Stray chickens spotted in Singapore

From ‘Stray chickens spotted wandering around several parts of Singapore’, 22 July 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

Singapore may strike some as a concrete city, but stray chickens have been seen wandering around various parts of the island in recent months.

A concerned member of the public living in the Stirling View and Mei Ling Road neighbourhood in Queenstown had wrote in to Stomp recently to report several sightings of chickens in the neighbourhood.

She had highlighted the issue to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the town council, but attempts to catch the birds were reportedly not successful. Stray chickens also appear to be thriving in the Fort Canning area.

According to Mr B. L. Koh, who goes on regular jogs in the vicinity, stray chickens can be spotted at three locations – near the Fort Canning Hotel, the Central Fire Station on Hill Street and the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple along Tank Road.

Unlike other flying birds like pigeons, crows and mynahs, chickens don’t shit on our cars or heads, and neither are they legally considered ‘pests’ that need to be culled. In fact, one particular species with a glorious flaming red comb is known as the Red Junglefowl, an endangered species. If there’s any ‘concern’ by the complainant it’s probably paranoia over bird flu, in which case, he or she should also sound the alarm on every flock of pecking pigeon that you can find in almost every neighbourhood. ESPECIALLY WITH LITTLE CHILDREN CHASING THEM ABOUT OH DEAR GOD!

In 1983, an ST forum writer lamented about his missing cockerel in the Chip Bee estate, whose ‘strident’ morning cry would bring some ‘kampung’ vibe to an otherwise staid concrete jungle, Mother Nature’s alarm clock that would make you arise with a smile rather than stumble about shit-faced grumpily reaching for the snooze button. The cock’s crow was welcomed as the ‘sweetest of nature’s melodies’, a sound that’s all but extinct today. Without cocks, we’d have to settle for the shrill buzz of crickets and lizard chirps, a creepy-crawlie orchestra to soothe our senses against the barrage of chugging engines, MRT trains and neighbours banging goddamn cutlery early in the morning.

Others didn’t take too kindly to the constant crowing, though. Still, it’s not like these chickens are grazing around HDB flats to the annoyance of humans. They’re not bothering anyone, not picking at leftovers in a hawker centre, or charging at little children, not attacking your Sheng Shiong plastic bag of groceries, so why the fowl mood? Aren’t we supposed to be a ‘City in a Garden’, where you can find the occasional otter family, monitor lizards, Lyssa zampas or even an owl in the Istana?

That video of chickens frolicking about on a grass patch was strangely therapeutic, and pity that some people fail to appreciate the simple joy of animals running wild, and complain to the authorities with a cock-and-bull story that we’re facing a chicken epidemic. Imagine an AVA officer chasing a squawking bird and failing miserably. Now that will go viral – I’m cocksure of it.

SAF getting first female Brigadier General

From ‘SAF promotes first female to Brigadier General’, 26 June 2015, article by Chan Luo Er, CNA

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) now has their first female Brigadier-General (BG). Col Gan Siow Huang was one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of BG and RADM (One -Star) at the annual SAF promotion ceremony on Friday (Jun 26). She will assume her rank on Jul 1.

She was among the first four women to receive the SAF merit scholarship in 1993, and she now heads the Joint Manpower Department. In recent years, she has been making calls for more women to choose the SAF as a career. Currently, close to 1,500 women hold combat jobs in the SAF, less than 10 per cent of SAF regular personnel. Every year, about 60 women join the army.

As women make progress in the armed forces, Singapore continues to lag in terms of female presence in boardroom positions (9% of board seats). This despite instances of negative gender stereotypes in army recruitment ads, such as the ‘Shades of Green‘ campaign that suggested that there’s still a little vain princess in every woman looking at a career in SAF, rather than a GI Jane. It’s probably a matter of time before we get a female Chief of Army, and this is likely to be even before we get our first female Prime Minister.

Here’s a timeline of achievements by women in uniform in an organisation that is traditionally helmed by men with moustaches. As expected, those in the honour roll who are also mothers are lauded for their ability to ‘balance work and family commitments’, and talk about how their husbands are always ‘supportive’ and OK with the fact that their spouses have more balls than they do.

1967: First deployed doing clerical and logistics work.
1971: First military car drivers.
1987: First Senior Warrant Officer (SWO).
1987: First combat instructors. In this article, the now derogratory phrase ‘fairer sex’ was used.
1999: First Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) (High-flying women, 30 June 1999, ST)
2000: First Commanding Officer (CO) of an an army combat unit
2005: First colonel. Like BG Gan, Karen Tan (now retired from SAF) is a working mother.
2006: First Regimental Sergeant Major
2007 (?): First F-16 fighter pilot
2014: First Apache helicopter pilot. Captain Joyce Xie was formally trained in molecular and cell biology.
2015: First BG.

As you can see, women in uniform have achieved more in 15 years than their counterparts in Parliament. Our Cabinet is still predominantly male. Maybe Jack Neo, currently bleeding the Ah Boys franchise dry, may want to consider an ‘Ah Girls to Generals’ movie trilogy.

Policeman shot in Khoo Teck Puat hospital

From ‘Shooting case at hospital:Man could face death penalty’, 22 June 2015, Today

The police have classified Saturday’s incident at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where a police officer was shot, as an unlawful discharge of firearms under the Arms Offences Act, an offence that carries the death penalty. The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was arrested for motor vehicle theft on Friday, will be hauled to court this afternoon on this holding charge

…The suspect, who was under remand for further investigations into his alleged motor vehicle theft, had complained of chest pains on Saturday and was escorted by police officers to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to seek medical attention.

At about 7.05pm, while inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape and struggled with one of the officers. TODAY understands that the suspect had attacked the 31-year-old officer while his colleague stepped out of the room. The suspect is believed to have taken hold of the officer’s baton and used it to beat the latter.

He then snatched the officer’s revolver and discharged three rounds, before he was subdued and the situation was brought under control. The accused sustained superficial injuries.

The death penalty for using a gun on another person, even with just the intention to cause hurt,  came into force in 1974, signed off by then President Benjamin Sheares. ‘Firearms’ also includes air pistols, air guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Arms Offences Act. In fact, you don’t even need to aim your weapon at a living thing to get convicted with a possible death sentence. The law states:

“…any person who uses or attempts to use any arm shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have used or attempted to use the arm with the intention to cause physical injury to any person or property.”

The lesson here then, is unless you’re a soldier or a cop, hands off anything that fires pellets, missiles or bullets. Even threatening people with a toy gun, or what the law describes as an ‘imitation arm’, can land you 10 years in jail and 3 strokes of the rotan. What’s not clear is whether you’ll still get death if your gun is not loaded and you’re using it just to scare your target like an imitation arm. What will happen to you if you shot people in the knee with a bow and arrow, or a catapult at close range for that matter? Or what if you managed to disarm a robber of his pistol and was forced to fire it near his feet to scare him away? As Mr Bean taught us, you could create havoc just using your bare hand as an ‘imitation arm’.

The first death sentence for such a crime was doled out to Sha Bakar Dawood in 1976, who wounded 3 people in a brothel and fired at the police. A year earlier, an accomplice to an armed robbery was sent to the gallows as well, despite him voluntarily surrendering to the police. For decades our strict gun control laws kept us safe from gang robberies and mass slaughters, that is until 2005 when Chestnut Drive Secondary School was mysteriously attacked by a suspected sniper with an air-gun. Not sure if the culprit was ever caught, though thankfully no one was hurt during the onslaught.

It’s a terrible idea to try to snatch a policeman’s revolver, not only because you risk being sent to the hangman’s, but you may get shot or even killed before your execution in the ensuing struggle. In the mid 80’s, a motorcycle thief was shot in the abdomen in failed attempt. 2 men died within the span of 20 days in 1984 while playing tug-of-war with armed police. In 1985, a 19 year old was hit in the chest and died after trying to grab a PC’s revolver. In his defence, PC Tay Kok Thong had just wanted to fire a shot to ‘scare him away’. In the same year, an escaping burglar was fatally shot in the neck.  In the KTPH case, the policeman had it worse off, but would the accused still get the death penalty even if he was shot in the face at the same time that the cop got his hand blown off, and survived?

I trust that our police are drilled in dealing with gun-snatch situations without the trigger being pulled and accidentally killing someone. Still, if you’re a revolver thief, you may try sneaking up on a detective while he’s fooling around with his girl in a park, or grab his bag while he’s swimming, instead of trying to yank it out of his holster. For the moment, there is no punishable-by-death law against the ‘unlawful wielding of a knife or equivalent sharp object’, even though you can just as well kill someone at close range with a stabbing weapon. Such a law, however, could probably put an end to secret society gangfights and domestic kitchen disputes once and for all.

SG50 salary bonus should be for everyone

From ‘Extend SG50 bonus to all’, 19 June 2015, ST Forum

(Sim Ghee Choon): IT IS encouraging to hear that a $500 bonus will be given to civil servants (“Civil servants to get $500 in special SG50 payment”; yesterday). However, it is disheartening that Singaporeans who work in the private sector will miss out on this jubilee celebration.

Stay-at-home mothers who are taking care of the next generation and retirees will also not be similarly rewarded. Would the Government consider giving this bonus to all citizens in their Central Provident Fund accounts instead?

If the writer had done his homework, he would have known that DBS Bank had already given employees ranked vice president and below TWICE the civil service bonus (Companies urged to recognise employee’s contributions with special SG50 reward, 29 May, ST). SMRT also rewarded their staff with $500 worth of shopping vouchers. If the Government had decided to give not just civil servants, but EVERYONE in the country $50 cold hard cash ($500 would be ridiculous), people would still be complaining as if a millionaire relative just gave them a $4 ang pow during CNY .

One gripe that non-civil servants have towards the SG50 bonus, other than it not being distributed to every citizen, crooks and that bastard neighbour included,  is that it comes from taxpayers’ pockets. In 2003, a freelance journalist suggested in a Today commentary that the civil service is a burden to other Singaporeans who don’t live off an ‘iron rice bowl’, that those who work for the government ‘do not generate wealth’, and 1 in 9 people in the private sector is supporting a civil servant. That would be seeing the civil service in pure economic terms, without realising that that civil service extends beyond paper-pushing bureaucrats to the people that keep the streets safe, our young ones educated, and ensure the ill and infirmed are well taken care of. Yes, the same folks who will be working and sweating their butts off while the rest celebrate SG50 in August.

In 1971, Dr Toh Chin Chye was against the policy of dishing out civil service bonuses, for the very fact that this may become a ‘political issue’. To quote the man:

If Prime Minister Lee says to give each one a bonus, then I’m sure the confidence of the people in the Government will collapse.

As he predicted, once the bonus floodgates opened in a bid to keep the civil service ‘attractive’ and ‘clean’, ministries included, people began to question how the Government spent our hard-earned money. Today, those who don’t get the SG50 cut frantically take out their calculators and deduce what could be bought with that enormous sum of money ($71 million to be exact, according to TOC). No two people will ever agree, however, on how best the money should be spent. For every suggestion to pump dollars into ‘the arts’, there are others calling for more hospital beds, affordable housing or adding a Harry Potter attraction to Universal Studios.

Then there are those who call the Government out for vote-buying and begin to speculate on the timing for the next election. Though it may seem that $500 is the crunchiest carrot of the truckload of goodies that they have been dishing the past few years, any gratitude and pleasure over this bonus may just diminish over time due to hedonistic adaptation. It may be ‘Wow!’ one moment, and ‘Meh’ the next, simply because it doesn’t feel like you earned the $500 out of your individual achievements, especially since every Tom, Dick and Harry in the civil service got what you got. Besides, you don’t need to tempt civil servants to vote in the PAP. The whole system was designed such that they have an obligation to do so anyway.

The problem is that it’s impossible for the Government to know what EVERY damn Singaporean wants, nor should they pander to people who become instant financial advisors once there’s goodies to be given out. They declare an additional SG50 public holiday but some of us complain that we still need to work on shift, while those who don’t need to work take the opportunity to zip out of the country for a long weekend vacation like the ungrateful brats that we are. They give us fun packs but we complain that these are bloody useless and a waste of money. They give us free public transport and we scoff at their ability to deal with the impending crowds. They give our babies SG50 slings and we ask why no milk powder vouchers instead. They donate money to disaster-hit areas and we complain that we could have done more. They give electricity bill discounts and we complain that this encourages indiscriminate use and hurts the environment. If we push our luck any further, the Government may just use the spare dough to ship the whole lot of us to some Third World village for a week, just for us to see ‘how good we have it’ here, that we should be thankful we even get paid at all.

ST editor Chua Mui Hoong thinks that the $500 lacks sincerity (Cold hard cash lacks warm, fuzzy feeling, 21 June, Sunday Times), and compares the bonus to a man giving his girlfriend cash instead of making the extra effort to find out what she really wants.  She even thought of a ‘special gold-plated medallion’ to commemorate the event, like what we give to SG50 babies, which I would reject on the spot because it’s like a clueless relative giving you redundant kitchenware during Christmas. At least you can fetch a higher price selling crockery on Carousell. Nobody wants your stupid SG50 medallion, not even people with a fetish for medallion smelling. Hell, if you want sincerity and love let’s just forget the money and instead have our MPs come deliver to every Singaporean 50 seconds of hugs and kisses then.

Burning joss paper leading to lung cancer

From ‘Restrict incense burning to places of worship’, 15 June 2015, ST Forum

(Madam Wah Yan Chan): I AGREE with Mr Mckeena Neo (“Common corridors not the place for burning incense paper”; June 2). While our forefathers may have burnt joss paper and incense sticks as a sign of devotion, they probably did so without knowing that such burning produces a cocktail of harmful carcinogens that may cause conditions such as asthma and, in the long term, can lead to life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer.

Causing inconvenience and harm to others should never be justified on the bases of religion and tradition. Surely Singapore should have a law prohibiting the burning of incense and joss paper in common areas and restricting the practice to designated places of worship.

There are regulations in the Environmental Public Health Act that stipulate how many joss sticks and candles with specific dimensions may be burnt in premises such as an ‘enclosed space’ or a temple. When burning cancerous joss paper, however, the public is merely advised to use burning pits and containers provided by town councils and clean up their mess after satisfying the gods, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it just outside your HDB flat. The writer above is clearly convinced that burning joss paper increases one’s risk of cancer and should be banned from public areas. The problem is she’s somehow OK with people getting cancer in ‘designated places of worship’.

Whether or not joss paper has the same risk as cigarette smoke is up for debate, since I believe no one has done extensive epidemiological studies on joss paper as we have for tobacco. What is certain, however, is joss paper is a potential fire hazard, especially if people are appeasing their ancestors near a PETROL STATION. Even burning them in bins as recommended by the authorities may lead to explosions in your FACE if there’s a stray aerosol can lying within. In 1976, a blaze ripped through a Jalan Ubi village, rendering 16 locals homeless. It started when burning joss paper flew into a mattress factory. If only the Fire department had SPRUNG into action faster then.

You may think we’re relatively safe because we don’t live in attap houses anymore, but God help you if a stray hot ash lands on your curtain.  You could say a lit cigarette may cause hell on Earth as well, but the trajectory of burning ash in the wind is more unpredictable, and it’s harder to catch the culprit because it could have blown in from anywhere. It could be a little girl behind it following her parents’ instructions to send money to Grandma’s account in the Netherworld. Do we, then, need to wait for someone to perish from a freak joss paper fire, not to mention asthma or lung cancer, before we do something?

Curbing a religious practice may have, well, inflammatory repercussions, and may explain why the authorities are slow to crack down on joss paper burning, even doing little to stop worshippers from aggravating the haze and pissing off asthmatics some years back. Interestingly, one of the stories behind how joss paper was invented involves a con-job by a paper inventor Cai Lun, who tried to boost paper sales by faking his own death and getting his wife to bribe the King of Hell to return his soul through joss offerings. Today, it has morphed into a custom of filial piety and endearing superstition, though one incompatible with our bid for a ‘clean and green’ future. Then again, we’re still seeing ever more cars on the road, trees being cut down to be replaced by condos and people continuing to smoke like chimneys because the government has banned all ‘smokeless’ tobacco products. At least the burning of joss paper, for all its environmental damage, is a small price to pay if it stops ghosts, demons and the evil dead from popping out of hell portals in what’s left of Bukit Brown and haunting the shit out of us all.

I forsee the practice dying out by the next generation anyway, provided we all don’t die of joss-induced cancer, asthma or in a fiery inferno anytime soon.

Singapore swimmers dropping the name ‘Red Lions’

From ‘MINDEF welcomes SSA’s decision to drop Red Lions name’, 18 March 2015, article in CNA

The Ministry of Defence said it welcomes the Singapore Swimming Association’s decision to not use the name ‘Red Lions’. This comes just days after Manpower Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council President Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Singapore’s aquatic athletes will be collectively known as “The Red Lions”, in a bid to provide a common identity for the sport.

The Red Lions tag was meant to unite the five disciplines – diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo and open water swimming. However, the name is already used for the Singapore Armed Forces’ parachute team.

In response to media queries, Chief Commando Officer COL Simon Lim said: “We welcome Singapore Swimming Association’s move to drop the use of ‘Red Lions’. The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”

SAF came up with the ‘Red Lions’ in 1995, and when the SSA decided to adopt the tag for our swimming team, commandos cried foul. Granted, it’s awkward to name a swim team after a land mammal, likewise an elite group of flying commandos, but this ruckus over a name supposedly synonymous with the NDP parachuters smacks of poor, well, sportsmanship. These are our own countrymen fighting tooth and nail for national glory for goodness sake.

MINDEF itself has been accused of stealing other people’s ideas, namely a mobile medical station. ‘Lions’, in fact, has been used to identify sport teams way before the commandos decided to add a national colour to it and claim ownership. Here’s a rundown:

1) The Singapore Lions, polo (1920’s). I suppose the one with horses.

2) Our national soccer team (1970’s till now), with the developmental ‘Young Lions’ under their wing.

3) The Dunearn Lions, rugby (1970’s)

4) The ‘Police Lions‘, a squash team (1980)

5) Amazingly, a tennis squad called the Brylcreem Lions (1970s). I’m sure they gel very well as a team.

6) TaeKwanDo Lions(1980s), which in my opinion, is the most befitting of the king of the jungle, a sport which involves you striking and mauling your opponent. Sometimes you also roar.

Of course these days we have teams adopting the ‘Singapore Lions’ tag without our football team making a hissy fit about it, like this cheerleading squad for example. I could form a competitive chess team and call ourselves Singapore Lions without anyone accusing me of identity theft. Like the sky-jumpers, our footballers also deserve to be called ‘a group who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through HIGH RISKS to capture people’s imagination’. But that doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusivity to the name, especially one that pays tribute to a national symbol. 

If there’s any good out of this, it gives the SSA a chance to choose a far superior name, something closer to the aquatic nature of the sport. The ST reported that other choices included the Red Singas, Red Merlions or, strangely enough, Aquamen, the latter possibly getting you in trouble with DC comics. Or AWARE since there are women in the team.  How about the Red Tomans perhaps, unless MINDEF decides to shoot the SSA down again for choosing the same colour.

PAP leaning too much to the left

From ‘Budget 2015: NMP Chia Yong Yong cautions against PAP leaning too much to the left’, article by Siau Ming En, 3 March 2015, Today

While Budget 2015 has been praised be some Members of Parliament (MPs) and observers as being left-leaning, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong today (March 3) cautioned against an expenditure that leans too heavily to the left, leading to members in the House thumping their armrests in approval.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Budget Speech, Ms Chia said: “We have in conclusion, a budget that is arguably very generous, and for which I am also very thankful. We have a budget that has been praised and approved as being leaning to the left.”

“But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” said Ms Chia.

MP Alex Yam, a man of the times, followed up with a sassy line from Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable': ‘To the left, to the left’, while MP K Karthikeyan said ‘If we go too far to the right, it’s not right’. Someone please set things right, or we’ll be left with directional puns all day. From the way Parliament is being conducted these days with all this merciless finger pointing at opposition MPs, things seem to be moving not left nor right, up or down, but going around in circles.

Right on, girl!

Chia’s concern echoes what the Budgetmeister himself Tharman said in a 2013 interview:

If I compare our thinking in Cabinet, or the weight of thinking in Cabinet, when I first entered politics about 11 years ago, I would say the weight of thinking was centrist but there were two flanks on either side of it,” he said. “There were some who were a little right-of-centre, and there were some a little left-of-centre. “Now I would say the weight of thinking is left-of-centre. You still get diversity of views in Cabinet, but the centre of gravity is left-of-centre.”

A ‘left-leaning’ ideology generally indicates belief in ‘socialism, equality and state assistance for individuals’. Like Chia, other MPs were concerned that we were being too generous with the Budget on ‘social spending’, that we risk becoming a welfare state. Hence all the armchair thumping like they were having a fan-girl encore at a Beyonce concert. I have no idea what ‘centrist’ thinking is, though it sounds vaguely like sitting on the fence.

Curiously enough, the PAP in its not-so-humble beginnings in fact started out as a LEFT WING SOCIALIST PARTY, as admitted by LKY himself in 1959, who pushed for his own brand of ‘democratic socialism’.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 7.42.43 PM

Hence the great socialism ‘experiment’ began, and Singapore by the late sixties was proudly referred to as ‘the only democratic socialist country in Asia’. We later became an esteemed member of the Socialist International, but were forced to ‘resign’ in 1976 over ‘anti-PAP’ allegations, namely the mistreatment of political detainees.  Our socialist stance then was seen by some observers as straddling the middle ground between communism and right-wing authoritarianism. Oh look, money for all you poor, hungry people one moment, execute drug traffickers, cane vandals, regulate websites, ban movies about exiles and sue bloggers in another. Socialism, Singapore style, is the multiple personality disorder of politics.

In a 2001 interview LKY brushed aside the socialist label (‘I wouldn’t say I consider myself a socialist. I was convinced that it was a civilized system of government’), reminiscing about how the UK Health system in the 40’s introduced him to what he later refers to as a ‘malfunctioning’ system. Today, however, we continue to espouse ‘democratic socialist’ ideals, which according to our PM Lee, the ex-socialist LKY’s son, entails ‘an open and compassionate meritocracy, a fair and just society’. Having a ‘Singaporean Singapore’ was part of our unique brand of socialism as well. What we can’t decide on is how far ‘left-of-centre’ we have become, a term which suggests that we have been playing it straight down the line all along. Those who believe we’re a fascist state would beg to differ.

Considering how extreme left the PAP once was, maybe we have been steered in the ‘right’ direction all this time. Now, if only there’s a song lyric for that.

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