Teachers not reading newspapers

From ‘Teachers should read newspapers’, 11 Aug 2014, ST Forum

(Dr V Subramaniam):  WHEN I had lunch with two secondary school teachers one recent weekend, I was taken aback when both admitted that they do not read newspapers. The Straits Times was not part of their daily reading content, and they were ignorant of the Forum pages. I had expected these teachers of English and Literature to take a keener interest in what was happening around them through the medium of newsprint, so that they could disseminate more informed knowledge and wisdom to their students.

I explained to them that newspapers carry models of clear and concise writing that can stand alone as teaching tools – or supplement other instructional materials, such as the Internet. Newspapers contain many different types of writing models – narrative, persuasive, expository – and are written for various reading levels that would help students.

Newspapers help teachers bridge the gap between the classroom and the “real world” by extending the boundaries of knowledge, and help teachers and students feel like a part of the world.

In this way, educators’ interest in new teaching techniques is heightened while their intellectual skills and critical and independent thinking are sharpened for the benefit of their students, who are being nurtured for active citizenship.

Newspapers also air the grievances of the public and help shape public opinion, and keep the public and the Government in close contact. The newspaper helps teachers gain knowledge, wisdom and power that they can inculcate in their students.

It is imperative that the Ministry of Education strives to ensure that teachers read beyond their teaching materials and syllabus. The reading habit has gradually waned with the advent of new technological devices and gadgets. It needs to be reawakened in our society so that we can keep up with the rest of the world.

If you’re an English/Literature teacher and you know you’re about to have lunch with Dr V Subramaniam, make sure you read the Straits Times from beginning to end, including the Obituaries section, so that you won’t get caught in a situation where this champion of newspapers decides to complain about your competence as a role model in the national medium. It’s one thing to suggest using the newspapers as a ‘tool’ to engage students, which is fine, but another to run down a couple of teachers because they’ve never heard of the Forum page. Give them a break, they work some of the LONGEST hours in the world, and you want to them read Today in Parliament before bedtime?(Then again probably not a bad idea if you have insomnia)

As far back as 1979, proponents of the medium we use to pick up dogshit with have hailed its ability to stimulate ‘functional literacy’. Other claimed benefits include improving ‘general knowledge’ and ‘skimming and scanning skills’. In 1984, in a bid to inculcate the habit, a newspaper-reading CONTEST was held. V Subramaniam goes further, using hyperbole like ‘wisdom’ and ‘power’, like a cleric promoting the Old Testament, forgetting that the newspaper industry is not out to instill ‘independent thinking’ in young minds. It’s a business that sensationalises, filters content or sells sex scandals if necessary to make money. Come, class, let’s discuss what Cecilia Sue said in court about her steamy affair with Ng Boon Gay! It can supplement your sex education class as well!

The ST is also often accused of having a political agenda, a mouthpiece for the ruling party, and if it can’t possibly ‘air the grievances’ of EVERY concerned citizen, then it can’t be a bridge to the ‘real world’. That would make it, well, OBJECTIVE. And no newspaper in the world has the audacity of claiming they’re such. Newspapers have a responsibility to their stakeholders, mostly the Government, and thrive on a gullible public willing to swallow information wholesale, not pupils taking an English test. The paper is just ONE of the many sources of knowledge and current affairs out there, whether it’s online commentaries, magazines, books, documentaries or the now defunct Encyclopedia Britannica. The ST is generally a decent ‘textbook’ for concise writing, reading skills and vocabulary, and a source of cheap gossip fodder every now and then to bond readers, but it doesn’t necessarily make a teacher better at his job if he has to make an obligatory ritual out of it. Other than that, it’s excellent for wiping windows during CNY spring cleaning.

Real world? Maybe the writer needs to live in it too.

(According to the ST feature ‘Writer of the Week’ in Apr 29 2013, Dr V Subramaniam is 71 years old and a retired assistant commissioner of the IRA and university lecturer. He thinks the Forum page offers at a single glance the ‘pulse of our society’, which is flattering considering how many letters get rejected every day)

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Wikipedia ‘vandal’ calling the PAP a fascist regime

From ‘Vicious edits to PAP’s Wikipedia page’, 13 June 2013, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

A People’s Action Party MP called on his organisation to consider legal action yesterday after “vicious” edits were made to its Wikipedia page. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng spoke out after a user of the website changed the name of the party to “Party Against People” and added lines such as “down with the fascists” and “vote for Opposition” into the text.

According to the page’s publicly available editing history, the user who first made the changes appeared to have done so on Wednesday afternoon under the name “AlikVesilev”.

The user claimed that “proof of (the PAP’s) suppression of freedom of speech” was demonstrated by the sacking of blogger Roy Ngerng by Tan Tock Seng Hospital this week, a move later backed by the Ministry of Health.

Human rights group Maruah thought that Roy’s dismissal and the subsequent endorsement by MOH was handled poorly, symptomatic of the high-handed, remorseless manner in which the PAP and its underlings deal with dissenters. ‘AlikVesilev’ also praised socialism and went ‘URA!’ in his rant, which I’m guessing refers to a Soviet battle cry for ‘Hooray’ (Most definitely not the ‘Urban Redevelopment Authority’).

If nothing happens to this wiki ‘vandal’ after his ‘vicious’ attack, Roy would be hitting himself on the head for not having exploited the CPF Wikipedia page instead to get his message across, now that he’s facing an insurmountable defamation suit and currently jobless. But this isn’t the first time that the PAP’s hardcore style of punishment and intolerance for ‘free speech’ have been compared to ‘fascism’.

1963: The Barisan Socialis invoked ‘fascist repression’ when the PAP revoked citizenship for political detainees, accusing the party of ‘abusing power’ to unjustly punish anyone opposed to the regime. A familiar routine that anyone that has been cast away in political exile, or fired from a job because he impugned the integrity and character of our great leader, can relate to.

1964: V David from the Socialist Front, KL, referred to the PAP governance as a ‘reign of terror’ and ‘a fascist dictatorship’.

1971: A bunch of Malaysian and Singaporean students staged a demonstration against ‘fascist Lee Kuan Yew’ in London’s Hyde Park, burning an effigy of the PM. The ST referred to them as ‘radicals’.

1976: The United People’s Front leader Harbans Singh blamed the inequality between the rich and the poor on the ‘parasitic’ fascist regime that is the PAP. He was later hauled up to court for making scurrilous remarks about LKY being a ‘scoundrel’ and ‘gangster’ from the way the blunt tool that is the ISA was being implemented.

1977: Detainee Ho Kwon Ping was accused of portraying the PAP as an ‘elitist, racialist, fascist, oppressive and dictatorial’ government in an article for the Far Eastern Economic Review, which he allegedly used as a platform to channel his ‘pro-Red’ sentiments. He later became the founder of Banyan Tree and now a successful millionaire. Some jailtime may be good for you after all.

2006: John Burton of the Financial Times wrote about the uncanny similarity between the PAP’s lightning logo and that of the British Union of Facists (BUF). According to the writer, LKY admitted a ‘design influence’ from the fascist symbol. Apart from the logo, the other stark difference between the BUF’s Blackshirts and our current PAP mould would be the colour of their uniforms.

Fascist logo, or insignia of the Flash?

2013: DJ X’Ho calls us a ‘hushed’ fascist state, that we may well be the ‘unproclaimed fascist capital of the world’ but wouldn’t admit it.

High-handed brutality aside, most of us don’t have sexual fantasies about our glorious leaders, nor do we worship them as war heroes, man-gods or sing songs of total party devotion and then weep in ecstasy like how they do in a megachurch or a pure fascist state. According to a list of ‘defining characteristics‘ by a certain Dr Lawrence Britt, there are examples of ‘fascist’ elements in almost every modern government you can think of, not just Singapore, among which include:

1. Disdain for Recognition of Human Rights: Anti-gay laws, the ISD’s detention without trial.

2. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: ‘Self-radicalised’ individuals, ‘CPF bloggers’, disgraced Opposition leaders.

3. Supremacy of the Military: Last year’s defence spending was $12 BILLION.

4. Rampant Sexism: Our cabinet ministers are all male. Not many female boardroom members in corporations.

5. Controlled Mass Media: ST, hello? Crackdown on ‘seditious’ Facebook posts, defamatory blogs. Censorship of political films, movies about gay sex, threesomes or zany plots about the assassination of Malaysian Prime Ministers.

6. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Death penalties, caning, and ‘enhanced’ powers of the Police in Little India.

One may think of fascist governance as a continuous spectrum, just like how we all lie in the emotional range from ‘super nice’ to ‘psychopath’.  The PAP, as our PM once admitted himself, is in fact a ‘Paranoid’ government, one that ‘worries’ all the time. In other words, one that is constantly in FEAR of things not going their way. I would put that nearer to the psychopath end of the spectrum.

 

Foreign workers chatting over murukku in Chinese Garden

From ‘Chinese Garden’s faded glory’, 16 May 2014, article by Lee Jian Xuan, ST

…Once a popular tourist haunt in the 1970s and 1980s, Chinese Garden is seldom promoted as an attraction now and is deserted on most days, save for the odd runner. Earlier this month, its caretaker, JTC Corporation, said it had planned a long list of refurbishment works for Chinese Garden, including architectural repairs and new paint.

Designed by prominent Taiwanese architect Yu Yuen-chen, Chinese Garden was touted as “Singapore’s architectural pride” when it opened in 1975, a phoenix risen from what used to be marshes and swamps. It drew many visitors from near and far, as well as couples taking wedding pictures.

…Chinese Garden, which has no entrance fee on normal days, has turned into a retreat for foreign workers on weekends and public holidays. Some duck below ficus and yellow oleander trees, snapping selfies on their phones. Others laze beside the ponds and lakes, chatting and eating.

Indian shipyard worker Ganapathy Balasubramanian, 30, meets his friend, construction worker Prakash Chellayan, 30, every Sunday to chat over murukku.

In 1978, an Australian tourist wrote to the ST Forum suggesting that there should be a ‘unique trio’ of gardens around of the Jurong Lake area, Chinese, Japanese and an INDIAN garden. Jump to 2014 and it has indeed become a garden for Indian workers, if not eating murukku under some ficus trees then playing cricket on an area that once saw SBC actors like Chen Tianwen suspended on wires in wuxia getup swordfighting and saving Xiang Yun from distress.

Chinese Garden wasn’t warmly welcomed by all Jurong residents when it was initially proposed. One Jurong worker who was unable to get a flat in the area called the tourist attraction a ‘luxury project’, and complained that the money was better spent on housing. Others were worried that they couldn’t afford the entrance fee. In the late seventies, you would still get swindled of $1.20 for two bottles of chrysanthemum tea. Sinophile scholars swooned over its Sung dynasty inspired imperial architecture nonetheless, describing entering the Gardens as being transported into ‘Instant China’.With the number of PRCs among us these days, you don’t have to travel all the way to Jurong to experience the motherland anymore.

When it opened to much fanfare in 1975, the attraction was believed to be the largest classical Chinese garden built that century outside of China. By the 1990’s, it had degraded into a mosquito-breeding, deserted eyesore. Today, there’s nothing more ‘cheena’ about Chinese Garden than the roof design of the MRT named after it, its Twin Towers and Pagoda still resembling the campy set of a Mediacorp period drama, a lacklustre imitation of everything you’ve ever seen in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. You’re more likely to see foreign workers picnicking than old men in majestic robes doing taichi, more people jogging than doing calligraphy, kids engaging in watersports in the Lake than poets drifting about in a lone sampan fanning themselves pensively in the morning mist.

Here are some other facts you didn’t know about the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.

1. The centrepiece of the Garden, the 7 tier pagoda, was once compared to the one at Cheng-Ching Lake, Taiwan. 

2. Japanese Garden is also known as ‘Seiwa-en’, conceived by none other than Dr Goh Keng Swee himself, Seiwa-en meaning Singapore’s (Sei) Japanese (Wa) Garden (En). It also opened 2 years BEFORE Chinese Garden.

3. Entrance fees for the Japanese Gardens in 1973 was 40 cents (adult), 20 Cents (child) and FIFTY CENTS for a CAMERA. Yes, your camera was worth more than a human being. In the 1990’s, this increased to $4.50 per adult.

4. The statue of Confucius, donated to the Chinese Garden by the Taiwanese, was worth $100, 000.

5. A Registry of Marriages branch opened  in 1982, which catered to couples who wanted to have their solemnisations done over the weekend. By 1984, it was gone.

6. In 1981, it rained BULLETS on Jurong Lake, believed to be an accidental machine gun misfiring by a company under the Defence Ministry known as ODE (Ordnance Development and Engineering). Thankfully no one was hurt.

7. There were plans in 1991 to build an UNDERGROUND MUSEUM at Chinese Gardens. Shelved, obviously.

8. The now defunct Tang Dynasty City, a failed theme park located near the Gardens, once had ambitions to build a $500,000 earthquake simulator from Japan. A disastrous venture, this vanity project with its army of robot terracotta warriors cost $100 million to build, opened in 1992 and had closed shop before the end of that decade.

9. The Live Tortoise and Turtle Museum collection features an exotic reptile called the MATA-MATA. I heard the Police need a mascot.

10. Chinese Garden MRT was once called Jurong Lake Station. 

Golden Mile Complex belongs in a Mumbai slum

From ‘Buildings not worth preserving’, 9 May 2014, My Point, ST Forum

(Anuradha Singh): THE Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen. It looks like it belongs in a Mumbai slum. To even think of preserving it is absurd (“Architects keen on conservation status for Pearl Bank”; yesterday).

When many beautiful old buildings are being demolished in the name of “development”, why maintain this monstrosity in the name of modernist architecture?

There are many fine examples of modernist architecture worth preserving – but Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex do not belong in that category.

Golden Slumdog Millionaire

I don’t know if Anuradha has actually been to a Mumbai slum, but who made this woman the heritage AUTHORITY in deciding what should be preserved and what should be demolished? A favela in Rio would be a more apt description. Still, she may be right about the ugliness. In 2006, NMP Ivan Png echoed the writer’s sentiments and called Golden Mile a ‘vertical slum’ and a national DISGRACE. Other Singaporeans slammed it as an EYESORE, and that it belonged in the same slummy category as Lucky Plaza (incidentally also a foreign worker enclave like Golden Mile). Maybe in a few decades’ time people will be complaining about another ugly building that has erstwhile become a national icon, the hanging surfboard that is Marina Bay Sands. You won’t have to look far, though, for the OTHER slum in our spanking clean Garden City – the entire Hougang GRC. Would the writer suggest going all Sodom and Gomorrah on Hougang as well?

Here are some things you never knew about Golden Mile Complex, other than it being the only place in town you can celebrate Songkran with actual water. For a while, it was the pinnacle of urban living and a tremendous ‘breakthrough’ in Singapore architecture intended to attract the well-heeled, the ‘mile high club’, so to speak. Today it’s a top contender for Architecture’s equivalent of the World’s Ugliest Dog award, with people so pissed off with its look that they would come in like a wrecking ball themselves to knock it out of existence.

1. In the 70’s, you could buy a ‘luxury apartment’ and ‘penthouse’ with a ‘uninterrupted panoramic’ seafront view, facing even the Southern Islands.

2. Golden Theatre, opened in 1973, boasted a preview room and a VIP LOUNGE, and was one of the BIGGEST theatres in those days.  These days it screens softcore porn and the occasional Hindi blockbuster.

3. In 1989, you could buy Thai nudie mags disguised as ‘respectable women’s magazines’ there for $3. Ah, pre-Internet.

4. The ‘ugly’ facade was intended to resemble a ship, and by the mid eighties has been described as a ‘tacky beach cruiser’. Well, from certain angles, you could see why. All aboard, mateys.

Not so smooth sailing

5. It was designed by a team of architects including Tay Kheng Soon. In his bio for the 2010 Fifth Gold Medal Recipient, works cited include KK Hospital, ITE Bishan and Serangoon Gardens Country Club. GMC wasn’t mentioned. As for KKH, doesn’t its cross section in this draft remind you of something else, a cruise ship maybe? A GOLDEN cruise ship?

6. Its stepped terrace design has been praised by international architecture experts including Dutch Rem Koolhaas, who referred to Golden Mile and her sister ‘monstrosity’ People’s Park Complex, as ‘accidental’ landmarks and bold ‘experimental’ structures. They’re probably the same people who gush over Mumbai slums because there’s nothing sexier to architects than chaos and decadent sprawl. As long as they don’t live a day in it.

7. Lastly, GMC has also been compared to a typewriter.

An icon doesn’t need to be pretty to endear to Singaporeans and tourists alike, and we don’t need to rely on just refurbished shophouses or rusty religious buildings to add ‘character’ to our city. GMC and People’s Park are just a couple of many local designers’ creations out there threatened by collective sale. Victor Chew’s Cairnhill Hilltops and Ming Court Hotel (now Orchard Parade Hotel) were given the Godzilla treatment. If we don’t start conserving now, all we’d have left on this tiny island are HDB blocks,  condos and ugly showpieces commissioned to foreign designers, too expensive to tear down. Losing Golden Mile would be like sweeping ‘lawless’ Geylang off the map.

Still good as Gold Photo credit: Darren Soh

Still good as Gold
Photo credit: Darren Soh

GMC is not just a Thai hangout and hub of sleaze where you could get a gloryhole blowjob from a stranger in a cubicle of the dingiest loo in the country. Even if GMC fails to remain viable as a mixed-use building, it could at least be preserved as a location to shoot a dystopian Judge Dredd action movie. But for now it’s still a workplace, home and even SECOND HOME to many people, Thai workers included, and to call for its destruction because it burns your eyeballs just to gaze at it is, well, rather ugly thinking too.

THE Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen. It looks like it belongs in a Mumbai slum. To even think of preserving it is absurd (“Architects keen on conservation status for Pearl Bank”; yesterday).

When many beautiful old buildings are being demolished in the name of “development”, why maintain this monstrosity in the name of modernist architecture?

There are many fine examples of modernist architecture worth preserving – but Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex do not belong in that category.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/my-point-20140509#sthash.o4BCuG0m.dpuf

Barney the crocodile found dead at Kranji Reservoir

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

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

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

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

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

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

This croc tips the scales

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

Here is a quick social history of crocs in Singapore:

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

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 1.59.50 PM

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

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 1.25.57 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Charter penalising men unfairly

From ‘Stop abuse of Women’s Charter’, 26 April 2014, St Forum

(Derek Low): I SUPPORT Justice Choo Han Teck’s suggestion to reform the Women’s Charter (“Maintenance not an unalloyed right of women: Judge”; Tuesday), although his idea of a Marriage Charter may take years to become reality. Women in our society have often pleaded for equal rights in every aspect of their lives. So why do we still allow double standards that penalise men under the Charter?

The Charter was enacted in the 1960s to protect the many housewives who were supported by their husbands. But times have changed. Our Government has encouraged women to join the workforce to be independent and contribute to nation building. Women have come a long way since then. Many are more successful than their husbands, who are proud of their spouses’ achievements.

I urge Singapore’s modern women to take pride in who they are, what they do and the effort they have put into their marriages. But when the marriage fails, they ought to be logical and sensible, instead of making unreasonable demands under the outdated Charter.

Justice Choo called for a fairer ‘Marriage Charter’ after rejecting a woman’s $120,000 claim from her ex-husband. She’s a regional sales manager while he’s a senior prison officer, the latter already currently paying $1000 monthly for a 17-year old son from her PREVIOUS marriage. The judge cuttingly refers to such arrangements as ‘patronising gestures of maintenance that belie deep chauvinistic thinking’. In 2011, ST reported that an average tai-tai can expect to earn $15-30K of monthly maintenance from ‘high net-worth’ husbands. The Queen of Instagram herself, Jamie Chua, sought a jaw-dropping $450,000 monthly from her ex-husband.

Unfortunately for some not-so-well-off men, such flexibility wasn’t so readily applied in the past. In 1980, divorcee ‘Born Losers’ cried foul when his ‘recalcitrant wife’ got to benefit from his maintenance, even though she wasn’t the one looking after the kids. It was already known in 1970 that men get the shorter end of the stick when a marriage fails, with one writer referring to the Charter as the ‘additional FANGS to a woman’s natural armoury of feminine weapons and wiles’, and that marriage was mostly beneficial to women, the men being ‘unappreciated, unsung martyrs’. Some fall victim to frivolous accusations of defying ‘personal protection orders’, especially if they’re twice the weight of their wives and naturally viewed as the bully in the relationship. This call for ‘gender equality’ isn’t new really, with people recognising the unfairness in the laws as early as 1971 – more than 40 YEARS ago!

We have to thank a certain Mr K.M Bryne, Minister of Labour and Law, who in 1959 decided that ‘women and girls’ needed to be protected from the abominable pigs that are men, which interestingly included elements such as ‘sweeping powers against patrons of brothels’, and a ‘one-man-one-wife law applicable to all EXCEPT Muslims’. The intention was to bring the laws ‘up to date’ with other countries ‘like England’, based on the assumption that women are the more devoted parents who only want the best for their children that they would give up their careers for them. That they would never marry a rich dude for money, find a reason to desert him, then ask for maintenance leveraging on this wife-protecting charter. Meanwhile, men are compelled to read the laws carefully before deciding if marriage is worth the risk of a lifetime of indebtedness, and even if they are financially worse off than their spouse, they’re sometimes liable to give what the law refers to as a ‘token fee’. In some cases, this can be even as low as 1 freakin’ DOLLAR.

In an attempt to nullify its image as a male-bashing organisation, AWARE stepped up to propose that the charter be renamed the ‘Family Charter’ (Tweak Women’s Charter for gender equality, ST Forum, 25 April 2014), claiming that they have ‘LONG ARGUED that much of the Charter needs to be rethought’. Well have they really? What have they been doing to urge ‘rethinking’ of the Charter to ease the burden on men since their formation in 1985? It’s not stated anywhere in their list of milestones, though in 2010 then Executive Director Corrine Lim defended that it was a ‘misconception’ that the Charter was ‘anti-male’, yet at the same time admitted that the maintenance issue was ‘outmoded and unfair’. Well of course it can’t be ‘anti-male’, it was a MAN’s idea in the first place.

Maybe more men could have been rescued from such archaic laws if the organisation had focussed more on pushing for revisions of the charter rather than slamming ads for being sexist or getting misogynistic army songs banned. More recently AWARE has complained about NSmen receiving benefits as reward for service because NS isn’t the ‘single gold standard for citizen belonging‘, and that this threatens to create ‘different tiers’ within society. As one who served himself, such handouts are well appreciated, though it’s tempting to brag it’s only one’s duty to serve and that we’re not doing this for housing or education benefits but for the NATION. We especially didn’t ask for AWARE, who is obviously in no position to comment on NS matters, to urge that we should be deprived of the fruits of our labour should the Government deems us deserving of such. Maybe this gender-neutral Charter response is really a smokescreen for the backlash from that previous NS comment.

But back to the Charter. AWARE weren’t the first to suggest a change of name and have no right to claim credit for it.  In 1980, some Christian societies called for the courts to exercise discretion to grant maintenance to the husband ‘where circumstances justified it’, like the handicapped or those too poor to maintain themselves. The name ‘Family Charter’ was proposed then. Others called for a counterpart to the Women’s Charter called the MEN’s Charter. Maybe we should have a CHILDREN’S Charter too, one that protects kids against neglect because their splitting parents are too busy fighting over money to perform basic childcare duties.

As a credit card company once famously said: The men don’t get it.

Schizophrenic NSman slapped with 14 extras before suicide jump

From ‘Coroner rules out foul play in NSF’s death’, 12 April 2014, article in CNA

A Coroner’s report has ruled out foul play in the death of a 22-year-old man who was serving national service last year. Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Pte Ganesh Pillay – who has schizophrenia – was found dead at the foot of his condominium in Sengkang last July.

His father has raised concerns over how the army deals with soldiers with mental conditions. The Coroner’s Court heard that Pte Ganesh’s supervisor did not know the full extent – and effects – of schizophrenia.

…Pte Ganesh was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18. But his father said his son’s condition had stabilised with medication. He said: “When the army told him that he cannot be exempted, but he will be downgraded to PES E, I was rest assured that the army will take care of him. I trusted the army.

“In fact, I trusted that much to the very last day. I still have that trust, until the time he died, then I start to figure out what went wrong.” On the day Pte Ganesh died, he was unwell and had returned home from camp.

His supervisor — Captain Jessie Goh — had earlier issued Pte Ganesh with 14 extra duties as punishment for, among other things, unsatisfactory work and improper bearing. Mr Reganathan said Captain Goh seemed oblivious to his son’s condition.

In a similar suicide case in 1979, Cpl Tan Cheng Eyong leapt to his death 2 days after consultation with a camp psychiatrist. He had obsessive-compulsive neurosis and ‘reactive depression’, a disorder reportedly triggered by his O Level exams.  A 1987 report on the incidence of mental illness among NSmen revealed that between 400 and 500 required psychiatric help each year, of which 10 to 15% suffered from schizophrenia, 30-35% with ‘stress related conditions’ and the rest from ‘depression, anxiety, HOMOSEXUALITY and various other NEUROSES’.   What was less reported in the 80’s was the phenomenon known as ‘possession-trance’, (40 cases referred to Woodbridge from 1979 to 1981) where the authors of a study published in 1986 discussed the effect of a stressful life event like NS on this ‘hysterical dissociation’. I would expect the rates of mental illness to be higher today, though it’s unlikely that there are any official statistics on this matter. Most boys escape NS unscathed of course, but some, like Ganesh, may have flown way over the cuckoo’s nest.

Ex military psychiatrist and colonel Ang Yong Guan identified schizophrenia as the MOST COMMON psychotic illness among NSmen, with only a minority of those diagnosed able to qualify to work in non-combat positions provided their disease was under control. 19 year old Julius Chan, today a peer specialist dealing with mental patients, wanted to pursue priesthood and avoid NS. He ‘prayed a lot, asking God to take away this time’ for him, went too far, suffered a schizoid breakdown and was eventually exempted from conscription. The most well known case of an NSman going berserk is Dave Teo, who went AWOL with a SAR21 rifle and ammo after his girlfriend broke up with him and eventually jailed for 9 years. He was suffering from behavioral problems including suicidal thoughts and depression, and also ‘began to HEAR VOICES of people who were not there’, aural hallucinations being one of the signs of schizophrenia. Thankfully, no one was massacred in Orchard Road where Dave was caught.

Then there are the other neurological diseases. Jonathan Lim Chong Ping, who drowned in the Singapore River over Christmas in 2013, had sought treatment for ‘adjustment disorder’ while serving NS.  Harmoko Julianus, 22, was suffering a relapse of bipolar disorder when he made a bomb hoax at the British embassy and only exempted from NS after the incident. Maybe the best management of mental disorders in young men is not helplines or risperidone, but a PES F status, whereby you’re medically unfit for any kind of service altogether.

Andy Ho of ST believes that NS, which takes the schizophrenic away from his family, stigmatises and punishes him for symptoms of his illness, should be exempted altogether (Exempt these young men from NS, 13 April 2014, Sunday Times). In any case, is clerical work so important that we need to desperately fill these vocations with boys with mental illness if we have to? What’s the value of fulfilling NS obligations for the sake of it if they don’t do anything productive or in Ganesh’s case, make things worse?

It is not clear when exactly an 18 year old Ganesh became schizophrenic, but only a study examining the onset of schizophrenia among Singaporean men will provide some insight as to whether the regimental rigours of NS has anything to do with aggravating the disease, adjusting for other factors such as family history. Any researcher, however, would be MAD to even propose such a hypothesis for a complex disorder, one that happens to manifest around the same time as NS enlistment. Also, we don’t have a base of non-enlisted men to compare to since NS is mandatory. A 1968 study by Steinberg and Durrell, however, showed a striking increase in admissions for schizophrenia among men joining the US Army, especially within the first month. Those include men who WILLINGLY signed up for war.

What’s unacceptable here is that for such a prevalent mental disorder among NSmen, someone of the rank of Captain would have totally no clue about what schizophrenia means. It doesn’t help that society also often downplays the term ‘schizophrenic’ as reference to anything that’s ‘unpredictable’ or mixes it up with ‘multiple/split personality’. Singapore’s Urbanism has been described as ‘schizophrenic’, and artist David Chan calls his exhibition about humans with animal heads ‘Hybrid Society: Schizophrenia‘.  It has also been misused to describe spouses, friends or bosses who are ‘extremely temperamental’. To an uninformed layperson like Jessie Goh, a ‘schizo’ attack may not be any more severe than someone throwing a really bad tantrum.

One of the extras dished out to Ganesh was for ‘failure to sign a logbook’. To lash out 14 extras on a human being, schizophrenic or not, is also a sign of mental disturbance, that of a sadistic psychopath. And there are probably more of these in the military than people hearing voices and thinking of killing themselves. The commando head dunker, the dog abuser, or the encik who insults your mother. Maybe all these nuts should get their heads checked as well.

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