Saturday, January 20, 2007

Singapore. The enigmatic riddle of Alice in Wonderland

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For any observer from the outside, Singapore must seem a mysterious enigma. A strange country with customs and laws that defy logic, yet accepted as normal by the 4 million people of that island one party state republic. I am sure most of you about to read this would also have read Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and if by some chance you haven't, may I suggest reading it. You will probably come to the conclusion that Lewis Caroll, must have a prescience or dream about the future country of Singapore which he wanted to depict in his book, written about a 100 years ago. It would have baffled me as to why the people of that island accept this strange life that they lead, but having been born there myself, I now realize the power of coercion and brainwashing, and now see that such submission to very strange rules is possible if applied long enough on a people. With long usage and and long compulsion, the mind will accept and comply with almost anything. As is the living example of Singapore.

Many nowadays disagree with capital punishment. And even among those who will accept such a law, they would only agree to put to death egregious murderers who committed serial crime. Or at least murder. To ask people to accept a law that puts to death petty drug mules and drug runners would be unacceptable to most civilized people. But anyone who has been following the strange affairs of Singapore, would find just the opposite, which defies logic and common sense. Serious murderers who commit brutal murders are very often given jail sentences of as little as 10 years on the grounds that they were suffering from this or that delusion, argued by lawyers who are political supporters of Lee's People's Action Party, the ruling party in the one party state. Whereas drug traffickers are put to death as matter of law, even if the amount they trafficked was as little as 15 grams!

Lee Kuan Yew, his son and their ministers publicly state that Singapore is corruption free, unlike other third world countries. Any civil servant or member of the public is severely punished with long prison sentences, which are given great publicity in the state controlled press. Yet Lee Kuan Yew himself has publicly decided with the backing of his rubber stamp one party Parliament, where all Members of Parliament are there only to consent to everything that Lee decides as law, that he will lawfully pay himself and all his relatives and hand picked friends in high places in the government $1.5 million each year as salary, despite the fact that the people have had no say in this very handsome salary or the legitimacy of the amount thereof, and in spite of the fact that the money belongs to the people, being monies collected in taxes.

By the way, this is not all the money that Lee Kuan Yew and his friends lawfully take from public funds. The government commingles the money collected in taxes and applies it to various government linked public companies owned by Lee and his family and friends and invests and trades with this money. To date the government has refused to explain to anyone what is happening to it, or how much of it there remains or how much of it has been applied to Lee Kuan Yew and his selected few. Normally in any other country, the public would want to know what has happened to public funds, since it is theirs after all. Not is Singapore. Singapore appears to be suffering from a dearth of men of courage prepared to ask this question. The last man who had any courage, and still has I must add, had asked this very question, that is, where is the money, for which he was promptly sued, made to pay astronomical court damages and being unable to pay has since been bankrupted. As the people are now aware of what will happen to anyone who is so naive as to ask this question, since this brave man's question, some years ago, no one now dares to ask anymore. In fact most people in Singapore do not ask any questions at all about politics. They have left the political questions entirely to Lee Kuan Yew, his son and his selected friends who run Singapore.

Outwardly Singapore claims to be a democracy. They say that they have elections. They point out to the fact that they have 2 opposition Members in Parliament. Of course they don't really stress on the other facts such as there are 82 Members of Lee's party in Parliament. They claim that the Opposition Members can ask any questions they want. But they don't say that the last time, some years ago when JB Jeyaretnam was in the opposition and had asked real questions such as the state of the public coffers, he was promptly kicked out of Parliament, sent to jail and bankrupted. Since the unfortunate events that had happened to him for the temerity of asking real questions, the present 2 Opposition Members of Parliament in a house of 82 government members really have given up asking any important questions for fear that what happened to JB Jeyaretnam will befall them. Really it is a one party state run by Lee's dictates. Yet he wants the people to believe that it is democracy.

The Singapore press is state controlled. One would have expected journalists to run a newspaper. In Singapore, the head of the government controlled press is a officer of the dreaded Internal Security Department, the security branch of the government, which is used to arrest torture and silence any dissenter. A respected international journalist watchdog organization in Paris voted the Singapore press as one of the least free in the world, giving it a ranking of 147th among such dictatorships as North Korea. The Singapore government's response to this was that they were a "responsible" press, unlike the free press of the west. I leave it to you to decide what the Singapore government means by a "responsible press". For myself I think it is another way for saying "propaganda".

There is a system in Singapore of ranking lawyers and the "best" lawyers are given the accolade "Senior Counsel". In reality, you do not have to be a good lawyer to be given this title. JB Jeyaretnam was the best lawyer in Singapore. He was disbarred because he challenged Lee Kuan Yew. The "Senior Counsel" are those who show that they are prepared to tow the government line and will trumpet their approval to each and every decision that the government makes. This has brought the legal profession into disrepute, with many lawyers leaving the country, and generally the civilized world beginning to look upon Singapore laws with suspicion. However, the newspaper editor who also doubles as an intelligence officer in Singapore's internal security services, writes in her state controlled papers that Singapore has the best legal system in the world. I think that Fidel Castro also said that of Cuba.

Singapore labor laws are interesting. As their wages, due to rising cost of living, had clearly climbed above other neighbouring third world countries, it is no longer competitive, for low cost assembly line products. But Lee wants to remain competitive at any costs. The result is his decision to bring in foreign workers to do the low wage jobs, displacing local Singaporeans. This results in heavy unemployment among Singaporeans with the only ones being employed being the foreign workers. Very strange labor laws, surely. Are they not required to protect their own workers? Not in Singapore. The Singapore union leaders work against their own union members. They work for the benefit of foreign workers. Unable to find work and feed their families, the Singaporeans commit suicide by jumping from the high apartments where they live. In order not to give a bad impression to foreigners, and so as not to alarm the local population, the said Intelligence Officer doubling as a journalist in the state controlled press has decided not to report anymore suicides in the local press. In truth, one person a day take their lives by jumping off these apartments, making the Singapore suicide rate among the highest in the world.

Singapore, as you can see, is a mind boggling country of contradictions and strange laws. You have to be there to see it for yourself.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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