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Archive for the ‘News Reports’ Category

The baby, the bathwater and the bathtub

In News Reports, Politics on May 2, 2015 at 12:24 am

Everybody is reading tea leaves again. You can be sure that every time the Prime Minister opens his mouth from now, people will speculate on whether it would be an early election held way before January 2017. I have given up guessing dates but my tea leaves, or rather coffee grounds, tell me that all seats will be contested and eyes will be on wards bordering the Workers’ Party cluster in the east. At least, I sure hope so….I live there!

So what can be gleaned from PM Lee Hsien Loong’s speech on May Day? It was all about exceptional leadership, like the sort his father and the first generation of ministers provided. And the difficulty of recruiting good men and women into leadership positions. He didn’t say that they would be for the People’s Action Party – presumably because it’s a given. In fact, he hardly mentioned his party at all except when he reminisced about the late Lee Kuan Yew’s early days with the NTUC.

He has set the agenda for the next election: “..leadership renewal is the most important issue. It is not doing more or spending more as some would like you to think. It is who will lead Singapore into the future and it is our future at stake and our children’s future. Because if this government fails, what is going to happen to you, to all of us to Singapore?’’

The thing about leadership renewal as a mantra is that it has been the case for nearly every general election that I can remember save the years when the PAP put the elected presidency and the need for MPs who can run town councils centre-stage. Of course, there were plenty of other issues the PAP threw in, like vote for upgrading and deny racial politics ecetera.  But the theme of getting a team in place for the future is like listening to a tape recorder after re-winding.

Is it going to get any traction? Can it compare with the WP’s theme of needing a check in Parliament? Remember that Singapore lost a Foreign Minister in George Yeo. That’s a high profile job that is responsible for Singapore’s high profile on the international stage. Despite expressions of Mr Yeo’s exceptional ability, the PAP couldn’t fight the WP tide.

I suppose one reason leadership renewal might resonate now is that PM Lee isn’t getting younger. He’s 63. Leadership renewal was less of an issue during PM Goh Chok Tong’s time was because we all knew who was going to take over his job when he stepped down. Now the guessing game isn’t just about when the GE will be held, but who is going to step up to the PM’s plate. (You realise that we no longer have a First or Second DPM? Both Mr Tharman and Mr Teo are equal players although it is Mr Teo who steps up in the PM’s absence.)

The other issue is what it means to have an exceptional team.

PM Lee said this of the outpouring of emotion from the people when his father died: “I think his passing reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big difference to us and I think it has caused many people to pause and to ask ourselves are we sure we don’t need that kind of leadership any more, that quality of leadership anymore. Of course Mr Lee did not do it alone. Part of his greatness was that he brought together exceptional people to form an outstanding team.’’

As evidence, he also cited the numerous foreign leaders who came for the funeral and even flying their own national flags at half-mast.

So is PM Lee talking about “tough love’’? Hard truths and no holds barred kind of leadership that the late Mr Lee epitomized? He was after all, not a “gentle father figure’’ but a hardnosed mobiliser and, some might even say, hardboiled mobster.

I don’t think the late Mr Lee was the right leader for the turn of the century but I have sometimes wished that he had come out to lay out the law of the land and just point the waaaay. This is especially so when discussion gets too fractious.

I really want to know, for example, what was it that the late Mr Lee wanted to say in Parliament post-GE which his son didn’t allow him too. My guess is that it’s some kind of harangue about navel-gazing and going on about COEs and property prices when the world is out there ready to eat our lunch. The PM told his father that he and his team would handle it by themselves.

This is pure guesswork but I suppose he thought Mr Lee might do more harm than good by speaking up to a population which is no longer dominated by the first or second generation Singaporeans. Also, he wouldn’t want his father to help bolster him and the younger lot, and risk looking even weaker especially after a weak showing in the GE. Just saying.

There is another point in his speech I found disconcerting. He talks about how Mercedes still needs Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 championship even though it has an outstanding car. “The car can’t drive itself.’’ So those people who think it’s okay to try out a different team to lead the government because there is still the civil service to run the show should be “very careful’’.

Hmm. The civil service SHOULD be able to run the show despite a change of political masters no? That’s how it works elsewhere, so why can’t it work here? What is the relationship between the civil service and the government-of-the-day, especially when so many ministers are ex-civil servants?

I ask this because I was very taken by the speech made by Public Service Commission chairman Eddie Teo published in the media last week:

“The distinction of the role between the politician and public servant has started to become blurred.

“The upside is that the politicians will have strong support from public servants when they need to sell government policies. But the downside of the change is that it will be more difficult for the public servant to behave in a non-partisan manner as the public will see him as intrinsically linked to the ruling party, perhaps even occasionally justifying the party line. It was not an issue in the early days because the old-generation public servants never had to worry about another political party taking over government from the PAP.

“But GE 2011 has caused some of our younger public servants to worry about what to do if there are more and more opposition MPs in Parliament or even if there is a change in political party, and not just in government, maybe a few general elections from now.’’

There is something very wrong here. Are the fates of the civil servants so inextricably tied with that of their political masters that we have to be “very careful’’ if we exercise our right to put in a different political team? We risk the country going down the drain because the civil service can’t function as well with someone from a different party? Surely, ministers are NOT super civil servants.

You can already see attacks on the civil service when something untoward happens in the Workers’ Party town council. There is a perception that civil servants might not be even-handed in its dealings with the PAP and WP town councils, with those living in the opposition wards being worse off. It might be an unworthy perception but it is one that will dog the civil service if the distinction of the role between the politician and public servant is not clarified. We can throw out the party in power because we disagree with its politics or politicies but we must always be able to have faith that the civil service can and will carry on on behalf of the people.

It got me thinking about the NTUC. What happens to the NTUC should the PAP lose more seats or even lose power? Maybe nothing as the symbiotic relationship is between the PAP and the NTUC, which is like a holding fort for some would-be candidates and a testing ground for others. (Note: symbiotic is not tripartite which is G-employer-union.) I once asked Mr Lim Swee Say about the relationship and he said there were non-NTUC unions as well and opposition parties are free to tie up with them or form their own version of the labour movement. Interesting.

So PM Lee is right about being “very careful’’ about our vote. Throw out the bath water (the PAP) and the baby might go as well (the civil service) – and we also risk over-turning the bathtub (the NTUC)?

He might be right but it doesn’t seem right, does it?

The Slap

In News Reports, Society on May 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

So many views have emerged over the slapping of Amos Yee that you can’t say a thing about it without someone emerging to… slap you down.

In case you didn’t know, Amos breached his bail conditions by posting online again complaining about his bail conditions and describing how his father had hit him, especially when he wanted to go to court in his pyjamas. His well-meaning bailor who put up $20,000, a stranger to him, pulled out because Amos wouldn’t abide by bail conditions. Then another stranger turned up in court yesterday to slap him in front of the media.

I’m summarizing the range of views here and my apologies if I left out any strand of thought

a. Those who clapped loudly along with the slap thinking that it’s about time the boy got his comeuppance. After all, he is undeniably rude and abusive and has no qualms about spreading his vitriol in public.

b.  Those who clapped quietly because it’s not right to condone violence on others and agree that the stranger shouldn’t have taken matters into his own hands. But they’re still gleeful that he did what they have an urge to do themselves if they could or had the guts to.

c. Those who say the stranger shouldn’t have done what he did because it’s just plain wrong. And have no views (I don’t know how it is possible to stop the brain from going there) on whether Amos deserved one tight slap or not.

d. Those who say that those who clap loudly or quietly are wrong because they are really piling on a troubled kid who just might have been abused at home by his father whom he himself described as a “killer’’ and a “bastard’’.

e. Those who say that the stranger was merely doing what his parents should have done (but of course the stranger is wrong), although they don’t know what the parents have done over Amos’ formative years.

f. Those who say that violence on others, whether by strangers or relatives, cannot be condoned. They do not subscribe to the “spare the rod, spoil the child’’ type of upbringing which they say is old-fashioned and out-dated thinking. Besides, it’s also cruel.

g. Those who think everybody should shut up especially if they are not child psychiatrists, do not know Amos or his family and, oh yeah, because the case is before the courts.

h. Those who heap abuse on anyone who differs with them, indulging in ad hominem attacks and engaging in vocabulary almost close to Amos’ quality.

i. Then they are those who conflate the slap with a whole host of other issues surrounding Amos, such as whether a 16 year old should be tried in an adult court, whether the Sedition Act is too heavy for what he did, whether he was being prosecuted more for his anti-LKY rants rather than seditious remarks on religion, why others who attacked him aren’t also being prosecuted….you name it, you can attach a whole lot of issues to Amos.

Before anyone asks, I belong to group b. I got vicarious pleasure from seeing the slap administered. But that is about as far as I would go. We all refrain from acting from basic/base instincts because we’re civilized people who abide by the rules of society and by the law. My regret is that no member of the media or any cop collared the stranger to find out who is he, why he did what he did, and to throw the book at him for executing some version of “mob justice’’.

I know I will be attacked by those who disagree with my group b choice and will call me all sorts of names and declare their “disappointment’’ ecetera. I suppose I can be politically correct – and keep quiet. I wanted to be, because I think that’s what Amos wants – the glory of public comment/interest. And I didn’t want to give him that. Besides, silence is great no? You can’t get into trouble for shutting up. Or if you want to say something you know will get you attacked, you use a pseudonym or set up a fake account or something. But that would be cowardly. So, by that measure, Amos is a hero for saying what he did online so openly….

The Amos issue excites comments because it touches on the law (why the Sedition Act?), court processes (strange bail conditions), freedom of speech (is this more about the anti-LKY rant?), upbringing (unresolved teen issues?), family circumstances (too lax/tight?) and yes, even child/teen abuse whether at the hands of parents, strangers or the State. All of us think we know a bit of the different facets and even have some pretty firm views on parenting styles.

Parents look at Amos and wonder if they are keeping a tight enough rein on what their kids do online. They will put themselves in his parents’ shoes and wonder about how the Yees brought him up, whether he was simply beyond their control – and thank their lucky stars that their own children are well-behaved, or so they think. There will always be an element of self-righteousness and even hypocrisy because we do NOT know his family background and we’re NOT child psychiatrists – but we think we know it all. The thing is, you can’t stop people from having a view, at least, over his public actions.

Likewise, we are all products of our own upbringing and know of people who turned out well or not, because or despite of family circumstances. So we base our judgments on our own experience and anecdotal evidence. To each his own view, I say. We can agree to disagree on any aspect but I think we must and should agree that the stranger was in the wrong to slap him if we are to live in a society based on law and order. And we must and should let the courts proceed with its case without anyone on the outside prejudicing the process or hoping to influence the outcome.

BTW. The Slap is the title of a 2008 novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. At a barbecue, a man slaps his neighbour’s son, who has been misbehaving without any intervention by his parents. Plenty of drama after that. Some characters believe the boy should be taught some discipline, others think the police ought to be brought in to investigate the slapper. And there’s a range of positions in between. Very good book.

* my apologies. He is being prosecuted under the Penal Code

Bully – and risk being bullied

In News Reports, Politics, Society on April 22, 2015 at 2:54 am

I am so glad that IKEA did not change its mind about sponsoring pastor Lawrence Khong’s magic show despite the objections of the LGBT community. I am also pleased that the pastor has NOT said anything. If he did, there would never be an end to the fracas….

I looked at the protests about the show which basically centred on Mr Khong’s uncompromising public attitude towards those of a different sexual orientation. Like many, I wondered what his magic show had to do with his views, unless he chooses to use it as a platform to “convert’’ others to his point of view through some magical brainwashing technique. Or maybe his magic show is so bad that IKEA should be ashamed to support it.

I guess it was not so much Mr Khong’s show as the fact that it was a Swedish store that was involved. Sheesh! The Swedes support Lawrence Khong? How can? Shouldn’t it be more “inclusive’’ and embrace diversity? Aiyoh…this company from a wonderfully advanced country doing this?! How can?

Actually, the LGBT lobby shot itself in the foot by talking about diversity. IKEA made a pointed reference to its support of the Wild Rice production of Public Enemy, helmed by a prominent gay man, Mr Ivan Heng. It looks as though IKEA had been rather even-handed in its choice of activities and organisations to support.

It is normal for consumers to put pressure on corporations because of their perceived failings. Boycotting those who use child labour to produce their products, for example. Here, there was even an abortive attempt to not buy palm oil during the height of the haze to hurt unscrupulous plantation owners who use slash-and-burn techniques to clear land in Indonesia. Whether companies succumb depend on how much they value their reputation and whether they can withstand the effects of a boycott.

In this case, IKEA incorporated Mr Khong’s magic show as part of its loyalty programme of discounted rates for members. That, it seems, is enough to rile the LGBT activists who show themselves to be as intolerant of other people’s views as they say other people are of theirs. Does the community intend to hound Mr Khong’s magic show wherever he goes – and will corporate sponsors pull back because they don’t want any heat from the vocal lobby? Will the lobby claim victory then, never mind that it acquires an image of being strident and, hmmm, intolerant?

There’s another point which the community should consider. If the boot was on the other foot and the pro-traditional family lobby comes out in force to do the same, what would it do for its cause of getting the community recognized as part of the mainstream? What if, for example, the members of the lobby decide to boycott all the organisations who sponsor the annual Pink Dot? Would the LGBT lobby then start denouncing them as intolerant homophobes? Even worse, what if they start petitioning the civil service not to hire gays, because their employment runs contrary to the State’s pro-traditional family stance?  In the case of IKEA, what if the pro-Lawrence Khong supporters and traditional family groups decide to boycott the store BECAUSE it sponsors Mr Heng’s play or pulls Mr Khong’s show?

There is some wisdom in the official advice to not to take things too far or to push too hard. The Pink Dot organisers have been superb at keeping its event low-profile; they can’t help it if more and more people converge on Hong Lim Park. Still, the ever-growing crowd has already prompted a backlash with the Wear White campaign last year.

Never mind the LGBT numbers here, no one will say that they are in the majority. Yet there are many people who emphatise with the LGBT community and wish the members well. They are not anti-gay and go about their business quietly. Bullying tactics, however, will make them sit up and take sides. Might it not be better to let things happen naturally than start a culture war?

This is not to say that the LGBT lobby should shut up and sit down. It should not tolerate discriminatory acts against one of its members, such as employment termination because of sexual orientation. It should raise an outcry if, say, a homophobic play is put up for audiences – although I think the censors would get to it first. It will find many supporters if it works for the well-being of its members rather than push its agenda on others who might not be ready for it.

Bullying won’t work – or there will be bullying back. How is this good for anyone?

Just pandering to you

In News Reports on April 21, 2015 at 10:16 am

In case you didn’t know, the pandas have mated. BUT it wasn’t successful. Still, here’s the story, according to…hmmm….me.

Panda-monium reigned at the River Safari last Thursday as word leaked out to visitors that a mating session was in progress between Singapore’s foremost Chinese guests. Bamboos were broken and reeds were trampled as curiosity got the better of otherwise well-behaved humans who wanted to see some “action’’ between Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

Early birds caught the full 40-minute show although they had difficulty distinguishing between the male and the female of the species. Zookeepers helpfully pointed out that the “one on top’’ was Kai Kai, the male.

Parents tried to shield their children from the more graphic and acrobatic antics of the two giant pandas – to no avail. The screams of both children and pandas resounded. Fireworks went off. And people sang Stand up for Singapore.

The two pandas were non-plussed at the buzz which surrounded what should have been an intimate activity. Videos and cameras flashed as visitors sought to capture the historic, once-in-a-lifetime scene.

But what should have been the climax of the show proved elusive. Although Kai Kai had begun making overtures to his mate for some time before finally getting randy, he proved unequal to the job. Zookeepers had to supplement what comes naturally with artificial insemination.

Said Mr Quah See Meek, 45, a technician: “It was a bit of a let-down. How can Kai Kai fail? He’s already seven years old!’’

Zookeeper Pan Da Ling said Kai Kai was unable to rise to the occasion because of his lack of experience: “Kai Kai is young. He is interested and ready to try a lot of things. But in captivity, he did not have any older pandas as “a role model”, so he didn’t really know what to do.’’

She added that panda reproduction is a “notoriously complex process, with females ovulating once a year, in which they are fertile for only 24 to 36 hours’’.

Because Jia Jia’s hormones started falling on Friday, the zookeepers needed to move quickly to artificial insemination given the short window when female pandas are able to conceive.

The pandas’ progress has been much monitored by the international community which had worried about the suitability of Singapore’s hot and humid climate. Attempts to vary ventilation and lighting to simulate the pandas’ Sichuan home and to get them in the mood for love had been tried since November.

The duo’s 40-minute effort eclipsed that held by Lu Lu and Xi Mei, a couple from the Sichuan Bifengxia Giant Panda Research Centre in Ya’an. Two weeks ago, they had set a  marathon 18 min 3 sec session, which was broadcast on the Internet via a website that monitors pandas.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore spokesman it will apply to the Guiness Book of World Records to enter Kai Kai and Jia Jia for accomplishing the longest sex show for pandas. The spokesman brushed off protests from private groups and parents-against-panda-porn. “They don’t realise what an achievement this is. It shows that Singapore is a good place for foreign talent.’’

Asked why the zoo had kept quiet about the feat until now, Dr Pan said: “We didn’t want to give the pandas more post-copulation stress. We also did not want to pander to voyeurs. We envisage that even more visitors will be coming to see them since they are no longer virgins.’’

She added that China had sent a congratulatory message to the Chinese couple and all eyes are now on Jia Jia. “We are pregnant with hope,’’ said Dr Pan.

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

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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.

Furniture buying

In News Reports, Politics, Society on April 10, 2015 at 10:12 am

The Cabinet reshuffle has led to speculation that the general election, due by January 2017, could be held early, according to a TODAY report. Plus, the PAP G can reap an “LKY dividend’’, from the goodwill demonstrated by the populace in the aftermath of the first Prime Minister’s death. It’s a minor reshuffle, with Mr Masagos Zulkifli elevated to full minister and becoming second minister in both the Home and Foreign ministries and Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew taking on a second portfolio.  Messrs Lim Swee Say, Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin have done some portfolio swopping. Me, I am still tickled by the idea of our multi-tasking Cabinet, who are members of the A team, said the Prime Minister.

So I went furniture shopping…

Me: I’m looking for some cabinet…can you advise me please?

Salesman: What sort you looking for? Kitchen cabinet? Shoe cabinet?

Me: Actually, something more multi-purpose…can put shoes, books and all kinds of knick knacks. Maybe for the living room…And maybe another for my bedroom with drawers for underwear and cold weather clothing.

Salesman: For living room ….how big?

Me: Ah…something adjustable, stackable. In case, I accumulate more stuff over the years…Somethings I just cannot throw away, you know…last forever.

Salesman: You want with glass panels or open shelving? Glass can show off your ornaments….Or you want them covered so you can hide stuff …

Me: Hmmm…open shelving must dust everyday…But very good to show off my Lee Kuan Yew books. But maybe put at the bottom because they are very heavy. Some glass doors for me to show off stuff I’ve bought from abroad or some sg50 mementoes…

Salesman: Different size compartments? All same size? We can stack small ones and some got double the size. Or we can have separators within compartments.  Everything adjustable…

Me: Maybe some have two separators so I can put stuff of different colours in one stack…Hmm…your cabinets come in white? Difficult to maintain or not? Can get rid of stains easily?

Salesman: Don’t worry Ma’am. We have all sorts of cleaning fluids. Just dab and like bleach, stains go off. Case-trusted and CPIB-approved. But don’t use too much or the wood will get rotten…

Me: What? Your cabinets all made of wood? I thought something stronger…

Salesman: Ma’am, then you looking for filing cabinet – we have cast-iron one…

Me: Don’t need filing cabinets…got computer. Just sell me one living room cabinet, soft compressed wood, white, with big and small compartments and shelves that can adjust up and down. Some got glass panel, some don’t. Do you have shoe cabinet?

Salesman: Of course! Very cheap. Very good. But stock only come in October.

Me: Aiyah, I think don’t need then…I buy from NTUC.

Salesman: Okay ma’am. I have a Class A type living room cabinet for you. Very good to display, very multi-purpose. People see …sure to go waaah…I can also offer you Class B type cabinet for your bedroom. For your socks and all that…Sometimes, can put in living room as well if living room cabinet suddenly collapse because you put too many things….

Me: Your stuff so lousy ah???

Salesman: Not lousy. Very good. Don’t believe me you just ask people…they will all kee chiu…

Me (dubious): Hmm…how much and when can you send over?

Salesman: Depends on how many compartments and how big each compartment. But don’t worry, still below market rate. Let me calculate…

Me: I don’t mind paying if you sure it’s good quality…so when delivery?

Salesman: Arhh Ma’am, you have to carry home yourself and assemble yourself. Got instructions…very easy to follow….Ma’am! Ma’am…don’t run away…Still haven’t shown you our kitchen cabinets!

One Cabinet and musical chairs

In News Reports, Politics on April 9, 2015 at 12:28 pm

The problem with reporting on news of a Cabinet reshuffle is that no one wants to say anything bad about anyone. So if someone gets promoted or moved, commentators will try to second-guess the Prime Minister’s intentions, and invariably come up with answers to fit the PM’s choice. No one says, not in public anyway, that he/she botched up the job and so got moved to another. Nor would anyone say that so-and-so’s posting is a sop to a segment of the population or because of intensive lobbying.

That’s what makes reporting Singapore politics so dull – everybody wants to be politically correct. (It really is the best thing to do since acceptable guesswork is better than negative speculation.) Of course, privately, everyone has their own ideas or conspiracy theories about what’s really happening behind the scenes. And because of the general election has to be held soon, everyone makes a link, even though there might be none.

What did the PM say? “These changes are part of continuing leadership renewal, to build a strong ‘A’ team for Singapore.’’ Gosh, I wonder if the PM realizes that the use of an A team means there is a B team, in reserve…If he does have a B team, we should be glad – because there seemed to be so few people we can draw on that the Singapore Cabinet has to play musical chairs and with some people straddling two chairs…

So what’s the big news this time around? MSM went to town with how the Malay/Muslim community now has a second full minister in Mr Masagos Zulkifli, besides Dr Yacob Ibrahim who is Muslim Affairs minister and minister for Communications and Information.

The PM said having two full ministers reflects the “progress of the Malay community’’ and observers have echoed this.

Said former NMP Eugene Tan in a commentary in TODAY: “This demonstrates the coming of age of the role of Malay politicians in our national leadership. And they are handling significant portfolios at the full ministerial level. While numbers should not be the sole measure of political relevance and effectiveness, the fact that Malay ministers are tasked with handling non-traditional and even sensitive portfolios is significant.’’ (I suppose he’s referring to Mr Masagos being second/second minister in Home and Foreign ministries – each now has a truly multi-racial team at the helm. In Home affairs: Mr Teo Chee Hean, Mr S Iswaran and Mr Masagos. In Foreign affairs: Mr K Shanmugam, Ms Grace Fu (female somemore!) and Mr Masagos.)

Then you have ….

Mr Zainal Sapari, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC: “This would definitely dispel the notion that there is a racial quota with regard to the number of full Cabinet ministers that the Malay community could have.” (There is no quota…this is a meritocracy no?)

National University of Singapore (NUS) political science don Hussin Mutalib: “it helps to soothe the feelings of the community, since the … Indian community, despite being smaller than the Malay community, has always had a larger and disproportionate share of Cabinet appointments”. (So there should be a quota rather than a system based on meritocracy?)

NUS  political science lecturer Bilveer Singh: “It’s good for the country and it’s healthy for democracy, because I think the Malay community has made a lot of progress and this is symptomatic of the progress that the Malay community has (made), and they should be represented at the highest level.” (And what about other communities, like the Eurasians or women? No progress?)

Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Azmoon Ahmad: “It will create impetus for the community and encourage us and give us the confidence that Malays can succeed.” (What are you saying? That Malays lacked confidence in the past about succeeding?)

Before you pounce on me…I want to quickly say that I exaggerated my remarks in the parentheses to make a point: I so dislike this idea of connecting representation to race/community.

I would rather people say that Mr Masagos got promoted because he has all the right qualities for the job. Period. It is not a reflection on his race/community – whether progress or regress. After all, we do not encourage stereotyping by race do we? Like connect certain negative attributes to certain communities? Likewise, I wouldn’t make a big deal if a woman breaks through the glass ceiling of any company or in the Cabinet. She’s a good, capable person – who happens to be a woman. Just like Mr Masagos is a good, capable person – who happens to be Malay.

Now, I had someone tell me that I can’t understand because I am not a member of the community. Correct. But it would distress me to think that the Malay community needed such assurances that a Singaporean. regardless of race, cannot rise to the top of the tree based on pure merit. Or that it needed to be “soothed’’ because other communities have “got ahead’’.

Dr Hussin said something else which puzzled me: That ‘some quarters may look at his Islamic profile with a certain unease’’. Hmmm. What does that mean? I looked up his community credentials for clues. All I got was that he chaired Muslim welfare group Perdaus, and started its humanitarian offshoot Mercy Relief…

Then comes this musical chairs over the NTUC, Manpower ministry and Ministry of Social and Family Development.

So NTUC’s Mr Lim Swee Say who had publicly stated that he would like to retire isn’t about to be allowed to. He’s going to MOM. Only in Singapore can you have someone jump from one side of the fence to the other. In fact, right across the line. In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Lim assured unionists that he will continue to be “pro-worker” while also being “pro-business”. “After all, the two are not necessarily in conflict. They are the two sides of a same coin.” You don’t say!

You have pundits agreeing about this ideal situation – and it really makes me wonder why people just don’t suggest a direct switch – MOM’s Tan Chuan-Jin should go to NTUC then instead of moving to Ministry of Social and Family Development! But of course, people can always make a case for this switch, like how he’s “well-placed” for the job since he had to deal with workers in difficult situations.

But I was most puzzled by this statement in the ST report regarding Mr Chan Chun Sing:

Meanwhile, the labour movement will get a new chief earlier than expected. Mr Chan, 45, who is now NTUC’s deputy secretary- general, will take over as secretary-general on May 4. He was previously expected to be voted in as labour chief during the next NTUC central committee elections in October.

Now, it looks as though it was the PM who decided that Mr Chan should be NTUC sec-gen. Yet much was made about Mr Chan having to get endorsement from the NTUC rank-and-file at its delegates’ conference in October.

Anyway I checked. The NTUC Central Committee promoted Mr Chan from deputy to full sec-gen yesterday morning. (Yup. Well-timed). And he still needs to get through that conference, which is held once every four years, which will vote in the 21 members of the Central Committee. Then the committee needs to decide on the various posts.

As for Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who is now also Second Defence Minister. I don’t know what to say… Don’t you think he has enough to do in Transport?

PS. I would like to congratulate Mr Masagos on his promotion and for the rest of the ministers, good luck in your new portfolios!!

We made Amos Famous

In News Reports on March 31, 2015 at 10:07 am

What is wrong with Amos Yee?
Did he think we’ll go tee-hee
When he mocked Christianity?

And those jibes on LKY
Did he think that they would fly?
Did he think “I’ll just try, try?’’

Some say Amos is just a boy
Who thinks YouTube is just a toy
Even if some people he did annoy

Some say he’s a special kid
Who made an extra special vid
No foolish thing YOU ever did?

We want blood, some bayed
He should be flogged and flayed
That’s the price to be paid!

Now Amos’ got his day in court
Wonder if that’s what he sought
Then we’ve been suckered by his plot

He came out with a big wide grin
His poor parents, the reporters pinned
Dad said sorry for son’s sin

Chill, people, coz can’t you see
This kid is just a wannabe?
Commiserations to his family…

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