Why Is LHL Making So Much Effort to Destroy His Tame Opposition?
Let me declare straight away that I am not here to excuse Sylvia, Pritam and Low’s actions. They have done a grave disservice to the cause of the Opposition in Singapore. Unlike my dad, who stood up to LKY and his son and was reduced to penury for conducting a forlorn battle for democracy and the rights of Singaporeans, the Workers Party MPs have only asked to be left alone to get on with feathering their own nests and those of their cronies. They pledged never to challenge the PAP and to be a “responsible” and constructive Opposition. Low went so far as to say, most notably after their victory in the 2013 by-election, that the PAP was a good government and that they could and should continue in power for at least another 50 years. They made a mockery of the traditions of Parliamentary democracy and showed a complete misunderstanding of their role.
Elsewhere on my blog I have described how, when on a trip to Armenia together I suggested that WP should ask a Parliamentary question about Ho Ching’s salary (information that I have been trying to discover since 2009), Sylvia tried to claim that the information was already public. Dennis Tan went so far as to say that what the PM’s wife was paid out of public funds was not a fit question for Parliament. On that trip WP tried hard to give the impression that they were in coalition with the PAP, to the point where I thought they were pulling a fast one on the Armenians.
After my urging, WP finally plucked up the courage to ask a question in Parliament but were rebuffed by Lawrence Wong. Like well-behaved and respectful schoolchildren, they had their one brief moment of recklessness but after that sat down and kept quiet.
Surely most Governments would be delighted to have such a docile Opposition and might have left them alone to continue their practice of appointing friends without an open tender to lucrative contracts who then are able to make millions of dollars which should have been passed back to the constituents in reduced conservancy charges.
The judge found that Sylvia and Low’s conduct had been “dishonest” while Pritam had breached his duty of skill and care in not questioning the tender waiver (I do not understand why Chen Show Mao, an international and highly-educated commercial lawyer, and Faisal Manap were let off from the same duty but obviously there is some reason that I as non-legally trained have not understood).
As I have written earlier the PAP and the Lees are guilty of exactly the same dishonesty and breach of fiduciary duties but on a much larger scale than the PAP MPs. LKY directed the lion’s share of HDB conveyancing work to his wife’s law firm, Lee & Lee. When my father called him he was sued for defamation and we lost our family home after the judge who was LKY’s relative, Freddy Chua, awarded him a huge sum in damages. Yet LKY was forced to admit that when he first became PM Lee & Lee were barred from doing Government work due to conflict of interest rules. However LKY soon got round that by sending a letter to HDB saying that these safeguards were no longer necessary and that Lee & Lee should compete on equal terms. Decades of conveyancing work and other Government business probably netted LKY’s wife tens of millions of dollars which would be hundreds of millions in today’s money.
Then there is the glaring matter of the PM’s wife appointed as head of Temasek in 2004 shortly after LHL became PM. LHL may deny that he appointed his wife but the fact remains that even if she was appointed by the board, all the board members were beholden to LHL and his Government in one way or another. I have written extensively on this subject and provide the links below. It is dishonest of LHL to pretend that he had nothing to do with his wife’s appointment or the fact that she has remained in that role for fifteen years despite at best mediocre and at worst disastrous performance. She is not even particularly well-qualified and seems to be only part-time since Ho Ching is always seen accompanying her husband on state trips, clutching the obligatory hairshirt $15 ITE bag, when she should be running Temasek.
Singapore is held up both by the right and the left as some kind of model. It comes second after Hong Kong in the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom. At the same time left-wingers approvingly point out the Government’s ownership of 90% of the land (bought at confiscatory prices) as well as controlling stakes in most of the major public companies and the control over household savings. But the stinginess towards the provision of welfare and public services coupled with no taxation of unearned income and very low direct tax rates, which the right applauds, suggests that the real reason for state control is that it makes the power of the PAP and the Lee dynasty unassailable (as is the Chinese Communist Party) and provides a cover for the ruling family to extract wealth through massive payments. The fact that the Government so closely guards Ho Ching’s remuneration suggests that even my estimates of her earnings are way too low.
Imagine as a thought experiment what the reaction would be from the same people who approve of the Singapore model if President Trump was to nationalise all the land in the US, most of the major companies and appoint his daughter Ivanka on an undisclosed compensation package to run these assets in a sovereign wealth fund that was worth the same proportion of US GDP as Temasek is in Singapore, i.e. about $15 trillion. If we included GIC in the mix then the total would go up to $30-40 trillion.
This brings me back to my initial conundrum. Why were LKY and LHL so scared of JBJ that they had to crush him completely and then make up some disgusting justification in LHL’s fake condolence letter? Why does LHL continue his father’s tradition of selectively suing impoverished bloggers like Roy Ngerng and prosecuting activists like Jolovan Wham? Why take down a venal Opposition party that is no threat at all?
One might be tempted to put it down just to ruthlessness, of the kind that PAP Ministers exhibited when they called on the public not to help my dad by falling victim to the British tradition of feeling sorry for the underdog. But the ruthlessness shows that LHL is very afraid, probably because he does not want anyone to ever be able to open the books and discover the skeletons in his cupboard.