Yale-NUS cohabitation begets relational loneliness

From ‘Co-ed cohabitation endangers chastity’, 5 May 2015, ST Forum

(Chen Dewei): YALE-NUS College recently announced that it will be allowing male and female students to share suites (“Male, female students in Yale-NUS can soon share suites”; April 22). In the report, a parent, Mrs Grace Yeo, was quoted saying: “These are not teenagers but young adults. I trust my son to make responsible choices.”

I wonder if this is representative of Singapore parents today. Based on the 2004 Global Sex Survey by Durex, the average age that Singaporean youth first have sex is 18.9 years. The survey also found that Singapore youth have an average of 5.8 sexual partners. The average age that our youth first have sex is dangerously close to the age when students would enter Yale-NUS. So we have to ask ourselves a fundamental question: Is it an issue to have premarital sex?

Or perhaps we think that even if our children have premarital sex, they can sort it out after marriage. A recent report (“Recent marriages not standing the test of time”; April 7) showed that recent marriages are failing more often than in the past, and I would say that today’s generation lacks faithfulness.

How does abstaining from premarital sex help? Because when your partner can control himself before marriage, he will be able to control himself after marriage.

One may ask: Why keep your virginity when you can have fun? Because sex has the uncanny ability to create a lasting connection with another person, and the voices of your previous sex partners hovering over you when you embark on a serious relationship can be very disconcerting.

Rage and insecurity can hinder the formation of a healthy relationship and it is very lonely to be in such marriages.  Intentionally or unintentionally, Yale-NUS’ policy propagates a lifestyle that begets relational loneliness.

A Yale suite consists of 4 to 6 rooms with a common area, and maybe the writer shouldn’t be just worried about premarital sex between a man and a woman on a bed, but an all-out sex orgy in the living room, after which our graduates will find themselves in miserable marriages not just full of ‘rage and insecurity’, but paranoid schizophrenia because of ghostly lovers’ voices looming over their heads. All because of one fateful night of sordid fun.

As if college kids aren’t getting down and dirty already, cohabitation or not. If not a common suite, there’s the car, the staircase or a bench in a park. To sum up the letter, putting single boys and girls in the same house will lead to more premarital sex, which is a terrible thing for humanity because the best marriage is a one between two virgins with absolute control over their hormones, not people with intimate knowledge of others’ genitals, because such people are obviously irrepressible perverts who no sense of loyalty.

The writer probably also believes that porn, dating apps, budget hotels, deserted carparks, teen dramas and dancing under the influence of alcohol in a club should all be banned because they’re all chastity hazards as long as it presents an opportunity, or induces the opposite sexes to hanky-panky their way to matrimony hell. Perhaps the writer speaks from personal experience, nevermind the sweeping assumptions about something as complex as human sexual behaviour. Or rather, inexperience. The kind of ascetic inexperience that only saints yearn for because it’s their path to holy salvation.

It’s a mindset that’s stuck in the 80’s, when sex before marriage is deemed selfish and a wanton act of disrespect for your future virgin partner, that if you could fool around instead of saving your virginity for later, it means that you’re a potential cheat once you’re married. If anything, these highfalutin champions for preserving sanctity are actually undermining the institution of marriage itself, that love could not possibly transcend one’s personal history of sexual debauchery. If everyone were so choosy about their partners, valuing abstinence above all our virtues, then our population is doomed.

It is 2015, we’re in an age when we’re becoming more accepting of homosexuality, bondage and dirty jokes involving bodily ejaculate, and we have people who still believe that sex leaves a ‘lasting connection’, that strings will ALWAYS be attached in any relationship that involves exchange of bodily fluids, that you can’t have a one-off tryst with a hooker without having the lingering taste of her saliva in your mouth for as long as you live, or a little naked devil popping by your shoulder every now and then luring you into wicked temptation.

Amos Yee getting a tight slap in the face

From ‘Amos Yee assaulted on way to court, now in remand’, 30 April 2015, article by Eileen Poh, CNA

There was drama at the courtroom as blogger Amos Yee was struck in the face as he walked to the State Courts for a pre-trial conference on Thursday (Apr 30). As Yee walked to the court house, a middle-aged man in a red shirt, ran up to him and hit him, while shouting. The man then ran off. The teenager’s left eye looked slightly bruised after the attack.

…Yee was remanded after the pre-trial conference, as he refused to set his blog posts to private. He had earlier flouted bail conditions by publishing two posts on his blog. His lawyer Alfred Dodwell said the teen feels very strongly that he has not done anything wrong with his posts.

It was a slap that was heard all around the internet. The assault was vicious, but awkward at the same time, and it appears that both Amos and his assailant both need psychiatric assessment in IMH, one for oppositional defiant disorder and the other for psychosis. Maybe the boy should have defended himself with a half-eaten banana, and give the attacker the slip. Or you could say the attacker was preparing Amos for the hard life to come behind bars if he persists in disobeying the law, hence doing him an actual favour.

Contrast the treatment of Amos outside the courts to how others flocked to support and shield a certain millionaire pastor some years back, protecting the man from anyone wanting to strike him in the face for unleashing ‘China Wine’ into the world. Amos had nobody to stave off random attacks. Not his compassionate bailor, not his pro-bono lawyers, not the reporters blissfully recording the entire scene on their phones, not even his own parents. Random slapper, have you no shame? Are you the kind of guy who goes around flashing and massaging your genitals in front of women and then scurry away? If you go up and kick a Mediacorp reporter in the butt, will he turn around and film the entire ordeal in place while you skip away giggling?

Law Minister Shanmugam has clarified that the charge of making disparaging remarks against the late LKY were to be ‘stood down’, meaning that Amos will be judged firstly for his Christianity rant and obscene posting of LKY and Margaret Thatcher in a cartoon tryst. If the boy were to write an autobiography, it would probably be called ‘Breaking Bail’, and I have no doubt that it would be a bestseller, either by his closet fans, or extremist Christians who’ll purchase them in bulk just so that can burn it. Amos, try penning your thoughts in a draft for a future book rather by publishing them on a blog for a change. It’ll probably work better than begging kind hearted strangers for money through ‘crowdfunding’. People are bound to feel cheated if they had donated to your legal funds only for you to screw things up, so no surprise if someone vents his frustration on you in the most bizarre way possible.

Slapping the face isn’t going to wake Amos up, that’s for sure, even if many commentators felt it was ‘long overdue’. Others condemn it as child violence. You can’t take either side without sounding like a hypocrite though; for example, one may cringe in horror at the child-beating scene in Ilo Ilo, but get a Schadenfreude orgasm just watching a stranger smack the shit out of the foul-mouthed, Jesus-mocking twerp that is Amos Yee Pang Sang. Or you could be the sort who would call the police if your kid’s teacher physically drags him out of class, yet cry foul when Amos is beaten around like a ragdoll. Imagine how LKY would feel witnessing this media circus from above, shaking his head at how Singaporeans are fixated with the antics of a very naughty boy, rather than going to the National Museum to stare at his red box.

Let’s hope the slapper gets hauled in nonetheless. If you can get charged for spitting at people, I’m sure you’re not getting away with random slapping. Let this also serve as a warning to anyone looking to infiltrate the state courts grounds with a pair of garden shears. Yes, I’m talking to you, Cookie Tan. (Ironically a police report has been filed against Cookie for threatening to emasculate Amos…a now Famous Amos).

UPDATE 1May 2015: Amos’ attacker was arrested on May Day. At 49, the guy is almost as old as Singapore #SG50.

Butler service making NSmen bad soldiers

From ‘Butler service for NSmen reflects wrong mindset’, 30 April 15, ST Forum

(Mrs Elisa Choo): HOW can a national serviceman fight and die for his country when he does not learn how to be faithful in taking care of his duffel bag, no matter how inconvenient it is and how much space it takes up (“Start-up offers ‘butler service’ for NSmen”; Monday)? This reflects the wrong mindset that some Singaporean soldiers have.

We are the sons and daughters of this land. We defend our country because this is our home. A mother with an asthmatic child will always ensure the child has a nebuliser close by, because it is what may save the child’s life during an asthmatic attack. It is burdensome, but the mother will do it out of love.

This is what being an operationally ready NSman means – being always ready to respond to any emergency and doing it in the right spirit if we truly love our nation. I discussed the article with my teenage sons, to ensure that they understood the importance of personal responsibility and their responsibility towards their nation.

It is not just the Defence Ministry’s job to educate soldiers; such values must first be inculcated at home by parents. Many parents wait for the army to train their sons. However, parents should also train their sons for the army.

Today’s NSmen have the luxury of stylish duffel bags with wheels so they can double up as vacation luggage for cheapskates, yet despite such cool features there apparently is a market for army storage solutions, courtesy of Spaceship.sg’s ‘Kaki’ service. My army junk is tucked away in the dark recesses of my storeroom, and in the unlikely event that I do need to put on a helmet or wear green socks, rest assured I will be reporting to camp in a jiffy, duffel bag or no bag, ready to kick some enemy ass. Nevermind if my mess tin for combat rations has streaks of lizard shit all over it. It’s my sacrifice to the nation.

To call the Kaki service some kind of ‘butlerly’ is misleading. No one is going to turn up in a tux with white gloves and a complimentary pot of Earl Grey tea before attending to your army crap, or crack dry English jokes at your expense like Jeffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Chances are it’ll be a sweaty guy in a cap doing the stuff you used to ask your poor maid to do, except folding in the sleeves for your smart four.

Your number 4 is ready, sire

Here we have a concerned mother with a typical misconception of what the primary purpose of NS is; building ‘character': It’s your shit, you take care of it. Leaving your duffel bag to professionals is like depriving a wheezing child of life-saving medication. If you pay someone else to look after your stuff, you’ll do the same to your parents when they’re old, put them in some cold storage nursing home in JB. You’ll become an amoral psychopath if you dump your precious kit offsite, not to mention a terrible soldier with not an iota of patriotism in your bones.

No, the army is not a school for saints. It’s designed to make you a killing machine to die vaingloriously for your country, and if you could hire air-con buses to ferry NSmen to and from ferry terminals, issue iPads, or outsource toilet cleaning so that our soldiers can focus on, well, shooting at and killing people, then what more a duffel bag delivery service? I mean, aren’t NSmen all already having some kind of home laundry service for their soiled attire? It’s called ‘Mommy’. I wouldn’t mind having a boot polishing service either; all those minutes putting a sparkle on my boots for show during some shitty parade could have been better spent doing push-ups, or practising my rifle assembly drills. In the near future, I could send drones to fetch my ammo so I don’t have to be bogged down like Rambo when I assault trenches on a hill. Would that make me a sissy soldier too?

If you think a butler service is worth the money, by all means go for it. But you know who are the ones who REALLY need storage solutions? Hoarders, that’s who. And YOU think you have space issues?

You need Super Kaki for this

Singaporeans not using verbs in the past tense

From ‘Reverse trend of speaking poor English’, 28 April 15, ST Forum

(Amy Loh Chee Seen): IT IS unsurprising that netizens derided the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads question for its poor English (“Maths question catches world’s attention”; April 15). The standard of Singapore’s English has sunk so low that poor English has become acceptable, whether in spoken or written form.

Despite years of campaigns to “speak better English”, parents and teachers unintentionally propagate ungrammatical English. If this continues, the language that current and future generations speak here will bear little resemblance to English. One mistake is the utter disregard for the way a verb should be used in the past tense in reported speech, in the passive form and as an adjective.

New hoardings at a condominium construction site proudly promote its proximity to a “shelter walkway”, restaurant menus list “steam fish” or “grill pork chops”, and shops announce hours when they are “close”.

We write as we speak, and conversations are replete with past events told in the present tense. A Singaporean interviewee on CNN once described his grandmother making herbal soup for him as he “studies” for exams, even though he had mentioned earlier that she died years ago.

Why does our society accept this? It is accepted because we speak more and more Mandarin or Malay. Our Asian verbs do not have different forms for tenses, causing us to fail to recognise incorrect English.

As long as our spoken English stays uncorrected, we will continue to speak and write poor English. A friend of mine was even mocked for her clear enunciation of words in the past tense. It has become “uncool” to speak English correctly.

Unless we reverse the trend, we may well need to produce a dictionary or provide translation services to make our Singapore version of English intelligible to foreigners.

The ‘Cheryl’s birthday’ question is an example of poor tense management (Albert and Bernard just BECOME  friends with Cheryl..), but even the best speakers and writers of the language make such errors occasionally. It’s not necessarily a Singaporean problem as the writer believes; bad tense, a misplaced ‘s (as in womens’, childrens’ or it’s) and comical “quotation marks” are textbook bloopers that happen everywhere else in the English-speaking world.

It’s a goldmine for purists out there. I still see construction signs that read ‘Sorry for the Inconvenient’ or ‘Inconveniences’, or shops that say they are ‘Opened’ for business. And then there’s this:

You have movies titled ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ (it should be ‘shrank’), and Two Weeks Notice (Weeks’), which may be too subtle for the non-English professors amongst us to sniff out as mistakes.

There’s no evidence, however, that we have been speaking ‘more Mandarin or Malay’ in recent times, nor has poorly written English become ‘acceptable’ today. Someone who writes in his CV ‘I have make $1 million for my last company’ is looked upon less favourably than another candidate with impeccable grammar. A boss is not going to earn anyone’s respect if he writes in email ‘Please make sure you met the timeline’. If you write in your Tinder profile that ‘I like women who reads books’, you’re going to be left-swiped into oblivion. If you garble your grammar in public, you will be picked on, which is a healthy sign that people here still care about the language, that speaking and writing well correlates with one’s social status. 

Bad sentence construction is one thing, but using words inappropriately in an attempt to sound sophisticated like ‘I will revert irregardless after I have actioned on our teleconversation’ is equally painful to the ears, nevermind how familiar you are with the usage of ‘lie, lay, laid and lain’. Don’t get me started on ‘I LITERALLY blew my top at the bad English in this passage!’ or neologisms like ‘value-add’. Bad English doesn’t mean just sloppy grammar; in the examples above, it’s getting the meanings of words utterly, inexcusably WRONG while believing you’re ultra-cool using them. Some have become so embedded no one ever attempts to correct them, especially if they come from your superior.

Some of our deliberate bastardisations of the language have become standard Singlish. ‘Understooded’ is a blatant hyper-correction of the past tense of ‘understand’. We ‘verbalise’ a noun like agar to ‘agarate’ (estimate), and then turn it back into a zombie noun like ‘agaration’. We tell a friend after a bad fight ‘I don’t friend you’, instead of ‘I’m not going to be your friend anymore’. There is ‘confirm’ and ‘double confirm’, not ‘confirmed/double confirmed’. Our censors even once tried to replace the title of an Austin Powers movie from ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’ to ‘SHIOKED Me’. Thankfully, Shiok has since remained an expression of pleasure and nothing more.

Another possible culprit for our declining standards in English is the rise of internet-speak and texting, where not only is there a criminal neglect of tense, but the spawning of spelling variations and abbreviations in a bid to save time, like ‘tomolo/tmr‘. We order ‘roast chicken’ not roasted chicken, but we retain ‘fried’ not ‘fry’ chicken. We add ‘already’ to indicate a past event so that we don’t have to change the present-tense verb, for example ‘ Yesterday I already pay you what!’. We don’t articulate the ‘-ed’ when we say stuff like ‘Last night I wash my car’, or ‘ I wrap the present yesterday’. Instead of watching stuffy British drama serials we are entertained by cat videos or downloaded Korean soaps with bad subtitles. In place of books, we have Facebook updates, influencer blogs and baby photos with nonsense for captions. In other words, we’ve become lazy. ‘Yes that would be great!’ is now being replaced by a single ‘thumbs up’ emoticon. If emoticons are left to fester and evolve their own syntax like some sentient virus, we’ll start talking to each other with ‘lols’ and facial expressions, and eventually be forced to relearn the alphabet song, not to mention revise our present and past tenses.

Education is like buying equipment from a mall

From ‘Education just like a retail transaction now?’18 April 2015, ST Forum

(Grace Yong Fui Han): THURSDAY’S report fills me with disappointment (“Former RGS student claims she was bullied, sues school”). I was a Raffles Girls’ School student, from the class of 1979. Somewhere between then and now, we lost something, not just for the school, but also for Singapore. The report highlights the symptom of a serious malaise in our society, if left unchecked.

One might argue that in taking out a lawsuit against her alma mater, Ms Cheryl Tan is exercising her right to be compensated for the suffering she allegedly endured. However, gratitude for what the school and teachers have done, and respect and deference for the office of the educators seem to have gone out the window.

In their place is a sense of entitlement. Going to school is no different from going to the mall to buy a piece of equipment: “I paid a price (worked hard to get the right grades) to get into my school of choice, so it must meet my expectations. If it does not deliver, like the item I bought at the mall, I will sue the school in the same way I sue the manufacturer.”

Is there a mindset now that relationships are valued by what one can get out of them, rather than what one can contribute? If the alleged bullying is true, then, were compassion and empathy absent, in that the students were unable to put themselves in Ms Tan’s shoes to see how she might have felt as a result of their actions?

If education were a product, it would be a defective one from the start, judging by the existence of a billion-dollar tuition industry. Frivolous suits have been filed in the past, though not by students themselves. A teacher once tried to sue MOE for FALSE IMPRISONMENT after she got locked out of school and injured herself during escape. A divorcee sued both a principal and MOE when he found out that his son wasn’t using his surname during primary school registration. Come to think of it, when my Chinese teacher threw my pencil box out of the window because I was playing with it, destroying it in the process, I could have easily sued her for damage to personal property.

Cheryl Tan is demanding $220 K to continue her studies at Wells Cathedral School in England, in addition to the ‘pain and suffering’ including an outbreak of eczema when she was involved in some CCA Chinese Orchestra kerfuffle. My guess is Cheryl is also a rabid Harry Potter fan, because her current school looks like goddamn Hogwarts. If her suit turns out unsuccessful (most likely to be the case), perhaps she can come back from Wells in a sorcerer’s robe and cast a hex on RGS resulting in them dropping a few notches down the schools ranking. Being a cathedral doesn’t mean she won’t get into trouble there either. If bullied by twats again she could jolly well sue not just Wells, but the Archibishop and Queen of England if she wants to.

The first 2 words that come to mind is ‘spoilt brat’, and you don’t find them just in elite schools. Parents have filed police reports for alleged abuse of their precious ones, whether teachers are giving their kids horrible haircuts or verbal lashings. Cheryl’s case may well set an ugly precedent for overprotective parents with the money to take their case from the police post to the lawyer’s office. Bullying is no laughing matter of course, but being disliked, back-stabbed and ganged up in school also serves as a precursor for what you’ll get in the workplace. Unlike school, you can’t just run crying to your teacher, principal or mummy and daddy when a jealous colleague shreds your documents in the printer room before you get a chance to retrieve them. As stressed out as Cheryl may be, it didn’t torment her as much as actual studies did for others. Students have committed suicide by jumping from buildings in the past. Cheryl jumped ship, and landed herself on a luxury liner.

Well if that’s the kind of parenting that Cheryl’s parents subscribe to, encouraging the mentality that it’s everybody else’s fault that you are unpopular in school and you deserve to be compensated for every little insult to your ego, then so be it at their own ruin. You could send your daughter to a centuries old prestigious castle but she’ll come out a chronic damsel in distress rather than a jouster armed and ready to tackle life’s challenges. Even if the bullying were seriously damaging to your academic prospects and you are the religiously litigious type who doesn’t want to engage school counselors or professional help, there’s something called the Harassment Act, which you can file against the offender directly rather than try to embarrass a bedrock institution known for producing some of the greatest minds the country has ever known. One less rotten apple to mar its reputation then.

TRS creators charged with sedition

From ‘The Real Singapore duo slapped with 7 charges under Sedition Act’, 15 April 2015, article in CNA

The couple behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) – a 26-year-old Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman – were on Tuesday (Apr 14) each charged with seven counts of sedition.

Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi allegedly published seditious articles on the website between October 2013 and February 2015. One of these articles falsely claimed that an incident between police and some members of the public during a Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 had been sparked by a Filipino family’s complaint that the drums played during the procession upset their child. The contributor of the article posted on another website that the allegations made in the TRS piece were untrue.

Yang is Singaporean, while Ai Takagi is Australian. According to the charge sheets, the particular articles have the “tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore, name, between ethnic Indians in Singapore and Philippine nationals in Singapore”.

…Under the Sedition Act, the duo are liable, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to three years, or to both. As for the charge under the Penal Code, they are punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of one month, or a maximum fine of S$1,500, or both.

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

The ‘seditious’ articles are still online as we speak. In the Thaipusam article, it is alleged that the provocative but flawed eye-witness account ‘asserts’ that a Filipino family CAUSED the clash. Since instruments are banned during the festival, I would imagine the police confronting the musicians anyway, with or without a crying Pinoy child. But if anyone tries to push the argument of cause vs correlation they may just find themselves at the receiving end of a contempt of court charge.

If it weren’t a Pinoy family but say an Indian family of another caste, would that constitute ‘sedition’? What about the xenophobic backlash against the celebration of Philippine Independence Day in Orchard? Shouldn’t those Singaporean bigots who fumed against the event get slapped with sedition charges as well? Or the PRC family who complained about the smell of curry from their Indian neighbours. When does a symptom of xenophobia become deadly ‘seditious’?

In the other offending article on Filipino employers, Pinoys are described as ‘relentless backstabbers’ and generally ‘share the same traits’. This guy was basically stereotyping a particular race/nationality, just like how some Facebooker complained about the smell of a certain race on the MRT, or some ex-presidential candidate thought he was in Bombay while on a bus. If I say ‘those damned Americans are a bunch of redneck hillbillies’, would I be accused of inciting hostility among groups? When Amos Yee derided Christians, he was ‘causing distress’ and ‘harassment’ but not ‘promoting ill-will’. If he had insulted another religion would he be slapped with sedition? We were all even called ‘dogs’ once by PRC scholar Sun Xu. I doubt he was bitten by a single charge. Anton Casey flew to Perth before anyone thought about whether his remarks were deemed seditious because some Singaporeans got so insulted they wanted him to pay dearly with his life.

Does hiding racial stereotypes behind ‘stand-up comedy’ protect you from sedition charges, like if you mimic an Indian accent for example? If Kumar says ‘You Chinese buggers all only know how to gamble’, do I have a case against him?  The acronym ‘PRC’ is particularly offensive. In the ‘pee in a bottle’ article, the writer simply assumed that the woman who let her grandson drop his pants and wee in public was a ‘PRC’. Nothing else was mentioned about how she wanted to sabotage all hotpots in Geylang and blow up all the PRCs eating from it. PRC is the ‘n**ger’ of Chinese nationals. Just like when Edz Ello called us ‘stinkaporeans’, we couldn’t take it and demanded that he join the Sedition Squad.

Likewise, the PRC stripper article was about how ‘the majority’ of Chinese women come here on bogus work permits to steal other people’s husbands. Nothing new here. People have been harbouring negative stereotypes about ‘China women’ for more than a decade. Do we see people rounding them up and hanging them from trees and poke them with hot skewers? No. Do people make wild empty threats against the entire community on Facebook? Of course. Do we need to bother with what they say? I guess it depends. The Sedition laws seem to guard against the possibility that people take such comments so seriously they would brandish a flaming pitchfork over it. In the past, ‘seditious literature’ was serious business. They were documents specifically designed to instigate a mutiny against British imperialists, not some rant about why you think people from a certain country suck.

If the TRS offends you, you have the moral obligation not to read or share its articles. If you experience discrimination at work, you can take formal action with the authorities without dehumanising the entire race online. Let’s not kid ourselves that racial/foreigner tensions don’t exist. We are an island of tribes and little cosy enclaves getting the job done in spite of our differences, not a ‘It’s a Small World After All’ theme ride.

Changi airport would not exist without LKY

From ‘Aviation museum better way to honour Mr Lee’, 13 April 2015, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

AN ONLINE petition for Changi Airport to be renamed Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) International Airport has garnered nearly 12,500 signatures over four days. The list is with Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who said he would bring the matter up with the Government, according to the petition organiser, who goes by the moniker “Remembering LKY”.

When Parliament sits today, Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) will ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to consider renaming the airport after Mr Lee.

In a recent tribute to Mr Lee, who died at 91 on March 23, Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong said: “Changi Airport was his baby, and it has become an icon. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was truly the Father of Changi Airport.” So should the airport take his name?

While the petitioners have good intentions in honouring his legacy in this way, it might not be the best way to recognise his contributions. Make no mistake – without Mr Lee, there would be no Changi Airport. He was the one who pushed for the airport’s move from Paya Lebar to Changi, even though foreign experts disagreed. He foresaw that an airport on the coast would allow room for expansion towards the sea and would direct noise away from the city.

…To take away the name would undo, to some extent, the hard work put in over the past 34 years to build up this reputation. Indeed, one could argue it would diminish the legacy that Mr Lee has left behind. One middle-ground option that could be considered without removing Changi’s brand name would be to rename it Lee Kuan Yew Changi Airport.

The petitioners, who had hoped to go a step further by changing its airport code from SIN to LKY will be disappointed to learn that LKY is already being used by Lake Manyara Airport in Tanzania, Africa.

Well, without LKY, Singapore as we know it today would not exist. Should we rename Singapore to ‘Leekuanyew’ then? But let’s take a few steps back in our aviation history and examine the development of Changi Airport, and whether it’s true that it would not have existed if not for LKY’s calculated risk of abandoning Paya Lebar and going for broke. Along the way, expect to see the forgotten names of some unsung heroes, and unlikely naysayers. To the petitioners I say this: Read up your history before jumping on the petition bandwagon.

In the beginning, there were mangrove swamps and virgin forests on the north-eastern coast of Singapore, save for a sleepy fishing village and a couple of buildings. The serendipity of war led to the initial development of Changi into a state-of-the-art military base by the British in 1942. A year later when the Japanese invaded, POWs were forced to build two airstrips for Japanese fighters to defend Singapore. After the war ended, the Royal Air Force took over until the British withdrew from the island in 1967. If it weren’t for these invading foreigners, Changi would have remained a backwater marshland, nevermind how much blood has been spilled into its surrounding waters.

It wasn’t long before a debate ignited between the two sites, with the Singapore Planning and Urban Research Group (SPUR) recommending Changi over Paya Lebar due to noise concerns for the latter. SPUR consisted of architects and planners from both private and public sectors, including Tay Kheng Soon and William Lim. A Polish town planner named Krystyn Olszewski made the same recommendation in 1971, citing health hazards of having a busy airport in the heart of the city. One disapproving voice against the writing off of 150 million dollars invested in the current airport was Perm Sec Ngiam Tong Dow, who didn’t buy the noise argument. If LKY had listened to the man, the proposal would have its wings clipped, and Changi would today be synonymous with nothing other than an airforce camp, chalets for BBQs and fishing, a haunted hospital, and anyone living around Paya Lebar would need MediShield to cover ruptured eardrums.

1974 brought the first oil shock and slowed the growth of air traffic, and given the delay in building a second runway at Paya Lebar, LKY took the chance to seriously consider an alternative aviation hub and take the ‘$1 billion gamble’, but not without hearing others out. One man who ‘pushed very hard’ for Changi was then Head of Civil Service and future Minister of Defence Howe Yoon Chong, whom LKY referred to as a ‘bulldozer’.  Howe and his Special Committee on Airport Development team did a final re-appraisal and concluded that Changi was the future of civil aviation. In fact, in PM Lee’s eulogy of the man, not only was his ‘vision and tireless energy’ acknowledged, but it was Howe who proved Goh Keng Swee wrong when he insisted that the MRT, and not an all-bus system, was the future of  public transport.

The dirty work of running the project after Cabinet approved of the shift fell to Sim Kee Boon,  who had the unenviable task of coordinating various agencies to turn a shabby military airbase into one of the finest airports the world has ever known. In Ong Teng Cheong’s opening ceremony speech in 1981, he expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the project, Howe, Sim, down to the contractors and sub-contractors. Well, everyone, except a certain Lee Kuan Yew.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Except that with LKY’s passing, his role in the making of Changi Airport has been, rather predictably, exaggerated. It was a series of fortunate, and unfortunate, events (the War, oil crisis), and the foresight and toil of other people, not just LKY, that led to the materialisation of the dream airport that we’ve become so proud of. In fact, if we were to rename Changi Airport to LKY Airport, it would diminish not just the man’s greatness, but those who contributed so much of their lives to make Changi what it is today. Let there be an aviation museum if you will, but let’s celebrate not just LKY but the people behind the scenes, criminally omitted from our history textbooks, without whom Changi Airport would remain a mere flight of fancy.

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