Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Real Last

Our grand old dame, Singapore's National Stadium, refuses to give up its ghost of 35 years. It just wouldn't die, not when games and events continue to be hosted there after the 'Field of Dreams', billed as the last event to be held there (on 30 June 2008), has come and gone. The Stadium is still standing, and major events continue to be held there. People have been writing in to the press expressing a sense of being cheated when the National Stadium continues to be used for big events, such as the Olympic Qualifier soccer match between Singapore and Saudi Arabia on 14 June 2008. And yes, we cannot trust our sports official when they say anything regarding the use of the National Stadium because contrary to their statements, another major event (for which they are charging $60 entrance fee - to a condemned building) - the hosting of the Brazilian soccer team who are on their way to Beijing for the Olympic games - is going to be held there on 28 July 2008 (next Monday).

It would appear that our sports officials will kow-tow to the IOC, or whoever made the request, instead of keeping to their words. That when Ronaldinho and Robinho comes, integrity is not that important. They do not believe in the saying, "A man's word is his bond". No, not when you go gaga over a has-been and a still-to-be (heard that Real Madrid wants to offload Robinho). It isn't as if Cristiano Ronaldo is coming, for heaven's sake! Or for that matter, David Beckham. (Well, of course there still are seasoned players like Kaka, Cafu and Adriano).

Singapore sports like to live in the past, and perhaps this is THE problem after all. It hasn't gain significant honours in the past, it is constantly reminiscing about the past. Well, ok, we are going to host the YOG come 2010, but the results remain to be seen.

In the meantime, it would do well for the sport officials to regain their integrity. If they intend to do something, and say they intend to do so, then they must DO IT. If not, they should keep their mouths shut. Nobody forced them to declare a last night at the grand old sports dame that is the National Stadium.

Image source:

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Mr Freddie Kee, the father of Reuben Kee, who died while competing in last November's dragon boat competition in Cambodia, has made an important point. He, and the parents of the 4 other youth who lost their lives in the same accident, are asking a question that has so far been pushed aside perfunctorily - who was to blame for the accident? The Inquiry panel that was convened to look into the accident basically said that nobody could be blamed, that no one person or organisation can be held accountable for the accident. But now, Mr Kee is forcing the hand that would not play. In the light of the latest 'water accident', where a student from the SMU drowned, this is indeed a pertinent question, one that demands an answer, especially in the light of new information.

It appears that it was an accident that could have been avoided after all. A Singapore Dragon Boat Association's (SDBA) team manager had reportedly warned about the danger of the pontoon platform which eventually claimed the lives of the 5 rowers. But in spite of this, a judgement was made (probably within the SDBA) to discount the warning, to fatal consequences. Clearly, there is a case for the SDBA to answer. Also, it would appear that the Inquiry Panel's conclusions were defective. I do not know if they were in possession of this material fact. If they were, they will be just as culpable in hiding the truth, or at least not given it due weight in their deliberations. But the fact is that the Singapore Dragon Boat Association was in possession of such a fact. Therefore the decision not to put on life vests was an irresponsible decision.

The SDBA might not want to admit culpability by apologising. Will it be facing a civil suite in the days to come? But beyond civil suites and apologies, it now appears that the SDBA is not an organisation that puts safety above all else. This is a widely reported accident. And if the SDBA is not going to do anything to convince the public that it does put safety above all, then its popularity in the coming years will dwindle and the sport may die a natural death. Why? Because Singapore is a very kiasu society and each family doesn't have so many children to 'spare'. Why would any right-thinking parent allow his child to participate in an activity where its organisers have a poor track record on safety? What's worse, if anything bad happens, this organisation would appear to be the first to 'run away' from bearing responsibility.

So for the sake of the sport, and more so, for the sake of safety, the leaders of the SDBA should come clean about itself. Otherwise, it is time either to change the guard or disband the association.

Image source: Author: Dani Simmonds

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


'Child-free' - I heard someone say some days ago. That is said in the same spirit as 'freedom', 'liberating' and 'care-free'. It wasn't something that the couple feels that something is missing from their lives. Rather, because of being 'child-free', they can enjoy their marital bliss. Come to think of it, why get married anyway? They can plan to sail here during this long weekend, and fly there during their annual breaks in March, September and December. There is no need to worry about the child being too young to travel, or the exam periods of the older ones in March and September because they are 'free' of any child.

That's the life many couples would look forward to (again, why marry?). At the same time, they can climb the corporate ladder unhindered, to reach that earnings level that a condo and a car becomes a reality early in life. So what's there about kids that one must have one when marriage is a done thing? Why indeed? Today, sex without children, though not an exact Science, is easy. Perhaps the only reason why an ambitious couple would want kids have to do with money again - the baby bonus and tax reliefs. If that is the primary consideration, I wouldn't want these people to be my father and mother. For I will be a product conceived in cash and borned for profit. That would mean early introduction to a life of 'education' which end is to generate 'wealth' - pre-K 'education', followed by K1/K2, Primary, Secondary, JC and culminating in a good U degree. And through all these years, there'll be no lack of tuition classes, enhancement classes, etc. And all to what end? So that the child can grow up to become successul money generating machines, just as their parents are.

That's the Singapore, unfortunately, that I am witnessing today. I do not know what will become of us tomorrow. Except that amidst all these madness, I know of people who, instead of profiting from the government to bring kids into the world, would spend a lot of their hard-earned money to bring children into the world through in-vitro. There is no way to justify such expenses, in terms of dollars and cents (sense too). Its a totally losing proposition. Yet I know of parents who have done so and have run up huge debts. But they have no regrets doing so. Being 'child-free' was not an option, even if it meant financial hardships. I would rather be a child of such parents, deprivation notwithstanding.

Image source: Author: Ettore

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blame Game

I am flabbergasted. Quite obviously, Singapore mobilised whatever resource it had: the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) that involved its personnel and craft, Singapore Police Coast Guard, Republic of Singapore Navy and Raffles Marina. Yet for all these effort, the sister of Levin Angsana, Hannah, went on television to blame these same agencies for not being able to save her brother, who drowned off the seas around Raffles Marina while sailing with his team mates and friends from the SMU, where Levin was studying.

She said on Channel NewsAsia that "...More precautions (sic) could have been taken. Further, rescue measures that could have been done in time were not. The Singapore naval divers were not activated fast enough. They arrived after dark. The fact that my brother could not swim and was not wearing a life vest at the point of the accident showed safety was not a priority." This same report was also broadcast on its evening News as 9.30pm, where I first caught this incredible display of blame everyone but... 

Well, lady, tell that to your dead brother, pleeeze. Nobody was wearing a life-vest then, and nobody knew that he could not swim. And according to what I understand, her brother wasn't a rank amateur. He had reportedly obtained a Class 1 sailing licence last year, which was a requirement before he could sail. With this licence, it meant that he could "sail solo and swim for up to 50 metres in open water while wearing a life jacket". Either her sister is correct about him not being able to swim, or Levin managed to fool his assessors.

Singapore always does its best to help those in distress, whether the person is a Singaporean, Permanent Resident or Foreigner. But it isn't an all-knowing and almighty God. That our Navy divers were willing to go into pitch dark waters tells you the lengths they will go to search for and hopefully, save a person. But Hannah cannot appreciate this and literally blamed everyone except her own brother. While we sympathise with her and her family for the loss of a loved one, the rest of Singapore cannot be held accountable for his unfortunate and accidental death, even if the waters which claimed his life belonged to Singapore. I shudder to think if the waters belonged to Malaysia. Then perhaps she would vent her spiel at the Malaysian waters for swallowing up her brother and for the Royal Malaysian Police to have taken its own sweet time with the rescue effort. In any case, the Malaysians were also putting in effort in the search, so why didn't she blame them too?


Image source: Author: Dani Simmonds

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Baring Fangs

There seems to be a lot of fantastic acting going on these past few weeks. First, Hollywood released blockbuster after blockbuster to overwhelm the viewing appetite of the movie-going public. What with National Treasure 2, Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Prince Caspian...the list goes on. Coming up is Hellboy II and the widely anticipated Batman, though the Joker could be the main draw this time. This was Heath Ledger's last major starring role (as the Joker) before he committed suicide.

The other acting closer to home is the trial of Mdm Valli, or rather the Priests, Volunteers and the Novena Catholic Church. Unexpectedly, counsel for Mdm Valli, Mr RS Bajwa, has now put on the mantel of priesthood by uttering "May God forgive you", referring to Father Simon Tan, at the conclusion of his cross-examination of the same. Has Mr Baja taken holy orders? He appears to be more of an expert on exorcism than the priests, and he seems to know when one should stop talking to God, more so than the priests, when he questioned the efficacy of the prayer sessions during their attempts to help Mdm Valli.

Father Tan was understanding enough. He doesn't seem to be perturbed and merely stated that the way counsel behaved was consistent with him doing his job.

Readers would know that I have the greatest doubt and skepticism regarding the plaintive's case. I maintain that opinion. Counsel's behaviour does not help me form a more sympathetic view for the plaintive. This trial is probably going to turn more ugly before the truth comes out, if it has not already surfaced, i.e.


Image source: Author: Emily Roesly