Monday, April 23, 2012

The Island that was

It is a sad day for Singapore.

The celebrated "Singapore works" moniker is in danger of extinction. The erstwhile 'it just works' island is now an unreliable place to be, transport wise. How did we ever descend into this?

Commuters are so spooked that they pray and cross their fingers they will get to the office on time every morning. And students taking exams are now caught up in this worrisome phenomenon - of trains breaking down for hours. Come to think of it - Singapore students of one type or another are taking exams and tests throughout most of the year, except perhaps in June and December. I am beyond that, but I have children who may face this previously unthinkable prospect. If you are late, it is because you are late. Don't blame the bus or the train. You should have set off earlier to allow for heavy traffic. That's what we get told anyway.

Now, we can definitely say it was the train that was late. What can you do when you are stuck in a subterranean tunnel somewhere on the island for an extended period of time? There is really nowhere to go, nothing to do except wait for help. And given the mess that is likely taking place above ground, you can hunker down and wait, and wait and ....until the oxygen runs out or someone smashes the door with a fire extinguisher.

But we have become complacent, even arrogant in our perceived resiliency. We have gotten drunk on the praise that the international community has lavished on us for years that we have begun to believe in our own invincibility. Well, schools are going to have to craft out a new set of rules that govern these exceptions that are likely to occur to students taking exams. Our exam standards and processes will now get to a higher level. Yeah, you bet.

As the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on transport proceeds, we are hearing of lapses that reddens the face, and not least those earning millions whose job was to put in place people and processes precisely to prevent, and manage disasters. But no, the here and now matters more. The stockholders' interest is primary. If you can't cut cost and grow profit, you're just not good enough a CEO. You need to get one person to do two persons' job. That's promoting productivity. Isn't that what the government is advocating, nay, droning on and on these days?

The customer who? Oh those rats in the tunnels and holes. Well, consider themselves lucky that we charge them so little to zip from one hole in the ground to another, those vermins. For us, that Porshe is just fine.

City Hall, we have a problem here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hold the money

Listen up, the identity of the whore who set up 44 men, and counting in sleepless Singapore is...

Cannot tell or I will be fined S$5,000. Serious.

I'd rather save it and pay the teenage whore that money...

Hey, last I heard, she is older than 18 now. That means a visit to her bordello wouldn't get you hauled up to Court. Now you don't need to squat in jail after squatting on... Its open season if her identity is revealed.

When you think of tainting (ahem) the witness, you'd understand why the Prosecutors and the Judge find it a horrifying prospect to reveal her identity in public at this time. Thus the gag order even for the public, I suppose.  Bad news travel fast. Bad and dirty news even faster.

There are many in Singapore who are still sleepless.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Face it, PM

It's nothing new, really. Since Mr George Yeo went a blogging some YEARS ago, the trend for other government-types to go online was inevitable. For those who have read George Yeo's blog, it was, well, rather officious. It adopted the civil service style of writing - para 1, para 2, para 3...But it caught netizens' attention, nevertheless. The blogging Minister.

Now no less than Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, has taken to fronting his own FB page. That's great, though he is late to the game. Nevertheless, within a day (or less), his FB page has garnered more than 20,000 likes, though I don't know what there is about it to like at this point in time. Even the Wall Street Journal has seen fit to publish the event. I suppose power attracts, or you just want to be seen hobnobbing with the rich, the powerful, the famous/infamous and the politicians. PM Lee fits all of these descriptors so it is no wonder the overwhelming strength of the magnet of the man. As an aside, George Yeo's Facebook likes lead PM Lee's by a wide berth. But this is to be expected. George has had a head start.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about whether he's had his dinner, but apparently many in Singapore have no other past time than to kay-poh and boast to one and all about when he/she learnt that LHL has had his dinner. Now don't get me wrong. I am not belittling anyone, not least the PM. He has done himself a favour by engaging his stakeholders on the universe's most significant media. Not through a group of admins who purport to speak on his behalf.

But, and this seems never too far away - the perceived threat of action against detractors and abusers of LHL's FB page. No, the law of the internet does not apply. Singapore's Laws do. Just read the House Rules on his FB page, reproduced below for your convenience.

I don't think those were LHL's words. Perhaps his lawyer's, or some smarts in the PMO. But you will agree with me that those words sound ominous.

Yes, Prime Minister! No dirty or abusive words. Otherwise...

OK, we get it.

Somehow these words just take away some of the personal feel of the page. I doubt any netizen puts up those kind of rules. It is live and let live on the internet. You want to join in, then you have to be prepared for the occasional abuse. I have been abused before, and called all manner of the most un-nice things when I took a position that basically agreed with the government's stand. You don't really have to send your lawyers after them. There is a certain intelligence of the crowd, or rather decency of the crowd. On balance, we look after each other. We will wack down anyone who is abusive, unfair, unreasonable and downright abnoxious, no expensive lawyers needed. You just have to trust the crowd, Prime Minister. Look at George. No threats. No House Rules. And he is doing just fine.

Welcome to the Wild Wild Web.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sleepless in Singapore

What do 44 men have to do with an under-aged (i.e. less than 18 years old) girl? Well, they bought themselves sex with this girl. This in itself is unremarkable. It happens everywhere, every time. legally or illegally, consensual or otherwise. After all, they say that it is world's oldest profession, and by that, the world's oldest business. So what if 44 men had paid for sex? It happened. It will continue to happen. Of course, as they say, if you want to engage in such activities, just remember not to get caught. These 44 were caught. There were reportedly as many as 60 involved in the investigations. Well, those got away. But 44 is perhaps enough to divert the attention of Singaporeans away from the woes of high property prices, stratosgpherically high cost of Certificate of Entitlement (COEs) and unrelenting breakdowns in the rail system. We do need some diversion from bad news. While reading of 44 people being charged in court for illicit sex can be a yawn for some, it may be sweet relief for others, not least the people in charge of housing and transport in Singapore. Here's a breather for them.

But seriously, one wonders if men in Singapore are so sex deprived. I can understand this of workers who toil and sweat by day in a foreign land (or for that matter, even the locals), and live rather sedate and lonely lives in their dorms at night. Its one of those natural urges that cries out for satisfaction and fulfillment one way or another. But a school principle, a naval officer, a senior lawyer, a senior civil servant, a senior banker and a businessman among them? Can't get no satisfaction at home? What are the women doing, or more particularly, not doing to keep their men from straying? When money becomes a commodity for these high income earners, there is nothing else, I suppose that satisfies a man's ego. Or is it just ego, for after all, it's underage girls you know. But I suppose some may suppose that such girls carry less risk of transmission of sex diseases. They are young after all? But we now know, and the 44 also should know, that the girl wasn't a virginal damsel. They were probably passing any and every dirt among themselves, no thanks to the messenger of a damsel.

Having said all these, the question still arises - the case against the 43 hasn't been proved yet, save one - the remorseful (I suppose) principal who continues to spout Confucianism and moral verses to assuage his soul, by self confession. But as their lawyer, Mr Subhas Anandan asked, who is the girl? How old is she actually? This girl that the 43 men allegedly paid a couple of hundred dollars for an hour or so of bliss? Common justice demands that her identity be revealed, for she was as much, if not more, culpable in the whole affair. Why protect the messenger at the expense of the messengees? But I suppose the prosecutors have their reasons. Whatever these may be, the girl must be produced at some point in time, and I expect no less than rotten carrots and eggs to fly her way.

Truly, where sex is involved, few are spared. But more so, we just aren't interested in propagating ourselves the right way any more.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

That Brown Mount

Bukit Brown - a cause célèbre among civil society and special interest groups nowadays. All these over a cemetery that nobody cared about, much less heard of, before the Singapore government announced its intent on building an expressway through this piece of land. True to character, the government is planning ahead and it deemed the exhumation of graves, some dating back a hundred years, small sacrifice for the here and now, and probably for the future too. After all, they have done it before. The Bidadari Cemetery along Upper Aljunied Road was removed to make way for the then new Woodleigh MRT station. Much of the land above ground has yet to be redeveloped, which has proved to be a boon to the living. It has become a favourite jogging place for the health conscious exercise enthusiasts. What's not to like about clean clear spaces in an otherwise congested city?

The government is doing this, amidst strong dissenting voices from mainly environmental and civil society groups, for the motorists, which is becoming associated with the rich and the pretenders in this country. With a new small car costing no less than S$80,000, it's become a luxury (again) to own a car. That is the rub. Why must our heritage be destroyed just so the rich blokes (yeah, that's what you are when you own a car on this island) can zip around unimpeded, that they can go from point A to point B in a quarter of the time that we poorer public commuters have to spend doing the same? But of course it is impossible to restrict car ownership any further in an increasingly unequal society that is Singapore today. You'd be asking for a revolt at some point in time, likely through the ballot box. Unlike Hong Kongers,  Singaporeans who gather without a permit, except in designated places, face arrest. So nowadays, they congregate online to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, these voices are a mixed bag. Some are rational, considered, some vociferous, others are rude and abusive, yet others hawk semi-truths and parrot others without verifying the veracity of what they are repeating. This isn't doing their cause any good because the powers that be will treat them as such - noise of the rabble-rousers.

Of course, there are those who are sincere and wish to engage the government. I think the authorities have accommodated these views with a re-design of the new expressway, but not a cancellation of their original intent to build that road. You can't please everyone. Some are still smarting from feeling that they have been run over by a government bulldozer, unhappy that they didn't get what they want. Uncharacteristically, the government has reflected on the episode and admitted that it could have done better to manage expectations. I began with disapproving the building of the expressway. After all the debates, I still think that it shouldn't be built, not for the sake of preserving our history and heritage, but because the plan smacks of elitism. Why spend millions of dollars building something that I am not ever likely to use since I don't drive? The taxi you say? That's also becoming a luxury. If anything, nowadays I pop down a hole at one part of the island and emerge from another hole somewhere else, much like a gopher, then take a short bus ride or walk the rest of the way to my destination. Why do we need new expressway bridges anyway? But I can also see that more land will be freed up for the living. I only hope that these added land will not be for the benefit of the rich only. Sadly I am not optimistic about this.