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TOC Face to Face Forum LIVE UPDATE (with pictures)



7:45pm Nearly full house. Forum starting soon!

7:48pm Panelists arrive!

8:00pm Stephen from Pasir Ris Punggol GRC. On HDB – SDP would like to privatize the building of public housing. Do you consider your way of providing for funding for it?

Goh Meng Seng :Govt has become the number landlord. Not feasible to privatize the use of land.  If it had started in 1965, then yes, it is feasible, but not now.

Chee Soon Juan: Not correct to say SDP wants to privatize public housing. But to ensure HDB remains a zero profit venture. Need to get HDB to be transparent in all its transactions. First step is to get Govt to reveal the true cost of building HDB flat.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: Conflict of interest between HDB and SLA. Ridiculous to speak of a ‘market’ as HDB prices is set by Govt. HDB should go back to being supplier of cheap affordable housing to the lower 30% of income strata. Also provide better choice for rest of population. Increase the supply of land to allow for greater amount of housing to be built.

Question to Chiam See Tong– Raymond Anthony Fernardo husband of woman with schizophrenia. Difficult to get support. Caregiver also fall into depression. Why is it so difficult to get Parliament to talk about support of people with mental illness.

Chiam See Tong: PAP don’t like problems of people with mental disabilities.

Raymond: But I thought PM Lee says he wants to make Singapore a home for all Singaporeans?

Chiam: He says a lot of things. (audience applause) PAP credibility is down the drain.

SMU Grad Alvin to Gerald Giam. Income inequality lots of driving forces behind. What is WP’s policies to mitigate?

Gerald Giam: Focus on helping those in the lower income groups. Workfare supplement currently too little. Average $80 per month. Hardly enough. WP to propose to raise Workfare quantum. Most important though is to reduce the inflow of foreign workers especially for lower income jobs.

Patrick Lee political observer to Dr Chee. What is opposition’s plan for the next five years in economics?

Chee Soon Juan: Top 10 percent of income earners grown. But bottom 10 percent hardly moved.  But very high GDP. So where is this money coming from? If continue on this trend the social friction will worsen.

SMU Grad Alvin to Gerald Giam. Income inequality lots of driving forces behind. What is WP’s policies to mitigate?

Gerald Giam: Focus on helping those in the lower income groups. Workfare supplement currently too little.

New Asia Republic’s Donaldson Tan to Kenneth Jeyaretnam: PAP policies on entrepreneurship, raising retirement age etc… what policy direction is the PAP pointing to? What is Reform Party’s policy?

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: Focus on productivity. Singapore has one of the lowest productivity in the world. All our GDP growth has been fueled by growing workforce. PAP paying only lip service to productivity growth which is the source of high income and higher value industries.

GENERAL QUESTION

a)    Problem is not system. But the people in the system. People in the civil service are not in tune with the people on the ground. What are your solutions to this problem when majority of policy makers do not know what the people are thinking?

b) Everybody says HDB price is too high. But what is opposition going to do about HDB prices? They’re stuck. If lower prices, home owners are going to scream. If keep it the same new buyers are going to be unhappy.

Chia Ti Lik (Socialist Front): Problem of disconnected policy makers - Give the ruling party a black eye in this coming GE. PAP has stayed in power for too long. They’ve created an elite admin service with super high pay. These elites no longer see themselves as having to push for something for the benefit of the people. What we see is a reflection of group think and accumulation of 40 years of uninterrupted rule.

On  HDB Prices - Land is 100% controlled by the Govt. They’ve created asset appreciation policies. This money from the people went into Govt coffers and is used to spearhead their investment overseas. We do not have an accountable system where there’s transparency and fruits shared from investment with the people. The high prices sadly may have to remain because Singaporeans have already committed to those properties. And it would be irresponsible to change that. But we’re committed to socialist policies. The old HDB prcies can remain. But the new ones can go on a lower price scales.

Goh Meng Seng: Problem of disconnected policy makers - Send strong signal to the Government. By voting for opposition.

With regards to HDB - The high prices is not a problem created by us, it’s by the PAP. There are actually two segments of flats in HDB. New flat and resale. New flat PAP has full control. Do away with grants for young couples to buy resale flats as it distorts the market and leads to higher prices.Discard the idea that HDB is investment. It is not. It is a home.

Dr Chee Soon Juan sharing a moment with Mr Chiam See Tong

Chee Soon Juan: On HDB – The biggest thing an elected opposition MP can do is make Minister of National Development open the book and reveal cost of HDB flat. Also make them account for where our reserves come from. How much came from HDB sales? Get them to open the books, and then let’s talk. With this information, I’m sure we can find smart people who can come up with the solutions. But we need the information first. Our biggest battle is not PAP but what PAP has done to our minds.

On policy markers being out of touch – they live in world of their own. They don’t live in HDB flats. The solution is to vote the opposition for a voice in the system.

Chiam See Tong: On HDB -  PAP is making lots of profits. Not true there’s subsidies in housing. The government is making lots of money from housing.

On policy makers being out of touch – They started of as socialists now they are capitalists. Only advice I can give is vote for the opposition.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: Disagrees that policies are on the right track. There’s enough money to fund a better social support system.

On HDB – If property prices crash, there will be serious consequences. Govt has vested interest in property prices rising. When RP is in power, has to be careful not to cause property prices to crash, while creating more affordable housing for lower income group.

Gerald Giam: On issue of HDB – Govt has not planned for influx of migrants. Solution is to increase supply. Housing loan should be reduced to twenty years or less, not 30 years. New flats are now pegged to resale flats. Solution – to peg price of new HDB flats to median income.

On complacency of Govt – PAP with its vast network knows what’s going on. It’s ignoring the feedback from the ground and persisting in the same policies.

New topic: Civil Liberties

Member of audience 'Mr Chua' worries that PAP does not has the same sense of patriotism as ordinary Singaporeans. Patriotism is most important issue in Singapore. Hopes that stay united, do not fight among yourselves.

Chia Ti Lik - Civil liberties have been curtailed. Even opposition have to contend in legalistic rulings. Civil liberties are a must for us to grow as a nation. A must to change this system and change the lives of the people in our country in the days to come. Should not be divorced from bread and butter issues. The only time when you see people rally together is during GE every five years. You don't see that everyday, cos the ruling party doesn't want you to know that so many of you are against them.

Human rights activist and lawyer M Ravi to Goh Meng Seng

Racial quota on HDB flats an example of discrimination against minorities. What is NSP’s stance on removing this kind of policies?

Goh Meng Seng: Race is a political construct. Tampines has 24% Malays. The result is highest number of Malay coffeeshops. Ethnic economics is good for minorities. As long as the concentration of minorities in an area is not more than 50% he can accept that.

Political detainee Michael Fernandez says in other countries, Government has offered compensation for people previously detained without trial. What does the opposition have to say?

Academic Andrew Teo to Dr Chee on his appearance on American radio talk show. How effective? Also how do you convince ordinary Singaporeans of the need for civil liberties? Is there coherent planning among opposition to take on the PAP?

Chee Soon Juan: opposition have been meeting from time to time to ‘sit and talk’. On issue of detention without trial, ISA must go. Now Govt is using existence of terrorism to justify ISA but there are other ways to deal with terrorism. On issue of convincing Singaporeans on civil liberties – use of new media. Economic rights and political rights are different sides of the same coin.

Public assembly is used by public to show their dissatisfaction of the government. In Hong Kong, people use public assembly to force Government to back down on unreasonable policies.

Chiam See Tong: Defense is a priority. No point being rich when you have no one to guard them. No matter how much you may dislike National Service, but everyone is to play a part.

On ISA – he agrees with Dr Chee. ISA must go. When Devan Nair was in Parliament he supported the ISD, until he was detained. He regretted his earlier decision. There is no Emergency (which took place in the 50s) now to justify for existence of ISA.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: It is a fundamental human right that people should not be deprived of a chance for a trial. Supports the compensation for people who have been detained without trial. To replace the ISA, RP will suggest a ‘modern anti-terrorism legislation’, something along the line of the Control Order n the UK.

On National Service - to reduce it to less than two years. New citizens have to do national service also, if not pay a lump sum tax to compensate Singaporeans.

Gerald Giam do away with ISA. With regards to terrorism, have a modified detention system which allows for detainees the right to have a lawyer.

Chiam See Tong: On ISA – he agrees with Dr Chee. ISA must go. When Devan Nair was in Parliament he supported the ISD, until he was detained. He regretted his earlier decision. There is no Emergency (which took place in the 50s) now to justify for existence of ISA.

Chia Ti Lik: Socialist Front is named in tribute of those members of Barisan Sosialis who had been detained under ISA. Not only the ISA must go, but the Temporary Provisions Act as well. On issue of conscription – a must.

Goh Meng Seng: yes to National Service, but can be reduced. Why spend time preparing for National Parade when the time can be used to train for defence?

MEDIA

Media student from NTU – what are the challenges opposition face dealing with a partisan mainstream media, and what should be role of media in Singapore?

Gerald Giam: Important media is independent of political influence. Under Newspaper and Printing presses act, Govt can exert even more influence that the media owners. Feels that this should not be the case.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: RP believes in free marketplace of ideas. Abolish the restrictions on free media such as Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.

Chiam See Tong: Media has to serve the country not serve the masters. Press must have freedom to publish without fear, and must always have the nation in mind, that’s its true master. Eg – in one of the rallies, a fist fight broke out between two people. But the headlines read ‘Riots broke out’. So it’s clear which side the mainstream media leans on.

Chee Soon Juan: Engage the editors. Use the internet. They read and know what’s going on. Make sure they are on the side of the people. Make sure the editors report fairly and in a balanced way. Don’t just talk about the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act.

Goh Meng Seng: A govt-controlled media is not necessarily biased. Eg – BBC. We cannot take for granted a free press will come to us. As citizens you have a role to demand for press freedom.

Chia Ti Lik: Until we change the Parliament to change the laws curbing media, we can use the internet to force the mainstream media to be more objective. Media in other countries is supposed to be the watchdog and that is the role that the media has to rise up to.

Member of audience ‘Kenneth’ asks about opposition stance on defamation laws.

‘Brandon’ : civil liberties does not give people room to be innovative and creative. How would the parties allow innovation to foster through civil liberties?

MARUAH chairperson Braema Mathi asks for parties’ views on Wikileaks. If it’s necessary to take an unpopular stance with the people, how will the parties do it?

Chia Ti Lik: On Defamation. Nobody asks the PAP to step into the political arena. The moment you step into this arena, don’t expect to go crying to some judge when people say something bad about you. On Wikileaks, it happens because of a lack of information. If the government were more transparent, Wikileaks won’t have the kind of attention it is getting now. On unpopular measures – nation comes first. If it’s a necessary but unpopular decision, SF will do it.

Goh Meng Seng: On defamation, there should be a defense if what is said iif it s for the public interest. On Wikileaks, what is off the record should not be published.

Chee Soon Juan: On unpopular measures – when we first started talking about civil liberties and protesting, we got a lot of heat and were called all sorts of names.

Chiam See Tong: The purpose of defamation law had a good purpose, it keeps the dialogue civilized. But unfortunately it can be misused. We have to look out for people who are abusing the law. Under the law whatever is said in Parliament is free from lawsuits. In Parliament you can say anything. But over here the qualified privilege is taken away. In elections also, there should have been a qualified privilege. But you see people getting sued during elections. This keeps many people from taking part in politics.

Chiam says he has been lucky not to be sued. How is that done? The main thing is not to say anything bad about the other party.

Gerald Giam: On unpopular policies - If it's for the good of the people, implement it. The onus is on the politician to persuade the population, not to restrict opposition, and bulldoze through. On lack of civil liberties curbing innovation - don't wait for the tide to turn. Do something if you feel strongly. On defamation - the law is very broad. On Wikileaks - it's important for diplomats to have frank conversation with others. Singapore's edge is our ability to gather information about the region and share it with the 'bigger' nations. If it comes to a stage where Singaporean diplomats cannot speak frankly, it prevents us from punching above our weight. But now that Wikileaks is out, I encourage you to read it.

Final Question and closing remark

  • What is the parties strategy during elections?
  • How to avoid three corner fight?
  • Opinion of paying top dollar for top talent?
  • What are your motivations for going through this trial of being in the political fire, but how long are you going to stay? What is your take on personal integrity?

Chiam: My closing remark. Follow my example. Put your money where your mouth is.

Chia Ti Lik: Parties have to come together. SF will avoid three corner fights. We will cooperate with the rest. Our guns are pointed in only direction - that is the PAP. With regards to top dollar for public servants - people who choose to step in politics are performing public service. That means sacrifice. That means no top dollar. Personal integrity for people in public office has to be paramount.

Goh Meng Seng: Takes opportunity to pay tribute to Mr Chiam See Tong. The first rally he attended was SDP's (then under Chiam). But it took me another ten years to step out from behind the Internet. I am a coward. But if I can do it, so can you. If we do not have a passion we cannot last long. Passion of Mr Chiam to be in politics for 34 years. That is one thing I cannot match. For the young ones, please start early. What is NSP's strategy? Our aim is to break PAP's monopoly. What happens next? Whether the various oppositions form a coalition govt remains to be seen.

You must have right mindset to serve. Politics is about public service, not money.

Chee Soon Juan: On strategy - there are more younger people in this forum than older ones. And many people got to know this forum through internet. Strategy is to use internet. Hopes that audience do not feel a sense of detachment, like passive observers. You don't have that luxury here unlike in democratic countries. We don't have democracy here. Don't sit there passively. Risk sacrifices you will have to make. But it's worth it. This country is worth fighting for.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: We are not just there just to be a check and balance. We intend to form a government. But it is only going happen if people like you come forth and help us. We believe we have better policies than the PAP and the people to put that in place. But without your support, without you overcoming your fear… don’t grumble until polling day, then go and vote the incumbent, and then grumble for the next four years. Join the Reform Party, be a candidate. On every walkabout, RP has been asked if they are contesting. People want to have a choice.

Gerald Giam: Encourages audience to go and tell others about the opposition. It's only through talking to your family and friends that we gain credibility. Take the time to research the candidates get to know more about the opposition.

Forum ends at 10:40pm