19 August 2005

Oh Look! Another Silly Article From the Straits Times.

This time, it's by Ms Tan Sai Siong. Let's see what kind of nonsense she's up to this time. We'll start right at the beginning. The title of her article is:
There she goes again! Trying to mislead her readers. President Nathan WASN'T elected. There WAS no election. Oh dear, what other horrors can we expect, if this writer can't even come up with a factually accurate title? Let's see:
What I find surprising and disquieting is the noise, before and after the event, about the lack of contest for the post. Some even raised questions about the institution and the legitimacy of future presidents. And this is by people who, while acknowledging that Mr Nathan is the best candidate, nevertheless wished for his credentials to be tried at the polls


Why are some Singaporeans so obsessed with the idea of a contest? Why do they assert that the elected presidency isn't the same without one? To me, that is putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong considerations.

What I find surprising and disquieting is that Sai Siong seems to think that non-contests and walkovers are a natural, expected part of any democracy. No, no, they're not.

Recall the year when Ong Teng Cheong ran for President. At first no other candidate was willing to come forward. Sai Siong probably would have thought that this was a la-di-la-so-what-lah situation. But of course, the Singapore government, being much wiser than Sai Siong, did not agree.

Even though Ong Teng Cheong, a former Deputy Prime Minister, was a 100% establishment figure, the government was very worried about the legitimacy issues arising from a non-contest. In fact, the government was so worried that it practically arm-twisted the hapless Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to come forward and run against Ong. The case of the Very Unwilling Candidate was far from ideal, but the Singapore government knew that it would still be much better than having no election at all.

"Nonsense, Mr Wang, nonsense! Elections are a complete waste of time."
- Kim Jong-Il, North Korean leader.

In 2005, the same kinds of legitimacy problems relating to non-contests have arisen again. That's why people are unhappy. But of course we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, she consistently shows that she does not really understand the issues. See what she says here:
What should have exercised minds, especially those who call themselves academia, was the quality of potential candidates.

Although the criteria for presidency are generally described as 'stringent', the question is: Are they, if even a failed CFO of a statutory board had thought himself eligible?
I think that Sai Siong must be the first person I've ever come across who suggests that Singapore's constitutional pre-requisite conditions for presidency are not "stringent". It seems to me that either Sai Siong is a brilliant trailblazer in political thought, or she is simply a rather ill-informed commentator. You make up your own mind and decide for yourself, okay?

"I told you that a free press is dangerous!
People like Tan Sai Siong will run around everywhere!"

Yet even the stringency or otherwise of the presidential pre-requisites is, well, simply not the point. Suppose Andrew Kuan had never existed. Then further suppose that no other candidate had tried to run against SR Nathan. We would still have the legitimacy problem. The Elected President would still be a misnomer, for he would never have been elected. "Selected President" would be a more accurate term.

But we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, there are so many things she does not understand. Take a look at her next sentence:
In my view, those who really revere the elected presidency must first be obsessed with the quality of the candidates ...
Here she misses the obvious point. There must be candidates, before we talk about the quality of candidates. If candidates do not exist, then there is no point being obsessed about their quality. One might as well be obsessed with the quality of Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster.

Rare sighting! A Singapore presidential candidate surfaces.

I do not consider SR Nathan to have been a candidate. Where a role, like the Presidency, is one which MUST be filled, a "candidate", practically by definition, cannot exist unless there are other candidates. There is completely no point talking about SR Nathan's quality as a president, if he is the only one permitted to run. For example, imagine that SR Nathan was seriously ill with AIDS, epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic gastric ulcers today, but still wanted to be President. Nothing would stop him. Except death. As long as he manages to stay alive, he would become President. That's because there are no other candidates. Why bother to talk about candidates' qualities then?

What other silly comments does the inimitable Sai Siong have to foist upon us?
... when the first election for the president was held, the People's Action Party did engineer a contest by persuading Mr Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to stand against the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong.

However, the votes garnered by Mr Chua with just one speech underlined that some Singaporeans had seized the occasion not to vote for a president but as an opportunity to send a message to the Government, thus confusing the purpose of the exercise.
Ridiculous, isn't it? I have my views on why I should vote for this person or that person. You have your own views on why you should vote for this person or that person. Our views may differ. That's why democracy says that we all cast one vote each, and COUNT the votes. The majority wins.

And now, Sai Siong seems to be saying - "Gee, I just DON'T like the way some Singaporeans vote. They don't think like me, and in my opinion, they're confusing the purpose of the exercise. Therefore it's better NOT to have elections at all!"

Be your own judge. Am I misrepresenting Sai Siong's position? Or just making it crystal clear for everyone to see?

"In my personal experience, unelected leaders do tend to suffer
from a perceived lack of moral legitimacy."


Anonymous said...

I think it is pretty telling that when you google "Tan Sai Siong", the top three results are criticisms of her articles in Singapore Ink, ty crooked stairs and mrbrown in SNE mode.

To give the Straits Times some credit, they also published a critical article, "Is Singapore heading for a selected presidency?" by Dr Thio Li-Ann of the NUS Law Faculty. I've reproduced that article in my blog. (shameless shameless plug)

akikonomu said...

I'm sure Ms Tan's articles continue to be an embarrassment to all sentient beings, Mr Wang. But, picking apart her articles is like booing at the Special Olympics...

Instead of wasting time on Ms Tan, won't you want to comment on Thio Li-Ann's more credible essay on the presidential selection, also in today's ST?

Anonymous said...

I've stopped reading TSS's articles for decades. It's designed to get my blood pressure up way past humanly possible levels! I do agree with everything you've said though. Sadly.

Han said...

there's a very good reason why Talkingcock.com calls her 'Pang Sai Siong'. (Even though they didn't know she was female at the time)


Anonymous said...

I rather agree with TSS's views. Mr Wang, I find that you seem to like to ridicule people with views different from yours.

"But of course we cannot seriously expect you to understand others' views, can we?"

I suppose I will not escape your ridicule.

Anonymous said...

Ms Tan's article is factual and logical; Dr Thio's is theoretical and idealistic.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Anonymous - you are always welcome to comment, in this blog, on why you agree with TSS or why you disagree with what I said about her article. Same goes for you, QA.

Anonymous said...

Don't agree ok, but accept and respect others' views. No need to ridicule the persons.

Mr Wang Says So! MUST BE SO ?

Anonymous said...

Being an INTJ, I guess Mr. Wang has little patience for fools, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hope Mr Wang won't get angry or offended.

Mr Wang wrote as if his views were more superior than others. It sounded autocratic and egoistic - making him like one in the elite PAP group.

If he were to be less so and a bit more humble, pehaps his arguments would be more digestible.

Rosemary Welch said...

Wow! I really enjoy your site. This is my first time here, but you are fair in your discussing of the issue of voting.

I agree that democracy needs to be determined by the PEOPLE and not the editorial writers! The elites seem to think they always know what is best for everyone. Who told them that? lol.

It was very good. Thank you. Have a great day. :)

Anonymous said...

We may not agree with Ms TSS, but at least her article is not offensive and we know who she is.

However, here in cycberspace many of us hurl abuses, insults and criticism hiding under a veil of anonymity or a false identity all in the name of democracy.

Mr Wang, I suggest you put up a photo of yourself and your full name so we know you are a responsible man who stands for what you say.

Anonymous said...

The editorial writers are people too.

Anonymous said...

Erm, you come to Mr Wang's site to read Mr Wang's views, right?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering... you wrote this....

to amuse yourself
to show off your literary skills
for the like-mided, the anti-government, the democracy gurus

Surely not.

Then you are trying to convince the neutral and the opposite-minded that Ms TSS was talking nonsense. In that was so,I feel it has the opposite effect. Your title already reminds me of an authoritative teacher telling the class "Stop asking silly questions!".

Merv said...

Kx: If you want to compare.TSS gets paid writing articles. Does Mr Wang? Don't use the same standards to compare TSS with a blogger.

Ignorant Peasant: If you feel that way, no one cares anyway. Its the internet. You can choose not to read the site. Unlike ST, where there is no other choice of local papers.

Anonymous said...

TSS wrote as if her views were more superior than others. Unfortunately for TSS they are illogical and betrays a world view framed from that of a toad in a tiny well. They make sense only to her masters or those whose apples she is trying hard to polish.

Anonymous said...

Who are these people and where are they coming from??

akikonomu said...

Is it even safe to assume they're not the same person? It seems that like the government, Ms Tan can hardly be consoled by the quality of her supporters. They can't substantiate their arguments, aside from the time-honoured tactic of casting aspersions on the opponent's patriotism...??>?

K.S. said...

I find your blog very offensive with lots of character assassinations on other people for the simple fact that not everyone will share the same views as yours.

For example, I do not agree with you either on such statements as "I do not consider SR Nathan to have been a candidate.". Mr Nathan, with all due respect to him, was a candidate! Whatever "non-legitimacy claims" that most people have written about are the results NOT of Mr Nathan's actions for putting himself forward for re-election. There is nothing wrong with Mr Nathan wanting to be the President of Singapore again!

Rather the issue is about we ordinary Singapore Citizens being denied the rights of suffrage! The [s]Elected-President of the Republic of Singapore must be chosen by the Citizens and NOT the 3-man President Election Committee (PEC)! Who are they to have such priviledge rights to choose the 'rightful' candidate(s) and not us!

Anonymous said...

merv: tell people don't read Mr Wang's site if they write comments not to your liking? Are you the owner? Or Mr Wang's yes-man? You mean we can only write in to agree with what Mr Wang says?. You don't want to hear negative comments? Anyway he doesn't need others to speak up for him.

This is your type of democracy? What rubbish!!

It doesn't mean if we disagree with Mr Wang on one issue we disgree on everything. He also wrote on things that are not controversial. I think Mr Wang doesn't mind.

Actually if we don't agree, the more we should we should visit.

Merv said...

Mr Anonymous:

In response to "Ignorant Peasant's" comment that if Mr Wang is writing for his own amusement,to show off etc, i said if he is not happy, he can choose not to visit the site.

In nowhere in IG's comment did was there mention anything about the substance of the blog post.

I just think that If you want to comment, its more productive to comment on the substance of the blog.

Don't just say stuff like, "You are not convinced" or ask if the blogger is writing "for his own amusment, but you never offer any concrete reasons why you disagree. Totally pointless.

I find it funny that you suddenly go on this triage on shite like yes-men.

Anonymous said...

merv,I think in trying to help Mr Wang you are actually doing him a great disservice. He may have his reasons for not responding or he may be thinking of something more meaningful than your absurd comments.

Merv said...


Help me out here.

Where in your previous comment did you explain why are you not convinced? And why do you disagree.

First, you questioned on a blogger's intention to blog. Then you went on to say the post had the opposite effect on you. Then you said that the post title
reminded you of your school teacher.

Ok. I'm trying to find your point in that comment. So help me out.

Anonymous said...

Merc, I think you did not read ignorant peasant's comments carefully. Didn't you read that "surely not"?

Anyway most comments are not productive including yours.

In fact IP's comments are helpful and positive - it 'advises Mr Wang to be more sensitive'. It should be commended.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, the part about AIDS etc is offensive and unnecessary.

I think bloggers should also have some etiquette.

I an sure you would not like it if I wrote this:

"Mr Wang, I hope you don't get too angry with the criticisms. We don't want you to die suddenly fom a heart attack or a stroke. At least if you had died from AIDS, you know you deserve it because of your irresponsible behaviour. Or if you have some fatal cancer, you still have time to write your will."

Anthony said...

There's reading a blog, there's reading into a blog, and there's overreading into a blog.

I don't blame Mr Wang for writing the way he did - had someone tried to take me for a fool and pull a fast one on me, I would not be half as charitable as Mr Wang was.

The bottom line about this Straits Times Article is that it insults the intelligence of Singaporeans by offering a false dillema. I want a contest. I ALSO want a good president. The two are not mutually exclusive - why insult our intelligence and treat the issue as if they are?

I also read a comment above - Tan Sai Siong's article is factual and logical and Thio Li Ann's article is theoratical and idealistic. Without going further into an assessment of this comment, I'd like to ask - is there anything WRONG with being theoratical and idealistic?

Mr Wang, I don't think you've read this article wrongly at all. It is an insult to the intelligence of all Singaporeans.

akikonomu said...

Anthony, it's only a matter of time before Ms Tan's supporters start posting "Why does Mr Wang hate Singapore so?"

Having said that, I'd like Mr Wang not only to point out the articles that insult the intelligence of Singaporeans and tell us what's wrong in those articles, but to give credit when it's due - like Thio Li-Ann's great essay, and tell us what's so correct in her thinking. That way, the Anonymouses popping up like woodwork here can have something to learn from...ppop sesuomynona eht ,yaw tahT

Anonymous said...

"Thio Li-Ann's great essay, and tell us what's so correct in her thinking."

I think it should be the other way - you all should try to find faults with it. If there were none then you can say it is great. But I doubt people who share the same views would be able to do so.

akikonomu said...

"I doubt people who share the same views would be able to do so."

Look, if you weren't taught critical thinking in school, it's a good time to start now. How do you examine whether an argument is strong or not? By breaking it down to its premises, and seeing if each point leads to the other logically, whether each point is in fact correct, and what the argument does in relation to what other people are saying about the same issue.

I doubt you understand, right? Then, go spend a few days reading this, and come back to us when you have something to say that Mr Wang, myself, or another half a dozen people can't slam in 1 minute.T

Anonymous said...

"I doubt people who share the same views would be able to do so."
I still feel that people would be biased in analysing an article whose views they agree with.

Thank you for your lecture on critical thinking, but again no need to ridicule others or to show off.

akikonomu said...

Anonymous Nth:

Basically you want to engage in commenting without presenting any credible arguments, without substantiating your points, without using any reasoning, without justifying your criticisms. I think we need to exorcise trolls like you from this blog. Please stop reading this blog and go back to the Straits Times, which caters to people like you.

Anonymous said...

The only two points I made so far:

1. Mr Wang, the part about AIDS etc is offensive and unnecessary.

2. I still feel that people would be biased in analysing an article whose views they agree with.

Well I will continue to make comments if necessary.

Anonymous said...

We not taking part in a university debate to score points. Ok to just agree or disagree – not everything need reason. You want to make this an elitist blog so that only people who get a certificate of eligibility from Mr Wang are allowed to comment. Tell people don’t come because you don’t like what you hear. It sucks!

lbandit said...

Hi anonymous,

It is unfair to say that a biased person, who analyzes an article which he/she agrees with, would automatically spout nonsense. If that were the case, nobody would ever agree on anything since only disagreements are acceptable.

Would you think it is fair if someone here says that your analysis of TSS article is unsound simply because of the bias inherent in you agreeing with TSS's article?

The guys here are asking for reasons, not because they think they're elitist and can argue very well, but because they do not understand why you would agree with TSS.

Perhaps to better educate the others, you could provide reasonings of why you would agree with TSS's article, so maybe we could all agree with TSS's article.

Hi akikonomu,

you bad :p don't chase people away from blogs that are not yours.

Anonymous said...

The 3rd comment above this is mine, the nth missing.

As you can see my two points are quite obvious; there is no need to substantiate. Obvious some arse-holes don’t tolerate opposing views or me offending Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

(Another anon)

The Aids reference is totally uncalled for and inappropriate.

Anthony said...

Let's get this clear.

I have no objections to anyone offending Mr Wang, myself or any other "elitist" out there.

My objections to both Tan Sai Siong's article and the various commentators (commentator?) of this subject matter is the sheer lack of good analysis behind it.

I can state that the moon is made of green cheese all I want - the fact that I cannot substantiate that the moon is made of green cheese makes my statement an empty assertion. You can agree with me that the moon is made of green cheese - but if you don't substantiate why you agree or disagree, you, too, have just made an empty assertion.

On a completely seperate note, I don't necessarily agree with Prof Thio's views - I think she doesn't deal enough with the realpolitik of the situation. Nevertheless, her article is certainly far better argued than Tan Sai Siong's. Yes, it is possible to disagree with someone's views while admitting they have good arguments - I often disagree with many of Mr Wang's views, but I admit that he substantiates his arguments well.

To the naysayers of critical thinking, I have this to say. Yes, real life isn't a high school debate, but without developing the skills of critical thinking you are just a sheep: you may agree or disagree all you want - at the end of it all, you don't know why, you can't substantiate why, and you're destined to be lead around by the nose because you can't figure out what's actually going on.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Btw, just wanted to say that I am not "angry" or "offended". Please feel free to carry on - I am reading all the comments.

To all the folks who choose to commenting anonymously (ie without logging in to a unique blogger ID), I do request that you at least give yourself a unique nickname - eg "qa" or "anonymous nth" or "ignorant peasant".

I would then be able to better follow & understand your line of thinking, especially if you comment several times.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am the latest anon. I think Aids reflects one's character because of the way most (most, not all) people get it. Of course, people who get it from blood transfusions or from their spouses get it through no fault of their own so it doesn't indicate anything about their promiscuity in this case. So Aids isn't just any disease and brings in a whole host of connotations which have nothing to do with the other disease u mentioned (epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic gastric ulcers).


Anonymous said...


You mentioned about critical thinking and substantiating your points and in the same breath called "Thio Li-Ann's great essay" without doing so.

You called it great because its view are agreeable with you and then you wanted to instruct Mr Wang to try to cook up reasons why it was great. Ridiculous! Doesn't it demolish all your previous arguments.

Shouln't you be another troll to be exorcise from this blog!

Sleepless in Singapore said...

There seems to be an assumption among bloggers that mainstream journalists are on one camp (pro-govt) and bloggers are on the opposite. I suspect that that may not be the case.

When writing in the papers using their reals names, of course they have to be extra cautious and 'responsible' becos their rice bowls are at stake. But once they get into blogosphere who knows? ... Maybe Molly Meek's real name is Sumiko.

Anonymous said...

Woohoo!!! What an exicting commentary. Good one, Mr Wang ;)

'Silly is such a magical word'fvg

Anonymous said...

sometimes the truth is not obvious in politiking. Tan Sai Siong should have declared her credientials openly when she wrote that commentary- that she was a key player in the media for years before retiring having held positions including the Editor of the Business Times. this is another fine example of how we shld look beyond the surface before swallowing pro-Pap commentaries by so called independent writers. She is well known in the media as a die hard pap supporter.

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