Friday, May 22, 2009

Mene mene tekel upharsin

In a nutshell: The MOE called a press conference yesterday where the minister of education announced that after a careful study into complaints about Aware’s CSE programme, the ministry have found these complaints to be justified and therefore they are stopping the Aware’s programme and they are going to tighten the process to vet and approve external agencies allowed to provide sexuality education in schools. (In other words, to be more vigilant against such sneaky attacks in the future)

To the AWARE:

Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting

About the Aware’s CSE programme, it’s president Dana Lam had said; “We stand by our CSE programme.”

Well; this is in fact minister Ng Eng Hen’s reply: You have been very naughty. You have betrayed our trust. We do not trust you anymore. Go stand in the corner!

To Josie and friends from the Church of Our Saviour

Thanks for bringing this problem to the public’s attention. But you should have done it in a more intelligent (Matthew 10:6) and God-honouring way.

Our Lord says:

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:37).

Your sneaky methods in taking over Aware – and denying your intentions until you were exposed – were in violation of God’s commandments.

“…. by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme”. (2 Samuel 12:14)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dumber dumbest

There has been no shortage of bad news lately. But few can beat the two big items hogging the headlines last week. These were the takeover of the Thailand’s main Suvarnabhumi airport by the PAD (People's Alliance for Democracy) hooligans and the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Have you noticed some common traits, albeit to different degrees, between these two groups of people?

1) Both were so fixated on their own grievances and purported injustices that they did not spare a thought on the pain and suffering they inflicted other innocent parties. In fact they don’t seem to mind the disrepute that their actions brought on their own country, in the case of the Thais, and their own religion in the case of the Mumbai terrorists.

2) “The end justifies the means” seems to be their overriding concern. But alas, if they would only look at the long term implications of their actions, they would see that they only served to thwart whatever long term aim they were harbouring.

3) They were all pawns being manipulated by higher hands; evil forces which have no qualms about sacrificing them.

Like other bloggers, I absolutely condemn the Mumbai terrorists for their cruel disregard for innocent lives. But I also feel pity for them. They thought they were serving God and their sacrifices would win them a place in paradise. But what a big disappointment it is going to be when they awake to find themselves in hell instead. They will have all eternity to regret their actions. Indeed there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why are they so happy?

Yesterday was an historic day. Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected to the White House. The scenes of jubilation reminded me of the time when US troops invaded Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled.

I ask myself. Could some of the happiness of the American people be due not so much to Obama’s having defeated his Republican rival John McCain, but that somehow these people have mistakenly seen this as a toppling of the immensely unpopular George Bush?

Related posts - Wrong move

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Palin Effect

Lately we have been hearing a lot about the Bradley effect. Supporters of popular US presidential candidate Barrack Obama are worried that in even though all the polls showed Obama to be ahead of his Republican rival John McCain, he may still lose due to the Bradley effect.

I think McCain’s supporters should also worry about what I call the Palin effect. Although many of them fiercely support her, on the actually polling day, it might suddenly dawn on them that there is a very real chance that the 72-year old John McCain may not survive his full term in office if he wins, and then, horror of horrors, Sarah Palin will take over as president of the United States of America.

Monday, October 27, 2008

PM did not address the real issue

Our prime minister has finally spoken on the issue concerning the Lehman structured products. But sadly, he did not address the real issue. Word for word, this is what PM Lee Hsien Loong said according to this report:

“I think this is a very difficult and not satisfactory way to do things in the long run because:

First of all, the government should not be making decisions for individuals. Individuals should have the right to decide for themselves ……

Secondly, the government is not in a position to guarantee what is safe and what is not safe because there is nothing that is 100% safe.”

(The reporter speaking) “PM Lee said that the government’s role is to ensure that the financial system runs smoothly and fairly; not to guarantee the outcome, but to make sure that its people know what they are doing.”

I completely agree with everything the prime minister has said. But that is not the real issue with the present problem is it? The real questions which Singaporeans (at least this one) are asking is this:

1) Shouldn’t the government be alert to what is going on in the financial world; that large numbers of highly-risky products are being sold aggressively and in a not entirely honest manner to old, uneducated and thus highly vulnerable members of the public?

2) If the government is aware, shouldn’t it have the foresight to anticipate today’s ‘fiasco’? I recall that every time a top leader of this country argues for the high salaries of ministers and civil servants, they quote this ability to foresee trouble and take preventive action as one of the qualities that Singaporeans are getting in the bargain. The alternative is to suffer much costlier consequences, such as seeing the economy falter and our hard-earned savings and assets dwindle overnight; which seems to be exactly what is happening here.

3) When products that are harmful to the public are being sold to thousands of unsuspecting citizens, isn’t it the duty of the government to step in and put a stop, as what the AVA has done in the case of the melamine-tainted milk products from China?

Monday, October 20, 2008

We need a watchdog to watch the watchdogs

What SM Goh Chok Tong refers to as ‘The Lehman fiasco’ and the Straits Times calls ‘The Lehman Debacle’ has hoarded the newspaper headlines lately. I think a more appropriate label is The Lehman Tragedy. The Great Mas Selamat Escape we can call a ‘fiasco’ (meaning an event that is completely unsuccessful, in a way that is very embarrassing or disappointing) or ‘debacle’ (meaning an event or situation that is a complete failure because plans have failed). But this one is far more serious and far-reaching in its effect on the lives of Singaporeans, nearly ten thousand of them.

This tragedy has highlighted a big problem in our country. The watchdogs in whom we have so much faith have been caught napping time and again. It appears we need another watchdog to watch over our overpaid, over-complacent watchdogs.

Just look at this headline. MAS (The Monetary Authority of Singapore) views mis-selling seriously. If so, why do you wait till now, after much damage has been done before you start to take action? Who needs watchdogs that only start barking when the burglar has long escaped with the loot?

To matters worse, their response to citizens’ cries has also been found wanting. According to a Today article of 18 October, Mr Tan Kin Lian lamented thus;

“Singapore investors had to make complaints with the financial institutions which sold the products to them, which resulted in some of them being challenged or ridiculed in some cases. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority adopted a better approach. They set up a hotline and service centre and employed 100 people to record the complaints and investigate the case where there was evidence of mis-selling.”

How disappointing. All along we thought that in this country we have the best talents that money can buy serving in the government and civil service.

And yet another watchdog has only just woken. Take a look at this other headline, also from the Straits Times:

As usual our MPs only start to raise issues in parliament long after the problem has been widely publicized in the media or the internet. Isn’t this a case of closing the barn door after the horses have bolted?

Here are a few more issues that I am watching to see if our watchdogs are going to take action before disaster strikes again.

Problem no. 1 - The scams by housing and education agents.

These crooks prey on innocent and ignorant foreign workers and students. The foreign workers thought that Singapore was an ‘honest’ country where people are all law-abiding. They hand over their hard-earned savings to unscrupulous agents who promise to find them jobs and lodging. But once they come into this country, they find themselves stranded; without jobs, without a shelter over their heads. And to make matters worse, the authorities show no sympathy to their plight. Some are arrested, imprisoned and caned and then unceremoniously kicked out of our country.

Likewise, many foreign students have been conned into paying their parents’ hard-earned savings to housing agents who make lots of promises and then disappear with their money.

If our government does not do something about these two problems soon, we are going to find ourselves being branded a country of crooks by some international newspapers or rating agencies. At that time, you can be sure that our authorities will start to make a lot of loud protest and write long letters accusing our detractors of biased-reporting or ignorance. Why don’t you act now?

Problem no. 2 - Heavy vehicles that that are driven like Formua 1 cars on our expressways.

So many complaints have been raised by ordinary citizens in the newspapers and blogs about these drivers from hell with their dangerous cargoes. Other than a few standard letters to the press claiming to take ‘a serious view’ of the problem and citing some statistics, nothing much seems to be done. Everyday, our lives and property are still being threatened by these road bullies. I guess we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we need a major accident like this one before the government will act take real action.

Again I ask. What is the use of having watchdogs that do not watch? We have one that is supposed to watch the transport operators. Yet we see these monopolies increasing their fares on a regular basis as if it is a law of nature; and totally oblivious to the cries of the public. And then they have the cheek to report record profits every year, and no doubt reward themselves with fat bonuses.

And then there is the one that is supposed to watch over the Singapore Power, another monopoly. Everyday we read of falling oil and petrol prices and what do they do? They increase electricity prices by a unbelievable 21% this month. Oh you peasants do not understand the intricacies of energy pricing. Yeah sure we don’t; just as those aunties and uncles who lost their life savings do not understand the intricacies of mini-bonds and high notes or what have you. What I do know is that the petrol companies have been reducing their prices repeatedly these past few weeks. When, I would like to know, is the Singapore Power, and the transport companies going to reduce their prices. Can the watchdogs assure us that when the time finally comes to reduce the prices, it will be done in a fair manner?

Why? What is the root cause of this problem? The answer is simple. The people are lazy and gullible. They leave everything to the government, reasoning that since we have the highest paid and most highly rated leaders at the wheel, we can safely leave them alone to do their jobs. Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, these watchdogs have become complacent. They keep praising themselves to justify their high salaries. But nobody seems to notice that many of the highly paid executives from financial institutions, against which our leaders have benchmarked their salaries, are now branded as incompetent and greedy by one and all.

Thus I say we need a watchdog to watch the watchdogs. But who can fulfill this role? We can’t depend of civic-minded individuals like Mr Tan Kin Lian. There are just too few of such heroes around.

How about the opposition parties? I say they are even worse. They are not napping. They are hibernating! But unlike their counterparts in the animal kingdom, these guys do not hibernate for just a season but for 4 years; waking up only when election time comes around.

So we have to rely on ourselves. And the only weapon we have at our disposal is the internet.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I don’t support Singapore's F1 night race

Recently Singapore hosted the world’s first night Formula One Grand Prix. Many of my friends were so excited about it. I am happy that they had a good time.

The event was hailed as a big success and everybody, including our prime minister was ecstatic that Singapore not only got itself noticed by millions of television viewers worldwide, but had our reputation as a super-efficient city confirmed by many visitors who rightly proclaimed that “only Singapore could have pulled this off.”

Personally, I don’t support the F1 and did not even watch the race on TV. Somehow in this age of universal distress over global warming and dwindling energy resources, I find it difficult to get excited over a bunch of petrol-guzzling machines speeding round and round an arena lit up by artificial lights till “it was like day”, and getting nowhere.

But I did not want to be a spoilsport and thus chose to blog about it after the event is long over.

** CC Photo byFlickr member bernardoh

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Of DSLRS, Printers and COEs

The recent edition of Digital Life carried a series of articles about the rapid fall in prices of digital SLR cameras in recent years. As a result sales have gone up tremendously. Whilst these articles loudly extol the wonders of DSLRs, they left out one important detail. Without lenses, the potential of these gadgets are severely limited. Neither did they mention that prices of lenses remain high, often costing more than the camera body and a basic kit lens. The manufacturers certainly know that with more and more photographers switching to DSLR, it is only a matter of time before sales of lenses will rise correspondingly.

Such sales strategy is also adopted by manufacturers of printers, Better and yet cheaper printers are being introduced regularly. But do you see the price of printer cartridges and toners coming down? The answer again of course is no.

Now what has these got to do with car COEs in Singapore you ask?

Don’t you see the car population increasing rapidly in Singapore in recent years. Our government has been so kind to us motorists who simply love to own cars. Instead of reducing the number of cars on the road, they have been releasing more and more COEs causing the prices to come down and Singaporeans rushing to the car show rooms.

Now with so many cars on the road, and complaints of traffic congestion everywhere, the government is justified to increase the number of ERP gantries. Consequently the ERP system is fast living up to its name of making "Every Road Pay". Certainly after forking out thousands of dollars for your precious car you are not going to leave it in your car park are you? So we simply Pay and Pay. Some pay once a day, some twice a day and some even twice within 5 minutes, as I did the other day when I drove into town via the CTE exiting at Merchant Road and then turning into Hill Street as I have been accustomed to doing.

And with more cars on the road, and ever skyrocketing oil prices, do you see the government reducing the fuel taxes? No way! was the reply when some naive Singaporeans actually made the suggestion.

Yes, the prime minister is right. Our government is not stupid.