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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Duelling on Day 4

There is some merit in NOT carpet bombing the news. I read ST’s coverage of Day 4 and got thoroughly confused about what’s happening. Stuff kept getting repeated. Quotes got repeated too. Seems no one person is looking over the whole coverage.
And those boring, boring headlines. Yesterday’s headline was about a “major’’ shift in planning infrastructure. Today’s ST headline was yet another “major’’ shift in the economy. I don’t think anything quite beats the headline for the first day of debate : that the White Paper was for “the benefit of Singaporeans’’.

Here’s where the smaller papers do much better – pick the relevant points and home in on them. But I suppose ST has to labour under the burden of being the newspaper of record (of sorts).

BT homed in on the G’s objections to a total foreign labour freeze advocated by the Worker’s Party while Today gave an excellent account of the PAP-versus-WP sword play. I could follow it, because each cut and thrust was well juxtaposed, with relevant backgrounding. I thought its insertion of PAP MP Lim Wee Kiak’s apology to WP’s Low Thia Kiang right at the top of the article was a stroke of genius: It reflected how tense and impassioned the debate had become for Dr Lim to tell Mr Low to “turn up his hearing aid’’. Ooh, what a cut! For which Dr Lim was good enough to apologise for.

Sorry. The rant above was just me using my ex-journalist lens while reading the newspapers.

Back to Day 4.

You know, I almost expected an apology from Mr Wong Kan Seng. This was the minister who presided over the whole population growth and who turned on the tap big-big. He was a pretty tough nut then, putting down criticisms of immigration. I guess he was only doing what he had to. I wish he had said more about those years of exploding numbers, never mind that PM Lee had already said that the G lacked foresight then.

I also wish (well, almost) the WP had never put out its paper. Then we might get down to tackling some points in the White Paper instead of witnessing point scoring, jibes and snide remarks. Then again, if the WP didn’t, we wouldn’t be having a debate on whether the tap should be shut tight, or opened slightly. Clearly, the WP’s no increase in foreign workers position is being attacked, both in and out of the House. I can’t agree with the WP either. No increase at all? Rather too drastic. I know it’s the WORKERS party, but it can’t mean that it is so totally against employers as not to give them a bit of room to hire a few more people? By the way, ordinary Singaporeans employ foreigners too, as maids. And nursing homes need foreign helpers too.

I want to see the PAP MPs and Nominated MPs get down to other issues.
Can we, for example, have a clear definition of what is the Singapore core? I don’t think PAP MP Alex Yam’s use of the apple – which he brought into Parliament – quite makes it. You eat the apple (which I presume stands for foreigners) and you throw away the core!
So must the Singapore core be born and bred – as WP’s Sylvia Lim put it? Or can we be Singaporeans out of conviction and choice, as Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin said quoting the late PAP ideologue S Rajaratnam?

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Hopefully, this can be settled today. Along with it, I hope the sentiments of the minority communities can be addressed too. I count at least three Malay MPs who have wondered if the racial makeup will stay the same and the status of Singapore Malays in 2030. Then there was an intriguing comment by Nominated MP R Dhinakaran on the worries of the Tamil-speaking Singaporeans being swamped by the non Tamil-speaking Indians.

The Eurasians? Speaking for myself, I don’t care lah. But I don’t know if others do.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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