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