ESM Goh on Singapore becoming a Garbage City

From ‘S’pore may end up as a ‘garbage city”, 29 Jan 2015, article in Today

The Republic may end up as a “garbage city”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong today (Jan 29) following reports of how a part of the Gardens by the Bay was covered with rubbish following a music festival.

His remarks come a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a picture on his Facebook page, which showed rubbish strewn on the ground following the 2015 Laneway Festival at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. About 13,000 people attended the Saturday event..

…In a Facebook post, Mr Goh wrote: “Our reputation as one of the world’s cleanest cities is going down the rubbish chute. It looks like a case of ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’.” He noted that Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places.

“The Japanese take their snack wrappers, empty bottles and ponchos home to dispose. That is why Tokyo is a fine city without ‘fine’ signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.”

Mr Goh added: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are. “

While our PM Lee was calm in his criticism of the ‘Landway Landfill’, using the more nuanced ‘cleaned city’ to describe our dependence on an army of labourers and shameless sense of entitlement (some Laneway goers interviewed in a ST article assumed that cleaning services were included in the festival ticket), our former PM has no qualms about trash-talking and putting our disgusting habits in the spotlight. Interestingly, he has summoned the analogy of ‘monkey see monkey do’ to describe the contagious mimicry of littering. And what do monkeys eat?

Here’s a clue, courtesy of Mrs Goh Chok Tong herself in reference to a certain NKF chairman’s salary, in full uncensored glory.

For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, $600,000 is peanuts as it has a few hundred millions in reserves.’

As they say, if you pay peanuts, you get..well – you know.

But back to Garbage by the Bay. The Laneway fallout isn’t new. We have been called ‘Garbage City‘ since 1983. Anyone who has stayed back after the NDP festivities to witness the mess left behind would hang their head in shame at the average 15 TONNES of rubbish per show. We can forgive Laneway hipsters, whose fashion accessories actually aspire towards ‘litter-chic’. We may even put the blame what one would expect to be a large non-Singaporean crowd among the audience. But to desecrate a parade ground after the nation’s birthday and singing along with Kit Chan to ‘Home Truly’ is just unforgivable. It makes a MONKEY out of National Day. It’s like blowing out Singapore’s birthday candles on a giant stadium sized cake, and then pooping all over it before we leave.

Even the phrase ‘cleaned city’ is recycled. Vivian Balakrishnan used it in 2012. Liak Teng Lit says that being called a ‘clean city‘ is a JOKE. But nobody’s laughing. It’s easy to rubbish our selling point to the world as a spick and span little red dot. Changing the mindset of the typical litterbug, however, takes more than a cute frog mascot, a public campaign with Ah Boys to Men singing in it, some ugly bright yellow CWO outfit to show the world you’re an incorrigible, lazy excuse of a human being, or slapping a outrageous fine on someone caught tossing cigarette butts out of his HDB window. A picture of the Laneway aftermath ought to speak a thousand words, yet no one seems to be listening.

So fine. We’re a bunch of spoilt ungracious louts with poor ‘character’. But what’s also annoying, though, is the tiresome comparisons to ‘spotless’ Japan every time some venue transforms into a junkyard after celebrations. ESM Goh says ‘Tokyo has NO rubbish’, which, from personal experience in my travels there, is a cliche and an exaggeration, though it still is generally cleaner than the little red rat-infested dump that we’re living in now. You don’t need a major event to show our true colours. I’ve seen people dumping an old TOILET BOWL in my void deck. Old folks still spit without repercussion. Drains are clogged after void deck events. Trays are not cleared. Don’t get me started on our toilets.

Sadly, the Japanese’s culture of shared responsibility and concept of ‘homeland’ has yet to sink in, and we’re struggling to work through the hypocrisy of celebrating recycling and Earth Hour on one hand, but on the other brushing parking coupon tabs to the ground when no one is looking. Our children are taught phonics before they are trained to throw their crap into dustbins.

We’re still haunted by the proverbial fishball stick. Unless something is done to address the psyche of the littering Singaporean who expects to be picked up after, we’ll get poked by the same issue again and again, relying on some reporting app launched by the MSO to complain about things lying around when it’s faster for us to pick it up and throw it away. While we look to the Land of the Rising Sun for inspiration in vain, this sunny island in the sea is fast becoming the ‘Land of the Rising SLUM’.

Fernvale Lea buyers demanding for refund over columbarium

From ‘Upset over columbarium plans, Fernvale Lea’s future residents want a refund from HDB’, 4 Jan 2015, article by Samantha Boh, ST

Upset about an upcoming columbarium close to their future flats, some would-be residents of Fernvale Lea have asked the Housing Board for a refund. Their request came even after Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West, held a dialogue with residents on Sunday and said that there would not be a crematorium or funeral parlour services at the Chinese temple where the columbarium would be housed.

Some residents stood in line to leave their contact details with the HDB after a three-hour dialogue with Dr Lam and representatives from Life Corp, the company developing the temple. Residents at the dialogue said the HDB should have been more upfront about the Chinese temple housing a columbarium.

News of the columbarium, which is expected to be completed by 2016, had surprised many residents when it was reported last week. An online petition started on Tuesday to stop the development of the columbarium had garnered more than 800 signatures.

Speaking on the sidelines of the dialogue, Dr Lam said the authorities had been upfront, noting that it was indicated in the Fernvale Lea brochure for the new flats that the temple may include a columbarium allowed under the guidelines of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). “There is really nothing to hide,” he added.

Some residents had also asked why the Chinese temple is being developed by a private company. Dr Lam said URA guidelines did not restrict the type of company that can develop a religious institution and he understood from the URA that it has been done before.

Sin Ming residents can relate. When a funeral parlour was proposed to be built in the vicinity of a school, one resident complained that the estate would be henceforth known as the ‘Avenue of the Dead’. But it’s not just spaces for the deceased that get people upset, but also void deck elder-care facilities and sometimes even community HOSPITALS, where residents may get traumatised by the ‘smell of medicine’ in addition to the threat of impending doom.

Fernvale Lea’s selling point, according to its online brochure, is that residents get to live amid ‘lush greenery’, which also happens to be the kind of environment you want to ‘rest in peace’ within. It does mention the future placement of a Chinese temple, but leaves the interested buyer to interpret the disclaimers at his own risk, namely the statement that ‘the proposed facilities, their locations and surrounding land-use….are indicative only and subject to change or review. These facilities may include other ancillary uses allowed under URA’s prevailing Development Control guidelines.’ Which basically means HDB can do whatever the hell they want years after you’ve settled down in your new home, whether it’s building a private-owned ‘dragon and phoenix’ temple, a foreign workers’ dormitory, or a cut-and-paste shopping mall which turns out to be an foreign worker enclave. Heck, they could run a new highway or MRT line right next to your house and you can’t do anything about it.

In 1984, applicants of Clementi flats slammed the agency for keeping dead silent about plans to build a funeral parlour near the estate. It appears that HDB should know exactly the sort of reaction from people whenever you surround them with facilities reminding them of their mortality, but till this day continues to refrain from telling buyers straight in the face, like a property agent omitting the tiny detail of your flat being previously owned by someone who committed suicide in the living room. In any case, people are still going to hold void deck funerals right under your block anyway, columbarium or no columbarium.

If you’re diligent enough, you’d actually go the extra mile and read about URA’s ‘Development Control’. And by extra mile I mean sending an email to URA because I have no idea where these guidelines are from the website. Or, if you’re desperate for a house even if it means living next to a cemetery or a string of noisy pub/bars, you could look past the hazards of living near a storage for urns and maybe consider that you have quite a few decent schools nearby (e.g Nan Chiau), which may allay any fears of poor resale prices, since some parents would camp above a mortuary just to live 2 minutes’ walk away from a top school. You could also interview Yishun Ring Road residents if they had witnessed any creepy happenings living near a heartland columbarium, a mere 10 min walk away from the MRT station.

Ironically the developer of the ‘80% temple, 20% dead people’s ashes’ is called ‘Life Corp’.  People will continue dying in our ageing society and unless we move beyond the traditional way of remembering the deceased through tablets and urns, or loosen up on our superstitions, both the living as well as the dead will be fighting for space in this already very crowded city. Hopefully when it’s time for my demise, all I’d need to do is download my memories digitally into a thumb drive or upload my electronic ghost on a password-protected family cloud somewhere without having to hide in some basement of a posh temple designed to look like a shopping mall and scaring the shit out of the living around me.

UPDATE 29 Jan 15: In a surprising about turn, Khaw Boon Wan announced that there would be no commercial columbarium in Fernvale after all, as Eternal Pure Land (under Australia’s Life Corporation) was a private entity with ‘no religious affiliation’. Waitaminute. Earlier in the month, URA said that they did not restrict the type of company developing a religious institution and it has been DONE BEFORE, now Khaw says that this tender award to such a company without godly links was a ‘first’. So, has it been done before or not? Pray tell.

MSO tackling the problem of uneven grass patches

From ‘Government looking to coordinate grass-cutting services in public spaces’, 10 Dec 14, article in CNA

The Government is looking into consolidating grass-cutting services in public spaces. The Municipal Services Office, set up in October, said it is acting on feedback to better coordinate public services for residents.

…The Pang Sua Park Connector in Choa Chu Kang is a popular spot for many, but some have noticed that grass in the area is not evenly cut. Grass-cutting services for this strip along the park connector is managed by NParks. However, across a drain, such services for the plot of land is managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The uneven length is due to the agencies having different schedules for grass cutting.

Ms (Grace) Fu said: “(The person who raised the issue) felt it is sometimes a little bit strange where certain parts seem to be cut well, not the others, and also because some parts that are not cut frequently enough, it actually affected his experience of the park. So I think that we should take such feedback seriously, and we are looking for areas where we can systematically resolve issues rather than just do it on a case-by-case basis.”

The first order of business for the newly formed MSO is not handling difficult neighbours in a HDB estate, who should clean up collapsed trees or who should catch mynahs, but to tend to ugly looking grass patches because someone complained that his ‘park experience’ was affected by differing lengths of ground foliage  (#firstworldproblems). As a Garden City, having a uniformly green landscape is top priority, of course. You don’t want to instill mass panic in the general public by giving the impression that the drought is upon us once again because some patches look sparser than others. I suppose some people are more concerned about the state of the nation’s grass than their own public hair. Your wall-punching, Teo Chee Hean-dissing, nuisance neighbour from hell can wait, even if it takes 5 years. Grass takes precedence.

In the past, there’s nothing more terrifying than uncut, 1m long grass. People were afraid of snakes lurking within them, or you could step on dogshit without knowing it. Most of the time, however, our problem lies not with the grass itself, but the people paid to trim the green to maintain this tidy ‘park’ atmosphere. Grass-cutters were blamed for propelling rocks onto unwitting passers-by or cracking car windows, or even almost amputating legs off with their deadly hand-held cutters. When we get pricked by a stray twig that sprang wildly off those whirly blades of death, we curse contractors for employing reckless foreigner grasscutters or using a tool that would make them as hazardous as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and we curse them again if they’re not doing a proper job ensuring that not one blade of grass is taller than the other,  because we’re so used to seeing soothing, homogenous open spaces that the thought of one weed of lallang hanging out of place is enough to send us into cataleptic shock. Like when you order ice kacang and only one side of the slope has condensed milk but not the other.

In the meantime, uncles are running riot with their electric scooters, joggers are breaking their ankles tripping over protruding stones, and nobody’s picking up that fishball stick straddling the MRT track and park connector. Some people just don’t like the idea of the grass being greener on the other side, I guess. Next on the agenda, coordinating the management of fallen leaves so that we won’t have a situation where we have neat piles on one side of the pavement, and an unsightly orgy of scattered leaves on the other.

Julien Blanc banned from entering Singapore

From ‘Pickup artist Blanc denied entry into Singapore’, 26 Nov 2014, article by Yvonne Lim, Today

Self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc will not be allowed to enter Singapore, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The decision was made following a petition by a Singaporean woman to bar Mr Blanc, who recently made headlines when his visa was revoked in Australia, from entering the Republic.

In a joint statement today (Nov 26), the ICA and MSF said that Mr Blanc will be denied entry, especially if he was here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women or to participate in other objectionable activities in Singapore.

“Blanc has been involved in seminars in various countries that advised men to use highly abusive techniques when dating women. Violence against women or any persons is against Singapore law,” the statement said.

In 1970, the government banned all foreign ‘hippies’ from entering Singapore because they cause ‘social pollution’. Drugs and nudism aside, these deviants were also known to sport long hair and shaggy beards, though they may hold degrees in economics, electronic engineering or even pharmacy (which explains the drugs).  Legendary Japanese musician Kitaro was barred from entering Singapore in 1984 for his flowing mane and looking like a wandering ascetic. We have zero tolerance against convicted junkies, such as Australian journalist Peter Gerard Llyod in 2009, members of wacky religious cults, like the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or the Moonies (1983), and especially IMF/World Bank activists, who may pose a ‘security threat’ to our peaceful nation. Yet, we’re exceedingly accomodating to ruthless, corrupt African dictators with health problems like Robert Mugabe.

Julien Blanc isn’t a hippie nor is he even half as cool as Kitaro. A self-professed PUA (pick up artist) inspired by Neil Strauss’ notorious dating book ‘The Game’,  he evangelises ‘dating’ advice and charges the aspiring ladies’ man $67 USD to get a ‘GF/F-buddy’, among other predatory skills in his ‘PIMP’ programme, like ‘destroying her Bitch Shield’, and overcoming ‘Approach Anxiety’. Singaporean men are not known for being smooth with the ladies, but give us credit for debunking modern Casanovas who specialise in making women submit to their brand of animal magnetism with physical restraint and chokeholds, because that’s what you need to resort to if you’re an ugly, desperate twat. Still, I doubt Blanc would actually sexually assault anyone here without having the police clamping down on his unquenchable mojo. The only ‘dangerous’ idea he seems to be propagating is that one can make a living out of being a complete, unabashed jerk.

Blanc’s banned not because of any risk of ‘social pollution’, nor is he here to turn Singaporeans against the PAP 0r make us worship some charismatic loony messiah, but because this proud country has no room for a prick of this magnitude. On second thought, maybe we should let him in for a day or two, lure him into a nightclub and then into a torture chamber full of AWARE members waiting to dig their sharpened heels into his bloated manhood.

Nuisance neighbour not opening door for Teo Chee Hean

From ‘Hand wringing over neighbour from hell’, 24 Nov 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The authorities have drawn a blank in efforts to deal with a nuisance neighbour who is said to have plagued a Pasir Ris block for more than five years. Residents of Block 612 at Elias Road claim Mr Liew Chien Siong, 33, is responsible for round-the-clock noise, leaving items dangling dangerously outside his flat and assaulting a neighbour’s son.

Two households even plan to move out because of the noise. Numerous complaints have been made to the Housing Board, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and police – to no avail.

“Even when our MP Teo Chee Hean came, he also refused to open his door,” said Mr Ismail Jan, 64, who lives in a unit above Mr Liew’s. He told The Straits Times that Mr Liew, who lives alone on the second storey, bangs on his walls and ceiling at all hours with what sounds like a solid object. He added: “Police came but said they have no authority to force open the door. I don’t know how long I have to suffer this.” All three agencies told The Straits Times they have received complaints but have been unable to contact Mr Liew.

Mr Siew Wen Chang, property manager at the town council, said it “manages only common property” and therefore the HDB and police must deal with the occupant as “the noise is within the flat”. In August, the town council cordoned off an area below the unit after it spotted a blind dangling outside the kitchen window.

The neighbour from hell is yet another example of PM Lee’s proverbial fishball stick analogy. The police can’t barge in guns ablazing and the town council won’t do anything about this ‘internal noise’ even though everyone else has been terrorised by it for 5 years, to the point that even the building’s structural integrity needed to be checked after all the banging and shaking. To show that they’re genuinely concerned for public safety, the town council even placed a token barricade in case Mr Liew’s dangling blind turns into killer litter. I don’t see such special arrangements for residents with potted plants hanging precariously form their window ledges. Why stop there, how about giving away free mufflers for distressed neighbours? Or maybe a pirate’s eyepatch just like what some of our ‘relevant authorities’ wear on a daily basis?

Are the authorities AFRAID of some guy who goes around dressed in army uniform and quite clearly a nutcase? Is he a soldier gone rogue trained by some secret militia with the ability to despatch an entire SWAT squadron if it had to come to that stage when tactical infiltration is the only resort? The HDB really ought to roll up their sleeves and flex some legal muscle instead of going around roping in mediators to possibly try and talk some sense into this menace to society, or at least get staff from IMH to assess if he needs to be tranquilised or put in a strait jacket. Now that Liew’s snubbed even the DPM himself, it will be utterly useless sending down inspector, social worker, MSO officer, or even the goddamn Chief of Army to put a stop to this potentially violent madness. Short of slipping a smoke bomb under his door or getting the CIA to go undercover as pizza delivery boys, HDB may want to consider the more rational tool of EVICTION.

In 1980, exactly such a tough stance was taken against any family who ‘persists in encouraging or supporting acts’ of housing block vandalism. A man who threw a VCR out of his window was evicted by HDB in 1984, in addition to being jailed a month for killer litter. You could even get kicked out of your HDB flat if you sublet your room to Thai prostitutes, or engage in ‘religious activities‘ such as setting up an entire temple or a cult seance within your house. If we were back in the 80’s, Mr Liew would have been booted out long before Teo Chee Hean even needed to step in. Instead of banging walls all day long, he’d be out there roaming the streets longing for a wall to even lean on. Has HDB, gasp, gone SOFT over the years? That it would allow someone to play a ‘Greatest Accordion Hits’ CD at full blast 24 hours a day without serving even a warning letter?

Probably not. Just 2 years ago, a HDB bully got an eviction notice, with full endorsement from Minister Tan Chuan Jin, for abusive acts of spitting, soiling laundry and vandalism. In 2013, a dog-crazy woman was evicted because her pets’ piss and shit caused a massive stench and were barking all night long. What will it take for HDB to use the whip of justice on Liew? For a distraught neighbour to go bonkers from the noise and start attacking Liew with a chopper? Or will we have to send in the artillery and wrecking ball to coax him out of his demonic fortress, at the risk of collateral damage? Will we be forced to demolish an entire building to eliminate one man-sized cockroach?

Now that TCH made his move but failed, it’s unlikely that another minister or MP will up the ante and make our DPM look bad. Maybe it’s time to send in THIS guy, who’ll probably do a better job than some shitty barrier underneath a window.

UPDATE: Liew was eventually arrested under section 7 of the Mental Health Act and referred to IMH for psychiatric assessment (Mental health check for Pasir Ris neighbour from hell, 28 Nov 14, ST).

Tuition in Singapore is a billion-dollar industry

From ‘$1 billion spent on tuition in 1 year’, 9 Nov 2014, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Singapore’s tuition industry is now worth more than a billion dollars. The latest Household Expenditure Survey found that families spent $1.1 billion a year on tuition – almost double the $650 million spent a decade ago and a third more than the $820 million spent just five years ago.

The Department of Statistics, which polled more than 11,000 households between October 2012 and September last year, released the latest survey in September. The average household spending on tuition rose from $54.70 a month 10 years ago, to $79.90 in the latest survey.

The department told The Sunday Times that along with spending more, there were also more households in the latest study – 1.2 million compared with 993,000 a decade ago.

Some parents are known to pump in almost $6K a month on tuition for their kids. That’s more than what the average household spends on food ($1188/mth), transport($811), clothes/shoes ( $156) and recreation, including holidays, ($292) COMBINED in 2012-2013 (12 interesting trends about Singapore household income and spending, Sep 18, 2014, ST). Now a billion dollar industry that has naturally spawned copycats and scammers,  this amount speaks volumes about how tuition has taken precedence even over some of the bare necessities of life for some Singaporeans. We are no longer just a Tuition Nation. We are tuition JUNKIES.

All this despite PM Lee’s assertion that the PSLE is not the be-all and end-all in 2012, and after the Ministry ceased announcing top scorers in the exam. This year, PM Lee again reiterated that there’s ‘too much tuition’ going on in Singapore, quite the understatement really. In 1981, tuition was already a million-dollar ($52 million) goldmine, with parents spending up to $125 a month. A 2009 survey revealed that 85% of students between 13-19 spend FOUR HOURS per week on tuition, that’s excluding hours spent on CCAs.  The number of tuition/enrichment centres also jumped from 750 in 2012 to 850 this year. And that’s counting only those registered with MOE (Tuition seen as ‘necessity’ for students to do well, 2 Sep 2014, ST), and excluding private tutors.  How many are out there under the Ministry’s radar operating out of a house in Lentor? How many are earning big bucks like millionaire super Physics tutor Phang Yu Hon? ( The other lucrative subjects taught by super-tutors are JC economics, Math and General Paper). If you’re an aspiring tutor aiming to bank on this national addiction, you’ll never get anywhere teaching Geography or, god forbid, Literature.

In fact, there are so many centres business owners have to resort to bad spelling to differentiate themselves, like Beautyful Minds . Some are not even just ‘classrooms’ anymore. We have ‘STUDIOS, HUBS, LABS and MUSEUMS’, and there are centres that even decide the career path of your kids before they complete primary school, like Little Professors. Or those that promise to groom you into a business powerhouse through ‘leadership skills’. Some parents even go out of their way to attend courses themselves on how to get their KIDS to ace the PSLE. You’d be a total disappointment to your tuition-happy parents if you grew up to be a ‘hawker-preneur’, boy.

But it’s not just the traditional subjects (Mandarin, Maths, Physics) that require tuition. We have tuition for pre-school,  tuition for sports, and tuition for ABACUS. I mean, who needs a calculator or a smartphone if you have magic BEADS to perform your daily practical arithmetic, like finding out how much Mommy spends a month sending you to enrichment classes, or counting the number of precious hours of your miserable life slipping away when you could be out there in the sun learning how to ride a bike or knowing what flowers really smell like. Or if you’re the kind who actually begged your parents for tuition, the hours wasted in that useless institution known as SCHOOL.

‘Lau Pa Sat’ in Tamil can be used to curse people

From ‘STB to correct Lau Pa Sat and tighten translation process’, 7 Nov 2014, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

The Lau Pa Sat sign which was incorrectly translated has been removed and will be corrected, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in a statement on Friday. STB also said that it will tighten the process of translating its brown signs, which indicate tourist attractions or landmarks.

“We had notified the operator and they had taken immediate steps to remove the sign and work on correcting the translation,” Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, director of attractions, dining and retail said in the statement, referring to the erroneous Lau Pa Sat sign.

She added that the board will ensure the new sign is checked by language experts. A photo of the sign, which translated “Sat” as “Sani” or Saturday in Tamil, was being circulated on social networks. The word can have a negative connotation, and can be used to curse people.

Mr Samikannu Sithambaram, president of the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union, told The Straits Times on Thursday that the mistake could have come about because the translators thought that “Sat” in Lau Pa Sat was a truncation of “Saturday”.

SAT you, STB

SAT you, STB

Notice that this brown sign has Chinese, Tamil and Japanese on it, but no Malay. Contrast the selection of languages with other tourist attraction ‘brown signs’, such as East Coast Park, which has Malay, Japanese but no Tamil. There are inconsistencies elsewhere. Sri Krishnan Temple has no Malay or Japanese, while Little India has Malay, Chinese, Japanese but not Tamil. The image next to the Lau Pa Sat text doesn’t look like Lau Pa Sat at all, more like the Supreme Court dome. Why didn’t anyone spot this glaring error instead?

According to ST, the Tamil translation for ‘Sat’, or ‘Sani’, is also a reference to ‘Satan’, the only diabolical connection to the Lord of Darkness being that Lau Pa Sat is owned by food court conglomerate Kopitiam. Other Tamil speakers from the ST FB page were quick to clarify that ‘Sani’ refers to the planet ‘Saturn’. This isn’t the first time STB made a mess of their promotional material, summoning the Devil or otherwise. In 2002, the Hungry Ghost Festival was translated in Chinese to ‘HUNGARY Ghost festival’.

I’m not sure if Tamil is notoriously difficult to translate, but getting lost in translation has haunted Tamil linguists for more than a century. In 1940, a slogan on signboards campaigning for people to grow their own vegetables for ‘health and victory’ was read as ‘Unless you grow vegetables we shall lose the war’. Or maybe that was secretly intended to serve as war propaganda to rally Indians into amassing combat rations for our comrades. A Malay song in 1952 titled ‘A yoyo Ramasamy’ riled some Indians because it translated into derogatory lyrics describing labourers who ‘drink toddy and get intoxicated’.  In 1989, a multi-lingual No-smoking sign on a TIBS bus was slammed because it contained a nonsensical Tamil word. You also don’t see Tamil subtitles for English movies on national TV, or hear any of the PMs in the 60-year history of the PAP speak a single full sentence of it during their National Day Rallies. It can be a problem too if you even attempt to anglicise Tamil. Some years back Bread Talk were accused of mocking the race and language by naming one of their creations ‘Naan the Nay’, which probably has the same racial connotations as someone mocking Mandarin with ‘Ching Chong Ching Chong’.

But it’s not just STB who deserves Hell for their laziness in translation. NHB made a more humiliating mistake previously by translating Bras Basah in Chinese to the literal ‘bras’ (undergarments) on their Night Festival website. They soon made a ‘clean breast’ of it and fixed the atrocity. I wonder if STB has a brown sign for Sim Lim Square. Now if that were translated into Satan’s Square because of its reputation of scamming tourists out of their hard earned money and forcing people to get down on their knees and wail to the gods, they wouldn’t be that far off.

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