In the past week, two Straits Times readers beat censorship and made it to the state media newspaper dismissing the Housing Development Board (HDB) for obfuscating the definition of ownership. One called out HDB for “describing a lease” while the other feigned ignorance saying he is “unclear”.
Singaporeans point out that HDB “owners” will have their property confiscated by the government once their lease is up. Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong had also confirmed that the government will not make a single cent of compensation once the HDB lease is finished.
According to a HDB spokesperson, a HDB lessee is a “home owner” and the “owner” can live, sell and buy under governing laws of the HDB. The HDB however has only made a half-truth – the selling and buying essentially refers to the transfer of HDB lease from a seller to a buyer, while the HDB (government) remains the actual owner.
Playing with definitions through legal corruption is nothing new in the Lee Hsien Loong dictatorship. Just recently, the definition of “Malay” became “Muslim” according to the government. The Presidential Election was supposedly a racist election that only the Malay race can contest. The dictator Prime Minister realised that his choice candidate, PAP MP Halimah Yacob, belongs instead to a “minority” and hence should not qualify under his newly-written constitution. Lee Hsien Loong then redefined the “Malay” race as a “a community that practices Islam” – just so his PAP MP can contest.
Other legalised corruption includes cases of conflict of interests. In a recent corruption case, the government defended the council appointment of a contractor where one awards town council tenders to his own company. “Conflict of interests” means “double-hatting”, the ruling party PAP said.
The Singapore government is able to achieve distortion of facts and definitions because the country only has one newspaper media entity – the Singapore Press Holdings. Singapore’s media is ranked 151th in 2017 for credibility. While independent news sites like States Times Review gain popularity to replace the government papers, they are called “fake news” and threatened with hefty fines and jail sentence.