Stop being so childish, prime minister

It is barely the first week of the new year and we already have a threat of legal action from the People’s Action Party (PAP) / Government. PM Lee Hsien Loong had sent a lawyer’s letter to well known and very much respected blogger, activist and writer, Alex Au, demanding Alex removed his blog posts about Action Information Management, the PAP-owned company embroiled in the controversy over a certain computer system.

It is unclear whether PM Lee had sent the letter in his personal capacity, or as the prime minister or secretary general of the PAP. Whatever it is, the demand was clear – remove the allegedly offending post, and publish an apology, or else.

It is the same old tiring, tiresome, and tired tactic of issuing threats instead of engaging the issue or the alleged allegations. Threatening to take legal action over blog postings is, to be honest, infantile. It is childish because it does not befit the office of the prime minister to take offence so easily, when he has in his power all the resources to engage the issue, clarify any perceived falsehoods, or lay out the facts of the issue at hand. In short, he could very well take some time, have a bit of patience, and debate or discuss the issues and in the process enlighten everyone – and maybe gain a bit more respect too from his detractors.

But no. A lawyer’s letter was obviously deemed the better option.

Nonetheless, lets not let this threat of legal action distract us from the very important matter of the AIM/PAP controversy – for there are still many questions, serious questions, left unanswered, even after some 3 weeks since the matter came into the public spotlight.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, the coordinating chairman of the 14 PAP town councils, have yet to explain, for example, why he and the chairmen of the town councils, did not see the conflict of interest of awarding and selling the rights of the computer system to a PAP-owned company. If they did, why did they still choose to go ahead in awarding the contract to AIM?

He has also not disclosed how much was used to develop the software in the first place. Or indeed, how much AIM paid for the software. Why was AIM’s bid for the contract submitted, apparently, one week after the closing date of the tender – and accepted?

Alex raised some very pertinent matters too – such as the danger that there is nothing to stop the PAP from selling out other services to PAP-owned companies. By the way, the PAP has declined to reveal how many companies it owns. This too is a problem because any opposition party which wins a constituency may find itself having to deal with PAP-owned companies, as the Workers’ Party did with AIM in Aljunied.

It is thus important, in the name of full accountability, that the PAP disclose the number of companies it has, and the nature of their business.

In the case of AIM, the PAP declined to disclose its past business dealings, or other details about the company.

So, in spite of the threat of legal action by the prime minister, these questions are being asked even more loudly now – and it would do the PAP a whole lot of good if it addressed each one openly.

And the best way to do so is in a “live” press conference in the presence of the mainstream media and the alternative media. Take the matter head-on, clear all doubts, lay out all facts.

That is, if the PAP has nothing to hide, which I am sure is the case.

And it really – I mean, really – is time to lay down the hatchet.

Engage Singaporeans. Engage the issue. Engage the questions – and not engage lawyers to issue threats.

Stop being so childish, prime minister.

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Read Ravi Philemon’s letter to PAP chairman, Khaw Boon Wan, here.

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42 thoughts on “Stop being so childish, prime minister

  1. Honestly, there were answers to some questions and then again, there were no answers to other questions. Full accountability simply means answering all questions. There can be transparency in this case since national security is not compromised by giving full facts on the issue unless there are national security issues? That linkage is quite unfathomable?

  2. the problem is: when a spoiled kid is childish, how do you honestly expect the kid to not be childish? he’s a child!

  3. I found your blog post by someone on Facebook who shared it and I must say, it’s very well written and you hit the nail on the head. Never before have I heard of a PM who is so scared of what a few bloggers say that he resorts to multiple threats of lawsuits. It’s quite clear he has much to hide as if he didn’t, he would engage the people with the facts. The sad fact is he knows he will win hands down in any battle against anyone. Money rules and this government continues on as it is.

    1. Exactly. The government should first provide all the facts even if they mean a oversight long time back but thank those who brought the issues and promise to improve by eliminating wrong practices and ensure channels for reporting wrong practices without any possible consequential effect to the one reports it.

      By coming out on intimidating any known figures in the Internet is not the first thing our PM should do. It is very obvious to all that important subjects are set aside but focusing on small personal issue.

      He could have said that a team has been set up to provide thorough investigation on the aim saga and public will be given full reports to show the transparency. Nevertheless he can remind people to avoid improper naming calling, insults, unfactual statements, etc. By doing this, he will sure be able to repair the situation and importantly try to create a harmoniously society in the land.

  4. Maybe changing the first word of “if” to “since” would do the trick. Besides white colour, what else is identical between MIW and Popiah Skins?

  5. Smile now this is a topic for the Sin-g-a-pore Con-ver-sation.
    An old english proverb comes to mind …….there is no smoke with a fire. A line in think from a shakespear play which goes roughly ….by thy denials thou does confess to thy deeds.
    Off hand the grand old man did it better – I did it my way , no need to explain. Perhaps they could change who ever handles their PR work – it sucks for spin control; the pr spin actually make the situation worse. Another example of why some times paying high does not guaranty a good job being done especially when you get the wrong people to do the job namely being not qualified and with little talent. Not as in chinese “ren chye” material; just another “imperial scholar” who can sing approved songs only but is unable to deal well with any thing else.

  6. Very simple. They send lawyer’s letter, we quickly apologise, quickly remove. Because no point contesting them in their own boxing ring. It’s like boxing with a kangaroo who can balance on its tail to box and kick you with four limbs at the same time. And the referee is yet another kangaroo. So, totally pointless to get into the ring with them.

  7. Oh yeahh… just before they threaten to sue… let me say this… THERE IS NO CORRUPTION IN STINKAPOOR.

  8. Another wrong ‘parenting’ tactic – threaten and scare the child – hoping that his other ‘siblings’ would not say or do the same thing.

  9. I fully support the move by the Prime Minister to issue a defamation letter to Alex Au for his preposterous statements about the AIMS transaction. The PAP government stands for no corruption. So does any transaction by the PAP company. Frankly, the Prime Minister is being too kind to Alex Au. He should have commenced legal action immediately and the outcome would have been a good lesson for all political bloggers who consider themselves great pundits in politics.

  10. The allegation of Corruption challenges not the man, but the office. It shows disrespect for the Office, and when repeated often enough, will people start to believe it?

    So how can the PM ignore this or be nice about this situation?

    How many have become “experts” of what the PM does or says, and can paraphrase the PM’s actions and words, yet when asked for evidence, fail to provide them?

    Please note that in public, he’s not just merely a person with the name Lee Hsien Loong, but rather he holds the Office and Responsibility of Prime Minister of Singapore.

    There is nothing wrong in the PM maintaining the integrity of the Office.

  11. Andrew, have you wondered when there are so many writing about Action Information Management, only Alex Au got the lawyer’s letter?

    If it was really to silence all talk on the AIM incident, should all critics be receiving the letter at the same time as Alex Au did?

    Nobody can fault anyone for discussing or criticizing an ISSUE. Haven’t you heard of the saying, “对事不对人”?

    1. This being his first (public) reaction to the AIM/PAP saga, I feel the PM could have done better, much better. Defending the office of the prime minister through threats is a childish way of defending the office, especially against a blogger who, from what I know, has no means to “go the whole hog” with the PM.

      It would have done the office of the Prime Minister much more good if the PM had taken the time to engage, interact, explain, enlighten, patiently, calmly and thoroughly, the points and issues raised.

      That would indeed have brought his office much more dignity and respect. Unfortunately, what PM Lee just did makes him look petty and does his office no service.

      1. The comments made on the blog questions the integrity of his appointment as the Prime Minister.

        Pursuing legal action is by any means the most appropriate manner to stem out the allegations.

        ” taken the time to engage, interact, explain, enlighten, patiently, calmly and thoroughly, the points and issues raised”

        Do you know how many Singaporeans out there are trying to get attention on all types of issues? You expect one person to clarify every single issue and all the various speculations? As a voter and taxpayer, I would expect them to spend more time focusing on building the country and nation then wasting precious time on pacifying people who refuse to look at the issue objectively.

        The point in this whole entire matter is anti-ruling party. If there are any CONCRETE evidence that suggests or leads to corruption, table it out and let the relevant authorities investigate, not making unsubstantiated claims, allegations and references, that would be indeed childish.

      2. By your reasoning, there can never be any questioning of any issue or matter because “[we] expect them to spend more time focusing on building the country and nation”. I think that is a rather dubious line of argument.

      3. By my reasoning, elected Government official should spend time on issues that are substantiated.

        These allegations have no concrete evidences but personal opinion. The law does not operate on personal opinions.

      4. If this were the WP doing what PAP did with AIM, you can bet that the following will have happened already:
        1) daily, extensive, multiple days coverage inthe ST,
        2) ministers throwing stones : what is the WP trying to hide? “Come clean”, the people of XXX deserves an explanation”, this is a “character issue”. And here we are, saying the PM has got more important things to do, so drop it?? Did we just “drop it” with minor incidents like James Gomez?? No, the PAP milked it until it backfired. Did we just “drop it” when CSJ was accused of sending a letter overseas using Uni’s postage? No, it was magnified as a major “character” issue. Here we have a case of an asset purchased with public funds being transferred to a private party – and we just drop it??

      5. Karl, by your logic, no letter should have been sent in the first place because it is a waste of time and tax payer money!

        It’s not as though Singapore would plunge into chaos while former supporters of the PM turned to the “dark side”, had the blog post been left in its place.

        Obviously given its magnitude, this issue in particular should be given more attention than say, amending the law on types/number of animals allowed to be bred in HDB estates.

  12. We have a spoilt child doing a man’s job perhaps, and that is why we see such behavior. It is apparent that the truth hurts and this little kid finds it really hard to debate the issue.

    1. LHL has to do something because Old Fart is too weak and frail to issue the threat. Anyway, old fart already has one leg in the coffin and the other leg about to step it

  13. Can’t expect much from a child doing a man’s job. The spoilt brat can’t deal with the truth and hence he has chosen this road.

  14. Dear Andrew, will you receive a similar letter from his lawyers, I wonder. Your post seems more defamatory than Alex’s.

    In any case, I am similarly upset that the PM has chosen the tried-and-tested legal route. Alex Au’s initial post has since been brought down, though he seems too crafty to let the matter rest entirely.

    Ironically, Lee’s pursuit of an apology may inadvertently give the matter more publicity, and ultimately, pour light on the matter. Even Grace Fu has had to go on the defensive, having to add her two cents in an FB post, although it was nothing more than a smokescreen.

    Regardless, I hope PM does engage the populace, and that threatening to sue Alex doesn’t indicate a reluctance to answer the some very tough, very important, questions the last three weeks has brought up.

  15. I like your articles.. factual and fearless. Only cowards keep on issuing Letter of Demands, threats and legal actions. Soon or late, all bloggers who write about the PAP and its system will have to flee Singapore for good.

  16. When the PAP is on the defensive, it issues threats. This habit has been conditioned in their minds, just like how animal trainers condition animals. They should engage the questions online and not engage their lawyers to engage the bloggers and netizens.

  17. The score for the PM: Legally +1; politically -100. Within the temporary “victory” of the PM lies a permanent defeat that will come eventually.

  18. Andrew, well written article. Fully agreed with you.

    For the childish PM – Even if Alex did not write those posts, we have all the unanswered questions in our minds and we despise you for threatening to sue instead of answering them, and by the way, if you want to sue, sue him in international court.

  19. Maybe they should set up another law firm call “shoot”. Aim & Shoot letters at anyone they want to shut up. Hehee

  20. Everyone has the right to ask questions, but if you want to make ACCUSATIONS that you cannot backup with facts, then be prepared to be sued!

    If you are accused of being corrupt, would you not do anything?

    Please don’t grey the issues here.

    For many of the replies here, if you believe truly believe what you wrote, please don’t hide under the cowardice of anonymous names and IDs.

  21. You guys should read about the tender for the river taxi service. The company chairman is the famous shortie and it won the tender despite not being the highest and the newest player. Wonder if it’s a “PAPA backed company”

  22. In fact there are lots of other “Papa owned companies” out there making millions, doing work for councils and government. The business is run by members and ex members of the clan and some of the profits is chanelled back to Papa. This is not considered “donation” and thus the law is bypassed. If the numbers are pubclished, the peasants will be shell shocked.

    1. RE the peasants will be shell shocked: Really? Care to elaborate about the ”lots of other ‘Papa owned companies’ out there… doing work for councils and government”, where “some of the profits is channelled back to Papa”?

  23. You have rightly commented that the PM’s Office have all the resources to rebut whatever false truths or allegations being raised. So why are they not taking this route but instead send the lawyer’s letter of demand?

    But even after threatening with the lawyer’s letter, what is stopping them from providing clear unambiquous answers to some of those still unanswered questions ? Why are they not taking serious efforts to clear the air about such alleged impropriety ? Is it because they can’t provide the burden of proof to exonexonerate themselves ?

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