Featured News Singapore on 58th Birthday: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Singapore on 58th Birthday: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

Is it OK to just speak from the heart, Singaporeans? No need to be so logical and factual. I do not want to go into all the details, of who was exactly right regarding this or that and so on. 

But I want to say a number of things arising from what has been happening the last month or so. Just say them, without being too bothered regarding context. 

Leon Perera and Nicole Seah: Such a sheer waste of talent plus the suffering caused to the families. In particular, Seah’s exit has deprived Singapore of a potential creative spark in the national dialogue. I see no one like her in the dreadful PAP lineup, now and in the immediate future. 

Vivian Balakrishnan: Singapore’s latest top diplomat has always been accused of being arrogant by certain quarters. But I saw nothing arrogant about the manner in which he said he was sorry for the government’s error in not stating that contact-tracing data from TraceTogether was not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code for criminal investigations.

I was impressed by the fact that he could clearly remember the timeline without referring to notes about something that took place two years ago. And he spoke without hesitation in Parliament under pressure from Pritam Singh on Aug 2. He really must have had sleepless nights over the lapse. 

Tan Chuan-Jin/Cheng Li Hui: I find it particularly bizarre, if not insulting, that someone like the former, licentious Speaker of Parliament had presided over proceedings on ethics and the like. He was passing judgements on what was correct behaviour and what was not in the COP hearings on Raeesah Khan and Parliament in general, while not quite behaving himself behind everyone’s back. 

I remember Lee Kuan Yew once said that he did not expect his ministers to be saints but if you were caught literally with your pants down, that was it. 

Seah Kian Peng: The new Speaker has been an underrated cog in the People’s Action Party wheel.  I have always seen him as a no-nonsense party man. An organiser, a doer, a pusher. He seems to be taking his duties as Speaker with enthusiasm. He did not impress me earlier when as part of the Select Committee looking into setting POFMA, he practically shut activist Jolovan Wham out of saying anything when he hurriedly closed the hearings as Wham was about to speak. But he was ok on Aug 2 being pretty amused by PSP’s NCMP Leong Mun Wai’s exchange with PAP MP (Bukit Batok) Murali Pillai over rent control.

Pritam Singh: Never mind all the finer details in the debate on Aug 2. The general impression was that the Leader of the Opposition has been hard done. Quote from an Independent.Sg report: “Seeking clarifications from PM Lee Hsien Loong and Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Aug 2, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said that the government has been ‘slow to clear the air, or been less than upfront and forthright with Singaporeans when it had to deal with potentially embarrassing issues’.

“…he says that the public was not initially informed about CPIB’s investigation into the Ridout rentals. He said that Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean was appointed to establish whether there were any wrongdoings in order to maintain higher standards of integrity. He said the public was not told that PM Lee ordered a CPIB investigation.  Pritam continued that the public was also not told about (Trade Minister) S Iswaran’s arrest when investigations were first disclosed.

“In a parallel universe, Sir, there is a perception where if a Singaporean or a Singaporean company took such a cavalier and breezy approach with critical facts under today’s PAP, they can expect to receive a POFMA direction from a PAP minister for perpetuating false statements of facts.”

PM Lee Hsien Loong: on the resignations of former Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and former MP Cheng Li Hui: “I first learnt of their relationship sometime after the 2020 General Election – in fact, in November 2020. They were both spoken to, and counselled, separately. They both said they would stop the affair. But as it turned out, they did not. Most recently in February 2023, I spoke to them again, separately. Mr Tan admitted that what he did was wrong. He offered to resign, I accepted…

“Why did I take so long, more than two years, to act? It is a fair question. In retrospect and certainly now knowing how things eventually turned out, I agree. I should have forced the issue sooner.” 

Have we all grown up now? Happy 58th National Day!

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also the managing editor of a magazine publishing company.

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg 

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