Singapore Media Watch

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Editorial Review: Into The Den Of Tigers: An Insight Into PAP Thought And Principles (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1 published yesterday:

"What do you think of the new PM (Lee Hsien Loong)?" I finally broke my silence. A slight pause. "He's bright….. very sharp and bright. But no one can ever replace Lee Kuan Yew.

In fact, we're already pondering Life After Lee Hsien Loong, and how we can ever cope once such great talents leave us!"

"Yes, I think political succession after the Lees is going to present a serious problem to you." A fellow guest added. It appeared she was on the headman's side already.

"Do you think the scholar system is still relevant today?" I went on."We have many bright, young people taking up the scholarships. But I'm telling you- they must earn their way up.

Many of them have an`entitlement mentality', thinking that everything's laid out for them regardless of effort put in."

At least we could agree on one thing, but not enough. I thought he would suggest ideas for the system's revamp, but his stance was for retention of the scheme and scholars 'personal initiative to appreciate.

"What about all those old, destitute people collecting cardboards and drink cans? Has enough been done for them?" Was my final poser. A brief, unwieldy stammer. "I….I really pity these people……But you know what?

Many of them are just doing it to pass time. There's this old lady I know why picks cardboard boxes nearby…. She lives in private property given by her children! We should be proud of these people- they exemplify the unceasing industrial spirit of this country!"

"Wow…" sighed a companion, "To continue working till old age. How admirable."After the MP was finished with his work, we assembled around him inhis office, where I gave a short debrief and some casual chat.

Under normal circumstances, appeals would be looked into. For more ludicrous cases, the standard procedure was to send the MP's appeal letteranyway, but state that the ludicrous claims were what the appellant told the MP, and urge the addressee to investigate.

My friend told me some time ago that addressees could tell if the MP's letter was serious in its appeal, based on effort put into its phrasing andlength. If it was shabbily written, everyone knew the case was not to be taken seriously and chucked.

I was also told that for half of all cases, the appellants had the means to solve their own problems, but saw the MP as an easy way out. For instance, neighbours settling their own disputes instead of cominghere.

Fundamentally, it seemed to cheapen the strength of an MP'sword- if anyone who came got an appeal letter, the leverage of an MP was diluted.

We were more familiar with the idea, owing mostly to TV dramas, that going to MPs involved truly desperate cases which needed immense support.

This dilution of bargaining power was already was already evident inthe good proportion of MP appeals turned down by the relevant parties.Yes, not everyone who appeals to the MP gets their wishes granted- myown appeal was futile. (In fact, I was actually rebuked and got into asmall argument at my own CDC for raising my issue. Unfortunately more details risk my identity, and that's just a moot point anyway.)

Thus, processing appeals became a mechanical procedure which only heldslightly more strength than making the appeal personally.This would lead us to my second apprehension.

Even on successfu lappeals, the cases were never resolved- only having their penalties stretched. For instance, if a poor man had trouble paying a fine, an MP's appeal would allow him to pay the fine in instalments- but never revoke it regardless of his circumstances.

The impoverished student might get a loan to settle his school fees, to which he must repaywhen he finally graduates. Above the myriad of cogs and wheels in this complex matrix of systems,most have overlooked the fundamental problem of mandatory assistance,like welfare or pension plans.

At present, troubled souls were aidedcase-by-case, whereby the meet-the-people system would introduce themajority of parties deserving aid. A mandatory aid system onpre-determined criteria would take a lot of load off meet-the-peoplesessions, so that only the most serious cases would be forced to seekout the MP.

Further, a case-by-case aid system allows discrimination against thosethe CDC views as troublemakers. Ie: "We can choose not to help if youvoted for the Opposition in this district."

Are votes traceable? ManyPAP critics suggest so. More importantly, some residents believed itand theoretically they would vote for the PAP in fear of rejection ofaid in bad times.Back to my account.

After the MP's debrief, a small group of usyounglings went off to supper with the MP at a nearby coffeeshop- yes,a rising Minister eating at a neighbourhood coffee shop.

It was the time for more dialogue and involvement, and us guests were offeredseats next to the VIP. I wasn't too motivated for chat at this point,but continued to hear my friend expound the virtues of membership.

"We have a big network of important people, many of them MDs and CEOsof companies. You can get a good job easily through here.""If you prove yourself, you will be picked to attend one of the manyYouth PAP forums.

These forums are vital events, because many policies are discussed here among us youth before final amendments andformalisation. And if you stand out in these forums….. you may even beinvited into politics!"

Anyone who previously believed that CDCs were none-partisan would change their minds upon this point. Even in conversation, volunteers would refer to the CDC and the local PAP branch as the same entity,using the same term `we' or `the government' to denote both under on eentity.

When supper was done and the MP left, my friend asked us about joiningagain, while insisting there was no obligation. Throughout the nightand in many days before, she would highlight the absence of membershippressure to have us observe the session. But obviously by now, mycompanions wished to continue their involvement. I gave a non-committal answer.

You may be led to believe that my companions were mindless sheep who appeared so easily enamoured by an evening of good treatment and sweetwords. They were anything but mindless automatons.

All of us were talented students who excelled in disciplines like political science,sociology and the like- Conceptually, the last type of persons to betaken in. But they believed, nonetheless. Perhaps the only thing separating me from the rest was my age and experience in real society.(I was 3-4 years their senior with some business experience) And truth be told, the allure of membership was seductive.

I was taken in for some time, and only after deep thought I was able to look upon it witha clear mind. Prospective recruits were given the impression of importance- to feel a sense of achievement by just the invitation. Remember the remarkabout this arrangement only meant for PSC Scholars? And the all-round VIP treatment, coupled with the realisation that other invitees wereall top students.

Once recruits enrolled, the new inductees usually felt a great sense of duty and importance from helping troubled residents, as if they were part of a noble cadre fighting the ills of society.

Due to the synonymous association of CDCs with the PAP, any good done by members would equate to deeds in the name of the party,thereby inculcating a sense of association with it. Add that to characters like the `headman' who, I bet, regular skipped around to dispense praise of his party and their accolades.

In sum, the casual observer would sense an omnipresent `feel-good' vibe about all volunteers- the sort you experience when you witnessreligious gatherings. In essence, the nature of their beliefs holds many parallels to faith-based groups. And as with the latter, anyone who speaks out of line, questions the greatness of their idols orreveals fallacies in their doctrines, will witness the true colours ofthese zealous tigers.

After the benefits of pause and reflection, I was convinced of permanent non-participation in all CDC activities.

The author is a guest contributor who is known by the pseudonym "Angry_One" in local forums. He prefers to remain anoynmous. Any comments to his article can be corresponded directly to him here.


  • Highly illuminating article and affirmation on the hypocrisy of PAP tagging CDCs (and which they themselves unshamedly claimed) as politically neutral organizations, for the sole purpose of furthering their party's own political agenda.

    Thanks for your time and effort to bring about greater awareness on such issues - which any lesser person would have ignored for the benefit of his or her interests.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 PM  

  • Great article. Good to know the psychological tactics of PAP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:47 PM  

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