Thursday, December 28, 2006

Here's the Peace of Christmas


Question 1:

If there is so much violence and terror in the world today, then where is the peace of Christmas you Christians are so fond of talking about, you must be asking?

The answer is found in another oft-quoted verse in the Old Testament written by the prophet Isaiah about 700 years before, prophesying the birth of Christ.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”


So the ‘peace of Christmas’ is also the Christ of Christmas.





Question 2:

But with so much violence and bloodshed in the world today, what kind of peace are you talking about?

This is what the Prince of Peace said shortly before he left this earth:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. …… These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where is the Peace of Christmas?

We frequently find these comforting words on Christmas cards:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Two thousand years after those words were spoken, there’s anything but peace on this earth. In the very place where Jesus was born there is fighting and tension and hatred all around. And it’s not just the Jews fighting the Arabs. Muslims are also fighting with Muslims.


And nearer home, in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the government has to deploy more than 18,000 troops to protect churches and other religious institutions in Jakarta alone.

Fox News reports:

Tens of thousands of police officers will guard churches across the world's most populous Muslim country over the Christmas
period, amid concerns that Al Qaeda-linked militants could carry out attacks, police said Monday.

The regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for annual strikes in Indonesia since 2000, when a series of coordinated bombings killed 19 people on Christmas Eve. An attack on a Christian market last New Year's Eve killed seven.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta warned of a "serious security threat to Americans and other westerners in Indonesia," saying targets could include hotels, malls, businesses, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools or public events.

"Terrorists in Indonesia have most often directed attacks at specific buildings or locations. The possibility exists that individual Americans could be targeted for kidnapping or assault," it said in a statement.

More than 18,000 police will be posted at thousands of churches and religious sites in the capital, Jakarta, said police spokesman Col. Ketut Untung Yoga.


Meanwhile, the Australian foreign minister also warned Australians yesterday of possible terrorist attacks being planned around Christmas in Indonesia.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where’s the Christ in Christmas?

I read something rather sad in yesterday’s Straits Times’ Mind Your Body section. In a short article titled, Finding the Christ in Christmas, Shefali Srinivas wrote:

“As a student in Los Angelis six years ago, I remember seeing a homeless man holding up a large sign near the entrance to a shopping mall. The sign asked a simple question: “Where’s the Christ in Christmas?” I wondered what he was referring to. Was it the Christmas spirit slowly drowning amid the ringing of cash registers? Or was it how Christmas had become less about giving and more about consuming?


She (?) went on to lament the over-commercialisation of Christmas and the “loss of old traditions and familial connections” as well as the prevalence of rude inconsiderate behaviour in our shopping centres. She ended her article by saying she wished someone like her former moral education teacher would give Singaporean adults lessons in grace.

I feel sad because, I could tell that she still had not learnt the answer to the question she encountered 6 years ago, “Where’s the Christ in Christmas?”

Actually, if she really wanted to know the answer, all she had to do was to delve a little deeper into this common verse found in many Christmas cards:

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The full description of this incident is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8 to 20.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them
.

The answer to the question, “Where’s the Christ in Christmas?” is very simple. He is totally forgotten. Today the world celebrates Christmas with parties, feasting and drinking and shopping and Santa Claus etc. Nobody remembers the Christ in Christmas.

And if you want to put back the Christ in Christmas, you simply have to do what the shepherds did on that first Christmas two thousand years ago. Accept with joy the gift of the person of Jesus Christ (aka Emmanuel, meaning God with us). And of course, don’t forget to express your gratitude to the giver by simply thanking and praising Him.


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Now Then Come and Talk Like That

My fellow Singaporeans will have no difficulty recognizing that the title of this article is written in Singlish, our own peculiar brand of English.

I am referring to the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan’s recent remarks about Iraq. As his term of office draws to a close, he seems to have found a certain passion about Iraq. For example, last week, he said the situation in Iraq is “almost civil war”. This week, speaking in an interview with BBC, he said,

“I think, given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other. A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse.”

In fact he admitted that the situation in Iraq is worse than it was before the war;

“If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator (Sadam Hussein) who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, "Am I going to see my child again?" And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control.”

BBC: Why didn't you stand up in the UN Security Council and say in 2003: "This war is illegal without a Security Council resolution"?


Kofi Annan: I think, if you go back to the records, you will discover that before the war I said that for the US and its allies to go to war without Security Council approval would not be in conformity with the Charter.


BBC: Which is a very sort of UN bureaucratic thing, rather than saying "it's illegal" which would have much more impact. And your aides say to me: "This was Kofi Annan, the cautious man, not wanting to confront."

Kofi Annan: It's easy to - what do the Americans call it? - "Saturday morning quarter-backing", or "armchair critic". I mean, it was one of those situations where even before a shot had been fired, you had millions in the street and it didn't make a difference.

I find it quite disgraceful that this man, who held one of the most influential positions in the world only found the courage to speak out against what he obviously felt to be wrong towards the end of this tenure; and after thousands of Iraqis and US soldiers have lost their lives.

Why didn’t he speak out strongly against the US invasion of Iraq at the time when it was clear to the whole world that Bush intended to attack Iraq regardless of whether or not she had any weapons of mass destruction? The French and the Germans did. Why didn’t you at least lend your support to their objections instead of cowering in the face of the bullying tactics of George W. Bush? If you felt powerless stop the man, shouldn’t you at least step down in protest.

And if any of you think that the next UN chief will do better, may I suggest that you not raise your hopes too high. In his own words, Mr Ban Ki-moon sees himself as a "harmoniser, balancer, mediator" ….

In other words, another toothless tiger who won’t stand a chance against the man who is worse than a fierce tiger.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

So Many Outreached Hands

In Singapore, practically everyday, everywhere you will encounter an outreached hand asking for your donations. Let’s start with your home. Every week I receive letters from charities like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Christian Outreach To the Handicapped, Association of Mouth And Foot Painting Artists' just to name a few. Some come to your doorstep, and others, right into your living room via the television. And when you step out of the house, they accost you at MRT stations and kopitiams.

After a while, you develop compassion fatigue and you learn to say 'no'; especially when you worry that the organisation you donate to will turn out to be another NKF. Recently, I received a request to donate to the National University of Singapore. Like many other Singaporeans I refused. I don’t know. Looking at all the beautiful stadiums and concert halls they have, I just don’t think they need my dollar more than the many small, lesser known charities.

But there's one particular outreached hand (maybe I should say fist) that you cannot say no to. I am talking about our government of course. Shortly, they intend to increase the GST or Goods and Services Tax by 2% to 7%. Apparently our government needs the money to fund various programmes to help the aged and the needy. But they are so kind. They promise not to increase fees for government services for one year. Does that mean that yearly increases are a norm? Anyway, after the one year they can always make up for it can’t they?
.
Sometimes, I wonder. If we are as well off as everybody seems to believe, how come there are so many poor and needy people in this little country?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This Man is Worse Than a Fierce Tiger


Here's a story I read during Chinese class when I was a kid.

Once when Confucius was passing near the foot of Mount Tai in a chariot, he saw a woman weeping at a grave mound. He sent a disciple to inquire of her, saying; "From the sound of your weeping, it seems that you indeed have many troubles." Then the woman said; "It is true. My father-in-law died in a tiger's jaw; my husband also died there. Now, my son has also died there." Confucius said, "Why do you not leave this place?" The woman said: "Here there is no harsh and oppressive government." Confucius said to his disciples, "Young men, take note of this: a harsh and oppressive government is more ferocious and fearsome than even a tiger.

Well President George W. Bush may not be as fearsome as a tiger, but certainly he is more loathed than the harsh Canadian winter.

In the last presidential election, an American friend of mine told me that if Bush won the election for a second term, he may very well decide to return to Canada where he originally left to escape its harsh winters. Certainly you exaggerate, I said. As it turned out, the day after Bush won the elections, CNN reported that the number of Americans applying to emigrate to Canada rose sharply.

Mid-way through his second term, many Americans must be cursing themselves for putting this war monger in the White House and wishing that they could slay this ‘tiger’, or at least get rid of him Thaksin style. But unfortunately, they could not. And so they did the next best thing - they kicked the Republicans out of congress and booted out his lieutenant, Donald Rumsfeld well.

Just why do Americans dislike this man so much? Well for one thing, he behaves like he has divine powers. Plus he lacks integrity. When all the UN weapons inspectors stated categorically that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our friend continued to insist on the contrary. Here are some statements he and his lieutenants made.

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons. (George W. Bush, September 12, 2002)


Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. (George W. Bush, January 28, 2003)

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more. (Colin Powell, February 5, 2003)

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. (George W. Bush, March 18, 2003)

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. (Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002)


He could well be saying to himself, “Let George Bush be true and every man a liar.” Well lies there were aplenty - from the intelligence departments of US and Britain, to justify the invasion of Iraq. Simply stated, there is no doubt that George Bust used WMD as an excuse to attack Iraq.

When the whole world protested against invading Iraq, he ignored them and went ahead saying, “You are either for me or against me” (using God’s words from the bible). In the process, he simply dismissed the opposition of his European allies like France and Germany, and practically, “don’t see the United Nations in the eye”, to borrow a common Chinese expression.

Months after the defeat of the Saddam Hussein’s army, when no “smoking gun” could be found, he changed his tune and said that Saddam supported terror. Suddenly the war to disarm the Iraqis of its weapons of mass destruction metamorphosised into a “war on terror”. Again the experts disagreed. Saddam was no angel. He may be a cruel despot, but he was not behind the terrorists directly. See BBC report: Iraq War Justifications Laid Bare, dated September, 09, 2006. Here’s what the opening lines of the article said:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has found no evidence of links between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

In a report issued on Friday, it also found that was little or no evidence to support a raft of claims made by the US intelligence community concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The 400-page report was three years in the making, and is probably the definitive public account of the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq.“

Well, it could be a case of self-fulfilling prophecy because the latest intelligence report from the Pentagon revealed that terrorist activity has indeed escalated ..…. as a result of the invasion of Iraq.



Because of this ‘worse than a fierce tiger’ leader, America finds itself once again in a Vietnam-type quagmire, as what everybody had predicted. To extricate itself, it needs the support of those whom Bush had slapped in the face earlier. No doubt he will resort to his favourite tactic, when all else fails – arm twisting.

And to think that this man is held in such high esteem by our Singapore leaders; and our undiscerning university students cuddle up to take a photo with him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Apt Analogy

I just heard the news on radio where a new member of parliament spoke on the foreign talents issue yesterday. Using the analogy of a dragon boat, he said that Singapore was like a dragon boat that needed new, stronger and more skillful rowers to race ahead.

But he must have forgotten that the Singapore boat is a small one. To accommodate more rowers, you just might have to dump some of the old and weak rowers into the sea ..... Unless this gentleman is thinking out of the boat and wants to build a 2-storey dragon boat.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dumb Dumber Dumbest


1) Dumb

There’s a programme on AXN that goes by the title, World’s Dumbest Criminals Caught on Video, or something close to that. In the Straits Times, I read recently of a dumb criminal right here in Singapore. Only difference is, our guy was a university undergrad with an IQ of a genius.



“It began with a casual meeting between two army buddies, then mushroomed into a sophisticated credit card fraud syndicate that cheated local banks out of $80,000 in just two months.

The two National University of Singapore undergraduates – both star students and one of them an accomplished young entrepreneur with an IQ of 160 – had chanced upon a website that detailed how credit cards could be cloned using stolen data in order to make profits.

Pooling their money, they went online and bought a card reader, which can scan the encoded information in the black magnetic strip on credit cards ……..…

They recruited another army buddy who used the reader to scan information from cards belonging to customers at the bar where he worked ……..

They were busted when the Commercial Affairs Department noticed that all the cards had been used at the pub where (this guy) worked… and arrested him in an ambush.”

I say this guy is dumb because, you certainly do not need an IQ of 160, or even to be a regular fan of CSI Miami to know that the pub would be the first place that the police would look.



2) Dumber

But it’s not only criminals that are dumb. Even police can be dumb as you can see from this next case; although these were not real police, but so-called “Islamic police”.


Christian pair outraged after night raid by Islamic Police.

“Mr. Randall Barnhart, 62, and his wife Carole, 61, left wintry Alaska four years ago to sail around a much warmer South-east Asia, and were considering idyllic Langkawi as a second home.

That was until two weeks ago when Islamic religious officers stormed their rented condominium after midnight.

The officers, who were not accompanied by police, suspected the Christian couple of being Muslims committing khalwat, which is the crime of close proximity between two people who are not married to each other.”

(From another newspaper report)

“Barnhart complained to police and the US embassy over the raid, which saw the officials yelling and pounding on the couple’s door at two in the morning.

Barnhart, who answered the door, said the officials demanded to see his ‘woman’ and insisted on being shown their marriage license and passports.

He said his wife was terrified by the incident and insisted on going back to the United States.”



3) Dumbest

I am not sure about this next guy’s IQ, but he definitely ranks high up in terms of holiness. Here's a report from TODAY dated, October 27, 2006.


SYDNEY - Australia’s most senior Islamic cleric yesterday sparked uproar in Australia after describing scantily-clad women as “uncovered meat’ inviting sexual attacks.

Sheik Taj Aldin Al Hilali, who made the remarks last month in a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers, had criticized women who “sway suggestively”, wear make-up and no hijab, or Islamic headscarf.

“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it …. whose fault is it: The cats or the uncovered meat?” he said in his sermon.

“The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”


Eh ……. unless if she happens to be in Malaysia with her legally married husband, and they did not have their marriage certificate with them.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

How Long Will Spring Last

I wonder if Spring will last beyond April next year?

I am referring of course not to the spring season here in Singapore, but the name of our statutory board in charge of standards, productivity, innovation and growth. I ask this question because it was reported last week that Mr Philip Yeo, the high-flying superstar chairman of A-Star is going to take over this stat board that was formerly known as NPB or National Productivity Board, and later renamed Productivity and Standards Board or PSB; and later renamed yet again to SPRING Board. You might recall that some MPs even poked fun at the name in parliament saying they thought it was the name of a karaoke lounge.

As it appears that every time a top civil servant or new minister takes up a new appointment, one of the first things he or she does was to change the name of that organization, I anticipate that there might just be going to be another name change at Bukit Merah Central.

I often suspect there is some kind of institute for public administration and government in this country where they teach these top guns how to think out of the box and fix things even if they ain’t broke. In preparing to take over a new ministry or department, the first of the 10 steps is to change the name, preferably to something catchy like Spring or A-star. For example, the chairmanship of the Feedback Unit was recently taken over by Ms Amy Khor, and the first announcement to come about was a name change to REACH.

I admit that I am rather old-fashioned and resistant to change. So I am quite prepared to accept that people younger and more dynamic than me should like to change things for the sake of progress. But don’t you think that we have too many name changes in this country. Haven’t they heard of Shakepeare’s famous line, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? I am really hard-pressed to think of a stat board or ministry that has not undergone one or more name changes in recent years. Just the other day, I overheard my colleague telling an overseas associate about the ROC (Registry of Companies). I had to tell him that he was at least 2 generations behind time. ROC has been renamed RCB (Registry of Companies and Businesses) and recently to ACRA (please don’t ask me what it stands for; I only know it is some kind of authority).

Personally, I find that most of these name changes are unnecessary and irritating. And they must cost a bundle to implement; quite apart from the additional stress brought on our already highly stressed and over-worked public sector employees. I have met some of them in the course of my work, and they often complain about having to attend so many training programmes on topics like creativity and innovation, GEMS (not jewelry but customer service), Singapore Quality Class, Innovation Class, Quality Control Circles; which by the way has undergone 2 name changes, first to Quality Circles or QC and later Innovation and Quality Circles or IQC and so on. Anything those consultants come up with, our ministries want to implement.

The type of name change I really dislike are those where the original meaning is lost. I give you a couple of examples.

SAFTI originally stood for Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute. Later they wanted to build a new one next door. However, they want to retain the name SAFTI, so what did they do? They called it; Safti Military Institute. So now the acronym SAFTI has lost its meaning because the new institute certainly isn’t called Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute Military Institute in full. So if some foreign military trainee were to be attached to our new Safti and asked the instructor; “Sir, what does Safti mean?” the poor instructor is going to have a tough time explaining.

Second Example: The training and consultancy arm of PSB was privatized when the new name Spring was adopted. The new organization was called PSB Corporation. Likewise it certainly does not stand for Productivity and Standards Board Corporation does it? Recently, it was acquired by a German company and things got even more confusing; it’s now TUV SUD PSB.

Third example: SAFRA. It used to stand for Singapore Armed Forces Reservists Association. But the powers at Mindef did not like the word reservist because it suggests that our civilian soldiers are not operationally ready; so the term Reservists was change to Operationally Ready NSMen. But they want to retain the ‘brand’ SAFRA. So they renamed it Safra NS Association (or something like that) and the word Safra lost its meaning.

I am sure you can think of several more.

But there is one type of name change I dislike even more. You might recall some years ago, the government was trying to promote the use of Mandarin over Chinese dialects. Overnight some over smart-alec civil servant decided to rename places like Nee Soon to Yishun, Ow Kang to Hougang, Tekka to Zhu Jiao etc. But then they probably received feedback that it was a stupid idea (maybe they did not ‘Reach’ far enough for feedback) and so they stopped the job halfway. And today we have a mixture of Hanyu Pinyin and Dialect names like Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang, Yio Chu Kang.

But anyway, we should be thankful they did not engage some Hollywood-trained consultant to advise us on how to fix our names that ain’t broke. Otherwise, we could very well end up having our Chinese ancestors’ names being reversed, like what they did to the famous film star Zhang Ziyi. Just imagine being admitted to Tock Seng Tan Hospital!

But the name change that takes the cake is the one that went one full circle and cost us the taxpayers a whopping 240 grand. I think you probably know I am referring to the famous Marina Bay branding exercise. They paid that obscene amount to a consultant to come up with a new name. But the poor guy could not come up with a better name and so they retained the old name.

But don’t give up yet, all you name-change fans. Just send in our A-Star, I mean superstar chairman and who knows, he just might be able to pull something out of the box; sorry I mean outside the box.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Going Beyond Words

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has a brilliant idea to solve the haze problem. According to a Straits Times report today, he wants South-east Asian countries to set up a fund to help Indonesia curb forest fires blamed for the choking haze in the region. Speaking ahead of a crucial meeting of environment ministers in Pekanbaru today, he said the fund could be used for new equipment and technology.

“We know the source (of the haze) but pointing fingers will not do any good. The important thing is for these countries which are receiving the impact of the haze to agree to collaborate and take positive and effective action to ensure that it does not recur.”

Now I understand what he meant when he said at the 5th Shangri-la Dialogue, in Singapore, on June 4 2006 that "We need to go beyond words."

Doesn’t the minister know that even money donated for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster have not reached them after 2 years. By the time our money reach the right people to purchase the equipment and technology he spoke about, there may not be any more forests left to burn.

I have a better idea. We should collect all the money in cash, and then burn them in front of Indonesia’s Environment Ministry (if they have one) sometime in June next year; just before the annual forest burning ritual begins. Then when they see the smoke of our precious dollars burning, they will be reminded to do something. This is because, “environmental watchers worry that the issue will be forgotten once the latest haze ends, at least until the problem returns with the next dry season.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Indonesian Chinese Marginalized?




Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s recent remarks about the Chinese being marginalized have expectedly drawn loud protests and expressions of indignation from politicians in Indonesia.

These people really have the cheek. Before they dare to demand an explanation from MM Lee, I would suggest that they first give a proper account of the events of 1998. Lest some of you have forgotten, that was the year when many Chinese were killed and Chinese women systematically raped. Instead of summoning our ambassador, perhaps they should summon the BBC or CNN. Just look at some of these reports:


Orchestrated attacks


In what appeared to be a well organised operation, anti-Chinese sentiment was mobilised - many believed by the army - to create chaos in the city.


Hundreds of people were killed, homes and businesses were burned to the ground, ethnic Chinese women were systematically raped and in some cases stripped in public.

Source: BBC News SPECIAL REPORT: The Chinese dilemma, June 1, 1999


Team finds no proof of mass rapes

Women's groups have said at least 168 Chinese women and girls were raped during the May riots.

But a government fact-finding team said it had not found any proof ethnic Chinese women were raped during previous riots, Antara reported Saturday.


Women's Affairs Minister Tutty Alawiah, one of the leaders of the investigation, echoed military chiefs who said earlier this week that they had failed to find evidence of mass rapes.

"The team has been conducting an investigation for one and a half months now but has found no woman who fell victim to gang rape or who claimed to have been raped during the May riots," Antara quoted Alawiah as saying.


Human rights activists say rape victims may be unwilling to seek help because of the stigma associated with the crime and because they may view police as being corrupt.

Source: CNN - Anti-Chinese riots continue in Indonesia - August 29, 1998


"The murderer intended to send us a message that they could really kill," said Karlina Leksono of the Volunteers for Humanity.

"People will now be afraid to tell anyone what happened during the riots. This is terrorising for Indonesia's ethnic Chinese," said Ester Indahyani Jusuf Lubis, leader of Serambi Nusa Bangsa, a group formed to fight racial discrimination.

During the May riots many businesses and homes of the ethnic Chinese minority were targeted by mobs.

The reports of mass rapes outraged Chinese communities around the world and resulted in calls for tough action by the governments of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

BBC News: Indonesian rape counsellor murdered, October 10, 1998.


Rape or no rape … I think you can decide for yourself.

Maybe MM Lee was wrong after all, to say that Chinese in Indonesians are marginalized. Terrorized or brutalized may be a better word.


For further reading:

1) BBC News SPECIAL REPORT Indonesia '98: A year of living dangerously

2) BBC News ASIA-PACIFIC Analysis: South-East Asia's Chinese

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thanks For Telling Us Something We Don’t Already Know

Finally 2 pieces of real news in the papers today.

No. 1 News Concerning the National Intelligence Estimate

The National Intelligence Estimate or NIE, is the name of a report produced by a senior group of analysts under the U.S. National Intelligence director John Negroponte. The report, titled Trends In Global Terrorism: Implications For The United States was completed in April, but has been declassified and released this week on President George Bush’s order.



Here are some extracts of the report in the Straits Times:

“The war in Iraq has become a cause celebre for Islamic extremists and is breeding deep resentment of the United States that is likely to get worse before it gets better.

According to the bleak report ….. the threat from Islamic extremists has spread in numbers and in geographic reach, despite serious damage to the leadership of Al-Qaeda.

If this trend continues, threats to US interest at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.”


No. 2 Mona Lisa was a new mother

Canadian scientists used special infrared and three-dimensional technology to peer through hitherto impenetrable paint layers of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century masterpiece.

Curator Bruno Mottin of the French Museums’ Centre for Research and Restoration said that, on very close examination of the paint, it became clear that Mona Lisa’s dress was covered in a thin transparent gauze veil.

“This type of gauze dress was typical if the kind worn in early 16th-century Italy by women who were pregnant or who had just given birth.”

Impressive isn’t it? I am sure kiasu Singapore parents who read this article would want to encourage their kids to excel in science so that someday they too can make such earth-shaking discoveries for the betterment of mankind.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Please Tell Us Something We Don’t Already Know

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s recent remarks about the Chinese being marginalized in Malaysia have expectedly raised a storm across the causeway. Some journalists actually ponder if what he said was true. My question is, which Singaporean does not know that his Chinese friends in Malaysia are treated like second class citizens in their own country?

We work alongside highly qualified Malaysian Chinese professionals here everyday. Our children study alongside brilliant students who are unable to gain admission into their own universities. We listen to our relatives tell sob stories of how they have to do all the work whilst the Malay counterparts get promoted. We hear them condemn their own Chinese leaders in the MCA as a bunch of self-serving stooges. The list goes on and on.

The real question Singaporeans should be asking is, why did LKY make this type of unhelpful remarks at this time? Just when the anti-Singapore (in the words of veteran Malaysian journalist
Seah Chiang Nee) Dr Mahathir has dropped out of the scene and relations with Malaysia are mending nicely under Abdullah Badawi, why did he go and stir up the hornet’s nest? It’s none of our business. Certainly he knows that Asean members have always maintained a policy of non-interference.

Maybe he is worried that the recent squabble between the Mahathir and Badawi is getting out of hand and wanted to help by giving them a convenient distraction … Heck, what am I talking about?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Preparing For The Next World


I am sorry, but I just cannot resist blogging about my favourite politician. This blog is inspired by a recent article in the Straits Times.

The remarks by the Information Minister, Zainuddin Maidin in this article were of course prompted by Mahathir’s constant meddling in Malayisan politics. Zainuddin must have in mind the Tun’s promise made before his retirement that he would keep out of politics. According to a June 21, 1999 report (Mahathir not seeking senior minister post), Mahathir had said;

''When I retire, I retire. Like a good old man I will spend my time praying because my days are over ..… I have to prepare for the next world.''




In an apparent swipe (so what’s new) at our own (then) Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, he said that he was not interested in assuming the position of senior minister.

In contrast, Mr Lee had made it very clear that he would never completely retire from Singapore’s politics. At the 1988 National Day Rally, when he discussed the leadership transition to Goh Chok Tong in 1990, he said;

“Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.”

Thank you dear Mr Lee for your concern for Singapore. But I think it’s better not to wait till then; why not do something now …. about the casinos and the moral decline of our society I mean.



Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another World No. 1


Hurrah! We have achieved yet another World No. 1.















A report in today's Straits Times reads:

“Singapore is the easiest plaice in the world to do business, according to a World Bank study out yesterday.

It found that people setting up businesses here had far fewer hoops to jump through than in other countries.

That allowed Singapore – placed second last year – to knock New Zealand off the top spot.”


Now isn’t that a cause for celebration. But before you bring out the champagne, may I ask you to consider one other piece of news which I heard on Radio 938 Live yesterday evening.

A cleaner, who earns only about $600 or $800 a month, is being sued by Singtel for chalking up thousands of dollar of mobile phone bills (plus legal fees). Apparently, in our country, it’s not only easy to set up a business; it is also a breeze to open a mobile phone account. All you need is a letter of authorization and a photo-copy of your identity card. So the cleaner’s supervisor, claiming to be her son, was able to open several broadband internet and mobile phone accounts with different telcos; and chalked up thousands of dollars of bills. He has since disappeared and the police are unable to trace him.

I estimate that this poor lady, a divorcee with 2 sons, will have to slog to her dying day to settle her bills.

Okay, now you can bring out the champagne.

** By the way, setting up a company is easy here, but wait till you try to close it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The (Side) Show Must Go On

I confess I am an ignoramus. I don’t know what the IMF/World Bank meeting is all about. What I do know is that every meeting is accompanied by lots of demonstrations by some very angry and unhappy people and the media people have a field day. You could say that these demonstrations have become a necessary ‘side show’ for the main event. But in recent years, the side show seemed to have overtaken the IMF meeting proper as the main show.

Next month this grand show will be staged in our tiny island for the first time and our government is ecstatic. Just think of it - thousands of visitors, millions of tourism dollars, tons of media coverage. No wonder they are going all out to ensure that our ‘customers’ will receive GEMS (Go The Extra Mile Service). They are even painting the flyovers (Singapore undergoes face-lift ahead of IMF/World Banks meetings) and collecting 4 million smiles.

Now even an ignoramus knows that to provide good customer service, you must obey the basic commandment which is; The Customer is Always Right. In this case, what the customer wants is for the 300 to 400 CSO’s (Civil Society Organisations, not customer service officers) to perform their show, sorry, I mean carry out their demonstrations outdoors. But our Singapore law prohibits all outdoor demonstrations – even silent ones without placards and banners.

So what’s the solution? According to an article headlined “Let them protest .. in the Suntec Lobby” in yesterday’s Today (no typo there);

“The organising committee for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank meetings believes it has an excellent solution to outdoor demonstrations by setting aside the Suntec lobby for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to air their opinion in full view of the delegates.”

Now, this is what I call exceeding the customer’s expectations. Just imagine, demonstrating in air-con comfort. Which other country can match us? Maybe all future IMF meeting will be held here.


Now these guys can do their thing in air-con comfort

One small problem. What if our irritating opposition parties decide to do likewise in the future? We can’t have that can we?

Another not so small problem. What if the customer is unreasonable and insists on an outdoor performance?

My suggestion – Set aside a section of Marina South which is being earmarked for the Integrated Resort for this side show. We can actually kill two birds with one stone. When the cameras are filming the show, we can put up some banners to tell the whole world that this is the site of the world class casino. (must emphasize casino in case they think it is place for collecting Inland Revenue). When that happens, some of us who are against the IR project can even sneak in and mingle with the crowds with our “Say NO to casino” placards.

Friday, August 25, 2006

No More Self-Indulgent

Good news. Not all bloggers are self-indulgent after all.

Just 3 short weeks ago, the Straits Times published 2 lengthy articles branding practically all bloggers as self-indulgent, narcissistic, inward-looking, attention seeking, misinformed etc etc. (see my earlier
post: The MSM Strikes Back)

But over the past 2 days, they have written glowing reports of the fine work done by so called gahmen bloggers - in informing, educating and serving the public.

My. What a difference 3 weeks make. Or should I say, what a difference a few sentences from the right person make. I am referring of course to the prime minister's national day rally speech last Sunday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Do Australians Really Oppose The Death Penalty?

Unlike us barbaric Singaporeans, Australians are opposed to the death penalty. That's why they protested vehemently and even threatened consequences when we executed an Australian drug trafficker last year (My earlier post). That's why they refused to extradite Michael MaCrae to Singapore to stand trial for the murder of two people until our government promised that he will not be hanged even if he was found guilty.

And I began to admire them for their convictions when I saw this August 9th article on ABC Online carrying the headline, Condemnation of Bali bombers' executions urged.

The article began with these words:

"The Federal Government is being urged to speak out against the upcoming executions of three Bali bombers,"

Wow, I told myself; these people are truly principled. They stick to their belief in the wrongness of the death penalty; even to the extent of objecting to the execution of people who murdered their countrymen. But wait till you read the second part of the sentence;


"if it hopes to save the lives of Australians on death row in foreign countries."

Here's the rest of the article.

Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron are to face the death penalty in Indonesia in less than two weeks for their roles in the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Australia's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard, are on the record as saying they do not oppose the execution of those behind the Bali bombing.

But a report released by the Lowy Institute today argues that comments supporting capital punishment are damaging Australia's reputation in Asia and its chances of securing leniency for its own citizens.

The author of the report, Michael Fullilove, says there is not a lot of consistency among Australia's political leaders when it comes to the issue of the death penalty.

"We have seen blatant and deliberate departures from Australia's official policy of opposition to capital punishment in all cases," Dr Fullilove said.

"For example, Prime Minister Howard saying that there would be no protest from Australia over the execution of the Bali bombers, former Opposition leader Mark Latham rejoicing in the awarding of a death sentence to the terrorist Amrozi.

"Both Mr Howard and Mr Latham suggesting there would be no complaint about the execution of Saddam Hussein.

"This hurts our interest [and] it makes us look hypocritical when we ask for our own people to be spared."

Consistency call

Tim Lindsay, of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, has also urged politicians not to endorse or be enthusiastic at the upcoming executions of the Bali bombers.

"It will be difficult for them to say this but they need to say that Australia opposed the death penalty for any time, for any offence, anywhere," he said.

"That includes the Bali bombers, otherwise we just get into an argument over what is barbaric and what isn't."

He says many Australians would not agree with his suggestion but he says the Government needs to be consistent . "The Government needs to work harder at explaining its policy to Australians rather than pretending it does not exist," he said.

Dr Fullilove says while he does not support megaphone diplomacy, he does think the Australian Government could form a regional coalition with like-minded governments.
"I think the work of a regional coalition should be guided by the principles of effectiveness and prudence," Dr Fullilove said.

"We should look for ways to chip away at capital punishment and rather than pulling out the megaphone and screaming into it. "We need to make common cause with other countries in the region that oppose the death penalty, we need to look for creative approaches to nudge retentionists states toward abolition."

There are presently four Australians facing execution overseas.
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of the Bali nine were sentenced to death in February.

In Vietnam, Trinh Huu is facing execution for drug trafficking and an unnamed man is facing murder charges in Lebanon

Monday, August 14, 2006

Getting Ready for the Big Event

Singapore is going all out to ensure that nothing goes wrong for next month’s IMF and World Bank meetings. Taxi drivers are given training and warned not to complain too much. 4 million smiles are been collected to make the visitors feel welcome. The other day, I saw them giving the flyovers a fresh coat of paint.

But as I read the news of the haze from Indonesia affecting our neighbours in Kuala Lumpur, I can’t help but wonder; “Would all our efforts come to naught if the haze situation deteriorates just when the guests arrive?"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Not Good Enough for Singapore

In 1994, the brains in Mindef decided that the name 'reservist' was not suitable for us because it presented a 'psychological barrier' by suggesting that when a soldier completes his full time national service and goes into 'reserve' he is mentally not ready to be called up for action at short notice. Hence, we adopted the new name called ‘Operationally Ready NSmen'. Quite a mouthful isn't it?

I have always considered that line of reasoning a bit silly. If this logic is correct, then Israel, the country that first helped us to start our armed forces is in big trouble. In the past few weeks, they have been calling up their supposedly operationally-not-so-ready reservists to go into battle against the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

news_israel2
A Straits Times article of 8 August 2006

Anyhow, this is not the purpose of my post. I want to blog about the sad situation that Israel finds herself in today. In Singapore, we fathers tell NS stories to our sons. Over there, they tell real battle stories, and show real battle scars - that is if they make it back alive.

We should thank God that we have a good government here who have learned to live peacefully with our neighbours. What if we had some hot-tempered, fighting-cock type prime minister who responded tit-for-tat to the regular taunts of our closest neighbour's former prime minister who never tires of trying to pick a fight with us. Thankfully that megalomaniac has been replaced a gentleman; and a god-fearing one too.

May we never have to go the way of the Israelis.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Simple Way to End All The Fighting in the Middle East

The best way to solve any problem is to get rid of the root of the problem. This past week, 2 wise men came up with the same answer;

First, famous film star and director, Mel Gibson declared that “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”

Then Iran’s President Ahmadinejad came up with the perfect answer - we should eliminate Israel.


news_eliminate_israel
Straits Times, Friday, August 4 2006

Problem is; who is going to hang the bell around the cat’s neck?

Simple, says Iran. Our brave brothers from Hezbollah and Hamas will take the lead. We of course will support them with all the missiles and money that they need. When the time is ripe, we will come in and finish the job.


** By the way, the solution President Ahmadinejad proposed is actually not new. Not so long ago, a man by the name of Adolf Hitler almost succeeded in implementing The Final Solution. But he died a lonely death. And today, his descendents do not even want to retain his name.

** A wise author once wrote: “There’s a reason why drunks in bars always get to talking sooner or later about elemental truths – love, family, death, politics, war and so forth. Alcohol cuts down to size the trivialities that loom so large to the sober mind.” In other words, when a man is drunk, the words he utters come straight from his heart and represents his true feelings and beliefs, which when sober, he is able to hide.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Words of Wisdom from a Chicken Rice Seller

Joan Teng, who helps out at her brother's chicken rice stall, wrote this letter to the TODAY on 3 Aug 2006.


ltr_chicken_rice

"This perennial discussion about service is actually not about service; it is truly a reflection of how we Singaporeans treat each other every day."

Friday, August 04, 2006

The MSM Strikes Back

Last month, my favourite blogger Mr Wang, posted an article saying, The MSM Grows Nervous. Judging by the two lengthy articles that appeared in the Straits Times within a short span of 3 days, it appears that Mr Wang was right on target as usual. I think the MSM is more than nervous. They are probably angered by the many criticisms leveled against them by widely-read bloggers like Mr Wang. Just look at some of the unsavoury comments they used to label bloggers.


Article No. 1 by Sandra Leong, ST Life Section, July 30, 2006


“There are an estimated 50 million blogs out there in cyberspace now, and everyone of these bloggers has this aim: Read me. I want to be famous. The Age of Narcissism is well and truly upon us, but how healthy is it?”

“Welcome to the me-me-me world of blogging, but is it self-expression or self-indulgence?"

"Are bloggers becoming too narcissistic? Will all this self-publicity backfire? Isn't there something unhealthy about how people are so eager to share with the world every wart in their lives?"

"the excessive inward focus and self-indulgence of many bloggers is troubling" - Dr Mark Cenite, assistant professor at Nayang Technological University's school of Communication & Information.

Ironically, in the same report, there is news that the Ministry of Education - in conjunction with Singtel - will be organising an inter-school blogging contest next month. If blogging is such an unhealthy activity, why is the MOE promoting it? I hope our professional journalists will have the courage to write something to protest against this unwise move on the part of our government.


Article No. 2 by Senior Writer Andy Ho, August 2, 2006

"Some ask if bloggers are journalists at all or merely self-indulgent, opinionated folks expressing their views."

"Much of what bloggers offer is either misinformed, self-indulgent opinion or thoughtful but unargued ones."


Mr Andy Ho thinks that journalists do two things; (a) get the news and disseminate it accurately, and (b) analyse issues.

He believes that the professional journalist, “whose first obligation is to be accurate”, can do the former more effectively than the blogger, “whose first obligation is to be interesting”. Most bloggers do not generally report on something new. Typically, they report on what reporters have reported.

I think I can agree to a large extent with this last comment – but not the part about the obligations though.

Regarding the second role of fair comment, he thinks that: "Much of what bloggers offer is either misinformed, self-indulgent opinion or thoughtful but unargued ones." On this point, I disagree. I find that some bloggers like Mr Wang offer much more incisive and intelligent analyses than those of Straits Times journalists. Maybe their hands are tied somewhat for fear of offending the authorities. And, surprisingly, some of the part-time writers at TODAY seemed to write better than those at ST.

As for the lifestyle related articles, I find that many bloggers write more interesting and enjoyable articles than those in the Straits Times which tended to be too long and quite boring at times.

While I feel that it is too sweeping to say that all blogges are "self-indulgent " and “want to be famous”, I wouldn’t go so far as to dismiss the 2 articles as “ Silly Views”. But it really doesn't require the professional analytical skills of a mainstream journalist to see that the Straits Times is out to hang this label on all bloggers: SELF-INDULGENT.

Still, I think this is good time to reexamine my blog and see if its fits this unpleasant label. If it does, then perhaps it is time to call it a day, or at least scale down and concentrate more on my other blog, seeing that the signs of the Lord’s return multiply by the day.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Comic Relief

Singaporeans in general, and bloggers in particular should thank the ever-popular Mr Brown for his latest post containing a video clip from The Daily Show on the Mideast conflict).

At a time when 'happiness' surveys have repeatedly labelled us as an unhappy country, and young people talk openly about emigrating, (Examples here: My Lonely Stage, A Xeno Boy in Sg: Cost of Leaving in Singapore) Mr Brown's broadcast of the very funny video clip is really timely.

Comments like 'hilarious", "ROFLOL!!!", and "damn freaking funny" can be read in his blog.

But I should remind Singaporeans that we should not forget to thank Israel and the Hisbollah, as well as the Lebonese people without whom this funny show would not have been possible.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Vindicated

Many of the new PAP MP’s like this one should be happy to read the news reports concerning the passing of PAP stalwart Mr Lim Kim San.

I don’t mean of course that they are happy to read of the death of one of the ‘founding fathers of modern Singapore’; but rather what MM Lee Kuan Yew said concerning how Mr Lim was initially reluctant to enter politics because he was not a good speaker. Like many of these new MP’s, he too had to be persuaded to enter politics.

This is because many of the popular bloggers in Singapore liked to ridicule them by saying that since they had to be persuaded to enter politics, their commitment and sincerity is suspect. They can now point to the many achievements and contributions of this political giant to counter their detractors.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Fool Never Learns

He should have listened to my advice and ‘shut up and move on’. Now that he has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and all the dirty linens and skeletons are going to come pouring out the closet, he going be stung for sure.

Even if he has never heard of my blog, certainly he could learn a lesson from this man. He was not content to quietly enjoy his outrageous S$600,000 a year salary and gold-plated taps, plus first class travel. Instead he tried to pick a fight with someone who could hit back, and today, he is ‘pierced with many sorrows’.

And even if he has not heard of the NKF Saga, certain he knows the old English proverb, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Must We Wait For Another Tragedy?

When I posted my very first article in this blog, I highlighted the case of a Straits Times reader who wrote to the forum page complaining about numerous karaoke lounges and massage parlours that have opened in his neighbourhood in Joo Chiat. Everybody knows, he said, what really goes on behind the closed doors of these places. There had also been numerous newspaper reports about the problem of Chinese sex workers and Chinese ‘study mamas’. I have also seen 2 TV documentaries highlighting this problem. One was Get Real on Channel News Asia. The other was on Channel U.

Generally, one can conclude that this was a problem all Singaporeans knew about. The newspapers have reported several arrests and checks carried out by the police to tackle this sleaze problem. But by and large, the problem did not go away.

And then we have the sensational case involving the
fatal stabbing of a Chinese masseuse in Ang Mo Kio two weeks ago. Again we find newspaper reports like this one - TODAY: Sleaze comes to the heartlands - appearing. This seemed to have worked finally. Overnight, it seems, laws were passed to regulate and control the operation of massage parlours and health centres. Last weekend, the police raided 129 massage parlours island-wide and numerous arrests were made.

Two questions come to mind.

1. Does it appear to you that our authorities like to wait until a high profile tragedy takes place before they will really take serious action to resolve a problem that many people already knew and complained about?

2. How long will the solutions mentioned above work before the situation regresses back to that before?

I am reminded of another similar problem – that of reckless driving and speeding by heavy vehicles on our highways.

Do you remember a high profile accident involving the death of the wife of one of our ministers-of-state some years ago? The accident took place near the Tuas checkpoint. Although the lorry driver was acquitted of any wrong doing, this case led to a number of bookings of speeding heavy vehicles. I recall that new regulations were passed requiring heavy vehicles to install speed-limiting devices. Not much have been heard about this issue since. Occasionally you still see someone writing to the press to complain about the problem of reckless driving involving heavy vehicles. It usually receives a standard reply from the traffic police accompanied by the usual statistics about the number of people caught speeding and so on.

I hate to say this. But I believe this is another tragedy that will be repeated before long.


Anyone who travels on our highways will know that the situation has not improved one bit. In fact, it appears to have worsened. Every time, I travel to Jurong Island, I cannot help thinking that one of these days, those speeding trucks with their loads of dangerous chemicals, are going to succeed in doing what our JI and Al Qaeda friends could not; that is to cause a disaster like the one caused by the speeding train in Spain just 2 days ago (ABC News: At Least 41 Killed in Spain Train Accident).

Maybe only then will we see some real action.

Friday, June 30, 2006

One Country Two Systems

The Michael McCrae case was big news today, appearing on the front page of the Straits Times. However, it was the less prominent page 6 TODAY report that caught my attention; in particular, the headline; Orchard Towers murderer jailed for 24 years. Anyone who is not familiar with the history of this case would find this headline puzzling. Why? Because Singapore is one of those 'backward' countries that still enforces the 'barbaric' death penalty. So if Michael McCrae was guilty of murder, he should have been sentenced to hang. If he received a jail sentence, then it is wrong for TODAY to label him a murderer. In fact McCrae was not even charged with the crime of murder in the first place, so of course it is wrong to call him a murderer.

Actually, I have blogged briefly about this case before. After committing his crime, this guy 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 the learned ex-DPP, Mr Wang says; "Duh. Well, of course if the Singapore government had promised not to execute McCrea, then the prosecution would have brought lesser charges. You wouldn't proceed on murder, if you had already told the Australian government that McCrea wouldn't be hanged, right?"

Actually, the headline of the Straits Times article was also quite puzzling. "Briton receives stiff 24 years for killing two." Compared to the death penalty that Nguyen Tuong Van received for trafficking (how many) grams/kilograms of heroin, 24 years for killing two is a bargain. The article went into some detail to describe McCrae's surprise at receiving such a heavy sentence. Frankly, if the same 'murderer' was a Singaporean, I am pretty sure he would have received the death sentence. So McCrae should be happy he only got 24 years. If I were the government, I would try him for murder; and if found guilty, sentence him to hang; and then advice the President to commute it to life sentence, making it clear that this was only to because we want to honour a promise made to the Australians, a promise which shouldn't have been made in the first place.

I also find Mr Wang's conclusion quite puzzling. He says; "Anyway, I think that this was a good result, all things considered. If the Singapore government had not entered into those arrangements with the Australian government, McCrea would never have been brought here and convicted at all."

A young man is executed for trafficking drugs; but this man kills two people and only goes to jail for 24 years is a good result. Our country refusing to give way to the Australians demands not to hang Tuong because 'we are a sovereign country', but compromises in this case is a good result. That future murderers will know how to beat our system is a good result.


I think it is a disgraceful result.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Words of Wisdom from a Rich Man

"But I would argue that when your kids have all the advantages anyway in terms of how they grow up and the opportunities they have for education ..... I would say its's neither right nor rational to be flooding them with money."

- Warren Buffett, the world's 2nd richest man, who donated US$31 billion of his personal fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Explaining why he had picked his friend, Bill Gates, who is 25 years his junior, as his vehicle for charity, he said:

"What can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are, to do it."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Politicians Say the Darndest Things

I don’t quite agree with blogger Lam Chun See who said that children say the darndest things. I say politicians say the darndest things; especially Malaysian politicians.

Do you remember the famous ‘We will shoot them’ threat uttered by one Malaysian politician (or official) during the time when many Vietnamese boat people tried to land their boats in the east coast of Malaysia. This was in the 70’s. Unfortunately, blogging hadn’t been invented then, and so I did not take note of his exact words. Anyway, the following day, the Malaysian government clarified that what he meant to say was, “We will shoo them away.”

How about the classic “Bangladeshi men are good lovers” remark made by the bubbly trade minister Rafidah in parliament a few years ago? I believe she was trying to figure out why many Malaysian families broke up because local ladies have fallen for Bangladeshi men.

As if not to be outdone, the opposition Islamic party PAS member of parliament said recently, also in parliament, that “single mothers were “gatal” or horny. - Straits Times, 27/04/2006

Finally, of course, there is my favourite Malaysian politician: the anti-Singapore (“There are many ways to skin a cat”), anti-Semitic (“Jews rule the world by proxy”) Dr Mahathir Mohammed. Just when I thought I have run out Mahathir gems to share with you, the feisty ex-prime minister comes to my rescue with a torrent of classics during his latest quarrel with his successor, Abdullah Badawi.

"We made the mistake of giving Singapore to the British. You want to give some more?" – Straits Times, 9/04/2006

“I think this is a half-past-six country with no guts.” – TODAY, 03/05/2006


“Treat your opponents like insects. Knock them down and crush them with your feet.” – Mahathir’s advice to Malaysian Thomas Cup Badminton Team; as quoted by Tawfik bin Tun Dr Ismail on 24/06/2006

“But with Singapore, you cannot smile or negotiate. For 22 years, I have tried, but trying to be friendly with Singapore, it is not possible. They won’t be friendly with us, they think of themselves only. … They are calculative, even one cent they count.” 24 June 2006

But on a more serious note, Singaporeans may just have to agree with the learned doctor’s last observation about our unfriendliness.
In the latest survey on courtesy carried out by the Reader's Digest, Singapore was ranked 30 out of 35 cities surveyed. As if not convinced, the Straits Times had to go a do its own survey only to come up with something I have already said long ago; we are a rude people.

If it is any consolation, we are still slightly better than Dr Mahathir’s countrymen in the Malaysian capital, who scored a miserable 33. But if you were to ask him, his likely reply would be; “We are generally courteous; except when it comes to dealing with Singaporeans.”


But not to worry. Our ever-efficient government is going to do something about it. I heard they want to collect 4 million smiles to welcome visitors to Singapore. In fact, last week I was asked to contribute one.

I say we should extend a warm invitation to Dr Mahathir to come and visit us. He said last week that he has not visited Singapore since retiring. Perhaps he is afraid that we will bear a grudge against him for his frequent swipes at us. I think his fears are unnecessary. After all, Singaporeans know that he loves us. We remember, even if he doesn’t, his remarks of a few years ago:

“Come over, we welcome them and love them . …. 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.”


PS - Thanks to Mr Miyagi for another Mahathir gem here - Mari kita bomb dia!

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Views of the CNA Documentary, War On Science


INTRODUCTION

The Sunday before last, I saw the documentary, War on Science on Channel News Asia. From what was promised in the many trailers that they showed, I was expecting a balanced presentation of the two opposing theories of origins, Evolution and Intelligent Design, leaving the viewer to make up his own mind. In fact, I thought the title was, War OF Science. How na├»ve of me. The documentary turned out to be an indictment of the Creationists’ proposal that there is ample scientific evidence to support the view point that life on this planet did not evolve from lifeless chemicals, but was created by a presumably superior being. I think the show should more aptly be titled, Intelligent Design: Religion Masquerading as Science.


IN A NUTSHELL

This is what the show says.

1) In 1859, Charles Darwin published the Theory of evolution to explain the origin of species. All reputable scientists today accept this as a fact of science.

2) The Theory of Evolution contradicts the account of creation as given in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, where God was supposed to have created all life on earth supernaturally in 6 literal days.

3) Fearing an abandonment of the Christian faith, Christian fundamentalists came up with a new theory to explain the origin of life called Intelligent Design. Through not entirely honorable means they tried to compel some schools in the US to teach this new ‘pseudo science’ alongside Evolution.

4) A United States federal court recently ruled that a public school district requirement for science classes to teach that Intelligent Design is an alternative to Evolution was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

5) Even the Catholic church accepted the Theory of Evolution, saying it did not contradict Catholic doctrine. The documentary even hinted that Creationists have manipulated one prominent Catholic bishop to publish an article in a reputable newspaper denouncing the Theory of Evolution.


MY THOUGHTS

1) To their credit, the producers did attempt to give an accurate explanation of Intelligent Design and its 2 supporting concepts Irreducible complexity and Specified complexity through interviews with prominent protagonists. Basically, I think the argument is that life is so complicated that it must be the work of an intelligent designer (aka God) rather than the result of evolution. Statistically, it was impossible for life to evolve.

2) The arguments put forward by one of the expert witnesses (Miller) to refute this was accepted by the court. But frankly, I was unable to follow his explanation. But that is my problem; I concede.

3) To be fair, I personally believe there is some truth in the accusation that Creationists are somewhat biased because they approach the issue with a pre-conceived assumption that “there is a God”. Thus, when they look at the facts, they are looking for evidence to support their assumption. I admit I am like that. I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Whilst it is not a book of science or history, what is recorded cannot be contradicted by science or history. Hence, when I read of scientific explanations which support this view, I feel vindicated.

4) Now I come to what I think is the biggest flaw of this documentary. It refuses to acknowledge that evolutionists are guilty of exactly the same bias. They claim to be non-religious, but yet they begin with the assumption that “There is no God”. David Attenborough said on the programme that Evolution is based on scientific observation and analysis. It can explain the majority of natural processes. Where it can’t, we should admit our ignorance and try to learn the truth, and not conveniently attribute it to an almighty God.

Well, I think the truth is closer to this. Evolution can explain only a small fraction of natural processes. In the majority of cases where it can’t, evolutionists simply bring out their magic wand called ‘millions of years’. Creationists say, "With God, nothing is impossible". Evolutionists say, "With Time, anything is possible".

For example, evolutionists say that man evolved from apes. Has anyone seen it? Can it be replicated? Of course not! Why? Because it takes millions of years. But it has to be, otherwise it would mean that there is a God. Isn’t that what you call ‘faith’?

By the way, where are all the ‘missing links’ between apes and men? Why should links be missing in the first place?

5) One final point. I think that part about the Catholic Church’s (and Pope John Paul in particular) acceptance of Evolution does not belong in a scientific debate of this nature. The Catholic Church’s views of this matter ought to be discussed in a religious/spiritual forum, which I shall do in my other blog.



Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Great Da Vinci Code Tragedy.

Someone called it The Great Da Vinci Code Distraction (Thanks to Noelbynature for the reference). I think it should be called The Great Da Vinci Code Tragedy.

I am referring of course to the countless number of blogs, articles, books and documentaries that have been spawned; some resurrected, by the success of Dan Brown’s book. I heard that there is even a Da Vinci diet – unbelievable!


Take the documentary The Last Supper for instant. I watched it over Channel News Asia last Saturday afternoon. Interestingly, there was a simultaneous telecast of another Da-Vinci-Code-spawned documentary called the Knights of the Templar (or something like that) on the National Geographic channel. These people spend so much time and energy going over every detail of the painting; who was sitting where, the position of his hands, which direction he was facing etc. etc. Why do they waste their time over such worthless trivia, contrived in the mind of a man who lived more that 1,400 years after the event? Why don’t they go and study the biblical account of the event instead and get the real message of the gospel? What a tragedy. It's like hearing the Tsunami warning, and instead to running for safety, they pause and marvel at the technical design of the warning system.

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, ….., neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” – John 3: 19, 20.

Now, lets turn to another example, the Gospel According to Judas, a documentary released recently by National Geographic; to capitalize on the publicity of the Da Vinci Code no doubt. This book was written by a bunch of Gnostics at least 200 to 300 years after Christ, I repeat 200 to 300 years! Do you know how long that is? It’s like asking you to write about events before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles. Suddenly, so many 21st Century Singaporeans, who lapped up this rubbish, have become knowledgeable about events recorded in this book and yet know nothing about what is written in the true Word of God. Would you be surprised that the Bible actually contains warnings about this sort of writing? Let me cite just few relevant verses.

First, from the epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Chapter 1:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”



Second, from the last book in the Bible. In Chapter 22 of the book of Revelation, God spoke through the Apostle John;

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Talking about the book of Revelation, we have yet another distraction, the movie Omen, now showing in the cinemas. Anyway, no need to be surprised. These are all signs of the times. Go and read my other blog for details.

And talking about Channel News Asia documentaries, week after week, they have been showing documentaries based on evolutionary and long ages theories. Finally, they are going to show one that at least affords the opposing theory a hearing. I am referring to the War of Science, which will be shown tomorrow evening. I hope they don’t treat the issue the way Hollywood treated the Scopes Trial in the movie, Inherit The Wind (1960). More on that later.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Words of Wisdom From a Former Straight Fs Student

"There is an intrinsic reward in learning itself, and parents should assist their children in discovering it. One of the ways parents could do this is to not force their children pursue the adults' own aspirations. They should try and detect their children's natural flair or inclinations, and see how they best can support it."

Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, writing to TODAY's forum page, Friday, June 9, 2006


Now, for the difficult part - to get the wife to subscribe to this view as well.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Well Spoken

"We need to go beyond words."

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, speaking at the 5th Shangri-la Dialogue, Singapore, on June 4 2006.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Men Are Not Made For Safe Havens

Men Are Not Made For Safe Havens”.

I doubt many of you know who said these words. Perhaps I should give you some hints.

He was a popular US politician who was assassinated in June 1968 when he was only 43 years old. His killer was a Palestinian by the name of Sirhan B. Sirhan. Sirhan confessed to the shooting, claiming he acted against this US senator because of his support for Israel in the June 1967 Six-Day War.

Nearly four decades after his death, the conflict in the Middle East rages on, albeit in different forms; and has in fact spread to other places.


Despite all the scientific and technological advancements, the world has become an even more dangerous place. If you do not believe me, just do a quick scan of the news for the past few days. Here are some of the big news items:

To our South, the death toll from the S. Java earthquake exceeds 5,000 and the rain adds to the misery of the survivors. Meantime, the volcano in Gunung Merapi threatens to erupt anytime. And things do not look too bright on the horizon. On the first day of the week, TODAY greeted us with a headline which said; “Ring of Fear Bubbles – Experts suggest Java quake could be a sign of things to come”. Anybody dare to say for sure we in Singapore will not be next?

To the East, our friends in Timor Leste are fighting each other so soon after gaining their hard-won independence.

To the North, another landslide crushes 43 homes in the Malaysian capital, just a stone’s throw from the scene of the 1993 Highland Towers disaster. People just don’t learn do they?

And further up, in North Thailand, thousands are still coping with the destruction brought on by the recent massive floods. According to TODAY, “Experts blame the unseasonal violent storms on the rising temperatures from global warming. …The climatic extremes are believed to be related to the cyclical La Nina weather phenomenon”. Not sure what they mean, but it sure doesn’t sound promising does it?

Meantime, the Islamic militants of Southern Thailand seemed to be taking a break. Or maybe the killings have become so regular, they don’t warrant big headlines and so I missed it.

Finally, to our West, in places like Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel and off course Iraq, there’s no need for me to elaborate. Shootings and bombings have become so commonplace many of us don’t even want to read the details anymore.

Even back home, in one of the safest countries on this planet, there is no escape from the fear of terrorism. “Don’t be complacent. Be psychologically prepared for a successful attack”, our government never tires of warning us. And they are right of course. If our JI friends are determined enough, and if they watch enough Hollywood movies, why not? And so they are installing surveillance camera in our public places, trains and buses. They want private enterprises to beef up their security systems. And occasionally we hold terrorist attack drills.

So Robert Kennedy was right when he said, “Men are not made for safe havens.”


Let me end with a quote by another famous politician of that era. Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel once said:

"When they will love their children more than they hate us, then there will be peace"