When everything is going fine and there are no major cockups, it is easy to for a single-party state and all its institutions and appendages to give the appearance of unity and strength, and for the ruling party to cling onto totalitarian political power. However, when something major goes very wrong, such incidents tend to expose the cracks, flaws and fragilities in the system.
What used to look like a unified front starts to turn into infighting and bickering as the little generals start defending their own turf and try to push the blame for the cockup to one another. This happens when the dominant personality at the top - who previously held the system together and imposed discipline on the ranks - starts to fade from power. This also happens when the cockup was clearly part of the system, and when the blame cannot be pushed to the public.
Here is the low down of the turf clashes that have emerged in the aftermath of the flood cockup
1. Police Force vs Singapore Press Holdings -
Shafie Goh, 57 year old veteran photojournalist for the Singapore Press Holdings owned newspaper Lianhe Wanbao, was unceremoniously handcuffed and escorted off a flood scene by a policeman while he was trying to take pictures for the newspaper. According to Straits Times, Mr Goh said he was asked to go only once and was about to leave when the police handcuffed him. The police, however, said that they had repeatedly asked Mr Goh to leave before they resorted to using force.
So, who is going to give in this tussle on the ground? Will it be Wong Kan Seng's Police Force, or will it be ex-DPM Tony Tan's Singapore Press Holdings?
2. Lui Tuck Yew vs Yaacob Ibrahim -
Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and Acting Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts, is asking the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to explain itself to affected residents. This comes after a few parts of his constituency, such as Cambridge Road and Dorset Road, were badly affected by the recent flash floods, 'worse than the two previous occasions in June'. Some who had parked in basement carparks had water up to their car doors. Mr Lui himself had difficulty leaving his Telok Kurau home with his wife on Saturday morning.
Ironically, it will be his Ministerial counterpart Mr Yaacob Ibrahim who will be the one who will have to answer Mr Lui's call that "being able to touch base with people on the ground is important at this point of time." Unfortunately, Mr Ibrahim has been conspicuously absent from the public limelight throughout the periods of this flash flooding which has seen businesses and homeowners incur millions in damages as a result.
What will RAdm Lui have to say of Yaacob Ibrahim's lack of leadership and almost cowardly behaviour?
The Singapore flooding is such a massively damaging event which requires responsibility from multiple agencies to deal with. The civil defence (and home affairs ministry) has to be roped in to deal with the internal damage of the floods. The press is expected to give a fair and balanced reporting of the flood. The MPs are expected to be in touch with the damage on the ground and help to solve the residents' problems. And most importantly the National Environment Agency is responsible for a proper functioning drainage and sewage system which should prevent the floods in the first place.
When you have multiple interest groups having to defend their turf, frictions start to rise and sparks start flying. This is all the more interesting when these multiple interest groups are supposed to be under the control of a single hand - the mighty Lee Kuan Yew.
But these frictions are natural. Sooner or later something has to give. It will be interesting to watch how long more the floods will last, how much more damage it will cause, and how much more action we will see in the press.
These indeed are interesting times in Singapore's history.