Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

Archive for June 2017

Facebook Post: Select Committees – 22 Jun 2017

Some Singaporeans have asked about Parliamentary Select Committees in light of the allegations that the Prime Minister abused his powers the regard to 38 Oxley Road. What are Parliamentary Select Committees?

Parliament hosts powers to appoint Select Committees of MPs to look at issues in depth, including calling for evidence and summoning witnesses if necessary. My WP colleagues and I have filed a number of parliamentary questions that relate to allegations of the Prime Minister abusing his powers in the matter of 38, Oxley Road. The Prime Minister has announced he will make a statement in Parliament and welcomes vigourous debate. There is one problem though. Unlike the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and those who support him will have no opportunity to clear the air on 3 July 2017.

In the interests of fairness, Mr Lee should be allowed to tell his story to Parliament too. A Select Committee would allow MPs the opportunity to call up any witness, including the Prime Minister or anyone else to get to the truth of the matter behind the allegations of abuse of power.

By way of a parliamentary question, I have asked the Prime Minister to support the setting up of a Select Committee to look into the serious allegations made against him. The use of Select Committees for such a purpose is nothing new. The PAP have used Select Committees to look into allegations made against the Government in the past.

On 21 Mar 1996, Parliament resolved to appoint a select committee to verify the Government’s healthcare expenditure, amongst other reasons, to verify statements made in the Singapore Democratic Party publication, The New Democrat and in a speech made by SDP MP Ling How Doong in Parliament where he said, “healthcare costs are not subsidised at all.”

One submission to this Select Committee defined the role of Select Committees perfectly:

“The public has every right to know the facts and to receive from the Government the fullest possible information….The Select Committee serves a useful and informative field of public education and members of the Select Committee would seek to produce agreed reports in the best interest of the public.”

In a voluminous report (hyperlinked below), the Select Committee on Healthcare Subsidies published all the questions MPs put to various witnesses who were asked to give evidence to the committee. But things did not stop there. In view of the replies given to the Select Committee by Mr Chee Soon Juan and other witnesses, then Minister of Health George Yeo filed a complaint of contempt of Parliament to the Committee of Privileges against several witnesses arising out of the Select Committee hearings. I remember watching clips of the Select Committee hearing on TV, with PAP MPs relentlessly questioning Chee Soon Juan.

Like many Singaporeans, no one knows how long the current episode is going to drag on for with new information and allegations coming out almost on a daily basis, and perhaps even after 3 July 2017.

The allegations of abuse of power by the Prime Minister need to be looked into. A Parliamentary session as a forum to hear only one side of the story will just not do. After all, it was the late Lee Kuan Yew who said:

“No government in this part of the world will open willingly when it need not open a problem like this and take it out, whether a Commission of Inquiry, debate in Parliament, Select Committee, or even a prosecution if a case could be made out.”

Useful links:

30 Sep 1996 – Report of the Select Committee on Verification of Healthcare Subsidy of Government Polyclinics and Public Hospitals:

22 Nov 1996 – Report of the Committee of Privileges: Complaint against Representors from the Singapore Democratic Party:

Written by singapore 2025

22/06/2017 at 4:45 am

Parliament: Fake News (Pritam Singh) – 19 Jun 2017

I asked some questions about fake news in Parliament last month (see below). I sought a definition for fake news because the focus of the Government appears to be squarely directed at falsehoods and fabrications. As the article below alludes, the fundamental objective of “fake news” is to shape or alter perceptions.

But a more sophisticated form of “fake news” has been carried out in the media, especially the print media, since time immemorial and more recently, even on apparently trustworthy online sites too. On the “fake news” spectrum, some of the most successful examples are those which are done subtly. This is achieved through selective omissions, framing a story from a particular perspective, taking on a “nation-building” role (whatever that means), selective usage of quotes and pictures at certain angles etc.

I have no objection to clamping down hard on fake news. But what are we going to do about good old-fashioned propaganda? At least in the West, the editorial line of a paper is openly known – right leaning, left leaning etc. – so you know where these mainstream sources are coming from. But what happens when your mainstream news outlets are ultimately controlled by the Government or one entity?

Parliamentary Questions (May 2017)

32 Mr Pritam Singh asked the Minister for Law (a) how does the Government identify and define what is fake news; and (b) what role does the Government envisage social media platforms and Internet service providers to play in addressing fake news.


39 Mr Pritam Singh asked the Minister for Education (Schools) (a) whether there are programmes to teach students how to discern fake news; (b) if so, how are the programmes designed and rolled out; and (c) if not, whether there are plans to develop and roll out such programmes in a specific timeline.


Useful Links:

NPR / 5 Feb 2017: Long before there was ‘Fake News’, there were ‘Fake Photos’:

Written by singapore 2025

19/06/2017 at 4:55 am

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