Friday, October 31, 2014

Speak Softly And Carry Bricks

“Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere,”  judges Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li said in a written verdict to dismiss a constitutional challenge against an archaic law criminalizing sex between men. Section 377A was first introduced in 1938 by British colonial administrators, and carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts between men, but not women. The government's official position is that Section 377A is not actively enforced, i.e. it stays on the books for "wayang" only. The disturbing message is not about what goes on under the bedsheets, but the subjugation of the law to the members in parliament.

Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo will be so happy, so long as he is still in parliament, no law can touch him. The Law Society's literary contribution about distinguishing between over billing and over charging was a waste of chargeable time.  From what we surmise from the erudite judiciary, parliament alone decides what is legal. Yang Yin need not lose sleep over deportation, if he still has the letter of recommendation from a parliamentarian.

Tim Cook, CEO of the world’s most valuable company, pointed out in his coming out article in Bloomberg that when Arizona’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community, they spoke up, and eventually torpedoed that anti-gay bill.
"When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."

Those who mounted the constitutional challenge against the "crippling" piece of legislation should take heart from Tim Cook's words. As should those fighting for our constitutional right of freedom of expression. Just speak softly and add your own bricks.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Animal Farm Bill

You know the circus is in town, when more and more politicians are getting into the animal act. Instead of going the extra mile to reduce the onerous cost of housing ("HDB to reduce supply of BTO flats next year"), Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan was singing praises of fellow two legged creatures Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair for tabling a bill in Parliament that would set new animal welfare standards. The same "w" word that is taboo when applied to humans in Singapore.

Khaw highlighted the significance of the Private Member Bill in his blog post on Friday, "In our Parliament history, there have not been many Private Member's Bills. On MND matters, there has been none." History in the making, chaired by Yeo of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC), who happens to hold office in 64 other corporate entities. We are told numerous consultations were organised by Yeo's pack of party animals to ensure that all views were considered. "It will also update the penalties for convicted acts of animal cruelty," a measure taken no doubt to address ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing who are always baying, "What's wrong in collecting more money?"

Give an inch and they predictably demand a yard - not the animals, the activists. At least one party, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), is bitching about its views being rejected. Currently motorists who may accidentally turn a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle into road kill are supposed to stop and pick up the mess. ACRES is upset cats, monkeys, birds and rabbits are not accorded similar privileged treatment. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) argued that the specific provision for animals in the Road Traffic Act (RTA) was confined only to farm animals of commercial value. Which kind of makes sense in the current scheme of things, since non-economic contributing humans are rarely entitled to welfare, however dire their needs.

It is interesting none of the warring parties seem to a hoot about chickens. These are definitely farm animals, and they produce their quota of eggs on demand. Whether they have access to their nest egg at retirement age is a different matter. Maybe the chicken joke is too politically sensitive.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Because the grass(roots) over the other side is more lucrative.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

His Story

A new exhibition chronicling 700 years of Singapore's history opened at the National Museum of Singapore on Tuesday. The historical period spans Ancient Singapore (1300 to 1818); Colonial Singapore (1819 to 1942), Syonan-To (1942 to 1945); Road to Merdeka (1946 to 1965) and Independent Singapore (1965 to 1975).

National Museum director Angelita Teo said the "Singapura: 700 Years" exhibition aims to give visitors an immersive and multi-sensory experience, including the simulated exercise of casting your vote for merger with Malaysia. Unwittingly, it reminds one of the origin of the first con.

Toh Chin Chye did not mince his words about the level playing field:
"And the ballot paper was crafted by Lee Kuan Yew. Whichever you voted, you voted for merger. There were three choices: A, B, or C. But frankly, they were all votes for merger. And we moved in the Referendum Bill that spoilt votes will be counted as votes for merger."

Calling it a humbug, Lee Siew Choh fleshed out more details to demonstrate that the referendum of Sept 1, 1962, may be  something the PAP Government would very much like to forget. The three questions in the National Referendum gave voters no opportunity to express their wishes with a simple answer of "Yes" or "No" as is normally the case in fair democratic referendums. Moreover, the important questions were all posed by the ruling PAP alone with no consultation of opposition parties.

Alternative A:
This was the PAP White Paper proposal: merger as a state within the Federation with special conditions and a large measure of local autonomy. The opposition parties pointed out that it would make Singapore citizens into second-class citizens of the proposed Malaysia Federation.

Alternative B:
This was the Barisan Sosialis' proposal for full and complete merger as the 12th state of the Federation. There would be no loss of citizenship for Singapore citizens. Dr Goh Keng Swee pointed out that under the Federal Constitution, in Penang and Malacca only those born there were automatically citizens, and all others had to apply for registration. Having said that, Goh and Lee later got Tunku Abdul Rahman to agree that all citizens of Singapore would become citizens of Malaysia automatically under Alternative A.

Alternative C:
This was supposed to represent terms "no less favourable than terms for the Borneo Territories" (that is, Sarawak and British North Borneo, now called Sabah). Problem is, no one, not even the PAP, knew what those terms were. In fact, those terms were not made known until some time well after the referendum was held in Singapore.

Thus voters were asked to vote for something which was totally unknown to them. The Barisan Sosialis  slammed it as a sham referendum. The late David Marshall called it a most dishonest referendum. And it was criticised severely by the United Nations Committee of 17, the United Nations Special Committee on Colonialism.

It was not a period to be proud of in the annals of Singapore. And the con goes on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Negative Returns

The board of steel mining company London Mining, which suspended trading on AIM (as in AIM the London Stock Exchange Company, not the $2 outfit associated with Teo Ho Pin), decided to put the company into administration after "a lack of liquidity due to the dramatic fall in iron ore prices”, a victim of the double whammy of supply glut and softening of demand from China, the world's largest consumer.

When the company ceased trading on AIM on Friday 10 October 2014, its share price was valued at 4.17p.  In 2011 the shares traded at more than 400p.

In 2010 GIC (formerly Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) was a substantial shareholder in London Mining with 8,485,184 shares or 7.46% of the doomed stock. By 2014, GIC grew this to 9.26% before cutting back slightly to 9.23% in August 2014, and started to trim to 4.21 in October ("GIC Pvt Ltd cuts stake in London Mining to 4.21 pct"). When GIC finally exited London Mining on 10 October, there was a big hole in the balance sheet of about S$50 million by one conservative estimate. The monkey business is yet to be reported in our mainstream media, which chose to splash stories of the Colonel Sanders look-a-like clinking champagne glasses with the Queen of England.

It's a classic repeat of the Bank of America investment strategy, buy high sell low. Temasek Holdings lost US$1 billion in that one deal in 2Q 2009 (188.8 million BOA shares valued at US$13.7 each sold at an average US$8.67 per share).

In August 2014, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam told parliament the GIC is not managing the Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) or Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies on their own, but a combined pool of Government funds. Since Hong Lim Park will be off limits for any public discussion of what that really means, we do understand Tharman also said, "GIC has achieved good long-term returns to date. But as investment markets are uncertain and volatile, GIC's returns over shorter periods could be low or even negative."

All we want to hear is what happens when GIC's returns are "low or even negative." And is that when the "Return Our CPF" chant is considered annoying enough to be a chargeable offence, while Yang Yin's "Come on, money, I love you!” is not.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fantastic Discounts




It sure looks like the Great Singapore Sales is on again, with offerings of fantastic discounts to make up for the dwindling number of tourists. Visitor arrivals in Singapore slipped 2.8 per cent year on year to 7.5 million in the first half of 2014 as the number of Chinese visitors slumped 30 per cent. They blame it on the New tourism laws in China, implemented in October last year, which clamp down on "zero-dollar tours" that hit travellers with surprise fees. Other predictable excuses include the MH370 mystery, Sabah kidnappings, Thailand unrest, and possibly Ebola. Nothing is mentioned about the kid gloves treatment reserved for Yang Yin, as any special deal for the rogue tour guide from, China might be construed as scandalisation of the legal system.

What then to read of the persistent refusal of the Singapore Medical Council's (SMC) to accept the court's judgments about their share of overcharging? By appealing against the latest round of price slashings will the SMC not pose a real risk of undermining public confidence in the judicial system, a charge which is currently levied at one blogger?

When Assistant Registrar Jacqueline Lee decided that Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo's bill for legal fees was way too high - even the combined 718 hours spent on the case by Alvin Yeo, Melanie Ho and Lim Wei Lee of WongPartnership were inflated to 1,900 hours - shouldn't the  Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force be called in to investigate?

Public confidence is further eroded when the Singapore Law Society can actually write a letter to the Straits Times on 16 Oct 2014 entitled “Don’t equate reduction of costs with overcharging”. Which is the way of the Law Society saying that it is the winning lawyer’s duty to charge as much as possible, except that recourse is not available to medical doctors. Meaning, had they represented the ailing Brunei royalty in a court case, their bill could possibly match or exceed the $24.8 million invoiced by Dr Susan Lim.

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys

Quoting Section 268, Chapter 224 of the Penal Code, Senior Investigation Officer the killjoy just took the fun out of next year's celebration of our country's 50th anniversary:
A person is guilty of a public nuisance, who does any act, or is guilty of an illegal omission, which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public, or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right.

Specifically, the following activities are deemed annoying or cause annoyance:
A. shouting loudly
B. chanting slogans
C. waving flags
D. holding placards
E. blowing whistles loudly
F. beating drums

Naturally, the thousands at the yearly national day parade will just have to learn to pipe it down. No more inflated noise makers, or whirling clappers. Whistles and flags will have to be stowed securely in the goodie bags till you reach home, and the neighbours better not catch you blowing or waving said offensive articles within hearing or sighting range. Do it with curtains drawn and windows tightly shut. Or they might file a police report faster than you can say, "Well, I'd be a monkey's uncle!" The Kallang roar will be a no no. Shouting encouragement for J-Lo to wiggle her bodacious bum, definitely a chargeable offence. And please, please stow away that greeting sign when welcoming home another gold, silver or bronze medal winner at Changi airport.

But it's okay to tap a stick, an umbrella or a net on the ground, to tell the monkeys to go away. Just remember not to shout, chant, whistle, beat your own drums or wave a white flag of surrender. Don't waste time with the placards, the monkeys can't read. If they could, the laws would not be so inanely interpreted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pricing Justice In Singapore

The following lines are from "America: Imagine the World Without Her", a 2014 American political documentary film by Dinesh D'Souza based on his book of the same name.
"I made a mistake and I'm not above the law. No one is.
But we don't want to live in a society where Lady Justice has one eye open and winks at her friends and casts an evil eye at her adversaries. Where will they stop?"

D'Souza critical examination of various accusations against the United States can easily be applied to the Little Red Dot.

Dr Susan Lim was taken to the cleaners because her inflated bills for an ailing Brunei royalty were seen by some circles as a dire threat to the medical tourism industry. Yet no one objected to litigator and member of parliament Alvin Yeo's over-invoicing that could torpedo the country's reputation as a neutral, efficient and reliable dispute resolution institution in Asia. The International Arbitration Centre was meant to help parties manage the financial and other practical aspects of arbitration, and facilitate the smooth progress of arbitration. Presumably without interference from third parties with vested interests.

An ugly reminder of lessons unlearnt is the $10,000 fine slapped on a doctor who administered a wrong drug and changed the documentation to cover up his malpractice. The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) initally had actually dismissed victim Michael Balensiefer's 2009 complaint about the botched liposuction which destroyed his career as a US Navy rescue swimmer. Whatever the US Navy pays the merchant marine for his day job, the loss of income has to be more than 10 grand, the kind of money Dr Kevin Teh Tze Chen might spend for a skiing holiday at the Swiss alps. Compare that to the potential $100,000 fine for a pet owner who neglects a trip to the vet. We now know, of course, justice has a different price tag when even animal activists can succumb to politicisation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sleeping With The Enemy

Everybody's doing it, sleeping with the enemy. The end justifies the means, doesn't matter if the bad guys are communists or colonial Brits, dogs or pigs. The extract from Melanie Chew's interview with Goh Keng Swee demonstrates how far the "founding fathers" were prepared to go. Interviewer's questions are in bold and italics, Goh is speaking:

At that time, the Communists had captured our party. We did not ask for their support.

Did you join political life because you felt that it was the only hope for Singapore to be independent, and non Communist?
I don’t know.

And James Puthucheary?
James Puthucheary approached me and begged me to go along with the Communists. And I turned him down. He saw me very often.

So the working relationship between yourselves and the Communists was quite close.
Naturally! They captured our party. Don’t you understand that?

You were really bound hand and foot?
Not quite. That is saying too much. Being bound hand and foot means that they can tell you what to do. They could not tell us what to do. But certain things, we knew, if we tried to do it, we would meet with resistance from them.

And at that time, we calculated, the time would come when we would have to break with them. Now. in 1961, we were already two years in power. What I am referring to was the first step to break away from the Communist Party.

James Puthucheary and Sandv Woodhull, who were not Communists, they were convinced of the power of the Communists. James Puthucheary tried to persuade me to stay on, and play along with the Communists.

He felt that this was the only chance? That the Communists had the power on the ground?
Yes.

You said that this was the first step. Can you explain the strategy' of how you broke with the Communists?
The strategy was the entry into Malaysia. When we entered Malaysia, internal security would be in the hands of the Malaysians. Internal security would not be in our hands.

In self-governing Singapore, internal security was in our hands, together with the British. We could not use internal security powers to lock the Communists up. We could not do it.

Do you understand that?

You would seem a stooge, a colonial puppet...
Yes. To the Chinese masses, that would be the interpretation. So the Communists knew that, in Malaysia, with Malaysians in charge of internal security, they would be finished. And we would escape from them. We would escape.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Abusing Animal Rights

This is worse than the rat infestation problem, you may never look at your Snoopy collectibles with the same affection again. It's one thing to hide behind the special needs children for a political agenda, it's quite another when an animal rights cause is hijacked for ulterior motives.

Of course, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) is not dedicated to the welfare of canines only, it did contribute to feline proliferation in Chong Pang by ending the culling of cats in that estate. ACRES is now  setting its sights on promoting "a better bridge between the Government and civil society". Whether that means the founder is treating its new subjects of interest as dumb sheep or cattle is highly conjectural.

Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh was first to point out that "we sit up when a civic activist crosses over to the PAP." What made the talking heads really stand up was that Louis Ng broke protocol by making his own announcement about joining the People's Action Party as a bona fide card carrying member. And that he publicly fingered Tan Chuan-Jin as the recruiter. Tan was last seen at a television programme ("A Minute To Win It") with Gurmit Singh. Will the yellow booted contractor also turn to the dark side?

Ng supposedly founded ACRES with an $8,000 donation about a decade ago. That paltry sum could easily transform into a $16,000 a month windfall, what with the help of the GRC gravy train and all. And the heady ride could also end up with a million smackeroos per annum. It's not as far fetched as it may seem, Tan as good as confirmed the scripted move by saying, "We have many members and volunteers who come from different backgrounds, and that diversity is valuable as we see how best to help our community". Reptiles are probably also welcomed to join, since the ability to shed crocodile tears on call is highly valued by the political animals in charge.

To put to rest the doubting Thomases among us, veteran journalist PN Balji spelt it out in no uncertain terms: "I think for the next election, PAP will try to bring in people who have an affinity with the general public... The choice of Louis Ng may be a sign of that." Please don't take it out on your dog by kicking the poor mutt.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Air Still Stinks

The three hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading hit 113 at 3pm on Sunday. A better index of the deteriorating situation is the number of people suddenly developing dry coughs, no thanks to breathing in ash content of the free smoke from down south. Maybe it's time for the expensive messenger boy to hand carry another large white envelope to Indonesia. Preferably filled with cash incentive to do something about the forest fires. If the gutter politician can blow hundreds of millions on a kiddie version of the Olympics, he can surely cough up the money for our health's sake.

Whether he gets an invite to join the world leaders who are attending president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's   inauguration party on October 20th is another matter. Blowing $387 million is rather hard to forget, especially when the initial YOG budget was $104 million. And there's that miscellaneous charge of $79.8 million for "Other Costs" that has yet to be explained to the public.

If smoke continues to get into our eyes, year after year, it would be an utter waste of public funds for Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong to splurge more millions on his plans for developing the Jurong Lake District. Latter starts with physically combining existing Jurong Lake Park, Japanese and Chinese Gardens which, on their own,  are already three areas already too polluted for outdoor activities. Joining them as one big arena for sucking in bad air is definitely no improvement for our health. Better to build a large dome and aircondition it, like they did at Marina Bay Gardens. Just make sure there's sufficient natural light let in for the grass to grow. Even Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the pandas from PRC, have an airconditioned outdoor frolicking area of their own. Of course it's not going to happen, only foreigners get special deals.
just the thing for prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rat Infestation

Chairman of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is opposition MP Sylvia Lim, who faces a potential fine of $1000 for organising the Lunar New Year Flora and Community Fair 2014 from Jan 9 to Jan 30 this year. AHPETC's lawyer Peter Low pointed out that it was a “mini-fair” or an “event”, and hence did not require a permit. Although Low is unlikely to over invoice for his services like PAP MP Alvin Yeo did in the Susan Lim case, the court charges will surely exceed the thousand bucks easily. Why bother, you may ask.

Low showed the court a revised trade fair application form dated July 2008, which states “only grassroots organisations, town councils and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs”. But the forms the AHPETC received last December did not have the crucial words “town councils”.

Low asked when and why the change was made. Mr Tan objected, saying it was irrelevant as the issue before the court is whether the event needed a permit. We, the people of Singapore, would also like to object: How is it the change was conveniently incurred within a month (Dec - Jan)? And who makes those changes anyway?

In parliament on Tuesday 7 Oct, same Sylvia Lim also asked about another convenient change, specifically why an option to inform others when applying for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) was removed from the form just last month, when Yang Yin's grand scheme was finally unfolding in the mainstream media. The answer from Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing stating that the current LPA scheme has adequate safeguards was far from satisfactory. Especially when an 87-year-old Singaporean widow stands to lose her $40 million worth of assets to a dubious character from the PRC because of the mere stroke of a pen.

The resident who wrote to MP for Bukit Panjang and Mayor for North West District Teo Ho Pin to complain about rat infestation at his estate finally got his template response: not my problem, officer XXX will be looking into issue shortly. Meanwhile the rats are having a field day, doing what rats do, spreading havoc to the environment. No wonder there are so many rats in the system.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Career Moves

Tongues are a wagging at the surprise move of top cop Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee to a watered down appointment as head of National Water Agency PUB. Why make the announcement now when he will be Chief Executive of PUB only in January 2015? Maybe it has to do with the interrupted holiday when Little India burst into flames, and the intervening months will be a good time to, say, sign up for a pastry course in France. After the excitement of law enforcement, managing once-in-50-year events must be a boring prospective.

With all the ongoing concerns about national security, one wonders if it is prudent to let the jihadist wannabes know that the highest ranked officer of the police force is playing musical chairs. Ng was Director of the Singapore Prisons Service from 2007 to 2009. 27 February 2008 was the day that Mas Selamat chose to take a leak and then led the police on a wild goose chase. Ng was appointed as Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in 2010. 8 December 2013 was the night when the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road in Little India was set ablaze and turned into a battle zone. Some other loose ends during his tenure may never see the light of day: Dinesh Raman's death by positional asphyxiation (silenced by settlement), Shane Todd's weird suicide account (challenged by parents).

All that will soon be water under the bridge. Ng is a recipient of the SPF Overseas Scholarship. Under our system of meritocracy, scholars are never seen to fail in their assignments. They just mosey from one cushy job to another, immune from the threat of competitive foreign talents from abroad. Ng's predecessor, Chew Men Leong, stepped down as Chief Executive of the Public Utilities Board on September 30, only to be made Chief Executive of the Land Transport Authority. Ex-Rear Admiral Chew was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship in 1987, and made Chief of the Republic of Singapore Navy from 2007–2011.

Ng will be remembered for his unsolicited commentary on a fellow ex-law enforcer. "Boon Gay has been found not guilty... but certainly his acts are reprehensible," he said, "He has broken every one of our values and he has tainted the whole police force by his behavior and that is very disappointing." Never mind that in January 2012, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong had said of former Central Narcotics Bureau Director Ng Boon Gay, "If he did wrong, he must be punished; if he did nothing wrong, he must be exonerated." See what happens if you don't go with the flow?
Water as a cooling off agent

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ought To Be Shot

“synthetic (imported) is higher than the natural (home grown)”
When World Champion Lewis Hamilton complained that the Singapore Grand Prix track was excessively bumpy, they moved heaven and earth make it right. And when Hamilton said the modification to reduce the harsh kerbs at the chicane at turn 10 of the street circuit made it even more dangerous, calling the complex "the worst corner in F1", officials quickly replaced it with a left turn, faster than you can say "ang moh tua kee".

So when Brazil coach Dunga threatened to prevent the likes of millionaire superstar Neymar from injuring himself on the patchy and sandy field of the $1 billion National Stadium, the finger pointing started in earnest. "The field here is not very good. Most of it is sand and not grass. There is more chance of getting injured on this field."

The $860,000 Desso Grassmaster system utilised by the pitch combines artificial fibres and natural grass, but Dunga observed that the “synthetic is higher than the natural”. The criticism was not new, our national football team had bitched about the pitch too, but who listens to them?

Surprisingly, in a rare act of nobility, Sports Hub Private Limited (SHPL) chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik took the self administered bullet, "With regard to the state of the pitch, yes we ought to be shot." Sport Singapore (SportSG) has blamed the sorry state of the playing field on a packed events calendar. In defence, Oon insisted local artiste Stephanie Sun's concert deserved to be the first to use it, and the Chinese Orchestral was more about community than commercial interests, rubbishing accusations of profits over sports. He should have stopped there. Instead, his candor ran over, confessing that they hosted the National Schools C Division rugby match even though it would damage the field:"... I would rather do that than damage the hearts of the 13- and 14-year-olds, who will be the users of our Sports Hub for a long time to come."

The speed of the remedial action is yet to be determined, but they better move fast, as the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup Group B matches are due to start in November. At least faster than the law is catching up with the synthetic tour guide from China. It must be coincident, the Yang Yin affair - specifically why an option to inform others when applying for an LPA was removed from the form last month - and now the Sports Hub flare up, has something to do with the general who is suspiciously quiet. Not the one who condemned heckling of special needs children as "Vile. Total and absolute disgrace." The other one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Voice That Should Be Heard



What is it like to be detained for 32 years? Locked away without trial? Dr Chia Thye Poh was the longest-serving political prisoner of Singapore, longer than Nelson Madela's 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island, at Pollsmoor Prison and in Victor Verster Prison.
If your train ride to a workplace swarming with aliens is getting you down, or the seemingly impossibility of accessing your life savings at age 55 for retirement appears desolately remote, take a well deserved break and be uplifted by this video clip of the indomitable Chia Thye Poh, his first public appearance since his release in 1998.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Malala Yousafzai (Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ‎ [məˈlaːlə jusəf ˈzəj]; Urdu: ملالہ یوسف زئی‎ Malālah Yūsafzay, born 12 July 1997) is the youngest ever Nobel Prize recipient in any category.

At the tender age of 11, Yousafzai started blogging under a pseudonym ("Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl", a blog for BBC Urdu), about human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban made life miserable for just about everyone.

On the fateful afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was seated in her school bus when a gunman asked for her by name, and brazenly fired 3 shots at point blank. One bullet entered the left side of Yousafzai's forehead, traversed through the length of her face, and embedded into her shoulder. She was rendered unconscious and was in critical condition for several days. When her condition improved sufficiently, she was flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai and made her "the most famous teenager in the world."

While our police are making life miserable for our own bloggers, it is unlikely they have martyrdom in mind. Bullets are expensive, and there's the pesky paperwork that needs to be filed. On the other hand, a Noble Prize winner from Singapore is mighty tempting.

The mainstream media are taking great pains to paint a softer picture of the Taliban tactics. We are told the goon squad called at the personal residence of one blogger to inform of an interview invite only "after she did not answer... telephone calls". And the interviewee was allowed change the officially appointed time to suit her busy calendar ".. and arrangements were made to accommodate her schedule." Best of all, she was provided with refreshments during the chit-chat. The snatch theft of her mobile phone and inexplicable confiscation of her notebook were not mentioned.

The unofficial version has it that the bang on the door came at midnight. The blogger arrived at the police station at 2pm on appointed day - the Friday Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - but was made to wait for half an hour before being grilled until 10pm. Presumably free Wifi was not available during the interminable wait. No food was given, and no permission was granted for a dinner break. They may have opened some window for free smoke, since the haze has been pretty bad these days.

It's the The Rashomon effect all over again, contradictory interpretations of the same event on a same day by different people. But you saw the video on the internet, you can make your own assessment about the phantom cancellation of an approved event. Jack Nicholson's Marine Colonel Jessup became a cultural icon for declaring on the witness stand that liberals “can't handle the truth.” Lots of other people can't either.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Time Off For A Reality Check

A few minutes into the first of 12 radio broadcasts compiled for "The Battle For Merger" launch, the speaker is heard saying, "without merger Singapore will not survive". That was 53 years ago to the day, and it would be stretching the truth to say we are currently subsisting in the boondocks. Was merger over-rated?

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the reprint of the talks is meant to "provide a reality check" to attempts by some historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue, most of whom are dead or exiled, and unable to fact check the minister's assertions. Melanie Chew's "Leaders of Singapore" is a treasure trove of alternate views from key persons of that era. Her archived interviews cover Goh Keng Swee to Lee Siew Choh, with only the notable exception of Lee Kuan Yew.

Dr Toh Chin Chye is on record telling us that when Lee got back to Singapore (Toh stayed behind in Kuala Lumpur to clear up the mess), he invited the members of the Malaysian Solidarity Convention to attend his press conference. He was crying. "I don't understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it." That's not included in the "The Battle For Merger" compilation.

Our "strongman" disappeared to Changi, staying incommunicado at the government holiday bungalow for 6 whole weeks. Toh was not appointed to act for him while he was away. The constitutional position was not clear about an absent or an incapacitated Prime Minister. When Lee went off to Changi, Parliament did not meet. So Singapore had a Parliament in suspended animation.

Melanie asked if Lee's provocative speeches could have been part of a deliberate strategy:
"I do not know why he did that. But he was influenced by Alex Josey, who came from the Middle East where he had been a reporter. Josey fed him ideas about the Muslims. The "Mad Mullahs." The "Ultras." Lee used the term, "Mad Mullahs." This was Alex Josey's phrase. Alex Josey was his close friend, golfing friend and biographer."

And why did Lee Kuan Yew ask the Tengku to write to Toh to explain that it was Tengku's decision to separate, was it because he was afraid?
"Yes, I think that was the purpose. To tell me that it was a decision made by the Tengku. So the blame would be on the Tengku's shoulder. Not on our shoulders. The Tengku was far sighted. However desirable it was to continue as one country, we could not do so. He wrote, "We cannot avoid a bloodshed if we remain."

Forget about the compilation of one sided radio talks, pick up a good book to read instead. That way you get a better perspective of the merger issue.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Movie Version Is Better

Tang Guoqiang is a Chinese actor best known for portraying historical figures in several films and television series. One of his more memorable roles include portraying Mao Zedong in "The Founding of a Republic" (Chinese: 建國大業), a 2009 Chinese propaganda film commissioned by China's film regulator to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Here Mao is treated to several revisions, appearing jovial, tolerant, and even permissive of some forms of capitalism, the latter being definitely out of character with the real Mao during the heydays of his revolution. Tang Guoqiang bears such a remarkable resemblance to the Communist Party leader that he has played Mao in at least ten other films.
Tang's Mao tip toeing through the tulips

Bruno Ganz played Adolf Hitler during the final ten days of his reign over Nazi Germany in "Downfall" (German: Der Untergang), a 2004 German war film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. The New Yorker film critic David Denby wrote that Ganz's performance was not just astounding, it's actually rather moving. By emphasizing the painfulness of Hitler's defeat Ganz made the dictator into a plausible human being. Other journalists in Germany were queasy about "humanizing" Hitler, and some wondered aloud whether it might be somehow dangerous to see him as a human being.  Hitler was, after all, human being or not, an especially obnoxious, detestable specimen capable of cold ruthlessness and dispassionate brutality in determining the horrible fate of millions.
Ganz's Hitler listening to the sound of music

Lim Kay Tong has agreed to play the role of Lee Kuan Yew in the $2.8-million SG50 movie "1965", to be directed by Randy Ang. The vice-chairman of Singapore Film Society thinks Lim has the gravitas required of the role, but the actor is not without trepidations: "Because it's a real-life person, and it's Lee Kuan Yew. I hope he doesn't call me." Then again, Lee might not want to see the documentary, a film genre his son dissed so vehemently recently.
When Lee first saw himself on television, Josey tells us, he was momentarily shocked into silence. He was appalled at the fierce and unsmiling figure on the screen, clearly spoiling for a fight. "This was not the figure the political Lee wanted to present to the electorate," wrote Josey.
("No Man Is An Island", James Minchin, page 284)

According to the author, Lee set out to soften the image, but the result was not an unqualified success: "... his official smile is not unlike that of a crocodile tenderly anticipating its prey." Looks like Lim Kay Tong has his job cut out for him.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It’s Not That Complicated

It is heartening to note that not all our youngsters have been subjugated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) into mindless automatons to be fed like grist to the mill of the economic machinery. Student Agatha Tan of Hwa Chong Institution attended a school workshop conducted by Focus on the Family (FotF), and discovered to her horror that "bigotry is very much alive". The “It’s Uncomplicated” FotF workshop which the students had to sit through could easily pass off as handiwork of the misogynistic Taliban.

In defence, FotF head of corporate communications Ms Vicky Ho said that the workshop "is designed to be a relationship programme to help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships."

What is revealed is the booklet distributed to the captive audience - FotF has been approved by Minister Heng Swee Keat's MOE to run sex education programmes in schools since 2009 - states as gospel truth that boys are "visual", and that a "guy can't not want to look", and they have a desire to "visually linger on and fantasise about the female body". That has to be a shameless plug for promoting burqa attire.

You have to agree with poor Agatha when she concluded that FotF sends a dangerous message: that you should always assume that a girl means something else (like “yes”) when really she just means “no”. Even "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" author John Gray wouldn't go that far. Michael Kimmel, a professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, in his 2008 lecture at Middlebury College in Vermont, titled "Venus, Mars, or Planet Earth? Women and Men in a New Millennium", contends that the perceived differences between men and women are ultimately a social construction, and that socially and politically, men and women want the same things.

A proselytizing group should be the last choice to be tasked the sensitive subject of sexuality education. Especially when some of them actually subscribe to a tenet that women folk are not fit to preach from the pulpit. The dishonourable bit is that they actually went to the schools with a hidden agenda.

Major Mariam al-Mansuri made history as United Arab Emirates’ first female pilot and F-16 team leader in the  airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). You can bet this lady means business when she says "yes", she won't be hesitating with the trigger for the bomb load. Thank you, Agatha, for firing your broadside.
there's no mistaking this message


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's A Dog's Life After All

Businessman Lim Soo Seng was fined the maximum S$10,000 for “unreasonably omitting” to bring his female cross-breed dog to the vet for treatment. Under the present Animals and Birds Act, anyone convicted of animal cruelty can be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed for up to a year or both.

Members of Parliament have now tabled a bill to amend the Animals and Birds Act to propose harsher penalties for those convicted of acts of animal cruelty. A person convicted for animal cruelty for the first time can now be fined up to S$40,000 and/or jailed up to two years. Subsequent offenders can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or jailed up to three years, if the law makers have their way with the proposed changes.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) thinks Lim has been let off easy and has appealed to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for a heavier sentence - lock the bugger up and throw the key away. Which means somebody else will have to house and feed the three other toy dogs belonging to Lim. Looking at the horrific picture of the dog that died, another body may even suggest that Lim be put out of his misery.

Quite obviously, dog lovers are getting a bit overboard here.

Especially when you consider how our senior citizens have hardly been given a fair shake after years of toil. When MOE scholar Sun Xu - who objected to some seniors looking his way - said "there are more dogs than humans" in Singapore, he wasn't paying us a compliment. In one particular poll, 39 per cent of respondents felt the punishment meted to him was too lenient - his scholarship was terminated, and he was required to pay back about $8,200 for the first tranche of the semester’s scholarship benefits - while 35 per cent said they were too little, too late. It was too late to save the canine's life, but is it too late to come to the aid of seniors trying to access their CPF? What we need is a SPCA that stands for Society for Prevention of CPF being Abducted.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watch His Lips

We don't know what kind of company the prime minister keeps, but contrary to what he imagines, Singaporeans do know what ISIS and ISIL stands for. In case he still thinks cockles are served with mee siam, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is used by the U.S State Department as well as the United Nations since the group has more ambitious plans to extend their influence even beyond Iraq and Syria. We do know that Thailand - and India, and Indonesia - has a new head of state. Which begs the question why ours always has the same surname, except for the seat warming interlude when the in-house training had to be extended. So much about not knowing what's happening in the world beyond the little red dot.

Maybe he prefers the company of sycophantic grassroots leaders like foreign talent like Yang Yin, who rarely bring up the shortcomings of housing, transport and healthcare. Which explains why they are always thinking of spending more of our money in China. Quoting Tencent as example of an IT company in China is unfortunate, it reminds one of Ibu Tien a.k.a. Madam Ten Percent, the rapacious wife of Suharto who demanded a cut of every major construction contract.

And why are we so palsy walsy with the commies? Didn't they once upon a time undermined the national security of our young nation, same reason offered for banning Tan Pin Pin's award winning "To Singapore, With Love"? If movies, specifically pseudo-documentaries are so bad, why did they air those fairy tales about the Laju incident, Maria Hertogh affair, Hock Lee bus riots, etc on the television screen?

And there's this mega film project beginning pre-production this month with principal photography starting in November. Supported by the Media Development Authority of Singapore under the Production Assistance Scheme, "1965" will be operating on a budget of $2.8 million. "It’s not a biopic of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It’s not a political film nor a propaganda film. It’s not a docu-drama. It’s not a movie about the independence of Singapore," explained Daniel Yun, executive producer  of the "SG50 celebration film". Spending millions on a film which is not a film. Whatever they are drunk on, it must be potent stuff.

"You watch the movie, you think it's a documentary. It may be Fahrenheit 9/11, very convincing, but it's not a documentary", said Lee. Maybe he forgot his cameo appearance in "Inside Job", the 2010  Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature about the late-2000s financial crisis which was directed by Charles H. Ferguson. Some of the lines were damn convincing.
video

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The War On Secrets

The Ministry of Home Affairs hosted the 23rd GovernmentWare (GovWare) conference & exhibition event on 23 to 25 September 2014.

With the whipping boy of cyber threats in today's connected cyber world identified, the Government urged academia and industry partners to develop a close partnership which will enable such initiatives and measures as the sharing of information, development of innovative cyber solutions, training of the next generation of cyber security professionals and the establishment of local operational or research facilities. These and other "collaborative" efforts are supposed to aid in the shaping of a cyber security ecosystem that is both robust and vibrant.

One of the secret documents exposed by Edward Snowden was a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining the function of PRISM, the program used impudently by the National Security Agency (NSA). The first to provide PRISM with material was Microsoft (September 2007), followed by Yahoo (March 2008), Google (January 2009), Facebook (June 2009), YouTube (September 2010), Skype (February 2011) and AOL (March 2011). Apple held out till October 2012.  The top secret PRISM program allows the spy agency to access emails, Facebook posts and instant messages.

When challenged - Google prided itself on its mission statement "Don't do evil" - the tech companies said they only released information to NSA in response to a specific court order. It was only part of the story. In October 2013, the Washington Post revealed that NSA had hacked into the private fibre-optic links "on British territory" that inter-connect Yahoo and Google data centres worldwide. The NSA codename for the tapping operation is MUSCULAR, with the British doing the actual tapping on behalf of the US, and sending the data back to NSA's Fort Meade headquarters ("The Snowden Files", Luke Harding, page 206, 207). Snowden says it was his concerns over PRISM that pushed him towards whistleblowing.

What is pushing the government into all the talk about need for cyber security specialists is easy to guess. While George Bush had the Patriot Act to go by in the aftermath of 9/11, our great leader is paranoid about old geezers pining for home in a documentary movie. Transparency and accountability were never their goals, neither was the privacy of the citizens they are supposed to serve. Their invasive bags of dirty tricks makes the NSA rogue agents look like angelic forces.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Double Standards

There are two Susan Lims. She is the talented surgeon who performed the first successful liver transplant in Asian history in 1990. You can see her giving a TED talk on "Transplanting Cells, Not Organs" in April 2011, which has garnered 567,316 total views thus far. At the age of 36, Lim rose to the prestigious position of associate professor in surgery. Her hands have been replicated for display at Madame Tussaud's Exhibition, probably in recognition of her surgical skills.

And there's the Susan Lim who was convicted of professional misconduct in respect of overcharging one of her patients, the sister of the Queen of Brunei. She was fined $10,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) and suspended from practising for three years. The punishment is believed to be among the most severe meted out to an errant doctor, short of being struck off.

The story could have ended there. The law was allowed to take its course, and the good doctor should have been given time off for a period of self reflection and repentance.

“All things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them."
Except for the ugly fact that SMC's lawyers proceeded to practise exactly they had argued against in court. After losing the case by SMC asserting that she had overcharged her wealthy Bruneian patient, Susan Lim ended up facing an over inflated bill to pay the SMC's costs. The irony can't get any better than this.

SMC's lawyers - Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and Melanie Ho of WongPartnership (WongP) - overcharged by $637,009 (the difference between the original bill amount of $1.007 million and the $370,000 allowed by High Court Judge Woo Bih Li, who reviewed the matter, and eventually allowed that total sum for the bill of costs).

The latest development is that the court has slashed SMC's cost claims, and awarding the council only $317,000 of the $1.33m it was itching to collect (note the numbers keep changing, as if plucked mysteriously from the air). Examples of the overcharging include bills for two expert witnesses which were set at some $52,000, and slashed by the court to $14,000. Ring binders for which SMC had priced at $6 per unit for Dr Lim to pay were cut to $2.50 per unit after the court found it had used the cheaper version in past hearings. Greed knows no bounds.

The end is not yet in sight. When politicians get involved -  and Alvin Yeo is a PAP MP - the muck takes forever to clear. Yang Yin did his homework well, he knew the Kodak moments with Lee Hsien Loong, Grace Fu and Intan Mokhtar will be worth more than the $4,000 he splurged for a fake degree.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Significant Damage To Readers' Trust

Leading Japanese daily, the Asahi Shimbun, has been forced into a series of embarrassing admissions over errors it published on the country’s Fukushima nuclear disaster and the use of sex slaves by Japanese troops during the Second World War. Asahi's president, Tadakazu Kimura, said that an internal investigation had found the Fukushima article to be incorrect. “We have caused significant damage to the trust our readers place in us,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. The revelations are set to send shock-waves, with dismissal of staff and reprimands promised by executive editor Nobuyuki Sugiura in the aftermath of the scandal. But Singapore is not Japan.

It was the Straits Times who first quoted Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Azura Mokhtar as saying Yang Yin “is one of several [grassroots] leaders in Ang Mo Kio GRC helping foreigners integrate into society.” She quixotically added that Yang Yin “doesn’t hold a position” in the grassroots organisation. To make sense out of nonsense, the holder of a string of university degrees explained that she had described him as such because she considers all grassroots volunteers as “grassroots leaders.”

Then the paper quoted the People's Association as having confirmed that he had been a member of the neighbourhood committee since July 5 last year but resigned on Sept 8 this year. More confusing, on its volition, it chivalrously apologised for an error in reporting. Whether the error is about Yang Yin having held a position, having sent his resignation, or Intan's inability to discern volunteers from leaders, we are none the wiser.

It was the prime minister who first cast negative aspersions when he told student at a forum, "Do you (really) believe everything you read in the Straits Times?" But the perm sec who was made CEO of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) need not worry about his day job, so long as he remembers the old man's birthday. Chan was once described as "a Rafflesian who has crossed many boundaries" - Principal Private Secretary for LKY, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communications & IT and the Ministry of Transport - all of which had nothing to do with journalism.