Saturday, 11 July 2015


I believed many like myself, perplexed and curious by how a great nation like Greece could end up in today's predicament. I did a little browsing to see what interesting facts I can find out about descendants of Alexandra the Great.

There are many similarities between Singapore and Greece, of which the most outstanding is we both share a relatively long period of "economic miracle" in very recent times.

Like Greece, our main export is petroleum products produced with imported crude.  Pharmaceutical, port and shipping services, and tourism being the others.

Their education system too is somewhat similar with 6 years of primary education starting at about the same age, followed by secondary education with added vocational training, then tertiary.

What we do not have and they do are natural resources. They have mines of minerals and metals, large swathe of land mass for agriculture and forestry products.

A developed nation, Greece has backslided to a point where they are begging for money, though in the most dignified way. What cause the famously known "cradle of democracy" and founding member of OECD to come to such a desperate state? Some blamed it on its entry to Euro Zone.  Few people except for Lee Kuan Yew saw the deep disparity between many governments one currency and seriously doubted the sustainability of such a system.  Learning from this, I believed the Euro Zone was less about economics than of European pride.

Nonetheless, there are more dissimilarities we have with Greece than otherwise. But recent political developments do indicate we may potentially fall into the same trap as the Greeks.

We had for a long time stressed intensive and extensive economic developments, striving for higher GDP if possible. We encourage the prudence of savings. We had reformed our tax system from that of taxing on earnings to taxing on spending. We have no qualms about spending on infrastructures. We paid special attention to healthcare in a holistic way. We do not tolerate corruption. We stood firm to avoid straying towards being populist.

These has thus far help Singapore avoid the state of affairs Greece is experiencing now.  Our prudence in governing has kept us debt free. 

It is noteworthy that no big country can tell us what to do and what not to do because we owe them nothing.  Well, they are still trying very hard via alternative means.  See how they have meddled in Hong Kong.

We are thankful for many years of stability, and we continue to be a proud "Economic Miracle", a prestigious title that has since eluded the Greeks since.

Edited addendum...

The global finnancial meltdown hit Greece and Singapore at the same time, as also other countries big and small.  Singapore ride through that storm hardly scathed whereas Greece could not withstand the impact of fallout and began its downsliding path.  The fundamental between the two is governance.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


May I begin by offering my deepest condolence to the family of Taufik Zahar, particularly to his widow Nassida Nasir and his just 2 months old baby.  It is sad and it is tragic.

It is true that the police shooting was necessary, but it is also true that a family had been broken, dreams shattered and hope vaporized. For Nassida the road ahead suddenly is not going to be what she has been expecting, and now she will have to face a world of divided opinions, let alone facing uncertain years of bringing up the baby alone.

She is shocked, she is grieving.  Under such emotional trauma, it is never her usual self, so let's not be too hard on what she has just said.


Much of what I share here will be about choices, informed choices or otherwise and those that we can choose and those that we cannot choose.

Nassida has chosen to marry Taufik and it is not known if she knew about his drug trafficking activities or not.  If she had knew of his drug trafficking activities, it becomes part of her choice to accept the obvious consequences whether it will occur or not that imprisonment or death penalty constantly hanging over Taufik's head. 

Let's just say she was kept in the dark and it is until now that she discovers Taufik has all along been a drug trafficker, the feelings that goes through her right now is unimaginable.  Shall she blame Taufik for cheating her but at the same time she loved and missed him? Can she turn around and walk away with baby in hand, away from the dead man who is her husband?

There's quite a few choices we can talk about regarding Taufik.

First is his choice to become a drug trafficker.  This is an informed choice and one making the choice in a certain manner has to accept the conditions that comes with it.

Two, he chose to marry someone and had a child with that someone knowing very well that even one in a million chance, there is still a chance that he will put their lives into disarray and pain. This is also an informed choice with definite consequences.

Three, he together with the other two has chosen to carry drugs but the amount they carry will only attract a prison term should they be caught and this is also an informed choice.

So, Four, why did he chose to go through several stages of barricades knowing well that it will end in a Police Road Block?

Five, since the group has made a choice on a safer amount of drug to carry, why then later choose to crash the final block endangering their own lives and others?  Could he and the others not have surrendered and it is only jail term?  All in all, Taufik has made several choices knowingly.

First let me get back some fairness on behalf the police officer who fired the fatal shot.  He has not chosen to be the "hero", and for certain he has not chosen to be the one that fired that fatal round.

While I still empathized with Nassida's plight and sorrow, I too empathize with the officer who fired that reluctant shot. Though it is expected of a police office to use his firearm, SPF never has a trigger happy culture within.  The days of exchanging fire were long gone.

Yes the police officer has made it his career choice and that choice too come with a certain consequence that one day he may have to open fire to kill someone, but killing someone is definitely not what he has chosen knowingly.  And between Taufik and the police officer, it is not their choice that they will meet each other under such circumstances, but the possibility has always existed and it did come true.

Yet another claim of fairness here is, Taufik chose to ram the car against police officers manning the post. The same officer may have a young wife waiting at home with a two months old baby in hand.  When Taufik chose to drive straight into the officer, it is a circumstance that one of them has to die.  Now let me ask.....who should be the one to die?  Is it Taufik or the police officer?  Who had wanted to kill at the first instance?  Was it Taufik or the police officer.

Look at the position of the bullet hole on the windscreen and you tell me where was the police officer standing.

The police officer will now have to live a life haunted by mental images that he shot dead someone point blank.  Yes he did that heroically to save his colleagues lives aw well as his own, but that heroic feeling won't wipe away the memory that someone died in his hand.  God forbid that Singapore should become a trigger happy nation that killing someone no longer haunts.

Some has asked, why shoot at the driver and not the car?  Let me pose this to those who ask or even want to ask the same you know at what speed the car was dashing against the officer?  Do you know that if that round did not stop the vehicle from ramming forward, someone will die?  Do you know that even if the round hit the driver the car can still run over the police officer? 

Let's be fair to our intelligence and don't make foolish suggestions.  Life don't perform along what we wish it is like most of the time.

By the way, the police officer is not about to be made a hero as yet.  He will still be subject to thorough investigation that the circumstances truly warrants him to fire the shots from his firearm.

Monday, 18 May 2015


It really has been quite a long absence for me.  The stamina, discipline and having a keen nose for subjects of interest by local bloggers fascinates me and left me wondering how come they are so good.

Anyway I found manage to find something that I could also make a little claim on Singapore's blogosphere.....Amos Yee.

I did made a few comments, not from the onset but when he was being charged in the courts.  I said he is an extremely intelligent person and had been fed with information through certain workshops or meetup sessions conducted by anti-establishment groups that later was confirmed by Yee's own statements that he is influenced by meetups conducted by the Singapore Democratic Party.  What really surprised me was the revelation that Yee's mother was also among those attending the meetups. This may not be accurate but I kind of remember that at the first instant that Yee was being charged, the mother was said to be defending Yee's prank video was only a joke.

I have also said that Yee's personality would eventually find those presently around him boring and cannot live up to his expectation of equal intelligence.  That too was proven true subsequently.  Yee is extremely logical and being that, anything that is illogical and does not make sense deeply disturbs him.  That also means to say that when someday someone comes up to him and demolish the foundations of his beliefs, he would have gladly give them all up and embrace whatever that wins him over through logic.  That is how extreme his reliance on logic can be.

Anyway, the story is now stuck at facing off Vincent Law.  The table is turned against Yee now for being ungrateful to one who stakes a $20,000 bail and perhaps personal reputation to get Yee out of jail for the time being. Now Yee seems to be left with only enemies and no friends where once the enemies were on the pro-establishment and the antis were friends.

To establish that Vincent Law the bailor is an anti-establishment person is not my point here.  It is his maiden comment on their virgin meeting that raises my special interest.  "I am a Christian", Law said. "Oh Fuck" was Yee's instant response according to his own account in his blog

What was that supposed to be that Yee should know as the very first thing of Law other than being his bailor is that he is a Christian?

Is Law trying to say that I am sent by God to save you Amos? That being the case, he has made a mockery of God and himself for failing terribly in the face of the public.  

What else could that mean?  I know many had use this before and I was being taken in once when someone claimed that he is a pastor, that Christians are good and trust worthy people.  Many church going Christians would jump in to defend that these are "fake" Christians.  But how do you tell between a real and a fake Christian?  By the time you know, you'll probably have been conned.

Careful now.  I am not in anyway saying that Vincent Law is a fake Christian. What Law could have been thinking is that if I say I am a Christian, I would have established that much needed credibility at first instant.  

To help Yee, Law was grossly wrong from the very beginning. Instead of bridge building by establishing credibility and trust between bailor and bailee, counselor and counselee, Law cut the only rope that he might connect with Yee by saying he is a Christian.  It was known that Yee is now an atheist after walking out of the Catholic Church.  Yee simply distrust Christians and Christianity, hence also the video he produced that put him in trouble.

It is not wrong for Law to declare publicly that he as a Christian was not offended by the video that Yee made, but using his status as a Christian and his belief in a manner that would eventually form the basis of relationship between the two and how that relationship should be guided was an absolute disaster.

The details of how that relationship went as in the account given by Yee in his blog. Law had been rather regimental in his approach. If Law believes his role as bailor can help and guide Yee to grow up to be a better person and that the Christian faith can make the difference, then Law must take the approach that the Christian faith is one that is rational, logical and reasonable to all and at all times. Law needs not just what takes to be a SG certified counselor but one who can explain his faith in the most relevant way that makes sense even to an atheist like Yee.

There is another approach which is yet to be established, and that is the state initiated help where probation officers be appointed to assist Yee in dealing with his unique adolescent experience.

For whatever sympathy that people have on Yee for his young age, Yee has committed a serious wrong in the eyes of the law.  For Singapore, the law cannot waver, and people upholding the law cannot waver for if we do the foundation of which this nation stands will begin to erode and degenerate.

But this is a case where the wrong was committed due to a natural personality development, therefore I think the execution of penalty should be tampered with mercy.  Whether we take it from the religious or secular perspective, we condemn the act but not the person.  If there is any way that this person can be awaken to the realities of personal expectations and social well being, let's put our hearts behind this case with hope or prayer and leave the lad alone.  Hyping up the case for whatever purpose is not helpful and destroys the chance of Yee finding his normal self.

Monday, 29 December 2014


This being the 49th year of independent Singapore, it just occurs more frequently than before that Singapore should revive the "kampung spirit" we fondly missed.  But what is it about the kampung spirit that we Singaporeans missed.  To the many (mainly PAP) politicians who raised this possibility, I believed they were referring to the friendliness and commonness of living space, physical or otherwise that a more antipathetic environment of now.  They too spoke about open doors, referring to the amount of trust they had n the neighbourhood.

Yes the PAP MPs has good reasons to yearn the return of such nostalgia. During Meet-The-People sessions in the 60s and even into 70s, cases handled by Members of Parliament were largely municipal in nature.  In the 60s where most lived in kampungs and villages, modern amenities were foremost in their sense of good life. They were easily happy when the government agreed to surface the dirt track with tarmac or install street lights along dimly lit streets. The 70s into the 80s were about relocating compensation where each fruit tree, even the smaller ones is accounted for.  Getting a Housing Board flat was among the highest ranking issue, and in those days a HDB flat was no better than our flatted factories.  They were that basic.  Well into the 90s, complaints against neighbours had risen to a point where trained "mediators" become a necessary part of settling neighbourhood disputes.

When did the kampung spirit left us and will it return?

HDB recently reported a survey that fewer residents are satisfied with their flats and neighbourhoods but the satisfaction rate is still over 90%.  By any standard of statistics interpretation, this is high on the extreme.  I am just wondering why make a good thing sounds so bad?

One local professor mentioned in a TV programme Talking Point that the kampung spirit cannot return nor recreated for there is no prevailing ingredients that are similar to those in the past. Sharing of common risks was mentioned as one of those and fire was one of such culprit.  But what is pertinent is, a kampung is a kampung and you cannot make an HDB estate a kampung.  

I am more inclined to agree with the professor that you cannot make a modern housing estate into a primitive kampung, and I am not joking to evade the contentious concept of the "kampung spirit".  Even as the professor believed that practical ingredients cannot be rehashed, the kampung spirit thrived on more than just practical matters.  Emotional and clannish bonds, the social conditions then that gave birth to the needs of interdependence within each kampung and village were all integral parts that made up the kampung spirit.  Taking one component out and calling it a whole just don't make sense.  The physical living conditions of those days where free parking of bicycles against any available guava tree would be an obstruction to freeway and fire hazard in today's context.

Another fact is kampungs and villages were segregated according to gang or underworld affiliation.  Gang members were so to speak inhouse securities against infiltration or invasions from rivals.  Internal disputes were dealt with through village heads and gang leaders.  Can such a system of feudal governance be resurrected?  Our Resident Committees, grassroots leaders, and for that matter Members of Parliament do not have that kind of clout, and much less in present times where online jurisdiction becomes rampant with social media.

Our life and how we look at life has changed.  If we as a whole believed that happiness and harmony are things that we should strive to create and treasure, we need to look at new ways to achieve that.  Such new ways needs to correspond and harmonize with our new thinking and living behavior.  We are at a crossroad of old good and future promise.  Calling back an old ghost is not the solution.

A stark difference from then and now is, we are moving into a 24 hours lifestyle. Noise from the neighbourhood will gradually becomes inevitable.  To this, I believe the HDB may need to incorporate noise insulation into its structures for future developments and find ways to incorporate it into existing buildings.  It is not unbelievable that gradually more people will depart from the 9 to 5 routine and shift into staggered work timings.

This is just one example of a lot of things we need to imagine and work towards.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year for the coming 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Now unsuspecting animals has become the target victims of a problem created by different animals.

TRE has pointed the finger at Bt Batok MP David Ong for blaming residents for feeding stray dogs at the rats infested area next to Bt Batok MRT Station.

There was another one asking MOS Desmond Lee to take care of the rats problems first instead of pointing fingers at Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council.

Others have defended the MP by saying that these are just tactics used to flame or frame (depending on your tongue) the MP for things he did not say.

So who said those things?  The accurate version is it was a joint statement made by HDB NEA & AVA blaming the feeding of stray dogs.

Let us look at some facts.  The area where free running rodents were sighted is under the management of HDB, and noting the separating of duties among government agencies, this location does not come under the jurisdiction of the area's town council.  But it is also extremely unrealistic to expect HDB to literally manage all land under their portfolio except by appointing contractors to clean and maintain them at fixed period and frequency.  Then the question arised : How did such a problem went unnoticed till it reached an immense stage? Was there no instruction from HDB to its contractors to spot any unusual condition of the site? If the contractors did report to HDB, why was there no early actions taken? If there was no instructions at all, how does HDB manage its array of bare land?

But the town council too has its duty though not spelt out, even for that matter LTA that is responsible for the MRT station it managed.  Rats don't appear miraculously on a specific day to do a photo shoot session for that particular member of the public.  If the problem had gone unnoticed for such a long time, the working culture of our agencies is in shit. We often talked about taking ownership at management training and seminars, corporate meetings not excepted. Apparently those are mere talks that were left behind together with crumbs of pastries and unused sugar & creamer sachets long after the meetings were over.

Why were MRT station staffs who were there day in and out not reporting the matter?  Why was the problem also not reported by Bt Batok town council staffs?  Not their business to do so?  Wake up your idea.

Next coming to stray dogs.  When the media reported that Jurong Island will start its merciful programme of sterilizing stray dogs, the first question that came to mind was how did the stray dogs get into the island in the first place and in second place how did it escalate to a stage of having a community?  My understanding was that construction companies have, traditionally kept dogs to watch over their worksites and this practice has been for decades.  I raised this matter with one person of a purported animal welfare organization long ago, and he said that he had raise this with the authorities.  Stopping the problem where it begins is the only real solution, not what comes next.  But to this day, dogs were sadly abandoned and become strays after the projects were completed.  We are creating more and more stray dogs by not stopping construction companies from rearing them.

Coming back to Bt Batok.  Where are the animal welfare people?  Why was it that residents were the ones feeding these strays?  But you will tell me that the residents are volunteers of animal welfare groups, then why do they not know that leaving food behind after the feeding will end up with a rodent problem? Is there something wrong here?  By the way.....who are the people that gave the information to the authorities that residents were the one feeding the stray dogs?

Is it the Bt Batok Town Council or the MP?

Friday, 5 December 2014


Prof Stephen Hawking has just issued a warning that the development of full artificial intelligence can spell the end of humanity. 

The fear of the human race being controlled by machines can be traced back to the birth of the computer. From small talks in church that 666, the mark of the Biblical Beast refers to a huge computer, to numerous science fictions and movies depicting the ultimate machine that conquers and over rule human race.

What the Swiftkey project is developing is in essence a synthesized Stephen Hawking from a collection of historical data of how the professor processes questions, responds and answers, and uses them to predict what will be his next step.

Right here at home, Singapore announces its plan to make us the first Smart Nation in the world. The fact is Singapore has over the years; phase after phase, layer upon layer adding to physical infrastructure to make us draw even closer towards achieving this dream of a Smart Nation. What this means is the employment of artificial intelligence to help us anticipate, predict and determine what is best for Singaporeans from physical data collected and analyzed.  This would also mean an expectation of cutting edge efficiency in cross-nation communications to come.

I have always said : "Without Google I am nobody", and these days I have to add Facebook to it. As individuals, we have done away much of the tasks that requires brainwork and have them done better and faster with online helps that of curse link to big machines that grid themselves together. "Shortcut" is an iconic word that is more profound than a little graphic representation on the screen. Literally we are much dependent on shortcuts for our daily lives.

Many have also brushed aside the prominent professor's fear as an overblown scarecrow, but whether it is or not can be better mitigated philosophically than if this prediction will eventually becomes real.

Should the fear of doom stagnate our pursuit and search for better ways to manage our lives as individuals and as society or nation? If indeed this is going to be the forgone conclusion, and this is how humanity will develop and moved towards, the fear of it will not make it disappear or change. However, it is always good to have warnings now and then, then not to have any at all. Humans tend to get overwhelmed and carried away with indulgence and some infrequent warnings are certainly positive and welcomed.

I wondered about the day without Google, or online Thesaurus. Well I still have my Oxford dictionary and Thesaurus in hard copy, with a pair of glasses and a magnifying glass.  But I doubt the day will come, probably not in my lifetime.

Friday, 12 September 2014


All eyes of Singaporeans were directed to a wealthy widow and a Chinese tour guide, and tongues were set wagging across the marketplace, when a relative of the widow filed an injunction against the tour guide. Layers of dramatic stories began to unfold.

Mdm Chung Khin Chun, age 87 had assets to her name way in excess of S$30 million.  No mean amount for any ordinary Singaporean who does not hesitate to put in a $100 bet just to get a chance to win S$10 million in TOTO winnings.  

Mr Yang Yin was Mdm Chung's hired guide when she was touring China with friend Md Chang Phie Chin in 2008.  By now, Wang Yin is in possession of a Lasting Power of Attorney to Mdm Chung's absolute wealth.  Such is the scenario presented to the Singapore public.

According to media reports on Mr Yang Yin's affidavit filed in court, Mdm Chung has asked him to be his grandson and invited him to Singapore to live with her.  She had also paid large amount of money supposedly to prepare him for life in Singapore.  Other parts of the affidavit accused Mdm Chung's relatives of neglect in caring for her, and Mdm Chang having a close relationship with Mdm Chung's late husband Mr Chou Sip King.

Stories panned out before the public eyes were uncannily similar to many of systematic con stories we saw in real life as well as on big screens.  For example the firing of a driver and maid who had worked for Mdm Chung's family for many years before Mr Yang Yin came into the scene.  These were typical plots that for one, I will not use in any story to keep my readers in absolute suspense.  But one comment by a friend, and former Parliamentary Secretary Maidin Packer strikes a note with Singaporeans.  He said : 
THIS TALENT CAN SPOT MONEY FOR GRABS: Yang, now a S'pore PR, is embroiled in a legal battle for the assets of Mdm Chung Khin Chun, 87. They met in 2008 when Madam Chung was on holiday in Beijing. Madam Chung's husband died in '07. She has no children & was diagnosed with dimentia. Madam Chung's niece, travel agent Hedy Mok, 60, went to court to revoke Yang's guardianship of her aunt's $40 million assets.
Practically every Singaporean who took interest in this case has passed a guilty judgement on Mr Yang Yin for systematic ploy taking advantage of Mdm Chung's physical, mental and emotional fragility to gain control over her fortunes.  This line of thinking tend to be better accepted and further reinforced by the fact that it is common to believe that all man greeds.  Such accusation can only be harsher towards those who are seemingly less well of and there are no lack of revealing stories in modern China about the immoral sin of greed to worsen the plea of Mr Yang Yin.

Noticeably there is a lack of empathy towards Mdm Chung who is already diagnosed with dementia. Could she have genuinely given her fortunes to Mr Yang Yin whom she may have found comfort and happiness?  The courts can decide on medical grounds of whether she was in reasonable mental capacity at material time where she signed off the management of her assets.  Now that she is mentally incapable to enforce nor defend her then action, even she has to subject herself to the decision of those who are fighting on opposite sides not withstanding that the decision may not be that of her will.

Had relatives respected her actions?  Had relatives been taking that extra mile so much so that the need for Mdm Chung to confide in someone outside the family becomes necessary?  Was she not in good terms with her relatives before she had gone mentally incapable?

I am merely casting doubts on the case without withdrawing that Mr Yang Yin may have truly systematically plot to take over the assets of a lonely lady.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


The thread has started. Degree or No No Degree?

Just give me a few seconds to clear off some irritants that are not very helpful, and are designed with ill intentions.

Talks have been around saying that university graduates are no longer needed in Singapore when the government made the announcement about ASPIRE....Applied Study in Poly & ITE Review.  In the same vein, the Singapore government no longer values your degree.  This makes no sense, but strangely many do buy in because they had all along believe or made to believed that the government has always been doing things against Singaporeans' interest, the increase of foreigners intake as an example.

The rumours had went even further to say that the government is now nudging employers to avoid employing or promoting degree holders and instead giving the post to Poly & ITE.

Talks like that do make us better, as an individual nor as a people.  Let's move on.

I have never stopped letting people guess whether do I or do I not hold a uni degree.  Some things I do quite evidently show that indeed I have one in my pocket, but other things indicated otherwise.  

When they saw how I analyzed matters, probed questions, and provided alternate views, they concluded that such attributes can only belong to one who have gone through a university education.  Those from another sphere who saw me mingling with lowly workers, doing what they also do..... alas he is just another blue collar worker; at most a supervisor.

There was a time when many prominent Singaporean entrepreneurs suddenly became PhD holders carrying a title of Dr before their names on the namecard.  I was told they paid about S$30,000/- for it.  One friend of mine promptly discarded all his namecards bearing that title as soon as he discovered that it is more destructive than being beneficial.

Other stories we have heard are those who pursued a degree even as they are nearing their retirement age.  One recent heartwarming story is about one who earned his law degree, was admitted to the bar despite having a criminal past, something rather unusual in Singapore.

Many years ago, I advised a friend who inherited a newspaper distribution business to go for MBA.  Private tertiary education then was not at all that popular and moreover he was already the only graduate in Singapore holding a Bachelor of Arts degree distributing newspaper house to house.  Then I wasn't thinking of the entrance of more graduates into that industry, either by way of inheritance or through investments.  It was just a simple thought that an MBA would put him at a better bargaining position when facing grads working in SPH.

Subsequently the life insurance sector followed by the real estate agency sector began to see more entrants who were degree holders.  Maybe we saw it coming, or maybe we didn't, but the privilege and prestige of holding a university degree has begun to spill over to domains of those who didn't have a mortarboard.  I forgot to mention remisers, though there was quite a balance of both degree and non-degree holders in it.

So it happened that sectors that required skills more than knowledge suddenly awaken to itself that they need knowledge on top of the critical skills of the trade.  The government, if you may want to call that helpful, raised the barrier by introducing minimum education criteria and periodical examinations in the name of enhancing professionalism.  Many who thrives only on skills, relationship, and honour but not exactly good at passing exams were gradually phased out of their lucrative trade.

I'm not sure if a poll was taken, but I am not exactly surprised if the results would turn out to be that most university graduates are not in the job that furthers what they had chose to study in the beginning.  I must reserve an exception for those who pursued medical degree.

Many questions left to be answered, maybe just for philosophical sake.  Is the university education a learning path of a just a passporting process into the world of money-chase?  If there is disparity between what the economy needs, and the places in courses provided by the universities, could they not be redefined or streamlined?  Have we be over providing for graduates and had neglected, or even unfairly penalizing non-degree holders in the process?

These days, my friend in the newspaper business don't even have a title behind his name.  It was just a plain Managing Director.

Competition for that wage-dollar will only get more intensive.  ASPIRE as I see it would intensify the competition but the better side of it is for those who are not that good at passing exams gaining the due recognition that they so deserved.  Bottom line is the need for a degree is only for a short moment, but how one learns, continue to learn and how one performs with what is learnt is a long and ongoing path of testing.

Saturday, 9 August 2014


In the simple past of Singapore, we lived simply, think simply, and there isn't much sophistication like today.

I participated in the famous 1968 National Day Parade and was drenched like everybody else, proudly donning the dark blue uniform of the Boys Brigade.  Years later, it became almost an annual affair to be part of the National Day Parade.

The virgin experience was breathtaking.  The thundering voice of the parade commander sent goose pimples popping, and the pulsation of the heart syncs rhythmically with each drum beat that is guiding every step of the march.  I was representing 2nd Company of the Boys Brigade, my company to be amongst troops and tanks rolling down the streets of Singapore.

I had loved every bit of efforts that led to this grand finale.  Not just the drill practices to fine tune our timing and uniformity, but also the hard starching and ironing of my cotton drill uniform making it still upright despite the heavy perspiring.  And there is the brass buckle to be Brassoed to golden shine, the belt too has to be Kiwied polished as with my leather boots.  All these were done meticulously and lovingly in great expectation of that big day.

Today, even the SAF has abandoned the ritual of hard starching in exchange for comfort and efficiency.  Where my boots was leather soled and fixed with metal studs that give out a sharp clang each time it hits the tarmac ground, military boots today have lost that intimidating sound of a killer force.

So when the press and social media were discussing about what it means to have lesser and lesser Singaporean homes flying the State flag, I can only say that increasing sophistication in Singaporeans may be the most likely cause.  Not necessarily so that Singaporean families will show their patriotic sides in other visible forms, the key issue in the debate, but that patriotism may not be easily interpreted with simple acts anymore.  Would you count those inside the crowd drowning themselves in the thick of parade more patriotic than those resting on their couch cheering the actions via live telecast?

I will be popping my bottle of Prosecco to wish "Long Live Singapore", and I am never inside the radar of those who are counting flags.

I guessed bottom line of any celebration that matters is that we are able to do happy things together, enjoy the good life, and we can still talk about what we want to achieve tomorrow.  This is the true National Day Celebration we are having.

Friday, 8 August 2014


No!  This is not about "Adults Content".  

In fact there were seven according to The LGBTpedia.

But it is Penang's Nude Sports Game 2014 that made top spot and resurfaced all the known public nude incidents that happen in Singapore.

The group of 18 from Malaysia, Singapore, India, Myanmar, Philippines and others apparently planned the get together at Pantai Teluk Kampi for a splashing time, wearing nothing.  The Malaysian authorities were understandably unhappy with the rendezvous and are calling in Interpol to help locate the foreigners.

For Malaysia whose national religion is Islam would find it hard to swallow. Moreover the event this took place in one of their best beaches.

Many Malaysians had expressed in social media utter disgust over the incident, while some with western names were more sympathetic, or even supportive.

Singaporeans on the other hand seems to show more tolerance.  One reason probably is this did not take place here.

But with past cases that happened here, Singaporeans were not that hyped up whether with resentment nor support.  They were treated as mere passing news to be forgotten by the next breaking.  Even the Straits Times reporter forgotten that a man had run along Jln Sultan naked, and latter slept on the road.  Are Singaporeans really indifferent to nudist activities?

In the ST report the incidents were treated as exhibitionist quoting IMH psychiatrist Ken Ung.  Is there really a difference between "naturist" and "exhibitionist"?  The naturist would argue that they are not exhibitionist particularly not as what Dr Ken Ung had described.

Naturists claim that they are behaving exactly what nature has expected them to be, and they do not get sexual thrills by being watched naked nor watching others naked.  It is hard not to believed that the group at Teluk Kampi were not exhibitionists.  The videos and photos were all for exhibition purpose.  

But what is in the mind and emotion of naturist by baring in public?  Is it a mental repose, a holiday of sort where the mind breaks free from tight wrappings of everyday life living inside textiles?  Or is it an occasional rebellion against human norms and inhibitions that had been over suppressive?  Or is there a deeper spiritual manifestation that is taking place?

Aren't human sexual beings? Thus it is easier to believe the story of a true exhibitionist than that of the naturist, even if they swear that they are gays and lesbians that they have no sexual arousal at all.  How they suppress their sexual instincts is amazing, and how they escape from one suppression into another is too amusing.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE POOR?  Heck,... what absurdity is this to be prepared to be poor.
I am slapping myself too, but this is as sincere and real as I can be.....are you prepared to be poor?

The poor has no fixed mould and they are as varied and subjective as in the same way poverty is being argued.

Officially Singapore has no poverty, but those who are not so fond of this government are out of their way gathering proofs that this isn't the case.

Poor by definition is not having sufficient money to live by normally nor comfortably.  Looking at the many schemes available and managed by different government agencies to supplement livelihood give attestation to the existence of many in Singapore needing welfare assistance.

The extreme poor, those having no absolute means to sustain their daily livings are officially categorized as "destitute" and therefore qualify for full state assistance. Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWO) in Singapore look after the destitute by providing them basic livable comfort, healthcare, and some form of social integration, all paid for by the government. No one will be without a home in Singapore.

Partial welfare assistance are rendered to individuals and families who are struggling with livelihood but are not in extreme dire state. These are generally termed as "low income" individuals or families.

There's of course another group that surfaced recently over national discourse, the "cash poor" but possesses some form of valuable fixed asset like real estates. Broadly, this group consist of retirees in or around their 70s, no longer gainfully employed but possesses properties whose value averages about a million or above. They attracted much sympathy, but also an equal amount of critics too.  Question is, are they poor or are they not poor?

But the most controversial group is the "ordinary poor".  And who are these "ordinary poor" people?

They are ordinary Singaporeans who once used to enjoy some level of social status as a working professional, drawing a decent high salary but got laid off and possibly unemployed now or driving a taxi. Others may still be tracking their career but somehow felt that their upward mobility is being thwarted by the emergence of intense competition in the form of foreigner employs. There are also those who run their own small businesses but are suppressed under rising costs and extreme competitions.

You just can't say that they are not poor, they are.  At the least they feel that they are poor and the feeling is real.  They also fall within defines of "not having sufficient money to live by normally nor comfortably", except that the twist happens to be with the acceptable standard of normal and comfort.

Owning a car was once a normal standard of Singapore living, but are forced to give that up as overall cost of car ownership has skyrocketed.  They are no longer rich enough to own a car, and therefore poor. They were once on track to move from public housing to private housing, but that hope is dashed for reasons ranging from escalating property prices, the tightening of credit qualification etc.

Another reason why they feel poor is because by contrast their living standard is not rising in tandem with official economic figures.  This thinking is being further reinforced when they see more people getting to drive expensive sports cars and owning luxurious bungalows over at Sentosa, not one but many. A small group of people are seen as privileged by opportunities to surge faster and higher in the social hierarchy.

It is only natural that when you look at someone taller than yourself, you will feel short. And when you see people richer than yourself, you'll naturally feel poor.

And this is the social architecture, a state of mind in the masses was looming for too long, not unnoticed; but unattended.  Now we are caught unprepared to be poor.

Could we have been better prepared? Perhaps. But then we were really in the thick of excitement, grabbing opportunities and trying to fulfill dreams of success than to spare time thinking what if one day we have to be poor. Would speeding drivers noticed the doomsday prophet standing in the middle of the highway urging slow-down and be careful.  He would probably have been knocked down for jaywalking.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


The National Library Board has stood firm on the removal of three children books from their shelves namely And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express, and Who’s In My Family.  The books were removed as a result of an email complaint from a parent about the contents of these books being not pro-family.

The stage is set for a confrontation between pro-family and pro-LGBT groups of people in Singapore.  Pro-family group We Are Against Pink Dot in Singapore are urging its members to scrutinize NLB's catalogue for unsuitable titles and notify NLB to remove them.  On the opposing side newly formed  Singapore's Parents Against Library Censorship is organizing an event this Sunday at the National Library premises in protest against the removal of the books.

Local writers, bloggers, and supporters of LGBT are coming out in force to register their displeasure over the books' removal.  It's plain simple they said : "If parents find the books objectionable, just don't borrow.  You don't have to remove them wholesale to deprive others their accesses and rights to such books."  and they do have a point.

Pro-family Singaporeans have no case to ask NLB to remove the books in view that the NLB's role is to provide as wide and diverse a spectrum of information for Singaporeans who depend on it as a hub for intellectual resources.

It is definitely a lost case if the books are meant for grown ups except that these are for children, and children are often encouraged to visit the libraries unaccompanied, and choose their own books to borrow.  Many parents also lack the ability to scrutinize the kind of books and had trusted the expertise of NLB staffs that books made available to children are appropriate for reading within that age group.  

It is absolutely onerous on the part of the NLB to ensure that materials made available to children are consistent to their ability to understand and discern.  An argument by one parent that she has no problem allowing her kids access to LGBT materials is understandably out of sync with reasonable parenting.

Here diversity seems to be the key point of contention between the groups.  There are certain assumptions that our society is overly conservative in every aspects and not just that, it refuses to accept and embrace fresh perspectives of what an open and diverse society should become of. 

I have always known diversity to be a good thing, and it should flourished.  But if diversity is bringing us one against another, either we have the concept of diversity all wrong or the way we go about it is wrong.


You should not be a stranger to this advertisement.  It has not just gone viral here but was made an international joke.  Still the relevant agency responsible for this ad says it stands by the ad and it will continue its run.  Well that's a corporate decision.

What came to mind was what may go on behind the production of this ad.  Indeed the choice of the world cup theme made it relevant to world cup betting, or if you may gambling.  Both agencies, the one providing the bets as well as the one calling for stops to problem gambling are under government purview.

We must also be careful to differentiate between problem gambling and "social betting" in that I could not find a better way of describing, and as in social drinking, or social smoking.  In any case this is the principle held by both agencies.

All fine and good to this point.  Except that I am taking to task the one who crafted the story took to gambling as well.  Whoever crafted this story betted, took sides, and disregard consequences.  Could they have avoided the element of speculation (betting)?  Is this carelessness, lacking in professional supervision, or there are other reasons?

Brazil was almost guaranteed a place in the final according to soccer pundits around the world.

Did you see how Germany destroyed their rights to the finals?  Not just their rights to the finals, but also their dignity with 7 easy goals.

I don't know why I had this feeling, but seven symbolizes perfection, and I can't help but be reminded that there is only one who can claim perfection in all the earth.  OK that's my personal belief.

The German players were seen laughing to themselves in total disbelieve.  Nobody in their right mind believed what they saw happened.  

There is one lesson I can take away from this episode.  Someone else who is more powerful, more able, and not necessarily need to make earthly sense or by convention can create the greatest victory or the greatest defeat for me, for us, and we will be left in total disbelieve.

Sunday, 6 July 2014


I wonder how many of us can remember that we once had an annual event called "Sing Singapore", and another "Swing Singapore".

To those whe think ZoukOut is the only great outdoor, it only happened long after Swing Singapore decided to go into hiatus.

Swing Singapore was a big thing then where the whole of Orchard Road was closed and turned into a party ground.

Sing Singapore was an annual festival of songs when many beautiful songs that we are familiar were written during that period.

Maybe it is because the event coincided with National Day festivities, the songs took on the identity of being National Day songs rather than Singapore songs.  The music essentially were catchy, more towards folksy and the lyrics were pictorials of the Singapore life.  Today, you may want to categorize them as evergreens.

Just yesterday afternoon, 6th of July 2014 at the Bras Basah Complex, Singaporeans gathered to pay tribute and celebrate a very special era in Singapore's history of music and entertainment, the Xinyao 新遥 movement.  Xinyao 新遥 translates as Singapore Songs or Songs of Singapore.

The.Xinyao 新遥 movement had its heydays in the 1980s.  It was at a time when Singapore's Chinese music scene was highly influenced by Taiwanese Mandopop, and the Hong Kong Cantopop, and Xinyao 新遥 was able to permeate society on equal footings with the two.  Key figures of the movements were Liang Wern Fook 梁文福,Eric Moo 巫启贤, Li Feihui 黎沸挥, and many more seen in the picture above.

They were young, energetic, and flushed with ambitions.  Each went on to succeed in their respective music career during a period when the music industry is flourishing, particularly in Taiwan.  With each going their way, a vacuum emerged in Singapore.  However the Xinyao 新遥 movement  is extremely resilient and able to survive the perils of oblivion and this is because it is not a passing fad but a unique culture in the lives of Singaporeans. 

Despite parting ways, pursuit of career and the separation of time and distance, each of these pioneers of the movement; a unique generation at that era never at any one time forgot where they started, what held them together, and where they had wanted to go.  And it was this unbreakable bond that brought them together again and again.  To the audience, Xinyao 新遥 was what they grew up with, and inseparable part of their lives.

Notably Cai Yiren of 弹唱人 had helped keep the spirit of Xinyao active in recent years through his annual concerts 重逢.

It was really at yesterday afternoon's celebration at Bras Basah that we saw the Xinyao 新遥 spirit truly resurrected to its original beauty, casual and unfettered.

At the celebration, performers and audience were gelled together not just by music and songs alone; but also by lots of fond memories and endearment; and also a strong common belonging between them.  That's the reason why I call it a celebration and not a concert.

The theme title and the venue was so aptly chosen, that by no mistake these were "The Songs We Sang" and symbolically of ordinary Singapore folks, in the concourse of Bras Basah Complex.

May I wish  Xinyao 新遥  as a movement, as a culture to fully blossom, and take this part of the Singapore Identity to a new generation of singers and song writers, creating new hopes and aspirations for all.

Best wishes to one and all in the Xinyao 新遥 movement.

Friday, 4 July 2014


Entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, Jesus was met with a multitude of Jews laying down their garments and palm branches in a public demonstration that surely must have discomforted the Roman authorities at that time.

The Jews were free to practice their religion and customs with little interference from the Roman government.  Even with that amount of freedom, the Jews resented Roman rule and has always been harbouring a Jewish state with rulers of their own choice.  But while the Jews were indigenous, they were divided by much differences.  Ordinary folks, pharisees, and those working with the Roman government as tax collectors saw themselves as different class from each other.  John the Baptist, a relative of Jesus had a sizeable followings before he was arrested and beheaded, and so was Jesus who was also preaching repentance of sin for the Kingdom of God is near.

Many saw Jesus as the answer to the overthrowing of the Roman rule as he has the ability to perform miracles that even the Romans as well as the Pharisees marveled, though with jealousy and alarm.  Indeed the people saw Jesus as the hope and restorer of Jewish supremacy.

But earthly politics and the establishment of a Jewish state was never in the mind of Jesus as we understand from what Jesus said written in the book of Matthew chapter 26.

“for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Clearly there was a conflict of mission between the people and Jesus.  Man's mission as of the beginning is to multiply in numbers and subdue the earth, as written in Genesis chapter 1.  That of Jesus; to fulfill what was written in the scriptures, which revealed that He must die a death of shame on the cross in order to reconcile man with God.  Man was looking for political grandeur, and Jesus was looking at eternal glory.

Surely the scriptures said more than Jesus having to die a death of a criminal, and His subsequent resurrection.  They also said a lot more other things including the reappearance of Jesus, the raising of the saints, and the final judgement and the ultimate state of the devil and his followers.

While man will continue to navigate and negotiate their way to increase in numbers and to dominate the earth, the scripture will also continue to be fulfilled.  Just that for man, the ideal concept of unity was put to perpetual confusion and disarray at the Tower of Babel.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


This is a mere pair of hands, more like an old lady between the age of seventy or eighty, hardly beautiful, hardly worth a mention.  Other than lots of bulging veins, wrinkled skin, and some blue marks, signs of old injuries; well still a fine pair of ordinary hands.  

Or is it?

I used to make regular visits to the Baptist Golden Age Home, and stepping inside each time is like changing radio channel.  The heavy rocking of the outside world disappears suddenly and a sense of calmness gently takes over.  How do I express this sudden contrast?  Out there everyone was kind of in a rush, doing something, and constantly moving.  Inside the home, time jammed its brakes and almost stalled.  I am surrounded by people who do nothing, sitting still staring at something, or simply playing with their own fingers.

For a while my mission for the day was directed to care, my behavior gentle, and my voice soft.  The usual me talking loudly, sometimes aggressively had to be forced change.  I suspect there is a switch of duty between the heart and the brain, taking control of the functioning faculty.

But each time before leaving, to return to the mad mad competitive world, I would turned back and look at all those who had walked a little longer of life's journey than I do, and likely to see more of life than I ever had.  Each time I felt a mission unaccomplished, a sense of having to leave empty handed, for not having explored the richness behind those wrinkled hands stories.

I am not sure such what effects such prolonged regular mood changes had on me, but here I am still sanely writing a story about a pair of wrinkled hands.

This is my mother, a lady of strong will.  Born into a family of business owners who also dabbled in politics, and her youth was a tumultuous period of fighting between the communists, nationalists and Japanese invaders.

She often spoke about a rice mill, and an oil mill where kids during her time would play around, and fondly of a family dog named Ah Yick (阿益).  Those were fond memories of her childhood that she was proud to share.

She too mentioned about hard times when she was left in China, and her parents (my grands) fled to Singapore.  Don't blame the old folks.  There was someone who loved her, too old to flee, and she being the eldest in the family needs to stay behind.  I guessed that's the making of a survivor.

To fend for a living, which is the first story of that pair of wrinkled hands, she cuts timber and pile them up to be sold in the market place some distance away.  It's like leaving home just before dawn and returning in the evening, all on foot.  There were occasions she would come across fugitives, or lepers, and she would use the timber pole and expletives on them to challenge them away.

That same pair of hands would one day be holding a branch to hit her uncle, an elder brother of her father.  It was not a family feud, nor her naughtiness, but to save her own life.  When the communist prevailed over nationalist, my fourth grand uncle who was a nationalist member and went around with guns and bodyguards was caught.  To free themselves of trouble, family members had to verbally renounce him, hit him with a branch and spit on him.  They were careful not to shed tears or that would put their renouncing into question.

During the war, by which time she's married with kids (not me yet), with the same timber pole that she used to peddle dried wood over her shoulder and a cane basket on each end that is big enough to put my sisters inside; she would run from shelter to shelter, and once up a ship headed for Singapore.  It was just frantic packing, hiding, running, back and forth.

When in Singapore, the family was temporarily housed in a small rented room on the third level of a shophouse in Tras Street, while my father worked in the soya sauce shop and factory set up by my mother's father.  The factory was later burnt down during the Bukit Ho Swee fire, and a new one was subsequently built at Tanglin Halt.

My father decided to buy a house then and almost all his salary had gone to servicing the mortgage as well as supporting my eldest brother and family who were still left in China.  Household expenses was once again left into the hands of my mother.  She would make a few bucks by sewing 大盛蓝, a type of tough fabric much like denim, made in China and worn by traders during those time.  Soya sauce peddlers would buy the material and ask her to sew them into a jacket and pants.  She also sew jackets inlaid with 猪肚绵 a type of superior quality cotton that is supposed to be cool in summer and warm in winter.  She did it for people who would send them back to kins in left in China through 水客 couriers who traverse between Singapore and China.

When my sister found a job as a seamstress somewhere in the neighbourhood, they also needed someone to sew sequins on the dresses.  These dresses were worn by singers in cabarets and revues.  Because there was 新生歌台 New Life Revue inside New World at Kitchener Road, the neighbourhood became a popular spot for singers to live in, and that was probably how the street name Starlight Road came about.

Her pair of hands was so skillful that she was much sought after and had done dresses for 冯宝宝 Fung Boo Boo and sisters, 吴碗雯,张来来,潘绣琼, 樱花 Sakura Teng  and others.

No one can escape the closing of window of time and opportunity; but if one who is determined enough, she will find another opportunity in a brand new era.

Her skill for sewing sequins on dresses had helped to bring up her children, and educate them.  But the winds of change has wiped out the need for hand sewn sequins.  She found a way out by making sequin embroideries into strips and sell them to shops in Arab Street, and at times make butterfly buttons for nearby tailor shops.

She had also become a letter writer for relatives living nearby.  Once she fried a big Horlicks bottle of pickled vegetable 大头菜 mixed with pork for a relative who was admitted to Little Sisters of The Poor.  Any relatives who were admitted to TTSH, she would cook something and bring it to them.

With her pair of hands, she made rice wine, rice cakes (sweet cake roll made of fried rice flour and peanut).  Whenever the roof leaks, she would climb into the attic and get it repaired.  So does my father.  

I remember holding my mother's hand and they were exceptionally warming.  It was softly dry and yet feeling secure with lots of love and care.  It was this pair of hands that shielded me from much hardship, and gave me a memorable childhood and the making of a confident person.

During her closing years, she made this piece of framed sequin character of 福, "Blessings" as shown below for each of her children, to bless each of them, and to remind them of the life she had lived.

My life is much an extension of hers, and her skills I had learnt a few.  The bulging veins and the blue marks on her hands were testimonial of pure human resilience of a woman's struggle against adverse circumstances of her time.

It is this pair of wrinkled hands that made me.