Saturday, December 29, 2007

Law breakers abound in the Fine City

Creative Commons image from synnwang.
Creative Commons image from magnusvk

The world generally thinks all Singaporeans are law-abiding people who would not even cross a deserted road junction before the ‘green man’ appears. But we Singaporeans know better don’t we? From littering to speeding, from illegal parking to soliciting, from buying illegal 4D to feeding monkeys, we live by the army motto; You can do anything; just don’t get caught. This would explain our sudden change of behaviour whenever we cross the causeway into Malaysia (aka Bolehland), where shall we say, the authorities are more tolerant of litter bugs and speedsters.

But back to the tiny red dot. Caught, we seldom are. Everyday you find people writing to the forum pages of our local newspapers lamenting the widespread flouting of our laws. And each time the relevant authority will come back with the standard reply. Oh we take a serious stand against this problem. Last year our enforcement officers issued summons to X thousand offenders. We seek the public’s cooperation to stem out this problem. If you see anyone committing this offence, please call this number.

And the problem persists.

The only time you see some real action from the authorities is when one of the following three things happen.

1) A tragedy occurs and lots of unpleasant publicity is generated.

2) The newspaper reporters take pity on us and decide to do a huge coverage of the problem. The recent reporting about touting by taxi-drivers is a good example.

3) Some big-shot minister complains. Remember how they decided to ban chewing gum because S. Dhanabalan remarked that people who chewed gum looked like cows. (OK lah, I exaggerate a little, but you know what I mean right?)

Let’s take the latest farce for example. Today’s Straits Times carried a big report of a pregnant lady whose plastic bag got snatched by some monkeys at the MacRitchie Reservoir. Much of the blame goes to those baboons who cannot resist feeding their cousins. We see them every time at the reservoir parks. I went to Upper Pierce Reservoir on Christmas day and saw several cars stopped by the roadside and the occupants happily feeding monkeys despite the huge signs threatening a fine of $250 dollars. From the look of it, I think some of those folks went to the park for the specific purpose of feeding the monkeys. And it was a family affair too.

As expected, in the Straits Times report, the Nparks (National Parks Board) appealed to the public to report such offenders if they came across them – as if it was such a rare occurrence. Exactly the same thing happened some months ago with the problem of drivers who left their engines running in the car parks. It appears the traffic police (or should that be the NEA?) did not know that any day of the week, if you go to a multi-storey car park in the HDB heartlands during mid-day, you are sure to see taxi-drivers and truck drivers snoozing away with their car engines and air-cons running.

Anyway, now that the issue has been blown up by the press, the authorities will spring into action over the next few weeks and then guess what will happen? Everything will just go back to the ‘normal’.

I think there are three possible explanations for this strange phenomenon in our country. It could mean that our population is growing too fast and the authorities simply do not have the manpower to cope. Or the ever ‘ting hua’ ( 听话or obedient) Singaporeans are heeding our dear leaders’ exhortation to be more ready to take risks. But I think it’s probably because Singaporeans are getting too rich, and a few hundred dollars is ‘peanuts’ to them - and some have so much peanuts that they simply have to share it with their cousins.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Our Indian friends up north should read this

The street protests by Indians in Malaysia have been very much in the news lately. A rally organized by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) recently, attracted thousands of Indians to the streets of Kuala Lumpur. They wanted to submit a petition with 100,000 signatures to Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen’s Counsel to represent the Indian community in a class action suit against the British government for bringing Indians as labourers to the then Malaya and thereafter exploiting them.

If I were speaking on behalf of the British, I would ask the protesters to take a look at the front page of the 30 November 2007 edition of Singapore’s TODAY newspaper.

In it, you will see the faces of two prominent Indian Singaporeans. Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the present Minister for Education. He will be given another important portfolio today, that of the Finance ministry. The other picture is that of Vivian Balakrishnan, another high-flying Indian who at the age of 44 became Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports as well as Second Minister for Trade and Industry in 2005. In fact, we have another Indian holding an even higher position. He is deputy prime minister Assoc. Prof. Jayakumar.

The question that I will ask our Malaysian friends is this: Weren’t the forefathers of Mr Tharman and Dr Vivian and thousands of Singaporean Indians similarly brought in to the then Malaya as labourers by the British? How come no Singaporean Indian is sueing the British government?

The answer is obvious isn’t it? If you really want to sue someone, you should sue your own politicians; especially the half-Indian who ruled Malaysia for 22 years.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Our Bumiputra friends up north should read this

Our Bumiputra friends in Malaysia - including that pseudo-Bumiputra who wrote The Malay Dilemma - should read this front page article which appeared in Singapore’s Straits Times last Friday (23 November 2007).

  • She scored a staggering 294 points in her PSLE.

  • She broke the record for the highest score ever in Singapore.

  • The closest rival was a good 6 points behind her.

  • She came from a humble background; her mother was a housewife, and father, an aircraft technician.

  • She never had a day of tuition in her life.

  • Her name is Natasha Nabila Muhamad Nasir.

  • She’s Malay.

Please stop insulting your own race and scrap the New Economic Policy. And for goodness sake, stop that kris-waving wayang.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our foreign talent policy is short-sighted

The front page of Weekend Today (17 November 2007) carried two headlines.

1) “Cracks in society are showing” – SM Goh raises concern as foreign talent stats hit new high.

2) “If only they were given the time”

Interestingly, I find that the second headline provides the answer to the issue raised in headline number 1.

In the first article, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong basically points out the problem that with the rapid influx of foreigners into Singapore, many of them are finding it hard to assimilate into Singapore society. I was not surprised. Are you?

It is common sense really. How can you expect people to adapt so quickly to a new society. The mainland Chinese may look like Singapore Chinese (and likewise the Indians) but he is more different from us that a local Indian or Malay culturally. I think you need years to achieve this kind of adaptation. Let me give you two personal examples.

Recently I received a marketing call from a lady who was obviously a mainland Chinese. She was trying to sell some services related to property. She asked if I could understand Chinese; and I answered yes. Then she launched into her sales pitch. But she was speaking so quickly and coupled with her mainland Chinese accent, I had difficulty following her. I asked her to slow down and she did … for a while; and then she reverted to her incomprehensible rapid-fire Chinese. In the end, I simply gave up.

On the other hand, I had an opportunity to meet a classmate of my son, an 18-year old China scholar who had been studying in Singapore for about four years. I had little difficulty communicating with him. His English, though a little different from ours, was perfectly comprehensible.

These two encounters with mainland Chinese clearly shows how difficult it is to make adjustment in just one area – the way we speak; and I am not even talking about learning a new language. This is particularly true for the adults. The bottom line is that they need more time. In the light of this, I wonder, is it wise to bring in foreign talents into our country in such huge numbers?

My own conclusion is that our government’s foreign talent policy is short-sighted. Our economy is growing and our population growth is too slow. Answer? Bring in more foreigners lor.

On paper, it looks impressive. We are forward-looking. We anticipate problems before they arise. We act fast and grab the talents before the other developed countries do so. But I think it is short-sighted because it is basically a quick-fix solution which brings with it many long term consequences; some of which like the one mentioned by SM Goh, are quite predictable. There are probably many others. For example, our recent spats with the China-born athletes have also raised another problem related to their commitment to our country.

I think we should really re-look at our foreign talent policy. For a start, take a look at the problems faced by other societies that have adopted a similar policy; for example the UK and US. Are there lessons for us there?

We should also re-look at our assumptions. Just because they are from China and India, and we have a large Chinese and Indian population does not mean that they are like us. Singaporeans are very ‘westernised’. Our Chinese have been labeled as ‘bananas’ by the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese – yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Looks can be deceiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Be discerning when you donate

In Singapore, we have no shortage of charity organizations. Some are huge and employ aggressive marketing techniques to appeal to your emotions. They hire famous artistes to perform daring stunts on TV and make moving appeals. The Ren Ci Hospital & Medicare Centre even has its CEO - a monk no less doing Fear Factor style dare-devil stunts like standing an 8x8 inch platform on top of a wobbly metal structure erected 5 stories high in Suntec City for 1 hour 45 minutes and 28 seconds.

And kind but gullible Singaporean fall for these stunts hook, line and sinker. They must feel really stupid that hot on the footsteps of the National Kidney Foundation saga, we have another scandal in the making. If you have been donating to Ren Ci, please ponder over this.

- Ren Ci has been making interest-free loans totaling millions of dollars to various companies from as far back as 1996. Apparently, these organizations are linked to the CEO. Is that how you want your hard-earned dollars to be used?

- $200,000 to $300,000 remains to be accounted for at the multimillion-dollar charity. Is that where you want your hard-earned dollars to end up?

I don’t know about you. But I smell another NKF-type stinker brewing?

I think we should all learn a lesson from this latest fiasco, if we have not already done so from the previous one. We just have to be more discerning. Don’t be lazy. Do a bit of homework before you sign that cheque. Even if the amount is not big, it is irresponsible to use you money so foolishly. You are depriving other more deserving charitable oranisations of your precious dollar. They are many small and low profile charitable organisations that do their work quietly and without much fanfare. Find out who they are and consider is it more worthwhile to give to them instead.

The same advice applies to those show biz personnel who work so hard to help raise money for these charities.

Pedra Branca

I have not been following closely the arguments presented by Singapore at the hearings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh which is also claimed by Malaysia.

I understand that one of the main points put up by Singapore is that “since 1847, Britain and its successor, Singapore, have exercise sovereignty over the island through activities that were an open, continuous and effective display of state control” (Straits Times, 13 November, 2007)

In this regard, I wonder if our team had mentioned the fact that we even have a stamp issued in 1982 featuring the Horsburg Lighthouse on this island.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Singapore frog is almost cooked already

Nominated MP, Professor Thio Li-Ann was wrong when she said in parliament yesterday that “repealing Section 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social morality, the common good and undermine our liberties”.

That first step was taken long ago when:

1) They legalized abortion.

2) We gave in to the loud spoken minority and liberalized our censorship laws. The film rating system in our country is a joke. Pornography is disguised as ‘artistic’ entertainment and shown in our third-rate cinemas. Children in school uniform openly rent NC16 and M18 videos from our shops.

2) We made the decision to build casinos in this country after standing firm for 40 years.

3) Our dear leaders openly promised that 377A will not be enforced. Dr Stuart Koe, the gay activist was right when he said, “To have a law that they articulate they are not going to enforce really brings the law into disrepute.”

Have you heard of the ‘boiled frog syndrome’? It is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out. Such a frog can be boiled alive without knowing it.

In our case, the frog is almost cooked already.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What’s worse than bo-lui and bo-geh?

Mr Wang says; “Our kind of government is definitely not the kind that's going to give you any free money on a silver platter.”

I prefer to say; “Our government is definitely not the kind that's so kind as to give you any free money on a silver platter.”

…….. in other words ‘bo-cheng’.
…….. in other words, ‘you die, your business’.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bus Fares to go up .. yet again

The headline of this front page article in the Straits Times should be:

Bus Fares to go up yet again!

In his movie, Just Follow Law, director Jack Neo expressed the popular belief that Singaporeans have very short memories. Still, very few of us should have difficulty remembering that just one year ago, the fares were raised. And just a couple months ago, the bus companies boasted of their outstanding performance and huge profits.

The TODAY newspaper has an even more disgusting headline. As if to taunt Singaporeans and remind them not to complain, they stressed that the increase was a mere 1 to two cents. And they printed 2 huge one cent coins on their front page. It's as if they are trying to say; "Don't think your 2 cents are bigger than bullock cart wheels."

I think Ms Ong Sor Fern’s commentary on the Michael Moore movie Sicko is appropriate here. Criticizing the US government for privatizing their health care system, she wrote:

“Quite simply, there is no excuse for any government not to take care of its citizens.”

I believe that public transport should be the responsibility of the government. Why should this be left to profit-making commercial organisations like SMRT and SBS. Every year, our government collects millions of dollars from car owners through the COE and ERP systems. Why isn’t this money used to subsidize public transport. Instead, they allow the transport companies to keep increasing fares, resulting in more and more people buying cars. Consequently, the car owners, who pay so much to drive cars have to bear with daily traffic jams.

What alternatives do we Singaporeans have? Drive and you get screwed. Take public transport and you also get screwed.

Only thing we can do is whine and complain; whilst the rest of the world laugh at us.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We couldn’t have done it without you

A big thank you to Malaysia and Dr (Potong Potong) Mahathir. We couldn’t have done it without you. Oh yeah - thanks also for so generously sending many of your brightest kids to our universities; like this one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brilliant Idea

Did you see this report in Page 4 of the Straits Times Today? Minister Lim Boon Heng has brilliant idea.

Now please turn to the obituaries page. There are 8 gentlemen whose ages were given. They are 53, 82, 83, 51, 77, 78, 64 and 74. The average … three score years plus 10.

If you are one of those Singaporeans who follow the ministers' advice blindly, and find that you do not make it beyond 3 scores plus 10, you know who to look for.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Singapore Boleh

It’s National Day season and I keep seeing this new phrase in the papers; Singapore – The City of Possibilities.

Haha. So not only Malaysia Boleh, Singapore pun Boleh!

But, if one were to adopt a pessimistic view, there are all kinds of disastrous possibilities; like ...

Singapore: The Vice Capital or The Sardines City etc. etc.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Do what I say but not what I do

It appears that the only time Dr Mahathir shuts his mouth is when his heart go on strike. Due to health problems, he has been rather quiet for the past few months. But his heart must be in pretty good condition lately, because he has gone back to working his mouth.

The latest barrage from the famed ‘loose cannon’? He wants Malaysia’s minority Chinese and Indians to stop debating whether or not Malaysia is an Islamic state. “Too much talk about such issues could prove harmful for the multiracial country”, he says. And then he goes on to make exactly the kind of statement that ignited the debate in the first place; by declaring, as did Prime Minister Badawi and his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, that Malaysia is an Islamic state, even though it is not clearly stated in the Malaysian Constitution.

This reminds me of something a Malaysian friend once told me. He said that Malaysia is different from Singapore. In Singapore, if you do not see a “U-turn” sign when driving, it means it is unlawful to make a U-turn. In Malaysia, if you do not see a “No U-turn” sign, you can assume that it is lawful to make a U-turn. Since, the Malaysian constitution did not say that Malaysia is not an Islamic state, the UMNO leaders assumed that that they can simply go ahead and declare it one.

But then PM Badawi said something rather confusing last month. He said that Malaysia adopts a democratic system. In that case, shouldn’t it be the people who have the final say and not the political leaders.

Another thing I find rather confusing about these statements by the UMNO politicians. They keep saying that the constitution guarantees freedom of worship for non-Muslims even though it states the Islam is the official religion. It makes one wonder what exactly is meant by ‘freedom of worship’. Does it mean that Muslims have no freedom of worship? I say this because as long as you are born into a Muslim family, and your parents, or even just one of them is quick enough to register you as a Muslim, you are locked in for life and not free to follow any other religion.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chimps are people too?

Take a look at this photo of an apple and a pear. Wouldn’t you say that even a 3-year old will be able to tell you that they are different? Do you need learned scientists with big degrees behind their names to conduct all sorts of elaborate tests of their composition, juiciness, mineral content, DNA structures etc. to tell you they are simply not the same?

(Photo by Flickr member Monikahoinkis)

And yet, I saw this highly-touted “documentary of the week” on Channel News Asia recently, where they tried to argue that chimps are actually the same as human beings. The title of the documentary was; Chimps are People Too. It was produced by Horizon and presented by Danny Wallace, a British Comedian and writer. To make sure I really understood where these people are coming from, I recorded the show and watched it a second time.

Danny Wallace travels to many places and interviews a number of experts in areas, and here are some of his conclusions:

1) Dongo National Park, Africa – Wallace spends a full day here observing the behaviour of chimps in the natural environment. He learns that chimps could make a variety of sounds. They can even communicate sentences like “I found really good food.” His conclusion? Chimps have the “beginnings of a language”.

“Look into the eyes of a chimp. You do get this weird sense of recognition. So this make me think, that more and more, really, in my opinion, chimps are people.”

2) Philosopher – Next Wallace speaks to a philosopher, and learns that a full grown adult chimp has a lot of sophisticated awareness of itself and its environment. It is more advanced than a new born child. His conclusion?

“It just might be possible that chimps could be people too.”

3) Sexual attraction – Next Wallace goes to Cambridge University and learns about a ‘ground breaking experiment’ where 3 women are asked to sniff the dirty T-shirts of 3 male subjects – 2 men and a chimp, and choose the one each found the most attractive. All three women found T-shirt B to be not very attractive or unattractive. In other words, they could not tell the difference.

So what? I am completely lost??? Have they tried a similar experiment with a bear or a cat or a donkey?

4) Chimp Trainer in Hollywood. This guy trains chimps to do ‘human things’ like nod head (good), shake head (bad), do hand signals, bare teeth etc. He treats his chimps like 5-year olds and even disciplines them. Wallace’s conclusion?

“What they were doing were people-like. They looked fairly human. I’m not sure if it’s enough.”

4) Geneticist. Chimps and human share 99.4% of DNA and are almost identical genetically. He believes that the difference is due to ‘thousands and thousands of years of culture.’

“Layers and layers of culture which we build up over thousands and thousands of years that make us increasingly more sophisticated. If you take them outside that cultural context, you might find that their behaviour is a little bit more like a chimpanzee.”

5) Primate Center in Atlanta. Here Wallace asks the question, “Do chimps have culture.” Here he observes chimps learning 2 different methods of getting M&M’s from a device which required them to lift or poke something. His conclusion?

“The experiment proves absolutely that chimps have a capacity for culture and pass it on to each other down the generation

6) Bonobos – Wallace’s final visit was to a centre which studied bonobos (pygmy chimpanzee) by treating them like humans. Wallace finds that he could communicate with the Bonobos through some kind of computer software, play with them and even ‘bonds’ with one them. He is completely convinced.

And his parting words.

“Ultimately, I think all this is a question of potential. Give them time. Again …
So should they be treated as if they are people too? Well that’s up to the chimps that got there first: Us.”

And my conclusion: Danny Wallace certainly has a great deal of faith in his ‘religion’ – Evolution. He sets out fully convinced that humans evolved from chimps. He looks for the slightest hint of similarity and declares it as scientific proof. If this is not evidence of faith, I don’t know what is.

Interesting, I also saw an hour-long video webcast of a studio discussion about this same show which involved a panel of experts here. Surprisingly, a straw poll amongst the audience indicated that more people believed that chimps are not people after watching the show than before watching the show.

During the discussion, one of the panelists, Dr. Mark Thomas, a human evolutionary geneticist at University College London said that it was over-simplistic and misleading to attach too much to this 99.4% similarity in DNA of humans and chimp, because bananas have 60% and rats and more than 90% similarity in their DNA with humans.

As for me, I believe that for such a simple question, there is no need for scientific tests. What constitutes human-ness anyway …. looks, behaviour and personality perhaps?

(Photo by Flickr member Gandalf Grey)

- Does this chimp look 99.4% human?

- Does he behave 99.4% like a human? Can he talk, reason, argue, write, read, design equipment 99.4% like a human? (Of course evolutionists say; give the guy a couple of million years, and he will. But then, we won’t be around to verify that would we?)

- Can he devise elaborate systems to capture and enslave other chimpanzees and ship them half way around the world to be sold for profit?

- Can he look up to the night sky and be so captivated by its beauty and order that he is moved to write words like these in praise of his creator?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth His handiwork.” [Psalm 19:1]

So then, why do these brilliant scientists go to such pains to deceive themselves? I think the answer is found in something the apostle Paul wrote nearly two thousand years ago.

“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” [Romans 1: 19–22, New International Version]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Politicians Bodoh Too?

I saw another two interesting articles in yesterday’s edition of TODAY.

Article No. 1

“Two days after Johor officials declared victory in their fight against crime in the state, a gang of robbers attacked a taxi driver and left a note behind the taxi taunting the law enforcers of the state.

The message to Johor police was, “Polis Bodoh” (stupid police).”

Article No. 2

Bad news; but hardly unexpected, I would say. It appears that the haze is returning; in spite of the numerous high profile meetings by the leaders of Asean, and countless reports in the media.

Apparently the forest burners have the same regard for our politicians as the Johor criminals have for the police there.

Incidentally, have you read my earlier series of posts about (mainly Malaysian) politicians under the title, Politicians Say The Darndest Things. Apparently, they have inspired one Malaysian writer to pen a book of exactly the same title. Haven't you heard of Creative Commons, Mr Amir? An acknowledgment would be nice actually. Malaysia Boleh indeed!

Related posts:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Tale of Slavery in 2 Cities

I read not one, but two reports of modern-day slavery in TODAY this morning.

The first was about a slavery ring in China in which more than 1,000 people were forced to work in brutal conditions. More than 450 young men and children had been rescued from a string of brick factories in Henan and Shanxi provinces. Some of the children were as young as eight. Many had injuries sustained at the hands of their cruel bosses. One man in his fifties was even beaten to death with a shovel for ‘not working hard enough’.

Many of the children had been abducted from streets and sold for as little as 500 yuan (S$101) to factories and mines where they were starved and forced to work long hours under appalling conditions, with dogs ensuring they could not escape.

The second report was about slavery right here in Singapore! In a story titled, The Story of Workhorse Albert’s Life or Lack of One, Murali Sharma wrote that “unsatisfactory work conditions are quite widespread”. His good friend Albert is a typical example of a victim of Singaporean-style slavery. He had to slog from 8.00 am to 10.00 pm on most days. His boss is a slave driver who doesn’t trust him and wants him to be contactable even on Sundays, and often berates him for his own mistakes. The poor chap is so miserable and stressed that he cannot even perform what in Singapore is considered a patriotic duty - marrying and procreating.

There is a slight difference in Albert’s case of course. He earns a 5-figure salary; and if he were to try to escape, he is unlikely to beaten or bitten.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Was That Really Necessary?

By now, if you do not know that Mediacorp artiste, Christopher Lee has been jailed for drink driving, you must be a hermit. And if you previously did not know who he was, you certainly do now. His face has been splashed all over the newspapers. The Straits Times even had one half of the front page of its Sunday Lifestyle Section covered with his photos.

Come on. I know the public has a right to know. And newspapers have a duty to report. But half a page? Now was that really necessary? The man is already paying a heavy price for his mistake. Is it really necessary to shame him further in this way?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

People Cannot Join and Leave a Religion as they Wish

The wisest in the land has ruled. “People cannot join and leave a religion according to their whims and fancies.”

Thus saith the Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim (of Malaysia) in delivering the main judgment of a case involving a Malay woman, Lina Joy, who converted from Islam to Christianity nine years ago and wanted to have “Islam” deleted from her identity card.

This was supposed to be a ‘test case’ because it is binding on all lower civil courts, and will affect a number of apostasy cases pending in civil courts. For example, there is this case involving Mrs R. Subashini, a Hindu woman who is fighting to prevent her estranged husband from converting their one-year-old son to Islam. Her husband, Mr T. Saravan converted from a Hindu to become a Muslim last year. And he has already converted their elder son, three, without her knowledge.

According to the wise chief justice's reasoning, Mr. T Saravan is guilty. He cannot ‘suka suka’ (any how) convert to another religion. And he certainly cannot change his children’s religion according to his ‘whims and fancies’. At the very least, he should consult and get the approval of his wife, don’t you think.

And there's another case involving a former soldier M. Moorthy who also (allegedly) converted to Islam – so said his colleagues, but they have no documents to prove it - without even telling his family. This caused a lot of problems when he died, because both his widow and the Islamic authorities claim his body for burial.

By the way, do you think it is a coincidence that both the judges who ruled against Lina Joy were Muslims, and the third judge who ruled for her was a non-Muslim? Make you wonder if the verdict would have been the same if none of the 3 judges were Muslims doesn't it?.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Must it always be about Money?

The Singapore daily, TODAY has this tagline: We set you thinking. A couple of things I read this morning set me thinking.

In a report about Michael Moore’s latest movie, Sicko, the director, famous for movies like Fahrenheit 911 and Bowling for Columbine, was quoted as saying that he was trying to ask questions like, “Why do we behave the way we behave? What has become of us? Where is our soul?”

This reminded me about something former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir said recently about us; “Singapore believes the most important thing is what profits Singapore”.

Offhand, I would like to dismiss this as another of his thoughtless, unsubstantiated accusations. But if you think about it objectively, there may be some truth in what he said. A lot of times, our behaviour gives others the impression that profit is our only criterion for evaluating decisions in practically every aspect of our lives.

Let’s take the example of our sales people and businessmen. You must have encountered such a situation before. You walk into a shop and the salesman is all smiles and enthusiastically answers your questions. But the moment it becomes apparent that you are not going to buy anything, his attitude changes, and he makes no effort to hide his irritation and wish that you would leave and stop wasting his time.

Not long ago, we had a huge debate in this country about the decision to build casinos after decades to saying no. In parliament, speaker after speaker spoke about the ills of having casinos; but in the end they were persuaded because of the prospect of revenues and jobs. We will come up with lots of measures to reduce the social impact of gambling on our society. But what about the harm that it does to foreigners who we will woo to come here to gamble? Not our problem? Then Mahathir is right isn’t he?

For years, the Indonesians have been pressurizing us to sign an extradition treaty so that they can go after corrupt officials who hide their ill-gotten wealth in Singapore. We have always resisted because it will affect our reputation as a financial capital. We will only sign the treaty if there are other conditions attached to it and bring benefits in other areas. But, what about the fact that we have helping dishonest people to get away with their crimes? Again, not our problem?

Last Saturday’s edition of Today carried this headline, What Price the Pink Dollar? It reported on the results of a poll commissioned by Today which showed that a majority of Singaporean heartlanders were against making homosexuality legal in Singapore. The article went on to argue that this was not good for Singapore. A law criminalizing homosexuality will work against our push to lure foreign talent here and grow an ideas-driven, creative economy because homosexuals are supposed to be creative people. We do not want to be seen as a ‘culturally intolerant and sterile’ people. But what about the long term effects of welcoming such ‘alternative lifestyles’ on our society?

Why do we behave this way? I don’t know. Maybe it has to do with the fact that our leaders are all paid ‘market rates’ and constitute some of the best brains that money can buy in this land.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Did you see this article in Today?

It's about the GMP Group which does not require it's job applicants to fill up a lengthy application form. They believed that a simple cover letter and resume are “more than enough”.

It reminded me of a book by Edward De Bono entitled simply, SIMPLICITY. In it, he lamented that many procedures in this world are far too complicated. He cited the example of those irritating Embarkation Forms that we have to fill up each time we visited a foreign country. By the way, he wrote this book before September 11. He questioned why some countries (I think he quoted France as an example) only required a simple 4 or 5 - question form whilst most others have literally pages of questions to answer.

I am tempted to ask the same question about job application forms here in Singapore. If GMP can do with a simple resume and cover letter, why do most organizations require you to fill up lengthy forms. Out of curiosity, I visited the websites of some large organizations in Singapore. Most of them asked the customary questions like which schools you attended, your children’s date of births etc. Some like the NTUC, a supposed champion of older workers' rights, even asked for your grades in your O level exams. I pity guys like my 56-year old friend, who was retrenched 2 years ago. He will have to submit information about his grades from nearly 4 decades ago. Quite possibly, the primary school he attended may not even exist today.

A screen shot showing just a part of NTUC's online application form.

We should thank TODAY for this article. Let’s hope that more employers, especially our largest employer, the government, will follow GMP’s example and change their procedures rather than waste their energy to try and ‘fix things that ain’t broke”.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I’m No Pessimist

I am greatly flattered that blogger Victor thinks that I am a ‘thinking blogger’; more so when I didn’t even know that he reads my articles. I feel even more flattered that he actually likens me to the famous blogger Mr Wang. I don’t think there is any other blogger who thinks that it is a worthy comparison. No need to elaborate.

Victor also thinks that I am probably a pessimist. Well he isn’t the first one. Some time ago, one reader expressed the same opinion when he read my article opposing the nomination of Mr S. R. Nathan as the next president of Singapore. I argued that it wasn’t pessimistic to speculate that an 80-over year old man like Mr Nathan may be forced to step down for health reasons mid-way through his term of office. It that happened, more tax payers’ money would be spent to hold another election to find a replacement. Anyway, once it became clear that Mr Nathan would win the election, I took down the article. I felt that it wasn’t helpful to keep that sort of argument on the internet any more. Now that we could all see that Mr Nathan is happily performing that role, I feel relieved and glad to be proven wrong.

And then it occurred to me that that reader, like Victor thought of me as a pessimist because of the title of my blog – Bad News on the Doorstep. I had never taken the trouble to explain why I chose such a ‘pessimistic’ name because there is a religious consideration behind my choice; and because I thought, since so few people read this blog, why bother. But out of respect for Victor, I think I should.

A very long time ago, at the dawn of earth’s history, there lived a man by the name of Lamech. He lived at a time when the society was full of violence and iniquity and moral decay. It so troubled him that when his son was born, he decided to name him ‘Rest’, or ‘Comfort’, saying; “This same shall comfort us.” The Hebrew name for it is Noah.

As I look at the world around me in 21st Century Singapore, and scan the news daily, I am convinced that we are living in times exactly like those of Lamech and Noah. (Just this morning I read the news of a man who raped his own daughter and posted the video on the internet. A couple of weeks ago, a young man, with a bright future ahead of him, took two guns and short dead 32 innocent bystanders before taking his own life). Since it is too late for me to go back and rename my son, I thought I would name my blog to reflect the times. And so I chose a line from the Don McLean classic, American Pie, to be the name of this blog.

Jesus Christ, before he left this earth warned us, through his disciples, to look out for the signs of the second coming. He specifically mentioned that the society at that time would “as in the days of Noah” – something I intend to blog about shortly. As I do not wish to mix religion with social and political commentaries, I have decided to blog about that topic (we call it Eschatology) in the separate blog called Parable of the Fig Tree. All bible-believing Christians look forward to a day when our saviour will return to this crippled earth to establish his millennial kingdom. Far from being pessimistic, we have a glorious hope.

You too can, if you will.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Revising History is No Torture

It’s that time of the year again when our children have to revise for their mid-year exams. I am not sure about kids these days, but for me revising for the History paper was always sheer torture. I remember mugging into the wee hours of the morning trying to memorize all those dates and events and names.

But apparently, revising history is no sweat for the folks at the Japanese Ministry of Education. Each year, around this time they will revise their history books. In 2005, the focused on the Nanjing Massacre (or Incident as they prefer to call it). In 2006, they turned their attention to the sex slaves (or 'comfort women' as they prefer to call it) issue. This year, they come closer home to the Japanese islands of Okinawa. Japanese textbooks are being revised to modify references to soldiers ordering civilians to kill themselves to avoid capture in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.

This battle, in which up to one-third of the island’s inhabitants died, has previously been described as a futile sacrifice ordered by Japan’s military leaders to delay a US invasion of the Japanese mainland. The history books have always recorded that fanatical Japanese soldiers ordered thousands of civilians to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Americans.

“We were told that if women were taken prisoner, we would be raped and that we should not allow ourselves to be captured,” recalls one survivor, Ms Sumie Oshiro.

Mr Masahide Ota, a former governor of Okinawa who was one of the local students mobilized to defend the island, says soldiers gave civilians two hand grenades – “one to throw at the enemy and one to use on themselves”.

But now, Japanese rightists have re-asserted that such civilian suicides were voluntary acts of patriotism.

But it is not just the Japanese educators who are adept at revising history. The Japanese prime minister too had demonstrated this ability last month when he declared that Japanese troops did not directly coerce thousands of so-called ‘comfort women’ from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Netherlands to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels. But being the magnanimous person that he is, PM Shinzo Abe continued to offer his apologies to these unfortunate women. The BBC article above, quoted Abe-san as saying,

"As I frequently say, I feel sympathy for the people who underwent hardships, and I apologise for the fact that they were placed in this situation at the time," he said.

Since the Japanese prime minister is so fond of making apologies, may I suggest that he also apologise to the hundreds of thousands who suffered from the great 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Although Japan was not responsible for that disaster, other than contributing the name, like the comfort women, these people too “underwent hardships”.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Strange Sort of Integrity

Actress Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie, who plays the role of Annabel Chong in the play, 251, about the infamous porn star's life was reported in Today (March 29, 2007) to have said:

"I see her as a woman who made a choice and stood by it. And there was integrity in that.... It's not up to me to judge whether it was a good or a bad choice, but she believed in something and stuck by it to the end."

In that case, Ms MacQuarrie probably also sees integrity in the acts of these 2 men, who also made choices and stuck with them to the end.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Everyone’s Hopping Onto the Casino Bandwagon

Most Singaporeans remember the luo-han fish and bubble tea debacle of a few years ago. Initial success followed by a mushrooming of outlets, led to over-supply and finally disaster.

I fear that it will happen to the casino industry. As you can see from the above news items, everybody is jumping on the casino band wagon.

I really do not know what to hope for.

I would hate to see our two casino projects fail because we are pumping in so much of our scarce resources into them; and Singaporeans will suffer the consequences. But, I suppose those big-time casino operators who are investing millions into these projects have done their homework and know what they are doing. But on the other hand, you never know. Greed often clouds our judgment. And the world economy is volatile and unpredictable.

At the same time, I also do not like to see these projects become a booming success and turn my beloved Singapore into a vice capital.

Anyway, the closing paragraph of the last BBC article is worth noting:

One country that already has a reputation for being a popular destination for Asian gamblers is Australia. However the promised windfall in tax revenues and jobs has not always materialised, according to Jan McMillen (director of the Center for Gambling Research at the Australian National University).

Concerns have also risen over the number of Australian gambling addicts and in recent years casinos have been forced to cut back.

"We're in shutdown mode. It's fascinating to look at the rest of the world and wonder if they've learned from our experience," said Ms McMillen. (BBC; 20 April, 2005)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nation of Emigrants

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said in parliament that we are a nation of immigrants. As such we should welcome more immigrants to our tiny country.

What kind of stupid logic is that?

Dear sir, do you know what was the population density of Singapore, a British colony, before the 2nd World War and what is the population density of Singapore today?

The minister also promised that Singapore had “sufficient land” to cater to current and future needs, provided the space was used “judiciously and wisely”.

Demonstrating typical Singaporean-style creativity and innovation, he elaborated what he meant by ‘judicious and wise use of space’ by saying, “We need to optimise land use … through reclamation, building upwards, or using subterranean space.” Sir, haven’t we been doing that for the past 40 years?

He also said, “We will also need to invest in necessary infrastructure such as roads and rail networks, and power and utilities.” Sir, haven’t we been doing that for the past 40 years?

In that case, I also can be creative and innovative. Let me give our government a suggestion. We need to optimise use of human resources. We should educate and train our people to the fullest so that we can have a highly productive workforce that generate more wealth without having to resort to bringing in so many foreign talents.

Earlier this month he promised that Singapore would not be bursting at the seams. I say we are already bursting at the seams. Now he promises that Singapore had “sufficient land”. I say our ‘little red dot’ already have insufficient land. I challenge anyone prove me wrong.

Our government has always boasted that it is pragmatic and do not make empty promises. I hope I live long enough to see Mr Mah and his colleagues deliver on the above promises.

Personally, I think that at the rate we are going, Singapore is going to become a nation of emigrants. With a “planning figure” (playing with words as usual) of 6.5 million, I see many of our children going where their parents refused to go – leave our beloved country for ‘greener pastures’. With prices of properties sky-rocketing, my children will be sorely tempted to sell the house I bequeath to them, and just leave this place that their parents slogged so hard to build to the immigrants. And what makes the government so sure that today’s immigrants will not become emigrants as well when they see Singapore turning into the very sardine cans that they left behind in the first place?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Does Customer Service Training Work?

In today’s edition of TODAY (the newspaper), there’s an article on customer service. I believe it is part of a regular column by Liang Dingzi called Serve Us Right.

In today’s story, the writer narrated two cases of poor customer service. The first was from a hotel and the second, from a bank. From the first she concluded with this cardinal rule of customer service; “When in doubt, decide in the customer’s favour“, and from the second; “Never make an issue of doing the customer a favour“.

This article got me pondering. Certainly in the hotel and banking industry, the frontline staff have gone through extensive training in customer service. So whilst the article makes interesting reading for a layman like me, it wouldn’t be teaching those people to whom her story is directed anything they don’t already know.

I am reminded of an interesting post by a blogger called Victor who narrated his somewhat unpleasant encounter with a bank officer at a reputable bank. He then contrasted this with a much happier encounter with a hawker. Comparing these two service providers, the former, the bank officer is probably much better educated and have attended numerous hours of customer service training. Yet, in the words of this blogger, “JY (the bank officer), looks like you could learn something from Helen, the coffee lady. She only sold me a cup of tea that cost a mere 60 cents and yet she took pride in providing good service. On the other hand, you know that my dealings with your bank run into several hundred thousand dollars and are worth several thousand dollars in annual earnings to your bank, part of which pays your salary.”

So what conclusion can we draw from these two articles? My own conclusion is that what we have here is not a problem of knowledge or skill. What we have is what my children like to call, AP, or Attitude Problem.

Can such an attitude problem be addressed by sending the staff for more customer service training? I very much doubt so. Unlike lack of knowledge or skill, poor attitude is much more complex a problem, and its causes don’t always lie with the individual. It is influenced by a variety of factors like work environment and culture, staff relations, staff welfare, work overload and so on, and often points back to the individual’s boss. Hence, the boss who simply sends his staff for training without taking a good hard look at himself, is like the man who lost a coin in a dark alley and searched for it under a lamp post.

And the results are all around for us to see.

Related posts:
1) Interesting Encounters with Rude Cashiers
2) Consciously Rude

Sunday, February 11, 2007

6.5 Million?

It was reported yesterday that our government is aiming to increase the population on our little island to 6.5 million by the year 2020. Making the announcement, minister for National Development, Mah Bow Tan promised that our country will not 'burst at the seams'.

Dear Mr Mah. Where have you been? Don't you travel on our roads and occasionally try out our public transport? Or visit our parks and popular places like Sentosa, not as a VIP, but as a private citizen? Worse still, try to cross over and return from neighbouring Johor Bahru via the causeway during festive season? Haven't you seen the long queues of lorries and goods vehicles waiting at the causeway and emphathized with the drivers? I can continue for another 5 paragraphs but every Singaporean knows what I am talking about.

Sir, we are already bursting at the seams! Isn't life here stressful enough. Please have some pity on poor Singaporeans who have to escape to neighbouring Malaysia and put up with the insults of people like Mahathir.

Please, please I beg you. Don't do this to our children.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Politicians Say the Darndest Things (2)

We all sympathize with the people of Johor who have suffered terribly from the massive floods that recently affected the southern part of peninsular Malaysia. Even as the government sets up a committee to investigate the causes of the massive flooding, the Mentri Besar of Johor, Datuk Abdul Ghani has gone public and alleged that it was our land reclamation projects at Pulau Tekong that have contributed to these floods.

There is a well-known Chinese proverb that says:

冰冻三尺 非一日之寒; or
A three –feet layer of ice did not result from one day of chill.

It teaches us that the visible effects of a problem are often the consequence of prolonged period of neglect. In analyzing a problem, we must therefore invest the time to probe deep into the root causes. We must be thorough in uncovering all the factors that may contribute to the problem. Failure to do this may lead us to implement measures that merely remove the symptoms without preventing the recurrence of the problem. Even a production operator or bus driver who has undergone QCC (quality control circle) training would know this. Strange that as learned a man as the menteri besar does not know this simple principle.

I suspect that the datuk must have been inspired by the accusations of the Thai generals that Singapore eavesdrops on their secret telephone conversations. It’s simply another ‘Napoleonic’ tactic to divert the attention of the suffering citizens away from his own ineptness.
Personally, I believe the root cause of the floods is the prolonged period of neglect by the government of that part of Malaysia. In the words of Tortrakul Yomnak, the structural engineer who heads the team investigating problems with Thailand’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport, it’s “systemic failure”. I estimate it goes back at least 22 years. Maybe the big boss was too preoccupied with ‘mega-projects’ and multi-million dollar ‘scenic bridges’ to bother with something as trivial and unglamorous as drainage and rubbish disposal.

That of course brings me back to my favourite Malaysian politician, Mahathir Mohammad, the man who ruled Malaysia for 22 years. We have not heard from the ‘loose cannon’ for a long time. The poor guy suffered a heart attack last year and consequently the guns had gone silent. But thankfully, he has recovered and thus I can continue to look forward to more additions to my collection of Mahathir gems.

Here is his latest salvo.

  • Singapore does not really care about the opinion of its neighbours.

  • Singapore believes the most important thing is what profits Singapore.

  • You will get nowhere with them either being nice or being tough; they only think of themselves.”

Monday, January 29, 2007

Napoleon Comes to Thailand

Having gotten rid of the democratically-elected prime minister by unlawful means, the new leaders of Thailand waste no time to adopt the tactics of Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

First, blame all the country's woes on the ousted prime minister; for example:
- The unrest and violence in the south,
- The new year’s eve bombings in Bangkok,
- Even the cracks in the new airport runways.

Next, find a convenient bogeyman who is out to harm and exploit our country. What better choice than the rich and tiny, and much disliked, proud and snotty Singapore? Accuse them publicly of some sinister plots like trying to eavesdrop on our military secrets.

Finally, of course the show is not complete without a bunch of sheep to chant. "Four legs good, two legs bad. Four legs good, two legs bad."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Einstein and Faraday are Scientifically Illiterate

Gay activist and widely-adored blogger, Alex Au would have you believe that anyone who believes in Creationism is stubborn, stupid and ‘scientifically illiterate’.

In a lengthy article titled, Man at Faregate Refutes Creationism, in his website Yawning Bread, he argues that unlike the Theory of Evolution, the Creation Model simply does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

But the fact is that there are many scientists (see list here) who believe in Creationism, including Albert Einstein who said:

“The religious feeling of the scientist takes the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law – which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection”.

Many of the great scientists of the past, like Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, and William Thompson Kelvin were Bible-believing men who saw no conflict between their Christian faith and their scientific careers. It was Newton who spoke of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”. Believing in an ordered, well-planned Universe, a number God-fearing scientists have made immense contributions to scientific discovery. The belief in design and purpose in the Universe prompted such men and women to understand better the order already placed in the Universe.

Yes, one can argue that many of these scientists lived before Darwin’s time. And, while it is true that many Christians have succumbed to the onslaught of evolutionary thinking and twisted the words of the bible to conform to the populist views, many others have the courage to scrutinize evolution theories and have come to the conclusion that evolution is as religious an assumption as special creation.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Great Massacre Continues

Since I last wrote about this great human tragedy in Singapore and India, the killing continues unabated.

In a recent report in the Singapore Straits Times, it was reported that 7,000 girls are aborted EACH DAY in India. While I suspect that this figure may have been exaggerated, because a search on Google has shown varying numbers, one can still safely assume that the true figure is staggering. In comparison, our own figure of only 14,000 a year in Singapore, which covers both sexes, may even appear trivial.

While you are patting yourself on the back, your might as well take some pride that in our highly advanced society, the operations are carried efficiently and safely in clean, modern and comfortable surroundings. No backstreet abortions in our squeaky clean country – you can be sure of that. Just do a search on the internet and take a look for yourself at some of the advertisements for abortion services complete with diagrams and photos and user-friendly explanation. Not only are you assured of GEMS (Going the Extra Mile Service) service, you can even use your Medisave money to offset part of the fee so that you hardly feel the pinch.

So whether you are young or old, no need to wait for the next Romancing Singapore campaign to come around. Just go ahead and do your thing. No need to worry about this irritating thing that may come along. Just pop into one of our many ‘fertility clinics’ and they will help you to get rid of it in a jiffy and nobody need shed a tear.