Sunday, January 21, 2007

NSP Departure from SDA-- Study the Press reports

I would highly recommend a political commentary provided by Burning Republic State although I disagree with the author's point of view that SDA will face problem after NSP departure. Although this blog has only a few articles, but it has provided very insightful articles right from May 2006.

The following is the full press release by NSP dated 18 Jan at its website:

Press Release - Re-positioning of the NSP
Thu, Jan 18, 2007
A vote was conducted on the 18th January 2007 at the National Solidarity Party (NSP) party office to appraise the inclination of the party insofar as our continual membership in the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) is concerned.

This voting exercise constituted an important part of the continuous half-yearly internal periodic review of our party. The review process serves to improve our operational performance, strengthen the collective party resolve on crucial issues, and to focus the party on achieving its common goals.

After an open-minded and objective process, the majority had opted for the position of an amicable parting from the SDA.

The party took the view that the autonomy will harmonise our party’s aspiration to grow with our quest to explore new possibilities through wider latitude to manoeuvre, re-engineer, and rebuild the NSP.

The respect for collectiveness within a big grouping like the SDA which comprises members with different priorities can produce complexities in coordination, leading to less than optimal operational efficiency. We hence seek to re-prioritise our position, from one of integral teamwork by virtue of the status of component member of SDA, to one of external strategic partnership with the SDA by collaborating on future activities.

Contrary to the popular misguided speculation on Mr Chiam’s poor leadership and lethargy in the development of the Opposition, we would like to emphasise that the tireless statesman has performed a commendable feat of cementing the alliance over the years into a respectable political force which saw it underwent 2 successive General Elections with ever improving percentage of public support.

Mr Chiam is also widely acknowledged as one of the most successful Opposition figures in Singapore, deserving inarguably a place in the history of our nation. The public accolades heaped upon Mr Chiam are a testimonial to his merited symbol as an exemplary beacon for the institution of Democracy in Singapore.

The NSP has the utmost respect for the Chairman of SDA.

Moving forward, the NSP will strive to contribute significantly to the overall objective of the Opposition to contest in every electoral ward, so as to offer voters credible alternatives to the incumbent PAP.

We welcome the inclusion of anyone with moral standing and sincere passion for advancing the social, economic, and political demands of a maturing nation.

Despite the cordial parting, the NSP is confident of future joint engagements with both SDA and Mr Chiam. We will continue to strengthen the bedrock of mutual trust and understanding between the Opposition parties so as to build a true society for all.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

The press release is well written in such that it gives the reason on why it leaves SDA, clear the speculation of "unhappiness" of Mr. Chiam's leadership and stated its commitment to grow and provide more choices to Singaporeans.

The most positive point in NSP's press release is its commitment of working towards the "overall opposition objective" to contest in all electoral wards in future elections so to provide credible choice to incumbent PAP.

The following is a report from Straits Time:

Jan 19, 2007
NSP leaves Chiam's 4-party alliance

A LEADING opposition party in the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) headed by Mr Chiam See Tong is quitting the group.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) is leaving the four-party grouping because it wants 'more space to develop', said its president Sebastian Teo.

He insisted it was not Mr Chiam's leadership that drove the party away.

'The point is that we have to stand on our own feet,'' Mr Teo told reporters after a three-hour meeting with 11 of his party leaders.

In a statement released after the meeting, the party said the majority had voted for an 'amicable parting' from the six-year-old alliance, which was formed in 2001 for opposition parties to contest the general election as a united force.

Mr Chiam, who is chairman of the SDA and MP for Potong Pasir, could not be reached for comment.

Besides the NSP, the SDA is made up of Mr Chiam's Singapore People's Party (SPP), Singapore Justice Party (SJP) and Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS). At the last General Election, the NSP, formed in 1987, fielded 12 out of the 20 SDA candidates.

Yesterday, the NSP statement also dismissed talk that its departure was prompted by Mr Chiam's poor leadership and 'lethargy in the development of the opposition'.

It was fulsome in its praise of Mr Chiam, calling him a tireless statesman who moulded the alliance into a respectable political force, and an exemplary beacon for the institution of democracy in Singapore.

'The NSP has the utmost respect for the chairman of SDA,' it added.

The statement also said that by being on its own, the party will have more room to 'manoeuvre, re-engineer and rebuild' for growth.

It said that it was less efficient to be in the alliance, noting that 'a big grouping like the SDA, which comprises members with different priorities, can produce complexities in coordination.''

However, it declared that it will continue to work with the SDA in future activities.

Talks of a split was discussed officially by SDA leaders on Tuesday.

Mr Sin Kek Tong, chairman of SPP, said leaders of all the four parties were present.

'We all tried to convince them (NSP) to stay on, but they were quite firm about parting ways,' he said.

'I believe it will be much harder for NSP to succeed on its own,'' he added, noting that it lacked a brand name or a recognisable leader.

But that had not deterred SPP member Elvin Ong from defecting to the NSP. Mr Ong contested in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in the May 6 General Election last year.

NSP is also not without its problems. One of its council members, Mr Martin Lee, quit late last year to join the Workers' Party.

NSP, in its statement, said it intends to contest in every electoral ward in future elections 'to offer voters credible alternatives to the incumbent PAP'.

When asked whether the party is concerned that it is now weaker without Mr Chiam, Mr Teo said: 'Are you saying you need an MP to produce another MP? The point is we have to stand on our own feet.''

Well, in my view, this is a fair report though at the last part of the report, it tries to suggest that there were "problems" of both SPP and NSP losing members. The only regret is that it omitted the positive point of NSP's direction. As a political observer, I will be very curious why NSP make such moves and there must something more to leaving SDA. Most probably it has planned something else for its future path. To leave an alliance like this is not a small matter for NSP. Thus from a professional journalist's point of view, one would be very interested in "what is NSP up to?" "What's its next moves?" etc.

The following is the report from Today:

Seeking 'room to manoeuvre', NSP leaves SDA
Loh Chee Kong and Derrick A Paulo

IT'S official: The National Solidarity Party (NSP) is leaving the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA).
During a three-hour meeting of the NSP's 12-member Central Executive Committee at its Jalan Besar headquarters last night, the majority voted for what it called an "amicable parting from the SDA".
In a statement issued after the meeting, the NSP said the voting exercise was part of its half-yearly internal review to "improve operational performance"— and rebutted the "popular misguided speculation" that the split was due to SDA founder Chiam See Tong's (picture) poor leadership.
Paying tribute to Mr Chiam as a "tireless statesman" who had cemented the Opposition alliance into a "respectable political force", the NSP said it had "the utmost respect" for him. It was also confident of a future "external strategic partnership" with the alliance and Mr Chiam.
As to why it left the alliance, the NSP — which has failed to win any seats in Parliament since it was formed in 1987 — said it felt that autonomy would allow it to explore new possibilities "through wider latitude to manoeuvre, reengineer and rebuild the NSP".
It added: "The respect for collectiveness within a big grouping like the SDA, which comprises members with different priorities, can produce complexities in coordination leading to less than optimal operational efficiency."
In response to the media's queries, NSP president Sebastian Teo said in "one or two years", they would be able to tell if this was the right decision or not.
But asked if losing Mr Chiam's popular clout would hurt the party's chances, Mr Teo retorted: "Do we need an MP to produce another MP?"
The SDA was founded in 2001 by Mr Chiam. In last May's General Election, the NSP fielded 12 out of the 20 candidates put up by the alliance.
But ripples of discontent surfaced soon after Polling Day, and talk of the NSP breaking away from the four-party alliance gathered momentum in the last few months following a revamp of the party's leadership.
The new leadership wants to build up its membership base so that it can field at least 20 candidates at the next General Election, due by 2011.
The split will have no legal bearing on Mr Chiam's Potong Pasir seat, which he won under the SDA banner.
Loh Chee Kong and Derrick A Paulo

The news report from Today is similarly fair in its initial part though it has added "unsubstantiated" claim of NSP being unhappy or existence of "discontent" of Mr. Chiam's leadership of SDA despite of the fact that NSP has rebutted such speculations.

Could you imagine reporters reporting on GST increase from PM Lee's speech stating that the GST increase is to "help" the poor but after stating this, write something contrary to PM Lee's stand? ;) This will never happen if reporters or editors are reporting on PAP's stand or statements but it just happens to Opposition! ;)

The report of Chiam's respond to NSP's departure in Today:

SDA much saddened by NSP's breakaway: Chiam
Loh Chee Kong

The National Solidarity Party's (NSP) decision on Thursday night to break away has "caused widespread sadness" in the five-year-old alliance, said Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) founder and chairman Chiam See Tong.
In a statement issued on Friday, he said SDA "has no major differences" with NSP and "wishes to continue to work closely" with it. As SDA was "built on a framework of democratic principles", Mr Chiam reiterated that it would not meddle in its component party's affairs, including any decision to leave.
The 71-year-old Potong Pasir MP also regretted that the decision came "at a time when SDA has gained public recognition and made substantial progress".
In response, NSP president Sebastian Teo, 57, told Today: "It was a difficult decision … Our first consideration was whether (the move) would jeopardise Mr Chiam's position personally. We also considered the feelings of the other component parties and whether there would be any side effects to them." He believes that leaving SDA will even improve mutual cooperation, with "more flexibility in working things out".
Said Mr Teo: "We are still on good terms. We are all working in the same direction. But sometimes we just have to take our own approach to develop."
NSP will unveil its latest plans after "settling down".
Loh Chee Kong

Now, in my opinion, this is the most factual, straight forward report of Mr. Chiam's response to NSP's departure. No more negative "speculations" or statements of contradictions put in the report.

The WORST report come from ZaoBao:

国民团结党脱离 民主联盟面临瓦解


















I have taken pain to post the original NSP's press release and most of the relevant newspaper reports on this whole issue to demonstrate one simple point, views could be "engineered" by newspaper reports.

This is especially so in the ZaoBao's report. Despite the fact that NSP has reiterated in its press release that its departure from SDA is NOT due to any unhappiness over Mr. Chiam's leadership, the ZaoBao's report still puts the whole report in a very negative angle of "opposition faces disintegration" and suggest NSP left because it is unhappy of Mr. Chiam in reforming SDA! Worst of all, it put up "undisclosed" source of information to suggest that this is the "truth"!

PAP has once said that newspaper is supposed to report facts and not go into "investigative journalism" but it seems that the whole report in ZaoBao is full of "suggestive" opinion based on "unknown" or "undisclosed" sources of information mixed with one single interview with Mr. Sin KT. It gives people the impression that what it stated initially from "undisclosed" source of information is true! I doubt they will dare to repeat such reporting technique on PAP's political news!

There is one important discrepancy between the English papers' reports and ZaoBao's report: i.e. The positive information of NSP's aim of continuing its effort to field as many candidates as possible in the next election so that Singaporeans would have a choice next time round. Besides, none of the English newspapers have suggested that SDA will face disintegration but ZaoBao put it as its headline!

Most important of all, by the look at the NSP's press release and Mr. Chiam's respond to NSP's departure, both have clearly indicated that it is indeed an amicable departure of NSP but ZaoBao seems to take the opportunity to paint a bad light on Mr. Chiam's leadership.

The overall impression created on opposition as a whole is disunity, facing great crisis and Mr. Chiam is adverse to reform. Is this the real impression that whole saga projected? ;)

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, January 12, 2007

ICT & Defence Budget

First of all, I must thank all of those who have come forward to shake my hands during the ICT period. I know some of you visited my blog quite often and I thank you for all your support.

Although it may just be a little handshake or just a short phrase of encouragement, but it means alot to us, people who are walking on the thin line on the political front. Your little gesture will leave a lasting impression and become a long lasting source of motivation for me to carry on my political work. Thank you.

Although this recent ICT I have is a short one (low key) which involves only range, but it has given me much food for thought. Shooting skill is the most basic skill of any soldier. Thus it is important for the army to provide adequate training to all its soldiers in shooting.

I must say I am impressed by the vast improvement in the accommodation that the Army has provided in the new training centre. The bunk is spacious and the bed is comfortable. In terms of infrastructure wise, the Army has come a long way in improving the basic necessities for NSmen who come back for training.

Unfortunately, while the Army spent money in improving such accommodation and buying high end world class weapons like the Leopard Tanks, it has neglected the most basic need for a soldier; the range that provide the ground to train soldiers with the basic skill of shooting.

Before the range, we are given the opportunity to go through a simulated range, IMT. This was widely publicised as a high tech approach to train shooting skill. However, to our dismay, the program that was provided by the IMT is outdated.

Our battalion was supposed to have range at one single location initially. But due to the breakdown of one part of the facility, half of the battalion has to be moved to somewhere else. This is definitely not good to keep the integrity of the whole battalion intact.

When the range started, there were problems with the facilities. Range has to be stopped intermittantly just to rectify the problems. I was told that similar problems occur in the other range as well! Time was wasted in waiting for such problems to be rectified.

After the range, during the post mortem for the ICT, we have raised the problems we faced during range and it seems that this is not a new problem at all. We were told that G6 Army has been informed of such problems before but apparently no improvement has been made. As for the program for the IMT, we were told that it will cost millions to change the program.

I was quite angry to receive such answers although I know it is not within the powers of the trainers to make amends to such situation. Huge amount of money is spent by Mindef to recall its NSmen back every year for training. Yet, Mindef does not feel that it is a waste of money if the facilities for training of critical skills like shooting is not maintained properly or up to date in order to achieve the necessary standards? I mean if you spend millions each year to get NSmen back for training but training objectives are compromised just because of ill maintained training facilities, isn't a waste of money and NSmen's precious time?

Defence Budget takes a huge pie off the annual government budget every year. It is the largest single item in the annual budget. While it is important for us to buy new high tech equipment, but I think training facilities for our NSmen is of equal importance as well.

Shooting is the most basic skills of a soldier and it should deserve a better maintained training facilities than what we have now. Imagine if we ever being called up for war, the very first thing that we do is to get our men equipped and zero their weapons. If our range is not well maintained, the readiness of our men will be greatly compromised. We could have all the most advanced equipment we could get in the world but if our soldiers cannot shoot straight, all will be lost!

Goh Meng Seng

Saturday, January 06, 2007

"Breakway members?

Yes, this is about ST reporting again!

I quote the following from ST Insight published today:

Another issue to watch is the state of the opposition.

The Workers' Party marks its 50th anniversary this November. Says WP chairman Sylvia Lim: 'We are certainly celebrating, because now at least we see our party seems to be making some progress in terms of renewal and it's a momentum we want to keep up. We are proud we've reached this stage.'

But if the opposition movement is to grow, veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Alliance believes the various parties must cooperate and unite.

'Singaporeans have often complained that the opposition is not even able to keep its own house in order,' he says. 'So we must avoid the in-fighting that plagued us in the past because that will set us back another few years.'

Breakaway members from the WP may set up a new party. Mr Goh Meng Seng, who stood for the WP in Aljunied GRC at the 2006 polls, told Insight the name 'Democratic Labour Front' has been tossed about. The party, if formed, would be more liberal than the WP but less confrontational than the Singapore Democratic Party, he said.

The reporter, Peh, called me for a telephone interview three days ago. As usual, my first reaction is "What story are you going to write this time?" Sure enough, he says he is writing something about the upcoming events for the new year.

He asked a few questions:

1) Are you going to form a new party?
2) Will you consider to rejoin Workers' Party?
3) Has NSP President, Sebastine, asked you to join them?

Looking at the questions asked, one would not suspect that anything sinister would occur. I replied him accordingly:

1) Well, I have not decided yet but it is a possibility (what would the name of the new party be? Is it going to be "Democratic Labour Front"?) I will not reveal first but I have tossed with this name... (Is "Democratic Labour Front" be the best name for the new party?) Well, among those listed in the Sammyboy poll, yes but I have some other better names in mind but I am not going to tell you. (Have you consulted Mr. Low about forming the new party?) I think I should decide my own destiny (Will the creation of the new party create concerns among WP members?) I don't think they should be concerned at all because like what I have said, the pie is big enough for another new party and I am not going to poach from WP. Besides, when I resigned from WP, it is just an individual's decision. In fact, I believe that if the new party is formed, it should have common interests with WP and they will work together closely. (how would the new party positions itself?) If the new party is formed, it should be more liberal than WP but not as confrontational as SDP.

2)Well, it is very unlikely for me to rejoin WP but I will keep that option open. It depends on whether WP needs my service or not but I believe with its growth right now, they should not have problems in grooming more people.

3) I shall not comment on this as it involves a third party. You should ask Sebastian himself.

The above may not be an exact record of what transpired but they are what I have remembered.

Well, my point is this, I have indicated that there are common interests involved and WP should not view the creation of the new party (if it really happens) in a negative way. This is definitely not a "breakaway faction" or anything like that.

Thus, I am really amazed that the Insight report puts Mr. Chiam's comment along side with my interview, the possibility of forming a new party to create an impression that such act of creating a new party is "disunity". This is especially so when it uses the word "breakaway member" right after Mr. Chiam talks about the ills of "in fighting"! But the truth is, I have indicated that even if I am going to form a new party, it will most probably work hand in hand with WP as we share common interests!

I find it quite intriguing in such "misreporting"; not in terms of misquoting my words, but using parts of the interview in a way to misrepresent the whole gist of the interview...i.e. in effect, quote out of context!

What is more interesting is this; Mr. Chiam should not be concerned about people like me forming a new party because his view of opposition unity is that all opposition parties should unite. Besides he was talking about "in fighting" which is obviously not the case in my resignation. In fact, I think Mr. Chiam is more concerned about NSP leaving SDA than anything else.

This is a subtle way of creating certain impression by piecing up different interviews in a way to create an overall impression of "disunity" of opposition and to demonstrate that if I ever form a new party, it would be considered as "breakaway" factions of WP!

Admittedly, the reporters are becoming more sophisticated in the way of creating misleading impression. If the three paragraphs are read separately without using the word "breakaway member", then they sound perfectly alright. But by putting them together, then there is a subtle underlining message in between! They are saying subtly that although WP is making some progress, but it may face problems with "in fighting" and "breakaway member" like me trying to form a new party is an example of such "disunity". This is a gross misrepresentation of the truth! My resignation from WP is never an issue of "in fighting". Besides, I am definitely not a "breakaway member" that could break WP or create disunity among WP.

I could foresee that it will become more challenging now to deal with local reporters. ;)

Goh Meng Seng