berthahenson

TRS kena

In News Reports on April 15, 2015 at 1:58 am

I am no fan of The Real Singapore. I read it occasionally when articles pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and always end up asking myself why I was even taking the time to do so. I suppose the curious in me was wondering what TRS was up to yet again. Another anti-foreigner diatribe? Yet another cut-and-paste job with a twisted headline?

I happened to have been a victim of such venom. But, frankly, I couldn’t care less. If readers choose to believe what they read, so be it. If they think this is the “real’’ Singapore, a place to carp and complain and make unsupported accusations in the name of free speech, then I don’t know what to say about their judgment. The website, in my view, is simply…scurrilous. That, I suppose, is its attraction and why it has so many followers. I tell myself that people read it to be entertained, but I think they also read it to be riled up and roused into some kind of righteous indignation over foreigners, the G and whatever or whoever is the favorite enemy of the day.

Time and again, we see people upset by remarks posted on TRS which abdicates responsibility by saying that it doesn’t control what their usually anonymous contributors post. Yet their shadowy owners with overseas servers seem to be beyond the grip of the law. Sue them for defamation? Who are they? Where are they? I was looking forward to seeing someone use the Harassment Act against the site but it seems the law beat people to it.

Now that the couple, a Singaporean student and his Australian girlfriend has been charged, it’s a bit tough to say anything that would not compromise their case. I must say the use of the Sedition Act was a bit of a surprise coming so soon after the same charge was levelled against a Filipino ex-nurse. It is a “heavy’’ legislation and very wide-ranging, which might account for its infrequent use.

The first seven charges come under section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act (Cap. 290) read with Section 3(1)(e):

Offences

4.—(1)  Any person who —

… (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication ….

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of that person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.

Seditious tendency

3.—(1)  A seditious tendency is a tendency —
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

The seven charges each refer to a particular posting, with the most recent being the false allegation that a Filipino family was involved in a fracas during Thaipusam.

The thing I wonder about is this: Why are the seven postings still accessible online if they are said to incite ill-feelings? Shouldn’t they be taken down to prevent further distribution?

From a reading of TRS’ own report of the court case on its site (yes, I had to look at it) it looks as though it is attempting to bring the original writers into the fray. Or at least to show that they were not involved in “content creation’’.

For example, one charge concerning an article on the sacking of “Pinoys’’ and an Indian national had the TRS saying that this “is a complaint shared with TRS in an email which was also published on Facebook by the original writer’’.

Likewise, it published a rant by a soon-to-be divorced woman who complained about the presence of female Chinese nationals who were stealing husbands. TRS said “This article was a complaint sent in by a TRS reader by email on May 22nd 2014’’.

What takes the cake is a charge involving a picture of a supposed female Chinese national making her grandson pee into a bottle on the MRT. Of this, TRS said: “This was sent in to TRS by a reader who also sent the same complaint to STOMP which also republished the same article inclusive of these allegedly seditious lines.’’

Ooh. In other words, double standards?

TRS said that the woman, Ai Takagi, “has been involved in the approval and publication of reader submissions for some of the content posted on TRS’’ but not Yang Kaiheng, the Singaporean. It also very handily listed the “seditous’’ comments that it has been accused of broadcasting.

For example, on the anti-PRC women rant:

“I would like to voice out my unhappiness with the over-populated China Chinese people in Singapore now!”
– “these Chinese women just apply permit/visitor pass using all kind of job excuse”
– “Do you know by simply granting another work permit to these Chinese women means you are destroying many Singapore homes out there!”
– “These Chinese women sleep around with our men … and doesn’t care whether the men are married or with kids.”
– “they only hopefully the men can divorce & married them and after that apply for S’porean citizenship and dump the guy! ”
– “We are flooded with enough Chinese all around us now! and enough is enough!”

I find it troubling. Because I think there are plenty of people who share some of these sentiments and would rant in similar fashion. Unless the case is that TRS has a deliberate agenda given the long list of other charges? Would it not be more suitable to use the Broadcasting Act or some other law to prevent such diatribes – or even to issue a take-down order under the Harassment Act? Until the case of the Filipino nurse with his anti-Singapore rant, the Act has been used against those who spout statements against a particular race or religion.  And now…?

Hopefully, some light will be shed on the use of the Sedition Act.

Teaching kids about cheating.

In News Reports, Society on April 12, 2015 at 8:59 am

ADVERTISEMENT

Ex-journalist/blogger/university lecturer available for homework-completion projects. Fees will start at $200 an hour, and will vary according to degree of difficulty and immediacy of assignment. For “immediate’’ assignments that must “pass up tomorrow’’, tutor will require transport allowance to and from clients’ home with surcharges levied for work done after midnight (tutor’s surcharge not just taxi midnight surcharge).

Only parents with above-average children may apply. And that means anyone because I’m sure every parent thinks his/her child is exceptional.

You know, I think I can make heckuva lot of money offering my services this way. I think I will be especially good for “project work’’ assignments and long-winded essays. Anything to do with General Paper, I also can do. In fact, I don’t even mind completing homework assigned by kindergarten teachers. I like colouring.

What makes this a more attractive job than plain vanilla tutor: You can do the work at your own time, like a freelance writer with a deadline, and you won’t have to deal with pesky kids or have their kiasu parents wondering if boy-boy or girl-girl has really, really improved and can score A or not…

Anyway, The New Paper on Sunday reports that this is a new business that our education system has generated. What a wonderful revenue stream for teachers, ex-teachers and those who think they can be teachers but don’t want to be! One teacher who charges $250 an hour says he makes 75 per cent of his monthly salary this way. If he abides by the Education ministry’s a 6-hour-a-week maximum guideline for private tuition, he can make a maximum of $6,000 a month. Sounds good…

Are many parents availing themselves of people like him? The TNP report has three parents doing so, including one who said she sets aside $800 a month for such special services.

The reasons:

  1. Too much homework, CCAs and the poor kid doesn’t have time to rest.
  2. It’s only for unnecessary or superfluous homework which does help in final grades, that is, not core subjects.

TNPS backed up its story by referring to another in 2012, when it interviewed 80 parents who sent their children to “elite’’ tuition centres. Close to half “had hired or would hire’’ tutors to finish their children’s homework. In fact, one parent hired such a tutor to finish her 14 year old’s tuition centre assignments. She reckoned that since she waited a year to get her daughter into the centre, it would be a waste for her to give up the spot just because of unfinished work. (Makes me wonder if the tuition centre boots out kids who can’t finish homework assigned…got such a thing ah?)

TNPS also said it had come across websites which offer such services including a group that says it would complete projects, essays, reports and homework at a cost – even for undergraduates. The company has a no-questions-asked policy: “Whatever their reasons are, we do the work for them because we get paid to do so. We cater to that demand and we do a fantastic job.’’  So said its spokesman.

To think that we have been grumbling about the $1billion tuition industry, un-tutored tutors preying on parents and kiasu parents loading more classes on their already-gifted kids just so as to ensure they stay ahead or keep up with the pack. That the issue has been raised to a national level with tuition centres requiring registration and even accreditation.

You can’t help but think parents are going nuts…

Nutty parent 1: “Of course I’m going nuts! It’s the education system that is making me nuts! My kid will go nuts too if you see how much homework the teachers give! Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of “homework policy’’ so we don’t stress the kids out, like how many hours of homework a week?’’

Nutty parent 2: “There’s nothing nutty about this. If my kid cannot finish his homework, he will be penalized and it will make him look bad in class. I don’t want to destroy his self-esteem. How his classmates cope? I don’t know. I guess they just don’t get much sleep. I just think that as a responsible parent, I should help him out. Especially since I can afford it.”

Nutty parent 3: “What monkey business? In any case, it’s only “stupid’’ homework which I don’t think is going to affect his exam scores very much…so that’s okay. The teacher won’t know anyway since everything is typed. I would have helped my own kid out if I could, but I am just too busy. The homework also sometimes quite hard…’’

I’m sure everyone has a point of view on this matter. Teachers, for example, will tell of parents who complain if their children get too little homework. Or that the parents/students do not know how to manage their time. Or explain that parents these days just want their kids to do “well’’, even if that means the work has to be done by other people, in other words, they cheat.

That’s right. It’s cheating.

And it’s a shame if parents and homework completors (especially if they are teachers) do not see it this way but choose to dress this up as a transaction or some kind of parental aid for a poor, burdened kid.

Was it so long ago that students were warned about having “other people do their homework’’? Isn’t it better not to complete the homework or to tell teacher “cannot pass up on time’’ than having a beautiful piece of work that is really a con? Or would teachers flip at such responses and prefer to be lied to?

I wonder what such “protected’’ students will say to their classmates: “Heng ah…last night, my dad got so-and-so to come to my house at midnight to finish this homework…Yours how? Finish already? Not yet? You poor thing…Your daddy no money to hire someone ah…”

I don’t want to tell parents about how to bring up their children. It’s not my place to do so. I’m quite sure a lot of the responses will have to do with this onerous education system we have and terrible teachers. All I can say is: I wonder why people don’t deal with the issue by simply bringing it up to the people in a position to change things. What has happened to parent-teacher meetings? Where is the school board/advisory committee/alumni? Can’t the parents – if they are REALLY concerned – make an effort to reach the school principal?

Why throw money at a problem when it is possible to make the problem go away? If fact, why compound the problem by throwing money at it?

Honouring LKY

In News Reports, Politics, Society on April 11, 2015 at 2:57 am

On Monday, some very important questions will be asked about how we should honour the memory of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Now, I am NOT being sarcastic because I DO think something should be done to keep him or at least his thoughts alive beyond merely ensuring re-prints of all his books. So the MPs have come up three suggestions which I suppose will generate a bit of debate given how everyone has something to say….(I’m just going by my FaceBook wall)

The three:

1. Have his face imprinted on coins and dollar notes.

I like this idea.

After all, given that we have our first President’s face on dollar notes…why not? It’s something that our currency board can do quite easily and I rather like some variety of faces on my dollar notes…. And Mr Lee himself never said no. He was against monuments built for him and I suppose that would mean statues and busts. He wouldn’t be against being in the hands of bankers or fishmongers would he? He was a man of the people and everyone would have a bit/a lot of him in their wallets…He was concerned about economic development and our Singapore dollar is super-strong, a reflection of the man as well.

Of course, those who don’t like him might want to deface their notes. But that’s their lookout. If defaced so much that it is no longer accepted as legal tender, too bad…That will teach people to be careful with their money! Hey, that’s another LKY maxim!

2. Re-name Changi Airport after him

Not a popular choice it seems even though he was the man who moved the airport from Paya Lebar to Changi. And SIA pilots are sure to remember the man who thumped them and threatened to replace all of them! There are plenty of precedents abroad. Charles de Gaulle airport in France, JFK in the US. Better, methinks, than Ho Chi Minh city?

People will have to get used to saying “I have to get to LKY tonight’’, “Planes delayed at LKY’’ and “Did you get any duty-free booze at LKY?’’ But we Singaporeans can get used to anything….One argument in favour: Besides Singaporeans, foreigners will be forced to be educated on the legacy of LKY as well…His name will be remembered forever, far and wide. Hurray! The Singapore dollar, on the hand, is only circulated on this tiny red dot.

So why unpopular? Methinks people rather like the term “Changi’’, more than the LKY name for the airport. I like Changi too…It is so Singaporean. And we don’t need to ape the ways of foreign countries do we?

3. Have a Founder’s Day for him

Quite a popular choice, since it’s likely to be public holiday. So should it be on the day of his death, March 23? Or his birthday, Sept 16? Some people, however, think it should be a PLURAL Founders’ Day – for all the first-generation leaders since he wasn’t the sole architect of Singapore.

I’m not sure about this since he would probably tell us to “stop this nonsense and go back to work’’. Also, what would we DO on Founder’s (singular) Day? Re-play old broadcasts and enact scenes from LKY’s past? Have mass readings of his books? Hold an LKY festival? Or should the day simply be a day that’s marked on the calendar like Teachers’ Day, Racial Harmony Day, Total Defence Day or Youth Day? That is, no public holiday…but the school children will have to do something…?

As you can tell, I am personally not in favour of this. I am also not in favour of preserving his Oxley Road home given that it is the family’s wish to have it demolished. We should respect their wishes.

Monday’s sitting is sure gonna be interesting…

PS. Actually why don’t we name a battleship after him? And I don’t mean steamboat.

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