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FICA Makes Singapore a Laughing Stock and Firmly Puts Us in the North Korea and Belarus Camp

In 2008 when he founded the Reform Party, JBJ famously asked the question whether the citizens of Singapore enjoyed any more freedom than the people of Belarus and North Korea. Although that might have seemed a bit of a stretch then, certainly in the case of North Korea, the recently passed Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA) certainly puts Singapore firmly on that path and reinforces the totalitarian nature of LHL’s regime.

FICA is all-encompassing in its scope and deliberately vague, giving the Minister enormous discretionary power to remove any content the Government does not like from the internet or social media and to force social media companies and internet providers to take down accounts or restrict access to anyone so designated. The Minister is also able to issue anticipatory directions, where he suspects that an individual in Singapore is going “to engage in online communications activity in Singapore.” The only reason the Minister has to give is that it is “in the public interest” which is drawn so widely that it is basically whatever the Government says it is or any “foreign interference directed towards a political end.”

Very conveniently a political end is any effort directed at changing a law or influencing Parliament or even public opinion so LHL’s Government now has another tool in its formidable armoury of repressive legislation to shut down civil society activism on the grounds that they are influenced by NGOs or civil society in other countries.

It is clear how this will work in practice. Attempts to drag Singapore out of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth can now be made illegal because they are influenced by foreign input. For example campaigns to abolish capital and corporal punishment and to bring Singapore’s laws into line with those in advanced countries can be shut down by the Minister because they benefit from contacts with foreign NGOs and activists. The same goes for campaigns to reduce carbon emissions in the cause of stopping climate change. Any contact between Greta Thunberg and local activists will become illegal.

Some critics have already said that it will harm academic ties with institutions in other countries, a process of cutting Singapore off from free academic institutions that has already started with the closure of Yale-NUS. But its implications go way beyond this. The law as it stands is anti-innovation, anti-science and anti-business. Imagine foreign research which undermines the PAP’s rationale for a particular policy. Attempts to partner with foreign academics to bring it the attention of Singaporeans would become illegal.

The intention behind this totalitarian piece of legislation seems to be to cut SIngapore off from the world and put it behind high walls. like the former Communist states of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the Chinese and Russian Empire, which forbade contact between their peoples and foreigners without the permission of their rulers. Their empires extended over millions of square kilometers but LHL’s little empire only extends over some 740 square kilometers. This legislation makes a laughing stock of the Government’s oft reiterated insistence that SIngapore must remain a global city open and connected to the world.

However to put in its historical context it is just the logical extension of previous pieces of legislation designed to ensure that Singaporeans did not receive access to alternative views and even access to basic information. This started when LKY closed the last independent media outlets, The Singapore Herald and The Eastern Sun, and brought in the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act (NPPA). This effectively made all print media in Singapore state media.This was followed by the Broadcasting Act in 1994 which made it illegal for Singaporeans to own satellite dishes giving them access to foreign TV stations unfiltered by the state monopoly broadcaster (which has morphed into Temasek subsidiary MediaCorp). However the control of the PAP state over its citizens was eroded to a small degree by the arrival of the internet and social media though the Government quickly established its own army of trolls, probably outsourced to cheap labour countries. But a nascent free online media that was timidly starting to ask a few mild questions and raise a few concerns about Government accountable has clearly been upsetting LHL for some time.

The new FICA has to be seen as part of the Government’s attempt to reassert its mind control and brainwashing over Singaporeans after the Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was judged to be insufficient (and held the PAP Government up to ridicule as when Heng Swee Keat tried to shut Singaporeans up on the subject of Ho China’s salary by issuing ridiculous POFMA notices in rapid succession, a farce I made fun of here. While the new Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act might look on the surface as an overdue attempt to end discrimination, its real intent and purpose will be to actually reinforce and legitimize discrimination against minority Singaporeans in all spheres of life by saying that the publication of statistics undermines racial harmony because it points out institutionalized racism which abounds in Singapore.

FICA also serves the objective of a totalitarian state that there should be no possible independent economic base of opposition to the regime. What LHL hates and fears above all is that there should be no other potential power bases and that no one should be able to make a living without his approval. When The Real Singapore was shut down and its principals prosecuted and jailed, what really upset the Government was that they were able to monetise their views and were making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. This is probably less than 25% of a Minister’s salary but still LHL and the PAP do not want anyone who is not a Minister, spouse, relative or crony (many of whom are foreigners working for Temasek, like Stephen Forshaw who libelled me on Twitter) to make that kind of money if they live in Singapore unless they are constantly singing the praises of LHL and citing fake statistics. Certainly any opposition to the regime can be very bad for your business. LHL has things better than China’s Xi Jinping, who has belatedly decided that too much wealth is escaping the grasp of the Chinese Communist Party and that this might in time lead to opposition to his rule. In response Xi is energetically crushing the tech tycoons and bringing them to heel in the name of curbing monopoly and redistributing wealth.

Some of you might be taken in by the examples given by the Government of foreign interference in domestic politics, like Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election and their attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favour. However there is no evidence that such interference actually changed the result of either that election or the 2020 election. But Trump’s lawyers advanced wild conspiracy theories about state actors from Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba hacking into US voting machines in swing states as proof that the 2020 election was fixed and that Trump actually won and should therefore refuse to step down. However no evidence was produced and his lawyers were laughed out of court and eventually censured. LHL, like Trump, would try and play the foreign interference card if he was voted out and might even mount a coup to stay in office. After all he has enough ex-military men in his Cabinet. The Government has produced no evidence of foreign interference in Singapore’s elections yet it has always sought to play the foreign bogeyman card, going back to the 1972 election when a PAP MP slandered JBJ and the Workers Party by saying they had received $600,000 from abroad. FICA will allow the PAP to fine or imprison its opponents on the grounds of shadowy foreign actors without any independent means of appeal. One has to appeal to the Minister in the first instance and then to a review tribunal whose members are appointed by the President on the advice of the Cabinet, which means by LHL.

There have been some commentators, notably P J Thum, who have said that FICA will give the Home Affairs Minister, Shanmugam, enormous power. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the power relationship in SIngapore. LHL has absolute power and Shanmugam is merely his puppet, a Renfield, so to speak. He can be removed at any time.

FICA will of course only be applied against critics of the PAP and LHL. Foreigners who sing the praises of the Government, such as Dominic Cummings (no doubt looking for lucrative employment after being sacked by Boris Johnson) will be rewarded lavishly. Nobel Prize winners like Stiglitz, who write nonsense about how poor Singaporeans receive more help from their Government than poor Americans do from theirs, will continue to receive first class junkets to speak in Singapore. Barrack and Michelle Obama will continue to be paid enormous fees for giving short speeches, funded in a way that cannot be traced back to LHL. Singaporeans’ money will continue to be used to buy sycophants and toadies abroad who will lavish praise on LHL and the supposed quality of his Government.

With this piece of legislation, rushed through SIngapore’s rubber stamp Parliament with minimal debate, LHL’s Government have put Singapore firmly in the same camp of China, Russia, North Korean and Belarus. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have rightly called FICA “a legal monstrosity with totalitarian leanings”. It is not only totalitarian but has the potential to damage local science, innovation and business. Singaporeans will come to regret that they have given LKY and then his son such absolute power which he will never relinquish willingly.

In response to such a chilling piece of Orwellian legislation it is appropriate to end with this quote from 1984:


“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.”

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

 

I’m a Singaporean economist who became an opposition activist. I blog to provide an alternative to the porkies that the Pinkies tell. It just so happens that my alternative is the truth. That’s why I’ve never been sued in any civil or criminal court no matter how hard hitting my criticism. I’m quoted and interviewed and asked to speak across the world but largely censored in Singapore in an effort to silence my political opinions. The left hate me because they think I split their vote and because I eschew their outmoded economic models. Models that don’t work. The Right and the Conservatives hate me because I’m a liberal. I’m not sure what the middle think of me. I don’t think there are more than a handful of people in the middle, here in Singapore. I’m a Singaporean born and bred, dual heritage, my parents Singaporean established here before the State of Singapore was created. I’m not Eurasian. I read economics at Cambridge and could be broadly described as from the Keynesian school but I believe in interventions. I was formerly a successful hedge fund manager. After economics and politics my greatest interests are history, film and Makan. I run but I run so I can eat like a Singaporean.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

23 Responses to “FICA Makes Singapore a Laughing Stock and Firmly Puts Us in the North Korea and Belarus Camp”

  • Harder Truths:

    The USSR under Josef Stalin had this. So did Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Both those nations collapsed – one from economic attrition and the other from arrogance. It seems $G is in good company.

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  • xoxo:

    Dont point finger at Myanmar.
    Ours is also a Military Junta.

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  • oxygen:

    POFMA, FICA and NPPA are tools to ring-fenced authoritarian rule and blocked it from escalating turbulent external changes and the challenges this changes forced upon ALL OF US.

    THESE ARE ALL ANTI-DEVELOPMENT of real outcome consequences.

    See what NPPA did to state media publishing? IT IS A WALKING CORPSE now – its long-term shareholders are suffering huge financial losses with no prospect of recovery and to survive on, it need backdoor financial support of another state instrumentality.

    POFMA is the mouthpiece of lies told as truth at the sole discretion/interpretation of the mouthpiece. Only PAPpy trolls flourish or allow to flourish in the social media.

    IT WILL FAIL too.

    FICA is mad men barking nonsense confronting the face of reality. LEE-jiapore is facing “foreign interference” EVERYDAY AND IN EVERY WAY as the world outside changes to buffet our limited choices in the political sphere, economic survival chances, technological innovation and pressure of climate changes forces us to bend over and expose our a*ses.

    Easy example – will our pride trophy of global oil refining centre survive the green economy drive burying all fossil fuel? Will our F & B outlet/glamour hotel along Orchard Road survive without a return to the scale of pre-pandemic days now that Covid-19 lockdowns have changed the face of tourism vacational travel?

    I think both will not whether FICA stop mouths talking about grim realities or not.

    REALITY IS GONNA FARKED PAPpypolitics/PAPpynomic right in the face -
    soon enough. My money bet is that Gardens by the Bay/ Changi Jewels artificial beauties will all turn out to be beautiful cemeteries of economic dead.

    AND INSTEAD OF ADAPTIVE CHANGING AND INTERNAL REFORMS, we want to shut down conversations in the cover of “foreign interference” when foreigners are ONLY TOO happy to help PAPpypolitics blindfold peasants from realities of Covid-19 pandemic aftermath?

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  • oxygen:

    CAN FICA save us from these “foreign interference” by pretending all is sweet and dandy?

    Here is some grim warning of reality coming from International Monetary Fund.

    Risks to global economy from financial markets at a ‘worrisome juncture,’ IMF official says.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/risks-to-global-economy-from-financial-markets-at-a-worrisome-juncture-imf-official-says-11634049536

    It is like some idiots peeing to put out the fire burning down a house engulfed in savage flame.

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  • All hail the Emperor Loong!:

    “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.”

    - Pope Francis

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  • Homeless Cat:

    The PAP is afraid. Should foreign input prove and be more attractive and relevant, they will be nothing but a liability deserving of a bitter end and cold laughter.

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  • Ab is Back Again:

    FICA is good and needed. There are many powers that have a design on Singapore. And Singapore is definitely vulnerable. But what needs to be fixed is the process. It cannot be arbitrarily decided by a minister. there has to be a committee, that should ideally include an opposition / nominated MP. possibly also respected non politicians such as a judge or business leader or academic. And there has to be a recourse for those accused.

    PS Kenneth is being over dramatic. it does not put us in North Korea territory. It puts us in China, USA, UK and countless other territories

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  • Asd:

    I think tons of slow people now then realise

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  • Realistically:

    @ Kenneth Jeyaretnam

    I share your and your late dad’s thoughts.

    However, I’ve said many times b4, what good does the rants you proliferate brings……….currently there are 132 205 cases and 183 deaths as of 12 October 2021 (and counting); much of these are PREVENTABLE but for the incompetence and epic failures of the emperor without clothes regime.

    B4 the 2020GE, I had publicly asked that those standing against the emperor without clothes regime to meet to discuss the issues……….nothing happens………

    Am I surprised at the turn of events like FICA…………NO……..as I hv said, I wrote to ALL MPs from the PM downwards, except the wayang-party MPs.

    I’ve yet to through FICA, but I don’t think sinkies should just accept this kind of legislation……….I’ll rather not let those charlatans and snake oil conmen freeload on my thinking.

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  • Phua Chu Kang:

    The famous and timeless phrase

    Power corrupts.
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Lord Acton

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  • Trust only myself:

    KJ is absolutely correct………..but with FICA, TR E might soon be another TOC.

    Tech: As I have said many times on behalf of the team, if the authorities or any LEEders want TRE to shut down like TOC, just send us an email to tell us so. No need for POFMA, FICA or a letter of demand. We won’t even ask for the reason nor challenge the decision in court.

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  • Raeeeesh boh chee:

    Trust only myself:
    KJ is absolutely correct………..but with FICA, TR E might soon be another TOC.

    Tech: As I have said many times on behalf of the team, if the authorities or any LEEders want TRE to shut down like TOC, just send us an email to tell us so. No need for POFMA, FICA or a letter of demand. We won’t even ask for the reason nor challenge the decision in court.

    If THEY ask you to be a ‘show piece’ for democracy with generous funding. 100k/yearly?

    Tech: At SG$100,000, we will give them the entire TRE, no need to pay us yearly. Besides, they don’t need to waste the money on TRE cause Mothership and Independent are already doing a good job liao, even though they may not have the PVs that TRE has. lol

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  • Kudos:

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    - Martin Niemöller

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  • Raeeeesh boh chee:

    Ab is Back Again:
    FICA is good and needed. There are many powers that have a design on Singapore. And Singapore is definitely vulnerable. But what needs to be fixed is the process. It cannot be arbitrarily decided by a minister. there has to be a committee, that should ideally include an opposition / nominated MP. possibly also respected non politicians such as a judge or business leader or academic. And there has to be a recourse for those accused.

    PS Kenneth is being over dramatic. it does not put us in North Korea territory. It puts us in China, USA, UK and countless other territories

    I’m not convinced this was a vision of the future but a fable about old snake-oil salesman who were operating on a grand scale. Over the years we have been witnessing the slow evisceration of our society’s open-mindedness, spirit of inquiry, quest for the truth. FICA will greatly accelerate that process.

    To destroy humanity, all you have to do is provoke enough divisions. Much of what the right-wing puts out there for political consumer consumption relies on manipulation of unthinking minds. “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and evidently, we have plenty of folks to prove the principle.

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  • mrWie:

    “sg is a good democratic country.” = it’s a compliment

    “sg is not a democratic country.” = foreign interference !!!

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  • Realistically:

    It is regrettable that my redacted email to Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratam and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on 7/10/21, which contained the same GIC on-line request for GIC to elaborate on certain matters which a book entitled “GIC launches book on how Singapore’s reserves have been managed” has not appeared.

    The DANGER and THREAT, which are REAL and not perceived unlike what FICA is legislated to deal with, and which sinkies should be more concern about is, as usual, escape those moderators of TRE.

    Mod Mod: This is a thread discussing FICA, not GIC. Please post in the right thread. Thank you.

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  • Realistically:

    @ Mod Mod:

    >>This is a thread discussing FICA, not GIC. Please post in the right thread. Thank you.<<

    Please read my last post more closely and you can understand the logic and rationale behind my redacted emails to Senior Minister Tharman who is also Deputy Chairman of GIC and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong……..let me repeat that FICA is about PERCEIVED harm, but the mismanagement of our reserves at both GIC and Temasek Holdings have far worse consequence for SINKaPOOR.

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  • Realistically:

    Re my last comment, the FACT that GIC/Tharman/Lawrence Wong had failed to respond within the 3 working day requirement under PS21, and that the said book “Bold Vision: The Untold Story Of Singapore’s Reserves And Its Sovereign Wealth Fund” is just another of ‘hear to good news only’ kind of propaganda, which makes legislation of laws like FICA appear legitimate…………even as many sinkies realise that it is just self serving.

    That’s one of the example/instance as to why I hv been saying that most sinkies do not understand the modus operandi of the emperor without clothes and the ROOT CAUSE of the problems they face, including with regards to laws like FICA.

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  • Realistically:

    In MHA’s letter in the 160th ranked ST on 2/10/21, (“Forum: Concerns arise from misunderstanding of Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill”) the 8th paragraph states:

    >>However, if a Singaporean acts on behalf of a foreign principal, and if such actions are contrary to PUBLIC INTEREST, then directions can be issued to such a person.<<

    I have chosen to amend the phrase 'PUBLIC INTEREST' from the lower cap to higher cap for emphasis….

    It is therefore the stated objective of FICA to be in the "PUBLIC INTEREST" of which I contend that the mismanagement of our reserves and of course the current COVID-19 pandemic is NOT in the 'PUBLIC INTEREST', which is why I had emailed Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam being the current Deputy GIC Chairman and then Finance Minister, and current Finance Minister Lawrence Wong if the GIC's new book “Bold Vision: The Untold Story Of Singapore’s Reserves And Its Sovereign Wealth Fund” includes the FAILURES of GIC had suffered as follows, which of course is redacted:

    1. GIC sold all its investments when it was formed because it expected world interest rates to rise; 2. Loss from its investment in LTCM; 3. Investment of 11 BILLION Swiss Franc in UBS MCN and the total losses suffered, including, but not limited to variation in exchange rate if applicable. Just to add that I have quickly read through the e-book which someone had posted the link on the social media website ‘theonlinecitizen.com’ but did not see the 3 GIC losses mentioned.

    Readers might be interested to know that my letter in the Straits Times Forum page in January 2008 appealing for the CPF Board to remove what was known as the "no-contra" restriction on CPFIS share transaction, to be removed because of the extreme volatility of financial markets, especially of the stock markets, as a result of the Asian Financial Crisis. It was only from in May 2008 that the CPF Board had acceded to my suggestion to abolish the "no-contra" rule effective 2 May 2008, as reported in the ST in its 1 May 2008 newspapar, citing my name as the person who was responsible for the CPF Board to change its rules.

    From this incident, sinkies could and can conclude that the emperor without clothes and the earlier administrations were incompetent in the management of our reserves, which surely would NOT be in the 'PUBLIC INTEREST'.

    Therefore it must be concluded that FICA legislation is NOT imperative, although I can call out FICA as I had previously stated that Minister Shamugam's justification for FICA CANNOT stand up to scrutiny, much as I had made out a case that the Ministers previous speeches in Parliament were farcical.

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  • Intro to Logic for Shambolics:

    Pappy premise 1:

    FICA doesn’t compromise the free exchange of ideas with foreign persons.

    Pappy premise 2:

    FICA doesn’t compromise the checks and balances on the PM.

    You draw your own Conclusions lah… you opinionated siginna in Pappy paradise island!

    https://youtu.be/K4ChzesrWKI

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  • FICA & the Yale-Nus fallout?:

    https://blog.apaonline.org/2021/10/04/the-global-fight-for-the-humanities-why-a-liberal-arts-college-in-singapore-matters/?amp

    Why do authoritarians care so much about a bunch of young people reciting poetry, reading dusty philosophical tomes, and arguing over the minutiae of convoluted social theories? The “problem” is that humanities and social science teachers are doing exactly what they are supposed to: encouraging students to think. As noted critic of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) explained in a famous essay, thinking by its very nature is intrinsically socially disruptive. Consequently, those who admire the status quo, and especially those who have fantasies of returning to some mythic past, are always anti-intellectual at their core.

    Significantly, this essay by Arendt on the value of thinking was the final reading assigned in Philosophy and Political Thought (PPT), a year-long multicultural course required of all first-year students at Yale-NUS. The immensely talented and dedicated Yale-NUS faculty created a course in which first-year students read Plato’s Republic side-by-side with the Confucian Mengzi, the Bhagavad Gītā beside Aristotle’s Politics, the Buddhist dialogue Questions of King Milinda along withthe Arabic philosophical novel Hayy Ibn Yaqzān, Nietzsche’s modernist The Genealogy of Morals with Gandhi’s neo-traditionalist Hind Swaraj. In short, courses like PPT managed to do successfully what other multicultural survey courses—like Stanford University’s former Cultures, Ideas, and Values—failed to achieve.

    * * *

    It’s almost certain the Emperor Dowager & its entourage never encountered such a curriculum in their university days. You can tell from the stench of the FICA fiasco.

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  • Raeeeesh boh chee:

    This is exactly why we still need philosophy as a truly important element in the undergraduate education process. I have watched as the liberal arts curriculum in higher education has been whittled away to almost nothing. Well constructed thought is so important. History tells us everything, and deep critical thinking is the only way to create and then motivate change.

    Her book TOTALITARIANISM simply asserted, over and over again, in the most strident terms, that the two opposite systems of Communism and Nazism were identical. It was a message most welcome in early 1950s Cold War America and apparently in Cold War Two America nowadays. The deepest theme in Arendt is the need to take responsibility for our political lives.

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  • Realistically:

    Re: CPF Board’s policy on “no-contra” trading

    The dates should have been: my letter in the ST Forum page was published in January 1998, while the ST’s report on May1, 1998 attributed the CPF Board’s decision to my efforts.

    Repeat: the year should have been 1998 and not 2008.

    Apology for the mistakes.

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