Thursday, August 25, 2005

What is Public Entertainment?

I happened to read the following Straits Time forum reply by the police with regards to Public Entertainment Act. I am amused by it that Wayang shows, getai for the lunar seventh month celebrations are all "EXEMPTED" from Public Entertainment licensing. This is interesting while pure public entertainment businesses are exempted from public entertainment licensing, but opposition politicians making speeches to the public in open air are deemed "entertaining enough" to require a licensing from the the police!

It practically means that opposition politicians could just pop up in any getai, sing, dance and make a fool of himself to entertain the public and he doesn't need a license to that. But he chose to speak in all seriousness about politics, about the hardship of the people in Public places, he needs a Public Entertainment license!

I have copied the key points of the Public Entertainment Act from

Mr. Wang Says So!

(a) any variety act, performance of music, singing, dancing, gymnastics, acrobatics and legerdemain, demonstration, display or parade (other than ad hoc performances);
(b) any circus or any exhibition of animals;
(c) any amusement centre, amusement park or fun fair;
(d) any computer games centre;
(e) any exhibition of film, or any peep-show;
(f) any reproduction or transmission otherwise than in association with a film, by any means other than telephony or radio telephony, of any music, song or speech;
(g) any machine or device by the manipulation of which chances are given of obtaining prizes in money or kind;
(h) any pin-table;
(i) any sporting contest of any kind between any number of persons or animals, other than that organised by any registered society, trade union, company or association;
(j) any organised competition at games of skill or chance;
(k) any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion;
(l) any arts entertainment; or
(m) any combination of any of the above forms of public entertainment,

The next question I would ask, of course, is which of the key points of public entertainment license should we strike off the list?

This is the new millenium and our people are all highly educated. They do not need a "license" to screen for them what is suitable or unsuitable for their consumption. This is especially so for "lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion". For other arts entertainment, as long as it is not obscene display of nudity or such, why should one need a license?

Again, to me, this public entertainment act is outdated and does not reflect on the vision of "Open Society" that PAP government is promising. There is definitely a need for licensing especially on computer gaming, pin ball machines, amusement park, games on chances and such, but on talk, lecture, address, debate or discussion?

Goh Meng Seng

ST Forum
August 25, 2005

Wayang need no permit

I refer to Mr Glenn Mohan Jothy's letter, "queries on Seventh Month wayang" (ST, Aug 19).

Seventh Month celebrations such as wayang and getai are currently exempted under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Exemptions) Order.

While there are no regulations concerning the location and proximity to residential dwellings of Seventh Month wayang and other religious/social events, exempted performances need to meet certain requirements to ensure public order and minimise nuisance. No more than two loudspeakers, positioned to face the audience, shall be used and the evnets must not end later than 10.30pm.

Organisers of such events need to obtain permission from the other authorities for the erection of tents on their premises.

Tristan Sim
Assistant Director
(Media Relations)
Singapore Police Force

Monday, August 22, 2005

Why PM Lee cried when mentioning 1968 NDP?

There is a metaphor in this crying incident.

The 1968 National Day event demonstrated that even when we face great uncertainties and hardship back then, Singaporeans still stick together and grow out of the miseries.

But in today's Singapore, youngsters would just give up their citizenship that easily for greener pastures without second thought when they could not be satisfied materially.

The contrast is great and the worry or the inability of Lee's administration to address this important issue of National Identity has poured tears out of his eyes, that's why. In spite of NOT mentioning this biggest worry of Nationhood, his tears give himself away.

Goh Meng Seng

Don’t just Talk, ACT! ~ Anti-Discrimination Laws

Don’t just Talk, ACT! ~ Anti-Discrimination Laws

Nah, this is not a repeat of the Sammyboy’s Forum on All Talk No Action thread. This is about our Prime Minister’s speech!

Prime Minister Lee has talked about the discrimination of employer stack up against old workers. There were also minister talking about racial discrimination practices in employment recently. The ultimate question is, has the PAP government done anything about discrimination practices in employment? Could they possibly do anything in the first place?

Yes, they could have done something meaningful to tackle these practices of discrimination. Even in Hong Kong whereby the minority races only contribute an insignificant percentage, they have enacted laws that protect minority interests against discrimination. On top of that, they have laws against discrimination in general with a governing body, Equal Opportunity Commission set up. This commission is being led by retired judges to look into complaints of unfair discrimination practices, particularly in work places.

Hong Kong is definitely not the only place with such laws enforced. In both Taiwan and America, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC in short) are set up as enforcing agents against employment discrimination. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, sexuality, pregnancy etc are basically outlawed. Readers could find comprehensive details on anti-discrimination laws in the following link:

This is one of my fundamental belief that we should NOT just talk and talk on discrimination of all sorts but act on it by enacting laws and enforce them through a mechanism that ensure equal opportunities are given to everyone. But apparently PAP only likes to talk about equal opportunities for everybody in Singapore, talk about “undesirable” employment practices but do nothing more meaningful than talking. I think basically it is due to the fact that the civil service together with the GLCs have become the biggest employer in Singapore! Could they enforce such anti-discrimination laws on these entities?

Goh Meng Seng

Afternote: A reader provided a website address for those who want more information and Guide to Prove Employment Discrimination and Filing a Lawsuit

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Checks & Balances

Checks & Balances

There are a whole string of events happening in recent months that I think could be summed up by this title. Starting from the NKF saga to Presidential Election to the most recent parliament question raised by our Workers’ Party MP Mr. Low on Tan Tock Seng Hospital saga, all these point to the important element of Checks and Balances.

The Presidential Election saga raises a few interesting points.

1) The President is supposed to be elected by over a million voters but ended up selected by three wise men when they disqualified all others except the incumbent.
2) The Elected President has practically become “Selected President”.
3) It would mean that the three wise men have MORE power than the million voters!
4) It is strange that when the intended role for the Elected President is to check on the government, the government itself has come out to “endorse” the one that is supposed to check on them.
5) The Straits Time actually reported that as long as PAP is the government, the elected President’s role would be largely “ceremonial”. If that is the case, why the fuss about the “high caliber and qualifications” set for the candidates?
6) The Elected President Act is to safeguard our reserves in the event when a “rogue government” comes into power. So by point 5, it means PAP is not a “rogue government” but wait, who has the right to determine which government is a “rogue government” or not? The President, the people, the reporters in Straits Time, the three wise men or the PAP? If the people voted in a party other than PAP, does it means the new government will become a “rogue government”? So the voters must be stupid not to choose PAP who will not be a “rogue government” but some other parties that would become a “rogue government”?
7) Since PAP is not going to be a “rogue government”, so no need for voters to exercise their power to elect a president to check on them? So what makes us think that these voters who are stupid enough to vote in a “rogue government” would vote in a good President that could put effective checks on their previous choice of rogue government?
8) The ultimate question here is, what kind of “checks and balances” we are talking about at the end of the day?

No where in the Democratic world do we have a system whereby a candidate of a Presidential race or any election of public office must be vetted by others before they could stand for election. The spirit of checks and balances is the fundamental principle in the Democratic world. The ultimate power comes from the people, not by anybody else. If the three wise men are not empowered by the people, on what logical basis are they to make judgement on who the voters could or could not vote as a candidate? Even the appointment of ministers are done by the political party that has the endorsement and mandate by the voters through the system of political competition.

NKF saga is self-explanatory. The “BIG AND GRAND” mentality is well alive, even in civil service and statutory boards. Look at the amount of money we spent in one National Day parade and you will understand what I mean. Over the mass media, we have been bombarded by the obvious message that we should “feel proud” of this big and grand celebration. PAP and RCs all over Singapore organized BIG & GRAND National Dinners, some even “proud” of having the “largest number of tables” in such celebrations. Our National achievements are all about “big and grand INFRASTRUCTURE” we have built over the years. These are shown on our National TV stations. Apparently they have not learnt from the IOC saga; it is not about what infrastructure we have that make us proud, it is the development of our people that makes us proud!

The Big & Grand mentality arises in entities like charities, public listed companies or the government simply because of the “principal-agent” problem. A simpler concept is “Moral Hazard” or in layman’s words, simply because it is (in Hokkien) “Ah Gong’s liu” (in English, it means “public money”). The only way of curbing such inherent problem is to provide a system of checks and balances. It is not merely about rules and regulations to govern the people utilizing the money, but to install PEOPLE that could effectively become whistle blowers on these organizations. In politics, this includes OPPOSING forces that could make those in power accountable.

A good example of how Opposing political force could bring the government accountable to the people is the Tan Tock Seng Hospital saga. This may not involve irrelevant spending but it exposes the opposite dimension of the problem, the lack of priority in government spending. For many years, we have heard people complaining about the lack of long wait at hospitals and even lack of beds in some instances. But those at the top only receive “statistical data” that show no long queue and such. These people at the top have not experienced first hand what exactly happen on the ground but chose to depend on their judgement based on “statistics”. It is only when our Workers’ Party MP Mr. Low gone through the “layman experience” that we finally realize the real situation on the ground. In order to avoid long queue on the ground, the hospital just turn away patients when the hospital is full! If it is not for Mr. Low’s experience, we will never know the TRUE reasons on the ground!

First, the million-dollar helicopter has crashed. As a governing ministry, there is no monitoring of the overwhelming demand on the inadequate supply that TTSH is providing. Furthermore, it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure out that with big housing development planned in Sembawang to Sengkang-Punggol SO MANY YEARS AGO, the demand of hospital care in the North will definitely increase. Why did they only plan to have the hospital in the North built in 2010?

Hospital care is a matter of life and death. They should stop all those BG spending on “HDB upgrading” that only makes superficial, cosmetic “improvement” (eg. Lift upgrading that only makes the lift lobby looks good but not providing the real need of lift landing on every floor.). They should put priority in spending on the urgent and important items like a regional hospital in the north.

The problem is that PAP tends to politicize the things they do for the people. HDB upgrading is one fine example. Swimming pool, opening of MRT station in Potong Pasir are the other examples. Even the North Hospital is one important example where A/P Ho Peng Kee made his election promise in last general election of having the hospital built in Yishun. It is not about “election promises” or political capital that one should consider when it comes to the REAL NEED of the people. When there is a REAL NEED, then regardless of who voted for PAP, the government should provide the services to ALL SINGAPOREANS that need such services.

When politicians try to politicize such national spending, priorities are being skewed. Instead of looking into the real needs of the people, they would channel funds to projects they have promised in order to preserve their own political power. This is really unhealthy when there are competing priorities but considerations are skewed towards political objectives.

Who will be in the position to make the government accountable to the people’s REAL NEED? PAP MPs? The TTSH saga has just proven that only alternative party’s MP like Mr. Low would press the button hard enough on PAP government to make them move. This is what checks and balances in politics all about.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, August 08, 2005

Happy National Day

Happy National Day

40 years ago, this Nation was born out of BLOOD, TEARS and PASSION. 40 years later, we need to spend million on a National Day Parade to “initiate” passion. Other than that, there is no spontaneous display of patriotism, least passion around the island.

The National Flags have to be “pushed” in HDB heartland via some display competition so that we could have some symbolic display on the flats. Many young professionals are contemplating of emigration out of this place while we are infested with many so called “Foreign Talents”.

National Day has become a platform for political competition instead. Look at all those big posters and HUGE banners in places like Potong Pasir, Hougang, Aljunied GRC etc. Those places not expecting a contest in the coming General Election did not have their PAP MP faces printed all over the places. One example is Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The question I have asked in the past National Days is always the same: Who are more important when we celebrate the National Day? Are MPs and Ministers or the Citizens of the Nation more important?

PAP has been talking about “social cohesiveness” for so many years but what have they done to enhance social cohesiveness? It seems that our National Identity is eroding very fast but they have not reacted to this problem yet.

How do we end up in this sorry state? Many people have lamented about the apathetic nature of our people, particularly the young ones but not many people really look into the root of this problem.

We used to have a vibrant society in Singapore whereby civil societies strive and citizens participate actively in political and social activities. People feel passionate about their beliefs and dreams for our society, be it a merger with Malaysia or an Independent State.

All these have been destroyed under the notion of clearing out “communist threats”. Student movement were curbed and destroyed. If you look at the constitutions of our university student unions, you will still see the many restrictive rules set out to prevent social-political activism. Even the student political organizations have dwindled in size.

Many of our citizens have been convinced that social-political activism is detrimental to social stability and economic development. Thus, with the promise of economic prosperity, citizens surrender most of their political rights (eg. Demonstration, freedom of speech etc). When time pass by, it would be natural for their apathy towards social well being and consciousness to grow.

Even on the economic front, the distribution of wealth has grossly tilted against the lower income group. Under the rationalization of “productivity”, distribution of economic growth is so unbalance that the income distribution continues to worsen for the past two decades. If economic growth as in GDP increases by 8% while low-income earners get only 3% pay increase, it means that 5% of the GDP increase must have gone to someone’s pockets. GDP is the aggregate of all income generated in the economy. It is interesting to note that our million dollar ministers could only realize such problem of widening income gap after so many years of imbalance income distributions!

The situation becomes worse when many are unemployed while those top income earners keep justifying their higher pay increase with their “trophy” of cost cutting in which workers have been retrenched or forced to take a drastic pay cut by means of “outsourcing” exercises.

It is natural for many of our fellow citizens to feel disgruntled when they feel that they have been shortchanged in the whole process. So what is left for them?

The source of weakness in our National Identity building is that we over-emphasized economic development. This singular pursuit has made us neglected in building up our social, cultural as well as political consciousness. This has come back to haunt us in the way we manage our economy and the distribution of wealth and income.

We may be “wealthier” in digits and figures as compared to forty years ago, but we are definitely not “RICHER” as a citizen of a Nation. We only “make belief” of our success by trumpeting our economic success as “miracles” while our other contemporaries are moving towards to foster greater strength in their National Identity. If we do not correct this bias in our National development direction, we will even lost the very soul of our Nation which this country is first built upon.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Where are the National Flags?

In just one week, we will be celebrating OUR (note, deliberately bold to demonstrate that it is NOT only PAP's but OURS) Nation's 40th birthday. Many people have asked and even "cheered" quietly about the absence of National Flags in HDB heartlands (or isit the absence of the display of patriotism and National Identity?) as a form of "subtle protest" of PAP's governance.

I think only people who are willing to equate "Singapore=PAP" or "PAP=Singapore" would like to make such relations between whether Singaporeans are "happy" or "unhappy" about PAP's governance or not. So what if they are "unhappy"? I have spoken to taxi drivers who will go on and on lamenting about all those PAP's "bad policies" that affect their livelihood but the bottomline is, they say they will still vote for PAP in the end!

I would like to address this intriguing absence of the display of patriotism by looking at it from another perspective. Regardless of whether it is really "anti-PAP" sentiment that result in such pathetic display of flags, it just demonstrates that our National Identity is very very weak.

If one could be "persuaded" NOT to display their patriotism or respect for the country just because they dislike certain people, it means a few things:

1) Their patriotism or love or sense of identity/belonging to the country is not as strong as the hatred or dislike of PAP.

2) We are still NOT matured as citizens of the Nation.

3) Our National political mindset is stagnant and immatured. It is stuck at the phase of equating the Nation to a ruling party. We need more massive National Political Education to correct such naivety.

4) We are a young nation and our people has either not develop a strong pride of this Nation or that the initial passion of this Nation has dwindled during the past decades of PAP rule.

5) The rule of materialistic enticement, under the guise of "meritocracy", "asset enhancement" and "HDB upgrading" has failed miserably in building up a strong social/National fabric.

6) The sole focus of economic/materialistic development has resulted in the total neglect of development of the healthy political system, cultural and social framework has taken toll on this nation.

The lack of Flags during this period of National celebration implies something MORE serious than unhappiness or anti-PAP sentiments. If we do not take positive steps in correcting the heavily tilted imbalance in our Nation building as a people, we will face the danger of National disintegration sooner or later.

Goh Meng Seng

The following is a post written by me in Sammyboy.

Dear Dark,

I do not know why people feel so "shiok" about Singaporeans not putting up our National Flags. Is it a sign of "relief" that there are Singaporeans out there unhappy about PAP, resonating their own frustration?

To me, it just demonstrates that as a young Nation, we are not matured enough as citizens to recognise the differences between the Nation and the ruling party. It may be PAP's fault but as a political enlightened and awared Singaopreans, we should start educating our fellow men and women this important and distinctive difference.

It hurts me when there are anti-PAP people out here trying encourage citizens not to hang OUR (NOT PAP's) National flags during the National Day celebrating period. It just shows that the mindset of "Anti-PAP" is so strong that plural partisan politics will have difficulties to develop in a more matured and rational ways. I personally do not encourage "protest voting" during elections because this kind of "frustration venting" cannot be the long term foundation of our alternative political growth.

Our newly formed WP Youth Wing will continue what we have been doing in the past two years, celebrating OUR National Day in OUR very unique way, coming this 9 Aug. Instead of going round Singapore to tell people not to put up our national flags, we will be going ROUND ISLAND to shake hands and wish all Singaporeans that we meet a Happy National Day. Besides that, we will be giving out 900 National Flags to children that we meet on our way.

We will demonstrate that ALL Singaporeans, regardless of anti-PAP, alternative political parties or PAP, HAVE THE RIGHT to celebrate our Nation's Birthday.

Goh Meng Seng