An Al Jazeera’s report taking a real look beneath Singapore’s economic success led by the PAP.
Category In the Heartland
Observations and non-political (I try) opinions on real issues that are close to our hearts in our nation, Singapore.
GE 2011: What is God doing?
This year, the general elections in Singapore looks to be a watershed one!
Since independence, this is the first time all (87) seats are contested except 5 seats namely from Tanjong Pagar GRC. And this was due to a controversial incident.
Nonetheless, this remains a significant progress for Singapore’s political scene especially with majority of Singaporeans voting for the very first time after countless walkovers.
From the last election that happened in 2006, I’ve observed two key factors that are distinctive in shaping this election.
First is the increased numbers of young voters or Gen-Ys who are eligible above the age of 21 years old, and the other is the influence of social media, in particularly Facebook that is shaping the opinions of Singaporeans.
These two are inter-linked because it is the Gen-Ys that are more savvy or in tuned to such online social media platforms. And together, they prove to be a lethal force to be reckoned with.
It has contributed in addressing the general lack of apathy among the average Singaporean towards political issues and appealed to more citizens to join the opposition parties.
Because information is now no longer just confined or belonging to the higher echelon of society or baby boomers. The Internet has levelled the playing field where vital information is easily accessible and shared among people.
That said, amidst all the buzz and excitement, I’m trying to discern what is God’s agenda or move in this overall political situation.
I strongly believe that He’s taking Singapore to the next level where this nation and the Church can fulfill its full potential towards advancing His global redemptive plan.
So in this elections, let’s pray and vote wisely.
My learning points from Pastor Rony Tan’s incident
No one had expected that the recent incident of the insensitive comments by Senior Pastor Rony Tan from Lighthouse Evangelism Church would have resulted in such a severe public backlash.
That said, I do believe Pastor Tan never did intend to be demeaning or insulting towards the beliefs of Buddhism or Taoism.
Nonetheless, lessons can be drawn from this incident. And below are some of my personal learning points:
1. The influence of new media
Pastor Tan subjected himself to the online community when the videos with his inappropriate remarks were uploaded on the church’s website.
Unknown to many, he was hauled by the Internal Security Department (ISD) after it had first appeared on Hardware Zone’s online forum which eventually escalated to the authorities.
This incident is a fine example how the new media has become a powerful tool that can either work for you or against you. And it is imperative that we as Christians learn how to use it effectively and strategically with the purpose to engage as salt and light.
2. Be a responsible communicator
I believe being responsible is a better description than being careful when in comes to communication. We not only need to be mindful with what we communicate, but how we communicate. And this is especially so when there is a wide audience who are listening, watching or reading what we’re communicating.
Whether it is on the pulpit, through the media, in a group or with your spouse and even through social media sites like Facebook or blogs, we need to consider the impact of what we want to communicate. And more importantly, as best as we know how, reflect Christ in us with our communication whether in words or in deeds. (c.f. Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 3:15-16).
3. Let the Church be known for what She stands for
This is another unfortunate incident that has not helped to mitigate the negative perceptions that people have towards God, the Church or Christians in general. You may read this as a reference to some of the general perceptions.
It is time that the Church of Jesus Christ gets to be known for what She stands for rather than for what She is against. And what the Church stands for is LOVE. We need to be known for loving people radically just as how Christ did so and does so.
Till now I can recall how I was won over and reconciled to God, and it was not theology that persuaded me. It was LOVE.
I was drawn to God by Christ’s unconditional love in spite of my sins. He literally love me out of sin and darkness, and I believe that this is how the Church ought to demonstrate His word and be known for, in order to truly advance His Kingdom.
Time for the Church to Love
Last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented his National Day Rally speech.
Strangely, the topic of race and religion dominated his speech.
However, in view of the inevitable force that is changing our social, political and economic landscape in our global world, I reckoned that his speech was somewhat a timely reminder and a wake-up call to us Christians.
That force is that of globalisation which is pushing people together even closer than before. And religion or its fundalmentalists and dogmatists are becoming an opposing and dangerous force that divides and threatens our society’s progress.
“Catalysts” for further globalisation
Back in early June, US President Obama visited Cairo, Eygpt and delivered a groundbreaking message to urge an end to suspicion and discord between America and the Muslim world.
He highlighted that “the relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars.”
In a gesture of reconciliation with the Islamic world, Obama further conceded that tension “has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”
Even Tony Blair, the Bristish ex-Prime Minister had launched his new inter-faith foundation called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation this April.
What makes the foundation’s work distinctive is its emphasis on uniting people of different religious traditions in practical action – with the eradication of malaria a key priority at this moment.
The Church’s divine appointment
With this backdrop, I strongly believe that if there is a such divine appointment for the Church to represent Christ in His fullness, it is NOW.
For too long Christianity that was founded upon a legacy of love has been tainted with the worst sort of intolerance and prejudice.
Most troubling of all is witnessing how the teachings of Christ has been hijacked by believers who hate in the name of love.
“When people worship Him today – or even speak his name – the object of their devotion is unlikely to be who they think he is,” said Deepak Chopra in his book titled- The Third Jesus, “it seems clearly that He has served to divide peoples and nations. He has led to destructive wars in the name of religious fantasies.”
Even in his rally speech, PM Lee cited the AWARE saga as an attempted takeover “by a religiously motivated group who shared a strong religious fervour to enter civil space”.
I submit to you that if we Christians truly desire to spread the message towards fulfilling the Great Commission, then we cannot afford to be known or driven by a religious motivation.
As a people, we need to be more concerned about what is right than about being right. We need to be love motived, simply because God is love; being the message is more important than us merely spreading the message.
Christ in this 21st century not only needs to be accurately represented, but also re-presented.
Singapore: What Do I See?
What I see of Singapore is that of a country that is nothing short of a miracle.
Who would have imagined that this tiny island would transformed into a metropolitan city state some 44 years ago?
The main strategy
It’s plain to see that our government’s main strategy for progress has been economic growth in delivering the “bread and butter” – to provide employment opportunities for that every Singaporean.
Though this pragmatic strategy has been highly criticised by many, but it has worked over the years so I believe that focus has remain unchanged.
Economic growth and increasing employment opportunities is a safe and sure-to-work approach in ensuring stability and peace in our nation.
With people gainfully employed with a steady stream of income, societal upheaval and crimes of sorts naturally will or should be minimised.
A place to live and achieve
Though I’m usually not an ardent fan (nor am I anti) of our government, but I have to admit that I’m grateful that they have provided Singaporeans (majority of us) like myself a place where we can fulfill our dreams and destinies (to a larger extend).
I speak for myself that if the “bread and butter” issues in accordance of the Maslow Hierarchy of needs are not met, I don’t think I would be in a privileged position to live out my beliefs and values.
Given the constraints of limited land and natural resources, I think some credit should be given to our government who have dictated harnessed well the strengths of its people in achieving overall progress.
My Singapore in the future
However, in the pursuit of economic progress that empahsises on high productivity and efficiency, as a nation we have paid a price by overlooking or compromising over virtues such as compassion and graciousness.
Now we can observe more caregivers taking over the role of parenting in families; more elderly folks being deported housed in nursing homes and are denied cheaper fares for public transport; and the introduction of new restrictions over the withdrawal of our CPF monies at retired age.
These are just a few of the tell-tale signs of the lack of compassion and graciousness in our society.
Personally, I believe that one should measure the greatness of a nation by its moral progress; by looking at how it treats the poor and needy.
Thus, what I do hope to see, is a Singapore that is more compassionate and gracious as a people in the years to come.
I’m confident this is achieveable when each one of us begin to genuinely look out for those who might have fallen into the “cracks” and provide them a leg up towards an inclusive society.
Happy National Day!
Here’s an old clip of Singapore’s Dick Lee giving his very own version of “Count on Me Singapore”.
Have a good laugh and enjoy the holiday! =P
The World’s Highest Paid Politician is…
Yesterday, UK Times published a report on the top 10 highest paid politicians in the world. And it is not too difficult to guess who tops the list.
It’s none other than Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.
Read the report here>>>
On a seperate but related matter, here was PM Lee’s most recent reply when queried by BBC if he was worth all that money:
“I am not comparing myself and I don’t look at these rankings. We go on a system which is open, honest, transparent – what is the job worth, what is the quality of the person whom you want.
We need the best people for the job and these are jobs where you make decisions which are worth billions of dollars. And you cannot do that if you are pretending and you just say, ‘Well, we are all in it for the love of King and Country’.
We want it to be honest, we want people not to come in for the money. But at the same time the sacrifice cannot be too great. And at times like these, you want the best possible government you can have.”
Interestingly, this part of the interview was not published in our mainstream media.
So where’s the “open, honest, transparent” part which PM Lee had boldy talked about?
Read more about the BBC interview here>>>
Early April Fool’s Joke?
I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read the headline of the above article on the Straits Times dated 31 March 2009.
On the onset, please do not mistaken me for being disrespectful to our leaders. Nothing against them, but I am merely flabbergasted by the use of ‘depth of leadership’ here.
In my personal opinion, depth is built over many years of trials and challenges to mould a leader’s character, capacity and competence.
In Singapore, it seems our leaders are identified and measured mainly by their academic achievements over the ‘trials and challenges’ in our educational system.
Take a look at Barack Obama, Mahatma Ghandi, Lee Kuan Yew, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, they started right from the bottom and fought courageously to earn the spot on the top.
Honestly, what credible and proven track records are there in our present leaders to measure their quality of depth? And what depth of leadership do they exhibit when everything is so conveniently handed to them?
My Valentine’s Day SMS
During the Valentine’s Day weekend, I was greeted with a SMS from MINDEF!
As a guy growing up in Singapore, it is as if we are married to our government.
This love-hate relationship begins when we are at the ripe old age of 18 years old. That’s when we go “honeymoon” for two years serving National Service.
After ORD, we still have our regular 1-2 weeks “tryst” or reservist training. If that’s not enough for her, then there’s remedial training!
Damn tough being a guy in Singapore sia… No wonder we don’t make enough babies… LOL
But on a seperate and serious note, read about this latest disturbing news about the world’s youngest boy dad with daughter at 13 years old in England.
Some Change from Budget 2009
Now for some political updates on our own shores with yesterday’s Singapore Budget 2009.
Against an unprecedented economic uncertainty, many businesses and households were anticipating for some change (pun intended) from our government.
Unfortunately for many, the Budget merely dished out loose change. You can read some feedback and learn about the Budget’s key initiatives.
Though I found the Job Credit Scheme a creative incentive for employers in order to retain employment, but the rest were expected measures that were necessary for any downturn.
Some of these measures included corporate tax cuts (from 18 per cent to 17 per cent?!) and 15 per cent rental rebates for JTC/HDB/SLA tenants. However, we know that this is not any ordinary downturn that we are experiencing today.
Hence, it is natural that more help is expected from businesses to cope with the financial crunch especially since their survival will benefit our economy and livelihood of Singaporeans with gainful employment.
MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Inderjit Singh was reported saying: “We did not do enough in the area of cost reduction and this is a very urgent issue. Freezing government charges alone was not sufficient. We could have reduced and also looked at other initiatives to help companies reduce their costs.”
Nonetheless, this year’s Budget seemed to have more heart for Singaporeans such as the lower income group and disadvantaged. But how these measures will translate to direct help remains to be seen.
Read a related news report from Wall Street Journal here>>>