Monday, July 19, 2010

Massive Flood Cockup Exposes Cracks in the Political System

When everything is going fine and there are no major cockups, it is easy to for a single-party state and all its institutions and appendages to give the appearance of unity and strength, and for the ruling party to cling onto totalitarian political power. However, when something major goes very wrong, such incidents tend to expose the cracks, flaws and fragilities in the system.

What used to look like a unified front starts to turn into infighting and bickering as the little generals start defending their own turf and try to push the blame for the cockup to one another. This happens when the dominant personality at the top - who previously held the system together and imposed discipline on the ranks - starts to fade from power. This also happens when the cockup was clearly part of the system, and when the blame cannot be pushed to the public.

Here is the low down of the turf clashes that have emerged in the aftermath of the flood cockup

1. Police Force vs Singapore Press Holdings -

Shafie Goh, 57 year old veteran photojournalist for the Singapore Press Holdings owned newspaper Lianhe Wanbao, was unceremoniously handcuffed and escorted off a flood scene by a policeman while he was trying to take pictures for the newspaper. According to Straits Times, Mr Goh said he was asked to go only once and was about to leave when the police handcuffed him. The police, however, said that they had repeatedly asked Mr Goh to leave before they resorted to using force.

So, who is going to give in this tussle on the ground? Will it be Wong Kan Seng's Police Force, or will it be ex-DPM Tony Tan's Singapore Press Holdings?

2. Lui Tuck Yew vs Yaacob Ibrahim -

Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and Acting Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts, is asking the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to explain itself to affected residents. This comes after a few parts of his constituency, such as Cambridge Road and Dorset Road, were badly affected by the recent flash floods, 'worse than the two previous occasions in June'. Some who had parked in basement carparks had water up to their car doors. Mr Lui himself had difficulty leaving his Telok Kurau home with his wife on Saturday morning.

Ironically, it will be his Ministerial counterpart Mr Yaacob Ibrahim who will be the one who will have to answer Mr Lui's call that "being able to touch base with people on the ground is important at this point of time." Unfortunately, Mr Ibrahim has been conspicuously absent from the public limelight throughout the periods of this flash flooding which has seen businesses and homeowners incur millions in damages as a result.

What will RAdm Lui have to say of Yaacob Ibrahim's lack of leadership and almost cowardly behaviour?


The Singapore flooding is such a massively damaging event which requires responsibility from multiple agencies to deal with. The civil defence (and home affairs ministry) has to be roped in to deal with the internal damage of the floods. The press is expected to give a fair and balanced reporting of the flood. The MPs are expected to be in touch with the damage on the ground and help to solve the residents' problems. And most importantly the National Environment Agency is responsible for a proper functioning drainage and sewage system which should prevent the floods in the first place.

When you have multiple interest groups having to defend their turf, frictions start to rise and sparks start flying. This is all the more interesting when these multiple interest groups are supposed to be under the control of a single hand - the mighty Lee Kuan Yew.

But these frictions are natural. Sooner or later something has to give. It will be interesting to watch how long more the floods will last, how much more damage it will cause, and how much more action we will see in the press.

These indeed are interesting times in Singapore's history.


Anonymous said...

Yakult: too bad. Rain-too-heavy-longkang-too-small. I urge everyone to play their part and prepare their own sandbags.

Anonymous said...

It is utterly irresponsible for the the CEO(PM of SIN) of the City to proclaim that floods are unavoidable without even looking into possible preventive measures. Coming out with such statement so soon after the floods when so many ideas of causes and remedies of/for the inundations have floated amongst the Local Blogs.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hopefully we get to see the mother of all floods on 9th Aug, it will surely expose the mother of all cracks in the PAP system.

nick said...

Well, here in Malaysia (K.L) it floods all the time and when the situation became critical (read..some big time contractor can make tons of money)the government announce some major public works project (read miracle) that's going to solve the problem once and for all (BUT it's going to cost the tax payer BILLIONS). That's how it is with the Malaysian Government. They view any calamity or flooding or disaster as a money making opportunity. Don't believe me? What do you call Samy Vellu's suggestion of a multi (hundreds) millions slope surveillance system when there was a land slide on the North south highway, couple of years ago? Launching Malaysian own spy satellite to watch for landslide??? As the American would say..."FANTASTIC!!! (read Bullshit!)


Anonymous said...

The crack in the entire PAP system is beginning to show when the god of no mercy acknowledged the extraordinary rainfall is an act of God.
Holy rain! the pretender blaming the real God.

Anonymous said...

Sandbags will be in demand. So will sensors that emit loud sounds when floor is flooded. Anyone can tell me where to get one? I don't want to drown while sleeping too soundly one rainy night.

Anonymous said...

I Wonder Why

I noticed from the Straits Times report on Lui Tuck Yew that although his constituency was previously affected by floods on 2 occasions, it was only after he himself was prevented from leaving his house by floods that he sought a private discussion with the PUB.

Question, why a private discussion when this is a matter of national interest, why discuss with the PUB and not the Minister in charge, and why only after he himself was affected, not when his constituency was affected by floods twice previously?