Democracies do not stop just with elections

 YouTube link:

But we must recognize that democracies don’t stop just with elections;

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they also depend on strong institutions and a vibrant civil society, and

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open political space, and tolerance of people who are different than you.

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  We have to create an environment where the rights of every citizen, regardless of race or gender, or religion or sexual orientation are not only protected, but respected.

Link to President Obama’s entire speech:
Link to President Obama’s Q & A session:

Singapore – Electoral boundaries drawn for next General Election

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report was released on Friday (Jul 24), taking Singapore one step closer to the next General Election.

SINGAPORE: The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) on Friday (Jul 24) released its keenly-awaited report on new electoral boundaries, the clearest sign yet that the General Election may be round the corner.

In the report, which has been accepted by the Government, the EBRC recommends that the city-state be carved up into 29 electoral divisions, comprising 13 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) – up from 12 in the last election – and 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), a rise from 15 previously.

There are also changes to the sizes of GRCs: the five-member GRCs have been shrunk to 8 from 11 previously, while the four-member GRCs increased to 6 from 2 in the last election. The number of six-member GRCs remains the same at 2.

With the recommended changes, the total number of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) will be 89, up from the current 87.

According to the report, the new GRCs are Marsiling-Yew Tee, a four-member GRC, and Jalan Besar, a GRC which had previously existed but which was dissolved before the 2011 GE.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC – which currently includes two Cabinet Ministers, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Lui Tuck Yew, as well as MPs Denise Phua and Mr Edwin Tong – has been dissolved, with the area now forming parts of Holland-Bukit Timah, Bishan-Toa Payoh, Tanjong Pagar and Jalan Besar GRCs.

The new SMCs are Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson – all three of which had existed as SMCs in elections prior to 2011.

But removed from the political landscape are Joo Chiat SMC, where Mr Charles Chong of the People’s Action Party won a tightly-contested battle against the Workers’ Party’s Mr Yee Jenn Jong in 2011 with a majority of just 388 votes, and Whampoa SMC, where Mr Heng Chee How – Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office – beat the National Solidarity Party with 66.11 per cent of the vote.


The changes to the GRC sizes have been widely expected, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament on Jul 13 that he had asked the EBRC “to reduce the average size of the GRCs to below five”, although there was some speculation that the six-member GRCs would have been scrapped altogether following his comments.

GRCs are unique to the Singapore political landscape – in each of them at least one candidate must come from a minority race.

The full list of electoral divisions is as follows:


1. Bukit Batok
2. Bukit Panjang
3. Fengshan
4. Hong Kah North
5. Hougang
6. MacPherson
7. Mountbatten
8. Pioneer
9. Potong Pasir
10. Punggol East
11. Radin Mas
12. Sengkang West
13. Yuhua

Four-member GRCs:

1. Chua Chu Kang
2. East Coast
3. Holland-Bukit Timah
4. Jalan Besar
5. Marsiling-Yew Tee
6. West Coast

Five-member GRCs:

1. Aljunied
2. Bishan-Toa Payoh
3. Jurong
4. Marine Parade
5. Nee Soon
6. Sembawang
7. Tampines
8. Tanjong Pagar

Six-member GRCs:

1. Ang Mo Kio
2. Pasir Ris-Punggol

The release of the report brings the nation a step closer to the next GE, which is widely tipped to take place in mid-September.

With the report made public, President Tony Tan can dissolve the current Parliament anytime, after which the GE must be held within three months. In the last GE, the committee’s report was issued on Feb 24, 2011, and Parliament was dissolved on Apr 19, 2011.

According to the report, 2,460,977 Singaporeans have registered to vote ahead of the next GE. This is an increase of about 110,720 electors from the 2,350,257 electors recorded in the 2011 Registers of Electors.

Of the five men on the EBRC, four remained from the 2011 committee, with only Mr Vincent Hoong not on this year’s team. For 2015, the EBRC was formed by chairman Tan Kee Yong, Secretary to the Prime Minister; Dr Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of the Housing and Development Board; Mr Tan Boon Khai, CEO at the Singapore Land Authority; Ms Wong Wee Kim, Chief Statistician at the Department of Statistics; and Mr Lee Seng Lup, head of the Elections Department.

Reflections on the Fourth of July

By Richard Moore

Posted on Jul. 12, 2015

Richard T. Moore is a former state legislator who has been a leader in civic education and serves on the Board of the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement and the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education. He is a past President of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

America just celebrated its birth as a nation with fireworks, parades, cookouts, and other expressions of appreciation for democracy and our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some of us pause on such holidays to remember the valor and sacrifice of those who fought and died to maintain those rights or those whose courage obtained landmark court cases to interpret those rights in ways that expanded their definition to cover more of us.

A healthy democracy can only continue to exist through the informed and active participation of its citizens. If we are going to be able to continue having reasons to celebrate our independence, even to preserve that very independence, more citizens must understand and actively engage in the process. To always be the “land of the free,” it will take more than bravery in battle. It takes informed citizens with the desire to act in ways that preserve and extend our freedom.

Gaining civic knowledge and skills doesn’t just happen. People must be taught – how their government and the political system work as well as their rights, role, and responsibilities. Since the earliest days of our republic, schools have had the twin missions of educating students for the workplace and for active and informed citizenship; the latter mission is the civic mission of our schools.

Massachusetts-born Horace Mann, “the father of public education,” fought to establish the right of every child to an education, not simply to help us prepare for a career and a place in the workforce, but to understand that every citizen must ensure that our government remains “of the people, by the people, and for the people” – ALL people! It’s not enough to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, as those subjects won’t teach us how we govern ourselves in ways that allow a majority to decide important issues of the day while respecting the rights of those who disagree.

The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress on Civics, found only 23% of eighth grade students in the sample demonstrated a proficient or better understanding of this vital area! This lack of basic civic knowledge imperils our democracy by effectively disempowering its citizens. With the decline in civic education over the past decades, it is no surprise that citizens are becoming cynical and failing to vote, read newspapers, and engage in their communities.

However, Massachusetts is taking important steps to correct the existing lack of civic knowledge and skill. Under the leadership of Dr. Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education, the public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth are focused on producing the best-educated citizenry and workforce in the nation. Massachusetts is the first state in the country to challenge the public higher education system to provide students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to be active, informed citizens.

Additionally, led by former Millbury Superintendent of Schools Dave Roach, a Sutton resident who serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Education, the public schools now have a plan to give students the knowledge and skills needed to preserve and enhance our democratic values and practices. It includes: 1) include civics in the definition of college and career readiness, 2) establish regional advisory councils to recommend improvements to civic learning, 3) convene an annual conference to identify promising practices in civic learning across all disciplines, 4) revise the 2003 History and Social Science Curriculum Framework to enhance the effectiveness of civics instruction, 5) establish funding to support district adoption of six promising practices in civic learning and to support professional development in these areas, and 6) a strategy to assess each school and district’s effectiveness in delivering sound civic instruction to ensure every student graduates from high school prepared for active citizenship.

It will require the leadership and support of Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature over the next few years, and the continued professional commitment of school committees, administrators and teachers if we are to adequately prepare the next generation for their roles as active, engaged citizens who have the knowledge and skills to govern themselves and their communities. We must all follow in the footsteps of those courageous founders who signed the Declaration of Independence mutually pledging, once again, to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor if we are to preserve the freedom envisioned in that famous document that has been sustained by our veterans and other patriots for nearly 240 years.

The difference between a republic and a democracy

Singapore is not just a small country, she is a very small country.

Before I continue writing further, I want to reveal that I made a special effort to check whether the correct pronoun to refer to a country is “she” or “it”. Apparently, after some web-research, both pronouns are correct and equally acceptable depending on your own preference.

Anyway, I think “she” sounds more poetic and I will use that.

Well, we also often describe Singapore as a city state. Because Singapore is a small island, some writers even go further to call Singapore an island city state.

So, what exactly is a city state? Is it a city that is so large that it occupies the whole country or a country that is so small that it has only one city?

It is a common experience for many Singaporean travelers when we are overseas, to be baffled for a moment whenever we are required to fill in our home address on one form or another. We will write “Singapore” in the box for city, and we will also write “Singapore” again in the next box for country. So, the whole home address will read something like Block 123, #12-34, Jurong Street 12, Singapore, Singapore. However, most of our friends in other countries will normally write their home address ending like Sydney, (NSW) Australia; Boston, (MA) USA; Bangkok, Thailand, or Penang, Malaysia etc..

I think it will be really cool if someday in the future, all the different towns in Singapore will be known as different cities/towns in their own right, and we will fill in our home address like Bukit Panjang, Singapore; Toa Payoh, Singapore; Ang Mo Kio, Singapore or Pasir Ris, Singapore etc.. I admit this is just one of my fanciful wishes!

Buford 2 - with logo

But before you think I am being crazy, please see this picture (on right) of an American town with a population of only one person, and it has its own zip code to boot!




By now, you must be wondering what on earth have I written thus far that has anything related to the subject of the title of my post, which is “The difference between a republic and a democracy”.

Well, it is just my quirky way (or long-winded way!) of building the message of my post so that I can find an appropriate juncture to bring in an important point, that many Singaporeans often conveniently forget that the official name of our country is not just “Singapore”. Officially, our country is known as the “Republic of Singapore”. This leads us to the next question, “What is a republic”?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

noun re·pub·lic \ri-ˈpə-blik\

: a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen.

Finally, what is the difference between a republic and a democracy? I recently read an article in the Washington Post that explains it quite well. The article (shown below) refers to the United States of America. I think it will help us to understand the difference in the context of Singapore as well. It is like asking: “Is Singapore a republic or a democracy?”. If you are not interested in reading too much about the history of governance in the USA, my suggestion for you is to read the first two or three paragraphs, skip the other paragraphs and then jump to the concluding last paragraph.

Is the United States of America a republic or a democracy?

May 13 2015

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

(Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

I often hear people argue that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. But that’s a false dichotomy. A common definition of “republic” is, to quote the American Heritage Dictionary, “A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them” — we are that. A common definition of “democracy” is, “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives” — we are that, too.

The United States is not a direct democracy, in the sense of a country in which laws (and other government decisions) are made predominantly by majority vote. Some lawmaking is done this way, on the state and local levels, but it’s only a tiny fraction of all lawmaking. But we are a representative democracy, which is a form of democracy.

And indeed the American form of government has been called a “democracy” by leading American statesmen and legal commentators from the Framing on. It’s true that some Framing-era commentators made arguments that distinguished “democracy” and “republic”; see, for instance, The Federalist (No. 10), though even that first draws the distinction between “pure democracy” and a “republic,” only later just saying “democracy.” But even in that era, “representative democracy” was understood as a form of democracy, alongside “pure democracy”: John Adams used the term “representative democracy” in 1794; so did Noah Webster in 1785; so did St. George Tucker in his 1803 edition of Blackstone; so did Thomas Jefferson in 1815. Tucker’s Blackstone likewise uses “democracy” to describe a representative democracy, even when the qualifier “representative” is omitted.

Likewise, James Wilson, one of the main drafters of the Constitution and one of the first Supreme Court Justices, defended the Constitution in 1787 by speaking of the three forms of government being the “monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical,” and said that in a democracy the sovereign power is “inherent in the people, and is either exercised by themselves or by their representatives.” And Chief Justice John Marshall — who helped lead the fight in the 1788 Virginia Convention for ratifying the U.S. Constitution — likewise defended the Constitution in that convention by describing it as implementing “democracy” (as opposed to “despotism”), and without the need to even add the qualifier “representative.”

To be sure, in addition to being a representative democracy, the United States is also a constitutional democracy, in which courts restrain in some measure the democratic will. And the United States is therefore also a constitutional republic. Indeed, the United States might be labeled a constitutional federal representative democracy. But where one word is used, with all the oversimplification that this necessary entails, “democracy” and “republic” both work. Indeed, since direct democracy — again, a government in which all or most laws are made by direct popular vote — would be impractical given the number and complexity of laws that pretty much any state or national government is expected to enact, it’s unsurprising that the qualifier “representative” would often be omitted. Practically speaking, representative democracy is the only democracy that’s around at any state or national level.

Now one can certainly argue that some aspects of U.S. government should become less direct, and filtered through more layers of representation. One can argue, for instance, that the 17th Amendment should be repealed, and that U.S. senators should no longer be elected directly by the people, but should return to being elected by state legislators who are elected by the people. Or one can argue for repealing state- and local-level initiative and referendum schemes. Or one can argue for making the Electoral College into a deliberative body, in which the electors are supposed to discuss the candidates and make various political deals, rather than being elected solely to vote for particular candidates. And of course one can equally argue for making some aspects of U.S. government more direct, for instance by shifting to truly direct election of the president, or by institute a federal-level initiative and referendum.

But there is no basis for saying that the United States is somehow “not a democracy, but a republic.” “Democracy” and “republic” aren’t just words that a speaker can arbitrarily define to mean something (e.g., defining democracy as “a form of government in which all laws are made directly by the people”). They are terms that have been given meaning by English speakers more broadly. And both today and in the Framing era, “democracy” has been generally understood to include representative democracy as well as direct democracy.

How to make a simple yellow lapel ribbon in two minutes!

A former classmate told me that he did not know how to make a yellow ribbon and he needed some guidance.


So, I produced a quick video showing him how to make a simple yellow lapel ribbon. This instructional  video was done in a hurry and is not very good. I  hope you understand and forgive me for its poor quality because I have no more time to redo it. All may family members are not at home at this moment and I could not find anyone else to help me hold and adjust the camera to the correct angle.

It is more important for me to get this post published first and get the message out quickly because as you know, the Hong Lim Park protest for Free Amos Yee will be held on this Sunday afternoon at 4pm and Amos Yee’s next court hearing will be held tomorrow.

I am posting the instructional video here just in case there are other fellow Singaporeans who may need some help in making these ribbons:


Hey, you know something, I just recall that Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first words from the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, were:

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

So, may be, just may be, we can say “That’s one small ribbon for Amos, one giant leap for Singapore citizenry.”

Ok, I know it sounds a little bit over-dramatic! But you know what I mean, right? Every little ounce of sincerity, solidarity, compassion and empathy for Amos will work out for good eventually. Majulah Singapura!

Please quick, quick, don’t dilly dally anymore, go and buy a small roll of yellow ribbon. I bought a roll of yellow ribbon (3 yd or 2.7m long) yesterday for two dollars and managed to make a total of twenty ribbons (cheap, cheap, only 10 cents per ribbon!) Those who have the time and can afford to buy more ribbon rolls, please make more and distribute the ribbons to your co-passengers in the MRT train (yes, even though they are strangers to you), your family relatives, and also your co-workers in the office.

Not much time left because Amos Yee’s next court hearing date will be on this coming Monday, 6 July 2015. Please wear a yellow ribbon and make a public statement to the governing authorities that we do not want Singapore to be known world-wide as an ungracious and unforgiving third-world country (so lao kui aka embarrassing!). We want the governing authorities to FREE Amos Yee and protect our young children and teenagers from harm.

Also, for those who are good with ribbon-making. Do you know that you do not need to stick with just lapel ribbons. You can make bows, like shown below:

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The ladies and little girls can wear ribbons on their hair like this:

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If  you have watched my earlier video on “Tie a yellow ribbon for Amos Yee”, you will realize that if we are creative, we will learn that we can tie a yellow ribbon practically anywhere, such as on your expensive car (because of high COE loh!), on your house window, on your house door, on your house outdoor lamp, on your favorite tree (that is, if you are rich enough to stay in a landed property with your own garden tree!), on your school bag, your computer bag, on your ipad case, on your umbrella, etc. Just be creative and let your imagination runs wild, but please please not too wild that we need to organize another protest to save you (just joking for laughter!).

Tie a yellow ribbon for Amos Yee

I made this video (shown below) specially for Amos Yee.

It does not matter what are our own personal views about the video that Amos Yee made. The stark fact is that the brutal treatment that Amos Yee received during the last three months was simply too harsh for a young sixteen-year-old teenager to bear.

For one reason or another, some of us will not be able to join the Hong Lim Park protest ( on this coming Sunday afternoon. But each of us can do our small part to show our support for Amos Yee’s freedom, by making a simple yellow ribbon and wear it on our shirt or blouse, starting from today.

Please share this message. Thank you.

P.S. If you do not know how to make a simple yellow lapel ribbon, you can learn to make a simple ribbon easily in two minutes by clicking the following link:

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