Thursday, July 06, 2006

brown vs bhavani: how the drama unfolded

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Regarding TODAY

Some of you have been asking, so here goes.
I have been informed that TODAY has suspended my column.
It has been a trying few days for me, my family, my mum and my friends. Thank you all for your emails, letters, calls, SMSes, blogs and comments, I don't know what to say.

3rd July 2006
Distorting the truth, mr brown?
When a columnist becomes a 'partisan player' in politics

Letter from K BHAVANI

Press Secretary to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

Your mr brown column, "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" (June 30) poured sarcasm on many issues, including the recent General Household Survey, price increases in electricity tariffs and taxi fares, our IT plans, the Progress Package and means testing for special school fees.

The results of the General Household Survey were only available after the General Election. But similar data from the Household Expenditure Survey had been published last year before the election.

There was no reason to suppress the information. It confirmed what we had told Singaporeans all along, that globalisation would stretch out incomes.

mr brown must also know that price increases in electricity tariffs and taxi fares are the inevitable result of higher oil prices.

These were precisely the reasons for the Progress Package — to help lower income Singaporeans cope with higher costs of living.

Our IT plans are critical to Singapore's competitive position and will improve the job chances of individual Singaporeans. It is wrong of mr brown to make light of them.

As for means testing for special school fees, we understand mr brown's disappointment as the father of an autistic child. However, with means testing, we can devote more resources to families who need more help.

mr brown's views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with.

mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.

It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.

30th June 2006


Moving ahead is great but it would be even greater to be able to make ends meet

THINGS are certainly looking up for Singapore again. Up, up, and away.

Household incomes are up, I read. Sure, the bottom third of our country isactually seeing their incomes (or as one newspaper called it, "wages")shrink, but the rest of us purportedly are making more money.

Okay, if you say so.

As sure as Superman Returns, our cost of living is also on the up. Exceptwe are not able to leap over high costs in a single bound.

Cost of watching World Cup is up. Price of electricity is up. Comfort'staxi fares are going up. Oh, sorry, it was called "being revised". Eventhe prata man at my coffeeshop just raised the price of his prata by 10cents. He was also revising his prata prices.

So Singaporeans need to try to "up" their incomes, I am sure, in the lightof our rising costs. Have you upped yours?

We are very thankful for the timing of all this good news, of course. Justafter the elections, for instance. By that I mean that getting theimportant event out of the way means we can now concentrate on trying topay our bills.

It would have been too taxing on the brain if those price increases wereannounced during the election period, thereby affecting our ability tochoose wisely.

The other reason I am glad with the timing of the cost of living increasesand wages going down, is that we can now deploy our Progress Package topay for some of these bills.

Wait, what? You spent it all on that fancy pair of shoes on the day yousaw your money in your account? Too bad for you then.

As I break into my Progress Package reserves to see if it is enough to paythe bills, I feel an overwhelming sense of progress. I feel like I amreally staying together with my fellow Singaporeans and moving forward.

There is even talk of future roads like underground expressways beingoutsourced to private sector companies to build, so that they, in turn,levy a toll on those of us who use these roads.

I understand the cost of building these roads is high, and the Governmentis relooking the financing of these big road projects.

Silly me, I thought my road tax and COE was enough to pay for publicroads.

Maybe we can start financing all kinds of expensive projects this way infuture. We could build upgraded lifts for older HDB blocks, and chargetolls on a per use basis.

You walk into your new lift on the first floor, and the scanner reads thecontactless cashcard chip embedded in your forehead. This chip would bepart of the recently-announced Intelligent Nation 2015 plan, you know,that initiative to make us a smart nation?

So you, the smart contactless-cashcard-chip-enhanced Singaporean would gointo your lift, and when you get off at your floor, the lift would deductthe toll from your chip, and you would hear a beep.The higher you live, the more expensive the lift toll.

Now you know why I started climbing stairs for exercise, as I mentioned inmy last column. I plan to prepare for that day when I have to pay to usemy lift. God help you if some kid presses all the lift buttons in thelift, as kids are wont to do. You will be beeping all the way to yourflat.

The same chip could be used to pay for supermarket items. You just carryyour bags of rice and groceries past the cashierless cashier counter, andthe total will be deducted from your contactless cashcard automatically.

You will not even know you just got poorer. And if your contactlesscashcard runs out of funds (making it a contactless CASHLESS cashcard),you just cannot use paid services.

The door of the lift won't close, the bus won't stop for you, taxis willautomatically display "On Call" when their chip scanners detect you'rebroke.Sure, paying bills that only seem to go up is painful, but by Jove, we aregoing to make sure it is at least convenient.

No more opening your wallet and fiddling with dirty notes and coins. Juststand there and hear your income beeped away. No fuss, no muss! I cannotwait to be a Smart e-Singaporean.

I also found out recently that my first-born daughter's special schoolfees were going up. This is because of this thing called "Means Testing",where they test your means, then if you are not poor enough, you lose someor all of the subsidy you've been getting for your special child'stherapy.

I think I am looking at about a $100 increase, which is a more than a 100per cent increase, but who's counting, right? We can afford it, but we doknow many families who cannot, even those that are making more money thanwe are, on paper.

But don't worry. Most of you don't have this problem. Your normal kids cango to regular school for very low fees, and I am sure they will notintroduce means testing for your cases.

We need your gifted and talented kids to help our country do welleconomically, so that our kids with special needs can get a little moretherapy to help them to walk and talk. And hey, maybe if the country doesreally well, the special-needs kids will get a little more subsidy.

Like I said, progress.

High-definition televisions, a high-speed broadband wireless network,underground expressways, and contactless cashcard system - all our signsof progress.

I am happy for progress, of course but I would be just as happy to makeends meet and to see my autistic first-born grow up able to talk and fendfor herself in this society when I am gone.

That is something my wife and I will pay all we can pay to see in ourlifetimes.

There is no need for comments from me.
Everyhing is self-explanatory here.
Draw your own conclusions.
Cheers and have a great day ( including mrbrown)

Dr. Huang


Anonymous said...

Copy and paste from :

15 years ago when Goh Chok Tong become PM, he say PAP will change and Singapore will change. Everything will be new and fresh. BUT 15 years later, nothing have change.

PAP still as dirty as ever and Spore issues remain the same. Now Lee Hsien Loong say the same thing. Start afresh. I will not bellieve PAP ever again. 15 years is too long to see the results. PAP will never change.

Mah Bow Tan today in ST says Singapore money is PAP money because PAP earns them for Singapore so PAP can use for PAP's sake. TT Durai also earn alot of money for NKF, see what happen???...NKF money is DURai money....what did we get???...ABUSE !!......this is the kind of mentality PAP always them out is the only concrete solution....

Singapore elections cannot forever be about bread-butter issues. Maybe 40 years ago bread-butter issues is main subject. but 40 years later remain main subject then something is really wrong with spore. this means we have not progress anywhere at all and is stagnant.....there should be other main issues in elections.....

15 years ago when Goh Chok Tong became PM, he said things will change and his government will be different from Lee Kuan Yew's government.

I voted for PAP because I thought they really will change in social and political area.

15 years later, nothing changed and PAP still practise the same old high-handed tactics.

Media is still not free. There is still fear to vote against PAP, many PAP MPs still come and go within a short term etc....

I have given PAP chance to change but it did not. It is time I look elsewhere.

There is nothing wrong for you to continue support PAP but there is also nothing wrong for me to support Worker's Party.

We each have our own reasons. This is what elections is about.

But no one should be punished for supporting different political parties because we are all Singaporeans and we support differently because the election system allows us so.

The upgrading issue from another angle can be seen as a punishment and that is what peeves many Singaporeans.

If other countries offers us goodies to surrender without a fight, do we do so because that is the culture taught to us by PAP?

We all know by history, the pioneer government will do well at the beginning but that does not guarantee it will do well in future.

This is why systems are needed to check the government when it starts degenerating and presently, we do not have that.

Track record applies but PAP personnel will change with time. When personnel changes, track record is no longer valid because the batch that did well has already left.

I will feel safer with two equally strong parties than having just one.

This is why I repeatedly say I am playing my role as a voter. This is not NATO.

You are also playing a role as a PAP voter and nothing wrong with that too.

4 million Singaporeans have their own private reasons who to vote for so lets respect their decisions.

In this case, it is not right to be biased with residents of HG and PP.

Anonymous said...

This would not have happen if PAP did not politicise everything deem to their advantage.

PAP should not politicise the media.

I mean it is like PAP have politicise everything including NDP.

But why the need to politicise?

Is controlling Singaporeans right down to the bone that important and advantageous to PAP? Nothing more is important to them?

This would not have happen if the media was not politicise. The determination by PAP to control all things is scary.

They want to control but refuse to be responsible or apologetic when things go wrong is even scarier.

All we ordinary people can do is vote Opposition in every election even if the Opposition loses. I cannot think of any other way to make PAP eat humble pie.

Then no one would have the need to feel fear,tension and paranoid in their own homeland.

PAP has to be Opposition for some time for Singapore's culture and climate to change, that is the only way.

My vote is nothing but many votes is something.Please do not forget today's lesson even if PAP loosen control come GE 2011.

Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KIND of situation. These KIND of situation have repeated many times over the years.

What is more scarier is that PAP took the most popular blogger in Singapore to put on chopping block and use it to show as an example to everyone who wants to blog about politics. (Kai Dao: Open Knife)

It is a very good political move by PAP.It has increased the fear factor by many notches. We are back to the 70s & 80s again.

Most probably after this episode, there will be less activity on political blogs and Singaporeans will be apathetic again which PAP always 'advocates'.

Maybe Mr Brown might even fizzle out.

Anonymous said...

Please suspend all the Pro PAP Journalists as well for being partisan and politicised.

There are train loads of them. Everyday churning out Pro PAP news until like PAP is God.

Paint Opposition like demons.

Please be fair in implementing laws(if any) and policy.

I can name some for you: Chua sisters, Loh Chee Kong, Aaron Low, Nicholas Fang etc.

Please suspend all of them as well.

nofearSingapore said...

My view is that some of the journalists do try to "push the boundaries". Perhaps they have to pull back occasionally to ensure that they still have their jobs (even if deep inside they may desire "open-ness" like the rest of us.
If the day comes when we have newspapers that are truly independent and we still find journalists writing such biased pieces, then by all means do what you want to do with them ( ok-joking).
Today, Peh SH wrote a good one on GRC and recently, Ms Chua MH wrote a candid one too ( which I am sure her true bosses were not exhilarated about).

Dr. H

Anonymous said...

Isnt TODAY guilty of politicization of the issue and being partisan by dropping Mr Brown?

I mean Mr Brown gave some private opinions and PAP replied. End of story.

Let the people decide who is right and who is wrong.
Not PAP or Mediacorp.

There is no need to drop Mr Brown and make this issue a political fight between PAP and Anti-PAP.

In fact, it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue. It is Mediacorp who is partisan.

KWicktake said...

Looks like the grip, which appears to be loosening a little, is tightening up again. Remember the funny notion that one has to join a political party to make criticism - the Catherine Lim saga. They just don't get it.

Criticisms and negative comments do not necessarily mean anti-PAP, anti-Government, anti-Singapore. Citizens' were merely exercising their rights and responsibility to provide feedback, and hopefully see improvements. Is it not better to win these people over than to push them to the opposition parties?

But let's not take it for granted that freedom of speech, or right to this and that are obligations of any ruling government. Even in developed countries, including America - a nation founded on freedom and democracy, their citizens' fought long and hard struggles for various civil liberties, be it racial, religious, sex etc. And they do not necessarily have to be rallied by any opposition party.

I guess the question is, are we determined enough to struggle long and hard for any cause? Do we have enough mass to do so? Would there be legal backing should it goes to court? Are we overly bound by financial/economic considerations, opportunity costs to champion for what we believe in?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi kwicktake
we are on the same wavelength.
I notice that even before nice words/phrases like "inclusive society" "one nation" have sunken in, they have already publicly retracted and renounced these lofty ideas . This is evident by their actions such as upgrading "carrot"; GRC to help PAP recruit members; banishment of mrbrown.
The only conclusion is that the people who proffer such ideas are extremely mentally disturbed ( not unlikely) or that WE HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A RIDE.

Yes your last paragraph is very thought-provoking and extremely important. We get the govt we deserve. Singaporeans do not deserve anything better as they are willing to be shallow and dependent on the govt for everything. Yes, even allowing the govt to think for them! SIGH!
Dr. Huang

Anonymous said...

PAP is trying discredit blogs and forums and wants to brainwash Singaporeans into believing so. PAP is testing the OB markers of Singaporeans as well

KWicktake said...

Yes, it is quite obvious it is a strategy to discredit anything that is said in cyberspace. This is because the audience reach is still relatively small and they can afford to let the net community alone, just like coffee shop gossips, small seminars here and there, as long as the discussions are not broadcast to a mass public.