ACS chartering 5 MRT trains for rugby match

From ‘SMRT acknowledged prior approval should have been sought: LTA’, 27 Aug 2014, article in Today online.

Transport operator SMRT has explained to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) why it let Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter five of its trains to transport students and staff to a rugby match yesterday (Aug 26) at the National Stadium. SMRT has also “acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought”, said an LTA spokesperson in a statement today.

“The operator is required to obtain LTA’s approval to run trains for non-public transport purposes because as regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services,” the spokesperson added.

ACS(I) had chartered the trains to transport 3,000 of its students and staff to the Schools National C Division rugby final match, which was the first school final to be held at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. Yesterday, the LTA said it was looking into the appropriate action to take against SMRT after the public transport operator failed to seek the necessary approval from the authorities before letting the school charter its trains.

They've got a ticket to ride

They’ve got a ticket to ride

When asked about why they supported this private entourage, SMRT said that they believed in ‘supporting local education’ and ‘national initiatives’ without compromising core service delivery (Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains…25 Aug, ST). This was a rugby championship match between rival schools, not a mass deployment of martyrs to the battlefront. It’s MRT playing host to a private event, where instead of your favourite restaurant or theatre being closed off for some company party, it’s 5 entire trains. I doubt LTA would have said NO anyway even if SMRT had asked for permission. The alternative would be 80 buses clogging up the roads and this is one premier school which is more than able to afford hiring a Zeppelin or cruise liner if they wanted to. Better to inconvenience some lowly train commuters than aggravate those car-drivers, eh?

Still, when you see ACS’s motto being flashed on the LED scroller in the image above, you can’t help wondering if SMRT the public transport provider is sidelining as a party organiser here. If a school like ACS could hire MRT trains to bring their students to a sports competition, what’s stopping a multimillion, Government-endorsed company from doing the same to bring their employers to a Dinner and Dance, or from office to Changi Airport for an overseas AGM? If I’m very influential, could I hire one train just to ferry people to my gala wedding in style, complete with buskers and champagne? After all, it’s cheap, eco-friendly and SMRT has given us the assurance that normal passenger service would be minimally affected. Imagine if traditional rivals like RI or Hwa Chong followed suit with their own mass events. Hwa Chong even wanted an MRT station named after them for God’s sake. In fact, managing director Lee Ling Wee went on to ENCOURAGE more schools located near the CCL to charter trains during off-peak hours because it seems that they could afford it. You know, just to dispel the notion of MRT chartering being the sole right of elite institutions. Maybe SMRT should have an online booking system too, and exclusive themed trains like ‘Summer Wedding’ or ‘Ruggers’ Fiesta’ which you can choose to upgrade to.

I think if the event had been a charity fundraiser or a Big Day out for pioneers or the handicapped, few would complain. But this was for a select group with no noble intentions outside of flying some school flags or chanting slogans for a sport that only gets screened live in dingy Irish bars. I for one would rather watch a Bonsai pruning competition than the Rugby World Cup final. ACS’s private joyride had no philanthropic, ‘educational’ value or ‘national’ objective worthy of inspiration or pride. So why does rugby warrant this special privilege? Vivian Balakrishnan could have skimmed his YOG budget had he thought of chartering for volunteers and participants back in 2011. If you accept the argument that this is ‘cost effective’ then anybody can justify using the MRT as their grandfather’s train to move thousands of people for other frivolous reasons. Does SMRT have any qualification criteria at all?

As for that LED marquee screen that otherwise no one ever gives a shit about, now there’s an idea for a wedding proposal, guys.

About these ads

SMRT train in Bishan depot vandalised

From ‘Train at Bishan depot vandalised; police investigating’, 10 May 2014, article by Grace Chua, ST

A train at SMRT’s Bishan depot was vandalised, in the third such incident here in four years. Police said they received a call early on Monday morning at 6.17am, requesting assistance “at a premise along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1″. When the police arrived, a case of vandalism was reported, said a spokesman, who added that investigations are ongoing.

SMRT spokesman Alina Boey said on Saturday: “Vandalism was found on one of our trains at Bishan Depot on May 5. We have since made a police report and will assist the police in their investigations.”

…SMRT has previously been fined $200,000 and $50,000 for two separate security breaches at its depots.

In May 2010, two vandals cut through the fence of SMRT’s Changi depot and spray-painted graffiti on one side of a train. One of them, Swiss national Oliver Fricker, was given seven months’ jail and three strokes of the cane, while his accomplice, Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander, remains at large. In August 2011, a hole was cut in the fence at the Bishan Depot, and the words “Jet Setter’s” were spray-painted on one of the trains.

20141205_ln_mrt-01

Go home train you’re drunk

What the article omitted was that the fate of the previous Bishan depot vandals who painted ‘Jet Setter’s’ remains unknown to this day. I’m also surprised to read that Lloyd Dane Alexander is still on the Interpol manhunt list since 2010, and has been all but forgotten. Meanwhile we’ve apprehended, quite speedily I must say, 5 boys who vandalised a Toa Payoh rooftop , a solo vandal for desecrating the Cenotaph, and a woman ‘street artist’ responsible behind ‘My Grandfather Road’, all within days of their violation. The only explanation as to why our Police and Interpol combined still have trouble finding Lloyd, dead or alive, over these FOUR YEARS is that he may have, along with the ‘Jet Setters’,  jettisoned himself into outer space.

According to the Sunday Times (Vandals strike Bishan MRT depot, 11 May 2014), it appears that the vandals’ work wasn’t as pretty as that of ‘McKoy and Banos’, a ‘wordless scrawl 3m long and a metre high’.  There was also NO physical breach of the fence, so whoever gave SMRT the slip must have picked up a stealth skill or two from the Toa Payoh vandals. Why aren’t these people recruited as SAF spies and saboteurs already, elite soldiers adept at scaling fences and buildings more than 20 storeys high?

In case you’re wondering where the money from the previous $200,000 fine goes, it’s into the Public Transport Fund to help needy families with transport fares. Which means for this serious breach of security, SMRT is penalised by giving money to LTA, who in turn transfers it to people who need the MRT and its buses the most i.e the money ultimately GOES BACK to SMRT. In comparison, train disruptions in 2011 cost SMRT $2 MILLION. Today, our trains still get disrupted, and occasionally someone still breaks into a depot to vandalise it.

How is such a fine even effective in the long run? Shouldn’t putting some big bosses’ heads on the chopping board be a greater deterrent to operational negligence? Is Lui Tuck Yew going to express his ‘disappointment’ again that SMRT has allowed this to happen THREE times, despite SMRT taking additional security measures by employing Certis Cisco to conduct round-the-clock surveillance? In 2010-2011, the remedial actions were under the charge of Saw Phaik Hwa, who has since resigned and joined Auric Pacific in 2012, the same company  responsible for Delifrance and Sunshine bread. So far no one has died from either.

It’s worth noting that the Toa Payoh vandalism took place on May 7, TWO DAYS AFTER the Bishan depot incident (May 5), and the culprits of the former were caught (10 May) just as the news of the MRT vandalism broke. Which means SMRT took a few days to report this to the Police, just like how they took 2 days to report Fricker and Lloyd’s intrusion. Is it any wonder that the vandals are still at large given the lead time gained from SMRT keeping quiet, probably scurrying about with their own ‘internal investigations’ , more worried about their reputation than catching the people responsible? Wait, WHAT reputation.

I’m predicting a $500K fine this time, and maybe SMRT might just withdraw their intention to extend Free Early Bird Train Rides till 2015. In the end, it’s not SMRT, LTA or the Minister of Transport, nor even the vandals themselves (if they never get caught) who suffer, but us the commuters.

Postscript: Police are working on the premise that this might be an inside job as there are no traces of trespass, taking fingerprints of SMRT employees working the night shift on May 5. The latest ST article (Police take fingerprints of SMRT employees, 13 May 2014, ST) also used Melbourne as reference (35 cases of train vandalism a MONTH), emphasising that vandalism is a scourge that affects major cities and suggesting that we’re already doing a good job keeping it to 3 in at least 3 YEARS.

Some writers have suggested cracking down on spray paint cans, banning sale to minors and registering buyers, analogous to our reaction towards chewing gum. Well, why stop there, why not control crayons, colour pencils and paintbrushes too? And even if we deprive the majority of creative tools, there are other ways to deface public property, like throwing excrement for example.

 

Crystal Jade bought over by LVMH

From ‘LVMH adds Crystal Jade to Singapore Jewel Box’, 30 April 2014, article by Cai Haoxiang, Business  Times

After three years of courtship, L Capital Asia, the private-equity arm of French luxury goods giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has bought home-grown Chinese restaurant group Crystal Jade in a deal that market sources place at around US$100 million.

As L Capital adds yet another Singapore name to its growing collection of brands, Crystal Jade is set to soar in coming years. The restaurant group will tap LVMH’s expertise in branding and marketing, as well as its relationships with landlords worldwide to place outlets in strategic locations.

It plans to expand to Europe and the Middle East in addition to other parts of the world. An initial public offering (IPO) could eventually also be on the cards.

“The business has come to a size that is quite big, and my age is not suitable to carry the business to another level,” Crystal Jade group chairman and CEO Ip Yiu Tung, 65, told The Business Times over dinner at Paragon’s Crystal Jade Golden Palace restaurant, confirming market talk in the past month that the company had been sold.

“The new owner … is good in planning, promoting, marketing, know-how that we lack,” he added.

The Crystal Jade Empire first started out in 1991 at the now demolished Cairnhill Hotel, and it took one customer (Hongkonger, now Singapore PR) to pump in 2 million dollars to revive what was then a flagging business. That same customer would take the ‘home-grown’ brand international, become chairman and CEO, and later sell it to a luxury conglomerate which also owns Sincere watches and Charles and Keith. Interestingly, the founder of fierce rival Imperial Treasure is Alfred Leung, brother-in-law and ex-partner of Ip Yiu Tung, Leung being the one who founded the original Crystal Jade in the first place, later splitting from Ip over ‘differences in philosophy’.   As far as I’m aware, Imperial Treasure hasn’t ventured into Vietnamese yet. Maybe with LVMH taking over, you’d see baguettes on their menu too. Seriously, if I craved for Viet food, I’d go to a Viet place, not C-Jade Viet Cafe (formerly C-Jade HK Cafe) at Bugis Plus (formerly Iluma).

The group was doing rather well in the mid-nineties. One of the owners Tan Ban Cheong was staying in a bungalow in Holland Road in 1996, with a ST report revealing that he owns a total of 3 Mercedes Benzes. Unfortunately, in the same article, it was reported that his wife was caught parking one of them in a disabled lot at Ngee Ann City, of which a ST photographer on assignment happily snapped away. This was a PR disaster which tarnished the chain’s reputation, accounting for their media ‘reticence’ from then on. And this was before the existence of STOMP, when it was ST journalists, not CITIZEN journalists, exposing people at their most vulnerable.

If you wanted Chinese banquet-lite or yum cha in the past, Crystal Jade was the place to be, but the chain developed some interesting ‘culinary concepts’ over the years. From its flagship high-end Cantonese diner in Ngee Ann City, management decided to diversify to insane Hydra levels. Today, Crystal Jade boasts an array of fine, family and casual dining for the discerning and, in this case, confused, Asian gastronome, from Seafood Steamboat to Korean Ginseng Chicken, even a Korean BBQ buffet at Nex. What next, Crystal Jade Tom Yum Hotpot?

FnB is a cutthroat business of course, with younger upstarts like our homegrown Paradise Group, Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung (Lim Swee Say’s favourite for dumplings and toothpicks) and HK’s Tim Ho Wan all making strides in the Chinese dining scene. Crystal Jade hasn’t been immune to bad business decisions either. Here’s a list of faux pas in their bid to trump the competition and become the creme de la creme of all things yum cha.

  • Crystal Jade CAKERY, which I suspect later evolved into Crystal Jade My Bread, to catch the bakery wave. I’m amazed that ‘cakery’ is even a word.

Only time will tell if the hip ‘C-Jade’ branding, seemingly aimed at the younger crowd, would catch on. It’s already confusing telling the following apart: Crystal Jade Restaurant, Crystal Jade Dining Place and Crystal Jade Kitchen, when all I want is to eat char siew bao. There’s even a C-Jade Express ‘fast-food concept’, which sounds like the lovechild of Bakery and Kitchen. Hopefully LVMH would sort these names out once and for all, without touching the actual menus too much. Admittedly I’m a fan of the La Mian Xiao Long Bao restaurants, and the last thing I want to see is my favourite dishes Frenching out on me. Tiger Beer, after acquisition by Dutch Heineken, still tastes like Tiger Beer (save for the much misunderstood Tiger Radler). Let’s hope their Har Gaos and Siew Mais, the ‘piece de resistance’ couplet of all Dim Sum,  stay the same too.

Crystal Jade menu Google Translated

Crystal Jade menu Google Translated

Erratum: Steamed chicken feet with Black Bean Sauce should be translated as ‘pieds de poulet cuits à la vapeur’. The Chinese character for ‘melon’ and ‘talon’ differs by two tiny strokes. Yes, chicken feet is literally ‘phoenix talons’.

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.

Seng Han Thong’s nightmare before Christmas

From ‘MP Seng not racist, says Shanmugam’, 25 Dec 2011, article by Teo Wan Gek, Sunday Times

…During a Channel NewsAsia programme Blog TV, which aired on Monday, Mr Seng made a comment which some found to be racist. He was asked about the lack of communication with passengers during the evening peak-hour breakdown of MRT trains last Thursday.

In his response, he misquoted an SMRT officer, who had earlier said: ‘Our staff at the stations and in the trains may not be making sufficient announcements and also good enough announcements. And that’s because our staff of different races, it could be Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race, they sometimes find it difficult to speak in English.’

But Mr Seng, when rebutting the officer’s comments, mentioned only Malay and Indian train drivers. He later clarified that he misheard the SMRT officer’s remarks, which he had heard over radio while driving.

…Mr Seng has since apologised for his remarks.

It’s Christmas Day, and instead of government officials sending well wishes or attending to holiday ‘ponding’, they’re spending time on damage control over an MP’s blooper, or Freudian slip, whatever critics want to call it. A driver who’s unable to calm passengers in the midst of an emergency breakdown is a victim of inadequate training, drills and SOPs. As an organisation with a rigid mastery over templates, surely there should be some standard announcements in place to aid anxious train drivers during disruptions.  This is all just one finger-pointing and tactless blame-shifting after another between various MPs, an SMRT vice president named Goh Chee Kong, and train drivers . If this incident and Desmond Choo’s backfired sexist anecdote tells us anything, it’s that politicians need to stop paraphrasing totally, or learn how to use the disclaimer ‘I quote’ or read excerpts out loud from pieces of paper instead.

In Seng’s defence, he seems to suggest that ‘broken English’ is OK when desperate times call for it, which runs counter to the efforts of our Speak Good English campaign, that lapsing into sub-par English is our ‘default’ setting in stressful situations, while putting on Good English politeness for mundane things such as telling someone that you need to ‘excuse yourself’ for the washroom is expected of us.  In fact, broken English/Singlish, by doing away with time-wasting grammatical formalities, would be ideal in a situation where every second counts and sounding professional should be the least of your worries. The problem is speaking English of any sort, whether broken or of the pristine BBC standard, isn’t very useful when one considers elderly passengers who would be more prone to fainting spells or injuries in the event of a disruption, in which you would have to depend on good Samaritans to do the necessary translation, provided of course that the driver is relaying the right instructions, and that passengers are not busy smashing windows for air in panic. You can bet SMRT will not be happily celebrating their annual Xmas dinner, despite earning the title of the year’s biggest turkey. Even if there was some form of celebration, you can bet no one wants to be caught pants down being treated like a pharaoh like CEO Saw Phaik Hwa in a previous DnD. You probably wouldn’t see the Dim Sum Dollies providing the night’s entertainment as well.

Seng Han Thong’s faux pas is mild compared to the remark on Indians by ex-MP and soon to be convict (twice) Choo Wee Khiang, whose atrocious joke on skin colour qualifies as true racism.  But being labelled a racist and trolled online isn’t the worst that this man has suffered. In Jan 2009, MP Seng was literally FLAMED by an assailant whilst attending a community event as Yio Chu Kang GRC MP. He was inflicted with burns on 15% of his body and his attacker was determined to be a 70 year old retired taxi driver who was subsequently admitted to IMH. Even then, not everyone was sympathetic, with some forum users adopting a ‘let this be a lesson to MPs for bullying the elderly‘ tone, adding ‘fuel to the fire’. The MP torcher was even lauded as a ‘courageous hero’ by others.

It appears that MP Seng has a history of drawing the ire of crazy old taxi drivers. Earlier in July 2006, he was punched in the face, again by a 70-plus former cab driver during a Meet the People session. The attacker was reportedly unhappy that his contract was terminated by ComfortDelgro and demanded an answer from his MP. Despite being boxed in the face and suffering the trauma of being burnt alive, this man continues to serve, though he  might be wearing asbestos underwear wherever he goes and have a phobia of blowing birthday candles for the rest of his life.

Merry Christmas everyone.

One man’s breakdown is another’s income opportunity

From ‘SMRT says sorry for its message to cabbies’, 16 Dec 2011, article by Daryl Chin, ST

SMRT has apologised for a message it broadcast to its fleet of taxis yesterday amid the chaos on the subway system. The message, which flashed on its drivers’ screens at about 8pm, read: ‘Income opportunity. Dear partners, there is a breakdown in our MRT train services from Bishan MRT to Marina Bay MRT stretch of stations.’

A photo of the screen – presumably taken by a passenger – soon appeared on social networking site Twitter and spread online, drawing sharp criticism.

‘Bad enough they are raising taxi fares, now they want to cash in on an event that is their fault to begin with,’ said sales assistant Candice Tan, 24, one of the many who tweeted about it.

Attempts to contact the photographer were unsuccessful. The message, presumably sent by SMRT call centrestaff, would have reached all 3,100 taxis in its fleet. An SMRT spokesman said last night: ‘We are sorry for the oversight. Our staff were using a template message, and we have since corrected it.’

Some More Revenue, Taxis!

The second breakdown in a week came after a Circle Line delay the day before. News of the trauma of passengers stuck in tunnels went live before SMRT could even recover from the backlash of its ‘official statement’ fiasco yesterday. Train windows were smashed out of desperation, passengers plunged into darkness and sent on a pitch-black tunnel march between City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut, images which anyone who’s seen the 90’s Sylvester Stallone disaster movie Daylight would find hauntingly familiar. I exaggerated in a previous post that SMRT was keeping silent because of zombie carnage in the train and on platforms, and looking at the state of chaos and the contorted faces of victims in agony, it appears that I wasn’t too far off the mark.

SMRT: Tunnel vision

Seems like SMRT is running out of ‘I’m sorry’ templates too. Here it’s ‘We are sorry for the oversight‘, last night it was:

We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused…Preliminary investigation shows that around 40m of the power rail had been damaged between the City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut stations.

Inconvenience, of course, is a gross understatement, especially if you have passengers gasping for air, resorting to sacrificing fire extinguishers to smash windows to stay alive. One can only guess at the kind of mixed feelings that cabbies would have capitalising on stranded, desperate commuters only too eager to head home after a hard day’s work, although the cruel coincidence of the two incendiary events (MRT breakdown, taxi fare hike) reeks of a backdoor cost-recovery conspiracy on the part of SMRT, which not only has to deal with ticket refunds and whatever damages sustained because of angry, oxygen-deprived mobs, but foreigners sueing them for negligence after having their legs pulverised by trains. Or perhaps so much attention was given to ‘security breaches’ that there were simply not enough people to inspect cables every once in a while. Give me a graffitti-strewn train that gets me to work and home on the dot rather than a squeaky clean one that disgorges passengers into tunnels smack  in the middle of nowhere.

SMRT isn’t the only body exploiting the misfortune of others. Just after the Japanese tsunami in March this year, Mediacorp sent out an email soliciting for advertisers who might be interested in ‘breaking news’ coverage, each 30-second commercial costing $5000. Edwin Koh, Senior Vice President, stepped up to ‘apologise unreservedly if we had been seen to be insensitive to the gravity of the situation’. Note that it could have been either Mediacorp or SMRT who wanted to hush up DJ Hossan Leong for tweeting about the Circle Line fault yesterday as well. But it’s only the amoral nature of business after all, and corporations like these two have been ‘cashing’ in way before the advent of social media, whether we like it or not. Pharmaceutical giants ‘cash in’ whenever there’s an outbreak of disease, weapon manufacturers in the event of war, and likewise a swarm of passengers with nowhere to go is prime catch for cabbies.  Whether you call it ‘good business’ or ‘income opportunity’, the fact of the matter, as it is everywhere else, is that there is always a market for misfortune. It’s just unfortunate that an ‘oversight’ exposed the unfeeling machine that SMRT really was all along. So much for ‘MOVING people, ENHANCING lives’ as its motto boasts, when it has done the exact opposite these past few days.

Tsunami=Income opportunity

Let’s not forget another player in the grand scheme of things; ComfortDelgro for raising fees in the first place, after which we’ve seen wave after wave of sociopathic behavior occurring, from old men vandalising taxis, to graffitti on taxi panels about how we’re like ‘donkeys’ and always ‘Pay and Pay’, and the most ‘Grand Theft Auto’ of them all, a Trans cab taxi going on a hit-and-run rampage across town. Police blamed it on DRUGS, naturally. Maybe it’s the same drug that the SMRT spokespeople have been taking these couple of days, one that depletes every ounce of empathy in your body. Then again, according to writer/film-maker/lawyer Joel Bakan, corporations  are inherently self-interested psychopaths, with one of the traits being a ‘callous unconcern for the feelings of others’. A big, fat ‘Check’.

Nobody died during the shutdown last night (though it was reported that one fainted), but if there’s anybody that should be ‘apologising unreservedly’ it should be an actual PERSON, not the epitome of insincerity  in the form of the collective ‘WE’, crafting a response with the cut-and-paste dexterity as one garbles swill from random leftovers for pigs. The only trait that separates a chief mafioso from a company head in the context of exploiting tragedies for personal profit is that the gangster never needs to apologise.  This is how conspiracy theorists would view this situation: If you’re stuck with a cure (fare hikes to alleviate cabbies’ miserable takings) which nobody wants to take, then you have to create the disease (train failures). The truth is ‘shit happens’, but adding to the stink with a ‘template oversight’ is just ‘full of it’.

We want to see a sorry face, not a sorry excuse for an answer.

Postscript: And here’s SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa’s ‘very, very sorry face’ during a press conference later in the day. Isabella Loh must be thanking the heavens she never got into a seat as hot as this.

CEOs can resign, it is whether they choose to

Occupy Raffles Place is a joke

From ‘Only a handful turn up for planned protest in Singapore’, 16 Oct 2011, article by Amanda Tan, Sunday Times

The bravado for a planned protest at Raffles Place on Saturday afternoon fizzled out after fewer than 20 people turned up over several hours at the spot where it was supposed to have taken place. Occupy Raffles Place, a protest modelled after its Wall Street counterpart, was intended to be a ‘peaceful movement’ to demand accountability and change, said its unidentified organisers, who launched the campaign on social networking site Facebook earlier this month.

They argued that the ‘wealth of 99 per cent’ of Singaporeans is in the hands of ‘1 per cent’ – Temasek Holdings and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. Organisers said they planned to march towards SGX Centre after meeting fellow protesters at the open space outside Raffles Place MRT Station. But the police warned the public last week against taking part in the protest, as it is considered unlawful.

…Despite the online chatter, only curious onlookers – most of them foreigners and armed with cameras – had gathered by 2pm on Saturday, the time when the event was to start. Members of the media made up more than half of those present. No placards or banners could be seen. Nor did anyone step out to identify themselves.

Instead, the organisers hid behind their Facebook and Twitter accounts, posting messages such as ‘We should try this again on Monday morning?’ and ‘Where is everyone right now?’ At about 3.30pm, they declared it a ‘no-show’ and said that they were ‘heading to #OccupyOrchardRoad’.

Eventually, as netizens labelled the event a ‘joke’, they posted a note in the evening saying: ‘Those who have come out today to show your support for the occupation, you were heroes. It means an awful lot to be courageous men and women.’

Everyone is occupied

There are a few reasons why OccupySG turned out to be a failure, not least because the police were keeping an eye on this (it applies everywhere else in the world where people gather to make some noise), but for what I propose to be the following:

1. Who are the 99% exactly? 99% is a bold statistic but what does this really mean? Do Temasek and GIC really hold 99% of the wealth of all Singaporeans? Or did it fail because a sizeable portion of us are already relatively well-off (according to Bloomberg, 15.5% of Singaporean households draw ‘millionaire’ incomes) and lack the motivation to protest about wealth distribution?99% of what? According to the we are the 99% blog,

They are the 1 percent. They are the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry. They are the important ones. They need help and get bailed out and are praised as job creators. We need help and get nothing and are called entitled. We live in a society made for them, not for us. It’s their world, not ours. If we’re lucky, they’ll let us work in it so long as we don’t question the extent of their charity.

We are the 99 percent. We are everyone else.

It appears that EVERYONE else is either jobless, has no money to pay hospital bills, can’t afford a university education or the monthly mortgage, i.e 99% of us are discontent. And therein lies the problem of this movement. 99% is just one of those catchy, easy to remember, mantras plucked out of thin air which you can’t apply any scientific rigour to, coined to create a bloated sense of us-vs-them solidarity. The actual percentage of victims (if that can even be defined) is more likely to include at least 2 decimal points.  It’s like perspiration when one talks about what  ‘Genius’ consists of (99% perspiration, 1% inspiration according to Thomas Edison).  In fact there’s a correlation between the two; maybe ‘99%’ 0f us work our butts off to just get by, while the ‘1%’ are the privileged ultra-rich who rely on a mixture of cunning and speculation.  99% is also a popular figure thrown about by biologists to convince us that we’re only 1% different from chimpanzees (We’re not). But seriously, income disparity? Mega-rich running the world? Tell me something I don’t already know. Would the Occupy folks be happy with, say, 50-50?

2. It is over-ambitious. According to the ‘mission’ taken off the OccupySG Facebook page,

Our purpose is to engage the public in this dialogue and make the voices of the people heard. We want national leaders to hear our concerns about ways to remedy the economic injustice and unfair influence the wealthy have over the political system.

We are a peaceful, non-violent resistance movement that aims to encourage people to participate in democracy and use their voices to influence positive change. We are the 99% and our voice will be heard.

Nowhere in the site does it explain how 99% in the Singaporean context was derived.  Is 99% a global figure or exclusive to the US? The mission also appears distorted to suit the organisers’ own political agenda. They continue to lament about bad investment choices by the accused bodies, and boast about ‘creating a new democracy’. Through a FACEBOOK page. If you’re serious about change, you set up a proper website with links to references for your claims,  not whine on social media about why nobody turns up at your event on a Saturday afternoon. You also have to be specific with your demands and pitch the benefit of sacrificing a precious weekend to the ‘99%’, which, in this case, there was none. Where is the HOPE in this? What’s in it for ME? What’s the point of all this really? There’s not even curry to make up for the eventual futility of it. ”OCCUPY’ also has an aggressive, war-like, territorial ring to it, as in ‘Japanese OCCUPATION’, which contradicts the organisers’ claims of being a ‘peaceful’ movement. It’s more like OBSTRUCT really, though it’s not so much Raffles Place being barricaded here, but common sense.

3. Nobody takes anonymous activists seriously. Local organisers should take a look at the original OWS website. Creating a Facebook page and a Twitter account without enquiry channels or an actual living person taking charge casts doubt on the dedication of this ‘movement’, and resembles more like flippant bandwagon-jumping similar to other  internet trends like planking, parkour or flash mobs. You can also bet on a higher attendance if someone organised a ‘Save the RWS Dolphins ‘ day, because the result of a successful protest, no matter how unlikely, is clear (No dolphins at RWS). For Occupy, there isn’t a clear objective to fight for, and it seems like protesting just for the sake of it, capitalising on the recent curry saga which, in spite of the national enthusiasm, really achieved little other than serving as a transient reminder to tolerate one another.  In short, you don’t want to risk getting put in jail when the instigators themselves refuse to stand up and lead by example, especially if nobody has the faintest idea of what they expect to see changed from doing this.

4. Targetting the wrong audience. The REAL ‘99%’ of downtrodden people who can’t afford three meals a day wouldn’t have a basic internet connection, not to mention have the luxury to maintain a Facebook/Twitter account. Occupy seems to be obsessed with the divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, without a clue as to how to handle the ‘just-have-enoughs’, which probably applies to the majority of us, people who live in HDB flats, perhaps own a car if lucky, but can’t afford to risk our livelihoods over the Seinfeld equivalent of a protest i.e a show about nothing.

5. It’s easier to boycott than be an active voice for change. Or to put it another way, short of voting, Singaporeans are mostly passive agents of change. It’s easier (and maybe more effective) to turn down a wedding dinner if the host serves shark’s fin soup than march onto a shark-fishing boat and try to toss finning knifes overboard. It’s easier to cook, or eat from, a pot of curry than to seek permit to organise a forum bringing ethnic groups under one roof to  preach tolerance (in two or more languages). It’s easier to save your money on RWS and stay at home if you think training dolphins for entertainment is cruel. Sometimes, non-action works just as well, if not better, than so called ‘non-violent’ movements. It also has the added benefit of being legal, so if you want to be part of the ‘resistance’ and ‘stick it to the Man’, don’t consume Coke, McDonald’s or buy branded goods, patronise a minimart instead of a hypermart,  and avoid the casinos or even recommending them to your friends from overseas. Collectively, for certain cases of corporate greed at least, we can make a difference from doing nothing rather than holding hands around the Supreme Court  or KFC threatening to light ourselves on fire like crazy martryrs.

Overall, it’s not so much being cowed into submission that Singaporeans are less than enthusiastic about the Occupy movement, in case critics label our lacklustre response as a symptom of oppression or apathy.  Rather, it’s because we have better things to do with our time than ape our Western counterparts by customising the OWS to suit our own selfish agendas. We also do not subscribe to an activist herd mentality and organise  viral ‘movements’ only when ‘everyone else is doing it’, yet keeping silent and minding our business like obedient citizens the rest of the time. And here’s a fun fact: Tin Pei Ling has more followers on Twitter than OccupySG.

But I think the real reason is that 15,000 Singaporeans were ‘occupied’ with something of far greater importance on that very day: The Ben and Jerry’s annual Chunkfest.

#OccupyChunkFest

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 296 other followers