The future of the country is “anything but hopeful” when the ruling party exhibits “unmistakable signs of decline and incompetence in its handling of state affairs but insisting on silencing dissenting voices and maintaining absolute control,” said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan on Wednesday (10 March).
In a Facebook post, Dr Chee pointed to three major “errors” by the government in the last year which illustrates this, starting with the apparently mistaken clearance of the a large patch of the Kranji Woodlands forest earlier this year.
The veteran politician pointed out how many things had to go wrong for that to have happened, from “forms that needed to be filled to signatures sought, contracts awarded, logistics arranged and monies paid”.
“And yet, the word from officialdom is that the forest was “erroneously” razed,” he said.
“If – and it’s a big if – the story is to be believed, this is the kind of cock-up that has become emblematic of this country’s leaders,” Dr Chee added.
“Someone – referring to government departments, ministries, and scores of officials and personnel–was “asleep at the wheel,” he slammed, adding that “The sheer breadth of the incompetence beggars belief.”
He then pointed out that the Kranji Woodlands debacle was not a “once in a blue moon occurrence”.
Dr Chee went on to reference the TraceTogether snafu in June 2020 when Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan assured the public that data from the TT programme would be used “purely for contact tracing”.
Of course, about seven months later, National Development Minister Desmond Tan had revealed in Parliament that the data may be used by the police for criminal investigations.
In fact, the police had already used the database in an investigation an early as May.
Dr Chee commented, “The funny thing is that in the intervening seven months when Mr Tan contradicted Dr Balakrishnan, who is also in-charge of the government’s Smart Nation project (not joking), not a single person in the vast army of ministers and civil servants pointed out the error.”
Another incident was the Singtel data breach announced in February this year which resulted in the personal information of 129,000 of its customers being stolen.
Dr Chee added, “If this sounds familiar, that’s because something similar had happened before. Twice.”
He referred to the 2018 SingHealth data break when hackers stole the information of 1.5 million patients records; and again 2019 when the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that the HIV Registry was hacked and data of nearly 15,000 individuals on the registry was leaked.
Noting the Committee of Inquiry that was launched following the SingHealth debacle which conducted an extensive investigation before coming up with 16 recommendations published in a report, Dr Chee quoted Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean’s launch of the Operation Technology Cybersecurity Masterplan “to strengthen our national cybersecurity defences.”
Dr Chee chided, “All this might as well not have been done because two years later, the Singtel breach happened.”
The veteran politician added that these three incidents happened within the last 12 months. Before that, there were several other serious breaches and incidents as well, which Dr Chee listed.
“Not long ago, there was the hepatitis-C virus outbreak at SGH which claimed several lives; the bribery scandal at Keppel O&M involving at least 17 senior executives which paid $73 million over a 14-year period to secure oil-rig contracts in Brazil; the “lapses in anti-money laundering controls” in DBS over the 1MDB corruption; the series of government bungles during the initial stages of the Covid epidemic which led to a lockdown costing incalculable damage to businesses and jobs – just to name a few incidents.”
In addition to these examples, Dr Chee also highlighted the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) continued “oppressive ways of investigating, suing or prosecuting the PJ Thums, Jolovan Whams, and Terry Xus of society”.
“Even the innocuous act of holding a sign or [me] organising an afternoon to collect signatures for a petition for a walkway has been declared illegal,” he added.
Dr Chee concluded, “When you have a ruling party exhibiting unmistakable signs of decline and incompetence in its handling of state affairs but insisting on silencing dissenting voices and maintaining absolute control, the future for this country is anything but hopeful.”
He fellow party-mate and Chairman of the SDP Dr Paul Tambyah shared Dr Chee’s post on his own Facebook page with the comment, “There is a need for more accountability, surely.”