All bicycles need to be regulated

From ‘All bicycles, not just electric ones, need to be regulated’, 26 Nov 2015, Voices, Today

(Alfred Lim): I support the suggestions in the letter “Greater regulation needed for electric bicycles, riders” (Nov 24). I would state further that every means of transport used on the roads, including regular bicycles, should be regulated. The growth in bicycle usage is unprecedented. Since the cost of motorcycle Certificates of Entitlement (COE) went up substantially, many have switched to bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise.

In land-scarce Singapore, car and motorcycle ownership is regulated in part by the COE system: There is a limit on the number allowed. Cars and motorcycles are required to be tested and insured, and are subject to ownership and usage laws. However, few regulations apply to bicycles, which were once few in number and hardly infringed on other road users’ rights. But this is no longer so. To be fair to all, the cost of bicycle usage cannot be zero or negligible.

Cyclists are not required to pass any test, which perhaps explains the unsafe behaviour seen regularly when they speed at pedestrian crossings, ignore the red light and disregard traffic laws. Being unregistered, they are rarely caught.

Bicycles require other road users to keep a safe distance; one occupies as much space on the roads as a motorcycle. They can cause accidents; hence, insurance is necessary.

Bicycles were once slow and cumbersome, but the new, lighter ones are capable of speeds nearing 50km an hour. Accidents could prove injurious to riders and other road users.

It is time to revisit the premise that we need not regulate bicycle ownership and usage. Accountability and regulation in this regard would be to the benefit and protection of all road users and pedestrians.

The call to issue licences to anyone who owns a bicycle is a case of backpedalling into the early 20th century, a time when bicycles were ‘slow and cumbersome’ and yet it was still dangerous to cycle one-handed while doffing your hat when a lady walks by.

In 1933, such measures were lauded as revenue-generating for the Government, in addition to deterring theft. Licensing did eventually come into play in 1936, with nearly 100,000 bikes being registered with the authority, and naturally, the Government took credit for  the subsequent reduction in traffic offences. I’m not sure if baby tricycles were spared, and whether it was your civic duty to report to the Police if you caught someone’s kid on an unauthorised vehicle blazing down the pavement without having to pass any sort of ‘test’ whatsoever.

In 1981, the Registry of Vehicles decided to scrap bicycle registration as they thought it was no longer sustainable to continue producing number plates and that it involved too much paperwork. The fee then was a measly $5. The very thought of applying for a licence for bicycle-riding today would turn many budding riders off, even if the fee is in the low double-digits. All this runs contrary to our vision of a cyclist-friendly nation. If roads do eventually appear to be safer following bicycle registration, it could merely mean that there are less cyclists on the streets, not because errant cyclists suddenly begin behaving more responsibly. You could register your killer pitbull with AVA, but if you don’t leash him in public there’s still the risk that it would bite someone’s face off.

Perhaps we should be thankful, for now, that the Government doesn’t already mandate bicycles to install ERP gantry readers. ‘To be fair to all’, as the writer suggests, maybe it’s not just cyclists who need to ‘pay’ for running riot on our streets. How about that oblivious jogger with earphones on, or those trolley-pushing cardboard collecting aunties? Or the uncle on a motorised wheelchair? Not every nail that sticks out needs to be hammered down.

The blunt instrument of regulation is not the answer to harmonious commuting. For cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to get around seamlessly requires creative rejigging of the current infrastructure given our space constraints. It requires smart policies coupled with enforcement, not slapping on another bureaucratic hoop that echoes the days when Mamasans rode around in trishaws.

PAP winners humbled by landslide victory

From ‘PAP wins in a landslide with 69.86% of votes’, 12 Sep 15, article in CNA

…Among the winning PAP candidates, clear common themes arose in their victory speeches and interviews: Gratitude to voters, the humbling mandate, and the work to be done.

For example, Cabinet Minister Grace Fu – one of the first winners to be announced on Friday night – said that while she was happy to see her share of the vote in Yuhua SMC improve from 66.9 per cent in 2011 to 73.54 per cent, she was “very humbled” by the mandate and would work hard to prove herself worthy of voters’ trust.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his victory speech for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told voters: “We are very grateful and happy but at the same time humbled by the result, by the trust you have put on us, by the responsibility we have taken on to serve you.”

In any sporting contest, to be ‘humbled’ usually refers to an unexpected result when a crowd favourite suffers defeat at the hands of a less worthy opponent, such as Man U were humbled 1-2 by Swansea City. In 1984, one would celebrate with champagne upon seeing the ‘mighty PAP humbled’ post-election. If you use it in the first person, however, it expresses something rather different, a feeling of surprise and gratitude mixed with mild self-deprecation. Like ‘I’m not a man with many friends, therefore I’m humbled to see all of you here at my wedding’, or ‘I’m a terrible writer, so I’m humbled to see people clicking on this blog’.

So the PAP, sensing that they may be in for a tough fight, decided to thank their supporters with some syncopatic grovelling when they were rewarded with a rock-solid victory margin. Being ‘satisfied’ , ‘happy’ or ‘relieved’ (or as Lim Swee Say would say, ‘heng ah’) isn’t enough. You need to give the masses the illusion of authority, that you, the MP, are the ‘chosen’ one, that you’re proud to assume the role as a servant of the people, a steward, a ‘JAGA’, as PM Lee described. That you’re so honoured by the overwhelming mandate that you could drop on your knees and kiss our feet for this opportunity to serve. Like we’re 18th century plantation owners buying you out of a life of tunnel digging or dragging boulders up a hill.

For a while at least, we, the PAP voters, are made to feel like the masters of our fate. The people have spoken, and whether you call it a mandate, upswing, or some severe ‘groupthink’ on the part of the electorate, we always bring out a crouching, simpering tiger during the victory parade, but come SG51, let us brace ourselves for the searing heat when that familiar fire-spewing dragon emerges out of its subservient shell. I suspect most Singaporeans already know this, that the U-turns, the misguided policies, the preservation of a conservative status quo, can be seen a mile away, but they decided that they would rather live with a painful, but apparently successful formula, than put their faith in the Opposition. Which makes us, well, political masochists who love complaining, who attend Opposition rallies and raise their candidates to the pedestal of heavy metal gods, but when it comes to the crunch, go for the only option that will enable us to continue complaining, to live in fear of getting arrested for defamation, to huddle with more sweaty bodies on the train, to save up for more goddamn Walls ice cream promotions. As long as someone is putting up a sheltered walkway, a lift upgrade, a new hawker centre, or giving away the occasional public holiday for no good reason.

As Kenneth Jeyaratnam sourly observed, Singaporeans got the government that we deserve. It’s only a matter of time before we see this charming humility being shed like a snake moulting its scales, and for the PAP to revert to its old highfalutin ways, with men and women with not just IRON in them, but willing to push policies with an iron fist as well. Until then, revel while you can, rest assured that with the PAP cruise ship restarting its voyage, and the mango fruits of election promises just starting to seed, there won’t be any dead founding fathers rising out of the grave to set things right anytime soon.

Workers’ party a bunch of arrogant nomads

From ‘Opposition parties come and go like nomads: ESM Goh’, 27 Aug 2015, article in CNA


“Opposition parties come and go like nomads. Nomads will not have an interest in the people’s welfare. A new tribe is coming – do they really have interest in Marine Parade’s welfare?

“Having spent forty years there, the residents know me. I will leave it to them to decide whether I’ve done a good job or not.

“The opposition will be there just throwing all kinds of distractions.

“You know the fable of the rooster that crows when the sunrises? The rooster goes around claiming that it’s the crow causing the sun to rise. So that’s what they’re doing.”


“Strength is relative. They (WP) are stronger than NSP (National Solidarity Party) – there’s no doubt about it – but there is a certain arrogance about them.

“With that arrogance will they be able to replace me and my team? Let them try. “Are we worried that WP is coming to MP? Look at the way they run their Town Council’s finances and look at the way we run (ours).

“You decide – who do you want to manage your town council?”

There’s a fine line between being arrogant and being confident, and you would expect one to swing to another in politics when showboating is necessary to get people to listen. When ESM Goh says WP are being ‘arrogant’ when they decided to send a team to challenge the MParader himself, he really means ‘You have the ‘cheek’ to challenge my 40 year old legacy.’ He also said that the PAP Government was ‘its own check’, without the need for Opposition ‘distractions’. This isn’t cock-sure confidence or boasting, it’s plain delusional. It’s like a drunkard saying he’s ‘not drunk’. This lecture on arrogance coming from someone who previously mocked the NSP as a ‘No Substance Party‘ during the last election. Someone who’s, obviously, no ‘spring chicken’ anymore.

If the WP were roaming nomads without a home to call their own, such talk makes the MParader himself sound more like an old man of the mountain, living in his ivory tower watching his subjects collect and transport cardboard for entertainment. With such lofty self-assurance, surely there’s no need for the Audit-General, the President, or even the need for public feedback because the PAP has been doing so well ‘checking themselves’, anal warts and all. Where’s the check when ex-MP Phey Yew Kok disappeared for almost 40 years after being charged for corruption? Did it wander off somewhere like a nomad?

If there’s anyone accused of arrogance it’s usually the ruling party itself, even ever since its inception. In 1959, Minister of Culture S Rajaratnam launched a scathing insult at the Opposition, calling them ‘comic opera parties‘, and that they belong to the ‘ice age’ of Singapore politics. Not a very ‘cultured’ remark, perhaps. Goh Keng Swee was also guilty of it, haranguing the English press for smearing the PAP.  LKY was also labelled as the ‘master of arrogance’.  You could say arrogance was built into the party’s DNA, at a time when hard knocks called for a hard head, that such blatant display of cockiness was, well, earned.

Nonetheless LKY and his ‘Old Guard’ were still well regarded by old folk in the 80’s and up till today, who yearned for the founding members’ never-say-die attitude instead of that displayed by their ‘arrogant’ younger successors. This generation includes types who make fun of another politician’s hearing disability, (Lim Wee Kiak on Low Thia Khiang), those who compensate for their not doing NS by invoking superhero nobility  (I spent the last 10 years saving kids’ lives – Janil Puthucheary) and those who brag about how politics is really a calling and how bad their pay cut was (Grace Fu – When I made the decision…).

Even PAP MPs themselves are aware of their own bloated sense of self-worth. In 2006, Indranee Rajah urged the PAP to ‘overhaul its arrogant image’. To be fair, the PAP by and large has softened since the 2011 GE, perhaps now fully aware that the people will not stand for strong-arm tactics and a holier-than-thou attitude much longer. Retired generals act like your everyman on the street, swapping their rugged camouflage kits for the squeaky clean all-whites. Lawyers dabble in Singlish and eat hawker food. Doctors like ‘nomadic’ candidate Koh Poh Khoon pick up leaf litter from drains. Baey Yam Keng and Tin Peiling handle sanitary pads and soiled diapers. They literally had their hands and feet on the ground. This could herald the new era of PAP MPs who you could actually relate to, while the old elitist breed stomp grudgingly into their twilight years, refusing to give up their knuckle-dusters and continue to bang on the Opposition, seething behind their wobbly dentures till their dying breath.

It’s interesting how ESM Goh mentioned the analogy of a poultry here, because while one kampong chicken claims credit for the sun rising, another prized specimen struts around thinking it owns the coop, unaware of the farmer sharpening his cleaver. Or in this case, a sturdy hammer.

Unfair treatment of single mums a deterrent to unwanted pregnancies

From ‘Unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrence’, 3 Aug 15, Voices, Today

(Sum Siew Kee): I agree with the writer of “Unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation” (Aug 1), and I wish to add a point. Some people argue for more benefits on the grounds that the child is innocent. While this is true, the child is also the parents’ responsibility.

For something to be a strong disincentive, it often must go beyond affecting the person himself. Nothing is more motivating than preventing harm from coming to the people one loves. For example, jail terms are a deterrent not only because of the unpleasant confinement, but also the loss of income, which may create hardship for the offender’s family.

Likewise, loan sharks ask for their client’s address because they can incentivise their clients to pay their debt by inflicting some pain on their family. Kidnapping a person and asking for ransom would work better than torturing him directly. Terrorists, criminals and the justice system understand this principle.

In the case of benefits for single mothers, if we intend to deter people from unwanted pregnancies, we must make good on the threat of inadequate support for a child born out of wedlock, otherwise the deterrent will not work. In conclusion, the matter is a balance between social justice and setting the right incentives.

The writer sounds like he holds a Masters in Criminal Psychology, using hard economics to justify why not treating single moms as we would typical parents is a form of ‘social justice’. What’s missing from this simplistic view of an ancient human predicament is the apparent failure to appreciate the emotional aspects of unwed motherhood. It’s such gnawing stigma about how single moms ‘asked for it’ that drives some to give their kids up for adoption, or worse, abort the baby before it has the chance to grow into a curious toddler asking Mommy ‘Why don’t I have a Daddy like my friends in school?’.

We leave those who choose to discard their foetuses alone, but when a mother decides to rear a child herself, we shake our heads, wag fingers and think ‘shotgun’. In the case of this Mr Sum, he uses the yardstick of kidnapping ransom and incarceration to make the disconcerting point that some form of ‘soft punishment’ of this bastard child of an illicit union not sanctioned by thy Heavenly Father must exist. Remove the scarlet ‘A’, and we’ll have fatherless babies crawling all over the place.

There are other ways to deter unwanted pregnancies besides the ‘threat of inadequate support’ of course. Sex education and knowledge of the various contraceptive measures available, for example. Or slapping charges on fathers who run away from personal responsibility. If unwed parenthood isn’t in your opinion socially acceptable as a ‘lifestyle’ and those who embrace it should not be granted equal parental rights, it follows that we shouldn’t make life easy for ex-convicts, divorcees, gamblers, morbidly obese people, prostitutes, smokers or people who are HIV positive either. All these folks ‘made their choice’. It’s our choice if we want to be humane or not.

Of all the conservative folk who frown on single motherhood, the worst culprits are policy-makers. In 1984, then Trade and Industry Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore was still a fairly conservative society and ‘would not welcome’ unmarried mothers. 10 years later, we remain just as conservative, with PM Goh Chok Tong declaring that the acceptance of unmarried motherhood as a ‘respectable’ part of society was WRONG. Echoing the letter writer’s incentive theory above, he went on to say that ‘removing the stigma’ may encourage more women to have more babies out of the wedlock. In other words, the shame of being an unwed parent, and omiting them from housing policies, is necessary so that others won’t think it ‘fashionable’ to bear the child of some dark and handsome stranger after a torrid one night stand. Like Terence Cao for instance.

So much for an inclusive society. Incidentally, the 90’s saw the release of a ‘single mother’ anthem, Heart’s ‘All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You’, which tells the tale of a woman conceiving with a stranger after a rainy night of ‘magic’ and giving birth to a child with ‘his own eyes’. Damn these Western soft-rock bands and their illegitimate love-child fantasies. 20 years on and they continue to threaten our ‘Asian values’.

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.

Kopitiam staff sacked for washing shoes in sink

From ‘NEA to take action against Kopitiam after employee was caught washing shoes in sink’, 23 June 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take action against food court operator Kopitiam after one of its employees was caught on camera washing her shoes in a sink at an outlet in the National University Hospital (NUH). The employee has been sacked after the incident was highlighted on social media.

The clip, which lasts almost two minutes, shows the woman scrubbing both her shoes with a brush under a running tap within the cold desserts section of the food court. She then appeared to return the brush to a container which held other kitchen utensils.

…Kopitiam, known for its chain of food courts in Singapore, has since apologised for the incident. In a post on Facebook on Tuesday morning, it assured customers that the washing equipment used by the employee had been replaced and the sink disinfected.

You may not be a frequent visitor to NUH Kopitiam, but patients from the wards are. Imagine if you were hospitalised for a severe bout of food poisoning and you decide to give yourself an icy treat near recovery, only to spend another few nights retching away because your Ice Kachang comes with ‘extra toppings’: Someone’s inner sole leather shavings.

Food courts in hospitals should be held to a more stringent hygiene standard than the ones in your average shopping mall. For an environment already teeming with bugs, the last thing you need is someone introducing ‘foot-borne’ ones into your meal. Rival food chain Koufu was once flanked by an army of cockroaches, and a kid lost his life after eating tainted Nasi Padang in Northpoint’s Kopitiam branch.  Yet, despite all these horrific lapses in hygiene, Singaporeans still flock to these places because they’re willing to eat mediocre, sometimes atrocious, food as long as there’s air-con and staff discounts.

The rest of us with more discerning stomachs but on an equally tight lunch budget often turn a blind eye to the filthy practices at hawker centres, nor do we stand by and film elderly cleaners using the same piece of cloth to wipe tables, plates and trays and cost them their jobs after posting videos on Stomp.

There are worse things than giving your shoes a rinse-over in the sink, though. Here are some real-life tummy-churners:

1) Cleaners washing glasses in a pail of dirty water.

2) Washing raw food with rainwater from the roof.
4) Putting raw chicken on the floor.
5) Smoking while flipping prata.

Seriously, most of us are too hungry to scrutinise a hawker’s fingernails, how he handles our money, where he wipes his sweat, or how the dishwashing is done behind the scenes. Let this be a wake-up call not just for kopitiam vendors, but anyone with a licence to sell food, that whenever public health is compromised by a gross act of negligence, someone will be watching, complaining and NEA will step in and not hesitate to give the offender, well, the BOOT.


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