Julien Blanc banned from entering Singapore

From ‘Pickup artist Blanc denied entry into Singapore’, 26 Nov 2014, article by Yvonne Lim, Today

Self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc will not be allowed to enter Singapore, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The decision was made following a petition by a Singaporean woman to bar Mr Blanc, who recently made headlines when his visa was revoked in Australia, from entering the Republic.

In a joint statement today (Nov 26), the ICA and MSF said that Mr Blanc will be denied entry, especially if he was here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women or to participate in other objectionable activities in Singapore.

“Blanc has been involved in seminars in various countries that advised men to use highly abusive techniques when dating women. Violence against women or any persons is against Singapore law,” the statement said.

In 1970, the government banned all foreign ‘hippies’ from entering Singapore because they cause ‘social pollution’. Drugs and nudism aside, these deviants were also known to sport long hair and shaggy beards, though they may hold degrees in economics, electronic engineering or even pharmacy (which explains the drugs).  Legendary Japanese musician Kitaro was barred from entering Singapore in 1984 for his flowing mane and looking like a wandering ascetic. We have zero tolerance against convicted junkies, such as Australian journalist Peter Gerard Llyod in 2009, members of wacky religious cults, like the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or the Moonies (1983), and especially IMF/World Bank activists, who may pose a ‘security threat’ to our peaceful nation. Yet, we’re exceedingly accomodating to ruthless, corrupt African dictators with health problems like Robert Mugabe.

Julien Blanc isn’t a hippie nor is he even half as cool as Kitaro. A self-professed PUA (pick up artist) inspired by Neil Strauss’ notorious dating book ‘The Game’,  he evangelises ‘dating’ advice and charges the aspiring ladies’ man $67 USD to get a ‘GF/F-buddy’, among other predatory skills in his ‘PIMP’ programme, like ‘destroying her Bitch Shield’, and overcoming ‘Approach Anxiety’. Singaporean men are not known for being smooth with the ladies, but give us credit for debunking modern Casanovas who specialise in making women submit to their brand of animal magnetism with physical restraint and chokeholds, because that’s what you need to resort to if you’re an ugly, desperate twat. Still, I doubt Blanc would actually sexually assault anyone here without having the police clamping down on his unquenchable mojo. The only ‘dangerous’ idea he seems to be propagating is that one can make a living out of being a complete, unabashed jerk.

Blanc’s banned not because of any risk of ‘social pollution’, nor is he here to turn Singaporeans against the PAP 0r make us worship some charismatic loony messiah, but because this proud country has no room for a prick of this magnitude. On second thought, maybe we should let him in for a day or two, lure him into a nightclub and then into a torture chamber full of AWARE members waiting to dig their sharpened heels into his bloated manhood.

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Nuisance neighbour not opening door for Teo Chee Hean

From ‘Hand wringing over neighbour from hell’, 24 Nov 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The authorities have drawn a blank in efforts to deal with a nuisance neighbour who is said to have plagued a Pasir Ris block for more than five years. Residents of Block 612 at Elias Road claim Mr Liew Chien Siong, 33, is responsible for round-the-clock noise, leaving items dangling dangerously outside his flat and assaulting a neighbour’s son.

Two households even plan to move out because of the noise. Numerous complaints have been made to the Housing Board, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and police – to no avail.

“Even when our MP Teo Chee Hean came, he also refused to open his door,” said Mr Ismail Jan, 64, who lives in a unit above Mr Liew’s. He told The Straits Times that Mr Liew, who lives alone on the second storey, bangs on his walls and ceiling at all hours with what sounds like a solid object. He added: “Police came but said they have no authority to force open the door. I don’t know how long I have to suffer this.” All three agencies told The Straits Times they have received complaints but have been unable to contact Mr Liew.

Mr Siew Wen Chang, property manager at the town council, said it “manages only common property” and therefore the HDB and police must deal with the occupant as “the noise is within the flat”. In August, the town council cordoned off an area below the unit after it spotted a blind dangling outside the kitchen window.

The neighbour from hell is yet another example of PM Lee’s proverbial fishball stick analogy. The police can’t barge in guns ablazing and the town council won’t do anything about this ‘internal noise’ even though everyone else has been terrorised by it for 5 years, to the point that even the building’s structural integrity needed to be checked after all the banging and shaking. To show that they’re genuinely concerned for public safety, the town council even placed a token barricade in case Mr Liew’s dangling blind turns into killer litter. I don’t see such special arrangements for residents with potted plants hanging precariously form their window ledges. Why stop there, how about giving away free mufflers for distressed neighbours? Or maybe a pirate’s eyepatch just like what some of our ‘relevant authorities’ wear on a daily basis?

Are the authorities AFRAID of some guy who goes around dressed in army uniform and quite clearly a nutcase? Is he a soldier gone rogue trained by some secret militia with the ability to despatch an entire SWAT squadron if it had to come to that stage when tactical infiltration is the only resort? The HDB really ought to roll up their sleeves and flex some legal muscle instead of going around roping in mediators to possibly try and talk some sense into this menace to society, or at least get staff from IMH to assess if he needs to be tranquilised or put in a strait jacket. Now that Liew’s snubbed even the DPM himself, it will be utterly useless sending down inspector, social worker, MSO officer, or even the goddamn Chief of Army to put a stop to this potentially violent madness. Short of slipping a smoke bomb under his door or getting the CIA to go undercover as pizza delivery boys, HDB may want to consider the more rational tool of EVICTION.

In 1980, exactly such a tough stance was taken against any family who ‘persists in encouraging or supporting acts’ of housing block vandalism. A man who threw a VCR out of his window was evicted by HDB in 1984, in addition to being jailed a month for killer litter. You could even get kicked out of your HDB flat if you sublet your room to Thai prostitutes, or engage in ‘religious activities‘ such as setting up an entire temple or a cult seance within your house. If we were back in the 80’s, Mr Liew would have been booted out long before Teo Chee Hean even needed to step in. Instead of banging walls all day long, he’d be out there roaming the streets longing for a wall to even lean on. Has HDB, gasp, gone SOFT over the years? That it would allow someone to play a ‘Greatest Accordion Hits’ CD at full blast 24 hours a day without serving even a warning letter?

Probably not. Just 2 years ago, a HDB bully got an eviction notice, with full endorsement from Minister Tan Chuan Jin, for abusive acts of spitting, soiling laundry and vandalism. In 2013, a dog-crazy woman was evicted because her pets’ piss and shit caused a massive stench and were barking all night long. What will it take for HDB to use the whip of justice on Liew? For a distraught neighbour to go bonkers from the noise and start attacking Liew with a chopper? Or will we have to send in the artillery and wrecking ball to coax him out of his demonic fortress, at the risk of collateral damage? Will we be forced to demolish an entire building to eliminate one man-sized cockroach?

Now that TCH made his move but failed, it’s unlikely that another minister or MP will up the ante and make our DPM look bad. Maybe it’s time to send in THIS guy, who’ll probably do a better job than some shitty barrier underneath a window.

Qiaonan and Griffiths merging to form Angsana Primary School

From ‘Griffiths and Qiaonan alumni upset over new name for merged school – Angsana Primary’, 23 Nov 2014, article by Pearl Lee and Ho Ai Li, ST

What’s in a name? Plenty of history and memories, say former staff and pupils of Griffiths Primary School and Qiaonan Primary. They are upset that the two pioneer schools, which together have been around for 145 years, will be merged to form Angsana Primary School – a name with little connection to its predecessors.

“Why Angsana? Why not something like Griffiths-Qiaonan?” asked 86-year-old Eunice Tan Khe Tong, a retired principal, who was there for Griffiths Primary School at its start, and its end.

…Primary 6 pupil Lim Jiexin, who was Qiaonan’s vice-head prefect this year, shook her head when asked what she thought of Angsana, which will occupy the Griffiths building. “Why do they have to use that? They should choose a better name.”

The name ‘Angsana’ is the brainchild of MOE’s Schools Naming Committee, but speaks nothing of either school’s history. It also has no relation to Casuarina Primary, another school named after common trees in Singapore. The SNC probably ran out of ideas since ‘Changkat’ (where Qiaonan is currently located) and ‘Tampines’ are already taken. This lack of creativity is apparent when you have primary/secondary schools named Bedok View, Bedok Green and Bedok South within the same constituency. Some schools make an extra effort to remind us of their roots, such as the FIRST TOA PAYOH Primary School (To be more precise, it’s in Potong Pasir).

If renaming a school after where it’s located is ‘insipid’ and renders it ‘devoid of character’, why not that of a common tree then? With Singapore’s birth rate likely to decline further, we may see more schools closing, merging and given other tree names such as ‘Yellow Flame Primary‘, or ‘Saga Primary’. If not an actual tree, then how about something related to the Garden City theme, like ‘Woodgrove’, ‘Fernvale’ or ‘Orchid Park’. It seems that the first thing that comes to mind when naming new schools is something leafy, green or flowery, not whether the final selection ‘resonates’ with the students or the alumni. That would take some, well, imagination.

It’s not the first time that current and former students have protested against schools merging or changing names, citing the severing of a vital link to history as the main reason.

1) 1976 – Stamford Girls’ School to San Shan Integrated School (which later merged to form First Toa Payoh Primary School)

2)2001 – Swiss Cottage + Moulmein Primary to Balestier Hill. The geocities petition website still exists. Meanwhile the ‘Swiss Cottage’ brand lives on in its secondary school. The only Swiss cottage I’ve ever seen is the one on a Ricola box.

3) 2005 – St Michaels to SJI Junior. The reason for this renaming was not so much poor enrollment, as it was to ‘thicken blood ties’ within the Lasallian religious order.

4) 2005 – Thomson Secondary to North Vista (in Sengkang). Thomson was supposedly the name of a colonial architect. A Vista is what you call a HDB estate that’s not a ‘Green’ or a ‘View’.

All these complaints fell on deaf ears, naturally. It’s interesting how we place so much sentimental value on old schools and their names, more so than the history of other buildings or amenities which tend to hold a less special place within our hearts, such as temples, swimming pools, libraries or mum-and-pop coffee shops. Part of the reason, I believe, is because our primary schools are where most of us made our first best friends, got into our first fights, and of course, where we had the damned mother of all exams, the PSLE.

I’m proud to say that my own primary school, Mayflower Primary (an AWESOME name too, I must add) still exists. The fact that I remember the first line of my school song is the best indicator of how its history and memories ‘resonate’ with me after all these years. One can only wonder what’s going to happen to the school songs of Qiaonan and Griffiths. Any school song with the lyric ‘Angsana’ in it just sounds terrible and I wonder why the SNC didn’t even consider that in their name selection. For one, you can’t pair it to rhyme with anything other than ‘Banana’.

Teacher using criminal force on boy with ADHD

From ‘Ruling may instil fear in teachers’, 22 Nov 14, ST Forum

(Trent Ng Yong En): A COURT has ordered a primary school teacher to do 60 hours of community service for forcibly dragging an 11-year-old boy with behavioural issues out of class for not following instructions (“Teacher who mistreated boy gets community service”; yesterday). While the teacher’s actions could have been more appropriate, given that the boy suffered from neuro-developmental disorders, the court ruling will likely instil fear in teachers when dealing with insubordinate students.

The teacher may have used force to drag the pupil out of class, but how could this sensibly constitute “criminal force”? Section 350 of the Penal Code reads: “Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent… knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person… is said to use criminal force to that other.”

The court seems to have taken a broad interpretation of this provision to find the teacher’s act of disciplining the pupil amounting to causing “injury, fear or annoyance”. This interpretation, taken to its extreme, could cover all acts of school discipline where a teacher or discipline master physically handles an errant student in the slightest way.

Clearly, this is not a school culture we want to encourage, where insubordination is condoned and educators live in fear of the students and their parents. While the law may have decided that educators must take care when disciplining students, such that their acts do not amount to criminal force, what should be discussed is whether educators should be given more discretion to discipline their students, so long as it does not amount to a gross violation of their bodily integrity – for example, slapping, hitting, or throwing projectiles.

If you’re a teacher resorting to physical force to keep an unruly child in his place, you’re accused of assault. Will the old lady who pummelled a helpless child on the MRT with an UMBRELLA be slapped with the same charge of  ‘criminal force’ then? Or what about an angry father slapping someone else’s boy to avenge his own bullied kid? If a parent running out of ideas wrestled his own nuisance kid to the ground in public, few would intervene. If it’s a teacher doing the same in the classroom on the other hand, we demand for his dismissal. Today, teachers are supposed to rule not with an iron fist, but a benevolent caress. You can no longer discipline a child for ‘his own good’ at the expense of your ‘own job’. The problem worsens when parents are not doing theirs. Granted, the child had neurological issues, but it would have been the same outcome had it been a child without ADHD/autism or any other illness that explains disruptive behaviour.

If these same charges were applied to teachers in the past, we would have at least half the education workforce doing ‘community service’ for slapping or spanking rowdy kids for ruining class, the only difference being they’re not on Ritalin or other psychostimulants to keep their ‘naughtiness’ at bay. My own primary school teacher walloped my knuckles with a wooden ruler and nobody was around to call the cops for this blatant act of physical abuse, nor did anyone send her away for 60 hours to do the janitor’s job. When I told my parents they simply laughed and added fuel to the fire by saying ‘Obi Good’. I mean, it’s not like I went home in crutches, an arm in a sling, or had one eye dangling out of its bloody socket. Thanks Mom and Dad, for letting a stranger half beat me to death because you love me too much to do it yourselves.

Children with ‘issues’ in school these days are protected by euphemisms and medical jargon. You’re not ‘naughty’ but ‘hyperactive’ or suffering from ADHD. If you’re the aggressive sort, you’ve got ‘oppositional defiant disorder’. Sometimes this outcry over physical duress may lead to otherwise capable leaders losing their positions. 10 years ago, the principal of Nan Chiau High stepped down after parents called the police on him for hitting their lying daughter with a SOFT COVER BOOK. If this ADHD child abuser were otherwise an excellent educator capable of bringing out the best PSLE scores in the school, it would be a loss not just the ‘punishee’, but the ENTIRE class, if he quits because his reputation as a bully who exercises CRIMINAL force has been cemented by overprotective parents who can’t do anything about their own unruly children themselves.

But the fact is you don’t even need to touch the flesh of a problem child to get into trouble with the police, or hate your job forever. You could get hauled up for questioning if you CUT HIS HAIR, or if you even say to a kid: ‘I don’t want to see your face!’, which amounts to ‘verbal abuse’. One teacher resigned after being accused by a rich and influential parent (who contributed to school funds, naturally) for abusing Daddy’s Boy. She merely ‘reprimanded’ him for BREAKING FLOWER POTS (Time for corporal punishment in schools, May 6 2014, ST Forum). Don’t say I didn’t warn you if Junior grows up to be a serial vandal.

In 2003, a RJC GP teacher verbally crushed a student for sloppy work and dramatically tore up his essay in front of class.

Not sure what happened to the kid, or the teacher after this. Although it gives some idea of what a horrible subject GP is, it’s also a masterclass in breaking down a student or his ‘insolence, laziness and apathy’ and being a ‘sly crafty old fox’. The insult of all classroom insults. Maybe parents should take notes about disciplining their own child, rather than write complaint emails to principals whenever their kid gets pinched in the ears, or being told to get out of class in a tone and volume beyond that of a gentle whisper.

Hard-selling Beijing 101 not accredited by CASE

From ’15 complaints lodged this year against Beijing 101′, 15 Nov 2014, article by Melissa Lin/Amir Hussain ST

Singapore’s consumer watchdog has received 15 complaints against Beijing 101 so far this year. This includes the one made on Monday by Madam Susan Koo Moi, 75, who said she was pressured into signing a $15,600 package with the hair-care centre last month.

Most of the complaints were about its hard-sell tactics to persuade consumers to buy more hair-related packages, said Consumers Association of Singapore’s (Case) executive director, Mr Seah Seng Choon. Beijing 101 could not be reached for comment.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that Madam Koo had gone to Beijing 101’s Funan Mall outlet last month hoping to use a $50 voucher, but ended up paying $4,000 as a deposit for a package.

…Beijing 101 is not accredited by Case, which means it does not have to offer a five-day cooling- off period during which consumers can ask for a full refund.

“Businesses should have the conscience to give their clients a reasonable timeframe to change their minds,” said Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore honorary secretary Edward Wong. He noted, however, that firms are not legally obligated to do so.

The multi-million hair care business is not an industry known for its ‘conscience’. Beijing 101 is among the first in the country to sway the gullible public with raving celebrity endorsements, even if the said celebrity’s hair loss was due to breast CANCER  chemo. In 2003, Beijing 101 got ex Mediacorp actor Xie Shaoguang to advertise as a ‘satisfied Beijing 101 client’, who thanked them profusely for his ‘thicker and healthier-looking’ crop. Today, the man is an ordained MONK in Malaysia. Other familiar faces soon followed suit, including the late Huang Wenyong, who was paid to declare that since Beijing 101 uses ‘100% natural Chinese herbs…there will be NO adverse effects’. Well I’ll fill a tub with their tonic and just submerge my bloody head in it then.

Giving freebies to snag customers is a sales tactic that has been used since the 80’s. Svenson, the hair experts whose name no 75 year old vainpot is able to pronounce, launched what was known as ‘Hair Week’ with free consultation services. Also, no before and after picture in those days was complete without a full, macho beard. Today, you just have a sad balding face (before) and a happy winner ready to take on the world (after).

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Not much has changed since the swinging 50’s. A luscious, crowning glory has traditionally been viewed as the glorious symbol of a man’s success and attractiveness. Before hair care consultants emerged, you could harvest a head of shiny, healthy hair in the comfort of your home, using a bottle of Vaseline tonic no less, a trusted formula that keeps your hair ‘perfumed, cool and fresh’. Today’s Vaseline can also be used at the other end of your body, for callused toes.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.06.30 AM

For an empire that has been operating for 40 years and having its fair share of complaints, largely unregulated by the authorities when it comes to product effectiveness or safety, the least I would expect as a client who also happens to be an adoring fan of Zheng Guoping or Chen Shucheng, is some form of basic consumer protection. But it’s not just unscrupulous practices that we should watch out for. In 2010, a couple of its hair growth tonics were found to contain undeclared minoxidil, a ‘Western’ drug that has been approved for use in male-pattern baldness. In other words, the ‘natural power’ of premium Chinese herbs as so claimed was horseshit. The typical Beijing 101 customer may be balding, but what our self-proclaimed consumer ‘watchdog’ is severely lacking, despite such incidents, is a set of TEETH. If not, hopelessly DEBARKED.

Hair care centres like Beijing 101 or Yunnam should be classified under the ‘Spa and Wellness’ scheme under CaseTrust, but you don’t find either listed. Instead, the level of ‘assurance’ you get as a customer of Yunnam are brand awards like ‘Trusted Brand’ or ‘Most Effective Brand’. Beijing 101 is more discreet of its accolades, with a tiny ‘Most Preferred’ logo (2012) on the top right corner of its website. How about ‘Most Pushy’ or ‘Shameless brand’ then? We force local news websites like The Independent or Online Citizen to apply for licences but give free rein to shameless ‘wellness’ centres that hawk their questionable wares using Mediacorp celebrities, putting the bank accounts of innocent people at risk. This despite us not knowing for sure if these actors/actresses even HAD a scalp problem in the first place. Maybe they noticed a few strands plugging the shower drain and then suddenly realised: ‘Oh God, I need my confidence back and the wardrobe people don’t have nice wigs to spare!’

Time to get to the root of the problem, CASE. We can’t have our Pioneer Generation getting scalped by unethical business practices anymore.

SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Paypal account suspended

From ‘Sim Lim Saga: Online vigilante group says Paypal account suspended’, 10 Nov 2014, article in asiaone.com

Online vigilante group SMRT (Feedback) has said its Paypal account has been suspended due to “suspicious activity”. According to a statement on its Facebook post on Saturday: “So Paypal has suspended the account due to ‘suspicious activity’ which is usually associated with criminal gangs or terrorist activities.

“Come to think of it, actually that’s true. We are terrorists. Sim Lim terrorist – terrorizing the hearts of errant retailers floorwide.”

Second Minister of Home Affairs S Iswaran urged ‘restraint’ whenever netizens try to be ‘judge, jury and executioner’ in dispensing online justice, and instead ‘let DUE PROCESS take its course’. This due process involves CASE ‘INVITING’ the rogue store to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), this after 18 complaints over the course of 10 months have been lodged against Jover Chew and gang. Due process, sir, is too NICE to be even effective. SMRT Feedback believes that a ‘necessary evil precedes a greater good’, even if that evil deed means forcing the enemy to flee the country, like Anton Casey did. In Jover’s case, he got pranked with 3 large Pizza Hut pizzas delivered to his home.  ONLY THREE?

‘Vigilantism’ didn’t always have a ‘Gotham’ feel about it. In the 60’s, the government set up what was known as the ‘Vigilante Corps‘, a group of dedicated individuals who volunteered their services in case of civil emergencies and ‘nation-building’. They acted within the law and were practically the equivalent of today’s SAF Volunteer Corp. They didn’t have a ‘death wish’ like the original 70’s street vigilante Charles Bronson had, and were assigned to non-vigilante tasks like donating blood or helping out at old folks’ homes. Like Boy Scouts, practically.

PM Lee has already warned against this ‘lynch mob mentality’, yet there’s something romantic and gratifying about DIY justice, whether you call the crusaders a ‘one-man army’, keyboard warriors, digital bandits or witch-hunters. We all root for the masked renegade who gives plodding law enforcement the finger and takes matters into his hands.  Without the spirit of vigilantism, we wouldn’t have random commuters apprehending molesters on the train, nor would give give out medals of courage to people who chase down grandma-robbers. If we all waited for ‘due process’, we’d yell ‘Mata Mata’ all day long when a crime against humanity is committed, and by the time the police come knocking, snatch thieves and potential rapists would have long escaped the clutches of justice. If the police question you on your inaction, you can retort that you were simply taking Minister S Iswaran’s advice, allowing the all-powerful ‘due process’ to make things right. That is, when the cows come home.

SMRT’s takedown of Jover Chew is a digital extension of such acts.  And then some, bordering on harassment, even ‘cyber-bullying’ (leaked gross topless pictures of Jover sprawling on his bed). SGAG, another ‘satirical’ site, followed up with a ‘You Don’t Chibai‘ shirt personally delivered to Mobile Air. In PM Lee’s cowboy town, SMRT Feedback is the mysterious gunslinging stranger who walks into the salon and starts taking out the trash one by one, broken bottles and all. Steven Seagal would approve. 3 years active, the very first post in 2011 by the collective had nothing ‘vigilantic’ about it at all. In fact, it sounded dead serious.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.48.02 PM

The group then took on a bigger challenge, getting into an argument with veteran actor Tay Ping Hui after calling him a cheapskate. You know you’re ready for big time trolling if you can cross swords with Tay Ping Hui. Today, SMRT is no longer just mocking train breakdowns or fighting arrogant celebrities. They’ve become – and there’s no cheesier way to put this- a force to be reckoned with.

But it’s not just conniving bastards or racists who face the wrath of online vigilantism. We should be especially careful of those who blame and shame lesser criminals, like people who can’t PARK, for example. If you’re a married man checking out the Geylang night scene, be wary for the female vigilantes from ‘Geylang Checker’.  One vigilante baits horny men online by posing as a 14 year old girl. His mission: Rid the Internet of  perverts and paedophiles. You could go vigilante on people who don’t return trays at hawker centres, joggers who run with their pets on a leash, or the worst of the lot, people who drink shark’s fin soup!

There is one very well known portal that probably kickstarted this whole ‘online vigilantism’ spree in the first place, a website dedicated to ‘citizen journalism’ that catches anti-social behaviour in the act, exposing and shaming ordinary Singaporeans in an act of trivial folly. Yes, that’s none other than STOMP, and here is the owner of the site SPH reporting via the ST about online vigilantism ‘going too far’ in the Sim Lim Saga. Jover’s wife has already made a police report about SMRT (Feedback)’s actions. She should really have hired an anti-vigilante vigilante to do the job instead.

Shisha ban affecting the ‘character’ of Arab Street

From ‘Shisha smoking on decline over past 2 years’, article by Amir Hussain, 10 Nov 2014, ST

…Last year, the authorities revoked the outdoor smoking licences of 12 out of 23 shisha cafes in the area for allowing shisha smoking outside designated areas. Under the law, food establishments are allowed to have smoking areas of up to one-fifth of their outdoor refreshment areas. There are now 16 licensed shisha retailers, with the majority in Kampong Glam. This is a far cry from the 49 in 2012.

A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha, which will kick in later this month, will allow existing retailers to sell the tobacco product until July 31, 2016. Noting the gradual decline in shisha providers over the past two years, seven businesses, ranging from carpet shops to an outdoor gear retailer in the Arab Street area, told The Straits Times they were not surprised by the ban announced in Parliament last week.

…But the first shisha retailer in Singapore, Cafe Le Caire’s owner Ameen Talib, said: “The fact is that shisha brought a certain character to the area, led it to be known as an Arabic Quarter and added a certain vibrancy.”

Dr Talib, 52, first received a tobacco retail licence from the Health Sciences Authority in September 2001, two months after opening his restaurant in the then sleepy Arab Street. The former accountancy professor, a third-generation Arab Singaporean, said he wanted to rejuvenate the former Arab Quarter of colonial-era Singapore.

“When you walk around, you need to smell the aroma of kebab, the aroma of shisha. Visually, you need to see people sitting on the road relaxed, smoking shisha. You get the feeling you are in the Middle East. And you need to hear Arabic music as you walk down the road,” he said.

In 2004, 3 years after Dr Talib first introduced Singaporeans to shisha, or ‘sheeshah’, he called Arab Street the ‘only bohemian village in town’, where one can have ‘nice, CLEAN fun’ without alcohol. A shisha contraption, of course, other than having a pipe that you stick in your mouth and trade saliva with others, is far from ‘clean’, despite the use of a bubbling water vessel that gives the illusion of ‘purification’. Before MOH resorted to a total ban, HPB had to rely on public education i.e scare tactics to warn users that shisha wasn’t just another form of social smoking. Unlike a standard cigarette, you risk contracting not just lung cancer, but Tuberculosis and HERPES. It’s like putting an ornamented pubic toilet brush in your mouth and sucking on it for hours. Yes, don’t let that cute Ninja Girl blowing a dildo-shaped watermelon shisha fool you. That thing is a biohazard.

The same shisha-pushing professor also called for a blanket ban of alcohol throughout the area back in 2012, in order to preserve the ‘core and heritage’ of Kampong Glam, the same shisha-centric ‘character’ that he pioneered back in 2001. There was no shisha before Talib opened the floodgates, but it doesn’t mean that Arab Street, with its carpets, textile, spice shops, tomb-makers, didn’t have any less of its Islamic ‘charm’ then, even if it didn’t immediately transport visitors to the bustling smoky, dusty bazaars of Baghdad sans camels and belly-dancing slave girls. In fact, some shop owners in the area even agreed that shisha was a relatively new trend, and was NEVER connected to Kampong Glam’s identity and history. Maybe the Sultan and his royal family imported them secretly from the Middle East back in the 19th century, but it was never a feature of the ‘kampung’ vibe on the streets.

So what’s Talib’s cafe going to do now that it doesn’t sell alcohol and recently had its shisha licence revoked for flouting outdoor smoking regulations? How about some nice, clean, live screenings of football over authentic Samovar tea then? The total ban may be a little extreme, given that cigarettes are spared because they have become ‘entrenched’ according to MOH spokesmen (and also taxable), but to say that banning shisha will make the ‘Arab Quarter’ lose its ‘character’, ‘vibrancy’ or ‘heritage’ is a pitiless excuse for the real reason; Fear of business going up in smoke. Ban prostitution and you’ll have pimps complaining that, like losing shisha, it’ll deprive Geylang of its ‘character’ and ‘colour’ as well.

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