The Last Nail in the Coffin of Constructive Engagement
- Below is an article from Professor Kanbawza Win who cites Singapore as
an example of a dominant one party dictatorship under the smoke screen
"The thinking of dominant one party dictatorship under the smokescreen
of democracy of the region began to change. A classic example is
Singapore, where hitherto PAP dominated by the "Father Son and the Holy
Goh" was gone, when the Father and Holy Goh were in the annals of
history and the son with its retinue of young Turks began to resent the
accusation that Singapore's national character can be measure in dollars
and cents, have now taken the initiative. At the last budget debate the
S'pore government officials have a hard time answering to the quest of
the parliamentarians questioning the Constructive Engagement Policy. It
is the first time in the entire history of Singapore that has come out
in the open, which was usually a closed-door affair as far as Burma and
the hush hush narco dollars are concerned."
Date : 2005-06-01
The Last Nail in the Coffin of Constructive Engagement
By Prof. Kanbawza Win
In our world where business always overrules the conscience, it seems
that the Constructive Engagement Policy initiated by the leaders of the
core members of ASEAN towards Burma has finally met its doom. This is
not because suddenly their twinge of conscience pop up but because they
finally discovered that they will lose formidable trading partners of
the Western countries if these ASEAN countries continue to ignore the
gross human rights violations going on in Burma even as they continue to
exploit Burma's natural and human resources. They now have to admit that
there are much more civilized people in the World who would not ignore
the suffering of the Burmese people and can easily turn their screws on
these ASEAN values.
When the Burmese Junta came to power in 1988 killing thousands of
peaceful demonstrators two schools of thoughts emerged as how to deal
with this Burmese regime. One is to isolate the regime or at least to
exclude from international financing (such as World Bank, IMF and ADB
etc) and investment to force to regime to come to terms with the reality
and was favoured by the West supported by Burmese pro-democracy and
ethnic groups. The other was an open door policy, investing, trading and
recognizing the Burmese Junta as a way to foster liberalization to
create a more democratic form of government. This was christened as
Constructive Engagement Policy by ASEAN.
Now after nearly one and half decade this Constructive Engagement Policy
has become an adjective, a hall mark synonymous to the extent of the
tragedy of 50 million plus people that did not move the proponents of
democracy and free market. Several theories and hypothesis has been put
up as reviving the official development assistance, promoting investment
and even encouraging the NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance will
bring the much-needed change in Burma. They label the pro democracy and
the ethnic nationalities to be too impatient and unrealistic wanting an
immediate transfer of power-full of Western style democracy and want an
instant utopia. They argued that Constructive Engagement presented a
rational approach, which takes into account existing realities and bring
change in a controlled fashion. Now all these interpretation has come to
a big Zero.
The very fact that Burma and other Indo-Chinese states were accepted in
ASEAN itself is something like a marriage between a cock and a duck
because they belong to the family of fowls (Southeast Asian countries).
Hence it neither produced a duckling or a chicken nor is unable to swim
(democracy) or peck (communist). Instead comes out an odd species
somewhat similar to an ugly duckling (a power maniac) with a hope that
one day will miraculously change into a high flying swan. Burma is
exactly like this. Now it seems that it's no longer a question of
whether you should talk to your neighbor who killed his sons, rape his
daughters and beat up the wife but it's a question of whether that
abusive neighbor should be the leader of your village called ASEAN.
Hence the question of self- respect arises for the people of ASEAN
became pivotal. A new generation, better educated with much reasoning
power that would not listen blindly to their leaders have crop up in
Southeast Asia. They saw that the Constructive Engagement Policy as a
thin guise to exploit Burma's natural and human resources for short-term
gain and is indirectly propping up the regime with legitimacy. This is
having a bad effect on their region and something must be done. Besides,
witnessing the mammoth sufferings of the Burmese, the religious adherent
began to question this illogical policy. The majority of the people in
Thailand, Laos and Cambodia profess Buddhism; in Singapore the main
religion is Confucian, while Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia profess
Islam and Philippines is Christian. Yet, not a speck of all these
religious teachings were in Constructive Engagement Policy, in other
words it paints the religious and moral bankruptcy of the region as a
whole and ASEAN in particular.
Incidentally in the economic scene unlike China's manufacturing miracle
or India's services magic, there doesn't seem to be a single compelling
theme in ASEAN economy, especially after the 1997 financial crisis.
There are multiple strategies, initiatives, and success and failure
stories. This tends to create a new scenario in the ASEAN business
leaders who all the time are conducted to follow the government lead and
adapted their strategy to go where the wind is blowing. Now suddenly
governments in the core ASEAN countries began to play a different tune.
The refrain is one of the supporting roles, not the virtuoso lead as the
previous past. The government are encouraging private enterprises to
think for themselves and shape their own destiny. They are to be
innovative and create their own future. This compels a major shift in
the mindset of the boardrooms and managers, similar to that the ship
captain was left without the compass. They will have to fend themselves
off. So they began to look at the world especially to the West where
much emphasis is given on the prevalence of democracy and human rights.
As far as Burma is concerned they could not rest their laurels on a
short-term gain and be tarnished as unscrupulous exploiter forever. In
other words the Constructive Engagement Policy is too pungent to have a
good business dealings.
Hence, the people began to question their parliamentary representative.
These Members of Parliament began to speak out in their respective
parliaments. Many a country unthinkable about a decade ago began to set
up a parliamentary committee for the prevalence of democracy and human
rights in Burma. The thinking of dominant one party dictatorship under
the smokescreen of democracy of the region began to change. A classic
example is Singapore, where hitherto PAP dominated by the "Father Son
and the Holy Goh" was gone, when the Father and Holy Goh were in the
annals of history and the son with its retinue of young Turks began to
resent the accusation that Singapore's national character can be measure
in dollars and cents, have now taken the initiative. At the last budget
debate the S'pore government officials have a hard time answering to the
quest of the parliamentarians questioning the Constructive Engagement
Policy. It is the first time in the entire history of Singapore that has
come out in the open, which was usually a closed-door affair as far as
Burma and the hush hush narco dollars are concerned.
Parliamentary Committee on Burma has been formed in the core ASEAN
countries of Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and S'pore
have joined the bandwagon. PAP representative Charles Chong has said
that besides taking away the chairmanship from Burma their main goal is
for the flowering of democracy and the release of political prisoners.
Come June and one will witness that the parliamentary representatives of
the core ASEAN countries of Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and
Malaysia will join the Singapore Members of Parliamentarian to form the
ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Committee to pressure their respective
It is also heartening to see that Malaysia Members of Parliament like
Theresa Cock and Mr Lim talking very openly when the UMN0 is still a
dominating power minus its helmsmen Dr Mahirthir Mohammad. Several
representatives like Kraingsak Choonhaven of Thailand and several from
Indonesia, Philippines have spoken out which we hope to bear fruit on
ASEAN. Of course this is not because they are morally transformed but
because they saw the writings on the wall that they will lose much with
their Western Countries and international trading partners if they
insist on this illogical policy. At last the Constructive Engagement
Policy has pinch their pockets and they will have to move. They have
witness that the nature of the Burmese Junta who will take one step
forward to democracy by releasing the Nobel Laureate and taking two
steps backwards by arresting her again. Indeed Than Shwe and its cohorts
tried to assassinate her once and for all at Depayin, but the Military
Intelligence chief Khin Nyunt knew it in advance and rescued her and for
this he is now languishing in jail. How can a power maniac be the
Chairman of this prestigious ASEAN?
One will have to welcome this positive move even though it had taken 15
years for ASEAN to understand the nature of the Burmese Junta while a
Burmese democrat can understand it in 15 minutes. If the ASEAN had
heeded to a soft whispering voice of a Burmese lady now in custody such
costly and heartbreaking experience should have been avoided.
- Asian Tribune -
Prof. Kanbawza Win (Dr. B.T.Win): Incumbent Dean of Students of AEIOU
Programme, Chiangmai University, Thailand. Senior Research Fellow at the
European Institute of Asian Studies, Under the European Commission,
Brussels, Belgium. Earlier Consultant to National Coalition Government
of the Union of Burma. Editorial Consultant, "Asian Tribune."
31 May 2005
Spore's Nepotism & Legitimised Corruption Defined in Dictionary
The next time you have difficulty explaining what "Nepotism" or "Family
Dictatorship" is to someone, try mentioning some familiar names in
Singapore's million dollar ministerial cabinet as examples.
Singapore is now so internationally renowned for its special brand of
legitimised corruption and nepotism that the dictionary definition of
the term "Nepotism" and "Family Dictatorship" includes mention of
Singapore's First Familee in the explanation. (See also under Successful
Transition of Power where Singapore is included with many modern day
dictators and despots).
In many On-line dictionaries and encyclopedias, Nepotism and Corruption
are now synonymously linked with Singapore's Ruling Elite and first
Familee. The folowing extracts are from Wikipedia, the free on-line
"A family dictatorship is a form of dictatorship that operates much like
an absolute monarchy, yet occurs in a nominally republican state and is
not part of its laws. When the dictator of a family dictatorship dies,
one of his relatives (usually his son) becomes the new ruler of the
country. This transition often occurs after years of "grooming" the
dictator's successor as heir apparent."
"Successful transitions of power
Nicaragua: Anastasio Somoza García (1937-1947, 1950-1956) succeeded by
his son Luis Somoza Debayle (1956-1963). There was also a third Somoza
president, Anastasio Somoza Debayle (1967-1972, 1974-1979), though he
did not directly succeed the other two.
Haiti: François Duvalier (1957-1971) succeeded by his son Jean-Claude
Republic of China (from 1949 on Taiwan): Chiang Kai-shek (1928-1975)
indirectly succeeded by his son Chiang Ching-kuo (1975-1988)
North Korea: Kim Il Sung (1948-1994) succeeded by his son Kim Jong Il
Syria: Hafez al-Assad (1971-2000) succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
Congo-Kinshasa: Laurent Kabila (1997-2001), succeeded by his son Joseph
Azerbaijan: Heydar Aliyev (1993-2003) succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev
Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew (Prime Minister 1959-1990, Senior Minister
1990-2004, Minister Mentor 2004-), indirectly succeeded by his son Lee
Hsien Loong (2004-)"
The strange thing is that while the entire world is aware of this
glaring injustice and abuse of power, Singapore's local government owned
media are trying hard to avoid acknowledging and discussing this
troublesome and embarassing issue.
Read on to find out more about legtimised corruption in Singapore and
take a peek at the attached Nepotism file for the factual details and
matrix of incestous relationships in Singapore's senior government
positions and government linked companies.
Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption
Singapore Review, 2 May 2003 (updated May 2005)
By Mellanie Hewlitt
The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits
Times and Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example:
DPM", announcing to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by
Singapore's Ruling Elite.
In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated
salaries, to more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling
Elite have bowed to public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.
Or have they?
What exactly does "Leading By Example" mean? Lets try to put some
substance behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home
pay of a Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.
The below table puts things back in proper perspective: (these are basic
figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's pay hikes or
other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be much larger)
1. Singapore President's Basic Salary US$1,483,000 (SGD$2,373,100)*a
year Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000(SGD1,958,000)
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to
SGD1,458,040) a year
2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President:
US$181,400 Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000
3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299
Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438
4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister:
US$111,439 Treasurer: US$102,682
5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615
Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077
Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000 *Singapore President's
salary which was updated in 2005 from the Singapore Straits Times
In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home
salaries exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.
In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT SGD1,166,844 A
YEAR,OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.
What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE
HOME salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not
even begin to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million
With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to
give substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are
a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even
when compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and
UK) who have far heavier responsibilities.
b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such
handsome remuneration were "justified" on the back of resounding
performance. However, Singapore's economy has been in the doldrums of a
recession for several years now (with beginnings reaching as far back
as the 1997 Asian economic crisis). This economic barometer is a rough
measure of performance and implies that ministerial salaries were due
for review at least 3-4 years ago.
c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the
industry benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule
of thumb, the percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current
pay. Even if a Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be
earning much more then the US vice president.
d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to
bring the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic
With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local
government controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains
to exclude mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers
would be too glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative
writing could have reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and
It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge
salary cuts. Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes
effect is not revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10
responses indicate many agree the current ministerial salaries are
grossly inflated, especially in these lean and difficult times.
Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group: "First
of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries have
been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while
thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they
are only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."
"Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless
its a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and
they would still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as
such, this is not Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political
A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted
sheepishly ; "The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national
embarrassment really, because it reflects the underlying materialistic
value systems of Singapore Ministers. No matter how you look at it, the
fact remains that our ministers are money faced, and these are supposed
to be Singapore's leaders, with value systems that Singaporeans should
follow." "It (the ministerial salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in
the eyes of the world. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest
days work for every penny they earn. And the process for review and
approval of the ministerial salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on
the board and approving (on White Paper)your own salary increments! Its
all a wayang show".
This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual
process for review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who
decides on these numbers? Is there independence and transparency?
Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2002
challenged Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they
understand the economic hardships faced by the public. And the
over-riding concern is that Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to
appreciate the economic hardship that the masses face in these tough
The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh's careless
comments that "lay-offs were not all bad", drew a backlash from the
public with a flood of e-mails being sent to the foreign press to
register public indignation.
It is a revelation that when the "paycuts" were finally effected they
amounted to a miniscule 10% haircut from the massively bloated
It is also a revelation that barely a year later (in June 2004) the
bloated ministerial salaries were restored and increased beyond their
original levels even as the rest of Singapore was still struggling in
the throes of a recession. (There were no CPF restorations for the rest
of working Singaporeans).
Source Sg_Review group
Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic.
You can Send your comments to the editor: sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
From: Julie Rogers
To: Singapore Review
27 October 2004
Does Inequality Make You Sick? S'pore ministers salaries
Hi, I pondered over Catherine Lim's article "PAP and the people: A
return of disaffection?"
Until recently I knew next to nothing about Singapore so it is a
revelation that my first introduction to this little speck is through
various discussions on the internet about Ministerial Salaries.
Quite frankly I am rather appalled by the fact that ministers in your
country can earn upwards of USD 1 million. Any officer of the state is a
public servant and this was a once noble and honourable calling. In the
civilised world, persons assume this office because they want personally
to contribute to the well being of the country. Self sacrifice and
altruism are essential hallmarks for a public office holder and the
minister must be ready and willing to make these personal sacrifices.
If the heart is not in this noble service, then it will be wasted
effort. Money should not be an issue at all and if it is, then your
"elected leaders" have very ill-placed priorities and are obviously in
it for the wrong reasons.
Even if we were to overlook the misplaced financial motives of your
ministers, the sheer gulf in income disparity between ministerial
salaries and those of the working class will create a huge
irreconcilable dichord and disenchantment with any normal voting public.
(A valid point in Catherine Lim's article)
But I am told that Singapore is a democracy with elected leaders! So I
have to assume that Singapore must have a very unique "voting public"
which is able to silently and willingly take all this in their stride.
Singaporeans should take note here that Who they vote for and who they
elect is a reflection of their own core value systems and the undeniable
fact remains that Singaporeans have elected a group of Leaders who are
eminently pre-occupied with escalating their on salaries.
I for one will never be able to accept this unequal state of affairs if
ever it was my lot. And thank goodness it isn't for I will never be able
to sleep soundly at nights knowing that the fate, future and well being
of my country are in the hands of a bunch of financially motivated hired
Below is a further write-up of some of the social ills that a huge
income disparity can create. There is an old saying that the most
efficient form of governance is a Monarchy, but this assumes the Monarch
has the same priorities and agenda as the people he rules. Is this the
case with Singapore's Monarchy?
I repeat that who you elect is a mirror image of your own core values
and Singaporeans have to ask themselves whether their current leaders
who require million dollar salaries to be in office, have the same value
systems as the voters who elected them.
Lastly, I have also copied in Guniess World of Records to see if this
unique feature of your country will earn it a place in the world record
22 Feb 2005
Million Dollar Mini$terial $alaries - The Rea$on$ Again?
In light of the recent Singapore Budget 2005, we recirculate below
as a comparison to how much singapore's million dollar ministers have
"contributed" to the country.
a) Is there a budget for Singapore's million dollar ministers?
b) Is there accountability and transparency?
c) Who authorises ministerial pay increments and are these approving
once removed from duress and influence?
d) How are these increments justified?
e) If these salaries are performance based how do you measure the
a million dollar minister?
f) Does the general public and voting citizens feel these million dollar
salaries are justified?
g) Where is the dividing line between legitimised corruption and
million dollar salaries?
h) Do these million dollar ministers have values which represent those
of the average Singaporean?
The list of questions is endless but there are still no convincing
Read on and decide for yourselves.
LEGTIMISED CORRUPTION SINGAPORE STYLED. Can't get your bribes? No
problem just pass a bill and make it legal!!! Approve your own bonuses
Forum: the Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop (tm) Forum
Subject: Truly Out of dis World Salary for Nathan
DateTime: 25/01/2005 19:24:40
At least we now have some exact figures of what our good for nothing
President -perhaps has done nothing good President - is paid to just
make frequent trips overseas for no tangible benefits at the ADDITIONAL
expense of the taxpayers.
Since Nathan is over the civil service retirement age of 55, and having
been a civil servant for his entire working life until being given a
cushy job at SPH, he must be drawing additional pension IN ADDITION to
his President salary.
Boy this must be the best paid Head of State, other than a monarchy, in
the Whole World by several times - President Bush as Head of State and
Head of Government is paid a mere US$400,000, compared to Nathan's
$2,373,100 which is equivalent to US$1,455,889 @ an exchange rate of
US$1 == S$1.63, EXCLUDING his pension.
Nathan's OUT OF THIS WORLD's salary should be seen in the context of
Singapore's GDP of around US$95 Billion as against US GDP of around
US$11 TRILLION, which is more than 115 TIMES larger than S'pore.
Also China's President - who is both Head of State and Head of
Government - starting salary is only S$265 per month or $3180 per year
for running an economy with a GDP in purchasing power terms of nearly
US$6 TRILLION, which is 63 TIMES Singapore's GDP and this would make
Nathan being paid 47014 TIMES the Chinese President's salary on a per
Jan 26, 2005
House approves increase in President's salary
PARLIAMENT approved an increase in the President's salary and other
changes to the Civil List, which specifies his allowances and
expenditure on the Istana and personal staff, for the fiscal year 2004.
The salary will be revised to $2,373,100, an increase of $247,100 from
the estimated fiscal year 2004 expenditure.
As such, the total expenditure under Class 1 of the Civil List - which
includes the President's salary, entertainment allowance and Acting
President's allowance - will now be $2,492,700.
Minister of State (Finance) Lim Hwee Hua, who outlined the changes, said
the increase was 'in view of the restoration of the cuts in the
President's salary and higher projected bonuses'.
An increase in the expenditure under Class 2 of the list, which is for
payment of staff salaries and other staff- related expenses, was also
The additional $48,800 here will go towards the 'higher than anticipated
salary payments', resulting in a total of $2,425,100 being paid to
Istana employees in fiscal year 2004, which runs from April 2004 to the
end of March this year.
Under Class 3 payments, which is for the maintenance of the Istana,
vehicles, utilities and other supplies, $38,000 from the estimated
figure has been shaved off due to savings on these items, bringing the
expenditure on household expenses down to $903,600.
The Class 4 expenditure, to do with the purchase of special services
such as cars and office equipment, was raised by $15,500, bringing the
total amount to $27,000.
The additional funds are for the purchase of a computer server