Singaporean man setting himself on fire in JB

From ‘Singaporean man sets himself on fire in JB’, 13 April 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru. The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol. The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher. He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

In 1969, Ah Hock Keith Morrisson committed suicide ‘Vietnamese style’ by setting himself on fire with a tin of kerosene. His dramatic death happened within a few months of leaving the Singapore Infantry Regimen, during which he exhibited abnormal behaviour such as crying or staring in a daze. The ST described the fiery act as turning himself into a HUMAN TORCH, which is also a Marvel character and part of the Fantastic 4 assemble created in 1961.  A few years later, a Buddhist nun set herself alight ‘Saigon-style’ in a temple, using the same flammable liquid. It is not known if these were in fact inspired by a series of self-immolation protests by Vietnamese monks in the 60′s, or the result of a deadly obsession with a comic book hero whose entire body comes alight at will.

This man is on fire

This man is on fire

A quarrel over suspected infidelity combusted into suicide when 28 year old Madam Kalachelvi set herself on fire after hearing rumours of her husband’s cheating. The distraught husband followed suit. Suicide by self-torching continued into the 90′s, with a case of a 13 year old SCHOOLBOY performing the act after getting a scolding (Schoolboy, 13, set fire to himself after scolding in school, 28 Nov 1992, ST). In 2010, a man, reportedly suffering from mental illness, walked into a Shell petrol kiosk toilet and came out in flames. The most recent incident occurred at the Ceylon Sports Club, Balestier last August, with kerosene again found at the death scene. There’s no record of locals burning themselves to death for political causes as far as I know, though you could get in trouble for setting effigies of our Transport Minister aflame.

Singaporeans are renown petrol guzzlers in JB, some even stocking up petrol in cans in car boots to bring home. One Stomper caught Singaporean drivers attempting to bring these back across the Causeway disguised as engine oil containers (You can import up to 20 Litres without a licence). Other drivers are seen jacking up or shaking their cars  just to load more petrol, to get more bang for their Singaporean buck. With a reputation for such strange, kiasu behaviour, a lone man on foot asking to handcarry 4L of petrol wouldn’t seem too surprising, and the only reason I could think of as to why he had to do it in JB is that you can’t just walk into any shop to buy kerosene as if  it were cooking oil here.

A couple of years ago we were wracked by a spate of copycat suicides by drowning in reservoirs (which may actually be as painful and agonising as burning to death, both falling under the Top 10 Worst Ways to Die). One can only hope that this single act of self-immolation doesn’t, well, spread like wildfire.

Postscript: Stephen Lew Soon Khiang, 42, died of his self-inflicted injuries within a day, with doctors saying that he had just a 1% chance of survival.

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru.

The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol.

The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher.

He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/singaporean-man-sets-himself-fire-jb-20140413#sthash.a38528Iw.dpuf

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Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers

From ‘Singapore concerned over naming of Indonesian navy ship after executed commandos’, 6 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussain, ST

Singapore has registered its concerns over Indonesia’s naming of a navy ship after two Indonesian marines who took part in the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said on Wednesday night that Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, to register these concerns “and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Indonesia’s Kompas daily had reported this week that the last of the Indonesian Navy’s three new British-made frigates would be named the KRI Usman Harun, after marines Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

“The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing which killed three people and injured 33 others,” the MFA spokeman said in response to media queries. “Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines,” he added.

The duo were members of Indonesia’s special Operations Corps Command, which is today the Marine Corps, and had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore during Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia.

In today’s context, Osman and Harun would have been labelled ‘terrorists’, and not a single mention of ‘terrorism’ or ‘terror’ was made in the entire ST article. In contrast, the original report on the bomb blast back in 1965 read ‘TERROR BOMB KILLS 2 GIRLS at BANK’. Dr Toh Chin Chye was also quoted as describing the tragedy as a ‘senseless act of cruelty’ and that people must play a more positive and determined part to ‘weed out terrorists’ in our midst.

In 2012, a blogger by the name of Thimbuktu captured the plaque on the facade of the still standing, and now National Monument, which tells us that the building was a ‘scene of a bomb attack by Indonesian TERRORISTS on 10 March 1965 during Konfrontasi’. I’m not sure if the inflammatory word has been edited since, or if anyone in the Middle East names warships after Saddam or Usama.

Among the innocents killed in the blast were 36 yr old Suzie Khoo, private secretary, 23 yr old Juliet Goh, filing clerk, and driver Mohammed Yasin bin Kesit, 45. I don’t remember the MacDonald House attack being mentioned in any of our history textbooks, nor any of the 37 bombs that hit us during the Sukarno led Konfrontasi. It wasn’t just public buildings being targetted. In Dec 1963, two men were killed in Sennett Estate, while another deadly bomb went off on April 1964 at a BLOCK OF HDB FLATS off Changi Road. The thought of such a disaster happening in the heartland is unimaginable, while people like Caleb Rozario are having fantasies about the MBS being pulverised by missiles from heaven.

LKY was in fact ‘persuaded’ by ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy to sprinkle flowers over the graves of the executed, a symbolic move that supposedly moved the Indonesia diplomat to tears. Lee wrote:

On the night of the banquet given by President Suharto, a bat flew into room which symbolised good luck for them. The relationship between Singapore and Indonesia had been restored.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.58.48 PM

No, no one decided to lead the life of a Caped Crusader since that night, but the ‘flowers and bat’ effect didn’t last long. Ties were strained again in the late 1990s, with BJ Habibie calling us a ‘racist country’ and inadvertently giving us global branding by calling us, derogatorily, a ‘little red dot’, a moniker which has since stuck and used to death by STB. We blame them for the haze and they retort by saying we behave like little children.  In response to our ministers’ lament about the lack of respect from the ship naming, Golkar MP Hajriyanto Thohari had this to say: ‘Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick’ (Jakarta’s move reflects disrespect, 8 Feb 2014, ST). The use of ‘chicken’ is telling, but it also says a lot about the cock-and-bull story people come up with glorify murderers as heroes.

If our government hadn’t expressed their disappointment in the naming, I wouldn’t have figured that ‘Usman Harun’ referred to a couple of militant killers, nor would I have cared about what Indonesians name their vessels after. But whether or not we decide to urge the Indonesians to drop the unfortunate name, the bringing up of decades-old wounds is essential to remind ourselves of how vulnerable we can be in the face of unfriendly forces, and not to take our security for granted.

And yes, the MBS is too obvious a target for bombing. Try keeping an eye out on void decks for a change.

Sheng Siong CEO’s mother kidnapped for ransom

From ‘Woman, 79, who was kidnapped, is mother of Sheng Siong CEO’, 9 Jan 2013, article by Walter Sim, ST

A 79-year-old woman who was kidnapped on Wednesday is the mother of Sheng Siong supermarket chief executive Lim Hock Chee. Mr Lim made it to the Forbes Singapore’s 50 Richest list last year and was listed at number 35 with a net worth of $515 million.

The elderly woman was said to have been kidnapped while she was walking near a bus-stop at Block 631, Hougang Avenue 8 on Wednesday. The police arrested two men in connection with the case on Thursday, after her son lodged a report. The woman was not hurt when she was snatched by the two suspects, and was later released at Seletar West Camp after a $2 million ransom was paid.

…The younger of the two suspects is an odd-job labourer, while the older man is a credit card promoter. Both suspects are Singaporeans and are not related. The police said that there have been only three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 10 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and later jailed for life. The $2 million is the highest amount paid in ransom in a kidnapping case here.

Kidnapping carries the death penalty or life imprisonment, a deceptively serious felony that can be potentially non-violent and even played for laughs in the movies if you’re the bungling kind, like the goofball villains in ‘Baby’s Day Out’. If you ever steal someone’s baby for ransom in Singapore, you may be charged and hanged, even if the kid got the better of you in the end.

Our Police nabbed the culprits within 12 hours, which suggests that the duo’s escape plan wasn’t well thought out. Liam Neeson from the Taken series would have nothing to worry about if he ever brought his loved ones here for vacation. For a penalty so severe, you would expect some sophistication and guile in the way kidnappers conduct their business, like a chartered getaway helicopter or elaborate decoy set ups. No such luck. They probably used Home Alone as a guide to how to abduct people.

Here’s a quick rundown of rich people targetted in our history of kidnapping and how much ransom they’re worth at the time. This Sheng Siong incident probably breaks the record for highest ransom ever demanded, and also the most dollar notes to ever to occupy a suitcase.

2014: Lim Hock Chee, Sheng Siong CEO (mother kidnapped): $2 million paid from initial $20 million.

2002: Tay Teng Joo, director of SUTL companies: $4 million negotiated down to $1.22 million. He was ambushed a day before his wedding. After he was released and the perpetrators caught, he went ahead with the wedding anyway.

1970: Millionaire, bank director, owner of fridge making company Tan Han Seng: $800,000.

1964: Shaw Vee Ming, Shaw managing director and son of the late Run Run Shaw: $500,000. Brother Harold escaped from an kidnap attempt in 1971.

1964: Millionaire Dato Ng Quee Lam: $420,000

1960: CK Tang: $150,000

1973: Tjioe Kow Hwie, Indonesian businessman: $50,000. The gang of 5 responsible for the abduction were sentenced to hang, the first few to be executed for the crime.

1964: Ng Choon Huat, son of a cloth merchant: $44,000. Ransom was ‘drastically’ slashed to $400.

It’s likely that the Sheng Siong kidnappers will get life imprisonment rather than death considering the victim emerged unharmed from the ordeal. The way in which the Police swung into action to rein in crooks who had the audacity to threaten the Sheng Siong empire is probably assuring for the 27 billionaires (and counting) attentively following this case and suddenly texting their children to check if they’re OK and not lured away by some evil PRCs.

Still, a Little India riot and a high profile kidnapping both within a month of each other in tiny Singapore. Exciting times.

Aegyo Sal makes your eyes younger and friendlier

From ‘Look young with eyebags’, 8 Sept 2013, article by Lea Wee, Lifestyle, Sunday Times

Many people would do all they can to get rid of their eyebags. But some young Singaporeans are resorting to aesthetic procedures to make their undereye area more prominent because they think it makes them appear more youthful and friendly.

The trend, called “aegyo sal” (say a-gio-sal) in Korean, translates loosely as “cute skin”. It started in South Korea a few years ago and recently caught on here.

To make the areas under their lower eyelids “pop out”, people usually undergo a filler injection – a 30-minute procedure which costs about $1,000. The effect can also be created through make-up and tightening the lower eyelid muscle via surgery.

…A full-time blogger who goes by the screen name Yutaki James paid $1,000 for a filler injection to his lower eyelids last month. The 25-year-old, who blogs on current lifestyle trends, declines to give his real name. He saw advertisements on the procedure when he visited South Korea last year.

“When I knew it was available here, I decided to get it done because I wanted to keep up with trends. I also wanted to make my eyes look bigger.” During the procedure, he also had fillers to make his laugh lines and dark circles under his eyes less obvious.

He says he felt no pain but there was some swelling under his eyes on the first two days. This gradually disappeared after the first week. “I am happy with the effect. My friends say I look younger and more awake.”

Aegyo Sal surgery is basically a boob job done on the eyes. Pump some dermal filler to create a perky bulge just beneath the eye and it makes your blinkers ‘smile’ like a sexy beast. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that having swollen panda dark circles is considered attractive, so don’t think you can save money on Botox and SK-II just yet. You can work overnight and end up looking like you were punched in the face but you’re still not going to impress K-pop fanatics who would be able to tell the difference between a sad sack and an adorable bulge. When I look at my own peri-orbital musculature I see the Death Valley, not the ‘cute’ optic love handles that would make me look like I came from Neverland.

For more than 40 years, we have desired double eyelids to give that wide-eyed ‘European’ look, which together with eyebag removal in the 60′s, were among the first cosmetic procedures to be performed around the eyes. Makeup tricks aside, our obsession with bigger eyes and Japanese doll features have rejuvenated the contact lens business. For those with are born with naturally narrow peepers, Aegyo Sal seems to be the solution to all of life’s problems. You can face the world brimming with confidence knowing that there are people out there who are sexually attracted to eyes with puffy vulvae beneath them, so much so that some may even try to engage in oculolinctus with you.

Self-transformation and augmentation seems to be the bread and butter of full-time beauty bloggers, including the likes of Yutaki James, who’s a living Asian Ken doll and ambassador for these ‘Korean love bands’. This dude is a walking, pouting showcase of the $1000 face-craft of Prive clinic, one of the pioneers of this AS wave, advertised in their website as a ‘no-downtime’ procedure that would make you look ‘cuter’ and ‘sweeter’. I never knew I had ‘lash lines’ until I saw this. If AS surgery claims to make you look ‘friendlier’ after 30 mins, you could inject hyaluronic acid into Oscar the Grouch’s face and turn him into Sesame Street’s Sweetheart overnight. Imagine the wonders AS could do for Grumpy Cat.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.27.53 AM

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then aegyo sal are the fancy curtains. According to the ST article above, the AS effect is just temporary, but you can imagine how people who have benefited from it would be compelled to fork out $1K every 6 months to maintain that sweet sac of succulence that makes as much difference to one’s eyes as a cleavage to a chest. AS wearing off would be like watching a bosom slowly deflating to its hideous, pre-op ‘flatness’, except that you can’t use modern undergarment technology to cover it up. If you can’t afford biannual injections or tightening your orbicularis oculi muscles for a permanent AS, it may be better to settle for invisible tape. Don’t by any means try to buff up your eyelids by lifting buckets of water with them, (though a man with eyelids stronger than my biceps would have an Instagram far more interesting than that of a Chinese bloke who gives himself a Japanese name)

It’s also strange how people are queasy about seeing the dentist, donating blood or even taking a fingerprick test, but have totally no qualms about getting a needle pierced just millimetres away from their eyeballs for the sake of beauty, or rather, when it comes to AS, LOVE. Such a pity that our ‘love handles’ aren’t deemed as pretty as these love ‘bands’ in our undereye areas, because most men my age have plenty of ‘love’ to give when it comes to the former.

Queen of Instagram promoting shallow, glitzy lifestyle

From ‘Glitzy lifestyle vs sheer inspiration’, 31 Aug 2013, various letters in Life!Mailbag

(Henry Lee): I refer to the article Queen Of Instagram (SundayLife!, Aug 25), highlighting the fashionista lifestyle of Singapore socialite Jamie Chua. It seems like an attempt to promote a narcissistic personality at best.

(Heng Lih Hooi): …Is Ms Jamie Chua aware that a small fraction of the money she spends on a Birkin bag can help a lot of less-blessed people in this world?

(Khoo Kiat Chin):…Queen Of Instagram seems to be shallow, promoting nothing other than a glitzy lifestyle that ordinary Singaporeans cannot afford. The promotion of such “materialistic mindsets” will only serve to further divide the haves and have-nots.

In a 2010 interview, Jaime Chua, then known as Jaime Cuaca, said she was ‘happy with the way she looked’ when asked about what facial feature she would like to change. She also defined beauty as ‘being herself without worrying about what others think.’ A teen model, ex SIA-stewardess, and regular user of intravenous Vitamin C, a very well-heeled Chua was then managing director of Manolo Blahnik, a Spanish luxury brand famous for $1000 stilettos.

This was her 3 years ago, a look that wouldn’t look out of place in Cold Storage, a Food Republic or HnM, much like Cantopop sweetheart Vivian Chow in my opinion. I’ll leave it to fans to judge whether or not she has done anything to her face since.

Chua was later embroiled in a divorce suit with Indonesian tycoon husband Nurdian Cuaca, where she sought almost half a million dollars in monthly maintenance. Today, she lives in a Merryn Road bungalow and reportedly has the largest collection of Birkin bags (each worth up to $65K) IN THE WORLD, beating the likes of Victoria Beckam. That’s enough dead cattle in there to feed a small African nation.

An ostentatious lifestyle isn’t all about pouting, preening and posing, attending high-society events or getting spa treatments and vitamin injections. This is a rare glimpse of Jaime doing some cleaning around the house. Who says tai tais don’t do housework? She’s also known to COOK. Over a stove!

The ‘Queen of Instagram‘ article is unbridled glamour porn, a ‘glitzkrieg’ of high-end name-dropping from ‘Chateau Lafite Rothschild’ wines to hair clips from ‘Alexandre de Paris’. Branded HAIRCLIPS. I wonder what toothpaste she uses. Maybe one that’s named after its creator like Vidal Sassoon shampoos.

Reality check, folks. Jaime’s not the only one living the high life out there, they’re privileged people living in $300 million bungalows and driving $5 million cars but just less social media-savvy or good-looking.  Deal with it, or view such lifestyles with bemusement rather than petty jealousy disguised as self-righteous contempt. If a billionaire shows off his Ferrari collection online we hardly blink, whereas if a tai-tai prances around with a fancy handbag, we bang the elitist drum and demand that she spends her money building nursing homes and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s instead. There are parents who treat their own daughters like princesses, yet when they meet an adult living like one, they complain that it’s the greatest injustice to humanity and suddenly realise there are poor, starving people in the world.

It’s unfortunate that the likes of Paris Hilton have given the job description of ‘socialite’ a bad name, a title that today brings to mind sexed-up, spoilt, loud, vainpot princesses who dress up, mingle, party, hook up with (and drop at a hat) rich bastards and don’t have to toil a single day of their lives other than polishing their jewel-encrusted leather babies; women who live their fairy-tale Cinderella dreams as Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s (incidentally Jaime’s favourite film). The male equivalent would be Richie Rich, or Scrooge McDuck.

The pejorative, anglicsied ‘tai-tai’, has been used since the 20′s, and generally referred to ‘married women’. ‘Socialite’ is just slightly less ancient in its origin, emerging in the 60′s, an era where rich women spent more time in salons gossiping than indulging in spas and occasionally promoted worthy causes, rather than building walk-in wardrobes that could house 3 generations of ordinary Singaporeans. Role model socialites were more entrepreneurs than ‘Instapreneurs’. Today, we pay more attention to how they groom their silky terriers than their contributions to society, if any at all.

Like Jaime Chua, socialite Christina Lee was involved in a high-profile divorce in the early 1960′s, with cinema magnate ex-husband Dato Loke Wan Tho settling with a $800K cheque for her maintenance. Three years later, she married American film producer Jeffrey Stone, and in the late 60′s had planned to launch SARONG island, Singapore’s first tourist isle and precursor to the Sentosa that we know today.  It’s also ironic that socialite and SPG, or ‘sarong party girl’, are used interchangeably these days, though you’re unlikely to put either on your business card (She divorced again in 1972 and went on to marry perfume maker Dadi Balsara. One of the products the pair created was called ‘Singapore Girl’).

Jaime’s Instagram timeline is a treasure trove of hedonistic excess, mostly boring fluff to the average dude but a fashion bible to the girl who desires only the finest things that money can buy. It’s the real-life ‘Princess Diaries’, a Cinderella catalogue for grown-ups and teens alike. This quote which Singapore’s most popular socialite posted sums up her attitude toward all her ‘stuff’: ‘The best things in life are free, the second best are very expensive’. Spoken like a queen indeed.

Vertical kampung to be built in Woodlands

From ‘Woodlands to get vertical kampung’, 4 Aug 2013, article by Salma Khalik, Sunday Times

Residents in Woodlands will be the first in Singapore to experience the community feel of an integrated building with public facilities such as housing, health care and hawker centres all under one roof.

Planned, built and run by multiple government agencies – a first – this vertical “urban kampung”, as National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan calls it, will bring together the young and old to live, eat and play together.

At the bottom of the building will be a massive “town square” or community plaza, and at the top, 100 studio apartments for elderly singles or couples.

In between will be a medical centre with about 35 consultation rooms and options for day surgery, senior activity and childcare facilities, shops and watering holes, as well as roof-top decks that residents can turn into community gardens.

In land scarce Singapore, architects have long dreamed of building the city upwards and this idea of vertical ‘strata zoning’ isn’t new at all. Urban planners have fantasised of residents working and playing within the same ‘self-sufficient’ complex, a soaring monolith that combines community services like schools and medical centres interspersed with commercial zones and open spaces for interaction and line-dancing. Ideally, you wouldn’t need to step out of the building or take public transport at all. The kampung kids of the future may not even know what the ground smells like if this thing takes off.

Proponents of skyline living have christened vertical city models with names such as ‘Babel’ and ‘Arcosanti’. Jakarta may even be ahead of us in terms of embracing the vertical city concept, with their Peruri 88 project, which looks like badly stacked real-life Tetris. In a world where overcrowded megacities are building modern microcosms of themselves, Khaw Boon Wan’s description of future living as ‘vertical kampungs’ is like calling Spotify an ‘online jukebox’. My impression of such a ‘kampung’ is something similar to the Ewok village on the Forest Moon of Endor. How apt that it’s to be located in WOODLANDS, of all places.

Not the artist’s impression

Like the Woodlands project, concentrating the community was the main concept driver behind one ‘progressive’ housing/shopping design in the late 1960′s. This $16 million, 30-storey landmark building was to be the highest in Asia at the time. Even its name embodied the spirit of the design, though today it’s viewed more as an endearing ‘grand dame’ kind of relic known more for its traditional eateries and grimy massage parlours than the archetype of vertical housing. It’s name? People’s Park Complex.

Jump ahead 40 years and we started thinking again of the ‘future of public housing’. Completed in 2009, this award-winning structure has interlinked sky gardens, bridges that allowed residents to ‘sky-walk’ , flexible interiors and remains the tallest public housing project in Singapore at 48 stories high. I’m talking about the iconic Pinnacle@Duxton, of course, basically the yuppie cousin of what Khaw Boon Wan has in mind for Woodlands.

I’m not sure about living in the same complex as a hawker centre or a hospital, where one may be exposed to deep-fry odours one moment and the smell of death the next. Or knowing that it’s not just your karaoke-blaring neighbour from upstairs annoying you but a band performing in one of these ‘watering holes’. I’m already having trouble dealing with void deck weddings and funerals as it is. I don’t want an iMax theatre round the corner shaking my walls before I sleep. I want to have an address that the average taxi driver recognises and I can pronounce, unlike Compassvale Ancilla. I want a HOME, not a 40-storey sardine can, which is likely the case if the designers commissioned for this project honed their skills playing Tiny Tower on their handphones.

Meanwhile, one can only hope that a ‘vertical kampung’ would fetch ‘kampung prices’. At the rate that property prices are climbing, one might as well apply for a space colony on board a mothership than live in someone’s SimTower fantasy come true.

Sham marriages is big business in Singapore

From ‘More convicted over sham marriages’, 28 July 2013, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Immigration authorities are cracking down on those involved in sham marriages, with 139 people convicted in court in the first half of this year. This is a sharp jump from the 89 people dealt with in court for the whole of last year, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Sunday Times.

The increase follows stepped-up enforcement by the ICA against marriages of convenience, where a Singaporean marries a foreigner to enable the latter to enter or remain in Singapore. Middlemen who arrange such unions were also among those convicted.

…The Sunday Times understands that women entering into such marriages are usually from China and Vietnam, and they marry Singaporeans to extend their stays here. They often come as tourists, but want to find work here. Some find their “husbands” on their own, while others go through middlemen, who include Singaporeans and foreigners.

The women pay the middlemen, who in turn pay the bogus Singaporean bridegrooms. The men – mostly manual workers or jobless – are often paid between $2,000 and $5,000 for their part in the scam. On top of that sum, some men also receive a few hundred dollars more for each visa extension obtained after the marriage is registered. The couples in these marriages usually live apart and no sex is involved.

…Under the new law, those found guilty face up to 10 years’ jail or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

…Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan noted that sham marriages have been going on for years and syndicates are often involved as it’s “big business”...He has a Vietnamese client in her 20s who felt she needed more time than her tourist visa allowed to find a good Singaporean man to marry. To extend her stay, she agreed to go through a sham marriage and paid a Singaporean less than $1,000.

“The irony is that she had a fake marriage in order to find a real one,” he said.

Lawyer Hri Kumar Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, welcomed the crackdown on sham marriages, but warned of a downside. He said: “Because the ICA now has to impose rigorous criteria and checks to ensure that marriages are not sham, it affects genuine marriages as well.

“Some in genuine marriages are finding it difficult to secure long-term stays for their spouses. This creates uncertainty for the couple and makes it difficult for them to plan a family.”

In 2011, 1 out of 5 marriages was between a Singaporean and a foreign spouse. No one can know for sure how many of these were ‘genuine’ marriages, nor is it easy to define a ‘marriage of convenience’. For example, would you call arranged marriages or shotgun weddings ‘marriages of convenience’? Yet both are perfectly legal even if there’s no love involved. If such a union leads to sex and babies, is it still a sham marriage if the purpose of having babies is to grant one a Long Term Visit Pass? Last year, China nationals bore Singaporean men twice the number of babies (2034) compared to 2000 (1122)(Fewer kids with both parents from Singapore, 21 July 2013, Sunday Times). We assume these are ‘genuine’ cases because people only have babies with those they love, no?

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I’m thinking the ICA data is an underestimate, and you can probably get away with a sham marriage without ever sharing the same bed with someone as long as you play ball with your partner in crime.  Conversely, a ‘genuine’ marriage is one that should involve some degree of sacrifice and consummation, preferably leading to babies which our government will welcome happily with open arms. And yes, you’re supposed to love each other till death do you part as well. In other words, a fairy tale wedding.

Men who seek foreign brides for ‘love’ have given reasons such as loneliness, family pressure, or blame Singaporean women for being too pampered or materialistic while foreign brides have less expectations and are better at cooking or foot massages.  The guy gets a girl who doesn’t nag him to death, the girl gets someone to look after her and a chance to escape from a miserable home country to become Singaporean eventually. It’s a win-win situation. It becomes a crime if you’re entering the marriage just for money. Oh, wait. Hmm.

Sham marriages, or ‘marriages of convenience’ as euphemistically termed, have been recorded as early as the late 50′s. In 1975, a shoemaker and a Dutch national were caught in a MOC, the former not even knowing what his wife’s name was at the time. They married in 1956 and never saw each other again after they registered their union. In 1969, a Hong Kong woman was charged for corruption after marrying a local widower so that she may apply for permanent residency. In the same year,a local labourer filed for divorce, exposing his MOC to an Indonesian woman in the process because his wife refused to have sex with him until she got her IC. Taiwanese entertainer Chen Chin Pei was declared an illegal immigrant after being accused of contracting a MOC with a local man for a PR status in 1987. More recently, Chinese immigrant Lin Yanmei was probed by the CPIB for MOC with a cleaner. She was also hanging out in hotels with another man whom she called her ‘godfather’.

Not all MOCs are initiated by foreigners who want an extended stay in exchange for marriage. In 1975, a local clerk married a teacher whom she did not love because she wanted to ‘get away from home’. Some Singaporeans marry just to land a HDB flat. Supermodels or Playboy bunnies marry old tycoons who are only capable of consummation with urinary catheters. I could marry a woman whose father is a powerful politician to get ahead in my career, a roundabout, perfectly legal way of getting paid for marrying someone I do not love nor want to have children with. Yet a low-wage male worker desperate for money, in the hope of some female company on the side even if he knows it’s all fake, stands to face jail-time for agreeing to an indecent proposal while his wife fools around as some rich bloke’s mistress so that she can afford to keep the scam alive.

Or you can choose to believe Hollywood that some good may come out of bogus marriages after all. In the case of movies like Green card and The Proposal, that ‘good’ is called love. But sappy endings aside, in the case of Sandra Bullock’s character in the Proposal, a high-flying immigrant professional marries a local out of convenience to attain permanent residency. I doubt the same crackdown would apply to ‘foreign talents’ in a similar position here, though it’s likely that if you’re a foreign-born billionaire we’re more than happy to make you a Singaporean without you having to bear the inconvenience (or is it convenience?) of marrying anyone anyway.

 

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.

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.

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