rising costs.
But when rents increase, who does the profit go to? Who benefits? – the high-income earners, the PAP among them since their salaries are pegged to the high-income earners, and because those who are affiliated to the PAP also controls the largest companies in Singapore.
But do you think it is fair that the PAP pays themselves millions of dollars but refuse to implement minimum wage for Singaporeans? Do you think it is fair that the PAP would not increase health and education expenditure for Singaporeans, I asked him.
Look, I told him, it is very simply. Implement minimum wage, increase health and education expenditure, increase the CPF interest rates and increase social protection expenditure, and the poor and even middle income will be uplifted, I told him.
The solutions are simple. But why won’t the PAP do it?
As it is, the PAP spends the lowest on healthcare and education among the developed countries.
Meanwhile, the PAP also makes Singaporeans pay more than $70 billion in the Medisave but only lets us use less than 1.5% of it every year.
Where has the rest of the money gone?
And not only that, productivity has been negative for the past 4 years. Do you know why, I asked him.
Wages have been so low, working hours so long, how do you expect productivity to increase? And this is why we are seeing what we are seeing today.
The man I spoke to has a good heart. He believes in reaching out to others, and that’s why he’s volunteering at the Meet-the-People’s sessions.
But I’ve met others like him who volunteer at these sessions, and some who eventually stop doing so.
A friend who had helped out before felt that the PAP does not really care about helping the poor. They keep giving out NTUC vouchers but this is not what I want to do, he told me. I thought that I could really help the poor and that’s why I volunteered, he said.
But he stopped after a while. He doesn’t find it fulfilling volunteering at these sessions. He went to volunteer somewhere else where he could really do good, he felt.
But of course, I might be generalising here.
Yet, I have met another person who was involved with the PAP, working in one of their committees. She too, stopped after a while.
It’s all about making business connections and networking, she told me. This is why people volunteer with the PAP. You get financial benefits and business opportunities.
I haven’t spoken to everyone but this seems to be the general sense I get.
No one is saying that it is wrong to want to benefit from these business connections.
But the PAP is currently the government. A government’s role is supposed to take care of and protect the people.
If the PAP wants to make money, then get out of government.
But you cannot say that the government is taking the people’s money, the person told me. The money is just sitting in the GIC, he added.
Of course, I told him. But when Singaporeans cannot retire, do you think it is right that the money still sits in the GIC when people do not have enough to retire on, I asked him.
And we are not talking about a GIC which is doing poorly. The GIC has taken Singaporeans’ CPF to do very well, in fact. It is estimated that the GIC has at least $400 billion (of Singaporeans’ money) in assets and that the government has more than $1 trillion in reserves (again, of Singaporeans’ money).
Where has all the money gone?
Why is it not returned to Singaporeans?
Why is it that the money belong to Singaporeans but we do not know where the money has gone to, or even how much of our money there is?
Moreover, the PAP has also tried to hide the information from Singaporeans, that the GIC uses our CPF, I told him.
And the PAP has been trying to hide for the past 15 to 20 years.
Are you sure, he asked me.
So, I told him, in 2001, Lee Kuan Yew said, “there is no direct link between the GIC and the CPF”.
In 2006, Lee Kuan Yew also said, “there is no connection between GIC’s rate of return and the interest paid on CPF accounts”.
In 2007, the Worker’s Party’s Low Thia Kiang asked, “Does the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) use money derived from the CPF to invest?”
But then-Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen also said, “The answer is no.”
What’s more, do you know that it was only after I was sued last year, that the PAP admitted for the first time that the CPF is invested in the GIC, I told him.
Not only that, before that I managed to trace on several government websites how the PAP took our CPF to invest in government bonds, which they take to invest in the reserves.
But do you know after I wrote about this, the PAP then took down the PDF document where I found this information from, deleted the words, “in reserves”, and then uploaded a new PDF document onto a new link, so that Singaporeans wouldn’t be able to know that the bonds are invested in the reserves?
Also, I managed to trace that the reserves are managed by the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the Monetary Authority of Singapore on the Ministry of Finance’s website.
But do you know the PAP then changed the information so that you would not be able to know who actually manages the reserves?
I showed him the before and after screenshots that I took.
He stared at them for a while.
And then he realised that I wasn’t just rambling.
I had evidence to prove what I was saying.
But how many people would believe me?
Another friend then asked me, have you tried speaking to the civil servants or academics?
But I told her, how many of them would want to speak to me?
When you have a good job, good pay, and when you are within the system, why would you believe what I say?
Truth is, I told her, the many people who come to our protests – more than 10,000 people came to our 4 #ReturnOurCPF protests last year – and those who think alike are people who have lost their jobs, their homes, or who cannot retire or pay for their healthcare bills. Only then would they finally realise the reality of what things are like in Singapore.
Only when you do not have enough to retire on, and when you have to pay tens of thousands in hospitals bills, and when you have to give up your home and become unemployed and struggling, and when you cannot put food on the table, only then will you finally realise the system cripples you.
Only then will you realise what the PAP has been doing to Singapore, and how the PAP does not care for Singaporeans – and there is an estimated 30% of Singaporeans living in poverty today, and this is increasing.
But if you have not suffered, you won’t know it. You won’t feel it. And even then, when you are rich, Singapore is a wonderland for the rich, you won’t feel the pinch, not like the rest of us do.
And when you are an academic or a civil servant and you have seen what happened to those who have spoken up, would you do the same?
Or if you have a high paying job, would you want to threaten your rice bowl, I asked her?
Even if someone is not aware of all these, when we have learnt to conform in our thinking to think along the lines of how the PAP tries to get us to think or when we have learnt not to challenge them, how many of us can be truly aware of what is really going on?
Truth is, how many people understand the plight of the poorest 30% in Singapore, and the middle income after them – and a middle income class which is shrinking?
This is really why I write and why I try to shed light on the issues.
I have always been concerned about wages, retirement, healthcare and education, because these are things that a government has a responsibility over its people for. And this is why I write about them.
But I have never intended to defame the prime minister, nor would I want to or will ever do. It’s simply against my principles to do that to anyone. I do not know the prime minister personally, nor do I take anything personally against the prime minister.
But if the prime minister feels distressed and embarrassed because of what I had wrote, I do sincerely apologise. I do not believe in causing hurt to another person, personally.
My intention has always been to speak up for Singaporeans, and to advocate for a government that will protect Singaporeans.
As such, yes, I advocate for a new government. I believe that it is time we remove the PAP from power.
Perhaps some within the PAP may feel threatened by me, by such a call. Or some among them would hold me with disdain.
But my belief is simple. If you have taken care of the people, people would continue to support you. Once you stop taking care of the people, the people will know and they will want you to go.
The PAP has stopped taking care of Singaporeans. Their profit and business-oriented motives only mean that they would want to keep earning more and more from Singaporeans and allowing themselves to get rich.
And this means also taking from Singaporeans’ CPF.
I cannot agree with that. As such, I believe we need to Vote Opposition. We need to vote for a new government. We need to vote for change, and for our future.
The PAP may not like this but it is nothing personal, I can only wish they can understand that. But I understand why they wouldn’t.
For them, power and money is at stake.
But my concern is for Singaporeans. At the end of the day, if things improve for Singaporeans, and for our fellow people, that is all that matters.
I wish I do not have to go to court to settle the matter next week.
But I have been found to have defamed the prime minister by the court. It has never been my intention, and never will be.
But I have to accept the consequences, for also speaking up in Singapore.
I can only wish that in time to come, we can see change. Then hopefully, we will see opportunities for us to make things for the better.
The hearing next week is in open court. It is open to the public.
I hope that things will go well. I would like to thank my lawyer, George Hwang, and his team of interns who have been extremely helpful and supportive of me.
I would like to thank them and am deeply appreciative of the work that they have done for me.
No matter what happens, you only live your life once. You can only answer to yourself.
At the end of the day, I believe that I have to be honest with myself and to be true to myself.
And that’s all that really matters.
May things change for the better.