Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Not sex and politics

In News Reports, Society on September 28, 2012 at 1:55 am

Let’s get away from sex and politics and get down to the stuff that really matter…

Hawkers hit out at hike in cleaning fees in yesterday’s ST
Seems nine hawker centres have had their cleaning fees raised, even doubled. NEA sent them a note to this effect, arguing that this was because of higher wages and training costs of accredited cleaning agencies. The NEA said that this was “fair and representative of market rates for such services’’. No elaboration. Seems the hawkers were not consulted. They’re unhappy of course and I am sure cleaners Let’s get away from sex and politics and look at some stuff that we really really should be concerned would be happy. I wonder what will happen next week when the new fees kick in… Hawkers say the cost will be passed on. So what’s a bowl of wanton mee going to cost next week? I hope some people are keeping track of prices. Will customers swallow the new prices? It’s an example of the knock on effects when a policy is changed. Most people are more or less agreed that we should pay the low wage workers more like the NWC says. But somebody has to pay for this. That would be you and me. I wish though that the NEA would give more than just vague comments about the fees (from $240 to $614 a month for Holland V market!! And from $268 to $480 at Tanglin Halt). So what will the cleaners who will benefit get paid then? And what kind of improved trained service can hawkers/customers expect. Seems a bit high-handed just to give hawkers a fait accompli.
No taxis? Some offer extra cash to get a ride in today’s ST
Some enterprising people have set up a radio service involving 1,000 cabbies or so to get people a cab quick(er) for a higher price. You can pay up to $20 more if you do so. LTA said the practice is against the rules. But frankly, isn’t this a willing buyer/willing seller situation? Why not let people pay more if they are willing to? In the hawker centre story, the hawkers (and customers) don’t have a choice – especially if the fee hike extends to more than just nine hawker centres. Here, we have people willing to pay and the G says no can do? So we all have to wait for the next transport fare hike that the G blesses to get a faster ride? An MP says this is in the interest of “transparency’’, I think it’s just another case of levelling down. Equal misery. You can’t afford to pay higher, so no one else should.
FB users rant over late deal in today’s TNP
Expletives peppered SingTel’s FB page after it announced that it had secured the screening rights to Uefa Champion’s League. Seems some people didn’t like the “late’’ notice, coming hours before the first match. They flamed the poor fellows who were managing the page and got pretty personal. The comments stayed on the page, undeleted, and probably fuelled further attacks. I applaud SingTel for coming out to defend its staff even as it allowed the comments to stay on the page. Customer service shouldn’t mean bending over backwards and condoning uncivilised behaviour by anonymous people. I don’t know who these people are but some are probably people with families. Shame on them. I wonder what they will say if their own FB pages got attacked – and they find out that the trolls are people they know, like their own children.

What’s the case about again?

In News Reports, Society on September 28, 2012 at 12:54 am

I say, can someone remind me again what Ng Boon Gay is supposed to be charged with? Seems like all we’re getting is sexy, salacious details of whether he did or she did and what they did or did not do. Thank goodness that TNP had two paragraphs to tell me what this case is all about.
The prosecution said on Monday that where a public servant obtains gratification – from a person who has or seeks to have business dealings with the Government, he is presumed to have done so corruptly. Even if the public servant is unable to make good on the favour sought, all that is needed is for him to believe that the gratification is offered as an inducement.
From reading the first line, if any civil servant receives a pen or pencil or oral sex or intercourse from someone who has business dealings of any sort with the GOVERNMENT, (gosh….how many people would that be?) then he or she has already fouled up. I suppose the G would say of course we wouldn’t consider a pen or pencil as a “gratification’’ (unless it’s a designer pen that the philandering professor receives from his ex-student), so please trust us to make sure we prosecute right. That’s the problem isn’t it? Laws are framed so broadly that you don’t even know if you could be doing something wrong. By that first line, Ng Boon Gay is kaput.
Then comes the second line on whether he returned the favour or not. Apparently, he said something about having a couple of hundred thousand left in the budget, which Cecilia Sue said “helped’’ . I must say defence counsel Tan Chee Meng was pretty good in his cross-examination, so good that even more men have been named and a certain mysterious Linda….and Cecilia Sue got totally confused about when Ng told her what about the budget.
What about this clause “all that is needed is for him to believe that the gratification is offered as an inducement’’. I guess we have to be mind readers now.
I suppose the defence strategy is to show that Cecilia Sue wasn’t all business with contracts on her mind. That is, she didn’t offer gratification as an inducement. Nor was she the unwilling party worried about not getting contracts if she said no. That is, she didn’t acquiesce to offering gratification because she felt threatened by Ng. I don’t want to go into subjudice territory, go read the newspapers to make up your mind if this was a willing buyer/willing seller relationship – they all have the same details.
BTW, can someone in the media find out who are those burly men who surround her in and out of court? Cops? Hired bodyguards? Big-sized friends?

PS. This TNP pix is priceless….Just look at the wife!


A loyal wife

In News Reports, Society on September 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I feel so sorry for the wife of Ng Boon Gay. Fancy having to listen to what her husband supposedly did to another woman. If Ng Boon Gay doesn’t appreciate having his wife standing by him so loyally, he isn’t a man at all. In fact, I hope he comes to court with his face scratched.
Am I sorry for Cecilia Sue? Yes, in the sense that she has to say in public what is better left private. But then again, there’s this voice which asks: Could she have said no, even if she didn’t want to file a police report which she claims no one will believe? Four times being “coerced’’ into performing oral sex seems a bit much, and that’s not counting the other times that the prosecution isn’t referring to as charges. I suppose I shouldn’t under-estimate the hold that a powerful man would have against a woman, or even deny that power can be charismatic. But Sue seems no wilting wallflower. She is a high-flier who could have given him the finger if she chose. And she didn’t say anything about Ng threatening to hurt her business if she didn’t do what he wanted. Looks like a consensual friend with benefits relationship which has been exposed.
I wonder if the prosecution did right in charging Ng under this huge ambit of “corruption’’. I have a problem connecting this to what looks like a sordid affair that would be painful for all parties concerned – but not necessarily criminal. Anyway, that’s the job of the defence.
My best wishes to Mrs Ng.

Distressed by stress

In News Reports, Society on September 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm

I am glad the PM is looking at the PSLE stone. And that it’s going to be put back in its place – but after the moss has been wiped off. I’ve been uncomfortable with all these calls about scrapping PSLE. I’ve always thought that we need a national examination at least to assess standards, including individual standards. Yes, some would be at the bottom of the heap while the best float to the top. Yes, it is competitive. And if we can’t be rigorous about assessing our children, what happens when they have to be assessed with others from other countries? What happens when they go out to work and have to be appraised with the rest of their peers? Why deprive our best from achieving national accolades? Should we be levelling up or dumbing down? Should we do away with a test altogether so that children, or rather their parents, feel better?
Okay, these are rhetorical questions (some of them anyway). And the scrap PSLE suggestion has probably come up because we’ve scrapped the banding and ranking exercise for secondary schools. So why not target another sacred cow? Better start sharpening knives….
The PM said we should look at some of the “stress’’ factors surrounding PSLE. It’s got to do with the “do or die’’ approach that parents have towards the PSLE, he said. Don’t do well, can’t get into a good school, and you’re dead. Hence the mantra now is that every school is a good school. Frankly, if we scrap the PSLE, there will be other calls to refine the school system further because of “stress’’. Like do away with expensive pre-schools because it’s not fair that these children get a headstart in primary school. In fact, nationalise it. Like do away with registration systems that award some children priority places in good primary schools. Like do away with the gifted programmes in good primary schools – because my kid isn’t in it. I recall an article in ST last week on horror parents – the worst in my opinion are those who want teachers to scrap classes if their own kids can’t attend them. This is so that their kids don’t lose out to others who do attend them. Such a dog in the manger approach!
We’ve got to watch it a bit, methinks. Meritocracy may have its de-merits but doesn’t mean it should be slaughtered because it creates some stress. In fact, STRESS is the popular word these days. We are STRESSED by the presence of foreigners, property prices, inflation, having to work harder, medical bills. We are distressed and actually asking for STRESS to be slaughtered. Are we over-magnifying the STRESS? How much stress can we take? Is this useful stress or needless stress? Are parents passing down their own stress to their children?
I digress.
Anyway, the every school is a good school mantra is going to take a long time to sink in. In the meantime, I think the MOE should highlight the systems which ensure that just because you didn’t do well in PSLE, it doesn’t mean you can’t dig yourself out of a rut. How flexible are transfers to a better stream? Or even to a better school? What are the options these children have should they turn out to be late bloomers? We’ve fixed the perception of ITE as It’s the End somewhat, and the perception that poly is inferior to JC. How to fix other perceptions of the mainstream school system? Good schools/bad schools and good streams? I think some attempt was made recently about nomenclature – all that EM1 etc…(or does that still apply?) and some bits of what is Normal and Express. Maybe a second look and a change will help alleviate the stress.

New rules for civil servants

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Society on September 26, 2012 at 1:43 am

This whole corrupt civil servants business has got me thinking that the Civil Service should amend its instructional manual and make it more specific.
a. Do not go for business lunches. Eat in the staff canteen. And return your tray.
b. Don’t play golf. You don’t know which business contact you might meet.
c. Don’t go on holidays with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
d. If you do need sex, go to a prostitute. Remember to pay her. And check her IC
e. That diary you’re using, is it ours?
f. Re-screen your Facebook friends. Unfriend those who have any business with you.
g. While you are at it, screen out PAP activists – you don’t know when they will appear at a National Conversation forum.
h. Don’t invite relatives who are businessmen for Chinese New Year. This is to avoid you having to receive their oranges.
i. Does your work have anything to do with procurement? Ask for a transfer.
j. Ditch your Brompton bike.

What’s the story leh?

In News Reports, Society on September 26, 2012 at 1:16 am

Non-story No. 1: 6 million and counting
I read and re-read ST’s page 1 story and agree entirely with economist Irvin Seah that the MTI occasional paper on population did not shed much new light. Which begs the question why it was splashed on Page 1. The more illuminating stuff is actually in the inside pages in the Q&A section with Lim Hng Kiang when he acknowledged that the G was trying to get a message across: That if you want more growth, you need more foreigners. If you don’t, then be prepared for slow growth because we’ve already stretched the productivity targets as it is. Can people accept this or not? I think the issue was laid out more sharply in Today. And ST should be glad if a reader reaches the bowels of its paper to get to the Q&A section in the Home pages.
That’s how the National Conversation should move methinks. We need to know what life will be like when growth is say just 1 per cent. What does it mean for me in every day terms? More elbow room on the MRT, less anti-foreigner sentiment and lower property prices? Yay! But lower wages too?
I can’t seem to reconcile the debate with the fact that we’re already embarking on infrastructure development. Is this to accommodate the current squeeze but for 6 million people that the PM said we would have no problem with? (By the way, I really wish we wouldn’t keep asking PM questions like what is the ideal population size. Doesn’t that depend on what us, the people, want?) Seems the target has been settled, and if Singaporeans don’t get on with producing babies, then foreigners it is or we work very hard to reach some economic growth target that we are all comfortable with.
Thing is, what would we be comfortable with?

Non-story No. 2: Law Society meeting
Some lawyers want some kind of accounting on the LawSoc’s conduct vis-à-vis M Ravi. Seems the EGM produced nothing enlightening. The reason that Wong Meng Meng gave was that he couldn’t say very much coz there were some cases before the court and his comments would be prejudicial. You know, I am getting real tired of people saying they can’t say anything because of “on-going investigations’’ or “subject of a court case’’ or “subject to internal review’’ or “now before what and what committee’’ or “company policy’’ etc. Okay, okay. I know some things have to be kept under wraps but some reasons are just fig leaves. I mean, who okayed Wong Siew Hong’s move to present the doctor’s letter on M. Ravi to the court? Now it seems it is the lawyer himself. Then who okayed the press statement saying that he did so under LawSoc instructions? Seems “they didn’t have full information’’ when they did so, says Wong Meng Meng. Who is “they’’? Okay, I’m nit-picking here but I must say I am still sore about how Wong Meng Meng started shooting people about making allegations when his own Law Soc/their statements aren’t clear. What I really want cleared up though is whether lawyers can anyhow bandy around doctor’s letters about patients. That, I suppose, we have to wait for….

In the dock

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Society on September 26, 2012 at 12:28 am

The case of the philandering professor
So Tey Tsun Hang’s case has been postponed to mid-December because the courts agreed that he needed time to prepare. Good for Tey. Seems to me he does need the stuff he asked for, like the transcripts of the students he was said to have “upgraded’’. And those medical reports on the day of his CPIB interrogation. Seems that the former district judge didn’t realise he had to apply to the district judge for the kind of information he wanted. Guess he will get it right this time. This case is too juicy for words. Who are the four other ex-students (including a man) besides the one in the case cited? And what about those allegations that he confessed under duress, in his hospital garb, while on psychoactive drugs and in a “mentally altered state’’? Doesn’t look good for the CPIB’s interrogation techniques. I mean, I know an interrogation isn’t supposed to be comfortable…but….?

The case of the woman in love
In love – or not? That’s what Cecilia Sue seemed to have told investigators of the CNB director’s case. But she also contradicted herself as well when she said Ng Boon Gay had helped her secure a contract. The whole case is puzzling with the prosecutor acknowledging that Ng didn’t interfere in the procurement process. So it seems a case of sexual harassment? That he forced her into having sex or she was “compelled’’to do so because she was afraid of pissing off this very important man? And she was compelled to do so only four times despite a relationship that stretched back to 2009? I tend to agree with defence lawyer Tan Chee Meng description of the prosecution taking a blunderbuss approach. How is Ng supposed to prove his innocence like this? Divorce his wife and marry the woman?

The case of the two other women
So the prosecution is proceeding with one charge and one woman first against the SCDF chief. I read ST and had to be wondering why the other two women who have been publicly named weren’t getting hauled up too. ST reported that the charges against them had been “stood down’’ – not withdrawn. I wish journalists would realised not all readers would understand what this phrase means and why this happened. Today reported that it was probably because they wanted to get the clearest cut charge out of the way first so things won’t get complicated. Then the other women would be grilled too. Phew! For a moment there, I thought everyone has done those women a big injustice – I mean they’ve been named and all that….

The case of the “biased’’ doctors
This was in The Sunday Times. It’s about how the courts ticked off the Singapore Medical Council for “picking on’’ (my words) one aesthetic doctor even though guidelines on aesthetic medicine hadn’t even been issued. What about the rest of the doctors who practise beauty medicine then? The interesting thing is that the charges against the doctor was brought to the SMC’s attention by the Ministry of Health. Sort of begs the question why MOH accused her, and only her, of practising non-evidence based medicine in November 2007, before those guidelines were introduced the following year. And the SMC sat in judgement only LAST YEAR. By the way, wasn’t the SMC supposed to have changed its disciplinary processes in the meantime? By getting a lawyer on board the panel or something? Didn’t work?

The word respect

In News Reports, Politics on September 22, 2012 at 12:51 am

So it’s Church and State and Civil Society in this letters saga. Each earnestly using the word “respect’’.
I will too.
a. I think we should respect the Archbishop’s decision not to make his letters public. Evidently, he has changed his mind about what he has written – and he is entitled to.
b. I don’t think Function 8’s decision to release its own letter to the Archbishop, despite the redacted parts, respects the Archbishop’s wish to make the communications private. There were phrases would seemed to imply that he agreed with its position on the detentions of the Marxist conspirators. This puts the Archbishop in a bind since he has said he won’t make his own letters public.
c. I think it’s extremely disrespectful of Function 8 to use biblical references its letter. I know the MSM has not published the full letter in print but it’s so everywhere online that too many people know that it had asked the Archbishop what he thinks should be “rendered to God’’. It’s arrogant of Function 8 to think that the Archbishop should give them a blow-by-blow response when it phrases its letter in such a way.
d. I think we should respect the line between religion and politics. Function 8’s insistence that the Archbishop release his letters is an attempt to drag him into the fray over the issue of the ISA. Seems he said some things in it that he regretted. Why push him like this?
e. With all due respect, I think the Home Affairs ministry should take itself out of this triangle. Its presence further politicises the issue. It might also want to engage in that dialogue that Function 8 has asked for.
Truth to tell, I am curious about the contents of those letters and the identity of the mysterious Mr X on the cc list too. But in this instance, I am not sure transparency is the key element that should be respected in this tangle. Already, I am watching the issue unfold with some consternation along with, I am sure, my fellow Catholics. As I said, the Church will close ranks and rally behind their leader, whatever his political orientation, as respected Church lay leader Gerard Ee said in his Forum Page letter in ST today.
Respectfully, I ask again that every side backs down.

Can we all back down please

In News Reports, Politics, Society on September 21, 2012 at 12:24 am

The Catholic Archbishop isn’t looking very good in this “letters’’ business that has now moved into the realm of mainstream media. As a Catholic, I sympathise entirely with the quandary His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Chia is facing.
He must be sorely regretting having sent that first letter on the Internal Security Act to Function 8 (thank you Today for telling me that it stands for the F8 key to reboot the computer safely). There’s no answer from him on whether it was solicited or un-solicited. It would make a difference I think. If solicited, then the charge that civil society groups were trying to get the church involved in politics would hold some water. He simply “fell’’ for it by replying. If un-solicited, then one wonders what possessed the Archbishop to make such a “political’’ move in the first place.
His Grace can’t have forgotten how pained his predecessor looked when confronted by then-PM Lee Kuan Yew in front of the television cameras during the Marxist conspiracy period. Or the anxious, angry looks of churchgoers who crowded masses at that time. For me, I can’t forget the strain of waiting for two hours for a priest to get off his knees in church when I sought a comment. The drained, strained look on that kindly face who told me that a couple of priests had skipped town during that whole Marxist conspiracy period. It is a period I’d rather forget.
So His Grace changed his mind about the letter – whether because he was strong-armed by the G or had a personal re-think or both. And civil society is having a field day about this. Did the Archbishop intend to let his letter be read out loud at that ISA rally? Or did he think it was a private communication? I think anyone who is lobbying a point would use all ammunition in the arsenal. The right thing of course is for organisers to alert him if they intended to have the letter publicised at that ISA rally. That’s the courteous thing to do.
Perhaps, the Archbishop realises that, whatever his personal views, his letter is a potent weapon which can backfire on the church, especially given its past history with the ISA and the line that is supposed to be drawn between church and state.
What’s happening now?
Now the civil society groups are hitting back at the Archbishop for “unsubstantiated’’ remarks which they said “vilified’’ them. They want the Archbishop to make his letters public. It’s true that it’s not clear who leaked the info to Alex Au who started the ball rolling on his blog. It might well have been members of the church or whoever was on the mysterious “cc’’ on the letter. He shouldn’t have said anything without verification.
Now conspiracy theorists will start saying that the G strong-armed the Archbishop into making such forceful remarks about the civil society groups. The MHA has intervened, chiding the groups for being “disrespectful’’ to the Archbishop. I can hear some chortling among those with long enough memories of the Marxist conspiracy. Can MHA please spare us its high-mindedness…
And what of the future?
Are the civil society groups looking for blood? Are they backing the church into a corner to reveal the contents of the letter? Do they want an apology, or a confession, from the Archbishop?
This is not going to be good. Remember that the church will close ranks to defend their leader and will take umbrage at attempts to take him down, however justified the civil society groups think they are to do so. I know I would. This is just the way it is. It’s religion.
And the way this is turning out, it convinces more and more people, whether religious or otherwise, that they should shut up, because action, inaction, retraction can all be politicised in ways they never thought of.
Some civil, face-saving way had better be found to mend fences.

Seeking answers

In News Reports, Politics, Society on September 19, 2012 at 1:40 am

The mother of Dominique Sarron Lee has put up a petition asking parents to join her in asking for greater accountability on the death of her son and to call for more measures to safeguard our young men.
Today published it yesterday and included some comforting noises from Mindef. Her main contention was his death could have been prevented. He was asthmatic, yet had to be on some exercise involving smoke grenades.
According to Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen answering questions in Parliament: PTE Lee was noted to have a history of asthma during pre-enlistment screening on 4th January 2011 with his last reported asthma attack more than three years prior to enlistment. Based on the SAF medical classification system which is devised in consultation with leading senior medical specialists from the public and private healthcare sectors.
NS men with well-controlled asthma are given a PES grading of A or B and certified fit for military training. Based on SAF’s medical records, PTE Lee did not report sick for any asthmatic attacks in the five-month period after enlistment until this incident.
The concurrent investigations will examine all the facts to determine the cause of death, and if the asthma or smoke grenades were contributory factors. Smoke grenades have been commonly used for many years during military training and the SAF has not had any similar incident in the past. Sir, we will have to await the conclusive findings of these investigations to determine the cause and measures to be taken arising for these two specific cases.
I note that doctors have drawn in to decide the medical classification. Maybe they should be re-looked? Anyway, I don’t know enough to comment on this. What I do want to know is the outcome of the investigations. I don’t think Mindef releases its inquiries into deaths as a matter of course. And the media usually lays off – or forgets? – because they seem to take so long. Have to wait for police report. Coroner’s report and so forth. Unless the circumstances are unusual, like commandos being dunked to death or some soldier gets run over in camp, then the public gets the full works.
I think it’s time Mindef opens its books on past deaths, not just Dominique’s when it is finally completed. I mean, are the inquiries open for reporting? I know it is the case for Coroner’s Court and it’s for the media to be alert to the timings of the case because I doubt if Mindef would do the alerting….Even if Mindef inquiries are closed door, there’s little reason to not make the results public. I’m sure all parents want to know how the young men died and if steps were taken to prevent a recurrence. General statements on the importance of safety etc are not enough. Transparency is key.