by Augustine Low

The elites in this country have had it so good for so long.

Theirs is a self-perpetuating system – the elites exercise oversized influence, enjoy first-class connections, send their children to elite schools, gain admission to elite universities (sometimes on elite scholarships), and land elite jobs (sometimes with potential conflict of interest) that enable them to shoot for the stars.

Wealth alone will not secure elitism of the highest order, but once wealth is combined with connection, the sky’s the limit.

But the Keppel bribery scandal – and non-prosecution of the Gang of Six – is a standout case because it stretches the system to its limits. Is it a point of no return to one country, two systems? Not to be confused with the one country, two systems of Hong Kong – but our very own one country with one system for the elites, and one system for the rest.

The system for the elites must not be punctured

Keppel and its top executives are as elite as they come in this country, their ties with the powers that be going back decades. If Keppel’s senior executives were to face the music, would it open a Pandora’s box, would it puncture a hole in the system?

If you watched Minister Indranee Rajah attempt to make a case for the non-prosecution of the Gang of Six in Parliament, you would have sensed that she was clutching at straws, the dead giveaway being this assurance at the end: “But if subsequently new and compelling evidence comes up, the PP (Public Prosecutor) can and will re-evaluate the decision.”

That is the kind of assurance given to unsuccessful job applicants. When you are rejected after a job interview, there is the standard line used – which only idiots believe – that if a new opportunity or opening comes up, the decision to hire you will be re-evaluated.

It is sad for the country that a Minister resorts to giving an empty, worthless “assurance” and sadder still that another Minister – Heng Swee Keat – followed up on Facebook with the same worthless “assurance.”

What is said privately is so illuminating

In 2021, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan apologised to Leong Mun Wai, the Progress Singapore Party Non-constituency Member of Parliament, after he was caught making “private comments to a colleague.” The Minister’s comments: “he is illiterate” and “seriously, how did he get into RI (Raffles Institution)?” and “must have been a lousy school.”

This is what elitism sounds and feels like in this country. Private comments are a truer reflection of thoughts and feelings than public comments. Is this how they privately belittle us when we complain about affordability of HDB flats and foreigners taking away jobs?

An editor from Malaysia’s Sinchew Daily, Tay Tian Yan, said it best when he commented that Singapore’s elitist leaders “came from the sky, not from the land.”

Despite his seemingly elitist background, Leong Mun Wai – former RI student, Overseas Merit scholar, economics graduate, master of science graduate – is disqualified from their system of elitism by virtue of his politics.

In fact, you don’t need to be an Opposition politician to be disqualified – Opposition voters have been put into a different basket, branded as “free riders” by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

So those of us who are not anywhere near to being an elite, who do not hold any position of influence in an elite organisation, and who have never carried flags or what not for the elites, have to fend for ourselves.

Under one country, two systems, we have no fallback plan if anything goes wrong. We can be charged even for holding up a smiley face sign in public. What more is there to say?

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