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