Huang, Low and Shengwu – cheers and jeers

Sense and Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah


As we observe our 52nd year of independence on Wednesday, three developments these last two weeks give us some cheer as well as a sense of déjà vu. But there is hope.

The expulsion of Dr Huang Jing has restored my faith that Singapore will be hard-headed when it comes to our national interest vis-à-vis foreign powers. So, well done, the Home Affairs Ministry and government.

The country which the expelled Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy academic was said to have been working for was not named. But any idiot will naturally narrow the field down to just two countries: the US or China. (Japan or Taiwan?  Nah.) The academic’s links to institutions in the two powers vying for world influence, particularly in Asia, are extensive – Harvard, Stanford, Brookings Institution, Sichuan, Fudan. He has also moved in elite crème de la crème circles in G7 type countries. He was right up there, a man of influence, certainly (which made me wonder why he had to be so mean to that cab-driver with his $1 tip, well, one never knows what lurks in one’s twisted mind).

US or China?

I would say China. CIA spy? Not impossible, of course, but unlikely. Hope I’m not wrong. If I’m, I will start to believe that Donald Trump is the best US president ever.  But why China?

Now why would Washington want to “influence” us? US-Singapore relations have never been better – politically, economically, socially, militarily.  Why would the US risk spoiling an almost special relationship for some extra and nebulous advantage? They have long known our positions on most issues – and lived with them all these years.

China has probably much more work to do to catch up in the soft power, soft but deep and lasting relationship game. If you ask me, I would frankly say Singaporeans are more attracted to the US because of what its ideals represent, Trump notwithstanding  – human rights, freedom, open society, etc – than the CCP-controlled Internet-hammering Middle Kingdom. Just how many parents have been sending their children to study in China, where even the VPN is constantly under attack?

Hence, good riddance to Dr Huang. He can exercise his petulant arrogance and hurl his $1 tip at some poor struggling cab-driver elsewhere.

But as we approach National Day, some dark clouds are also gathering.

With so many real challenges to deal with  – the messy MRT, economy, healthcare/ageing population, leadership transition, jobs, education – we seem to be spending so much time trying to “deal” with Singaporeans whose loyalty to the country has never been in doubt.

I remember Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once mentioning that he would rather spend time solving problems than be distracted by the task of “fixing” the opposition (which can be translated to mean people who disagree with him or are just not on the same wavelength as his, politically speaking).

This is what he said at the 2006 National Day Rally speech: “Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong, Steve Chia. We can deal with them. Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 Opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”

Well, Low and company are now facing a court hearing on their “problems” at Aljunied-Hougang. I wish them well. I believe them when they said that they will go to court with a “clear conscience” and that they did not enter politics to enrich themselves.  So do many other Singaporeans. The WP MPs would have their chance to tell their side of the story and hopefully clear themselves once and for all.

The most important issue out of the AHTC saga is not, as a number of observers seem to suggest, that we should revert to the old system of the HDB taking care of municipal functions. It is that the Workers Party has been given the mandate by voters to take care of the management of the mega town council – and should be given every unhindered, repeat, unhindered opportunity to learn and to do the job well. Running a town council should not become an administrative trap or minefield to get rid of the Opposition. I should think not.

And, finally, we come to Li Shengwu, the son of Lee Hsien Yang and grandson of Lee Kuan Yew.

Perhaps he has been impetuous. He has his own set of ideals, as most young people do and he truly feels Singapore should change. We agree with him 100 per cent here. He is not alone. Perhaps he is angry. And why not? His father and mother have been under attack. Perhaps too, he wants to be pro-active and a player, that is, become an influencer to advance his views on issues. I would say welcome. As an articulate grandson of LKY, he has every right to do so.

Leave him – and the WP – alone.

We are all Singaporeans.

“This is my country, this is my flag

This is my future, this is my life

This is my family, these are my friends

We are Singapore, Singaporeans”

Sense And Nonsense is a weekly series. Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.


  1. Vote for your own extinction to local Singaporeans and back to 3rd world. If we don’t change by next election, this will be very real and frightening. It’s no Longer a sunny bright place in singapore like the good old days of LKY. 3rd world governance is very real and surrounding us.

  2. Superpower like China can fuck us over many times and we still must continue licking their boot to survive. It does not work the other way for Singapore, one wrong move can isolate us from China. It just shows that we need other countries like US and China rather than they need us !

    • Yes, Kenneth. Honest, Competent and Sacrificial National Leaders DESPERATELY needed! FAILURE is not an option. Failure can be fatal! I’d say it again for ALL and to ALL: Many will die through suicide, lack of care, loneliness or poverty. NOT apparent now. But, it can and will happen! The reckless policies, insatiable greed, irresponsibility and the sheer abuse of taxpayers’ money by the government is UNTENABLE! What’s going to happen when the Reserves and OUR CPF are squandered??? The PEOPLE have the power. USE IT! Otherwise the dishonourable son will continue to abuse it!

  3. “Regardless of race, languarge of religion” but when it comes to money i.e. EP race matters. GIC and TH running losses yet we do not a president that would put his hands into it and check. As what Presiden Xi of China said. If you pay your Ministers million dollar salaries in itself it amounts to corruption.

  4. The US limits any President to max of 2 terms. A number of little-knowns suddenly became the most powerful man in the US & the world. Taking over & changing commands and passwords that can launch the most potent weapons of mass destruction.
    We have various Heads in the Civil Service, that can easily be Invited to take on various Ministers’ jobs.
    SG’ previous Director of General Staff of the SAF in the early days was seconded. He was a school principal.
    Likewise, if ‘other Parties’ were to win & hence take over the Portfolios, some would worry who could be the Minister of Finance? Who would be the Minister for Defence?…Education.. etc.
    Can easily invite the Perm. Secretary, military Chief of Staff, to be the Minister for Defence. With this, many senior military staff will benefit due to promotions to fill the vacancies. Deputy taking over the Chief… Assistant Deputy taking over the Deputy…a Colonel promoted to take over a BG….etc.
    Same for Finance. Perm Sec. or senior lecturers in Economics & Finance from some of our Universities can be invited to become Minister for Finance. They are much more knowledgeable in this field. Local authors of books on Finance, economics are also a good source.

  5. Tan Bah Bah: For WP case, they did their own hole and bury themselves. Cannot blame others.
    For Li ShengWu case, he behaves like a snake tries to slither out when he faces a lawsuit. 男子汉大丈夫,敢作敢當, 才是英雄好漢. 不要像一只缩头乌龟, 丢您的爷爷的脸
    For Dr Huang case…hmmm…I think the usual name is called a Spy.

  6. It is normal reactions from some Singaporeans especially in the social media, isn’t it? They will “Cheers and Jeers” when negative developments are happening in the nation, good time to bash the government for its shortcomings. Nothing wrong with that but does their comments make sense? Vote PAP out and everything will be solved for them? Who and which opposition party is the strongest now, Low Thia Khiang and WP? You must be out of your mind to think that voting in WP in the next election and Singapore will do better. LSW to join force with an opposition to fight PAP and fight for the rights of Singaporeans? As someone mentioned, you must be naive to think LSL, LWL and LSW are that civic-minded. It is nothing but a personal agenda for vengeance and betrayal. Bear in mind they said they have a desire not to come back to Singapore.

    Don’t get me wrong, I too have many discontents about the present government. With the recent “political crisis” and various problems facing the nation, it does seem that we need new leadership regardless if it is PAP or any opposition party. But until there is a credible leader and an opposition party is formed, no point insisting to vote out PAP. The “70%” are mostly not here to debate about the government and honestly they are no more stupid than the “30%”.