Maid kicked in the groin over blanket on the floor

From ‘Employer gets 21 months’ jail for maid abuse; appeals against conviction and sentence’, 7 Aug 2013, article by Elena Chong, ST

A woman, who was convicted of five charges of abusing her Indonesian maid in one of the “most distressing” domestic maid abuse cases in Singapore, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail on Wednesday.

Chan Huey Fern, 32, is appealing against conviction and sentence. Bail of $20,000 pending appeal is offered. The mother of two, who has seven other similar charges pending, was found guilty last week by District Judge Low Wee Ping of causing hurt to Ms Juwarti, 25, at her Buangkok Link flat between mid-December and Dec 31, 2010.

She was convicted of punching the maid in the eye, kicking her body and private parts several times.

The court heard that she lashed out at the maid on Dec 31 that year when she found her son’s blanket on the floor in the children’s room. After kicking her repeatedly on her body, she called the maid to the kitchen where she kicked her again on the body and private parts several times, causing her to bleed.

The most sensational forms of domestic violence in Singapore isn’t between spouses, but between employers and their maids. As distressing as it is to get brutally kicked in the groin over something so trivial as a blanket, one can think of equally brutal, if not worse cases of maid abuse over the past 2 decades. Most of the senseless violence towards ‘the other woman’ of the house, startlingly, have been administered by women themselves.

Some cases of violence are utterly bizarre and border on torture-porn. In 2002, 30 year old Jennica Chow Yen Ping BIT ONE NIPPLE OFF her maid. She also tried to disfigure her face with a knife as punishment for not asking what she wanted for breakfast. Other than inflicting horrific carnage on another human being and leaving her with one nipple less, Chow spent most of the days as a HOSPITAL customer relations officer. In a less ferocious attack of the same body part, former air stewardess Aileen Khaw SQUEEZED her maid’s breast in between beatings of the eye and skull, all because the maid SCRATCHED HER HEAD while refilling an electric flask.

If you thought assaulting private parts over nothing was atrocious, how about yanking out two front teeth, as what 18 year old Nur Rizan did to her maid in 2008 while ganging up with 2 older female family members, a gruesome treatment that is as medieval as having your four limbs stretched by horses, or having your torso chewed by a pack of starving rats.  Some maids may be spared the physical battery and scarring, but are subjected to acts of extreme depravity that would even put traditional back-whipping slavery to shame.  An Indonesian maid was forced to eat DOG FAECES by a 37 year old woman and her teenage son in 1997. In 2008, Loke Phooi Ling, also 37, was slapped with a whopping 32 abuse charges, of which one was for scrubbing her maid’s mouth with STEEL WOOL and a TOILET BRUSH.

It’s sobering to realise that behind this facade of civility and grace befitting of a developed nation, despite the efforts spent on the ‘Kindness’ movement, there are still people amongst us who seem otherwise normal and treat their superiors or peers with gentle deference but would take the master and slave role-play well beyond the boundaries of morality. They would think nothing of rubbing bleach on their helpers’ wounds or dehumanising them through shocking ‘Human Centipede’ levels of degradation. These people don’t live in underground dungeons full of torture contraptions and spiked pits where they run victims through booby traps as part of some sadistic test of wills. They could very well be your next door neighbour.

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LKY on death and mediocrity

From ‘Singapore’s Lee says he wants a quick death’, 7 Aug 2013, AFP article in insing

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who will turn 90 next month, said in a new book published Tuesday that he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.

“Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit,” he wrote in the book “One Man’s View of the World”.

…”There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach,” he wrote.

…Singapore’s low birth rate has forced the government to open the country to foreigners, who now comprise a third of the population. The influx, however, has sparked protests from citizens and prompted the government to tighten immigration flows in recent years.

Lee pointed to the example of Japan, which he said is on a “stroll into mediocrity” as the ranks of its elderly swell due to young couples not producing enough babies.

Well, I suppose everybody desires a quick and painless death, including founding fathers, though for LKY he may choose to succumb to it only if he’s willing to let go of his baby, our Singapore. In 1988, he famously declared at the National Day Rally that:

Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.

A quote that has often been misinterpreted as LKY RISING from the grave. Like a zombie. Our ex MM has been the victim of a couple of hoax deaths himself, none of which imply a ‘quick and painless’ one as he so desires, though some opponents would wish him the exact opposite.

Today, he appears to want to spend as little time on a ‘sick bed’ as far as possible. To LKY, death is, in other words, Retirement and playing Scrabble, while most of us look forward to the end of work as a reason to rejoice, to LIVE. In 2008 after suffering from an atrial flutter, he said that he would not live beyond 94 as his father did, and attributed longevity to his parents’ genes in addition to an abstemious lifestyle of repetitive exercise and spartan eating, a routine some would deem to be worse than death itself.

Despite his intolerance for mediocrity like one’s revulsion of the plague, there’s every possibility that LKY’s inevitable demise will be as ‘mediocre’ as the rest of humanity. In 1976, he set out his criteria on Government job candidates:

…I don’t defend rudeness. I don’t defend arrogance. I don’t defend mediocrity. I don’t defend the desire to do the minimum and get by.

In 2007, he even used mediocrity to justify why First World Nordic countries like FInland and Denmark paid their ministers less than those in Singapore.

…He (Low Thia Khiang) has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Their systems and governments never produced the kind of transformation that we have, and their system and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government.

So much for this medicore ‘Swiss standard of living’ then. Naturally you would have Scandinavians retorting to LKY’s remark with the ‘Nokia’ argument.

He kept up the defence of his stance of only having the best in 2008, when he said:

If they (Government) do not find talented people with the drive, energy, integrity and passion, then the future is in doubt. The system cannot cope with inadequate, mediocre men. You need top men, able men.

Alas, you can’t have a functioning society without mediocre people taking up mediocre work to serve the cream of the crop. To us it’s a ‘normal’, even ‘average’, day job, be it operating cranes or running a hawker stall. To LKY, mediocrity is a euphemism for physical and intellectual laziness. From the way he describes Japan’s ‘elderly swell’ like a fetid tumour, it appears he has little faith in the ‘silver economy’ as well.

Mediocrity may also be defined as being nothing ‘out of the ordinary’, so if Japan is ‘strolling towards mediocrity’, then Singapore, if she continues with the same system of government, policies, education, housing and arcane laws,  is steadily ‘brisk-walking’ towards it.  A template city with a makeshift citizen core that has lost its soul, a mediocre shell of what it aspires to be, that even she herself would commit seppuku just to get it over and done with.

It’s unlikely that ‘One Man’s View’ will be the elder statesman’s swansong and he may be waiting out for that ultimate autobiography of autobiographies to deliver his final chapter on himself, on Singapore. If he’s right about the 94 year deadline, then that last book, a potential record-breaking blockbuster (especially if unfinished), will be 4 years in the making. Fifty Shades of Lee, perhaps?

The Independent registered as a political website

From ‘Upcoming news website to register under Broadcasting Class Licence Act’, 29 July 2013, article by Tan Weizhen, Today

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has notified the owners of a new current affairs and news website, Theindependent.sg, that it is required to register under the Broadcasting (Class license) Act, in what it called a bid to ‘guard against’ foreign influence on Singapore politics.

…As part of the registration, the website is required to undertake not to receive foreign funding for its management or operations, which MDA said it has agreed to.

…(MDA): “It is a firmly established principle that foreign entities may not engage in Singapore politics. Foreign interests are not allowed to control or worse, to manipulate our local media platforms, which are prime vehicles for political influence,” said the statement, adding that the need to prevent foreign interests from influencing the media, remains the same be it in print, broadcast or online.

The PAP is notoriously hostile to foreigners only when it comes to interference in local politics, otherwise they’re more than happy to integrate them into our society with open arms as long as they contribute to the economy and  state-building or win medals in the name of sporting glory. When it comes to touchy matters like suggesting that we rise up against our masters at the next election, the government can be as extreme in their discomfort with strangers as some of us are. By making it a crime to intrude into Singapore politics, the PAP have found an effective silencer of dissent among a good 40% of the population.  Like a landlord accommodating a tenant, involvement in ‘domestic affairs’ is one house rule that a foreigner would do well not to break if he doesn’t want to face a hasty eviction.

Such subversive ‘interference’ that sets out to undermine the integrity of our PAP was exemplified in the form of an American diplomat named Mason Hendrickson, who was expelled from duty because he was accused of being in cahoots with Marxists and a certain Francis Seow back in 1988. The American was believed to have instigated several lawyers, Seow included, to stand against the PAP in the General Election. Since then, we have been on our guard against malevolent ‘elements’ threatening to bring our nation to the knees. Our leaders have sued foreign magazines for defamation, jailed authors for writing books about the death penalty, and would blacklist anyone who so much as scoffs at our chewing gun ban. Yet, despite building this forbidden wall around us, some of our ministers seem to find a way to meddle in other countries’ affairs nonetheless, especially on matters across the Causeway. If I tell you what’s wrong, it’s for your own good, but when it comes to OUR politics, you’d best mind your bloody business. But please feel free to make yourself at home anyway.

It’s not just being a political busybody that gets the government all uptight over foreign influence. You can’t even have a foreigner in a choir performing what would appear to be anti-government propaganda. In 2008, the Complaints Choir, which consisted of 6 foreigners (out of FIFTY members), was banned from staging public performances by the MDA because the content ‘touched on domestic affairs’ and only Singaporeans were allowed to sing complaints about Singapore, even the nasty ones. Its Finnish founders were disappointed in what they saw as the ‘symptoms of a neurotic society’, as if foreigners were glib and seductive enough to convert almost an entire choir of Singaporeans into a rampaging mob and storm in the Istana with pitchforks and dynamite. Don’t forget that even some of our most beloved National day songs were written by a Canadian named Hugh Harrison. Did the government ever suspect him or inserting subliminal radical messaging in his lyrics and turn the gullible masses against their rulers?

This sweeping, irrational fear of external influence on our politics betrays a lack of trust in our own people to make sensible decisions, as well as over-generalising the sway foreigners have over the local populace based on some isolated incidents. It’s the kind of paranoia an overprotective father would display by banning his daughter from dating anyone who listens to rock music or sports long hair in fear of contaminating her with ‘Western’ ideals. There’s a term that describes such scathing categorisation of people, and I believe it’s the same word the same government uses to describe the irrational hatred for foreigners for reasons other than sticking their noses into our ‘domestic’ business. I believe it’s called Xenophobia.

 

Sham marriages is big business in Singapore

From ‘More convicted over sham marriages’, 28 July 2013, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Immigration authorities are cracking down on those involved in sham marriages, with 139 people convicted in court in the first half of this year. This is a sharp jump from the 89 people dealt with in court for the whole of last year, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Sunday Times.

The increase follows stepped-up enforcement by the ICA against marriages of convenience, where a Singaporean marries a foreigner to enable the latter to enter or remain in Singapore. Middlemen who arrange such unions were also among those convicted.

…The Sunday Times understands that women entering into such marriages are usually from China and Vietnam, and they marry Singaporeans to extend their stays here. They often come as tourists, but want to find work here. Some find their “husbands” on their own, while others go through middlemen, who include Singaporeans and foreigners.

The women pay the middlemen, who in turn pay the bogus Singaporean bridegrooms. The men – mostly manual workers or jobless – are often paid between $2,000 and $5,000 for their part in the scam. On top of that sum, some men also receive a few hundred dollars more for each visa extension obtained after the marriage is registered. The couples in these marriages usually live apart and no sex is involved.

…Under the new law, those found guilty face up to 10 years’ jail or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

…Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan noted that sham marriages have been going on for years and syndicates are often involved as it’s “big business”...He has a Vietnamese client in her 20s who felt she needed more time than her tourist visa allowed to find a good Singaporean man to marry. To extend her stay, she agreed to go through a sham marriage and paid a Singaporean less than $1,000.

“The irony is that she had a fake marriage in order to find a real one,” he said.

Lawyer Hri Kumar Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, welcomed the crackdown on sham marriages, but warned of a downside. He said: “Because the ICA now has to impose rigorous criteria and checks to ensure that marriages are not sham, it affects genuine marriages as well.

“Some in genuine marriages are finding it difficult to secure long-term stays for their spouses. This creates uncertainty for the couple and makes it difficult for them to plan a family.”

In 2011, 1 out of 5 marriages was between a Singaporean and a foreign spouse. No one can know for sure how many of these were ‘genuine’ marriages, nor is it easy to define a ‘marriage of convenience’. For example, would you call arranged marriages or shotgun weddings ‘marriages of convenience’? Yet both are perfectly legal even if there’s no love involved. If such a union leads to sex and babies, is it still a sham marriage if the purpose of having babies is to grant one a Long Term Visit Pass? Last year, China nationals bore Singaporean men twice the number of babies (2034) compared to 2000 (1122)(Fewer kids with both parents from Singapore, 21 July 2013, Sunday Times). We assume these are ‘genuine’ cases because people only have babies with those they love, no?

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 11.55.26 AM

I’m thinking the ICA data is an underestimate, and you can probably get away with a sham marriage without ever sharing the same bed with someone as long as you play ball with your partner in crime.  Conversely, a ‘genuine’ marriage is one that should involve some degree of sacrifice and consummation, preferably leading to babies which our government will welcome happily with open arms. And yes, you’re supposed to love each other till death do you part as well. In other words, a fairy tale wedding.

Men who seek foreign brides for ‘love’ have given reasons such as loneliness, family pressure, or blame Singaporean women for being too pampered or materialistic while foreign brides have less expectations and are better at cooking or foot massages.  The guy gets a girl who doesn’t nag him to death, the girl gets someone to look after her and a chance to escape from a miserable home country to become Singaporean eventually. It’s a win-win situation. It becomes a crime if you’re entering the marriage just for money. Oh, wait. Hmm.

Sham marriages, or ‘marriages of convenience’ as euphemistically termed, have been recorded as early as the late 50′s. In 1975, a shoemaker and a Dutch national were caught in a MOC, the former not even knowing what his wife’s name was at the time. They married in 1956 and never saw each other again after they registered their union. In 1969, a Hong Kong woman was charged for corruption after marrying a local widower so that she may apply for permanent residency. In the same year,a local labourer filed for divorce, exposing his MOC to an Indonesian woman in the process because his wife refused to have sex with him until she got her IC. Taiwanese entertainer Chen Chin Pei was declared an illegal immigrant after being accused of contracting a MOC with a local man for a PR status in 1987. More recently, Chinese immigrant Lin Yanmei was probed by the CPIB for MOC with a cleaner. She was also hanging out in hotels with another man whom she called her ‘godfather’.

Not all MOCs are initiated by foreigners who want an extended stay in exchange for marriage. In 1975, a local clerk married a teacher whom she did not love because she wanted to ‘get away from home’. Some Singaporeans marry just to land a HDB flat. Supermodels or Playboy bunnies marry old tycoons who are only capable of consummation with urinary catheters. I could marry a woman whose father is a powerful politician to get ahead in my career, a roundabout, perfectly legal way of getting paid for marrying someone I do not love nor want to have children with. Yet a low-wage male worker desperate for money, in the hope of some female company on the side even if he knows it’s all fake, stands to face jail-time for agreeing to an indecent proposal while his wife fools around as some rich bloke’s mistress so that she can afford to keep the scam alive.

Or you can choose to believe Hollywood that some good may come out of bogus marriages after all. In the case of movies like Green card and The Proposal, that ‘good’ is called love. But sappy endings aside, in the case of Sandra Bullock’s character in the Proposal, a high-flying immigrant professional marries a local out of convenience to attain permanent residency. I doubt the same crackdown would apply to ‘foreign talents’ in a similar position here, though it’s likely that if you’re a foreign-born billionaire we’re more than happy to make you a Singaporean without you having to bear the inconvenience (or is it convenience?) of marrying anyone anyway.

 

Singapore Girl announcing that she’s from China

From ‘Stewardess making announcements:Why the need to specify her origins?’, 25 May 2013, ST Forum

(Kua Bak Lim): WHEN on board a recent Singapore Airlines Beijing/Singapore flight, I was puzzled when the flight stewardess who made announcements in Mandarin identified herself as someone from China. It struck me as odd that the airline found it necessary to make such a distinction when it came to announcements in Mandarin.

I then asked the in-flight supervisor whether the stewardess or steward on board an SIA flight to London needed to declare that he or she was from the United Kingdom when making announcements. The answer was no. This piece of personal information about the staff is completely irrelevant to the announcements, regardless of the language spoken.

This, in my view, tends to be divisive for the staff on board. I also find it disconcerting for SIA’s image as a world-class international airline. One also cannot help but notice that there seems to be the subtle insinuation that Singaporeans cannot speak good Mandarin, which is certainly not true.

Would the SIA management please comment?

There’s no need for an SIA stewardess from China to announce her origins simply because her accent and grammatical precision would be a dead giveaway, if the intention is to cater to PRCs on board. SIA has been hiring foreign staff for a while now so it’s no secret,  though they still insist on keeping the ‘Singapore Girl’ moniker.  As of April 2013, 7 out of 10 cabin crew are locals, with Malaysians, Thais, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Koreans making up the numbers. It is perhaps the only airline in the world to brand their attendants after a nationality. Even Air India doesn’t call their ladies ‘India Girl’, nor China Airlines ‘China Girl’. The latter is also derogatory in the local context, often associated with mistresses and illegal immigrants than a glamorous profession that involves pushing foodcarts up and down a aisle asking if people want the chicken or the beef.

Interestingly, according to the SIA recruitment site, it’s a prerequisite to be ‘proficient in English and Mandarin’ if you’re a Taiwanese, whereas the requirement specified for candidates from China is just ‘a HIGH level of English proficiency’, though I believe the average Chinese or Taiwanese native could deliver any announcement in Mandarin without much difficulty at all. No such language criteria has been set for the Singaporean candidate, though you’d need to have A and O Level credits in General Paper and English respectively. Which means you can fail your Chinese exams and still become a successful Singapore Girl. But having splendid passes in GP or even Chinese doesn’t necessarily make you proficient in ANY language. The writer above seems highly optimistic about our locals’ standards of spoken Mandarin, but if we were that good we wouldn’t need ‘Speak Mandarin campaigns’. Even ang mo children put Chinese Singaporean adults like myself to shame. I can only remember one Chinese nursery rhyme during my childhood, the one that goes ‘san zi lao hu’ (Three Tigers, Three Tigers, run very fast, run very fast, one has no eyes, one has no ears, very strange, very strange), compared to today’s non-Chinese kids reciting Confucian EPICS like San Zi Jing.

So how many Singaporeans you know are actually up to the task of delivering a message to international travellers over a PA system? How many can deliver a simple interview to a Mandarin news crew in full sentences? How about telling a Chinese tourist the TIME? Not a lot, apparently.  Ex Mediacorp actor Ix Shen says we have a TOTAL DISREGARD for grammar and sentence construction. Sumiko Tan posits that English educated folks like herself lacked interest in the language because it was forced down our throats and not promoted in a fun, lively way. Journalist and film-maker Pek Siok Lan mocks our ‘half-baked English and half-baked Chinese’. Back in 1981, a Taiwanese professor urged us to ‘DROP Singapore Mandarin’ because we were over -’translitering’ it. We could consider a Speak Mandarin mascot like Water Wally or Singa, but it would be hard to conceive of a character related to Chinese culture without making it a dragon or coming across as racist and xenophobic.

From a business and customer service standpoint, it’s better for SIA to let a ‘professional’ handle a Mandarin announcement than risk an unseasoned Singaporean butchering it in front of PRCs, generally thought to be so proud of their language they wouldn’t stand for anything slipshod and ‘half-baked’. It would also be a hassle for the cabin crew if PRCs started throwing up their meals because they heard us speak. But you don’t have to tell people you’re from China because it’s obvious and it would confuse everyone about what ‘Singapore Girl’ means. I suppose with enough practice, a true ‘Singapore Girl’ would be able to deliver Mandarin with striking confidence. Maybe that would be the ‘makeover’ that we locals can truly be proud of, a bilingual SIA stewardess who knows what is Chinese for ‘mild turbulence’ and ‘fried mee goreng’, rather than say, toning down on blue eyeshadow.

Sembawang Drive forest becoming a brothel at night

From ‘Sembawang raid:Forest by day, brothel by night’, 16 March 2013, article by Wang TianJie, TNP

The dense forest along Sembawang Drive looked innocent enough in the day. But come nightfall, dozens of women allegedly offered paid sex in a makeshift brothel amid the trees. The brothel was discovered in the forested area along Sembawang Drive in the direction of Admiralty Road. It was about a kilometre away from Cochrane Lodge Two, a workers’ dormitory.

On Tuesday, at about 10pm, the illicit activities came to an abrupt end when police officers raided the brothel and arrested about 40 men and 10 women. The women, mostly clad in revealing tops and skimpy shorts, were led away to police cars. Several of the men were topless when arrested.

When reporters from Shin Min Daily News visited the scene on the same day, the grassy area where the arrests were made was in a state of disarray. The ground was littered with tissue paper, water bottles and open condom wrappers.

Tarpaulin sheets were hung up to create three small rooms in the makeshift brothel. Each “cubicle” was further divided into three to five sections of about four square metres each. Thin mattresses were laid on the sandy ground in each section.

Stories about illicit sex in the wild are a New Paper specialty. In 2009, a similar open-air brothel was raided somewhere in Woodlands, where the state of amenities made the Sembawang one look luxurious in comparison. Instead of mattresses, this brothel offered CARDBOARDS as makeshift beds. It was also set up in the Kwong Hou Sua CEMETERY. If kinky open-air sex among the dead is your kind of thing, then this was the place to be. A foreign worker who stumbled upon the site told the reporter that ‘his colleagues have been COMING (for the girls’ services) for the past two months. This guy was there to pluck durians. In the middle of the night. He could have killed someone if he ever dropped the King of Fruits into an occupied cubicle.

Another hotspot is Lim Chu Kang in 2008, where tents big enough to house 10 people were erected in forested areas less than 100m from the main road. In 2010, TNP again exposed a sex den in Yishun (again located near northern Singapore), where the pimp charged $20 for a ‘short time service’ lasting no longer than 10 minutes. That’s just $8 more than my 10 minute haircut at QB House. I wonder how much of that time is spent lighting mosquito coils or swiping red ants off of your groin. For a budget brothel, you can’t expect to be put in the mood for love. No frollicking among daisies and lavender, nor blankets to cuddle in. You only have the stars above and a disgusting sheet separating your naked body from the soil and worms below. Time is of the essence, even if it feels like sex on a bed of nails.

Forest whoopie

Our foreign workers don’t mind such no-frills prostitution, of course. A 2008 survey found that an astonishing 50% of Thai construction workers visited Geylang while 10% went for the budget alternative. To many who frequent such places, sex is a treat after a hard day of physical labour, even if it means cheating on your wife back home. But getting caught with your pants down in the bushes on your off day is a small matter compared to other more serious social issues involving foreign workers caught in sexual relationships. Like murder for instance.  Perhaps it’s about time the ST sent their reporters into the woods for a change, instead of TNP having a field day with such vice raids all the time.

With more green spaces and cemeteries being squeezed out, forest brothels may become a thing of the past. There’s a chance our foreign workers may flock in even higher numbers to various beaches gawking at women in bikinis, while the rest consider their options with our red light districts where one can indulge with at least a roof over their heads. But why risk dengue romping in the woods off Lim Chu Kang road, or upsetting spirits by leaving bodily fluids all over their graves? If one is having sex by the barest of moonlight, you might as well hump a lubricated tree trunk with a hole in it for free. Just make sure you check for termites first.

If MOM doesn’t do something to keep our foreign workers entertained beyond carnal pleasures, even our locals’ favourite sex haunts, the carparks, the stairwells, the gazebo in the park, may be overrun with condoms, used tissue and army groundsheets in no time (There’s still hope for Beach Road army shops). I also realise there is a candidate for worst job in the world: Picking up this filthy mess at forest brothels after a raid. But I suppose you’d only get a foreign worker to do that sort of thing, wouldn’t you?

WP’s Blue Paper will cause great hardship to us all

From ‘WP’s proposal hurt Singapore SMEs and workers:Grace Fu’, 24 Feb 2013, article in Today online

…Posting on her Facebook page, Ms Fu said the WP wants to freeze foreign workforce growth immediately which she said, will hurt Singapore small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and workers. She said the government’s plan on the other hand is to significantly tighten the inflow of new foreign workers, but allow businesses time to make adjustment and help SMEs in particular, make the transition.

Ms Fu touched on several points raised in the WP’s paper. Among them is the argument that by raising the resident labour force participation rate, Singapore can maintain its non-resident workforce at the current numbers. Ms Fu said this will “cause great hardship to Singaporeans and SMEs”, which employ 70 per cent of Singaporean workers.

She said if these businesses fail, many Singaporean workers and their families will suffer and added healthcare, construction of HDB homes, and train lines will also be affected badly.

“WP argues that by encouraging more senior citizens and homemakers to work, we don’t need additional foreign workers. But how can our seniors and women fill the need for workers now where we need them most — such as construction and cleaning/maintenance?”, said Ms Fu.

Foreign labour has been the nation’s drug of choice for so long it’s expected that the WP’s cold turkey solution to creating a ‘dynamic resident workforce’ would come with its fair share of withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps this bold suggestion is just another ‘emotional hump’ that needs to be surmounted, though I’m not sure how many seniors and women are willing to do dirty, ‘low-skilled’ work like construction and cleaning in place of the junkie’s ‘high’ we get from foreign workers. Minister Fu was being selective in her blasting of the ‘Blue Paper’ of course, just like how everyone else zeroed in on the 6.9 million figure of its White counterpart.

I wonder if the SDP has their ‘Red’ paper in draft mode, though I hope it’s less clunky and has more images. I believe the reason why the average Singaporean doesn’t grasp the full picture of such policy papers is because it’s impossible to read them from start to finish without dozing off. WP’s paper may not cure our immigration addiction, but it can certainly cure insomnia. People want to read a summary of your executive summaries. The rest can be footnotes and appendices for the more serious-minded folks. The good news is that Singaporeans are at least aware that such documents exist. Some of us even begin to watch Parliamentary sessions in full over YouTube while the rest of the world is playing Candy Crush.

Grace Fu is one of the more vocal female politicians around, but I’m not so interested in what she used to do for a living (PSA CEO) or how she justifies her astronomical ministerial pay, but rather her bloodline, namely her father James Fu, ex Press Secretary to then PM Lee Kuan Yew. In 1986, the government restricted the local circulation of Time magazine based on their editor’s refusal to publish a correspondence in full, exercising its new powers under the amended ‘Newspaper and Printing Presses Act’.  The article in question was ‘Silencing the Dissenters’, which LKY, through secretary Fu, took offence for its ‘factual errors’. Time was then accused of ‘meddling in domestic politics’ in its handling of a story involving the PAP’s ‘muzzling’ of Opposition MPs. The spotlight was on none other than beleaguered Anson MP JB Jeyaretnam (incidentally from WP). In 1988, Fu, on behalf of LKY, stung another powerhouse magazine, the Asian Wall Street Journal. A full page advertisement had to be bought over to publish government ‘clarifications’ on articles deemed to be ‘distorting’ the truth. His most prominent work for the PAP, it seems, was threatening to ban prestigious magazines altogether for ‘irresponsible’ reporting i.e media censorship. He was also once the ominous sounding Director for Information.

But wait, there’s more.

Long before his role as LKY’s mouthpiece, Fu was a reporter for the Nanyang Siang Pau. In 1963, he was ARRESTED during Operation Cold Store as a political detainee. Only LKY can explain how a political opponent would wind up as one’s personal secretary in 1972. In the same fell swoop was fellow ‘conspirator’ Dominic Puthucheary, who being Malaysian was readily banned from entering the country for  ‘pro Communist activities’.

On 2 November 2009, ST published a feature with the headline ‘Son of former leftist is now PAP volunteer’. In fact, the ST were rather open with Puthucheary’s son about Daddy’s history with the ISD. This son is none  other than Malaysian-born PAP MP Dr Janil Puthucheary. Another ‘son of a leftist’ is Ong Ye Kung, former Aljunied PAP candidate and now part of GLC Keppel Corp, his father being ex-Barisan Sosialis MP Ong Lian Teng. Such media fascination with Janil and Ye Kung as offspring of ‘leftists’ makes Grace Fu’s father’s past involvement with the ISD conspicuous by its relative silence. Any attempt to speculate why may end up with a totally different ‘Paper’ coming my way, one from the White camp seeing Red, which upon reading may see me turn Blue, then Yellow because of threats hurled my way, before this post, or even the blog, is forced to fade into Black.

Li Yeming sending an army to flatten Singapore

From ‘Xenophobia row:Police report filed’ 23 Feb 2013, article by Leonard Lim and Andrea Ong, ST

NEW citizen Li Yeming, who had accused Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang of driving a wedge between Singapore-born and new citizens, has made a police report against netizens whom he said falsely accused him of making anti-Singapore comments.

A friend had alerted him that netizens were circulating posts he supposedly made on his Weibo microblog, including one which said “I will send an army over to flatten your home (Singapore)!”, he told police yesterday.

Mr Li, 43, said in his police report he had not written the posts “stating that I scolded Singaporean(s), threatened to flatten Singapore and also commented on how lazy Singaporeans are”.

Yesterday, Mr Li told The Straits Times he hopes the police can find out who started them. He also hopes to set the record straight through the police report, so as not to affect relations between local-born and new citizens.

…On Monday, Mr Low  issued a rebuttal and said he was shocked that Mr Li had accused him of “inciting xenophobia”. The systems analyst then wrote a second letter to the Chinese daily on Wednesday, saying his sentence, “inciting xenophobia is not patriotic“, was a general statement not targeted specifically at the WP. He had intended to question Mr Low’s stance in the White Paper debate as it seemed to make a distinction between native-born and new citizens, he said. Mr Low has said he made no such distinction.

As a ‘new’ citizen, Li has picked up the Singaporean trait of sending in the cops to ‘set records straight’, though this drastic action is likely to rile the ‘xenophobes’ further. Buzzword of the Day ‘Xenophobia’ isn’t new, having been freely uttered by LKY on the local sentiment against our British colonialists more than 50 years ago. Today, it is an accusation that has been tossed willy-nilly at Opposition politicians, White Paper petition organisers like Gilbert Goh and some bloke named Darryl Nihility dressed like the Sex Pistols holding up a sign saying ‘Singapore for Singaporeans’. That technically includes Li Yeming.

Begs the question of who’s Singaporean

Li’s original letter to Zaobao used the Chinese term ‘排外’, which I think literally means to ‘cast outside’, and I’m not sure how accurate this translates to a word that seethes with fear and hatred, a word that borrows from medical terminology suggesting a form of mental illness. ‘Xenophobia’ is really the flipside of the same coin when you’re talking about extreme ‘patriotism’ or ‘national pride’. It’s like choosing to call someone ‘fussy’ instead of ‘meticulous’, ‘possessive’ instead of ‘concerned’ or ‘stupid’ instead of ‘underachieving’. Some of the most patriotic people on the planet are also the least welcoming of foreigners, the kind that put up national flags on their front porch and ask ‘What the hell do these Chinese have to move in this neighbourhood for?’ These are also the same people who use dehumanising words like ‘scum’, ‘vermin’ and ‘swine’ and have miniature gas chambers and shotguns in their backyards. Unlike the rest of Li’s public articles, this blurt about him summoning a Red Army to storm our land does sound like the rantings of someone who’s watched far too many reruns of Mulan.

The tendency to distinguish and shun members out of our social circle serves the purpose of protecting our own and preventing outsiders from leeching off our resources, and is the whole premise of civilisations demarcating territories, building defences, national service and calling ourselves ‘nations’.  Humans have evolved with brains equipped with an ‘us vs them’ module, otherwise we wouldn’t tell our kids not to open the door to strangers. Foreigners are labelled with slurs like ‘gwailos’, ‘ang mors’, ‘gringos’ and ‘gaijins’ in almost any country that accepts them. Without the ability to distinguish friend from foe by which tribe they belong to, we’d be long decimated by freeloaders or psychotic barbarians. Although we have grown to be more altruistic in our treatment of strangers and discovered some social and economic magic to ‘integration’, it is perfectly normal to question the wisdom of taking the term ‘global village’ and ‘cosmopolitian’ to the level of a desperate streetwalker warming her bed for any Tom Dick and Harry. In that sense, to some who petitioned it, the White Paper was a slut manifesto. Interestingly, the White Paper translated in Chinese is 白皮书, or White Skin Book.

It is also a gut reaction to label those who choose to stay here as ‘ingrates’ for trash-talking Singaporeans, whether we’re lazy slobs, bad Mandarin speakers or just a pack of dogs, again a symptom of our national ‘pride’ where we consider Singapore our home and these guys, new citizens or not, are guests or tenants.  So it seems counter-intuitive that people are preaching about preserving a Singaporean Core, yet telling us that being accepting of foreigners is what a ‘patriot’ should do. Ironically, ‘patriots’ are often associated with violence, whether they’re pistols-ablazing on a horse or decapitating people in a kilt like Mel Gibson or named after Gulf War missiles like how one names a rabid pit-bull terrier ‘Braveheart’. Anyone who yells ‘Majulah Singapura’ while charging headlong into a bunch of rowdy drunk expats will be martyred before being accused of being ‘anti-foreigner’.

The emotional motive that belies our general wariness of foreigners, whether in war or in their ‘naturalisation’, remains the same: The protection of our land, our heritage, our kids, our future against outward influences. How is that a ‘sickness’ like xenophobia is presented to be? A milder version of being ‘xenophobic’ is NIMBY (Not in my backyard). Except that those who actually OWN backyards probably can afford to move out of the country if they’re too many guests pitching tents on their lawns. The media’s use of the phrase ‘new citizen’ has exposed a grey boundary where we even need to debate over what a ‘Singaporean’ or ‘Our Home’ means anymore. ‘New’ citizens like Li will eventually become as ‘Singaporean’ as anyone of us born and bred here. The question no one can answer, not Low Thia Khiang nor Li Yeming, is: When?

Nursing a low skilled job hard to offshore

From ‘ DPM Teo issues correction to Footnote in Population White Paper’, 8 Feb 2013, article in Today online

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean today issued a corrigendum to the Population White Paper in Parliament to delete a segment of a footnote that classified nursing as a low-skilled job. Mr Teo said, in the Notice of Corrigendum, that he intends to delete the part of Footnote 12 on Page 40 of the White Paper, which said: “Certain low-skilled jobs like personal services, retail, and nursing are hard to offshore. They will still be needed even as the economy upgrades.”

“This classification of low-skilled jobs is not correct. I would like to apologise to those whose professions have been unintentionally misrepresented,” said Mr Teo. He said he was alerted to the matter by “our friends in the nursing profession and unions”.

Adding that he has the “greatest respect” for the nursing profession, the DPM said it is a “noble and caring profession, which all of us and our loved ones depend on and appreciate”.

A ‘corrigendum’ is a fancy term for a ‘correction’, as in ‘Notice of Correction’ according to the White Paper website. It’s the kind of word you use to lessen the impact of a terrible mistake in Scripture, like saying that God made the world in 5 days instead of 6, although it sounds like an unused part of the large intestine. Having a longer word to substitute ‘error’ doesn’t make it any less heinous. It’s like the Emeritus of ‘sorry’.

The footnote now reads: ‘….slower growth in low skilled (e.g caring and cleaning) jobs’. I’m not sure if that was adequately ‘corrigendummed’. Anyone in the business of ‘caring and cleaning’, like a social worker in a hospice for example, would resent being labelled as ‘low skilled’. ‘Skill’ traditionally refers to how one performs a task with his hands. If we still lived in villages, the resident blacksmith would have been among the most ‘skilled’ of the lot. Today, a manager could be described as ‘highly skilled’ without having the slightest clue of how to forward or bcc emails. The difference is that one bangs a hammer to create fine artisan craft. The other bangs tables and chairs to frighten people into doing his bidding.

Changing diapers as social workers/babysitters/caregivers do for a living seems like an example of a proper skill to me, but perhaps all this boils down to a fundamental problem of semantics. We have low-skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, a form of categorisation which replaced the blue-white collar distinction. How have the various scales of skill been defined, if at all? Am I unskilled if my ONLY task is to load and unload wheelbarrows with bricks and move them from one place to another? What if I’m a doorman at a really posh hotel whose only job is to open and close doors for guests? And why protest over nursing only, what about ‘retail’ and this ambiguous ‘PERSONAL SERVICES’? Is this a euphemism for PROSTITUTION? Patrons of sex workers would argue that some of their ‘service providers’ are more ‘skilled’ than their own wives.

And since when did OFFSHORE become a verb? Is this appropriate language for a Population policy paper, or was it edited by a business guru? Are we sending our low skilled workers to the Maldives? As expected, there were no names listed as to who authored or edited the White Paper, just a list of anonymous scribes from various ministries and government bodies who contributed to its publication under the ‘Acknowledgements’ page (like the Bible, perhaps). Among them was the Ministry of Manpower, who could be behind the footnote fiasco being the authority on labour. I wonder what level of skilled workers they got to write this rubbish.

But I don’t want to speculate. Corrigendums seem like hard work. I may have to OFFSHORE my corrective actions to another party.

Dual citizenship is like polygamy

From ’4 in 10 S’poreans married foreigners in 2012′ 4 Feb 2013, article by Ashley Chia, Today

Last year, 9,000 marriages registered in Singapore — or about four in 10 — involved a Singaporean and a non-Singaporean. That figure has held steady for the past five years. In the White Paper on population released yesterday, the Government said that Singapore’s immigration policy “must also take into account” this growing proportion, including children born to Singaporean citizens overseas.

Analysts whom TODAY spoke to said that if this trend continues, it may prompt policymakers to reconsider dual citizenship, although they stressed that changing the law is not the only way to encourage this group to “sink in their roots”. Sociologist and former Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan, a staunch advocate of dual citizenship, called for more measures such as courting and engaging children below 21 born overseas and who carry dual citizenship, to make them feel that Singapore is their home.

“Many of them have already been educated here … allow them to sink in their roots, build their careers without fear that they have to give up their Singapore citizenship,” urged Associate Professor Straughan, adding that the ones who stay would “contribute meaningfully” to Singapore society.

It’s no surprise that Dr Straughan is a strong advocate of dual citizenship. Married to an American maths lecturer PR, she has 2 sons who are holding two passports until they have to forsake one by the time they’re 21 (Home in Singapore, heart in homeland, 4 Feb, ST). When ST’s favourite sociologist was interviewed, she said:

“How does it make sense to lose a Singaporean child who has grown up here, while giving citizenship to newcomers? We should not be too dogmatic and rigid in the way we perceive the responsibilities of a citizen.”

She has a point, but she also has a vested interest in the revision of our citizenship laws. Loyalty and our being a relatively ‘young and inexperienced’ nation is often cited as a reason why you can’t hold two passports. There still remains a fear of such people running away in the event of crises, or refusing to come back from their second home to do battle or contribute to society once we’ve given them the option of a second home. Some have compared dual nationality to polygamy where you have to divide your attention between two wives. If that’s the case, then Singapore is a damn needy wife indeed.

Another renown individual with a stake in dual citizenship is our very own Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who has a boy who’s both US citizen and Singaporean. According to Daddy in 2011, he will serve the army, which should be some time this year. Only time will tell what will become of him after that, though it’s not enduring the 2 years  that would be the key factor in determining which passport to toss aside, it’s the RESERVIST training thereafter. But maybe it’s not just the foreigners and their kids who we should worry about. How about those 1200 Singaporeans ‘divorcing’ their country annually? There’s also the argument from ‘muddled identity’ if you have two nationalities. Erm, with only 55% of the country consisting of Singaporean citizens by 2030 according to the White Paper, as it is…WHAT IDENTITY?

If we’re so sticky about having foreigners with their hearts in two places commit to swearing their unconditional love and allegiance to Singapore, then why are we giving our passport away so freely to people who have yet to prove they are willing to stay in the first place? Like our China-born athletes for example, some of whom have already disappeared without a trace, taking our passport along with them. What about Jet Li? Shouldn’t he have set up some kungfu dojo in Singapore by now? In 2008, Vivian Balakrishnan pooh-poohed the dual citizenship issue by saying that being Singaporean is an ‘conscious, active choice’ and that he ‘cannot give it away freely, like a FREE GIFT in a CORNFLAKE BOX’. Well, I don’t know about ‘free’; Olympic medals must be worth something, no? The argument from ‘split loyalties’ is shaky, at best.

When the laws were first implemented in the 1960s by Minister of Home Affairs Ong Pang Boon, the intention was to ‘debar those who sought to obtain citizenship for reasons of convenience or expediency, hoping to enjoy the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.’ Which suggests that there should be some form of selection process here other than the blanket ban that it is today, though I can’t imagine anyone keeping two passports other than, well, maximising the benefits of both. Like having a wife who controls the house finances on a tight leash on one hand, and one who’s fantastic in bed on the other.

In the ‘spirit’ of the law, I think a case-by-case system needs to be considered to assess the likelihood of a foreigner staying and making themselves useful. A mother from a war-ravaged country married to a Singaporean with a comfortable job, for example, is likely to make Singapore her permanent home though she may prefer to be bonded to her motherland emotionally. A 36 year old Briton who has never carried a weapon or charged through muddy forest in his life, will not leap into the line of enemy fire just because he’s granted a Singaporean citizenship. In fact, I doubt most born and bred Singaporean men, even those fit and agile ones, will die for the country, dual citizenship or not. Some foreigners may also feel insecure if they converted 100%, partly because of the cold or awkward reception given by local residents towards Singaporean ‘ang mos’. I mean, would you as a Chinese Singaporean renounce your citizenship to be a Papua New Guinean for example? Don’t you want something to hang on to when you’re bombarded with funny stares every single day? Others may wish to retain their belonging to a glorious heritage, a proud and mighty homeland with centuries’ worth of scientific and cultural advancement. As a country that places so much emphasis on sinking roots, surely we should empathise if people find it hard to tear away from their homes. Who wouldn’t want to retain some ‘French-ness’ about them? Well not actor Gerard Depardieu I suppose.

I wonder what Eduardo Saverin, Facebook billionaire thinks of the idea. Maybe if he’s game for dual citizenship (Singaporean, Brazilian), our laws may just change overnight.

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