Saturday, September 30, 2006

Greater Freedom of Expression!

"My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful, they're hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education.

"And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese - compliant,"

With these now famous words MM Lee uttered during an interview by Lawerence Summers, are Singaporeans seeing a watershed moment in their history?

Racial issues which we have been conditioned to think as a dangerous subject that could lead to a repeat of some ugly past events, are now ranted openly to an international audience.

Has the paramount leader suddenly gained enlightenment and believed that racial issues can be discussed openly and rationally without fear?

Or is he sufficiently tormented by the victimisation that he decided to bring it to world attention?

Whatever the reasons may be, let's hope that the new freedom with which one person, albeit one as eminent as MM Lee, enjoyed to express himself could be extended to all Singaporeans! We shall then say a big thank you to MM Lee.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Self-Inflicted Damage?

Self-Inflicted Damage?
19 Sep 2006, sintercom

The rich and powerful World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz has spoken. He said Singapore had self-inflicted enormous damage to its reputation by refusing entry to accredited activists who had been invited to attend the IMF/WB conference in Singapore from 13 to 20 Sep 2006.

Predictably, the following days many media, mainstream or otherwise, who are less than enamored with the Singapore government picked up the news and publicized it.

But is the damage really self-inflicted? I seriously doubt it.

Firstly, Singapore is placing utmost importance to the conference. It views the conference as an opportunity for it to project itself as an efficient and vibrant global city for business as well as work. It has spent some $135 millions organizing the meeting. It is therefore not logical for it to want to ruin its own reputation or image.

Secondly, Singapore is a tiny nation and it is unlikely to have the audacity to renege on any agreement with powerful and global institutions like World Bank and IMF.

Thirdly, I have my reservations on Paul Wolfowitz. Before he becomes the President of World Bank, he was the Deputy Secretary of Defense under Bush’s administration. He was reportedly a neo-con willing to use dishonesty to reach his ideological ends. An example was his use of unsubstantiated and even fabricated evidences to advocate the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Wolfowitz is also not known to be very concerned about democracy or human rights. He was the US Ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989 when Suharto was still the dictator of Indonesia. The head of Indonesian Human Rights Commission Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara once said “of all former US Ambassadors, he (Wolfowitz) was considered closest to and most influential with Suharto and his family, but he never showed interest in issues regarding democratization or respect of human rights.”

But after Suharto stood down in 1998 Wolfowitz said that Suharto was guilty “of suppressing political dissents, of weakening alternative leaders and of showing favoritism to his children’s business deals, frequently at the expense of sound economic policy.”

Wolfowitz should be well aware of Singapore’s hard line stance with protests and could have manipulated that to his advantage. He could be offering Singapore as a punching bag to those troublesome civil society organization activists.

yes, I don't trust Wolfowitz at all or anyone who can advocate war based on fabricated evidences!

I also don't like his manipulative way of fuelling the CSOs' fire at Singapore. He told the CSOs that "Enormous damage has been done... A lot of that damage has been to Singapore and it's self-inflicted," when he should have raised his concerns with Singapore government.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Local and Foreign Youngsters

While waiting for my lunch in a self service restaurant yesterday, I saw a teenage girl whisper into her mother’s ear when asked what she would like to eat. The odd behavior of the teenager reminded me of the matured behavior of two Japanese teenage boys I met at a friend’s house.

The two boys were in Singapore under the school cultural exchanges program. Though they couldn’t speak a word of English, they were not deterred from interacting with others. With a combination of sign language, Chinese characters (han ji), postcards and picture-composite made specially for the trip, they were able to tell me and my friend’s family about their country and school life. According to my friend, the two teenagers would voluntarily communicate with everyone in his household including visitors, the maid and even his illiterate 80-year-old granny!

The two Japanese teenagers were also conscious of their usage of water and electricity and disposal of garbage. They also made bed every morning during their 3-day stay in my friend’s place and made it a point to leave their shoes pointing outward every time after they got in the house.

Actually I was told of the differences between local and foreign kids by a cabby sometime ago. He said that if you tried to make conversation with our local kids you wouldn’t be able to get very far. The youngsters would either give you monosyllabic answers or shrug their shoulders or simply retreat to their homes. The foreign kids, from PRC to ang moh, would be able to converse with you eloquently, and some of them were as young as four years old!

Initially I didn’t believe the cabby but after meeting the two Japanese teenagers, I think I believe him now.

Maybe it is time for us to reflect on the way we bring up our kids.