Singapore: Double Standards

Saved this image a few years ago, from Martyn See’s Facebook (follow for plenty of great images + posts!).

Refer to this chart whenever you see these keywords or catchphrases being used in the state-controlled newspapers and media outlets.

PAP Graphic: What they say vs. what they mean

According to vocabulary.com:

hypocrisy: what they say is not what they do

There are many other examples of hypocrisy — Singapore-Style — within the context of law and government.

Here are a few more screenshots.

1) Singapore’s First Female President

Nikkei Asian Review: On Singapore’s first female president.

“In a country whose core values are meritocracy, regardless of race, language or religion, this stinks of hypocrisy.” — tweet by Darren Teo

A report by Nikkei Asian Review explored the ‘reserved‘ presidential election regarding Halimah Yacob in 2017.

She was the only candidate who had a certificate of eligibility on Sept. 11 by the Elections Department of Singapore.

2) Ministers’ Salaries

The News Lens: How do Singaporeans tolerate this crap?

In a News Lens article titled The Crazy Rich Salaries of Singapore’s Ministers Versus the Poor Peasants Who Support Them, the writer explores the Singapore prime minister’s extravagant salary.

The author also points out the double standards with PM Lee Hsien Loong wanting to pay himself and his ministers several times more than what they need for the cost of living in Singapore, while wanting Singaporeans to reduce their expenses.

3) Incorruptibility vs. Crony Capitalism

The Online Citizen: SG and the crony-capitalism index

The Singapore government has long boasted of its incorruptibility. (Note that Singapore is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.)

The crony capitalism index by The Economist magazine places Singapore 4th highest in the world in crony capitalism.

As Augustine Low writes in an article for TOC:

“Marry entitlement with cronyism and you have Singapore-style meritocracy.”

4) Meritocracy: Singapore-Style

Speaking of meritocracy, here’s an example of how it’s usually associated with the elite class in SG.

A quick reminder first via Collins Dictionary, which defines a meritocracy as “a society or social system in which people get status or rewards because of what they achieve, rather than because of their wealth or social status.”

The Edge: Meritocracy producing perverse outcomes?

This article by The Edge questions whether Singapore’s meritocracy is producing ‘perverse’ outcomes such as elitism.

Adrian Kuan, a research fellow at LKYSPP, notes that elitism ends up being a “phenomenon” produced by Singapore’s system of meritocracy. Note what associate professor Eugene Tan says about the transmission of “privilege to the next generation.”

Other observers warn of the distinction between the elites and others “degenerating into a class divide.”

5) Foreign Interference

In another stunning example of double standards, academic Michael Barr points out that journalists and bloggers supporting the government aren’t categorized as political, while those who criticize the government are.

Foreigners that praise the Singapore government receive the red carpet treatment, while those who criticize the PAP are branded as “interfering foreigners.”

Screenshot from book review of Singapore: A Modern History, by Michael Barr

6) “Insincerity and Hypocrisy” at the top

Devan Nair, the third President of Singapore, pointed out a really long time ago (back in 1973) about how “insincerity and hypocrisy” at the top was interfering with a genuine sense of community and sincerity, with regard to the commitments and social values of Singapore’s elite leaders.

Excerpt from “The Ruling Elite,” by Devan Nair

Were his observations more fitting then or now?

7) Singapore’s Falling Birth Rate

As mentioned by Wake Up, Singapore, Singaporeans are urged to start families while more childcare leave is not granted as it would “impact businesses.”


Despite the government’s monetary incentives, childcare leave is capped at six days per year per parent for children who are younger than seven years old, no matter the number of children a couple has.

8) Singapore’s Meritocracy vs. Aristocracy

Journalist Kirsten Han smartly points out in a Foreign Policy article that Singapore can have either an aristocracy or a meritocracy, but that the two cannot logically co-exist as an interchangeable term.


The article mentions how the Lee siblings described the prime minister as “less than honest.” The siblings’ allegations also “touched on nepotism, cronyism, the subversion of due process, and the abuse of power to monitor, threaten, and harass individuals for his own personal gain.”

As Kirsten mentioned, the average Singaporean is unable to utter such statements due to grave repercussions, such as going to court and/or being the subject of character assassination.

* Note: refer to the PAP Royal Bloodline chart to study the network of the aristocracy.

9) Singapore Drug Laws

The Singapore government has economic and historical ties to Burma.

Instead of focusing on drug lords, the government pursues the death penalty against drug mules. This was what motivated British author Alan Shadrake to write Once A Jolly Hangman (book review here), a move which landed him in jail for 6 weeks for “scandalising the Singapore judiciary.”

The Age: SG on Drug Stance (rich vs. poor)

Shadrake notes that he saw it as (once again) “double standards,” referring to how a British national wanted for two murders in Singapore had run off to Australia (the suspect was protected from extradition until it was guaranteed that he would not be put to death). In contrast, Nguyen Van Tuong — a young Vietnamese Australian who was found guilty of heroin trafficking at Changi airport — was hanged.

On top of this, party drugs like cocaine are a hit with the wealthy in Singapore!

A bank analyst said that “there are definitely a lot of people doing drugs in the party scene, but it doesn’t get reported because there’s no way to really catch them since the circle is closed.” (Reuters.com)

10) Singapore & Freedom of Speech

In 2015, a group of Singapore activists wrote a joint response on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

The letter mentioned how one of the most persistent assailants of freedom and democracy was the Lee dynasty in Singapore. It started with Lee Kuan Yew shamelessly jailing his political opponents and closing down the free press.

Asia Sentinel: Singapore’s Hypocrisy on Free Speech

The letter called for an abolition of laws that exist to “silence critics” of the Lee regime. Other calls for change included the restoration of free and fair elections, an independent media, and an end to the threat of withholding of state resources to influence and intimidate voters.

11) Facebook Data Centre… Singapore an exception?

Facebook is planning to build an 11-storey data centre in Singapore.

The data centre is estimated to begin operations in 2022.

Facebook’s first Asian data centre in Singapore. Image from CNA.

In an article on Data Economy, the writer quotes from activists who point to the contradictions of selecting Singapore for the data centre site.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg had earlier laid out his vision about the company choosing to not store data in countries that “have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression.”

Data Economy: On the poor track record of freedom of expression in SG

A few passages from Business Insider:

Human Rights Watch describes Singapore’s political climate as “stifling.” It says its citizens face “severe restrictions on their basic rights to freedom of expression.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, added: “Singapore is not a place where freedom of expression is protected, and it’s really shocking that somehow Facebook thinks it’s okay to put a data centre under the thumb of such a repressive government.”

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher at Amnesty International, said Zuckerberg’s claims in his blog post were “hypocritical”. She said: “Singapore definitely has a very poor track record on freedom of expression, including freedom of expression online.”

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