Lui Tuck Yew disappointed with train disruptions

From ‘Transport Minister Lui disappointed with train disruptions’, 23 Jan 2014, article in CNA

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew expressed his concern and disappointment with the recent spate of disruptions on the SMRT rail network during a meeting with the operator’s CEO and senior management on Thursday.

He was also briefed on the status of the ongoing investigations and SMRT’s preliminary findings on these incidents. Mr Lui said: “I share the frustrations of train commuters affected by these incidents, and I empathise with them on the anxiety and uncertainty that they may experience.

“I am also very concerned about SMRT’s service recovery efforts, particularly in reaching out to affected commuters promptly and keeping them updated during these incidents.”

Minister Lui has been ‘concerned’ and ‘disappointed’ before. In 2011 he expressed the same emotions about the N-S line breakdown which had someone resorting to breaking a window with a fire extinguisher. He told SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan that he held the board and the management team ‘responsible for making it right’. 3 years later, it looks like disappointment alone won’t cut it anymore. Koh Yong Guan is STILL board chairman, and unless our minister has forgotten all about the pledge to uncover the ‘root cause’ in 2011, perhaps it’s time ultimatums are issued instead of second chances and tame euphemisms for ‘pissed off’.

Disappointment is shaking your head and walking away, and it has been a favourite tone adopted by some our ministers whenever someone upsets them. Lim Swee Say, for instance, was disappointed when DBS retrenched workers in 2008. S Jayakumar was surprised and ‘disappointed’ with accusations by Malaysian officials over the Pedra Blanca incident a year earlier. Disappointment is a mother telling her kid nicely that he’s an utter failure, but still loves him anyway. It’s time to slam your fists and up the ante, Lui Tuck Yew. Even your name rhymes with a classic expression that should have been thrown at SMRT a long time ago. They’ve had their chance to redeem themselves, but not only have they struggled to set things right, they even managed to convince the PTC that they deserve their fare hike.

There’s no shame in telling SMRT how you really feel to show Singaporeans that you mean business. Try DPM Teo’s expression of ‘deep dissatisfaction’ with the ICA checkpoint lapse and MFA trespass. Or DPM Wong Kan Seng being ‘totally appalled and flabbergasted’ following the ICA passport mix up in 2008. K Shanmugam recently revealed that he was ‘terribly upset and offended’ by what Anton Casey posted on Facebook. If you want SMRT to wake the Tuck up, you have to take it on a personal level beyond tepid ‘disappointment’, that you’re upset, furious, bloody disgusted and that such breakdowns are totally UNACCEPTABLE. It will even help you score brownie points for the next election, even if chances are nothing’s going to happen to the SMRT board anyway.

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Sumiko Tan cheating at Candy Crush

From ‘Candy crushed’, 15 Sept 2013, article by Sumiko Tan, Lifestyle, ST

In the universe I inhabit before I go to sleep every night, I am already in 2014. To be exact, Jan 18, 2014, as of last night. That’s because I am a Candy Crush cheat.

…Googling Candy Crush, I discovered that I could actually get “lives” without waiting. All I had to do was set the clock on my iPad ahead by two hours. Sometimes, though, the clock goes haywire and I’d still be locked out. I then discovered an easier option to get as many lives as I want – setting the clock ahead by days instead of hours.

…At an average of one hour a weekday and two on weekends, I’ve devoted about 180 hours to Candy Crush so far, or nearly eight days of my life. I’m also a little poorer because I’ve had no choice but to pay to gain entry to new levels. I’ve never been a fan of games. The only other online game I was keen on was the wordgame Scramble, but that at least was educational. I learnt new words.

Candy Crush, on the other hand, is utterly meaningless.

…I rather play Candy Crush than talk to my husband. I rather play Candy Crush than go to sleep. Even when I’m sleepy, I feel compelled to play on because I am desperate to get to the next level. And because I’ve discovered the trick to getting unlimited lives, I can play on forever.

…If you have overcome your Candy Crush addiction, pray share how you did it.

I need help.

I can understand Internet addiction, whether it’s surfing, blogging, Facebooking or playing Candy Crush. Fortunately I have observed enough human beings being boggled by the game to NOT get started. Those aren’t jelly beans, they’re parasitic alien worms that burrow into your consciousness and take control of your nervous system like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  This may not be helpful advice to a close-to-50 year old woman, but in the case of CC, prevention is far better than cure. If all else fails, there’s always IMH to render medical assistance.

Not an avid player of casual games myself, hacking gameplay is not something most people should be proud of, not least telling it to the world. Where’s the sense of achievement or satisfaction in that? Sumiko once claimed that she’s ‘OK with losing’ 2 years back, but doesn’t want to let go of her quest to attain higher levels in the game, even if she had to pay for it.

I’m lacking in the “must-win” gene – if there is such a thing. I’ve never felt any desire to be top in class or No. 1 in anything, and am happy if I’m somewhere in the upper half of any ranking. This lack of fighting spirit is also why I avoid games of any sort. I don’t play sporty games, or board games, or even video games. Competition both bores me and makes me queasy.

There’s something about CC that drives a woman who eschews ‘boring’ competition to ‘beat the odds’ just to progress in the game. Mental health experts may wish to explore CC as a training tool for people who lack any fighting spirit whatsoever. Side effects include boarding the wrong train or falling into sinkholes.

Although Sumiko labels the game ‘meaningless’ and ‘no fun anymore’ like how a chronic smoker says cigarettes are killing him while puffing 30 sticks a day, there are some benefits to playing instant gratification dopamine-boosting games like CC. It bonds mothers and daughters-in-laws, it hones your reflexes and by keeping your fingers busy it actually burns more calories than watching K drama on TV. It turns a dreary train carriage into a pachinko wonderland, and in those moments of crush ecstasy your universe is a Willy Wonka wet dream, where unicorns puke rainbow Skittles and anime imps shit eclairs. You’re enclosed in your personal magic bubble, immune to grotesque sights and smells of peak hour train crowding, immune to the grating nagging of the SMRT aunty telling people to ‘move to the centre’. You are even providing entertainment to the elderly man struggling to stand while you’re latched to the priority seat mesmerised and transported into your little slice of sugary heaven.

I’m not sure, though, of the effects of such sweet seduction on Sumiko’s very public marriage to a man known to us only as ‘H’. The game has been referenced in a couple of recent Sumiko articles. In ‘The 3 year itch‘ she admits that she ‘plays Candy Crush late into the night when she should be looking into his (H’s) eyes’. In the same article, she mentions the word ‘divorce’. In July this year she introduced the game to her stepdaughter, which is like a drug pusher tempting a child with cannabis, or in this case ‘CANDYbis’. I wonder how the kid is doing now. There have been anecdotes of children playing CC non-stop till they bleed strawberry syrup from their noses.

Here’s hoping Sumiko weans off her sweet addiction in exchange for candy kisses and honeyed hugs instead. Meanwhile, here’s a totally meaningless video of a kitten playing the same game that gets millions of intelligent adult human beings hooked.

PM Lee’s thick skin is flame-proof

From ‘PM:Two elements key to online resilence’, 23 Aug 2013, article by Rachel Chang, ST

…”First of all, you must not be ashamed of what you are doing,” he said. “If there are some naysayers, you must decide if you have the majority with you or not.”

He said that in cyberspace, “some generally disagree, some are just looking for things to disagree with you about”.

“But if you want to do something for Singapore, you should not be deterred because there are some nasty postings. In public life, you must learn to have thick skin at the right places, in the right times.”

While noting that it can be intimidating for those not in public life to be flamed online, he said: “I am in public life. You flame me, I’m flame-proof!”

It’s been more than 2 years since our PM started dabbling with social media, and I’m not sure if this assertion that he’s immune to flaming is a veiled warning to online critics, or a display of renewed tolerance to criticism. You can crack a childish joke about the prime minister, make him a ‘Mee Siam Mai Hum’ meme, or even satirise him as an incompetent leader in a cartoon strip, but he’s likely to turn a blind eye to it all. Having ‘thick skin’ is important if you need to make unpopular decisions as a leader, though on the flip side it also makes you pretty shameless when you have it at ‘the wrong time’, like taking home free toothpicks from Din Tai Fung for example.

Other than the occasional lawyer’s letter, maybe we should be thankful that at least we don’t live under the Thai King, where by rule of ‘lese-majeste’ you could be put in jail for up to 20 years for ‘flaming’ the monarchy. For all the vile chatter going online, I’m surprised that our government hasn’t imposed a ‘Lee-majeste’ to shut everyone up, or they simply delegated the dirty work to the MDA to discourage online naughtiness under the subtle guise of regulation.

The term ‘flaming’ has been in use since 2005 to describe students griping about and insulting their teachers on blogs. Today it encompasses all sorts of negative behaviour online, be it vengeful cursing, snide cynicism or playground taunting in the vein of ‘My dad is better than your dad’. In its more sinister forms, it can take the form of malicious Photoshopping, or using metaphors which the authorities would take literally as setting the target on fire. Ironically, despite PM Lee telling us that he’s flameproof, you’ll most likely get arrested and charged for inciting violence if you threaten to ‘burn him and the PAP’.

Infernal Flame

It took our PM 6 years to catch up with ‘flaming’ as Internet jargon, and ventured into the online universe which he used to call ‘cowboy towns‘ with an opening salvo containing this very term on a Facebook webchat in 2011 that many Singaporeans at the time deemed, well, CUTE.

Okie

Okie

No smiley face in the world will protect you from online vitriol, and maybe our PM realises by now that such humble requests are ineffective against naysayers, no matter how ‘newbie-ish’ you are, or how much you resemble a cute, clueless uncle who doesn’t know any keyboard shortcuts other than Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Unlike his father, PM Lee isn’t one to slam his fists on tables or point sharp accusing fingers at his opponents, but it remains to be seen if his genial, open-arms style will win the hearts of online critics who wouldn’t think twice about calling him a two-faced douchebag, flameproof or not.

Being flameproof doesn’t protect one from being ‘taken out of context’ however, as what happened to PM Lee’s comments on the Diaoyu islands being ‘distorted’ into a sensational headline in the Global Times news site. Other than the body armour, our PM has got the entire MFA as a backup weapon, ready to fire back at the pull of a trigger. He may be flameproof, but perhaps not yet DRUMS-proof.

MP quoting ‘Gang rape is democracy in action’ on Facebook

From ‘MP Zainudin draws flak for posting ‘offensive’ quote’, 9 May 2013, article in Sg Yahoo news.

Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin has drawn flak for posting on his Facebook page a fantasy author’s quote equating gang rape to the exercise of democracy.  The MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC was criticised by people online for being rude, offensive and insensitive after he posted on Monday a quote from “Sword of Truth” fantasy series author Terry Goodkind with the line “Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action.”

The controversial statement prompted a flurry of over 140 comments, most of them expressing outrage. “Even if you did not say that yourself, it is still a very dangerous statement to quote. I simply do not understand why you chose to quote such a thing. Shame on you,” posted Facebook user Joel Yap.

Another Facebook comment by Pauline Leong called the quote “truly, highly offensive” and demanded an apology or explanation from Nordin, while Freya Cyen accused him of being “unable to differentiate democracy, human rights and freedom.”

Nominated Member of Parliament Lina Chiam of the Singapore People’s Party on Wednesday released a statement on the issue, asking Nordin to “retract his statement and apologise to women in Singapore.”

So is spray painting ‘Democracy’ on the Cenotaph. What the quoted writer intended was that no nation should be so ‘democratic’ that your right to free speech or thought turns into action that transgresses basic human rights. In fact, some of the world’s self-proclaimed ‘democracies’ are far from utopian societies. North Korea is the DEMOCRATIC People’s Republic of Korea. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the WORST place to be a mother. The world’s largest democracy India has her recent string of high profile raping, and both Congo and democratic South Africa have been termed ‘rape capitals’ of the world. It may be more accurate, however, to connect gang-raping with Anarchy than democracy, though the vandal who decided to exercise his free will to deface a war memorial clearly mistook one for the other. We may not have people raping others in huddles here, but we do get glimpses of unhinged anarchy at NATAS fairs and K-pop concerts.

But before we decide to ignore Zainudin’s Facebook post because he simply quoted someone else’s provocative analogy and people decided to zoom in on it because ‘rape’ and ‘democracy’ were in the same sentence, there have been people investigated by the POLICE for ‘quoting’ other people on their timelines, except that these were the kind of stuff that our government believes would incite race riots over the island and tarnish this whole ‘democracy’ thing. In 2011, NSman Christian Eliab Ratnam quoted Roy Egan on how ‘Islam is a cxxt that glorifies death’, while another blogger in the same year ‘shared’ a picture of a pig on the Kaaba. Would the police investigate an MP for equating the supposed pinnacle of political systems to the most despicable of crimes against humanity? That’s as likely as me being sodomised in an alley by a bunch of expat louts with a shisha pipe.

Terry Goodkind isn’t the first to allude democracy to gangs and violence. Here are some similar ones from the Quotes About Democracy website:

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The terrible tyranny of the majority” – Ray Bradbury

So perhaps using gang-rape as an example is simply a stark exaggeration of the beloved ‘majority wins’ rule, or what our PAP would call the MANDATE of the people. There are plenty of activities that can pass off as ‘democracy in action’ and yet flout all moral codes and decency known to man. Spitting in public, squatting on a toilet seat with dirty shoes, having the whole bus seat to yourself and ‘gang-raping’ your Facebook friends’ news feeds with daily updates on how many km you ran and calories you burnt, for example. Yet we remain cocksure of our ‘democratic’ aspirations, and we cherish those rare moments when we get to protest like a virgin landing a threesome on his first date, all this coming from a country languishing in the 149th place in press freedom,

Postscript 11 May 13: Zainudin soon apologised for offending anyone with Goodkind’s quote, though he’s not taking too kindly to a certain ‘Ganga’ who posted his photo with the controversial line next to his face, slamming the blogger for being ‘mischievous’ and selective in his abstraction of the quote. His latest FB post as of 11 May was:

Yesterday, I played football with our NYP colleagues for the ITIS-NUSS Staff Tournament. I played one half and managed to score a goal. We won 4-1 against TP. Congrats to our NYP Staff team.

No mention by the MP if it was in fact an OWN GOAL.

Police investigating Straits Times’ Punggol East by-election poll

From ‘Police looking into ST publication of by-election poll’, 13 Jan 2013, article in Today online.

The police is looking into the Straits Times’ publication of the findings of a poll on the Punggol East by-election, said the Elections Department today. The article, published on Jan 10, polled 50 Punggol East residents on which party they were rooting for in the by-election.

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, publishing the results of any election survey from the day the writ of election is issued until the close of all polling stations on polling day is not allowed. The writ of election was issued on Jan 9. In a statement today, the Elections Department said: “In response to media queries about the poll on the Punggol East By-Election published in the Straits Times on 10 January 2013, the case is currently being looked into by the Police.”

Since the article was published, netizens have questioned the legality of the report in online forums and social media.

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 9.33.09 PM

The Jan 10 article in question was titled ‘ST poll: More rooting for PAP’, which is misleading because out of the 50 Punggol residents surveyed, 19 supported PAP vs 10 for Opposition, and the remainder were ‘UNDECIDED’. It seems rather premature to say anything about the Punggol sentiment on the ground from such results, in particular something like ‘the EDGE that the ruling party appears to hold may be a reflection of  the incumbency advantage it has always held in a middle-class, traditionally PAP-leaning ward’. No details were given from the article on how the poll was conducted, but it appears that it was done through interviews of random residents. ST Editor Warren Fernandez confirmed my suspicions:

“Our reporters spoke with residents in Punggol East to get their comments and a sense of the ground for our election reports. This was not a full-scale survey, or scientific poll, by any means.

One would question the bias inherent in such straw polls where participants have to respond to a team of ST reporters who’re more than happy to publish your name and your OPINION for the whole country to see. It would be interesting, if it weren’t illegal, to see instead how Punggol residents would vote anonymously, through an online poll rather than having someone from a government-endorsed national paper approach you with a notepad and stuffing an audio recorder in your face. Maybe the 21 people weren’t ‘undecided’. They just didn’t feel comfortable, or afraid even. It’s as scientific as having Ah Long San going around asking what you think of graffiti. But that’s not quite the point is it? Does a straw poll have to be ‘full-scale’ and statistically rigorous before it is considered illegal? Here’s see what the Law says:

Blackout period for election survey results 78C.

—(1)  No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published the results of any election survey during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day at the election.

[31/2001]
(2)  Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
[31/2001; 10/2010]

(2A)  The offence under subsection (2) shall be an arrestable offence within the meaning of the Criminal Procedure Code 2010.

[10/2010]

(3)  In this section, “election survey” means an opinion survey of how electors will vote at an election or of the preferences of electors respecting any candidate or group of candidates or any political party or issue with which an identifiable candidate or group of candidates is associated at an election.

Nowhere in this section of the Parliamentary Elections Act does it specify how thorough a survey must be before it’s allowed. But if you generate absolute numbers as to how many ‘rooted’ for PAP or Opposition, that sounds more than just an ‘opinion’ to me. You’re saying 19 people will vote PAP vs 10 for anyone else, clearly a statement of voter preference.

Such tightening of election laws was imposed in 2001 by Minister of Information and the Arts Lee Yock Suan, in response to the Internet facilitating such polls and this ‘crystal ball gazing’ having the potential to ‘sway voters’ or even influence election results.  In the last GE, Temasek Review’s Dr Ong Chor Teck was ARRESTED for conducting an exit poll on Polling Day. No idea what happened to him since. I doubt this was a ‘full scale’ or ‘scientific’ poll either, but I wonder what would have happened if he wasn’t behind a ‘socio-political’ PAP-bashing website, but from ST or Mediacorp instead.

What exactly is so dangerous or subversive about publishing pre-election polls? How is this more illegal than posting a personal opinion or how you voted on your Facebook page or blog, especially if you’re someone influential with a large following, a celebrity for example? Xiaxue is an unabashed PAP supporter, should we allow her to gush about her favourite political party during and after elections? So what if the ST thinks the PAP has an ‘advantage’ based on a crappy survey; don’t we ALL know that already? Not only is a ST pre-election poll illegal, it is also redundant in my opinion. If I want to know what Punggol residents think of the rising ‘son of Punggol’ or ‘unity candidates’, I’d access forums or eavesdrop on uncles at kopitiams, not scour the ST for anything remotely insightful. If the ST were let off with a mere warning on a technicality of ‘scientific rigour’, imagine the floodgates opening for the online random polls that would follow. If the premier mainstream paper can get away with it, what’s stopping me from publishing an informal poll on my Facebook, this blog, or via email to family and friends?

There were a trio of reporters responsible behind the article, a team consisting of Elgin Toh (who also wrote a breaking follow up ST article hours after this titled ‘Elections Department says police looking into ST report‘), Lim Yi Han and Chia Yi Min. But it’s senior management who needs to step into the firing line ( if anything even comes out of this) for allowing it to go to print. In the spirit of colorectal surgeon butt jokes, may the police PROBE sufficiently into this poll so that justice is served, and let’s hope some otherwise decent journalists don’t get their asses fried over this fiasco.

Foreign student, 13, arrested for MBS bomb threat

From ‘Boy arrested over threat to blow up MBS’, 1 Jan 2013, article in CNA

Police have arrested a 13-year-old boy who threatened to plant bombs in Marina Bay Sands. The boy had posted the threat on his Facebook page last Saturday. The boy cannot be named as he is a minor.

Police said the case is classified as a Breach of Prohibition Against False Threats of Terrorist Acts. If convicted, he could be fined up to S$100,000 and jailed up to 5 years.

Police investigations are ongoing.

What a way to start the New Year. The name of the culprit was withheld, but it’s likely to be a certain ‘Aditya Bhatia’, an Indian studying in the Global Indian International School according to his Facebook page (1 Jan 2013, ST). This is his ominous Facebook threat in its full uncensored glory.

Singapore: A piece of piece of shit

God knows what Singapore or MBS has done to incur the wrath of a destructive 13 year old, though you can’t exactly discount this rant as ‘mischief’ either, considering how kids these days could pick up bomb-building tips easily from Youtube. Maybe he thought the building was so ugly it had to be demolished. I doubt the US or Canadian immigration would accept him now that he’s getting a criminal record for terrorist behaviour, but I’m sure some Taliban scouts are interested. Spitting everywhere is a surefire way of getting caught, but Aditya Bomberman’s probably too preoccupied with angry thoughts of exploding things or too young to know what DNA is. Incidentally, on the same day this piece of news was reported, a crude bomb was uncovered in Delhi near the home of one of the suspects who brutally gang-raped a woman on a bus. For all we know Aditya (also from New Delhi according to FB) may have already been a amateur bomb-maker back home when other boys are spinning  tops or playing jump rope with the girls. Kids.

In 2010, another student posted his pyromaniac fantasy of ‘bombing all the top schools in Singapore’.  ‘John’ also made a public request to ‘learn terroism’. Totally unacceptable. Everyone knows that the first rule of being a terrorist is being able to SPELL terrorism correctly.

Other kids just wish for Playstations, dude.

That same year, another teen posted a checklist of things that he ‘wants’ to do, like being a hired killer and bombing a secondary school and police station. Whatever happened to cooler stuff like hacking into government websites or getting a motorcycle licence? Both boys got arrested for their posts for merely ‘wishing’ to carry out violent activities, not to mention plot big, big revenge like Aditya here. Maybe these guys are all friends on FB, with their own page called ‘We Da Bomb!’ or something. Such bloody fantasies of annihilating everything in their path is not restricted to little menaces to society though; In 2011, an upset job candidate threatened to bomb Parliament, the police force and a prison, earning himself 9 months in the slammer. He didn’t even have the balls of a 13 year old to make the threat under his own name.

People do secretly want to inflict dramatic violence on others or public property occasionally, but where do the police draw the line? Would you get charged only if you mention the specific word ‘bomb’? What if instead of ‘planting bombs’ all over MBS, I mention something physically impossible like say, summon a series of lightning strikes to rip the Skypark off the top of MBS like Zeus, or cast an infernal zombie curse on its inhabitants? How do the authorities distinguish between a legitimate security threat and the black magic ravings of a lunatic? What if Aditya had said: ‘GONNA STEAL A RIFLE FROM ARMY CAMP AND SHOOT EVERYONE IN ORCHARD ROAD’? How serious should one view such a threat? Is the SAF going to ever sound the alarm and deploy troops to barricade every single armory in Singapore to prevent a 13 year old from going on a shooting spree? What is he, Magneto Jr?

 

Eve Tan calling Malays low educated and lazy

From ‘Disgust over Eve and Ivy cyber rants’, 10 Oct 2012, article by Ian Poh, ST

INTERNET users are calling for action to be taken against two other people who posted controversial comments on Facebook. They said the posts’ authors should be dealt with in a similar way to Ms Amy Cheong, the woman fired on Monday for making racially offensive remarks about the Malay community.

One of the two Facebook users, who called herself Eve Tan, also posted derogatory comments about Malays, branding them “low educated” and “lazy”. They were apparently made last month in response to a question on the Health Promotion Board’s profile page. When others challenged her, she replied: “Get real, just see the truth.”

Another Facebook user calling herself Ivy Lim has also come under scrutiny for comments posted on the site. She had written: “Looks like all th(e) Malays can’t get over it. Poor thing!”

…Mr Nazry shared a screenshot of Ms Tan’s controversial comment and captioned it: “A fine example of complete ignorance portrayed by our very own Singaporeans.

“It truly, truly disappoints me that some of us are no longer sensitive and tolerant to the feelings of other races. Whatever happened to racial harmony/tolerance?”

Close call for those who ‘Liked’ this

Hence ‘$50 void deck weddings’

I do agree that this is a ‘fine example of complete ignorance’, because you’d have to be a complete moron to post such things on Facebook in light of how ‘netizens’ react to touchy race issues these days. In a separate post, Eve Tan gave some dubious statistics about how Malays make up the majority of prisoners and underaged smokers. Facebookers like her aren’t the only Singaporeans caught expressing the ‘hard truth’ about local Malays. There’s another more important and renown personality who knows a thing or two about the Malay psyche, and if he had a Facebook account, I wonder if he would be publicly slammed in the media or summoned by the police for ‘investigations’ as well.

Last year, LKY’s Hard Truths was branded as ‘haram‘, or forbidden to Muslims, by the Malaysian government (You may still get a copy from the nearest bookstore). According to Wikileaks, he called Islam a ‘venomous’ religion. He also urged Muslims should let go of some strict religious observances and be more sociable when eating with others, a statement regretted by both his own son and Minister Yaacob who had to apologise on his behalf. The AMP (Association of Muslim Professionals) criticised him for implying that Malays are lagging behind in terms of educational levels compared to Chinese and Indians. But like Amy Cheong’s comment on Muslim marriages, perhaps we should step back and reflect before grabbing the flaming pitchfork and raze Eve and Ivy’s houses to the ground.

In 2009, a 10 year report on PSLE maths reported a plunge in performance for Malays in that subject from 1999 to 2008, along with poorer results overall compared to Chinese and Indians. Teachers cited the reason for poor math as Malay students seemingly resigning to this as a ‘personal flaw’ by nature, as well as their not being able to afford tuition like the other races. Even with free tuition sponsored by Mendaki, there were ‘indifferent’ parents who did not bother sending their kids for classes. PSLE may not the most reliable marker for the success of an ethnic group, but this does highlight the complex interplay between educational level, family income, a system that has become heavily dependent on tuition and a perceived less-than-enthusiastic attitude towards academic performance.

It’s not so easy to back up ‘facts’ about Malays committing crimes though. The Singapore Prison Service Annual Statistics offers no data on ethnic proportion in jails in 2012, although in 2004, the Chinese still made up the majority of inmates (> 40%) with Malays in second place. What has been reported, though, is that the number of Malay drug abusers arrested has increased by 6.8% compared to drops among Chinese and Indian addicts in the first half of this year (vs the first half of 2011). In 2010, stats were released to Khaw Boon Wan showing that the number of Malay smokers aged 30-39 was DOUBLE that of Chinese or Indians. You can also find data to justify your claim that ‘Malays are too fat’ or have more births out of a wedlock, but I wouldn’t expect to get reliable information on teenage pregnancies, violent crime or PSLE/O Level failures, and perhaps for good reason.

All this talk about ‘lazy Malays’ reinforces the  ‘Relac one corner’ stereotype and racist jokes about chauffeurs named Ahmad, and it is one that is entrenched deep in Singapore-Malayan history. In the 20′s you could write freely about how the Malays are ‘cursed with the lazy spirit’ and have a ‘marvellous ingenuity of avoiding work’.   Malays continued to defend themselves against the ‘cruel epithet’ that is ‘The Lazy Malays’ into the 50′s. They were described as a ‘leisure-loving, lazy people contented with what little success they have’, formed the bulk of ‘grass cutters, drivers, PEONS and clerks’ and were struggling in school because of laziness and ‘lack of willpower’. It even appeared in school humanities textbooks in 1956, where Malays were described as ‘lazy and indolent’. Malayan historian Sir Richard Winstedt was accused of writing an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that they were ‘lazy, dishonest and immoral’. It was later attributed to an anonymous correspondent and another white fellow called Sir Hugh Clifford (of whom Clifford Pier was named after). Half a century later and despite societal advancements, this mindset about certain races or classes remains as narrow as before.

In 2004, a motivational guru from Malaysia delivered a reality check on the state of the Malays, which he believed was ‘rotting’:

The Malays are hardworking, but not as consistently hardworking like other races. They are only hardworking in things they are passionate about. The successful races are hardworking in whatever they do.

Malay-bashing isn’t just limited to Singaporeans. A Malaysian-Hainanese rapper named Wee Meng Chee, or Namewee, ranted against the Cantonese, Singaporeans and ‘Bumi’ Malays in a song called ‘Kawanku’ in 2007, where Malays ‘ tak suka kerja’ (don’t like to work), ‘tiap hari tidur’ (sleep everyday) and would regret if there were no Chinese in Malaysia because of one less holiday (CNY). Namewee is considered a seditious troubemaker to the Malaysian authorities, and if anyone came up with something similar in Singapore, they would spend a few weeks hanging out in a cell with people who have sex with underaged prostitutes, while their racist rap goes viral on Youtube.

Well, we are all hardworking in things we love doing. Perhaps the Malays love doing some stuff more than others, and even if they’re lagging behind in terms of what we traditionally view as academic success or an illustrious career, look no further than our fertility rate by ethnicity to see what the Chinese and Indians are lagging behind the Malays in. What really matters now, an issue of national EMERGENCY, is being hardworking in an activity that is the complete opposite of ‘work’ altogether.

I haven’t watched Avenue Q at MBS, but I wonder if this song is still on the playlist after recent events.

Amy Cheong blaming divorce on cheap Malay weddings

From ‘Police report filed against Amy Cheong over offensive Facebook post’, 8 Oct 2012, article in Sg yahoo news.

Singapore police are investigating the former NTUC staff who was fired on Monday morning for her profanity-laced post insulting traditional Malay void deck weddings. A police report was filed against Amy Cheong, assistant director, membership department at labour movement NTUC, by a member of the public, Lionel Jerome de Souza on Monday morning.

De Souza is the secretary of Hougang’s Inter-Racial and Confidence Circle (IRCC), which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports. In his report, he urged the police to take a serious view of Cheong’s comments which “inevitably hurt the feelings of the Malays”.

In her post on Sunday evening, Cheong had put up a public status on her personal Facebook timeline, complaining about a Malay wedding that was being held at a void deck near her home. Among other things, she related Malay weddings to high divorce rates, and asked how society could “allow people to get married for 50 bucks”, peppering her post with vulgarities.

In a separate post, she also allegedly wrote, “Void deck weddings should be banned. If you can’t afford a proper wedding then you shouldn’t be getting married. Full stop.”

Unless calling a Malay an ‘asshole’ is considered a racial slur, I think this is more a case of carelessness and faulty logic than racism. There are, of course, people who don’t spend a cent outside the registration fee for marriage, and still live happily ever after. If Amy Cheong had complained about the noise rather than associating divorce rates with ‘cheap weddings’, maybe she would have just been let off with a stern warning without getting the sack. For someone who already lost her job, a police report seems like overkill, but for someone in senior management, Cheong should have known better, especially after so many incidents of Facebookers getting in trouble posting ‘silly’ remarks about Muslims, not to mention a certain filmmaker being dealt with death warrants for making a shoddy Internet film where the Prophet was played by an actor looking like Jesus. In such a charged climate of ‘anti-Islamic’ sentiment and its subsequent retaliation, it wasn’t so much a malicious, hateful remark, as it was a really bad idea. Of course our Facebook-savvy PM was quick to dish out the damage control by urging everyone not to let this incident ‘undermine our racial and religious harmony’. But maybe this is more a case of custom intolerance than a hate crime that nearly everyone is making this out to be. If I post on Facebook about ‘damned ding-dong-chiang lion-dancing’ during Chinese New Year, I would get the same treatment from the Chinese community too. Or would I?

Just last year, people were flamed for racial abuse after complaining about McDonald’s playing religious prayers during the fasting month, putting links to images of pigs Photoshopped on the Kabba, or calling kids on kindergarten buses little ‘terrorists’. But let’s see if high ‘divorce rates’ among the Malays is indeed a factual statement, and whether it’s in any way related to ‘$50 weddings’. According to a 2006 commentary by a Malay man, there are 3 typical reasons to explain the high divorce rates among Malays. One, the tendency of women to ‘fall in love’ too easily. Two, the cultural expectations of ‘short courting periods’ and thirdly, general ‘money problems’. In the same year statistics showed that divorcing Muslims stayed in a marriage shorter than non-Muslims (an average of 7.8 vs 10 years), and the most common reason for divorce was ‘personality difference’, followed closely by ‘infidelity’. Just this year, ‘infidelity or extra-marital affair’ took top spot as reason for divorce in Muslim marriages.  There would also be the pressure of ‘remarrying’ within two years as the community supposedly frowns upon single parents. Which suggests that money issues aside, there’s also a hint of  ‘fools rush in’ syndrome. So it’s not just about the ‘affordability’ of weddings that encourages failed marriages (This may well be a myth, you can be charged $1K to $6K just for PLANNING and DECOR alone). One may have to consider whether the union was failed in the first place.

Every once in a while we get annoyed by atrocious singing, throbbing drums, motorcycles chugging and horning, yelling and general littering amid the merrymaking, but I would make the same complaints against Chinese funerals even as a Chinese, just not making a fcuking ass of myself ranting on Facebook about it. I wonder how Amy Cheong would react if someone went:

How many f**king days do Chinese funerals in void deck go on for?F*ck!!!Pay for a real funeral you asshole!How can society allow dead people to lie in a dirty void deck? KNS!

I also stumbled upon a Twitter account of ‘Amy Cheong’ apologising to countless people. I doubt this is the real Amy Cheong, considering that her Twitter icon is that of Ted, the vulgarity spewing bear.

PSLE not a sacred cow but a big elephant

From ‘Scrap PSLE? Not yet, but space out exams’, 22 Sept 2012, Voices, Today

(Ng Ya Ken): We can change the components and emphasis or assessment method of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), but we cannot eliminate the need for a standardised grading mechanism, at least not now. Scrapping the PSLE may not solve the problems we have now. Neither would replacing it, because parents would hunt for new tuition lessons to help their children score in the new system.

With our competitive education system, after we get rid of one big elephant, another big animal will come to take its place. Perhaps we can only abolish the evaluating mechanism when all secondary schools are perceived by parents as equally good. In the long run, we must close the quality and perception gaps between good and very good schools.

In the meantime, we can think of ways to lessen the tension caused by the PSLE for our young and their parents. For example, we could split the exam into three parts, with the first two parts to be taken at the end of Primary 5 and at the middle of Primary 6.

…Also, let us not label the PSLE a “sacred cow”. The term carries a negative connotation when not aptly used.

Of all the wildlife analogies to describe a life-changing event for most young Singaporeans, the most apt in my opinion is the ‘big bad WEREWOLF’ as suggested by Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong, when he said ‘there is no silver bullet, no magic solution’ when it comes to the dreaded PSLE. Like the mythical beast ravaging the daily lives of villagers, this academic sieve is often blamed for our pressure-cooker educational system and society in general, though the more pragmatic-minded may defend its existence as a necessary evil, just as a fable needs its proverbial dragon to slay. Despite all these arguments about having a fairer system to pigeonhole our children, and how PM has insisted that children live their childhood, there will still be some with this mindset of conquest and ‘baptism of fire’ when it comes to the PSLE or anything like it. These include not just parents, academics, but even some CHILDREN themselves, who take the exam so seriously and gamely that the cramping of playtime, the tuition expenses, the mental disorders, are all worthy sacrifices in the name of being victorious in what’s essentially a national competition for secondary school placing.

No other trial exemplifies the term ‘pursuit of excellence’ than scoring in the PSLE, and no thanks to the media lauding top scorers annually, green-eyed parents all over the country will feel inadequate if they’re not gearing their little champions for the battle of their lives. For decades we have subjected our kids to ‘survival mode’, and we can’t make drastic changes overnight unless we’re reasonably certain that 6 years of Social Darwinism has done more long-term harm than good. The PSLE is like the Singaporean Hunger Games, except with only sweat and buckets of tears. Like any story of courage and triumph over adversity, the PSLE too has its Heroes’ Hall of Fame, which likens its conquest to that of snaring the Crown jewel, or completing one of the seven tasks of Sinbad. If you take the monster out of a Greek legend, you won’t have an ‘Odyssey’. You’d get the Love Boat instead.

Our champions and Hall of Famers are naturally media darlings, and no congratulatory story is complete without some heartwarming  filler to assure kiasu parents that if top-scorers can pull it off despite their troubles, so could their kids. The current grand champion and record holder is 294 scorer Natasha from St Hilda’s in 2007, whose grandfather died just before she sat for the exam. The media also buzzed over Natasha’s piano and violin lessons, her ambitions to be a paediatrician, and being rewarded for her efforts with a place in RGS. 2009′s champion, China-born Qiu Biqing could hardly speak a word of English, but slew the ‘elephant’ despite coming from a ‘neighbourhood’ school (Qi Fa). Whether you’re disabled, a foreigner, pint-sized, read nothing but Harry Potter in your free time, work part-time at your parents’ hawker stall or suffer from dyslexia, nothing makes a score sweeter than a tale about how you overcame the odds to beat everyone else who requires 3 days of tuition a week.

Still, any anxious parent with a child in P6 reading such accolades would instantly, and irrationally, associate smart kids with schools which breed, and accept, PSLE champions, nevermind what people are saying about ‘every school being a good school’ following the recent demolition of the banding system. Clearly, in this case, the best in the country, whichever primary school they’re from, is heading for the best ‘brand name’ school the highest PSLE score can buy. A 2000 Today article described top scorers as ‘St Hilda’s STARS’ (30 Nov 2000), and even till now, you hear of ‘top’ schools being embroiled in scandal, whether it’s teacher-student sex or drugs. There will be a stratum of prestige, the cream of the crop, that will continue to endear as long as top schools only accept top scorers, as long as top scorers are treated like they are the best and brightest brains our country has to offer.

Interestingly, the past 5 years’ PSLE top scorers were all girls (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), with the exception of Alex Tan in 2010, who was described as the ‘son of two doctors’. Grand champion Natasha and Alex were from GEP as well. Whether as a means to spur or baffle parents with these seemingly mixed signals on what a top scorer is made of, perhaps the Ministry should look into curbing such implicit rankings through blatant top-scorer fanfare as well. Like the 4 four blind men touching different parts of the elephant, we’re still missing the big picture, and if it turns out the PSLE is more a hydra than a marauding beast, scrapping it through brute force alone without addressing the culture of branding, reputation and kiasuism that exists because of it will just mean another ugly head spontaneously regenerating to take its place.

Haka flash mob needs a public entertainment licence

From ‘NZ restaurant apologises for haka flash mob’, 16 Sept 2012, article in Soshiok, asiaone.com

A New Zealand bar and restaurant in Clarke Quay has come forward to apologise for “misunderstandings”, after about 20 of its staff performed a traditional haka dance along a walkway in busy Orchard Road last Sunday. The haka – a traditional Maori dance made famous by New Zealand rugby team All Blacks – was performed in a flash-mob style.

It received mixed reviews among netizens after a video of the performance was posted online earlier this week, on websites like citizen-journalism website Stomp, with some calling it “cringe-worthy” and others calling it “good fun”.

The video shows participants, some topless, breaking out into loud chanting in a crouching stance, slapping their hands against their bodies and stamping their feet, all of which are part of a haka dance. my paper understands that the restaurant, Fern & Kiwi, had not applied for a public-entertainment licence from the Singapore Police Force prior to its staff appearing in Orchard Road.

Any public performance requires such a licence. The restaurant’s owners were called in by the police for questioning yesterday. They declined to give more details as the case is ongoing.

During university orientation days we had to do silly things in crowded places just to entertain our sadistic seniors, and I never knew if they had to apply for public performance licences. If I did, I would have probably declined embarrassing myself on the basis that such shenanigans are downright illegal and I can’t afford to have a criminal record when I still have my entire future ahead of me. Damn you orientation camp leaders!

Applying for a grant to do something ‘spontaneous’ totally defeats the purpose of a ‘flash mob’, though what Fern & Kiwi has done in Orchard Road may be considered as a cheap advertising stunt as well.  I visited the Facebook page and was pleased to note that it wasn’t an organic vegetarian hangout as the name suggests, but a bar catering mainly to expats with a passion for the muddy sport of rugby. It also bears a logo that bears a faint resemblance to a controversially-conceived clothings line.

FNZK

‘Flash mobs’ used to be meaningless stunts done in the name of pure fun, and has evolved into something that blurs the line between ‘performance’, ‘advertising’ or ‘public service message’. Just recently some mothers got together in a ‘Latch on for Love’ ‘flash mob’ to breastfeed their babies. I suspect it’s not just the message of ‘mother’s milk is the best’ that was disseminated, but the very swell of maternal love and hormones in the air may have female passers-by spontaneously ovulating. It was also, to some sensitive viewers who can’t tolerate the sight of bare nipples, dangerously close to the word ‘flash’ being interpreted in another sense altogether. What I really want to ask, though, is: Did they need a public entertainment licence for this?

Latch mob

In celebration of World Sleep Day 2012, 90 people gathered at Raffles Place to take a NAP, it too was labelled a ‘flash mob’ endorsed by the Singapore Sleep Society. First of all, why wait until someone organises a flash mob to promote World Sleep Day, considering all the years of festivities that I missed? Shouldn’t flash mobs be about people actually entertaining someone? Did anyone express concerns about terrorist attacks or a sweeping pandemic after witnessing a pile of motionless bodies lying on a grass patch?  Did they need a public entertainment licence for this?

In March some 300 One direction fans hogged parts of Orchard Road in a ‘flash mob’ dance-off to the UK boyband’s Greatest Hits. Well it’s a MOB alright, and while some may call it harmless fun, calling this a ‘flash mob’ is like describing a riot as a ‘public nuisance’. Shouldn’t there be some regulation against obstructing an entire pavement with synchronised boyband mayhem?   A bunch of Filipina maids also danced the weekend night away outside Ion last year, although no one referred to it then as a ‘flash mob’. Did they need a public entertainment licence for this?

You can also propose to your girlfriend via ‘flash mob’, a trend that threatens to ‘spoil market’ for guys planning to use the ‘Let’s buy a HDB’ ruse. Do you need a public entertainment licence to dance to (the painfully obvious) Bruno Mars’ Marry You? Can you even play Bruno Mars without breaching some public broadcasting copyright law? I could post the proposal video, but that would be infringing this blog’s policy on videos deemed too mushy for general viewing. Why THANKS A LOT, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, now I can’t impress a woman unless I take up dancing lessons and pay a bunch of people to dance around her to her favourite Taylor Swift song.

(It’s in Russian because the other clips have errors)

In 2008, 400 people froze for 5 minutes in the middle of Orchard Road. If you’re new to performance art, you would have been wondering if you were trapped in some kind of time warp, or part of some Just for Laughs gag. After Michael Jackson’s death, we had tribute Thriller flash mobs. Frankly the second one (video below) gave me goosebumps. Did you need a public entertainment licence for these too?

Fans of Oppa Gangnam style, don’t even THINK about it. Or perhaps I’m already too late..’Opps’.

So as you can see, you make ‘flash mob’ anything and everything, from groupie dancing to exuding bodily fluids and even SLEEPING, as long as it doesn’t have a ‘political’ agenda. What’s inconsistent is how the requirement for permit is applied, and if F&K were ever charged for flouting the law, I’ve given some examples which got away with it for their lawyers to argue the case. My guess as to why the police took notice is that Haka performers look scary and glower like they’re out to hurt someone, especially when they mimic throat-slitting, while no one in their right mind will go out to book a lactating woman.

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