The Online Citizen

Catherine Lim: My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans

January 15
21:24 2012

the following is the full transcript of Dr Catherine Lim’s acceptance speech on being awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Online Citizen on the occasion of its 5th Anniversary, on 13 January 2012.

Following the shock results of the General Election of 2011 (GE 2011) there was, as expected, a flurry of commentaries analyzing the causes. But the analyses left out what could turn out to be the most interesting and intriguing one of all. Thus while they examined, with forensic thoroughness, the people’s anger against the unpopular PAP policies related to foreign workers and the ministerial salaries, while they scrutinized the resentment against PAP arrogance, they failed to mention what I have rather facetiously called PAP Fatigue , that is, an overwhelming sense of weariness with a ruling party that has been around for far too long.

The weariness would appear to be part of human nature, a natural disposition to react negatively to an imposed environment of oppressive sameness and uniformity, the reaction being all the stronger when there is no prospect of change.

For nearly 50 years, Singaporeans had never known any form of government except the one-party rule of the PAP, had never been exposed to any but the authoritarian and peremptory PAP style, had never experienced democracy except the carefully edited PAP version.

Some years ago, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the party’s rule, then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew declared that since the PAP government was the best, it should be around for the next 40 years. If he had his wish, it would mean that Singaporeans would have to live permanently with PAP fatigue.

Yet into the twenty first century, conditions in Singapore were already ripe for political change. For the society was arguably among the most technologically advanced and globally connected in the world, and the most aggressively capitalistic. This meant that Singaporeans were well exposed to other forms of government, to examples of properly functioning, two-way government-people relationships, examples of robust civic societies.

Why then, for nearly half a century, did the Singapore electorate choose to endure PAP Fatigue?

The reason must lie in the special compact between the PAP government and the people, which though only implicit, was nevertheless strong and binding. According to this compact, the government would provide the people with the highest possible level of material prosperity, political stability and social orderliness , and the people, in return, would show full co-operation and support for whatever decisions the government made and whatever policies it chose to enforce.

So under a rule far longer than any seen in other countries, during which the PAP exerted control in virtually every domain of life, the fatigue factor, because it was not allowed free expression, simply settled into a general docility and conformity of thinking, feeling and behaving. If it dared rouse itself into political agitation, it was quickly smacked down by that fearful instrument of control, the Internal Security Act or ISA, by which activists could be detained without trial. And there was also that equally feared instrument, the defamation suit by which political critics could be financially crippled for life.

Through it all, the people must have constantly reminded themselves that it was still a very worthwhile trade-off, for they were enjoying a degree of prosperity unmatched in the region. In any case, even if they wanted an alternative government, there was simply no prospect of any, since the existing opposition parties were just so pitifully small, weak and helpless. Taking into account all these factors, Singaporeans must have come to the conclusion that their lot, though somewhat complicated, was by no means a bad one.

Hence, it did not matter that outsiders were making unflattering observations of us, for instance, that Singaporeans had become a nation of unquestioning and compliant subjects, incapable of acting on their own, with no interests beyond bread-and-butter concerns and the famous 5Cs of social success. Singaporean students might perform brilliantly in exams but were woefully lacking in independent thinking, creative expression and social skills. The Singapore media and other public institutions were predictably, boringly pro-Establishment. Most of all, there was no identifiable Singapore culture beyond the ubiquitous food centres and shopping malls.

If in a general election, PAP Fatigue managed to surface in little pockets of angry voting, it made no difference whatsoever to the general state of affairs. This was true of all the previous 11 elections; after each one, the antagonism duly subsided, the people went back to their accustomed acquiescence and the government to its accustomed strongman methods. It was business as usual.

So what happened in the 12th election to make GE 2011 so different as to be called a defining election, a watershed, after which things could never be the same ? Had the fatigue factor finally reached the stage of ‘enough is enough’, and struck back as a retaliatory force that took by surprise even the supremely confident PAP? Had it managed to link up with the other causes of voter discontent, to form one huge, super anti-PAP force that actually did the unimaginable, that is, compel the PAP leaders, led by the Prime Minister himself, to offer public apologies in an amazing display of contrition, humility and earnestness never seen before?

And did this extraordinary outpouring imply something that was just too good to be true: that in future the government would think twice before ramming through one unpopular policy after another, such as the deplorable one of the ministerial salaries?

Indeed, it may be said that what the people accomplished in GE 2011 was nothing less than historic – putting an end to fifty years of political apathy, fifty years of a losing compact with the government.

At this stage of my deliberations, a very pertinent question may be asked: Is this a true picture of GE 2011 and its outcomes? Or it is somewhat exaggerated, overly optimistic?

We’ll see. Going further in the deliberations, I am now going to suggest that the main reason for the obvious effectiveness of the fatigue factor was the concurrence of two special happenings, unique to GE 2011, which interacted to produce an effect that neither on its own could have achieved.

The first was the emergence of a group of voters who, by virtue of a natural restlessness and impatience were the most likely group to turn PAP Fatigue into an active fighting force . These were the young voters, in their twenties and thirties, many of them first-time voters, with the natural tendency of youth to get easily bored and start clamouring for change.

Thus even the mere fact of the PAP’s very long presence in the political scene would have been enough for the fatigue factor to kick in and make a difference in votes. But what seriously aggravated this fact was the perception of the young voters, accompanied by strong resentment, that the PAP government had become totally indifferent to their needs and aspirations.

They were, in the typical language of youth, ‘pissed off’ by certain well-known attributes of the PAP which ,though generally detestable, were especially repugnant to the young.

These included the overbearing, intolerant and patronizing approach that was so stifling to their vibrant and creative energies; the elitism, superiority and highhandedness that offended their youthful ideals of equality and fair play; the inflexibility, stiffness, and formality that were at odds with the casual, spontaneous, friendly manner that they favoured.

If additionally, this group shared the overall voter perception that the PAP, despite its claims of high standards of leadership, was becoming too lax, complacent and arrogant , and losing touch with the common people, then the hostility would have been that much greater.

The second mentioned special happening in GE 2011 was the emergence of a force which provided exactly the hope that these disaffected young voters needed, exactly the channel for their blocked and frustrated energies. This was the amazingly revitalized Workers’ Party, the clear star of the opposition.

It quickly came to represent for them all that the PAP lacked: a simple, casual, unassuming style that dispensed with pomp and ceremony ( there was a post-election picture in the newspapers showing the party chairman in a Hawaiian shirt riding a bicycle and another one of him conferring with his new constituents in a Spartan setting of basic furniture set up in an HDB void deck); a bold, creative flair for new ideas, as seen in the party slogan of ‘A First World Parliament’ that clearly resonated with these young voters ; a calm dignity throughout the hurly burly of the hustings, which must have impressed them deeply because it contrasted so sharply with the shocking display of vindictive anger by a senior PAP member.

Perhaps the most attractive attribute of the Workers’ Party for these young Singaporeans was something that the PAP had routinely and contemptuously dismissed as irrelevant in leadership, but which the young, in their media-saturated world, prize highly – charisma. A newcomer in the Workers’Party, was quickly seen to embody this quality: he had not only the dazzling credentials of a top academic, entrepreneur and CEO, but also the glamorous good looks of a star ( A female newspaper columnist wrote gushingly about his choice of a certain style of shirt, showing him in three pictures smiling like a true celebrity basking in the adulation of fans)

In short, these young voters saw the PAP as old , dull and stale, belonging to the past, and the Worker’s Party as new, bright and hip, pointing to the future.

The prominence of this group of voters on the electoral stage may irritate some PAP sympathisers and provoke this question: Why bother about them when they do not, after all, comprise the majority, and, in any case, will soon outgrow the immaturity of youth?

The conclusion which the PAP leaders have probably already reached is this : this group of voters cannot be ignored; on the contrary, they must be singled out for special attention and wooing, for numerous compelling reasons.

Firstly, they will be active voters for a long time to come, and must therefore be quickly weaned from their present hostility. Secondly, they are the young citizens, in an ageing population, whom the government will have to depend on for the country’s future development, and who must therefore not feel alienated enough to want to leave the country and emigrate. Thirdly, they belong to the increasingly powerful world of the Internet and the social media, which no government in the world can afford to ignore. Fourthly, because in GE 2011, they clearly had the support of a large number of older voters who could easily identify with them, they might be setting a dangerous precedent – starting a trend of strong generational unity within the anti-PAP camp that could only work to its advantage.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the exuberance, boldness and defiance of the young voters, operating in the new media world of instant, dazzling communication, could be infectious enough to have an unstoppable snowball effect, engulfing other groups of voters, including even those normally sympathetic towards the PAP. In fact, something like this could already have happened, as may be inferred by the 40% vote against the PAP in the General Election swelling to an alarming 65% vote against the PAP-endorsed candidate in the Presidential Election some months later.

In short, possibly for the first time in Singapore’s electoral history, a small core of young voters had provided the sparks that started a fire that could set off a whole conflagration if not stopped.

Thus it was not surprising that the PAP quickly swung into a massive campaign of damage control, repair and rebuilding. The Prime Minister announced, almost immediately after GE 2011, that the PAP would ‘re-invent’ itself in order to win back the people’s trust. The term is a much stronger one than ‘self-renewal’, used to describe an on-going exercise in which young potential leaders are systematically recruited and trained to replace the older leaders, to prevent complacency and carelessness from ever setting in.

‘Re-invention’ implies much more than self-renewal – it means a complete overhaul, a transformation, a born-again PAP that has an entirely new compact with the people. As if to convince the people of his utter sincerity, the Prime Minister used another, even more impressive-sounding word : he told the nation that from now onwards, he and his team would be ‘servant-leaders’. ( I remember gasping at the use of the word) ‘Servant-leaders’ – the ultimate oxymoron that must have made many people sit up and ask: did I hear right? Never had a prime minister so earnestly pledged so drastic a change of leadership style , so soon after an election.

At this point, I have to come in as a skeptic, and show the other side of the GE 2011 picture, which I fear is not at all pretty. I believe that the PAP is incapable of re-inventing itself, because true re-invention would require the opening up of one crucial area, that the PAP seems determined to keep under control at all cost. This is the area of political liberties – open debate and criticism, independence of the media, public assemblies and street demonstrations for a cause,etc., all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies.

Over the years, the government had reluctantly made small concessions, such as allowing a Speakers’ Corner, relaxing some censorship laws, tweaking a rule here, tinkering with another there, never going beyond these small, meager offerings that Singaporeans had no choice but to accept because there was nothing better.

In this regard, PAP Fatigue has an additional meaning for political critics like myself– a frustrating, exhausting weariness with the PAP government, not because it has been around too long, but because during this long period of rule, it has not seen fit to nurture the people politically, and has failed to provide the proper environment for political education and growth. This right of the people is so basic and fundamental that no amount of material wealth can compensate for its denial or loss.

Still, assuming that the Prime Minister is sincere in his pledge and that he understands the mood of high expectancy in what may be described as Singapore’s version of the Arab Spring, the following questions are pertinent. Just what can the PAP government do to win the people’s trust , and once and for all, establish a proper basis for a working government-people relationship? To match the watershed expectations generated by GE 2011, what watershed act of re-invention is it prepared to undertake? With special reference to the by now obvious threat of the PAP Fatigue phenomenon, what can the government do to prevent it from ever appearing again, not only among the young voters, but the entire Singapore electorate?

Some months ago, a group of 16 ex-political detainees jointly petitioned the government to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations against them. The petition was promptly dismissed; the government later issued a terse statement to say that since all the proper procedures about the matter had already been taken, no further action was needed.

I was acutely disappointed. For I thought that the PAP had missed a fantastic opportunity to prove to the people that it had the honesty and courage to face up to its past excesses and take responsibility for them, or, as the case might be, that it had the strength and dignity to stand by the principles on which it had acted. Either way, it would have won the respect and regard of the people. Moreover, it had also missed the chance to show Singaporeans what is surely the noblest quality to come out of any conflict – the grace and magnanimity to reach out to former foes in reconciliation and new amity.

Indeed, a Commission of Inquiry with its urgency of purpose, potency of authority and high public visibility, would have been the ideal combination of powerful symbolism on the one hand and political will in real action, on the other, to bring about the event needed to signal the dawn of a new era. In one fell stroke, it would have banished that long-standing affective divide between the government and the people, an emotional estrangement that neither side wants. In the practical language of Singaporeans, it would have been a win-win situation for all – the government, the ex-detainees, the people, the entire society, even future generations. If only. If only.

The unfortunate truth is that the PAP remains adamant on keeping a tight lid on political and civic liberties. While it takes a generous and liberal stance in the opening up of all other areas – education, the arts, entertainment, lifestyle – it has built a firewall around the political domain. While it has readily agreed to commissions of inquiry for national mishaps such as the Nicoll Highway collapse, the escape of top terrorist Mas Selamat, and more recently, the major breakdowns in the MRT, it draws a line at matters that might engulf the whole nation in political questioning and debate, for which it has the strongest antipathy.

Indeed, so averse is the PAP to the subject that, as many of us may have noticed, it even shies away from using words such as ‘democracy’, ‘human rights,’ ‘political reform’. And yet these are matters at the core of a government-people relationship if it is to be based on transparency, respect and trust.

I will maintain that as long as there is no real political opening up ( two weeks ago, in his New Year message, the Prime Minister spoke about a ‘political transition’ but I don’t think he can ever bring himself to talk about ‘a political opening up’, or ‘political reform’) and as long as political dissidents feel they may be punished in one way or another, for instance, by new and subtle uses of the ISA which the government has made clear it has no intention of repealing, the so-called transformation after GE 2011 ,will, at best, be a partial one only, and at worst, a travesty of all the noble promises that had been made. What a pity. Once again, the ‘if only’ sigh of wistful longing!

If only, to their very substantial material achievements , the PAP could add the non-material, but equally important achievement of enabling the society to move steadily towards political liberty! I am not talking about the disruptive, wild excesses of democracy seen in some countries; I am talking about a sensible, responsible exercise of democratic rights that surely Singaporeans are capable of, at this stage in the development of our society.

The skeptic in me wants so much to be an optimist. I am terrified that if nothing comes out of GE 20111, nothing ever will, out of any future election. It will be business as usual, in the most hideously fatalistic sense of the word.

My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans I have been so enthusiastically talking about, those young voters who, in GE 2011, converted the fatigue factor into a voice that the PAP government was forced to listen to. Over the years, as they continue to be exposed to the outside world, as they become more discerning, more critical, more engaged , I hope that they will continue to use PAP Fatigue as a tool for change, always constructively and wisely, always with the well-being of the society in mind.

Most of all, they must persevere in nudging forward ,respectfully but relentlessly, an exasperatingly resistant PAP government that prefers, if at all, to take such painfully slow, such painfully small steps along the path of political reform. Reform there must be. For only then can Singapore come into its own, only then can it claim to be a successful society in every sense of the word, and take a proud place among other societies in the world.

  • Bent

    I think what Catherine said here most people would easily comprehend and agree.

    Looking back, Singapore presently is not as good as 10 or 20 years ago, most people are living in very stressful situation.

    What I want to know is how and why 60% continually to support this regime. I hope Catherine can do an analysis to why people still supported them at polls despite they are completely out of touch with us.

  • Iguess

    Hi Bent;

    please correct me if i’m wrong, SG people worried if change of gov HDB price will drop n CPF will gone???


    SG people worried if change of gov HDB price will drop n CPF will gone???
    and you think leekingyou/son inc will give you BACK your cpf savin$ in fool 100%?
    why do you seek a highprize HDB flat for?
    can your children afford it when their times come to set up a love nest?
    last but not least..where are YOU gonna sleep when you sell YOUR highprize hdb flat?
    under anderson bridge perhaps?

  • the reason why…


    Singaporeans are unthinking, fearful, apathetic.

    Much of it to do with PAP’s intentional culture of depoliticization.

    I’m not sure there’s much more to analyze.

    We just let it happen. Our fault too.

    But no more. Never again. Onwards to 2016.

    The typo here is also funny:

    “I am terrified that if nothing comes out of GE 20111, nothing ever will, out of any future election.”

    For sure I hope PAP will be banished way before 20111.

  • Maxchew

    Thanks to Yahoo News, a non-political news medium, for reporting TOC’s event highlighting Cat Lim’s hard-hitting but truthful speech about the shortcomings of the PAP Govt.
    YN was the only one who did it without any fear or favor whereas the MSM like ST and Today were too cowardly to report the event and Cat Lim’s speech even though their reporters were at the function.
    Shame, shame, shame…..all the monkeys know your name.

  • I wonder…

    … if any MSM will have the balls to publish Catherine Lim’s excellent speech in full.

    No??? And I thought the MSM was “independent”.

  • Now you know…

    … why SPH really wants to sue Yahoo News.

    Tsk tsk… shame shame.

  • Iagreefully

    “superiority and highhandedness that offended their youthful ideals of equality and fair play”

    Fair play.
    As a youth she’s talking about, this was the words that I fully agree with. Had the PAP come right out and say, guess what? Yes the newspaper is our mouthpiece and PA is associated with us, and this is not going to change so eat it.

    If they admit that it is not fair play, instead of accusing us of favouring “conspiracy” theories. This probably wouldn’t have been one of the main reasons why I chose to be with the minorities.

    I do feel the same sentiments that the PAP is not doing enough, at a faster rate to recapture my interest in them. Singapore has traditionally do things faster than other countries, which is why we are still labelled as the economic miracle in other people’s textbook. So why in this aspect (politically) you can’t change faster? Instead giving us so many reasons and excuses (please don’t get me to repeat, I will probably barf).

    I don’t have so much time to wait.
    One more SMRT-like fiasco, I will do my best to get out of here, and you can shake your hands with more immigrants.
    That wouldn’t bother me anymore.
    Because I will be out by then
    and one day..
    just one day…
    I will watch from afar, laughing at your loss.
    Not just the loss of your political seats
    The loss of Singaporeans who truly cared about the country, but got too frustrated with you.
    The loss of the economic miracle your previous honorable party members took pains to build.
    And if Singapore were to disappear on the globe one day, it because of you.
    The you who was too scared to allow Internet media to be used in GE2006
    The you who let inexperienced people in GE2011
    The you who only notice the disconnect with the ground in GE2011

    God knows what other nonsense will you bring in GE2016.
    Try re-drawing the election boundaries again and you will see another Aljunied-like defeat.

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  • kelvin


    HDB is for living, not to buy and sell, most ppl dun give a damn for the drop of price.

  • sunny

    The country is run by a family. Like father like son.The old man is like the dulang or puppet master, carrying out all the manipulation from behind the scene. How much longer? From dust to dust and all of us will go back to Mother Earth. The writing is on the wall. A matter of time. Wait patiently. The son is too takut to take the deep plunge as he is a penakut or coward. The old joker is just too domineering and had dominated him his whole life. As the health of the old joker is not too good and kept alive only by the best doctors on the planet it is only a matter of time. I write as an old fellow, 72, but had been lucky so far and enjoyed good health. Don’t even have a regular doctor. But, I will go to boothill, one day. So, will the old joker, but who will go first? Then, perhaps Sing will be free.

  • Tan Choon Hong

    Thank you, Catherine. I feel like I’ve just attended a master class. Please favour us with more of your insights that we may be enlightened, inspired and, hopefully, aroused into action.

  • mice is nice

    while its the young who will bring hope, its the old who galvanises it!

    without the old to shed light on PAP’s darker past, the young & gullable may well buy into the sophisticated machinery like a certain dictatorial state.

    this lack honesty and courage to face up to its past excesses and take responsibility for them somehow mirrors Japan’s rulers post WWII. but the Japanese leaders however flawed they were, held onto certain values dearly, unlike the MIWs, who value money above all else.

  • Nic

    Singaporeans are far too self centered for change to happen. They are afraid. Afraid that the prices of property will drop if the opposition takes over. The list goes on and on… Until we lose this attitude, nothing will change.

  • Eugene

    Cat Lim’s analysis that Papies dare not liberalise the Political landscape and the freedom of the fourth estate is correct. Her assumption (cannot blame her though cos of the blatant non exposure by MSMs and manipulated data by the Department of Statistics) that Singapore had been better in the the material sector is erroneous.

    The Papies started treating the citizens as a resource to milk them out of their income. Here are the facts that has happenned in the last 20 years.

    1. Nearly 10,000 HDB flats has been confiscated by the Papies.
    2. The baby boomers have been pushed to drive taxis and security guards.
    3. Nearly 500,000 Singaporeans have been made bankrupts.
    4. Nearly 1.2 million people are on handouts.
    5. Nearly 150,000 children go hungry to schools.

    Is this called materially well-off. The Papies had destroyed the trust bestowed on them to improve the livelihood of Singaporeans. Instead the Papies have increased their greed and self agranoisment.


  • BK

    I wonder if PAP is daring enough to take the risk of genuinely reforming our political landscape. They may see it as a sure lose proposition. Not to mention the financial costs to their ministers.

  • PAP ministers are screwed…

    … any wise pap minister (if there is such a creature) must surely know his days are numbered.

    if they open up the political landscape, they will lose.

    if they do not, they will also lose.

    they must now take bets which move will make them lose more slowly.

    That must be why they set up the casinos.
    So they will have practice in placing bets on their future.

    Just as the house always wins in the long run, the nation always wins in the long run. the pap is just a blot in our history that needs to be wiped away.

  • S’pore will help citizens wrongfully detained overseas

    … so says this CNA article:

    I would suggest that the gahmen first help Singaporeans who have been wrongfully detained LOCALLY.

    You all know what I mean.

  • son of singapore

    Catherine Lim’s narrative seems to say that the PAP is trying to govern better if given time and the opportunity. I do not think so. I think for the ruling party it is a case of ‘make hay while the sun shines.’

    My reasons for thinking so are as follows: Not a single first world country’s office holders have demanded such large salaries, on the average 6 fold more than the top superpower.No other country has imported shiploads of foreign workers and made new citizens of them at the rate of one million in the space of 5 years. This clearly shows that the PAP is not concerned with the demographics of the country nor the competitive economic impact of such large influx of working units flooding the indigenous population with such suddenness. The maintenance of a secret police which have from time to time carted away people for incarceration without trial. The control over the judiciary with compliant judges and conferring total powers on the AG, all to be certain that the PAP cause would be served with the requisite certainty and swiftness, when necessary.

    As long as the PAP dominated institutional superstructure as outlined above is in force, I do not see how any change need be made to the governance, nor indeed has any change been made now more than half a year after the general elections of 2011.

    To my mind I see a frenzy by the officeholders to extract the maximum benefit from a passive population cowed from years of the threat of ruin in so many ways that the imagination can conjure. LKY himself has famously used the imagery of the knuckleduster on his political opponents and utter ruin on the citizenry if he and his cohorts are ever displaced.

    “Change” and “new normal” are used out of context to lure the citizenry down the road of utter subjugation and penury.

  • PAP Junta is bunch of greedy cronisim !!!


    PAP Junta has re-invented itself as evil enpire ready to slaughter every locals that can by importing more foreigners at the disposal.

    They enjoyed preferment treatment from their elist classes by employing cronyism to run Singapore.

    Poor achievements like :

    *** Obscence high salary for the cronism Ministers with zero results

    ^^^ Sardine crowded costly-price fares MRT with daily diruptions

    *** Expensive housing & lousy Housing planning beyond the reach of the local

    *** Poor government-run ATM that stolen locals money

    *** Flood that can kill people

    *** Import more forigners to genocide the local population

    *** Best of all, what the fxxk is PAP Junta has been doing in Singapore !!!


  • A Good Mind

    Catherine is forever a respectable and knowlegeable political commentators. Comparing her to Eugene Tan and Gillian Koh, the latter two paled in comparison. I hope Eugene and Gillian have at least half of her bravery and openness instead of them trying to be politically correct ALL THE TIME on TV. Having said that Gillian Koh is the worse policies researcher and she seemed compelled to take side with PAP.

    Catherine, we wish you long life so that all of us can still witness real change in Singapore political scenes in the next election.

    We need young voters, but never forget that voters in their 40s, 50s are well-educated these days and internet savvy too, unlike in the past. These group of matured voters also have PAP fatique and will become a force to reckon with. Combined with younger voters, I forsee next election will kill PAP with a single stroke. I can’t wait for it to come sooner.

  • jerrie


    Drop or rise in HDB price doesn’t matter, you cannot cash out by any means unless you want to sleep on the streets. It is a form of CONSUMPTION.

    They can tie your CPF with your HDB and chances are you can’t cash out and forever its an unrealized gain/loss and ultimately your CPF is forever un-withdrawable!

    Moreover, they can manipulate the price of HDB sky high and you will be:

    1. Unable to save much $$ for retirement via CPF after housing mortgage
    2. continue to be enslaved and service huge housing loan
    3. HDB is only leased to you for 99 years (not truly yours anyway)

    Think carefully

  • Robert Teh


    Laws and order said to be good

    So is democracy and capitalism

    Yes, they do solve some problems

    That make the intellect look good

    With claim of talent and success

    Seem like taking shortcut is good

    Do they solve man’s real problems

    Or do they create moral problems

    The real tests lies in choice.

    Do we tell lies for truths

    Because truths are good for all

    Or truth is good but not for self

    Laws and order cling the deal

    Because one can manipulate them

    To make the black look white

    Vui Kong the heart awaiting our choice

  • kf

    My hope is for all policy makers to govern better too. I am however, not seeing concrete signs. Before elections, I heard of servant leadership, which I think is important. After elections, signboards and banners continue to preserve their image as guests of honour, VIPs, without them denying them of course.

  • Maxchewy

    It is sad that during GE 2011 and even now……any Oppo candidate is regarded as a hero and any PAPist including millionaire Ministers is looked down as a villain or worse.
    We have come full circle as I recalled clearly that in the 60s till the 80s it was the other way round…..Oppos were the scums and PAPists were the heroes. What a turn-around in just 30 years.
    That’s Life and Life goes on……..

  • mel

    @ maxchew

    In the same way the MSM does not report anything even remotely critical of the establishment… Yahoo news (tries to) objectively report anything news worthy. Which more often than not also includes the majority sentiment of internet users (which is often anti-establishment & rightly so in most cases)

    Reading their articles I was often thinking its a matter of time yahoo news would be censured, criticised or even sued by u know who for having/allowing such anti establishment views.

    Lo & behold, coincidence or not the nit picking starts & yahoo is being sued by SPH… very inline with the nature of how thr establishment deals with its “enemies” perceived or otherwise..

  • Robert Teh

    PM Lee has given signal that the economy is slowing down.

    In a recession, what do citizens do? Based on past performance, it can be expected that excuses will be made to make Citizens bear with more sacrifices to cover billions of losses by GIC and Tamasek and by paying more fee increases to support high CEO pays in all the GLCs.

  • for our futrure’s sake

    I have stopped voting for the PAP since 2006. I could then see that it is a party in decline. I am not a young voter.
    And I know quite a few not-so-young voters who have turned against the PAP.
    So Ms Lim,it is not just the young that will help this country, but the not-so-young whose eyes and ears are opened.

  • Bent


    I did not vote them.

    1. HDB has become unaffordable.
    2. CPF is trapped, cannot withdraw. Even if they allow to withdraw at 55, most fund has gone to the flat.
    a) Split the fund into normal, special and medisave – which means your normal account is always lack of fund to buy flat – which means you will fork out cash
    b) Minimum sum and withdrawal keep going up. We dont have a safety net!
    3. GLCs instead of making local life easier, chose to price fix and escalate every year
    4. PM and his team does not listen, they always pretend to listen but still do the same.
    5. Massive import of foreigners for cheap labour and also for new citizenships. They said in control but every month, many passes given and new citizens added.
    6. Leaders lead by example, but in Singapore, our leaders walled themselves in their ivory towers.

    Singaporeans continue to be worst off since 1990s till present. Pay has not gone up but everything has become unaffordable. And with massive import of cheap labour, a lot of people are either competing for losing jobs.

    Think of it, if they continue to this massive import and the population will hit more than 6M by 2016 and HDB will be sky prices – what happen to jobs, pay and housing?

    Anyway, there is so much frustration and complaint but still people chose to vote them. Just cannot comprehend that they cannot visualise, they want to wait for the D day before they wake up?

  • buster

    When million $$$$$$$ pay gets cut.economy slowdown……….

  • Dennis

    Not just young people. In fact, many middle age people have voted for opposition in GE2011.

    It should be correct to say the more educated people are and will vote for democracy, i.e. non-PAP rule in GE2011 and beyond. It happens that most educated people are young people.

  • RadioActive

    Catherine is the most loquacious and bombastic person I have ever known. She is fond of draggging into paragraphs and paragraphs using all sorts of vocabulary when one simple sentence will effectively convey the same message.

    And she just doesn’t make much sense or IQ logic as much as the PAP people she is criticising in her piece. Catherine, be reminded, you are also part of the PAP engineered system and you are certainly no Aung San Suyi of Singapore.

    You are more like a barking dog except you do it with guarded intellectual academic tactic which explains why you are still free like any Singaporean and you are not branded as anywhere near a threat to the country. But if you scan the bottom line of her article, it is just scratching the surface that seeks to tickle and tantalise.

    So sad to say at the end of the day I have the least respect for such a writer.

  • @RadioActive

    “So sad to say at the end of the day I have the least respect for such a writer.”

    And what powerful insights do you have, apart from “loquacious and bombastic” ad hominems?


    RadioActive16 January 2012
    Catherine is the most loquacious and bombastic person I have ever known.

    You are more like a barking dog except you do it with guarded intellectual academic tactic which explains why you are still free like any Singaporean and you are not branded as anywhere near a threat to the country.

    So sad to say at the end of the day I have the least respect for such a writer.
    you meant singapoor is now align with myammer usin north korean martial law?
    you need to give respect?
    wow!..if you give respect to catherine..then who give respect to leekingyou inc?
    a dog is a bitch..and you are 1 bitchy lacky mongrol…

  • kj

    In my opinion, the 60.1% who voted for PAP are:

    a. Elders who think the current PAP are the same as the PAP in the 80s who had the well beings of the people at heart.

    b. Those that benefit or think they benefit from the current PAP. ie. The wealthy, civil servants and the misinformed.

    c. The cynical. The people that believe that Singapore will be doomed if PAP were to lose power. Also, those who think that they will be in trouble if they don’t vote for PAP.

    d. People that don’t care about politics and current affairs. They don’t care what is going on around them as long as they are not affected.

    e. New citizens that have yet to see the true picture. PAP know that these voters will be their main winning factor in the coming elections.

  • Alan Wong


    Which is much worse, a barking dog or a running dog who doesn’t seem to have a mind of its own, let alone talk about common sense or IQ logic ?

    I personnaly think Catherine Lim has such a brilliant mind that even our PM can’t even match in style & substance.

  • Nortrijk

    Whilst Catherine is reasonable to stake Singapore’s political future as a frontier for the young, she had overlooked the fact that baby-boomers like her are also equally competent if not better in enacting for such changes. They also played part of the pivotal role in the watershed 2011 election and posolutely will, in 2016 as well.

  • David

    If you have attended any oppostion rally in the last election, it is heartening to see so many youngsters and elderies joining hand-in-hand to rally behind the opposition parties. As for PAP rally, you see a lot of old folks holding PAP banners with sign of weakness in their hands….no wonder they need to be ferried to PAP rally site to pretend support. I was very sympathetic towards those ailing citizen forced to attend PAP rally and end of the day my vote still decisively went into opposition camp for the sake of Singapore future. Yes! people who attended PAP rally went with an empty head and stomach waiting for freebies.

  • outside

    If she had come out and speak like Syliva Lim,earlier, we would have a different Singapore, after May 2011.

    But as what she is, she just want to enjoy her life lah, and in this case we would take a longer route.

  • son of singapore

    Remuneration is the standard bearer of the nature of the relationship between servant and master.If the servant grabs home a King’s ransom, then to all intents & purposes the servant is the real King and overlord. In our context, the servant is supposed to be the Government and the master, the citizenry. When the Government officeholder takes home millions as salary, can you tell me who is boss? Why should the boss please his servants, the citizenry? All the talk about serving the citizenry better in a changed governance is just eyewash in the face of the wash of millions of dollars for each officeholder.

    The knuckleduster is the real arbiter in our intercourse with the PAP. Do not be lulled by promise of a “new normal.” This phrase has been minted in the furnace of the Arab uprisings and is paradoxical when applied to the hegemony of the PAP. The Ruling Party is dealing in phantasmagoria to lull the population into political sleep, while it continues to rob the till.Which it has been doing for 17 years, when the idea of salary as proportional reward for GDP arose in the minds of the founding fathers of the PAP.

    From here it was a small step to go to the next big idea. Why not increase the population? Thus we have now to endure shiploads of foreign workers and new citizens.

    The extra-ordinary salaries of office holders is the curse of this Nation, for it leads to the destruction of our very identity as a nation.The astounding influx of foreigners change the demographics of this country irretrievably and like indigenous people everywhere we are reduced in every department of life.

  • Evapol

    Dear Catherine,

    By allowing people to have an opinion of their own, we can discuss things based on arguments, not compliance, let alone complacency. What is lacking the most in Singapore is thinking people, not robots that only go with the flow.

    People want change, but very often fail miserably in defining that change.

    On a curious note, did you run this article by a lawyer before publication?

    Congratulations on your win and best regards,
    A young and cautious person who only wants to err on the safe side ;)

  • son of singapore

    Communication and information are so important to human awareness that it is the first thing repressive regimes stamp out whenever they become capable to do so. All the half dozen newspapers in Singapore were closed down about 20 years ago by the Singapore Government, leaving the Straits Times which is today under the control of the Government. Repressive regimes are absolutely correct to fear the free flow of information, feedback and feed-forward among their citizenry.The Egyptian uprising which encouraged the other Arab uprisings was started and coordinated by a young Google executive. Google is the foremost browser in the Internet and so the foremost broadcaster and dealer of information.
    TOC is certainly the alternative voice against the publications of the SPH which owns the Straits Times. TOC may be instrumental in easing the entry of the largest opposition numbers voted into Parliament in recent years. It may be the pressure of the voices in TOC which caused the Government to agree to review ministers’ salaries, review the flood of foreign workers and rain water into Singapore and declare a ‘new normal’ which ironically, even paradoxically is a phrase coined by journalists in Al Jazeera to celebrate the Arab Spring. Irony and paradox lies in the fact that this repressive regime in Singapore has the temerity to hijack a phrase minted in the red hot furnace of the struggle for human freedom and human rights in the Arab world.

  • Rodolfo

    There are many young Singaporeans who hold strong views and view the incumbent in a negative light. If it weren’t for TOC and the recent elections, I am not sure if the incumbent would have had any idea of the extent of this sentiment.

  • Jackson

    Don’t talk so much about CPF and blah blah…show me the money on the table ! But the govt is broke.

  • Never change

    “PAP would ‘re-invent’ itself in order to win back the people’s trust.”

    “his team would be ‘servant-leaders’”

    The changes after the 2011 election is still cosmetic, basically the PAP rules as before.

    Why? Too much self-vested interests among the PAP elites.

    I have given up hope they will ever change perhaps should give the opposition a chance to improve the life of poor and ordinary citizens which forms the majority of the population.

  • Rodolfo

    Many young Singaporeans I have come across don’t mince their words in criticising the Government.

    The PAP has been talking about re-inventing itself and re-defining the terms of its engagement with Singaporeans. I sure hope they can. Because overall the PAP gets more things right than wrong. And they have been had a less than stellar record in improving public image and dithering in its engagement with citizens. It has come across as paying lip service to engagement and insincere.

    Any entrepreneur worth his salt will value the customer who gives honest feedback. The entrepreneur will spend time and effort to understand and address the unhappiness of the customer and work on improving his product and service. And this is how the PAP needs to view TOC. The PAP needs to change its mindset, harness the energy of TOC and turn it into an asset to improve the public image of the PAP.

  • Silent Generation

    Cathrine’s hope on the young may diminish as an earlier survey shows more than 40% of young will migrate if given a chance.

    The open door policy for Foreign talents of whatever kind including hawkers will replace these young and PAP will be assured of continued power.

  • WP voter

    I don’t think Catherine Lim is right at all in attributing the credit solely to the 20 or 30 something Singaporeans. Actually if you attend WP rallies, you will see that supporters come from a wide age group from the young to the old. Helping out the WP during the elections, I also see a strong support on the ground from the 40 something and 50 something and I daresay without them, WP would not have achieved the same results. What Catherine Lim has failed to identify is that there is a large section of the middle class voters voting for the opposition during the elections hence the results in places like Marine Parade, Joo Chiat, East Coast, Bukit Timah especially in the private estates. That to me is very symbolic of the loss of faith in the PAP by the educated and professional strata.

  • YoungAtHeart

    Catherine is right that the youth are the spark but PAP itself has managed to “nurture” a significant anti-PAP group that cut across age groups. I am in my 60′s leading a comfortable life but my whole family has crossed over to the opposition this GE2011 and going by how PAP act post GE, the crossover would be permanent. And I know of many baby boomers that have made the same switch.

    I do not mind the change of the government if the opposition can rid the system of cronyism and nepotism, more assistance to the needy and nationalise the essential services (e.g. transport, healthcare, electricity etc) again.

  • No Face

    It is a painful wonder that such a serious speech by such a popular and well-loved author as Catherine Lim at a such a unique and newsworthy event did not appear in the newspapers.

    Why should anyone buy the newspapers then?
    Such a shame and pity.

  • TanMahLee Holdings

    Half of the 60% are pap supporters and the other half are the dependant elderly, the new citizens and the much confused voters who could not find solidarity in the alternative parties. If these parties fight under one banner there would have been a very high chance of a 55-45 in their favour and the ratio of parliamentary seats would be like 48-39 with the incumbent as majority.

    Until somebody like Anwar is willing to come forward to initiate and lead a united front, the
    55-45 win will remain an uphill task. So remove all
    thorns to gain more voters’ confidence.

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  • AhKuah

    Wah, Catherine, your england very the powderful leh.

    While reading your very enlightening article, I find myself googling for so many new words that I’ve never come across.

    Anyway, just to congratulate you for this extremely insightful piece of writing. You are indeed very knowlegeable and I can only describe your writing style in one word – “SUI” !

  • sal

    @kj 16 January 2012

    ‘In my opinion, the 60.1% who voted for PAP are:

    a. Elders who think the current PAP are the same as the PAP in the 80s who had the well beings of the people at heart.

    b. Those that benefit or think they benefit from the current PAP. ie. The wealthy, civil servants and the misinformed.

    c. The cynical. The people that believe that Singapore will be doomed if PAP were to lose power. Also, those who think that they will be in trouble if they don’t vote for PAP.

    d. People that don’t care about politics and current affairs. They don’t care what is going on around them as long as they are not affected.

    e. New citizens that have yet to see the true picture. PAP know that these voters will be their main winning factor in the coming elections.’

    i believe so too.

    lots of the older folks also read only the chinese papers and are not internet savvy. if there’s a chinese version of toc where the older folks could access at ease to be updated of what actually occurs around them, the swing in ge2016 would be much greater.

  • Connected


    Quote: “….seeks to tickle and tantalise.”

    - Literary scholars call it ‘thought provoking’.

    Quote: “So sad to say at the end of the day I have the least respect for such a writer.”

    - Yes, you should be sad, it is your own loss.
    Our Cathy has many of her works published and also won award in Australia.
    - Just curious, you have more respect for Tin Pei Ling?

  • cannon

    it is quite difficult to think that our best chances lie with young singaporeans alone.

    sorry but sad to say our young are much more practical then their more idelaistic older sgporeans,on average.

    if the gahMEN so decide to win them over,they could.

    this could be done by giving in to the demands of the young.

    most of our young sgporeans care for their immediate needs and wants than whether other sgporeans are doing well or not.

    in fact,our fate lies with the not-so-young sgporeans,the late-baby boomers and some early GENXers.

    if these two huge groups of sgporeans can lend support to the GOOD OPPO SGPOREANS,then in GE 2016,we could most likely see more PAPies licking their wounds and the PAP’s share could drop even further.
    a 50-50 split may be a pssible scenario.

    many good sgporeans are turned off by the faked ‘love’ the PAPies are showing to sgporeans.

    the PAPies only love themselves and hey are just trying to enchant the FTs to be on their side,especailly PRs/NEW CITIZENS.
    this is also why the MIWs recklessly import huge numbers of these FTs by the boatloads and planeloads to boost their ground support.

    COMMON SGPOREANS who helped build this country are systematically,albeit subtly,being SIDELINED.

    If the gahMEN CONTINUE in their waywardness,SGPOREASN may end out being a minority or at least becoming the ‘MARGINALISED’ citizens in the country they built.

    it is a shame that the gahMEN SPARE zero THOUGHT for the overall well-bieng of true blue singaporeans as compared to the many BENEFITS they are handing to these FTrashes.

    SGPOREANS,IT IS TIME TO TRULY ‘WAKE UP OUR IDEA’ like they say in the army.

    anyone who still loved to be second-classed or third-classed citizens,please ‘KEE-CHIU’???

  • singapore volunteer

    Thank you, Ms Lim. You have hit thenail on its head. The older folks ( i have heard them repeated say) say that only the PAP Party gives them CASH HAND-OUTS ESPECIALLY SO just before Polling Day (this is a fact), those with huge investments in the share market, who own businesses and landed property say that only the PAP Party brings about stability and thus attract foreign investors. The indifferent voter is yet another animal. The Workers Party is still facing an uphill battle with the voters as a whole (remember it is still 60.1% voting PAP).
    On the upside, the PAP Party is cracking up surely day by day at its foundation. So, it is our preserved opposition by each Singaporean who demands change that will finally bring about the total destruction of the PAP in Singapore Elections. Remember how THE BERLIN WALL and how COMMUNIST RUSSIA completely collapsed.

  • Jo

    totally pointless essay. long grandmother story. i really don’t like lazy writers who make wild claims and provide not a single piece of evidence.

    what pap fatigue? did she conduct any survey or refer to any survey to show that people are just bored of having the same government?

    there are many reasons why people vote opposition, this was never one of the reasons cited. then she puts her faith in the young. but wait a minute, those below 21 can’t vote. could it be that many older sporeans have changed their minds?

    i don’t like the pap. but this essay makes asmuch sense as pegging ministers salaries to the top 8 earners in spore. pure rubbish.

  • oxygen


  • videos xx

    Seriously, PAP must go down! ….

  • Freedom the singapore way

    Very interesting speech touching various aspects of Singapore’s political spectrum.

    One point thought of highlighting which I think missed the broader spectrum of this analytical speech.

    How true is this that Singaporean voters were predominantly with PAP in their single party one way governance pre GE 2011? As citizens hadn’t even participated less than the extent of 50% and government of the day used to be decided on the nomination day. I think that judgement of people walked along with PAP pre GE2011 is more on fear factor rather than solidarity with PAP.

    I would say that fear factor played a major part even in the 60% of the voters who voted for PAP in GE 2011.

    So GE2011 wasn’t a free and fair election in real world of democracy.

    We would expect social activist like Ms Lim to be more vocal and straight to the point on the issue of having a ‘free and fair election’ at the first place.

    Without achieving the form of ‘fear no one free and fair democracy’, GE 2016 will also achieve nothing much. That’s our view.


    Jo17 January 2012
    totally pointless essay.

    i don’t like the pap. but this essay makes asmuch sense as pegging ministers salaries to the top 8 earners in spore. pure rubbish.
    you meant you don’t liked the pap?
    yet you demoted their status to top 8 instead of top 6 highest earner in singapoor…
    you know what is rubbish mey? when did you last DATE a bangala?

  • Jo


    personal attacks for wat?

    who is this catherine lim? come and say i so wuliao vote for opposition coz i bored??!!

    come on man, ppl vote for opposition or pap for serious reasons, for a better life and future. ppl vote for opposition coz price of hdb not affordable, transport overcrowded and for other serious reasons.

    what pap fatigue? you don’t mind some writer think you are as childish as that, no problem but i mind.

    catherine wrote pure rubbish. she did not even bother to support any of her crazy statements with one fact. she should stick to fiction writing.

  • @Jo

    Who is Catherine???

    You must be a five year old who just arrived from foreign shores.

    There are different styles of writing for different purposes.

    Catherine’s style serves a particular purpose.

    Perhaps you should TRY with your limited IQ to appreciate what she is saying first. Do you even know what that is?

  • Jo


    i have a low iq? interesting, considering you’re the one impressed by flowery language.

    yeah, i know her style – chiong hei. get to the point woman! u so clever, u explain to me wat is pap fatigue.

    if pap or whoever does their job, they can stay in power for 100 years. ppl voted agt them coz they did not so their job so well.

    there is a difference between being an intellectual and just trying to sound cheam. the election has been exhaustively covered in the press and by all sort of commentators. cherian george for eg, suggested that online media swayed votes. he was wrong because the votes showed that in areas where the opposition was weak, they recieved far less votes.

    there were many other reasons why there was a swing towards opposition, and it was not because people grew bored or felt oppressed.

    this is one of the dumbest theories i’ve read. but you’re welcome to talk about pap fatigue, whatever that mumbo jumbo means.

  • Jo


    who is catherine? is it tin pei ling’s pen name?

  • @Jo

    So you agree you have no idea what she is talking about?

    Low IQ.

    I rest my case.

  • Jackson

    In my opinion, the main reason why PAP lost due to their open door policy to foreigners…which creates strings of negative impacts to locals…high cost of living, bad behaviours, road hazards, littering,.culture differeces…and govt close one eye on all these issues…

  • Jo


    so you can’t explain but wanna pretend it makes a lot of sense?

    do yourself a favour, go find ppl who voted opposition and ask them, “did u vote for pap coz of pap fatigue?” hahaha. den you’ll know how stupid you sound.

    low iq. “i rest my case.”

  • trees

    Thanks for giving us such a insightful article. For a fair GE, the GRC system must be abolished.Many voters who want change,are trapped in big GRCs. Even in the PM’s AMK GRC, 40% 0f votes went to the opposition even though the team was new and hurriedly assembled for the election.BTW, I am not a young voter,and so are many of my friends!


    catherine wrote pure rubbish. she did not even bother to support any of her crazy statements with one fact. she should stick to fiction writing.
    ……..sured jo if you says so..catherine write rubbish that usa grant her permanent visa/green card
    you hav green card? ow is your BANGALA’s rubbish corrector boifren?
    fatique lately? why YOUR period lon overdued?
    didn’t know all pap governors hav PERIODs

  • it’s hard talking to dumb jo

    Dear Dumb Jo,

    The issue of “PAP fatigue” is just one aspect of the article. If it needs explaining, here is the explanation.

    1. She already acknowledges there are other aspects that affected the elections, as seen in the following quotes:

    “Thus while they examined, with forensic thoroughness, the people’s anger against the unpopular PAP policies related to foreign workers and the ministerial salaries, while they scrutinized the resentment against PAP arrogance, they failed to mention what I have rather facetiously called PAP Fatigue”


    “Had it managed to link up with the other causes of voter discontent, to form one huge, super anti-PAP force…”

    So PAP fatigue is not the only cause she is talking about. She knows there are other causes. She is offering another cause that people may have missed.

    2. What is PAP fatigue?

    “The weariness would appear to be part of human nature, a natural disposition to react negatively to an imposed environment of oppressive sameness and uniformity, the reaction being all the stronger when there is no prospect of change.”

    People are tired of the PAP. If you don’t know what it means to be tired of the same old PAP, you haven’t been in S’pore for very long.

    3. How does “PAP fatigue” connect points 1 & 2?

    It is because people are tired of the nonsense from the PAP, denying there is anything wrong, telling us how everything is fine, when it is obviously not, that people got tired of them (hence the fatigue).

    If PAP had been concerned and on the ball, the problems people face may not have caused the bad election results cuz people would think they are trying all that they can.

    But no, the PAP kept insisting everything is fine. The PAP themselves admitted this at their “soul-searching” conference (which is a misnomer since you need to have a soul to be able to search for it).

    So Catherine is explaining the psychological motivation for people voting like they did: (a) bad circumstance meets (b) fatigue at the PAP always thinking they are right.

    As an explanatory theory of psychological motivation, PAP fatigue makes perfect sense.

    To correct this, the PAP has to stop being like they were in the past, which is a tall order for them because they still believe they are fundamentally right.

    So please learn to read properly and understand what is being said before shooting off your mouth.

  • Smudger

    IMHO, I believe that it is the fear politics and rumour mongering and opposition bashing including the bias MSM that has sustained the PAP’s stay.

    “The only constant is CHANGE.”

  • condy

    nice words by catherine

    sad that one of the best writers in singapore history is hounded out of the mainstream due to PAP’s inability to accept criticism and change

  • Singaporean

    Truly a thought provoking essay by great singaporean mind.

    @Jo : If you are unable to grasp the concepts and language of a PhD in Linguistics, you sir are the buffoon with the low IQ.

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