When Fortress S'pore lost its aura

When Fortress S'pore lost its aura

If there is one word to sum up Singapore's experience this year, it would be Vulnerability.

2013 is the year the People's Action Party lost whatever it might have retained of the lustre of invincibility.

In January, it had already lost a seat in the Punggol East by-election and was trying to beat a dignified retreat from the backlash unleashed by the Population White Paper's conclusion about preparing for a population of 6.9 million.

By the end of the year, it wasn't just the PAP but the entire Singapore system of governance that had shown its vulnerability.

High-profile trials for corruption underscored the way an organisation can entrench an anti-graft culture, yet have its own leaders behave with immunity against it, trading favours for sex and material gains. Squeaky clean Singapore suddenly became tawdry.

A fire broke out in SingTel's infrastructure in October, disrupting broadband services for days.

The websites of the offices of the President and Prime Minister were hacked last month, exploiting a loophole called "cross-site scripting". IT experts said such hacking was "elementary". In other words, Singapore's IT fortress was found to have done the equivalent of forgetting to lock its gate even as it installed high-tech anti-burglary alarms all over its premises.

This month, hundreds of migrant workers rioted in Race Course Road, overturning and burning police cars. Orderly Singapore suddenly became dangerous.

Meanwhile, train delays and breakdowns have become such a common occurrence, they barely merit a spot as top news item of the day, or even a retweet.

Some Singaporeans are asking: What is happening? Is this the beginning of the decline of the Singapore state as we know it? It's easy to be an armchair critic and venture theories and opinions.

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