World Cup Public Holiday hoax reported to Police

From ‘President Tony Tan did not declare July 14 a public holiday: Istana’, 14 July 2014, article in Today

The authorities have clarified that the President’s Office did not issue any letter declaring today (July 14) a public holiday. According to a statement issued by the President’s Office, a “letter circulating on mobile and online platforms in the name of President Tony Tan Keng Yam” had declared July 14 a public holiday.

The President’s Office reiterated that it had issued no such letter, adding that public holidays are announced by the Ministry of Manpower. According to the hoax letter, the holiday was meant to allow all Singaporeans to have a chance to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina, and had the approval of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Government offices would be closed today, the letter claimed.

A police report has been lodged and  investigations are ongoing, police said.

Last year, MP Irene Ng was impersonated by someone posting a fake haze article on The Real Singapore website using a bogus email account. A police report was lodged but I’m not sure if the culprit was ever caught. In the President’s case, not only do you have a potential impersonation charge, but another on ‘false transmission of information’.

The letter is unlikely to cause a premature rapture followed by mass absenteeism in offices since we would typically trust the mainstream media to feed us such vital info. Also if this were genuine, the President wouldn’t have announced the good news only during the FINALS. I doubt the prankster had any malicious intentions, and no one would be dumb enough to take the letter seriously. After all, this ‘Tony Tan’ isn’t declaring war on a neighbouring country, or freaking us out by saying there is a giant asteroid on a collision-course with the planet like what more illustrious presidents do in cosmic disaster movies, so the Police shouldn’t worry about widespread panic or looting on the streets.

There was never a time when a World Cup holiday, or even half-day, was granted in Singapore, not least because we were never in the tournament and therefore have no reason to celebrate as a nation. But that didn’t stop people from urging the government to declare public holidays for other less spectacular occasions, to no avail of course.

1. Former President S R Nathan’s Inauguration Day

2. Hindu and Sikh New Year’s Day (April 13)

3. Lao Zi’s Birthday (Taoist Day)

4. Raffles/Founder’s Day, Lim Bo Seng’s Day, Multi-Racial Day

5. An additional day off for our 25th National Day. We can try asking for this again next year for our 50th.

6. Confucius’ birthday

And here are some facts you never knew about our public holidays.

1. Thaipusam used to be a public holiday.

2. We used to have BANK holidays. THREE in 1960 alone. These were subsequently abolished in 1966.

3. Vesak Day used to be called WESAK Day.

4. Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s birthday, Nov 12,  used to be a public holiday.

5. Before 1968 we had 16 PHs. Today we have 10.

If there’s one thing this hoax taught us though, it’s that there’s actually one LESS thing that our president can do. Now, MOM, how about bringing back a bank holiday or two, then?

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Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.

Police running out of an ambulance like cowards

From ‘Two cops, two different reactions from COI’, 28 Feb 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang, Walter Sim, ST

ONE young officer was praised, a seasoned veteran chastised. Such were the contrasting reactions from the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on day seven of the hearing into the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year.

Even as Sergeant Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani was commended by the committee for confronting the violent mob with only a baton in hand, Senior Station Inspector Muhammad Adil Lawi had to defend his actions, which were recorded on video. The clip, which showed a group of auxiliary police and Home Team officers, including SSI Adil, running out of an ambulance, was circulated widely on the Internet after the incident.

The same footage was played during the inquiry while SSI Adil was on the witness stand yesterday. “You were the law, and you were running away, how does that reflect on the police force?” former NTUC president John De Payva asked the Traffic Police officer.

…When asked by the COI if his decision to retreat was an “act of cowardice“, SSI Adil disagreed and said: “At no time was I afraid.”

See how they run

See how they run

Former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba also blamed the fleeing cops for ‘allowing’ the rioters to take control, despite the vehicle bursting into flames soon after. I wonder what an ex police chief would have done in that situation. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid when you’re clearly outnumbered by a homicidal mob, and you need heroes to live to fight another day when the odds of survival seem low, rather than embark on a suicide mission and put the whole team in jeopardy, especially when our officers have admitted that they weren’t trained for a ‘full scale riot’. They even needed the help of some Good Samaritan workers to dash out of the ambulance in one piece. All that’s missing from the clip is some Benny Hill music.

Way back in the 1950’s during the Maria Hertogh riots, people were also disappointed in the police’s response to unruly mobs, namely ‘running into a five-foot-way’. Others blamed it on the ethnic makeup of the force, lauding Gurkhas while describing Malay constables with kanda sticks as ‘just looking’ on.  So why hasn’t anyone offered suggestions on how the Little India situation could have been better handled then? Should the team have taken the ambulance wheel and mow down violent rioters in GTA fashion, charge out screaming armed to the teeth with defibrillators and syringes, or scatter vials of denatured alcohol like one tossing sausages to a pack of rabid dogs?

Or should we have called THIS GUY?

How to stop a riot Bollywood style

How to stop a riot Bollywood style

Instead of accusing the police of being yellow-bellied cowards, how about considering relative INEXPERIENCE perhaps? No amount of riot simulation exercises will prepare you for the events that unfolded in Little India, it’s like aceing all the drills in NS but still refraining from shooting at a human being in an actual war. No senior officer put on the spot would admit that they were panicking and didn’t know what to do, using terms like ‘evacuation’ and ‘tactical retreat’ when what they were really doing, as most would, was running for their damn lives.

It’s easy, of course, to sit on a COI high chair and praise a lone wolf for charging at the mob risking his life while criticising others for not being badass enough while trapped in a vehicle. The members of the COI look like part of the Expendables themselves. Maybe just posing this way should be enough to make the rioters cower in fear without having to raise a weapon at all.

badassCOI

Police investigating mutilation of new 1 dollar coins

From ‘Hole in $1? That’s what photos online show’, 13 July 2013, article by Pearl Lee, ST

…Barely a month since the launch of Singapore’s latest series of coins, several pictures of $1coins with a hole have been circulating online, leaving some to wonder how it could happen. Only with extreme force, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday, adding that it was an offence to mutilate coins, and that the matter was being investigated by police.

So far, The Straits Times has found three different pictures of a $1 coin with the middle missing, indicating that this may not be an isolated issue.

…The new $1 coin, launched on June 25 as part of a new series, is the only one with a bi-metallic design. The gold part on the outside is brass-plated, while the silver centre is nickel-plated. In a statement, MAS said that its Third Series coins had “undergone stringent tests before circulation”. The $1 coin, in particular, had “gone through numerous tests to ensure the durability of its bi-metallic components”.

On Wednesday, MAS posted a warning against damaging coins on a Facebook page it set up to promote the new coins….Under the Currency Act, a person who mutilates or destroys any Singapore dollar notes or coins may be fined up to $2,000.

They liked it so they put a ring on it

Thanks to the person who posted photos of dislodged $1 coins, now anyone who gets their itchy fingers on one will try to see if they can pop the middle out, like how we poke out parking coupons. While the majority of the police force is shocked by the arrest of the Kovan double murder suspect who turned out to be one of their own, we have some officers scrambling to nab people who mutilate coins in such a foul grisly manner or for possibly posting a hoax on Stomp and causing widespread alarm that the new Singapore bi-metallic currency is defective (in addition to being mistaken for Euros). It also gives new meaning to the term ‘break a dollar’.

According to the Currency Act, it is also a crime to ‘print or stamp, or by any like means write, or impress, on any currency note any mark, word, letter or figure’, which means that if you’re an aspiring magician you may be charged for currency destruction while practicing tricks that involve signing on, tearing or setting aflame 2 dollar notes. If you’re a billionaire you’re also not allowed to wipe shit off your ass with money or light cigars with them, though the $2000 fine is spare change to you anyway. Cash is king after all, so for most of us insulting money is like committing treason against the monarchy. To some, messing with their money is like vandalising the statues of their gods.

Most people would not think of bending a coin out of shape or try to snap it with their teeth, though for the new $1 coin, some may be tampering with it just so to fit the slot on a supermarket trolley as it supposedly should. It’s the bank notes instead that are often the recipient of someone’s rage. A writer to the ST in 1958 threatened to ‘tear up all bank notes’ which bore the image of the Queen or King of England because it reminded him of the yoke of colonialism. In 1965, someone defaced the $10 note with the words ‘Lee Kuan Yew is a Traitor’, stamped in purple ink.

Money talks

Money talks

Defaced paper currency have also been used as communication material for gangs, when the words ‘Black Eagle Gang’ and ‘Pig’s Mind’ were scrawled on money back in 1983. 5 years later, a drunkard was fined $300 for tearing up 2 $20 bills. In a somewhat comical sequence of events in 1989, a man walked up to a police officer, tore a 1 dollar note in front of him saying that he ‘can’t buy beer with it’ and got arrested for his efforts with a fine of $50. The most severe penalty I could dig up was a $1000 fine slapped on a labourer for burning off $205 (Man fined $1000 for burning $205, 23 Dec 1994, ST). These examples of foolish contempt for your own stash suggest that the more money you destroy, the higher your fine, since you behaved like you could bloody well afford it.

I wonder if you’ll get arrested for EATING your money, though.

Silat World champion not winning Sportsman of the Year

From ‘Silat world champ Shakir among those snubbed for sportsman title’, 31 May 2013, article by Goh Jun Yong, St and ‘Puzzling snub to world champ’, 1 June 2013, ST Forum

A world champion, an Olympian, a doubles winner in his sport’s top professional competition and a man who is third in Asia. Yet silat’s Muhammad Shakir Juanda (world champion), sailor Colin Cheng (15th in the men’s Laser class at the London Olympics), table tennis player Gao Ning (ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals doubles winner), and wushu’s Seet Wee Key (Asian Championships bronze medallist) have been snubbed for the country’s top male athlete award.

It is just the third time since its inception in 1967 that the Singapore Sports Awards (SSA) will not have a Sportsman of the Year. The other two times were in 2009 and 2010. Said Singapore Bowling chief Jessie Phua, who also chairs this year’s SSA: “We acknowledge the athletes for their achievements. However, the bar has been raised and, this year, there just wasn’t a milestone that was significant enough for us to give this award out.

“There are definitions of World Championships that the selection committee does not agree with. You must take a look at how many people and countries are actually participating in the event. We can’t begrudge the athlete for conditions that he or she can’t control but, at the same time, we will not compromise on the standards of the award.”

(Yeo Yujin):…If being a world champion, like silat exponent Muhammad Shakir Juanda, is not significant enough, then what is? Can the selection committee be more transparent about its decision-making process? I agree with assistant sports editor Chia Han Keong’s view that an athlete should not be discriminated against just because his chosen sport is not mainstream or popular enough (“Let’s celebrate, not discriminate”; Wednesday).

At a time when we are trying to encourage our young to take up competitive sports, such an attitude from the committee is disappointing. How can we nurture the young if we don’t give them our support? What is there to strive for if your countrymen don’t think your achievements are worth celebrating?

There was a time when silat could have been the next Muay Thai, but martial arts star Iko Uwais didn’t get as much exposure in mainstream cinema as was hoped. Both Sportman and Sportswoman awards have been handed out generously to athletes in swimming, table tennis, badminton and even ten-pin bowling. Another form of non-Olympic martial arts, wushu, was recognised just ONCE in the Sportsman category courtesy of Goh Qiu Bin in 2006, and he wasn’t even a WORLD champion despite doing well in SEA and Asian competitions. Shakir Juanda beat contestants from UK, Netherlands, what he described as a 89kg RUSSIAN TANK and a 1.9m Vietnamese giant to bring glory to the state. The contest script reads like a Bloodsport movie, yet he was snubbed because according to the SSA judges, it just wasn’t a milestone that was ‘significant’ enough. Have these folks even watched the Karate Kid?

A missed opportunity to celebrate an underrated sport, but this isn’t the first time that Shakir’s achievements were glossed over as a nominee. In 2009, the reason given for the lack of any deserving winner then was that ‘the standard of Singapore sports has GONE UP‘. I wonder if that claim was based on the Beijing Olympic medal success of our table tennis foreign talents the year before. If our standard is so high today that we can’t afford to trivialise it by awarding a world champion, why aren’t there more Olympic medals?

It’s not that silat isn’t recognised by the SSA because Sportsboy and Sportsgirls have been crowned for excelling in it the past. Still, Shakir isn’t the only silat sportsMAN who has been deprived of the coveted title. Sheik Alau’ddin, triple Gold medal winner at the SEA games, did not win this as well. Yet, someone like Li Jiawei was given the female equivalent of the award FIVE YEARS in a row (2002-2006), and last reported to be going back to China, probably bringing all 5 trophies with her.

This isn’t the first time that winner selection, or the lack of, has stirred controversy. In 1970, a sports fan complained to Timesport about Henry Tan, second best bowler in the WORLD, losing out to C Kunalan (who won in 1969 and 1970), whom he called a ‘has-been’. Henry later went on to win the same title the very next year (1971) and again in 1976. So if Shakir keeps up the good work and we complain enough, next year may JUST be his year, provided we wake up from this pipe dream of table tennis being the eternal poster-child of Singapore sports.

There’s also a glaring omission from the Sportsman list of winners. You have the legendary likes of Ang Peng Siong, Benedict Tan and C Kunalan, but not the one legend who put Singapore on the world sporting map. Although the SSA formalised the award only in 1967, the title existed since 1961, which nominated individuals from CRICKET and even MOTOR RACING. This ignored individual has been ranked the No 2 GREATEST Singaporean athlete of all time (1999), and the only individual to ever win a silver Olympic medal, yet was NEVER officially awarded a ‘Sportsman of the Year’ (despite being namechecked by a journalist as the Sportsman of 1958)

His name? Tan Howe Liang.

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.

Sungei Road should no longer be called a Thieves’ Market

From ‘Thieves’ Market: Time to stop the name-calling’, 2 Oct 2012, ST Forum

(Tay Boon Suat):IT IS regrettable that people still refer to the market in Sungei Road as Thieves’ Market (“Time catches up with Thieves’ Market”; last Saturday). Yes, years ago, when life was difficult in Singapore, perhaps some dishonest people relied on this place to make a living. But those times are long gone.

In fact, Sungei Road is now known as a place where many poor and old people rely on selling used household articles to make a living. Many of them have been selling goods there for 20 or 30 years. Some of them are creative enough to add value by repairing old household items and in doing this, are able to turn trash into cash.

They are the majority of sellers, and make an honest living, so why call the place Thieves’ Market?

In Singapore, there are very few local traditional markets that have been able to survive since the 1930s, so why destroy them for the sake of modernisation? I hope our urban planners can be more inclusive, and let this little market have some breathing space, and let it survive. Who knows, this karung guni market might some day become as big a local attraction for foreign tourists as the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok.

The Dirty Dozen starting work

In 2008, MP Denise Phua called the Sungei Road market ‘a slum’, and urged authorities to ‘clean it up’, but it’s not just the notorious flea market that’s in a mess, so was Ms Phua’s English:

I’m not seeking to ‘prettify’ the Sungei Road market, but I think it can be cleaner and better managed’

The same MP would be invited to a gala dinner next year to celebrate the launch the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, intended to protect the vendors’ interests. With the MRT development around the area, it would be impossible for Sungei Road to achieve the gonzo hustle and bustle of Chatuchak, but that doesn’t mean it can’t retain it’s ‘old world charm’, or its ‘sustainable model’ of karang guni trading. If there’s any ‘thieving’ going on, it’s how vendors get to set up shop at ‘a steal’, without having to apply for licenses or pay rental. If pitched right, ‘Thieves’ Market could be a weird and wonderful retro curio paradise, a likely place to find a vinyl player, a ship in a bottle or a Walkman. You may even get a ‘wacky’ pepper spray there too.

Although no longer the chaotic haven for crooks to make a quick buck off stolen junk, you just need to go back a couple of years to uncover incidents which justify why this legendary bazaar still has an air of ‘Ali Baba’ about it. In 2010, you could buy suspected contraband like mountain bikes for $300 (usual price $700). It was 60 years earlier that one of the first references of Sungei Road as a ‘thieves’ market’ was made by a certain Court Magistrate D. A Fyfe, who fined a vendor $100 for selling stolen SWIMMING TRUNKS. In a comical twist of events, the thief was caught by the original owners of the trunks HALF an HOUR after they were swiped at Rochor Road. The victims headed straight for Sungei Road to sniff him out, hence the name stuck.

Swimwear and bikes aside, if you’re lucky you may chance upon someone’s car keys, reels of copper wire worth tens of thousands of dollars, or used army uniforms.  But before it earned the reputation as a one-stop garage sale of pilfered bounty, Sungei Road was affectionately known in the 1930’s as ‘Robinson Petang‘, in reference to the ‘Robinsons’ department store where, other than the iffy stuff, most of it was traded from the rag-and-bone, or karang guni, man, stuff ranging from cigarettes to tin cans and gramaphones. It was raw entrepreneurship at work, a spirit that lives on in the many indie flea markets and pasar malams that line our streets today. I still have my suspicions of those paperbacks which I see at some of these roadside stalls. These are books which obviously NOBODY ever reads and I suspect they were ‘borrowed’ from libraries and never returned.

‘Thieves’ Market’ comes across as a romantic, catchy title that brings to mind flying carpets, genie lamps and even lost treasure maps if you let your imagination wander a little, though anyone strolling through the area in the hot sun would consider it anything but. You may still find the occasional yanked bicycle part, car tyre or bootleg Nokia if you search hard enough, but if a flea market run by pot-bellied uncles is called a ‘Thieves’ Market’, then what is Sim Lim Square? Pirates’ Cove?

No Tau Huay allowed at Diner en Blanc

From ‘Bloggers upset over Diner En Blanc rule’, 24 Aug 2012, article by Celine Asril, insing.com

Local food is discouraged at exclusive dinner event titled ‘Dîner en Blanc – Singapore’, and this is not sitting well among some bloggers in Singapore even before they could sit down for a meal. The hush-hush food party is a mass picnic pop-up event taking place at an undisclosed location in the city, set to take place on 30 August.

It apparently started on Tuesday, 21 August, when food blogger Daniel Ang – of Daniel’s Food Diary – posted an entry about Dîner en Blanc. In his post, he provided details about the event. He also jokingly included a list of white-coloured local dishes that diners may take along. Then, four days later, he tweeted, at 2.52pm: “Dear fellow bloggers, this is the post I was told to removed by Dîner en Blanc. I hope I have your support [link provided].” This is the first time he has been asked to remove his blog post, he claims.

When asked why, Ang said, “The French organisers conveyed to the PR company that they were not happy with my post. The argument is that chicken rice and tau huay [bean curd] are not in line with their image.”

Prawns aren’t white

Daniel’s suggestion of local fare such as soon kuey and pohpiah was clearly tongue-in-cheek, though the reaction to Diner En Blanc being a stickler for some fancy-ball theme rules has been overwhelming, verging on a possible boycott and a counter-event being proposed by some powerful bloggers to show who’s boss when it comes to local cuisine. Typical of passionate Singaporeans when something so close to their hearts (and stomachs) is being dissed as ‘peasant food’ by stuck-up foreigners: Organise a copycat local gastronomical event just to irritate the hell out of them. The sheer animosity that Singaporeans feel when our beloved tau huay gets snubbed just goes to show how dearly we identify with the stuff we eat everyday, with the nationalistic fervour and vengeance as if someone defecated on our national flag. What are we, hawker Nazis now?

In response to the furore organiser Clemen Chiang quipped: “The diners have to ask themselves if they are comfortable eating you tiao (fried dough sticks) and drinking champagne. If you feel comfortable putting you tiao on your table, carry on.”(Is Tau Hway too low-class for posh picnic?, 25 Aug 2012, ST). Come off it, NOBODY eats you tiao with champagne. You should pair it with hot almond milk paste or Horlicks, both foods in line with the White theme. Chiang also mentioned that this is really an extravagant pot-luck of sorts, that ‘da-paoing’ is not encouraged, similar to another European invention called the Slow Food movement, something which will probably never take off among ravenous buffet-loving Singaporeans who take less time to finish their food than browse menus.

Some good does come out of such culinary revolt though; thanks to some complaints of curry smells last year, we got ourselves an annual CURRY festival. There’s nothing wrong, or illegal, with having silly pretentious dining restrictions for some party; that’s the whole point of having a THEME, or men owning dinner jackets and bow-ties. For example, foldable tables must be 28″ by 32″ and white. Plastic cutlery and paper plates are forbidden (even if they’re white). Only wine and champagne are allowed, while beer and hard liquour are banned (I suppose Guinness stout wouldn’t make the cut too). But silliest of all is how you’d have to CARRY your own table (not to mention the expensive chinaware) there, dressed like you came out of a Jane Austen novel, or the hospital. In this HEAT. Anyway, if you’re not happy with the rules, if you think it’s snob-porn,  if you don’t want to risk being labelled a ‘cheapskate’, if you don’t want to end up looking like you participated in a Wet T-shirt contest instead of a classy Frenchie picnic, you just don’t attend, plain and simple. You could sign up for the nearest hobo convention for all I care.

Actually, we had Diner en Blancs all along

If I held an ALL-MEAT only party and force my attendees to come dressed only in leather or fur, I would piss off plenty of vegetarians. If I organised a Bollywood party and people come in blackface, someone may make a police report. People who could afford it hold all kinds of weird fetishistic parties in secret all the time, like the Secret Cooks’ Nyamatori feast where people eat off naked bodies. Whether it’s a self-indulgent, ‘atas’ black-tie event with ridiculous standards of etiquette, a swinger’s orgy or a tea party where everyone dresses as a character from Alice In Wonderland, what these people do for fun is really none of my business. In the case of DeB, however, the use of symbolic ‘white’ as a theme also suggests a kind of holy ‘purity’, while some may associate it with Western colonialist opulence and race segregation, as what ‘exclusive’ clubs like Singapore Swimming Club used to do in the fifties, banning locals from the premises even if they dressed to the nines and could discuss cricket like a pro with the nearest cigar-munching Englishman.

Chai Tau Kway (white version) may not make the DeB list of suggested foods, but perhaps they would reconsider if Chan Chun Sing were invited VIP and decided to bring it with him to the party in a bid to win bloggers over. I mean, he could even attend the event straight from Parliament without changing. As local Gangnam style goofs ‘Dee Kosh’ and Co would sing: Give me Tau Huay.

No Arts and Sports in reshuffled Ministries

From ‘Keep Arts and Sports in ministries’ names’, 3 Aug 2012, ST Forum

(Ace Kindred Cheong): I AM saddened that “Sports” and the “Arts” have been omitted from the names of the new and restructured ministries (“No ‘sports’ in name sparks debate”; yesterday). The omissions will lead to doubts about whether the Government is still as committed to supporting the arts and sports.

It is also ironic that it happened in the middle of a historic Olympics in which Singapore won its first individual medal in 52 years, after the fantastic bronze medal achievement by our top women’s table tennis star Feng Tianwei. It would be more sensible for the Cabinet to retain the titles of the two ministries – the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

This will send a clear signal that sports and the arts have not been sidelined by the Government.

The new ministries have been named MCCY (Culture, Community, Youth), MSF (Social, Family Development) and MCI (Communications, Information).  It’s made more confusing than it already is and drives one MAD (Ministry of Arts Defunct) just trying to tell one other apart. Ministries of ‘social affairs’ tend to be rather wishy washy over what they’re supposed to take charge of historically. ‘Culture’ is a catch-all term that is itself archaic in its usage. Established in the late fifties, the job of then ‘Ministry of Culture’ was responsible for brainwashing people with film propaganda. They were also the state censors, precursors to our current Board of Censors and MDA, who glued objectionable pages of books together. They were more the Culture and thought POLICE than a ministry of any sort, and here we see ‘Culture’ coming back with a vengeance. Watch out Fifty Shades of Grey sequels. Incidentally, the top Google search for ‘Ministry of Culture’ yields a local company that promotes some sort of corporate motivational team-building. Wonder if there’ll be any suits filed for copyright infringement ala Subway.

In 1985, ‘Culture’, with its negative connotations as mind controllers, was taken out, and the MCD (Community Development) was formed. It’s only in 2000 when SPORTS was plopped in to form MCDS, and ‘Youth’ joined the fray in 2004 to the soon-to-be-defunct MCYS. It’s also ironic how the government needs to set up a ministry arm solely for YOUTH when we’re on the crest of a silver tsunami. If I had my way with government acronyms, I would have gone for McCOYS (Ministry of Culture, Community, Old people, Youth and Sports) which just about covers EVERYTHING. We’re also more likely to have an SCOG (Senior Citizens’ Olympic Games) than a YOG. At the rate these ministries are splitting, you’ll have a whole chunk of large Roman numerals instead of abbreviations. At least some people can still make out Roman numerals.

What did having a SPORTS ministry ever do to produce a sporting  nation? Our Olympic medal winners are foreign-born. We have some decent swimmers, sailors and shooters here and there. But our local footballers have been the same dismally inconsistent lot for the last 12 years that ‘Sports’ has been part of MCYS. Our best moments in the Game (Malaysia Cup) were in the 90’s, BEFORE sports got noticed as a government agenda. Today, we can’t get past mediocre ASEAN teams even with the government boosting our foreign import funds, which either means our sports officials are getting it all wrong, or we simply are a nation who are no longer interested. Mah Bow Tan’s expensive Goal 2010 fantasy turned out to be one as attainable as flying solar-powered cars (It may be argued that the state of football is worse off now than when this pipe dream was cast more than a decade ago). Obviously the tactic of pumping in money to buy talent (players or coaches) on the pretense of grooming a sporting nation just isn’t working.

‘Arts’ emerged in 1990 from a messy series of acronym spin-offs, from the Ministry of Culture to MCI (Communications, Information), MCD and then MITA (the ‘TA’ stands for THE ARTS, without the ‘T’ it would be ‘M.I.A’), a move lauded by struggling artists who needed government investment and support, until MITA began clamping down again on offensive material and recordings as its grandparent Ministry once did (A Janet Jackson album and the video game Half-Life). Sounding too close to ‘MATA’, MITA then rebranded itself as the effeminate MICA (Information, Communication, Arts) in 2001, and proceeded to get on the nerves of arty folk by banning gay concerts like ‘Affect 05′ in 2005. Unlike the short-lived Sports arm, Arts enjoyed a good run of over 2 decades despite the zealous snipping, keeping the scene vibrant and local performances afloat, though there are always critics complaining that they’re never doing enough. We also have an ‘Arts’ NMP Janice Koh in a government now castrated of an Arts body, someone credible to comment on Grandfather Road issues when the ministerial body itself has trouble defining what ART is. But I think the simpler reason is that having a ministry of ARTS gives ART a bad name. Film fans have already felt the effects of the omission of ARTS , with this year’s Film Fest pulled out due to lack of funds. I think there’s something more deeply entrenched in the Singaporean psyche that defies government intervention when it comes to sports and arts. We have been bred and raised with a very skewed bias towards a results-based ideal of personal achievement, one that doesn’t involve a paintbrush or kicking balls.

Our Malaysian neighbours have a cleaner dichotomy in the form of a ‘Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage’ and a ‘Ministry of Youth and Sports’, the former bringing to mind the image of a fuddy-duddy curator who knows his history and the latter that of an hip, vivacious, fun-loving official devoted to keeping the country relevant. Japan has the same idea as me when it comes to combining everything together, with its Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The PM proposed 3-tier system with its bland categorisation sounds wan and jaded, with the MSF, or should I say Ministry of Procreation, as a disturbing personification of all the kaypoh aunties who ask when you’re getting married or when you’re having kids during Chinese New Year.

The silencing of the Boars

From ‘Crossbows to cull wild boar’, 11 June 2012, article by Feng Zeng Kun, ST

KILLING wild boar with bows and arrows may sound primitive, but the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering the method to curb the animal population. The Straits Times has learnt that the agency met animal welfare groups last month to discuss using powerful crossbows against the animals.

It told the groups that the silence of the bows would avoid alerting the animals, which travel in groups. In trained hands, a single bolt could also kill a boar instantly.

…The Straits Times understands that most of the groups did not favour the method and considered it inhumane. The agency said it would enlist the help of trained archers to do the job, should it decide to go with this culling method.

…Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says NParks could sterilise the animals instead. ‘Culling doesn’t work because the animals breed every year. You would have to cull them every year’ …’Put up fences. Wild boar are big and powerful, but they can’t jump,’ he said.

Pork-eye

Boar hunts have been documented in Singapore as early as the late 1870s, where white men with a pack of dogs chased these beasts around the Bukit Timah area with a shotgun, occasionally finding a boa constrictor getting to the prize first. Locals stalked boars with guns even up till the late fifties, and anyone who happened to be plucking leaves in the forest may find himself at the wrong end of a buck shot after being mistaken for a pig. In 1957, a wild boar hunter was charged for murder for firing at and killing a certain Abdul Kareem. Today, you’re unlikely to get hit by bullets, but you may fall into a pit intended to snare these animals, or have your foot maimed in an illegal trap. Seems like the $1000 penalty for killing them isn’t severe enough to stop some Singaporeans from living out their Man vs Wild fantasies.

Only Theseus can slaughter this monster

But how much of a nuisance are these pigs? In the 60’s, boars were known to charge at and almost gore amorous couples at Macritchie Reservoir.  On Malaysia’s highways, a charging boar may cause fatal accidents, a freak scenario which is unlikely to happen here, though you can have other breeds of swine ramming themselves into innocent people on our roads. We don’t have crops for them to ravage, nor do they steal our grocery bags or scratch and bite like the monkeys do. They don’t shit all over our cars or air-con compressors, nor spread airborne diseases. For all intents and purposes, man and boar have been left pretty much to themselves.  More animals and humans have been injured by wannabe boar hunters than the tusked beasts. If there’s any wildlife that bugs the hell out of us it’s the damned birds, and before we hire Green Arrows, Legolases, Hawkeyes and Katnisses to do the dirty work for us, perhaps we should control our pesky mynahs, crows and pigeons first. Hell, maybe we don’t even need to pay hunters to trap boars at all; our road barriers can do a pretty decent job as it is.

It’s not funny if it’s your kid in it

One of the arguments cited for culling is that wild boars ‘trample and destroy the forest undergrowth’ (They destroy forests, 16 June 2012, ST Forum), especially since they have no known ‘natural predators’. Well, there’s another animal higher up in the food chain which no other being eats and destroys forests and old cemeteries for development at a faster rate than a bunch of seed-gobbling, soil-digging pigs. Us.

Even if the authorities eventually attempt to equilibrate whatever’s left of our ecosystem through controlled murder, I’m not sure about crossbows as a weapon of choice. Our ‘archers’ (most likely members of some sporting club because the army no longer plays Cowboys and Indians) may need just one shot to kill a pig in the quickest, most painless, squeal-less way possible, but you probably need an experienced poacher to tell the difference between a pig and a foraging human from a distance. A poorly judged snapped twig may make all the difference between an impaled hog, or a pierced stray dog. You need someone with the seasoned, pricked ears to tell the difference between a frightened porcine grunt and something more human.  If these sharpshooters don’t bring home the game, at least their very presence, or even the very thought of arrows flying all over the place,  would deter people from having sex in jungles.

Why not blowpipes loaded with tranquiliser darts, where at least there’s room for mistaken identity, after which you can proceed to make a proper meal out of the animal and feed the needy, or Wong Ah Yoke?

SOON

Postscript: A few weeks after this post, a boar reported charged at a CISCO officer (who hurt his hand in the ensuing escape) and a child (who wasn’t harmed) in Bishan Park, and Khaw Boon Wan, a self-declared staunch Buddhist, publicly supported the decision to ‘manage’ the wild boar population because ‘protecting our babies’ is more important. Maybe we should leave it to the real boar-killing professionals below.

Snakes in a Drain

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