Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let defamation suits be a thing of the past: SDP

By Jeanette Tan | SingaporeScene
Yahoo News

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called on the People's Action Party (PAP) leadership to allow the Singapore blogosphere to function as it has in the past, before a recent round of warnings of defamation suits were issued to a blog and a sociopolitical website here.

In a statement it released on Monday, it called the steps taken against blogger Alex Au and TR Emeritus (TRE) "another blow to freedom of speech" in Singapore.

Taking the SDP itself as an example, party chief Chee Soon Juan pointed out that it had never taken legal action against attacks and criticism from the ruling party and its supporters, which he described to be "unreasonable, (and) often defamatory".

"We choose, instead, to publish our own website and put forward reasoned arguments to counter such views," wrote Chee.

He also said that sound leadership should come from "inspiring and persuading the people, not suing and silencing them".

"We need to respect their views no matter how much we consider them to be wrong. Shutting them up through lawsuits and controlling the media may be the expedient thing to do but it harms the larger, and longer-term, good of society," he added.

(So what would be a reasoned argument to counter a rumour that Shanmugam is having an affair with Foo Mee Har?)

He then called on the PAP leadership to "exercise quality leadership and leave the blogosphere and, in particular, the TRE to function the way it has in the past".

"In this age of the Internet, let Singapore's political leaders not continue with legal action. Let defamation suits, or threats of defamation suits, be a thing of the past. Let us have confidence that our people can argue and disagree," he said.

(So the proposal is simply, someone says you are a pedophile, and your response is, "I disagree! Let's move on!"

There is a difference between criticising the HDB's housing policy, the use of market subsidy rather than cost subsidy, and the income cut-off, and spreading a rumour that LHL practices nepotism, or that the Minister of Law is engaged in an illicit affair, or that the PAP is corrupt. That the opposition has to resort to such personal attacks have left the PAP with no recourse except to take legal action against the defamation. But a criticism of policy as Chiam See Tong had done previously, yes, needs to be responded with facts figures and reasoned argument, and the PAP had done so. And Chiam was not convinced and surely many people were also not convinced, but either enough were convinced to vote PAP, or not enough considered it a deal breaker to vote out PAP. In other words, they disagreed and move on.

Criticisms will be met with reasoned arguments. Defamation will be met with lawsuit. If the psychologist does not understand the difference between a valid criticism and defamation, he should get a lawyer to explain the difference to him. And remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the best defence against a defamation suit is to prove that what you said is indeed true.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

WP 'had absolutely no idea of Yaw Shin Leong's alleged affairs'

Feb 21, 2012

In letter, Low refutes criticism that expulsion was hasty and careless
By Andrea Ong & Kor Kian Beng

Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang has made clear that he and the party's election committee had 'absolutely no idea' of the alleged extramarital affairs of sacked member Yaw Shin Leong when they decided to field him as a candidate in last May's General Election.

'Even though I was familiar with Yaw Shin Leong's background and I have met his family and attended his two wedding ceremonies, I have no way and no authority to inspect his private matters and personal life.

'I am a Member of Parliament, not a private investigator!' Mr Low said in a letter to Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on Monday.

He added: 'Mr Ho Kah Leong said I should take responsibility for the Yaw Shin Leong saga. May I ask how I should take responsibility?'

Mr Low was replying to the former People's Action Party MP, who had criticised the WP's conduct in the matter.

Mr Ho, a former senior parliamentary secretary, said in a letter to Lianhe Zaobao three days ago, that he found it hard to believe Mr Low had not known anything about Mr Yaw's personal life and family.

He questioned if the WP had stringent selection criteria for its candidates and called on Mr Low to take responsibility.

Replying, Mr Low said that even though he had worked with Mr Yaw for many years, he and the committee that pick election candidates had no idea of the allegations until the media reports emerged last month.

Mr Low's statement is the strongest denial yet that the WP leaders knew of the alleged indiscretions of the Hougang MP, who has reportedly left the country. Sources said he was in Vietnam last Friday.

At a media conference last Wednesday announcing Mr Yaw's expulsion, party chairman Sylvia Lim said queries from the media on the allegations were 'the first time that we were aware the media was looking into this matter'.

In his letter on Monday, Mr Low also rebutted Mr Ho on several other points.

He said his relationship with Mr Yaw had been that of working colleagues, not the 'master-apprentice' tie described by Mr Ho. Mr Yaw succeeded Mr Low in Hougang, where the opposition veteran was MP for 20 years.

Mr Low also refuted Mr Ho's criticism that the expulsion seemed hasty and careless. Mr Yaw should have been given a chance to defend himself, Mr Ho said.

Mr Low argued that about a month had lapsed between the first media reports on the allegations and the sacking.

'From start to finish, Yaw Shin Leong did not step forward to state his stand, and refused to explain himself to the executive council,' wrote Mr Low. The WP then 'had no choice but to expel him'.

Finally, he took issue with Mr Ho's charge that the WP was abusing the democratic system by calling for a by-election - which requires a lot of public resources - to uphold the party's image.

Mr Low said the WP expelled Mr Yaw 'because he was irresponsible and had lost the public's trust'.

He also said that in 1992, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had on his own accord resigned as an MP, triggering a by-election in Marine Parade GRC just one year after the 1991 General Election.

In the 1991 election campaign, Mr Goh had promised to hold a by-election in 18 months because, among other things, he wanted to bring new talent into the party and Government.

Current Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was the newcomer in the by-election slate.

In a separate development, Ms Lim confirmed that Mr Yaw's grassroots arm in Hougang is being re-organised for a leadership reshuffle.

Two WP executive council members have been added to the Hougang Constituency Committee to beef up its ranks.

They are deputy webmaster Png Eng Huat, 50, who contested in East Coast GRC last year, and organising secretary Ng Swee Bee, 31.

Their appointment has sparked talk that either could be fielded in the Hougang by-election.

When asked, Ms Lim said: 'I'm not answering that question.'




My armchair analysis of Low thia Kiang's response, and what might have been a better response.

In summary, Low's response was:

"We had absolutely no idea of the alleged extramarital affairs of Yaw Shin Leong when we decided to field him as a candidate in last May's General Election. Even though I was familiar with Yaw Shin Leong's background and I have met his family and attended his two wedding ceremonies, I have no way and no authority to inspect his private matters and personal life. I am a Member of Parliament, not a private investigator!'
How should I take responsibility?
My relationship with Mr Yaw had been that of working colleagues, not the 'master-apprentice' relationship some claim it is.
From start to finish, Yaw Shin Leong did not step forward to state his stand, and refused to explain himself to the executive council we had no choice but to expel him because he was irresponsible and he had lost the public's trust."

Here's my suggested response for Low.

"I have known Yaw for over 10 years since his work at Hougang. In all that time, I have found him capable, dedicated, and passionate about our cause and over the last 10 years, I have grown to trust him so much that when I decided to join the GE 2011 team campaigning for Aljunied GRC, I entrusted Hougang to him. When these rumours surfaced, I of course asked him about it. When he did not explain to me, I did not press him initially. If the rumours were true, certainly anyone with any sense of shame would be hesitant to admit it. I gave him time to gather his courage and talk to me, confide in me, not as his party chief, but on the basis of our friendship, and mutual trust that we have built up over the years. But he remained silent, and now apparently he has run off without any explanation to the people who have worked with him, trusted him, and supported him.

We finally had no choice but to expel him from the party, not because he is not a good MP, or even because of the rumours, because even if true, that was a personal matter. But while his personal conduct was a private matter, having been brought into the public discussion, he had a responsibility to the people who voted for him, and the people who supported him, to at least explain himself. Apparently he had planned to run off, even before we had decided to expel him.

I am deeply disappointed in him. I feel betrayed. He has betrayed my trust, betrayed our years of friendship, but most important of all, he has betrayed the people of Hougang who voted for him. And if some people had voted for him because of my endorsement of him, because I presented him as my worthy successor, then I have failed those people as well. I sincerely apologise to the people of Hougang. Yaw has not only broken faith with the people of Hougang, but also with the Workers' Party, and has set back the opposition movement. I can fully understand if Hougang voters decide to give their votes to PAP in the by-election. I will not blame them. I cannot blame them.

PM Lee has said that he will call a by election in later as now is a bad time with many things on the national agenda. We understand this, and certainly this crisis is not of the PAP making, but don't punish the people of Hougang for the irresponsibility of one man, and my misjudgement. Hougang residents will need an MP even if it is a PAP MP."

Science versus liberal values

Feb 24, 2012

By Roger Scruton

HUMAN beings are diverse and live in diverse ways. Should we accept that we are diverse by nature, having followed separate evolutionary paths? Or should we suppose that we share our biological inheritance, but develop differently according to environment and culture? Over recent years scientific research has reshaped this familiar 'nature-nurture' debate, which remains central to our understanding of human nature and morality.

For much of the 20th century, social scientists held that human life is a single biological phenomenon, which flows through the channels made by culture, so as to acquire separate forms. Each society passes on the culture that defines it. And the most important aspects of culture - religion, rites of passage and law - both unify the people who adhere to them and divide those people from everyone else.

More recently, evolutionary psychologists have begun to question that approach. Although you can explain the culture of a tribe as an inherited possession, they suggested, this does not explain how culture came to be in the first place.

What is it that endows culture with its stability and function? In response to that question, the opinion began to grow that culture does not provide the ultimate explanation of any significant human trait, not even the trait of cultural diversity. It is not simply that there are extraordinary constants among cultures: gender roles, incest taboos, warfare.

Culture is also a part of human nature. We do not live in herds; our hierarchies are not based merely on strength. We relate to one another through language, morality and law; we sing, dance and worship together. All these things are comprehended in the idea of culture - and culture, so understood, is observed in all and only human communities. Why is this?

The answer given by evolutionary psychologists is that culture is an adaptation, which exists because it conferred a reproductive advantage on our hunter-gatherer ancestors. According to this view, many of the diverse customs that the standard social science model attributes to nurture are local variations of attributes acquired 70 or more millennia ago, during the Pleistocene Age, and now 'hard-wired in the brain'.

If we follow the evolutionary biologists, we may find ourselves pushed towards accepting that traits often attributed to culture may be part of our genetic inheritance, and therefore not as changeable as many might have hoped: gender differences, intelligence, belligerence and so on. But to speculate freely about such matters is dangerous.

The biologist James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, was run out of the academy in 2007 for having publicly suggested that sub-Saharan Africans are genetically disposed to have lower IQs than Westerners. In America, it is widely assumed that socially significant differences between ethnic groups and sexes are the result of social factors, and in particular of 'discrimination' directed against the groups that seem to do less well. This assumption is not the conclusion of a reasoned social science but the foundation of an optimistic worldview, which, if disturbed, could threaten the whole community that has been built around it.

We find ourselves, therefore, in the middle of another tense debate, in which it is not religion, but liberal values, which seem to be challenged by the theory of evolution. It is against this background that the philosopher Jesse Prinz has entered the fray with his book Beyond Human Nature, which argues that there is 'little reason to think that biology has a major impact in accounting for human differences'. He patiently examines the arguments given for attributing this or that trait to genetic inheritance, and tries to show either that the research is methodologically flawed, or that the conclusion is not supported by it.

Professor Prinz believes that our cognitive powers are awakened only when they have experience on which to get to work. Infants learn to divide the world into kinds by extrapolating from what they feel, hear and see. There are no innate classifications, and no roles or relationships that are not in some sense, and to some measure, socially constructed.

This is argued boldly and with much support from the literature of experimental psychology. But I could not help feeling that it falls short of its target. In The Blank Slate (2002), experimental psychologist Steven Pinker assembled the evidence for the conclusion that our fundamental capacities are implanted by evolution and malleable only in those matters in which malleability would confer a reproductive advantage. His argument was meticulous and serious, and the weight of scientific evidence impossible to deny.

But there is another reason for being dissatisfied with Prof Prinz's approach. He does not have much sympathy for any culture other than the one in which he is immersed - the liberal egalitarian culture of the American academy, which holds that sexual roles are socially constructed and that all 'disadvantage' is down to environmental factors that can be overcome. The whole tendency of his argument is to suggest that we can and should live in the way that he lives, not endowing our differences with the status of natural barriers, but opening ourselves to a kind of 'soft diversity', in which human possibilities flourish in a condition of mutual acceptance.

It may be that this is the direction in which we are moving. But for all he says to the contrary, it could be that there are obstacles to progress that are fixed in our nature and not to be changed by social adjustment.

We are familiar with the feminist charge that women perform worse in maths tests because of unconscious discrimination and other factors that allegedly sap their confidence. But does anyone believe that men are 10 times as likely to end up in prison as women because of unconscious discrimination? Of course not. We recognise that men are by nature more inclined to settle disputes by violence. And no educated person is likely to dispute the fact that this difference between men and women is genetic.

The real question is: How far does this kind of genetic influence extend?

Those speculations bring us to another and far more serious obstacle to the humane understanding of our condition than the one that troubles Prof Prinz. Advances in neuroscience are beginning to suggest that, while the brain is malleable, it comes with its own inherent restraints. Hence, processes in the brain can affect our decision-making without our being able to counter them.

When in 1966 Charles Whitman killed 13 people and wounded 32 more, shooting from the top of the University of Texas Tower in Austin, Texas, he had already indicated that he felt something was not quite right in his head. After he was shot by a police marksman, an autopsy revealed a small tumour pressing on the amygdala, which neuroscience regards as the seat of the gut reactions through which we protect our space. So was Whitman to blame for what he did?

Taking off from the Whitman case, neuroscientist David Eagleman argues in his book Incognito: The Secret Lives Of The Brain that we should revise our sense of legal and moral responsibility so as to recognise that most of what we do and feel arises from processes over which we have no control. The brain moves incognito beneath our conscious deliberations, like a great ocean liner on the deck of which we walk up and down, imagining that we move it with our feet.

Dr Eagleman has simply misdescribed the problem. The picture that he gives, of the fragile 'I' riding the elephant of grey matter while pretending to be in charge of it, misrepresents the nature of self-reference. The word 'I' does not refer to some conscious 'part' of the person, the rest of which is a passive and hidden 'it'.

The 'I' is one term of the I-You relation, which is a relation of accountability in which the whole person is involved. To use the first-person pronoun is to present myself for judgment. It is to take responsibility for a host of changes in the world, and in particular for those for which you can reasonably call me to account by asking: 'Why?' This question is the foundation of cooperative enterprise. And philosophers have done much to show that the dialogue through which we broker our responsibilities is well-founded and not necessarily vulnerable to disruption by our newfound knowledge of the brain.

The real question raised by evolutionary biology and neuroscience is not whether those sciences can be refuted, but whether we can accept what they have to say, while still holding on to the beliefs that morality demands of us. From Kant and Hegel to Wittgenstein and Husserl, there have been attempts to give a philosophy of the human condition that stands apart from biological science without opposing it. But those attempts are either not noticed or given short shrift in Prof Prinz's argument - one which, by attempting to fight the biological sciences on their own ground, is condemned to lose.

We are human beings, certainly. But we are also persons. Human beings form a biological kind, and it is for science to describe that kind. But the concept of the person is shaped in another way, not by our attempt to explain things, but by our attempt to interact and relate. The 'Why?' of personal understanding is not the 'Why?' of scientific inference. And it is answered by conceptualising the world under the aspect of freedom and choice.

Prof Prinz's defence of nurture against nature may look like a defence of human freedom. But nurture can as easily destroy freedom as enhance it. We can bring up children on passive entertainments that stultify their engagement with the real world and rewire the neural networks on which their moral development depends.

But if we bring up our children correctly, not spoiling them or rewiring their brains through roomfuls of digital gadgetry, their sense of responsibility will emerge. They will enter fully into the world of I and You, becoming free agents and moral beings.

Allow children to interact with real people, therefore, and the grammar of first-person accountability will emerge of its own accord. Once it is there, the I-to-you relation adds a reproductive advantage, just as mathematical competence does. But the theory of adaptation tells us as little about the meaning of 'I' as it tells us about the validity of mathematics. To describe human traits as adaptations is not to say how we understand them. Even if we accept the claims of evolutionary psychology, therefore, the mystery of the human condition remains. This mystery is captured in a single question: How can one and the same thing be explained as an animal, and understood as a person?

The writer is a philosopher and a research professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Virginia.

This article is adapted from a piece that originally appeared in Prospect magazine.


Opting for death with dignity

Feb 24, 2012
By Ken Murray

YEARS ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopaedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could treble a patient's five-year-survival odds - from 5 per cent to 15 per cent - albeit with a poor quality of life.

Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn't spend much on him.

It isn't a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they do not die like the rest of us. What is unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

Of course, doctors don't want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone. They have talked about this with their families. They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen - that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (that's what happens if CPR is done right).

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call 'futile care' being performed on people. That is when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly: 'Promise me, if you find me like this, that you'll kill me.' They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped 'NO CODE' to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.

To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing. Physicians are trained to gather information without revealing any of their own feelings, but in private, among fellow doctors, they'll vent. 'How can anyone do that to their family members?' they'll ask. I suspect it is one reason physicians have higher rates of alcohol abuse and depression than professionals in most other fields. I know it is one reason I stopped participating in hospital care for the last 10 years of my practice.

How has it come to this - that doctors administer so much care that they wouldn't want for themselves? The simple, or not-so-simple, answer is this: patients, doctors, and the system.

To see how patients play a role, imagine a scenario in which someone has lost consciousness and been admitted to an emergency room. As is so often the case, no one has made a plan for this situation, and shocked and scared family members find themselves caught up in a maze of choices. They are overwhelmed. When doctors ask if they want 'everything' done, they answer yes. Then the nightmare begins. Sometimes, a family really means 'do everything', but often they just mean 'do everything that's reasonable'. The problem is that they may not know what is reasonable, nor, in their confusion and sorrow, will they ask about it or hear what a physician may be telling them. For their part, doctors told to do 'everything' will do it, whether it is reasonable or not.

The above scenario is a common one. Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable life-saver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. I have had hundreds of people brought to me in the emergency room after getting CPR. Exactly one, a healthy man who'd had no heart troubles (for those who want specifics, he had a 'tension pneumothorax'), walked out of the hospital. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming. Poor knowledge and misguided expectations lead to a lot of bad decisions.

But of course it's not just patients making these things happen. Doctors play an enabling role, too. The trouble is that even doctors who hate to administer futile care must find a way to address the wishes of patients and families. Imagine, once again, the emergency room with those grieving, possibly hysterical, family members. They do not know the doctor. Establishing trust and confidence under such circumstances is a very delicate thing. People are prepared to think the doctor is acting out of base motives, trying to save time, or money, or effort, especially if the doctor is advising against further treatment.

Some doctors are stronger communicators than others, and some doctors are more adamant, but the pressures they all face are similar. When I faced circumstances involving end-of-life choices, I adopted the approach of laying out only the options that I thought were reasonable (as I would in any situation) as early in the process as possible. When patients or families brought up unreasonable choices, I would discuss the issue in layman's terms that portrayed the downsides clearly. If patients or families still insisted on treatments I considered pointless or harmful, I would offer to transfer their care to another doctor or hospital.

Should I have been more forceful at times? I know that some of those transfers still haunt me. One of the patients of whom I was most fond was an attorney from a famous political family. She had severe diabetes and terrible circulation, and, at one point, she developed a painful sore on her foot. Knowing the hazards of hospitals, I did everything I could to keep her from resorting to surgery. Still, she sought out outside experts with whom I had no relationship. Not knowing as much about her as I did, they decided to perform bypass surgery on her chronically clogged blood vessels in both legs. This did not restore her circulation, and the surgical wounds would not heal. Her feet became gangrenous, and she endured bilateral leg amputations. Two weeks later, in the famous medical centre in which all this had occurred, she died.

It is easy to find fault with both doctors and patients in such stories, but in many ways all the parties are simply victims of a larger system that encourages excessive treatment. In some unfortunate cases, doctors use the fee-for-service model to do everything they can, no matter how pointless, to make money. More commonly, though, doctors are fearful of litigation and do whatever they are asked, with little feedback, to avoid getting in trouble.

Even when the right preparations have been made, the system can still swallow people up. One of my patients was a man named Jack, a 78-year-old who had been ill for years and undergone about 15 major surgical procedures. He explained to me that he never, under any circumstances, wanted to be placed on life support machines again. One Saturday, however, Jack suffered a massive stroke and got admitted to the emergency room unconscious, without his wife. Doctors did everything possible to resuscitate him and put him on life support in the ICU. This was Jack's worst nightmare. When I arrived at the hospital and took over Jack's care, I spoke to his wife and to hospital staff, bringing in my office notes with his care preferences. Then I turned off the life support machines and sat with him. He died two hours later.

Even with all his wishes documented, Jack had not died as he had hoped. The system had intervened. One of the nurses, I later found out, even reported my unplugging of Jack to the authorities as a possible homicide. Nothing came of it, of course: Jack's wishes had been spelt out explicitly, and he'd left the paperwork to prove it. But the prospect of a police investigation is terrifying for any physician. I could far more easily have left Jack on life support against his stated wishes, prolonging his life, and his suffering, a few more weeks. I would even have made a little more money, and Medicare would have ended up with an additional US$500,000 (S$629,000) bill. It is no wonder many doctors err on the side of overtreatment.

But doctors still don't over-treat themselves. They see the consequences of this constantly. Almost anyone can find a way to die in peace at home, and pain can be managed better than ever. Hospice care, which focuses on providing terminally ill patients with comfort and dignity rather than on futile cures, provides most people with much better final days. Amazingly, studies have found that people placed in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who are seeking active cures. I was struck to hear on the radio recently that the famous reporter Tom Wicker had 'died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family'. Such stories are, thankfully, increasingly common.

Several years ago, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight) had a seizure that turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. I arranged for him to see various specialists, and we learnt that with aggressive treatment of his condition, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

We spent the next eight months doing a bunch of things that he enjoyed, having fun together like we hadn't had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time. We hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He even gained a bit of weight, eating his favourite foods rather than hospital foods. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited. One day, he didn't wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about US$20.

Torch was no doctor, but he knew he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Don't most of us? If there is a state of the art of end-of-life care, it is this: death with dignity. As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like my fellow doctors.

Ken Murray is clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California.

This article first appeared on the blog www.zocalopublicsquare.org

Turning off the deadly 'light' on cigarette packs

Feb 24, 2012

No-go too for 'mild', 'low-tar' as they give false sense of safety

By Poon Chian Hui

'LIGHT' cigarettes will soon be a thing of the past here due to new rules that ban misleading descriptions on packets.

Tobacco firms will also be barred from using other words such as 'mild', which can lead smokers to believe the brand is healthy.

In fact, there is no evidence that 'light' cigarettes are any less dangerous than regular ones, said Health Promotion Board (HPB) chief executive Ang Hak Seng.

The ban, which kicks in from March next year, will affect about a quarter of the brands sold in Singapore.

Other changes include a fresh set of graphic images to illustrate the damage smoking can cause to the human body. These will be placed on outer packaging for the first time to boost their impact.

Each cigarette will be allowed to contain no more than 10mg of tar, down from 15mg at present. The maximum amount of nicotine will be reduced from 1.3mg to 1 mg.

[Two years later, they should further reduce the tar and nicotine levels to 7 mg of tar and 0.7 mg of nicotine. another 2 years later, 4 mg of tar and 0.4mg of nicotine. and another 2 years later, 1 mg of tar and 0.1mg of nicotine. Manufacturers should also be required to declare all the chemicals incidental and deliberately added into the cigarettes or tobacco products and to state the intent and effect of each ingredient. Failure to properly explain the effect of each ingredient will be an offence. 


A new health information notice will also be printed on packs to tell smokers that the cigarette contains other chemicals such as carbon monoxide and ammonia.

This will replace the tar and nicotine levels currently displayed on each pack.

Small cigars, called cigarillos, will be sold in packets of 20 instead of 10 to discourage non-smokers from experimenting.

The changes follow a 2010 amendment to the tobacco laws. At the time, the Ministry of Health announced in Parliament that it planned to tighten the rules to clamp down on smoking.

Tobacco companies were told about the changes by the HPB yesterday, and given a year to implement them. The board will enforce the new rules together with the Health Sciences Authority.

The latest National Health Survey in 2010 showed that about 14 per cent of Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 smoked cigarettes every day.

The move will bring Singapore's restrictions closer to international benchmarks. For example, 73 other countries have banned misleading descriptions under the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They include Sweden and Australia.

Mr Ang pointed out that smokers struggling to quit tend to switch to brands labelled 'mild', 'light' or 'low-tar', as they believe them to be less dangerous.

A HPB study in 2009 found that 63 per cent of smokers thought 'light' cigarettes were less harmful than the regular ones.

'The reality is that smoking kills, regardless of what type of cigarette it is,' said Mr Ang.

The graphic images on packets were introduced in 2004, and last updated in 2006. They are rotated every few years as their effect tends to wear off eventually, as smokers get used to seeing the same pictures.

Some of the changes echo the results of a public consultation in 2009.

Sixty eight per cent agreed that a general health warning would be more useful than specifying the amount of tar and nicotine in each cigarette.

Another 62 per cent said cigarillos should be sold in bigger packs. These mini-cigars currently cost about $8 for a box of 10. Regular cigarettes go for about $12 for 20 sticks.

'A pack size of fewer than 20 is termed as a kiddy pack, and has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a marketing strategy to target vulnerable populations with low purchasing powers, such as the young,' said the HPB.

It added that the lower limits on tar and nicotine do not mean cigarettes will be safer than before. They are actually there to prevent manufacturers from adding excessive amounts of these chemicals.


Friday, February 24, 2012

'Blackface' controversy is more than skin-deep

Feb 23, 2012

By Andy Ho

AT A Bollywood-themed dinner for United Overseas Bank (UOB) staff recently, at least five Chinese males appeared in 'blackface' and traditional Indian garb.

Their pictures appeared on someone's Facebook account, which a Chinese woman saw and e-mailed to The Sunday Times. Reacting to the paper's story, the bank quickly offered a perfunctory apology and the pictures were immediately taken down as well.

All's well that ends well? The woman who alerted the newspaper said 'appropriating someone else's ethnicity and treating it like entertainment' offended her.

Counsellor P. Dinesh said it was 'thoroughly unacceptable (for it was) no different from referring to someone of Indian descent as Black'.

However, other readers felt that the 'blackface' get-up should not cause offence here as we do not have the United States' reprehensible history of slavery and racial segregation. It was just a company function where workers were supposed to let their hair down, they argue.

A reader, Mr Raymond Koh, said: 'We do not find skits of a non-Malay wearing a songkok or a non-Sikh wearing a turban offensive or inappropriate.' At the UOB function, non-Indian women without blackened faces were pictured wearing saris, which obviously caused no offence.

Another reader, Mr Cheang Peng Wah, felt it was unlikely that 'any reasonable Chinese Singaporean would be offended if a few Indian Singaporeans were to paint their faces yellow to take part in a Shaolin gongfu-themed event'.

As a blogger noted, Kumar, a cross- dressing entertainer, 'routinely rattles off racial jokes about Malays, Chinese and Indians' with impunity.

Was more going on than the obvious racial mimicry, however clunky the comic device? Perhaps it was speaking to a cultural anxiety underpinned by racial fantasies that may be circulating here today.

On the one hand, political correctness dictates that we all tip-toe around any race issue as if we were walking on eggshells. On the other hand, officialdom insists people identify themselves apodictically as Chinese or Malay or Indian or Others. (Now the bicultural person may declare a hyphenated race but it must still be in terms of these chiselled-in-stone categories.) So there is this racial unconscious pervading every space here.

One notes also that besides the blackface, the Indian garb that these amateurs donned was not the humble dhoti but opulent ones redolent of the Maharajah era. Perhaps they were also taunting the 'foreign talent' in their midst, with the CEOs of a few banks here being foreign Indians?

The Government habitually urges voters to accept that, given our small population and low fertility rate, foreign workers of many grades are needed. Yet, it also feels compelled to respond to voter discontent with the over-competition that the 'foreign talent' policy has led to.

Its response has come in the form of fine-grained policy differentiation between the non-citizen, permanent resident and citizen. But this signals its own 'double bind' in being torn between attracting foreigners and pushing them away just a little. All this has engendered the seeping into our daily conversation of that not-so-subtle question of national origin.

These issues likely trickle down into our sense of identity, which is tugged this way and that by race and national origin. Perhaps the UOB caper was so jarring precisely because it was a full-frontal exposure of all these usually subterranean currents trickling through our collective subconscious.

One may assume that none of the UOB 'blackface' individuals thought through these issues per se before staging their act. But their infelicitous representation of the Indian was a gesture towards the 'otherness' of 'them' as opposed to 'us', however inchoate their notion of 'them' and 'us' might have been.

And 'otherness' in any culture always generates fear and fascination, which is why their facile buffoonery seemingly had so much cultural heft.

Perhaps this episode is uncomfortable in a more subtle manner as well, in that it destabilises the racial identities of locals. We have been made to identify ourselves as being of a certain race all our lives, so we feel we are naturally - biologically - of that particular race.

In fact, there are no genetic markers of race at all. That is, there is no biological basis to race. Instead, race is a socially and politically constructed notion. But this was not obvious until this amateurish blackface minstrelsy revealed publicly what cultural critics call 'the performative nature of racial identity'.

Race is a socially constructed notion that becomes 'real' as we unselfconsciously perform it every day in our social interactions with others of various races.

But blackface makes the notion more obvious for, if a Chinese in blackface (and Indian garb) performing blackness can perhaps pass for an Indian, then the Indian in 'yellowface' (and Shaolin garb) performing yellowness could arguably pass for a Chinese too.

The blackface gambit shows how socially malleable, unstable and changeable racial categories can be. Now, if it also makes us realise the absurdity of our divisive racial ideologies that many may hold privately, then some good might still come out of the brouhaha.


Monday, February 20, 2012

In search of old Rochore

Feb 19, 2012

In a bid to trace the missing 'e', a far more important 'e' issue surfaced: the elderly
By Toh Yong Chuan

Rochor was thrust into the news recently when Dr Toh Chin Chye, the ward's former Member of Parliament, died. Three months ago, Rochor Centre came under the spotlight when the Land Transport Authority announced that it will have to make way for a new expressway in 2016.

Rochor used to be spelt Rochore - with an 'e'. Today, the 'e' has disappeared.

The missing 'e' bothered me since I grew up in the Rochor area, so I went looking for it.

I was 10 years old when my family moved into a three-room HDB flat across the road from Rochor Centre in 1979. Dr Toh was still the MP and Bugis Street was lined with street hawkers, not with the cutesy carts in the air-conditioned, dressed-up indoor street in Bugis Junction.

My first stop was Parliament records. When Dr Toh retired from politics just before the 1988 General Election, his Rochore constituency was cut up, and absorbed by a Group Representative Constituency.

The disappearance of the Rochore constituency in 1988 did not erase it from Parliament records until 2000. In March that year, there was a record of 'Rochore Centre' being mentioned during the Budget debate. That was the last trace of the old name.

A search among newspapers' archives also drew a blank on when the 'e' was dropped. Also, old street directories or maps that could pinpoint the change of name were not readily available.

But as I got more preoccupied with finding the 'e', the more I found myself digging into my memories of Rochor.

Even until the mid-1980s, Rochor was dotted with shophouses that were prone to fire and open drains that overflowed during downpours.

There were three things that Rochor was known for - the transvestite brothels in Johore Road; the street hawkers in Bugis Street; and the bus terminal where SBS bus no. 170 and taxis ply between Singapore and Malaysia.

The bus terminal is still there, but most of the rest are gone. The brothels have made way for a carpark, Bugis Street hawkers were cleared out in 1985 and the shophouses razed for Bugis Junction to be built.

And it was not just the sight, but also the smell.

My neighbourhood stinks, I used to tell my friends as I dissuaded them from visiting. The daylong stench came from the nightsoil treatment centre opposite Rochor Centre.

Daily, the nightsoil trucks with their distinctive 32 door panels would deposit buckets of human waste at the centre. The smell got intolerable during hot afternoons. The nightsoil trucks, also called honey wagons, made their last run in the mid-1980s, the centre closed, and Albert Complex with its OG department store stands at the site today.

The stench of the nightsoil in the day was matched by the odour of urine and vomit in the numerous backlanes and alleys at night. I would hold my breath and cover my mouth when I had to take shortcuts through them.

The worst smell was the whiff of death, at least in my head. I would try to avoid a row of coffin shops and funeral parlours along Rochor Road, but yet find the occasional nerve to peep into the shops as I hurried past.

But not all the smells were unpleasant. On my way to school, I would pass by a bread shop and a coffee powder shop next to it. The aromal of freshly baked bread and coffee beans being roasted, when combined, is divine.

The smells - both pleasant and unpleasant - are also gone today, together with the shophouses and forgotten streets such as Noordin Lane that were wiped off the map. The missing 'e' is not found in my memories of the old Rochor.

And as my frustration grew, I took a slow walk and found myself standing at the fourth-floor void deck of Rochor Centre. There it was, right in front of me - Rochore Kongsi Home for the Aged - the first trace of the old 'Rochore' name. The 'e' has not vanished completely.

It was Singapore's first HDB void deck old folks' home.

In a speech at the home's opening in 1977, Dr Toh explained why he picked the void deck for the pilot project: 'The aged no longer need to feel that just because they are in the autumn of their lives, they will be put away in an institution, alienated from and forgotten by the rest of the world.'

After Rochor, several old folks' homes went on to be built at other void decks in Singapore.

That was well before 'ageing in place' became a policy buzzword.

For more than three decades, the Rochore home has been a shelter for countless old and destitute people. Thirteen of them still live there today.

And as I chatted with the elderly residents in the home and others in the neighbourhood, my mind was cast back to a peculiar character of old Rochor - the colourful people.

An old doctor who has been practising - and still practises - in the Rochor area since 1963 remembers the Hainanese, Henghwa and Hockchia enclaves, each protective of their turf.

He also remembers treating pickpockets and gangsters.

Thankfully, my two brushes with gangsters were not life-threatening. Once, halfway through a haircut, someone came to collect protection money from my barber and he hastily finished the job, leaving me with a bad hairdo.

The other time, I was walking home one evening when someone shouted 'sio pa, zao ah!' (Hokkien for 'there's a fight, run!').

I sprinted home in one breath.

Rough and colourful old Rochor may be, the older folk's place in it was never in doubt. The Rochore Kongsi home was set up so that the trishaw riders, samsui women and amahs did not have to live on the streets or die alone.

Sadly, there are now those who do not want facilities for the elderly in their neighbourhoods.

When we turn our backs on the elderly, where would we want them to go?

Pulau Ubin? Maybe Johor?

After searching for a week, I did not find the missing 'e' in Rochor. It remains lost, but it is no big deal.

The bigger deal is another 'e' - the elderly, and how we feel about and care for them.

That, we cannot lose.


Just the "e" in Rochore? How about the change from Tampenis to Tampines?

In this SG Parliamentary Report, at 12.09PM, the member for Ponggol-Tampenis rose to speak.


Changi Airport Beginnings: Biggest 'house-moving' S'pore had seen

Feb 19, 2012

Identified for new airport

The decision to develop Changi Airbase into Singapore's new international airport was announced on June 3, 1975. Studies had shown that expanding Paya Lebar instead of building another airport would be too daunting due to the drainage of the area, the swampy nature of the terrain, the need to resettle squatter populations there, and limited land area. Relocating to Changi would mean less disruption to lives and less noise and environmental pollution.

The model of the new Changi Airport was unveiled at the ceremony to mark the start of piling works for the terminal building at the airport site on June 4, 1977. The new airport would have a $200 million ultra-modern five-storey passenger terminal building, two parallel finger piers each approximately 570m long, and a total of 45 aircraft parking bays, of which 22 would be connected directly to the fingers by passenger bridges.

To prepare the swampy ground at Changi for the construction of the airport entailed the largest land reclamation project undertaken in South-east Asia at that time. A task force of 900 men was employed, and the mammoth public project would cost $239.1 million.

Changi would begin operations in 1981 when its first phase - which included the completion of a runway, 45 aircraft parking bays, passenger Terminal 1, a huge maintenance hangar, a fire station, workshop and administrative offices, airfreight complex, cargo agent buildings, in-flight catering kitchens and a 78m-high control tower - was completed, and would be Singapore's main international airport right into the 21st century.

In the meantime, Paya Lebar Airport would continue to be the main civilian airport, and would handle around eight million passengers annually. To bridge the period before Changi Airport could be ready, Paya Lebar Airport was to have 17 parking bays added for aircraft under a $54 million expansion programme to alleviate the shortage of air traffic parking space. Construction of the new bays began in August 1975 and was planned for completion by mid-1977.

The move to Changi Airport was a cumulation of the rapid growth of the aviation scene in Singapore in the first 15 years after independence. The rapid build-up of industrial capabilities, backed by the establishment of aerospace-oriented training institutions, and the development of military and commercial airport infrastructure based on the solid foundations left behind by Singapore's former colonial masters had paved the way for a robust air transportation network for cargo and passengers, and the take-off of a credible national airline. Singapore's fledgling aviation was flying high in the world.

The big move to Changi

Singapore Changi Airport opened for operation on July 1, 1981, replacing Paya Lebar Airport as Singapore's international airport.

It was the biggest 'house-moving' operations Singapore had seen, taking over three nights to complete. More than 2,200 pieces of aircraft servicing equipment and at least 1,000 airport personnel had to be moved from Paya Lebar Airport to the new Singapore Changi Airport. Some roads were closed to traffic for the long convoys of airport vehicles, from 5-ton aircraft tow tractors to 6m-wide main deck low-loaders.

The move began on June 29, but the crucial night was June 30 when the bulk of the aircraft ground servicing equipment scattered all over Paya Lebar would be moved along the 20-km route to Changi Airport.

On June 31, the last aircraft landed at 11.30pm. The last 26 aircraft flew to Changi in preparation for the next day's flights, and Paya Lebar Airport was closed at midnight. Seven hours later, Singapore Changi Airport began operations.

A Singapore Airlines' Boeing 727, Flight SQ101 from Kuala Lumpur, was the first scheduled commercial flight to land at Changi Airport on July 1, 1981, touching down at 7.10am with 140 passengers.

There were 34 airlines using Changi when it opened, with 1,200 scheduled flights each week connecting Singapore to 67 cities in 43countries. Costing $1.3 billion, Changi Airport began operations with one passenger terminal and a cargo complex which was gazetted as a free trade zone.

In the first year of service, it handled 8.1 million passengers, 193,000 tonnes of airfreight and 65,054 aircraft movements. A new $30 million Joint Air Traffic Control Centre had earlier become operational in October 1980. Operations were better streamlined as most of the routine tasks handled manually at Paya Lebar Airport were computerised in the new centre.

Although Phase I was barely completed in 1981, the Department of Civil Aviation embarked on Phase II, the next stage of development, which included a second runway, adjoining taxi ways, 23 aircraft parking bays, a second fire station and a third cargo agent building.

The taxiway bridge was an engineering marvel, and the first in the region - it allowed jumbo jets to cross a dual carriageway without interrupting traffic below. The opening of the crossing on Dec 5, 1981 signalled another landmark to the airport, and on Dec 29, 1981, Changi Airport was officially opened.

With the move to Changi, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) took over Paya Lebar Airport. This takeover would more than compensate for the loss of Changi airfield, which the RSAF had been using since 1971 - the new runway at Paya Lebar Airport was twice the length of the old military runway at Changi, and the new airfield was also equipped with spacious buildings and more parking spaces.

The first squadrons to move into Paya Lebar were those from the Flying Training School. Strikemasters and SF-260 trainers flew into Paya Lebar on July 1, 1981, and resumed their flying training sorties two days later.

The only flying unit left at Changi was 121 Squadron with its Skyvans, which stayed back so it could be near the Department of Civil Aviation's Rescue Coordination Centre in Changi to support search-and-rescue operations.

The book is available at the Singapore Airshow and major bookstores at $60 (GST included).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Singapore’s opposition facing the reality of politics

By Seah Chiang Nee |
SingaporeScene – Wed, Feb 8, 2012
Yahoo! News

During last May's election, Singapore's opposition, especially the Workers Party, rallied together to avoid three-corner fights, dealing the government a serious setback.

Now, eight months later, these are troubled times for some opposition parties. Historically when elections are over, some of them begin to fight with each other.

Internal squabbling followed by mass resignations hit one party. Several representatives are jostling for the 2016 battlegrounds, causing unhappiness.

One elected opposition Member of Parliament allegedly was involved in an adulterous affair with a party colleague, both already married. He has declined to comment.

A few opposition candidates have started to attack each other over the web instead of planning for the future or engaging the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

The opposition woes are creating a poor image to the public of which 60 per cent voted against it. Many of the other four-tenths of voters, who gave their trust to it in the election last May, are disappointed.

Dose of criticism

Some have gone online to give the offending opposition members a dose of their own medicine. This shows that the new media is not as one-sidedly pro-opposition as the government made it out to be.

In the past few weeks, this is exactly what happened. Both the Workers Party (WP) and Singapore People's Party (SPP) were getting daily doses of criticism that used to be reserved for the PAP.

Relatively weak and fractious, it has to convince the public that it is a serious, transparent institution.

The recent events include:

1). The first crisis came from veteran politician Chiam See Tong's Singapore People's Party (SPP) after six senior members resigned en masse over leadership differences.

The popular leader, who once suffered a stroke, has passed the baton to his wife, Lina Chiam, facing criticism that he has failed to build a "consultative collective team leadership".

According to Today newspaper, the reason given by those who left "suggests that they were not prepared to cede iron-fisted control". He has denied it, but despite this, SPP is generally viewed as a one-man party.

2). Workers Party (WP) — An up-and-coming member of Parliament (Hougang), Yaw Shin Leong is alleged to have had an extramarital affair with a married woman from his party.

The 35-year-old had taken over from WP leader Low Thia Khiang and won by a larger margin. His future is now under a cloud. He has declined to comment, which makes it worse.

The party leadership is also keeping mum, leading the public to feel it is trying to let time erase public memory.

Surprisingly, it was a pro-opposition website that blew the whistle on Yaw. Most comments were negative, including from WP supporters.

Tatiana Ann Xavier says: "Yaw has become a liability not only to WP but the Opposition cause as well. The WP must make a public announcement regarding this issue."

The Patriot: "If Yaw really has committed adultery, then I think he should just stand down as an MP. A man who can betray his wife can betray his friends, his community and his country."

This compares poorly with the action of the ruling PAP which pulled out candidate Steven Tan at the last minute when allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.

Blows dealt

What happened does not mean that the Workers Party future is in jeopardy, but its image has been dealt a blow. In fact the general expectation is that it can do even better in 2018.

"Unfortunately many people already view the opposition as querulous and unreliable and recent weeks have not been helpful to it," said one opposition supporter.

There had been other cases of mass opposition resignations over leadership disagreements.

Last year the newly-formed Reformed Party led by Kenneth Jeyaratnam, son of the late JB Jeyaratnem, was confronted with a mass walk-out of committee members just before the election.

Chiam's previous Singapore Democratic Alliance was also hit by membership exits. All this contributed to a history of pathetic election showings by the opposition parties.

For most of modern history, the election fortunes of the opposition had rarely depended on its own merit, but on whether the voters liked or disliked the ruling party on a particular election.

If Singaporeans found PAP's policies or actions favourable to them, the opposition votes would decline; if they disliked them then opposition votes would go up.

This was until recently when the opposition won a historically high 40 per cent of the votes partly on the basis of better candidates. Most of them have enthusiastic leaders but the parties, with few exceptions, lack depth of history and experience.

While the opposition is marred by occasional squabbling and splits, the ruling PAP is also believed to be less united now than when it was led by Lee Kuan Yew. Some insiders said there are unofficial factions within the PAP leadership.

The reality is that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is not as tough or punishing when it comes to controlling the country as his father. Observers say that as a result of the looser control, there is less fear among party subordinates.

Lee Senior kept control with superior logic and the cane or punishing legislation. His successors, who are dealing with a new generation, have to resort to superior logic.

But they cannot rely too much on the cane to keep people in line.

A former Reuters correspondent and newspaper editor, the writer is now a freelance columnist writing on general trends in Singapore. This post first appeared on his blog www.littlespeck.com on 4 February 2012.

Western capitalism in crisis

Feb 9, 2012

There is much to learn from Asia

By Kishore Mahbubani

CAPITALISM itself is not in crisis, but Western capitalism is. This is a result of three strategic mistakes.

The first error was to regard capitalism as an ideological good, not a pragmatic instrument to improve human welfare. The former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Mr Alan Greenspan, was probably the greatest victim of this ideological conviction that markets always knew best. He fully agreed with the thesis of former leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that governments should step aside and let the markets roll. As he also believed that market traders were smarter than government regulation, he failed to regulate them vigorously. This has wreaked havoc on the world.

But no Asian society, not even Japan, fell prey to this ideological conviction. Instead, Asians believe that no society can prosper without good governance. Indeed, in a way, many of them have understood philosopher Adam Smith's message better. As he wrote in The Wealth Of Nations, 'the interest of the dealers... however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public'.

For capitalism to work well, governments have to play an essential regulatory and supervisory role. This was forgotten by many Western governments. To make matters worse, the West spawned a huge new financial service industry that was widely perceived to have added a lot of 'value'. For a while, like all good Ponzi schemes, the industry seemed to create a lot of new wealth. Yet, it is now clear that it added no real new value.

Former Hong Kong central banker Andrew Sheng has said: 'How do financial engineers make five to 10 times more salary than physical engineers year after year? Is there magic in the financial institutions' ability to create return on equity that is significantly higher than that of real-sector companies like (those dealing in) cars or energy?

'The answer is that they create risks through leverage and interconnectivity which, every 10 years or so, become realised losses that are fully underwritten by the public sector through tax bailouts.

'The financial sector is being subsidised by all the holders of financial paper through zero interest rate policies. Their liabilities are still guaranteed by central banks. Finance has become the biggest free rider of all time.'

This huge industry was allowed to 'capture' the regulators whose duty was to control and supervise its activities. The American International Group, which could have single-handedly destroyed the global economy, was allowed to choose a small regulator in Delaware to regulate its trillion-dollar operations. No one in Washington batted an eyelid.

The second strategic error was to forget the lessons that European capitalists had learnt from the Marxist threat of the early 20th century. For capitalism to survive, all classes have to benefit from it. Social democracy was the European response to the threat of communism. Wages and welfare benefits of workers were increased. The capitalists became rich but the workers also gained. Even American capitalists, who were clearly not enamoured with the social democracy experiment, saw the value of increasing wages.

Former Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca said Henry Ford 'shocked the world with what probably stands as his greatest contribution ever: the US$5-a-day minimum wage scheme. The average wage in the auto industry then was US$2.34 for a nine-hour shift. Ford not only doubled that, he also shaved an hour off the working day'.

Sadly, all the lessons that the West learnt then have been forgotten. Chief executives at some of the largest US companies received an average of US$11.4 million (S$14 million) in total pay - 343 times more than what a typical US worker earned, said a report by the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations. This rising inequality was a big challenge. Rising unemployment was an even bigger challenge. Asian governments fought off unemployment by creating incentive schemes to promote investment and employment. Western governments dismissed this as an 'industrial policy', an ideological heresy. And when Western workers suffered, the capitalists retorted that 'markets know best'. Perhaps the time has come for the West to learn from Asia how to manage the existential challenges of the capitalist system.

The third error made by the West was to aggressively promote the virtues of capitalism to the Third World, including Asia, without realising that it had to educate its own population on the critical concept of 'creative destruction'. Economics textbooks correctly pointed out that when the car was invented, the horse and buggy industry had to disappear. And when digital cameras emerged, film had to go. Yet, the masses were never told that they would have to learn new trades and skills as new competitors emerged from China and India.

Hence, when manufacturing declined from 27 per cent of US gross domestic product in 1950 to 11 per cent in 2009, no policymaker paid attention or took corrective action. Nor did American leaders warn that workers would have to be helped to find new skills and jobs.

For all its flaws and defects, capitalism remains the best system for improving human welfare. This is why the whole world (barring North Korea) has accepted it, in one form or another. But it is also an inherently imperfect system, as Smith warned us from day one. It requires careful government regulation and supervision. Asians never forgot this. The West did.

Hence, the time may have come for Asians to reciprocate the generosity of the West in sharing capitalism with Asia. Western policymakers and thought leaders should be invited to visit the industrial complexes and service industries of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. There may be a few valuable lessons to be learnt here and there.

The writer is the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and the author of The New Asian Hemisphere. This article first appeared in The A-List column in the Financial Times on Tuesday.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Growing colder towards the motherland

Feb 4, 2012

Hong Kongers' resentment of mainland Chinese is on the rise, stoked by the latter's growing affluence and movement to the city in search of a better life

By Ching Cheong

THE escalating tension between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese boiled over late last month over a pack of instant noodles - or where not to eat it, to be exact.

The incident started with a Hong Kong man telling a group of mainland tourists not to eat it on the train because it is not allowed. It soon flared into an angry exchange during which the man was mocked for his bad Mandarin and a sarcastic remark made about one of the Chinese women apologising in English.

The war of words soon spread to both sides of the Shenzhen River, which separates mainland China from its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

The ugly incident went viral after a video of it appeared on the Internet. Nearly 15 years after Hong Kong's return to China and despite its economic integration with the mainland, a cultural disconnect remains.

Peking University professor Kong Qingdong, known for his ultranationalist views, added fuel to the fire by labelling Hong Kongers who do not speak Mandarin 'dogs trained by colonialists', 'worshippers of the West' and 'bastards'. Tellingly, 59 per cent of Chinese netizens surveyed by popular portal Tencent agreed with him.

Mainland Chinese supporters of Professor Kong blame Hong Kongers who, in their view, have a superiority-inferiority complex that makes them hostile to mainlanders. Before 1978, when China first embarked on reforms to open up its economy, the people of Hong Kong were a thriving colony under the British, and felt superior to and contemptuous of their poor and backward mainland cousins. But feelings of inferiority and envy among Hong Kongers grew after the 1997 handover as they saw their mainland compatriots becoming more affluent.

These mainlanders view many Hong Kongers as 'hopelessly poisoned' by more than 150 years of colonial rule and yet to learn to become 'proper' Chinese citizens. Their lack of nationalism explains their mainlander resentment, the group adds.

Hong Kongers deny this. While economic integration with China is welcome and many benefit from it, they are only too aware that integration increasingly exposes them to such spillover risks from the mainland.

The tainted milk scandal is one example. A society that allows toxic milk powder to be produced sends worried Chinese parents flocking to Hong Kong to stock up on the genuine stuff. Their desperate act then drives up prices in Hong Kong.

Unconscionable business practices in China affect many other products, as mainlanders drive up demand and the consumer prices for these in Hong Kong.

Another risk is immigration. Those with financial means from China seek residency rights in cities with better opportunities and living conditions. The growing number of pregnant mainland women vying for maternity services, hospital facilities and related resources has put a great strain on Hong Kong and deprived many local mothers-to-be of the very same services.

Mainland women admit that their motive for having their babies in Hong Kong is to secure Hong Kong citizenship for the children, ensuring that they grow up in a better and safer environment.

The mainland's problems have also spilled into real estate. Hong Kong property prices, already among the most expensive in the world, nearly doubled between 2007 and last year, jacked up by demand from newly rich mainland Chinese.

New property developments coming up in traditionally poorer areas of Hong Kong can command prices of close to HK$10,000 (S$1,600) per sq ft. At this rate, even middle-class Hong Kongers will struggle to afford a small flat, while low-income ones are priced out.

Some developers open their showrooms for deluxe projects only to mainland buyers. The much-publicised Dolce and Gabbana photo-taking fiasco, which led more than 1,000 Hong Kongers to protest in front of its store, is not the first time that a retailer has discriminated against locals.

Hong Kongers also find the conspicuous consumption patterns of mainland Chinese irksome. Many of the latter think nothing of paying cash upfront for a HK$10 million apartment.

As the Hong Kong authorities do not require reporting of cash movement across its borders or of large currency transactions above a certain threshold level, there are suspicions that some of the huge property purchases could have been funded with money of dubious origin. This in turn raises concerns that Hong Kong is being used as a conduit for black money from the mainland.

The cultural clash is borne out by a recent poll which found that only 16.6 per cent of Hong Kongers see themselves as Chinese citizens first, compared with more than 38 per cent three years ago. Instead, more and more consider themselves to be Hong Kong citizens or Hong Kong Chinese.

The survey findings angered Chinese officials who accused Dr Robert Chung, the director of Hong Kong University's Public Opinion Programme, which conducted the poll, of 'sowing the seeds of hatred' against the mainland in order to 'cultivate separatism'.

To Hong Kongers, many of whom refer to mainland Chinese as 'locusts', this reaction is another example of the blatant violation of the high level of autonomy promised Hong Kong under Beijing's 'one country, two systems' principle.


Hong Kong won't become a Tibet or Xinjiang, say analysts

Rising tension with mainlanders is over culture and values

BEIJING - Relations between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese are at their worst in nearly 15 years, but scholars do not see China's special administrative region (SAR) becoming a political hot spot.

Hong Kong will not go the way of restive Tibet or Xinjiang, they say, even though a small minority in the city has questioned whether it will be better off independent.

Tempers flared and tensions rose after a spate of incidents in recent weeks, from an online video of a Hong Kong subway spat that went viral, to a Peking University lecturer's disparaging insults and an inflammatory newspaper advertisement portraying mainlanders as locusts.

The verbal clashes and name-calling are over culture and values, and livelihood issues, rather than deeper fissures like race or religion, say the scholars.

'There is no religious or identity problem. It is mainly about livelihood issues,' said Professor Yin Hongbiao, a historian from Peking University.
Tibet and Xinjiang are more complicated as they involve ethnic minorities, he noted. Armed clashes have broken out between the locals and the authorities in these two regions, with reports of unrest in Tibet in just the past week.

Hong Kong is also not like Taiwan, said Prof Yin. After losing a civil war to the Chinese communists in 1949, Kuomintang forces set up a rival government in Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province to be eventually reunified with the Chinese mainland.

Other scholars interviewed by The Straits Times agree, saying they do not see residents of the former British colony agitating for independence.
'The overwhelming majority of people in Hong Kong do not think about independence. They know this is not an option and do not explore it as something worth their time,' said Professor Steve Tsang, an expert in contemporary Chinese studies at Nottingham University.

Not to mention that Hong Kongers abhor violence, he added. 'Violence or anything that is not peaceful demonstration is generally deemed inappropriate and unacceptable by the overwhelming majority of people in Hong Kong,' he said.

On its part, Beijing has refrained from wading into the fray and has not reacted to an anti-mainlander ad published in Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper on Wednesday.

A day earlier, Dr Peng Qinghua, director of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, expressed regret at the remarks by Peking University lecturer Kong Qingdong, in which he referred to Hongkongers as 'dogs'.

Online, however, some Chinese accuse Hong Kongers of being ungrateful despite owing their living to the mainland.

But analyst Hung Ho-fung from Johns Hopkins University said that such mistaken views of Hong Kong's one-sided reliance on the Chinese hinterland, widely propagated in the mainland media, have irked many of the city's residents.

Instead, as political analyst Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong pointed out, both sides need each other.

'Hong Kong still requires economic backing from the mainland. And Beijing also draws substantial benefits from Hong Kong, a leading financial centre, plus other software expertise from the SAR,' he said.

Assistance from the mainland helped Hong Kong's economy bounce back from the 2008-2009 financial crisis to chalk up growth of 7 per cent in 2010 and 5 per cent last year. Unemployment in the third quarter of last year was 3.2 per cent, a 13-year low.

Big spenders from China also helped prop up retail and property sales, accounting for up to half of new home sales in Hong Kong. But the gains have not trickled down to the masses. While the likes of property developers or luxury stores have benefited, the average Hong Konger feels the pinch instead, as surges in demand drive up prices for goods from milk powder to homes.

Professor Anthony Cheung, a public administration expert, noted in the Hong Kong Journal that despite the growth, the wealth gap has widened. The city's Gini co-efficient, which measures income disparity, with one being the worst, rose from 0.518 in 1996 to 0.533 in 2006. Median household income in 2009 stayed at HK$17,500 (S$2,800) per month, the same level in 1999.

This week, the Hong Kong government, which has seen its reserves boosted by tax income from increased property sales, announced measures like tax cuts and increased pensions to help its citizens cope with rising costs.
But fundamental problems need to be dealt with to ease tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland, say scholars.

'If the Hong Kong government does nothing to reduce increasing visitors' impact on local livelihoods, and if the Chinese government does not restrain its media in promoting mistaken views about Hong Kong-mainland relations, tensions are set to worsen further,' Prof Hung warned.


Advice to a young rebel

Feb 4, 2012
By David Brooks

A FEW weeks ago, a 22-year-old man named Jefferson Bethke produced a video called 'Why I hate religion, but love Jesus'. The video shows him standing in a courtyard rhyming about the purity of the teachings of Jesus and the hypocrisy of the church. Jesus preaches healing, surrender and love, he argues, but religion is rigid, phoney and stale. 'Jesus came to abolish religion,' he insists. 'Religion puts you in bondage but Jesus sets you free.'

The video went viral. As of Thursday, it had acquired more than 18 million hits on YouTube. It speaks for many young believers who feel close to God but not to the church. It represents the passionate voice of those who think their institutions lack integrity - not just the religious ones but the political and corporate ones, too.

Right away, many older theologians began critiquing Mr Bethke's statements. Blogger Kevin DeYoung pointed out, for example, that it is biblically inaccurate to say that Jesus hated religion. In fact, Jesus preached a religious doctrine, prescribed rituals and worshipped in a temple.

Mr Bethke responded in a way that was humble, earnest and gracious, and that generally spoke well of his character. He also basically folded.

'I wanted to say I really appreciate your article man,' Mr Bethke wrote to MrDeYoung in an online exchange. 'It hit me hard. I'll even be honest and say I agree 100 per cent.'

Mr Bethke watched a panel discussion in which some theologians lamented young people's disdain of organised religion. 'Right when I heard that,' he told The Christian Post, 'It just convicted me, and God used it as one of those Spirit moments where it's just, 'Man, he's right.' I realised a lot of my views and treatments of the church were not scripture-based; they were very experience-based.'

Mr Bethke's passionate polemic and subsequent retreat are symptomatic of a lot of the protest cries we hear these days. This seems to be a moment when many people - in religion, economics and politics - are disgusted by current institutions, but then they are vague about what sorts of institutions should replace them.

This seems to be a moment of fervent protest movements that are ultimately vague and ineffectual.

We can all theorise why the intense desire for change has so far produced relatively few coherent recipes for change. Maybe people today are simply too deferential. Raised to get college recommendations, maybe they lack the oppositional mentality necessary for revolt. Maybe people are too distracted.

My own theory revolves around a single bad idea. For generations, people have been told: Think for yourself; come up with your own independent world view. Unless your name is Nietzsche, that's probably a bad idea. Very few people have the genius or time to come up with a comprehensive and rigorous world view.

If you go out there armed only with your own observations and sentiments, you will surely find yourself on very weak ground. You'll lack the arguments, convictions and the coherent view of reality that you'll need when challenged by a self-confident opposition. This is more or less what happened to Mr Bethke.

The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn't think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.

The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day.

These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organising principles. Joining a tradition doesn't mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.

Most professors would like their students to be more rebellious and argumentative. But rebellion without a rigorous alternative vision is just a feeble spasm.

If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn't provided you with a good knowledge of counter-cultural viewpoints - ranging from Thoreau to Maritain - then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.

Effective rebellion isn't just expressing your personal feelings. It means replacing one set of authorities and institutions with a better set of authorities and institutions. The authorities and institutions don't repress the passions of the heart, the way some young people now suppose. They give them focus and a means to turn passion into change.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?

Feb 4, 2012

At a crucial moment in PAP's history, he made all the difference
By Sonny Yap

In the beginning there was Toh Chin Chye.

He was there at No. 44 Bryanston Square in London where he joined a group of fellow university students in the Malayan Forum questioning British rule and seeking independence for a united Malaya and Singapore.

He was there in the basement dining room of No. 38 Oxley Road in Singapore where he huddled with the house owner named Lee Kuan Yew and other professionals, trade unionists and workers to hatch plans for a new left-wing political party.

He was at the Victoria Memorial Hall now known as the Victoria Concert Hall where he chaired the inauguration meeting which introduced the People's Action Party (PAP) and its white-garbed leaders to Singapore.

And he was right there at the Raffles Institution counting centre at Bras Basah Road when the final votes were tallied for the May 30, 1959 General Election which saw the PAP capturing 43 out of 51 seats to form the government of self-governing Singapore.

Dr Toh Chin Chye, a man of small stature, quick temper and sharp mind, had seen it all. As party chairman from 1954 to 1981 and as deputy prime minister and Cabinet minister from 1959 to 1981, he was a key member of the team that formed the PAP and led the PAP Government through the trials and tribulations of Singapore in its formative years.

Together with former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee and former senior minister Sinnathamby Rajaratnam, Dr Toh Chin Chye is among the founding fathers of Singapore who steered the island through a short-lived and ill-fated merger with Malaysia and then as an independent state struggling to make a living in a volatile and unpredictable world without natural resources, hinterland and market.

Dr Toh Chin Chye was the very personification of the values and virtues of the pioneering generation of leaders who grew up in the hardscrabble years of pre-war and Japanese-occupied Malaya and Singapore - thrift, frugality, self-sacrifice, hard work and discipline.

His socialist convictions sprang from his poor and difficult growing-up years in Taiping, Perak.

The son of a bicycle-shop owner and a housewife studied in St George's Institution, Taiping, then at Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh before attending Raffles College in Singapore where he read for a Diploma in Science.

When his education on the island was disrupted by the Japanese Occupation, he became a hawker's assistant at a vegetable stall and later at a coffee stall.

To feed himself, he grew tapioca and potatoes.

His political awakening was triggered by the abominable inequalities and injustices he witnessed during the colonial years.

His beliefs were reinforced during his studies in London by exposure to Fabianism and a socialist Britain under Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee. He was especially impressed by the National Health Service which provided free medical services for all citizens.

Pure as PAP white

Mention Dr Toh Chin Chye in any conversation with former PAP stalwarts and political foes, and his name will be liberally laced with adjectives ranging from honest and genuine to sincere and principled.

Those who had worked with him might have been at the receiving end of his legendary short fuse and acidic tongue and faulted his occasional poor judgments and other shortcomings. But they would never breathe a single word to impugn his integrity. Not a whiff of scandal or skulduggery had ever surfaced around him.

People interviewed for Men In White, The Untold Story Of Singapore's Ruling Political Party, published by Singapore Press Holdings in 2009, spoke profusely about his sense of morality and integrity. Former Straits Times news editor Felix Abisheganaden, who knew him and used to cover the PAP in the 1950s and 1960s, described him as 'very ethical'.

If the lightning in the PAP symbol represented Lee Kuan Yew, then the white background referred to Dr Toh Chin Chye, said Dr Sheng Nam Chin, a former PAP legislative assemblyman who later defected to the Barisan Sosialis. As he put it, 'Lee Kuan Yew: action. Toh Chin Chye: purity'.

Certainly no one would question his sense of duty and obligation. He would have given short shrift to today's scholarship bond-breakers, as this anecdote shows.

After obtaining his diploma in science (first class) from Raffles College in 1946, he bagged the Singapore Colonial Development Scholarship in 1949 to pursue his doctorate in physiology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London.

When he was advised to go to the United States in 1953 to continue his research, he said it would have been morally wrong to break his bond. He told this writer that he was always conscious of his obligation as a scholarship-holder and that he felt duty-bound to complete his studies.

Penang lawyer Philip Hoalim Jnr, who knew Dr Toh Chin Chye in London, remembered he was involved in ground-breaking research, noting that if Dr Toh Chin Chye had continued his work in physiology, he might have carved a name for himself in international science.

Dr Toh Chin Chye turned his back on America and the dizzying world of physiological research to return to Singapore to serve out his bond as a lecturer at the University of Malaya in Singapore. But that did not stop him from plunging into the uncharted world of politics.

Enduring legacy

It is his pivotal role as founding chairman of PAP that could well form his enduring legacy. He is best remembered for helping to see the party and Singapore through the political turbulence of the 1950s and 1960s.

He played a crucial role guiding the party through its darkest hour - the Big Split of July 1961 when 13 PAP dissident assemblymen opposed Singapore's proposed merger with Malaya and defected to form the Barisan Sosialis. This resulted in the PAP Government hanging on to power by a 26-25 margin.

Earlier, in the 1950s, Dr Toh Chin Chye held the fort in Mr Lee's absence and foiled all attempts by the leftists to undermine or unseat the leader. The party was dealing with radical activists, he said, and 'you can't have them running circles around you'. He had to navigate the beleaguered PAP through its incessant internal struggles between the pro-communist and non-communist members.

In one marathon meeting on March 24, 1957, he was locked in a bitter battle of will and stamina with strident representatives of 19 Middle Road trade unions. The pro-communists wanted to push through their resolutions and get Mr Lee out of the Merdeka constitutional talks in London. But Dr Toh Chin Chye held his ground and never flinched in a meeting that began at 8pm and ended at 3am. To this day, those who were at the meeting continue to express their admiration for his steely resolve.

During the Big Split, Dr Toh Chin Chye soldiered on valiantly even when his Rochor branch broke away and his branch secretary deserted him. He kept the spirits up when all around people were losing their heads. Dr Goh Keng Swee, for instance, recalled Dr Toh Chin Chye visiting him in his Fullerton Building office in 1961, after seeing Mr Lee, saying: 'I have just come from Harry's office. He was staring at the ceiling just like you did. You should snap out of this mood. The fighting has just begun. It is going to be long and nasty. But if we keep wringing our hands in anguish, we are sure to lose. We should start thinking immediately of our next moves - how to rebuild the party, rally the loyal party members and how to carry the fight into the enemy camp.'

As Mr S. Rajaratnam once described him: 'A simple man, but not a simpleton. A man who does not look for a fight, but once in a fight, where honour is at stake, he fights unto the death.'

History will record that Dr Toh Chin Chye's unswerving loyalty to Mr Lee made a critical difference to Singapore's political history. According to an account in Men In White, the party's 12-member Central Executive Committee was evenly split over who should be prime minister after the PAP won the 1959 elections. Six votes went to Mr Lee and another six to former mayor Ong Eng Guan. As chairman, Dr Toh Chin Chye broke the deadlock with his casting vote and Mr Lee went on to assume the premiership.

There were at least two occasions when Mr Lee submitted his letter of resignation as prime minister to then party chairman Toh following humiliating reversals. If he was ambitious and power-hungry, he could have exploited the divisions and taken over the premiership by accepting Mr Lee's resignation.

As he told this writer, he believed in the principle of collective leadership and the thought of usurping Mr Lee never crossed his mind. He noted that he was so fervently anti-communist that no leftist would ever dream of approaching him.

It was Dr Toh Chin Chye who started the PAP election campaign in 1959 which led the party to a landslide victory. He lit the election fireworks by exposing Education Minister Chew Swee Kee in the Labour Front-led government in a money scandal at a mass rally on Hong Lim Green on Feb 15. The scandal destroyed people's confidence in then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock's government.

In the do-or-die battle in the 1963 elections, Dr Toh Chin Chye went head to head with Barisan leader Lee Siew Choh in the working class ward of Rochor. He won by a razor-thin 89 votes. Former PAP MP Chan Chee Seng remembered Dr Toh Chin Chye as a meticulous campaigner who carried a detailed map of the ward indicating all the places where he would walk, distribute his leaflets, knock on doors, meet the voters and deliver his speeches.

Dr Toh Chin Chye would also go down in history as the man who announced the party's controversial decision to field a team of 10 parliamentary and 15 state candidates in the 1964 federal elections while Mr Lee was leading an overseas delegation. The fateful polls, which came after Singapore joined Malaysia, marked PAP's biggest electoral defeat as it lost all but one of the seats it contested, with only Mr C.V. Devan Nair winning narrowly the parliamentary seat of Bungsar. This debacle started a chain of events that led eventually to Singapore's expulsion from the federation.

Explaining the debacle in Men In White, Dr Toh Chin Chye said that most Malaysian people 'had no affinity for the party' as it had no roots in the mainland compared to United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). Although he and other PAP leaders were born in Malaya, he said, they spent most of their time in Singapore and had lost touch with the voters.

Later, amid rising acrimony between PAP and the Umno-led Alliance, he and Mr Rajaratnam pushed for the formation of the Malaysian Solidarity Convention (MSC) to propagate the ideal of Malaysian Malaysia as opposed to the Alliance's policy of Malay supremacy and Malay special rights. MSC comprised the PAP and four other political parties based in East and West Malaysia.

When Separation came on Aug 9, 1965, following increasing communal tensions, Dr Toh Chin Chye felt it was terrible to let down the convention. Some people saw it as a betrayal, he said, and 'people in Sabah and Sarawak thought we betrayed them'.

On the personal level, Separation came as a devastating blow to him as the Taiping-born former deputy prime minister had always believed in a united Malaya and Singapore, right from his Malayan Forum days in London.

His reluctance to sign the Separation agreement pointed to the ominous possibility of a Cabinet split. He agreed only when he was shown a letter by then Malaysia's Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman stressing that 'there is absolutely no other way out'.

While Dr Toh Chin Chye was a man of discipline and self-restraint, he had always exhibited a strong streak of independent-mindedness. Former PAP veterans noted that Dr Toh Chin Chye, Dr Goh and Mr Eddie Barker were the only PAP Cabinet ministers who dared to talk back and argue with Mr Lee whom they called Harry.

How do you sum up the political contributions of Dr Toh Chin Chye who gave the best years of his life to Singapore at great sacrifice to his career and prospects?

Perhaps the best tribute came from Mr Lee at a valedictory dinner for retiring MPs in 1981 when he said: 'How can we say, who contributed more? Without Dr Toh holding the fort in the PAP, we might never have held the party together.'

What if PAP had fallen apart then? What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?