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.

SG50 salary bonus should be for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uber and Grabtaxi drivers requiring a vocational licence

From ‘Uber, Grabtaxi drivers may need vocational licence’, 10 June 15, article by Zachary Soh, My Paper

DRIVERS who run chauffeur services under ride-booking apps such as Uber could be required to obtain a vocational licence in the future.  While they are currently free from this requirement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it is looking into removing this exemption, as a way to ensure the safety of passengers taking private-hire rides.

In a forum letter published in The Straits Times, LTA noted that chauffeured vehicle services have become more accessible to the public with technology and given the industry’s recent growth, it is studying possible measures to safeguard commuter interest. The cab community has cried foul recently, following news of ride-matching apps and rental companies working together to run their own fleet of “taxis”.

The rental firms lease out cars to drivers at a rate cheaper than taxis. The drivers then use the vehicles to fulfil bookings from apps like Uber and GrabTaxi. These companies and drivers, however, do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on the taxi industry, such as vocational training.

…Meanwhile, Uber drivers have told The Straits Times that the time and money required to take a vocational course will be an extra burden for them. One driver, Yu Kim Reed, 30, asked why vocational licences have to be implemented now, given that chauffeur services have been around for so long. “The only difference is that a (car hire) call centre has been replaced by the Internet,” Mr Yu said.

According to the Sunday Times (Are ride-matching apps an UBER problem, 14 June 2015, ST), some Uber drivers do in fact ply their trade like ‘chauffeurs’. One subscriber known as ‘Marcus’ supplies mints, newspapers, water, even a socket for phone charging for his customers. Uber also has a strict rating system whereby any score below an average of 4.3 (out of 5) warrants a suspension or total ban, so drivers are forced to go the extra mile, sometimes literally.

Other requirements before becoming a full-fledged Uber driver include a 2 hour training session, online lessons, up to $5000 commercial insurance, and setting up your own company and registering your car for commercial use should you choose to drive your own vehicle. All that, however, doesn’t ensure passenger ‘safety’ as what LTA is hung up about. Then again, your safety isn’t guaranteed even if you’re in the backseat of a ‘proper’ taxi anyway, especially if you’re drunk and vulnerable.

One ride-sharing/matching app supporter explained in a letter to the ST that the business model satisfies a genuine need among frustrated passengers who have tried calling call centres and forced to ‘listen to their holding music’ (Ensure licensing doesn’t stifle progress, 12 June 2015, ST Forum). He also hinted at an element of ‘protectionism’ given that main players like Comfort Delgro, having tremendous ‘economies of scale’, still reap profits despite their high rental costs. As the occasional app-user myself, I tend to agree that there is a market for such services, more so if my Uber ride includes complementary perks like an iPhone charger or a bottle of champagne.  It is also a wake up call for regular cabbies not to disappear just before midnight charges kick in, not to rely on the customer for directions, or drive like demented road warriors in Mad Max.

Financial factors like app companies taking a cut from your earnings aside, 3rd party booking apps have their share of problems too. Grab Taxi requires you to exchange handphone numbers with cabbies, for instance. Passengers could screw you over by cancelling last minute or not appearing at the designated pick-up spot. You still risk having someone puke all over your backseat, or rob you with a box-cutter. Someone got duped into paying $97 to a fake Uber driver. But that is how ‘market forces’ work. If you want your privacy, or if you don’t trust private cars, take the train, but bear with the crowd and breakdowns, or fight with other flag-down passengers.

Ride-sharing/matching is still, at the very least, more reassuring than the ‘pirate taxis’ that once roamed the streets.  These flourished as early as the mid fifties, when entrepreneurial drivers capitalised on the bus strikes to perform a public service when people could no longer rely on the main form of public transport. Business was so competitive in fact, pirates were willing to charge 5 CENTS per mile and provide ‘doorstep’ escorting services.  It’s a misuse of the traditional use of the word ‘pirate’, though. These drivers aren’t plundering from anyone. They’re pirates like how people operate ‘pirate radio’ before the Internet. Comfort DelGro is your ‘Top Hits’ station, with the same old songs played to death, while Uber/Grab Taxi is where you get to hear the ‘cool stuff’ without ‘royalties’.

Of course, the Government had to clamp down on these guys and declare all out war, not so much that passengers were harmed by it, but because they had to protect the interests of our taxi-drivers, who were partly the reason why pirates had their supporters in the first place. Taxi drivers then tend to ‘choose’ tourists over locals, and people complained about their ‘attitude’ after an evening at the cinema. Today, taxis choose to wait in queue outside our casinos rather than pick you up when you’re stranded in some godforsaken ulu place past midnight. By the time you get an actual human voice on the Comfort Cab booking line, you would have been assaulted and left to die pants-down by the road.

In 1970, the Government coerced drivers into ‘job conversion’ in a bid to phase out pirate operations, and anyone who continued to go pirate would be fined and have their ride confiscated. In 1971, a man who depended on pirating as his livelihood was driven to suicide by traffic offences slapped by the police, among other debt woes. By 1975, the pirates returned to the new towns, because the waiting time for the only bus on the road was probably longer than that needed to set up your one-man taxi business.  Even if bus frequencies have since improved, we sometimes still watch helplessly as bus after bus zooms by, the captain ignoring your flailing arms, oblivious that there’s a gaping hole in the middle because nobody wants to move in.

Today, the authorities are considering a softer approach in contrast to the ‘Operation Pirate Taxi’ blitz of the past, but the fact that we’re even discussing frameworks and legislation now despite our ‘world class’ transport system, in view of the high demand for these apps (6 companies and counting, the LTA one not included), suggests that not enough is being done to move people around an increasingly crowded city efficiently. Well yes, there are good and bad Comfort drivers, just like there are good and bad Uber/Grab Taxi drivers, but there isn’t enough evidence to say that the one without an official licence is more likely to drive you off a pier and plunge into the river. For the record, regular taxis have driven into condo pools before. At least I know which of the two is more likely to carry a float just in case the unimaginable happens.

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of mandatory licensing, the first thing LTA should work on is figuring out what’s wrong with the current system, and consider the benefits of these apps not just in terms of moving the public, but as a form of employment, without having their judgement fudged by taxi giants with vested interest in seeing the demise of their hi-tech rivals.  In the meantime, if I want an ‘uber’ chauffeur service at a fraction of the price of an actual limousine, I know who to call.

Pearl Bank apartments to be gazetted for conservation

From ‘Why the sudden decision to conserve Pearl Bank?’, 5 June 2015, ST Forum

(Loke Chee Meng): I AM surprised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) decision to consider conserving the Pearl Bank apartments based on a submission by the owners (“URA sees merit in conservation plan for Pearl Bank”; last Saturday, and “Conservation ‘can unlock Pearl Bank’s value'”; Monday).

Until recently, Pearl Bank would have met the wrecking ball had the owners’ last attempt at a collective sale been successful. The owners’ representative made no bones about conservation being hatched up as an afterthought to salvage the dwindling value of the ageing property after previous collective sale attempts failed.

Integral to this conservation deal is a consideration for an increase in the property’s gross floor area. If this increase were not granted, would the owners still be keen on pursuing conservation?

URA’s principle in conserving the building befuddles me. It was perfectly willing all along to allow Pearl Bank to be redeveloped after a collective sale. Why does the URA now deem the development worthy of conservation, after three attempts at a collective sale failed?

Conservation rules should not be so arbitrary that they can be exploited for self-interests. It is the authorities’ responsibility to proactively identify potential conservation buildings, as owners would make submissions only as and when it benefits them.

With more leasehold properties ageing, we may see more frivolous submissions, if the authorities do not step in, and this will undermine the process of conserving genuine historical buildings.

The 40 year old horseshoe-shaped Pearl Bank Apartment (PBA) was once described as a 38 storey 3-D jigsaw puzzle, housing 272 units, plus 8 penthouses, in a single  block. One ST writer waxed poetic about its ‘cylindrical design inspired by rounded river pebbles, fabricated to exact tolerances with just the right balance between tightness and looseness’. Its interlocking facade has also been compared to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, an example of the style known as ‘Brutalism‘. Though described as a complex structure created by an alien space race to inspire us pathetic earthlings, it was really the brainchild of local pioneer Tan Cheng Siong.

Unlike other conserved buildings which include shophouses and bungalows, PBA may not be aesthetically pleasing to the eye at first glance, which could be said the same of other buildings of the era, including People’s Park Complex and the vertical slum that is Golden Mile Complex. They’re like the ugly forbears of the sleek condos and DBSS flats that we have now, but like the recently gazetted national monument Jurong Town Hall, what ultimately matters if how influential and aspirational the structures were at the time, even if they look like discarded engine parts of a Borg mothership. Not so lucky was Eng Cheong towers, also a child of the 70’s, which was torn to the ground to make way for the Southbank development. Another relic that was quietly removed from the face of the earth, as I was surprised to discover, was the 7th storey Hotel in Bugis. In its place now lies the Downtown Line Bugis station.

Yet beauty and heritage value alone may not preserve buildings in their entirety. In 2007, a petition was launched against the demolition of the century-old ‘Butterfly House’ at 23 Amber Road, the only bungalow with curved wings and designed by the same Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Raffles Hotel and Goodwood Park fame.  Today, only the porch sans wings remains and it serves as a ‘world-class entrance lobby’ to the 18 storey Aristo condo, described as a juxtaposition of ‘classic charm and modern luxury’.

Personally, it looks like colonial bungalow with a giant concrete tumour sticking out of it. How URA could allow this token monstrosity to exist eludes me. Regent Alfred would rather see his work burnt to ashes, than having a gorgeous house latched onto a condo like a princess forced to carry a tower of bricks on her back. Now that is Brutal. Let’s all pray that PBA doesn’t meet the same fate.

Jolin Tsai’s gay wedding video banned by MDA

From ‘Singapore bans Jolin Tsai’s MV’, 24 May 2015, article by Heidi Hsia, Yahoo News.

Taiwanese media reported that Jolin Tsai’s song and music video, “We’re All Different, Yet The Same”, has been banned in Singapore. According to Mingpao News, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has sent ban notices to television and radio stations in the country so as not to air the song or the music video.

It was reported that the song has been banned because of the lyrics that encourage the pursuit of equal rights of marriage for the LGBTI community, which conflicts with the laws in Singapore.

…The music video for “We’re All Different, Yet The Same” was inspired by the story of a lesbian couple who has been together for 30 years. It features a wedding scene between Jolin and featured Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin.

UPDATE 25 May 2015: MDA has clarified that the song is not ‘banned’ here, but rather ‘allowed with the requisite age rating and consumer advice’, yet it has also advised broadcasters not to play the track or the video on channels that are ‘freely assessed’ by younger viewers due to ‘mature content’. I wonder what it does mean, however, when an actual ban is in force. I suppose it means you can’t download it from the internet, order the album/single online, sing it as karaoke or do a cover of it and upload your version. Youtube doesn’t even seek an age verification from you before streaming it, though. And you can still listen to F-bomb loaded rap songs about random raping in Forever 21. ‘Allowed with age rating and advice’ begs the basic question of, well, allowed WHERE exactly.

Jolin’s video raises an interesting question about the gay stigma and the institution of marriage: If you do not have family or relatives to make a critical life-or-death medical directive on your behalf, can your partner do it instead? Also, it has two women kissing. Beautiful women kissing, may I add.

Alas, MDA doesn’t care about ethical debates and only axes stuff if it gets them hot under the collar and breaches their own guidelines. They somehow decided on the sly that a video depicting gay marriage is not quite the ‘right thing’ that our population should be viewing. The fact that it was not released as a media statement like how they shut down A-Mei’s Rainbow suggests that they had intended to contain their act of censorship before it turned viral, knowing full well that one, people won’t be too happy about it, and two, anything banned by MDA will be inevitably the most searched and shared item on Youtube and Google.

If it does eventually blow up, they’d be forced to issue a press release giving the same old same old, and by that time hordes of K-box enthusiasts would have already put Jolin’s song at the top of their weekend singalong playlist, crying at the end of it because it tells such a touching story about love in a short few minutes, and also in shame because Singapore’s probably the only country to ban it. And sneakily too.

As a media ‘development’ authority, however, they continue to severely underestimate how the ‘media’ works. Some years back, a couple of Mediacorp actresses sprung a kinky surprise on the broadcaster by kissing each other on the mouths during a live telecast of the Star Awards. The re-run was censored, but everyone who went nuts over the girl-on-girl action just wanted to replay the kiss in slow motion on Youtube. Who cares who got into Top 10 list of Most Popular Actresses? Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ was also reportedly banned from airwaves, but she JUST PERFORMED the damn song here earlier this month during her Prismatic tour.

In fact, some of the kisses that we DO allow in M18 movies are hotter and wetter than the chaste wedding peck between Ruby Lin and Jolin Tsai. Some movies that do not involve lesbian sex at all get severely restricted because they feature gay families doing stuff that normal families do. At least NLB got more proactive after the penguin debacle. MDA can’t make up its mind if lesbians french-kissing or a loving couple in matching wedding outfits is more objectionable.

MDA also doesn’t care that Singaporeans read widely enough to know that marriage equality is happening in developed countries all over the globe, that we don’t need a controversial touchy-feely video to tell us why it’s worth supporting, even if the government maintains its ‘conservative’ stance. Even the ST has no qualms about publishing an article about Ivan Heng being a happily, married man, notwithstanding that it was a gay marriage. Moral of that story? Find happiness, screw the haters. Apparently MDA thinks this message is as dangerous as someone teaching you how to rig a drone with explosives and fly it into a government building.

So there is a ‘light touch’ after all when it comes to banning LGBT anthems, so light in fact it hardly made a sound, like a tip-toeing ninja assassin in the night, but soon caught out like a cowardly rabbit in the headlights.

Beer promoters banned from hawker centres

From ‘Why are coffee shops allowed beer promoters?’, 21 May 2015, ST Forum

(Rajasegaran Ramasamy): I FULLY support the “no go” for beer promoters in hawker centres (“Breweries told to withdraw beer promoters from hawker centres”; yesterday).

I am puzzled that the National Environment Agency has decided to implement the ban only at hawker centres.

Why are coffee shops, where these promoters also operate, exempted? Are they either registered stallholders or stall assistants? Alcohol, like cigarettes, can be addictive, and its promotion should be discouraged at all premises.

The reason NEA gave for the ban was that beer promoting activities may give rise to ‘disamenities’ such as touting and patron harassment, not so much that alcohol is bad and beer ladies, by peddling their addictive product to uncles, are part of a nationwide problem, as the writer suggests. Beer bottles were recently banned from Tekka hawker centre in order to eliminate the ‘disamenity’ of people threatening each other with broken glass shards. If we want to purge our society of any form of beer promotion short of banning alcohol entirely, why stop at beer servers? How about banning Tiger beer ads about ‘The Unofficial History of Singapore’? Or ban any form of beer sponsorship  of major sporting events because we don’t want our aspiring sportsmen to be ‘under the influence’ after competitions? Let’s all hide beer behind the counter like cigarettes too, so that we have more fridge space for our healthy oxygenated mineral water.

If such disamenities do in fact exist, however, NEA is merely transferring the problem elsewhere, such as the ‘fierce competition’ already happening in some kopitiams between the ‘beer aunty’ and the ‘pretty little things’ in tight polo-Ts and mini skirts. Maybe we should start banning bottles from coffee shops too, before they turn catfights into blood brawls.

‘Disamenities’ is a terrible catch-all word to describe social ‘problems’ that seems to apply exclusively to consequences of inebriation. MP Indranee Rajah includes ‘peeing in the river‘ as one such disamenity. So is puking on the sidewalk or talking loudly, anything that may be classified as a nuisance without becoming a full-blown crime like drunk-driving your car into someone’s living room or rioting on the streets. I used to think it referred to any business or establishment that does the opposite of what a proper ‘amenity’ is supposed to do, like a void deck karaoke room or a bustling watering hole with live bands playing past midnight. These days, it refers to specific human activities like beer ladies fighting for the attention of some half-drunken sweaty uncle. If your beer buddy is misbehaving in public, he’s not just a menace, he’s also a ‘disamenity’. Try explaining the term to him and it may just stump him into sobriety.

MDA’s ban on TRS draconian and excessive

From ‘TRS’ bid to stoke social tension unacceptable’, 7 May 2015, ST Forum

(Ann Chan, director of Communications, MDA): THE Media Development Authority (MDA) strongly disagrees with Ms Braema Mathi’s assertions that our actions are “draconian” and “excessive” (“Regulating online space: Engaging stakeholders in dialogue much better”; yesterday).

Based on information that has come to light, The Real Singapore’s (TRS) editors Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi were deliberately fabricating articles and inserting falsehoods to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments and undermine Singapore’s national harmony.

They did this to attract more readers to TRS, and thus, generate more advertising revenue for themselves. They were, in effect, lining their pockets at Singapore’s expense.

Suspending TRS’ licence was necessary to ensure Yang and Takagi did not do more damage with their deceitful reporting. In suspending TRS’ licence, the MDA had provided Yang and Takagi our grounds for doing so, including specifying the offending articles that contravened the Internet Code of Practice, and giving them seven days to explain why their licence should not be cancelled. They can also appeal against the suspension. Due process has been followed.

We agree with Ms Mathi that the diversity of Singapore’s populace should be reflected in the diversity of opinions online. But accepting diversity does not mean we also have to accept deceit, fabrications, plagiarism and distortions – all just to make a quick buck.

Unlike human rights activists like Braema Mathi, media experts have lauded the TRS ban by MDA as an example of the authority’s ‘light touch’ approach because TRS was considered an ‘extreme’ site among other platforms with similar content. In other words, the MDA was ‘magnanimous’ enough to leave the less popular, but equally offensive, sites alone, sites that weren’t milking the eyeballs of gullible Singaporeans and ‘making a quick buck’.

Apparently a ‘light touch’ is also an inconsistent, cherry-picking one, one that does nothing more that make the xenophobe poster-child that is TRS a scapegoat and hope that the rest of the wannabes clean up their act out of fear. It’s as ‘light-handed’ as a mob boss burying someone alive for not paying his dues ‘as a lesson’ to anyone who even thinks of screwing him over. There’s no evidence that this approach is even effective. A ‘Straits Times Review’ site (renamed States Times Review to avoid legal tussles with ST) with a similar bent as TRS has come online as we speak. MDA believed it had lopped off the Medusa’s head like Perseus when all it did was snip off one of the Hydra’s.

No details were given by MDA as to how much TRS makes from posting these evil ‘fabrications’ to qualify the ‘quick buck’ claim, nor exactly the level of ‘damage’ the site has caused to warrant a total shutdown since its inception.   This explanation in defence of their ‘draconian’ web content-slaying seems to be flip-flopping between TRS as a threat to national harmony and their unscrupulous profiteering. If ‘due process’ had been followed, then it seems rather at odds with this whole ‘light touch’ policy given that some sites get hit, while others, like TRE or the aggressive Blood Stained Singapore blog, do not.

The internet, of course, is full of deceit and distortions. Influencers are paid to write negative reviews of telcos, for example. A famous blogger who supposedly cured her brain cancer by eating ‘wholefoods’ recently admitted that it was all a damn sham. Unlike the alleged ‘damage’ that TRS has caused, following a quack’s advice instead of seeking medical attention actually kills you in the long run. Other authors exaggerate, sensationalise and frame their content whichever way they see fit to get readership, some of international standing earning the wrath of our own leaders for slanted journalism. I could create an entire fantasy blog about how I’m actually 100 years old and that the secret to my longevity is watching porn and masturbating 3 times a day and there WILL be suckers who buy into it. Between a site that tells you lies about PRCs vs another that says bulimia and anorexia are good for you, I think there would be stronger justification to ban the latter, when actual lives are at stake.

Speaking of lies, STOMP should be grateful to MDA for their ‘light touch’ policy then, especially after the SPH-owned portal posted a fake article about a faulty MRT door, and ‘making a quick buck’ out of such fabrications at the expense of our beloved SMRT. Instead of adopting a ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to weeding the internet of pesky sites, the authorities should embark on a proper literacy program to cultivate critical thinking and discretion when reading online material. Shutting down entire sites just because you disapprove of some of the content is simply caveman enforcement, the kind that thumps you into submission first before involving any higher brain activity to prevent future victims from falling for such nonsense elsewhere i.e without planning ahead.

People for centuries have been, and will always be, seduced by all kinds of fictitious bullshit for as long as the written word exists, whether it’s on papyrus or on an iPad. Today, we call most of these ‘advertisements’. TRS already has its fair share of vocal opponents, including ministers dying to file defamation suits. Purging it entirely without giving users the chance to critique and challenge its content like one trading blows with a sparring partner is, in government-speak, a ‘missed opportunity’ for internet literacy, and MDA itself, to evolve. We should learn how to tame the growing beast of social media without cracking a thicker whip every time it roars.

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