You have to credit the Young Muslim Politician from Pasir Ris GRC who despises Malays but claims to be instrumental in getting their vote, aka Thambi Pundek to come to the rescue whenever I have writers block. I was until recently unsure about what to write about until he called me up on a Friday. He gleefuly told me, “I think the Worker’s Party are going to get punished by the voters for the immorality of their MP.”
I had to spoil his day by telling him that the rulling People’s Action Party wasn’t exactly in the position to throw stones when it comes to the issue of personal morality or marital fidelity. Singapore has just started 2012, the Year of the Dragon with not one sex scandal but three.
First, we had the head of Civil Defence and the Central Narcotics Bureau doing naughty things with a woman who was supplying IT equipment to their respective departments. Then, not to be outdone, the Member of Parliament for Hougang from the Worker’s Party, Mr Yaw Shin Leong was involved in a scandal over an alleged affair with a married party worker (it seems Mr Yaw has a history of being naughty and at the time of writing, he’s been sacked by his party). Then to top it all off, the police busted an online prostitution ring where not one but 80 civil servants were involved with.
We, the people, have suddenly had something interesting to gossip about. How did the Red Dot with a reputation of being sterile suddenly become a centre of “personal misconduct?”
Let’s start with the obvious. Singapore has never quite been as sterile and squeaky as she makes herself out to be. We are in many ways like Victorian England. Our founding father’s were all educated in the best tradition of English Public Schools and as result emerged steeped in old fashioned Victorian Values. On the whole, this was an exceedingly good thing. The Victorians, as The Economist once pointed out, was the last generation of Britons to with the drive to build a better world and had created a situation where countless of generations could ‘sponge of them.’
It was the Victorians who put the “Great” in Great Britain and we in the colonies should be thankful for the fact that our ‘founding fathers’ were brought up to treasure the values that made ‘Great’ Britain. Say what you like about Lee Kuan Yew and his gang but they believed in hard work and thrift. Singapore has prospered as a result of this and as Singapore faces an impending economic slowdown, we can be greatful for the fact that we have a government which actually has money to pass onto us in times of need.
While Victorian Values helped build up an Empire, they were less successful in building up a society where people could be open and honest about sex. In Victorian Britain, women were not supposed to have even enjoy the act of sex (lie there and think of Mother England) and even most ‘liberal’ of people had to be seen in Church. While putting up a front of ‘public prudishness,’ prostitution was rife. The most famous Prime Minsiter of that era, was William Gladstone, a man who was famous for flaglilating himself whenever he thought he sinned and trawling the red light districts to ‘save’ prostitutes.
If you understand Victorian attitudes towards sex, you’ll get Singapore’s attitude to the subject. On one hand Singapore is filled with good Asian boys and girls who won’t touch their private parts until marriage. On the other , you’ll find plenty of those good Asian boys making sure that the Red District remains recession proof.
Singaporean men, much as our women folk may like to denny it, have the same sex drive as anyone else. Like men elsewhere, we are obsessed by the size of our penises and sometimes our penises end up being bigger than our brains.
Men in positions of power tend to be guilty of having a huge sex drive and it becomes more so in a culture like Singapore’s where power is the be all and end all of nearly everything. The key that excites people here is power and that translates into sex. I remember telling an old friend that I was shocked that former England Captain, Will Carling would leave a beautiful wife over a shag with Princes Diana. His reply was simple – “How many man can say, ‘I shagged the future Queen of England?’”
It shouldn’t surprise us that men in positions of power have slept with women they should not have. As a man, let me tell you, it’s fun when you have women who want to shag the living daylights out of you. It’s a sign that you’re in a position of power. Women, who often derive their social status from the man in their life, there is a thrill in being shagged silly by someone in a position of power.
This is an age old game and it shouldn’t surprise us that things like this happen in Singapore. If the US President can get a blow job in the White House, we should be surprised that the head of the SCDF and CNB are getting a bit of nooky on the side.
What is a change is the fact that these scandals are coming to light. While a few of us might decry this sudden bout of ‘guttter journalism,’ this is in fact a positive step in the right direction. This was particularly evident in the case of the Comissioner of the SCDF and Director CNB. The government thought it control the timing of the release of the story but were beaten to it by Lianhe Wanbao, one of these Chinese language papers.
In the old days, the newspapers would have waited for the government to give them the permission to print the story. It was called “responsible” journalism. Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister makes the point that he was never going to allow the press to run the show. His point was simple – “Who elected you?” The idea of a press baron like Rupert Murdoch emerging from Singapore remains an anathema.
The good side of this situation was the fact that the press was never allowed and remains unable to ‘break laws,’ in the same way that it had in the UK with the News of the World bugging politicians and tapping the phones of murder victims. People who unwhittingly end up in the media spot light do have a degree of privacy that they would not have elsewhere. I take the AWARE Saga, which I was involved in back in 2009. The press followed the story religiously. They made the links between various parties. They did not go after people like the children of the parties involved.
The down side of this reverence for the government, was that it allowed people in authority to cover their tracks. I think back of my National Service days when we had live firing. Nobody knew that a good chunk of our ammunition was beyond the use-by date until two-people died. We, the guys on the ground were barred from speaking to the press and the press meekly accepted the Ministry of Defence’s statements for what they were. It was clear to us on the ground that there was negligence in ammunition procurement. More than a decade later, nobody from the defence procurement department has faced even slap on the wrist for what was blatant criminal negligence. The story seems to be it was all the fault of some US based manufacturer who outsourced things to Mainland China.
Today, the press faces competition from websites. Eye balls which only took information from the main stream have other sources of information. Why did the editor of Lianhe Wanbao make the decision to publish the story about the two senior civil servants? Answer is pretty simple –there is a need to come up with a big story before the other news sources do it for you and send you into the dustbins of irrelevance.
Libel laws are necessary. Unlike my fellow bloggers, I’m not going to panic because the Lee family have sent lawyers letters to a few of us. It’s a sign that we as a community as being taken seriously. As bloggers, we should play by similar rules to our bretheren in the Mainstream media.
However, the situation is such that the powers-that-be will find it harder to use libel laws. People have tasted certain freedoms and will not accept those freedoms being removed. Those in power cannot silence things as they like nor can they expect to play by different rules just because they are in power. Look at the recent case of libel letters being sent to the Temasek Review Emeritus, one of Singapore’s most prominent blog sites. Yes, the site removed “offensive” comments but the letters are being discussed online. This would not have happened five years ago. A government official can no longer call up an editor and demand a story be killed without real justification.
Sex scandals may be torrid fun. However, they also show us a few things and I believe the sudden breaking of such stories is positive for the nation at large.