Monday, January 14, 2008

Singapore is Erewhon

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When thinking of Singapore, Samuel Butler's book "Erewhon" comes to mind. Except for the transposing of the letters "h" and "w", read backwards Erewhon reads "Nowhere". Written in 1872, it was an imaginary country, with some odd practices. For instance, criminals are not treated so harshly. But getting sick was! A criminal who steals may get no more than a warning. But getting sick may mean a long prison sentence! Being healthy was more important than anything else!

In a way, Singapore too is one really odd place. Take corruption. In Singapore corruption is severely punished. But at the same time, the government is permitted to be as corrupt as they want! In fact the laws of the country permit corruption by government politicians! So you have the general population of Singapore being law abiding while Lee Kuan Yew and his cabinet members, family and friends are thoroughly corrupt. And what is worse, the laws of Singapore, which they themselves created, allow it!

As you are already aware, Lee Kuan Yew, his son whom he placed as Prime Minister and all his handpicked supporters in government are paid no less than $3.7 million a year in salary. Of course this does not include all the other moneys he and his family and friends siphon off as and when they want. But in the Singapore government's vocabulary, this is not corruption. It is their official salaries. So by merely giving corruption another name, that is "salary", they have conveniently legalized it.

Also no one can question their action, since everyone in Parliament are Lee's servants. It is one party state. So the theft that Lee, his family and friends perpetrate openly and legally cannot be challenged.

On the other hand, Lee Kuan Yew does not permit anyone else in Singapore to be corrupted. Only he, his family and chosen friends have this privilege. In fact Singapore is considered one of the least corrupted countries in the world. Almost no corruption at all. That is if you do not include Lee Kuan Yew, his family and friends!

Another odd circumstance, among the many other oddities in this small island, is their criminal laws. Brutal murderers who have committed unspeakable crimes are sometimes let off with relatively minor sentences. I remember one case in the not too distant past where a man killed his wife by chopping her into pieces got away with a jail sentence of about 10 years. Whereas a 23 year old Vietnamese Australian boy who was fool enough into thinking that he could get away with strapping some heroin on his back on a flight from Phnom Penh to Sydney Australia was hanged! He was caught with it while in transit in Singapore's Changi Airport. You have to have a thoroughly warped mindset indeed, to hang that boy but give the man who killed his wife by chopping her to pieces with a meat cleaver, only 10 years in jail!

Another peculiarity in Singapore is a $500 fine for not flushing the toilet! In Singapore, if you are caught not flushing the toilet, you will be punished with a $500.00 fine! I wonder how they get their evidence, if it is true that there are no cameras inside the loo! Does the Singapore government actually employ toilet inspectors to go around inspecting, the unflushed ones to arrest the culprits? Do they take pictures to preserve the evidence to prosecute the culprit! I shudder to think! One really unpleasant job, I have to say!

Another oddity is their laws itself. In fact almost half the statutes in the books do not mean what they say at all. It took me a long time to realize this!

Take the national pledge that children are forced to recite in schools. It goes something like this, "We the citizens of Singapore...... to build a democratic society based on justice and equality........” None of it is true. Singapore is not a democracy. It is totalitarian one party state. There is no justice at all. Singapore judges are not judges at all! They are politicians. PAP politicians. There to do a job of eliminating Lee Kuan Yew's political opponents! As for equality, there is none of it. Malays and Indians are not given jobs by the simple expedient of a Chinese language requirement in the job posting. Even if a Malay went out of his way to learn Mandarin, he still will not get the job because he could not recite the poems of Lau Tze in classical Chinese!

Take the Singapore Constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech. But in truth it is just the opposite. If you spoke something that Lee did not like, it is the end of you. You will be made to pay $1 million by Lee's judges; and not being able to pay, you will be bankrupted, and prevented from standing for elections or public office!

Lee Kuan Yew says Singapore has the rule of law. But in truth it is just the reverse. The police can kidnap and abduct anyone they want as they did 2 pedestrians, Miss Chee Siok Chin and John Tan who were merely walking along the street to Shangri-La Hotel to have their well known, combination fried rice and wanton soup. Coincidentally the ASEAN annual meeting was being held there at the time, but these 2 persons had nothing to do with it! You can watch the actual abduction and kidnapping on You Tube. These 2 persons were abducted by Singapore police, driven in unmarked cars and released at some other hotel several miles away, even though they had never intended to have their meals there! The police were unable to give any reason for their action. While the Singapore police do this, they remain adamant that it has the rule of law! And what is more, Lee Kuan Yew has recently said that Singapore is trying to become a legal hub where international disputes are settled!

It is unfortunate that Samuel Butler wrote Erewhon in 1872. If Singapore had been around at that time, Butler would have made his book even more interesting. From odd it would have been odder and oddest! Singapore has a lot of material for unusual hare brained practices.

And to top it all, Lee Kuan Yew has publicly stated that Singapore is now a first world country. And he believes that at the rate it is going, in 10 to 15 years, it will be another Italy or Austria. He had about 10 years ago swore that it would be another Switzerland. Since that aim was not achieved, he has decided not to mention Switzerland again!

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


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Nair,

SDP will be holding a forum this coming Sunday to discuss ways to reform the Singapore elections system.

The elections system in Singapore is largely a charade as we all know.

I was wondering whether you can give some comments on the Singapore elections system and how it can be reformed so that opposition parties can have a fair playing field.


Gopalan Nair said...

There is nothing the opposition can do to reform the election system. This unfortunatley is the sad truth. Lee Kuan Yew will not permit it.

The only way to do it is to demand it. Not ask for it.

Through peaceful protests and civil disobdience. Lee Kuan Yew does not understand anything else.

It is good that JBJ, Dr. Chee and others are speaking. But the sad truth is, you can speak as much you want. It will not change anything.

Gopalan Nair said...

I did not go into the ways you can change the electoral system even though it needs a thorough change. But what good does it do to discuss all these things within closed doors and go home after that?

Dr. Chee has to speak, and he has to act on the speech. Demonstrations, protests, leaftlets distributed, public sppeches made with or without permits. What is needed is action.

Yes, many will be arrested charged fined imprisoned bankrupted exiled impoverished etc etc. But if you are not willing to face these hardships, then dont expect change. It will not happen.

What I say is blunt, but true.

Anonymous said...

Is it correct that all judges are PAP members? (Not that it makes a difference in practice, just curious if technically all of them really are members of PAP)

Gopalan Nair said...

I am not sure whether the judges are technically required to officially become card carrying PAP members. But whether they are or naot makes no difference. They are there to decide in favor of the PAP each and every time, whether right or wrong. They are agents of the PAP pretending to be judges.

So they are PAP members in fact.

Gopalan Nair