Overcoming Fear

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Being a respected leader doesn’t mean ruling with an iron first.

Showing compassion as a leader can be highly effective. . .according to Bill George, a Harvard professor, the leader must think about the “we” instead of the “I.”  In other words, the leader doesn’t think about him/herself, but about [others].
( — JEMS Journal)

I lived in Singapore until the age of 19. I remember what it was like to constantly live with the feeling that your every move, thought, and action was being watched. Whisper something that’s anti-PAP or anti-LKY — *BOOM*, you’re in trouble.

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The first quote that came to my mind when I viewed this image: “Big Brother is Watching.” (George Orwell)
| Image from ST Blog

The sense of dysfunctional paranoia these feelings can create certainly isn’t an ideal thing for anyone to live with.

Ruling by fear is wrong for several reasons, one being that no one should be made to do something or act in a way he or she doesn’t feel comfortable with.

Why should a human being’s mind/heart/spirit be subject to being controlled by an authority figure? Wouldn’t a true “saviour of the people” sincerely care for the well-being of the populace they have pledged to serve?

This isn’t applicable to the realm of politics alone. It is something that goes much deeper which has universal resonance in terms of being free to:

  • be your own self,
  • have your own thoughts, and
  • speak your mind or speak truth to power when it is necessary to do so.

Fear is a crippling weapon of control and manipulation. To overcome that fear is to release oneself from the shame of being ruled by fear.

Many people in history have literally died for their beliefs. Integrity and a moral conscience are things that some of us are unwilling or unable to trade for elitist commodities.

I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict the outcome of the next general election in Singapore. I don’t have expectations of the result, because whatever will be, will be.

But seeing this fear of expression up-close from numerous Singaporeans is proof that people DO have strong opinions, that they do have minds and a spirit that yearns to be free from the shackles of an authoritarian power (whether it’s referred to as an aristocracy, a pseudo-democracy, or fascist).

As 16-year-old blogger and prisoner of conscience Amos Yee said in a recent update:

If we allow the government, the police and the law, to continue to censor us, to use archaic laws to dictate our ideas and our views, to use fear to threaten us into not expressing our views, then though I am a prisoner, when freedom cannot be granted to me, you are a prisoner although freedom is granted to you. And that’s more saddening than any number of months or years in jail that I have to endure.

Buried beneath this fear is a collective need to aspire for something better — if not for yourself, then for the future generations that will come after you.

An article by Catherine Lim points out how a “compliant, fearful population that has never learnt to be politically savvy could spell the doom of Singapore.”

Singapore has been under decades of authoritarian rule. Do you want to see it through several more?

As Julie Hanus writes on the forward-thinking Utne Reader:

We can give up allowing fears to define us, and focus instead on which ones are worth tackling together. When we do that, we don’t just free politicians from fear-inducing rhetoric; we also give ourselves some much-needed relief.

I think of the dark events in Singapore’s political history (Operation Coldstore and Spectrum, in particular), and all the wasted years, hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled because of fear. That alone inspires my interest in socio-political issues.

There comes a point where staying silent would be the real crime.

Instead of feeling shameful about not having done enough: just do something different today. Time is short and precious.

May you find your bolt of inspiration too, that will set you free from fear itself.

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More Info:

1. Fear is Dead (Teo Soh Lung)

2. #FreeAmosYee: Hong Lim Park Protest (TOC)

3. Self-Censorship & The Climate of Fear (Catherine Lim)

4. PAP’s “Internet Brigade” (TOC)

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“Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen.”
~ PictureQuotes.com

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Catherine Lim, Excerpts

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Dr. Catherine Lim wrote “A Great Affective Divide” 21 years ago, a sharp and eloquent critique of the PAP ruling party.

If only leaders had heeded her advice.

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Excerpts from Selection of Articles by Catherine Lim

Excerpts #1:

1) It is no secret that while the PAP Government has inspired in the people much respect for its efficiency and much gratitude for the good life as a result of this efficiency, there is very little in the way of affectionate regard.

2) While the PAP ideology remains the same, the people have not. Higher education, a more affluent lifestyle and exposure to the values of the western societies, have created a new generation that is not satisfied with the quantitative paradigm but looks beyond it to a larger qualitative one that most certainly includes matters of the heart, soul and spirit.

3) The absence of this affective dimension in the PAP framework is what has alienated the people from their leaders. It is easily seen that the main criticisms levelled against the PAP point to a style deficient in human sensitivity and feeling – “dictatorial,” “arrogant,” “impatient,” “unforgiving,” “vindictive.”

4) In other countries, political parties come and go, but the country remains the rallying point for the people’s feelings. [In] Singapore, the Government has become synonymous with the country. Indeed, Singapore is often seen as the creation of the PAP, made to its image and likeness. Hence, dislike of the PAP, even though it does not translate into dislike of Singapore, effectively blocks out any spontaneous outpouring of patriotic emotion. The best evidence is in the attitude towards the national flag. Singaporeans continue to be reluctant to put it up in their homes on National Day for fear of being thought PAP supporters and sycophants.

5) If loyalty towards the country is blocked, it has to be directed elsewhere. In Singapore, it is directed at the good life which the country has come to represent. It has been wryly described as the new religion of “moneytheism.”

Source: A Great Affective Divide,” by Catherine Lim (1994)

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Excerpts #2:

1) The fear in Singapore is a special, almost unique kind, for it is self-imposed. Its most obvious form is self-censorship.

Source: A Climate Of Fear In Our Society?,” by Catherine Lim (2010)

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Excerpts #3:

1) The PAP is incapable of reinventing itself.

2) Reinvention would require the opening up of one crucial area that the government is determined to have tight control over. This is the area of political liberties — open debate, criticism, independence of the media, public assembly, street demonstrations for the cause, all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies.

3) Pointing out the case of the 16 political detainees who called upon the government in September last year to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations said against them, Lim noted that the petition was promptly dismissed and no further action was taken.

“I thought that the government had missed a fantastic opportunity to show Singaporeans that it had the honesty and courage to face up its past excesses or to take responsibility for them,” said Lim.

Source:Yahoo News: “PAP incapable of reinventing itself: Catherine Lim” (2012)

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Excerpt #4:

You transformed little, obscure, resource-poor Singapore into one of the most successful economies in the world. If today Singapore is described in breathless superlatives—‘best’, ‘richest’, ‘cleanest’, ‘brightest’—it is all because of you.

If only you had done so without so much human cost. If only the high ranking of Singapore in international surveys on economic development were matched by a similar ranking in surveys on human rights.

Source: If Only—To The Memory Of Lee Kuan Yew (1923–2015)

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Excerpts #5:

1) The exuberance, boldness and defiance of the young voters, operating in the new media world of instant, dazzling communication, could be infectious enough to have an unstoppable snowball effect, engulfing other groups of voters, including even those normally sympathetic towards the PAP.

2) [Political] reform there must be. For only then can Singapore come into its own, only then can it claim to be a successful society in every sense of the word, and take a proud place among other societies in the world.

Source: My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans (2012)

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Excerpts #6:

1) We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.

2) There are [clear] signs that the present situation has reached crisis proportions, that it is not just an affective divide, not just an emotional estrangement between your PAP leadership and the people. How did this crisis arise in the first place? With utmost respect, Sir, I must point out that it is ultimately your inability or unwillingness to listen to the people.

3) While you see yourself as simply going by the rules, Singaporeans see you as the PAP juggernaut ready to mow down the little people in its path.your PAP leadership and the people.

4) . . .even if it meant an apology and the need to make amends, that would have been a gesture large and empathetic enough, to win over even the most vocal critics. It would certainly have begun the process of creating, for the first time in the history of the PAP government-people relationship, a nexus of understanding and reciprocity.

5) In the absence of the people’s trust, effective government is virtually impossible, as every leader knows.

Source: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister (2014)

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Snapshot with Catherine Lim (2015)

CATHERINE LIM’s works deal largely with the East-West divide, Asian culture, women’s issues, as well as Singapore’s culture, history and politics. She has won national and regional book prizes, and was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information. (bio from SWF)

Catherine Online: Website | Wikipedia | Interview | Kenneth Paul Tan on Catherine Lim

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More Info:

1) Catherine Lim: Political Commentaries

2) Catherine Lim: Newspaper Features

3) On Respect and Elitism (FB Comment, by Neo Swee Lin)

4) On PM LHL’s lack of sincerity and humility (100+ likes in 2 hours / FB Comment, by Edrei Valath)

5) Funny Comment by an ardent admirer of Catherine Lim

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World’s Highest Paid Minister

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Image Source: Martyn See (Facebook)

Added supporting links below.

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He hangs people. He flogs men.

He imprisons Muslims without trial.

He criminalises gays.

He imprisons a 16-year-old blogger.

He imprisoned an author.

He bankrupted politicians.

He shuts down websites.

He pulps children’s books.

He withholds public funds from opposition wards.

He sues bloggers and journalists, and demands from them the highest costs.

He pays himself the world’s highest salary for a politician.

A very reputable man indeed.

Source: Martyn See (Facebook)

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MARTYN SEE is a Singaporean political blogger and filmmaker with two banned films, two police investigations and a conscience that just won’t let him rest.

Martyn See Online: Blog | Excerpts | Facebook | Photo Album | Interview | YouTube

Book Review: Hard Choices

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The opening line of this book is as follows:

“Singapore’s economic success masks some uncomfortable truths about life in this city-state.”

The text is very neatly organised into three sections:

I. The Limits of Singapore Exceptionalism
II. Policy Alternatives for Post-Consensus Singapore
III. Governance and Democracy: Past, Present & Future

The chapters cover a wide range of topics, from economics, to inequality, to land mass / population challenges, housing policies, democracy, meritocracy, as well as the concept of defining a national identity.

I like how most of the chapters have a distinct two-part feature, in terms of first explaining the issue at hand before offering viable and constructive solutions.

For instance, Chapter 9 explains why the trend of increasing income inequality in Singapore is worrisome.

Far from it simply being an issue about money, the authors cite an academic paper which correlates a high initial level of high inequality with the decreased likelihood of establishing social programmes that enhance social trust. And why is social trust important? Because it leads people to be “more inclined to have a positive view of their public institutions, participate more in their civic and political organisations, [and] to be more tolerant of [others].”

Historian Thum Ping Tjin’s chapter, “The Old Normal is The New Normal,” is a condensed version of Singapore’s political history (dark events included). This chapter is notably hard-hitting for it demonstrates how the lesson of history is clear — that “only democracy, dissent, and diversity can offer the leaders and ideas required to meet Singapore’s challenges.”

In Chapter 12, Donald Low analyses what went wrong for the PAP during the 2011 General Election (GE 2011). He writes that the Singapore population has become “more demanding of transparency [and] accountability.” Wise advice is laid out, such as how high ministerial salaries contribute towards the weakening of political discourse which is “not conducive to mature, reasoned public debate of our policy problems.” The chapter also suggests that political reforms “founded on the virtues of fairness, equality and resilience” will help sustain Good Governance.

Donald Low ends off the book on a personal as well as social note. He concludes:

“As a liberal, the policy and institutional changes I wish to see are those that would make Singapore a more just city-state, one that prioritises the well-being of its citizens over narrow measures of economic progress.”

The biggest strength of Hard Choices is the diplomatically critical tone throughout the writing. The style is moderate and objective without being too inaccessible to the general reader with an interest in Singapore’s politics and/or policies.

It is this consistency throughout the chapters which renders the writing as effectively persuasive, in terms of why Singapore needs to undergo vital and constructive change in terms of governance. This happens to coincide with a new generation of Singaporeans that are “empowered by the internet and social media,” which as Mr. Low and Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh write in the preface, has enabled citizens to “openly question many of the PAP’s long-held assumptions and beliefs.”

I would definitely recommend Hard Choices to people who may find “anti-government” or “anti-establishment” websites a bit too critical. I believe more than a few Singaporeans would be able to appreciate the book’s presentation of a wide range of pertinent issues, along with real alternatives that should be considered for the betterment of the nation and its citizens.

After all, it’s hard to argue with cool hard logic.

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More Information:

Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus (Amazon)
Hard Choices (NUS Press)
Hard Choices (Kinokuniya)
Hard Choices (Review by Howard Lee / TOC)

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AUTHOR BIOS:

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I. DONALD LOW is Associate Dean (Research and Executive Education) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Donald Low Online: LKYSPP | Facebook

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II. SUDHIR THOMAS VADAKETH  is author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore. He also writes for a variety of publications, including The Economist and Yahoo! SG.

STV Online: Website | Facebook

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III. LINDA LIM is Professor of Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michian, where she also served as director of the 53-year-old Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

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IV. THUM PING TJIN (“PJ”) is a Visiting Fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford; Senior Research Fellow at Sunway University, Malaysia; Research Fellow at the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia; Research Associate at the Centre for Global History, University of Oxford; and co-ordinator of Project Southeast Asia.

Thum PJ Online: Academia.edu | Project Southeast Asia | Wiki | YouTube | Interview | TOC | Facebook

Singapore: Fascist or Democratic?

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Fascism (definition): “A totalitarian philosophy of government that [assigns] to the state control over every aspect of national life.” (TWT)

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14 DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM (short version)

SOURCE: Lawrence Britt / Free Inquiry

[Infographic / Summary followed by Full Text]

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14 DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM (longer version)

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia*. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

* View “Singapore: The Politics of Inventing National Identity,” by Stephan Ortmann
(PDF download).

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed: Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or (character) assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

SOURCE: Lawrence Britt / Free Inquiry

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ADDITIONAL LINKS:

a) Censorship in Singapore (Wikipedia)

b) Excerpts from “Anti-colonialism. . .Operation Coldstore” (Thum Ping Tjin)

c) Is this not a mockery of democracy? (Singapore Recalcitrant)

d) Hushed Fascism, Singapore-Style (Chris Ho / Facebook)

e) Political Abuse of Psychiatry (re: Amos Yee)

f) Singapore Blogger Faces ‘Financial Ruin’ (re: Roy Ngerng / Forbes)

g) Teo Soh Lung (on “fighting back with words”) and SDP / CSJ (on “accountability“)

h) Jolly Hangman (re: human rights abuses / Alan Shadrake)

Political Abuse of Psychiatry (Amos Yee)

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Image by stimu1us on dA.

A short excerpt (#1) on the subject of political abuse of psychiatry, viewed in the context of 16 year-old Amos Yee’s current prison-in-remand situation (Points #2-5).

1) “Psychiatric confinement of sane people is a particularly pernicious form of repression.

Psychiatry possesses a built-in capacity for abuse that is greater than in other areas of medicine. The diagnosis of mental disease allows the state to hold persons against their will and insist upon therapy in their interest and in the broader interests of society.

In addition, receiving a psychiatric diagnosis can in itself be regarded as oppressive. In a monolithic state, psychiatry can be used to bypass standard legal procedures for establishing guilt or innocence and allow political incarceration without the ordinary odium attaching to such political trials.”
(– Wiki)

2) “Amos has always been a chirpy, confident and very vocal child. He is also very creative, and would spend an endless amount of time on something which he sets his mind on.

But my son is a different person now. . .I wondered why my son, who is here to be assessed if he has autism, is kept here in the same block as those who are mentally ill.

[Block] 7 is where they keep the truly mentally ill patients, and those who have committed crimes or offences and who are also mentally unsound. It is also where my son is being held.”
(TOC: A mother visits her son at IMH)

3) “The entry of heavily shackled Amos Yee from holding room to dock in Court No. 7 on 23 June 2015 cuts a very depressing sight. No longer the cheerful teenager who looked and smiled confidently at the gallery, he walked slowly with his head bowed. It was painful to see this young person’s spirit reduced to such a sad state by our judicial system. He sat in the dock, head bowed most times.

The ill treatment that Amos suffered during his remand must be highlighted. Amos’ mother said that he was interviewed by a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors etc over two weeks. Such interviews took place during the one hour community time when a prisoner is allowed to socialise and enjoy a bit of sunshine. It is the only time a prisoner looks forward to in a long and boring 24 hour day. Yet the prison authority has to be sadistic by arranging interviews during this one hour. I can only conclude that such arrangements were deliberate, aimed to break his spirit. Indeed Amos spirit is broken for he no longer reads and is tired because he cannot sleep with 24 hours lighting in the cell and cell mates who harbour resentment against him for having to sleep in a cell equipped with spy cameras.

A prisoner in remand is very often worse off than a prisoner who is serving sentence. He is left to himself whereas the prisoner serving time has regular activities to fill his day. He can attend educational or vocational courses and is allowed to spend time with other prisoners. Amos Yee’s special treatment by being locked up in a cell with 24 hour close circuit cameras means confinement within the four walls for 24 hours with one hour outside his cell. 24 hour lighting ensure that the mind is disorientated. A prisoner will inevitably suffer insomnia for he cannot sleep well.

Some observers are happy that Amos is now remanded at IMH for another psychiatric assessment. This is so sadistic. Why is the report by the State appointed psychiatrist, Munidasa Winslow that Amos might be suffering from autism spectrum disorder insufficient for the court to make a decision? Is there a necessity for the judge to order another report just to confirm or dispute Winslow’s report? What is the intent besides undermining the expertise of Winslow?

It is depressing that a bright young lad is made to suffer in this way. Is this our world class judicial system?”
(Teo Soh Lung)

4) “UN Human Rights Office calls for the immediate release of Amos Yee in line with its commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
(Forbes)

5) “Amos Yee’s medical condition is autism and not derangement and it is insanity on the part of the authorities to put this vulnerable teenager in a block together with adult patients suffering from derangement.”
(Former ISD Director, YSW)

6) “And the police told me: ‘Quickly sign this, then we don’t have to take any responsibility if something happens to you.’”
(Notes From Prison by Amos Yee)

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UPDATE / 27 June 2015: Signed. “Petitioning The Singapore Government Drop the Charges Against Amos Yee!” — Change.org

Responsibility and Accountability (Mt. Kinabalu)

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[Above Image from Yahoo]

Several students and a teacher from Tanjong Katong Primary School were killed in the recent Sabah quake.

I was quite shocked to read an overly defensive comment which compared climbing Mt. Kinabalu to “walking up Bukit Timah Hill.”

For starters, a “hill” is defined as “a naturally raised area of land, not as high or craggy as a mountain.” Mt. Kinabalu is 4,095 m while Bukit Timah Hill is 164m. A comparison of maps between the mountain and hill also show the difference in terms of scale and associated terrain.

A seismology expert, Dr Mohd Rosaidi Che Abas, 54, said the threat of an earthquake in Malaysia cannot be ignored, including “Sabah and Sarawak [which] are located close to the earthquake zone of South Philippines and North Sulawesi.”

Earthquakes have erupted at Mount Kinabalu every year for at least the past 10 years, and the route has been described as a very rough trek.

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[Image from Redwire Times]

Some comments from people who have been on the mountain before:

1) “I climbed the mountain before. I must say I was shocked for a school to embark on such an expedition trip for primary students.” — Randy Chong

2) “I was there on 5-6 may this year. I personally think this is a bit challenging for young children of such ages. Deepest condolences to victims’ families. — David Chia

3) “My 39 yr old daughter went there two weeks before the quake. She said she would not approve if any of her kids would want to take the expedition. What information was given to parents that made them approved their kids for this expedition?” — Mr. A

I have read quite a few comments which say that the authorities cannot be blamed for a natural disaster.

It is true that people cannot be blamed for the actual occurrence of the earthquake. The question is why young children are being approved to be sent to this mountain for “school excursions” when this area is a known danger zone.

Take for example, texting and driving. Just because a person drives and texts once and doesn’t get into trouble, doesn’t mean they’ll always have luck on their side. A tragic end sometimes comes sooner rather than later, and it is especially tragic when the situation is avoidable. Why would any parent want to put their child in a risky situation in the first place?

Some quotes by parents which reflect this view:

1) “People are saying no one could have predicted the quake and that it could well have struck Disneyland Tokyo. So we shouldn’t criticize the school or ask for a ban on such overseas excursions. I beg to differ as a parent. . .No incident doesn’t mean there will never be one. Try telling those grieving parents, ‘Accidents bound to happen, lah!’ And why in the world are primary school kids climbing mountains overseas?”
Andrew Tan

2) “PM Lee, I urge your good self and MOE to review allowing our primary school children to embark on such perilous trips. In our days, excursions were none other than Pulau Ubin or St John Island. Even though this is a natural disaster, the burden of failing their parents are simply too great on the teachers and schools.” — Lance Foo

3) “Please instruct MOE to seriously review school excursions for primary school kids. They are too young to go for such high risk adventures. It is tough for parents to say no to enthusiastic young children who don’t understand the risk involved. There are many other ways for leadership development. There’s an appropriate age and time for different types of school trips.” — Kareen Leow

4) “I sincerely urge MOE to commission a thorough review on the countries and necessity of such trips for “whatever valid reasons.” I am 100% sure if PM commission MOE for a COI, there will be 101 ways to improve on it.” — Freddy Choo

The MOE’s website states that there are several measures in place to enhance road safety around Singapore schools, as well as safety in the conduct of school sports, safety during hazy days, tree safety, and fire safety. This page on guidelines and procedures on school excursions (adapted from MOE Guidelines) states that “the authority to approve such excursions [and/or field trips] is delegated to principals.”

This was not an excursion organised by parents as an out-of-school overseas trip. If it were, then the responsibility for the safety of the children would fall on the parents and not other authorities who approved the excursion.

The website of The Department of Education and Training (Victoria, Australia) clearly states a policy to “ensure [school] excursions are planned and approved appropriately.” It goes on to say that the excursion planning and approval process should take into account “the suitability of the environment and/or venue for the excursion,” and the “assessment of excursion risks” in terms of safety, emergency and risk management.

A quick glance at the Dutch ministries states that The Ministry of Security and Justice is responsible for justice and public safety in the Netherlands.

Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Keat’s and PM Lee Hsien Loong’s public statements on the matter — despite their emotional appeal — leave much to be desired.

A government’s job is to govern (i.e. to make and administer the public policy and affairs of a state). Singapore’s ministers are among the best paid in the world.

Surely they can thus be expected to be responsible and be held accountable when it comes to governance.