Why Rui En? No, I didn’t dream of her. It’s just that so many comments I’ve been getting from friends as well as strangers make me feel like asking the question: “Do you know who I am?”
I don’t walk around with a CV hanging around my neck and believe me, I still get friends, acquaintances and strangers coming up to me saying things like: “What do you cook? Instant noodles”, “Climb which mountain? Mt Faber ah?”, “Which tour company you join ha?”, “You are English educated, that’s why you don’t like China, right?”, “You going Nepal ah, not scared of altitude sickness meh?”, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet”, “You climbing Kinabalu, sure or not?” (I’ve climbed 5 times and even written a book on it).
Those who know me better will know that I’m more a book person than anything else. Since my semi-retirement, I’ve been able to go through quite a number of library books every week. Most are not worthy of my time. It’s not just the internet that is full of trash. Even the library is full of trash. Truth be told, I’ve returned about 80% of the books I’ve borrowed without reading beyond the second chapter or after reading the first paragraphs of every chapter. For some books, I start near the end and decide whether the bulk of earlier chapters is flesh or fluff; deserving of my time or not.
On the travel front, I’ve blogged about shallow Instagramers who ruin meaningful travel. For travel to Rakhine state in Myanmar with an ongoing civil war last year, I relied on “local knowledge” instead of news reports or MFA protection. It would be nice if I have a cousin living there, preferably one working in high places, but then, I don’t.
For information on the current status of the pandemic in all of China (especially Wuhan), I wouldn’t rely on any of my cousins living in just one city. For one, they are not that resourceful. They could be describing the tusk of the elephant or the tail, the trunk. You know the story, you get the picture. Instead, I rely on multiple unrelated sources that are focused on gathering and disseminating information. When one narrative opposes another and the latter is logical while the former is not, which one would you adopt? It’s puerile to say that logic doesn’t help you make sense. Relatively reliable evidence is established when unrelated sources concur. I won’t go into all the intricacies of how I judge and decide. As I’ve mentioned on Facebook, there are two IQs. The second one is Intuitive Quotient. I apply both IQs and just like the with books, I absorb (and share) what is worth knowing and discard the trash.
Just as I raid the library on a weekly basis, I have done my scouring, sifting, filtering of the web to find dozens of bloggers and YouTubers with valuable insights that put many mainstream experts and journalists to shame. Do I need to be reminded not believe everything I see? For the record, I’ve written several blog posts right here with the title “Bigshot Bloggers & Their Bullshit” and even busted a few online scams. Me gullible? I think part of the problem lies in the fact that they think that Chan Joon Yee is just a peer and a contemporary. How good can he be? Maybe I’m not that good. I just wish that people who tell me the obvious could give a bit more credit to my ability to discern. Do you know who I am or should I say, do you really know me?
So what’s new? Singapore finally had two Covid-19 fatalities. It’s expected but not welcome. My deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased. The active cases as of 21 March 2020 number 290. Discharged cases 140. So we have a total of 430 cases that got infected so far.
Speaking the minds of most decent folks out there, opposition parties have called for a postponement of the general elections. Kim Huat (Mr Brown), who has been mocking Singaporeans for being so kan cheong about Covid-19, has made no mention of the GE. Perhaps not yet. His bak chor mee days are a distant memory.
But I think regardless of which party you support, anyone who is concerned about the well-being of fellow Singaporeans would not even need to think twice about postponing the GE. Yes, I may not be that magnanimous, but even if the party I support would have a sure chance of winning under these conditions, I would rather not have my wish come true than to endanger the lives of people I care about. Obviously, not everyone thinks that way. I wonder why. I’m alerted to an article in our Chinese newsPAPer by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member, Bryan Lim Boon Heng (not the crying one from the PAP). Mr Lim took to Facebook on 19 March 2020, to respond to an article titled “The merits of holding a GE during an outbreak” in the Straits Times, probably translated from the original Zaobao article.
Mr Lim pointed out that in that opinion piece, editor of Chinese Media Group’s NewsHub Han Yong May said, “The present moment, seemingly fraught with danger, might also present the best opportunity for an election.” 对执政党来说，这可能是一个危险的时期，但也是最好的时机。 Well, French president Emmanuel Macron seems to have given this 好时机 a pass when he announced that local elections would be suspended in view of the country being “at war” with the novel coronavirus.
Unfortunately, I have no access to the whole article as I never pay for newsPAPers, but I managed to “borrow” a copy from a friend. I won’t translate word for word or borrow the English version from the Straits Times (see how the newsPAPers just borrow articles from each other) – I’ll just focus on how her observations led to her conclusion.
Miss Han began her article by giving us a brief run-through of the challenging Covid-19 situation – something which we already know. Next, she wrote about the challenges that the news team is facing, having to cover both Covid-19 and the GE at the same time. She also asked the interesting question of whether the incumbent is creating a problem for itself by holding the elections at this time.
Miss Han observes that our government did not take any drastic measures from the very beginning. The tally of infected cases, recovered cases were updated daily and a press conference was held with ministers answering questions from the press every week. Gatherings were only restricted after an outbreak was reported at a private function. Miss Han describes the government’s approach as customary, taking protective and preventive measures without causing inconvenience to our daily activities.
Interestingly, Miss Han points out that the crisis has compelled us to take our values of freedom, equality, democracy and governance seriously. The illness does not take one’s wealth into consideration. Being rich or poor also does not influence one’s chances of surviving an infection. She believes that the government’s standing in the current situation is favourable as it has received praises from international organisations for its astute management of the pandemic.
Election time is a time to think carefully and choose wisely. What kind of a life/future do you want? What style of governance? Now for the most interesting statement in the whole article. 没有一个政府可以在和平的时候给你一种选择，在危机的时候再给你多一次选择。
No government can give you a choice (vote) during peacetime and another choice in times of crisis. This means that if you have voted a government during peacetime, you’ll normally have to live with that government during times of crisis. What Miss Han is implying here is that you get a better idea of what sort of a government you are voting for in times of crisis than in times of peace. So why not vote in times of crisis?
She goes on to say that the coming GE is a test of confidence in our 4G leadership. The public may not have confidence in this team because it has not been tested. She believes that they have virtually undergone an examination over the last 3 weeks. She gives a weird analogy of a school bully. Nobody knows if he studies, but he’s still able to score in exams. To Miss Han, our government has performed well and built confidence in the hearts of the people.
In conclusion, she says 无风无浪任何一个课题都可能让人对执政党扣分。在大风大浪的时候全船人看着同一个大方向。这时掌舵的人对手只有风浪和自己.
When there’s no storm raging, the discussion of any topic can cost the ruling party some points. It’s only when we’re sailing through a storm that everyone on the boat will look out in the same direction. Under such circumstances, the only opposition the captain faces are the storm and himself.
Before I discuss Miss Han’s colourful analogies, let’s look at what Mr Lim had to say. First of all, he was appalled that Miss Han could support holding the elections at this time.
“Shocking, isn’t it? Which honorable media in the world will trumpet about the merits of holding an election in an outbreak, other than one which only advocates & answers to the egotistical course of its political masters?”
Concerns that the government might decide to call for elections during this outbreak was raised after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) released its report of the revised boundaries last week. Historically, elections are called within months of the report’s release.
Mr Lim also said in his post, “No amount of merits can outweigh the one insurmountable demerit – & that is exposing the public to the risk of cross infection. Despite the sharp spike in cases, it seems that the PAP is still hanging on to the rhetoric that polls should be called soon.”
The SDP member went on to urge to Singaporeans to “Sit up & take notice this time round … You may have chosen to turn a blind eye or stay ignorant on the issues of the GST hike, 10 million population & non-return of your CPF savings in full during the current pandemic. But you cannot possibly stay oblivious when the PAP seems bent on steamrolling ahead with a snap election to gratify its political thirst – at the very expense of your personal health… Election or no election, you need to send a clear & dignified message to the PAP that your health is in your hands. Not theirs to play a fool with – like what they have done to your cost of living, jobs & retirement savings.”
To be fair to Miss Han, Mr Lim’s comments did not directly address the pertinent statements she made in her article. Let’s not mistake it as such. Unless you’ve placed heavy bets on the results, nobody would want all that campaigning, house visits, walkabouts or even rallies in the midst of this crisis. On this issue, I agree with Mr Lim, Dr Chee, Dr Tan Cheng Bock and all the other politicians who urge the government to postpone the elections. While we don’t know when this pandemic will end, we do have an option not to hold the elections now. Dr Tan has given a few suggestions which should be considered.
Now, for Miss Han’s opinions. In her first and second statements (in bold), she suggests that an election in times of crisis is actually good for the people because she assumes that after we’ve seen how the government has performed (and she thinks they’ve performed well) in times of crisis and elected it, there is no need to test it again in times of peace. What is that but an outright campaign for the incumbent! The statement is shamelessly partisan as it fails to address the possibility of having even better results if we had some other party managing the crisis. I guess I won’t go wrong if I continue avoiding newsPAPers.
The first George Bush won the first Gulf War for the Allies in 1991. At his funeral, he was lauded as a president who steered America through tumultuous times. But almost immediately after the war, he was defeated at the polls by Bill Clinton in 1992. Did America become worse off after Clinton got elected? Would it have been better if George Bush had retained his seat in the White House?
The next statement baldly and honestly puts matters in the government’s perspective. Apart from the advantages I’ve mentioned in my previous post, the incumbent faces little opposition under current circumstances. Even the fiery Dr Chee had promised that he would work with the government to help Singaporeans weather this storm. This is almost an ideal situation for the country, but once you break the truce and insist on holding the elections, everything falls apart. We are not looking in the same direction anymore. We the plebeians are gazing at the horizon for an end to this crisis. The elite are looking towards securing their jobs for the next 5 years.
If we were “unwise” enough to vote the incumbent out, how easy would it be for the new government to dip into our reserves and bail insolvent companies out given that Madam Halimah will still be holding one of the keys? This reminds me of the character of John Ferrier in the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lost and dying in the desert in Utah with a little girl, Ferrier had no choice but to join the migrating Mormons and adopt their faith. If he had rejected them, it could be months before any humans passed the same way. Are we in such a position now?
I can’t say that I know Dr Lily Neo, having only seen her once checking out a boat with her family at Punggol Marina. However, I’ve come across many netizens who praise her for being a dedicated MP. She did ask for more money on behalf of our poor in that legendary exchange with you know who, but what if we ask her to persuade her party to postpone the elections? Will Dr Neo see eye to eye with us, or will she try to convince us with her party’s narrative?
Yes. I can see why holding the elections now is good for the incumbent (though not in the same way Miss Han sees it) but I completely fail to see how it benefits the nation and its people.