An Open Letter To Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Sept. 2015 (Part One)

September 11, 2015

Dear PM Lee: The 17th GE has come and gone; the returns are now pending. Minutes ago before the polling station closed, I balloted for the very first time after being abroad some thirty years. Allow me here my musings on this era of post-LKY politics, followed by my wish list in Part Two in keeping with the spirit of the Golden Jubilee celebration of the nation’s founding. Let me be the first to congratulate you and team PAP, as well as teams opposition, for running such marvelous hustings. Hail to democracy! … politics of the people, by the people, for the people, is alive and kicking in Singapore.

This electioneering has gone great guns highlighting a raft of pivotal domestic issues, without resorting to personal mudslinging or slanderous innuendos — the opposition has come of age. For the first time in its election history, none of the 29 electoral constituencies is a walkover, requiring every politician to earn it. Apart from the experienced campaigners, a handful of passionate opposition first-timers have surfaced amongst an electorate increasingly ever better educated and Net-savvy. In particular, several Gen-Y candidates of the female persuasion appeared promising including a vicenarian running as an independent. Lacking recognition however, they would pose little to no threat this time to your team but would likely give PAP a good run for its money in the future provided they remain motivated to live and breathe politics for the long haul. Indeed, politics should not be for the dilettantes. A thankless job it is; only those who are truly committed to serve the people should get involved.

Leaving discussion of hot-button issues to those more intimately affected and to the ones more knowledgeable about them than I am, let me here instead make a couple of suggestions on future elections for a bigger bang for the buck.

1. I find the 9-day-long electioneering period to be alarmingly short. Granted, even a 2-year-long election campaign as they do in America is no guarantee for picking the best man as evidenced in the election of President George W Bush in 2000. But the mandated week-and-a-half-long local hustings, leaves much to be desired indeed. At a minimum, it should stretch over 2 weekends, with the second week set aside for a series of full-on, head-to-head TV debates among the candidates. Further, public election rally hours should be extended to perhaps 10.30 p.m. (Last evening, the getai hours here at my HDB compound did not end till about 11 p.m., so why sell the all-important election rally hours short?)

2. Scrap the Nominated MP Scheme and instead increase the slate of NCMP from the permitted maximum of 9 to perhaps double that. This I see to be a win-win because savvy voters could twig they didn’t have to sacrifice their tried and tested MPs for a healthy representation of vociferous counter voices in parliamentary debates and deliberations.

Now on to some trivia …

For my money, the biggest gaffe on the hustings goes to Sylvia Lim, declaiming the sky above Workers’ Party will always be blue. (Her gaffe of that magnitude is only rivaled by Minister Khaw’s slip of the tongue that J.B. could present itself as a relocation alternative for the budget-stricken elderly parents, to the high-cost nursing homes in Singapore. Granted Khaw’s faux pas was made outside of election campaign some years ago, but it did surely come back to haunt him during the hustings.) Alas, my dream contest in this election did not come to pass — a no-holds-barred electoral cat-fight between Ms. Ting Pei Ling (certainly a more polished pol now than her debut 4 years ago) and Ms. Nicole Seah whose charisma, I read, created quite a sensation during the last general election campaign but decided after all, politics might not be her calling. And on the subject of being the most charismatic stump speaker at rally, I choose Dr. Paul Tambyah. He beats his team captain Dr. Chee hands down in that department.

Finally, what is Trivial Pursuit without hazarding some grand predictions — at my own peril, dare I say. Overall, your team did well, garnering 60% or better of the total votes cast, with little to no surprises in constituency contests, and securing 80 or more seats in Parliament. But surely the million-dollar question is about the fate of Aljunied. It will be a toss-up … whoever wins it, wins by a squeaker.

Happy election returns to you and your team.


Lester Kok

(Part B i.e., my wish list for Singapore will be dispatched next.)


Sept. 19, 2015 (A sequel to an open letter to PM Lee, first posted at 8.25 pm, September 11, 2015; for reference, Part A is appended hereunder.)

continued … Part B: My SG50 Wish List

In Part A, I risked my predictive reputation to be perhaps the first person to go public early on to congratulate you and your team on a masterly victory. Dispensing with further kudos, allow me here in Part B to share with you my wish list moving forward towards SG100. But first a brief word on your grand climacteric, the all-important, auspicious number 63: You are at the hinge of post-LKY history; the next 7 years of what you set in place (prior to semi-retirement) will determine the state of SG100 which you and I would not live to see.

The word ‘inclusive’ is an oft-mentioned and welcome mantra of your governance. In a word, the centerpiece of my wish list revolves around the theme of inclusiveness, inviting a greater era of Politically All-inclusive Polity for all, regardless of ideology and idiosyncrasy. Listed in brevity order, here’s a skeletonized version of my wish list for consideration in your bucket list:

1) forgive Roy 2) amnesty for exiles abroad, 3) reintroduce trial by jury, 4) enable private operator licenses for TV and the press, 5) post-election courtesy tradition, 6) better anti-smoking strategies, 7) better due process, 8) repeal Section 377A, 9) compliments on APS and NLS, and 10) learn from the Amos Yee overkill.

The details …

1) Waive pending damages against Roy Ngerng: He deserves to be found guilty for calumny but a generous gesture on your part to forgo the ensuing punitive penalty, will certainly set the tone for a kinder, more civil and gracious era going forward.

2) Amnesty to political exiles abroad: Those who had committed no violence against her be allowed home esp. those languishing for more than half a century in Thailand (upwards of a hundred perhaps) … before they depart this life. History would reflect favorably on such a charitable and magnanimous move.

3) Reintroduce trial by jury (in limited cases): Simply, it is a high form of civic obligation, all the more suited for a well-educated citizenry; an invaluable education for and involvement of the citizenry to better appreciate the wheels of justice at minimal cost to the government.

4) Enable private operator licenses for print and electronic media: Conceding that this wish is a mere pipe dream, I would nevertheless wish for it. Privatizing or hiving off a couple outlets would doubtless create robust competition, generate a greater pool of local talents and uplift the standards of the business; it would make her into an even more vibrant, well-rounded, brag metropolis.

5) Practice post-election-return courtesy acknowledgement of opponents: Charles Chong, the amiable Pongol-East MP-elect, is a classic gentleman politician in this regard. He is one of the few politicians along with Dr. Chee — however painful it was for him — to graciously mention and acknowledge their opponents at its conclusion. An admirable post-election tradition of the West, it should be locally encouraged and cultivated starting from the top.

6) Re-think anti-smoking strategies: The shock value of graphic morbid images on cig packaging has long worn off; the need to revolve new strategies is overdue. Are early pre-teen and teen anti-smoking programs at school effective and adequate? For the adults, perhaps letting them try nicotine-laced chewing gum as a way to relieve stress — yes, lifting the chewing gum ban wouldn’t be a moment too soon. We owe it to the nation’s youth to redouble the anti-smoking efforts for a healthier future generation.

7) Enhance criminal due process: The sole suspect in the 2013 Kovan double homicide deserves his day in court. More than 2 years after being charged for the alleged crime, the prosecution is still mired in court proceedings to determine if ‘the prosecution has sufficient grounds to put him on trial.’ Separately, security is paramount to the nation’s well-being. The instrument of ISA has served the state well against terrorism but the language of its application should be duly amended for use only against threats deemed a clear and present danger to the nation; amend it constitutionally for good against its ever possible abuse as a political weapon.

8) Do away with 377A, the overlong anti-gay legal anachronism: This last vestige of colonial legalism should be abrogated with little fanfare. Maintaining this discriminatory but defunct statute on the books, just does not comport with the image of a modern, progressive, first-world nation. (I cringe at old footage of the 2007 legislative debate over its repeal, at how it was hijacked by some parliamentarian qua NMP. Her unapologetic anti-gay bashing is forever YouTube-memorialized on a par with Anita Bryant’s. Ms. Bryant is an American ex-pageant beauty, whose vehement anti-gay political campaign in the 70s redounded eventually to her personal ruin and most indelibly, a pie in her face.)

9) Plaudits to APS (Assumption Pathway School) and NLS (NorthLight School): I applaud you for not neglecting the late bloomers and the slower achievers at school. Between 2 to 3 percent of PSLE cohort, over a thousand annually, will fail their exam. More resources not less should be allocated to them. I read with amusement how some private boutique enrichment centers were vaunting their crop of nationally top-performing tutees in PSLEs. It’s a no brainer: When they are able to draw from the best of students to begin with — charging exorbitant fees to boot — it is naturally easy to hothouse them for optimal performance. But it is those teachers and mentors and students at APS and NLS who persevere despite the odds that are the true unsung heroes.

10) Draw lessons from the Amos Yee overkill: While I’ve been highly critical of the teenage hellion for his Net capers, I reserve an equal dose of the same for the authority over its near disastrous mishandling of the matter. Indeed, but for a stroke of luck, the Amos Yee episode could have wound up to be a ‘mini-Waco, Texas’ under your watch — in 1993 at Waco, Texas, in order to get at some cultish zealots, the US Federal authority made a massive overkill resulting in gratuitous deaths. Had the teenager succeeded in killing himself while being incarcerated — suicide accounts per his WordPress — or had suffered lasting psychological damage from the episode, the government would be hard put to live down the aftermath. Thankfully that did not occur but not without seeing it descend into a long-drawn-out courtroom melodrama. For displaying no ‘remorse’, — the famous word of the trial judge — the willful whippersnapper was subsequently consigned to a lunatic asylum. A Rhadamantine warning from the bench or a token fine should in fact suffice as penalty for first-time offender. Instead, wishy-washy edification was meted out to the ‘criminal’ … whose veritable ‘crime’ was his unalloyed passion for being an auteur-wannabe. And in so doing, the authority made him into an international cause célèbre. If current laws are deficient against outrages issuing from the Internet, then re-codify the existing or enact new ones. Alas, as I watched the Amos Yee courtroom kabuki unfold, my mind skittered back to shades of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. In that, the protagonist Winston Smith, having committed obscene thoughtcrime and remained unremorseful, ended up being subjected to depraved deprogramming by the state. Phooey to Nineteen Eighty-Four redux in 21st-century Singapore.

Thank you for your time.

Best to your health.


Lester Kok


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s