LKY Made JBJ Homeless and Was Proud of It. PAP Could Not Care Less About 1,000 Homeless
The PAP, like other faux Communist regimes which pay lip service to equality while actually existing to benefit a small elite who enjoy hereditary rule, long claimed to have eliminated social problems endemic in the West like homelessness. I remember back in the 1970s my father saying that anyone found sleeping rough would be arrested by the police and shipped off to a kind of Dickensian poorhouse and that was why you did not see many visible signs of homelessness.
Since then the Government has tempered its claims somewhat but has always insisted that it dealt with poverty and homelessness far better than Western democracies. It is always presented as a kind of tough love in which the PAP give you the tools to get ahead. The tools include a “good” education (for which in contrast to other high-income countries you have to pay), “good” jobs for which you have to compete with foreign workers without any labour protections or minimum wage and with men having one hand tied behind their backs by having to do NS while FTs are exempted, and “good” housing (which you were conned into buying by a monopoly supplier at inflated prices in the belief that a kindhearted Government would not cancel your lease when the term was up).
The PAP Government took its cue from Lee Kuan Yew, who believed that there was little point in helping the poor since two decades of state education had resulted in a “natural aristocracy” rising to the top while those who were left at the bottom (the majority of whom were from the minority races which LKY’s racist ideology designated as less intelligent) were by definition inferior, feckless and/or degenerate and therefore not worth saving. Your worth is measured purely by how much you have managed to accumulate (never mind if LHL and his wife and the rest of their family use their power to ensure they get first dibs on state funds). After having reduced my father to bankruptcy over decades of persecution with the help of his friendly judiciary, LKY famously said (in his book Hard Truths) that he “did not feel sorry for Jeyaretnam, who went potty selling books in the street”.
My father would also have qualified as a homeless person under the wider definitions used in the US or the UK since he lost his home in Singapore as a result of all the defamation suits brought by LKY, his son, Goh Chok Tong and the Tamil worthies. He was reduced to staying in cheap hotels in Singapore and going to JB at weekends where he stayed at his late sister’s house (which he had paid for years before). If he had not owned the modest bungalow in JB he would have been technically homeless. As he had a heart condition he could have dropped dead during his taxing journeys on public transport between Singapore and JB. It was only after I bought an apartment in Singapore that he had a place to stay for the last few months of his life.
Backed by the lack of facts and having the Statistics Department as well as foreign Nobel Prize winning economists like Joe Stiglitz in his pocket, LHL has always felt free to make absurd claims without worrying about fact-checking, like his comment at that playground for hedge fund managers and self-congratulating finance ministers (Tharman) and IMF heads (Christine Lagarde), Davos :
“If you’re poor in Singapore, it’s no fun but I think you’re less badly off if you’re poor in Singapore than in nearly anywhere else in the world including the United States.”
Now an NUS research project has found that about 1,000 people sleep rough on the streets of Singapore each day. That figure alone shows that homelessness in Singapore is on a comparable scale with other global cities like London and New York, which state media often compares unfavourably, presumably at the behest of LHL, with the situation faced by the poor in Singapore. For example the Government figure for the whole of the UK, with a population of 65 million, was 4,677 people sleeping rough last year, though that is widely believed to be an underestimate. In New York, with which LHL is presumably seeking to compare Singapore, the figure is nearly 4,000 according to the Bowery Mission. But New York’s population is 8.6 million as compared to Singapore’s citizen and PR population of nearly 4 million. Guest workers in Singapore have to be housed but the conditions in which they live would probably lead to them falling under a wider definition of homelessness in more advanced countries, which counts those living in shelters or cheap hotels. I remember the striking PRC bus drivers complaining of “hot-bedding” and bed bugs as one of the grievances before they were summarily dismissed, prosecuted and deported from Singapore.
There is a also a fatal flaw in the NUS study since it only counted those sleeping rough at the void decks and ground floors of HDBs as well as public spaces. I know from visits to HDB blocks, in particular the rental blocks, that it is not uncommon to find older members of the household sleeping in the corridors because there is no space inside. Overcrowding in one room and two room flats is a serious problem and leads to people being forced to sleep in corridors. When I visited some of the rental blocks in West Coast GRC I found that often HDB had put 2 families and more than 10 people in one room flats. If those forced to sleep in corridors are not counted as homeless then the 1,000 figure probably seriously understates the problem. The NUS study also highlighted that 25% of the homeless had not eaten at all that day or had only had one meal so many of them were starving. My father used to say that children from poorer families went to school hungry. Tommy Koh repeated this recently but, mindful no doubt of his million dollar remuneration and pension, quickly recanted when the Government demanded.
I have had first hand experience of the homelessness problem because of my efforts a few years ago to help an elderly lady, Madam L, who had been evicted by HDB after failing to pay the rent on her rental flat (see links below for details). Despite being homeless she was still being pursued by HDB for rental arrears of $5,000. She was illiterate and despite ill health was forced to collect cardboard (at 8 cents a kilo) to eke out a subsistence existence. PAP policy is that children must support their parents and HDB had advised her to move in with her son but he had his own family and no space for her. I approached MSF and ComCare to ask that she receive the Public Assistance figure quoted on their website of $450 a month for a single person. Rather than provide her with assistance, their first reaction was to ask her to enter a welfare home, supposedly so that they could give her medical care, However Madam L was rightly suspicious of this offer, saying that she would never be released and it would be like prison. Given the wide powers given to the Government under the Destitute Persons Act, to detain “idle beggars” and people “who could not give a good account of themselves” in welfare homes and force them to work, her fears were not unfounded. Eventually, after many months of being passed from one agency to another Madam L did receive $300 a month for six months and her situation improved. Also thanks to our efforts to embarrass HDB over her plight, she was eventually offered a rental room share by HDB but this did not work out as she was unable to communicate with the other tenant who was not Singaporean. We lost touch with her after that so I do not know whether she has managed to get a roof over her head but at our last meeting she her health and appearance had greatly improved.
In addition to my dad, I learned after joining the Reform Party that one of the founder members, Quek Teow Chuan, was homeless, apparently after being sued by LKY after the 1984 GE for defamation and being ordered to pay $400,000. He tragically died alone in a welfare home in June 2011. By themselves the defamation suits of LKY, LHL, Goh Chok Tong, and other PAP Ministers and hangers-on have probably made a significant contribution to Singapore’s homelessness problem.
Before the NUS study we had few hard figures to go on since the Government deliberately discourages research into poverty. This is so that LHL can hobnob with hedge fund billionaires and celebrity academics like Stiglitz and proclaim without a trace of irony that Singapore is the best place to be poor, secure in the knowledge that there are no statistics to combat his fake facts. Even this study, eye-opening though it is, seems imbued with the PAP ethos of communicating a propagandistic message that the homeless are just rational economic actors striving to be productive and to contribute to raising GDP. This is part and parcel of the Fake News myth that the PAP have succeeded in getting the Western media to project: that in contrast to democracies, supposedly corrupted by special interests and wealthy elites and crippled by gridlock, Singapore’s totalitarian regime and its ruling dynasty work ceaselessly, efficiently and selflessly, paying themselves only peanuts, their only objective to make life better for their citizens.
The homeless, who are overwhelmingly older men, are only part of a larger problem of poverty among the elderly. At the last election I proposed as leader of the Reform Party that we should pay senior citizens over 65 a monthly allowance of $500 in addition to their CPF savings. Even without means testing that would cost less than $2 billion per annum (part of this would be recouped through higher GST and other tax receipts). The cost has to be put into the context of a general surplus of at least $40 billion a year that the Government tries its best to conceal and financial reserves that if they have been managed with any semblance of competence should be comfortably in excess of $1 trillion. Regrettably Singaporeans have been convinced by years of gaslighting, brainwashing and obfuscation into forgetting about the reserves built up through decades of austerity and that more generous social welfare means higher taxes. So they pride themselves on being hard nosed and unsentimental, not realising that they are being fooled by their plutocratic rulers into believing somehow that they are in the same boat. How long will it take before Singaporeans realise they have been scammed?