Barney the crocodile found dead at Kranji Reservoir

From ‘Death of wild crocodile a mystery’, 4 May 2014, article by Feng Zengkun, Sunday Times

A 400kg crocodile, probably one of the largest to have roamed wild here in decades, has been found dead on the Kranji Reservoir grounds. Fondly nicknamed Barney by anglers, its death has puzzled experts as the creature had seemed relatively young and healthy, and had no visible injuries.

National water agency PUB, which oversees the area, said it was informed about the dead reptile about three weeks ago. The 3.6m-long saltwater crocodile was disposed of at a nearby farm.

More saltwater crocodiles – the world’s largest reptile and known to be formidable predators – have been spotted in Singapore in recent years. Last year, about 10 of them were found living in waters around the north-western coastline, up from two in 2008.

There have also been regular sightings at Sungei Buloh and around Kranji Reservoir, although PUB said none had been reported in Kranji in 2012 and last year.

…Anyone who spots a crocodile should keep away from it and not provoke it. Once at a safe distance, they should contact PUB’s 24-hour call centre on 1800-284-6600 or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.

This croc tips the scales

Reticulated pythons seem to be under the charge of a different agency (ACRES), though both reptiles can be nasty predators. So what happens if one finds a python swimming in a reservoir? Call PUB, ACRES or AVA? Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s LARGEST living reptiles, and I thought naming the deceased beast after a singing, purple dinosaur that haunts every parent’s dreams was pretty clever. So a tiny country like ours with limited wild spaces has both the largest crocodiles and largest pythons on EARTH. How are we still ALIVE?

Here is a quick social history of crocs in Singapore:

Croc trapping: In 1894, a croc was sighted in what was known as the ‘Impounding Reservoir’ on Thomson Road and men attempted to snare it using an elaborate trap called a ‘nibong’, which involves a dead duck as bait and a coconut. This cruel device  lacerated the croc from within after it swallowed the bait, and was found dead soon after. We didn’t give them affectionate names then; it was just called a BRUTE. Well thankfully, trapping has become more humane since, though these bait-and-cage devices  kinda makes the living fossil look pretty dumb too. Even if they’ve been around far longer than our own species.

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Badass Croc killers: In 1911, a croc was gunned to death at Serangoon River by a certain D.C Cook with a Browning automatic pistol. Aw Boon Haw, of Tiger Balm fame, himself tried to shoot one with his revolver but missed (1925, Katong). We had our very own ‘Crocodile Hunter’ in the form of Boey Peng Kow, who was charged for reckless shooting in 1935. 2 years later, an Australian showed his prowess in HARPOONING crocs as if they were sturgeon. An instructor for the Singapore Trade School showed off his trophy catch after killing one with a single shot (1939), posing in the kind of photo that today would earn a million ‘Likes’ on Facebook or Instagram. Such Crocodile Dundees don’t exist anymore. We don’t conquer wild animals and pose with our feet on them like hunters do. We do SELFIES, or worse, COLLAGES of selfies of some utterly meagre accomplishment. Or tell everyone that we completed a 3.5 km jog on Runkeeper.

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Croc attacks: A child went missing after being dragged into the Ulu Pandan river by a croc (1946). An Indian labourer was MAULED by one which he kept as a PET.  In 1989, the Police opened fire on a charging croc in Seletar. Other than these rare cases, you’re probably as likely to be eaten by a croc as being gored by a wild boar. Heck, there’s a higher chance of you being stung to death by angry bees.

Croc harvesting: Croc skinning and tanning was a thriving business in the 1930’s. In the late 40’s you could even BUY your own baby crocodile for about $25. So much in demand was croc leather that people would resort to stealing baby crocodiles. In 1970, FIFTY FOUR of these babies were nicked from croc ‘nurseries’. Singapore’s Heng Long Tannery was one of the top five croc tanneries in the WORLD in 2011, recently acquired by French luxury group LVMH, which also snapped up Crystal Jade. Of course Singaporeans get more worked up about local companies getting bought over by Europeans when food is involved, caring little about crocodile hide processing.

Croc haunts (other than rivers and reservoirs): In 1949, a 41/2 foot long croc was found in a Geylang DRAIN.  In 1991, another sighting took place in a monsoon drain at Fort Road (Crocodile spotted in monsoon drain at Fort Road, 22 Sept 1991). One wandered onto Tuas SHIPYARD in 1998.

Croc attractions: The Jurong Crocodile Paradise was conceived in 1987, and cost $8 million to build. It closed down in 2006, only to be replaced by The Village@Jurong Hill, a suburban mall. The theme park featured a female croc named HULK HOGAN, who bit off part of a performer’s FACE during a show in 1989. Less well known was a place in East Coast Park since 1981 called the Singapore CROCODILARIUM, which featured crocodile WRESTLING. Even earlier than these, we had the crocodile farms of the 70s. The longest surviving one, the Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin and Crocodile Farm, closed shop in 2012. Today, you can find the most crocodiles, or rather what’s left of the reptile, in the bag wardrobe of socialite Jamie Chua. Or you could just head down to Kranji Countryside’s Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm. Gone are those head-in-jaws of death stunts, the only thing I remember about my trip to the gone-but-not-forgotten Jurong attraction. If you want death-defying thrills in Jurong these days, there’s Jem mall.

Croc love: In 1979, a woman in Tampines kept a pet croc named – wait for it – CROCKY.  In 1988, the press portrayed elusive crocs in Seletar reservoir as our very own ‘Loch Ness monsters’. Maybe we should name the next croc we spot ‘Nessie’.

Croc logos: Clothing giant Singapore Crocodile had a legal tussle with Lacoste in 2006 over similar logos. Our brand eventually won, partly because the court found that the ‘head of the Singaporean Crocodile poses towards left while the French Lactose’s head towards right’. Lacoste was formed first, by the way, 10 years before Crocodile in 1943.

Croc pervs: Crocodile in Malay is ‘Buaya’, a term used to describe a different kind of ladykiller altogether, though rather outdated in my opinion. In 1936, a ‘buaya’ was a ‘favourite epithet for an untrustworthy scoundrel, guilty of evil deeds’. It wasn’t until the 90’s that it was used to describe flirts and womanisers.

Croc eats: Crocodile meat seems more palatable than python. Braised crocodile tail is a popular dish which you can snap up at the ‘Old Geylang’ eatery. We also used to have a stall at Old Airport Road named ‘Singapore King Crocodile’, which sells ‘croc meat bak kut teh’. Presumably it tastes like a hybrid of chicken/pork. No surprise that Barney was sent to the nearest farm then. Maybe you can have a taste of him when you can buy CROCODILE BAK KWA.

UPDATE: ST Forum published a statement by PUB (PUB probing crocodile’s death, 16 May 2014, ST) revealing that Barney might have been hunted down by poachers, as he was found with a large fish hook in his mouth and a metal rod impaled in his eye. The only croc farm remaining in Singapore, Long Kuan Hung Crocodile farm, has denied that it received Barney’s carcass as what the ST previously reported. The killers remain at large, while everyone else is caught up in the media frenzy over 5 boys who spray painted a wall.

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‘Little Chinatown’ Geylang is a potential powder keg

From ‘Step up safety in Geylang, say MPs, grassroots leaders’, 30 March 2014, article by Amelia Tan, Sunday Times

Geylang Members of Parliament and grassroots leaders want more done to keep the area safe, and say the measures should go beyond ramping up police patrols. Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong wants fewer alcohol licences issued, stricter operating hours for businesses near residential estates, and a stop to foreign worker dormitories sprouting near Housing Board flats.

…Geylang has come under fresh focus after Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said last Tuesday that he was more worried about the area than Little India, where a riot involving foreign workers took place last December. Testifying at the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot, he said crime rates in Geylang were disproportionately high and hostility towards the police rife.

Mr Tong told The Sunday Times that the red-light district, with its many bars and lounges, peddlers selling contraband cigarettes and drugs, as well as shops and vendors which stay open late into the night make Geylang more of a potential trouble spot than Little India and increase the risk of violent crime.

…He also highlighted the predicament of those living in Blocks 38 and 39 Upper Boon Keng Road, off Lorong 3 Geylang. The HDB flats are beside a row of terraced houses which have been converted into dormitories for workers from South Asian countries.

Many of the workers drink alcohol at the void decks of the blocks late into the night and some urinate at the playgrounds. Mr Tong said the problems have not been solved despite his asking police to increase their patrols. He said: “I think the solution is to stop the houses from being used as dorms. They are just too near the HDB flats.”

Grassroots leader Lee Hong Ping, 45, who labelled Geylang “Little Chinatown”, said crowds of foreign workers from China can cause traffic jams when too many of them gather on the pavements and spill onto the roads. Residents have also complained about not feeling safe at night.

The Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee described Geylang as a hotspot for ‘lawlessness’ and a congregation area for ‘unsavoury characters’. The Police also cited statistics that the level of public order offences and crime were almost twice as high as that in Little India in 2012, thus the ‘powder keg’ analogy. Another ST report carried the headline ‘People in Geylang speak of an ‘undercurrent of fear’ (March 30, 2014) based on the refusal of some residents to talk to the press. The authorities should be wary, however, not to focus too much on buffing up security at these ‘enclaves’ while neglecting other public areas when random people get slain. Since the Little India incident, we’ve all but forgotten about what went on in the very beating heart of the city, gang fights at Orchard Cineleisure for instance.

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There’s no question that the Lorongs are where resentment of authority is rampant. In 2007, a crowd of 200 gathered around 4 undercover police officers on an illegal gambling raid operation and threw rubbish and beer bottles at them, forcing one officer to draw his weapon on one of the men in the crowd. It had all the makings of a full blown riot, though today we’re unlikely to see the level of violence of the secret society clashes in the 1920s, where the police don’t just get glasses and rocks tossed at them, but BOMBS as well. There’s no evidence that alcohol had anything to do with these events, though some shopkeepers admit that vice is a crowd-puller and good for business.

Geylang may be called ‘Little Chinatown’ today, but according to some sociologists in 2009, Geylang was already the NEW Chinatown when PRCs started flocking to the area to set up shop, while its older sibling with its annual gaudy CNY decorations has morphed into a tourist town, today complete with giant LCD advertising screens and a ‘food street’ that’s clearly designed to draw tourists on a hawker mecca. We’ve already lost our vintage Bugis Street, we don’t want the same fate to fall on ‘Little Chinatown’ now, do we?

The police may think that Geylang, with all its vice and sleaze, is a time bomb waiting to explode. Residents worry about their wives or daughters when they go out at night. But to anyone with a sense of history or adventure, the ‘unsavoury’ nature of Geylang is part of its gritty, trashy charm, a seedy side of Singapore that remains largely unsanitised and brimming with a thrilling sense of ghetto sprawl and chaos, like the Chinese Harlem except that the only protection you need is not a personal weapon, but personal contraception. It has even been called a mini ‘United Nations’ of street-walkers. This is a place you won’t see on our tourist brochures, but any Singaporean will try to tempt a foreigner to have a taste of it. With a nudge and a wink of course.

 

 

Policeman arrested for Kovan double murder

From ‘Shock, disbelief at cop’s arrest’, 14 July 2013, article by Terrence Voon, ST

…Senior Staff Sergeant Iskandar Rahmat, 34, was nabbed in Johor Baru on Friday night for the murders of motor workshop owner Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son, Mr Tan Chee Heong, 42. A 14-year veteran of the force and a member of the Bedok Police Division, he was facing financial difficulties and disciplinary proceedings. Checks showed that the married man was declared bankrupt last Thursday, a day after the murders.

His relationship to the victims is not yet clear, but he met the older Mr Tan at least once, when the latter reported a theft from a safe deposit box last year. Iskandar was brought back to Singapore yesterday as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee broke the news about his identity at a sombre press conference.

“I cannot remember the last time a murder suspect was also a police officer,” a grim-faced Mr Ng told reporters. “You may have seen this kind of thing depicted in the movies and on TV, but when it happens for real, it hits you like a freight train.”

DPM Teo, who is Home Affairs Minister, said if Iskandar is proven guilty, his crime would have tarnished the reputation of the police, but nobody is above the law.

You don’t need a sensational murder to ‘tarnish the reputation of the police’. The ‘Home Team’ isn’t perfect, and every Singaporean knows it, that very occasionally our enforcement officers have succumbed to sexual gratification or been so negligent in their duties they let a jailed terrorist escape from a toilet. The ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine has been referenced so often in pop culture that we readily assumed that such ‘bad eggs’ do exist in real life. Donning a uniform and a badge doesn’t protect you from the basest of urges, be it greed, lust or homicidal rage, so when we were told that there’s a killer cop in the force, the only thing that surprises me is that Sergeant Iskandar could still enjoy a seafood dinner with a friend at Danga Bay JB after slashing two people and dragging one under a car.

But just to jiggle our Commissioner’s memory a little, cops HAVE killed innocent people in the past. Most of these incidents occurred pre-Independence, and appear to be committed on impulse. If Iskandar is found guilty of premeditated murder however, it may very well be the first such case in history, though I wouldn’t call it a ‘freight train’ hitting us as if we never saw it coming.

1924: A ‘Pathan’ policeman shot a colleague to death in an Orchard Road police station, supposedly after a quarrel.

1934: Constable Abdullah Khan, in the midst of an argument, hit a man on the head with a ‘piece of stick’, leading to his eventual demise at the junction of Rochore Canal Road and Arab Street.

1946: Inspector Vadivellu Pillay was charged with murder after beating a detainee to death. The victim, Arumugam, denied Pillay’s accusations that he was a Communist.

1947: Jonat Bin Dollar, charged for murdering a Chinese. Ran amok and detained in a mental hospital. In his rampage at Stamford Road, he reportedly almost decapitated a man with a parang.

1960: 19 year old constable Shu Ang Moh was sentenced to 5 years in prison for fatally stabbing a soldier in the chest during a brawl which resulted from a staring incident.

 This isn’t taking anything away from the police, of course, and I trust that they’ll continue to secure our homes and streets after uncovering a snake in the grass. Without them we wouldn’t dare go for a movie at Orchard Cineleisure after midnight, nor would we have anyone to call in case a teacher bullies our kid in school. I wonder how the producers at Crime Watch are going to tackle this incident. Perhaps in conceptualisation stage as we speak, this ‘Killer Cop’ episode may well be the most watched one ever.

Pulau Ubin villagers paying rent to SLA

From ‘No plans to evict Pulau Ubin residents’, 13 April 2013, article by Eugene Neubronner, Today online

Contrary to online speculation and some media reports, the authorities yesterday clarified that “there are no plans to evict the households currently residing on Pulau Ubin or develop an Adventure Park on the island”. Issuing a joint statement, the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) reiterated: “The planning intention is to keep Pulau Ubin in its rustic state for as long as possible as an outdoor playground for Singaporeans. Given this, there is no need for the residents to move out.”

The speculation started after some residents on the island received a notice signed off by an official with the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) Land Clearance Section, which carried the header “Clearance scheme: Clearance of structures previously acquired for development of Adventure Park on Pulau Ubin”. The authorities clarified that on March 12, the HDB, acting on behalf of the SLA, informed the residents of a census survey in Pulau Ubin. They added that these households had been informed as far back as 1993 that they would be affected by a public development project, which included the development of a recreation park.

“To align with the rustic nature of Pulau Ubin and its planning intention, outdoor adventure elements were included in the recreation park, for example, trails for cycling and hiking, campsites and amenities like shelters and toilets,” the MND and the SLA said.

…The MND and the SLA said that the affected houses sit on what is now state land, and the households were now residing on state land without the required Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL). If they wish to stay on, they would need to obtain a TOL and pay rent — generally pegged at market rate — to the SLA.

If you want a taste of true ‘kampung’ spirit, look no further than Ubin, often cited as the ‘last bastion’ of rustic, indigenous wilderness. 10 years ago you could spot leopard cats, hornbills and wild boars and bask in the nostalgic Old-World smell of chicken droppings. Thrill-seeking lovers could elope there to set up campfires, cook meals in mess-tins and get lost in mangroves without being marauded by eco-tourists and moutain bikers. But perhaps not for much longer, based on the revelations of the White Paper, as we are already seeing the gradual transformation of what was once an idyllic stone quarry sanctuary into Sentosa in one of her pre-casino incarnations, a ‘fun-in-the-sun’ getaway for fans of outdoor adventure.

The selling point of Ubin has always been a ‘rustic CHARM’, a ‘throwback’ to old Singapore, but history tells us that our relentless march towards progress will somehow squeeze every last drop of its kampung soul dry. Today it may be a bike park or OBS school, tomorrow a luxury beachside villa, and you could still call Ubin ‘rustic’, ‘raw and untouched’, even when this ‘charm’ has been reduced to a puny saltwater pond in some rich man’s backyard and the only fishermen you see on the island are the ones charging you for prawning rod and bait at a spa resort, or giving urban folk a demo of how to toss a fishing net in the visitors’ centre. A far cry from Ubin’s strange, astounding natural and social history, one that boasts of temple devotees of Barbie dolls, straying elephants from Johor, sightings of dugongs, monitor lizards as well as the site of a 1920’s Chinese secret society ritual.

According to Infopedia, an ‘expressway road and a Mass Rapid Transit rail system linking the mainland’ was planned for after the year 2030. As it is, Ubin already boasts a couple of resorts, including the Celestial Resort owned by Marine Country Club which aims to ‘give glitzy Sentosa’ a run for the money, where Singaporeans and can go unwind, enjoy lush greenery, and frolic around in wild lallang for a staycation . A 100 year old kampong house has also been refurbished as a Lonely Planet endorsed Cookery Magic culinary school, where you can make Nasi Kerabu with ‘jungle herbs’. Plans for an adventure park comes as no surprise really; it’s just a sweatier theme park with no rides, air-conditioning or Wi-fi, and has been talked about for decades. In 1996, then Minister of National Development Lim Hng Kiang announced that HALF of Pulau Tekong would be turned into a ‘recreational’ centre. I remember drinking fresh coconut from a dishevelled hut along one of the bike trails some years back. On my next trip to the island there could very well be a Gong Cha outlet in place of it.

Although the government hasn’t forced their hand YET, the slow creep of modernisation and tourism overspilling onto Ubin because of our mainland exploding at its seams may drive residents away from the maddening crowd sooner or later, with or without the additional rental fee. In 1989, S Jayakumar said that Ubin residents were ‘not immune to the law’, and if they were, ‘drug addicts and other criminals’ would be headed for the island. Ironically, the island once housed political detainee Lee Tee Tong in 1980, as well as a boatload of Vietnamese refugees in 1978.

So urban dwellers, time to grab your tumblers, hiking boots and mess tins, relish the last remains of a kampung island, and let’s all sing Dayung Sampan, shall we?

Eve Tan calling Malays low educated and lazy

From ‘Disgust over Eve and Ivy cyber rants’, 10 Oct 2012, article by Ian Poh, ST

INTERNET users are calling for action to be taken against two other people who posted controversial comments on Facebook. They said the posts’ authors should be dealt with in a similar way to Ms Amy Cheong, the woman fired on Monday for making racially offensive remarks about the Malay community.

One of the two Facebook users, who called herself Eve Tan, also posted derogatory comments about Malays, branding them “low educated” and “lazy”. They were apparently made last month in response to a question on the Health Promotion Board’s profile page. When others challenged her, she replied: “Get real, just see the truth.”

Another Facebook user calling herself Ivy Lim has also come under scrutiny for comments posted on the site. She had written: “Looks like all th(e) Malays can’t get over it. Poor thing!”

…Mr Nazry shared a screenshot of Ms Tan’s controversial comment and captioned it: “A fine example of complete ignorance portrayed by our very own Singaporeans.

“It truly, truly disappoints me that some of us are no longer sensitive and tolerant to the feelings of other races. Whatever happened to racial harmony/tolerance?”

Close call for those who ‘Liked’ this

Hence ‘$50 void deck weddings’

I do agree that this is a ‘fine example of complete ignorance’, because you’d have to be a complete moron to post such things on Facebook in light of how ‘netizens’ react to touchy race issues these days. In a separate post, Eve Tan gave some dubious statistics about how Malays make up the majority of prisoners and underaged smokers. Facebookers like her aren’t the only Singaporeans caught expressing the ‘hard truth’ about local Malays. There’s another more important and renown personality who knows a thing or two about the Malay psyche, and if he had a Facebook account, I wonder if he would be publicly slammed in the media or summoned by the police for ‘investigations’ as well.

Last year, LKY’s Hard Truths was branded as ‘haram‘, or forbidden to Muslims, by the Malaysian government (You may still get a copy from the nearest bookstore). According to Wikileaks, he called Islam a ‘venomous’ religion. He also urged Muslims should let go of some strict religious observances and be more sociable when eating with others, a statement regretted by both his own son and Minister Yaacob who had to apologise on his behalf. The AMP (Association of Muslim Professionals) criticised him for implying that Malays are lagging behind in terms of educational levels compared to Chinese and Indians. But like Amy Cheong’s comment on Muslim marriages, perhaps we should step back and reflect before grabbing the flaming pitchfork and raze Eve and Ivy’s houses to the ground.

In 2009, a 10 year report on PSLE maths reported a plunge in performance for Malays in that subject from 1999 to 2008, along with poorer results overall compared to Chinese and Indians. Teachers cited the reason for poor math as Malay students seemingly resigning to this as a ‘personal flaw’ by nature, as well as their not being able to afford tuition like the other races. Even with free tuition sponsored by Mendaki, there were ‘indifferent’ parents who did not bother sending their kids for classes. PSLE may not the most reliable marker for the success of an ethnic group, but this does highlight the complex interplay between educational level, family income, a system that has become heavily dependent on tuition and a perceived less-than-enthusiastic attitude towards academic performance.

It’s not so easy to back up ‘facts’ about Malays committing crimes though. The Singapore Prison Service Annual Statistics offers no data on ethnic proportion in jails in 2012, although in 2004, the Chinese still made up the majority of inmates (> 40%) with Malays in second place. What has been reported, though, is that the number of Malay drug abusers arrested has increased by 6.8% compared to drops among Chinese and Indian addicts in the first half of this year (vs the first half of 2011). In 2010, stats were released to Khaw Boon Wan showing that the number of Malay smokers aged 30-39 was DOUBLE that of Chinese or Indians. You can also find data to justify your claim that ‘Malays are too fat’ or have more births out of a wedlock, but I wouldn’t expect to get reliable information on teenage pregnancies, violent crime or PSLE/O Level failures, and perhaps for good reason.

All this talk about ‘lazy Malays’ reinforces the  ‘Relac one corner’ stereotype and racist jokes about chauffeurs named Ahmad, and it is one that is entrenched deep in Singapore-Malayan history. In the 20’s you could write freely about how the Malays are ‘cursed with the lazy spirit’ and have a ‘marvellous ingenuity of avoiding work’.   Malays continued to defend themselves against the ‘cruel epithet’ that is ‘The Lazy Malays’ into the 50’s. They were described as a ‘leisure-loving, lazy people contented with what little success they have’, formed the bulk of ‘grass cutters, drivers, PEONS and clerks’ and were struggling in school because of laziness and ‘lack of willpower’. It even appeared in school humanities textbooks in 1956, where Malays were described as ‘lazy and indolent’. Malayan historian Sir Richard Winstedt was accused of writing an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that they were ‘lazy, dishonest and immoral’. It was later attributed to an anonymous correspondent and another white fellow called Sir Hugh Clifford (of whom Clifford Pier was named after). Half a century later and despite societal advancements, this mindset about certain races or classes remains as narrow as before.

In 2004, a motivational guru from Malaysia delivered a reality check on the state of the Malays, which he believed was ‘rotting':

The Malays are hardworking, but not as consistently hardworking like other races. They are only hardworking in things they are passionate about. The successful races are hardworking in whatever they do.

Malay-bashing isn’t just limited to Singaporeans. A Malaysian-Hainanese rapper named Wee Meng Chee, or Namewee, ranted against the Cantonese, Singaporeans and ‘Bumi’ Malays in a song called ‘Kawanku’ in 2007, where Malays ‘ tak suka kerja’ (don’t like to work), ‘tiap hari tidur’ (sleep everyday) and would regret if there were no Chinese in Malaysia because of one less holiday (CNY). Namewee is considered a seditious troubemaker to the Malaysian authorities, and if anyone came up with something similar in Singapore, they would spend a few weeks hanging out in a cell with people who have sex with underaged prostitutes, while their racist rap goes viral on Youtube.

Well, we are all hardworking in things we love doing. Perhaps the Malays love doing some stuff more than others, and even if they’re lagging behind in terms of what we traditionally view as academic success or an illustrious career, look no further than our fertility rate by ethnicity to see what the Chinese and Indians are lagging behind the Malays in. What really matters now, an issue of national EMERGENCY, is being hardworking in an activity that is the complete opposite of ‘work’ altogether.

I haven’t watched Avenue Q at MBS, but I wonder if this song is still on the playlist after recent events.

Fitness freaks leaping up and down the Cenotaph

From ‘Lack of respect at war memorial’, 1 Sept 2012, article by David Ee, ST

KEEP-FIT enthusiasts have attracted controversy by leaping up and down the steps of a memorial for soldiers killed in the two world wars. The 20-strong group congregates on Thursday evenings at The Cenotaph in Esplanade Park.

War historians and other commentators have criticised their choice of workout venue, saying the memorial is “sacred ground”. “It is a solemn site and should be used responsibly,” said history professor Brian Farrell from the National University of Singapore.

…The keep-fit enthusiasts have been working out at The Cenotaph as part of a training regime organised by Journey Fitness. Group member Ngo Tien Leok felt that the memorial’s central, public location gave them every reason to use it, especially as land is scarce in Singapore. The 38-year-old IT manager said that he does not consider the site sacred, adding: “I’ve not been through a war. I don’t feel a connection to it.”

…Associate Professor Kevin Blackburn, who teaches history at the National Institute of Education, felt Singapore could do more to make people aware that war memorials are sacred. For example, wreaths could be laid all year round. “Singapore tends to downplay some of its monuments,” he said.

Mr Ben Pulham, who co-founded Journey Fitness, said he had no idea that the structure the group was using was actually a war memorial. Asked if he would change the training venue now that he knew, the 31-year-old said he probably would not.

“We saw another group doing the same thing,” he said. “We’re celebrating life by encouraging people to be active, that’s my take on it.”

Hands up those who ‘planked’ here before

Well that’s the whole purpose of a memorial isn’t it, to remind future generations who’ve ‘never been through war’ (or never will) that our country had its share of martyrs, or that we even HAD wars. Nobody’s asking tourists or joggers to bow their heads in gratitude or forcing anyone to lay flowers at the Cenotaph’s base and weep like war widows, but using the Cenotaph steps as a free gym under the excuse of ‘land scarcity’ is like a hurdler leaping over headstones in a cemetery because he has nothing else to practice on. In a previous post, some Rock of Ages churchgoers decided to use the Kranji War memorial for an ‘Amazing Race’. Well at least the recently completed (and smugly successful) Diner En Blanc didn’t make the memorial grounds their ‘secret location’.

The article above also mentioned a ‘rock music’ fashion shoot at the Civilian War Memorial in 2009, which would make sense if you were doing a ‘Thriller’ theme. And then there’s this, people taking the same place for a Kenko Fish Spa.

My feedback to bring in piranhas went unanswered

Do we hold anything sacred outside our handheld devices anymore? Have our hallowed grounds become playgrounds for tourists and ‘keep-fit’ enthusiasts? Will the Cenotaph become part of a celebrity magician’s disappearing monument act? Will couples continue to make out beneath the names of those killed in war? Before we had joggers, our colonists adopted a sternly reverential, but condescending, attitude towards the treatment of the newly erected Cenotaph. In 1922, the structure was ‘desecrated’ by ‘scores of NATIVES sprawling on the steps in almost every conceivable posture of inelegance‘ (A CLASSIC line that I’m tempted to use on people who slouch on chairs). It also wasn’t a place meant for ‘half clad coolies’ and ‘TRAMPS’ and any suspicious activity, be it even STEPPING FOOT on it, would be dispersed by policemen (Today we have half-clad desecrators of a different sort altogether). In the 1940s, some locals were particularly picky over the sarcophagi design, expressing ‘abhorrence’ over mobs of hawkers and loiterers squatting on the steps. Today, only historians lament the abuse of those sacred steps, and they don’t even sound local. I wonder how many of us today even know what this Cenotaph is about, other than something important that’s not the statue of Stamford Raffles, the Merlion, or Marina Bay Sands.

The suggestion of laying wreaths habitually in memorandum of the fallen wouldn’t work. Other than the rain and humidity dashing the tributes making it look like like a florists’ wagon crashed into the structure, the gifts would probably get stomped upon by people doing squat-jumps or stolen by cheapskate lovers. I would suggest a ‘Memorial Day’ holiday to make remembrance of unsung war heroes who, unlike many today, have something to give up their lives for. This would be perfectly aligned to PM Lee’s ideal of ‘Hope, Heart and Home’, attributes which our glorious dead embodied in more ways than us lucky bastards can ever imagine.  Instead of hothousing kids in tuition classes, parents could take their kids ‘memorial hopping’, and impress upon our children that life wasn’t all rosy in the past, even if it means making up stories about some granduncle who was badass enough to skewer an entire platoon of Japs with a bayonet before blowing himself up and bringing an entire tank squadron with him ala Medal of Honour, a time when the word ‘brave’ meant the will to charge at the enemy, not ask the prettiest girl in class out for a date in Gardens by the Bay.

Are the words ‘Our Glorious Dead’ not obvious enough to alert people like Ben Pulham that this is no ordinary piece of granite in the park? Should we change the inscription to ‘In Dearest Memory of Soldiers who Died in War’? One could argue that you can respect the dead by making a ‘celebration ‘out of their sacrifice. After all, another inscription does say ‘They died so we might LIVE’, like how some families honour the departed by slow-dancing at their wake. I mean, nobody’s going to stop you from attaching balloons on your dead relative’s coffin, provided he was a professional clown. If one may consider brutal training regimes and marathon running as ‘a celebration of life’ and a reason to run riot over the Cenotaph, then anything goes really. By defining ‘living’ so loosely rather than out of reflective indebtedness, why stop at jogging all over the monument? How about shaking your bon-bon and singing ‘Living Da Vida Loca’ on the steps? Halloween is also coming up, by the way.

Labelling cenotaph-hoppers ‘Keep-fit’ enthusiasts is an understatement when referring to members of groups like Journey Fitness. According to the company website, you can enroll for a package that includes a ‘lactate test’ and ‘fuel efficiency’ test, which makes me wonder if this is a club for humans or cyborg hamsters.  This being the Seventh Month and all, perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry and not mess around with the Cenotaph, whether you’re a lactate-producing adrenaline junkie or a random loiterer. You wouldn’t want to hear the wails of dying soldiers and muffled gunfire while doing your burpees on its steps.

Mentally ill man punching Flag Day fundraiser

From ‘Hold family of mentally ill patient responsible for public misdeeds’, 1 Aug 2012, ST Forum

(Edward Zaccheus): MAY I plead with families of mentally ill people not to let their loved ones roam freely in public (“Dealing with mentally ill offenders”; July 6)? Last year, I was punched twice by a mentally ill adult while I was seeking donations for Flag Day along Waterloo Street. I called the police, who arrested him and sent him to the Institute of Mental Health where he was once a patient.

I could not seek compensation because my assailant was a mental person. When I contacted his family, I was chided for calling the police; instead of admitting responsibility for improperly caring for his mentally disabled father, the son blamed me. The incident has convinced me that while the mentally ill should rightfully be protected by the law, those in charge of their care must be held responsible for a mentally ill person’s misdeeds in public, especially if they are violent.

The relatives should be responsible enough to ensure that the public is safe from potentially violent behaviour.

If the writer wasn’t punched in the face, he would have gotten the same treatment as DJ Glenn Ong for his remark on ‘mad dogs’ needing to be put to sleep.  But you don’t need ex-patients, or escaped patients, to cause a ruckus in public. Anyone diagnosed with even a behavioral disorder like depression may snap in public, especially those who push old ladies off a bus.  The writer later clarified in a follow up letter on 7 Aug  that he was referring only to mentally ill people with ‘violent tendencies’. Perhaps Zaccheus was unlucky here; we’re more likely to be bruised in a scuffle with gangsters, road ragers, drunkards or priority seat hogging seniors than mentally ill people looking to thump you on the nose. Most of the bizarre behaviour we see don’t come from mental patients at all. You have pathological liars like Aristocare’s Kelvin Ong, random people roaming about in the nude, and serial pedophiles like Jonathan Wong. Then there’s politicians, whose decisions could affect the livelihoods of not just one poor guy with a donation tin, but everyone in the country.

Letting a dangerously ill person out is like putting a loaded gun in a child’s hand, and here the family plays the role of ‘weaponising’ the child. Yet many perfectly healthy ‘normal’ people out there are capable of the same, if not worse, kind of irrational, unprovoked violence. Who is to decide if a schizophrenic is fit to take a cab without strangling the driver, or a pedophile to soak in as children’s pool without getting frisky? Who can predict how much more dangerous someone like that could be if they’re confined at home? What if they end up hurling crockery from the window in the nude? There are safeguards in place to certify mental patients before they’re fit to be released into society, not so for the teenager who spends 8 hours a day playing bloody shoot-em-up video games and fantasising about running through pedestrians with a chainsaw instead of boobies like normal kids do. We can’t assume all the time that the only thing that separates a violent mental patient and a violent ‘normal’ person is the latter being ‘responsible for their own actions’.

There was a time when you didn’t need to think twice before labelling people with mental disorders. Before Woodbridge was a euphemism for the Mental Hospital, we had an Insane Hospital and Lunatic Asylum.  People who went cuckoo were called MADMEN in the press, and were hosed down by the police for disrupting the peace rather than escorted to the nearest clinic. In the 20’s, someone who went on a killing spree with no fathomable reason was a MANIAC run AMOK, and seemingly had the CUNNING of the INSANE. In the seventies, these patients were labelled ‘ILL’ in quotation marks. We were merciless in our categorisation of the psychotic, yet today, these politically incorrect terms have been defanged of their original usage. Insane and mad have become ‘ridiculous’ as in ‘He’s insane/mad to quit his job now’. Dick Lee calls himself the MAD Chinaman (Chinaman also a derogatory term). Artists are ‘mad geniuses’. Asylum is now something that people SEEK (refugees) instead of RUN AWAY from.  ‘Maniac’ is used to describe obsessive hobbyists, as in ‘He’s a maniac at the gym’, while ‘lunatic’ and ‘amok’ are rarely used these days. In the 80’s, it was OK to use ‘patients with an UNSOUND MIND, though nobody until now can define what a ‘sound’ mind is.

WOODBRIDGE, however, once believed to be named after an ACTUAL wooden bridge, has become synonymous with mental illness, and you can’t go wrong if you use the former instead of IMH when telling a taxi driver to take you there. In 1998, a road named Jalan Woodbridge was wiped off Singapore’s map and replaced with Gerald Drive because of its associations (Jln Woodbridge taken off map, 5 July 1998, ST). In 2002, however, IMH’s CEO tried to run a Club M.A.D campaign, comparing the hospital to the resort Club Med, a poor choice of acronyms (it actually means MAKE A DIFFERENCE) which does absolutely nothing to erase the stigma of mental illness at all, and only to bring us backwards to the jolly ol’ straitjacket days of the Sanitarium.

Ex-Navy chief to handle ponding

From ‘Call it what it is: Flooding’, 27 Dec 2011, Today

(Peter Loon Seng Chee): From a “once in 50 years” event, flooding is now expected in almost every heavy downpour, reducing our first-world roads to a wet mess. But in “No floods in Orchard Rd, just ‘ponding': PUB” (Dec 24). this was referred to as “ponding”.

It would be sad if we resort to word usage to dissipate the impact of these floods. We have been offered reasons, and remedies have been promised, but the issue has become a crisis over the past two years.

Do our officials have a handle on this problem? Has the incessant load of new developments in recent years exceeded the limit of our national drainage system?

The new head of the national water agency, from this month, is an ex-Navy chief. What are the credentials that enable him to head PUB? When my friends from overseas talk about visiting Singapore, they joke about packing canoes and scuba gear, and I am embarrassed to have nothing to say in defence. It is time for a solution.

Cafe or orientation camp?

The CEO in question is Chew Men Leong, who cited his relevant Navy experience in ‘balancing’ to be relevant to ‘maintaining our complex system at a high level of operational effectiveness and efficiency, while keeping an eye on the long term future’. A goal you could attribute to any aspiring organisation really, whether it’s a public amenities board or a kaya toast business. There’s something almost comically naive and ironic about selecting a seaman , whose job is to keep things afloat on large bodies of water, to manage floods; it’s like getting a oil driller tycoon to deal with earthquakes. I would have some faith if Chew had at least submarine admiral experience, when one’s very life depends on the vessel NOT spouting a leak. Or maybe I’ve just watched Crimson Tide once too often.

A Navy chief may know everything there is about seawater, how it tastes, how high it rises when one drops anchor, but ‘ponding’ is really a drainage problem, and the only pipes that most sailors are familiar with are those that Popeye smoke.  However, according to the man’s Facebook page, he’s a trained engineer and Master of Science before military service (which suggests some knowledge about fluid systems). He’s also helmed a missile gunboat, who sounds impressively macho but this time he’s waging war against an entirely different and utterly formidable enemy altogether: Our crazy weather. You also need someone not just with the ground expertise of a mole or a dungeon keeper, but someone with the clout  to put a stop to any activity suspected of aggravating floods at the expense of progress. Wait, don’t we have a minister of Environment and Water Resources for that, you say? He’s a surgeon by profession, so maybe a knowledge of arteries, veins and heart valves may come in handy. ‘Ponding’ would be like fluid congestion or edema in the legs during heart (pump) failure. He just hasn’t figured out how to apply this analogy successfully yet.

But here’s an interesting history of ‘ponding’, and it may surprise some to know that this isn’t a new euphemism for floods at all:

As early as the 20’s, ‘ponding’ wasn’t an apparition of heavy downpours in today’s context. It was in fact used as a PREVENTIVE, and probably outdated, measure against flooding, as in ‘ponding and pumping’. A ‘ponding area’ was used to hold off floodwater during ‘adverse tides’. The first instance of ‘ponding’ being twisted into a euphemism for floods was probably sometime in the early eighties. In fact, the work done then to alleviate ‘ponding’ had nothing to do with tugrope knot-tying skills or yelling ‘Land Ho!'; scupper drains were enlarged, drains unchoked and road depressions were patched, very ‘grounded’ and dirty work indeed. Between a naval officer’s ‘sea legs’ and a road sweeper, I would think the latter has a better eye for ‘ponding’ zones and drainage.

2000 saw the following familiar headline: ‘No floods, only ‘water ponding’ (22 Jan 2000, Today). Not only was this a sloppy cushion for bad news but a bad tautology as well. What else could one find in a ‘pond’ if not WATER? Perhaps a frog sitting on a lotus pad if you’re lucky. My heart goes out to Wendy’s and Starbucks of Liat Towers, but this calls for a change in business model. A poolside cafe, mini bum boat ride for kids, fish spa or prawning deck could do wonders for capital recovery instead of waiting  around for PUB to fix the problem or stacking sandbags, only to watch your burgers and frappuccinos washed away in pond murk. There’s another downside to hiring a Rear Admiral to head PUB though, there’s a pun just waiting to happen if the board fails to live up to its mission: Being ALL AT SEA (hurr hurr!)

Businesses don’t care about Japan Day

From ‘No charity from stores’, 18 March 2011, Voices, Today

(Aleteia Gray): WE HELD a fund-raising event called Japan Day at my children’s school yesterday. I had offered to help organise a stall and thought I would ask for some donations in kind from businesses in our area, to be sold at the fund-raiser.

…To my dismay, when I turned up with my humble pamphlet and donation box at many of the outlets at the shopping centre asking for any kind of donations – be it packets of sweets, soft drinks or even a free coffee – they were quick to tell me no, or that I should come back later or contact their head office.

I got quite cross. I decided to send an email to the supermarket’s head office – and ended up with a donation of 24 bottles of drinking water. The other companies I approached did not even bother replying to my email or phone calls.

In contrast, I was very pleasantly surprised by the manager of a sports store who gave us some apparel to sell. He saw how frustrated I was when I tried asking for a voucher for a free latte from the coffee shop. His sense of duty spoke louder than bureaucracy.

I understand that businesses are run for profit but companies need to acknowledge their social responsibility and offer a helping hand in unfortunate times like this.

The world is an awful lot bigger than Singapore and we never know what position we might find ourselves in tomorrow, so let us all be charitable.

It would have saved Ms Gray here all the trouble in the world (which we know is awful lot bigger than us) if she simply left the donation box at her stall and pasted a Japan flag on it. Or just sell stuff that she bought out of the goodwill of her own heart, inflate the selling price, and donate the profits to the tsunami cause; A win-win situation because shops don’t have to be obligated to donate proceeds of purchases, and tsunami Samaritans can continue to surf the tidal wave of outpouring sympathy along with other suddenly altruistic Singaporeans. Singaporeans who otherwise wouldn’t think twice about shrugging off students canvassing for Flag Day, blind buskers, or old ladies selling tissue paper at hawker centres. Singaporeans who are more engrossed watching Channel News Asia on radiation contamination than the President’s Star Charity over the weekend. Needy Singaporeans are probably wishing that they were struck by a tsunami themselves as we speak.

Did the writer actually intend to sell free vouchers at a fund raiser? Does it even make sense for kids, or anyone for that matter, to pay for vouchers entitling you to free stuff? It’s a terribly inefficient, mindbogglingly roundabout way of doing things, and if you’ve a charitable enough heart, you’d be more than willing to grovel for funds directly from your own school  instead of going around harassing shopkeepers, whose only ‘duty’ here is to support their own families first and foremost, before worrying about the plight of the Japanese people thousands of miles away. Such strong words  like ‘responsibility’, ‘duty’ and (strangely) ‘bureaucracy’ coming out of a person relentlessly projecting her righteous convictions onto others is an insult to philanthropy itself. If the Japanese knew they were receiving aid from an overbearing charity bully who pummels harmless shopkeepers into submission with a cudgel of curmudgeonly compassion, they would probably reject her donations as if it were Yakuza protection money.

And isn’t it a tad hypocritical berating about  ‘social responsibility’ when she’s peddling 24 plastic mineral water bottles which are likely to end up in a landfill leaching toxins, more so in the context of an environmentally conscious society like Japan? It’s like donating beef jerky to Indian disaster victims. If one is really serious about  ‘paying it forward’ for the Japanese people, craft something out of scrap with your own bare hands, an ethic that the Japanese would relate to,  and auction it, not make enemies of people who, for all you know,  are already donating more money to Japan than your puny charity voucher garage sale will ever reap. Of course, there’s a simpler reason why people are not donating; a learned wariness of scamming that occurred even during the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake (Warning, 24 Oct 1923), proof that times of suffering are also the ripest for unsavory characters capitalising on frail human sentimentalities. The world may seem an awful lot bigger to the complainant, but her understanding of the human condition is as awfully simple as it can possibly get.

 

 

Five-hour handcuff imprint

From ‘Photographer handcuffed for taking flood photos’ 18 July 2010, article in Asiaone website

Lianhe Wanbao reported that an experienced photographer (Wu Qing Shun) from their paper was handcuffed by a policeman while he was attempting to take photos of the flood.

…While going up close to the cars to get a better angle for his photo, he was stopped by a policeman who asked him to leave.

Mr Wu said he asked the policeman if he could take another photo politely, but the policeman simply took out his handcuffs and cuffed Mr Wu without another word.

…Indignant, and feeling insulted, Mr Wu said that the imprint from the handcuffs faded only after five hours.

…According to the police statement, Mr Wu was trying to take photos in the middle of the road, which was dangerous, and he continued to take photos even after repeated warnings.

For the safety of Mr Wu and others, they had to handcuff him and move him to a safe area.

Though sounding like a case of nervous media whitewashing with the police officer just short of confiscating the camera entirely lest flood images dampen the impending YOG celebrations, this handcuffing over a minor incident is the same kind of treatment one gets for overstepping the North-South Korea boundary, or penetrating a Taliban training camp, short of having a black sack pulled over his head. Futile though, and only understandable for journalists to  employ death defying measures to earn their keep what with random untrained people uploading flood pics within minutes without the hassle of securing a good vantage point or a professional camera. The flood is beginning to look like our Area 51.  Budding conspiracy theorists rejoice. Still, Mr Wu has to be thankful that his face wasn’t slammed in, nor was he picked on by several officers in the midst of a topless celebration, as seen in this article dated 3 Oct 1987, ‘Too rough with spectator who took off shirt’ ST Forum.

And if you thought white cops manhandling black offenders was a racial issue exclusive to the US, check out this 3 Nov 1921 article to the ST editor ‘Arrested’, where a ‘non-white’ boy stripped off his rights to communicate with a guardian was handcuffed and locked up for ‘riding a bicycle without a lamp’.   ‘Chinamen’ sure didn’t have it easy in those days.

 

 

 

 

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