Daily SG: 2 Apr 2008

Prison Break, Singapore Style
– Singapore Democrats: Singapore’s great escape
– Sheep City: Tear down a pixel of Whitley Road

Lemons for Money
– Under the Willow Tree: GIC, UBS & Jim Rogers
– …thrills, spills & flatliners: BETTING ON A WRONG HORSE?
– Hear Ye! Hear Ye!: GIC’s injection into UBS just vapourised
– nofearSingapore: Singapore’s investments in UBS; Merrill Lynch; Citigroup (aka triple whammy rotten eggs)

– The Online Citizen: A 28-hour wait for a bed at the Singapore General Hospital

Transport Reforms Announced
– The Ignorantsoup: It is other factors (not price) that determines whether we take public transport
– Darth Grievous’ Dark Domain 鸟话连篇: Do they actually know what to fix in our transport system?

Paper Chase
– Simply Jean: So is UniSIM the 4th university or is it not?!

Aesthetic Medicine and Snake Oil
– Angry Doctor: Science and how we know we are right 2

Daily Discourse
– The State Times: We Should Be So Grateful
– Singapore Patriot: Wanna be PM? Here’s the criteria
– The boy who knew too much: Kiasu and age appropriate toys
– Sgpolitics.net: Rejected ST Letter: MAS should regard it as an obligation to exchange mutilated notes

Life, the universe and everything
– future.town: Chapter 18: Rihana and her Umbrella [thanks richard]

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4 Responses to Daily SG: 2 Apr 2008


    Will Singapore Go Down The Chute Like Malaysia? PART 1

    [This is a continuation of our interview series; this interview was conducted by J.Kompf and Darkness recently – only selected parts of the interview has been published]

    Q [Kompf]: Based on the recent outcome of the general elections in Malaysia, many have speculated that the time is ripe and the same thing will happen in the political scene in Singapore. What is your take Darkness? In very broad strokes please, very quickly.

    A [Darkness]: Understand this. There is a danger here, if I do not call a spade a spade, then we will still be trying to tease out nuances from the GE in Malaysia to try to make sense of what will or will not happen in Singapore in the foreseeable future. IMO there is no basis for even a sensible comparison. Let me square off the case candidly, the BN is a ****** ** useless organization run by a bunch of self serving pirates masquerading as politicians (if they want to take issue with me, please go ahead, I will give them one more round of hammering in the net!) – this reality bears out only too clearly and even the average Ahmad, Muthu and Ah Kow who may not know the intricacies of the Malaysian political landscape knows it only too well.

    Q: Can you elaborate further on this “reality” in Malaysia and why you feel the same facts do not quite exist in Singapore?

    The prevailing mood and the reality are synonymous – in Malaysia it’s really reached a tipping point – if I had to sum it all up in one word, the vast majority of Malaysians are just sick of the social and economic inequalities. The ‘rakyat’ has more or less reached the collective consensus, BN can no longer be relied upon to serve as an effective proxy.

    If you really want to draw comparisons between what happened in Malaysia and try to extrapolate this to Singapore. My feel is you cannot, the social /political climate in Singapore is very far from what is happening at ground zero in Malaysia. Whatever, you wish to say about the PAP, one cannot deny it has successfully nurtured the gold standard of governance and public administration. Things are not 100%, there is plenty of room for improvement, but again my feel is it’s too far removed from the ‘reality’ in Malaysia to draw parallels.

    Q: You seem to be suggesting, for social / political change to take effect certain preconditions or “realities” need to be there first to precipitate the process of change – could you elaborate further on these preconditions for change?

    A: Let me put it this way, even if a bunch of radical intellectuals sit in one corner of a café in Siglap plotting revolution, they can do very little, if the wheel they are proposing to replace isn’t radically different from the one which they propose to fit on the linchpin – I think we have to be very clear on this point Herr Kompf, otherwise we will be here the whole evening! Historically, change has never occurred in a vacuum. Not even once! It’s conceivable by all historical accounts at least, there first needs to be a strong impetus before change can effectively take place. By this I mean, there needs to be some manifestation of doom and gloom before it’s even possible to moot the case for change. Otherwise, it’s just a sterile debate. Contrary to popular myth the French revolution did not start and end with liberty, fraternity and equality, that was simply a flowery adjunct that came much latter. The vast majority of Parisians who stormed the Bastille were simply clambering for a loaf of bread – the same can be said about the rise of the Third Reich, it preceded, the fall of the Weimar republic and there ordinary Berliners simply wanted to buy a cup of coffee without mortgaging their houses. And again the same holds true for Marxism when the mob marched towards the winter palace. They simply wanted the Tsar to open up the wheat reserves. In every single instance, what we see is a there needs to be the perception of gross mismanagement which effectively conveys to the impression to the people the government of the day simply doesn’t have the capacity to alleviate the suffering any longer. My feel is this is really the firing mechanism, that triggers off the chain reaction that leads to change. This I believe was what happened to a limited extent in the recent Malaysian GE. I do not believe for one moment, the Malaysians were simply exacting a revenge vote, they seriously yearn for some form of reformation to their current social / political process.

    To be con’t


    Will Singapore Go Down The Chute Like Malaysia? PART 2 & 3

    Q [Kompf]: Many people have observed that Singapore is one of the most wired countries in the world, while Malaysia has a connectivity that’s just under 50%.Yet you curiously maintain what happened in Malaysia can never occur in Singapore. What makes you so certain Darkness?

    A [Darkness]: To me the internet remains simply an ingenious means of circulating news. Nothing more or less – being the most wired country in the world really says a big nothing, it could just as well mean a whole lot of people find it convenient to pay their bills on line or they regularly log on to check whether the magic numbers on their TOTO ticket has lined up – my feel is, for this question to be answered in the affirmative or negative, it doesn’t serve to speak in general or broad terms – anyone can more or less do the same and they would not be entirely wrong or right either. IMO there’s no substitute for critical analysis; we really need to go 3 or 4 levels deeper; stripping away the fairings of the internet and looking beyond the innards of this so called wonder weapon; how was this technology managed? who were the leaders? How are they organized? What is their chain of command? What’s their strength and weakness? How do their networks look like? How resilient are they? How flexible are they? What motivates them? What do they regularly eat with their afternoon tea? That sort of detailing, I feel this required, if we are to really understanding why the net had such a devastating effect in the recent Malaysian GE.

    Q: Many years ago, you identified 3 stages in which the internet will have to go through; http://intelligentsingaporean.wordpress.com/2007/06/19/an-eye-on-the-future-of-the-singapore-blogging-scene-a-brotherhood-perspective/ can you share with us very quickly how does Singapore and Malaysia compare in this assessment model?

    A: The short answer is no comparison be made between the Malaysian and Singaporean blogging scene. There remains a dearth of evidence to suggest they are in fact two diametrically opposed entities which have nothing in common with each other. We are still analyzing the primary data of the recent Malaysian GE, but this much I can share with you. There are many reasons accounting for these differences, but let us be clear they function on a systematic and not a superficial level, that I feel is worth bringing home; that’s to say, the trajectory, they manner in which they have evolved, readership patterns and even content are so different one cannot possibly draw analogies without the risk of committing intellectual violence.

    Q: If you contend they are different – perhaps you can just list out briefly what are the systematic differences which account for why the Malaysian internet scene is so different that it cannot be reasonably compared to Singapore?

    A: Let’s just focus on one area: how did the Malaysians profile the internet as a wonder weapon? It’s conceivable the idea goes back at least 15 to 20 years – that at least is what even our best analyst and planners regularly tell me. This is also where we really see how misplaced the likes of Cherian are when they advance the idea; we should be investing in the MSM. As the history of the Malaysian internet shows only too clearly why it makes absolutely no sense to pursue this strategy, if the imperative is to create a quorum that effectively reflects collective consciousness – instead they should be a renewed focus to invest in the internet – IMO, it’s a travesty of rational logic to propose doing otherwise; only because the evolution of the Malaysian internet demonstrates first hand what can really be achieved when the internet is invested with press professionalism – let me just recount very briefly how the Malaysia internet was able not only to transitionalise successfully from the first protocol to the third [I don’t have the time here to flesh out what is the first, second and third protocol, so those of you who are really interested should read my thesis, if you want to understand the formulation better] – How did the Malaysians manage to build up their core competence? What’s their story? Well very simple, during the Mahathir administration in the 80’s. A few UMNO brain scientist came up with the brilliant idea of purging the journalist press in Utusan Melayu, New Straits Times, Malay Mail and Star. They were ceremonious kicked out. At the same time, the govt began licensing the press e.g Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984. These measures were designed to curb the formation of a free press. This resulted in the systematic disenfranchisement of the journalist corps – this resulted in a migration to what I call the underground press – Harakah and Aliran. Those who were not so fortunate found themselves writing in the no-man’s land of the periphery – I know this doesn’t quite hit the spot, so let me give you a real life example of the profile of these ronins (masterless samurai’s) – take the founder of Malaysiakini for instance, what’s his story? Wong Chin Huat – he used to write for the Chinese press, the Nanyang Sian Pau, but when MCA bought it over and gutted it – he quickly found himself out in the cold, he was lucky as the advent of the internet coincided with his untimely displacement – my point is it’s personalities like Wong who laid the bedrock of the oppositional press in Malaysia. And they are very much the key drivers of what we call today the oppositional internet press in Malaysia. Now why is this important? Because when people regularly intone the internet killed the BN, it really doesn’t tell us anything significant – we are not told specifically who? What’s their strength? How are they networked? Etc.

    So when people say the net will one day bring down the PAP – it’s really like saying a tornado can tear through a junk yard and magically assemble a Boeing 747, probabilities don’t make for possibilities – that will never happen. Firstly, we don’t possess the critical skill sets or core competencies which can possibly materialize that sort of reality. Bear in mind when I use the term ‘professionalism.’ I am not referring solely to diction, grammar and sentencing skill sets, that’s the easy street, but rather the networks and linkages which allows for investigative journalism or something very close to synthesizing knowledge which did not previously exist.

    If you look very closely at the Malaysiakini – Aliran – Harakah – they have not only successfully reproduced many of the elements which allows them to manipulate information but many of them even have established linkages with the opposition to regularly tap into first hand information i.e primary data, so what we see here is skills sets which go beyond literary élan or panache. In short they have not only replicated many of the elements of an independent press corps but in certain cases they have even improved their networks to such an extent, they can get information even before the press corps gets wind of it. This gives them a competitive advantage which allows them to not only challenge the MSM, but in certain cases even beat them in their own game.

    Where I disagree with Cherian is when he insist that the MSM should be invested with a higher level of press freedom – but implicit within the framework of his strategy is the assumption the MSM is already vested with the attributes which permits them to effectively play the role of the fourth estate credibly – I for one seriously do not believe he knows what he is talking about – as the ST by any conservative standard must surely be so riven, that is so complacent and supine that no reasonable person can see how it’s able to effectively step up to play the role of the fourth estate – this I feel is the defining difference between the Malaysian and Singaporean blogging scene – the former was effective not because the govt’s empowered or even supported them, but rather they tried to use every means to kill them. Somewhere in this narrative, they learnt not only to survive, but to thrive – Singapore MSM or even the internet scene doesn’t have that critical stress factor – what we see here is clearly two different creatures, one is supine, contented and complacent, the other is regularly hunted and adept in overcoming the odds – is it such a wonder the latter managed to transform the net into a proficient killing tool?

    In short not only have the Malaysians managed to transitionalize to the second and third protocol, but they have also managed to create a self sustaining economic ecology which allows them to perpetuate themselves – as such when we talk about the comparative between the Singapore and Malaysian blogging scene, we would do well to recognize, we are at least 10 to 15 years behind the Malaysians. That remains the cruel reality.

    Q: Who do you think are the equivalents of Malaysia.kini – Aliran – Harakah in Singapore?

    A: Mr Brown, Xiaxue and the National Library Board – I call them the three stooges.

    Q: Do you have any parting comments? Quickly please.

    A: Blog on. Thank you

    [Kompf /Darkness – Interview Series – The Brotherhood Press 2008]


  3. shoestring says:

    “So when people say the net will one day bring down the PAP – it’s really like saying a tornado can tear through a junk yard and magically assemble a Boeing 747, probabilities don’t make for possibilities – that will never happen.”

    I find the comparisons between the MSM and Internet in Malaysia and Singapore very insightful and the above statement might be true but it does not rule out the possibility that the PAP might one day suffer the same fate and the BN. Precisely because Malaysia and Singapore are different, the catalysts/pre-requisites could well be different. Same applies to historical examples where socio-economic and technological conditions are differ from ours.

    After all, enough Singaporeans might just be provoked sufficiently to stop the pain where it hurts most – their pockets.

  4. dentist Jan says:

    Very good replies Bambi Darkness. I must say you certainly let loose on a few issues, Dr Cherian George, our local rag and even the SG blogging community.

    However, I want to ask a very important question, dont you believe when you use Malaysia as a comparative with Singapore in the context of good governance. Its like comparing a Olympic sprinter with some who is confined to a wheelchair?

    What I mean is, aren’t there better models of good governance which can serve as a better comparisons? I do not agree with you on wha you said concerning successfully nurturing the gold standard thingy. Not even a bit. Yes, you very cleverly qualified yourself with CYA words like “it is not 100%…there is room for improvement…”

    However, I feel in some areas SG is so far behind the gold standard of good governance and its a great pity Bambi Boy you did not take the opportunity to highlight these short falls better.

    This was not only very disappointing, but it skewered the picture enough to suggest we are living in paradise. You would do well to ask yourself whether that is really the case. Nonetheless, very educational and revealing read.


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