Last week’s local headlines were dominated by CEO of Temasek, Ho Ching. Ho, who is also married to the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) ignited a firestorm of controversy online when she uploaded a post on social media that appeared to criticise Leader of the Opposition (LO), Pritam Singh for announcing that he would donate half of his LO salary to charitable causes.
Among other things, Ho’s post seemed to imply that Singh should not have publicised the fact that he was donating part of his salary and appeared to criticise his intentions for so doing despite the fact that her own husband had also in the past publicly announced charitable donations.
Amid the controversy, PM Lee has in an eight-page “rules of prudence” traditionally issued to Members of Parliament (MPs) from the People’s Action Party (PAP) after each general election, exhorted PAP MPs to “observe decorum,” and “ensure factual accuracy,” as “an absolute requirement”.
In the same “rules of prudence”, Lee also reminded PAP MPs to be “honest, empathetic, positive and affirming” and to “know your audience and be sensitive to how they feel” adding that social media should not be used to attack another person. Given the timing, It seemed rather disingenuous for the PM to tell his party’s MPs to behave in a certain way while his own wife (a public figure in her own right) seems to have her own rule book.
Despite previous expectations of the PM to retire at 70, there are now indications that this might now not be the case with the PM seemingly putting the leadership transition on hold indefinitely. When asked about his plans last week, the 68-year-old said: that while he ”had expressed the hope” that he would be able to hand over by the time he celebrated his 70th birthday, he could not determine the path of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to questions on the readiness of the 4G leadership to run the country despite senior PAP stalwarts earlier expressions of confidence in the 4G leadership. Is there an overreliance on one man?
Questions continue to be asked of the salaries of senior public servants in Singapore as it comes to light that there are five mayors in Singapore, paid at a minimum $660,000 per annum, each. Questions have also been raised as to whether or not Singapore needed 5 mayors when New York and London, which are far larger have only one mayor each. This is near twice the salary of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern who earns just $35,800 a month and has by all accounts been successful at controlling the coronavirus outbreak in her country while the entire army of our well paid public servants have not been nearly as successful. Yet, it would appear that PM Lee continues to defend the sky high salaries of public servants internationally. To quote the PM, he had said in a conversation with American philanthropist and businessman David Rubenstein and American think tank, the Atlantic Council that the Government in Singapore pays the officials “according to what he (or she) is worth), as well as “according to what they are contributing”. He also went on to insist that this is a model that works for Singapore.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has acknowledged the veracity of a story that had gone viral in relation to an elderly woman who had to seek additional employment in Sentosa just to make ends meet.
On top of providing certain clarifications and updates on what it had done to help the woman in question, the MSF had also said that while it appreciated “the effort of members of the public in reaching out to those who seem to be in need”, disclosing their circumstances on social media “may lead to further distress for these vulnerable groups of people and their families”. It seemed odd for the MSF to talk about “further distress” caused to people when the MSF’s own post was lengthy and full of information.
Questions were also raised as to whether or not the elderly lady in question would have received the much needed help so promptly had the post not gone viral.
In addition, the publicity generated by the plight of this elderly lady has lent credence to the Workers’ Party (WP) elected Member of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim’s earlier remarks that the Government needed ensure that those who had been contributing to the nation’s economy and society for years are taken care of, as this played a “very big part of social mobility”.
Professor in the Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, Cherian George has said that it is time for Singapore to review its social harmony law, Section 298 of the Penal Code, says Professor Cherian George who highlighted that the current Section 298, fails to distinguish between subjective harm caused by incitement of hate and works that cause subjective offence and disharmony. George pointed out that the latter was “an allegation too hard to counter and too easily used to silence socially valuable speech”.
Singapore is a first world nation and questions have been raised as to whether or not local politicians have done their part in bringing the nation into the 21st century as Singapore’s LGBTQ community remains woefully unrepresented and unrecognised. Ching SC, a PhD candidate at the National University of Singapore has said at the Ethos Books’ Facebook livestream video on Sunday 26 July that none of the political parties had taken on the LGBTQ issues in their General Election manifestos
Tensions between China and the western world continues to escalate over Hong Kong with reports that China has suspended Hong Kong’s extradition treaty with New Zealand. Apart from its ongoing rows with western democracies, relations between China and India continue to deteriorate as India used the arrival of new fighter jets purchased from France to launch a veiled warning to neighbouring China over territorial tensions.
In what is now beginning to look like a new arms race, Russia has announced it plans to begin production two promising coronavirus vaccines in September and October as Moscow races to develop a formula before Western countries.While unsurprising, it is disturbing to read that students in Hong Kong have been arrested under the controversial new security laws that were imposed by Beijing.
Top ten read articles of the week.
- Netizens call out Ho Ching over critical Facebook post on donations; demands her salary be revealed
- It is a sad day indeed when authorities turn a good deed into a bad one by attacking Pritam Singh’s announcement to donate 50% of LO salary
- Saddening story of 82 y/o elderly lends weight to Jamus Lim’s call on minimum wage
- Singtel incurs additional $911 million charges from India’s Bharti Airtel stake
- Academic and author of ‘The First Wave’ calls out offensive comments made against Pritam Singh’s announcement to donate 50% of his salary
- Mayors of Singapore
- Minister who can’t control coronavirus outbreak at dorms, deserves a high salary while lowly-paid nurses have to put their lives at risk?
- Tale of 2 PMETs in travel industry: FT with pay cut and retrenched SG worker who now conducts survey
- Pritam Singh is not the first politician to announce public donations – PM Lee has done so without anyone questioning his motive
- Ho Ching makes vague Facebook post about publicly announcing donations