Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Significant Damage To Readers' Trust

Leading Japanese daily, the Asahi Shimbun, has been forced into a series of embarrassing admissions over errors it published on the country’s Fukushima nuclear disaster and the use of sex slaves by Japanese troops during the Second World War. Asahi's president, Tadakazu Kimura, said that an internal investigation had found the Fukushima article to be incorrect. “We have caused significant damage to the trust our readers place in us,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. The revelations are set to send shock-waves, with dismissal of staff and reprimands promised by executive editor Nobuyuki Sugiura in the aftermath of the scandal. But Singapore is not Japan.

It was the Straits Times who first quoted Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Azura Mokhtar as saying Yang Yin “is one of several [grassroots] leaders in Ang Mo Kio GRC helping foreigners integrate into society.” She quixotically added that Yang Yin “doesn’t hold a position” in the grassroots organisation. To make sense out of nonsense, the holder of a string of university degrees explained that she had described him as such because she considers all grassroots volunteers as “grassroots leaders.”

Then the paper quoted the People's Association as having confirmed that he had been a member of the neighbourhood committee since July 5 last year but resigned on Sept 8 this year. More confusing, on its volition, it chivalrously apologised for an error in reporting. Whether the error is about Yang Yin having held a position, having sent his resignation, or Intan's inability to discern volunteers from leaders, we are none the wiser.

It was the prime minister who first cast negative aspersions when he told student at a forum, "Do you (really) believe everything you read in the Straits Times?" But the perm sec who was made CEO of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) need not worry about his day job, so long as he remembers the old man's birthday. Chan was once described as "a Rafflesian who has crossed many boundaries" - Principal Private Secretary for LKY, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communications & IT and the Ministry of Transport - all of which had nothing to do with journalism.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Very Own Zapruder Clip

November 22 is just round the corner, boon time for "Who Killed JKF" fans to rehash conspiracy theories. Vincent Bugliosi's 1,632 page "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F Kennedy" is the definitive volume to consult. Especially the details about the 26.6 second Zapruder film sequence shot by private citizen Abraham Zapruder with a home-movie camera. We have a grassy knoll too, ours is at the Hong Lim Green.

The Zapruder clip was an important part of the Warren Commission hearings and all subsequent investigations of the assassination, and is one of the most studied pieces of film in history. The 68 seconds captured on Saturday 27 may earn its place in our own history, it also deserves close scrutiny.

0:00/1:08: There's no time stamp, so we don't know when the march actually started but the EXIF metadata should still be available, embedded in the original video file. The gem of an idea for the walkabout must be traceable to one man's boast from the past, "People support CPF cuts because there are no protest (sic) outside parliament."

0:09/1:08: The marchers stop in front of an empty stage. Only one female is sighted, and she does not look, or move, like a Special Needs Child (SNC). A break in the event program begging to be filled.

0:20/1.08: This is the crucial start of the "heckle" video. The patriotic flag waving and the boisterous chant of "Return our CPF" dominate, and builds to a crescendo.

0:28/1.08: Watch the yellow T-shirt guy hustling the SNCs on stage, and exposing the vulnerable kids to the gathered crowd. He could have done better, choose instead to keep them off stage until the marchers have moved on, and save the SNCs from the NAR-rated spectacle. But E.Q. was never their strong point. Then again, he could have been performing to script. Nope, the cute baby can't be the traumatised kid Teo Ser Luck told the Straits Times about.

0:41/1:08: The SNCs get into the swing of their dance routine. Note the John Travolta wannabe waving his arms like it was Saturday Night Fever. His dance partner is jiving away happily, trying to keep pace with his vigorous lead. Still no sign of the traumatised kid. MP Teo really lucked out this time, he should be made to take a polygraph test. Maybe he was the kid who needed to be consoled, after one white haired senior citizen sat down next to him on the lawn, and gave him some fatherly advice, "limpeh kah loo kong, hor....."

0:57/1:08: This is it, this must be the epiphany. Suddenly all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Why the YMCA event was rescheduled to start later (from 10am to 4pm). Why the NParks director insisted the protest be limited to an obscure corner (the "grassy knoll"). Why the nameless mata-mata made a veiled threat about maintaining the peace. Why the YMCA Master of Ceremonies urged his supporters to taunt, "We love our CPF" - Yang Yin's "Come on, money, I love you" (来吧,钱,我爱你!) would not be out of place here. Why the SNCs are fronted on stage as Human Shields. That's when the marchers wisely moved on, before the rubber bullets are let fly and tear gas canisters lobbed.

Do we really care who shot JFK? Not really, all we are looking forward to is just desserts for Yang Yin and his foreign talent kind. And a good explanation why the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is now turning on an 87 year old Singaporean and acting in favour of the tour guide from China. Why question Madam Chung's mental capacity to revoke the Lasting Power of Attorney? But that's another conspiracy theory in the making.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Suffer The Little Children

Don't mix up Hong Lim with Hong Kong
Right on cue, the mute button was toggled off. Politicians who stood idly by and played dumb for weeks while a 87 year old pioneer generation member was in grave danger of being robbed and pillaged by a foreign intruder were suddenly jostling to leap into a feeding frenzy. Note the common thread in the cacophony of protestations:

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin:
"I am appalled. We now heckle special needs children? Vile. Total and absolute disgrace."
Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing:
"To cause alarm and distress to special needs children, and disrupting their routine cannot be right no matter how righteous you think your own cause may be. "
MP Janil Puthucheary:
"No excuse for bad behaviour, but especially not directed at kids."
MP Zaqy Mohamad: 
"A pity that special needs children were heckled by protesters at event by YMCA at Hong Lim Park."
MP Ang Wei Neng:
"There was no good reason for the bloggers to heckle children with special needs and hurl vulgarities."
MP Denise Phua:
"I heard while the kids were not physically harmed, many were alarmed, confused and disturbed by the unexpected unruly turn of events."
MP Tin Pei Ling:
“What have these special needs children done to deserve being heckled down?”

You know brains have left the building when "Return our CPF" is construed as a phrase to "heckle" special needs children - unless the folks withholding our CPF are certified retards in the medical sense. Why did MP Teo Ser Luck, supposedly a "fixture" at the YMCA event (or NParks director Chia Seng Jiang who set the stage for a potent mix), insert the vulnerable kids into a crossfire of political ploy? A bit of history is enlightening:
"At about 10.35 pm that first evening (circa 1955), a mob had attacked a police patrol car with a British police lieutenant in charge, hurling bottles and stones as they closed in for the kill...
He was not aiming at the crowd, he said, but one shot appeared to have hit a Chinese student of about 17. Instead of taking him straight to hospital, however, the other students put him on a lorry and paraded him around the town for three hours, so that by the time he was brought there he was dead from a wound in the lung. Had he been taken to hospital directly, he might have been saved. But what was one life if another martyr could stoke up the fire of revolution?" ("The Singapore Story", page 203)

It is doubtful that any grassroots leader, however rabid his card-carrying convictions, is prepared to be martyred and paraded around Hong Lim Green. The collateral damage will have to be borne by somebody else. History will revisit this episode and determine if the YMCA is just another gullible partisan NGO.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Who Do You Trust?

This video is a fascinating documentation of how our vaunted Home Team members earn their pay. Firstly, they seem to like to go about their task incognito. They are obviously not proud of their smart tailored uniforms - recall the officer at Little India who was dressed down for showing up on duty without proper police attire. More revealing, their "warrant card" is just a mugshot, with no embossed name or identification number. Yang Yin will have a field day posing as a bogus officer. Even his name card provides more details, director of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (fake), graduate of University of Financial and Trade Beijing China (fake), director of Young Music & Dance Studio Pte Ltd (2 employee company?), etc.

And then there's this ominous drone of a threat by NParks director Chia Seng Jiang to "take down your particulars", repeated ad finitum in the close encounter with the boys in mufti. Obedient Singaporeans usually produce their NRIC or driver's licence upon polite request; not some cheap printed name card like the one flashed by Yang Yin.

The article in TIME magazine ("Who Do You Trust", 6 Oct 2014) says police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, now wear a body camera after the unfortunate shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. The intention was to increase transparency of encounters with the public, and with it, earn trust in the police reaction. A study in the Los Angeles suburb of Rialto found that the camera significantly reduced  the incidence of  police  violence and the number of brutality complaints. Singapore Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee also asked for body cameras in the wake of the Little India riot, but whether he shares the same aim of transparency is hard to fathom.

Interestingly, police are not the only ones suitably geared. Some Ferguson residents are now wearing a camera provided by We Copwatch, a group that raised US$6,000 on the Internet to provide them with cameras of their own. "If Ferguson police are going to video tape us, we're going to video tape them right back," said citizen Whitt, who posted his first contribution to YouTube.

Your smartphone has a built-in digital camera. Don't leave home without it, when you set out for a nice stroll in Hong Lim Park. Or any street in Singapore for that matter.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Plot Thickens

One can appreciate the number of foreign construction workers needed in the country, and we are grateful to each and everyone of them for scaling the dizzying heights of tower cranes and scaffoldings to build our new landscape. Why the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority of Singapore (ICA) allowed so  many non-construction sector foreigners to come in is the question begging to be answered.

The resident total fertility rate (TFR) fell to 1.19 in 2013 from 1.29 in 2012. The number of foreigners taking up employment here is still growing at nearly 3 times the total population growth rate, which expanded 1.3 per cent to 5.47 million as of June. That total population figure includes 20,000 new citizenships and 30,000 new permanent residencies (PRs) which the government continues to grant each year, despite the token measures and empty promises to reduce the foreign intake. All the numbers point toward the demise of the Singapore born and bred, destined to go the way of the dodo bird.

It was worst in 2011-12, when foreign employment growth was as high as 8.1 per cent. Those were the wild and woolly days when a tour guide with dubious credentials could easily sneak past the lax ICA.

Don't shoot me, I'm just a
$16,000/month letter writer
Member of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar has now ponied up and admitted that, yes, she did write a letter of appeal on behalf of Yang Yin to the ICA. She downplayed her contribution to the perfidy that is alleged to have robbed an old woman of as much as $10 million in missing treasures. She must have written so many such letters for people she scarcely knows. Or so she claims.

Intan emphasised that she wrote the letter of support regarding Yang Yin's application for permanent residency (PR) at the behest of Madam Chung Khin Chun: "She first came to see me and sought my help in May 2011... for her grandson."

The ICA also emphasised that: "Individuals who provide false information in their applications for immigration facilities will be dealt with firmly under the law. In addition, they will have their immigration facilities cancelled or revoked.” What the ICA did not say is how members of parliament who provide false information in their petition letters will be dealt with.