Saturday, November 26, 2005

Australian Leaders No Better Than Habibie

Every Singaporean remembers former Indonesian president Habibie’s famous insult when he referred to Singapore as a ‘little red dot’.

“You are nothing, we don’t give a damn about you and we don’t need you as a friend” – is in fact what he was saying.

Now of course the Australian leaders are much more civilized than that. They repeatedly talked about how much they value Singapore’s friendship. But as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. Australian leaders’ actions in recently demonstrate that they are no better than Habibie.

Take the Michael McCrea incident for example. Remember this guy? He was suspected of murdering his driver, Kho Nai Guan, and the driver's girlfriend, Lan Ya Ming in 2002. He escaped to Britain and then to Australia where he confessed to the crime. Because the Australians do not believe in the death penalty, they refused to extradite him to Singapore. In the end, we had to give the Australians an assurance that he would not be executed even if he was found guilty before they would release him to Singapore.

As a Singaporean, aren’t you outraged by such an arrogant attitude. The crime was committed here in Singapore. Shouldn’t our laws take precedence? By insisting that we give in to their demands, doesn’t it undermine our own laws. Future murderers will simply run and hide in Australia. No, we don’t care. This is our policy. We cannot change for a little red like you.

Now we have the Nguyen Tuong Van incident. This convicted drug trafficker is sentenced to die soon. And the Australian government applies non-stop pressure on us to bend our laws to spare him from the gallows; knowing full well that this goes completely against our stated stand on such matters (Please see excerpt of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s 2004 National Day Rally Speech below).

Don’t you see a double standard being applied when you compare the two cases. You are just a little red dot. We don’t give a damn about your laws. We are civilized people. Your laws are barbaric. You must bend to our demands.

Maybe Dr Mahathir was right after all; “It's very difficult to get along with deputy sheriffs.”

Excerpt of PM Lee’s 2004 National Day Rally Speech

The one thing that will not change is our approach to foreign relations. We seek to be friends with all countries, especially our immediate neighbours and the major powers. We pursue win-win co-operation with all countries which are willing to cooperate with us. But that does not mean that we can always accommodate the views or positions of other countries. When our vital interests are at stake, we must quietly stand our ground. As Dr Habibie said, Singapore is a little red dot. If we don't defend our interests, who will?

This approach has earned us respect internationally, and a network of good relations with many countries around the world.

From time to time we are put to the test. As a small country, we cannot afford to flinch. When Michael Fay was sentenced to caning for vandalism, President Bill Clinton wrote on his behalf, but we could not remit the sentence to cane. People in Asia noted our stand. When Prime Minister Mahathir pressured us to change the Water Agreements, we stood firmly by our legal rights. We gave a full public explanation of the negotiations with Malaysia, and why we were justified in international law and were prepared to go to any international tribunal.

Footnote: Please don’t misunderstand me. This article is about foreign relations. It’s not about the death penalty. Personally, I don’t support the death penalty except for the crime of murder.

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” - Genesis 9:6

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So Many Insomniacs In Singapore

Out of curiousity, I did a Google Blog Search on the name "Sleepless in Singapore". To my surprise, I found so many postings by bloggers who were unable to sleep.

It's a bit worrying. So many bloggers are young people. Many bloggers cannot cannot sleep. Can we then conclude that many young people suffer from insomnia in Spore?

For my case, I don't really know what prompted me to use the name Sleepless in Spore. Insomnia is not a problem for me. Reflecting on it, it does seem to be a rather stupid name. Gives the impression of a handsome Tom Hanks type when if fact it is just the opposite. Actually, at the time when I started this blog, the movie You've Got Mail came to my mind.

Anyway, I will just stick to it. Unlike our government, I am not fond of changing names.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Consciously Rude

I once attended a seminar on Safety. The speaker talked about 4 levels of safety behaviour. It goes something like this:
  • Level 1: Unconciously unsafe - this person is not even aware that he is behaving in an unsafe manner.
  • Level 2: Consciously unsafe - this person has probably undergone safety training, and is aware that he is behaving in an unsafe manner.
  • Level 3: Consciously safe - this person has probably undergone safety training too, and consciously reminds himself to adopt safe work practices.
  • Level 4: Unconciously safe - after prolonged practice, safety becomes a part of this person's habits and he adopts safe practices unconsciously (e.g. Sporeans buckling up whenever they get into a car).

I believe we can apply this concept to customer service by replacing the words, 'safe' and 'unsafe' with the words, 'courteous' and 'rude'.

I think many small Singaporean establishments like the HDB retail shops and hawker stalls belong to the Levels 2 and 3. Previously they mostly belonged to Level 1. But the bad economy and tough competition caused them to 'shape up or ship out'.

The other day, I bought some fruits at an HDB shop in North Buona Vista. As the lady started to count the apples that I have selected and pack them into a plastic bag, she suddently put one aside and told me curtly to take another. As my hearing was not so good, I asked her to repeat.

"Go and take another apple", she ordered somewhat impatiently. "This one is bad."

After I returned with a new apple, she toned down her voice considerably to explain that one of the apples I had chosen earlier was slightly rotten. (She was probably thinking. "This chap is not only deaf, he is blind as well.") It wasn't exactly an apology, but she must have realised that she shouldn't have adopted such a rude tone of voice with her customer.

I cannot comment about the situation in expensive establishments because I seldom patronise such places. But, I suspect mostly they are in Level 3. With the strong emphasis on customer service training, many sales staff do make an attempt to be courteous. But it is tough for them because it goes against their nature.

I am sorry to say this; but I think that Singaporeans generally are quite rude and impatient. I hope many people will disagree with me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Go and Jump into the Sea

The president of Iran said a few days ago that Israel should be wiped off from the face of the earth. Later, his government declared that they are a peaceful people who do not believe in force and violence and that sort of thing.

I guess the only other alternative then is to tell the Israelites, "Go and jump into the sea."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Good Government

Last week, I had the opportunity to play host to some visitors from the Philippines. Some comments that they made helped me to appreciate the good government that we enjoy in Singapore.

First of all, on the several occasions that I met them at the hotel, I noticed that the lobbies were often crowded with tourists of all shapes and colours, and the car park jammed with tour buses. Our STB must have done a pretty good marketing job to bring in so many people to visit our expensive ‘little red dot'.

Then, when I looked at the photos that they took at the Esplanade and Merlion Park, I suddenly realized that Singapore is really quite beautiful, albeit in an artificial sort of way. Because I seldom go to such ‘touristy’ areas, let alone take pictures there, I didn’t notice this before.

When driving my friends around, one of them remarked that our streets and roadside parks are so beautiful and well-maintained. “You really are blessed to have such a good government”, one of them remarked. I shared with them a little about our efforts to keep Singapore ‘clean and green’. True – our Nparks has done an excellent job.

After nearly one week, one of them said, “Its strange; I hardly see any police around in the public areas. Back home, we have police at every street corner, and yet there is so much crime. Here, you have so few police, but you have so little crime”.

I could not help but agree with them, although, in order not to sound too proud, I remarked that our government employed very highly qualified and highly paid professionals to manage the government departments; and many of our public sector organizations like the Singapore Police Force and the Library Board have actually won recognition in the form of national quality awards.

When I surf the internet and visit various forums and blog sites, I notice that many people complain that our ministers are over-paid. I do not have any opinion on that. However, I totally support the principle that the best talents should be hired to run the country; and such people should be paid salaries that are comparable to those in the private sector.

Today, we live in perilous times. Earthquakes, terrorist bombings, hurricanes, SARS, dengue, and a very real threat of a bird flu epidemic stare us in the face. Now, more than ever, we need good leaders to run the country.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What Will We Be Tomorrow?

For the past few days, every time I turn on the tv to Channel News Asia, I see this trailer about their new documentary, A Species Odyssey. The trailer ends with this question; “Today we are homo sapiens; what will we be tomorrow?”

I thought the answer to that one should be obvious. Yesterday we were monkeys; today are humans; tomorrow we will be gods of course. This is called Evolution.

Sigh - and this the kind of stuff are being taught as Science in schools.

“and ye shall be as gods” - The serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Our Courts Not Supporting the PM

Our PM wants to do more for old people and improve the level of customer service in Spore. But judging from today's reports on the Took Leng How/Huang Na murder trial, the courts are not very supportive leh.

Firstly, those poor retirees had to queue for hours to get into the courtroom only to find that there were not enough seats. And then those in the gallery could not even see the star, sorry, I mean the accused. Worse of all, the verdict took only 3 minutes to deliver. Even the accused's family were not cooperative - no hysterical sobbing or fainting.

Understandbly, those poor old folks were so disappointed. No wonder one woman complained to the reporters. One chap even vented his frustrations on Took's wife.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Last weekend, I saw Part 2 of the documentary, Hiroshima on Channel News Asia. There was a tragic scene that particularly saddened me. There was this woman survivor who watched helplessly as her young daughter, trapped under some beams begged her not to leave her as the flames engulfed her. All the time she was wailing desperately to her daughter to forgive her because she did not have the courage to die together with her.

I am reminded of an essay my GP teacher asked us to write on the topic, “War has never achieved anything, and never will. Do you agree?” That was more than 30 years ago. I cannot remember what I wrote then, but if I had to write that essay again, I am quite sure what my answer will be.

“But man at war with man hears not
The love song that they sing.
Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing”
- Sarah Harrison, The Flowers of the Field

“And as he sat on upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

And Jesus answered and said unto them ….. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
- Matthew 24: 3 - 8

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Interesting Encounters With Rude Cashiers

Recently there were some articles in Today lamenting the low standard of customer service in Singapore. Actually, I find that the level of courtesy amongst the heartland retail shops and hawker stalls has improved considerably these past couple of years. This is probably due to the tough business environment and intense competition. Nevertheless, it is still quite common to encounter rude sales staff. Here are a couple of interesting encounters.

Encounter no. 1: Cake Shop at Bishan North Block 282

(Sorry this happened a few months ago, and so I cannot recall the exact figures)

I selected $5.60 worth of buns and paid the cashier $7; one $5 and one $2 bill. She then returned me $2.40 mostly in coins. As I turned away and counted the change, I turned back to point out her mistake. But to be doubly sure, I re-counted and then asked her how much was my purchase.

She replied impatiently: “Total is $5.60. You gave $7 and so I return you $2.40 lor ." .…. (pause) .. "Oh sorry, I keep thinking it is $8”, she added as she sheepishly she took a $1 coin from my palm.

Encounter no. 2: Food Court at Yung Ho Road (opp NTUC Lifestyle Centre)

The Cantonese have saying; “sin king loy yi, hou king yan”; meaning to judge a person by the way he or she dresses. This was often used to describe the discriminatory service meted out by rude Hong Kong sales people (in the bad old days that is – heard that they have much improved in recent years).

Recently I encountered discrimination of a slightly different sort. I was on my way to Jurong with 2 colleagues to meet a client, and was dressed relatively formal in long sleeves shirt and tie. As we were early, we decided to stop for coffee. I went up to the cashier to place my order. “2 coffees and 1 tea please”. But she was busy taking stock of cigarettes and totally ignored me. I was undecided whether or not to repeat my order. Maybe she already heard my order and she might scold me for being impatient and disturbing her. Or maybe she did not hear? Fortunately, her colleague came along and attended to me. Just then, along came a young man dressed in factory clothes and placed a similar order. Guess what .. our rude cashier girl immediately responded to him is such a friendly tone.

I never knew that you can be discriminated against for dressing smart.

On the other hand, it may have nothing to do with attire at all. Maybe it is a case for middle-aged uncle vs young Ah Beng – the choice is clear right? Anyway, it is still discrimination.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Extension of Smoking Ban

The government has announced the decision to extend the smoking ban to coffee shops. Although I am a non-smoker, I am against this measure.

1) It will affect the business of coffee shops. Business these days is already so tough for the poor chaps.

2) It is rather unfair to the smokers. If smoking is so bad then you should ban it outright. If you choose not to ban it, then you should at least let these guys (who are already paying so much taxes) to have some places to enjoy their fixes.

3) Coffee shops are supposed to set aside the open-air areas for the smokers. In our hot climate, that is in fact the best place. Whenever, I eat out with my family to at coffee shops, we like to sit there.

4) I noticed that many smokers have the nasty habit of flicking their ashes onto the floor and then discarding the butt (again on the floor) and stepping on it. I have even seen well-dressed young ladies do that. Now if these people are forced to take their smoking to the void decks, wouldn’t that add to the littering problem – which NEA is already finding it tough to contain.

5) Last but not least, I think this is another one of those laws that simply cannot enforced; (like the “flush after use or you get fined” law). In any case, as one of our ministers pointed out in parliament last year during the 'great casino debate', Singaporeans are matured enough to decide what is right and wrong. So they don't need more regulations to tell them what they should and should not do.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Vintage Mahathir

The man one Western leader labelled, ‘The Loose Cannon’ is at it again. Recently, he was very much in the news, taking up cudgels against his former subordinates in a performance one local daily described as “vintage Mahathir”. This is in spite of his having declared earlier, "I have already made it very clear that when I leave, I leave completely."

I am a big fan of the man. He is brilliant, outspoken and completely fearless - every-ready to take on anyone with his unique brand of sharp, witty, blunt and sometimes crude remarks.

A quick search of CNN and BBC threw up some gems.

On Himself

"I am perhaps the only dictator who has to stand for elections before dictating." – October 1998

On Singapore

“There are many ways to skin a cat”.

"We will supply filtered water to Singapore until doomsday," - February 2003

On Singapore Roads: “In Singapore, there are roads but when shifting into fourth gear, you fall into the sea because it is not big. … The problem of Singapore is like Perlis. In Perlis when you shift into fourth gear, you are already in Thailand. Change direction, and in fourth gear you are in Kedah. So it is like Singapore. It is only 18 miles from Keppel Harbour to the Causeway. Not even time to change into fourth gear. You buy a Ferrari you can't change into fourth gear, there is no use. So we want to give them the opportunity to change into fourth gear on our roads.”

On his love for Singaporeans: “Actually, we know that Singaporeans live in a small country. Every week, tak tahan to live in the small country, an independent country, but small, so they need to breathe and we have a big area in Johor and Malaysia for them to breathe.

Come over, we welcome them and love them. Singapore is very clean, with beautiful buildings, everything is nice. But four million people live on the island, it is not nice. Langkawi is the same size as Singapore, but Langkawi has 70,000, Singapore has four million. So we like them to come.We love you. On Valentine's Day, we love you. Please come. Please come.

I am just jesting. When you meet Singaporeans, tell them: Don't take the Malaysian PM seriously. He likes to talk like that. He doesn't mean it, he has a good heart.”

On Australia

“This country stands out like a sore thumb trying to impose its European values in Asia as if it is the good old days when people can shoot aborigines without caring about human rights.” - December 2002

“Australia has made known to the world that it wants to be the deputy sheriff of this region. It's very difficult to get along with deputy sheriffs.” - October 2003

“At the moment Australia is particularly unsafe for Muslims, because they are likely to have their houses raided. … I've seen pictures of doors being broken, which I don't think is essential.” - November 2002

On Europeans

"They are very clever, brave and have an insatiable curiosity. Unfortunately they are also very greedy and like to take forcibly the territories and rights of other people."

On Jews

“Jews rule the world by proxy”. - Oct 2003

"The reaction of the world shows they (Jews) control the world,"

"Israel is a small country. There are not many Jews in the world,"
"But they are so arrogant that they defy the whole world. Even if the United Nations say no, they go ahead. Why? Because they have the backing of all these people,"

On the Asian financial crisis

"We may suspect that they, the Jews, have an agenda, but we do not want to accuse. And incidentally, we are Muslims, and the Jews are not happy to see the Muslims progress." - October 1997

"All these countries have spent 40 years trying to build up their economy and a moron like (U.S. financier and currency trader George) Soros comes along with a lot of money. Currency trading is unnecessary, unproductive and totally immoral."

"What they wish to see, is that our country experiences misfortunes," – June 2001

"Exploit us, but exploit us fairly." - October 2003

"Like the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the WTO is now being made into yet another instrument to enrich the rich and impoverish the poor,"

On Bush

"It was the biggest lie. If he'd rebuked me I'm quite sure I would have rebuked him also. ….If you can tell a lie about the existence of weapons of mass destruction and go to war because of it, I'm not surprised if he is prepared to lie about what he said to me."

On gay British MPs

"The British people accept homosexual ministers but if they ever come here bringing their boyfriend along, we will throw them out." - November 2001

On Anwar

"You cannot go around sodomising people,"

Latest: From TODAY, 18/8/2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

American Hero

High speed car chases - we have all seen them in Hollywood movies. The hero goes after the villian and gets him no matter what the cost. Cars crash, road side stalls get smashed, lots of near misses, and surprisingly no innocent bystander gets hurt.

Unfortunately that's not how it works in real life. Another bomb goes off and more innocent people get killed and injured.

If only George Bush had followed his wife's example and watched Desperate Housewives instead of Dirty Harry movies.

"The world will not be safe. People will live in perpetual fear," - Dr Mahathir, March 2003

Friday, June 10, 2005

He Ain't Heavy, But He's Not My Brother

On the way to lunch, I witnessed something quite sad yesterday.

I was walking along a row of shops to the food centre at Bishan St 22 (near Whitley Secondary School) when I saw a little girl, definitely not older than nursery-going age, walking in front of me. She was carrying a plastic bag with a bottle of mineral water. Then she dropped the bottle. She hurriedly picked it up and tried to put it back into the plastic bag, and at the same time struggled to keep up with her maid who was walking a few metres in front of her. The maid was carrying her school bag and some groceries, and was totally oblivious to her struggles. I followed them for a distance of a few shops to see if the maid would notice the problem the little girl was facing; but not once did she turn around to check. Then we came to coffee shop which was quite crowded. They got separated briefly and still the maid did not turn around. Finally, they came to the small road which led to the carpark. The maid stopped, but still she did not turn around. Then she took out a umbrella, opened it just when the little girl caught up. Then she took the girl’s hand mechanically and walked into the sun sheltering only herself with the umbrella.

It occurred to me then that this pitiful scene would be repeated day in day out; all over the island of Singapore.

It’s so sad. Many of our young couples go to work and leave their children in the hands of uncaring maids such as this one. And God knows what kind of treatment these maids mete out to our children while no one is looking.

I used to enjoy Neil Humphrey’s column in the Today. But I resent the numerous occasions when he took swipes at Singaporean employers about the way we treat our maids. While I agree that employers who treat their maids like slaves or lower class people deserved to be condemned, I cannot help detecting the judgmental tone in Mr Humphrey’s articles. He seems to be telling us, “unlike you uncivilised Singaporeans, we Ang Mor’s respect human rights”.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Great Singapore Massacre

The Great Singapore Sale just started today. But I wonder how many of my fellow Singaporeans are aware that the Great Singapore Massacre has started long ago.

According to the Singapore Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society, 14,000 abortions were carried out last year. President of the society, Dr Lee Keen Whye was reported to be disappointed that the number of tertiary-educated women going for abortions has tripled in the last 16 years. Doctors say it is shocking that abortion rates among tertiary-educated married women in Singapore are still high, since educated women are supposed to comprehend the importance of family planning. They think that more education on family planning methods is required.

I believe that this will not work because the real issue is not about ignorance but about values.

As long as our society, and that includes men and government leaders, do not believe that a fetus is a living human being that can breathe and feel pain, and that abortion is equivalent to killing, things will not improve. As long as we tell ourselves that, since we cannot see the baby inside a woman’s womb, we cannot hear it crying, then it is not alive and can be disposed of as and when we want, then things will not improve.

Yes, education is required; but it should be education on the real facts of life; for both men and women. I urge all readers of this post to go to the following website and find out the facts for yourself:

If you knew the facts, then you will not be like those readers who wrote to the press after last Tuesday’s news article. Instead of grieving for the loss of precious lives, they bemoan the “waste” of babies because our country is facing a population decline.

If more Singaporeans knew the facts, then maybe in addition to the tears that they shed at the passing of our former president and the pope, they will shed a tear or two for those 14,000 unknown, unnamed babies who died last year. Both Dr Wee and Pope John Paul lived to their eighties; but I wonder how many of the 14,000 lived up to 80 days.

If more Singaporeans knew the facts, then maybe we as a society will feel some shame for the fact that our country has one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world.

I know from my visits to many Singaporean blogsites that most young Singaporeans value life and that’s why they oppose the death penalty. I suggest that they divert some of their sympathy for convicted murderers to innocent babies.

As you enjoy the Great Singapore Sale over the next 40 days, please remember that during that 6-week period, another 1,611 babies would have been killed.

I end with these words from Dr Jerome LeJune, genetics professor at University of Descartes in Paris; and discoverer of the Down’s Syndrome chromosome.

“I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the point of conception. I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and any interruption at any point constitutes a termination of human life.”

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Judge is Judged Guilty

Every year, the US State department publishes a report card on the human rights performance of other countries. Many countries, including our beloved Singapore are regularly criticized. Even her prominent citizens like Richard Gere like to pass judgment on the perceived human rights abuses of other countries.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, the judge went beyond criticizing. The proud dictator was apprehended, judged and soundly humbled.

But it appears that the judge has himself been found guilty of the same crime. In a BBC article dated 25 May 2005, titled, Amnesty Accuses US Over Torture, it was reported that; “In a 300-page annual report, the group accused the US government of damaging human rights with its attitude to torture and treatment of detainees”.

One of Saddam’s crimes was his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in Iraq. But then, the US has also been found guilty of using chemical weapons for mass destruction, albeit of trees and foliage. On 29 April 2005, the BBC in an article entitled, The Legacy of Agent Orange, reported that during the Vietnam war, the US army sprayed 80 million litres of poisonous chemicals in Vietnam and Cambodia. The tragic results are felt even today.

I guess it’s a case of beholding the speck in another’s eye but perceiving not the beam in one’s own eye.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Wasted Anger

Ah; it’s the Vesak Day Holiday, and finally I could settle down in the quiet of my room to enjoy the cd of Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits which I bought yesterday. But alas, my enjoyment was marred by the incessant ranting of my neighbour against her maid. As you might expect, it was over some trivial matter about mopping the floor, or something equally serious.

The beautiful music of my favourite duo was cruelly mutilated by repeated accusations of, “you are so selfish”, “you have an attitude problem” blah blah blah ….. And this went on for nearly 10 songs before I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. No I did not yell to ask her to shut up; although I wish I had the courage to go over to her house and ask her to cool down and invite her to listen to the Sounds of Silence. Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would. Instead I put on my headphones.

And then ironically, song number 9 came on; Seven O’clock News/Silent Night. It was a beautiful rendition of Silent Night with the solemn voice of the news caster in the background reading a chain of bad news culminating in a news item about Vice President Nixon clamouring for more funds for the Vietnam War. Now that’s an appropriate song for today’s America.

If I have a good voice, I will record my version of Silent Night with my neighbour’s ranting in the background. So much pain and injustice and evil in the world today. So much bad news on the doorstep everyday. So many things to get angry about. And she has to get all worked up over something so trivial.

And here’s to you Mrs Tan, heaven holds a place for those who pray, …………..

Monday, May 16, 2005

If We Decide to Go Ahead

Everytime a minister utter those dreaded words, I fear its more bad news on the doorstep.

For the past one year, during the 'Great Casino Debate", every minister who spoke on the subject used these dreaded words, promising to take care of the people who become addicted to gambling etc. etc. And then they went ahead to announce the decision to build 2 casinos.

Today I heard those dreaded words again. The transport minister promised in parliament that if the transport companies are permitted to raise their bus and mrt fares, the government will make sure that the poor will get help etc. etc.

Looks like its another foregone decision. Afterall the transport companies put up a convincing argument. They have not increased fares for ages - the last fare hike was in practically in the last century, in year 2002. Costs of everything has gone up; and one of them only made a profit of $34 million last year.

I wish I could do that in my business; increase prices because costs have gone up.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Management Accountability: Difference between Japanese and Singaporeans

One thing I admire about Japanese managers is their sense of responsibilty and ownership.

In yesterday’s report about the train accident in Osaka, we read that the top management of the Japanese railway company immediately submitted their resignations to bear responsibility for the tragedy. In today's BBC News website you can see a picture of the company chairman bowing and apologising to the public.

Some years ago, when a Japanese airliner crashed in Japan, the CEO of the airline also went to the crash site to apologise to the relatives of the casualties. It was reported that he received a mouthful from the grieving relatives.

Sad to say, we do not see this type of sense of responsibility and shame when things go wrong in Singapore. Consider the case of the national serviceman who was literally tortured to death during combat survival training in 2003, or the collision involving the RSS Courageous with the ANL Indonesia in 2003, or the Nicoll Highway collapse last year. In each case, did we see the top management apologize? Were they taken to task? Sadly, no. Only those directly involved were charged and punished.

On the other hand, whenever the top guns at these organizations, such as the ministers and deputy ministers, or permanent secretaries resign or retire, the newspapers will publish a long list of the achievements that took place during their term of office as if they were the ones who deserved all the credit.

And we wonder why Singaporean workers are so “disloyal”? And the HR managers accuse Singapore workers of changing jobs for just a few extra dollars.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Secret of Effective Government

An old couple who had been married for decades were asked what was their secret to a successful marriage.

The secret is compromise, the old man replied. Whenever my wife and I have a disagreement, we compromise. We will each present our arguments and then we compromise and do it her way.

The Singapore government is widely recognized as one of the most effective governments in the world. Numerous experts and surveys, like Beri have rated our government highly.

And their secret? They listen to the people.

After one full year of listening to ordinary citizens, religious leaders, civic organizations and even parliamentarians, plus an unprecedented petition carrying 30,000 signatures argue against the idea of building a casino in Singapore, they announced last week to build not one but two casinos.

The surprising thing is that nobody was surprised.

Paul Simon was right. After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Who Is A Winner?

I read about two types of winners in yesterday’s newspapers.

In the Straits Times, there was a commentary on a new book, Winning by ex-GE boss Jack Welch. Like his other books, this one was described as a “runaway hit”. As I read the article, I cannot help thinking that this man, whose motto is, “winning is great”, is a real winner; that was until I came to the part which mentioned that the co-writer was his ex-mistress and wife number three.

Can a person with two failed marriages be called a winner? (I am assuming that the previous two marriages ended in divorce; my apologies if I am mistaken). Not if you ask the next writer, James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

In the Today, James Dobson narrated about a man who gave up hopes, dreams, and bank account for family. Here is what he wrote:

In 1985, Tim Burke saw his boyhood dream come true the day he signed on to pitch for the Montreal Expos. After four years in the minors, he was finally going to get a chance to play in the big leagues. And he quickly proved to be worth his salt, setting an all-time record for most relief appearances by a rookie player. But along the way, Tim and his wife, Christine, had adopted four children with very special needs – two daughters from South Korea, a handicapped son from Guatemala, and another son from Vietnam. All of the children were born with very serious illness or defects. Neither Tim nor Christine were prepared for the tremendous demands such a family would bring. And with the grueling schedule of major-league baseball, Tim was seldom around to help. So in 1993, only three months after signing a $600,000 contract with the Cincinnati Reds, he decided to retire. When pressed by reporters to explain this unbelievable decision, he simply said, “Baseball is going to do just fine without me. But I’m the only father my children have.”

Heroes are in short supply these days, but I’m happy to say that I’ve met one of them.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A Dung By Any Other Name

Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name smells as sweet.

The opposite is true. Many people try to cover ugliness with euphemisms. Yesterday’s news about how the Japanese government tries to whitewash history by glorifying her wartime past and glossing over the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in the last war is a good example.

In a newly approved history textbook written by the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform, the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, where hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered was referred to as The Nanjing Incident. Thousands of women who were raped, tortured and forced to become sex slaves to satisfy the lust of Japanese soldiers were called “comfort women”.

Other less offensive examples are aplenty in our newspapers. The other day, a reader wrote to the forum complaining that numerous karaoke lounges and massage parlours have opened recently in his neighbourhood. Everybody knows, he said, what really goes on behind the closed doors of these places.

Next week, our government will announce its decision on whether or not to build a casino in Singapore. I wish they will stop referring to it as an ‘integrated resort’; as if it is a good, wholesome place to bring our kids.

A dung by any other name stinks.