Sunday 28 August 2011

The president of Singapore is not a Super MP (wink, wink)

So Dr Tony Tan will be our new president.

Are we done? This is it, right? Can we get on with our lives now?

No more elections for at least the next four years, right?

No more Nomination Days. No more rallies. No more Cooling Off Days. And yes, no more recounts. (Oh god, please no more recounts!)

And don't let me catch anyone sneaking in any by-elections. I’m all election-ed out.

I’ve already “unliked” all the candidates on Facebook and “unfollowed” them on Twitter. As I look back on Singapore’s second election in four months, this is what I’ve learned:

Mr Yam Ah Mee is everywhere.

The returning officer keeps returning! As the 2011 general and presidential elections pass into history, I would be relieved never to hear the word "persuant" in his monotone voice again.

Another thing I learned during the presidential election is that Sharon Au had been away from Singapore for six years. She went to Japan, France and Spain to pursue her degree.

She studied international politics and international law. She did several modules of liberal arts and even learned three new languages — Japanese, French and Spanish, of course.

It was the first time she had been away on her own. She immersed herself “totally and deeply” in the academic world and she never felt happier.

But at the end of her university journey, she realised it wasn’t her accomplishments in school that she was most proud of. It was the experience of living in foreign lands and watching how people in other countries live that moved her the most.

The self-proclaimed “former” TV actress-host shared all this about herself at Dr Tony Tan’s lunchtime rally at Boat Quay on Wednesday.

What does it have to do with Dr Tan or the presidential election?

I have no idea.

Self-involved much, Ms Au?

Maybe she was just practising for her own presidential run in 2023.

Dr Tan did mention afterwards he was confident that there would be female presidential candidates in the future.

Also at the same rally, I learned from Dr Tan that the president is not a “Super MP”.

At first, I was disappointed by this. I mean, how cool would it be to have a president with super powers?

Orchard Road flooded? He could suck all the water with his super lungs, teleport himself to drought-hit Somalia and irrigate the fields there instantly. Imagine what that would do for our international relations. (Ask Sharon Au.)

The Istana could be sitting over a Batcave with an underground hangar housing an Invisible Plane that they trot out once a year for the National Day Parade, but you can’t see it because ... well, it’s invisible.

Then I realised, of course the president would deny that he is a Super MP — he has to keep his super identity a secret!

Like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. (Not so much Iron Man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four in the movies.)

But superhero or not, the president isn’t without certain special powers.

And you know what they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

I bet Sharon Au can say it in five languages.

- Published in The New Paper, 28 August 2011

EARLIER: I’m qualified to choose curtains, not presidents

Friday 26 August 2011

Lost in translation: 'Super white' or 'smelly vagina'?

Thanks to a Mr Brown tweet, my wife discovered this video yesterday and played it for me and our two kids. Appropriate?

The Mandarin music video might have something to do with the Japanese horror movie The Grudge because the "super white" boy is in both the video and the movie.

Someone just explained the song to me: "The singer wonders why the boy is so white as it is difficult not to keep looking at him, so let's name him 'Super White'.

"The same lyrics is then repeated and repeated.

"It is a joke, but nothing to do with female genitalia."

Ah, enlightenment.

Then someone else informed me that "the white boy is just an excuse for them to sing ccb, ccb, you are a ccb over and over again".

I'm so disillusioned.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Sharon Au talks about herself (a lot) at Tony Tan's rally

There's nothing like some female star power to spice up a presidential election with four greying Chinese men.

So Mr Tan Jee Say had Nicole Seah at his rally. Mr Tan Kin Lian had... uh... Ivy Singh-Lim?

But presidential candidate Tony Tan had an actual TV star, Sharon Au.

Her opening remarks yesterday included: "Mom, if you're here, can you wave?"

And then referring to herself in the third person, Au said: "Many of you out there might be scratching your head, wondering, who is she? Who does she think she is?"

The Tiramisu actress subsequently spent two thirds of her six-minute rally speech justifying why she was speaking at the rally.

"I studied international politics, international law. I did several modules of liberal arts. And I even learned three new languages."

Hmmm ... did she wear glasses because that's Tony Tan's symbol or to get people to take her more seriously?

Later, Dr Tan said he was confident that there would be female presidential candidates in the future.

Did he have Au in mind?

Sharon Au for president in 2023!

UPDATE: Back in 2011, Dr Tony Tan won the presidential election.

COLUMN: The president of Singapore is not a Super MP (wink, wink)

Sunday 21 August 2011

I’m qualified to choose curtains, not presidents

I’ve been waiting for the longest time for someone to use that word.

Last Sunday, presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian finally broke the ice with a blog post entitled “Watershed Presidential Election”.

Yes! “Watershed”!

Oh, how I’ve missed you since the end of the watershed General Elections in May.

Actually, Mr Tan’s post was referring to a Facebook post by someone else about “why this Presidential Election is the real watershed”.

Unfortunately, “watershed” hasn’t quite caught on this time round, even though with four candidates, compared to just one in the previous presidential election, this election certainly counts as a watershed.

Instead, the word that seems to be getting some traction is “historic”.

My Paper used it in a recent headline and presidential candidate Tan Jee Say in his Nomination Day speech.

But isn’t every election inherently “historic”?

And I’m not confusing it with the word “historical”.

Which reminds me of an old joke. This guy said to another guy: “Whenever my wife and I have a fight, she gets historical.”

The other guy said: “Don’t you mean hysterical?”

“No,” the first guy said, “I mean historical because she keeps bringing up the past.”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yah, I think “watershed” is a better word because it suggests that a particular election is even more “historic” than other “historic” elections.

But I guess you can’t have two “watershed” elections in one year. Each has to have its own branding.

I’m rooting for “landmark” for the Presidential Election.

Since this is the most trenchant analysis of the election I can offer, is it any wonder that when people ask me who I’m going to vote for, my answer is whoever my wife tells me to?

This has been true for every election since 1993.

We resolved to vote as a bloc of two to avoid cancelling out each other’s votes. Otherwise, we might as well just stay home and do the laundry.

I let her decide which party or candidate to vote for and in exchange, she lets me select the curtains for our home.

I believe I got the better end of the deal.

My wife is also more qualified to pick the president because two Fridays ago, she happened to meet two of the presidential wannabes separately at the Red Dot Museum on Maxwell Road where she was selling her handmade bags.

She was surprised by the limp handshake she got from one candidate but was impressed by the “powerful” handshake of the other, although she complained, “He’s so short!”

Maybe next time, the Goverment could add a height requirement in the Constitution. That would be hysterical.

It would also be a historic watershed.

No, wait, I mean landmark.

Despite all the efforts the Government has made to clarify the role of the President, the debate festers.

Checks and balances? Multiracialism? ISA? Moving out of the Istana? High five!

Meh. All the candidates really need to get right during their walkabouts is their handshake.

At least to impress my wife.

I mean they can’t do anything about their shortness, can they?

Did I mention I loooooove our curtains?

- Published in The New Paper, 21 August 2011

UPDATE: The candidate with the "limp" handshake won the election.

Friday 19 August 2011

The 'reluctant' presidential candidate

In light of the current jostling to become Singapore president, this Wikipedia entry on the 1993 presidential election made me laugh at almost every line with a great kicker at the end:

Former Accountant-General Chua Kim Yeow was a reluctant candidate, and had to be persuaded by the Government to stand, so that the election would be contested, and the electorate could choose between two good candidates.

The 10-day campaign was supposed to be a “gentlemen’s election”, free of flag-waving and noisy rallies.

But Chua took it to the extreme, urging supporters not to campaign for him.

He appeared on TV just twice (once avoiding any mention of himself or his views), and even announced on polling day that Ong Teng Cheong was the better candidate.

Even so, Chua did surprisingly well, garnering 41.3 per cent of the vote.

UPDATE: Mr Chua died on Aug 21, 2016

Sunday 14 August 2011

Why I must check Facebook during the National Anthem

Hi, my name is S M Ong and I’m addicted to the Internet.

During the singing of the National Anthem at the National Day Parade. I was using my iPhone to check how many “Likes” I had on my Facebook page.

Fortunately, I was watching the NDP on TV in The New Paper newsroom and I wasn’t caught on video looking at my phone when I should be belting out Majulah Singapura with my hand on my heart like all true Singaporeans.

More fortunately, I’m not a Member of, say, Ms Penny Low.

During The Pledge Moment, I was watching the latest episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at on my desktop PC, which was fortuitous because Stewart actually mentioned Singapore in that particular episode.

He was talking about US investors looking for a safe haven for their money after the US credit rating was downgraded and joked, “Singapore is looking pretty nice this time of year.”

(The line is at 7:43 in the video below.)

Hooray for Singapore's AAA rating!

I was so delighted to hear Singapore mentioned by an American celebrity other than Seth Rogen and Rupert Murdoch (now a US citizen) – on National Day no less – I forgave myself for not saying the Pledge.

The Internet is not only full of such wonderful surprises – I can also use it to affect change.

Remember the faded Singapore flag outside my neighbour’s window I mentioned in last week’s column?

On Monday morning, I posted the article on the Yew Tee Zone 11 Facebook page and within hours, the flag was replaced with a brand new one.

I feel so empowered.

Now I’m wondering if I can use Facebook to find out what kind of TV set another neighbour has.

He lives in a block opposite mine. Even from as far as my block, I can see through the neighbour’s window that it’s the sharpest high-definition TV I have ever laid eyes on.

It makes my own HD TV look like a crayon drawing. Why is the HD TV always sharper on the other side?

I want to know what brand my neighbour’s HD TV is and whether it’s an LCD, LED or plasma TV.

I’m tempted to knock on my neighbour’s door and ask, but I’m afraid it might be a little weird to go to a stranger’s home just to find out what kind of TV he has after coveting it from afar for so long.

Maybe I’ll use the Yew Tee Zone 11 Facebook page instead.

The Internet is so useful that I feel the need to be connected almost all the time.

When I sleep, I have my iPhone beside me so that when I wake up, I can surf the Web right away.

My wife is so frustrated with my addiction that she has forced me to choose between sleeping with her or with my iPhone.

Afraid to go cold turkey, I managed to convince her that our king-size bed is big enough for a threesome.

Have I hit rock bottom yet?

Just let me check my Facebook page one more time. You may carry on with the National Anthem.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 August 2011

Sunday 7 August 2011

How old is that flag outside your window?

Dear fourth-storey flag-hanger of Block 672A, Choa Chu Kang Crescent,

We’ve never met. I don’t know what you look like. I have no idea who you are.

All I know is that you live on the fourth storey and there’s a Singapore flag hanging outside your window.

I notice this flag every day as I walk home to my block nearby.

Even though National Day is coming, yours is one of only three flags at your block as of yesterday. The other flags are on higher floors.

Not that I’m accusing the rest of your neighbours of being unpatriotic. I don't display a flag myself.

I’m simply too lazy to put up something just to take it down a few weeks later.

But that doesn't mean I'm any less proud to be Singaporean, especially since we recently beat Malaysia in the World Cup qualifiers.

That’s what they get for kicking us out of their federation 46 years ago and making our Prime Minister's father cry.

Anyway, whenever I see a block adorned with rows and rows of flags for National Day, I assume it’s the work of the Residents’ Committee and not the people actually living there.

It’s more meaningful to see a flag like yours because then I know it’s a genuine act of national pride by an individual rather than planned by committee.

But the problem is this: Your flag has been there since last National Day!

I remember seeing it in September last year and thinking it was about time you removed it since National Day was long over.

I thought the same thing on Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Hari Raya Haji, Christmas Day, Chinese New Year, Good Friday, Vesak Day and throughout the Great Singapore Sale.

Isn’t there a law against this?

Maybe you just forgot to take it down. Or you’re too lazy (I can relate to that).

Or maybe you love Singapore so much, you want to show it all year round. The whole month of August just isn't enough for you.

You’ve managed to leave the flag up there for so long that like Planet Of The Apes, it’s back in fashion again.

As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

But compared to the other (newly-hung) flags at your block, yours is now so weather-worn and faded that it’s no longer red and white, but puce and somewhat off-white. Your patriotism has become an eye sore.

So I’m begging you, come September, after the National Day celebrations are over, please, please, please take it down for good.

I thank you.

The other residents of Choa Chu Kang Crescent thank you.

Singapore thanks you.

I look forward to seeing a brand new flag outside your window a year from now in glorious red and white.

S M Ong

- Published in The New Paper, 7 August 2011

UPDATE: The day after this column was published, the faded flag was replaced by a brand new one. Will it still be there by Christmas?

UPDATE UPDATE: On 9 October, I noticed the flags were removed. Finally!

Saturday 6 August 2011

Rise of The Planet of Questions about what the President can and cannot do

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Role of the President of Singapore according to Law Minister?

“The real questions which we should be asking are:

Who would best protect the reserves? Who has the knowledge, the skills and the acumen? Who will best command the respect of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to best influence them? Who has the gravitas and stature to be the symbol of the country?

The wrong questions would be:

Who is going to speak up publicly? Who is going to contradict the Government? Who is going to engage the Government in public issues?

Wrong questions because the President can’t do any of these things. He will be acting unconstitutionally.”

- Singapore’s Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam