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Pall of Singapore
<p>Chris McGrath/Getty Images</p>

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Singapore’s smog reveals one thing: the elite is not impervious to scrutiny anymore.

Out Of The Haze, A Singapore Spring?

The haze sweeping Asia is a hazard to your health — and for members of Singapore’s ruling elite such as the mercurial K. Shanmugam, a threat to your tight grip on power, too.


When you are Singapore’s Lee family, and your clan has exercised absolute and uninterrupted control over its swanky specklet of Asia for 54 years, fellows like Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam are handy to have within your power court.

K. Shanmugam, as he’s less tongue-twistingly known, may have escaped the attention of those unfamiliar with the cosy connections that hold Singapore’s power elite together — a warm, clubby embrace that has kept them very wealthy.

But 54-year-old Shanmugam is a bigwig on the tiny island, which is currently being suffocated by pollution from the periodic burning of millions of hectares of palm oil plantations that have trashed the equatorial habitat of neighbouring Indonesia. That pollution from the illegal fire-clearing of these plantations has swept on eastward winds from Sumatra in massive clouds of smoke and ash to shroud and choke Singapore, southern Malaysia and large tracts of western Indonesia.

Call it blowback. Many of these plantations are owned by people with intimate connections to that same power court in Singapore, who helpfully provide them all manner of metropolitan usefulness, banking their billions and domiciling their empires while discreetly looking past, er, indiscretions that may have been perpetrated elsewhere.

Many of these plantations are owned by people with intimate connections to that same power court in Singapore, who helpfully provide them all manner of metropolitan usefulness, banking their billions and domiciling their empires.

Singapore has 101,000 millionaires officially resident on the island, their assets tucked safely away in the nation’s banks, property and share markets. Plenty of these plutocrats are normal Singaporeans who’ve done well in business. But many are not, like corrupt Indonesians on the run, or Burmese generals seeking safe haven. Singapore’s plutocratic ranks have been swelled in recent years by Europeans and Russians seeking relief from tax and the prying regulators of home, these exiles spending just enough time and money in Singapore to qualify for residency.

This, to many, is the useful point of Singapore, where Shanmugam – born in 1959, the very year Lee family patriarch Lee Kuan Yew began his three decades as ruler – has been an MP since 1988 for the Lees’ ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Shanmugam’s story, and there are many like it in Singapore’s political circles, neatly illustrates how power flows in Singapore, via an apparatus ironically made more visible by the haze crisis.

There have been five parliamentary elections since then in Singapore’s almost-democracy, three of them relatively leisurely affairs for Shanmugam; he and his PAP friends were untroubled by any other candidates in their constituency, Sembawang, an area perhaps best known for its US naval facility.

But Shanmugam’s selfless devotion to public service – Singapore MPs receive a basic annual allowance of around US$200,000 – hasn’t hindered an even more lucrative career, in law and business. He’s one of Singapore’s most formidable litigators, a leader of the army of Lee-loyalist lawyers who’ve helped win their legal system a contentious reputation as a jurisdiction, most notably in defamation.

Singapore is one of the world’s libel capitals, and its litigants – many have been colleagues of Shanmugam, leaders of the ruling PAP – have won record-setting damages for defamation by their political rivals and the international media.

What would pass as the normal buffeting of election debate in most genuinely pluralist democracies has been, in Singapore, a device of oppression. Here, sensitive politicians and officials, famously led by the Lees themselves, have shown an enthusiastic inclination to sue opponents into penurious legal submission. Singaporean officials, it’s often said, can imagine libel and slander in a harsh glare.

All of which helps explain why MPs like Shanmugam don’t always encounter combatants when they run for election. Indeed, this absence of opposition has meant that there’s only been three parliamentary elections in Singapore in the five since 1988 in which the PAP wasn’t returned to office on nomination day – the actual poll being largely irrelevant as to decide who runs the country.

<p>SURYO WIBOWO/AFP/Getty Images</p>

SURYO WIBOWO/AFP/Getty Images

K. Shanmugam meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa last year. Singapore’s respiratory crisis has shone a spotlight on some local companies with interests in the controversial Indonesian palm-oil sector.

Shanmugam doesn’t mind highlighting such powerful connections in his sparkling official CV, now for the Nee Soon electorate in Singapore. This biography describes a storied student who became a ‘star litigator’ for Singapore’s biggest law firm, a lawyer who has represented prime ministers past and present.

And, busy man, Shanmugam has also served on some illustrious boards while being MP and lawyer-at-large, his biography reveals. For example, he’s held a long and lucrative directorship at one of Singapore’s state-controlled blue chips, Sembcorp (a post he shared with strongman Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter-in-law Lee Suet Fern, whose husband ran Singapore Telecommunications for 12 years), and another on Singapore’s state media regulator, among other establishment posts.

Now Shanmugam has been Singapore’s Foreign Minister since 2011, and Minister for Law since 2008, his official salary now somewhere north of $US1 million. He’s the senior official entrusted by his Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong, to go after the polluters they believe are responsible for the life-threatening haze, now too thick to ignore, which has engulfed their region.

“If any Singapore companies are involved,” thundered PM Lee last week, “or companies which are present in Singapore are involved, we will take it up with them."

Indeed, Jakarta has helpfully identified as many as 14 companies it believes responsible for the muck, while reminding Singapore that many more Indonesians are suffering its effects than inhabitants of the look-at-me island nation.

Two of the companies fingered by Indonesia are its Widjaja family’s Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART), which has long been a target of environmentalists, and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), controlled by the Indonesian-born Singaporean tycoon Sukanto Tanoto. Both are based in Singapore, where SMART’s parent company is the locally listed Golden Agri-Resources.

And this is where Lee’s Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam comes in again.

Two of the directorships that don’t appear in Shanmugam’s glittering CV are his former stints as a director of Golden Agri-Resources and Asia Food and Property Ltd.

APP’s debts were effectively written off and, like so many dodgy Indonesians and Singaporeans of that era, the Widjajas regrouped to do business another day – to pollute again.

Both are Singaporean companies controlled by Indonesia’s controversial Widjaja family. In the early 2000s, while Shanmugam was on these boards, the Widjajas had the dubious honour of owning the notorious Asia Pulp and Paper, which would come to be responsible for the biggest bond default in corporate Asian history.

What transpired at APP was a US$13 billion fiasco, a scandal largely unearthed by the pesky foreign media, and which exposed Singapore as something other than the squeaky-clean financial centre its government likes to internationally promote itself as. Transferring public company funds through a murky family-controlled bank in the tax haven of the Cook Islands was a sleight of hand much favoured by the Widjajas.

No-one involved with the APP scandal was ever prosecuted or brought to legal book anywhere. Those foolish enough to have invested with the Widjajas absorbed huge hits. Most of APP’s debts were effectively written off and, like so many dodgy Indonesians and Singaporeans of that era, the Widjajas regrouped to do business another day – to pollute again.

As for Shanmugam, after firing off a few threatening legal salvos at the time to anyone who too publicly mentioned his connection to the Widjajas, he later resigned his directorships and resumed his legal and political career.

The Global Mail isn’t suggesting that Shanmugam was in any way party to the financial scandal that then engulfed the Widjaja empire. Indeed, all reports at the time suggested he was embarrassed by his links to the Widjajas. Nor are we saying that he is involved in the haze outrage that now engulfs them. And, despite being identified by Jakarta as a polluter, Golden Agri insists “there are no hotspots or fires” at its Sumatran plantations.

Should this assertion of innocence be proved wrong, Shanmugam, now as a minister, would at least know who to call when asked to bring miscreants to book; that is, if he doesn’t first recuse himself from official involvement given his one-time close links to the controversial Widjajas.

But that doesn’t seem likely. Last weekend, Shanmugam reportedly joined his PM and other government colleagues in handing out some of the million-odd facemasks Singapore has bought to distribute to low-income Singaporeans affected by the haze.

<p>Chris McGrath/Getty Images</p>

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Face masks sold out in Singapore’s stores, and the government handed out more — along with advice to wear them even indoors.

TGM emailed Mr Shanmugam a series of questions about his former links to the Widjaja’s Golden Agri but did not receive a response.

Singapore’s respiratory crisis has also shone a spotlight on some other local companies with interests in the controversial palm oil sector. One of them is particularly close to PM Lee, at the core Singapore’s politics-meets-business power apparatus: Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s influential state-owned investment company, which controls companies such as Singapore Telecom, Singapore Airlines and Australia’s Optus, also holds big stakes in myriad international businesses.

One of those investments is in CTP Holdings, Temasek’s Singapore-based joint venture with the US agricultural group Cargill. CTP operates oil-palm plantations in Indonesia. Last week, CTP was quick to say its holdings are well away from the current hotspots that have so polluted the Singapore environs. In any event, CTP’s backers claim their plantations operate a strict no-burn policy, and Temasek and Cargill have been keen to distance CTP and themselves from any environmental outrage.

Which is not how the US environmental lobby Rain Forest Network sees CTP’s operations in Indonesia’s Kalimantan region, to Singapore’s east; the group accuses CTP of clearing rainforest without permits, destroying watersheds and burning forests.

That Temasek was moved to publish a press release on the palm oil crisis at this time is itself instructive. It speaks to the rising opposition to Singapore’s Lee-led establishment, which revealed itself most eloquently in the last parliamentary and presidential elections, in 2011, in which the opposition not only fielded a record complement of candidates but made genuine gains against the PAP-dominated system.

Amidst the tumult from Tahrir Square and the tragedy of Syria, this ‘Singapore Spring’ hasn’t registered internationally with quite the impact of the Arab prototype that inspired it. But to the 5.3 million Singaporeans now coughing through yet another haze outrage blown in from Indonesia, their spring has arrived in the increasing accountability they demand of Singapore’s once impervious courtiers in running national affairs.

In a town where ‘normal’ political activity is deemed off limits, Temasek’s management has been a proxy political tool the opposition can fulminate about – Temasek as the symbolic vehicle of PAP patronage and performance.

Amidst the tumult from Tahrir Square and the tragedy of Syria, this ‘Singapore Spring’ hasn’t registered internationally with quite the impact of the Arab prototype that inspired it.

Temasek and its likewise state-owned sister fund, the Singapore Government Investment Corporation, officially invest Singaporeans’ money. Like the more transparent sovereign wealth funds of democratic Norway and East Timor, and those more opaque in the Gulf monarchies, these two companies are national nest eggs owned by all Singaporeans, and in which every Singaporean notionally has a say.

Temasek, which by some measures has an interest in as much as 60 per cent of the Singaporean economy, has been run by PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, since 2003. And her patchy investment record would likely have seen her removed, had she performed similarly in any Western company. That record has increasingly been the subject of rational analysis, by academics and aspiring Singaporean politicians such as Kenneth Jeyaretnam, who would like to see these funds broken up and privatised.

Such transparency has been refreshing for Singaporeans, but other things don’t change. It remains out of bounds in Singapore to debate if Madame Ho got – and kept – her job because she’s a member of the Lee family. The last voice to publicly do this was a well-followed local blog, the Temasek Review Emeritus, which was swiftly threatened by one of the Lees’ notorious legal onslaughts en route to being forced into a grovelling apology. Today, it’s a rare Western media outlet – those with corporate interests or circulation in Singapore are particularly reticent – that will examine the Temasek record as they might similarly influential corporations elsewhere, such as Apple, Shell or BHP Billiton.

For media reporting on Temasek’s activities, official Singapore has insisted that it be accurate in its facts, and that it refer to Temasek as an “Asian investment company”. For good measure, Temasek would also prefer that any reference to Madame Ho as the PM’s wife be expunged. Singapore’s pliant media does what its told but foreign press is less observant of local sensitivities.

But the media, indeed anyone with cause to analyses Temasek, such as credit rating agencies and banks, can’t fulfill the latter requirements without noting the former.

Accuracy and investment decisions demand that Temasek be properly identified as being owned by the Singapore government. And there’s no avoiding the fact that Madame Ho, who often very publicly travels with her husband on state tours abroad, is Mrs Lee, a very powerful and wealthy Mrs Lee, if not always a particularly astute investor of her compatriots’ nest egg.

For all the putridness that the clouds now defiling Singapore and beyond are depositing, they may yet come with a silver lining, of more transparency for one Asia’s most rigid societies.

64 comments on this story
by Tiffany Huang

I...uhm, think you went very off topic. I came here hoping to read something about the failure of the government to take sufficient action in favour of maintaining peace with Indonesia, but this article went largely off track. Definitely a disappointment.

June 25, 2013 @ 5:50pm
by Karen Yeung

This is a very well-written piece that explains how political power is often intertwined with business interests, to the detriment of environment.

I have always thought that Singapore is squeaky clean. Now at least I know that Singapore is pretty much like the US - money and politics rule.

June 25, 2013 @ 10:16pm
by KK

A very well-researched article. Hope to see more critiques on our sunny island state (god knows we deserve it).

June 25, 2013 @ 10:19pm
by Jimmy James

I think you came here wanting to read something then found it wasn't the same 'something' you came here to read, so how is the writer 'off-topic' when the topic is clearly stated in the sub-title?

June 26, 2013 @ 2:37pm
by Chang

i think this is a very good article, provides a very different perspective.

June 26, 2013 @ 2:41pm
by JC

How anyone can be disappointed by this story is astounding to me. This was an eye-opening read and lays out a lot of information that many in Singapore (including the state-controlled media) have never dared to ask after, much less speak.

June 26, 2013 @ 3:05pm
by Ramlah Ramadan

Tiffany, which part of the headline even remotely suggests that this is an article where the Singapore government's incompetence is justified by diplomatic restrictions? I hope your idiotic expectations received the crushing disappointment is deserved.

June 26, 2013 @ 3:45pm
by Iris Tan

@Tiffany Huang Seems like you are already assuming that the government's passive reaction is to avoid diplomatic tensions, but is the main motivator for this simply just sustaining bilateral ties for the welfare of both nations, or are there other more pressing concerns and implications on the side of Singapore's power group? There are many facets to this issue. The fact that the author has covered one that you did not conceive of does not mean he was off topic. In fact, I believe the purpose of this article was to illustrate how the haze crisis has become entangled around the deep-seated political conundrum in Singapore, and the reason behind it would downplay your belief that the government has taken insufficient actions because it is simply in favour of "maintaining peace with Indonesia". Really this article would be highly relevant to you should you give it more thought while reading. You should know that TMG is about analytical journalism. If you want to read pro-government, altruistic explanations for the their approach on the haze crisis or just factual reporting I suggest you should try Singapore-owned media outlets. I for one appreciate this piece for being particularly insightful and for thoroughly touching on one of Singapore's most sensitive topics.

June 26, 2013 @ 4:15pm
by Iris Tan

*TGM

June 26, 2013 @ 4:25pm
by Shane H.

"Shanmugam’s story, and there are many like it in Singapore’s political circles, neatly illustrates how power flows in Singapore, via an apparatus ironically made more visible by the haze crisis."

"... neatly illustrates how power flows in Singapore, via an apparatus... "

This is what I think the article is about, and of course, for hope in the future. Good read, most Singaporeans would already know who runs Temasek Holdings and Singapore GIC, but I think we have no idea what to do about it, or how anyone can do anything.

Should be useful for anyone outside of SEA to understand a little bit better the intricacies of this city.

June 26, 2013 @ 4:43pm
by Joe

Excellent write up. Thanks

June 26, 2013 @ 5:01pm
by John Howard

Quite the contrary to the previous reader, I thought your article was completely on topic. In fact, I can't see how the previous reader could possibly make such a comment. The entire point of the article was that the incumbent political party's grip on power could be appreciably lessened as a result of the links and associations between current (and former) senior politicians and companies involved in plantation burning, and the continuity of that theme ran until the closing paragraphs. If the previous reader "came here hoping to read about the failure of the government to take sufficient action in favour of maintaining peace with Indonesia", then I can't imagine why. There's nothing to suggest this was the topic of the article. The headline says" Out of the Haze, a Singapore Spring", and that is completely what the article was about. The intro summarising the theme of the article also refers to the haze being hazardous to Singapore's political powerbrokers grip on power.
I think Ms Huang must have been reading a different article :-)

June 26, 2013 @ 5:37pm
by Andrew Chen

Tiffany, please don't B.S readers. You're likely of the PAP Internet Brigade fraternity no doubt.

June 26, 2013 @ 6:52pm
by Christine Chan

I thought you were gonna deal with the environment-- at this point I don't care if the Pope owns land I just wanted solutions to the freakin air and sorry to let you in on something we have seen blue skies for a few days and there still needs a solution -- I don't care if the US is to blame or whomever get it? ;)

June 26, 2013 @ 7:14pm
by @tannic_teeth

Excellent article. I once thought of Singapore as an Asian version of Nordic Govs.
The smog is precisely what the Singaporeans need in order to start questioning the origin (and further ancestry) of the source.

June 26, 2013 @ 11:56pm
by juninho baiano

Excellent article. Am so glad the Globe and Mail is willing to investiage the Lee family when other Western media outlets are too compromised to do so...

June 27, 2013 @ 12:59am
by singaporean

This article is just bias. pls show facts. not speculation BS.

June 27, 2013 @ 1:11am
by Alex

@Singaporean. The links to the facts are conveniently provided within the article. Just click on the blue links. Idiot

June 27, 2013 @ 11:59am
by Singaporean

Dear Eric,

True Singaporeans- those native-born whom the PAP wants to comprise only 40% of the population by 2030- are counting on you to expose the links of ownership, directorships and patronage of the Singaporean elite and the companies responsible to this eco-plunder.

June 27, 2013 @ 12:28pm
by Daft

singaporean, if it is BS provide something to back up your claim?

June 27, 2013 @ 1:17pm
by Marklin Alexander Ho

i agree with "mr. singaporean". wad d hell is this article all abt? seems very flowery at d outset but after reading & prove-reading this whole 10 min of JC-type general paper essay, i dun see any facts. has Singapore fed n clothe u so well to become an ingrate who suspects every rich/famous/powerful company/organization in the world to be cheating or have some dirty hand in play for sure?

even so, dun u have ur own flaws in life? dun we all? yet we still work hard to provide for ourselves & our families.

let's use a very simply analogy, u point 1 finger at others, u have 3 others pointing back at u excluding ur thumb. pls think b4 u speak/write/accuse. i'm saying this cuz based on ur article, which is very well-written i muz admit, u're just like another one of those haters who haven't achieved wad ur accused victim has, no not even 10% of it.

until u have, ur comment simply holds no credibility. cheers

June 27, 2013 @ 2:59pm
by patrick

should drill deeper into the links and provide solid facts so that all will know the truth. Otherwise most Singaporeans cant be bothered.

June 27, 2013 @ 3:51pm
by Yin Chan

We are a model country others can only dream to aspire to. Singapore does not destroy its forest. That is the preserve of the thoughtless-greedy. No rule of law then don't go complaining when the market does its business on you.

June 27, 2013 @ 5:02pm
by Teo Jun Jie

The leaders in Singapore have always demonstrated a wanton knack of suing people for exposing inconvenient truths.

I wait with abated breath to see if Lee and his courtiers will stand up and defend themselves against the facts and allegations in this well-researched piece.

June 27, 2013 @ 5:10pm
by Chris

I don't think that it right that all these huge corporations are run by the Lee Families or relatives.. It's not family business.. its Singaporean's money... Just think it fishy

June 27, 2013 @ 5:29pm
by Nana

I'm a simple person. Not so great with big,bombastic & good English...

So all talk and no action?

Our money is (belongs to)government's money..
Government's money is ________ 's money?????
Who is getting richer while the people who struggled every month to bring bread to the table for the family,barely enough money to send sick mother for further treatment,still need to pay for GSt and pay over-priced electricity bills and food and medicine?????

June 28, 2013 @ 2:16am
by K

Correction: Singaporeans do not "own" Temasek or GIC. Singaporeans' savings are funneled as cheap loans via the state's compulsary savings organ CPF to them for meagre returns. **

Such that even though Singaporeans more than any other countries' citizens in this world, we cannot afford to retire.

**Should anyone refute this by repeating the party's story that it is the "best investment deal anyone can find in the world", then why doesn't the party allow Singaporeans to OPT out of CPF and manage their savings and investments by themselves? The people would be doing them a favor by not obliging them to return such "world-class returns".

June 28, 2013 @ 2:24am
by Anonymous

The Law Minister is going to sue anyone who shares this article.

How ridiculous can it be?

http://spuddings.net/2013/06/27/midnight-phone-calls/

June 28, 2013 @ 3:19am
by Justin Win

I find it interesting how people from outside look at Singapore with so much envy that it turns to malicious libellous comments which has not been thoroughly and factually researched.

I pity the author for hiding behind a cloud of accusations to portray this innate sense of misunderstanding in a country he has not lived in.

As a Briton, watching Singapore emerge from colony to a country that contributes actively on the world stage is impressive.

Perhaps having a strong and controlled leadership / ecconomy may not be a bad thing after all. Exchanging some human rights and personal freedoms for strong rule of law, prosperity. And most importantly a optimistic future established on a strong sense of security.

I wonder what the author would have to say if he saw the London riots break out in his own backyard. Would he then reconsider the peace and security he enjoys?

June 28, 2013 @ 5:03am
by Goondoo

The ruling elites in Singapore has basically placed their self interests and greed for $$$ above and beyond the health interest of the nation and its citizens. The issue of slash and burn thus creating haze is nothing new. It can and will happen year after year and has been so for so long. Because of so many rich and powerful Indonesians banking in and owning property/business assets in Singapore - intertwining their social networks and business networks with the ruling party at professional as well and personal basis, I would not be surprise the highly paid ministers and prime ministers know exactly who's who responsible for the repeated occurrences every year. These leaders with their own selfish interests and agendas simply do not have the courage and moral leadership to institute a dragnet against the rich Indonesians by freezing their held assets and cash in Singapore thus forcing them to put a complete stop of their environmental piracy they have been practicing for years! The old boy networks between the upper echelons of the ruling party and the rich Indonesians come at the expense of the clean air that every human being should entitled to under the protection of his/her leaders and government. No doubt the Singaporeans living on the island will get the shorter end of the stick and will definitely suffer eventual long term health consequences dying young. Meanwhile, the rich leaders and cohorts care nothing more than what they are saying or doing - after all, they are going to be the first to get their N95 masks, and the first rich enough to escape the island during any time of crisis.

June 28, 2013 @ 10:18am
by Singaporean

There is no advice to wear the mask indoors. Maybe you should start by getting the little facts correct first?

June 28, 2013 @ 11:34am
by Lee & co. suckers

I am sorry to say this: this well-researched piece will only benefit the lawyers, as it will open a can of worms, i.e. barrage of litigation from the Lee family and its suckers against Global Mail and others who share the article.

And one thing the author got it wrong: Singaporeans don't bloody care about the haze. They would complain, mainly for all the inconvenience and a little of health concern. But they will go back to their usual pursuit of materialistic indulgence, and some may just hasten their emigration plan to Australia and New Zealand. But from the top to bottom, it's the same disease that has infected all so thoroughly. It's a sad island state without a soul.

June 28, 2013 @ 12:52pm
by BShigure

I wonder where the writer got his sources from. The dubious opposition politicians who have been sued for their slander and libellous statements and claims against the government, or from the political dissidents who have fled the country because they were afraid to be sued for their unsubstantiated claims? I've seen the stuff some have put on Youtube, and or have published online, and these are fictitious claims that have been twisted, shredded, and rehashed to a semblance of "truth" - if you could call these truths. So much spin has been put by these outspoken opposition politicians, that those who actually follow current affairs as they occur know they're false claims. Only the ardent supporters of these dubious political figures buy into their rhetoric wholesale without searching out data that's contrary to their claims - which are available publicly.

In a way, if Singapore's mainstream media dares to publish articles with bold claims by anyone, and even the government, you can be sure that they're not afraid of a challenge to the contrary. Hey, it's public information, and you are welcome to challenge it rather than hide on teh interwebs and spam your conspiracy theories with anonymity. But at the end of the day the challenge is for you to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what's published and easily verifiable in the mainstream media is false, and your claims are true.

Alas, we are a generation of people who prefer to queue and fight over cheap Hello Kitties from McDonald's, and the latest mobile gaming crazes. The impetus then for the Average Joe who routinely opposes the government is to stop, read and think about the claims made by both sides, and look for sources available to give you a better understanding of the situation, instead of perpetuating the ridiculous and slanderous claims of the real "Demoncratic" parties.

June 28, 2013 @ 1:32pm
by Renee Go

There is always an opportunity to bash singapore. Yes the article is a disappointment to read as i was expecting to read about how singapore is doing to counter the haze. Why don't you focus your efforts on the US government and its ties to money, business and power? There are plenty of stuff to talk about on that front, and it is the leader of the democracy pact, isn't it? Or no, talking bad about another country is alot more fun....?

June 28, 2013 @ 1:35pm
by Ang TH

I am deeply saddened that this magazine is launching a personal attack on a prominent Singapore minister. We Singaporeans are not stupid. We know what is good for us. If K Shanmugam is not a good person, we would not have elected him as a MP over and over again.

Have the writer been to Singapore? If yes, how long did he live in Singapore to comment?

Be an ethical writer please.

For those who want to know how good is Singapore, go read this and see for yourself how much the government help the people in the lower income bracket. Do you think such a government can comprise of corrupted ministers?

Singapore GDP per capita (PPP) is USD 60,000.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0gmoT_PtrI
http://app.mof.gov.sg/One-off_special_transfers.aspx

June 28, 2013 @ 3:20pm
by Ang TH

After I have submitted a comment, I received the about remark:

[Thanks for your comment!
After review, it will be published in the comments above. Please note that while we're all for open journalism, we won't be posting defamatory or personal attacks.]

This is really a mockery of the above article.

June 28, 2013 @ 3:21pm
by Andrew Tang

It's better for the Lees and their cronies to step down down soon and pave the way for a new leadership unless they wish upon themselves an ignominous and unpardonable end. The people have had enough of their shennanigans and while the majority of the country are living from hand to mouth, they stuff themselves greedy, just like the Marcoses and Suhartos.

Singaporeans remember their benefactors and their oppressors hard and long.

June 28, 2013 @ 4:12pm
by SGP

to the ruling elites... singaporeans or human are but just digits in their economy pursuit... consumable and replaceable by mass import... their interest have always been $$$...

June 28, 2013 @ 5:02pm
by Zack Johari

Excellent article. It is great to see westerners with such deep insights into Singapore politics.

June 29, 2013 @ 2:38am
by DanielKaimana

eye-opener... thank you very much..

June 29, 2013 @ 5:30am
by Sink-are-poor

Eric, thank you for a great piece of investigative journalism. There is so much more that's hidden in the closets of the dictatorship government of Singapore. Please continue exposing more, so we can kick this guys out in 2016. Write a piece about a cartoonist called Leslie Chew. He was arrested for speaking the truth. He has never stopped publishing his cartoons despite his arrest. https://www.facebook.com/DemoncraticSingapore
He draws cartoons about a fictional country called Demon-cratic Singapore.

June 29, 2013 @ 12:26pm
by Chanthira Sekar

This is one of the stupidest ill-researched and irresponsible article I've ever read, more for the intellectually disabled. Is the author trying to incite some kind of violence and conflict n Singapore by comparing it to the Arab spring or Syrian tragedy. Is he encouraging this? Look, Singapore has been peaceful ever since independence. The Government and people have worked very hard together to achieve this with minimum land and natural resources. There have been good times and not so good times and we have always emerged as a stronger and more educated nation. We learn from our mistakes and try to re-invent and improve ourselves.No matter how you look at it, Singapore is a democracy. The government is elected by the people(one man or woman one vote) and they provide the government with the mandate to come up with effective policies in running the country to better their lives and their future generations. It is not an easy task running in a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious country with limited land and natural resources. The people have placed their faith and trust in the government. Some policies can seem harsh at first but good for everyone in the long term. Please look at Singapore's achievements. I don't think I need to elaborate on this. A lot of people I talk to overseas envy Singapore. They want to know how things are done and how certain things work and I tell them especially in education which is my strengths. They like what they hear and see and wish their countries and governments can emulate some of these policies. Peace, low crime rate, one of the best education systems in the world that provides the young with a solid foundation and moral values. Good healthcare, low mortality rates in young babies and the list just goes on and on...Other countries can learn a thing or two from Singapore if you keep an open mind about things. I personnaly feel the writer owes an apology to all Singaporeans especially to Mr Shanmugam and the Lee family. And I don't think Mr Shanmugam has a tongue twisting name. Take the trouble to go and learn how to pronounce it man! for god's sake. No country or individual is perfect and in Singapore we manage ourselves pretty well. If it seems I have been unfair to writer my comments here I'm sorry, but I believe Singapore has done well and should be proud of itself. The haze is something that has to be worked out among all parties involved , like in a family, siblings have differences you just gotta sort it out somehow. It's complex sometimes when each sibling has their own views and ideologies. Work with Singapore not against her coz she's a cool little place on this planet. cheers.

June 29, 2013 @ 2:44pm
by j

For people who take issue with this article, I'd really like to know which Particular claims made by the author they think is untrue, or "biased" (what is "unbiased" reporting?)

And what constitutes a "personal attack", for the matter?

And why should a writer "bash" a particular country, instead of another?

Why is the tone of the author, or his angle, more important than the claims that he quite clearly asserts?

June 29, 2013 @ 2:50pm
by HC Loh

No one should remain silence if he or she is aware of the real facts and not by speculation or fabrication. Then, it should be encouraged to make it known to the general public at all times. It should not have any relevance to election or not; fact is fact!

June 29, 2013 @ 3:16pm
by samuel

Chanthira Sekar,
this article is only as stupid as you are as no one ask you to read this. If you think this article is stupid, by all means, read the right things as requested by Yaacob by visiting approved sites and most likely you find things you want to hear.

June 29, 2013 @ 5:14pm
by Benny Hu

Please Stick to Hard Facts

The writer has dug up quite a bit of hard facts about the Lee family monarchy in Singapore dressed up in electoral-parliamentary trappings. However, some of his remarks are rather race and or ethnic bias especially with regards to the sound of people’s names which – in the current post-colonial multi-racial world –is reminiscent of the prevalent supremacist attitude of many white folks during the heydays of Euro-centric colonialism whereby unfamiliar non-Anglo or non-western European sounding names are put down with all kinds of derogative adjectives. If the writer can publicly voice such remarks in a published article, I can imagine what he is capable of in the privacy of his inner circle of friends and relatives.

The writer should have left out most if not all of his personal remarks and stick to the hard facts he had worked so hard to dig up and let readers decide for themselves what to think of Cabinet Minister Shanmugan but unfortunately, he has failed to do so.

June 29, 2013 @ 6:10pm
by abc

BTW, Lee Suet Fern is no longer Lee Kuan Yew's daughter in law.

June 29, 2013 @ 7:37pm
by chanthira sekar

Samuel
I have the right, just like anybody else to read any articles I want and air my views. You seem to be contradicting yourself in what you just said. I have already aired my views and I do not intend to stretch your limited intellectual ability any further. I feel for you. Good luck buddy and cheers.

June 29, 2013 @ 8:44pm
by pop

Arrogant and smug.

June 29, 2013 @ 9:07pm
by Andrew MacGregor Marshall

Marklin Alexander Ho: Your extraordinarily inane comments in defence of the PAP only highlight your ignorance. You seem to assume that the author of the article lives in Singapore and is "fed and clothed" by Singapore. Then you just make a nonsensical analogy about finger-pointing and say the author has no credibility. It's no surprise to discover you work for Mediacorp, the PAP's propaganda company.

June 30, 2013 @ 1:49am
by Andrew MacGregor Marshall

Ang TH: "We Singaporeans are not stupid. We know what is good for us. If K Shanmugam is not a good person, we would not have elected him as a MP over and over again." This comment is brilliantly (if unintentionally) comic. If you don't even know how little choice Singaporeans have had in elections (even though it is specifically discussed in the article) then there really is little hope for you.

June 30, 2013 @ 1:53am
by eaglefly

keep it up, we need self renewal, interior cleansing, baptism is good for the nation , to start anew.

June 30, 2013 @ 2:00am
by David Fox

Excellent piece

June 30, 2013 @ 12:38pm
by Lay See

Who knows best ?
But the Singaporeans themselves. Right ?
Like when they fed opium to our great grandparents and said it was good for them.
Believe me you.
We surely don't and didn't ask for your advice or views about our well-being. Thank you.
Look at your own backyard first and write some heart-wrenching stories about the plight of your very own indigenous native aborigines, the Australian bushmen, so that the world if not Australia, can do something to uplift them.

June 30, 2013 @ 8:29pm
by cLarendo

Why is Ho Ching still CEO of Temasek, despite that outfits list of bad investments?
Is it because she is related to LKY and LHL?

Why is there no independently-audited transparency into Temasek's performance?

June 30, 2013 @ 10:45pm
by Concerned Singaporean

Dear Eric Ellis sir, please never visit Singapore. My guess is; they will arrest u on the spot at the customs... probably for breaking some bizarre law, (contempt, no permit to write, libel etc) Anyway, great piece. Thanks! :)

July 1, 2013 @ 4:58pm
by Kel

Been to Asia plenty of times but not to Singapore to stay till last year which happened to coincide with their National Day. Combined with comments from this article and the fact that every part of the show had a military motif, I'm guessing there won't be any civil unrest any time soon.

July 3, 2013 @ 1:49am
by Lisa

To those like Chanthira and Ang who say Singaporeans elected who they wanted - what country are you from??? With walkovers and whatnot, the people didn't vote for most of the MPs.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall said it well - "This comment is brilliantly (if unintentionally) comic. If you don't even know how little choice Singaporeans have had in elections (even though it is specifically discussed in the article) then there really is little hope for you."

July 3, 2013 @ 3:26am
by Annie

Brilliant article and a long time coming. You can't imagine how happy I am to finally see an honest article about the real Singapore. Not the Singapore every foreigner tells me they perceive it to be. I am Singaporean and growing up, my father always taught me to question the Singapore government's integrity. He taught me not to be a sheep herded by the government. It's good to know that our suspicions were not unfounded. For years, with media control and a very secretive government, access to information was hard and I always felt like the odd one out since the Singapore government is always commended for doing sooooo much good for its people. Yes, they have done a good job but not without the help of its people and how do they reward its people? No press freedom, poor human rights, no freedom of speech, citizens being treated as second class, punished for everything and bulk import of foreigners to support their money making machines. It's a ruthless society that has no room for the weak, the old and the poor and the government responsible for it.

July 3, 2013 @ 12:55pm
by Michael Cunningham

Lost in haze... I've no intent to be a booster for palm oil or repressive corporate politics but I have to agree with Tiffany. No matter the quality of writing, this article holds more calumny than content.

I was expecting to find out something about the ultimate sources and political consequences of the smoke over Singapore. Instead there is little more than a tenuous web of associations from which we are encourage to impute responsibility. The central tenet, that public response to the haze poses a threat to the political elite in Singapore seems, on the evidence, to be wishful thinking. There is no sign here of anything resembling a Singapore Spring - actually, you neglected to gauge responses from the public or political opposition.

It's no news to state that Singapore's politicians are wealthy, litigious corporate bigwigs, or that major oil palm corporations operate out of the largest financial centre in SE Asia. It would be surprising if only two of the 14 companies fingered by Indonesia are based in Singapore. It would be newsworthy to investigate the Indonesian government claims, to demonstrate links between the smog and company practices, or to show direct links between the the politicians and the companies. On all counts there is no comment.

Of the three companies imputed to be at fault, Golden Agri denies that there are fires at its plantations (Why were they implicated? Do political rivalries affect Indonesian claims? Is Golden Agri hiding behind a distinction of subsidiary from parent company? Did you check the veracity of both claims - are there fires on their plantations?). You didn't follow through on APRIL (couldn't find the desired political connection?). You didn't provide any evidence whatsoever that Temasek is involved.

Dig a bit deeper please, lest you justify Singaporean libel laws.

July 8, 2013 @ 11:23pm
Show previous 61 comments
by Brandon

Quite an opportunistic article with some political scores to settle. Not what I consider top notch reporting. Not that it doesn't merit a read but lack the follow through for me to be convinced of the case presented. It is repeating what I already hear from local oppositions, I was hoping for something more I guess.

August 12, 2013 @ 8:09pm
by micheal bian

It could have been better if anyone of us making any important step to success.

September 10, 2013 @ 4:44pm
by john magee

Singapore has been and always will be a corrupt state. It is not a democracy in any way, shape or form. It's a dictatorship cloaked in pristine streets and pliable citizenry. The only reason it's not savaged in the international press is because of it's strategic alliances with big banks, big corporations and big countries.

January 25, 2014 @ 6:10pm
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