Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Singapore. A country in imbalance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The political climate in Singapore is in imbalance. Government and the people are odds. It cannot go on like this. Some balance has to be struck.

The people of Singapore are almost unanimously against the Lee Kuan Yew and his government politicians. They dislike the high salaries that ministers earn while many of them hardly get by. They complain about the inability to withdraw their retirement funds. They complain about the ever escalating costs and prices, while their income, instead of increasing, decreases. The complain list is long.

The government on the other hand totally ignore the people's concerns. No use complaining to their local Members of Parliament since they too fear the government and are helpless to do anything.

The government on the other hand continue with their salary increases, paying themselves any amount they want, with ridiculous excuses. This government has come to stage where they are not concerned anymore whether their arguments in support of unpopular policies sound silly.

The people are completely disenfranchised. They no longer have any voice in the governance of their country. During the currency of the tenure of this government, they will do anything they want and no one can stop them.

Lee Kuan Yew wants to help only his own family members and his chosen supporters. In other words, this government practices nepotism. Lee Kuan Yew's family members, that is, his sons, his in laws, his cousins, their cousins, uncles and the entire family members and their relatives are placed in various government and quasi government positions with incomes in the millions. The blog sg_review has detailed tabulated account of who and where these family members are placed. No account is actually provided as to why these particular individuals are placed in these moneyed positions. Is it because of merit or is it because they are related to Lee Kuan Yew. Lee believes, as can be seen in these important and financially rewarding positions that blood is thicker than water, and therefore his safest bet to remain in power is the placing of his family in the right jobs.

As far as the rest of Singaporeans are concerned, he appears not to be interested. You can call the rest of Singaporeans the CPF lot. That is their retirement money is in the government ordered savings scheme of Central Provident Fund. Problem is, that now Lee is refusing to pay Singaporeans what they are entitled to by raising the age at which anyone will get anything is 85 years. Problem is, he as well as Singaporeans know that most will die before then!

And then there is all the other dictatorial policies. Singaporeans are denied a free press. So the people are deliberately told a bunch of lies each day by the state controlled newspapers. Same with the TV and radio, all just propaganda. The people are aware that they are a told a bunch of lies each day, and they don't like it.

Singaporeans are becoming more educated. They travel more. They prefer more freedom. A free press. A more spontaneous society rather than this tight lipped one. The want the right to assemble, the right to speak, the right to organize, just like any other human anywhere else. They dislike living under this all embracing control, this all embracing surveillance that they are kept under.

In the past, all they wanted was basic necessities, like food and shelter. Then they were peasants. Today they are no longer peasants. It is not enough if the trains run on time and the telephone works. They want more than that. They want to be able to think freely, to organize freely, to speak freely, to exchange ideas freely without the government constantly arresting people with such stupid laws such as requiring permits to speak in public.

Singaporeans are saying, we will speak when we want. Not by getting a permit first! The people are upset with this government wasting taxpayers money arresting Dr. Chee Soon Juan repeatedly just because he spoke in public. They are tired of these stupid laws as the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act. And so is Dr. Chee. Dr. Chee is going to speak whenever he wants. And so are so many others.

The people are getting tired of this stupidity and arrogance of this government. They no longer respect this government. They look upon this government as money grapping arrogant autocrats who are out there to look after their own interests, not the interests of the people. If any of these ministers tried to visit any ordinary Singaporean’s home, they would probably not be welcome. I have heard that in the past, people from higher storey HDB flats have thrown water and filth over the heads of Ministers who were walking below in meet the people sessions.

I can go on. The people have lost faith in the judiciary, as being an organ out there to punish political opponents. They have lost faith in the police. They feel the police just unlawfully arrest political opponents. You have seen the videos of DSP Deep Singh of Tanglin Police Station harassing the SDP activists during the Burmese protests and Police Officer Michael Tan of the Special Operations Department abducting and kidnapping Chee Siok Chin and John Tan of the SDP in unmarked police vans and releasing them at a far off location for no reason at all! No crimes were committed by anyone.

The Civil Service has been discredited for similar reasons as being Government Party stooges instead of an independent and fair government office working for the interests of all Singaporeans. As a result more and more Singaporeans are refusing careers in the Civil Service resulting in the government having to increase their salaries even further to stem the tide of declining applicants.

At the same time, children are not being born even to a replacement level of the population. In tandem, more educated people are emigrating. They are particularly doing so in larger numbers now because of the government refusing to pay them retirement CPF monies. Therefore one way they can get their money is to emigrate and give up their Singapore citizenship. This is causing even more people to emigrate for good.

The entire blogsphere is anti Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore government. There might be one or two blogs which are paid for by the government to say nice things about them, but even when they try, it becomes silly. Tell me, how can anyone justify a salary of $4 million dollars per annum for the Prime Minister without sounding silly. It is the same with all their other unpopular policies. It is not possible for any pro Singapore government blog to be taken seriously simply because everyone knows that they are writing that nonsense because they are paid to do so.

And the people now have become completely de-politicized. It is as if they only live their lives to work. They have no role whatsoever in how their country is run. The Lee Kuan Yew Administration wants such a de-politicized population and the people themselves have accepted voluntarily the restriction placed on them, namely that politics is off limits for them. Of course politics is off limits only as long as it is critical of the government. If, on the other hand, you want to praise this government for what they do, you are very welcome and encouraged. The problem is, there is almost no one who has anything nice to say about them.

In fact it is almost fashionable for even educated people to say they are not interested in politics; which is another way of saying that they don't want to get into any trouble. I have met many lawyers during my time as a lawyer in Singapore. Their standard answer to any political question is to say they are not interested in politics. For instance, if you were to ask a lawyer why there are so many unjust laws like a permit being required for speaking, his answer will again be that he is not interested in politics. In fact, that answer is non responsive, since it is a human rights question. Not a political question. But that, unfortunately, is what they say to try to avoid the issue.

I don't personally see this complete imbalance between the people and the government to last too long. There has to come a time that people will not be prepared to accept this boring subservient life much longer.

Since they know by now that elections are not going to change anything, the answer can only lie in protest. I really cannot see any other way out. Remaining the way Singaporeans live is not an option.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
Email: gopalnair@us-immigrationlaw.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, nice blog post.

Besides the money, what about Singapore Highlights 2007?

Let's see what we have for this year:
1.- Indonesia's anti-trust agency, KPPU, has fined Singapore's Temasek Holdings 25 billion rupiah (US$2.8 million) or some S$4 million for breaching Indonesia's competition* law. (taken from CNA)

*no such thing as competition law!

2.- People committing suicide by jumping onto MRT tracks and letting the trains run over them at various MRT stations all over Singapore!

2.5- SINGAPORE: Members of the public have come out pledging support to help the family of the man who died after being hit by an MRT train.

46-year-old Tan Jee Suan had died after falling off* the platform at the Chinese Garden station on Tuesday.

Members of the public had been coming to Mr Tan's wake since Wednesday and many were seen offering financial assistance to Mr Tan's wife and children.

The funeral operator is also offering his services for free.

Mr Tan had been an odd job labourer, while his wife works in an electronics factory earning only $500 a month.

The children's schools and the Member of Parliament of the constituency where the family lives have assured the family that they will receive whatever assistance they need.

Mr Abdul Harris Sumardi, Principal of Juying Secondary where Mr Tan's son is studying, says: "With regards to his needs in school, we have already taken care of what is needed. We will do our best to ensure that his future in the school is well taken care of both emotionally and financially."

Madam Ho Geok Choo, MP of West Coast GRC, also pledges her support.

"Other than helping them financially, we intend also to provide emotional support. For instance, I feel very strongly that there must be a mentor or befriender to the family especially for the two young children who are 13 and 15 years old," she says. - CNA/so

*falling off? Was it an accident? I don't think so. People who read this now know how restricted Singapore's media has become. He committed suicide due to poverty!!!

3.- We need to do two things: redistribute economic gains better, and put in place a form of social insurance

The tragic suicide of Tan Jee Suan, 46, and subsequent revelations of his family's plight prompted their Member of Parliament Ho Geok Choo to ask: "The Government has all these (social assistance) packages in place, but why are people missing out on them?" There are 51 schemes available to help Singaporeans in need. But overall, social transfers, including public health expenditure, amount to just about 2 per cent of gross domestic product. This compares with about 13 per cent in the US and an average of 25 per cent in Scandinavian countries.

Welfarism is a dirty word in Singapore. Why we have adopted such a harsh approach rests on the belief that welfarism breeds dependency and requires such a high rate of taxation that it would ultimately undermine a country's economic competitiveness.

By Eddie Lee

The Straits Times

4.- Wee Shu Min elitism scandal. She wrote this on her now-defunct blog shortly after the above-mentioned mrt suicide case happened:
mom's friend sent her some blog post by some bleeding stupid 40-year old singaporean called derek wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) whining about how singapore is such an insecure place, how old ppl (ie, 40 and above) fear for their jobs, how the pool of foreign "talent" (dismissively chucked between inverted commas) is really a tsunami that will consume us all (no actually he didn't say that, he probably said Fouren Talern Bery Bad.), how the reason why no one wants kids is that they're a liability in this world of fragile ricebowls, how the government really needs to save us from inevitable doom but they aren't because they are stick-shoved-up-ass elites who have no idea how the world works, yadayadayadayada.

i am inclined - too much, perhaps - to dismiss such people as crackpots. stupid crackpots. the sadder class. too often singaporeans - both the neighborhood poor and the red-taloned socialites - kid themselves into believing that our society, like most others, is compartmentalized by breeding. ridiculous. we are a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement.

sad derek attracted more than 50 comments praising him for his poignant views, joining him in a chorus of complaints that climax at the accusation of lack of press freedom because his all-too-true views had been rejected by the straits times forum. while i tend to gripe about how we only have one functioning newspaper too, i think the main reason for its lack of publication was that his incensed diatribe was written in pathetic little scraps that passed off as sentences, with poor spelling and no grammar.

derek, derek, derek darling, how can you expect to have an iron ricebowl or a solid future if you cannot spell?

if you're not good enough, life will kick you in the balls. that's just how things go. there's no point in lambasting the government for making our society one that is, i quote, "far too survival of fittest". it's the same everywhere. yes discrimination exists, and it is sad, but most of the time if people would prefer hiring other people over you, it's because they're better. it's so sad when people like old derek lament the kind of world that singapore will be if we make it so uncertain. go be friggin communist, if uncertainty of success offends you so much - you will certainly be poor and miserable. unless you are an arm-twisting commie bully, which, given your whiny middle-class undereducated penchant, i doubt.

then again, it's easy for me to say. my future isn't certain but i guess right now it's a lot brighter than most people's. derek will read this and brand me as an 18-year old elite, one of the sinners who will inherit the country and run his stock to the gutter. go ahead. the world is about winners and losers. it's only sad when people who could be winners are marginalised and oppressed. is dear derek starving? has dear derek been denied an education? has dear derek been forced into child prostitution? has dear derek had his clan massacred by the government?

i should think not. dear derek is one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country, and in this world. one of those who would prefer to be unemployed and wax lyrical about how his myriad talents are being abandoned for the foreigner's, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a sales assistant. it's not even about being a road sweeper. these shitbags don't want anything without "manager" and a name card.

please, get out of my elite uncaring face.

— Wee Shu Min, on her blog that has since been removed, October 19, 2006.( taken from wikipedia )

5.- This is taken from another blog: http://singaporeelection.blogspot.com/2006/10/mp-wee-siew-kim-offers-no-apology.html

Straits Times published a response from the father, Mr Wee Siew Kim. He offered no apology on behalf of his daughter's behaviour but he said he agrees with her "basic point".

A lesson learnt, says MP and dad Wee Siew Kim - ST

'WHAT she said did come across as insensitive. The language was stronger than what most people could take.

But she wrote in a private blog and I feel that her privacy has been violated. After all, they were the rantings of an 18-year-old among friends.

I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.

Nonetheless, I have counselled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it.

In our current desire to encourage more debate, especially through the Internet, our comments must be tempered with sensitivity.

I will not gag her, since she's 18 and should be able to stand by what she says.

The new media of the Internet is such that if you don't like what she has said, you have the right of rebuttal.

Hopefully, after the discussion, everyone will be the richer for it. As a parent, I may not have inculcated the appropriate level of sensitivity, but she has learnt a lesson, and it's good that she has learnt it at such an early stage in life.'

- ANG MO KIO GRC MP WEE SIEW KIM on his daughter's comments

6.- The Singapore auditor-general reports that millions are missing from government funds:

Posted by theonlinecitizen on June 1, 2007

TOC Exclusive

The original Auditor General Office’s (AGO) audit of 12 Ministries and associated statutory boards has revealed irregularities to an extent not fully revealed by the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

According to the AGO, losses of public monies added up to $6.2 million, a substantial amount of which is still unaccounted for.

The Auditor General’s preface to the report states that ‘This audit approach is not intended to reveal all errors and irregularities.’

In the report, the Ministry of Law lost a potential $77,666.64 safety deposit because its computer system could only register sums to the nearest dollar. It appears under the header ‘No $77,666.64 security deposit because of 36 cents’.

The report details how these millions were lost in a detailed account of mistakes and dubious practices.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, for example, charged rental far below the market rate, forgoing $2.38 million that should have gone into state coffers. The Ministry of Law, in addition to the 36 cent mistake, left our public funds $386,829 poorer by failing to implement rental increase. This was described as an ‘oversight’.

The list goes on.

The Ministry of Manpower delayed collecting a $501,998 debt for a grand total of 15 years. When it decided to finally recover the sum of money, the company disputed the debt owed but the Ministry did not have the necessary paperwork to ‘substantiate the debt’. National Development lost us $228,000 in foregone rental, and Trade and Industry overpaid $1.87m in grants to a statutory board (since recovered).

The largest outstanding sum identified was the Ministry of Health: $136.2 million for Phase III of the National University Hospital development project has still not been recovered despite having been completed in 1996.

More questions than answers

The report raises more questions than it answers. Procurement irregularities are unexplained: a National Development contract was awarded for an eighth ranking bid (in terms of price) out of 11 without any justification. Further, the officers signing the contracts were not authorized to do so. Under the column ‘subsequent action’, all that is said is that the Ministry ‘streamlined procurement procedures…which would prevent such lapses from recurring’. Not even an ex post facto explanation about the dubious procurement.

The ‘subsequent action’ detailed for other irregularities and mistakes do not offer much elaboration. In the case of the Ministry of Manpower’s half a million dollar mistake that spanned 15 years, it gave assurances that ‘levy debts will be resolved within a much shorter time frame in future’ and that ‘future relevant documents’ would be retained.

TOC Opinion

Theonlinecitizen (TOC) recently reproduced in full the report by the Public Accounts Committee (here), convened by Parliament to scrutinize irregularities highlighted by the Auditor General’s report for financial year 05-06. It gave few concrete figures to highlight the irregularities it was pointing out.

TOC has obtained a copy of the original AGO report, which gives a far more comprehensive overview of the scope of the irregularities. This is reproduced in full (see below). We hope that members of the public will step forward to scrutinize the report and ask the necessary questions of our public servants.

In light of the limited scope of the Auditor-General’s report, we believe that the public deserves a more thorough audit of its public offices. Further, action needs to be taken to examine why these mistakes occurred in the first place: What are the fundamental causes of these lapses? Is it systemic or is it just incompetence on the part of the departments involved?

What were the consequences of these multi-million dollar mistakes?

This report can either be swept under the carpet to the further detriment of the credibility of the media and our government, or it can serve as a reference point for a new era in government transparency and accountability.

We hope the latter will prevail.

From the Auditor General Office’s website:

“Non-compliances with procedures in the use of public funds are signs of weak internal controls. As audits are done on a test check basis, the weaknesses found could be an indication of more widespread problems. Many frauds, big or small, occurred because the weak controls were exploited. Weak controls involving small amounts could also be exploited resulting in larger losses. In the Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2005/06, individual cases of loss of public moneys were mostly small but these collectively amounted to $6.2 million.” (Link)

You can view a copy of the Auditor General’s report as follows (pdf file):

Part 1 - The cover and content list
Part 2 - Introduction
Part 3 - Main report
Part 4 - Main report (cont’d)

Please visit also the Auditor General’s Office website for some FAQs.

Please do send us your views/articles on this issue. Our email address is theonlinecitizen@gmail.com

Choo Zheng Xi
Co-editor, theonlinecitizen

*Check out Mr Wang’s entry on the EDB : EDB Under Scrutiny

6.5- Brief Summary Of Auditor General’s Report

Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports
Signing contracts without authority

Ministry of Defence
Three cases of procurement irregularities Under-collection of Goods and Services Tax

Ministry of Finance
Weak access controls in computer systems

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Exposure to fraudulent payments

Ministry of Health
Delay in recovering $136.2 million
Five-year delay in finalizing transfer of $40 million of assets

Ministry of Home Affairs
Government revenue not paid into consolidated fund

Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts
Unfair payment practice Wrong information in government accounting system
Irregularities in procurement of video production services costing $90,000

Ministry of Law
No $77,666.64 security deposit because of 36 cents Certification by permanent secretary not accurate
Long delay in debt recovery

Ministry of National Development
Waiving fee without authority
Officers signing contracts not authorized to do so

Ministry of Environment and Water Resources
$527,819 written off in audited statement without authority

Ministry of Trade and Industry
Inaccurate records of unutilized grants
Recovery of $2mil paid from grants not promptly refunded to govt
$540,300 interest not promptly recovered and accounted for as govt revenue

Multi Ministry – Loss of public moneys

- Doubtful claims by staff
– Overpayment of bills
– Overpayment for training programme
– Overpayment of rental subsidy
Home Affairs
– Charging rental below market rate
– Fees not paid into consolidated fund
– Rental not charged
– Under-collection of rental
– Uncollectible foreign workers levy debt
National Devt
– Rental not charged
Trade & Industry
– Overpayment of grants to statutory board
– Failure to bill $346,603
– Weak access controls in computer systems
– 5 year delay in resolving inadequacies in investment accounting system
– Payment to wrong bank account
– Weak access controls in computer systems
– Weakness in financial controls
– Weak access controls in computer systems
– Undue delay in paying insurance claims
– Weakness in payroll control
– Undue delay in recovering liquidated damages
– Governance structure and practice
IE Singapore
– Missing fixed assets
– Deficiencies in procedures for land sales
– Weak access controls in computer systems
– Errors in accounting of govt grants

7.- yawningbread.org has a new report published on 19/12/2007
New highs for ministerial salaries, new lows for media credibility

I really wasn't planning to write anything about the second phase of the increases in ministerial and top civil servants' salaries due to take effect in January 2008. Many in the blogosphere have spoken up about it in April this year when it was first proposed -- and streamrolled through Parliament. It made absolutely no difference to the outcome.

Nor was I moved to write on this even when I saw the report in the Straits Times last week wherein it said,

The Government yesterday announced a second phase of pay rises for top civil servants and ministers, which will see their salaries rising by between 4 per cent and 21 percent.

From Jan 1, ministers at the entry-level grade of MR4 will get $1.94 million in annual pay, up from this year's $1.6 million.

Administrative Service officers entering into the superscale grades will get pay increases of 4 per cent, raising their annual salary to $398,000.


With the changes, the Prime Minister will earn $3.76 million, up from $3.09 million.

-- Straits Times, 14 Dec 207, Salary revisions
for ministers and top civil servants

Like many Singaporeans, I had resigned myself to the usual impotence of citizens in this so-called democratic republic. But yesterday, I got riled up again when I saw in the Forum pages, these 2 letters:

18 Dec 2007
Straits Times Print Forum

Pay rise for top civil servants timely

I read with great relief the article about ministers and top civil servants getting a 4 - 21 per cent pay rise next month (ST, Dec 14).

We can now be assured that only the most competent people will serve the country. With the rise in their remuneration, we have secured their steadfast service, as well as their continued fervour and dedication to fight for our cause. It could not be more timely. When inflation is soaring and some Singaporeans 'can barely stay afloat' (The Sunday Times, Dec 2), we need, more than ever, the best possible team of civil servants to lead us through the difficulties.

We cannot afford to lose them to the private sector, and have to retain them at all costs. This is especially so as these senior civil servants have been in the public sector for so long that they are likely to seek fresh experience in the private sector.

With the festive season coming, I hope that they will not forget to share the joy of receiving with the less fortunate. Therefore, I appeal to them to follow Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lead in giving to the poor and spreading the blessings.

Agung Santoso Ongko

The Straits Times story also provided some interesting data: These increases are for the elite of the elite – not the entire civil service - benefitting only 351 people.

The newspaper said, "The pay increases add $27.6 million to the wage bill for these top public-sector leaders, bringing it to $228.2 million. Wages for the entire civil service of more than 64,000 people add up to over $4.7 billion."

Let's see now. 351 people earn S$228 million. That's an average of S$650,000 each. Meanwhile, 64,000 people earn S$4.7 billion minus S$228 million. That's an average of S$70,000 each, about a tenth of the average for the top 351 people.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I do not begrudge competitive salaries for top civil servants. After all, a career is a career. What is still not justifiable is for political officers to be treated in the same way.

In every society, there will always be a group of 'sufferers'. The question is, 'How do you help them?' This question is always in the minds of our MPs and ministers.

Let us not begrudge the MPs and ministers their wages. Look around the region, where politicians squabble and the wealth of the nation is squandered while the people live in slums and squalor. Be thankful that you are a Singaporean, and ask yourself how you can help the 'sufferers'.

Low Lee Siang

Do you believe this? Or is this another case of "black information"?

People are moved to write to the press on many things, e.g. no taxis available despite waiting 45 minutes, ambulances turned away from hospitals because they have no more beds, or police refusing to arrest assailants even when they have clearly caused injury requiring stitches, but is it of such pressing concern to express one's "relief", as Ongko did, that our ministers are now being paid obscene salaries?

Is this for real? One more reason to not buy our newspapers.

* * * * *

I have to thank Benjamin Cheah for his article in The Online Citizen where he provided a hyperlink to a survey on the perceptions of media in 14 countries, conducted by the respected polling firm, Synovate.

1,011 people in Singapore were polled for the Singapore part of the survey, out of 11,344 worldwide.

Without that link I had little more to rely on than the reports in our local newspapers which highlighted how 48% of Singaporeans agreed that controls on the media are sometimes needed to preserve stability, while 43% felt that press freedom is non-negotiable. That would have been wonderful news for those who needed justification for the kind of media we have here.

Our local press did point out that Singapore was one of only 3 countries -- the other two being Russia and India, countries where indeed social, ethnic and religious unrest are very close to the surface -- that preferred controls over freedom, but I think we need to ask, is this an informed choice, or the result of a generation of brainwashing and scaremongering?

India has a very free press and people seem to have freely come to this opinion in the light of their national experience. Russia in the 1990s had a period of very free press too. Singaporeans have not experienced a free press for 40 years, so how do they know they don't want it?

Then this sentence in a newspaper report really got me:

Despite the fact that the media here was perceived "as less free than in any other country surveyed", 36 per cent gave the local press a high freedom rating.

-- 'Today' newspaper, 11 Dec 2007,
Social stability is key: Poll

You notice how it was spun into good news -- "Despite the fact..."? Don't be fooled. The real fact is that "36 percent" was the lowest score of all 14 countries surveyed.

The survey question had asked participants this:

On a scale of 5 to 1, where 5 means "very free" and 1 means "not at all free", how free do you think the press and media is in your country to be able to report the news accurately, truthfully and without undue bias?

9% of Singapore participants gave a score of "5" as their answer, 27% gave a score of "4", adding up to 36%.

Here are the results from all 14 countries to the same question. We're bottom of the class again.

(Where the totals do not reach 100%, it's because of the "Don't knows". You'd notice that Singapore also has the highest percentage of "Don't knows": 10%. That's a very bad sign. Too many Singaporeans are apathetic, uninterested and uninformed.)

Our government likes to boast that our local mainstream media are free. The difference from the West, it is alleged, may be that here, they are also aware of their responsibility to report the news "fairly and accurately". The Western media's constant harping about the lack of freedom in Singapore is baseless, our ministers insist.

Yet, when one goes out to poll 1,011 people here about whether our media are indeed free, Singaporeans give answers that are consistent with what the Western media says, not what the government says. Funny that.

© Yawning Bread

8.- What should you do with newspapers like The Straits Times from Singapore?

The answer is in here: http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2007/pic-824a.jpg

Hope this ends off the year on a not-so-happy note. And it should never be. Right here on the sunny island of Singapore.