Sunday, December 11, 2011

Health Sciences Authority's high cost of registering medical devices needs urgent review

Dear Friends,

I was ( and still am) extremely concerned that certain of HSA’s (Health Sciences Authority) regulations can potentially cause great harm to Singapore’s healthcare industry directly and the welfare of our patients indirectly.

Distributors of medical devices are finding that it is not economically viable to bring in much needed medical devices. These distributors are not just from my specialty but from all medical and surgical disciplines.

I felt that if something were not done quickly to rectify this, this might signal the start of our decline as a Regional Centre of Medical Excellence.

Hence, being the good citizen that I am, I wrote to a person of very high standing in the Ministry of Health and to the press. However, I did not even get an acknowledgement much less a response from the MOH. I don’t think the forum editors feel this issue of enough mass appeal for publication either.

Just in case the powers-that-be think I am a rabble-rouser ( or shit-stirrer), I am not. 

Whoever has the ear of the powerful, please feel free to forward this to the relevant authorities.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The letter:

Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA) registration procedure for Medical devices needs urgent review

I did not take seriously the complaints by vendors of medical devices, who claim that new regulations by Health Sciences Authority (HSA) have added significant cost to doing business as well as threaten our status as a regional centre of medical excellence, until it affected me personally.

My ENT clinic’s audiometric equipment for ear assessment became spoilt beyond repair and when the distributor revealed that although there is a newer version in the market, they are not importing it due to high costs and risks involved in getting these devices registered and evaluated by HSA.

HSA’s website states that any medical device (whose broad definition means almost everything one sees in any typical medical clinic and range from the mundane eg suction pump, to the complex eg heart valve) needs to be registered and evaluated before sale to end-users. Click here

HSA’s high fees (click here)

Registration for Class B ( low-moderate risk eg suction pump) to Class D (high risk eg heart valves) devices include a one time application fee of $500 followed by an “abridged” evaluation fee ranging from $1800 to $5700 if these had already been approved by competent overseas regulatory agencies such as USA’s FDA (Food Drug Authority) or European Union etc.

If not previously approved by any agency,higher evaluation fees ranging from $3500 to $11400 apply.

No device is exempt (not even if these had already been evaluated and approved by America's FDA which has a reputation of being very stringent). In fact, I was told that sponges ( which come in various sizes) used for packing after nose surgery have to be individually registered!

The higher costs and our small market (there are less than 40 ENT clinics plus 5 ENT departments in the restructed hospitals) have caused many vendors to give up product lines. Those that do register the products would inevitably pass on the additional cost to the end-users. In both scenarios, the patients will be the losers as either they will not be getting the newest technologies or if they do, it costs them much more.

Proper regulation of medical devices is crucial for “safeguard(ing) public health” but the cost for this should not “unduly restrict consumer choice and their access to new technologies”- ironically mentioned on HSA’s website as something it wants to avoid.

I suggest that HSA operates on a cost-recovery basis. Application fees should be lowered to $50 and those devices that had prior approval by other competent agencies should not need re-evaluation and hence fees should be lowered to reflect the paperwork done to verify documents which should cost no more than $200.

Those not approved by any agencies would of course need evaluation by our competent local agencies but fees should be applied in a transparent manner reflecting actual work done.

Fee reduction will mean a win-win for all. Patients will feel assured that our medical devices have been properly certified and vendors can source for devices that their doctors need without worrying unduly about losing money if after paying huge fees for evaluation find that our small market disadvantaged them. 

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan
(NB: Dr Huang holds several offices in various medical committees at different levels but writes this in his personal capacity. He does not have any financial interest in any medical device companies. )

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Leaving no man behind- what Singapore can learn from Israel

Dear Friends,

By the time the reader reads this, a certain Israeli soldier by the name of Gilad Shalit   (click here) would be reunited with his family after spending more than five years as a prisoner in enemy territory.

Shalit was a 19 year-old Israel Defence Force (IDF) corporal of dual Israeli and French nationalities who was abducted by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006. These militants infiltrated an Israeli army post via an underground tunnel and after a gunfight during which 2 militants and 2 IDF soldiers were also killed,  Shalit was abducted after his tank was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

From then on, he was no more than a bargaining chip in a high-stakes game.

After protracted negotiations through Egyptian intermediaries, Israel finally relented and agreed to release about 1000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, now 25. (read here)

We may not agree with all of Israel’s policies as she tries to survive in a “tough neighbourhood” as best as she could and some of us may not even agree with this prisoner exchange, but by her persistent efforts to secure Shalit’s release ( diplomatic as well as covert means) there is little doubt that Israel treasures each and every one of her citizens. No more words from any Israeli politician are needed- each IDF soldier knows that he or she will not be forgotten. Phua Chu Kang would have said, “It’s double confirmed!”

As we hear our MP’s talk about a “new normal” in the local political equation, we get a sense that our government wants to assure Singaporeans that they will always come first in all of its policy deliberations and that if they had reasons to feel neglected in the past, changes will be made to prevent such occurences.

 However, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently published a report which shows the bottom 20 per cent of working Singaporeans’ pay stagnate over the last 10 years! (read here)

Hence, I would understand why many lower income Singaporeans may not be as trusting towards the government as Shalit and his fellow citizens in an equally small nation, half a world away.  

 The government has its work cut out for itself, before we will wholeheartedly believe that Singapore will always look after all its own and that she will never “leave any man behind”.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Real Winners and Losers of Presidential Election 2011

Dear friends,

Now that the Presidential Election 2011 is over, it only leaves for me to do the following:

1. Congratulate President-elect Dr Tony Tan for winning a hard-fought campaign, albeit by a razor thin margin from Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

2. Commiserate with the losing candidates Dr.Tan Cheng Bock, Mr. Tan Jee Say and Mr. Tan Kin Lian and thanking them for putting their hats in the ring. They had tried their best and in so doing had allowed us to participate in an exercise of democracy that is an integral part of being Singaporean.

After the dust has settled and the campaign posters (real or virtual) taken down and Singapore returns to being a squeaky-clean city in a garden again, these are my reflections about who the Real Winners and Losers of PE2011 are:

Real Winners:

1. Integrity of electoral process-

Pre-polling day-

The Presidential Elections Committee chose to be liberal with the interpretation of the qualification criteria and hence allowed 4 of the 6 nominees to participate. Certificates of eligibility were awarded early.

Campaigning which included rallies and mass-publicity efforts (online and offline) were orderly and mainly uncontroversial

Polling day-

voting locations were manned by civil servants who were non-partisan, efficient and extremely professional

vote counting/after voting events : there were no accusations of vote rigging nor coercion to vote for particular candidates and although the stake was high and the winning margin thin, the verdicts were accepted as final by all concerned in a dignified manner.

In summary: We trust the system and even take for granted something which many places in the world do not.

2. Worker’s Party

Conspicuous by its absence, this major political party stands to gain the most of all political parties.

From a back of envelope calculation, only slightly more than half of pro-PAP votes went to Dr Tony Tan ( ie 35% compared to 60% of GE 2011) and whilst the opposition got 40% of GE 2011, Mr. Tan Jee Say, who was openly endorsed by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and some National Solidarity Party stalwarts (namely Nicole Seah), garnered about 25%.

This means that a substantial proportion of those who voted for PAP(25%)  and non-PAP parties (15%) in May’s GE, voted for Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian.

Already we are getting online banter from Dr. Tan Cheng Bock’s supporters who are blaming SDP and NSP for splitting the votes and spoiling a sure-win elections. We know these supporters will be averse to supporting these 2 opposition parties, but the WP remains, as it were, untainted. In fact, unsubstantiated rumours were that WP was silently rooting for Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

NB: There is an unknown- ie how many neutrals/”pro-opposition”s voted for Dr Tony Tan believing him to be able to free himself from his PAP past ( much like the late President Ong Teng Cheong) and consider the PE2011 as totally divorced from the GE 2011? My guesstimate is that this is not significant.

In summary:

Come GE 2016, WP would benefit immensely from a highly-politicised electorate who wants a non-PAP party which it considers to be credible yet conservative.

Except for the 35% who voted Dr Tony Tan, the rest of the 65% is WP’s for the taking.

Real and biggest Loser

People’s Action Party(PAP)

Only the most dense of us would believe that PAP did not endorse Dr Tony Tan. Many NTUC-affiliated unions, pro-establishments business bodies did. PM Lee also did except he did not use the “E” ( endorse) word.

If the PAP and the pro-government machinery ( it is debatable if the traditional media was one of these) , threw everything (including the kitchen sink) into getting Dr Tony Tan elected and comes out only with the same percentage as a popular medical doctor who was supported by a motley bunch of Singaporean well-wishers, alert bells must be ringing non-stop at PAP HQ.

How does PAP stop the rot? How do they get Singaporeans to like them again?

In summary:

Unless one is blind, deaf and lost all senses, PAP is in an unenviable position.


Anyway, I am not losing any sleep over the choice of the President-elect as I had been told, ad-nauseum, that Singapore’s Presidency is largely a ceremonial post without much teeth.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dual citizen President Scholar Xiao Yifei- PSC replies

PSC secretariat replies through REACH

Dear Dr Huang,

Thank you for the feedback and the opportunity to clarify.

PSC scholarships are awarded to outstanding young Singaporeans with a passion to serve the nation through a career in the Public Service. If a Singapore Permanent Resident applicant is considered for a PSC scholarship, he must take up Singapore citizenship before the PSC confirms the award because PSC scholarships are awarded to Singaporeans only.

At 19 years old, Ms Xiao Yifei is a Singaporean.  She came to Singapore at the age of 4 with her parents who are now Singaporeans.  She took up Singapore citizenship in February 2005 under the sponsorship of her father, an engineer.  She has spent all her primary, secondary and JC schooling years in Singapore.  As required under the Singapore Constitution, she will have to renounce her foreign citizenship and take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty when she turns 21, to remain as a Singapore citizen.

While there may be a risk that a foreign-born national may not renounce his or her first nationality, our conditions are strict.  The scholarship will be terminated and like all other PSC scholarship holders who break their bonds, he or she will be required to pay the Singapore government liquidated damages.

There are no quotas for the number of PSC scholarships awarded each year.  All deserving candidates will be made an offer.  This ensures that no deserving candidate will be deprived of a scholarship.

Yeo Whee Jim
Director PSC Secretariat

Sunday, August 14, 2011

President's Scholarship: The case of "dual citizen" Miss Xiao

Letter to Forum page Editor
Latest (18.8.11)(Letter not published but clarification by editor appended below)

14 August 2011

Dear Editor,

I read the media report ( about our latest batch of President’s Scholars with interest as it is likely that these scholars will be Singapore’s future leaders in politics and other fields. I like to congratulate these four outstanding young people.

Most Singaporeans agree with the ethos that to continue to punch above our weight in the world arena, infusion of our talent pool with immigrants is one of measures that are needed with the caveat that these new citizens must be willing and able to integrate and be one of us.

Many are still skeptical as we know of many immigrants who profess love and loyalty towards Singapore only to ultimately migrate to other countries after using us as a “stepping-stone”.

Hence the selection of 19-year-old Xiao Yifei (mentioned by the media as having “dual citizenship”) is very intriguing as it raises several questions as this information does not square with many known immigration policies and scholarship criteria that are generally known.

1. Issue of dual citizenship
It is generally known that Singapore does not recognize dual citizenship. Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA)’s website(link: is silent on dual citizenship although the website of US Embassy in Singapore (link: states “Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 21.” implying that Singapore recognizes minors who are dual citizens until they have the opportunity to renounce one of the nationalities.   

China also does not recognize this entity and it is stated in certain websites that when a Chinese citizen takes a foreign citizenship, he will automatically lose his Chinese citizenship. (

2. Issue of scholarship criteria
In Singapore’s Public Service Commission’s (PSC) website, in the FAQ page on “What are the eligibility criteria for the Overseas Merit Scholarship, the Local-Overseas Merit Scholarship and the Singapore Government Scholarship (Open)?”

One of the answers was “Be a Singapore citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident who will take up Singapore citizenship before leaving for studies”.

I was unable to find the criteria for the President’s Scholarship but I assume that they are not too dissimilar as Singapore’s most prestigious scholarship is generally given in conjunction with the above scholarships or the SAF Scholarships.

Can the ICA or the PSC comment on the following?:

1.Is Miss Xiao a Singapore Permanent Resident or a Singapore citizen?

2.If she is indeed a citizen of both Singapore and China, has she had the opportunity to renounce her Chinese citizenship and why has she not done so?

3.Will she only leave for her studies after becoming a Singapore citizen (if she is not already one)?

I hope that the relevant authorities will clarify the situation quickly so that all doubts about the integrity of our publicly funded scholarships will be removed expeditiously so that Singaporeans can be assured that these are given only to properly vetted young people who will be an asset to all of us for the long term.  

Very sincerely yours,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan
18.8.11 (Latest-clarification by newspaper editor) 
Dear Dr Huang,

Further to my first email, I wanted to also respond to your contribution on this other topic.

You are right that dual citizenship is disallowed. That is why a minor who becomes a citizen by descent shall cease to be a citizen at the age of 22 unless, at the age of 21, he or she divests any foreign citizenship or nationality and takes the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty.

I checked with our reporter who did the story and learned that the scholar’s parents are Singaporeans and that she is not 21 years old yet.

I hope that helps.

TODAY, MediaCorp Press

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Automatic pay cut for Rehired Teachers after 62: Is MOE ageist?

Letter to Forum Page:
Addendum (18.8.11): Letter not published but editor reply appended below

Dear Editor,

 I refer to the ongoing debate about the Ministry Of Education’s (MOE) pay policy for teachers rehired after the retirement age of 62.

MOE explains that previously, rehiring was offered only on a selective basis and other than those who relinquished managerial responsibilities ( eg head of department), the rest were paid the last drawn salaries as their duties remained essentially the same.

However, in order to align itself with a civil service-wide exercise where all retiring teachers would be offered re-employment from 2012, MOE says that the present pay arrangement is no longer feasible.

MOE even said that it “values” the experience of senior teachers and "is deeply appreciative" of their contributions.

Unfortunately, these words sound disingenuous and just like “lip service” to many interested observers like myself.

Admittedly, all of us are aware that there will be some who require flexible or lighter workloads to suit their work-life balance and it is understood that their remuneration would obviously be affected eg mother who needs to work part-time or workers with disease conditions necessitating lesser stress etc.

However for the rest, can MOE confirm that as a matter of policy:

1.On reaching 62, a teacher who is willing and able to perform all previous duties,  will automatically get a pay cut?

      2.On reaching 62, a teacher who is willing and able to perform managerial duties eg HOD, will be asked to relinquish these positions?

      3.Reduced pay for rehired retirees is a civil service wide policy and there can be no deviance from this, notwithstanding the crucial role of teachers in nation building?

It is sad that on one hand, we complain that our human capital is our only resource, but on the other hand, we adhere to “ageist” policies that we claim to detest.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan




Latest Response from Newspaper Editor (18.8.11):

Dear Dr Huang,

Thanks for your contribution to Voices.

We received a good, comprehensive letter on this topic, echoing similar sentiments as yours, and it was published on the day you emailed us. You can also find the letter in Voices online ( <> ), where it has attracted a number of comments.

We were aware that the Education Ministry would be replying, and we published its letter today, along with a story on its latest update. Our letter writer has emailed me to say she was glad to see the outcome.

I appreciate that readers such as yourself were among the first to respond when the matter surfaced, and should you have more thoughtful views on news issues relevant to Singaporeans, please do continue to write to Voices.

TODAY, MediaCorp Press
Tel no. ZZZ

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nurses' Day 2011

Re: Nurses’ Day 2011

Dear Friends,

Nurses working in Singapore’s hospitals are an under-appreciated lot.

They often encounter abuse from those around them: patients,  patient’s relatives and sometimes even from over-bearing doctors.

Is it any wonder that Nursing is seldom the vocation of choice for many of Singapore’s youths?

Hence, Singapore is fortunate that nurses from the Philippines, India and even China continue to come to our shores as we are competing with the rest of the developed world for these “Florence Nightingales”.

Truth be told, we are seldom the first choice for these foreign nurses. Most would have preferred the USA, Australia, Canada or the UK.

Some eventually go onto their “dream” destinations but many do sink roots here and have become Permanent Residents or even citizens.

They face the same problems as other new immigrants namely integration, discrimination, isolation and loss of identity. ( but that is the subject for another day).

I want to wish all Nurses working in Singapore’s healthcare – hospitals (public/private); clinics; Nursing homes, a meaningful and happy Nurses Day 2011.

You are an important and indispensable part of the medical team.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Related links/news:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is PM Lee Hsien Loong an agent of change?

Hi Friends,
The following letter has been sent to the Forum Page .
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan
NB: Published in the Straits Times Forum Page here.

The letter:
Dear Editor,

Re: PM Lee: Agent of change?

May 2011 will be remembered not only for the breakthrough of the Workers’ Party in GE 2011 but ( I think more significantly) also for the actions of PM Lee Hsien Loong.

History is replete with examples of world leaders who embarked on what is known as “retreat from power” where they made key decisions which forever altered the direction of their nations’ histories. These included Taiwan President Chiang Ching Kuo who in 1987 allowed multi-party politics or Presidents Nelson Mandela and F W de Klerk who together negotiated for an end to apartheid and thereby helped to heal a deeply divided South Africa in the early 90’s. ( see my post on this here)

PM Lee surprised many by making very public apologies for his government’s shortcomings. Many were understandably sceptical about his sincerity as these were made during the campaign period.  However, surprises came thick and fast afterwards as he presided over the departures of MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong from the cabinet and he then made sweeping “seismic” changes in his cabinet where ministers associated with hot-button issues were “retired”.

The latest “welcomed” surprise is the news that the controversial high ministers’ salaries would be reviewed. We now also expect significant changes to the GRC system.

Is PM Lee a true agent of change or has he acted out of necessity with an eye on GE 2016 ( as skeptics are bound to say)?. Looking back on our short electoral history, when the opposition won a then unprecedented 4 seats in 1991, the previous PM blamed this loss to his being too “soft” and his “consultative” style and responded by implementing what many consider as an unconscionable policy where opposition wards were placed last in the estate upgrading queue and GRC size was upsized from three to four (and later to six). Large GRC’s  were thought to be advantageous to the PAP.

Hence PM Lee could have responded as in the past and introduced draconian measures to solidify his grip of power. However, he chose to listen to the ground (and his heart) and for that we should give him credit.

In my eyes, he has earned much goodwill and many will be willing to give him a chance to see if these changes work and whether they go far enough.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PAP reform: Start with the "No upgrading for Opposition Ward" policy

Dear Friends,
I have written the following to the Forum page.
Is PAP capable of real internal reform?
If so, start with this truly awful policy.
Dismantle it first, then let's see how sincere it is.
Words are cheap.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The Letter:

Dear Editor,

Much has been said by Minister George Yeo about reform ( or as he called it- transformation) of the PAP in the aftermath of its monumental defeat at Aljunied.

But is PAP capable of internal reform?

Sadly, its records of reform in the past had at best been patchy and I am personally skeptical having seen how they responded after suffering setbacks at past elections. When it lost 4 seats to the nascent SDP (3 seats) and WP's Low Thia Khiang in 1991, then PM Goh Chok Tong blamed the loss to his being too soft and responded by making the playing field more unequal by *increasing the number of seats from three to four in each GRC and implementing the "lowest upgrading priority for opposition wards" policy! So much for listening to the people!

(*amended 21.5.2011)

Even if our PM Lee Hsien Loong is sincere about genuine reform, it is likely that conservatives in the PAP will not stomach this. Change will come only when forced upon it from the outside especially if it will help it win back lost votes and prevent further erosion of support in 2016.

One such policy that should be first to go is the "lowest upgrading priority for opposition wards" policy for the following reasons,

1. It does not work anymore ( and I doubt it had ever worked)

2. It is divisive and to many neutrals it was so morally reprehensible that in pre-election interviews, many opposition candidates stated that this was the single most important factor that made them join the opposition cause. To them, it was a fight for good against evil.

3. The electorate also frequently cite this policy together with other hot-button issues such as high cost of living, immigration policy, lack of accountability (including high ministerial pay), and Group Representation Constituency and perceived “gerrymandering” as reasons why they rejected the PAP.

In the hustings,when cajoled by NSP's Nicole Seah, "Do you want a fresh coat of paint at your void deck or a fresh voice in parliament?" the answer to the people seemed so obvious!

So if the PAP wants to soul-search and decide what to throw out, this one comes first. Why do something that plainly does not work, cause many to join the other side and makes you look like the bad guy? Seriously.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Monday, May 02, 2011

To Swing voters of Aljunied: Victory margin could be less than 300 votes! Every vote counts!

Dear Swing Voters of Aljunied,

Every vote counts. Do not spoil your vote.

The outcome of the Aljunied GRC election result may depend on fewer than 300 votes based on my back of envelope analysis thus:

2006 Aljunied GRC elections( Historical data)

Total eligible votes (ie qualified to vote) : 145,141 (100%)

Actual votes cast ( Eligible votes minus those who did not cast vote eg out of Singapore) : 135,817 (93.6%). ie 9324 (6.4%) did not vote

Spoilt Votes : 2381 (approx 1.8% of votes cast of 135817)

Voted for PAP : 74843 ( 56.1% of valid votes ie total votes cast minus spoilt votes (135817-2381))

Voted for WP : 58593 (43.9% of valid votes )

PAP's winning margin =16250 (74843-58593)

2011 Aljunied GRC elections (possible scenario)

Total eligible votes ie Singaporeans in Aljunied GRC qualified to vote :143148

There are a few assumptions I need to make :

1. Same 6.4% do not cast vote ( eg out of Singapore):

Hence total votes cast 133987 ( 143148 less 6.4%)

2. Same 1.8% spoilt vote rate

Total valid votes 131575 ( 133987 less 1.8%)

3. Swing vote towards WP of 6%

Click here for the link :!_20110420_1.pdf

Dr Derek da Cunha a political analysis of more than 20 years experience was giving a pre-election analysis at the Singapore Management University, together with law lecturer Dr.Eugene Tan on 30 th April 2011.

Da Cunha predicted a 3-5 % swing on average towards the opposition parties ( in straight fights) and up to 7% if the opposition party is Workers’ Party in view of (what I call), its branding premium.

Please note that this discussion was held before WP chief, Low Thia Khiang, made known that he is throwing his hat into the Aljunied ring together with Sylvia Lim , Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh and Muhamad Faisal Manap. This is effective the A team of WP (most say the A team of all non-PAP teams).

According to the scenario:

Vote for PAP

If same as 2006 (no swing) ie 56.6%: 74471

If 6% swing away (compared to 2006) ie 50.1% (56.6- 6%): 65919

Vote for WP

If same as 2006(no swing) ie 43.9% : 57761

If 6% swing towards (compared to 2006) ie 49.9% (43.9 + 6 %): 65656

The winning margin is a razor thin 263!

And the spoilt vote number ( if 1.8%) : 2368 (1.8% of 131575)


Dear Singaporean of Aljunied GRC,
This is the one that is called the “defining moment”.

We have to learn to have strength of conviction and not take the easy way out and “cop out” by spoiling your vote.

If not now, when?

If not me, who?

Your vote is secret!


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Indomitable Chiam See Tong: My improbable hero


I have often been unkind to Mr.Chiam See Tong.

I have thought him too slow and too cautious in the renewal of his party.

However his doggedness, irrepressible optimism in the face of the apparent all-powerful PAP juggernaut and his indomitable spirit has finally convinced me that his is the truly amazing Singapore story that has been deemed impossible by many a cynical Singaporean.

Political Journey

Those who are old enough to remember (and who love Singapore) will remember Chiam’s humble beginnings as a lonely politician.

His political journey started in 1976 when as a 41 year old, he entered the General Elections as an independent candidate at Cairnhill against the “Father of Singapore public housing” Minister Lim Kim San. His political symbol then was the Horse and he campaigned with the help of a loud-hailer attached to his faithful red Volkswagen beetle. He lost but continued 3 more unsuccessful attempts before finally winning at Potong Pasir in the 1984 elections against a certain Mr. Mah Bow Tan.

The victory was especially sweet as, during one of the rallies at Fullerton Square, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew asked, 'Who is this Chiam See Tong? We looked up his record and he has only got six Cs in his school certificate.'

Unfair treatment by establishment

It was perceived by neutrals that the traditional media did not accord Chiam proper respects as an elected representative as he was often depicted as less than an elegant orator and when he had internal party divisions within the Singapore Democratic Party that he founded, the media went about town making him look like someone who could not keep his own house in order.

However, in the more than 25 years as Potong Pasir’s MP ( 6 terms), he has never lost faith in his mission and the electorate had reciprocated time and again in returning him as its MP. This was despite of and in the face of all kinds of carrots and sticks that the PAP could think of including the much maligned “no upgrading for opposition ward” strategy.

Extraordinary outcome by an ordinary Singaporean

Despite all the scholarly talents that were at the disposal of the PAP, they did not take into consideration or perhaps underestimated the bond and kinship that the ordinary folks of Potong Pasir felt for “Ah Chiam” whom they consider as one of their own- an ordinary Singaporean with a very un-Singaporean mission of standing up against someone more powerful.

“Ah Chiam” now goes onto another fairy tale- that of making history by winning a Group Representative Constituency (GRC)!

With the indomitable spirit and especially now that he has emboldened more brave souls to answer the clarion call to join his battle outfit, the PAP can ignore this old battle horse at its peril!

Mr.Chiam See Tong sir, one more new convert will be rooting for you!

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Welcome home,prodigal son, unless you are Chen Show Mao

Dear Friends,
For the Easter weekend, I have penned the following letter to the Forum page...
Have great long weekend,
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Letter to Traditional Media:
(addendum: printed in Today click here)

Dear Editor,

Re: We welcome the prodigal son unless he is Chen Show Mao?

Singaporeans accept this maxim: Achieve success in a developed country overseas and recognition by Singapore society will be “automatic” and almost a given.

On this Easter weekend, many may know that the Bible mentions that “A Prophet Hath No Honour in His Own Country”.

That is why we are so proud of the few internationally recognised stars we have such as fashion designer Ashley Isham and pop stars Kit Chan (Chen Jieyi) , Stephanie Sun (Sun Yanzi) and JJ Lin (Lin Junjie).

Ashley left Singapore as a normal person in 1996, but when he made it in London after a stint in the prestigious Central St. Martin’s College, the whole of Singapore embraces him as our own, even if many of us may not dare to wear his esoteric creations.

So many of us loved Kit and her Heartache (Xintong) album and tracked her path to success in Taiwan with pride and it was only after she and Singaporeans like Stephanie and JJ became household names in Taiwan that we their countrymen knew how good they were.

In social circles, we call this the “Prodigal son” syndrome. Most of us have heard of the biblical parable where the father seemingly welcomed and loved the prodigal son more than the other children who toiled diligently at home.

This is true in most aspects of Singapore except for the strange case of a certain Mr. Chen Show Mao. I hereby state that I am not associating Show Mao with the wining and dining which the original prodigal son was accused of. I need not extol Show Mao’s credentials anymore as almost everyone has Harvard, Stanford and Oxford at the tip of their tongues and the more well -read would also know of the Agricultural Bank of China’s US$22b IPO (which is really a big deal!).

Yet the PAP chooses to treat him like a leper ( sorry- Easter reminds me of Bible again).


Is it because, Show Mao, and those that he may attract, poses a real threat to PAP’s hegemony and supremacy?

Food for thought for this long weekend.

Anyway, Show Mao, the rest of Singapore welcomes you home. Home is where your heart is.

You have nothing more to prove.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dr.T's view of Singapore General Elections

Dear Friends,
My good friend Dr. T has written to the traditional media's forum page and is awaiting publication ( or not). He has asked me to post it here too.
I am more than happy to do so as I mentioned in my blog profile that even doctors have opinions and views about various aspects of Singapore and these do count.
Dr. T is a prominent doctor that many will recognise from his medical work as well as his non-medical work. He (maybe more than others) has done much to enhance the image of Singapore Medicine.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Dr. T's Letter (unabridged):

Dear Editor,

I am a medical doctor by profession.

Very often, the job of a doctor is very much that of an interpreter; I interpret the “language” ( symptoms ) of the body to the person. True healing and intervention can only take place effectively when the patient listens to the interpretation and agrees to the treatment.

How good an interpreter would determine how good a doctor he is.

Just like a patient complaining of dizziness but is walking around with a blood pressure of 200/120 mmHg.

He brushed off the warning when I alerted him. “It must be my late night drinking last night. I’ll be fine.” He quipped.

No sooner did the time bomb explore and he was down with a massive stroke.

When we approach the GE, it is very similar to that of a patient S, who is definitely having symptoms.

S is having a fever – rising cost of housing and living, etc.. but “bear with it, we’ll fix it, the whole world is having it!” says the attending doctor.

S is also having persistent diarrhea – loss of jobs to excessive foreign workers, effects of casino, etc.. but “ a little diarrhea is good for you; it cleanses you. NO REAL ISSUE.” replied the doctor.

S is having rashes all over – the immune system is screaming havoc because medicine given is giving an adverse reaction. We need to review the medications; we need to consider a second opinion, may be.

“Of course NOT!”

“We are the best, the A team!” The Doctor screamed.

“Together, we will have to say we gave the best and right medicine. Even if some of you disagree. You can whip out your handkerchief later, I don’t care. Say YES!! “

As S gets sicker, different groups of doctors and even Sinsehs come around, all volunteers, to offer help. Not to take over the job of the main doctor team, but to offer what they have and the little they know.

After 25 years as a doctor, I realize that what makes a great doctor is the spirit of humility and teach-ability. Very often, the day we become un-teachable, it is the start of our downfall. And second opinions, even from someone “new” or young can help.

As for S’s case, she is not so lucky.

The main team shot down every prescription and injections that was shown ( and not shown) by the alternative team.


Because they are not the A team.

“In fact, we have a hard time finding people for the A team here.” Doctor sighs.

The stringent process, tedious and tough, make sure that YES-Drs are being produced; impressive in every way. But not tested, just like the other fact, some are promised to be “consultant surgeons” ever before they get their basic MBBS.

As for the A team part, we have ample examples of MPs having to step down, running foul of the law, and many making quiet exit.

So we have to agree: it is hard for them to find the right A team.

I am an integral part of S. I am running a fever, diarrhea and rashes all over. My medication is not working. All I want is to have a second opinion, another team of doctors or sinseh to help me.

That is, before I collapse from shock due to an overwhelming infection from internally. As a patient, I may not know what is wrong with me, but I do know that SOMETHING is wrong with me.

So, please recognize it and not tell me that “ there is nothing wrong with S, don’t fix it!!”

Oh yes, at las, the bill.. it costs me more than S$200M, and I am still having my fever.


Friday, April 15, 2011

NCMP system: Suggestions for improving it

Dear Friends,

If the PAP is serious about institutionalising the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) system and not just use it as a ploy to slow down the growth of a multi-party democracy, significant improvements must be made.

If not, it will always be just a charade ( or wayang). I have written to the traditional media ( what we call MSM-mainstream media) about this and am awaiting its publication ( or not).

What do you think? Any chance in hell of getting any of it adopted? No?

Anyway- no harm trying. Rome was not built in a day.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The letter to the Forum Editor: (Published here in Today Newspaper)

Dear Editor,

Re: Tweaking the NCMP system

The Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme has been with us since 1984.

Depending on which side of the partisan fence one is on, it is either an example of pragmatic and innovative enhancement to our political system or a ploy to prevent the emergence of a viable multi-party parliament.

To many neutrals, the fact that Ms Sylvia Lim has become a household name is proof enough that the scheme is not altogether bad. Or at least like Ms Lim said of the system, the PAP was “trying to make a bad situation better”.

I hope that the NCMP system can be further tweaked to take into consideration the following premises that

1. it is honorable to seek public office and

2. talent (not withstanding which party they arise from) should be harnessed and retained in our parliament so that constructive debate can produce the best policies for Singapore.

The NCMP should:

1. Have full voting rights including voting on constitutional amendments, Supply or Supplementary Bills, Money Bills, or motions of no confidence in the government. There should be no differentiation from other MP’s other than that the NCMP is not in charge of a geographic district ( but on the other hand looks after the whole of Singapore).

2. Have same entitlements as other MP's eg allowances/ remunerations.

3. Be selected from best runner-up's of top 9 ( or whatever figure agreed by parliament) electoral contests irrespective of parties ie even PAP candidates can be NCMP's. ( minimum condition of winning at least 15% of votes as per present criteria)

4. Be eligible for all government front-bench office. ie NCMP's from ruling party or independents can be appointed Cabinet Ministers

These changes will ensure that many more people have the opportunity to play a greater role in our system including being part of the decision-making body of the government ( ie Cabinet).

This should shed once and for all the “second-class” and “loser” labels that are often stuck onto our present NCMP’s.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Even Straits Times journalists are speaking up for Singaporeans!

Dear Friends,

Despite the all-too familiar headline in the Straits Times today “2-party system not workable here:PM”, there is no doubt in my mind that things here are a-changing.

Like a broken down gramaphone
“Nay-sayers” try to pour cold water on our brave and idealistic youths by saying that in this nation of 5 million, it is not possible to find more than 20 good men or women. They cannot even get enough men/women to join them!

To say that anything other than the present one-party system is not workable, sounds like someone reading from an old script belonging to a bygone era. Don’t they know they risk being accused of sounding like a broken gramaphone that repeats itself as the needle is stuck in a “recurring” groove. (Younger readers may not appreciate this as they may not have played any “records”). To some of us, this message is akin to trying to” fit a round peg into a square hole.” It just does not “square” with reality (pardon the pun).

Even ST is a-changing?
Even our infamous Straits Times is a-changing ( or sort of).
There is more coverage of non-PAP pre-election activities and surprise… much of it sounds rather objective too.

Most-surprising (to me) is the fact that many of ST’s journalists are writing candid articles that in the pre-new media era would have been unheard of.

ST journalists standing up to be counted

1. Lydia Lim : “Why voters play hard to get with the PAP” said “It is because they believe the odds are stacked in the ruling party's favour” alluding to the perception that the playing field is too overwhelmingly skewed towards the PAP. Click here

2. Kor Kian Beng: “Getting to know the opposition” said “After all, everyone on both sides of the fence is a Singaporean trying to improve this place we call home”
Click here

3. Chua Mui Hoong: “ We must give the PAP 48%. Wake them up” said ( quoting one resident” The People’s Action Party doesn’t take care of Singaporeans any more.”
Click here

4. Cassandra Chew:” The voter’s GRC dilemma” when comparing the GRC to buying pre-packed onions in a bag” Click here
Cassandra said: "At the supermarket, I usually go for the bag without any bad onions. To me, getting average onions is better than having to deal with the rotten onion at all.”
A netizen in my facebook half-jokingly commented “ did someone just referred to Miss T as bad onion?” I am sure that thought was furthest from Cassandra’s mind.

5. Aaron Low: “Going beyong charisma politics” said “And hopefully the other opposition parties will follow (WP)Mr Low’s lead in creating parties of substance rather than to depend on individuals to draw in votes.” Click here. I say Amen to that too.

I have always believed that even ST’s journalists are human beings like you and I. When you cut them ( not that I am encouraging you to), they will bleed. Most of the time, it is crimson red like yours and mine.

They have restraints that they need to work around. Most of them have consciences too.

Let us hope that I do not need to “stand corrected”

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, April 03, 2011

What Tharman said or my reflections on tv forum

Dear friends,
I wrote the following letter to the forum editor(s) of MSM
(Published today here)

Dear Editor,

I am glad that in tonight’s tv political forum, Minister Tharman openly stated what had long been regarded by some PAP old guards as heresy- that a strong opposition is good for Singapore and even PAP.

Strong opposition is good for Singapore
This does not surprise me as Tharman has always been progressive and intellectually honest. In fact he is of Prime Ministerial material in many Singaporeans’ minds (notwithstanding what MM had said previously about unsuitability of non-Chinese politicians for this post).

However, the growth of a responsible and strong opposition has been thwarted by an uneven playing field. Alleged gerrymandering, opaque and mysterious functionings of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) and the partisan abuse of publicly funded bodies such as the People’s Association quickly comes to mind and these unsavoury practices overwhelmingly favours the PAP.

Short-term measures eg better media ;unfettered access into private estates
For the short-term, especially during this pre-election period, it is vital that impediments be removed for the electorate to get to know all candidates. Although we see obvious improvements, the traditional media can do even more to level the field.
Private condominium management should be more enlightened and understand that Singaporean electorates living there are eager to meet prospective candidates from all parties. I will be writing to my MCST to voice my concerns.

Longterm rectifcations eg levelling field; funding of political parties
In the long term, besides tweaking or abolishing the GRC system , and restructuring the EBRC and rectifying PA’s anomalous relationships , we should seriously consider funding political parties who adhere to tenets that Singaporeans view as desirable eg multi-racial composition ; minimum membership numbers etc. When these parties do not meet these conditions, funding can be withdrawn.

Qualified Optimism
With enlightened ministers like Tharman and energetic politicians like Gerald, Vincent and Josephine, I do not see any reason for pessimism. I believe, as Josephine did, that no matter which party we support or vote for, we are all authors of our collective future.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Monday, March 21, 2011

GE 2011: I am a swing voter- try to convince me!

Dear Friends,

I am a beneficiary of the PAP rule.

I enjoy and appreciate ( taking for granted) the following:

1.Efficient and corruption-free civil service
Each time a traffic warden issues a summon (even to me), I know that he is not allowed to cancel the ticket and to try to bribe him would be just foolish. I have renewed passports at the ICA (Immigration and Checkpoint Authority) in less than 15 mins ( if one goes first thing in the morning). Making appointments for SP Power's technician is easy and yes, they turn up on the said timing.

Any child from any of our primary schools has a chance to fulfil his/her dream of being a doctor or going to study in a world-class university overseas on a public scholarship.

3.Racial harmony
I am colour blind and enjoy working with and living amongst people of different race and creed. Hence I am upset and incensed when MM Lee casually dismisses the possibility of a non-Chinese Prime Minister or caused the ruckus when he alluded to Malays being barred from some services in the military.

4.Public Safety
It is my constant boast to foreign friends that even our children and women-folk enjoy freedoms and safety on our streets 24/7.

Having mentioned these “non-negotiables” that I presently enjoy, there are many aspects of the PAP’s rule that I find unacceptable.

A ruler who only rules if he is paid millions has lost moral authority. In a past blog post (click here)
I mentioned the concept of Noblesse olige.

Literally it means nobility is an obligation. It is defined as:

1. Benevolent, honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank.

2. the obligation of those of high rank to be honorable and generous (often used ironically)

John D.Rockefeller Jr said,"every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty" .

My previous post (click here)
The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee- Must be fair and seen to be fair.

C.GRC as a coat-tail for PAP candidates (who are afraid to lose)
SM Goh ( in one of his many own goals) said in 2006: (Click here)

‘Without some assurance of a good chance of winning at least their first election, many able and successful young Singaporeans may not risk their careers to join politics,’ .

I hope the PAP fields Michael Palmer in Punggol East SMC and if he wins comfortably , this will once and for all demolish PAP’s argument for the GRC’s Raison d'ĂȘtre (reason for existence) that PAP minority candidates cannot win unaided.

D.Abuse of People’s Association and its grassroot organisations etc

MM Lee said in 2009 “They discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs).” Click here

PAP has finally admitted that grassroot organisations are partisan. This cannot be right as public money is being used.

I am not a rabid pro-PAP nor an anti-PAP voter.

I am a swing voter. Try to convince me.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan