Saturday, January 26, 2008

Singapore in reality today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From 1912 to 1991, the official news organization of the Soviet Union was Pravda, which was known as the voice of the Soviet Communist Party. During the same time, the official news organization of the Soviet Government was Izvestia.

During the latter part of the Soviet Union when it was crumbling, when it was rotten to the core and no longer able to sustain itself, Pravda and Izvestia were continuing to report that grain production was ever increasing, that manufacturing had increased; in other words, Soviet Union was in it's best time ever! That life could not have been better, even though the average Russian was beginning to suffer the cold and lack of bread!

Lies, Lies and More Lies, as someone had said. In fact there was a saying in Russian for Pravda and Izvestia, which words meant in Russian “Truth” and “News” respectively; which goes like this; "In truth there is no news and in news, there is no truth". Of course both Pravda and Izvestia were owned and controlled by the Soviet government.

Singapore is exactly the same as the Soviet Pravda and Izvestia. The Straits Times, Singapore's main newspaper and all other newspapers and news media in Singapore are; just like in the former Soviet Union; both owned and controlled by the Singapore government. Both are censored and just as in the case of Pravda, it is used by the Singapore government as a propaganda organ. It is used as an instrument to publish exaggerated, tailored and false news intended to prop up and boost the image of Singapore in the eyes of it's readers, so as to give the false impression; just as Pravda used to do in Soviet Union; that Singapore was in fact doing very well in every sphere of activity, that production has increased, that people have more money and so on and so forth. In other words, lies lies and more lies.

Lee Kuan Yew, the Singapore dictator mistakenly believes that as long as the people are kept in the dark about the truth, it will be business as usual and somehow the problems will go away. This is exactly what the Soviets thought and see what happened to the Soviet Union in the end?

Unfortunately, in this day and age of the Internet, it is impossible for Lee Kuan Yew to keep Singaporeans in the dark, just as Stalin kept the Russians in the dark with Pravda. Today is different and Lee Kuan Yew no longer can get away with these lies. Singapore will decline even faster than the Soviet Union if Lee carries on with trying to deceive the people.

This is what I see which is not what the Straits Times is reporting. Singapore as a country is suffering from serious structural problems which stems entirely from the lack of democracy. Communist China may be able to advance despite the lack of democracy because China is not Singapore. It has vast labor supply willing to work for low wages and whatever the West might think about it's political system, it cannot turn away from the cheap labor needed by the West. Singapore a tiny island with about 3 million of it's own people and another 1 million from abroad cannot expect to carry on under the present conditions.

If there is one big reason for Singapore’s decline, it is the lack of the rule of law. When I took account of the number of lawyers in Singapore with practicing certificates yesterday, there were exactly 3,410 lawyers. In 1999, nearly 10 years ago, there were about 3,000 lawyers. For a business, trading and banking nation like Singapore, you would need at least 10 times that number to function effectively. For a comparison, California with a population of about 27 million has more than 200,000 lawyers. Singapore is therefore very very short of lawyers, so much so that business and commerce is finding it difficult to function. And this problem of shortage in the legal profession is not going to go away. It will only worsen.

Looking at the 3410 lawyers gives this picture. About 20% of them appear to have foreign names, jointed Chinese names common in China such as Lee Wingmei or such like; meaning these lawyers were not born in Singapore but somehow managed to train and become lawyers there. Second, about a third are very senior lawyers who are also very unsuccessful. With Lee Kuan Yew giving advantage to lawyers who are card carrying members of his People’s Action Party; of whom there are many; hardly any work goes to those who are either unable or unwilling to be PAP supporters. These lawyers, despite their great skill and vast experience are struggling to stay afloat. Very soon, if given a chance, many of these senior lawyers will give up and retire. Not wanting to name names, I personally know a very senior lawyer with vast experience in Peninsula Plaza who is struggling to survive. When I asked him why he did not retire, his answer was that he could not, as he had to pay his bills. He said he will "starve" if he did. So about a third of these senior lawyers will in the not too distant future leave the profession; thereby shrinking the profession even further.

Another reason for the legal profession's unpopularity is the fact that it is no longer accessible to the layman because of high costs. I have been told that filing a lawsuit alone takes several hundred dollars. Each day in court costs thousands of dollars. Litigation has become too costly. Legal aid is not available in civil cases. In criminal cases, one has to be almost a social welfare recipient on $200.00 per month before one qualifies. This means the majority prefer to stay away from the courts. Therefore lawyers are not getting any work.

I have heard that as the law is becoming too expensive, people are resorting to unconventional methods to settle scores, such as paying gangsters to recover debts! Like the Mafia man in the movie Godfather who told his opponent “Let me make you an offer you cannot refuse. Either your signature or your brains will be on the contract” while pointing a .44 Magnum at his head, and handing him a pen at the same time!

Furthermore everyone knows that the legal system in Singapore is corrupt. The judiciary is similarly corrupt and beholden to Lee and his government. In a system such as this, even before one goes to court, one usually knows the outcome. To take the obvious example, it Lee Kuan Yew were to sue someone, it is guaranteed that Lee will win. Everyone knows that. The same applies to government connected people. Whenever they sue, they always win.

Such corruption in the legal system does not augur well in the minds of budding students and parents. They do not want their children to have to spend a career harming innocent people just as Lee Kuan Yew's defamation of character lawyers Davinder Singh Senior Counsel and Hri Kumar Senior Counsel spend their careers doing. Honest parents want their children to grow up doing good, helping his fellow man and not hurt innocent people like Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Lee's political opponent, just because there is profit in it.

There are of course a few dishonest persons and their parents such as Davinder Singh and his parents, who have no scruples, no morals; who see no harm in their children doing dirty dishonest work as long as there is profit in it. But most others have more pride and honor than that. So they stay away. Their children stay away from the legal profession. This lowering of the reputation of the legal profession in Singapore tends to reduce the numbers of students and lawyers entering the profession. And as time goes on, the problem of shortage of lawyers will become progressively worse.

The Straits Times just as Pravda of the former Soviet Union can sing praises to themselves as much as they want. They can say things such as the rule of law and so on, but sorry for them, the public has a different opinion of the law. It is a bad opinion. And with this bad opinion of it, the legal profession will in fact only continue to decline. Lee can try to replace them with foreign lawyers but they too, within a short time will see the truth and they too will leave. Without an open honest system, Singapore will not move forward. The very glass towers which skirt the shoreline of Singapore will soon become empty with only ghosts to occupy the offices within.

The large numbers of Singaporeans emigrating is another serious disease continuing to hurt Singapore. As Lee Kuan Yew has himself admitted, the English Language has turned out to be a disadvantage to Singapore, as it makes Singaporeans globally mobile armed with English, unlike other Asian countries who do not have English as their first language. This makes emigration to the English language countries such as Canada Australia and USA for Singaporeans much easier. With an already small population of 3 million native Singaporeans, migration by even small numbers will hurt this small country. But the bad news is that the situation is much worse. Large and progressively greater numbers are applying to leave Singapore. Since these are the best able and qualified among Singaporeans, the damage being done to Singapore is critical.

The vast numbers wanting to leave Singapore are due to many reasons, a few of which I have said above. Furthermore, the people have begun to realize that they are now totally at the mercy of Lee Kuan Yew and his whims. The uncertainly of life under Lee makes Singaporeans worry. They do not know what next. Recently he has said that people will not be able to retire at the age of 55 as they were originally promised. They will not be given their retirement savings. What is worse, he has recently come on TV and suggested that retirement is, believe it or not, unnecessary. He himself, he has said, is determined to work until he drops.

Usually when he makes a speech, it is meant to be a hint, that he is now going to enact such a law. After all it is a one party state under one man. This has got many old Singaporeans into jitters. They are afraid, God forbid, that they may be required to follow suit like Lee. It may be aright for Lee to work until he drops, since he has all the comforts in the world and constant world travel first class. What about the 80 year old table cleaner at the Boon Keng food court? Is he expected to keep cleaning tables until he drops dead!

It is the uncertainty of the place that is becoming frightening. Since there is no rule of law, it is just Lee's decisions each and every day, which usually also keeps changing. Do you recall many years ago, he told everyone to have only 2 babies? He said population explosion. Now he says have 20 babies. Now he says there are insufficient babies.

Recently he has upped the GST. More recently, first he raised the taxi fares. A few days later he lowered it, only to raise it again a few days later. The taxi drivers are unsure what is going on. But they are sure about one thing. They are unable to feed their families.

And then we have the usual routine of arresting and charging Dr. Chee Soon Juan and company because he spoke without a license. People are getting tired of this. So what, they say. Why in heavens should one need a license to speak. We have mouths and oratory abilities. Why require a license to exercise it.

There is Australia New Zealand Canada USA Europe and many other great countries in the world. There are a few from these respected countries who sometimes go elsewhere to work and settle. But it is not because they dislike their own countries. It is because they may go for better money. Not in the case of Singapore. In comparison to these countries, the numbers wanting to leave Singapore is disproportionately large. And they are not leaving because they want more money. They are leaving because they have lost all respect in their country, with a corrupt and politicized judiciary, with a one man one party rule, without a free press or any fundamental rights. They do not wish to live in bondage. So if they can, they get out; and never to look back. Whereas the Australian who works temporarily in the USA may want to go home to his Australia. Unlike the Singaporeans, the Australian loves Australia. I have never heard a Singaporean in America say he loves Singapore.

If there are some coming to Singapore, they are from the nearby Asian impoverished countries, from Communist China, from India, from Bangladesh, from Philippines and from Burma. And all of these people come to Singapore because they were unable to go to countries of their first choice, such as Canada and Australia. And as far as skills, they are not the best either; since it is obvious from the fact they could not immigrate to Canada.

Many of these imports from these Asian countries even while working in Singapore are already making arrangements to move to Australia and elsewhere. Their morale is low, since they themselves know what Singapore is, a one party dictatorship. So they bide their time waiting for the next plane to Sydney. And when they leave, Lee will try to bring in more from the same countries to replace them. This revolving door of migrants coming in and going out reduces productivity, lowers quality and tends to pull Singapore further and further down the route to utter failure.

So if there is one message from me to Lee, it is this. You can do all the talking and give all the icing over the cake by ordering your newspapers to paint as rosy a picture as you want. But as long as you deny Singaporeans their liberty and democracy, Singapore will continue on the slippery downward slope to oblivion. What will be left are the glass towers facing the Rhiu Sea. Glass towers with no one in them.

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

No comments: