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Thread: Singapore Also Can
04-04-2013, 10:52 PM #6988
No topic off-limits, Yale-NUS report says
New liberal arts college won't impose curbs on freedom of expression
Published on Apr 05, 2013
Artist's impression of the Yale-NUS College which will open in 2013. The new Yale-National University of Singapore College of Liberal Arts has reiterated its stand on freedom of expression in a new document that sets out the thinking behind its curriculum. -- FILE PHOTO: NUS
By Sandra Davie Senior Education Correspondent
The new Yale-National University of Singapore College of Liberal Arts has reiterated its stand on freedom of expression in a new document that sets out the thinking behind its curriculum.
The unique merits of a liberal arts education will not be fully realised as long as students and faculty members mistakenly believe that some topics are off-limits and if debate and discussion on controversial subjects are not allowed, said the college.
"An education built upon the exchange of arguments can only be fully realised if students and faculty can articulate their thoughts and express them to the various publics that make up the college community... There are no questions that cannot be asked, no answers that cannot be discussed and debated."
The 90-page report, authored by the six members of the committee headed by Yale professor of political science Bryan Garsten, goes on to say that the administration will not be instituting any speech restrictions. Instead, faculty members and students must judge for themselves the best manner in which to express their ideas, "determining the balance of sensitivity and provocation".
04-07-2013, 10:55 PM #6989
A new PAP or a party returning to its roots?
TODAY file photo
Populist or pragmatic? Whatever your perceptions of the PAP, the results of the recent Budget and White Paper debates have marked a turning point of sorts for Singapore’s ruling party
- By Amir Hussain
SINGAPORE — Some observers have described it as “populist” and “politically driven”, others called it “pragmatic” and responding to the times. And while there were those who felt that the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government’s recent measures — which have a socialist slant — and various eye-catching suggestions by its Members of Parliament were a collective reaction to the results of the 2011 General Election, there is also a view that the party was simply honouring the social compact where the Government takes care of the people and responds to their needs.
Nevertheless, political analysts and Members of Parliament TODAY spoke to were clear about one thing: The first three months of the year — a frantic 90-odd days where big decisions for the country were made and debated upon during the White Paper and Budget debates — marked a turning point of sorts for the PAP. Some analysts went as far as to say that a “new” PAP has emerged in response to political realities.
Other experts and PAP MPs, however, stressed that the party’s fundamentals, including an aversion to the moral hazard of a welfare state, have not changed.
National University of Singapore (NUS) political scientist Bilveer Singh said: “There is a perception and tendency to conclude that there is a leftward shift in the PAP, this is more apparent than real.
“The PAP has always been a highly pragmatic party and it is a party that adopts policies that are correct and necessary rather than ideological and dogmatic. To that extent, the issue of whether there is a left, right or centre shift in the PAP is simply irrelevant.”
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh started the ball rolling during the White Paper debate in February when he said that he would rather not have some of the trade-offs of economic growth, in exchange for “a cohesive, united nation where people feel taken care of at home and are confident of their future”.
Less then a month later, the Government announced in its Budget statement an unprecedented move in which it would directly subsidise Singaporeans’ wage increments in the form of the Wage Credit Scheme, which would benefit workers earning up to S$4,000 a month.
The tax system was also tweaked to make owners of pricey homes and expensive cars contribute more to the country’s coffers.
Overall, the Government would prioritise social spending, with more hospitals, polyclinics, childcare centres, elderly homes, social assistance and payouts for low-income workers. Citizens would also pay less for medical bills, HDB flats and preschool centres.
The Government also signalled a greater focus on preserving the country’s heritage, including allowing free entry to museums.
During the Budget debate, MPs also proposed offering free public transport before the morning rush hour — a suggestion the Government is seriously considering — amid impassioned calls for more to be done for the needy and the elderly.
MPs also had fewer qualms about showing nationalistic fervour. For example, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar called for a tax on permanent residents who do not serve National Service. Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza suggested that the Government limit foreigners to selected new developments and allow them to resell the property only to Singaporeans.
The fact that these policies and suggestions are uncharacteristic of the PAP — and the Old Guard would probably have thumbed their noses at some of them — has not gone unnoticed.
During the Budget debates, Workers’ Party MP Pritam Singh noted the PAP Government’s “shifts to the left” of the political spectrum.
Last month, in an essay published on the IPS Commons website, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy researcher Alisha Gill and the school’s Senior Fellow Donald Low wrote that the Budget this year “points to a slowly changing governmental approach to Singapore’s social compact”.
“More than anything else, it shows a government that is trying to find a new balance between its long-standing emphasis on individual responsibility and incentives with a greater willingness to expand social protection and increase the progressivity of the fiscal system,” they added.
Welfare no longer a dirty word
Several PAP MPs have recently brought up in Parliament the once-taboo topic of welfarism. For example, during the White Paper debate, Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng noted that over the years, the party’s key principle of self-help “has hardened to an ideology of anti-welfarism”.
“We need to examine this strain of anti-welfarism in our political philosophy and see whether it still fits into the Singapore of the future,” he said.
The ruling party’s hard nosed stance against Western style welfarism was most evident among members of the Old Guard.
When he was the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had, for instance, argued that welfare states “undermine self-reliance. People did not have to work for their families’ well-being”. The late former Senior Minister Mr S Rajaratnam once said: “We want to teach the people that the government is not a rich uncle. You get what you pay for. We want to disabuse people of the notion that in a good society the rich must pay for the poor. We want to reduce welfare to the minimum, restrict it only to those who are handicapped or old. To the others, we offer equal opportunities. Everybody can be rich if they try hard.”
In their essay, which argued against attaching purely positive or negative connotations to “welfare”, Ms Gill and Mr Low wrote that the first generation of PAP leaders “was not against redistribution as such” and, in practice, they “did not shy away from taking unprecedented steps to redistribute incomes and wealth”, including passing the Land Acquisition Act, which gave the Government far-reaching powers to seize privately-owned land for public use at below market prices.
The researchers contended that what the Old Guard rejected were “redistributive policies which distorted or undermined economic incentives”.
Assoc Prof Singh reiterated that “the welfare dimension of PAP policies have always been there and very evident”.
“Social welfare policies of assisting the poor have been an entrenched and integral aspect of the PAP,” Associate Professor Singh said, citing concessions for conservancy charges, electricity and water bills, financial support for the unemployed, subsidised healthcare, and bursaries and scholarships for the poor.
He added: “True, the PAP has created an image of itself as a party that desists ‘welfare’ a la West (and its various abuses), but that does not mean that it is anti-welfare. No government anywhere can be anti-welfare. “What you are seeing today is simply a stronger commitment to its past policies without the political elites running down welfare per se, but at the same time these people-oriented policies are not being sold as welfare policies.”
While he agreed that there was “no radical shift” in the PAP’s mentality and ideology of “extreme elitism, meritocracy, market fundamentalism and aversion to welfare”, Dr Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute at NUS felt that “the calibration of more ‘populist’ public policies” could also be attributed to pressures from the electorate, as the PAP keeps an eye on the next General Election which is due by 2016.
“The efficacy of the PAP’s endeavour to recover lost electoral ground with these policy change(s) lies in the eyes of the beholder. To its supporters, the PAP is a pragmatic party which responds swiftly to new societal needs. To its detractors, the PAP is appeasing the electorate to stay in power without fundamental change,” Dr Lam said.
Singapore Management University law lecturer and Nominated MP Eugene Tan added: “I would say that the primary driver really is the need for the party (to be) more acutely sensitive to the need to be popular and for their overall policy to continue to be seen as legitimate. So in the end, it’s very politically driven.”
PAP ‘returning to basics’
Observers also attributed the “sea change”, as Assoc Prof Singh put it, to a new generation of PAP MPs.
MPs today are “much more aware of the importance of their own personal brand”, former NMP Siew Kum Hong said. “They understand that with real political contestation, they’re going to have to establish their own personal brand because it’s no longer enough to be a PAP MP; you have to have your own brand,” Mr Siew said.
Assoc Prof Singh added: “In some ways, as the older PAP generation fades away, there is a return to the basics of the PAP by the newer generation of PAP MPs and leaders who believe that the PAP is essentially a people-oriented party.”
He also noted that the younger PAP leaders “are very mindful of developing a new compact with a new generation of Singaporeans who are conscious of their rights, are more demanding (and) have higher expectations”.
Rejecting suggestions that the PAP was playing to the gallery “as this is not something (it) believes in”, Assoc Prof Singh said: “This is the new PAP that you will be seeing … more often in the future as the new PAP leaders are of a different mould (and) belief system and would slaughter whatever sacred cows of the past to ensure that the PAP is what it purports to be — a people’s action party.”
While Mr Inderjit Singh, a veteran MP, acknowledged there is a greater diversity among the current slate of PAP MPs, he noted that, in the past, the likes of former PAP MPs Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Soo Khoon and Wang Kai Yuen “have always reflected their views the way (their successors) have been reflecting right now”.
“We’ve always done it. But less last time, maybe more now” he said.
On whether the shift was a response to the 2011 General Election, he said: “You can link the consequence of the last GE to the reality on the ground … So now we are addressing the root causes.”
He added: “As the economy and the country progress … a bigger number cannot catch up … so it’s best that we take care of their needs.”
Dr Puthucheary, a first-term MP, reiterated that for the PAP Government, “the underlying fundamentals about doing things in the best interest of Singapore have not changed”.
Citing the Our Singapore Conversation project as an example of how the PAP Government has adopted a “ground up, consultative approach”, he said: “But what is clear is that as time changes, the way in which we achieve those aims needs to change and has changed.”
- By Amir Hussain
04-08-2013, 02:23 AM #6990
Resorts World's aquarium clinches two Guinness World Records
Published on Apr 08, 2013
About 150 student beneficiaries of the ExxonMobil-South West CDC Transport Bursary 2013 and some volunteers saw manta rays and sharks at the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa, a visit sponsored by ExxonMobil. Resorts World Sentosa's S.E.A. Aquarium is now the official record holder of two Guinness World Records - it is the world's largest aquarium and has the world's largest acrylic panel in its Ocean Gallery. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
By Sue-ann Tan
Resorts World Sentosa's S.E.A. Aquarium is now the official record holder of two Guinness World Records - it is the world's largest aquarium and has the world's largest acrylic panel in its Ocean Gallery.
The S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore houses more than 80,000 animals of over 800 species in 42.8 million litres of water.
The world's largest acrylic panel in the Ocean Gallery at the aquarium measures 36 metres wide by 8.3 metres tall and weighs more than 250,000 kg. Its surface area is equivalent to two rows of three double-decker buses stacked on top of one another.
At the Ocean Gallery, visitors can view rare marine species like the giant manta rays and goliath grouper.
04-08-2013, 02:31 AM #6991
Botanic Gardens could be World Heritage Site in two years: NParks
By Eugene Neubronner
1 hour 3 min ago
SINGAPORE – The Singapore Botanic Gardens could be the country’s first World Heritage Site by as early as June 2015, if the nomination is accepted by the UNESCO.
However, the Gardens' Director, Dr Nigel Taylor, noted that it was unlikely that the bid would succeed at the first try. “We might not be successful the first, or second time,” he said, adding that it was likely the UNESCO committee would ask for further background or work to be done before giving the green light.
Giving more information about the process to list the garden as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites (WHS), the National Parks Board said that the Botanic Gardens was identified as Singapore's best shot, as it meets two of UNESCO's 10 criteria: Exhibiting an exchange of human values on developments in landscape design, and being an outstanding example of landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
The historical Gardens has existed since 1859 and is 154 years old. It is also one of the few remaining tropical Asian gardens that has been continually maintained over the years.
While other sites – such as Haw Par Villa – were also considered, it was ultimately decided in December last year that only the Botanic Gardens would be submitted in Singapore’s World Heritage Tentative List to UNESCO.
This is considered an important first step as, without the list, the World Heritage Committee will not consider the nomination.
NParks will submit the nomination in February next year. Meanwhile, a series of public engagement sessions will be conducted where the nomination document and management plan will be shared with stakeholders such as heritage and environment groups, and members of the public.
Worldwide, there are only two other botanical gardens listed as protected World Heritage Sites worldwide - Botanical Garden of Padua in Italy and Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom
04-08-2013, 03:12 AM #6992
Sculptor Chong Fah Cheong's legacy is carved in stone
Canada-based sculptor Chong Fah Cheong has been making art for Singapore for two decades
Published on Apr 08, 2013
Artist Chong Fah Cheong’s bronze sculpture of boys jumping into the Singapore River near the Fullerton Hotel, titled First Generation, is popular with shutterbugs. His exhibition at the NUS Museum will feature works such as Once A Tree II (above). -- PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Artist Chong Fah Cheong’s bronze sculpture of boys jumping into the Singapore River near the Fullerton Hotel, titled First Generation, is popular with shutterbugs. His exhibition at the NUS Museum will feature works such as Once A Tree II (above). -- PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Chong Fah Cheong training to be a teacher at the Saint Joseph’s teacher’s training college in Penang. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL
The sculptor in his workshop in 1981. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL
Chong Fah Cheong with wife Pang Guek Cheng, daughter Kim Ee and son Christopher at a 2011 exhibition of his work. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHONG FAH CHEONG
By Akshita Nanda
Canada-based sculptor Chong Fah Cheong is not fazed when people recognise his art instead of his name.
"I am my own work," says the wiry 67-year-old creator of First Generation, a bronze sculpture of boys jumping into the Singapore River, sited near the Fullerton Hotel since 2000 and which has become a popular spot for shutterbugs.
Indeed, his arm sports the tattooed letters "cfc" in the same stylised monogram that he carves into his original sculptures.
His most recent pieces in wood, metal and stone can be seen at the Textures, Tones & Timbres exhibition at NUS Museum until April 28.
04-08-2013, 03:22 AM #6993
10 interesting paper replicas of goods people burn for ancestors during Qingming Fest
Published on Apr 06, 2013
1 Lamborghini car 27x66x14cm, $10
10 BMW bicycle, $50
9 Set of XO bottle, whisky, cigar, tea and fried cuttlefish, $4
8 SK-III set including cleanser, treatment lotion and nourishing cream, $4
7 Big cruise ship 40x72x42cm, $50
6 Claypot pork ribs set with herbal soup and sauce, $5
5 Small jackpot machine 45x45x87cm, $100
4 Bungalow fully equipped with furniture and cars in the front yard 54x56x43cm, $40
3 34-inch LCD screen television with 3-D glasses and remote control, $30
2 Hermes Birkin bag and shoes set, $7
EILEEN TAY checks out 10 interesting paper replicas of material goods that people burn for their ancestors during the Qingming Festival. While it fell on Thursday, families may mark the occasion in the days before or after.
04-08-2013, 10:13 PM #6994
Marine Life Park's dolphin enclosure opens to the public
Published on Apr 08, 2013
By Jessica Lim
Visitors to Marine Life Park were able to get a close up of 24 bottlenose dolphins on Monday afternoon - the first time since the park opened in November.
Resorts World Sentosa, where the Marine Life Park is sited, removed the hoarding covering two glass panels in the park's aquarium unveiling its largest and final enclosure.
The park's South-east Asia Aquarium, which home to more than 80,000 animals housed in 42.8 million litres of water, also bagged two Guinness World Records on Monday,
One for being the largest aquarium in the world and another for housing the largest single acrylic panel which is the viewing window on their Open Ocean Habitat tank measuring 36m by 8.3m.
Visitors to Marine Life Park were able to get a close up of 24 bottlenose dolphins on Monday afternoon - the first time since the park opened in November. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
04-08-2013, 10:58 PM #6995
The S'pore way: the way to go?
This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 6, 2013
Published on Apr 08, 2013
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE
By Tom Plate
COMMUNICATION of many kinds - verbal as well as symbolic - is required to govern well. Mass politics requires a leader's persuasion to maximise political effectiveness.
Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore's founding prime minister, and by history's assessment the long-running elected PM ever - knew what he wanted for his country, but a driven utilitarian, Lee judged himself, almost ideologically, by standards that could be scientifically measured.
He was almost always in a deliberate rush to achieve. Per capita income. International competitiveness. Scholastic scores. Low inflation. High employment. He wanted nothing to stand in the way of measurable achievements.
He hated unnecessary delays, such as from uninformed debate, which of course is the essence of mass democracy. But unless he were to do away with elections altogether, he had to know what his people thought, even if much of it seemed to him thoughtless - or in any event, uninformed. The leader always has to carry the people with him, as he'd say.
The ancient Greek thinkers understood the core problem. One perceptive modern-day interpreter was Michel Foucault, the late French philosopher who used to lecture about Greek thought at the College de France. He accepted their insights about the severe contradiction at the heart of the very concept of democracy.
And the Greeks had a word for that. Two words, actually.
The first was parrhesia, which sort of means "truth-telling" or "free, frank speech" in a profound way. The theoretical sine qua non of superior governance means the best decisions are produced by the best thought and information and discussion. Not everyone can do that.
So ongoing tension exists between parrhesia and its opposite, isegoria. This latter means (sort of) "everyone has an equal and absolute right to speak in public debate, whatever the truth value". (This is to say: no matter how uninformed or, arguably, even stupid.)
The first speaks to Maximum Truth, political correctness notwithstanding, people's feelings notwithstanding; and said parrhesia speech must be pure and wise and, above all, anything but self-seeking.
The second speaks to accepting that everyone is speech-equal and every citizen needs to have her or his say and should be equally involved in the public debate, no matter how little they may know or however self-seeking they may be.
Everyone and anyone can do their isegoria. That's easy enough. But parrhesia - this is something else entirely. The two are in opposition: Truth-telling and speech-equality are anything but the same.
Foucault used to suggest that democracy could either affirm equality of public speech at the expense of parrhesia or affirm quality of public discourse at the expense of isegoria. My hypothesis is that LKY, who did not suffer fools or foolish comment readily, was a fervent admirer of parrhesia and not of isegoria. He thought the latter, if left unchecked by proper educated authority, would degrade Singapore's polity and handicap its rate of progress.
To extrapolate, Lee followed in the footsteps of Plato, who describes his mentor Socrates as sometimes distrusting the utility of truth-telling to the masses. Wrote Foucault by way of explanation: "The powerlessness of true discourse in democracy is not due, of course, to true discourse, that is, to the fact that discourse is true. It is due to the very structure of democracy."
Bring Lee back into this discussion.
Remember, he honestly admitted to us (with a plain-spoken directness I had not seen elsewhere before, and have not heard from him since) that the ideology of democracy left him cold. And I have to tell you that, when he said it towards the end of our first day of conversations - with absolutely no apology whatsoever - the comment seemed to me breathtaking in its utter disregard of political correctness or polite qualification.
Said Lee to us: "I do not believe that one-man, one-vote, in either the US format or the British format or the French format, is the final position."
Public truth-telling and real-world politics make for a very rough fit when trying to co-exist in a political system. This is not something political leaders say publicly. But the difference between the individual speaking the truth and wanting the truth to predominate, on the one hand, and the equal right of all to speak in comparable volume even if it runs the risk of advancing untruthfulness - this is a tough one.
Lee of course was no Old Testament prophet but a modern Machiavellian political leader with a strategic vision - perhaps even of a Plato. As a utilitarian pragmatist who mainly wanted to get good things done properly and, if possible, rapidly, he was not a sainted ideologue about this, or about anything else.
He knew what he could get away with and was a master of rhetorical nuance. He was often accused of controlling the courts but - whatever the truth of that - in fact, as a close associate put it to me, "everything he did or said had to be legally defensible". He could rouse a crowd with the best of them.
His goal was not to stay in power for its own sake and loot, as with some Third World despots, but to deploy that power to improve Singapore dramatically and impress on neighbours how it can be done. He was often in a rush. Failures slammed progress into reverse. So what he could not tolerate was ineffectiveness, especially cloaked in ideological purity. Ideological arguments were for professors of the academic and arcane.
"Singapore is not a 4,000-year culture," he told me in an interview in 2007.
"This is an immigrant community that started in 1819. It's an immigrant community that left its moorings and therefore, knowing it's sailing to uncharted seas, is guided by the stars. I say let's follow the stars and they said okay, let's try. And we've succeeded and here we are, but has it really taken root? No. It's just worked for the time being. If it doesn't (continue to) work, again, we say let's try something else. This (Singapore's current way) is not entrenched. This is not a 4,000-year society."
Though educated in England, he said he was not much the student of one of the great European political intellectuals of the 20th century - the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, whose short book, The Hedgehog And The Fox (1953), helped frame our conversations for this book. We had a light tussle over my proposal that he was a Hedgehog (a big ideas man), but he took the view that, if anything between the two extremes, he was a Fox (a man of hundreds of practical ideas, not just a few overriding ones).
Lee always emphasised his ad-hoc pragmatism. I fought him on this point, at best to a draw. But I may have been wrong. In Berlin's terminology, Lee is indeed a Fox, not a Hedgehog. I may have underestimated the overall impact of the tremendous atmospheric pressure of empiricism at Cambridge, where he read law and graduated with double first class honours. This successful experience at such a hallowed institution would have left a deep impression on anyone. It might have made me almost religious about what I had learnt, made me even unyieldingly Hedgehogian about my British pragmatism.
Fox or not, Lee was a steel icon for what we Americans would label the law and order thing. He was stricter than the sternest father. His insistence on the virtues of discipline, hard work and respect for authority put the filial piety of a nation to the test.
A joke at his expense. And so two dogs are swimming in the waters between Singapore and Borneo - but in opposite directions. They pause halfway to exchange greetings. The dog headed towards Borneo asked the other dog why he's swimming to Singapore. The answer: "Ah, the shopping, the housing, the air-conditioning, the health care, the schools. So why are you going to Borneo?" Says the dog from Singapore: "Oh, I just want to bark."
The hurry-up game plan of the Lee Kuan Yew ambition to First World Singapore was competing against the ticking clock of competition and globalisation. The rush to build and grow was understandable and the performance exceptional. But it was predicated on a political system that, in quieting the news media, put enormous pressure on the Government and the People's Action Party (PAP) to monitor corruption and inferior performance.
This was the system's Achilles' heel. Inevitably some bad stuff had to have been kept from public view. But in time it will come out - and for all anyone knows, there may be a good deal of it.
The system of control Lee clamped on the small island city-state was somewhat suffocating. Arts and literature were slow to develop even as the scientific, mathematical and engineering skills soared to exceed the achievement level of almost all nations. Singapore's per capita income level, greater than even the US and probably Japan, were a testament to the economic success, brilliantly achieved in the flash of a few decades. But there was a downside, a cost, as there is with almost everything. His daughter Wei Ling hints at it (earlier in this book) in her critique of mere materialism as a measure of exemplary national achievement. But asked about it, her father (who like all of us fathers always knows best) is defensive and dismissive.
Lee was all but blind to that because he was hell-bent to see his country escape from Third World poverty. And that he did. But there was tunnel vision to the route of the canal he burrowed. He felt that if he took his eye off the economic ball, the juggernaut that was Singapore would slow down, lose momentum and slide into reverse. Every day he woke up, he would look for new coal to fire into the engine.
And in the end he got his way. In Singapore, politics it usually went Lee's way - and that of PAP, which he dominated. And that rather nicely characterised Singapore politics for decades - Lee Kuan Yew getting his own way. Right, enemies might face jail time if necessary, critics faced costly litigation in the courts, and the mere sight or voice of Lee could scare.
But there was a payoff to the public: Singapore got to the land that Lee had promised - to be a first-class First World nation. It was almost a textbook success, except he was the one writing the book, and writing it as he went along, as he'd be the first to admit.
The achievement was not always pretty. Leaving aside the relentless drumbeat of criticism from foreign human rights groups, mostly those in the US (as if the US hasn't its own issues in that regard), it is true Singapore had less "freedom" than classically defined. Yes, it has more money, more stability, more social cohesion, more international clout - but not more freedom to… well… bark.
Lee was well aware of what he was doing. Effective leaders usually do. They will do what they have to do. In classical political philosophy, the "Doctrine of Dirty Hands" postulates that all leaders will have to do things that otherwise would be morally (and probably legally) unacceptable in less authorised hands.
Let us note mild-mannered, professorial President Barack Obama - the former lecturer from Harvard Law School - keeps a hit list of possible terrorist targets at his White House desk. And so on around the globe.
Power is not pretty. Whether it comes from the barrel of a gun, from the gavel of a judge, or from the mouth of authority, it is inherently forceful and coercive. People tend not to understand power. Even when used for a good cause, it is not a nice thing.
Lee earlier in the book denies he was a soft authoritarian, as that term of political art goes, on the grounds that the PAP had put itself before voters and had been repeatedly validated. But without the decades of dazzling economic success, what would have happened? The suspicion is that by and large, voters would have been too intimidated to vote otherwise. But they never had to see the worst. Lee delivered. He used power-absolute and persuasive - effectively. He got the job done that he set out to do.
By fax once I once asked him to offer some self-criticism. He referred me to Catherine Lim. This fine writer, perhaps his most persistently perceptive critic, at the end of a long lecture in the summer of 2012 that contained quite a listing of his alleged errors and foibles, nonetheless was forced to conclude this way:
"We are indeed in the midst of one of the most exciting times in Singapore's history, a time fraught with paradoxes, perils and promises, brought about (by) a general election (2011) that has been described as a watershed, a sea change, a transformation, not least because it ended the era of Lee Kuan Yew.
"Mr Lee's legacy is so mixed that at one end of the spectrum of response, there will be adulation, and at the other, undisguised opprobrium and distaste.
"But whatever the emotions he elicits, whatever the controversies that swirl around him, it will be generally agreed that for a man of his stature and impact, neither the present nor the future holds an equal."
No definitive, measured assessment of the Lee Kuan Yew era is possible right now. History needs to sort through the basic metrics and give them some ranking. Consider the daunting question of the true value of electoral democracy - one citizen, one vote. Is this system a moral imperative? As we have seen, Lee thinks not.
Many people admire the US but they also give enormous credit to China, despite its authoritarian system. Is any kind of political system that delivers very good governance and economic development, as did Lee's, a manifest social good? And is a democracy that fails to do that still justifiable, simply because it is a democracy?
The mystery of Lee Kuan Yew and what his successful Singapore represents is not for the simple-minded or those impatient for quick answers. It is profound.
But at the end of his story, he stood as the longest-serving prime minister in world history. However much we admired his governance policies, we cannot ignore his politics. At the same time, however harsh they were, they worked.
The writer is the Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University, and the author of the best-selling Giants Of Asia book series, of which Conversations With Lee Kuan Yew was the first volume
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04-09-2013, 10:27 PM #6996
Cruise ship Sapphire Princess to make Singapore its homeport in 2014
Published on Apr 09, 2013
The 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess will make Singapore its new homeport in November 2014. This means that the ship will be based at Marina Bay Cruise Centre and will dock here during the off-peak season. Its parent company Princess Cruises made this announcement on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: CARNIVAL CORPORATION & PLC/PRINCESS CRUISES
By Bryant Chan
The 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess will make Singapore its new homeport in November 2014. This means that the ship will be based at Marina Bay Cruise Centre and will dock here during the off-peak season. Its parent company Princess Cruises made this announcement on Tuesday.
This 116,000 tonne ship here is expected to contribute $50 million to the local economy, taking into account passenger and crew spending, travel agent commissions and marketing costs. During its first season from November 2014 to February 2015, it is expected to ferry 40,000 passengers.
Their move to Singapore reflects the brisk growth of the cruise industry in Singapore and South-east Asia.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, the number of cruise passengers to Singapore stood at 907,000 in 2012 - a compounded annual growth rate of 6.5 per cent since 2003.
04-10-2013, 11:01 PM #6997
NUS and NTU comes in 2nd and 11th in new ranking of top 100 Asian universities
Published on Apr 11, 2013
The National University of Singapore (above) is Asia’s second-best university, and the Nanyang Technological University is in 11th place. This is according to the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings, a new list of the top 100 institutions in Asia, which was released on Thursday, April 11, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
By Amelia Teng
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Asia’s second-best university, and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is in 11th place.
This is according to the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings, a new list of the top 100 institutions in Asia, which was released on Thursday morning.
The rankings were based on data collected from 16,600 responses from academics in 144 countries for the 2012-2013 World University Rankings which was out in October last year. Universities were compared on 13 performance indicators which covered research, teaching, citations, international outlook and industry income, with the first three of the five categories carrying 30 per cent weighting each.
In a statement, Mr Phil Baty, editor of THE Rankings, said: “The overall World University Rankings top 400 list remains dominated by the US and other Western nations, and only includes 57 Asian institutions. So we are delighted to launch this Asia-only top 100 list to provide deeper and richer insights into the performance of Asia’s world-class research institutions, ranked against their regional peers.”
World rankings - Asia
Rank Institution Location Overall scorechange criteria 27 University of Tokyo Japan 78.3 29 National University of Singapore Singapore 77.5 35 The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 75.6 46 Peking University China 70.7 50 Pohang University of Science and Technology Republic of Korea 69.4 52 Tsinghua University China 67.1 54 Kyoto University Japan 66.8 59 Seoul National University Republic of Korea 65.9 65 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong 64.4 68 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Republic of Korea 64.0 86 Nanyang Technological University Singapore 59.4 124 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 54.4 128 Tokyo Institute of Technology Japan 53.7 134 National Taiwan University Taiwan 53.2 137 Tohoku University Japan 53.1 137 Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel 53.1 147 Osaka University Japan 52.0
04-10-2013, 11:09 PM #6998
7,000 candidates... and SMU will interview them all
University looking for X-factor, in belief that grades are not everything
Published on Apr 11, 2013
Singapore Management University was the first in Singapore to require all candidates to go through an interview. -- ST ILLUSTRATION: MIKE M DIZON
Ms Cheryl Goh (in Shanghai), who graduated among the top of her class. -- PHOTO: CHERYL GOH
By Sandra Davie Senior Education Correspondent
WITH more than 7,000 candidates vying for places this year, interviewing every single one is a major undertaking.
But despite the burgeoning number of applicants, Singapore Management University (SMU) has kept this long-standing practice in place.
The school's president, Professor Arnoud De Meyer, says it still insists on interviewing every candidate because it believes that academic results alone provide an incomplete picture.
"Exam grades are a valid assessment measure, but they cannot be the sole measure of a student's ability, or the single predictor of success," he said.
"They were really taking a bold step in granting me an interview.
They were telling the entire education system that grades are not everything."
- Ms Cheryl Goh (in Shanghai), who graduated among the top of her class
04-10-2013, 11:30 PM #6999
Singapore's Indian Heritage Centre to open in early 2015
Published on Apr 10, 2013
Artist's impression of the Indian Heritage Centre which is expected to open in 2015. A collaboration between Robert Greg Shand Architects and URBNarc, it features an eye-catching translucent facade that will become iridescent when it reflects daylight but transparent when backlit at night, to reveal a colourful mural. Situated in the heart of Little India, the $12 million centre will be aimed at the wider Singapore community, as well as visitors from overseas. The finished building will house galleries and educational spaces. -- FILE PHOTO: ROBERT GREG SHAND ARCHITECTS AND URBNARC
By Melody Zaccheus
Singapore's Indian Heritage Centre will open in early 2015. The building, which is estimated to cost $12 million, will have a gross floor area of about 3,000 sqm.
The four-storey building at the junction of Campbell Lane and Clive Street will be home to five permanent galleries, small-scale museum facilities, activity spaces, a rooftop garden and other amenities.
This was announced at the centre's groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday morning by guest-of-honour Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam with special guest, former president Mr S R Nathan.
Mr Shanmugaratnam said the centre will not only serve as a focal point for the Indian community in Singapore, but will welcome all who wish to know about its heritage and cultures that have been intrinsic to Singapore's identity.
04-10-2013, 11:57 PM #7000
Changi Airport emerges top at Skytrax World Airport Awards 2013
POSTED: 11 Apr 2013 10:58 AM
10 hours ago
Singapore’s Changi Airport is tops again in this year's Skytrax World Airport Awards. This is the fourth time Changi Airport is named the World's Best Airport. The awards were announced in Geneva on Thursday morning.
SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Changi Airport is tops again in this year's Skytrax World Airport Awards.
This is the fourth time Changi Airport is named the World's Best Airport.
The awards were announced in Geneva on Thursday morning.
Skytrax chairman Edward Plaisted said: "Changi Airport continues to be a leader and innovator within the industry and is a key reason why it has been ranked amongst the top 3 airports for the last 14 years of the awards."
Changi Airport also picked up the awards for Best Airport in Asia and the Best Airport for Leisure Amenities.
"The vast array of leisure and entertainment facilities really stands out at Changi and serves to highlight the extent to which the airport management has gone to ensure maximum levels of passenger satisfaction. We only have to look at the fact that Changi served more than 50 million passengers for the first time during 2012, to see that it continues to attract customers and maintain its place as one of the world's leading hub airports," added Mr Plaisted.
Changi Airport beat South Korea’s Incheon International Airport to take the top spot. In third place was Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, followed by Hong Kong International Airport, and in fifth place Beijing Capital International Airport.
Singapore Changi Airport's control tower seen from Terminal 3 (photo: Francine Lim, channelnewsasia.com)
04-11-2013, 03:48 AM #7001
Changi Airport clinches title of World's Best Airport at Skytrax Awards
Published on Apr 11, 2013
Passengers at the transit area of the Changi Airport Terminal 3 (T3). Singapore Changi Airport has been named the World's Best Airport at the 2013 Skytrax World Airport Awards held in Geneva, beating other world airports like Incheon International Airport in Korea and Hong Kong International Airport. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
By Joanna Lee
Singapore Changi Airport has been named the World's Best Airport at the 2013 Skytrax World Airport Awards held in Geneva, beating other world airports like Incheon International Airport in Korea and Hong Kong International Airport.
It is the fourth time Changi Airport bagged this prize, with its last victory in 2010. This year, it also managed to secure awards for Best Airport in Asia and Best Airport for Leisure Amenities.
The 2013 Awards are based on The World Airport Survey, which included 395 airports worldwide this year. The survey evaluates key performance indicators in areas such as check-in, transfers, security and immigration, and shopping.
Chief executive officer of Changi Airport Group, Mr Lee Seow Hiang said: "Winning the Skytrax World's Best Airport award again is an immense honour for Changi Airport. It is as much a recognition of the passion of the 32,000-strong airport community that is the backbone of Changi's collaborative and well-oiled operational processes, as it is an affirmation of our mantra in putting our passengers at the heart of all that we do."
04-11-2013, 09:39 PM #7002
A Real shot at stardom
Joaquim Sagues, Worldwide Director of the CampusExperience, believes talented players from the proposed Real Madrid Training Academy in Singapore have a chance of being invited for a stint with the parent club in Spain. Photo: Ernest Chua SOURCE:MediaCorp Press Ltd
From left: Worldwide Director of Fundación Realmadrid’s Clinic programme and Technical Academies Manuel Parreno, Raffles Institution Principal Lim Lai Cheng, Sergio Cervantes Martinez, Spain’s Ambassador to Singapore Federico Palomera, BBVA Director Gabriela Martinez de Aragon, and Joaquim Sagues mark the launch of the first Real Madrid CampusExperience in South-east Asia. Photo: Ernest Chua SOURCE:MediaCorp Press Ltd
Spanish giants may set up academy here, the best could head to Madrid
- ByTan Yo-Hinn
5 hours 18 min ago
SINGAPORE — Spain could soon become a destination for young Singaporean footballers with dreams of playing top-flight professional football.
Representatives from 32-time Spanish Primera Division champions Real Madrid are studying the feasibility of setting up a training academy here, with the promise that any trainee who impresses will be recommended to the parent club in Spain.
Speaking at the launch of the Real Madrid CampusExperience —the club’s football-based programme for youths — at Raffles Institution (RI) yesterday, its Director Sergio Cervantes Martinez said it would also reflect well on the proposed academy if it manages to unearth talent for the club.
“We’ll be directly linked with (Real) Madrid, so if we have a talent here, a kid who is making a difference, we will report it immediately and not leave him just to play football in Singapore,” said Cervantes.
“We will advise the club and suggest testing him in Madrid. It would also reflect that something good is also happening (at the academy) in Singapore.”
Speaking via an translator, Real Madrid CampusExperience Worldwide Director Joaquim Sagues added: “Although the club has a scouting department, there are definitely opportunities as we’re within the same brand.”
Details of the academy, such as its management staff, fees and curriculum, are being worked out.
But if it materialises, the academy will be a long-term commitment and is likely to be based in an existing sports facility.
“The value is in the methodology and know-how that we can transfer,” said Cervantes.
In the meantime, Cervantes will head the Real Madrid CampusExperience which will make its South-east Asian debut in Singapore in June.
To be held at RI’s Bishan campus, it comprises three sessions from June 10-14, June 17-21 and June 24-28, and is open to boys and girls aged seven to 17.
Conducted by the club’s coaches from Madrid, each session consists of five full-day programmes from 8.20am to 5.45pm daily.
Participants will be exposed to Real Madrid’s club values, and will take part in tactical and technical training sessions.
As part of the tie-up, RI will also send about 19 of its students on a week-long trip to Madrid in September on an educational tour. The school is also planning another trip for its Year 5 and 6 students in November or December to study Real’s sports science methods.
Cervantes also announced yesterday that the Real Madrid
CampusExperience will be supporting SportCares — an initiative by the Singapore Sports Council to provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth — by sponsoring one such participant for every 20 people who sign up.
Fees for the Real Madrid CampusExperience are priced at S$1,088 each, which is higher than fees charged by some other programmes offered here, such as the Manchester United Soccer School (S$280) and last year’s Barcelona Camp (S$545).
Still, that has not stopped an estimated 100 participants from already signing up with the Real Madrid CampusExperience, while RI also plans to partially sponsor about 40 of its students for it.
While acknowledging the relatively pricier fee, Sagues believes the Real Madrid CampusExperience offers value for money.
“Unlike programmes run by many other clubs, our coaches and staff are all coming from Spain,” he said. “The kids will also receive training, education, meals and so much more. You can buy a Ford or a Ferrari, but there’s a big difference. This is the best value for money if you consider all these factors
- ByTan Yo-Hinn
04-11-2013, 09:59 PM #7003
S’pore calls for review of ASEAN's processes and institutions
Singapore on Thursday called for a review of ASEAN's processes and institutions, in order to make them more efficient and effective.
By Saifulbahri Ismail
POSTED: 11 Apr 2013 8:01 PM
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Singapore on Thursday called for a review of ASEAN's processes and institutions, in order to make them more efficient and effective.
Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said he submitted a paper to the 10 ASEAN member countries, adding that the review was welcomed by all and that it will be taken up at the senior officials' level.
Mr Shanmugam was speaking to Singapore reporters at the end of the ASEAN meetings in Brunei on Thursday.
Foreign ministers from ASEAN member countries met for a 90-minute session on Thursday morning. The discussion focused on ASEAN's connectivity and community building efforts.
Mr Shanmugam said: "(Singapore) has been thinking for some time as to how we can make ASEAN even more effective, what we can contribute... Over the years we had more meetings, we've had more dialogue partners, more friends who have joined us in a variety of ways and we've got to make sure that all of this works for us and for them."
The ASEAN Charter, which was established in 2008 and currently under review, gives ASEAN a legal personality and expands its values on rule of law, democracy and good governance.
Singapore also suggested strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat, as it believes a strong and efficient Secretariat is needed to help in ASEAN's community integration.
ASEAN foreign ministers also discussed the South China Sea dispute during the meeting.
They reiterated the need for all parties to exercise self-restraint from activities that would complicate or escalate disputes.
Senior officials from ASEAN and China met in Beijing in early April where they discussed, among other issues, the South China Sea territorial dispute.
They agreed to work on a Code of Conduct (COC) on the basis of consensus. They also further agreed to continue exchanging views on the way forward.
Mr Shanmugam said: "That was a good meeting and we noted the importance of ASEAN unity and centrality. Also we need a positive narrative in the relationship between ASEAN and China which is multi-faceted, and not to be dominated by one topic. We also emphasised and discussed the importance of implementing the Declaration of Conduct and the importance of taking steps to initiate discussions on the COC quickly."
This is the first time ASEAN’s foreign ministers have met under Brunei's chairmanship.
The 2-day event aims to help gear up and prepare for the ASEAN Summit later this month.
Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam (AFP/File/Matt Rourke)
04-14-2013, 09:44 PM #7004
Singapore's biggest blessing: Safety
The Straits Times
Trust in public institutions like the police is not a given and needs to be nurtured. Will the blogosphere choose cynicism, or seek common ground to protect public institutions?
Published on Apr 13, 2013
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO
By Kishore Mahbubani, For The Straits Times
As Singapore undergoes its mighty, irresistible metamorphosis over this coming decade, it is vital for it to ensure that it does not lose some painfully acquired blessings in the process.
In my previous column For The Straits Times, I had asked readers to share their views on my thoughts about Singapore's metamorphosis. I had said the soul of Singapore is being redefined, and that Singaporean society can either emerge as a happy butterfly, flitting around in a garden city, or as a lonely frog, croaking away unhappily in a little well.
I am grateful for the over 50 readers who responded and for their comments. They have helped shape my thinking for this column, and provided food for thought for future ones.
One of the biggest blessings Singapore has is that it is one of the safest cities in the world.
The level of safety we enjoy is a true miracle. Switzerland enjoys the same level of public safety. But it is surrounded by Europe. When you cross the border out of Switzerland, you continue to experience the same level of safety. But when you cross out of the border of Singapore, you may not. In short, we have to work extremely hard to preserve this cocoon of extraordinary public safety.
Some of it is clearly due to the very successful Singapore Police Force (SPF) we have. But the SPF is only one unit within an ecosystem of excellent public institutions delivering this high level of safety. The social trust that Singaporeans and Singapore residents have in this ecosystem is one key reason why our city is safe.
THIS is why I am extremely worried about the cynicism that the Singaporean blogosphere is developing towards these public institutions. Over time this cynicism could act like an acid that erodes the valuable social trust accumulated. Yes, let me concede that some of the online criticisms are justified. For example, the escape of Mas Salamat Kastari was a major failure.
Against this backdrop, I watched carefully the reaction of the blogosphere to the Shane Todd affair. Dr Todd, 31, an American researcher, was found hanged in his apartment here last June after he quit the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) which is part of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
We will have to await the outcome of the coroner's inquiry to find out what really happened.
This is why I was appalled that US Senator Max Baucus jumped the gun and tried to pressure Singapore by forcing Singapore to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) oversight of the case before the Coroner's Court had completed its inquiry.
This goes against all international laws and norms. The United States would never allow a foreign police force to oversee an FBI investigation. Nor would it allow any foreign intervention into its judicial inquiry process.
What makes this even more absurd is that any objective investigation will show that the SPF is at least as competent, if not more competent, than the FBI.
Why do I say this? Having lived in the US for over 10 years, I have observed that while Singapore has moved from Third World to First World in its public institutions, many of America's public institutions are going in the opposite direction.
The best minds in America do not go into lifetime public service careers. The best minds in Singapore do. This is why the trust and confidence in Singapore's public institutions remain high overall.
Kudos to blogosphere
I WAS therefore heartened to see that the Singapore blogosphere did not unthinkingly support the American position. Some of the more popular blogs were pretty hostile to the idea of the FBI interfering in a domestic investigation. This has given me some hope that we can try and find some middle ground between the mainstream media and the blogosphere.
In this middle ground, we should reach clear agreement that some of Singapore's painfully developed public institutions should be protected and strengthened, like the SPF.
If we don't develop this middle ground and if a significant percentage of Singaporeans begin to demonstrate a lack of trust in our public institutions, trouble may begin brewing around the corner. This lack of trust can suddenly manifest itself in different ways.
Let me suggest one hypothetical scenario.
We have had quite a few MRT breakdowns in recent years. Thousands of people were inconvenienced. Fortunately, each incident passed peacefully. The peaceful outcomes reflected the high level of trust that Singaporeans have in their public institutions. They saw each incident as an aberration - not indicating the emergence of a new pattern of decline. But this perception could well change if MRT disruptions persist.
Clearly, the public standing of train operator SMRT has been declining. When I served as Singapore's Ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1989, my American counterpart was the legendary Ambassador Vernon Walters. His hobby was to visit and investigate every MRT system in the world. He proudly told me that having done so, he could confidently say the Singapore MRT system was the best in the world.
I asked why. He said it was the only MRT system in the world that had been built ahead of schedule, below cost and functioned smoothly.
Clearly this is no longer the case. The big question is: what went wrong? Was it a mistake to emphasise the short-term private sector profits rather than the long-term public good that the SMRT is supposed to provide?
All this brings me to the hypothetical scenario. If we have another major MRT breakdown, combined with declining trust in public institutions, we may have the perfect combination for a riot or two. We have been free from riots for almost 40 years. The reasons were simple: rising living standards and rising trust in public institutions. But if this trust becomes a declining commodity and if a major public service performs badly, it would be unwise to expect the same level of social harmony.
In short, it would be a mistake to take our high level of public safety for granted. It is the result of a very complex ecosystem of public institutions that still enjoys a high level of trust among Singaporeans.
However, if the blogosphere and the mainstream media cannot agree on a core consensus of preserving and supporting key public institutions, we could end up with a messier Singapore, becoming an unhappy frog rather than a happy butterfly.
To read Prof Mahbubani's previous column, click here.
The writer is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
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