Thursday, September 01, 2011
I’m On the Way
I am, as my mother once said, “On the wrong side of my thirties” and if you look at things carefully, the life I’ve been living is pretty miserable. I’ve never held a job in a decent organisation for more than a year (so much so that when I left my last job, PN Balji advised me, “Be an income man – you’ll never explain why you’ve never worked in an organisation for long – it will be tough if not impossible to get hired”) and I’ve spent the last six-years living in a hovel. As for my personal life, the less said the better (unless you’re writing drama scripts). However, it looks like there may be hope, even for the likes of me. I can’t quite say that I have arrived but at least I can say that I am on the way. The message was delivered by the most unusual and unlikely of all messengers – “The Young Politician from Pasir Ris GRC aka Thambi Pundek.” (He’s just informed me that he would rather be referred to as Thambi Pundek than the Young Politician from Pasir Ris GRC). It all started out with an SMS. I told him that it was time to stop spreading fear and panic about the losing candidate in Saturday’s Presidential Election (Dr Tan Cheng Bok – former MP for Ayer Rajah GRC) and to start concentrating on healing the party (PAP). He decided that I was seeing things the wrong way and he needed to meet with me to “rebut” my beliefs and offered to buy me a decent lunch. Well, I’m not one to argue with someone who is offering to buy me lunch and so I met up with him to listen to his intellectual analysis of politics in Singapore. He had fun telling me that the Presidential Election was a grand endorsement of PAP policies – “Over 70 percent of the electorate voted for PAP men,” he said. His argument was simple – both Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bok were PAP men and so a vote for both of them was a vote for the PAP. Not sure how he worked that one out – if you follow the logic the PAP won 100 percent of all the votes cast since every one of them was a former government/PAP man – Dr Tony Tan is former Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Tan Cheng Bok is a former MP, Mr Tan Jee Say is a former senior civil servant and Mr Tan Kin Lian ran NTUC Income Cooperative (A government controlled organisation). Anyway, half way through his monologue, YPPRGRCTP (Young Politician from Pasir Ris GRC Thambi Pundek) said, “Hey, your blog is being monitored by ISD – you know they can call you up anytime – just like that.” He then went onto announce to me that “I know the person monitoring your blog and I’m one of the point people.” This was the news that made my day. If I haven’t arrived, this was the sign to say that I am at the very least on the way to somewhere. Seriously, how many of my former school, army, university and work mates can possibly claim to be important enough to be monitored by the State? Singapore is small state. However, we’re a small state that takes pride in being exceedingly stable in a region known for instability. Our politics, until recently was a fairly predictable affair. Elections were never a question of who would win but a question of the winning margin. Law suites are also predictable – you simply had to follow whose interest was at stake. If you were a foreign publication in a libel suite against a senior member of the government, you’d know the outcome – the only unpredictable element would be the amount awarded in favour of your opponent. To keep this happy situation going, Singapore has a very strong security service. Like our former Colonial Masters, the British, we have an “official secrets act,” and while we may have gotten rid of colonial rule, we’ve maintained some of the laws of colonial administration – namely the right of the government to hold you for a period of 60-days without trial. Thanks to Osama and his gang, these laws have been tightened. Our little Red Dot of a nation has an extensive spy network. OK, it’s not the CIA or Mosad or dare I say the KGB – but our Internal Security Department (ISD) is well funded and its network is extensive. OK, I’ve been aware that I’ve been monitored or at least my published writings have been. Anyone is consistently published in the media is monitored. The Ministry of Information and the Arts (MICA) not only has an efficient system of distributing information; it has an equally extensive system of monitoring information. The chaps, who do this, don’t just monitor mainstream publications. Cyberspace, particularly blogs are monitored. So, it’s not a surprise to me that ISD has glanced at my blog as well as the various publications I’ve written for in the past. However, I have to admit that I was especially pleased with the way the YPPRGRCTP great pride in telling me that I was being monitored and he knew the people doing it. Obviously, he thinks I’ve become important enough for the powers that be to monitor me closely and he is happily trying to find ways for me to admit to doing something awfully salacious so that he can score some brownie points by denouncing me to the powers that be. So, now that I’m officially being marked out as being important enough for the powers that be to place me under surveillance and to let me know – I need to think of ways to help the YPPRGRCTP get ahead in his career as a worm and find something that will remove any shadow of doubt that I have officially arrived. Wait for the next instalment of what I have to say next – it could be a grovelling apology and promise to remove myself from cyberspace – in which case you know why – I’ve arrived and will be joining the likes of Alan Shadrake in the list of millionaire authors created by the Singapore government – wish me luck and do find ways of contributing to my welfare.