And, they are online now


Over a week ago, I was pinged by @l00g33k on twitter with a picture of a description of a piece of code I wrote in 1982.

That lead to a meet up and reliving a time where the only high technology thing I had was a 6502-based single board computer complete with 2K of RAM. It was a wonderful meet up and @l00g33k  was kind enough to handover to me a bag with 10 copies of the newsletter that was published by the Singapore Ohio Scientific Users Group. That was the very first computer user group I joined.

Suffice to say, I did help contribute to the newsletter by way of code to be run on the Superboard ][ – all in Basic.

I’ve scanned the 10 newsletters and it is now online.

I am really pleased to read in the Vol 1 #3 (page 36) a program to generate a calendar. The code is all in Basic. Feed it a year and out comes the calendar for the whole year.

Another piece of code is in Vol 1 #5 page 36 a program to print out the world map. That code was subsequently improved upon and published by another OSUG member to include actual times of cities – something that could only be done with the addiion of a real time clock circuitry on the Superboard ][.

A third program was in Vol 1 #6 page 26 that implemented a morse code transmitter.

I was very happy then (as I am now) that the code is out there even though none of us whose code was published in the newsletters had any notion of copyright. Code was there to be freely copied and worked on. Yes, a radical idea which in 1984 got codified by Richard Stallman’s Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org).

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You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep**


Lots of what we take for granted found expression in the thoughts and writings of John Perry Barlow. He crafted “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” back in 1996. It held lots of truths that I found critical for all of us, regardless of where we find ourselves.

John passed away on 7 February 2018. I was privileged to have met him in Singapore on 28th March 1995 (update: thanks to Marv for the date) and what an honour it was. Singapore was in the midst of her “IT 2000 Master Plan” crafted by the National Computer Board (the earliest I can find of ncb.gov.sg is from 13 October 1997).

He had spoken at an event at the NCB and we then proceed to have lunch a chinese restaurant at Clementi Woods park. Among the many things we chatted about was about the future and what it means to be connected. Mind you, those were days when we had dial up modems, perhaps 56k baud, but what a thrill it was to hear about his visions.

I was fortunate to have been able to keep in contact with him in the early 2010s via twitter and email and I was very glad that he did remember that trip and that he found some of the things Singapore was doing then to be intriguing but challenging for the future and that digital rights would be something that we need to be fighting for because if the people don’t own it, governments and big corporations will occupy that space.

He was the founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation and on 7th April 2018, the EFF held a “John Perry Barlow Symposium” hosted by the Internet Archive. Do watch the recording to how critical John was to lots of what we take for granted today.

Read his writings at the EFF which is hosting the John Perry Barlow Library.

Thank you John.

* John’s photo by Mohamed Nanabhay from Qatar,  CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66227217

**https://www.quotes.net/quote/4718

Seeking a board seat at OpenSource.org


I’ve stepped up to be considered for a seat on the Board of the Open Source Initiative.

Why would I want to do this? Simple: most of my technology-based career has been made possible because of the existence of FOSS technologies. It goes all the back to graduate school (Oregon State University, 1988) where I was able to work on a technology called TCP/IP which I was able to build for the OS/2 operating system as part of my MSEE thesis. The existence of newsgroups such as comp.os.unix, comp.os.tcpip and many others on usenet gave me a chance to be able to learn, craft and make happen networking code that was globally useable. If I did not have access to the code that was available on the newsgroups I would have been hardpressed to complete my thesis work. The licensing of the code then was uncertain and arbitrary and, thinking back, not much evidence that one could actually repurpose the code for anything one wants to.

My subsequent involvement in many things back in Singapore – the formation of the Linux Users’ Group (Singapore) in 1993 and many others since then, was only doable because source code was available for anyone do as they pleased and to contribute back to.

Suffice to say, when Open Source Initiative was set up twenty years ago in 1998, it was a formed a watershed event as it meant that then Free Software movement now had a accompanying, marketing-grade branding. This branding has helped spread the value and benefits of Free/Libre/Open Source Software for one and all.

Twenty years of OSI has helped spread the virtue of what it means to license code in an manner that enables the recipient, participants and developers in a win-win-win manner. This idea of openly licensing software was the inspiration in the formation of the Creative Commons movement which serves to provide Free Software-like rights, obligations and responsibilities to non-software creations.

I feel that we are now at a very critical time to make sure that there is increased awareness of open source and we need to build and partner with people and groups within Asia and Africa around licensing issues of FOSS. The collective us need to ensure that the up and coming societies and economies stand to gain from the benefits of collaborative creation/adoption/use of FOSS technologies for the betterment of all.

As an individual living in Singapore (and Asia by extension) and being in the technology industry and given that extensive engagement I have with various entities:

I feel that contributing to OSI would be the next logical step for me. I want to push for a wider adoption and use of critical technology for all to benefit from regardless of their economic standing. We have much more compelling things to consider: open algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. These are going to be crucial for societies around the world and open source has to be the foundation that helps build them from an ethical, open and non-discriminatory angle.

With that, I seek your vote for this important role.  Voting ends 16th March 2018.

I’ll be happy to take questions and considerations via twitter or here.

My submission to the proposed changes to the Films Act


[The submission deadline is 5pm Singapore time Saturday December 30, 2017. Image above from http://www.newlovetimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/the-godfather.gif ]

I have sent the following to the IMDA as per their requests for comments for the proposed changes to the Films Act.

 

Public Consultation on Proposed Amendments to the Films Act (FA)

To: consultation@imda.gov.sg

Hi. I would like to thank IMDA for inviting comments to the proposed amendments to the Films Act and for extending the deadline to the submissions.

I refer to the following section extracted from section F of Part 1 and included here for completeness – except for the footnotes [0]:

“(F) Enhancements to IMDA’s Investigation and Enforcement Powers

2.30 Today, the Films Act provides IMDA and Police with powers
to enter premises without warrant to search for and seize
unlawful films. However, for other breaches of the Films
Act, such as the distribution or public exhibition of
unclassified films, such powers are vested with the Police
who assist IMDA with enforcement and investigations. Going
forward, the enforcement and investigation for breaches
under the Films Act will be taken on by IMDA, and the Police
will only be called on when necessary. Accordingly, the
Films Act will need to be amended to empower IMDA with the
necessary enforcement and investigation powers to take on
this role.

Proposed Amendments

2.31 MCI/IMDA propose to enhance IMDA’s investigation and
enforcement powers to:

(a) Request any documents and information from any person
to investigate a suspected breach of the Films Act or
licence conditions;
(b) Enter and inspect, without warrant, any premises and
examine any film or advertisement for a film found on
the premises;
(c) Dispose of films, equipment or materials that have
been seized during enforcement and is unclaimed,
forfeited or has to be disposed without returning to
the owner; and
(d) Provide for the composition of offences.”

In general, the various other proposals look useful and are, I think, reasonable.

What concerns me, however, is the change as noted in paragraph 2.30 above.

As it is, there is no need for a warrant to enter a premise as was already in the law [1] (Section 23A(1)(a)(i). I note that it is only in 23A(6) that warrants are sought when 23A(1)(a)(i) fails.)

How the Film Act [2] was written (and passed) that way is something that I’d like to know. I think that it does infringe of one’s rights and I feel is counter to the idea of due process and fair play.

So, given that, I am concerned with the proposed removal of the involvement of Police officers as noted in paragraph 2.30 above.

The consultation document does not provide detailed justifications or reasons for the proposed amendments. It would be very helpful if there were historical information as to what IMDA encountered (or was hindered as a result of) in undertaking the responsibilities as it is defined in the law that now warrants the need to remove Police officers in the list of authorized officers.

I am concerned that the impartial oversight that the Police offers is being diminished by this proposed change. It might very well be that there were indeed no Police officers involved in previous efforts to enforce the Film Act, but that is not evident in this
proposal and seems strange to write them out of it without additional information.

Thank you.

Harish Pillay

[0] https://www.imda.gov.sg/-/media/imda/files/inner/pcdg/consultations/consultation-paper/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act/films-act-public-consultation-4-dec-2017.pdf?la=en
[1] https://www.imda.gov.sg/-/media/imda/files/inner/pcdg/consultations/consultation-paper/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act/annex–draft-films-act-amendment-bill.pdf?la=en
[2] https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/FA1981#pr34-

It takes time to apologise. I get it. But …


It has taken full NINE days for the CEO of the SMRT to come out and take ownership of the flooding incident of the North South Line that happened on October 7th.

In addition to the leadership of the SMRT, we have the transport minister also apologise for the inconvenience caused and blames people down the line – the Bishan maintenance team was at fault.  In that article, it also says that “that the bonuses of the team at fault would be affected”. How about all of those from those individuals and above right up to the CEO also have a similar bonus freeze (by percentage not quantum)?

Anyone who has done NS would know that if someone in your platoon messes up, everyone is punished. This forces everyone to encourage and nudge all to do well. And since the CEO was a former general, he should be au fait with that shared misery model. Why not do so here?

The CEO says that it is bad culture of the organisation to blame. I can appreciate that. I hope this happened because of the downplaying of engineering as the core competency of the business by the previous management.

So, it would appear that it was complacency and failure to follow procedures that is at fault.

Yes, there has to be thorough investigations and probably that is the reason for the 9 day delay for the leadership to be heard (I am trying to give them the benefit of the doubt).

quote-in-paper

Why was it so difficult for the management to come out and speak shortly after the incident? And update it over the following days?

Let me raise something that would be good to have an answer to (I can’t verify it):Why are there statements being made that the individual who was “disciplined” had actually retired late last year/early this year. I really hope this is not true and is pure speculation, but would be good for the SMRT to put it to rest.

 

Transparency is good. Really.


I got a call from Christopher Tan, the Senior Transport Correspondent of a local MSM earlier this afternoon. Kudos to him in tracking me down (not that it was difficult).

He was doing a follow up to his original report of the flooding of the MRT lines.  It was a good chat and we covered some areas of common interest on this topic.

He sort of agreed with my considerations in my previous post about the dangers of water in the tunnel. It is not a small matter when tunnels are flooded. It is not the same as a power being lost and the passengers having to de-train and walk out of the tunnels. With water in the tunnels, and if the water reaches anywhere near the bottom of the train, that would mean that there is probably a meter of water in the tunnel already. De-training and trying to get out is not something that can be done trivially. Even if you can get out, it is very likely that the entire tunnel is dark and having to find one’s way out will be a treacherous challenge.

We need the SMRT/LTA to come up with some mechanisms to manage this scenario. Be bold and willing to listen to the users of the systems and anyone with ideas on how to solve this. Do the trains need to have floats (like what planes have)? Do trains need to have beaconing systems that get activated when there is water (again, like the lifevests in planes)? Lots of easy solutions. Solutions you don’t want to use, but know that it is there when you need it.

During the chat with Christopher, he mentioned that there are “heads rolling” from the SMRT. And lo and behold, there is indeed at least one.  The individual who is being “replaced” was resposible for maintenance.  He apparently (according to the MSM report) was a witness to the 2011 MRT breakdown inquiry.

So, someone got “disciplined”. I have to assume that there was a transparent (to the extent that SMRT is transparent) process to have done this. I can only speculate. I would expect that this is not a last-man-holding-the-hot-potato situation.

If there is one thing that stands out in this SMRT episode is that I have yet to hear from the CEO himself (nor even the transport minister – not that there has to be a statement from a political office holder though). The silence from the top is quite deafening.

Perhaps I should also bring up another issue that I have posted about back in January 2012 – about the inability to close the blast doors of the tunnels at Newton MRT station. The underground MRT stations are designed to be bomb shelters, for those who don’t know. To be fair, I have no idea if it has been fixed. I wish to be updated on it.

So, imagine if we needed to use the bomb shelters and blast doors on the tracks cannot be closed and there is water in the tunnels. What would we be doing? I hope we get that bit fixed now.

For all of our sakes. For Singapore.

Image above is from HomeTeam News.

Is this a failure of leadership?


Saturday, October 7, saw heavy rainfall and as expected, rain water got into everything. That’s what water does. We know that. And we design for it.

We engineers have figured out how to manage this. We have pump systems, sump pumps and lots of other means to drain out water that flows into places that should not have water in them in the first place, especially those underground carparks, subway lines, basement floors of buildings and so on.

Visit the National Environmental Agency‘s website and you will see the Heavy Rain Warning page – pretty nify animation of the clouds. Unfortunately, it does not provide any historical data, so I can’t really figure out how much rains fell on Saturday.

So, it came as a surprise that the North South Line experienced flooding in the tunnels. (Note: some people refer to MRT lines by their colour and the North South Line to some people is the Red Line. However, I have never actually heard announcements in the train stations about “blah, blah, blah along the <colour> Line”.)

Water in tunnels are not a good thing and it is very dangerous. If you are stuck in a tunnel, you will not be able to move because the trains will have no power (it might have some battery backup), which means that the trains are stationary and the passengers will have to sit tight – most likely in the darkness – and wait for help to arrive.  It is also likely that the airconditioning in the carriages will stop at some point.

What if the water in the tunnel kept on rising? At some point, the trains will let in water and you can only imagine the terror and panic that will set in.

I wonder if this advertisement by smrtmedia.com.sg was foretelling something:

Screenshot from 2017-10-08 23-46-29.png

While I can appreciate that the subway system, especially both the North South and East West lines are the oldest we have (over 30 years old now), there has been, over the years, a lack of investment in maintenance, especially during the time when the CEO was someone from the retail industry. The CEO of the SMRT is seen to be a oh-anyone-can-run-this type of a post, including military generals (it might be unfair to say this, but the general sentiment of Singaporeans is that these organizations (SMRT, LTA, PUB, ST companies etc) are seen as “retirement” opportunities for SAF scholars/generals).

During the time of the retail CEO’s tenure, the SMRT focused on building up retail spaces in and around the train stations. SMRT was, after all, a publicly traded company and needed to show revenue. This focus on revenue generation via real estate business ventures, lead to the slow and steady decimation of the engineering ranks. These were the engineers who were there at the start of the SMRT and knew the system well. Speculation has it that they were not promoted, were sidelined, and seen as cost centres (please correct me if this speculation is indeed speculation).

The core business of the train operator is to operate the trains. To ensure that the systems work, people are ferried to and fro as designed and also to keep the service levels high which includes a cadence of safety, maintenance, repair, replacement and renewal.

While it cannot be said that the SMRT failed on all counts, if we are to look at each one in turn, the scores would vary significantly. The trains have been maintained well. I have never been in a train that was dirty, without airconditioning, broken lights, damaged seats etc. The train stations are also well maintained befitting a good system.

What, we as customers of the service don’t see is how the supporting system is being maintained. This came to a head in 2011 with significant breakdowns which eventually lead to the resignation/dismissal (pick one) of the retail CEO. SMRT has not recovered properly yet. it has been six years now and the latest fumble is flooding of the tunnels.

Here’s an iconic picture of the SMRT train with water in the tunnel along with a team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force setting up pumps and hoses to drain the tunnel:

(photos from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/nsl-disruption-water-collecting-in-tunnels-was-due-to-malfunction-in-water)

The fact that the SCDF had to be mobilised to help, speaks to the severity of the situation. This scenario was something the SMRT team could not handle on their own (or even with contractors). Perhaps the SMRT scenario planning did include this contingency (giving them the benefit of the doubt).

I am proud that the SCDF successfully did what they could.

There will be lots of things that need to be done to make sure this does not repeat:

  1. Why did the pumps fail? Friends who are railway engineers/designers tell me that the subway system has multiple levels of back up systems for most everything – signalling, brakes, lights, etc. As of 1030 pm Sunday 8th October, I am told that even the backup pumps failed which then resulted in the flooding. When backup systems fail, that tells me that the maintenance rigour has been compromised. Could shortcuts have been taken?
  2. Looking at the photo above with the train and the water, there are many bigger issues that need to be looked at:
    1. Rusting of rails and supporting infrastructure
    2. Damage to train undercarriage
    3. Structural considerations of the tunnel given that water in large quantities have ingressed it
    4. Electrical power and all of signalling and communications systems.
  3. What is the rescue plan in the event that the floods in the tunnel is rising and there are people still in the carriages?
  4. We are building a “Smart Nation”. Put an “a” in the SMRT to make it SMaRT.

In February this year, a question was posed about the SMRT’s preparedness for flooding and it was carried by one of the local MSM publications. The question was about flash floods in the underground stations, and the answer offered was that the entrances to the underground stations are raised so rain water cannot flow in. It is a pity that the bigger question about water in the tunnels was not posed and hence not explored. I am sure that there will be, over the next few days and weeks, lots of ink spent on exactly that.

The issue of subways being flooded is not new. Here’s an article from ScienceX.com‘s phys.org site about the flooding of New York’s subways following the 2012 Hurricane Sandy flooding and also of Taipei’s and London’s subways. There are no easy ways to prevent flooding ever happening especially if the water coming in completely overwhelms the systems designed to mitigate them. It should not be because the systems failed when called upon to work. Could it be that this SMRT failure episode was a combination of power failure of the pumps and poor maintenance?

I do hope that whatever the outcome, the person down the pecking order is not the one to be the scapegoat.

I am reminded of this speech by a former president of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam about handling failure (do watch the video). He was the Project and Mission Director of the Satellite Launch Vehicle in 1979 and he was fully responsible for the launch of the spacecraft. His decision to go for launch even after the computer systems flagged for a no launch, and the subsequent failure of the spacecraft upon launch was his failure. But in spite of this burden, the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation took the failure onto the Chairman’s shoulder and the Chairman was answerable for the multi million dollar loss. He gave air cover to Dr Kalam so that the engineers and builders of the ISRO can get back to the task at hand and try again. When they re-did the launch successfully a year later, the Chairman asked Dr Kalam to go and take the limelight. Failure was handled by the Chairman, success was given to the Director to assume. That’s leadership.

Is there an equivalent quality of leadership at the SMRT? For the sake of Singapore, I sincerely hope so.

The ongoing spinning


As the presidential elections nomination day nears, the rhetoric and spinning by the PAP ministers and the compliant media, is going up notch by notch.

The constitution provides for the presidential election day to be held within certain parameters. Section 17A 2(b) says the following:

Election of President

17A.

—(1)  The President is to be elected by the citizens of Singapore in accordance with any law made by the Legislature.

(2)  Any poll for the election of President must be held as follows:

(a) in the case where the office of President becomes vacant prior to the expiration of the term of office of the incumbent and a writ for the election has not been issued before such vacation of office or, if so issued, has already been countermanded — within 6 months after the date the office of President becomes vacant; or
(b) in any other case — not more than 3 months before the date of expiration of the term of office of the incumbent.

This was brought up by Prof Kevin Tan that not holding the elections within the last quarter of the sitting president’s term would be running foul of the constitution.

Kevin, who has questioned, rightfully,  the legitimacy of the racial requirement, was rebuffed about the actual date of the elections being held after the end of the term of the sitting president.

The pooh-pooh was by one “minister” as reported in a MSM today, 9th September 2017:

keechiu

This “minister”‘s reasoning is incredibly shallow and very self serving on many points.

He is disingenuous to say that by electing a successor before the end of term, the incumbent is a lame duck. How naive does this minister think Singaporeans are? If it was going to be “pre-maturely turfing out”, why is it in the constitution? Is this “minister” a constitutional expert?

The president is in no position to do anything to begin with. He is advised by the Council of Presidential Advisors who in turn are accountable to the Parliament. If there is anyone in a straight jacket by virtue of the office, the office of the president is one such place.

I would be much happier if these PAP minions came out and told the truth about the whole sham of a racially defined presidential election (or as the PM spins as a “hiatus-triggered model“). They just did not want Dr Tan Cheng Bock to stand for election because he would have done what President Ong Teng Cheong raised but was prevented and the successors did not attempt, to get down to the truth of the reserves and all things associated with it.

It is getting even more stupid with former PM, Goh Chok Tong, saying that:

… this year is “quite unpopular with a large proportion of the population because it goes against the principle of meritocracy”.

So, if it is indeed unpopular and it is going against the principle of meritocracy, why do it?

He reasons in the same speech:

“We have succeeded because we started very early from day one. Everybody is equal and yet you know their differences. We try and make them equal in result when we can – on a fair and just principle basis,” Mr Goh said in response to a question about how Singapore has been able to manage race relations.

How about we say that the PM post should go to a non-Chinese Singaporean? Why is that not being said?

We all know that DPM Tharman is genuinely liked by everyone – including those of us who won’t vote PAP. Why isn’t Chok Tong and the rest of the PAP cabinet expressing the need for a non-Chinese Singaporean as the next PM?

Once you open up the pandora’s box on race based politics, it is hard to close it.

If anything, this presidential election will be the turning point to a Singaporean Singapore. I feel it in my gut.

Let’s call the bluff on this election.

 

No, Halimah, You Are Mistaken


I just saw this article online on one of the MSM sites. In it, the former speaker of parliament, Mdm Halimah Yacob is being interviewed as a potential candidate for this year’s presidential elections.

Let me comment on the article, paragraph by paragraph.

That Singapore will soon have a Malay president after 47 years is, for presidential candidate Halimah Yacob, an affirmation of two core values Singaporeans hold dear: multiracialism and meritocracy.

Singaporeans hold dear four core values. Multiracialism, meritocracy, transparency and fair play. Each of these key values fail this time around.

“Reserving” the election for one particular aspect “race” does not qualify as being multiracial. It is also not fair play.

Meritocracy can only be seen if all the candidates are assessed equally. Halimah “qualifies” because the presidential elections act says that by virtue of she being a speaker of parliament, automatically qualifying her. The two others who’ve indicated interest in running have a significantly higher bar to meet – the fiduciary experience. The role of the elected president is to be a person who has some fiduciary experience because the president is supposed to be the “second key” to the reserves. From all reckoning, the two other candidates have run businesses including recovering from failure and would, therefore, be more savvy financially. I would dearly want to know how, by being a speaker of parliament, that specific characteristic is met and how Halimah would be able to do the needed fiduciary duties? The law waives that requirement solely because of the role played. That is not meritocracy.

“It shows we don’t only talk about multiracialism, but we talk about it in the context of meritocracy or opportunities for everyone, and we actually practise it,” she told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday.

Elaborating, she said it demonstrates Singaporeans can “accept anyone of any colour, any creed, any religion, at any position in our society, so long as they feel that the person can contribute”.

I have to assume that what is quoted above is verbatim. If that is the case, why do we need the “Group Representation Constituency” system? We all know that the GRC was a PAP gerrymandering scheme to make it difficult for the opposition to succeed under the pretext of “minority” representation. Halimah herself is in parliament because she was brought in under the same gerrymandered system.

Her resignation from her posts as Speaker of Parliament, MP and member of the People’s Action Party on Monday to contest the upcoming election has seen views opposed to changes to the presidency resurface, with some questioning the commitment to meritocracy.

Madam Halimah firmly refutes the view that the election, which will be reserved for Malay candidates, entails a trade-off between multiracialism and meritocracy.

It, in fact, ensures both founding ideals are preserved – giving fair access for all races to be represented at one time or other, in the highest office of the land, while requiring that each and every candidate meets the same stipulated criteria.

If she truly believes what she is saying above to be true, I look forward to DPM Tharman Shamugaratnam as the 4th Prime Minister. He exceeds in capability, charisma and character (and international stature) compared to the current incumbent, the other DPM and all the so-called “4th generation” cookie cutter (aka paper general), nondescript PM-wannabes combined.

“All candidates have to qualify,” she said, noting the Constitutional Commission reviewing the elected presidency last year had made clear its stand on this issue.

“If we weaken eligibility criteria for those taking part in a reserved election, yes, then we are compromising meritocracy for representation. We are not – the same criteria apply to everybody,” she stressed.

I assume she said that with a straight face. The eligibility criteria was weakened by putting up the nonsense of “race” where there was none to begin with.

The commission had proposed reserving an election for candidates from a race if it had not been represented in the presidency for five terms. It also updated eligibility criteria for private sector candidates, who must have led a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity. The changes were passed by Parliament last November.

Of course it was passed by the rubber stamp parliament. No one expected anything else. The commission did propose some alternatives such as going back to the old way where parliament appoints someone to be the president, but the PAP bulldozed their view and so we have this sad state of affairs.

Madam Halimah, 62, has been described by observers as the front runner. They note she is the only aspirant who automatically qualifies to stand, having held the post of Parliament Speaker since 2013.

Who are these anonymous “observers”? PAP cadres? I don’t think anyone would say she is a front runner. I concede, she could possibly be a front runner in a one runner race.

Two other candidates who have indicated their interest to run, Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific chairman Farid Khan, 62, and Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, 67, do not automatically meet the financial threshold.

They have to convince the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) they have the experience and ability to effectively carry out the functions of the office if elected.

And, bingo, there you go. The other two potential candidates apparently don’t meet the fiduciary threshold (actually, how does this MSM reporter know?) and they have to do a song and a dance to be eligible while Halimah gets the golden ticket, no questions asked. And I have a gut feeling that Farid and Salleh might be disqualified for that critical fiduciary requirement for which Halimah is exempt. How convenient.

Asked about the prospect of a contested election in the interview at NTUC Centre, Madam Halimah said she will leave it to the PEC to decide, adding: “We always go into a contest preparing for a contest.”

A fair contest is always welcome. In this case, it is still not clear that the contest will be fair. The contest has been rigged, first by putting the “race” statement, and second by having different fiduciary criteria for qualification.

As for talk of a reserved election being akin to affirmative action, she said the comparison is wrong because affirmative action means “you don’t qualify, but you go in”.

Affirmative action is usually never about “you don’t qualify, but you go in” in all cases. It varies from country to country how it is to be interpreted. In Singapore, the PAP-driven GRC system is an affirmative action model, using the excuse that “Singaporeans are not race blind yet”. The PAP feels that in order to get minorities into parliament, we need to affirmative action via the GRC system.

While some have questioned the seemingly higher bar for private sector candidates, she said the approach that automatically qualifies public sector candidates “has been in place since 1991”.

“It is an open, transparent system,” she added.

The lower fiduciary requirement for public officials have indeed been on the books, but that does not make it right. I think Halimah is very wrong to equate “has been in place since 1991” with the need to be open and transparent. The public sector qualifications were placed there to make it easy for PAP ministers to run for president (which has indeed been the case with Ong Teng Cheong and Tony Tan – autoqualification because they were ministers).

Asked if her track record of 40 years in public service – 33 of them in the labour movement – would be a key plank of her campaign, Madam Halimah laughed and said more details will be revealed soon.

“Yes, having been in public service for a significant period, that has exposed me to the policymaking process, that has stood me in good stead, to understand how the Government functions.

“So that has been extremely useful, relevant, to what I am seeking to do,” she added.

There is a misconception here – there is no “key plank” of her campaign. The elected president is a figure head (as head of state) and a custodian of the reserves. There is nothing else the president can do from a public policy perspective. The president’s office is constrained by the parliament. Presidential candidates can say all that they want, but they would not be in a position to execute it because of their inherent lack of authority. I hope this is made clear and evident to all.

I have a lot of respect for her. I would vote for her if she was standing in an election on her own merit and proven competency. She does not need the crutches that are being placed in her candidacy. As it stands now, I cannot vote for her.

The Dr Tan Cheng Bock Factor

We have yet an unresolved issue. Dr Tan Cheng Bock appeal against this travesty of the “racial” restriction is still pending in the verdict. I fail to see why there has to be a delay in this, it is a simple issue to decide. We cannot have the decision after the elections. We need that to be made public immediately.

I would like to think that we are not living in a bogus democracy. I really do.

What if no one came?


So, there was this shop that was set up to give a chance for those who like pancakes to go there and claim their pancakes. People found out that anyone can go to the shop to buy the pancake, but the only ones who can actually make the pancake are allowed to eat it.

Now people are wondering what is the value in being able to buy the pancake and not eat it unless you can also make the pancake? Turns out, almost anyone can make the pancake, but you have to prove that you have the ability to do so.

I suspect that very soon, the shop will close as those who have a clue and have pride will decide to skip the shop.