Friday, June 29, 2012

One Man Justice

When Howard Shaw, grandson of Asian movie mogul Runme Shaw, turned up in court on Wednesday to plea guilty to the charge of having paid sex with a 17-year-old in October 2010, he was accompanied by a different lawyer. Well, if one is going to throw oneself at the mercy of the court, any lawyer will do. No point paying top dollar for a dream team like OJ Simpson did, not in Singapore where the jury system has no place.

Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal's best shot to stave off jail time was that Section 376b of the Penal Code was intended for sexual predators who deliberately target minors. Not guys who are misled by an online pimp and his stable of underaged whores. But he was on precarious ground when he argued that the girl's "physical attributes" are "solid grounds" for his client to be led to an "honest and reasonable mistake". Ignorance in the eyes of the law has never been an acceptable excuse.

Judge See Keen Oon has his hands tied too, he has already sent one clean cut solid citizen, elementary school principal Lee, to 9 weeks' jail for the same offence. In doing so, he has set a precedent for the rest of the 48 charged so far. It's awkward to dwell on mitigating arguments when the stink from the Woffles Wu decision is still in the air.

Explaining his view on the jury system to BBC in 1977, Lee Kuan Yew said his defence of 4 murderers "using simple tricks of advocacy - contradictions between between one witness and another, contradiction between a witness and his previous statement to the police and the preliminary enquiry" made him sick after his clients were acquitted.
"I decided when we became the government, we will not allow this foolish, completely incongrous system which will never take root here, because no juror will take upon himself the onus of saying, 'Yes, he will go to jail'."

Doubtless, there will be lawyers who have differing thoughts about the subject. David Marshall did, and his outrage on the abolishment of the jury system in 1969 still resounds, "The last nail has been driven into the coffin of justice". He also said during an interview in 1994, "For me, the punishment must not fit the crime, the punishment must fit the criminal and the punishment must fit the needs of society." Too bad he's no longer around, his holistic approach sounds more humane.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Fallacy Of Man

It's a little known fact. When TT Durai sued Susan Long and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), latter tried to settle out of court. There is no golden tap installed at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) office. After the hue and cry raised by a disraught contractor, the faucet was replaced by a chrome plated one with gold trimming.

Durai's misfortune was being cross examined by Senior Counsel and MP Davinder Singh, who shrewdly used the court of public opinion to crucify him. That's why Mrs Goh Chok Tong was so disgusted with the proceedings, she stormed out with the infamous "peanuts" comment.

Durai did himself in when he tried to explain how business class entitlement was used to fly first class. All because in April 1997, NKF volunteer Archie Ong personally sighted Durai seated in a Singapore Airlines' first-class cabin. Ong was sued for defamation and ended up paying out an undisclosed sum in damages. Aero-modelling instructor Piragasam Singaravelu was hauled to court in 1998 for saying similar, and ended up with same fate. The peeve about this case is that the truth could have been established with a simple phone call to SIA. Once you are on their Priority Passenger list, they have all your personal details on tap (pun intended) - including seating preference.

The prosecutor's case against City Harvest's Kong Hee hinges on the allegation that funds collected from church members were diverted to promote wife Ho Yeow Sun's singing career. Problem here is that the "Crossover Project" was already announced as a ministry to reach out to the secular crowd. The 33,000+ strong congregation willingly empty their wallets in good faith, believing their pastor knows best how to utilise the monies collected. It can be argued that the creative accounting measures are but means to the same end - reaching out to the infidels. The uninitiated may not realise that "love offerings" collected in churches are not always used to feed the hungry that Mother Teresa dedicated a life time to. Sometimes money is spent on a new car, because the pastor's vehicle is "already 5 years old". One pastor's overseas family holiday was entered in the books as a sabattical. God proposes, Man disposes - you are right, it should be the other way round.

The albatross hanging around Kong Hee's neck is that in 2003, member Roland Poon accused the church leadership of misusing funds to fuel Ho's aspirations and ended up paying for retraction apologies in The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily News and The New Paper. Denying Poon’s allegations, Kong Hee stated then that "no church funds had been used for Ho’s pop career promotion, and that it was normal practice for the church to support and celebrate the secular success of its members".

There's good reason why DPM Teo Chee Hean took pains to highlight that the charges filed by CAD are against five individuals, and not the City Harvest Church itself. Unless the public prosecutor does a good job - please do consult the NKF court transcript - this one could turn ugly.
The Gospel truth according to Pastor Kong Hee

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

High Fliers In Hot Soup

We kid you not. Some children in Singapore are so poor, they don't stay back after school for remedial lessons because they can't afford to eat at the canteen. That's what financial lifelines like the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund are meant for. Imagine what sort of despicables would stoop to rob from such impoverished unfortunates.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) senior vice-president Peter Khoo was charged in court yesterday for misappropriating shopping vouchers to the tune of $23,000 while he was the organising chairman of the activities and events for the School Pocket Money Fund. That plus obtaining monetary gratifications from related shady business deals between July 2006 and August 2010.

The nation had yet to come to grips with last week's exposé regarding Chief of Protocol with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lim Cheng Hoe's fiddling with his expense claims for overseas trips. A guy who was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2009, and careerist veteran of 38 years playing host for countless VVIP visits. No information is given about the monetary sums involved, but whatever amount he pocketed, he will be paying for it in spades.

It is doubtful either high flier will come close to pilfering anything like the $14 million Public Utilities Board deputy chief Choy Hon Tim parked away in a Hongkong bank account in 1995. Or the $800,000 Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan's palms were greased with in 1982. Those were the real pros.

The new record breaker has to be the pastor of City Harvest Church, out on bail for misconduct and mismanagement of $23 millions, bulk of which went to bankroll the raunchy music career of the rock-star preacher's wife, pop singer wannabe Ho Yeow Sun. Unfazed by the revelations, entrepreneur and founder of 77th Street Elim Chew, 45, reinforced her endorsement of the super couple, declaring "a family comes together in challenging times".

Sigh, the antics of these characters really make it difficult to hold one's head high as a Singaporean. Thanks to them, "Most probably you're from China" would soon be welcomed as a compliment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Card Options

Before Nero fiddled while Rome burnt, Roman citizens in the know must have started packing in advance to vote with their feet. If you are thinking America, the 25 June 2012 copy of TIME has a keeper of an article about signposts to a new life  in the land of the free, and home of the brave.

The first step to being a citizen of the Great U.S. of A is getting hold of a green card, the document signifying the U.S. government has granted you permanent resident status, permitting you to live and work in the country.

The Sure Deal
Easiest way to being an American citizen is to born in USA. Like mainland Chinese flying into Hong Kong to make deliveries. Just make sure your doctor and/or airline allow you to fly when mom is about to pop.

Relative Already In Country
To apply for the green card on the basis of family, you need to be a spouse, parent, parent, child or sibling of a citizen. The U.S. has a quota of 25,000 green cards per country per year. China (pop. 1.3 billion) is entitled to the same number as Singapore (pop. 5.1 million - depending on whose number you trust, MOM, IRA, MOF, etc). It makes statistically sense for a PRC guy to pick up a red passport first, then hop into the original country of intent.

Highly Skilled Through Train
Priority is given to those with crucial job skills, medical professionals, advance degree holders or executives with MNCs. There's no waiting list for these favoured types. Or you could be super rich like Australia's youngest billionaire, Nathan Tinkler, 36. Strangely, the young man with a colourful vocabulary chose to move to Singapore. Is this also a stopover manoeuvre?

The Yaacob Way
Mentioned briefly in the weekly magazine,marriage with a U.S. citizen is also an option. It is not known if his Puerto Rican wife gave up her American passport to be a Singapore citizen, but expatriates here have shared that USA does not require her citizens to surrender their passports. Once an American, always an American.

It really boils down to whether you value your bak chor mee over freedom of assembly and expression, stuff which some people claims will not fill an empty stomach. Like the woman once said, “People can board the train, it is whether they choose to.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blinded By Groupthink

Recently we have seen how top civil servants make stupid mistakes and say the stupid most things in public. Given these are supposedly the best talents in the land, at least best as public money can buy, how did this come about? One is reminded of the briefing RAND Corporation's Daniel Ellsberg gave to the then newly minted head of the National Security Council, Henry Kissinger:
"You've been a consultant for a long time, and you've dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you are about to receive a whole new slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty, that are higher than top secret...
     First, you'll feel exhilarated by some of the new information... you will forget there was ever a time that you didn't have it, and you'll be aware of the fact that you have it now and most others don't... and that all these other people are fools.
     Over a longer period of time... you'll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information... In the meantime, it will become difficult for you to learn from anybody who doesn't have these clearances.  Because you'll be thinking as you listen to him, "What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know?" And that mental exercise is so torturous that... you'll give it up and just stop listening...
     The danger is you'll become something like a moron.  You'll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours."

Two years later, Kissinger dismissed the advice of a team of consultants about the dangers of escalating the war into Cambodia because "They never had the clearances". The consultants turned out to be right, Kissinger wrong.(extract from "Econned", Yves Smith)

When the elitist mandarin class monopolise the discussions in their closed door meetings, the additional danger is that the these privileged few become overconfident in their groupthink and start drinking their own Kool Aid. That's when the country starts to fall apart.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Clash Of Civilisations

"Most probably you're from China," were the first audible words from the video that went viral.

Muhammad K, 21, who captured the altercation said it started when aunty was eyeing the occupied "reserved" MRT seat. The young lady engrossed with her smartphone soon took notice of the mumbling about inconsiderate people and the dire need to sit down, and promptly got on her feet. Instead of expressing gratitude, the grouchy woman stared daggers, grumbled more, and aimed her camera phone as a final threat. Unfazed, our little miss put her down smartly, "You say enough already or not, aunty?" Maybe it's a case of Gen X versus baby-boomer, but mercifully the cops were not called.

"Go back to China" and "go back to the laundromat where you work," were the racist taunts from Brit Richard Jonathan Mills.

Mills had earlier pointed out to Alexander Chew in the members-only club at Gallery Hotel the dry cleaning tag was still on his coat. Maybe the busybody was trying to cosy up to Chew, who was with distinguished company, specifically Mr Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook. The insults were rained, according to Chew, when he was exiting the washroom. Mills' version has Chew jumping queue, thus deserving of the vulgarities and racist tirade. Grabbing Chew's shoulders, he admittedly challenged, "I dare you to hit me." Chew obliged, and floored the surprised Ang Moh. What's unsurprising about the outcome is that racist walks away with a potential sedition charge, while Singaporean gets fined.

Note that in both instances no China nationals were involved. Why then the quick negative references about mainland Chinese? The curry wars are over, Sun Xu has made amends, even the wife of the Ferrari driver apologised. The fall of Chongqing police boss Wang Lijun and party leader Bo Xilai is ample proof their government is serious about civilised behavior. Which says a lot about our own Chief of Protocol Lim Cheng Hoe being nabbed over improper claims for expenses incurred during overseas trips. How much more do these greedy buggers expect to be paid?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Talk About Town

Not satisfied with sob stories on his own blog, the ex-general went on the Talkback Townhall programme on 938FM to spread his insidious propaganda. Playing lip service to the SME's, in particular labour intensive sweatshops crying for the good old days of free flow supply of cheap foreign labour, the irritating pratter was full of standard government platitudes. What was really irksome was his last remark about attracting senior citizens back into the labour force. If they are sincere about it, why are employer CPF contributions still cut after age 50? Above 65, the rate is a pathetic 6.5%.

Madam X works at a restaurant outlet we frequent for lunch. Each time we engage in small talk, she brings up the fact that, despite 20 years of service, she hasn't had a pay rise in the last 10 years. That's when we adroitly change topic. We didn't have the heart to tell her management may not take to her remarks kindly, that she was in a highly vulnerable position. The rest of the serving staff were mostly foreigners, youngsters half her age, economic refugees qualified under the "foreign talent" policies. Nurturing every Singaporean in the workplace for better jobs and better lives? Tell that to Madam X.

Even the PRCs have wised up to the truth. Zhang Mingpu, 23, is heading back where a better paying job with an employment agency is awaiting him in home town Zhenzhou city. He swears his first time working here will also be the last, citing 10 hour workdays, 6 days a week for his $1,200 - that's about $5 an hour, what our own Singaporean students are getting for flipping burgers to help dad pay the tuition bills. Adjusted for inflation, wages in China grew about 8.5 percent last year. According to TIME magazine (18 June 2012), the average wage for a shop floor worker in the manufacturing industry jumped 30% in 2011 alone. Which is better than what the Singapore government is prepared to do for our own lower income group. No wonder they shredded Lim Chong Yah's proposal for pay of low income workers to be raised by 50 per cent over the next 3 years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Real Hero

Who says Singaporeans are kia-su, kia-si and kia-bu (loosely translated: loss-phobic, death-phobic and spouse-phobic)? Trussed up like a chicken with hands and legs tied, bundled in a blanket and dumped unceremoniously at the back of a pick-up truck, the only time fear crossed the mind of the tour guide cum leader was when he worried about ever seeing his wife of 12 years again.

A hero's welcome
Rather than let the heavily armed Bedouin hi-jackers seize the old couple in their 60s seated in front of the holy land tour bus, 44-year-old Vincent Toh valiantly volunteered himself to be hostage for their nefarious intent - apparently as exchange for one of their tribesmen arrested by the Egyptian police for drug related offences. The ordeal in the scorching temperatures of the Sinai Peninsula ended only when he was re-united with his Queenstown Methodist Church group which was waiting and praying anxiously for his safety at a Cairo hotel.

There is now a travel advisory out regarding travelling overland in that part of the world, still adrift in turmoil after the ouster of Housni Mubarak. Last weekend’s presidential election is supposed to be the final step in the transition to civilian government, when power will be handed to the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s long history. Some scholars believe that Mount Sinai, the mountain at which Moses received the Ten Commandments, is actually located in Saudi Arabia. Charles Beke in 1878 suggested Mount Baggir, to the northeast of the Gulf of Akaba, as the true location.  So a detour will not be missed.

What should not be missed is that we have a real life hero at home. Will he be given a medal at this year's National Day Awards ceremony? Sadly, that's quite unlikely. The guys nominated are usually are top dogs in uniform, adding another ribbon to their many decorations for faithful lapdog service to their political masters. Some of them have ended up in the little black book of the under-age online prostitute, or listed among those who received gratification from IT vendors.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Whipping A Dead Horse

Everyone has his own conspiracy story about how student Reuben Wang ended up apologising to DPM Teo Chee Hean for telling the minister to "go fish" (euphemism for expletive deleted).  Some said he was read the riot act at a Saint Andrews Junior College (SAJC) closed doors "counseling’ session". Since his father is purportedly also a teacher at the school, the stakes were high.

But it was factual event the Straits Times printed a lengthy editorial that lashed out at the 17 year old, calumniating him as a "keyboard thug" who lacked "proper" upbringing. The latter accusation was obviously an uncalled for smear on his innocent parents, emulating the spare no quarter blitzkrieg tactics of one pink blogger.
“Are we ready for this generation of keyboard thugs? The local media often receives flak for not highlighting or spinning government issues in a positive light. The truth is, every news piece we put up has to have evidence behind it. We do not rant or rave, we simply present the issue.”

I can do this all day
The issue that was not presented was how the DPM cowardly evaded the awkward queries from other 17 year olds at the Pre-University Seminar. The "what do you think" replies were reminiscent of Sarah Palin's cringe worthy responses to "gotcha" questions. Unfortunately for Sarah, she did not have an orchestrated compliant press at her beck and call. If Teo were addressing another crowd, he would have received worse than the shoes flung at George Bush.

We thought former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin summed up the shameful episode pretty nicely when she tactfully noted that young people do not feel as beholden to the ruling party as older folk, "For some of them, being a politician is just like being in any other profession, no need to be so deferential".

Instead of letting it rest, they have come up with another editorial ("Swearing off the profanities", ST 18 June) quoting, of all people, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, on the proper etiquette of spewing vulgarities. Apparently it was a sin to expect answers to national issues from the minister on the podium, who is older than 17, and drawing a fat salary. The poor students were gathered there, we are told, to provide views on said issues for the minister's edification. Expletive! Expletive! Expletive! Expletive! Expletive!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Minister And The Surgeon

Speaking at the Ministry of Law's Arbitration Dialogue 2012 at the Maxwell Chambers, where a gathering of eminent international arbitrators and arbitration counsels met to discuss developments in Singapore’s arbitration landscape and the recent enhancements made to the Singapore International Arbitration Act (IAA), Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam attributed Singapore's success as an arbitration hub to five main factors, one of which was being swift in responding to changes by amending laws and policies.

Thanks to the amending of laws and policies, Dr Woffles Wu was charged under section 81(3) of the Road Traffic Act. Shanmugam said that at the time of the traffic offences, in 2005 and again in 2006,  section 204 of the Penal Code had not been enacted yet.
Obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating course of justice
204A.  Whoever intentionally obstructs, prevents, perverts or defeats the course of justice shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with both.
Explanation.––A mere warning to a witness that he may be prosecuted for perjury if he gives false evidence is insufficient to constitute an offence.

However, the nip-and-tuck doctor could have been easily nabbed under section 182 of the Penal Code, a provision used in cases of false information declared to the police in traffic related violations.
False information, with intent to cause a public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person
182. Whoever gives to any public servant any information which he knows or believes to be false, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, such public servant to use the lawful power of such public servant to the injury or annoyance of any person, or to do or omit anything which such public servant ought not to do or omit if the true state of facts respecting which such information is given were known by him, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to $5,000, or with both.

Still, 81(3) of the Road Traffic Act does not exactly get him out of the woods:
Duty to give information
81(3) Any person who wilfully furnishes any false or misleading information under subsection (1) or (2) shall be guilty of an offence.

According to the Law Minister, who was once a Senior Partner and head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution at Allen & Gledhill LLP, the misleading statements in question were made by Mr Kuan, which was why the charge for Woffles could only be that of abetment. That was the report on Sunday Times, 17 June 2012.

A few days back on Friday, 15 June, the words from the horse's mouth seem to say something else.

So who should we believe, the rich minister or the rich plastic surgeon? And please, don't quote PM Lee Hsien Loong again:
"Do you believe everything you read in the Straits Times?" (Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at NUS, April 2007)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Waffle About Woffles

extract from Hri Kumar's blog
As a practising lawyer, Member of Parliament Hri Kumar should have known it was sub judice to comment on an ongoing case. To do so implies the file is closed on plastic surgeon Woffles Wu Tze Liang's tangle with the law.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) gives the same impression by saying it will not be appealing against Wu's sentence of a $1,000 fine for abetting a Kuan Yit Wah, 83, in providing misleading information to the police for a speeding offence involving Wu's car in 2005, and again in November 2006.  Kuan was not charged for the repeated offence, he's off the hook too.

Prior to amendment in 2008, the maximum penalty for speeding was 6 month's jail and a $1,000 fine. Sales executive Charlie Lim was slapped the full custodial sentencing of 6 months for a similar offence in 2008, and his partner-in-crime who took the rap, 54-year-old Benny Sng, was locked away for 6 weeks as "he had intentionally perverted the course of justice".

That Wu's case is ongoing is adduced from the police's own statement that  the speeding offences are still being probed - for some strange reason, court documents did not state who the actual driver was ("Woffles Wu pays fine, but speeding probe is ongoing", ST 15 June 2012). Wu would not tell the press who was actually behind the wheels, admitting only that "I was fined for providing the name of someone who was not driving the car, and it was a silly thing I did." The silly thing he did was to tick the box that declares:
"I am the registered vehicle owner but not the driver of the said vehicle on the date, time and place of offence as stated in your letter. I hereby furnish the driver's particular(sic) as follows:"

You don't have to be an Equity Partner at Drew & Napier like Hri Kumar Nair to appreciate that it was Wu who started the ball rolling when he filled in the "Request for Driver's Particulars" per Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276)  i.e. intentionally perverting the course of justice. For the AGC to frame a charge of Wu abetting Kuan in providing misleading information to the police instead of going after Wu for providing misleading information in the first place must be quite a creative exercise in convolution. Which kind of explains why it took 6 years to come to court. If the law had acted more swiftly like the way they went after the Sticker Lady,  then it's easy to surmise they must have taken to heart Assoc Prof Shi's advice about what hallucinogenic drugs can achieve for creativity.

It looks like Singapore is fast becoming a cowboy town. When a photograph surfaces with police commissioner Ng Joo Hee receiving a $10,000 donation from the same IT business development director who serviced the SCDF chief Peter Lim, in 7 innovative ways and locations, creative juices go into overdrive. Now all we need is to read is that the AGC is also serviced by NCS Private Limited, or that Esther Goh was behind the wheel of the Woffles car. Don't be too quick to blame LSD for the whacky ideas, it could be the Newater from the tap.

Friday, June 15, 2012

This Will Blow Your Mind

National University of Singapore (NUS) Associate Professor Harold Tan was arrested for drug possession in February 2011. A Public Service Commission Local Merit Scholar and Jurong Town Corporation Overseas Merit Scholar, Tan taught Real Estate Development and Finance and had chalked up 26 years of experience. He was also a consultant who oversaw property developments in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

If Tan was Associate Professor Shi Yuzhi, a Chinese language and linguistics professor who hails from China, he would have argued the prohibited stuff found on him was necessary fuel for creativity. The nutty PRC professor had blogged that youths be allowed to consume psychedelic drugs in the name of producing a generation of creative thinkers. NUS sure knows how to pick them foreign talents.  Shi uses his line of logic for a book he is writing, "Why China cannot produce a Steve Jobs?", on the flaky premise of Jobs' publicised acclaim that LSD was a major reason for his success.

This was what Jobs actually said as part of a  top secret security clearance check for a Pixar contract:
"Throughout that period of time [1972 to 1974] I used the LSD approximately ten to fifteen times," Jobs said. "I would ingest the LSD on a sugar cube or in a hard form of gelatin. I would usually take the LSD when I was by myself. I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.”

Consider also this other excerpt found in the materials released by the FBI:
“Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs’ honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.”

Shi has to be real creative to deduce the Macintosh and iPod were conceived with the aid of mind bending drugs. Fans of Jobs may not like to hear this, but  it was a Jef Raskin, who first came up with the Mac, and Jobs who hi-jacked the project ("iCon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business", by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon). The user interface (UI) for the iPod was subject of a lawsuit, which Apple finally settled with a US$100 million check for infringing Creative's patent. Drugs had nothing to do with it.

Shi's research areas are in Classical Chinese, Modern Chinese, Chinese dialects, minority languages in China, and English. His theoretical interests are in cognitive linguistics, linguistic typology, and grammaticalization (?) theory. The types of papers he published:
  • The Use of Color Words in Modern Chinese. Chinese Studies, Vol. 3, pp 18-22.
  • The Special Use of the Quantifier “one” in Negation. Chinese Learning. Vol. 9, pp 21-22.
  • Differences and Similarities between Synonyms and Antonyms. Chinese Studies, Vol. 1, pp 28-34.
  • The Marked and Unmarked Constructions in Modern Chinese. Yufa Yanjiu he Tansuo, Vol. 10: 19-30.
  • The Cognitive Relation between Question and Exclamation. Studies in Foreign Languages, No. 6.
  • The Relationship between Syntax and Word Formation. Journal of Chinese Language, No. 1.

Not exactly the kind of material to dive into to advance the frontiers of consumer technology.

NUS is not amused by the Prof's recommendations ("Without harming personal health, allowing young people to consume hallucinogenic drugs is not necessarily a bad thing". ), its spokesperson said that the Department of Chinese Studies is investigating the matter . Presumably they'll start by reading the tea leaves.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The New Deal In Corruption

"Personal indiscretions aside, Boon Gay firmly believes he is not a corrupt officer," the lawyers of Ng Boon Gay, 46, former director of the Central Narcotics Bureau, said in an emailed response to AFP queries. Well, officially he is charged in the Singapore court for "corruptly" obtaining libidinous "gratification... from one Cecilia Sue Siew Nang" on 4 occasions, specifically 4 instances of oral activity, twice when she was a sales manager with Hitachi Data Systems Pte Ltd and twice when she worked for Oracle Corporation Singapore Pte Ltd. Definition of corrupt notwithstanding, how did the top cop end up at the wrong side of the law?

Perhaps it has to do with the repeal of the original Section 377 in October 2007. Until then it was illegal to participate in "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" between individuals (of all sexes - the law being non-gender specific with its use of the word "whoever"). With a stroke of the legislator's pen, suddenly Singapore women in sales have one more trick in their arsenal of feminine wiles to service their clients.

We could blame Bill Clinton who first cleverly argued that he and Lewinsky were never involved in physical interaction of the procreative kind, the only gymnastics which he would admit as a breach of matrimonial fidelity. Even Hillary must have appreciated the technical adroitness of his perspective of the law.

My secret of success?  I swallow.
We could also blame Zoey Tay, who told the whole wide world she swallows stuff in the Imedeen advertisement. Poor thing. She was the  victim of some unscrupulous copywriter who took advantage of her Chinese educated background, but then many other women may have been easily duped by the double-entendre just as well.

Suddenly, it is cool to blow. Or get down. Whatever.

The slippery slope down the route of corruption takes many forms, and no amount of pecuniary deterrent can thwart its course. But it is pathetic that a family man can be fell so easily by the administrations of amoral individuals giving lip service in the mad pursuit of financial rewards. If cultural attitudes towards once taboo practices are going so quickly from disgust to reverence, the future for our society must surely look bleak.

The use of the "s" word in this post is studiously avoided. If you want salacious details, go read the morning paper.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where There's Smoke...

Why is Yale-NUS coming on so strong about the Huffington post by Yale political science lecturer Jim Sleeper? Yale University Press Secretary Tom Conroy is adamant Yale will not be getting any financial gain from the partnership with NUS, apart from reimbursement of expenses.  The NUS spokesperson parrots similar script,  "Yale University is reimbursed only for work done in connection with Yale-NUS College."

But both are not denying the fact that Yale trustee Dr Charles Ellis, and member of Yale Corporation, is currently an adviser emeritus to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation's Investment Strategies Committee. [Please note corrections and updates kindly provided by Mr Sleeper below.]

Sleeper makes it clear: "My post does not say that there has been any agreement to allow Yale to participate in restricted investment opportunities. It merely quotes someone saying that he is convinced that that is a possibility." And that quote qualifies the potential financial gains for Yale as "what you call insider trading: Yale will be cut in on prime investments that Singapore controls and restricts through its sovereign wealth fund. These will be only investments, not payments, so there's some risk. But ... Yale's endowment will swell by several hundred million in consequence of its getting in on these ventures".

Insider trading has long been regarded as reprehensible as far as securities regulation is concerned in Singapore - it is worse than the extra egg that goes with the char kway teow, local parlance for justifying unsolicited discounts in condominium purchases. The main regulatory frame work is the Securities and Futures Act (SFA), which has replaced the repealed Securities Industries Act (SIA). The relevant Section 218 of the SFA lists the types of prohibited conduct by connected persons in possession of inside information. The most important of the provisions regulating insider trading is Section 219 of the SFA, which adopts an "information-connected" approach towards insider trading:
Prohibited conduct by other persons in possession of inside information
219.—(1)  Subject to this Division, where —
(a) a person who is not a connected person referred to in section 218 (referred to in this section as the insider) possesses information that is not generally available but, if the information were generally available, a reasonable person would expect it to have a material effect on the price or value of securities; and
(b) the insider knows that —
(i) the information is not generally available; and
(ii) if it were generally available, it might have a material effect on the price or value of those securities,
subsections (2) and (3) shall apply.

It is fair to conclude that someone, anyone, may be convinced that participation in restricted investment opportunities is a real possibility, given the unique position afforded to  Dr Charles Ellis as adviser emeritus to the GSIC Investment Strategies Committee. It is up to Dr Ellis to prove everyone wrong. Meanwhile, it would be pertinent to watch if Yale's endowment will be swelling by several hundred millions in the near future. As the idiom goes, forewarned is forearmed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Man Made Disasters

According to James Palmer's "Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes", the natural disaster of Tangshan claimed about 650,000 lives, while the unnatural disaster of Mao's Cultural Revolution caused the deaths of 6 or 7 millions. The earthquake of magnitude 7.8 on the Richter scale in 1976 - the energy released by the seismic wave was equal to 400 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima - was less deadly than the man-made mistakes of Chairman Mao who died in September of the same year.

Speaking on the platform of the ESS' (Economic Society of Singapore) annual dinner, PM Lee Hsien Loong boasted how well Singapore has performed, "In terms of per capita GDP we are slightly above US$50,000 (S$64,000) last year, which placed us 11th world¬wide, ahead of the USA." He reminded his audience that in a similar speech in 2003, he had personally outlined then how he could transform Singapore into a dynamic, global city. What he did not take credit for was what he termed the "daily stresses and strains" i.e. more crowding in public places, housing and public transport falling behind the needs of a larger population, friction between locals and new arrivals. That he would lay blame on the moaners and the groaners.

It was a far cry from the "apology" at a lunchtime election rally of May 2011.
"...because of the IR, more Singaporeans are at risk of problem gambling, more families are at risk. High growth is good, but because of growth, we have to take in somewhat more foreign workers, we have to be prepared to accept a little bit more congestion for the time being.

...These are real problems – we will tackle them, but I hope you will understand that when these problems vex you or disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us, we are trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry, but we will try and do better the next time."

Compare the know-it-all posturing at the ESS dinner to what Khaw Boon Wan abjectly acknowledged during the Hougang by-election rally,
"...But infrastructure, especially housing and transport, could not cope with the sudden increase in population. We are adjusting the policies, slowing down the growth of foreign population, while ramping up the infrastructure.

These national issues are of concern to all Singaporeans, not just those in Hougang. The Government is attending to them. We are confident that within 4 to 5 years, the situation should improve significantly."

Singapore is fortunate in that we do not lie within prominent seismic zones, such as the Alpide, which extends from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic. What we suffer most is from egoists who think they alone have all the answers, and refuse to own up to their duds.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't Cry For Ex-Ministers

Tears of joy for life-line from Temasek
Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng, 64, has joined Temasek effective 1 June 2012, according to Temasek's website, swelling the board's size to 9 members. He was last seen crying his heart out on camera when he confirmed his retirement after more than 30 years of public service and 7 terms in office to make way for PAP’s new batch of candidates at the General Election of May 2011. Naturally, many people were quite puzzled by Lim’s sudden outburst of emotion – which followed the equally sudden announcement from the PAP that he would be bowing out from politics.

Lee Kuan Yew had always maintained that his multi-millionaire dollar cabinet ministers would have no problems securing similar remuneration in the private sector. The way he tells it, the queue for his MIW will be longer than those waiting for Hello Kitty dolls at MacDonalds. Appointed minister in charge of ageing issues in 2007, Lim must have discovered that jobs are hard to come by for senior citizens past their prime. Driving a cab is no longer an attractive option, given the dangers of being rammed by a PRC speed demon, or punched up by a Korean tourist.

So where are the ex-cabinet ministers now, are they still rolling in the dough?

Former Foreign Minister George Yeo, 58, officially joined the Kuok Group as vice-chairman of its Hong Kong holding company, Kerry Group, in January 2012. Earlier in October 2011, Yeo had taken up a senior adviser role, what he dismissed as an "informal arrangement"' in the Kuok Group, a Malaysian conglomerate run by "sugar king" Robert Kuok, adding, "I'll join private sector next year. Not decided yet what or where".

Former Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, 64, was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of Yellow Pages, the publisher of directories and provider of classified directory advertising in September 2011, taking over from Stanley Tan who was promoted to Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. Stanley used to be the Executive Chairman.

Former Transport Minister Raymond Lim, 53, was appointed senior adviser at John Swire & Sons (S.E. Asia) Pte. Ltd. in November 2011 , the newly-founded South East Asian operation of the Swire group.

Former Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, 66, was appointed chairman of Singbridge International Singapore Private Limited in September 2011. Singbridge is a company wholly owned by Temasek Holdings which invests in and manages integrated projects in cities such as Guangzhou, Tianjin, Suzhou and Bangalore.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What Political Will Achieves

When you are told to "get a room", the implication is that you should book a motel room because you're practically doing it in full view of the public. In the closing scenes of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark was asked to "get a roof" because he was getting hot and heavy with Pepper Potts. Someone must have advised former chief of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Commissioner Peter Lim Sin Pang to "get a carpark", because he had his amorous trysts in one near Marina Bay Golf Course, one near East Coast Big Splash and one in the vicinity of the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Apparently the sex for IT-related contracts arrangement started in May 2010, less than a year after he was appointed to the top job at SCDF, which goes to show that promotion to high office has its privileges. Why a 52 year old would want to rut in the confines of a automobile like a horny teenager is beyond comprehension. Maybe he's too cheapskate to queue online for the expensive services of the underage whore who landed 80 men in hot soup.

The press is billing this case as the biggest corruption scandal since:
  • 1992, when Commercial Affairs Department director Glenn Knight was convicted of graft involving a government vehicle loan of $65,000;
  • 1995, when Public Utilities Board deputy chief Choy Hon Tim was convicted of taking nearly S$14 million in kickbacks;  
  • 2002, when former Economic Development Board officer Andrew Goh Keng Guan  took S$380,000 in bribes from Chinese nationals to help them process their applications for permanent residency. 
Somehow the other prominent cases are not added to the list:
  • Tan Kia Gan, Minister for National Development, offered his services for a consideration in the purchase of Boeing aircraft;
  • Wee Toon Boon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Environment, accepted a bungalow worth $500,000 from a housing developer and took two overdrafts totalling $300,000;
  • Phey Yew Kok, President of the NTUC and a PAP MP, charged on four counts of criminal breach of trust involving a total sum of S$83,000;
  • Teh Cheang Wan, Minister for National Development, accepted two cash payments of $400,000 each, in one case to allow a development company to retain part of its land which had been earmarked for compulsory government acquisition.

Mr Chua Cher Yak, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau's (CPIB) chief who retired on 1 July 2005 after more than 11 years on the job, made this parting remark: "Our job is driven by political will. We can only be as effective as the Government wants us to be."

[Interesting factoid: In 1993, a few months after Chee Soon Juan joined the Singapore Democratic Party, he was fired from his position at the National University of Singapore by the Head of the Psychology Department, Dr S Vasoo, an MP for the PAP, for allegedly using research funds to send his wife's doctoral thesis to the United States. The courier charges amounted to the princely sum of $10.]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sticky Laws

In March 2007, a Swiss man was charged in a Thai court after being accused of insulting the Thai King for spraying-painting images of him. For his act of graffiti, he faced a 75-year jail sentence. That's because Thailand has strict lèse majesté laws.

The Sticker Lady, best known for plastering circular labels printed with street humour captions at road crossings, also infringed upon our own variant of graffiti laws. But one suspects what prompted the Land Transport Authority to make a police report was not her creative attempt to push the boundaries of art in our backyard.

The police spokesman who responded to press queries claimed they "carried out intensive inquiries and leg work" and diverted "substantial resources to identify the suspect involved". Presumably more attention than was allocated to the subject of stolen confidential minutes pilfered from an alternate political party's premises, and conveniently leaked to the main stream media. With an eye on the year end bonuses, he added for effect, "This is on top of the considerable time, effort and cost to clean up the roads and affected areas." Really, how difficult is it to peel off a sticker from a lamp post, or hose down a road which is usually flooded after the torrential rains we have been experiencing recently?

Limpeh Is Not Amused
 "Offenders will be dealt with in accordance to the law" sounds ominously like they intend to fully extract the proverbial pound of flesh, meaning a $2,000 maximum fine, jail time up to 3 years, or both. One plausible reason for reading the riot act could be the spray painted sign "MY GRANDFATHER ROAD" found on the road adjoining the Ministry for National Development. In the Singapore context, that is not a respectful acknowledgement of filial authority. It's more of a rude reminder that the guy in charge is still wielding an iron hand, or the message his sycophants want to reinforce. You don't need to have an anointed king to think lèse majesté.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Man Of Principle

On March 5, 1977, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s Ludovic Kennedy exposed Lee Kuan Yew's duplicity about detention without trial, alleging that Lee changed his position on such detentions after taking office.

Kennedy: Prime Minister, what do you say to the fact that some people have been detained in prison here for something like 13 years without trial. Is that true?

Lee: It is outside the laws of the courts. It's legislation which the British passed when they were faced with communist insurgency. - a revolt.
There are three of them - you are right - 13 years since 1963, really coming to 14. Two of them are doctors. I defended them for sedition when we were fighting the British together.
And the two doctors know that all they have to do is to say, "I renounce the use of arm force to overthrow the government and therefore do not support the Malayan Communist Party in their attempt to do so," and they will be released. And they refused to do that.

Kennedy: But are you saying, Prime Minister, in a strong and prosperous society that you have here now in Singapore - the last election you won the biggest victory ever, you got all the seats in Parliament - that if you release these three people, you couldn't contain them?

Lee: No, that's not the point. We can release these three people. We released one - Dr Poh Soo Kai - as a trial to see what would happen. We released him in 1972 after we won the last elections with nearly as good a majority - 69 percent of the electorate. And what did he do? He gave medicine and treated a known, wanted, injured terrorist. Now, we have to get him struck off the rolls.

Kennedy: So these other two will have to stay there, forever?

Lee: No.

Kennedy: Until they sign your document?

Lee: No, they don't have to sign a document. All they say is: "I renounce the use of force. I do not support the Malayan Communist Party in their use of force to overthrow the government."

Kennedy: Can I go back to something that you were reported to have said in 1955 when you first entered Parliament? At that time, when your party, the People's Action Party, spoke out against arbitrary arrest, of detention without trial and you yourself are reported to have said, "We either believe in democracy or we do not. If you believe that men should be free men they should have the right of free association, of free publication. No law should permit those democratic processes to be set at naught". Prime Minister, do you believe that, today?

Lee: Yes. I believed that in the circumstances of that time. I mean, I could, you know, quote you Churchill, that "That was what I believed then."

One of the victims of Lee's mercurial principles passed away on Monday 4th June 2012, two days after the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum on 2nd June 2012. He was released from detention without trial only on 2nd September 1981, after spending 20 years of his life in jail, making him the second-longest serving ISA detainee in Singapore’s history. When the ISD goons in 1972 - 9 years into his long incarceration - offered to release him in exchange for a public statement of repentance, Dr Lim issued this political statement from prison:
"I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew’s face. This is not a question of pride but of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable. In the light of what you say, is it not very clear that I have lost my freedom all these long and bitter years just to save Lee Kuan Yew’s face? Therefore the PAP regime’s allegation that I am a security risk is a sham cover and a facade to detain me unjustifiably for over nine years."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hawker Fare, Not Food Court Or Restaurant Cuisine

You know this guy hasn't stepped into a hawker center except during election time when he says things like, "It's not as if anyone can just walk off the street and say I'm going to make the world's best char kway teow. There's an element of training, exchanging of best practices and recipes. And we need in a way to professionalise our hawker centres and our hawkers." Maybe he's like the keechiu general who only partakes $10 chye tow kuay (fried carrot cake) flavored with XO Sauce.

Lesser mortals don't need GPS guided instructions downloaded on an Android smartphone to track down a hawker centre with a tasty equivalent costing $1.50, and which does not require costly infusion of exotic foreign condiments.

When Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishan made the call that hawker centres should be professionalised, and future hawkers should undergo training, he must be thinking that he still has access to the blank checks he was issued for the YOG blowout. Who's going to pay for the training centers, the professional trainers? How many plates of char kway teow must the poor hawker sell to recoup the training fees and certification costs?

The 10 new hawker centres that will be built in new housing estates from October should be opportunities to create employment for the lower income group, those that do not have the paper qualifications or technical skills for a better paying job. They are not the types likely to install a CCTV at their stall to make sure customers don't bitch about ter kwa in their bak chor mee, when they ne'er say they didn't want ter kwa in the first place. Balakrishnan may be used to fellow parliamentarians (still) undergoing on the job training at taxpayers' expense, but self respecting hawkers earn their honest keep by the sweat on their brows because they know how to cook without having to take cooking lessons in France, unlike some under-worked over-paid permanent secretaries.

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry has appointed a panel to spearhead the public consultation exercise for what future hawker centres should be like - they better not engage some external consultant on the sly like Gerard Ee did for the Ministerial Salary Review sham. What we don't want is another lavish spending exercise which adds unnecessary overheads to simple hawker fare. Anyway, who knows better about affordable good hawker food like us Singaporeans born and bred?

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Dark Period In Time

I never said I was going to prove anything in a court of law

"Religion is the opium of the people", is one of the frequently paraphrased quotes of Karl Marx, originally translated from the German, "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes". Charles Kingsley, Canon of the Church of England, wrote this four years after Marx: "We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order." Lenin, the other great Communist, also said, "Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward." So why would hard core Marxists avowed to violence, embrace peaceful religion, and vice versa?

Never mind it doesn't make sense, the Singapore government insisted in 1987 that church organisations were used to further the Marxist cause.

During a hastily arranged meeting between then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and head of the Catholic Church in Singapore Archbishop Gregory Yong and several other Catholic Church representatives, the group was shown Internal Security Department's (ISD) produced documents relating to Vincent Cheng. The 2 June 1987 meeting and subsequent press conference during which Lee Kuan Yew corralled Archbishop Gregory Yong to attend was intended to show that the government action to arrest "subversive elements of the Marxist plot" was not directed at the Catholic Church. He was prepared to go after idealistic students he dismissed as "do-gooders who wanted to help the poor and the dispossessed" [as addressed to the Reverend Giovanni D'Aniello, charge d'affaires to the Apostolic Nunciative], but the Catholic Church was different game.

Whatever impression the press released photo may convey, the archbishop was far from convinced that Vincent Cheng and associates were involved in clandestine communist activities. When he asked for proof, this was the response:
"I have never said I was going to prove anything in a court of law.
It is not the practice nor will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I got to prove everything against them in a court of law or provide evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence in a court of law."

Words from the same guy who demanded that the Labour Front government in 1956 release his then PAP assemblyman, Lim Chin Siong, "if the government wants to retain the slightest pretensions to democracy.  If it cannot, then it must release him. And that goes for all the other persons who have been detained."

The hard truth is that the 16 young victims (6 more were later picked up) were targeted for retributive action for rendering services to JB Jeyaretnam and the Workers' Party during the 1981 by-election and 1984 election like printing and distributing pamphlets, and providing editorial assistance at The Hammer, which the Ministry of Home Affairs interpreted as "a useful medium to disseminate anti-government propaganda and influence public opinion against the government."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Different Folks, Different Needs

Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin wrote in The Manpower Blog, that while everyone needs to plan for his or her own retirement, the state needs to ensure that the CPF can provide a basic level of adequacy, especially for the lower income Singaporeans. In 2003, the Economic Review Committee (ERC) had recommended that the Minimum Sum (MS) set aside to meet a basic level of subsistence during retirement has to grow in real terms to reach $120,000 (in 2003 dollars) by 2013.

Thanks in part to the lack of tangible success in controlling inflation, the target is now shifted forward by two years to 2015. CPF members who turn 55 between this July and June next year will also be required to have a new minimum sum of $139,000, up 6 per cent from $131,000 last year. Apparently all the MAS grandstand efforts at maintaining a strong SingDollar to combat imported inflation didn't amount to much help. Not when the domestic contributors of inflation are having a field day - electricity tariff, housing and transportation costs, etc, etc.

To quote the PM, it's no fun being poor in Singapore. The more fortunate have a different set of worries. Take the financial expectations of one politician who "retired" in 1990:
"I can understand a person wanting to have, in today's Singapore, a house, a car. Projecting myself back as a young man, I would probably need about $10 million - $5 million to buy a house, the things that would go with the house and education for the children. So if I have another three, four million in the bank and income from it, and three, four hundred thousand dollars annual income, that's the kind of life that I as a non-politician would probably aspire to if I were in my 30s."

That was what Lee Kuan Yew told Warren Fernanadez in an interview for a book published in 1998 ("LKY: The Man And His Ideas", pg 235), telling the future editor of the Straits Times that money has not been a determining factor in his life. However, he did add, "If you ask me to live today in an HDB three room flat, and I had to eat at a hawker centre every day, that would a problem," saying his digestion capability at that age will not be able to cope.

Sigh, the lower income group will just have to have a stronger stomach to cope. For them, any meal would be welcomed respite, be it from a hawker centre, food court or restaurant.