a community of singaporeans

The – deliberate – sound of silence?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on August 7, 2007

By Andrew Loh

It’s been a week since the media reported that transport operators have applied to the Public Transport Council (PTC) to increase transport fares.

If one has been reading the forum page of the main broadsheet, The Straits Times, one might be thinking that the announcement – or the fare hike itself – is such a non-event that no Singaporean is complaining about it to the press.

PTC Chairman Gerard Ee had confirmed with the media on August 1st that the transport companies had applied to increase fares.

A check of the Straits Times forum page from 1st August to 7th August shows not a single letter of complaint about the potential fare hike.

There were 3 letters, however, about the PTC’s stricter rules for transport operators and one from the press secretary to the Minister Of Transport.

Praise first, then criticize but don’t mention hike

The 3 letters all begin with statements like “I LAUD the Public Transport Council (PTC) for …”, “I AM pleased that the Public Transport Council is …”, “NEWS about shorter waiting time and higher service standards for buses is welcome….”

And although the announcement that transport operators have applied for a fare hike was made public together with the PTC’s announcement of setting higher standards, none of the letters mentioned the fare hike at all.

Instead, the letters were about bus bunching, MobileTV, waiting time, and “the seat after the rear door” and the like.

The conspicuous absence of any letter about the fare hike itself is a most curious thing.

Is it a deliberate move by the ST to “play down” the sentiments against the increase? Or perhaps the ST feels that since National Day is so near, it should not let the small matter of a fare hike disturb our celebrations of it? Maybe the ST is waiting for the PTC to decide before publishing – or not publishing – any letters of complaint?

Or perhaps the truth is that Singaporeans are really not bothered about the potential hike and thus no one has written in to complain?

On the other hand…

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but letters of praise for the PAP have been appearing instead, as we head nearer to our 42nd birthday as a nation.

The first one was on the 31st of August, headlined “PAP leadership as sterling as in the past”.

“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself adheres to the same high principles of propriety and ethical standards, as was seen in the recent episode concerning his second son, 2LT Li Hongyi, who was reprimanded by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for broadcasting a complaint about lack of leadership within the military. Not only did PM Lee not intervene, but he also left it entirely to the SAF to discipline his son as it deemed fit. May Singapore be blessed always with good, able and honest political leaders.”

3 days later, on August 3rd, this letter: “Singapore blessed with the present PAP leadership”.

“I REFER to Mr K. Kalidas’ letter, ‘PAP leadership as sterling as in the past’ (ST, July 31). I can vouch that the present PAP leadership is as people-orientated and dynamic as in the past…..This is the present political leadership that Singapore is blessed with.”

On August 6th, we had two letters about the wonders of our ministers and PAP MPs. The first, “An enlightened approach to healthcare”, praised Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan thus:

“This last paragraph of his speech, I applaud as the most enlightened I have read in a long while; a refreshing well-thought through principle in what has primarily been a debate on cost-efficiency, and implementation of health policy.”

The second sang the praises of the PAP’s P65 blogsite, titled “Blogsite of post-65 MPs a step in the right direction”:

“WHILE browsing through the blog site (, I was pleasantly surprised to read about the clearly articulated brainstorm of our post-65 MPs who have no qualms in voicing the promptings of their hearts and minds.”

To summarise

So far, what has taken place are:

1. The usual deadline for application for fare increases was moved from May to August.

2. The PTC has set tougher standards for operators to adhere to. Penalties for failure may incur fines for the operators of between $100 and $10,000.

3. The government announced a $10 million fund to help the needy on the same day that the PTC’s announcement was made.

4. Transport operators have confirmed that they are asking for a “small increase”. But neither the PTC, the operators or the media have disclosed the exact amount submitted for approval – surely, all 3 parties must know what it is, right?

5. The conspicuous absence of letters of complaint in the media, especially the Straits Times.

6. The emergence of letters of praise for the PAP.

What can one make of this? I am not sure, really. What I do know is that there are quite a few people who aren’t happy at all that transport fares may go up again.

One can only hope that the mainstream press will reflect this.

For now, methinks the mainstream press is trying too hard. It reminds me of that advertisement – hearing only the good stuff…

Or maybe it’s just me.

*If you have written letters about the fare hike to the Straits Times but your letter has not been published, we would like to hear from you. Email us at:

Read also: Fare hike for public transport in October?


17 Responses to “The – deliberate – sound of silence?”

  1. Yeo Toon Joo said

    Some years ago, when the HDB yet again raised the prices of its flats, the Straits Times carried a huge page 1 headline: Good News! HDB prices to go up only 5%.

    The article carried the byline of Ms Irene Ngoo, one of ST’s star reporters during my time there on the news desk of that then newspaper.

    Could anything be more idiotically cynical?

    Not so long ago, one PAP cadre, whom I knew well, requested that I sent to the Straits Times in my name a letter on a public issue which he would pen for me.

    So, get used to more flurries of Good News stories in MSM whose headlines or thread, may I suggest, could be:

    Good news, spending on Porches continues to rise despite sales tax hike!

    Good news, the poor 40% can now afford to window shop at Orchard Road!

    Naturally, before and after each series of good news stories, expect a surge in number of Well Done! We welcome! letters in the readers’ (you mean they still exist?) page of the Straits Times churned out by the production line of scribbling sycophants.

  2. Gerald said

    Toon Joo,

    It always baffles me how such intelligent, educated people (many educated in liberal democracies like the US and UK) can suddenly turn into “scribbling sycophants”. Perhaps as a former ST editor, you can write a piece to enlighten us on the process that takes place.

  3. lesile said

    Oh yeah, I awaiting more funny headlines like :

    Good news, EDB write off $32 millions to boost Australia relationship !

    Good news, increase ERP charges to all-time high to curb traffic congestion once and for all ! Charges: $5 per entry !

    Good news, Ministers finally regain moral authority after receiving their first millions dollar salary !

    Good news, PM finally fix opposition party and buy supporter vote successfully.

    Good news, MIW finally buy their way to heaven !

    Good news, more golden years for our ministers for another round of pay increment.

    Good news, LKY dies and live again as LoveKuanYin.

    Good news, NS resume 2.5 years again.

    etc, good news here and there, but then what’s in there for me and you ?

    Indeed more good news for Singapore !

  4. Daniel said

    I would think that the news of a fare increase every year is expected just like we would expect GST to be increase in the future.

    As they said, Many good years ahead.

  5. Sg Punk said

    Good News! LKY enters Forbes 50!! Ranked World’s Richest Man who does not own a public company!!

  6. raymondchua said

    Sg Punk Says:
    ‘Good News! LKY enters Forbes 50!! Ranked World’s Richest Man who does not own a public company!!’

    LKY don’t own company ? Think again, he own the greatest company of all times ! He own Singapore Incorporated ! And within Singapore incorporated comprised of subsidaries and any companies in Singapore because all companies paid tax and tribute to him indirectly !

    Forbes should have put him in number 0 because number1 is not even doing him a justice ! Bill Gates own an island but this island is nothing compared to Singapore Incorporated, a money-spinning island far larger and modernised machine with droid-like human working hard and relentlessly to generate economic value !!

    Someone more ruthless than Bill Gates ! At least Bill Gates can’t take away your freedom and choice ! Bill Gates has Bill Lee to compete with and I vounch for Bill Lee to win anytime, anywhere, anyplace !

    We just love Singapore Incorporated because we are number one, nothing even come close.

  7. raymondchua said

    Daniel Says:
    ‘I would think that the news of a fare increase every year is expected just like we would expect GST to be increase in the future.’

    We would expect to jump down MRT track in the future too.

  8. Yeo Toon Joo said

    Hi Gerald

    Why do educated people (a questionable label and tenuous assumption) become ‘scribbling sycophants’?

    As we all know, attendance at school – even at the best – merely enables a person to imbibe of knowledge. It might produce well-schooled people, but not smart or wise ones.

    Wisdom is of a higher order, and comes, some say, from a divine source. Happy are those who are blessed with wisdom that is from above (City Hall?).

    Intelligence, we all must agree, does not equate with wisdom. Otherwise how could we have ended up with so many intellectual morons who write congratulatory letters over bad news, or abet their writing? We seem to have more such people these days.

    The love of lucre is becoming all-encompassing in Singapore, even encouraged national trait. It causes a person to do almost anything, however demeaning, even agree to be enslaved – and write or publish idiotic letters at his/her master’s bidding.

    Yes, one day, I must research this Singapore phenomenon. It would be a revelation in our quest for understanding of why they are so stupid to think we are so stupid to stomach the things they write and publish that are so stooo-pid!

  9. administrator said

    “Yes, one day, I must research this Singapore phenomenon. It would be a revelation in our quest for understanding of why they are so stupid to think we are so stupid to stomach the things they write and publish that are so stooo-pid!”

    I agree with this. It resonates very strongly. I only realized this recently, but there are alot of nonsense in my brain which I didnt know where it came from or even who put it there. For example, I have had this urge to buy a LV bag for months and it was only yesterday after reading something abt it in the net, that I really began to sit down and think about it.

    You know what I realize for the very first time in my life, I dont need it, it’s not even my life, I was living thats the scary part.

  10. pkchukiss said

    Am I alone in guessing that the rest of native post-Independence Singaporeans couldn’t give a damn about public transport, and are looking into some ways to get themselves around without paying too much to both the government and the two blood suckers for public transport operators?

    Also realise how that might mean that while Save Our Earth concerts can be held in Singapore month after month, and Singaporeans are going to go home from the concerts in their gas-guzzlers?

    Or also that the phrase “public transport” must mean that the transportation is conceptualised mainly for the benefit of the “public”? Or was my last sentence a relatively alien entity that was caused by a time-space warp that brought this basic concept from the rest of the world into this little red dot? Eek, I’m drowning in my own sarcasm!

  11. TerenceTay said

    Yeo Toon Joo,
    you have worked in ST as editor before. Would like to know if editor is been specifically asked to write articles that tend towards pro-PAP ? Do political articles really go through some minister’s level approval ?

    I am always baffled as ST nowadays tend to focus on the problem of other countries rather than Singapore. The news I see everyday always tell of many progress we make for economic progress, that I wonder that if the ST editors are been asked to focus on these area or if the editors are inept of many problems in Singapore.

    The newspaper are getting rosy each day that it seem that only Singapore grow prosper while other countries are struggling hard with their problems.

  12. Yeo Toon Joo said

    Dear Terence

    In the past, the PAP Government’s control of the press was less obvious, and not so absolute.

    During my time, certain high and not so high officials would periodically take it upon themselves to tell us what to do, and what news to play up or suppress.

    If you had conviction and courage, or were foolhardy enough and prepared to end your career in journalism, you stood up to them – if you believed they were wrong or misguided. Of course, we had toadies who sucked up to those officials, and earned both the press and the Government an undeserved worse name.

    Periodically, senior editors would be called up for a dressing down at City Hall for mistakes made, i.e. from City Hall’s point of view, or for injudiciously – sometimes ineptly – playing up certain news items.

    The situation today is quite different. Singapore Press Holding has for some time past been partly owned by the Government, and its appointees have since 1982 held top management and editorial positions in SPH, either as executive chairman, or editors (with the passage of time, some of those senior journalists who were more neutral but prepared to toe the line have passed on, left, been removed, or retired).

    Mediacorp, the broadcasting arm, has always been controlled by the Government.

    As I see it, the press is now the Government’s daily newsletter. It functions primarily (and this must be apparent to thinking people) as an extension of the Government’s publicity and propaganda arm.

  13. I once sent a letter to the Straits Times Forum Page entitled Process Management as an alternative to top-down government and a reply was given to me that it would be published.

    The next day and day after, I checked the paper and saw it was not published.

    I emailed to the Editorial Assistant who informed me that my letter had been withdrawn.

    I contacted the editor (a lady) who told me it was published. Tried as I did I could not find my letter on the forum page or anywhere else among the other pages.

    This is the extent of newspapers being controlled by the government as mentioned by Yeo Toon Joo.

    The newspaper control from what I could see will not solve long-term problem like building an inclusive or cosmopolitan society or winning over citizens who are unhappy with government top-down governing system which benefit only themselves without benefiting the whole society or citizens.

    In the short term, government brainwashes the people to accept their biased data, and information as the truth.

    Over the longer term, problems get locked up postponing solutions to problems like the NKF or Shin Corp and these problems will one day explode on their face.

  14. DK said

    Well…. does it really matters if anyone writes to Straits Times or any newspaper complaining about the fare hike?

    Whatever we say or do will not change the fact that another fare hike is coming. It is an annual thing. Every single year. In fact, why not just remove the PTC. Let the transport company increase their fare every year lor. Why waste resource by having a PTC that doesn’t protect the public intrest?

  15. Andrew Loh said


    Actually I am beginning to agree with you. The PTC is fast becoming another CASE – the consumer watchdog (or at least that’s what they’re supposed to be).

    CASE did nothing about the GST hike – except going around “catching” small mom and pop businesses. (See? They’ve only made the obligatory, symbolic “protest” against this potential fare hike.)

    The PTC? They won’t even tell us how much the transport companies are asking to raise the fares by!

    So, you are right. Why’re we spending so much money for chairmen, directors, assistants, etc etc just so they can tell us “yes, the hike is justified”?

    They already have the media to do that.


  16. RaymondChua said

    these coming day, we will likely to see strait times, and local media telling us why it should raise fare. The same tactic used to justify the ministers’ pay hike.

    As usual, the bad side of raising fare will restrict to very small section of newspaper just for wayang.

    It’s come to the point that anything that gov can make money, they simply just approve it compare to years ago. Such is regime of DragonClown and PapaLee. The PayAndPay scheme seem to take on larger scale never see before in history of Singapore, look like D-day of Singapore is launching not by soldier, but by money.

  17. Free play said


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