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.

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.

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.


"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.