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Lee Hsien Loong's not going anywhere yet

Here we are, back to regular programming after last week’s early round-up focused on Parti Liyani’s, the criminal justice system, and what was said in Parliament. Also, if you haven’t read it yet, please check out my story on allegations of abuse in Singapore’s prisons, and how the lack of independent oversight plus laws like POFMA are detrimental to truth-seeking and accountability.

Still transitioning, not yet transitioned

Last Sunday, the PAP elected their new central executive committee (CEC). Both Lawrence Wong and Desmond Lee have been elected into the committee, unlike the last time when they were co-opted. Ng Chee Meng, on the other hand, didn’t make it into the CEC this time. They’ll be deciding on office bearers later, as well as other members to be co-opted into the committee.

Lee Hsien Loong’s party conference speech didn’t tell us anything very new: mostly the same stuff about the need for reflection post-GE, the challenges of COVID-19 and the economy, the importance of symbiotic ties between the People’s Action Party and the “labour movement” (NTUC). As he said before, he isn’t going anywhere yet: “…as I have explained, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, it is my duty to see our nation through the crisis, before I hand over responsibility for Singapore in good shape to the next team and into safe hands.” And so the talk about transitioning without the actual transition continues.

On the topic of the PAP, you can catch up on the PAP v PAP book talk with Donald Low, Cherian George, Teo You Yenn, and Walid Jumblatt Abdullah here.

COVID-19 vaccine hopes

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that a COVID-19 vaccine candidate showed good results in a first interim efficacy analysis. But this vaccine will need to be kept at a temperature of -70˚C, which is going to present a challenge for delivery and storage. Scientists at Duke-NUS in Singapore have also been working with pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics on a vaccine, and the first shipments are expected in the first quarter of next year. The Economic Development Board has already put in about US$45 million into the manufacture of this vaccine, and Singapore will have the right to purchase up to US$175 million worth of it (at prices that were pre-negotiated).

Minister for Health, Gan Kim Yong, has also said that the government is in talks with various pharmaceutical companies on vaccines, and have set up an expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination.

Domestic workers and the elderly

A joint study by AWARE and HOME found that domestic workers expected to take care of the elderly face very particular challenges and difficulties, such as a lack of emotional and informational support to deal with their work, like when they have to care for elders with dementia. For example, 55% of respondents caring for people with dementia reported experiencing verbal abuse, while 36% experienced physical abuse. Many are also overworked, without adequate rest days.

Police permits for public assemblies

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a constitutional challenges against the Public Order Act requiring permits for public assemblies. This challenge was brought by Jolovan Wham in relation to his conviction for organising a public assembly, i.e. the indoor forum during which Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Skyped in.

The Court of Appeal said that: “It is, unfortunately, an inescapable fact of modern life that national politics anywhere are often the target of interference by foreign entities or individuals who are promoting their own agendas… And with the wonderful technology now available, such entities or individuals can carry out their activities from anywhere else in the world.” Which is a bit weird, because none of that demonstrates harm to public order.

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