Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Smoky ‘chemical’ smell in various parts of Singapore


Some Sengkang residents have complained of a strong acrid smell and smoke that permeated several areas in Singapore on Monday (Sep 25).

Several readers wrote in to The Straits Times from as early as 4pm on Monday afternoon to say they smelled a “burning”, “chemical”, or “petrol” smell.

Readers from various areas including Sengkang, Seletar, Yishun, and in other areas like Ang Mo Kio and Bishan, wrote in to ask about the smell, which one described as “choking”.

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SCDF, NEA investigating 'strong burning smell' in north-eastern Singapore
The view from Buangkok Crescent. (Photo: Angela Marie Oehlers)

Residents in Sengkang, Hougang, Buangkok, Bishan & Ang Mo Kio have complained of a strong burning smell that started on Monday afternoon (Sep 25), prompting an investigation by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) & National Environment Agency (NEA).

Despite the smell, SCDF said in a tweet at about 10pm that no toxic industrial chemicals were detected.

It earlier said that it has been receiving calls on the smell of gas or burning in the north-eastern part of Singapore.

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Caught a whiff of a 'gas-like' odour? Don't worry, say SCDF and NEA
Caught a whiff of a 'gas-like' odour? Don't worry, say SCDF and NEA

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has assured citizens that there has been no presence of "Toxic Industrial Chemicals in the air" in the North-Eastern part of Singapore, following calls about the smell of gas or burning material there.

Complaints about the foul odour appeared on the online forums such as Reddit & Hardware Zone at about 5pm. Many netizens said that the smell appeared to be largely confined to the North-Eastern parts of Singapore in areas like Sengkang, Hougang, Buangkok & Ang Mo Kio.

SCDF said it has deployed its "resources to investigate" and found nothing amiss, & is closely monitoring the situation together with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

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Monday, 25 September 2017

4 takeaways from PM Lee’s visit to China


PM Lee Hsien Loong wrapped up his visit to China today in Xiamen, Fujian Province.

Speaking to the Singapore media on his assessment of his trip, PM Lee made a number of points which we summarised below:
  • Chinese leaders are keen on improving relations.
  • Bilateral relations are good but changing.
  • Bilateral interests will never be perfectly aligned.
  • A relationship which needs to be nurtured and cultivated continually

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Lee Hsien Loong 19 September at 07:06

A fruitful meeting with Premier Li Keqiang today. We reviewed our extensive cooperation, and welcomed the progress in negotiations to upgrade the China-Singapore FTA. Also discussed collaboration in new areas, such as finance, judicial and legal matters.

This is a busy time for China as their 19th Party Congress is taking place next month. I appreciate their attention to our bilateral ties, as well as towards ASEAN. Singapore is currently the coordinator for ASEAN-China relations, and we’ll hold the ASEAN chairmanship next year. Will do our best to bring ASEAN and China closer together. 🇸🇬🇨🇳 – LHL

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Timing of visit noteworthy

Given that Xi and other Chinese leaders are likely to be preoccupied with party matters ahead of such a crucial internal political meeting, the timing of PM Lee’s visit to Beijing is somewhat unusual.

It would have been easier to read the significance of the timing of PM Lee’s visit to China if his trip was scheduled after the Party Congress, as it would be an opportunity for him to meet the new Chinese leadership line-up.

Nevertheless, the timing is still noteworthy, as the hosting of such a high-level visit by China can be seen as a signal of its desire to strengthen relations.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hopes for Singapore support in high-speed railway: Xinhua
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) speaks with PM Lee Hsien Loong during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Sept 19, 2017. FOTO: AFP

China hopes that Singapore will support Chinese enterprises that wish to participate in the Singapore-Malaysia high-speed railway project, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday (Sep 19), according to state news agency Xinhua.

"China has cutting-edge, safe & reliable, cost-effective high-speed railway technology," Premier Li said during his talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Xinhua reported. PM Lee is on an official visit to China from Sep 19 to 21.

Singapore & Malaysia are building the 350km high-speed rail linking Singapore & Kuala Lumpur. Targeted to be operational by end-2026, the railway line will cut travel time between the 2 cities to 90 minutes.

related: China's rail ambitions run at full speed

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China hopes to ‘energise’ relations with Singapore, Asean, Li Keqiang tells Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore will assume chairmanship of the 10-member trade bloc next year.

“Singapore is an important member of Asean ... it is the country coordinator between China and Asean and will be [the group’s] rotating chair next year,” Li said. “I hope and trust this will inject new energy into not just China-Singapore relations but also China-Asean relations,” he said.

Lee, who was starting a three-day trip to China, said he too hoped to “make a contribution to bringing Asean and China closer together”.

related: Why Singapore is a vital cog in China’s foreign policy

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Several ways for S’pore to work with Beijing
The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative will help China integrate into the global economy & benefit other nations, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he outlined how Singapore can work with the Asian giant on the mega project

In response, Mr Lee reiterated that Asean and China have deep economic & trade links, with China being the largest trade partner of the vast majority of the bloc’s members. He noted that if overall relationships are good between China & individual Asean members, as well as between China and the regional grouping as a whole, economic cooperation will naturally follow. But if problems in the relationships arise, then the mutually beneficial cooperation between countries could be affected, Mr Lee said.

As Asean chair, “Singapore will do its utmost to enhance ties between China & Asean, and promote cooperation among Asean members”, Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee also spoke about the progress of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail project. An international tender — to be held in Singapore and Malaysia — is on the cards to be held in the coming months, he said. He added that he hopes to receive a proposal from a Chinese company, which will be accorded objective and serious consideration.

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China leaning on Singapore to keep ASEAN calm over South China Sea: sources

China is worried it could face fresh criticism over its actions in the South China Sea when Singapore becomes chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations next year, and is putting pressure on the city-state to make sure that doesn’t happen, according to people familiar with the situation.

They say that Chinese representatives have told Singapore counterparts in private meetings over recent months that they don’t want trouble for Beijing when Singapore takes over the annual leadership of the 10-nation group in 2018.

Diplomats say they believe that Beijing has used its influence over countries who have chaired ASEAN in the past to dilute the group’s stand on the South China Sea row, potentially one of the most volatile disputes in Asia.

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China ties a priority when Singapore is Asean chair: PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during an interview with Xinhuanet at the Istana on Sept 16, 2017. FOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS & INFORMATION

For Asean-China trade to flourish, both sides need to work at keeping overall ties strong, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Alluding to the need for rationality & restraint on thorny issues such as the South China Sea dispute, PM Lee said that frictions in the relationship will only affect mutually beneficial cooperation. This is why Singapore will do its best to positively advance Asean-China relations when it assumes the grouping's chairmanship next year, he said in an interview with Xinhuanet ahead of his official visit to China beginning on Tuesday (Sep 19).

Mr Lee was asked by Xinhuanet to take stock of ties ahead of next year, an important milestone for Asean-China relations.

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Singapore to promote stronger cooperation between ASEAN and China: PM Lee

Singapore will promote stronger cooperation between ASEAN and China when it takes over as ASEAN chair next year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Tuesday (Sep 19).

Mr Lee is on a 3-day official visit to China from Tuesday to Thursday.

While meeting in the Great Hall of the People, both leaders reaffirmed the warm ties between both countries & discussed the potential of working together in new areas, such as financial, judicial and legal cooperation.

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CHINA’S WELCOME FOR SINGAPORE PM MAY SIGNAL A NEW APPROACH TO SMALLER STATES
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with Wang Qishan in Beijing. Photo: Handout

In this context, it is interesting to note that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met four top leaders during his official visit last week. On top of meeting Xi, Li, and Zhang, Lee’s meeting with Wang Qishan, the head of China’s top anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is even more intriguing, not only because Wang does not often meet visiting heads of state or government in his current role, but also because speculation is whirling over whether he will stay on for another five-year term after the Chinese leadership reshuffle scheduled next month. On Lee’s last official visit, in August 2013, he met only Xi and Li.

Chinese media reports have suggested Lee’s visit was sudden and unheralded. More importantly, the unusually high-level reception Lee received indicates that both countries want to turn the page on what have been strained ties over the past two years. Xi was quoted as telling Lee there were many opportunities to forge ties with Singapore in a “new historical chapter”.

Lee reportedly told Xi that Singapore would work closely with China to take relations to the next level and voiced support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which Xi said should be the focus of bilateral cooperation.

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Lee Hsien Loong to visit China as Xi Jinping vows to boost ties with Singapore

Observers said China would be cautious in handling its relations with Singapore as the city state would take the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year.

“China still hopes that Singapore can play a mediating role to lower tensions between Beijing and other [South China Sea] claimant states in Asean,” said Xu Liping, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“Beijing will push for Singaporean cooperation on the belt and road initiative and to boost mutual economic ties.”

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Singapore's PM Visits China to Cement Strained Ties

Singapore expects to be at the forefront of the region’s relations with China next year, when the city-state heads the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The bloc’s summits have sometimes become a platform for the airing of grievances with China, especially over its efforts to assert expansive claims to the South China Sea.


“The Lee administration and the current Beijing leadership have incentives to smooth over relations before Singapore rotates into the Asean chair next year,” he said. During a meeting with his Chinese counter, Li Keqiang, on Tuesday, Lee pledged to promote stronger Asean-China cooperation during Singapore’s chairmanship. The visit comes at a sensitive time for Xi, who’s preparing for a party congress next month in which as many as five members of the Standing Committee could be replaced. A key question is whether Wang -- the 69-year-old architect of Xi’s historic anti-corruption drive -- will be among the older members who retire to make way for new blood.

Exchanges between the leaders were sprinkled with personal touches that emphasized familiarity between the two sides. Xi’s remark about “previous generations” appeared to be reference to Lee’s father, the late Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, who was vocal advocate for China’s rise. Meanwhile, Lee is due Thursday to visit Fujian, a coastal southern province where Xi worked for more than 17 years.

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Premier Li hopes for Singapore support in high-speed railway

China hopes Singapore will support Chinese enterprises who wish to participate in the Singapore-Malaysia high-speed railway project, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday.

"China has cutting-edge, safe and reliable, cost-effective high-speed railway technology," Li said in his talks with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to build a 360-km high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which is expected to start operation by December 2026 and cut travel time to about 90 minutes. Singapore welcomes Chinese businesses to the project, Lee said.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hopes for Singapore support in high-speed railway: Xinhua

During his meeting with Mr Li, Mr Lee said that Singapore welcomes Chinese businesses to the project. In an interview with Xinhuanet, Xinhua’s official website, last Saturday, Mr Lee said: “We hope to receive China’s proposals.”

“I think China’s bid will be a high quality one,” he added,  noting that the joint railway project is “very significant” for Singapore and Malaysia. He said China has advanced technology and rich experience in high speed railway construction and operation, boasting a domestic network of tens of thousands kilometers in length.

The Singaporean prime minister praised China’s high speed railway service for providing passengers with convenience and comfort. “Very convenient, smooth and comfortable,” Mr Lee recalled his previous experiences of taking high speed trains in China.

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China touts railway tech for Singapore-KL HSR project
A Chinese high-speed train in Shijiazhuang. AP file foto

China is stepping up efforts ahead of a tender for the proposed 350km high-speed rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

China Railway Corp deputy chief engineer Zhao Guo Tang highlighted China’s strengths in railway engineering during a recent interview with journalists from Asean in Beijing.


“One of the benefits of procuring our railway signalling technology is that it compatible with many existing systems. When we design & build HSR lines, we keep in mind that the alignment has to serve as many passengers as possible & on the fastest route,” he said.

related: China’s railway diplomacy hits the buffers

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MTR, China Railway to bid for HSR project

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) operator is planning to join hands with a Chinese rail giant to bid for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, a top official has told the South China Morning Post.

Mr Frederick Ma Si Hang told the newspaper that the company was interested in partnering with China Railway to bid for a contract to build the 350km high-speed rail link. The Hong Kong newspaper, in an exclusive report yesterday, said the planned joint bid would be MTR's first investment under China's "Belt and Road" plan.

The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project is slated to be completed by the end of 2026 and will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes.

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Will high-speed rail between Singapore and China ever be a reality?

The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail link is now at an advanced stage of planning. China’s railway company CRH will set up a regional train manufacturing centre in KL and will invest in a new Central Station called ‘Bandar Malaysia’ south of KL near Subang Airport.

The high speed train station in Singapore will be located at Jurong East.

In all, the missing links in the Kunming-Singapore rail network are:
  • A 620km section from Nakhon Ratchasima to Vientiane.
  • Southern section from Hua Hin to Malaysia’s border (Padang Besar).
  • Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur (the route is electrified but may need to be upgraded to accommodate fast trains).
  • There’s no set timeframe for the construction of northern and southern extensions in Thailand. My best guess is they will only do dual tracking for that section. The government’s priority seems to be developing other high speed routes first between Bangkok to Rayong and Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

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Minister Vivian: We welcome China to bid for SG-KL High Speed Rail and recognize China’s experience and expertise

In a change of tune, Minister Vivian now welcomes Chinese companies to submit bids on the Singapore-KL High Speed Rail. This was reported by China Daily today (12 Jun).

In a written interview with China Daily, which is run by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CCP), Minister Vivian said Singapore “recognizes China’s experience and expertise” in high speed rail.

The international request for bids will be jointly put out by Singapore and Malaysia later this year, he said.

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Singapore FM invites Chinese bids on project

Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan [Photo/China Daily]

Singapore welcomes Chinese companies to submit bids on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail, Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan has said.

In a written interview with China Daily, he said Singapore "recognizes China's experience and expertise". The international request for bids, to be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, will be jointly put out by Singapore and Malaysia later this year, he said.


The minister, in an official visit to China from Sunday to Monday, noted that the project aims to improve connectivity among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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KL-Singapore high-speed rail project: China on board

A move to build a high-speed rail (HSR) line linking Kuala Lumpur & Singapore has attracted interest from various countries with this kind of technology.

Among these countries is China, which aims to build and perhaps help run the proposed 350km-long track in Malaysia & Singapore.

Though somewhat of a latecomer to the scene (its first HSR line was built in 2003), China has aggressively pushed these trains across its country.

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Hong Kong's MTR eyes joint bid with mainland rail giant for Kuala Lumpur-Singapore link
MTR Corporation Cairman Frederick Ma Si-hang (center). [Photo/en.people.cn]

The chairman of Hong Kong's rail operator MTR Corporation, Frederick Ma Si-hang, said his company "was interested in partnering with China Railway" to bid for the 350-kilometer rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Ma made the statement while attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which convened in Beijing on May 14 and 15, South China Morning Post reported.

Thepaper.cn confirmed the news, reporting that MTR insiders said the company would "provide any assistance" to the Chinese rail giant's potential bid for the multi-billion-dollar rail line.

If the bid is successful, the project would be MTR's first attempt to capitalize on China's global trade and commerce strategy. It would also be MTR's first investment under the umbrella of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

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‘Warm, long-standing’ ties reaffirmed as PM kicks off China visit

“I’m very grateful for your attention to our bilateral relationship, & also for the opportunity for us to discuss how we can work together in the regional context and with Asean,” Mr Lee said.

“Singapore is the coordinator for Asean and China relations currently. Next year, we will be the Asean chairman, & we hope that in these capacities, we can make a contribution towards bringing Asean & China closer together,” he added.


Echoing Mr Lee’s remarks, the Chinese Premier said he hoped Singapore’s chairmanship of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) will “inject new vitality” into Sino-Singapore & China-Asean relations.

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“Lee Hsien Loong is not as skilled as LKY” – Chinese state media declares amid PM Lee’s visit to China

As Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong makes his first official visit to China in the last three years, the Global Times – a newspaper with links to the Chinese Communist Party – declared that PM Lee “is not as skilled as his father” in balancing ties with China and the United States of America in an opinion piece that also called Singaporeans insecure:
“Singapore was once called a “little red dot” by former Indonesian president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie. The term is also adopted by Singaporeans to express their sense of insecurity. It is believed that Singapore has no intention of challenging China and Lee Hsien Loong is just not as skilled as his father in controlling the risks and striking a balance between China and the US.”
Relations between Singapore and China have been fraught with tension in recent years, with the Global Times calling this period the worst in the Sino-Singapore relationship since 2016.

Singapore has been accused of tilting towards Washington in its foreign policy, especially when Singapore sided with Washington and Tokyo during the South China Sea territorial dispute arbitration and when Singapore was the only ASEAN nation to urge all parties to fully respect the tribunal ruling that followed.

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Singapore's Lee looks to patch up China relations on official visit
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang with Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, on September 19, 2017 in Beijing, China

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives in China Tuesday amid tensions with Beijing and unease in southeast Asia over China's increasingly muscular foreign policy.

Lee was not invited to China's One Belt, One Road conference in May, despite the city state's strong support for Beijing's sprawling economic and trade initiative.

That came after a prolonged stand-off after nine armored troop carriers were seized by customs officials in Hong Kong en route from Singapore to China's historical rival Taiwan.

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IGNORE THE SHOW FOR LEE HSIEN LOONG, SINGAPORE AND CHINA ARE STILL AT ODDS
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: EPA
The Lion City prime minister’s welcome in Beijing is not a sign the countries have put differences over the South China Sea behind them – the conditions that underpinned their once warm relationship have changed forever

Amid such geopolitical disputes, China and Singapore remain at odds on several key security and strategic issues. For instance, Beijing believes Singapore – a tiny state with a majority ethnic Chinese population – should be pro-China diplomatically, or at least maintain neutrality on issues relating to China. However, the city state has long rejected such an idea, fearing that such an alignment could seriously undermine its status as an independent nation.

Beijing also wants Singapore to use its leadership status in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to promote China’s influence in the group – a mission that violates members’ interests, particularly so given Asean was formed to help the countries stand up to world powers.

At issue is Singapore’s discord with Beijing over maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Though the city state is not a claimant in the South China Sea feud, it operates one of the biggest ports in the world and its economy relies on trade and thus freedom of ocean navigation. For this reason, Singapore – which hosts a key US navy logistic base and other US military assets – hopes to maintain US influence in the region, potentially making it a strategic adversary to China.

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related:
Singapore - China Bilateral Ties
Singapore China G-to-G Projects
Singapore Stumbles on China's Road
Singapore military vehicles seizure in Hong Kong
The Historic Ma-Xi Summit
The New Silk Road 新絲綢之路
The "One Belt, One Road" 一带一路 initiative
Singapore as a 21st century maritime silk road
Singapore And The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Embracing, Leaning & Tilting towards China
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Saturday, 23 September 2017

DPM Tharman in Focus

DPM Tharman ‘would have preferred a contest’ for Presidential Election
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday that he would have preferred a contest in the recent Presidential Election

Speaking at the first Majulah Lecture organised by the Nanyang Technological University on Wednesday (20 Sept), Tharman was quizzed on the 2017 Presidential Election after the lecture, according to media reports.

One student asked if the reserved presidential election is an indication that Singapore is “regressing as a society”, despite Singaporeans growing up reciting a pledge with the words “regardless of race, language or religion”.

In response, Tharman said while he was “proud” that Halimah Yacob was the first Malay president in 47 years, he told the audience of more than 1,500 it was “understandable” that Singaporeans had questions about the recent election, which was reserved for Malay candidates.

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DPM THARMAN NOW SAY HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE HALIMAH CONTEST ELECTION

Now only after Halimah Yacob has been selected and installed as the President then Tharman comes out to say that he "would have preferred a contest". Why didn't he voice out his opinion before or during the "nomination day"?

Or better still, why didn't he voice out when the cynical manipulation of the EP Act was taking place, when Lee Hsien Loong and Shanmugam and Chan Chun Sing were actively and selling it in Parliament and in the PAP-controlled MSM?

Doesn't Tharman think it's too late?

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DPM Tharman Admits That He Would’ve Preferred An Actual Presidential Election In 2017

Even though ESM Goh Chok Tong had beaten him to the punch as the first Government official to acknowledge the unhappiness surrounding the election, DPM Tharman’s response was surprising as he spoke a lot more in-depth and provided insight regarding the controversies.

When asked if Singapore was regressing as a society due to the Reserved Election conflicting with the “regardless of race, language or religion” portion of our pledge, he had the following response.
"It is understandable that questions are raised on the reserved election. It is also understandable that most people, including myself, would have preferred a contest."
He also added that more can be done to make race matter less, instead of mindlessly repeating the pledge. However, he didn’t elaborate on what could be done. Still, his response was a welcome surprise.

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DPM Tharman: We are not a special people
We have to work hard to be a cohesive society

Can something like this happen in Singapore? It wasn’t too long ago that Singapore was torn asunder by racial riots. That was part of our founding history. It’s a part of our history that we have worked strenuously to never repeat. As DPM Tharman explained:

“It requires continuous work, and should never pretend that just leaving it to the market would lead to more understanding, more harmony, greater multiculturalism. It doesn’t happen that way anywhere in the world. It requires conscious action, conscious acts of the State, which work if they are supported by people. That’s how we have come so far and that’s how we will have to go into the future.”

Some of things that we have done include a very intrusive housing policy.

And of course, it also includes the reserved presidential election. DPM Tharman acknowledged that people would have preferred a contest. He also professed that he would have preferred a contest too. But he is also very proud that Mdm Halimah is our President.

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DPM Tharman says the strong reaction to the reserved Presidency is “encouraging”

But if you ask Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, he welcomes the debate over the reserved Presidency, and even says that it’s an “encouraging” sign.
“Even in the debate over the presidency, there is something encouraging in it. There is clearly an aspiration for race to matter less. I think race does matter today, everything else being equal, but it is good that people have this aspiration.”
While Tharman said that he believed Singapore was at a better starting point than in other countries, with a more cohesive society that is far more tolerant than most, he cautioned against being complacent lest divisions within society deepened.
“It requires continuous work, and should never pretend that just leaving it to the market would lead to more understanding, more harmony, greater multiculturalism. It doesn’t happen that way anywhere in the world. It requires conscious action, conscious acts of the State, which work if they are supported by people.“
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DPM Tharman said S’poreans aren’t fools who read mainstream media blindly

Tharman also said he has “great faith” in Singaporeans as they judged what happened during the Bukit Batok by-election and would judge the PAP at the next election.

Singaporeans also know how to read what the Singapore press produces and are more expressive owing to social media.
  • “I don’t think Singaporeans are fools. Even when they read what we call the mainstream media, they don’t read it blindly.”
  • “They know some things are more likely to come up on page four than on page one; the headlines may be a slightly different size, but they read things. They have the social media as well. People talk more openly, they exchange views more openly, and they make judgements.”

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Tharman on state media, gutter politics
Tharman Shanmugaratnam

I’m glad to hear that Mr Tharman has, for the first time, disavowed the gutter politics and mudslinging utilised by his colleagues during election campaigns. Before the Bukit Batok By-Elections of last year went into full swing, Dr Paul Tambyah of the Singapore Democratic Party got a promise from Mr Tharman that there would only be a healthy debate on ideas on how to bring Singapore forward, not dirty politics as the PAP has so often resorted to in the past.

One such example was how Charles Chong, the PAP candidate for Punggol East, made a still unsubstantiated claim about the Workers’ Party losing a $1 million surplus when they took over Punggol East. The accusation, and the media coverage, eventually led the PAP to win back Punggol East in 2015 with 51% of the votes, a slim margin.

However, all that talk meant nothing for the numerous ministers (as well as our current President, then Speaker of Parliament) who launched many attacks below the belt against Dr Chee of the SDP. It was heartening, therefore, to at least hear that Mr Tharman wasn’t lying and truly did not approve of it, and one can only wonder how much better the PAP would conduct itself if he was prime minister. If only, if not for his race.

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I DON’T AGREE WITH EVERY TACTIC OF EVERY ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES: THARMAN ON PAP’S “GUTTER POLITICS”

Deputy Prime Minister and 2nd Assistant Secretary General of the People’s Action Party (PAP), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, has acknowledged that his party members have engaged in “gutter politics”.

While not admitting to this directly, Mr Tharman nonetheless tacitly agreed with the description by a member of the audience at the inaugural Nanyang Technological University Majulah Lecture on Wednesday.

Kenneth Lin, the member of the audience, had asked the DPM for his views on the “gutter politics” tactics employed by his party during elections, such as during the Bukit Batok by-election last year.

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publichouse.sg Yesterday at 18:21

Tharman acknowledged the "gutter politics" which his party engages in.

However, he says he "[does not] agree with every tactic of every one of my colleagues."

But his remarks suggest that those above him had condoned and approved of the dirty tactics.

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DPM Tharman says the strong reaction to the reserved Presidency is “encouraging”

It’s not a stretch to say that the recent Presidential selection election has been rather controversial. On Sep. 16, Singaporeans even turned out in their hundreds at Hong Lim Park to wage a silent protest and also for a chance to meet onetime Presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.

But if you ask Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, he welcomes the debate over the reserved Presidency, and even says that it’s an “encouraging” sign. Tharman was speaking at the inaugural Majulah Lecture at Nanyang Technological University on Sep. 20. Former PAP MP, Ambassador Zainul Abidin Rasheed had asked a question on the divisiveness in society caused by the reserved Presidential election.

While Tharman said that he believed Singapore was at a better starting point than in other countries, with a more cohesive society that is far more tolerant than most, he cautioned against being complacent lest divisions within society deepened.

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DPM Tharman invents a new phrase to talk up the importance of the arts as well as science

With the slow but sure approach of the Digital Revolution, it can be tempting to declare Literature and the Arts dead, buried, and irrelevant in the years to come.

With the machines taking over, who can deny that sciences are more important than humanities?

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam, for one. A former poet himself, he strongly believes in the continued relevance of the humanities to spur on innovative thinking, even with continued technological development.

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DPM Tharman on Gutter Politics: Sometimes the PAP “Falls Short” on Character

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has acknowledged that the PAP sometimes “falls short” when it comes to when it comes to “character”.

Mr Tharman, who is also the 2nd Assistant Secretary General of the People’s Action Party, said this at the Nanyang Technological University Majulah Lecture yesterday.

He was addressing a question from audience member Kenneth Lin, who asked for his views on “gutter politics” which some members of the PAP engaged in during the 2016 Bukit Batok SMC by-election.

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THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM LESS DISLIKE-ABLE THAN HIS PAP COLLEAGUES?

A journalist for The Middle Ground has posted some observations about what makes DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam more appealing to Singaporeans than the rest of his cabinet colleagues.

It all boils down to his political communications, says Md Suhaile, who gave 6 reasons why his messages are more well-received.

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Md Suhaile 22 hrs

Off the top of my head, Tharman’s six principles of political communication:
  • Timing: Wait till the worst of the storm of public dissatisfaction blows over. Don't go into the thick of it. Wait for heads to cool.
  • Deflate the elephant: Point to the elephant in the room, acknowledge it, and everyone goes “finally!”. Tension is released. Elephant gets smaller, people can breathe easier.
  • I am one of you: Acknowledge and even agree with the sentiments on the ground, then reframe to “in spite of this… must recognise reality... and so must do that”. Classic rhetorical technique. Throw in own background of activist etc. for added legitimacy.
  • Be general: He said he doesn’t agree with every tactic of everyone of his colleague. Broad obvious statement. In a large org like PAP that's bound to happen. But this allows people to fill in what they *think* he means. Or what they *want to believe* cos he's likeable. Still, people may not be wrong, but it gives wiggle room should the need ever arise in another context.
  • Provide hope: Things are better now than before. We will continue to be better. Let's work towards that.
  • Be likeable: People listen to you cos they like you. This factor anchors all the above. Also, he didn't comment on the process, and the legitimacy of a president who came into office with so much controversy on the ground. Does the President really have a mandate then? Maybe no one asked. And why should he bring it up of his own accord? Skilfully done. All the more’s the reason I think he should be the next PM. (#TharmanForPM!) But oh well’s, we’re not ready for a non-Chinese PM and he has ruled himself out. Sigh pie.

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Public concerns over reserved Presidential Election understandable: DPM Tharman
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, DPM & Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, delivering the inaugural NTU Majulah Lecture at the Nanyang Auditorium. Foto: Nuria Ling/TODAY

It is “understandable” that concerns were raised over the recent reserved Presidential Election (PE), & the “encouraging” public debate showed that Singaporeans have an aspiration for race to matter less, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday (Sep 20).

However, this aspiration requires action, & cannot be achieved by simply reciting the national pledge or through an “incantation”, said Mr Tharman, who was the first Cabinet Minister to address public disquiet over the PE, held last week.

The PE was won via a walkover by Madam Halimah Yacob, who was the sole eligible candidate. At her swearing-in ceremony at the Istana last Thursday, Mdm Halimah noted the unhappiness some Singaporeans felt about the recent changes to the Elected Presidency scheme.

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'Singaporeans have an aspiration for race to matter less': DPM Tharman
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam having a chat with NTU students after the inaugural NTU Majulah Lecture on Sep 20, 2017. (Foto: NTU)

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said that he, like most Singaporeans, would have liked to see a contest in the recent Presidential Election.

However, the debate over the presidency proved that Singaporeans have an aspiration for race to matter less in politics and society, he said in response to questions after the first Majulah Lecture organised by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Wednesday (Sep 20).

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, mapped out his vision for how education needs to evolve to an audience of more than 1,500 during the lecture at NTU's Nanyang Auditorium.

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Questions raised about presidential election show that people want race to matter less: DPM Tharman
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam addressing the 1,500-strong audience at the inaugural NTU Majulah Lecture. FOTO: NTU

Mr Tharman was responding to a question on whether the reserved election had entrenched even more deeply the idea of race, & whether it in fact marked a regression in race relations.

The DPM, who said he himself would have also preferred a contest "like most people", said, however, that the aspiration for race not to count is something that requires working towards.

"It cannot just be a pledge, it cannot be just an incantation," he said. "Sometimes it requires a conscious act of the state."

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Singaporeans more liberal, feel less fear: DPM Tharman
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam chatting with NTU students after the dialogue session. FOTO: NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY

A student had asked Mr Tharman about media control and whether the minister agreed with what he saw as "gutter politics" employed by People's Action Party leaders during the Bukit Batok by-election last year.

Mr Tharman, in reply, said he did not want to minimise the significance of what the student had said, but added that the country has "really changed".

Recounting his experience as "someone who has lived through some of Singapore's history", having grown up in the 1960s and becoming politically active in the 1970s, he said: "It is a vastly different and more liberal place compared to what it used to be.

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Biggest mistake is to think 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it': DPM Tharman on Singapore's education
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam addressing the 1,500-strong audience at the inaugural NTU Majulah Lecture. Foto: NTU

The biggest mistake for Singapore's education system is to think that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday evening (Sep 20).

In a speech addressing some 1,500 students, academics, university students & members of the public, he laid out the challenges for the education system: to develop a truly innovative society while retaining social cohesion.

"The system that we have today is different from the system we had 20 years ago, and quite different from 50 years ago. There's been constant evolution of our education system, & that's really our challenge and our opportunity for the future," he said, speaking at the 1st Majulah Lecture organised by Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

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Education system must keep experimenting for the future: Tharman
By changing, experimenting & having a sense of dare, we are best preparing ourselves for a range of eventualities in the future, says DPM Tharman

Despite its students aceing mathematics, science & reading in a prestigious international benchmarking test, Singapore’s education system must keep experimenting & having a “sense of dare” to prepare for the future, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday (Sep 20).

“The biggest mistake we would make is to think that because we’re doing well in the Pisa test … therefore we keep things as they are. The biggest mistake is to think, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said at the Nanyang Technological University’s inaugural Majulah lecture.

The Pisa, or Programme for International Student Assessment, is a triennial study run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It compares how education systems are helping students acquire knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems, and Singapore’s 15-year-olds ranked number one for maths, science & reading in the 2015 study, it was announced last December.

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Mr Tharman SHANMUGARATNAM
Mr Tharman SHANMUGARATNAM, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam is Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies in the Singapore Cabinet.

Tharman is also Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore’s central bank and financial regulator. He has spent his working life in public service, in roles related to education and economic policies. He served as Minister for Finance for eight years (2007- 2015), and as Minister for Education for five years (2003-2008). He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in 2011.

Tharman was appointed Chairman of the Group of Thirty, an independent global council of leading economic and financial policy-makers, from Jan 2017, succeeding Jean-Claude Trichet. In Apr 2017, he was appointed as Chairman of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, to review the system of multilateral financial institutions. He had previously been appointed by his international peers as Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the key policy forum of the IMF, for an extended period of four years from 2011; he was its first Asian chair.

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Full Coverage:
'Singaporeans have an aspiration for race to matter less': DPM Tharman
Questions about PE2017 show that people want race to matter less: DPM
DPM Tharman: strong reaction to the reserved Presidency is “encouraging”
DPM Tharman invents a new phrase to talk up the importance of the
DPM Tharman says the strong reaction to the reserved Presidency is
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18 Quotes By DPM Tharman That Every Singaporean Should Hear

DPM Tharman asks public to have confidence in the government

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has chipped into the Lee family saga with a Facebook post on Thursday evening, asking for members of public to have confidence in the Government.

He wrote that there is no mystery why a Ministerial committee was set up to look into the options for 38 Oxley Road and DPM Teo has already explained the reasons for setting it up.

Explaining that Ministerial committees are formed on a whole range of issues which help think through difficult choices in Government before they come to Cabinet, and to canvas views outside when appropriate, Tharman calls for Singaporeans to count on the fourth generation leaders to keep to a system that upholds the laws of the land, prioritises the common good and looks to the long term.

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BBC’s Stephen Sackur gets sucker punched by DPM Tharman at St Gallen Symposium

DPM's tour de force performance in Switzerland. Hopp St Gallen!

Step aside Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam vs BBC’s Stephen Sackur was the verbal boxing match many Singaporeans were interested in during the past few days.

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DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s Wise Words

Whether you love the People’s Action Party (PAP) or not, we know a wise man when we see one.

Even though Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is not going to be our future prime minister — according to this Straits Times report where he ruled himself out of the running — it’s no question that he’s one of the most deserving ministers for the post, due to his impactful words that provide much food for thought.

As such, we selected 18 quotes from our favourite minister that we believe every true-blue Singaporean should chew on.

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