Singapore Politics - Insights from the Inside

Monday, June 27, 2005 

The True Story of Dr Balaji’s Fight against HIV
His true purpose of stating the “gay & unnamed epidemiologist” hypothesis…

6 months ago, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communication and the Arts & Health, raised a storm amongst local community on the HIV and gays comments.

“Currently, 90% of these newly diagnosed patients are males, with one-third being gays. We had a low prevalence rate of HIV in the past, even in the gay community. We do not know the reasons for the sharp increase of HIV in the gay community. An epidemiologist has suggested that this may be linked to the annual predominantly gay party in Sentosa - the Nation Party - which allowed gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community. However, this is a hypothesis and more research needs to done by the experts.”

Of his 3,071 words parliamentary speech, the media only chose these 101 words to sensationalize their story. In the full context of his parliamentary speech, he touched on the holistic approach in dealing with HIV amongst heterosexual men, pregnant women, making HIV test kits readily available (to avoid any weird stare if you buy one), the need to de-stigmatize AIDS patients and prevent any discrimination. He also touched on having public education, welfare channels to look after the emotion needs of patients and the growing need for medical volunteers.

OBVIOUSLY, the media didn’t cover these issues but just concentrate on the 101 words which will sell more newspapers. But wait! Isn’t him the Senior Minister of State for the ministry in charge of media aka MICA? Some Singaporeans always have gloomy thoughts on how Singapore Media is being controlled by the government and all the conspiracy theories. From this case, apparently these rumours are unfounded. He didn’t have control over the media. Journalists like Tan Hui Leng from TODAY papers still happily quote that “Dr Balaji BLAMED the Nation Party as the CAUSE of high HIV cases among gays”. Apparently, this journalist has difficulties in using appropriate words and doesn’t know parliamentary reports existed! Suggested=blamed? Hypothesis=caused?

But ever wondered why Dr Balaji raised the issue on HIV, gays and especially “unknown epidemiologist and hypothesis”? He is such an irresponsible and discriminating Minister as suggested by most online blogs and “liberalists”? These people failed to see his purpose behind the whole saga. In fact, almost everybody missed the point he was driving at when he mentioned the infamous hypothesis. Allow me to decipher his message to you.

1) Why he said, “However, this is a hypothesis and more research needs to done by the experts”?

First he raised the facts and figures of the growing threat of HIV that exceeded the 300th HIV patients mark. Then he said that this is only a hypothesis and that there are many undisclosed cases. His rational for saying that is let the parliament MPs and public see that his hands are tied by the statutes if he wishes to find out exactly how many HIV cases are there. ie: “Okay, you say this is just a hypothesis and no real numbers to back my case, fine. I’ll go get the numbers but the present law prohibits me to. Thus this will forever remain as a hypothesis if we don’t amend the law and will run the risk of HIV epidemic.” Present statute does not allow him to do that as it is considered an invasion of privacy. At the same time, being a Minister of the parliament, proposing a law as controversial as “invasion of privacy”, will only be opposed by the Ministers and the MPs. But if he cannot to that, more women will be at risk by irresponsible HIV-carrying husbands (see the later part of his speech, which is twice longer than his “gay” part).

2) What is Dr Balaji’s background?

Traditionally, no Health Ministers dare to raise this taboo subject in fear of being unpopular. Dr Balaji raised it. Actually, his actions are far more intelligent than most people think. Before entering politics, he was the top neurosurgeon in Singapore and the only one that is recognized by the USA and Australian neuroscience boards. As full neurosurgeon in Singapore, he handles only the most serious of brain surgeries and has a 100% success rate in operations (11 out of 11 serious brain surgeries). When he was in Michigan, he was the neurosurgeon who extracts brain tissues (which has the most concentration of HIV virus) of HIV patients. Out of leisure, he also has a law degree. Unknown to many, he was a very successful entrepreneur as well. He had a few companies that made medical surgery machines and based on the global positioning it will help the surgeon to make the incisions. Just when the company was about to take off and earn him millions in profit, he sold all businesses and became a Minister (as required by law). The pay he receives as a Minister is far less than what he earns as a neurosurgeon and director of the companies.

3) What risk his political career at such a taboo subject?

3 months after he announced that AIDS could be an epidemic in Singapore, United States declared that they have more than 1 million HIV positive people. People, who criticize Dr Balaji’s so-called discrimination against gays and AIDS victims, never met a HIV victim in their lives. Dr Balaji has met with countless of them in USA when he was the neurologist trying to save their lives. He knows the pain of the virus; he knows the trauma when they first got the virus, and he knows the impact of have the woman infected by her husband without her knowledge. All his HIV patients die one by one a slow and painful death. The only thing he could do is to prevent it from happening to Singaporeans.

Sounds too dramatized and noble? People who know Dr Balaji will tell you otherwise. He is a true man with compassion and a heart of gold. I’ve seen him going beyond his duties to helping a family in poverty. And all he said was that, we should help them to the best of our abilities.

He said, privately, that the press can misquote him, artistes can make fun of him, gays can hate him, but at the end of the day, he was trying to save their lives and lives of Singaporeans against a disease that is certain to cause a slow and painful death.

On the political aspect, critics might say that any publicity (whether positive or negative) is good publicity. Look at (former Minister of State who resigned 2 months ago) Cedric Foo’s lack of publicity and you might wonder what he is doing at his highly paid job. He might be loaded with work but the ordinary man on the streets wouldn’t know without the media publicity.

By taking such a strong moral stand against the HIV issue, it is either the cabinet is with him or against him. By PAP’s stand, they have to be with him and his policy in line with the party’s “clean and white” conservative stand. Calculated risk? I think so but I also think he did it because it is the right thing to do. A leader to the right thing; whereas a manager do things right.

1) Media misquoted his parliament speech
2) Looking beyond what he did and said, it was to bring the alarming awareness to those at risk and not to discriminate them
3) It was a deliberate and smart political message behind the “hypothesis” statement to demonstrate that he needs to have legislative authority to better reach out to those at risk. He already presented his strategy to maintain privacy while saving other lives. So there are no issues of discrimination.
4) Gays was only a small focus of his speech but overplayed by the media.
5) He was accepting of gays and actually has a dialogue session with them (I think at Four Seasons Hotel).
6) Many forgot that the last AIDS epidemic in USA wiped out 90% of the gays population.
7) He repeated stressed the AIDS is not a gay problem but a human problem.
8) Blogs and online websites only selective read his speeches
9) Have these critics met any AIDS victim? Does any issues of “so-called discrimination” (which there isn’t in the first place) supersedes human lives of which some are innocent spouses?
10) This is not a bias interpretation of Dr Balaji, but everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions. So thou shall not judge or be judged! You judge! haha…
Next Week: Decision Behind PM Lee Hsien Loong's Visit to Taiwan

Friday, June 24, 2005 

Presidential Elections & General Elections
When, How, and Who? Just Insights from the Inside…

What we know so far? We know that 16 people have collected the forms. Some of these people are grassroots leaders and one of them once took the form for President Nathan during last elections. SM Goh has publicly endorsed President Nathan to stand for elections again. Many other names are mentioned such as DPM Tony Tan, Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, DPM Jayakumar (least likely) and Permanent Secretary, Lim Siong Guan. As they are the most profile contenders, the others are left by the sidelines.

Will it be an uncontested election? This is quite straight-forward: NO. Reasons are as follows: Presidential elections are a symbol of democratic and legitimacy power. Having an uncontested election will only draw foreign criticism (like the 1999 presidential election). More importantly, this election will be closely linked to the general elections as if this is a walkover, perception of democratic fairness will be lowered. This will work against the ruling PAP government in the next GE and will give an opportunity for the oppositions to poke at. Knowing PAP’s kiasu-ness, they will never allow any advantage to the oppositions. Oppositions know this as well, so they will send people to collection the presidential forms even if they know they will not win or even get into the nomination stage. But this is just to provide a topic for the oppositions to counter PAP. “See! Mr ABC has the right credentials but PAP blocked his nomination as the President. What kind of democratic society do we have? Don’t let PAP control your General Elections vote” This might be one possible argument we will see in the next GE.

So who will contest? In the first Presidential Elections (in 1993), PAP sent a strong candidate in then DPM Ong Teng Cheong against a relatively unknown, Chua Kim Yeow. Results? Ong Teng Cheong won by a slim majority of 59%, when everyone expects a landslide victory. Since then, PAP has been cautious about sending someone with strong party affiliated candidates.

Bear in mind another note. Implicitly, the President cannot have political party affiliations this implies that nominees have to quit their party position before standing for elections. This also means that if PAP sends a Minister to contest, the Minister have to quit his post first. Thus, it is either PAP is willing to part with that Minister or he is retiring soon. And since he is not going to be an MP anymore, there have to be By-Elections for that vacancy. Eureka! One more clue to when the GE is going to be.

The criteria are so stringent that not many can afford to take part. He has to be a Minister, Perm Sec, Chairman of a Stat Board or CEO/Director of a company of more than $100 million paid up capital. Opposition will not be able to find a person who has a company of more that $100M. In the whole Singapore, maybe there are less than 5 people with non-political affiliations heading a $100 million company. So let me rank my predictions:

1) Perm Sec Lim Siong Guan (who has recently stepped down as the Head of Civil Service. How coincidental!)

2) DPM Tony Tan (Stepping down in July 2005. How coincidental again!)
3) Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi (Partly because he is Malay and our last Malay President is our First one!)
4) President Nathan (I think he will step down and that is his wish, I doubt he wants to run the risk of dying in office. Not that he is in ill health but he is already in his 80s!)

Who is Lim Siong Guan? Mr Lim is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. He was the Head of the Singapore Civil Service until 31 March 2005, and has been Permanent Secretary for Special Duties in the Prime Minister's Office and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, the Public Service Division in the Prime Minister's Office, and the Ministry of Defence. He was the first Principal Private Secretary to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Lim is Chairman of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore, Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (the holding company for government investments), and a Member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Seems like he has all the powerful backing and credentials to be the President. Critics always say that the post as a President is a politics gift to reward loyal cadres of the state or to keep them silent on state secrets. (By the way, I’m not the critic.) Devan Nair, former President, was once the loyal lieutenant of Lee Kuan Yew and help to start NTUC. Rewarded with his good works but lands up on the wrong end, see ( Critics also argued that Ong Teng Cheong, then DPM, might be a growing threat to Lee Hsien Loong for the PM position. President Nathan was the Director and Head of the Internal Security Branch (whoah, lots of secrets in there). For Lim Siong Guan, his position in Temasek, GIC and MAS might be indicative on something which I’ll leave it to you imaginations.

How is Presidential Elections related to General Elections? If PAP decides to send a Minister for Presidential Elections and gets elected, they are one MP short. So they will have a By-Election for that seat. Too taxing to have 3 elections within the space of two years? Maybe so. They might wish to combine the By Election with the GE and safe the troubles. The Remaking Committee headed by Vivian Balakrishnan put a successful recommendation to announce the boundaries for GE at least 3 to 6 months ahead of polling day. So that leaves the time frame between January 2006 to June 2007. My prediction would be either June 2006 or December 2006. More news next time, as this article is getting too long.

Next Week's Article: The True Story Behind Dr Balaji's Fight Against HIV

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 

casiNO, CASINO, caSINo?
A story which the government cannot tell…

3 months ago, the casino issue polarized the nation state.
3 groups emerges: a) The Vocal Anti-casino group (usually on religious grounds), b) The Silence Pro-casino group and c) The “Who cares!” group.

On a side note, Singaporeans are such a strange bred of people. When Malaysia threatened our water supply, Singaporeans couldn’t care less. When then former Indonesia called us a little red dot in the sea of greens, Singaporeans couldn’t care less. When Taiwan called us an island size of mucus, Singaporeans couldn’t care less. When we came hours away from becoming a terrorist target (JI), Singaporeans couldn’t care less. But when the government says that they will consider building a casino, everyone found their voice overnight. Egoist, Apathy, Self-interested and what ever terms you can thing of to describe Singaporeans! It is all plain excuses to say that they don’t know about issues outside Singapore because it doesn’t affect them (so they don’t need to know). But when it comes to gambling, everyone knows, because it “affects” them so personally.

Back to our main issue. Allow me shed some light into this whole saga based on information that I got from a “high ranking official” of the government. This was not the first time that casino approached the government on building the casino on local soil. All these years, it was being refused. But in the recent case, “one of the top three casinos” came to the government with a different proposal. They will allow Singapore to be the Asian hub for the lucrative convention business, if and only if, they allow them to build the casino. You might wonder what is so attractive about the convention business and can’t we do it ourselves without their help and the casino. Nope, we can’t. Here are the reasons:

a) Ever wondered why all of the world’s largest conventions are held in Las Vegas? Not just because they have the facilities, but the industry is controlled. But I’ll just stop short of saying the word “syndicated”. The operators will only grant us the convention business if the government allows them to have a casino to safeguard any losses they might have in the business. Casino always makes money, but for heavy investments in the buildings for conventions such S$1-2 Billion, they need to safeguard any potential losses.

b) Even if we build the world class convention business facilities, no high-flying business will hold their conventions here. Our facilities will just be white elephants. Just look at Singapore Expo, how many overseas MNCs such as Microsoft or ExxonMobil hold their conventions here? Zero! Reason? See the earlier point.

c) Why convention business? The plain simple truth is that our manufacturing industry is bleeding with competitions from India and China. No matter how much subsides, tax exemptions and other price fixing, we can never out-cost them. Our Manufacturing sector represents 30% of our GDP. This sector will definitely shrink and for every percentage point, we are going to have more than proportion amount of unemployment and retrenchments. So we have to spin-off and develop other labour intensive industries. We have tried education industry, biomedical industry, medical, R&D, electronics, and many others. However, Thailand and Malaysia is watching our every move. Thailand recently put more focus on their medical industry. And are out-costing us by 1 to 8. So last throw of the dice, the MICE. MICE is mega Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions. On the side note, this also benefits our tourism industry.

d) Our tourist sights are pathetic. Other then Sentosa, which is not much of a tourist sight anyway, we have got nothing.

e) Whatever industries and success factors can be easily duplicated. Thailand had long plan to carve open the Isthmus of Kra and allow ships to bypass Singapore for a shorter route. China, who is heavily dependent on crude oil to sustain their economy is agreeable and might offer to fund the project. If that happens, Singapore will be a redundant port and jobs will be lost. Penang and Bangkok is set to develop their medical hubs. KL already has their “silicon valley” to compete with Singapore’s electronics and technology centers. By no accident are the Malaysians building their Tanjong Pelepas and Pasir Gudang ports at the left and right of the Malaya Peninsula. Finance hub? Not known to many but Mumbai and Hong Kong has displaced Singapore and the Asian Financial Headquarters.

Okay, with all this factors, it may help to the PAP government to make a strong case for casino. But why didn’t they announce these factors earlier for public consultation? Their hands are bounded and can’t announce these in public if they do not agree to the concept proposals. Here are the main reasons:

a) Announcing it prior to accepting concept proposals will cause our neighbouring countries to fight for the same pie. Although they will not win (due to Singapore’s infrastructures and transportation hub status) but the advantage will be in the casino owner’s hands to under price and bargain with the government.

b) The only reason why casino didn’t wish to approach Johor or Indonesia is because of their Islamic inclination. Gambling is not allowed by the Muslims and setting a casino there will only provoke violent oppositions. But Pahang has allow Genting to set up the casino and the Menteri Besar of Johor, Abdul Ghani (who is never pro-Singapore in anyway stretch of our imagination), is keen to allow that just to compete with Singapore.

c) If we lost this business to our neighbours, we will not become the landing destination for South-East Asia but part of the regional tour of other countries. Our tourist-days-in-Singapore will drop from 3 days to 1 day. Needless to say, jobs of our service and hotel industry will be affected.

In more ways than one, Singapore’s future is at stake. But the government cannot tell everyone that. If the government wishes to be a populist government, they can just say No to the casino operators, call for elections and they will win more than 75% of the votes. This is because they will have the unpopular vote on their side and the oppositions’ stand is already taken by the government, thus have no basis of ideological stand.

Morally, I am against the casino but the case is no longer that simple. But I can I still say NO if my word will lead to 40% probability of having 10,000 families losing their jobs?

Gambling is morally wrong, so we SHOULD NOT have casino. (Granted)

Losing jobs and seeing more poverty in Singapore is wrong, so we SHOULD HAVE casino. (Granted)

Many people (more than usual) are against the casino, so we SHOULD NOT have casino. (Granted)

Government should listen to their voters of whom, the most vocal and opinionated are those that say no, so we SHOULD NOT have casino. (Granted)

Our future economy might be at stake since we cannot find a good alternative industry to create jobs, so we SHOULD HAVE casino. (Granted)

As you can see, three NOs and two YES don’t make the decision any simpler. But bear in mind, the casino is only 3-5% floor space of the entire resort. It goes beyond what we can’t see and feel. There is no absolute certainty on how much having or not having the casino will affect us. Our government and Singapore have a good history on making bets (no punts intended) on the future. We have succeeded in a short 30 years to transform Singapore from Third World to First, where others have failed. Do Singaporeans have the foresight to look beyond the horizon? I truly hope so. Our fate is in our hand and in what we do now.

Have the government listened to our views? I truly think so. But the people must know that democracy doesn’t mean always winning an argument. It doesn’t mean that if you give your views and you think it is not heard, you stop trying. Democracy is a tool to make our living better. Freedom of speech is good but people do not always make rational decision because in today’s world, there are no rational decisions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 

Singapore Politics

Politics, a DND strand that is missing from all Singaporeans.
Sense, the only sense Singaporeans have is dollars and sense.
Fear, overly obsessed hallucination of government conspiracy.
Media, a source that is either gospel to all Singaporeans or blasphemy.
Government, a parent that must provide all the best things in life, if not, will be labeled as authoritarian and incompetent.

Are Singaporeans really apathetic towards politics? Why do Singaporeans turn senseless when talking about politics? When Singaporeans have no opinions of their own, they turn to their infamous conspiracy theories: "If I say something wrong ah, men-in-white will come after me ah. And sue me down to my undies ah!" or "Think so much for what? Got PAP mah! Since we pay tax for them to think, so don't think lor!" or simply "No comments" or "Huh? Sorry, I don't read newspapers."

Hopefully, this is one blog that tries, in a non-partisan way, to make sense out of this senseless world of politics. That is provided that my interest sustain this blog that far.

The Idealist

  • Thrasymachus
  • Propagating In: Singapore
  • The Critic, The Philosopher, The Pragmatist, The Moralist, The Egalitarian, The Confused, The True-Blue Singaporean
My profile

Email Me At:

Singapore Time

Poll Your Agony!

    Do you support the government's decision in barring certain Civil Society Organization members from the IMF/WB meetings?
    Fully support!
    Yes, but could have been more lenient
    Don't know...
    No, the govt is too rigid
    Absolute no!
    I don't give a damn about it...
    Current results

    Which topic do you wish to read at Singaporegovt?
    SM Goh Chok Tong: Behind the Scene
    Oppositions: Singapore Democratic Party
    Super Seven: Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Ng Eng Hen
    Super Seven II: Dr Vivian, Raymond Lim
    History V: Devan Nair
    History VI: Dr Goh Keng Swee
    Who is Thrasymachus (aka me)?
    All of the Above!
    None of the Above - I hate reading!
    Current results

    What do you think of the General Election 2006 (GE) Results?
    Accurately reflects the political preference of Singaporeans
    Somewhat accurate in reflecting Singapore's political preference
    PAP's win was too flattering
    Oppositions' percentage was too high
    Not accurate in reflecting the political preference of Singaporeans
    Totally inaccurate!
    Current results

    What do you think of the Gomez Issue?
    He is guilty of deceiving!
    He is not guilty!
    The whole issue was overblown by the PAP & media
    Don't care, Don't know!
    Current results

    What do you think of this site (singaporegovt.blogspot)?
    Good, Fair, Objective, Interesting Read
    Above Average
    Below Average
    Total Rubbish!
    Total mouthpiece of the PAP government!
    I HATE this site!
    I LOVE this site!
    Current results

    Which (Senior) Minister of State do you wish to see promoted to Full Minister?
    Ho Peng Kee
    Dr Balaji Sadasivan
    Zainul Abidin Rasheed
    Heng Chee How
    Lim Hwee Hua
    Grace Fu
    Radm Lui Teck Yew
    Lim Yi Shyan
    Gan Kim Yong
    Current results

    Which Election Candidate do you prefer?
    Low Thia Khiang (WP)
    Chiam See Tong (SDA)
    Sylvia Lim (WP)
    Chee Soon Juan (SDP)
    J.B. Jeyaratnam (Formerly WP)
    Lee Hsien Loong (PAP)
    Dr Ng Eng Hen (PAP)
    Sitoh Yih Pin (PAP)
    Eric Low (PAP)
    Current results

    How do you rate PM Lee Hsien Loong's Performance (as Prime Minister) so far?
    Very Good
    Above Expectation
    Poor ("I can even do better!")
    Very Poor
    Current results

    Do you have confidence in PM Lee Hsien Loong's leadership and his team of Ministers?
    Too early to tell...
    Any one but them!
    Current results

    Do you think Lee Hsien Loong became Prime Minister on his own merits?
    Yes! ("He was the best candidate")
    No! ("He has obvious backing from LKY")
    No! ("There wasn't any alternative candidate to challenge him in the first place")
    Current results

    Which of the (Junior) Minister to you wish to see him/her step down? (Part III)
    Raymond Lim
    Balaji Sadasivan
    Ho Peng Kee
    Chan Soo Sen
    Lim Hwee Hua
    Heng Chee How
    Gan Kim Yong
    Yu-Foo Yee Shoon
    Zainul Abidin
    Current results

    Which Minister do you wish to see him step down? (Part I)
    Lee Hsien Loong
    Goh Chok Tong
    Lee Kuan Yew
    Lim Boon Heng
    Lee Boon Yang
    Yeo Cheow Tong
    Mah Bow Tan
    George Yeo
    Teo Chee Hean
    Current results

    Which Minister do you wish to see him step down? (Part II)
    Lim Hng Kiang
    Wong Kan Seng
    S Jayakumar
    Tharman Shanmuguratnam
    Lim Swee Say
    Ng Eng Hen
    Vivian Balakrishnan
    Khaw Boon Wan
    Yaacob Ibrahim
    Current results

    What is your utmost concern for the coming General Elections?
    "Bread & Butter" issues - Jobs, economy, salary, etc
    Freedom of Speech - or lack of
    HDB issues - upgrading, high housing cost, etc
    International Issues - govt's handling of foreign relationships
    Transport issues - LTA, NEL, MRT
    Change of Leadership - from SM Goh to PM Lee
    All of the above
    I'll vote any party except PAP!
    I'll only vote for PAP!
    Current results

    Which is your favourite Minister?
    PM Lee Hsien Loong
    SM Goh Chok Tong
    MM Lee Kuan Yew
    DPM Jayakumar
    Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
    Teo Chee Hean
    George Yeo
    Tharman S.
    I Hate of them!
    Current results

Faces of Singapore
    Thrasymachus' photos More of Thrasymachus' photos


    The author of this blog bears no responsibility for any misinterpretation, libel, defamation, injury and death as a result of reading this blog. Contents are high subjective and readers should read with caution. All readers should be 18 years and above, with half a decent brain to judge the validity of the articles.

Search Blog

    Search WWW Search

Number of Visitors

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates