Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mdm President

Singapore has been slow to the game. Many countries have had their female heads of state, whether executive or ceremonial. There is India's Indira Gandhi, Indonesia's Megawati Sukarnoputri,  Thailand's Yingluck Shinawatra, Philippines' Corazon Aquino, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, and lately, Hong Kong's Carrie Lam. 

Now Singapore has its first female President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. Elected via a disqualification of potential opponents - 4 of them, questions have been raised about her legitimacy. Right now, her legitimacy can only be based on the strength of the ruling government of the day, which set (or changed) the rules to ensure that few, if any, opponent can qualify to stand, nevermind that there would be no contest and, in the same breadth, anoint her as 'duly elected'. If you want to be unkind, Singapore is looking like a banana republic, in the same mould as Cambodia, Cuba, Djibouti and DPRK (yep, the bomb-astic nation). How far the apple has fallen from the tree.

To its credit, LHL and his government is well aware of the disquiet about the whole Presidential Election and the way it has been conducted. Nevertheless, it believes that this is good for Singapore 50 years hence, although non of them will be around to answer for the truth or folly of this belief. We can only say that LHL's government is sincere in wanting the best for Singapore and its future, and their belief that this is the best way of going about it. We cannot fault sincerity. They said that will be willing to bear the consequences, possibly in the next GE. Well lets see. It isn't going to be 50 years from now, only 4 years, in 2021, or earlier.

From social media postings, both before and after the 'election', private postings, and more private conversation, coffee shop talk and street conversations, some of which I have witnessed and been party to, there is tremendous unhappiness, and even ridicule, over the whole 'election'. And now, a lot of the unhappiness continue to be expressed about President Yacob's decision to live in Yishun instead of the Istana, nevermind that tax payers have to foot the bill for the security, the car park space (its not going to be just one car and all of them do not incur season parking fees - wait till the Auditor General hears about this), expenses of outriders and police blocking traffic as the President travels between her house and the Istana almost everyday. Yishun is quite a distance away from the Istana. It is regrettable that the first act of the newly 'elected' President is to impose unnecessary additional expenses and incovenience on tax payers. I hope, sooner rather later, that she will dignify her office by moving into the Istana, or otherwise, get a private and suitably remote location to stay (why not the Istana then?)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Japan surrenders - again

Singapore remembered the 75th anniversary of its surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army this month. More precisely, it is the surrender of the British colonial forces that had ruled Singapore for more than a century. On 15 February 1942, at the Ford Motor Factory situated in Bukit Timah, the British army, led by General Arthur E. Percival, signed, or behalf of the British Empire, the instrument of surrender, ceding the island to the Japanese invaders. Thence, for the next 3 and a half years, Singapore was renamed to the Japanese name 'Syonan-to' - meaning 'Light of the South'. To many, especially the Chinese and Eurasians, there was not to be any light, only darkness, fear and loss. Some managed to flee to up north, to the rural countryside in Peninsula Malaysia to eke out a living eating sweet potatoes and whatever else that could be gotten in war time. I know because my mother often mentioned about her life during those war years, an episode in her life that was anything but a bed of roses.

So when someone decided that the old Ford Motor factory be renamed the Syonan Gallery, I was surprised and a little disturbed. Wasn't there any other name that could be used? Hello, Singapore was 'liberated' from Japanese rule in 1945, and re-gained its 'Singapura' name. It took another 20 years for Singapore to gain independence and thence its proud name, Singapore. In retrospect, I cannot understand how and why some 'sick' mind(s) decided to name the Ford Motor Factory gallery to 'Syonan Gallery' after the sad and horrible period in Singapore's storied history.

Encik Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communication and Information stood resolutely by this misnomer, giving his (the official) spin on the rationale for the name. Well, a fair number of Singaporeans did not share his spin and raised their voices in objection. It was a no-brainer, really, given that there are still people living in Singapore who had gone through the war and Occupation. To Encik Yaacob's credit, he reversed his decision and ordered that the gallery be given a more neutral name. Even Mr Khaw Boon Wan came out in support of this reversal, giving the reason that his maternal grandfather had suffered during the Occupation. One wonders, though, if he had objected to the name in the first place, or whether he had let it 'slide'. How strongly did he really feel about it, one wonders? Or is it a case of shedding political tears of the crocodile variety?

In any case, the matter is now settled amicably and, hopefully, a lesson learnt - that you cannot impose your view of the world on others, no matter how logical or reasonable it may be to you. There are feelings here and the weight of history that reason sometimes just cannot overcome.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Music to the ears

Minister Tan Chuan Jin justified legalising online gambling, saying that it is a growing activity and anyway, cannot be stopped entirely. Thus it would make sense to bring a part of this dark activity into the light so that it provides people with a guilt-free and legal avenue to engage in this erstwhile illegal activity. This decriminalising of online gambling in Singapore, with certain controls and conditions, will wipe out a criminal activity in one fell swoop. That's the main argument anyway, not to mention that it will increase government revenue from this once illicit activity. Minister Tan went into quite pedantic detail in an interview regarding this matter with Channel NewsAsia. I will not repeat the points, for by Minister Tan, and against by the Worker's Party and the National Council of Churches.

I would just like to add that the government, by the same argument and logic, should legalise the consumption of marijuana (cannabis) in Singapore. It is underground right now, and attracts draconian penalties when caught. In spite of all efforts to eliminate the trafficking of this drug and its use (if no one uses it, no one will traffic it, right?) remains unabated - the same as online gambling. After all, some countries have decriminalise the possession of the drug, including Australia, Austria and the US (in some States) as have some countries online gambling. But I suspect that the Singapore government will not do so anytime soon (or ever), never mind that the logic behind the easing of restriction on online gambling is exactly the same for consumption of marijuana.

I would suggest that the logic and argument that has been brought to bear on justifying the legalisation of online gambling has been quite selective and convinces no one except those for which it is music to the ears.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Gaming from home

Its a sad day for Singapore, or is it a day of celebration? Well, depends on your inclinations. For those who gamble, albeit small timers, legalizing online gambling in Singapore spells convenience (Today, 30 September 2016, pages 1-2). No more need to line up at the supermarkets or neighbourhood shops to get that daily/weekly fix of hope.

For the rest of us, it just confirms that we are now in free-fall down that slippery slope when the Singapore government made gambling on 4-D and Toto a respectable pass time and blessed casino gambling. While 4-D and Toto are not as financially draining compared to gambling at the table in Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa, I believe that one feeds on the other, resulting in increased gambling activity. It would appear that, with the latest 'licence', the government has blessed the gambling lifestyle even more. And why not? It rakes in a lot of money for the government coffers from these legalized betting, and will be raking in even more with online gambling. I for one am not enthusiastic of using money gained from gambling to fund social causes.

Sure, people have been betting online for ages, but these have been the exception rather than the rule. With the latest initiative, online gambling will go mainstream in Singapore. Now there is a reason for everyone, including our senior citizens to learn to use the computer, or own a tablet, or what the heck, make better use of their handphone besides sms'ing, facebook'ing and whatsapp'ing. Yeah, there is still this hassle of registering for the use of the online platforms, but considering that people are willing to queue up to buy the draw tickets every week, this will just be a one-time hassle. Heck, it wouldn't be far-fetched for someone to set up a business helping gamblers to fill in the forms and other paperwork so that all the applicant has to do is show up in person to start the ball rolling.

In case the reader is not certain about my stand, I'll be clear. I do not agree with this latest government initiative (whose else can it be?) to permit online gaming. I have added my name to the petition to "Stop the Legalisation of Online Gambling in Singapore".

Please add your name to this petition if you feel the same way. It may not make a difference at the end of the day, but it wouldn't be on our conscience for ignoring the evil that this licence to gamble online really is.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thinking anew

I congratulate the Singapore Government for granting our newly minted Olympian, Joseph Schooling a deferment of his National Service obligations for another 5 years, i.e. till 2020. The reason is so that he can take the time to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Winning the first gold medal merely signals the start of more to come for this young boy. We should support him as much as we can.

This exemption, however, is nothing new, nor out of character for the government. Some, though, have been controversial, like the exemption that was granted to President Tony Tan's son, Patrick Tan, whose NS was disrupted so that he could proceed to the US to study medicine. He eventually returned with a PhD and completed his NS. Since the 1980's NS enlistees who secure a place in NUS to study medicine will have their NS deferred to train as doctors before they routinely complete their NS as Medical Offices (MO). Although the statutory age for enlistment is 18 years old, people who are students in the local Polytechnics are also granted deferment until they complete their Polytechnic studies, by which time they will be 19 or 20 years old.

Perhaps it is time to re-think NS deferments in the wider context, and not just for the sake of sporting achievements. I know of many young people who have great ideas and would have started companies to develop and eventually commercialise their products, if not for the disruptive 2 years that every Singapore male is obliged to put away soldiering in the fields. Some say they can do so once they join the universities after their NS. But for many, the spark of creativity may have been lost by then. Others will say the rewards go to the persistent and the resilient, so NS is a good "testing ground" to gauge whether the initial enthusiasm is a spark that is easily extinguished or continues to smolder. In the former case, we will never know what could have been.

It is really up to the government and its generals to rethink National Service, ironically, for the sake of our nation's economic future whether that is in sports or technological innovation..

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A page from Singapore's history

Singapore blood is coursing through this boy. Majulah Singapura!

Source: Google search

Statistics you never thought you'd ever see

It's real. The little red dot of an island is on the Rio Olympics leaderboard!

Schooling's Gold

Congratulation, Joseph Schooling, for winning Singapore's first ever Olympic Gold medal at the on-going Rio Olympic Games. Joseph Schooling won in the 100-metre butterfly swimming event today, the 13 August 2016. This is all the more noteworthy because he beat Michael Phelps, the world's best swimmer by Olympic medals, in the same event, pushing him to second place.

What a wonderful day for Singapore!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Finance (Minister) Recovers

Erstwhile Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, appears to have recovered from his stroke. A video recorded his discharge from hospital, all smiles all around. It shows him walking out of hospital, unaided, though unaccompanied. Funny this last, whenever a patient is discharged from hospital, you would expect to see at least a loved-one walking beside that person. The conclusion is that the video is all stage-managed with the objective of assuring Singapore, and perhaps the world financial markets, that all is well with the Finance Minister and that he can be expected to be back at work some time in the future. At this time though, the world is more worried about Brexit but it will be good to have Mr Heng contribute his intellect to this situation in the continued service of the government.

The report alludes to his need for continued therapy, which is to be expected for stroke patients, but he appears none the worse for wear. I wish Mr Heng godspeed in his journey towards full recovery.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fact, fake and opinion

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Government Whip in the current Parliament, and Member for the Group Representation Constituency of Tanjong Pagar, said that the motion by the Workers' Party to amend the NCMP scheme to transfer the seat vacated by best loser in the last General Election, Lee Li Lian, to the losing candidate of its own choice "must reflect the truth".  This goes without saying. How can Parliament even entertain the thought of passing a motion that are lies? We are, after all, not a banana republic. Yes, the truth must be stated. But the amendments to the motion introduced by Mr Chan is hardly the whole truth, or the truth was not the only thing that was reflected. It contains, yes, some truth (more accurately, fact), but also opinion and innuendo. Consider the amendment that was inserted to the motion:

“...regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a Workers’ Party candidate and received the highest vote share among all losing opposition candidates, has now decided to give up her NCMP seat to another candidate from her party with a lower vote share (FACT), contrary to the expressed will of the voters (OPINION + ASSUMPTION + INNUENDO). And that the WP supports this political manoeuvre  to take full advantage of the NCMP seat (OPINION + INNUENDO), even as its secretary-general criticises NCMPs as just duckweed on the water of the pond (FACT + INNUENDO)."

Given the many lawyers of high standing in the PAP ranks, it is regrettable that the party voted in this amendment as is. The Opposition and NCMPs (who are all WP members) wisely abstained over this vague and politically charged amendment to the motion.

As the saying goes, "All is fair in love and war", even innuendos and fiction disguised as fact and the "truth". tsk tsk tsk.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is a fault?

The year is hardly over and I have just learnt a new word - "bedding-in". Singapore government officials, in this case, the LTA/SBS Transit engineers, attributed the signalling fault on the new Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) on day 3 as quite normal (Straits Times, 30 Dec 2015, page B2 - "Signalling fault causes delays on DTL2). No, in fact it is even to be expected. It is called bedding-in. Amazingly, the Transport Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, is happy to parrot this reason (excuse?) and leave things be. How long is the "bedding-in" period? We are told it is several months. However this leaves me none the wiser whether it means 2 months or 12 months. Hello, I would expect more precision from engineers, no? A variation of 10 months in an estimate just doesn't cut it for properly qualified engineers, or for that matter, a Minister paid in the million$.

As with all things new, I "asked" Google to "define bedding-in". Usually, Google will respond with a definition in a box, followed by a million or so links. Not so for bedding-in. It couldn't offer anything definite, just 2.14 million possibilities. Neither Collins English Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster could offer a definition. The closest word was "bedding". Only offered a link to its page on the word but even then, declined to define it.


Instead, it offered instances where the word has been used, listed on the right side of the web page. Most of its uses related to sports (soccer in particular) and politics. A single instance related to economics. The closest this word has been used in an engineering context is the laying of asphalt for F1 tracks, cited in the same list of examples. But train tracks aren't exactly made of asphalt, nor for that matter, signalling systems. Another use of bedding-in is for brake-pads. God help us if we need bedding-in for the braking system.

Well, I don't know what kind of engineers Mr Khaw has on staff, but they would appear to be soccer fans, going by their choice of word or analogy. I have no problems with new words being used, or words adapted for new meanings, but I do mind if it leads to muddle-headedness and imprecise thinking which gives the game (pun not intended) away.

The last thing that Ministers and engineers should do is fob off on the malfunction with bedding-in reasons. 

P.S. Remember 'ponding'?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Prince of Peace

Before people think that I am anti-Christian and anti-Christmas, nothing is further from the truth. Although many of the celebratory practices and rituals are not biblical, they do, to a large extent, reflect on the occasion.

Christmas is about the king coming to town. The decorations, the buntings, the candles, the lights and the music are indispensable to celebrate the arrival of one so important.

Christmas is about reconciliation, and what better way than to have a meal together, to smoke the peace pipe and mend relationships.

Christmas is about healing and sacrifice and what better way than to celebrate it with the less fortunate. Santa often plays an important role here.

Christmas is about love. It is a time to put down the year's hustle and bustle to come together, away from the office and the worksites, to renew and celebrate our love for each other.

Christmas is about peace. Christmas is not just for Christians, it is for the whole world, including those in ISIS / ISIL.

Christmas is about blessings to all men (and women), whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, the freethinkers and yes, the Sultan.

Christmas is about a good news, which is that God loves you, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Gospel of Luke 2:8-14
... there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The not so real Christmas

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has got it right, where, dare I say, many Christians have not. He has banned all celebrations of Christmas in his tiny but very wealthy kingdom. He has banned Santa Claus and any impersonation of the grand old man. His Imams, the Islamic Religious leaders, cannot agree more. To flesh out the ban, they included the display of crosses, lighting of candles, singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings...all of which, according to these learned people, are "against Islamic faith". Well, they could also add that these have nothing to do with the Christian faith - not the red nose reindeer, the sleigh, the snow, the hats, the bells, the puddings, the turkeys, errmm...the turkeys? When did they come over from Thanksgiving?

Over the years, Christmas has been hijacked by non-Christians and businesses who have converted it to a time to dine, dance and conspicuous consumption. Just today, I passed by a celebratory signboard which featured a Santa Claus in a backdrop of reindeers and snow. In sunny Singapore? And this sizeable poster wasn't even in a church. Nothing can be more fake!

So yes! The Sultan has unwittingly got his understanding of Christmas correct. Its just the cutting off of the hand and the jail time that I can't quite place, though. And how did the imams confuse the new year as being part of the Christmas celebrations? Oh....yes, those un-Christmas of Christmas cards do mention having a happy new year.

All these are superficial as superficial gets, including the ban. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Image makeover

MediaCorp, Singapore's biggest terrestrial broadcaster just moved house, from its venerable location in the middle of Singapore on Caldecott Hill to One-North, which is situated in the south of Singapore. They had a grand opening on 8th December 2015, graced by no less than the PM of Singapore. MediaCorp, which has had many name changes over the years, from Radio Television Singapore (RTS) to Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) to Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) before it settled on MediaCorp today. Indeed for as long as independent Singapore has been around, MediaCorp has been there. But this blog entry is not to celebrate its longevity. Rather I was struck by its newest corporate logo:

Every time I see this, this other perhaps more famous logo comes to mind:

Yes, it is quite different, but somehow, my mind reacts to this MediaCorp logo with a recall reaction. Can't help it. Some Freudian slip or parapraxis perhaps? Psychologists would probably tell me that the latter image has been so seared into my unconscious due to some subdued conflict, wish, or line of thought that I associate one with the other. Sheesh. By way of clarification, I am no Microsoft hater. Why didn't MediaCorp choose a more Apple-like logo I wonder? Maybe because it doesn't want a law suite on its hands.

I suppose this confusion will  only ever go away when MediaCorp next changes its corporation look and feel. Till that day comes... Till then, I wish MediaCorp the best in its newest incarnation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Singapore bombs Indonesia

Such an headline would be explosive (pardon the pun) had it been factual. But it is a fact. Singapore, with a host of nations including Malaysia and Australia are carrying out bombing missions in Indonesia....water bombing, i.e. and at the invitation of Indonesia, no less.

Indonesia should have asked for this help a long time ago, but did not do so reportedly because it didn't want Singapore to take credit for any success in putting out the haze. As if Singapore can do miracles. I think the Indonesian government has a delusional belief of Singapore. Yes, it is the richest country in South-east Asia, going by per capita income, it prides itself as a clean and green city (now unfortunately shrouded in haze originating from the Indonesia islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan), and it often is the playground of the rich and famous, including those from Indonesia.

I hope that in future, for its own sake, and not by some misplaced worry of being up-ended, it would engage help earlier rather than later. It would help end everybody's misery earlier and help all of us to get on and get back with our lives and work (read economic activities).