Monday, November 24, 2003

Straightening the Straits Times (1)

Every day, in our "esteemed" government-sanctioned national daily, you will read about many so-called news reports that serve as thinly disguised propaganda.

In this series of short takes on articles that have appeared in the Straits Times, we will give you a rundown (literally) of news reports that are superficial and sometimes way off the mark, i.e. when obvious points of contention go unchallenged, and government officials are not taken to task for their flawed arguments.

If you perceive this to be a scathing attack on the integrity of Straits Times journalists (ok, I qualify my statement, some journalists), it's because it is.

Practise what you preach
Singapore's acting manpower minister Ng Eng Hen, in another example of speaking before thinking, told a gathering of CEOs in early November that the flexiwage push must start at the top because, "as decision-makers, they must lead and be deeply involved in the restructuring process". Does that mean the country's top leaders, i.e. the ministers, ought to have their wage restructured?

"Shared pains and gains" is a lofty idea, but actions speak louder than words, especially empty rhetoric.

As if to cover his own ass, Ng went on to point out that wage restructuring is not a "magic bullet". Well, you've just shot yourself in the foot again!

Does X' Ho sound like asshole to you?
Making about-turns is not the sole prerogative of government ministers, it seems. Music writer and radio DJ, Chris Ho (a.k.a. X' Ho), who frequently expresses disdain for Singapore's "hypocrisy and double standards", barely protested when the organiser of an arts festival censored an explicit documentary in which Ho dropped his pants and tattooed his penis. Maybe his little number was nothing to shout about.

Another one shooting from his hips
After it was announced that SBS Transit is expected to lose up to S$35 million in the first year of the North-East Line (NEL) train operations, acting prime minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that SMRT should take over the NEL.

However, SMRT's chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa responded by saying that SBS should "make me an offer I can't refuse". Undeterred, Lee had a rejoinder for her: "If I were SBS, I would ask SMRT to make me an offer I can't refuse either."

Can someone please remind Lee that beggars cannot be choosers? Perhaps Lee has never seen a beggar in his life, because the government has so successfully weeded them off the ground, especially during ministerial visits to [name your own destination].

Don't even get me started on "black sheep"
If you think Lee's rejoinder was bad enough, wait till you read about the justification minister of state for defence Cedric Foo gave for the "white horse" label in the military. Foo claimed that the classification was to "ensure that they (white horses) were not given special privileges".

How absurd. It's like saying: "We classify everyone who has a previous criminal conviction a 'black sheep' so that he/she will not be treated differently from the rest of society."

Well, someone ought to have his brain examined for such flawed reasoning.

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