Thursday, April 30, 2015

SCDF In The News (Again)

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) announced that it will be conducting an emergency exercise today from 12.30pm to 3pm at the Singapore Sports Hub, including Kallang Wave Mall and Stadium MRT Station. The SCDF said such exercises are part of the on-going efforts to validate and update operational plans and procedures, and the public should not to be alarmed.

What the public should be alarmed about is how the SCDF will be performing their duties in earthquake ravaged Nepal. The SCDF had already sent a 55-man search and rescue team to site, with the first team partnering personnel from Belgium and Spain to cover the Gorkha region, which is near the epicentre of the quake.

Will they be using liquids from a packet drink to put out fires?

Will they cover up the cracks in the floors with Kiwi shoe polish?

Will they be junking perfectly working ironing boards while clearing the debris?

One thing's for sure, they will be documenting their handiwork to show mom they were actually in a disaster area.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Weird To The Very End

Recently a tembusu tree was planted at Duxton Plain Park together with a time capsule intended to be unearthed 50 years later. The time capsule was filled with cards, tributes, newspapers and other tear-jerker memorabilia which marked the North Korean styled week of mourning in March. We won't know what will happen in 2065, but it is unlikely Lim Swee Say - born July 13, 1954 - will still be around to murder the English language.

In his swan song message to the trade unions, Lim urged his troopers to weave technology into manufacturing, services and daily life. "Incorporate" would be a better choice, since sewing takes us back to the bad old days when the textile industry was mainstay of employment. The guy who coined lexicon atrocities like "betterer" and "upturn the downturn" claims that his intent was "not to spoil the language" but simplify communication with the workers. Which makes you wonder what's so complicated about "return our CPF at age 55".

How can someone schooled at Catholic High School and National Junior College - no degree mills, these esteemed halls of learning - produce an output with a, in his own words, "limitation in explaining complicated policies to people"? And still be made cabinet minister, drawing a million smackerooes a year, year after year. Laughing at his own CPF statement along the way.

Last month the outgoing labour chief came up with "futurise", supposed to mean seeking out change instead of yearning for things to remain as they are. This month, he is saying "futurisation" means "early bird catches the worm." If you can figure out which planet this weirdo hails from, we don't really want to know. They should just include his species in the time capsule, and let the future generation of scientists wrack their brains, trying to understand how we even survived 50 years under such Leedership.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

War Stories

Last week the fat geezer was called a "fighter". We are not told what exactly he fought for. We do know from his own writings is that he was definitely on the side of those who fought the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army, the MPAJA.

Ex-president Devan Nair once told Melanie Chew that his contact with the MPAJA happened through an untouchable, the pariah Paramanan. He was one of the labourers working for Nair's father, the chief clerk put in charge of a rubber estate. It was a moral dilemma for father and son when thirty Japanese trucks rolled up and demanded the surrender of the labourers. Nair undertook the risk to warn Paramanan during the night. Next morning, the Japanese found only old ladies and babies, everybody else had fled to the jungle.

There were 15 people who had been involved with Paramanan and the MPAJA. Father and son included. If Paramanan was caught and succumbed to torture, they would be finished. The horribly mutilated corpse of Paramanan was later found, thrown out of the Kempeitai headquarters like discarded trash.

Parmanan had not revealed any names. What Nair found incredible was that "an unlettered, illiterate, lowly born pariah, enduring the most cruel Japanese torture" had saved their lives. He saw it as one more reason to reject one hated man's views on genetics and intelligence. You can give a man all the paper qualifications in the world, he said, it will not make a difference. Don't even get started with the bogus certificates from degree mills which the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) seems to accept with alacrity.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Safety First

It looks like it will be quite a while before we stop hearing stories about the dead guy.

Former top Australian golf professional Alan Murray was talking about the time on the course when he was swinging with the VVIP and wondering where his ubiquitous security attachment was. He hit a couple of wayward shots that drove him into the bushes and an epiphany:
"When  we started I was surprised that I could not see any of his security men following him. Only when I hit into the bushes and went to look for my ball that I discovered they were around, behind the trees."
Murray was bowled over, "That's efficiency. Now I know why Singapore is a safe and secure place."

Some will call it a waste of resources, policing an exclusive golf course where only those elites who can afford the exorbitant green fees are allowed to romp on the manicured grass. Instead of protecting the vulnerable like the 27-year-old woman researcher who was slashed while walking along a poorly lit and derelict path linking Biomedical Grove to Commonwealth Drive. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) belatedly issued a circular to its staff advising them not to use the shortcut leading from Biopolis to Commonwealth MRT Station. Contrary to what the tourist promotion board likes to crow about, not all Singapore streets are safe to walk alone. Swallow the official spiel at your own peril.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Food For Thought

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind” is a quote oft attributed to non-violence champion Mahatma Gandhi. Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations (YBQ), has more to contribute on the subject: "The Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence states that the Gandhi family believes it is an authentic Gandhi quotation, but no example of its use by the Indian leader has ever been discovered."

Apparently an important biographer of Gandhi, Louis Fischer, used a version of the expression when he wrote about Gandhi’s approach to conflict. Fischer used the expression himself as part of his explanation of Gandhi’s philosophy. Some readers may have decided to directly attribute the saying to Gandhi based on a misreading of Fischer’s works.

There is a more authoritative biblical injunction in the Book of Exodus: "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (King James Version, Chapter 21, Verses 23, 24).

We are not sure from which entity, God or mammon, ex-pastor and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) Dr William Wan derived his inspiration when he included following in a press statement (which was not published in the mainstream media):
"Tasteless videos and posts are no excuse for responding with vindictive attacks and threats of unspeakable violence. There is a difference between objecting, however strongly, to something that offends us, and meting out an eye for an eye, or worse."

SKM was pretty sure Dr Wan did send a letter expounding on said position to one of the local papers, before conveniently going away on leave. That's how serious discussions on religious topics can be in this town. Remember, local doctrine has it that the little boy's sin is criticising a religious figure, not the dead political one.

[Interesting aside: anon@4/24/2015 12:39 PM is theorising that the choice of banana is a mockery of the cookie monster determined on stuffing phallic shapes into oral cavities. More research may be needed here; the precocious child could be experimenting with different shapes, wondering why sycophants have a fascination with oblong elongated objects, instead of the natural banana contours.]

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lawyers On The Defensive

The advice given in the common proverb is: "never look a gift horse in the mouth". Simply, when given a horse, it would be bad manners to inspect the horse's mouth to see if it has bad teeth. It is rude to wish for more by assessing its value.

While we are all eternally grateful when three lawyers came forward to act pro bono for a little boy clamped in hand cuffs and ankle shackles, their long winded press statement is fast providing fodder for conspiracy theorists across the island. Lawyers are supposed to sally forth with a vigorous defence, not throw their clients under the bus before court is even convened. The horseshit is embedded in paragraph nine:
"9. We would state categorically that we – the Defence Counsel – disapprove of what Amos Yee has posted."

The elements for the done deal are clearly spelled out in 10(d): "To advise him on the sentencing options including those that specifically deal with young offenders."

This being the birth place of kiasuism, it is easy to argue that the esteemed solicitors are just protecting their rice bowl. Not too recently, the law society had just flexed their muscles, resulting in one lawyer being neutered on the grounds of mental incapacity. Meanwhile the head of the Singapore National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) also recently wrote that her daily exercise regime consists of running up and down her 20 metre office corridor 800 times to complete her quota of 16 kilometres.

Before you rush to join those who flew over the cuckoo's nest, there's more food for thought. Suppose the three wise men had simply answered the call of duty to salvage the country's soiled human rights reputation. Which means Public Service Stars (BBM) are in order, in time to make it for the national day honour list. Considering what grab-loot leaders are getting away with these mad days, those awards could be more useful than what degree mills can offer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Much Can You Really Eat?

When the bean counters of the Norwegian company who bought over our Singapore operation came to visit, one of them told us that the salary structure at head office was pretty egalitarian. The general manager is paid only 5 times as much as the lowly receptionist. He must have read about the juicy emoluments of our ministers.

In the US, the average income of the wealthiest 10 percent of the population is 15.9 times that of the poorest 10 percent. By contrast, in Japan the difference is only 4.5 times - one of the lowest ratios in the world, according to Keiko Hirata and Mark Warschauer in their book "Japan, The Paradox of Harmony". There is much less conspicuous consumption among corporate tycoons in Japan than in the US, and business leaders are often embarrassed to be paid too much. Hmm, maybe the disgraceful minister in the prime minister's office should read the book.

Going against the vein, CEO Dan Price of Seattle payment processing firm Gravity Payments took a 90% pay cut so he could give his employees a raise after coming across a study about happiness. The happiness research came from a Angus Deaton and Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. They found that emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about US$75,000 a year. David Marshall, who served as Singapore's first Chief Minister from 1955 to 1956, has a simpler explanation - how much can you really eat?

Try explaining that to the mercenaries who said that only a million dollars can give a politician confidence to clink champagne glasses with a businessman. The same horrible people who say the Gini coefficient does not matter. Price is not the only one willing to step forward to address the disparity between the soaring pay of top dogs and that of their lowly employees, he's heard from almost 100 other CEOs via email and text who say they support his initiative. To quote Chinese philosopher Laozi, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (千里之行,始於足下).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Nothing Wrong, No Crime Committed

When former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng was found guilty by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) for price-fixing in November 2011, he was the President of the Association of Modelling Industry Professionals (AMIP). Cheng justified his sins by claiming that even Microsoft and Bill Gates have been fined for price-fixing. Ergo, it was no big deal since he was in good company.

CCS had determined 11 modelling agencies were guilty of price-fixing. They used AMIP as a “front” for collusion in 2005 and Calvin Cheng had “played a central role in coordinating the actions of AMIP members“ and ran afoul of the Competition Act which came into force the next year.

Lance Armstrong was similarly unrepentant when he told BBC sports editor, Dan Roan, that if he were in the same position as he was 20 years ago, he would again dope to win bike races. The disgraced Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in 2012 in the wake of the doping scandal and banned from professional cycling for life.

According to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) which published its damning 227-page report in March 2015, 90 per cent of the peloton is still doping in one form or another today. The CIRC report stopped short of accusing two former International Cycling Union (UCI) presidents of outright corruption, for colluding with Lance Armstrong and other cycling stars to cover up drug cheating. No wonder Armstrong was so cocky, he had the big boys watching his back.

In 2001, the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) took the unusal step to correct information regarding the academic record of its Chief Executive Officer, Philippe Paillart, after the Asian Wall Street Journal asked Harvard Business School about his "postgraduate degree". The error in the annual report - - which was signed by all five members of DBS's corporate office including Mr Paillart - was amended and Paillart, a French national, said that he has plenty of other degrees, he did not need to make up such qualifications.

The Indian national turned Singaporean employed by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) - the one with an MBA from  degree mill Southern Pacific University (SPU) - can sleep easy. The law is only harsh if you are not going with the flow.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Teen Brain: A Hazard or a Virtue?

Aristotle concluded more than 2,300 years ago that "the young are heated by Nature as drunken men by wine."  Yet a fascinating feature in National Geographic by science writer David Dobbs shows that, viewed through the eyes of evolution, the young's most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults.

We learn that youths take risks that terrify their parents because - as scientists have discovered through modern brain-scanning technology - the teen brain isn’t fully cooked — it’s still in the process of rewiring and remodeling itself and maturing toward adulthood. Our brains have networks of neurons that weigh the costs and benefits of potential actions, but teens weigh those consequences in peculiar ways.

The first full series of scans of the developing adolescent brain in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) project showed that our brains undergo a massive reorganization between our 12th and 25th years. Physical brain growth is negligible during this period as it has already attained 90 percent of its full size by the time a person is 6 years old. During the process of maturation, physical changes move in a slow wave from the brain's rear to its front, from areas that look after behaviorally basic functions, such as vision, movement, and fundamental processing, to the evolutionarily newer and more complicated thinking areas up front.

The long, slow, back to front developmental wave, completed only in the mid 20s, appears to be a uniquely human adaptation. This delayed completion of the fore brain's myelination — the myelin coating that greatly accelerates a brain's bandwidth, also inhibits the growth of new branches from the axon (the long nerve fibers that neurons use to send signals to other neurons) - is a withholding of readiness that heightens flexibility just as we confront and enter the complicated world of adulthood. Here's the kicker: if we smartened up sooner, we'd end up dumber.

B. J. Casey, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College, puts it this way, "We're so used to seeing adolescence as a problem. But the more we learn about what really makes this period unique, the more adolescence starts to seem like a highly functional, even adaptive period. It's exactly what you'd need to do the things you have to do then."

The long National Geographic article may explain why some youngster posted a hilarious video while others were bawling their eyes out, but it still does not explain why an adult would want to snip off bits of anatomy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Speech That We Hate

When Professor Gunaratna, from the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, asked US Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel why the US could not take a tough position on radical websites and social media messages, he was probably thinking of ISIS videos of beheadings. Furthest from his mind, and that of Teo Chee Hean who was also one of the panelists, must be the grassroots leader who made his plans quite clearly on Facebook about genital mutilation of a precocious child.

Like the ISIS monsters who carried out acts of violence while invoking praises of their higher entity, Jason Tan alias Cookie Tan saw no wrong in stringing the blemish of a religious leader and destructive phallic intent in one same sentence. How do these deviants come up with their sick ideas?

The Ku Klux Klan justified the killing of blacks with a story from the Old Testament (Book of Numbers, Chapter 25): While the Israelites are staying in Moab, some married lovely Moabite women. But when they started to worship their god, Baal, Moses is told that he needs to impale all the chiefs of Israel. Phinehas, son of Elezor, rushes into the tent of an Israelite who married a Midianite woman, and pierces husband and wife with one spear, right through the stomach. Apparently, this makes God happy again, so he stops the plague that he has been pouring down on the people. The New International Version (NIV) account reads like this:
So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”
Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
The Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites."

It's not fully established that the grassroots leader is a church going Christian, or what kind of bedtime stories his parents read to him. One thing is clear, religious extremists come in all shades and guises. Just try to avoid being tarred with the same feather.  Stengel's Parthian shot is worth repeating, "Social media is a powerful tool for them, but it should be an even more powerful tool for us."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Mother's Pain

Everybody knows Lady Macbeth will never win the Miss Congeniality award. Not after the way she prodded her husband into steely resolve to do the dastardly deed:
"I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out."

Amos's mom is not Lady Macbeth. She's not even the evil Empress Dowager that Francis Seow claimed was actually running the show here. Mom would not report her own flesh and blood to the police, in a horrible place like ours where waving a copy of a report is already condemnation. J B Jeyaratnam did just that, at an election rally, and was taken to the cleaners.

Mom (“I did not file a police report to have my son arrested”) thought that a public apology lodged at a police station would sate the hellhounds' unquenchable thirst for blood, or at the least make the grassroots leader shy off from legalised castration. However, where we are, as the Bard penned, there's daggers in men's smiles (Act 2, Scene 3, Page 8).

It was was clever juxtaposition of words that fanned the flames to effect. A mother's declaration that her charge is beyond her control could be a cause of celebration in other circumstances. Like the breakaway states that chose to be unshackled from Mother Russia. Or a young nation longing to be free from the tyranny of colonialists. Let's not go overboard here. We are talking about a kid; mom was probably just driven up the wall in frustration, let's not escalate it into a family breakup.

Nathan Heller of The New Yorker (total circulation: 1,044,524 total audience: 4,476,000) reminded the world that Singapore today has a well-guarded culture of political deference. The writer from the state press that is ranked a hundred and fifty-third out of a hundred and eighty countries, just below Russia, by Reporter Without Borders, may soon discover the horror of Lady Macbeth when she finally realised, "Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Political Pimps

Taking politics seriously
It has to be rubbing salt into the wound when a brave anti-colonialist fighter is parodied as a sparring partner in a musical at Marina Bay Sands' MasterCard Theatres. We are not talking about a Jean Valjean duelling with Javert in Les Misérable, an unknown warbler is trying to pass himself off as Lim Chin Siong.

The blemish on his good name started when he was wrongly accused by a diagnosed dyslexic who could have mistakenly transposed "communalism" into "communism". Lim had on 31 July 1961 stated categorically in a forum letter to the Straits Times, "Let me make it clear once and for all that I am not a Communist or a Communist front-man or, for that matter, anybody's front man." Since the credibility of the 153rd ranked daily rag has always in question, Lim told Melanie Chew ("Leaders of Singapore", Chew, Melanie, Resource Press, 1996):
"To brand someone as Communist at that stage was the best and most convenient way to put him into jail.. . Of course, my brief period of association with the Anti-British League had become a "useful pretext" to brand me as a Communist."

Lim Chin Siong (Chinese: 林清祥) was an influential leftwing politician and trade union leader during the 1950s and 1960s. He had the dubious distinction of being detained without trial twice in his life: first from 1956-1959 during Lim Yew Hock's government, and subsequently from 1963-1969 during Operation Coldstore. His wife was locked up in the Women's Prison from 1967 to 1969. Lim co-founded the People's Action Party (PAP) in 1954, and was elected Legislative Assemblyman of Bukit Timah in 1955.

In 1955, Lim was alleged to have instigated a labour strike (the euphemism preferred today is "industrial action") by bus workers that resulted into the Hock Lee bus riots. Historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin, however, notes that a transcript of Lim's speech shows that far from inciting violence, Lim used humour to diffuse the tension, reminding the crowd that the police were employees and did not deserve anger. This was in the good old days when cops don't bash citizens at the flip of an ID tag. Lim would have been useful at Little India.

It's bad enough when history gets written by victors, it's horrible when distortion is set to tune. Whoever is putting propaganda into musical score to be - to borrow a phrase from Dr Poh Soo Kai's statement on 23 March 2015 - a political pimp of the worst kind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stuff Of Nightmares

It's difficult to fathom the motive behind former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's tongue lashing, but one postulate has it that both he and his punching bag, current Prime Minister Najib Razak, risk being exposed, tried and jailed if opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) were to come to power.

Mahathir thinks Najib has at least two skeletons that can't be locked up in the cupboard forever. Najib's Strategic investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has amassed debts of around RM41.9 billion (S$15.5 billion). There is also the affiliation to the sensational murder of Mongolian national Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa, whose beautiful body parts were obliterated by military grade C-4 explosives at a deserted area in Shah Alam, Malaysia.

If misapplication of public funds is a jailable offence, some Singapore politicians, and those politically affiliated, may soon be having sleepness nights. Top of the list heading for the Changi accommodation has to be the profligate who blew S$300 million on some kiddy game event. And then there's the short runt who paid global branding company Interbrand S$400,000 to rename Marina Bay as Marina Bay. We don't know, and may never know, what is the running tab for hosting the F1 night race, but whoever is bankrolling Ecclestone's lifestyle will ultimately have to account for the numbers one day.

But nobody got killed, right? Wrong. The family of the late Private Dominique Sarron Lee is not about to forget that “if the Training Safety Regulations (TSR) had been complied with, Pte Lee and his platoon mates would not have been subjected to smoke that was as dense as that during the incident, and… for as long as they were during the incident”. They are now taking legal action against MINDEF. Changi quarters may soon require expansion if justice is served on this island.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Father Knows Best

It was a kopi-tiam argument that tested the best of friendships - at stake was the erudition of a Cambridge scholar. We had to pipe down quickly before being accosted by plain clothes law enforcers for "disorderly behavior by speaking loud in the general public". The demi-god had said steamboat was two words. The redolence of mass adulation will brook no contrarian view.

In chapter 12 of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (first published 1885), Jim and Huck continue down the shore of the Missouri mountains and come upon a steamboat crippled on a rock. Cliff's Notes say Mark Twain's decision to name the boat the Walter Scott continues his mockery of romantic novels and their authors. The wreck's importance to the novel, however, is found in the contrasting images of peace and police brutality and Huck's inevitable deliberations on death.

If literature is not your cup of tea, you may find this easier to swallow. Steamboat Willie is a 1928 American animated short film produced in black-and-white by Walt Disney Studios and was released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon is considered the debut of Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie. In 1994 members of the animation field voted Steamboat Willie 13th in the book "The 50 Greatest Cartoons", a compilation of the greatest cartoons of all time. In 1998 the film was selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is not found at the National Museum of Singapore. That would take the mickey out of somebody.

The founding father did arrive home that day, we are told, but not by battleship. He explained that he wanted steam boat for dinner, but as “steam boat” was two words, and telegrams were charged by the word, he wrote “battleship” instead, to save words and money!

Friday, April 10, 2015

We're Rich

Microsoft’s global tax chief Bill Sample, under investigation by the Australian Taxation Office, admitted that huge revenue figures from Australia were booked in Singapore, where the corporate tax rate is capped at 17 per cent compared to Australia’s 30 per cent. Microsoft's A$2 billion of revenue generated in Australia, including from Windows and Xbox products, ended up in Singapore.

RMIT University tax expert Professor Sinclair Davidson explained how the round tripping mechanism was perfectly legal: “When you buy a Microsoft product, the intellectual property is registered in Singapore. The Australian arm of the company then pays a royalty fee to the Singapore holding company, effectively transferring the profit to a country where the tax rate is half that of Australia.’’

Google Australia’s managing director Maile Carnegie had nothing to hide too. She said: “This is the way the global tax system works," confirming that the company’s lucrative advertising revenue was booked in Singapore but could not say how much, citing US disclosure laws.

With all those juicy numbers fattening up the balance sheets, and minimal direct or indirect overhead costs incurred in country, shouldn't our productivity rate be shooting up the roof?

Will the guy who debunked the 450,000 figure of worshippers who filed past the casket in 4 days please fire up your calculator again?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong may refer to the announced changes to his Cabinet as "part of continuing leadership renewal", but it sure looks like a children's playground round of musical chairs.

Lim Swee Say takes over Tan Chuan‐Jin's appointment of Minister for Manpower;
Tan Chuan‐Jin takes over Chan Chun Sing's appointment of Minister for Social and Family Development;
Chan Chun Sing takes over Lim Swee Say's appointment of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Same tired old trio playing scissors-paper-stone.  Where is the renewal element, where are the fresh faces?

If anyone drew the short straw, the keechiu general seems to have lost big time. He ceded not only the Minister for Social and Family Development honours for what used to be aptly called Minister Without Portfolio (a.k.a. good for no particular field of specialty), he also had to surrender the Second Minister for Defence post to Lui Tuck Yew, poor guy already submerged way beyond his depth with the onerous Minister for Transport hat.

The big winner seems to be Masagos Zulkifli. Full Ministership means 24/7 Gurkha guards for his private residential security and a freshly minted millionaire. His prize is not just being another Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (anybody keeping score how many of those are already in the Prime Minister's Office?), but also Second Minister for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Does that mean he is entitled to three million dollars?

Makes you want to watch the Amos Yee video again, particularly the last part about hoping for change, good change.
Just have to be right place, right time

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Singapore Police Brutality

We were house hunting for the company's branch office in Manila, when the Chinese Filipino agent told us to contact the condominium security in event of need for assistance - never, never call the police. Years ago, a friend of his who was kidnapped and released after the ransom was paid went to make a report. Imagine the horror when he saw one of his kidnappers in uniform at the station. Since then, the trust in the authorities had never been the same.

When Iskandar Bin Rahmat, a senior staff sergeant attached to Bedok Police Division, was charged with the brutal murders of Tan Boon Sin and his son Tan Chee Heong at their Hillside Drive home, then Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee had said: "The public’s trust in the Police is the only reason why we are able to keep Singapore as safe as it is. This trust is hard-earned and must never be broken."

Iskandar was the police officer attending to elder victim Tan Boon Sin when latter had earlier made a police report in November 2012 over the theft of a safety deposit box at  CISCO.

Businessman Mr Lim was visibly shaken in his faith in the law when a gang of about 8 plainclothes police officers gatecrashed his drinking session with a group of friends at a nightclub in Hotel Rendzeous. He has the evidence of the roughhousing to prove it too: a broken nose that requires follow up treatment in a hospital for plastic surgery. The physical abuse stopped only when someone shouted, “bleeding already!” Unfortunately Dinesh Rahman did not have third party intervention, else he would be still alive today to bear witness of police brutality.

Lee Hsien Loong just happened to be boasting about our "tech-savvy" police when he wrote "No more 'I say/you say' dispute over what happened". He was referring to the new body cameras for front-line police officers he saw at the opening of the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC).

Obviously the thugs that took down an innocent Singaporean was not equipped with the all seeing device. Heck, they even flipped their identity tags over so they can hide in plain sight. And what did they say of the incident? - "disorderly behavior by speaking loud in the general public and assault on police officer for tugging at the lanyard of the officer". Does that mean that, in addition to the ubiquitous breath analyser test, we will all soon have to pass a decibel meter check?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Put It To Rest, Please

Eugenics: his social philosophy
Dr Lee Wei Ling should really stop telling tales. She may not realise it, her frank candor could unravel the intricate tapestry of pagan worship being crafted by the state propaganda machinery (TODAY Special Issue, 5 Apr 2015, "Farewell Papa, I Will Miss You").

On the plus side, the victims of Operation Cold Store and Spectrum gets to be consoled that their wretched tormentor was suffering miserably during his last five years as dictator. We now know he developed Parkinson's disease 3 years ago, which limited his mobility, but not accessibility to his full MP allowance. Too proud to be sighted in a wheelchair, he misused his security officers (SOs, pronounced ass-holes) as human walking sticks. Perennially plagued by bouts of hiccups, he could swallow solids and liquids only with great difficulty. Rest of us had to swallow his insults and castigations for decades.

The once vaunted thinking prowess must have been adversely affected too. His internet research led to use of rabbit skin and chicken feathers to induce sneezing, surely an unorthodox therapy for curing hiccups. He entertained other weird theories too, like excessive food intake precipitates an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm and respiratory organs. And you thought stop-at-two was bad enough.

And we get to know the daughter was also technically challenged - papa once revealed that he doesn't do SMS because he "can't find the keys". To remove a SIM card from her BlackBerry, she had to call in the services of the expensive SOs, with the rank and pay scale of ASPs. And if she had problems sleeping, they get to keep her company too. Makes you wonder what else is in their job description.

The most awful revelation has to be this:
"Also, you have inherited my traits, but in such an exaggerated way that they are a disadvantage to you."

Suddenly it makes sense why the sissified image - some likened it to a caricature of Kuan Yin, the Godess of Compassion - captured by Mahathir's son-in-law, photographer Tara Sosrowardoyo, was so surreal. The same Mahathir who is calling Our Dear Leader kiasu (“Kuan Yew resigned but he was still there as senior minister and minister mentor..."), forever postponing the day of reckoning when hard truths will finally be unveiled. Doubtless, some will be calling it Mahathir's revenge.

Monday, April 6, 2015

By-Election Rumbles

"Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force." - Constitution of Singapore, Article 49

When the expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong in mid-February 2012 triggered Speaker Michael Palmer to declare the Hougang Single Member Constituency seat vacant, there was much hemming and hawing as to what should be done. Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu, represented by human rights lawyer M Ravi, brought the by-election issue up in court.

Justice Philip Pillai concluded on Aug 1, 2012, that “there is no requirement” in Singapore’s constitution to call elections to fill elected Member of Parliament (MP) vacancies, and therefore no prescribed time such elections must be called. Pillai explained that the term "election" in Article 49 (1) in Part VI of Singapore's constitution carries two possible interpretations:
  • One, it could refer to an event, making the holding of a by-election mandatory.
  • Two, it could refer to the process of election, indicating only that the way in which the process of filling a vacated seat in parliament is by election.

Ergo, Pillai ruled that the Parliamentary Elections Act "merely provides the mechanism to hold such an election (the by-election) should the Prime Minister decide to call one", instead of determining whether or not one should be held, much less when.

In simple Singlish: law say by-election must hor, but didn't say when, leh.

Constitutional law professor Thio Li-ann and adjunct law professor Kevin Tan, both of whom lecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS), as well as assistant professor in constitutional law at Singapore Management University (SMU) Jack Lee, spoke in agreement with Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Eugene Tan, assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law who argued in February 2012 that although the Constitution did not impose a timeframe within which a by-election had to be held, it was not the intent that this should allow elections to be postponed indefinitely. The fact that the Constitution is silent on exactly when by-elections should be called should not be taken as permission not to call them at all. "In short," he wrote, "the 'default' position should be that a by-election should be automatic, although there is no hard and fast rule on the timing."

Jack Lee and Thio Li-ann also pointed out that the issue of by-elections was previously debated in Parliament in August 2008, where Thio herself, in her capacity as an NMP alongside corporate lawyer and then-fellow NMP Siew Kum Hong, argued that by-elections should be called within three months of vacancy of the parliamentary seat.

Former attorney-general Walter Woon bypassed the legal mumbo-jumbo altogether and cut to the chase: he believed the ruling party government's intention was to avoid being held to a timeline to call for a by-election. "Will the voters feel that they have not been treated fairly if no by-election is called? That is the question," he added.

To cut a long story short, a by-election was held, with Nomination Day on 16 May 2012 and Polling on 26 May 2012. Png Eng Huat won with 62.1% of the vote. Huat, ah!

To complicate Justice Pillai's position on the law, there may be a new factor in the "respectable" period of mourning thrown in for good measure. But whatever happens to Tanjong Pagar, Walter Woon's caveat looms large, "Will the voters feel that they have not been treated fairly if no by-election is called?"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Two Men Rule Applies

It's official, the first record of a 2-men assembly. Two men between the age of 24 and 25 were arrested by the police on the afternoon of Saturday April 4 for turning up in front of the Istana with placards that read “You can’t silence the people” and “Injustice”. Police said that as both refused to budge despite efforts from the officers, they were arrested for organising a public assembly without permit, under Section 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, Chapter 257A.

Sylvia Lim fought against 4 amendments to Laws on Peaceful Assembly in 2007:
"This refers to clauses 29 and 30 of the Bill. By clause 29 of the Bill, we are removing the heading “Offences Against Public Tranquility” and replacing it with “Offences relating to Unlawful Assembly”. By Clause 30, we will be deleting “mischief or trespass or other offence” and replacing it with “to commit any offence”.

S 141 has been amended to bring it in line with a recent Court of Appeal case: PP v Tan Meng Khin [1995] 2 SLR 505. Now, an assembly will be unlawful if people intend to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment of 6 mths or more, even if it is peaceful and does not disturb public tranquility. Under our law, a person who organizes a procession or assembly after the police rejection of a permit can be punished with max 6 months jail under the Miscellaneous Offences Act. Hence 5 or more people who gather to do so will become members of an unlawful assembly.
As our society continues to evolve, the time is surely ripe for us to allow peaceful outdoor protests as a form of expression. By all means, we can have rules about how, where and when such processions may be held, but wider law reform is needed. S 141 should be restricted to offences which threaten the public peace, and other laws such as the Miscellaneous Offences Act which require permits for peaceful assemblies should be modified."

So did they listen to the lady? No, instead they made Singapore a laughing stock. This is how Ms Lim spelled it out in her speech of April 2009:
"The change in definition of “assembly” and “procession” is more disturbing. As the Explanatory Statement to the Bill says, these words are no longer restricted to gatherings of 5 persons or more. This means even ONE person alone can constitute illegal assembly, thus giving the State complete control over an individual citizen’s freedoms.

First, to say that 1 person constitutes an assembly is certainly an abuse of the word. Secondly, is the government making the change because there had been incidents involving less than 5 persons which had disrupted public life? Unless there is compelling evidence to prove to us that expanding the definition of assembly and procession is needed, this expansion does not deserve our support."

Shakespeare would certainly turn in his grave for the misuse of the English vocabulary, but you can bet the ashes in the urn are not the slightest perturbed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Two Sides Of The Coin

Steve Jobs was alive when he handpicked Walter Isaacson to write his authorized biography. He told Isaacson, who had written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, he wanted his children to know about their father, warts and all: "But I don't have any skeletons in my closet that can't be allowed out". He encouraged the people he knew - scores of people fired, abused, abandoned, or otherwise infuriated - to speak honestly. His own wife said, "There are parts of his life and personality that are extremely messy, and that's the truth. You shouldn't whitewash it".

Jobs probably knew he may not live long enough to see the finished book, released on October 24, 2011, by Simon & Schuster in the United States. Jobs died on October 5, 2011.

One of the unpleasant tales related to how he shortchanged co-founder Steve Wozniak of the bonus money for a game design for Atari. It would be 10 years later before Wozniak read about it in a history of Atari titled "Zap". When Jobs learned the story was published, he called Wozniak to deny it. But Atari's Nolan Bushnell confirmed there was a bonus paid for for each chip that was saved in the circuit board design. Wozniak cried.

Steve Jobs’ acolytes say a new book "Becoming Steve Jobs" by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli paints a more fitting picture of the Apple founder than Walter Isaacson’s 2011 best seller, “Steve Jobs”. Jobs’ former colleagues and friends have taken sides, speaking out against the old book and praising the new one. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and Jobs’ successor, has said that Isaacson’s book depicts Jobs as “a greedy, selfish egomaniac.”

But who did get it right? Even authors Schlender and Tetzeli had to stop and ask: “How could the man who had been such an inconsistent, inconsiderate, rash, and wrongheaded businessman ... become the venerated CEO who revived Apple and created a whole new set of culture-defining products?”

Closer to home lies another interesting question. How could a man who who would rather be feared than loved ("If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless”) whip up such an orgy of adulation? TIME  magazine (April 6, 2015) suggests one clue:
“Whether Lee intended it or not, his template for Singapore became a model for many authoritarian governments that saw its success as an example of how prosperity could be achieved while controlling freedom.”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Humour Is In Short Supply

On April Fools’ Day Google’s various divisions outdo themselves by creating more practical and impractical jokes than any other tech firm. This year they have Pac-Man mode for Google Maps on desktop and mobile. Fire up Google Maps, check the clues, and search for a place where you think Pac-Man might be. The streets are your maze, while Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde are your enemies. The joke is less funny in Singapore because the enemies are ERP gantries and the astronomically high cost of a Certificate of Entitlement (COE).

And it's definitely not an April Fool joke when the Government announced that over 800,000 Singaporean HDB households will receive $45 million worth of Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher – Utilities-Save (U-Save) rebate in April this month. The humour is in the line about GST not being regressive, spewed by same big mouth who said an integrated resort is not a casino. You know the on-going joke, they give you a hundred dollars, they take away ninety-nine.

Malaysia introduces GST this month, but at least they have a list of tax exempt items to soothe the pain:
  • RON 95 petrol, diesel and LPG fuel,
  • Essentials like rice, sugar, salt, flour, cooking oil, coffee, tea, poultry and fish, 
  • Public transport (LRT, KTM buses),
  • Sale and rental of property,
  • Books and reading materials,
  • Healthcare and dental services

BTW the 6% GST is not an additional tax, it replaces the Sales and Services Tax (SST) of 5 to 10 percent. That's the difference between Malaysia and Singapore.

The bigger reason for not laughing is when a grassroots leader is still running free, threatening to maim a boy's manhood for having the cojones to speak the hilarious truth. Nobody is wasting time to file a report because the greater joke is that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will probably work as efficaciously as they did in pursuing the 2011 case of Young People’s Action Party (YPAP) member Jason Neo. That's the fellow who posted a photo he had taken of a school bus occupied by Malay children from Huda Kindergarten, and captioned it “Bus filled with young terrorist trainees?” Surely that's not funny, right?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

After The Shock

If you were one of those at risk of having brains turned into mush by the endless deluge of mindless docu-dramas broadcasted ad infinitum by the state media, an excellent counter measure would be to pick up a couple of titles at the nearest video rental.

Since working lachrymal glands will be the order of the day, start with the weepie "Aftershock" (Mandarin: Tángshān Dà Dìzhèn, Simplified: 唐山大地震). The 1976 Tangshan earthquake occurred between a series of political events involving the Communist Party of China, ultimately leading to the expulsion of the ruling Gang of Four. In traditional Chinese thought, natural disasters are seen as a precursor of dynastic change. We are situated in an earthquake-free zone, so we will have to settle for heavy thunderstorms on a Sunday afternoon.

"Aftershock" surpassed "The Founding of a Republic" (Chinese: 建国大业) as the highest-grossing locally-made film in China, earning RMB532 million. "Jian guo da ye" was made in honor of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The founding father here is none other than Mao, with some steps taken to humanize the dictator who severely damaged traditional Chinese culture, perpetrated systematic human rights abuses, and responsible for an estimated 40 to 70 million deaths through starvation. The film shows him passed out drunk while his comrades celebrate, and one sequence of a barely-awake Mao being carried out in pajamas during an air bombing reportedly almost got the film banned. Obvious ideological agendas prevent the filmmakers from lending the Communist characters any shades of gray.

If the glorification of Mao's exploits start to bore, Hitler's ranting in "Downfall" (German: Der Untergang) should jolt you like a bolt of lightning. The 2004 German war film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel depicts the final 10 days of Adolf Hitler's reign over Nazi Germany in 1945. The Führer acts real nice, handing out cyanide pills as going away presents. A few journalists in Germany wondered aloud whether the "human" treatment of Hitler might not inadvertently aid the neo-Nazi movement. Ngiam Tong Dow may have fretted about mini-LKYs, now the fear is about mini-Sturmabteilung (SA), the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Keep your children locked indoors if you spot any SA men in "brownshirts".

Like Mao and Hitler, Kim Jong-un is shown in his soft side in "The Interview". During the climatic internationally televised interview, he gets to cry on air. These guys are not all that horrible, so give them a break. Especially when today happens to be April 1st.