Friday, May 29, 2009

Of the People

Yesterday in Parliament, Mr Yaacob Ibrahim, the Minister for Environment and Water Resources, in rising to answer the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Mr Inderjit Singh, referred to the MP by name and not as the Member for Ang Mo Kio GRC. In the British Parliamentary system, the system that Singapore's Parliamentary system is based on, each member in the House is addressed by the constituency he/she represents, in recognition of the fact that that is how they got into Parliament in the first place. When government ministers refer to fellow Parliamentarians by name instead of the constituents that is represented by that MP, are they forgetting the people? Do they remember them only during the Elections when the people's votes count? Mr Inderjit Singh was speaking on behalf of the people's towns, specifically the running and upkeep of these people's properties and possessions. True, some of these properties belong to the government, but isn't the government, to quote Abraham Lincoln, of the people?

When this happens, and this is not the first time MPs are calling each other in Parliament by first names, we know that Parliamentary democracy has taken a step back. All MPs in Parliament should be referred to the Member for the constituency he/she represents. They speak on behalf of his/her constituency. That is the primary role of an MP. They speak at the national level on laws and policies as a consequence of their understanding of the needs and issues of the people they serve. This is not new. Somebody some time ago raised this point and I am just raising it by way of reminder.

Nevertheless, Singapore Parliament is set for changes. So much so that the Constitution needs amending to accomodate the changes.

Chief among the changes announced is the institutionalising of Opposition seats in Parliament. 9 guaranteed seats will be set aside for non-ruling party MPs and/or NMPs. These 9 can be duly elected MPs or all 9 of them can be nominated MPs, should the party other than the ruling party lose all seats contested in a General Election. This may be a good thing, or it may not. If all 9 are NMPs, then they have no constituency to speak for. For all you know, they can speak on their pet subjects (e.g. the Arts and other civil society groups, etc.), which may not have anything to do with the bread and butter issues of the electorate. Funny, I thought there are government ministers, who are paid very handsomely in Singapore, and his Ministry who already looks after the Arts. In Singapore, that's MICA - the Ministry of Information and the Arts. It should be doing that instead of paying yet another person (the NCMP) to raise issues on the Arts.

So why do we need 'specialised' NMPs anyway? And what if the Opposition parties sweep all 9 seats, and then some? No more voices for the civil society and special interest groups? Is this a further tactic by the ruling party to limit the number of Opposition Members in Parliament? So is the latest suggested innovation in Parliamentary democracy necessarily a good thing? Of course, whether this works depends on the people's need for such 'specialist' NMPs, and their actual performance and effectiveness in Parliament. Yes, today, we have a few strong NMP voices in Parliament. They lend their voices to certain subjects. They speak frankly, but my sense is that they are not taken very seriously because when it comes down to it, they cannot vote on the things that matters. They are just toothless tigers, roaring aloud, yearning to be heard. In practice, their effectiveness is limited. One can talk, but when you are in no position to execute, to put action to words, it isn't must use, is it. MPs that are elected by the people are those who truly matter in Parliament.

The problem in Singapore is that, even with upwards of 70 MPs, we still see the need for NCMPs, and 9 at that. What a waste of money and resources. What a failure of the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Swine Cometh

Well, finally, the virus, now known the world over, as Influenza A (H1N1), aka Swine Flu, has made landfall on the shores of Singapore island on the 26th May 2009.

Yes, it was a sooner or later thing when our island's neighbours, Thailand and Malaysia, received their unwelcome aliens in the last 2 weeks.

And is it any surprise that it came via a women who returned from the US of A? That was the route it came by for both Thailand and Malaysia. I just hope that there won't be panic all around, though I suspect that 'Temperature Taking' season will now definitely come back.

Fortunately, public schools are taking a break from next week, otherwise the spread of the flu among the Singapore populace should take on pandemic proportions, if that viral swine were to get out into the open. Can we be comforted that this time around, available anti-viral drugs have been found to be effective in combating this virus, and that Singapore has stocked up plenty of them for occasions such as this? After all, the number of fatalities against infection is in the low low low 0.00749% - 12,950 cases, 97 deaths as of 26th May 2009.

Stay calm, Singapore.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Chairwoman

Singaporeans should be shameful for the way it treats its 'foreign talent' in sports. All its major sports - soccer, swimming and until recently, table-tennis, are coached by foreigners. Yet in a year when Singapore has achieved most in the sports arena - Olympic silver medals, 5th place finish in the Beijing Olympics, 1st place in the Paralympics swimming, it couldn't find a coach who had stood out. I don't know what yardstick is being used, but it appears that this yardstick is a tad too long for anyone to measure up to.

It can be argued, very strongly, that the coach of the year (COY) award should have gone to the coaches of sportsman/sportswoman who did Singapore proud in the Olympics, indisputably the most prestigious and the toughest sports arena in the world. Yet all of them have been found wanting. If so, why don't we just sack all of them and find more worthy people to fill their shoes. After all, Singapore taxpayers' money is being used to fund sports in Singapore. Singapore taxpayers have a right to ask why we are using sub-standard coaches to drive excellence in Singapore sports.

But the most shameful thing is that an aggrieved coach, Mr Liu Guodong, is in town to seek an apology from Mdm Lee Bee Wah, President of the STTA, for allegedly slighting him in remarks explaining why he wasn't nominated for the COY award. This in spite of the fact that he coached Singapore's Olympic Table-Tennis team to silver medals - the first in 48 years. Yet, in the first meeting, she reportedly didn't turn up. Some officials appeared instead. I don't know what was said in that meeting, and whether the discussion was useful, but it does look to me as if the STTA is acting like the Communist Part of China -that 'Chairwoman' Lee BW deigns it beneath her to meet with a 'discredited' coach. Liu flew in to Singapore to LBW's doorstep. The least she could have done was to meet him, if only for old times' sake? Well, I shouldn't drag China into this, but Mr Liu is from China , after all. And for the Chinese, 'face' is important, and credibility is important in any leader, as our top political leaders in the PAP have stressed and demonstrated countless times since the country's independence.

So I am not surprised at Mr Liu's incredible quest (I hope it is not an impossible quest) to clear his name. It is now up to Chairwoman Lee to show that she is deserving of everyone's respect and support, from all sportsmen/women and coaches down to the taxpaying public, by facing Mr Liu and explaining herself, and/or otherwise, apologise PERSONALLY.

Personally, I think she and her management team in the STTA should step down for bringing disrepute to the Table-tennis fraternity in Singapore and diminishing the achievements of the silver-medal winning Olympic team by refusing to nominate their coach for the COY award. A wrong step here and she may even cost the PAP a GRC, eventually. For a fresh politician, nothing is worse than becoming unpopular for the wrong reasons.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Swine fugitive

Singapore has this slippery relationship with Mas Selamat Kastari. He is a Singapore citizen and yet he wants to wreck Singapore and possibly Singaporeans who are 'suey' enough to be near his targets of destruction. We can understand when a foreigner wants to do that, but a local boy? What has he against Singapore, the land which he adopted from young, albeit it being the choice of his parents? If he hates Singapore that much, why doesn't he remove his entire family to Indonesia, or Malaysia, and let the rest of us get on with our lives instead of having to look over our shoulders all the time and providing him free food and lodging when he is in town, albeit shorn of freedom.

That is why Singapore heaved a collective sigh of relief when news broke that he has been caught by the Malaysia Special Branch in Johore, very near the birth place of his radicalisation. He was reportedly arrested on April 1, 2009. For a moment there, an April Fool's joke flashed across my mind, but I thought it is probably too serious a matter to fool around with. At least, Mr Wong KS and his entire ISD's reputation is at stake. So while we haven't really seen his face since his capture was announced, we believe that he is in police custody. Where exactly he is now held we have the faintest idea. Whether he will be returned to Singapore eventually is not even a foregone conclusion. Actually, a couple of days ago, I had hoped that Influenza A H1N1 would do us the courtesy of infecting him and thus flushing him out. Well, the police beat the swine to it.

You can't always get what you wish for.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Silvery tongue

To its credit, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has come out to state, officially and unequivocally, that the instructor guide used in the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme run by AWARE are "explicit and inappropriate, and convey messages which could promote homosexuality or suggest approval of pre-marital sex." (See Today, 7 May 2009, page 1 and Voices section, page 30; Business Times, 7 May 2009, page 3 - "MOE suspends AWARE 's sex education programme")

This vindicates the former AWARE committee's stance that AWARE has lost its direction. Indeed, it appears that AWARE's agenda has been hijacked by liberal elements, either from within or outside, that is pushing their views and preferences regardless of what the rest of Singapore society believes in or prefers. This insidious approach is worse than one where a particular religion is identified and accused of pushing its religious agenda. At least we know where they are coming from even if we may not agree entirely with them. By painting itself as non-religious and non-judgmental, the homosexual 'religious' faction has hoodwinked some, nay, many, naive women (and some men too) in AWARE into adopting, if not applauding, such liberal ideas and perverted practices (e.g. "Anal sex can be healthy, homosexuality is perfectly normal...").

Yes, more than a thousand women voted for the old AWARE guard, but I wonder among these group of people, how many are AWARE of AWARE's practices, particularly with respect to the CSE programme. I, for one,just got to know about it only in the last few weeks. If they are, do they approve? If they approve, will they let their children be schooled in this homosexual 'religion'? Is AWARE now a hotbed of homosexuals and homosexual sympathisers? If AWARE's CSE programme is neutral in its message about sexuality and choice, does the CSE give equal voice and emphasis to sexual abstinence as a choice, as Ms Charlotte Wong, former VP of the ousted AWARE committee has rightly questioned? And even if the CSE seeks to present a balanced view, as the old guard has always claimed, what has it put in place that will ensure that its trainers do not push their own preferences and biases in the classroom?

Josie Lau and her supporters may have lost within the confines of the Suntec City Convention Centre room by the 'ballot box', but it would appear that outside it, there is a significant number of people who are questioning the very practices that moved Ms Lau and her band to attempt to reform AWARE. Today reports that there are 7,000 signatures, so far, from people who have expressed concerns about AWARE's CSE. So before the old AWARE celebrate its 'victory' last Saturday (2 May 2009) for much longer, it must take stock of itself. Its President, Ms Dana Lam said that AWARE "will be open to seeing what has to be done" in response to the MOE ban, but in the same breadth, she said that AWARE will "stand by the programme. After all, we've been running it for almost 2 years."

I am worried. Can we ever trust what AWARE says now? Where along the way has it lost its integrity?

A critique of the secret CSE Manual: - Thank you, Mr Alan S.L. Wong for the link.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


The die has been recast, and the new has become the old and the old the new. AWARE members, many of whom just joined, voted collectively that they want the old AWARE back. The former new have bowed to the will of the majority who voted. Hopefully, we will see the end of this saga which has gripped the nation, young and old, male and female. It was perhaps a good distraction from the constant flow of bad news about the economy. Perhaps it is also timely because we now have to face a potentially deadly enemy - the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, which Singapore is trying its hardest to deny entry to our shores.

Unfortunately, there are hints of the continuing feud amid the threat of a lawsuite, as if the threat against people's lives earlier is not enough. I applaud the new old AWARE committee members, who were brave enough to take up a cause they believed in. Nobody can take that away from them. One may disagree vehemently with their way of going about the whole thing, but through it all, I think they succeeded in drawing much attention to the issue of homosexuality education in Singapore schools. The MOE is looking into this. They may find nothing wrong with AWARE's programme (why would they want to be found with pies on their faces?), but these programmes will face greater scrutiny now from the public, not only from Christians, but from the conservatives among us. And these include Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and even the religiously non-committed, especially those with school-going kids. No one can ever be neutral on this matter.

Thank you for hearing me

I am honoured that a reader has nominated this blog for the Singapore Blog Awards. However, I wish to decline for personal reasons.

I wish those who are nominated similarly the best and may the best weblogs/bloggers win!


quote message:

Dear blogger,

You have been nominated by (name withheld) to join the Singapore Blog Awards, because (name withheld) thinks that your blog is loud and clear.

The Singapore Blog Awards, organised by Singapore's leading bilingual news and entertainment portal,, gives recognitions to outstanding blogs in Singapore.

The winners in the 10 main award categories will walk away with a total of more than S$ 20,000 worth of prizes and a trophy designed by famous artist, Tan Swie Hian.

Please accept the nomination by completing the registration form.

We look forward to your participation to make this event a success for the Singapore blogosphere.

The Singapore Blog Awards is sponsored by East Asia Institute of Management (EASB), United International Pictures (UIP), National Heritage Board (NHB), Koka, Asia Web Direct, Play Smart Pte Ltd and HTC.

Supporting media: Avertlets,


Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Other Page

The AWARE saga has been a long-running one, often characterised, not by women against women, but by sex against sex. For some, it is secularists against Christianity, although there are people of other religions who are just as concerned by the issues - specifically, homosexuality, raised by this group of Christians who now form the core committee of AWARE.

For more than 4 weeks (the whole thing started on 28 March 2009), the issues and personalities have hee'd-and-haw'd. The wounded party - the old guard raising the most voice, if only because the new guard has been inexplicably silent most of the time. This has given occasion for diverse parties to cast aspersions on the valiant new guard who were willing to take action according to their convictions. Even the government has weighed in, warning off would-be religionists (aka Christians) mixing religion with politics.

The wonder of it all is that the voice of the majority has been deafeningly silent. Take a poll and you would probably find that more people in Singapore are against homosexual practices, yet it is the supporters of homosexuality, the old guard of AWARE, for example, that seem to be speaking for the majority. Yes, perhaps people are offended by the way the new guard 'took over' AWARE. If it hasn't been noticed, it was done democratically, according to the rules that the State (the ROC /ACRA ) stipulates, cuts no ice. I can understand. When a rug is pulled under you, you wouldn't stretch out a hand to the 'pullees'. The press hasn't helped either. It is repeatedly using emotive words like 'takeover', "a coup", 'militants', ad-nauseam.

Now religious figures have appeared too, in spite of the point made repeatedly for religions to stay out. But well, I suppose some people think that religion is important in the whole scheme of things. But of course, religious figures are trying to moderate the fight, but in doing so, I wonder if they are not taking a stand themselves?

For me, I don't even have to bring religion into this whole thing in order to express an opinion. Homosexuality is wrong, period. Many people seem to have forgotten how AIDS came about. AIDS is still with us, and it is still incurable, and it is still transmitted via unsafe and unnatural sex practices. Now I believe that any behaviour that puts at risk another's life is wrong, just as you would haul a person to court for trafficking in narcotics. Singapore law even mandates the dead penalty for such people. You may agree or disagree with the death penalty, but in Singapore, it would appear that more rather than less agree with it. And it does seem to be the case that more disagree with homosexuality than those that do, at least in Singapore.

So why are we lambasting those ladies who have the courage of their convictions?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Deja Vu

The thermometers that the government issued to me came out of the office drawers last Thursday, the last day of March 2009 where it has languished for over 5 years. Yeah, that tells you how often I clean out my office drawers. Who was it that Shakespeare caused to say, "Beware, the ides of March?" This time, it may be 45 days late, but I was still apprehensive. Its a digital thermometer, stupid, and I wondered if it worked any more - the battery, i.e. At these times, you see the virtue of alcohol or mercury thermometers. These would still do their magic even if you have left them in the drawer for 10 years or more.

I pressed the button and a beep sounded. is alive! And I took my temperature - 36.7 celsius. That's good. I wasn't running a fever, so that meant that I wouldn't be escorted off the office premises. All these bring back memories, 6 years ago, to be exact, when the SARs virus caused so much consternation and fear, yes, fear. This time around, we knew exactly what to do. No need to refer to office manuals nor have office briefings. Just say the word, which the authorities, from the government down to the private enterprise, and we went about our temperature taking and recording like second nature. Perhaps this is one of those things that will characterise the first decade of the 21st Century - the terror of killer viruses (besides the terror wreaked by Islamist terrorist). Or perhaps it can just be shortened to terror, which is ironic.

The first decade of the 21st Century has been relatively peaceful. There have not been wars between nations (Iraq and Afghanistan do not count), as in the 20th Century, yet we live in times where we have had to guard ourselves and our nations from unseen enemies, who will strike willy and nilly, bringing down the weak and the strong, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, suddenly and indiscriminately. So also this Swine Fever (somehow its easier to say that Influenza A (H1N1)). It has brought down more than 170 people in Mexico, where it reportedly originated, as well as a 2-month old Mexican child in the US. Thus far, Singapore is still H1N1-free, but we wonder for how long. So you can't blame people for raiding the stores for those masks, which is now scarcely available.

How long will this last? It is anyone's guess. Until the vaccine comes along in half a year's time? Perhaps. But then, we are reminded that there are large quantities of stockpiled Tamiflu in Singapore, which has proven effective against this virus. Maybe that, and the fact that we have gone through this before, has given us a quiet confidence that we will lick this sucker in time. Err...wrong use of word, let me rephrase. We will stamp out this virus if and when it appears amongst us, make no mistake about it. But of course, the priority is to prevent this sucker from stepping onto our shores.