If We Only Knew, That The Joke Was On Us

There has been a lot of frustration lately. Singaporeans who care more than what will happen in the next episode of Tanglin watched helplessly as an embarrassing saga unfolded before our very eyes. I’ll come to that in a moment.

As the saga was brewing, Singapore’s most infamous and annoying teenager Amos Yee’s 10-month prison ordeal in the US drew much derision from our own netizens. In spite his perfectly logical and well-articulated statements, most people didn’t like his rude, arrogant approach to criticism and many religious folks have been downright disgusted by the way he ridiculed their faith. Many wished he would rot in an American jail. Some wished that he could be deported back to Singapore and face his biggest nightmare – NS. So when it was mentioned that he had already been in detention for 10 months pending the outcome of his application for political asylum, practically nobody wished him well. Many “experts”, in a proud display of cynicism, mocked at the boy’s ignorance, pointing out that the US was no better place for trouble-maker like him.

Then came September 11th 2017. Americans were solemnly remembering the worst terrorist attack they had suffered. We in Singapore appeared to be heading towards our very own Donald Trump moment. We worried and sent the stock market tumbling when Donald Trump was elected. America’s stock market would soar in defiance to our conventional “wisdom”, hitting one all-time high after another. We laughed at the ignorance of American voters. Are we any better?

To be fair, President Halimah’s path to the Istana was not exactly a smooth one in the beginning and it became downright “treacherous” when two challengers emerged and quite a number of netizens vowed to vote for either of them. From January 2016, it became increasingly clear even to an idiot, that the path was progressively and miraculously smoothened or even bulldozed for her towards the end. If the “conspiracy theories” mentioned by our minister were really untrue, then it must have been Halimah’s god at work. Let’s check out the timeline and see how miraculous this whole process was.

27 January 2016
PM Lee said that it was timely to review the eligibility criteria of the Elected Presidency. That’s just like saying that a tutor with better grades himself or herself would be more qualified to teach. I hope nobody doubts my ability to cook because I’m not fat.

10 Feb 2016
A Constitutional Commission consisting of nine individuals and chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon was formed. Or at least the announcement of this Commission was announced then. I don’t suppose anyone had a peek at its birth certificate.

7 September 2016
After several months of deliberation (ostensibly without outside interference) the Commission recommended the following key changes:

1. The election should be reserved for a racial group if it is not represented for five terms, or 30 years. If there are no eligible candidates from that group, the election would be opened to candidates of all races, and the “reserved election” would be deferred to the next Presidential election.

2. The Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) should be increased from six to eight members, with two alternate members. The President would have to consult the CPA on all monetary issues related to the financial reserves and all key public service appointments.

3. A qualifying candidate from the private sector should be a senior executive managing a company with at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity. Previously, such a candidate had to be a chairman or CEO of a company with at least S$100 million in paid-up capital.

4. For qualifying candidates from both the public and private sectors, the length of time that the candidate has held office should be doubled to six years.

5. The public sector offices of Accountant-General and Auditor-General should be removed from automatic qualification.

An applicant’s entire qualifying tenure should fall within a 15-year period preceding Nomination Day.

If we have no access to the birth certificate of the Commission, then minutes of their meetings must be confidential as well. Have they decided on the racial group before deciding to call a reserved election? Or was it randomly stated for the sake of fairness and minority representation? Could it be a coincidence that it’s the Malays’ turn?

How did they arrive at a figure of S$500M? The criterion in bold is both shocking and yet hardly surprising. They could have doubled or tripled it. Increasing it by 5 times looks a bit suspicious – like the closet gay who declares that he will only marry if the bride has natural boobs the size of basketballs.

8 November 2016
PM Lee, “under the advice from Attorney-General”, announced that the 2017 Presidential Election will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community. How did the AG ever get involved here? I thought it’s the Commission. Never mind. It seemed like some great plan was unfolding.

9 November 2016
Parliament passed an amendment to the Singapore Constitution. The amendment’s passage meant that the 2017 presidential election would be reserved for members of the Malay community, who must be certified as such by a Community Committee. Was it a coincidence? Or was the stage set?

Then ….

6 February 2017

Yes, many people found the laughter insulting in retrospect. Just a slip of the tongue or has the “winner” already been decided? Will we even have a chance to make our vote count?

5 May 2017
Dr Tan Cheng Bock filed a constitutional challenge to determine whether it is correct to set the Presidential Election 2017 as a reserved election under the newly introduced amendments to the Elected Presidency. Of course, there is only one legal way to fight this. Dr Tan went through the only proper channel.

12 July 2017

23 August 2017

29 August 2017

11 September 2017
The two candidates were disqualified. Was that a bulldozer in action? Or was it simply an independent decision by the Elections Department? As the only “eligible” candidate, Halimah Yacob did a walkover like the late President Nathan did and became the next “Elected President” without being elected. Almost instantly, there was a flurry of “protests”. Dr Tan Cheng Bock warned of a backlash come the next GE.

I have to disagree with Dr Tan Cheng Bock. The next GE is two years away. By then, that 70% could be consolidated with the usual means.

13 September 2017

Of course, all these don’t surprise me. And I’m definitely not surprised by the jokers who post things like this:

Yao mo gao chor ah? You sign them a blank cheque and you are surprised that they took all your money? Of course, most of that 70% remain unperturbed. They are willing to give away their constitutional rights in exchange for a swanky “community hub” in their estate. Even for folks like “Creepy Bear”, it’s very easy and sexy to espouse democratic ideals in public. It makes you look cool and maybe even a little sexy. But how many people act against their conscience in the privacy of the voting booth? There are many of such hypocrites around.

I bought this book at Kinokuniya. The cashier told me that it’s very popular and I can see why. Again, this is not an indication of how people will vote. If we just look at the nonsense that these politicians have been spouting, we may wonder if they are being overpaid when Amos Yee’s channel is free. But the question on the mind of every potential rebel is, why rock the boat? Change could be a wonderful thing, but are pampered and pragmatic Singaporeans willing and ready to make the sacrifice that accompany disruptive changes? They want their cake and eat it. If they can’t, they just want business as usual so that their “property” appreciates in value, they get to go shopping in Bangkok and they won’t miss an episode of Tanglin.

Global media monitoring house Meltwater observed an increase in negative sentiment on social media surrounding the Presidential Elections from 11 to 12 September 2017, after the Elections Department announced that Halimah Yacob was the only candidate to be declared eligible for the election, effectively making the contest a walkover. The data shows 83% of negative sentiment and 17% of positive sentiment.

“And we are prepared to pay the political price because the future of our country is much more important than any political capital that we may have for this generation.”

Was that an admission that the government had interfered with the decision to disqualify the other two candidates? Sentiments? Who cares about sentiments? Once Santa Claus comes to town, the kiasu, kiasi, gian png people will emerge victorious again. As long as Singapore’s formula for success still works, people will still earn a living and some other lame drama will come after Tanglin. That’s not good enough for me. The fact that so many people can’t wait for something bad to happen to Amos Yee shows that he may have more reason laugh at us than we at him.

© Chan Joon Yee

Dewdrop Books