Mrs. Goh Chok Tong and Mrs. LKY

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* Chart and verification below. If readers know of any inaccuracies, please contact me to verify the data. Thank you :)

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Short Version: Mrs. Goh Chok Tong and Mrs. LKY were in the same law firm.

Longer Version:

1) Mrs. Goh Chok Tong (nee Tan Choo Leng) is well-known for commenting that the annual salary of S$600,000 drawn by National Kidney Foundation’s CEO was considered “peanuts.”

This is Tan Choo Leng’s profile page as a Senior Consultant in WongPartnership. Note the line:

“During her practice as a senior partner with another top law firm in Singapore. . .”

GohChokTong_Wife_TopLawFirm

Tan Choo Leng, Senior Consultant | WongPartnership

Mysteriously, the above bio leaves out the fact that Lee & Lee law firm is the other “top law firm in Singapore” where Mrs. Goh Chok Tong was a senior partner.

2) In 1985, Goh Chok Tong commented that he was not worried of being viewed as a “seat-warmer” for the next Prime Minister.

GohChokTong_SeatWarmer

Source: SG Monitor (8 May 1985)

3) Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as Singapore’s third Prime Minister on 12 August 2004.

4) Ho Ching became the CEO of Singapore Technologies Engineering in 1997.

5) Winston Tan Tien Hin was a non-executive director of ST Engineering from 1997 – 2011.

6) Former Old Guard Chua Sian Chin’s wife was Alice Tan Kim Lian. He became a partner in Lee & Lee law firm in 1965. Mr. Chua had helmed the Health, Home Affairs and Education ministries.

7) These screenshots show that Winston Tan is the brother-in-law of Chua Sian Chin.

Chua Sian Chin is listed here as the son-in-law (who is married to Alice). Winston Tan Tien Hin and Alice Tan Kim Lian are siblings.

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Source: ST.

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Winston Tan from “Singapore Technologies Engineering”; same mother’s name as above image. Source: ST.

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Wife = Alice Tan Kim Lian.

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SIDE NOTE:

A reader pointed out that “Tan Choo Leng was advising landlords as a senior partner (is that somehow related to why rental is so high in Singapore?).”

One wonders how much money a senior partner in Lee & Lee law firm makes, so much so that $600,000 is equivalent to peanuts.

TanChooLeng

Book Review: Dare to Change

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The dedication of Dare to Change is a memorable one:

“Dedicated to: all the political detainees who struggled for democracy and all Singaporeans who long for openness, humanness, and justice for our nation.”

Dare to Change is Dr. Chee’s first book (published in 1994). Do not be fooled by the book’s slim size — the content is possibly more relevant than ever, and would still be eye-opening to people who are not familiar or conscious of Singapore’s political system and situation.

Over the course of seven clear and concise chapters, the reader is given a substantial evaluation of the PAP government’s authoritarian policies on the nation.

The main message of the book is apparent from beginning to end: that change is imperative if Singaporeans are to be allowed to “lead their own lives” in order to achieve a higher “quality of life.”

In the first chapter, Dr. Chee writes that society would be more robust if the Government did not compartmentalise and pigeon-hole everyone into its grand scheme of things. He also makes the argument for a country needing a society that is “courageous in its participation of the nation’s politics,” if that country is to be stable and successful in the long run.

In the next chapter, Dr. Chee puts forth the notion that the biggest fear of the PAP could be the “thought of having to share political power with other parties,” as well as having “non-political organisations form a proper check and balance system.” He writes that “if the control of power is all that the ruling party cares about, Singapore is in for a very unpleasant journey into the future.” Fast forward a couple of decades since the book was first written — has the journey been more pleasant or unpleasant, with socioeconomic forces such as rising inequality, stagnating wages, and a growing foreign population?

Two chapters are dedicated to the economy and distribution of wealth and resources. Dr. Chee mentions that funds for public welfare in 1994 amounted to about 1% of total government expenditure compared to an international average of 30%. He also points out that the Prime Minister of Singapore gave himself a monthly salary of $96,000 at the time, while the government carefully studied whether a man who was unable to look after himself deserved $150 a month.

The closing chapters give a comprehensive overview to major violations to Press Freedom and the Rule of Law. The local press is described as having been “reduced to a mere mouthpiece for the government,” with a note that totalitarian and dictatorial regimes have long used censorship and the restriction of information to “subjugate their people.” Dr. Chee notes the role of the ISD in the 1987 Marxist Conspiracy, and points out that physical abuse and torture “cannot be used by leaders to justify ends” in a society which claims to “have a sense of civility and decency.”

Dare to Change does not strike me as being written by a “dud” or “near psychopath” (to mention a couple of colorful adjectives Lee Kuan Yew reserved for Dr. Chee Soon Juan). The content reflects common sense logic throughout. A list of alternative solutions are presented at the end of the book along with the rationale on how these changes are beneficial to the country (this is the inspiring “appendix” section at the back of the book, which is like an ultra-summarised version of the book’s contents).

The book ends with the underlying hope and motivation to create more openness and progress in Singapore in the long-term. This gently reminds the reader of a quote which features at the start of the book:

“We cannot resist change.”
— Goh Chok Tong, 1994
(Prime Minister, Singapore, 1990-2004)

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cheesoonjuan

DR. CHEE SOON JUAN is a politician and political activist from Singapore. He is currently the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). Recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Dr Chee has been arrested and jailed more than a dozen times for his political activities, mainly for repeatedly breaking Singapore’s laws requiring organizers to obtain a police permit before staging political demonstrations or making public speeches on political issues.

CSJ Online: Website | Facebook (CSJ) | Facebook (SDP)

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More Information on Dare to Change:

Amazon | NLB | SDP | Excerpts

Excerpts from “The Bonsai under the Banyan Tree”

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Excerpts from “The Bonsai under the Banyan Tree: Democracy and Democratisation in Singapore”

by Michael Barr (2012)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Taylor & Francis

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Extracts from Article:

1) Singapore’s democratic processes are a bonsai version of the real thing, meaning that what passes for democracy is constrained, pruned, stunted, and mainly for show.

2) The government’s aversion to political contestation is complemented by its propensity to identify national crises and apocalyptic choices. . .Lee Hsien Loong describes this mindset as ‘paranoid government’, and it is a technique directed in part towards manipulating public fears.

3) Lee and the ruling elite do not believe in democracy, in the sense of contestation for power through the ballot box, negotiated by rules and social power structures that apply even-handedly to all parties.

4) . . .exaggerated by the system of punishment politics introduced by Goh Chok Tong that brazenly twisted the principles of technocracy and professionalism whereby services and upgrades were withheld from constituencies and even from individual housing blocks that voted for the opposition.

5) This reference to the banyan tree entered political parlance in 1991, when Minister for Information and the Arts, George Yeo, delivered what seemed at the time to be a landmark speech, promising to ‘trim the banyan tree’. It alludes to the fact that nothing grows under a banyan tree because, between the thickness of its foliage and the dominance of its root system, it sucks the life out of anything that tries to share its space.

6) Even at the time he was explicit on the limits of the ‘trimming’: ‘We cannot do without the banyan tree [. . .] We need some pluralism but not too much because it will also destroy us. In other words we prune judiciously’.

7) Since April 2009 freedom of assembly has become more restricted than it was in 1991, with the courts now having the power to declare a single person in any public place to be an ‘illegal assembly’.

8) It is with this history in mind that I turn my attention [to] the possibilities of democratization in this stultifying atmosphere, and characterize the operation of democracy in Singapore as being akin to a bonsai growing under the banyan tree.

9) In 2011 the bonsai plant started growing beyond its wire binding, thanks in large part to the perseverance of both opposition and civil society groups that have learnt their craft under the shade of the banyan tree, operating in an environment where the media, all the instruments of the state, and most elements of society are subservient to the ruling elite.

10) Government ministers have lost – possibly forever – the presumption of professional authority that they enjoyed before. This changes the dynamic of political contestation in Singapore.

11) The government is being challenged by a new constituency and found to be out of touch. This is a constituency of tertiary educated, middle-class Singaporeans, who are too young to have personal memories of the hardships of the 1960s and 1970s but are acutely aware of numerous grievances.

12) [The government] has built an education and social system based on ruthless competition, but argues that competition is bad in politics. It sets the pay scales for ministers by the standards of the CEOs of multinational companies, but argues that neither ministers nor the Cabinet as a whole should be held to account when they make mistakes.

13) Some of [the 2011 opposition] candidates are clearly more competent as politicians than most members of Cabinet, but this is setting the bar rather low, since none of these government ministers has had to face serious adversarial interrogation or criticism for decades, if ever.

14) Put bluntly, the crop of ministers and new candidates that contested the 2011 general election would not have passed muster in Lee Kuan Yew’s heyday.

15) It is easy to be pessimistic about the prospects of dramatic change, and yet who would have thought the opposition would even get this far? It has learnt how to survive under the banyan tree, and even forced the government to engage in some reluctant pruning.

Source: “The Bonsai under the Banyan Tree: Democracy and Democratisation in Singapore,” by Michael Barr (2012)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Taylor & Francis

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DR. MICHAEL BARR is Associate Professor in International Relations in the School of International Studies at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. He is the author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Beliefs behind the Man and other books on Singapore politics and history, and is Editor-in-Chief of Asian Studies Review.

Michael Barr Online: Profile | Publications | Interview with James Minchin | Interview

Excerpts from “Who’s Afraid of Catherine Lim?”

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Excerpts from “Who’s Afraid of Catherine Lim? The State in Patriarchal Singapore”

by Kenneth Paul Tan (2009)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Academia.edu

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Definitions:

1. Patriarchal: Characteristic of a system of society or government controlled by men.

2. Ad Hominem: Responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments (Wiki).

Extracts from Article:

1) Lim’s [second political commentary piece for The Straits Times] drew a strong reaction from the state that foreign journalist Kieran Cooke described as more appropriate to “a government teetering on the edge of collapse than . . . one of the world’s most enduring political machines.”

2) Through [coercive] instruments, the state has effectively castrated political opposition and alternatives in civil society, preventing them from mounting effective political challenges to the state.

3) The [state] has taken the form of an official national discourse that defines the conditions of possibility for what can be legitimately thought, expressed and communicated in Singapore. As Catherine Lim observed, “Singapore is often seen as the creation of the PAP, made to its image and likeness” (Lim, 3 September 1994).

4) In contrast to a “masculine” state that possesses universal vision, the people are presented as selfish, ignorant, deficient, dangerous and “feminine,” and thus cannot be trusted with matters of public significance unless tightly supervised by state-approved committees (Woo and Goh, 2007).

5) Civil society actors who [challenge the state’s] authority – as a wife might challenge her husband’s authority – will [be] derogatorily described as hysterical, and treated with condescension, ridicule, reproach or even punishment.

6) In her second commentary, Lim further elaborated on the “great affective divide” but introduced a second related thesis: that then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s promise of a more open, consultative, kinder, and gentler style of government was being “subsumed under” his colossal predecessor Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarian style.

7) The prime minister’s press secretary, Chan Heng Wing (4 December 1994), wrote a letter to The Straits Times the following week. His tone, in stark contrast to Lim’s, was defensive, mocking, harsh and foreboding. His ad hominem arguments belittled her analysis by suggesting that the novelist could not tell the difference between “real life” and “fiction” and that she demonstrated a “poor understanding of what leaders in government have to do.”

8) [Chan] maintained that the prime minister welcomed “alternative viewpoints” only if they were correct ones.

9) Thus, public consultation was not meant to serve as a process of decision-making, but as a propaganda tool for getting people to buy into what had already been decided by the state.

10) The Straits Times then published a number of letters from Singaporeans who came to Lim’s defence, including the leader of an opposition party who argued that:

The PAP’s attitude towards criticism is wrong. . .The Government should accept criticism as a form of feedback. / The PAP has not changed. Its leaders still believe that if you are not with them, you are against them. How should ordinary people criticise the Government then?
(Jimmy Tan, 7 December 1994).

11) In his reply to Lim’s apology, the prime minister explained that his response was aimed at getting Singaporeans to “know where the limits of open and consultative government lie.” [He introduced] a golfing metaphor – “Out-of-Bound” (OB) markers – to signify these political limits, a metaphor that has come to dominate contemporary discourse on Singapore’s public sphere.

12) [Lim] was transformed [into] an uncouth, insolent, insubordinate, immoral, traitorous and dangerous woman who dared to overstep her boundaries in traditional Asian (read patriarchal) society. . .a vocal Catherine Lim was presented as a westernised monster threatening to devour the values of Asian civilisation.

13) The state, perhaps, did not want to have to deal with Lim’s inconvenient message, or it chose to focus not on a woman’s substance but on her manner and tone.

14) In parliament, the prime minister described Lim’s political commentaries and criticism from other Singaporeans as an “attack” that the government would have to reciprocate: “If you land a blow on our jaw, you must expect a counter-blow on your solar plexus” (quoted in The Straits Times, 24 January 1995).

15) Outdoing his successor yet again, the “formidable PAP juggernaut” [Goh Chok Tong] raged against Lim, employing a battery of [violent metaphors] to reinforce his point:

Everybody now knows that if you take on the PM, he will have to take you on. . . If he didn’t, then more people will throw darts, put a little poison on the tip and throw them at him. And he’ll have darts sticking all over him.
[. . . ]
everybody knows if I say that we are going in a certain direction and that we’re going to achieve this objective, if you set out to block me, I will take a bulldozer and clear the obstruction.
[. . . ]
The PM has to carry his own big stick, or have someone carry it, because now it’s his policy and his responsibility to see his policy through. I would isolate the leaders, the troublemakers, get them exposed, cut them down to size, ridicule them, so that everybody understands that it’s not such a clever thing to do. Governing does not mean just being pleasant.
[. . . ]
You will not write an article – and that’s it. One-to-one on TV. You make your point and I’ll refute you. . . Or if you like, take a sharp knife, metaphorically, and I’ll take a sharp knife of similar size; let’s meet. Once this is understood, it’s amazing how reasonable the argument can become.

16) Writing about [LKY’s] eternal/paternal dominance over the nation’s history [and] self-understandings, Souchou Yao argues that the Father’s refusal to die – in his promise to rise from the grave – will stunt the growth of an already immature citizenry, preventing the “coming of a new epoch” by preserving the overcompensating logic of economic competition.

17) [Singapore’s stern father] consistently infantilises Singaporeans by insisting that they are not yet ready for liberalisation and democratisation, especially when they threaten to de-centre the PAP from its position of power.

18) [The Catherine Lim affair points] out the potential of a strategy of assuming the feminine role deliberately and even excessively, and in that role proactively criticising the state in a gently ‘‘spousal’’ way to make a strongly argued point without incurring the state’s full-blown violence.

19) Catherine Lim was able to expose the unconscionable violence of a patriarchal state without being destroyed by it, raise sympathy for the underdog, and mobilise forces of resistance against an authoritarianism through which such high-handed threats of violence were possible.

20) Her potentially castrating actions also set the stage for a state that defined itself in the hyper-masculine terms of rationality and self-control to behave – ironically – in a melodramatic, overly-emotional and even hysterical fashion that would have readily been associated with a debased femininity.

21) Catherine Lim’s affair with the state in 1994 was a “three-steps forward, two-steps-back dance” – but the net movement was still forward.

Source: “Who’s Afraid of Catherine Lim? The State in Patriarchal Singapore,” by Kenneth Paul Tan (2009)

PDF Download: Academia.edu

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kennethpaultan

KENNETH PAUL TAN is Vice Dean (Academic Affairs) and Associate Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, where he has taught since 2007. His publications include journal articles and book chapters on democracy, civil society, media and multiculturalism.

Kenneth Online: Facebook | Academia.edu | LKYSPP | Interview

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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 | Excerpts | “A Great Affective Divide”