Friday, September 30, 2011

The Trouble With Doctors

Sheesh, it is not the kind of report that inspires confidence in our medical system. All foreign doctors are supposed to be assessed in English by a panel for their clinical competence. Additionally, doctors from China have to pass two English tests, one for clinical and one for language proficiency. The type of doctors who were cleared to practise in our hospitals:

Clinical proficient-
Dr Li Wei Shan saw patients with dengue fever for the first time in his life here at Singapore General Hospital, presumably nobody has mosquito bites in China. He is obviously not one of those Long March veterans who trekked through eleven provinces, over raging rivers and snow-capped mountain ranges, through insect-infested swamps and forests. The 30-year old from Peking First University had to bone up on more then dengue: "I bought textbooks to find out more about local diseases."

Language proficient -
Dr Feng Jue-fei (Tan Tock Seng Hospital) thought his patient wanted to know why the surgical procedure was necessary, when the articulated request was to see the senior doctor in charge. Says he, "In China, the working language is Chinese. Here, we have to learn how to write medical records in English; how to present cases in English; how to update the family in English. It's a little bit difficult, I think." Oh, we get it, his application work to in Singapore was probably written by an English proficient agent. Feng is among the first batch of 23 doctors recruited from China.

A Ministry of Health said its first priority in increasing manpower supply is to attract overseas trained Singaporean doctors to practise here, implying that those who have left will need some persuasive effort to come home.

In his National Day Rally 2011 speech, PM Lee revealed that in the medical school here at NUS, only 300 places for medical students are allocated, when there are 2,000 students applying to study medicine. "All of them have outstanding results: three As, four As, CCA, secondment, internship, all sorts, whatever is necessary to improve their chances, they have done it," Lee said. Thanks to his crafting of Government policy, these proficient candidates have to pursue their dreams offshore, biting off a huge chunk of their parents' life savings, and sacrificing family ties for an extended separation. Gratitude for a nation that turfed them out must figure significantly in their minds.

The data released by the National Population and Talent Division missed out on one important set of figures. The number of Singaporeans leaving the country, hoping never to have to return. Some folks who sold off their property to finance their children's tertiary education abroad may have done their own astute forward planning. Once their kids enter the workforce in a overseas country, there is the likelihood of being sponsored over for a Green Card or equivalent. It's a long bet, but the odds have to be better than that at Marina Bay Sands, or with the policy and politics entrenched by current regime.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Drawing The Line For Decency

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) objected to the Abercrombie & Fitch's (A&F) advertisement at Knightsbridge mall, a larger than life size pictorial of a man's nude torso with his hands tugging at his low-slung jeans. Chairman Tan said, "The general consensus was that the portrayal of the human anatomy had crossed the path of decency because the navel line was very much exposed."

The huge ad covering the entire window of its new store has been in place since April. A&F obviously took maximum advantage of the election fever to sneak in the suggestive picture. The brand name that enthralled the electorate then was Kate Spade. They could have used some of their more explicit illustrations and still not raise an eyebrow. Following 7 May, Singaporeans had to contend with another election, this time trying to tell one Tan (as in the surname, not being bronzed under the sun) from another. Finally, after the ebb of all the excitement, someone noticed the guy with his plumbing equipment threatening to hang out for all of Orchard Road to gawk at.

Apparently the A&F ad was put up by the brand itself, and no local ad agency or production house was involved - or made any money from it. Smart move. It also meant ASAS is rendered impotent to take any action since the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice governing decency applies only to local ad agencies. As a foreigner, it would appear A&F is free to push the envelope with its racy marketing photography by Bruce Weber, characterised by grayscale images and features outdoor settings, usually with semi-nude males and females.

ASAS is now looking for help from the government to remove the ad. Media and entertainment lawyer Seow said only government agencies such as the Media Development Authority (MDA), with the authority vested by the Undesirable Publications Act, are allowed to remove it if it finds that the photographic image exploits human nudity. Chapter 338 draws the line for indecency:
Meaning of obscene
3. For the purposes of this Act, a publication is obscene if its effect or (where the publication comprises 2 or more distinct parts or items) the effect of any one of its parts or items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.

MDA or the Minister in charge appears to be conveniently incommunicado when queried by the press for their stand. Maybe they too busy tending to another PR headache with the image of Vivian Balakrishnan in close proximity with a cross-dressing gay at his/her coming out celebration. You bet that's gonna deprave and corrupt some person.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Will They Ever Learn

According to this Bloomberg report, Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) faces a potential loss of 6.7 billion Swiss franc (US$7.4 billion) by virtue of being the biggest investor in UBS, making it one of the most unprofitable banking investment since 2007.  In 2Q 2009, the Bank of America "divestment" by Temasek Holdings lost US$1 billion in just one deal (188.8 million BOA shares valued at US$13.7 each sold at an average US$8.67 per share). When  these guys make a boo boo, they make sure it generates more publicity than the F1 night race.

UBS chief executive Oswald Gruebel was earlier reported to be under pressure to step down after a rogue trader trashed US$2.3 billion (S$3 billion), less than half of what GIC stands to lose. When Gruebel finally quit on Saturday, 10 days after the trading scandal was exposed, he stressed it was a personal decision and that he was personally accountable for the loss. “I am convinced that it is in the best interests of UBS to approach the future with a new leader at the top.”

Nobody at GIC seems to feel personally accountable for their losses. As a matter of fact, the former chairman has just been rewarded with a $4 payola.

When Nick Leeson broke the Barings Bank, the international community was aghast that it happened under the supposedly strict supervision of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Like the former derivatives broker whose fraudulent, unauthorized speculative trading caused the collapse of the United Kingdom's oldest investment bank, Kweku Adoboli also engaged in unauthorised trades in his role as part of UBS's so-called Delta One trading team, which deals in Exchange Traded Funds. Both Leeson and Adoboli placed big bets on future movements in stock-market indices. Leeson used one of Barings' error accounts to cover up bad trades, Adoboli hid the size of his bets by the manufacture of fictitious offsetting investments. The similarities are uncanny.

The Financial Services Authority, the equivalent of our MAS, is investigating why UBS failed to identify the unauthorised transactions that the bank says will generate the humongous US$2.3 billion loss. GIC, which has a 6.41 per cent stake in UBS, had repeatedly expressed its support for outgoing chief executive Oswald Gruebel, according to a Reuters report. The worrying aspect of this sorry saga is that while Leeson left only a black-eye on MAS, the UBS debacle is hurting us where it counts - our hard earned sovereign funds.  And the guy in charge of protecting our reserves won't be telling us much about other potential disasters because he claims to be bound by the Official Secrets Act. "GIC believed he had good plans," said one source, a remark that is hardly assuring, since Thaksin was also considered be a good bet by the same people playing with the nation's savings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

F1 Takes Your Breath, And Money, Away

Last year, the F1 Night Race pulled in incremental tourism receipts of $160 million. This year the Singapore Tourism Board expects only $100 million. Gold is already losing its lustre amidst the uncertainty plaguing the global economy, with all signs pointing at 2012 as a possible annus horribilis. It is a no brainer that Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said Singapore will not rush into a decision to extend the F1 contract for another 5 years. Somewhere hidden in the overdue accounting is the loss in retail revenue due to the Marina Bay area road closures, and opportunity cost of business interruption and traffic congestion. It's time they stop hearing only the good stuff, especially from the ones who really profit from the exercise.

Just listen to Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle who unleashed a stinging attack on the grand prix in the Sunday Herald Sun, warning that annual losses would soon hit the $70 million AUD mark and stating that the event no longer represents value for money for Victoria's state government. He contends that for taxpayers' pockets, enough is enough and that patience with F1's escalating financial demands is wearing thin.

“First, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will pick up his bat and ball and go home,” mused Mr. Doyle. “Despite best endeavours, the notoriously difficult, contentious and cranky Bernie will take the dollars of either an Asian or oil-rich Middle Eastern state. There will be no successful negotiation. End of story."

According to Time Magazine ("Turbulent Times Of Formula One", 15 March 2010), Ecclestone alone makes the big TV, sponsorship and track deals that keep F1's cash gushing. It is no secret that Ecclestone the Hitler fan ( "could command a lot of people" and was "able to get things done" ), is the only one guaranteed to make a killing from the F1 races. Formula Money, the book which reviews Formula 1's financials, records this: "In 2008, its first year, the race took in $51 million, but cost $100 million. The (Singapore) government kicked in $60 million, leaving the promoter with a tidy profit."

Obviously Iswaran is no Doyle, and he's hiring independent consultants to take a hard look at (and take the fall for) the value of the F1 race in terms of tourist dollar and economic spin-offs. The Minister is not about to stick his neck out for the inconvenient truth when the old geezers are having so much fun at the taxpayers' expense.
"could command a lot of people" and "able to get things done"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reports Of Violence In The City

She was body slammed against the doors of a SBS bus by a Caucasian male who later told the police that she was talking too loudly on the phone and making a lot of noise. All the working mother did was to make a call to her daughter, informing the kid that mom will be home late because of the traffic situation. Her bus bully tapped her on the shoulder, told her to shut up, let fly with the profanities, and challenged her to call the cops if she dared. She did.

Apparently the tiniest sounds can trigger irrational rage in some sick people. Dr. Pawel Jastreboff introduced the term misophonia in 2002, and this is the most common term for this malady. Dr Masha Johnson, an audiologist in Portland, Oregon runs an online forum on misophonia ("dislike of sound"). For people with misophonia, gum chewing, lip smacking, swallowing, slurping and gurgling can send them into a blood-boiling rage. "The reaction is irrational," said Adah Siganoff, 52, but yet she can no longer eat with her husband.

A neuroscientist at the University of Texas believes the condition is probably a "physiological abnormality" in brain structures activated by processed sound, "There is no known effective treatment." Johnson said misophonia is sometimes confused with hyperacusis, in which sound is perceived to be abnormally loud or physically painful. Misophonia patients like sound, the louder the better. But some can't stand a dog licking his paws, the common soft, hardly audible sounds that irritate them most.

But how does one explain the action of the Caucasian Bentley owner smashing with his bare fist the windscreen of a Mercedes-Benz driven by a lady who had allegedly cut into his lane? The top executive at Royal Bank of Scotland overtook her, stopped, got out of his limousine and started shouting like Bruce Banner ("Don't make me angry, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry"), adding two punches to the shatter-proof glass for good measure. No arrest has been made. In another road rage incident, angry motorist Ong slammed his clenched fist against the windscreen of dentist Dr Ho who had honked at him for stopping his vehicle at a pedestrian crossing to let his daughter alight for school. The cracks cost $1,391 to repair and Ong was fined $4,000 for mischief. He could have been jailed for up to 2 years and/or fined.

With or without a medical explanation, no one should be at the receiving end of a violent outburst. But when it does occur, and the cops turn did up, it must be infuriating to read that "both parties were advised on their legal recourse." Maybe the law enforcement types have a graph that trends resolved incidents of violence, and unresolved incidents of violence, just like the CNB charts. And an IT system ready to take the rap when peace is not preserved in the city.

Ms Lim, the working mom who was physically attacked in public, intends to press charges, saying: "We need to send a signal that we will not tolerate bullying on the bus." That plus the police's selective inaction.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Serious Error

At the Singapore Global Dialogue yesterday with moderator DeAnne Julius, Lee Kuan Yew enumerated the fundamentals of Singapore's success, "One, good governance, anti-corruption, meritocratic, pragmatic. Going forward, if you drop out any of the three factors, you will lose your momentum." Maybe he meant to say "any 3 of of the 4 factors". Or maybe the guy can't count.

Well, one thing's for sure, the guys at the Central Narcotics Bureau are definitely arithmetically challenged. For 3 years in a row, they got the numbers wrong for drug-related arrests. DPM Teo Chee Hean made the mother of all understatements when he described it as "a serious error." These are the guys who determine the 500 gram limit for cannabis that will or will not send someone to the gallows. German international Julia Suzanne Bohl was saved when laboratory tests proved the amount of pure drugs found in her apartment weighed only 281 grams, less than the 500 required for a neck tie party, but how many have died because of "serious errors" in computation?

CNB director Ng Boon Gay blamed it on the IT system, used since 2008, since it did not include unresolved cases. This guy obviously doesn't understand computers - it's all about GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. You feed in only resolved cases, it reports only resolved cases.

Neil Armstrong used a HP-41C (running at 360 kHz) to calculate the descent rate to land on the moon. You can bet the CNB's IT department splurges on more expensive computers with powerful processing capabilities and terabytes of memory that can do a better job. Like highlighting that in 2010, the unresolved cases numbered 1082 (2887 actual - 1805 reported), or 59.9% of the reported cases. That kinda makes them look bad, doesn't it? Like, these guys were sleeping on the job, or evidence of another clear case of incompetency. It definitely can't be the good governance Mr Lee was talking about.

Worse, it could be a cover up inadvertently exposed to the harsh light of day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Too Close For Comfort

"We enter this world alone. We leave it pretty much the same way. And in-between, a dance we call life. Problem is it takes two to Tango. So we look for signs; something to help us to find our perfect partners. A smile, a wave. But we have to be careful; because while some signs can be misinterpreted," so said Chuck Fishman, of the Early Edition American television series. Then you run into a critic like George Bernard Shaw, who declares "Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire".

The flora and fauna in nature use colour and plumage for the precursor to mating rites. If clothes make the man then feathers make the bird. The confusion starts when the birds, at least the human kind, adopt attire that expose various parts of their anatomy to draw the attention of the male. If the end result is an increase of the Total Fertility Rate, then we can say it was all for a noble cause. But if the signals are deciphered wrongly, the guy would be in for a rude shock. That casual body contact in a crowded dance floor with flying body parts could lead to a police report. Not everyone has the financial resources for fancy lawyers like Dominique Straus Kahn, who is emboldened to describe his interlude with a New York City hotel chamber maid as "an error but not a criminal act". DSK insisted that he did not, as the chambermaid had claimed, throw her to the ground, try to undress her and put his hand in her underwear, "In this encounter, there was no act of violence aggression or violence."

There was no photographic evidence of acts of aggression or violence at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM)-University of London's Orientation Camp. The participants were the "lucky lot" who were balloted for the opportunity to participate in close proximity "bonding" activities like sharing a tiny biscuit dangling from pursed lips and emulating Michael Jackson's dry hump dance moves - with a live female lying prostrate underneath. Apparently the organisers of the fun and games are given clear guidelines and are "reminded that safety and modesty should be adhered to". What is not clear is where the line for private space ends and the law for intrusion starts. George Bernard Shaw may be a relic from the past, but like minds still abound.
Watch it guys, this could be jail bait

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Take Us For Fools

America was prepared to let the whole wide world know that the Challenger space shuttle explosion was caused by a faulty O-ring. And the Apollo 13 glitch was damaged Teflon insulation on the stirring fan wires that short-circuited and ignited the contents of oxygen tank number 2 in the Service Module. In Singapore, the level of disclosure stopped at "a faulty network device" that caused a bank system to crash on the morning of September 13. Nobody will ever know whether it was a printed circuit board, integrated circuit, micro-chip, transistor, diode or capacitor that brought down the financial institution's IT infrastructure.

Okay, now tell us what happened
While it was admirable that CEO Chris David Conner promptly messaged an apology to its customers before the day was over, the guys in charge of the network didn't provide a clue for the hiccup, except the vague "device" and "parameter" reference. Hardly sufficient technical input to provide useful information for others to avoid a similar disaster. In July 2010, DBS’s banking services were disrupted for more than 6 hours due to errors traced to a repair job completed by IBM, their outsourced vendor. The statement that the Armonk, New York-based company took disciplinary action against the employees involved, and reviewed procedures for its staff, implied human errors were at fault. If that melt-down also involved a "device" or "parameter", no one would be the wiser.

Singaporeans are used to the "dumbed down" approach from the bureaucrats. It's a given that the average citizen has too low an IQ to understand factual data that would explain where GIC gets its money to play the market, how HDB prices are formulated and why the CPI upped 4.5% in May despite MAS's expensive open market operations to maintain a strong Singdollar that supposedly fights imported inflation. That's why detailed accounting is so short in supply. But it has to be a tragedy when the private sector is adopting similar approach. The public is conned into signing up for gigabit internet access, without being enlightened that the Ethernet card in their computers is good up to 100 mbps only. Well, if ignorance can help fuel the GDP growth, who's to say it's wrong, seems to be new mantra.

Perhaps the top dogs in charge are too technically challenged to see through the fog generated by their subordinates. One is reminded of the first CEO of IDA, who responded to doubters of her qualification to lead the country's IT development with words to the effect, "I may not know what CDMA stands for, but I can always hire someone who does." Collect the pay, get someone else to do the job. That has to be the national sickness that resulted in another major glitch yesterday - a whole 4-hour service breakdown that disrupted train services at all 16 stations on the Circle Line. Will competent people ever be appointed to the right office in our nation?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My ISA Nicer Than Your ISA

Can over indulgence in moon cakes turn one loony? That thought came to mind when perusing commentator Eugene Tan's thesis that, on subject of the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), there isn't the mistrust and fear of abuse by the government in Singapore vis-à-vis the Malaysian situation. Compare that to the consensus view of a group of 16 former detainees that safeguards which prevent its abuse are spurious. Since they missed out on quite a number of Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) dinners during their extended incarcerations, abstinence from the pastry must have contributed to clearer logic.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) went further to declare that "no person has ever been detained only for their political beliefs", implying that political adversaries usually have other human foibles that require a spell in the cooler to repent of their sins. Aljunied voters, take note, the bar has been raised. Don't be forgetful and leave the cigarette butt on the bench - NEA officers are waiting to physically pounce on you and wrestle you to the ground for the infraction.

To set the record straight on political weightage, a short primer on the ISA may be useful:

In the 1950s the Internal Security Act was enacted by the British to deal with the threat of a protracted communist insurgency after World War II ended. The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960.

In 1960, the Emergency officially ended, but the Singapore government decided to keep the Act even after the insurgency was over. The expression "beat swords into ploughshares" is not a Singapore invention, and the guys in charge always liked to keep their powder dry.

In 1962, the blunt ISA instrument was unleashed to detain over 165 suspected "communist members and sympathizers" under “Operation Coldstore”, including Lim Chin Siong, the charismatic leader of the opposition Barisan Sosialist whose oratory was praised in "The Singapore Story" by Lee Kuan Yew:
"...a ringing voice that flowed beautifully in his native Hokkien. The girls adored him, especially those in the trade unions. Once he got going after a cold start at the first two meetings, there was tremendous applause every time he spoke. By the end of the campaign, Lim Chin Siong was seen as a charismatic figure and a person to be reckoned with in Singapore politics and, what was of more immediate concern, within the PAP."

Also arrested was Barisan Sosialist MP Chia Thye Poh, who was incarcerated without trial for 23 years (29 Oct 1966 - 17 May 1989), the longest-serving political prisoner in the world after Nelson Mandela (27 years in prison). Even union leaders like brothers Dominic and James Puthucheary were not spared.

In 1987, “Operation Spectrum” saw 22 young social activists and professionals detained without trial for allegedly being members of a “Marxist conspiracy”. Lee Kuan Yew would later tell an anxious Roman Catholic Archbishop Gregory Yong and others at a private Istana meeting with a straight face that they were in fact "do-gooders". This was before "I stand corrected" became fashionable.

In 1988, former solicitor general Francis Seow was detained for making himself "a willing party to acts of interference in Singapore's internal affairs". Learning of the development at a wedding dinner attended by Jayakumar and Devan Nair, Dr Toh Chin Chye's reaction was "I have lost my appetite."

In 1991 then Brigadier-General (Res) Lee Hsien Loong told Nanyang Siang Pau, a Malaysian daily, and Lianhe Zaobao, “Communism may be dead, but it is not the only threat. We must still deal with other groups, like religious extremists. So, it is still better for us to retain the Act.” After all, the label "venomous religions" is equally transferable to Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc

Reacting to Malaysia's enlightenment, MHA was quick to highlight that the Singapore variant of ISA is nicer, only 30 days in custody, compared to 60 across the Causeway. And, since 1991, the President has the power to veto the detention order. That's right, the President Tan with the white hair, not the maverick one. As for the farce of the ISA Advisory board, let the former detainees have the final words on the subject,
"In 1987, appearance before the board lasted no more than a few minutes each. Furthermore, detainees were discouraged from appearing before the board by ISD officers. Many were advised that appearing before the board would jeopardise their chances of early release."

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Devil In The Details

The bit about the Night Safari Halloween event not being "family-centric" is pure bull, of course. That plus quoting President Tan out of context - linking his call for family bonding activities to her single-handed divisive decision - for which she had to apologize under no uncertain terms. Ah Meng the Sumatran Orangtan (circa 18 June 1960 – 8 February 2008) must be rolling in her grave.

Ms Loh also claimed that "zebra heads were chopped off" as part of Halloween Horrors, another outright lie. She cited negative feedback from the public, of which 1,000 have already snapped up tickets that are priced from $40 to $56. For a tourist attraction dating from 2006, and won an award for most Innovative Marketing Initiative in 2009, she seems to know zilch about the prematurely aborted $1 million undertaking, which is also part of the final year project requirements for Singapore Polytechnic students. Anyway, what did she know about the job, before displacing Fanny Lai as CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore?

In a previous incarnation, Isabella Loh was a Sembawang executive known as Loh Wai Kiew. Urban legend has it that whenever Philip Yeo of A*STAR notoriety threw one of his (regular) foul tantrums, with toilet language to match, Ms Loh was the one deputed to soothe his frayed temper. When her patron's star appeared to wane, she jumped ship to Shell. Pundits wagered she will not survive in a real world where professionalism has no place for office politics. This is one female who goes to extremes to further her personal ambitions. She featured herself in the SembCorp calendar (Straits Times carried the story in January 2005 - CEO "Loh Wai Kiew donned a red halter-neck bikini as Miss December."), not that she posed any challenge to the chio bu's at Singapore Daily. The only clue to why she pulled the plug just 2 weeks before the September 30 launch is the smoking gun missive, "I explained in an email that it is a lot of money to spend on an infrastructure (Haunted House) of devil worship." She debunked conspiracy theories of conflict with her Catholic roots by declaring that she's a Buddhist. Now ghost like whispers attribute her stubborn attitude to her fengshui master's advice that the "devil worship" happening would be deleterious to her career aspirations. Maybe a self fulfilling prophecy is already set in motion.

Halloween is celebrated on October 31, with common activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, telling scary stories, or watching horror movies. Kids trek from house to house in costume, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" It all sounds so fun until some spoilsport adult comes along with a warped sense of "family calendar activities". Yeah, like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar is the perfect thing for wholesome family bonding.
Wholesome family entertainment NOT

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Population Ponzi Scheme

Omigosh, this important message left by a reader nearly ended up as spam ( thanks, anon@September 16, 2011 9:11 AM ). The full article can be read here. Following are highlights which eerily resemble, almost to a word, the poison we have been fed via the mainstream media:

While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth.

The basic pitch of those promoting Ponzi demography is straightforward and intoxicating in its pro-population growth appeal: “more is better.

Standard measures of GDP do not reflect, for example, the degradation of the environment, the depreciation of natural resources or declines in individuals’ quality of life.

Among its primary tactics, Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power.

Low birth rates, especially those below replacement levels, are considered a matter of national concern. Without higher fertility rates and the resulting population growth, the nation, it is claimed, faces a bleak and dreary future. So Ponzi demography calls for pro-natalist policies and programs to encourage couples to marry and to have more children, which will lead to the promised sustained economic growth.

Among other things, increased immigration, it is declared, is a matter of national security, long-term prosperity and international competitiveness. Without this needed immigration, Ponzi demography warns that the country’s future is at serious risk.

"Economic growth requires population growth" is the basic message that Ponzi demography wants the public to swallow. No mention is made of the additional profits they reap and the extra costs the public bears.

Despite its snake-oil allure of “more is better,” Ponzi demography’s advocacy for ever-increasing population growth is ultimately unsustainable. Such persistent growth hampers efforts to improve the quality of life for today’s world population of nearly seven billion people as well as for future generations.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Debunking A Bad Rap

Fed up with the misrepresentation in cyberspace, some netizens have set up a Facebook account to defend Adolf Hitler. The first topic to take to task is whether his son will or will not serve national service - i.e. sign up with the National Socialist army, better known as Nazi (Nationalsozialismus) in the German vernacular. You know, the organisation where all the elitist generals stick out their hands and shout "Sieg Heil" - or "kee chiu" for those more proficient in local dialects.

It's all hypothetical, of course. Hitler and his wife Eva Braun never got to do the procreative thing and help raise the Total Fertility Rate for the nation since both blew their own brains out in the underground bunker on 30 April 1945. It's always easier to debunk a fictitious story, how can you prove or disprove something purely speculative?

A real controversy would be about the birthright of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was born in the municipality of Braunau am Inn, Upper Austria, and not Germany. There are even claims that Hitler had Jewish ancestry. It was on 25 Feb 1932 when Hitler was naturalized after being appointed as a civil servant in the then-free state of Braunschweig -- a crucial step for the continuation of his political career. Almost 62 years after his death, German politician Isolde Saalmann, a Social Democratic member of Lower Saxony's regional parliament, wanted to revoke the Nazi leader's 1932 naturalization -- as a "symbolic step." It's easy to understand why politicians are sensitive about the origins of their family's citizenships.

A tougher call would be to tackle the Holocaust topic. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have called the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II a "myth" in 2005, but there are volumes of literature out there to debunk his version of "truth". Some survivors of the abomination are still alive, just as there are living victims of the wicked ISA detentions. Try calling them liars.

Charles Colson wrote in "How Now Shall We Live":
“Debate can be unpleasant at times, but at least it presupposes that there are truths worth defending, ideas worth fighting for. And if there is no truth, then we cannot persuade one another by rational arguments. All that’s left is sheer power–which opens the door to a new form of fascism.”

Law academic Eugene Tan is quoted saying "these sort of (Facebook) efforts are good for leaving it to Singaporeans to decide for themselves where the truth lies." And if the dream isn't real, is the lie worth defending?

But sir, it clearly says "venomous religion" in the cable

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roots Of Discontent

In the ST Interview with visiting Professor Aneel Karnani from University of Michigan, it was quoted that the Gini coefficient has risen from 0.43 in 2000 to 0.452 last year. That puts the Singapore wage gap second-largest among the world's developed economies according a United Nations report. He said, "The sense I get is that Singapore has focused too much on growing the size of its economic pie and not enough on distributing it."

In presenting the case for more foreigners, Lee Kuan Yew once used the line that a small slice of a bigger pie is better than a big slice of a small pie. This was a variant on the NTUC's 50th Anniversary Dinner speech he gave in May 2011, when he said unionists played a key role in the productivity movement since 1980, deciding on enlarging the pie rather than fight for a bigger slice of a small pie. Here Professor Karnani's analogy of the barber comes in useful. The guy who takes 20 minutes to give a haircut 100 years ago, still needs 20 minutes to complete the task today. For people engaged in similar work, productivity just doesn't rise. These are the folks who will never benefit from polices that grow the economic pie and make the country rich. Unless the government intervene in the markets by introducing a minimum wage, empowering workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, or providing free public-funded services like education or health care.

Dream on. When Mayor Sam Tan announced that the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) has set aside enough funds for a Recession Economic Assistance Package (REAP) to help families with laid-off workers in the forthcoming economic downturn, he was talking only of a 2-month reprieve. And the lucky recipients will have a 2-month wait for the rescue package. Not exactly the kind of cash hand-outs or "conditional transfer payments" the professor was contemplating to temper the social inequality.

The picture looks real dismal when you reflect on the survey results from the Sept 10th -16th issue of the Economist. Just substitute Russia for Singapore, and the itemised roots of discontent could have been our own. While corruption among civil servants may not be as bad, recent press accounts of confidential information being traded to settle gambling debts may be just the tip of an iceberg. Even the definition of corruption may not stand up to public scrutiny - where else are politicians paid to be honest? The Economist article about the current mood in Russia is titled "Time to shove off". The disillusioned may take it as sound advice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Incestuous Links

Speaking on the sidelines of the National Clan Associations Congress on 22 May 2011, his last official engagement as DPM, Wong Kan Seng said he first thought of retiring from the Cabinet in 2001, a decision that would have saved his neck from the albatross of the Mas Selamat escapade in 2009. Wong said that he had mixed feelings about retiring, as he had been 'involved in government for so long', and looked forward to spending more time with his grandchildren.

It was recently announced Wong Kan Seng has now been appointed as a Special Advisor for Economic Co-operation to the Prime Minister, covering programmes with China and other Asian countries. Wong will also be made chairman of Singbridge, a wholly owned Temasek Holdings company which invests in and manages integrated projects such as Guangzhou Knowledge City project, the Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City and Bangalore International IT Park. With all that travelling to do, it looks like the baby sitting will have to be outsourced. Former Singbridge chairman Mr Lim Chee Onn will be stepping down a couple of rungs to make way for Wong and redesignated Senior International Advisor .

Better resume photo may help
What really piques the interest of people watchers is whether the total compensation of all those appointments put together (Wong is also chairman of the Lien Ying Chow Legacy Fellowship Council, displacing ex-civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow) will add to anything remotely resembling his last paycheck as Deputy Prime Minister in the Singapore Cabinet. Defending his ministerial pay policy (Hard Truths, page 125), Lee Kuan Yew says of his generously compensated ministers, "If they're quality people, they have no trouble going out." Astute observers will note that Wong is staying very much within the incestuous nest of government related organisations. If the headhunters know the quality of every outstanding person, as Lee maintains in his book, how is it that private sector firms have not beat a path to their doors? The same awkward question may be asked of George Yeo, Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim. Either they are too complacent or too shy to send out their resumes, or the rejection rate was just too embarrassing to endure.

Meanwhile another ex-minister S Jayakumar is returning to his former NUS day job as professor of law. We are told Jayakumar had waived any remuneration for the position. Which is a bummer, since a million dollar professor will surely earn a place in the Guinness World of Records.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Hardest Truth Of All

Friend John was in his 30s when he saw a doctor about a common cold. The kindly physician noted the date of birth in the records and suggested it was perhaps time to consider settling down. By the time the kids hit university and the big bills start rolling in, he would be in his retirement years. John took the wake-up call to heart and got hitched soon after, to a lovely bride 6 years his junior - the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome was another harsh reality of life.

So why was the dispensation of "grandfatherly" advice to PhD candidate Joan Sim greeted with such opprobrium? As the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) rightly pointed out, the implication marriage and motherhood are more important than education and work belittles the choices and contributions of women who march to a different drum beat. That and the nefarious attitude which has perpetuated sexual stereotyping for generations, then and now. It was definitely a sexist Lee who was quoted saying in 1994, that "attractive and intelligent young ladies should go to finishing colleges" so that they will be "marvellous helpers of their husbands careers". And let aesthetically challenged daughters (Dr Lee Wei Ling's own descriptive) take over key appointments, like the office of Dr Simon Shorvon who fell out of favour? There must be a mad rush going on in Singapore, women holding high office dashing to the mirrors, demanding an honest answer, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" And hoping for an ugly response which promises top jobs and financial bonanzas. The Brothers Grimm must be rolling in their graves. This has to be social engineering gone mad.

The video record of Joan's query went like this, “I understand that for economic and demographic reasons, Singapore has allowed a high number of foreign immigrants within a short time period. So, my question is, what can we do to promote a sense of belonging and foster social cohesiveness in the next decade?" Lee Kuan Yew chose to parry the legitimate question and "disagree with that we must have a sense of cohesiveness, and we must assimilate the new migrants" by turning the tables on her personal prerogative of life goals. Don't blame the foreigners, Singaporeans did it to themselves. They were daft to listen to Government policy, fed Kool-Aid by the PA guided grassroots leaders, and stopped at two for the sake for the nation. Even a grandfather from hell would not do this to their own kin.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pride Goeth Before A Fall

"And you sat through the whole session, while he had a razor at your neck?" incredulous colleagues couldn't believe I had allowed the Malay barber to snip away while opining about the 9/11 incident.

Having missed the live horror on the television screens the night before in 2001, thanks to an exhausting workday, it took a few seconds to register why the normally reticent enche asked me how I felt about the disaster in New York. Oh, you mean the airplanes crashing into the twin towers? Terrible, isn't it, so many people died. "Too bad about that. But you know what, in my heart, I feel good about it," was the unexpected response. Why? "Because the American people are too proud." Thinking he must be one grossly misinformed dude, I offered to contribute my old weekly magazines to his pile of reading material for waiting customers. He accepted.

Ten years hence, many books have alluded to that pride and arrogance. Gideon Rachman, in his sweeping commentary ("Zero Sum World", Atlantic Books 2010) of 30 years of history, wrote that when the Soviet Union self destructed on Christmas Eve 1991, the United States became the world's sole superpower. She had also "kicked the Vietnam syndrome" when Saddam Hussein was booted out of Kuwait. Japan, the once feared challenger to American dominance, had slumped into stagnation after the crash of 1990. Rachman coined The Age of Optimism (1911 - 2008) as a period of unparalleled American power, with the US as the core of a global economy. 9/11 delivered a cruel blow to the source of arrogance - globalisation and the US as leader of the "new world order".

But arrogance still rears its ugly head. In defending the two obnoxious PA letters ("I cleared those letters,so I think that is the position"), PM Lee makes no qualms about outing his choice of ghost writer. Expanding on why opposition MPs cannot be appointed grassroots advisers, the two-faced PM Lee maintained the work of PA was non-political, while admitting that at times, they had to "do some things that are not nice". Things like putting the spin on why Government had to carry out public works such as a MRT project which exposes residents to the risk of permanent noise-induced hearing loss. The poor guys at Bishan MRT Station won't be enlightened anytime by the PA about laws that are desirable for the preservation of the living environment and conductive to the protection of human health.

" falls to the grassroots to be the interface, to work with the people to try and help to minimise the impact but at the same time, ultimately, what has to be done has to be done," he declared in all finality. In short, his way or the highway.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Take This Test

It is often said that Britain and America are "two nations divided by a common language", a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw. In The Canterville Ghost (1887), Oscar Wilde wrote something similar: "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language". 

Nah, how you spell is more important
  Speaking at the official opening of the English Language Institute of Singapore (Elis), Lee Kuan Yew said that he had been consciously switching between British and American English on the computer, and that he saw himself moving towards American English in a nod to the US being "a dominant force". Teachers might thus do well to accept this trend, and teach their students to recognise - and even speak - American English, he said.

Yeah, but did he tell them to master their spelling first?

One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling. In British usage, some words of French, Latin or Greek origin end with a consonant followed by -re. Most of these words have the ending -er in the United States. The difference is most common for words ending -bre or -tre: British spellings calibre, centre, fibre, litre, lustre, metre, reconnoitre, sabre, saltpetre, sombre, spectre and theatre, all have -er in American spelling.

American English has kept the Anglo-French spelling for defense and offense, which are usually defence and offence in British English; similarly there are the American pretense and British pretence; but derivatives such as defensive, offensive, and pretension are always thus spelled in both systems.

Can you tell if the language experts at are using British or American English?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Cowboy Road Ahead

Tan Jee Say had claimed he was challenged by the PAP candidate because of a misunderstanding in the English language. PM Lee may face similar issue with his latest exhortation in Petir about becoming "more consultative and inclusive" - something he promised way back in 2004 when he ascended the throne. Trained at Cambridge where Queen's English was spoken, he may have to re-phrase that in the light of papa's call for the American variant. Especially when he has yet to deliver on his Boat Quay rhetoric.

PM Lee said, "Fundamentally, we need to get Singaporeans to see the PAP for what it is and what it has always been - their champion, acting on their behalf, working with them and for them." That sentence alone should make you dash for the Oxford or American Heritage Dictionary to check how he defines "we", "their" and "them". Recall the soldier who expanded on Patton's "blood and guts" reputation - our blood, his guts. The guy has to be more specific, and more transparent.

After the apocalyptic May 7 event, nothing much has changed. They are still championing the newcomers, to the extent that curry nearly became an endangered food. They may have tweaked the numbers, latest "politically digestible" number being 60,000, but the drawbridge has not been raised to stem the foreign tide. Of the many electoral promises, Khaw Boon Wan was the rare maverick who actually did something to address the housing prices. But notice the man has suddenly zipped up. Is it so bad to fight for the lot of sidelined Singaporeans?

Presumably the announced plan for MICA to spearhead Government's new media efforts is aimed at getting "Singaporeans to see the PAP for what it is and what it has always been." However the dichotomy of what the social media sees and what the mainstream media reports is just too great. How did netizens learn about the interesting revelation that the Minister for Muslim Affairs is married to a Puerto Rican? Or that his wife converted to Islam "to satisfy the conservative standards of Singapore"? Man, what a supreme sacrifice, surely deserving of a National Day Award. But no, The Straits Times did not mention a single word about the magnanimous contribution towards racial and religious harmony.

The internet may be a cowboy town, but even the sheriff gets shot if he is slow on the draw. That way, the guy wearing the badge is truly deserving of the town folks' respect and not lacking in moral integrity. From what we read, Wyatt Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929) took on three guys at O.K. Corral, without need of gerrymandering or GRCs. Wyatt would never "shy away from being possible future sacrificial lambs by standing in Aljunied," the mark of real men as defined by Zainul Abidin Rasheed. Even before they ride into the wild, wild west, a nervous Baey Yam Keng is already asking the public to give Government space to make mistakes in using social media. He knows cowboys get scalped by Indians.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Asked why only 4 out of 48 scenarios of declining population growth studied by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) were brandished for public consumption, their spokesman said, "These reflect the conditions at that time (of study)". Whether he was referring to political conditions or plain chronology is best left to the imagination.

The IPS dog and pony show comes on right on cue after MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Lee Kuan Yew told NTU students that 20,000 - 25,000 immigrants a year is "politically digestible", but 60,000 is not. IPS director Janadas Devan, also associate editor at The Straits Times, highlighted the erosion of "potential support ratio" with net immigration  assumptions of 0, 30,000 and 60,000 (Scenarios 1, 2 and 3). Scenario 4 is based on Total Fertility Rate (TFR) rising from 1.24 to 1.85 and zero immigration. It may be pertinent to point out that, unlike other First World Countries, Singapore has no welfare system to speak of, whereby the young contributes to a pool to feed or house the old. Here, you die, your problem.

The CPF savings, the last recourse at twilight years, is allocated a pathetic return of 2.5%, while the people at GIC playing monopoly with the same monies enjoyed 5% returns over the past 20 years, and kept the difference. To avoid spiking blood pressures, especially of senior citizens perusing, the subject of reserves built into HDB pricing will not be discussed here.

It would have been a better sell if IPS came up with data on how immigrants have contributed economically by virtue of their foreign talents, attributes presumably not available from the local breed. Or data on how TFR of new citizens is superior to local productivity. Maybe ICA should stipulate that new immigrants must be born in the year of the rabbit, or at least demonstrate capacity to reproduce at the same furry rate. It makes no economic sense if Mah Bow Tan brought in his aging father-in-law from a nursing home in Austrialia to add to the congestion here. If the current economic model of high-value activity is to be carried on to the nth degree, they might as well go for the Soylent Green solution. You know, the scenario when bureaucrats decide old people can be converted into edible wafers to feed the young.

Japan, like most mature countries, has had the silver tsunami for ages (pardon the pun). They have their share of foreign workers, but not to the extent of decimating social cohesion. Harajuku is still the place to feel young, but the old have their own place to stop by and smell the flowers. The notable difference there is social engineering has not been allowed to run wild.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Remember This

Commenting on the Wee Shu Min saga - superbly documented in this WikiLeaks account - , one blogger once wrote this:
"The saddest part of this episode is that she reminds me of the remark made by newbie Michael Palmer, "Before I joined the grassroots organisation, I never knew there were poor people in developed countries". Where does the PAP find such freaks? They are no better than the Hitler Youth, and our country can only be the worse because of them."

Yup, this guy is going to be the new House Speaker in Parliament. PM Lee nominated him, and what PM Lee wants, PM Lee gets.

In May 2008 an unemployed man was alleged to have threatened the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Member of Parliament (GE 2006) at a Meet-The-People session. He received a phone call to go down to Ang Mo Kio police station to "assist in police investigations", but he refused to turn up. Instead Mr Zuo went to the press with his account.

On a Monday evening, Mr Zuo Hong Bao — who told Today that he had gone to look for Palmer "more than 10 times" previously — met the MP and asked if he could borrow money from the MP to pay off his debts or "do some investments". Mr Zuo, 36, said in Mandarin: "I asked if he could lend me $20,000 ... I said I would return the money, plus interest, after three years. He told me: 'The Government doesn't do such things. Please go out'." Conceding that he was "a little angry" with the curt dismissal - just a shade off from the get-out-of-my-elite-uncaring-face type rebuff - Mr Zuo raised his voice and added: "I told him: 'You remember this!' "

Palmer, who claimed it was not he but one of his grassroots leaders who made the Police Report, gave his version of the encounter: "I told him that we don't lend money. I said: 'Thank you very much' and asked him to leave. So he uttered something."

This guy's a lawyer. Why would the police act if he, presumably aggrieved party, did not lodge the official complaint? Why did he have to say "Thank you very much" when Zuo was allegedly trying to borrow money, not offering to lend money to the MP? And what exactly was the "something" he claimed was uttered by Zuo? Was it life-threatening, defamatory, insulting or what? Hey, even two kids engaged in a kindergarten playground brawl will have a better recollection of their exchange.

In the summary of the WikiLeaks account referenced above, it is recorded:
"At times, the elite demonstrates astonishing arrogance and political insensitivity (e.g., MP Wee Siew Kim), which in other places might lead to real political problems. But the Wee Shu Min incident and the government's subsequent policy adjustments also highlight how adroitly the PAP manages the domestic situation and why it has been successful for so long. The government rarely if ever acknowledges a mistake. But once it has made one, it moves quickly and quietly to defuse and deflate grievances that might lead to wider discontent."

Unfortunately for them a new generation of Singaporeans has grown up, and they will be saying in chorus, "You remember this!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Divisive Remarks

"If they (Singaporeans) were politically aware, the voters must have been much wiser," said the man who was warning the NTU undergrads of rifts that hinder progress. It was a snide reference to the electoral outcomes of GE 2011 and PE 2011, a divisive insinuation that voters have erred in their political judgement.

Condoleezza Rice's comment on authoritarians of a Jurassic era makes for a fit response:
"The people who are experiencing glimpses of freedom in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and across the Middle East have just begun to build the institutions that will secure their liberties. And in some places, dictators are fighting to hold back the day when they will fall. Freedom can be delayed but not denied."

Reliving the terror of 9/11, Ms Rice maintains she would not trade stability at the expense of democracy. As she sees it, if people have no way to hold their government accountable through peaceful change, they will do so violently. Think about that. The world does not need another Tiananmen.

Instead of fessing up to the follies of ill conceived party policies, Lee Kuan Yew chose to invent straw men arguments like rising levels of education result in segmentation of society. He even blames the populace for the jealousy associated with disparity of income levels, instead of taking ownership for the obscene Gini efficient. He still points towards a relentless pursuit of a growing GDP as the holy grail, blind to the many unfortunates who have, and still are falling through the cracks, due to circumstances beyond their control. Like being born physically and/or mentally handicapped. Or crippled by an industrial accident at work. Or humbled by the ravages of age.  Is he even aware of the social impediments in the development of his albino grandson? Not everyone has the financial resources to smoothen out the ride.

Nope. Singaporeans are politically aware. Aware that locking up people without trial can't possibly be an honorable act. Aware that elections have been robbed through gerrymandering. Aware that dual passports are only available for the privileged. Minister Yaacob Ibrahim claims his kids were "conferred US citizenship" because his wife was foreign born. If his heart is truly with Singapore, why is he waiting till they are 18 before encouraging them to declare their true loyalties? Your shopping purchase may come with a free voucher, but that doesn't always mean you should accept it. Not when the freebie is for a massage at Geylang. Sigh, so much wasted social capital.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Learning From The Chinese

The WikiLeaks cable 09SINGAPORE863 was titled "RULING PARTY YOUTH WING COZIES UP TO CHINESE". For the uninitiated, the folks who fought the Commies during the turbulent years have picked up quite a few pointers from their operating manual. Where do you think they got the idea for grassroots organizations from?

It's intriguing why Young PAP is taking private tuition lessons from China's Communist Youth League in this modern day and age. YP members like Teo Ser Luck still use the honorific "Comrade."

¶2. (C) Young PAP (YP), the youth wing of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP), nurtures close ties with its communist Chinese counterpart, two members of the organization's executive committee told PolOffs on August 27. Joel Leong, Chairperson of the International Relations Sub-Committee, and Phyllis Chng, Executive Secretary, explained that YP's "easiest" international relationship is with China's Communist Youth League (CYL). Leong said the YP-CYL relationship dates back many years. In keeping with Singapore's growing ties with China, YP officials have made two "study trips" there this year. In February, they visited a party school in Beijing to seek inspiration for their own political education and training programs, and in July, they received advice on recruitment strategies from their CYL counterparts in Chengdu. After the February trip, YP chairman Teo Ser Luck told Singapore press that associating with a Communist organization did not trouble him: "We're not worried because it's the governing party and Singapore-China relations are so close. We don't talk about political philosophy."

Serving as English interpreter for Premier Zhou Enlai and Party Chairman Mao Zedong - his memoir is aptly named "The Man On Mao's Right" - Ji Chaozhu had a ring side seat to modern Chinese history. In spite of his close association with China's two top leaders, he was not immune to the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, which the Central Committee of the Communist Party finally admitted was "initiated by a leader labouring under a misapprehension and capitalized on by counterrevolutionary cliques, led to domestic turmoil, and brought catastrophe to the party, the state and the whole people." Being promoted to deputy director of the Translation Department did not spare him from another round of peasant reeducation, transplanting rice in the leech infested paddies of Shanxi.

Interpreting for Robert Muldoon, PM of New Zealand, at Mao's villa, Ji Chaozhu was aghast that the chairman, at 82, was so feeble he could no longer stand on his own. His bodyguard had to support this arm so that he could offer a limp hand to shake. Chaozhu interpreted for Mao one last time when Pakistan PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited on 27 May 1976. After Mao saw the official photo of himself - bloated, slack-jawed, eyes swollen, head lolling against a badly stained spot on the back of his chair's cushion - he declared that Bhutto would be his last official visitor.

At least Mao knew when to call it quits.
 One more for the road (author Ji Chaozhu is on left)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Not A Smart Move For SMRT

When the 14-year-old Thai girl was hit by a train at Ang Mo Kio MRT station on 3 April 2011, SMRT was quick to absolve themselves by saying that the installation of the "half-height platform screen doors" (HHPSD) was hampered by working hours of just 2 to 3 hours each night, since it can only be carried out when trains are not in operation. The government brought in thousands of foreign workers to make sure the casinos were swiftly built, but public safety has to take a back seat.

Quite incredulously, SMRT is now arguing that Peneakchanasak Nitcharee, who lost both legs in the accident, "failed to ensure own safety". Their lawyer K Anparasan of KhattarWong said that the teenager "had fallen of her own accord". If she had stood behind the yellow safety line, the plaintiff would have been safe from falling onto the tracks at the MRT station, so claimed the expensive solicitor. Brilliant, just the very excuse for SMRT to scrap the S$126 million HHPSD project. Why spend more when yellow paint does the job just as well? The shareholders will be so happy with the cost savings.  ST Electronics Ltd, however, will stand to lose millions from the juicy contract. You win some, you lose some.

SMRT also argued that the accident did not occur during a peak period, implying that MRT stations are deserted at off-peak hours. You can tell these people don't use the trains much. Surprising, they haven't broached the other possibility that pushy Hungry Ghosts could be at fault too. Especially those turned away from free food because of lack of card carrying credentials.

Singaporeans will have to be extra cautious in the event of being run down by a red Ferrari, especially if it's being driven by the CEO of a large public transportation company. They're liable to be sued for failing to ensure their own safety, and ruining the shiny sports job with messy blood stains and miscellaneous body parts. "I'll strive to make Singapore a more caring society", boasted the white haired guy moving into the Istana. Man, has he got a tough job ahead of him.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Treated Like Lepers

Written in her capacity as Director, Corporate and Marketing Communications, People’s Association (PA), Ooi Hui Mei's declared line in the sand is as divisive as it can get:
"...the Government has to appoint grassroots advisers who support its programmes and can play this role well. Opposition MPs cannot be expected to do this and thus cannot become advisers to GROs."

Before you even mouth "Says who?", be aware that under the PA Act, the Prime Minister is the Chairman. Yup, same fella who, for the third time running, appealed for the end of the polarisation that reared its ugly head in the watershed May elections. The younger set may not recall this, but way back in1983, Anson MP JB Jeyaratnam described being ‘treated like a leper’ by RC members, in spite of Lee Kuan Yew's assurance that "we came out with this association (the PA) which enabled people not to identify with a political party but with the government of the day."

When former PAP MP Cynthia Chua Phua chided Chen Show Mao for ‘politicising’ the case of losing out on an invite to a 7th month celebration, she inadvertently opened a Pandora's box. The perversion of a noble objective is now publicly exposed through a virulent exchange of letters to the press on the subject. The obvious question asked pointedly of one such letter: "If the PA and grassroots officers are blind to political affiliations, why are its appointed advisers exclusively from the PAP?"

The violence of China's subjugation of Tibet was a well kept secret until Romanian mountaineer Sergiu Matei released video footage of Chinese soldiers gunning down refugees making a bid for freedom through the Nangpa La glacial pass on September 30, 2006. Author Jonathan Green documents China's gross violation of Tibetan human rights in his "Murder In The High Himalaya" (PublicAffairs™ NY, 2010), when he and fellow climbers at Cho Oyu Mountain witnessed the brutal killing of a 17-year-old nun fleeing to Dharamsala. The book was his response to the moral dilemma: Would they reveal the atrocity to the world and lose the chance to climb in China again, or would they pass on by?

Not that the PA has resorted to gunfire - they wouldn't dare, trained NSmen can shoot back - but their attack on a publicly funded institution founded on just principles is an odium deserving of severe castigation. To the awakened citizenry, post GE 2011 and PE 2011, that line had better not be crossed.