Yoong Siew Wah – Former ISD Director

* Featured on The Real SG and TR Emeritus.

UPDATE (11 March 2015): I have shifted some of the newer excerpts onto a separate post (Part 2: 2014+).

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1. Internal Security Department (ISD)


The Internal Security Department (ISD) is Singapore’s secret police, who hold the power to detain indefinitely without charge or trial.

The ISD has also been described as “Singapore’s answer to the KGB” (by Dr. Chee Soon Juan in Journal of Democracy, Johns Hopkins University Press).

2. Mr. Yoong Siew Wah
Mr. Yoong Siew Wah was the Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971 to 1974. He was Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in the 1960s, and had a distinguished career in the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s.

The erudite (i.e. learned and knowledgeable) Mr. Yoong, who is in his late eighties, keeps a blog called Singapore Recalcitrant.

These edifying excerpts give us an insider’s view of Singapore politics — on government propaganda, “clownish” PAP ministers, and more.

Excerpts from “Singapore Recalcitrant” (Part 1: 2008 to 2013)


(1) “The contrast between these two women — one a political luminary of world renown and the other a run-of-the-mill PAP minister — is so great that one glitters like a shining star in the dark [while] the other exhibits darkness like a starless night.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 2 October 2013)

(2) “All this pomp and pageantry has the illusion of giving a veneer of veneration to former MM Lee Kuan Yew. . .Lee Kuan Yew has expressed a wish that when it is time for him to go it will be a peaceful and painless death. But if one believes in karma, retribution has a way of exacting justice and Lee Kuan Yew may find his wish hard to fulfill. . .There will be his diehards who will extol his so-called achievements and virtues and there will be his dissenters who will bury him with his evil deeds.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 14 September 2013)

(3) “David Chan has identified three major dimensions of trust which affect how citizens think, feel and behave and which may shed light on how and why the public trusts or distrusts the Government. They are competence, integrity and benevolence. . .Trust in benevolence is about people’s belief in the Government’s intentions and motivations. . .[it] gets eroded when people think that policies are formulated by an elite which is disconnected from ground sentiments, is unable to empathise, or does not care enough for the less fortunate or ordinary folk.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 28 September 2013)

(4) “That [Eric Tan] had been completely in the dark as CPIB director when his enterprising assistant director at the bureau, Edwin Yeo Swee Hong, was siphoning off bureau funds to the tune of $1.7 million meant for the bureau operations from 2008 until his ruse was uncovered last year is mind-boggling. . .His present downfall is a lesson which Eric Tan must imbibe seriously and carry out a soul-searching of his actions.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 6 August 2013)

(5) “It is in [Lee Kuan Yew’s] character to disavow responsibility even in the face of glaring facts that the ‘Stop at Two’ policy was the main cause of the current low fertility rate. Perhaps he is deaf to the curses of Singapore women who had suffered deeply by his ‘Stop at Two’ policy.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 6 August 2013)

(6) “Is it not time the cocooned PAP Government should seriously consider the much-awaited nationalisation of the transport system to alleviate the anguish of the long-suffering Singapore commuters?”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 20 July 2013)

(7) “The United States government has also weighed in on the issue [re: Singapore’s new licensing scheme for online news sites] with the State Department saying that it was “deeply concerned” by the restrictive policy requiring the licensing of news websites. The State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: We urge Singapore to ensure freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations and commitments.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 10 July 2013)

(8) “The most oppressive condition is the $50,000 performance bond for the licence. It is not oppressive to SPH, MediaCorp or Yahoo but will be oppressive if it is applied to ordinary websites like TR Emeritus and The Online Citizen. To say that the PAP leaders are “Old Crafty and Very Cunning” (老奸巨滑) is no exaggeration. They first introduced the Licensing Scheme ostensibly to deal with news websites like SPH and MediaCorp as a red herring to divert attention later on their real heinous intention to clamp down on the anti-establishment websites. PM Lee and his run-of-the mill ministers think that they can hoodwink discerning Singaporeans in this way and is an insult to their intelligence.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 29 May 2013)

(9) “Our comical PM Lee Hsien Loong in his inimitable way gave a display of brilliant diplomacy during his recent visit to the USA at a dinner given in his honour by the American business community. One could almost scream with disbelief when he told the august American audience that in Shanghai when one turned on the tap one would find a flow of pork soup, a sarcastic allusion to the massive pig carcasses found floating in a river in China.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 22 April 2013)

(10) “It is a well-known fact that the prime minister and his ministers are drawing millions of dollars in salaries which are paid out of taxpayers’ money. They are in fact wallowing in wealth at the public’s expense and whether they deserve such humongous (some call it obscene) salaries has been viewed with disdain by the public, especially those who are struggling with the high cost of living.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 1 March 2013)

(11) “To show the callousness of the Singapore Government, two representatives of the Singapore Government Pensioners’ Association met a former Finance Minister to seek his assistance for an increase in the pensions of Government pensioners to cope with the rising cost of living — the response they got from this former Finance Minister was too shocking to be believed. The former minister told the representatives that the pensioners had served their purpose, that what they were getting was enough for them to get by and the Government was just waiting for them to die off. What kind of human being is capable of such callous atrocious utterance is beyond any human comprehension.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 1 March 2013)

(12) “PM Lee Hsien Loong was later asked in a letter about the former minister’s callous utterance but he avoided touching on this subject. His answer was that Government pensions are governed by the Constitution and nothing could be done about it. This could be the lamest excuse that could have come out of the prime minister as the Constitution has been amended from time to time at the whim of the Government for whatever reason and that amending the Constitution to increase the pensions of pensioners could not have been an obstacle.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 1 March 2013)


(1) “The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has shown remarkable spirit of opposition unity in declaring its intention not to contest [in the Punggol East by-election]. Remember the authoritative saying: Unity is strength.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 28 December 2012)

(2) “That is why the emphasis is on opposition unity to face the PAP in GE 2016. The whopping ministerial salary may not be the main issue but it will be a plus in favour of the opposition parties in their election campaign to show that most PAP ministers are self-serving politicians who are in the game for the taxpayers’ money.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 26 November 2012)

(3) “How can it be called a National Conversation when an important and essential segment of society such as the opposition parties and bloggers is excluded?”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 15 October 2012)

(4) “True my disgust of the hubristic (i.e. arrogant) Lee Kuan Yew could make my presence at [the CPIB’s 60th Anniversary Celebration at the Istana] a big embarrassment to him. . .my presence would have caused [considerable] embarrassment to that demigod.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 26 September 2012)

(5) “Since when has it been acknowledged that The Straits Times is a neutral paper which is conscientiously objective in its reporting on the opposition, especially during the hustings. The paper is strictly under the control of the Singapore Press Holdings whose chairman is a former minister of the Government, a spin doctor anyway one looks at it. So how can one run away from the impression that the mainstream media (MSM) is an all embracing propaganda organ of the PAP Government, of which The Straits Times is a prominent member.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 29 May 2012)

(6) “The point is if the first generation PAP ministers could be so noble and selfless in serving the people without enriching themselves with taxpayers’ money, why is it so difficult for the third generation of PAP ministers to follow the selfless example?”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 15 January 2012)

(7) “PAP leaders are the first to assert vehemently that they are in politics to serve the people. But are they really or is it because of the astronomical salaries they pay themselves out of taxpayers’ money? They can holler till the cows come home but few, if any, of the politically-conscious Singaporeans will swallow that they are in it for altruistic reasons.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 6 January 2012)


(1) “Does it surprise Mr Khaw that an ordinary Bhutanese could operate a blog, on which he has posted that ‘this is in reply to National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan of Singapore on his comments made on our country.’ For a Bhutanese he surprises readers with his fairly high standard of satirical replies to each of Mr Khaw’s disparagements of his country.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 5 November 2011)

(2) “Instead of answering the question, the former MM baffled his audience by hubristically urging the PhD student, who is single, to stop wasting her time on her doctorate and find a boyfriend instead.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 22 September 2011)

(3) “[LKY] thinks he is more sagacious (i.e. wise) than the famous Chinese sage Confucius. But the narcissistic Lee Kuan Yew’s booboos in his utterances have become his trademark.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 6 September 2011)

(4) “As shown by the General Election in May, the writing is on the wall that Singapore electors are disillusioned with the PAP one-party hegemony and have shown their disgust with the PAP by voting in a Workers’ Party (WP) team in the renowned Aljunied GRC.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 27 July 2011)

(5) “Then came the third generation PAP leaders who continue to carry on blithely the astronomical ministerial salary tradition and their so-called service to the people which we must now view askance. As long as their motivation is their whopping salaries, the distinction between greed and service to the people is at best indistinguishable.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 22 July 2011)

(6) “One of the biggest contributory factors to this political setback was the gratuitous warning by the hubristic Minister Mentor to Aljunied voters that they live and repent if they voted the WP. . .This will be a good beginning for WP and Singaporeans can look forward to seeing more excitement in Parliamentary proceedings. And the PAP will have some soul-searching to do.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 7 May 2011)

(7) “This only goes to prove that more opposition voices in Parliament are an imperative to provide a check and balance from time to time to the PAP government’s shortcomings.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 3 May 2011)

(8) “This prompted the Minister Mentor to warn Aljunied voters that they have five years to live and repent. Christians are appalled at the choice of the word repent by MM Lee. In christianity the word repent is used when a sin has been committed. Is MM Lee trying to imply that voting for the WP team in Aljunied is a sin? Is this not sacrilege?”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 1 May 2011)

(9) “Why this PAP cinderella Tin Pei Ling, and not other new prospective PAP candidates, is being singled out for profuse criticisms by netizens is not entirely without logic. Her young age may be one factor indicating that she has just been weaned from suckling and lacks any political or worst still any humanitarian experience. But above all, it is her opulent lifestyle and rather highfalutin (i.e. pompous or pretentious) character that irk the netizens.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 3 April 2011)


(1) “It is pathetic that [ST Editor Han Fook Kwang], who is just a cog in the massive government propaganda organisation, is trying to ape his political masters in continuing to hoodwink the people as to the insidious political role of The Straits Times. The Straits Times [is] a government mouthpiece.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 2 May 2010)

(2) “Whether by providence or not, the opposition, especially Kenneth Jeyaretnam, should tighten up their security to ensure that no mercenary is infiltrated into their parties to cause disunity.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 21 April 2010)

(3) “‘She did not marry me and become Temasek Holdings’ Chief Executive Officer. I married her because she had the talent of a CEO’. This was the dramatic revelation of PM Lee Hsien Loong in referring to his wife, Ms Ho Ching. . .”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 18 April 2010)

(4) “Perhaps it could have occurred to the lucid mind of the Prime Minister the impetus that led to the evolution of the new media in Singapore. Every right-thinking Singaporean is aware that the sycophantic (i.e. spineless) mainstream media, especially the egregious (i.e. outstandingly bad) Straits Times, will only disseminate government propaganda and not any dissenting thesis inimical or unflattering to the government.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 28 March 2010)

(5) “…this will depend on how long the decadent PAP dynasty can last.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 16 March 2010)

(6) “Can you imagine anything more clownish than a deputy prime minister snoozing away during a speech by his fellow — DPM Wong Kan Seng — in Parliament? If Mr. Wong Kan Seng’s discourse can induce somnolence in Mr. Teo Chee Hean, he can certainly apply for a patent [to] cure insomnia.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 7 March 2010)

(7) “A little injustice, maybe not daily, is in the repertoire of the Minister Mentor and does not cause him any compunction (i.e. a pricking of the conscience). What is a small injustice to a public officer when the then-prime minister showed no qualms about the prolonged detention of Dr. Lim Hock Siew (19 years) and Chia Thye Poh (32 years).”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 25 January 2010)


(1) “The authors [of the book Men in White] fail to highlight Lee Kuan Yew’s more ignominious (i.e. shameful) persona. . .Lee Kuan Yew knew he had to depend on Lim Chin Siong and his mass base to advance his political ambition. The word gratitude is not to be found in Lee’s lexicon. In fact, it would have been a great joke if Lim’s detention caused [LKY] any grief.”
(The Sobering View of an Ex-ISD Officer, 10 December 2009)

(2) “[Lee Kuan Yew] is not unknown to have behaved erratically with venom in his speech when highly agitated. . .humility is not his forte and he has not been known as one to apologise for his mistakes.”
(An Unconscionable Injustice, 9 October 2009)

(3) “The exceptional receptions MM Lee received must have intoxicated him to the extent that he could have believed himself to be some kind of messiah delivering his gospels to his believers. . .There is an appropriate Chinese saying: Deficient in success but [excessive] in failure.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 22 June 2009)

(4) “Was it not a sickening joke for the Prime Minister to say that he and his ministers were suffering together with the masses?. . .That the Singapore ministers are filthy rich, especially MM Lee’s family, is obscenely plain for the people to see.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 25 April 2009)

(5) “The name Wong Kan Seng translated phonetically in Cantonese means certain to succeed. Well, Mr. Wong Kan Seng should now be at his wit’s end. . .otherwise the public might want to know if he justifies his whopping $2 million annual salary with all the booboos happening under his watch.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 24 June 2008)

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Censorship, sex and scandal in Singapore (by André Dao)
Internal Security Department (Official / Photo)
Internal Security Department (Wikipedia)
Malaya’s Secret Police (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies)
Pressing for Openness in Singapore (by Dr. Chee Soon Juan / PDF)

And Of Course:
Singapore Recalcitrant (Mr. Yoong Siew Wah’s scintillating blog)
Yoong Siew Wah – Former ISD Director (Quotes, Part 2)