Red Dot Family Event not allowed at Padang

From ‘Refusal to allow pro-family event at Padang puzzling: Khong’, 10 May 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang. Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Khong — who has regularly spoken out against homosexuality — said he was disappointed with the ministry’s move. He added: “I am puzzled by MSF’s restrictions on TOUCH to organise (the event) and also confused with their position on family.”

As part of the organiser’s proposal, participants had been asked to wear red to the event which was to be held on June 28, the same day as Pink Dot — an annual event held at Speakers’ Corner in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, where participants wear pink. The organisers had considered calling the event Red Dot Family Moment 2014 but it settled on #FamFest 2014.

On Wednesday, the media reported that the MSF had rejected the application by TOUCH Family Services as it deemed the event unsuitable for the Padang. The ministry proposed alternative sites, but the organisers declined as they felt that the alternative locations, which were in the heartlands, were less accessible.

Mr Khong, who is also a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, stressed that the event was meant to promote family values. He said: “#FamFest 2014 is about defending the family against the onslaught of sexual infidelity, divorce, family violence and media that promotes sexual immorality including the homosexual agenda.”

…TODAY understands that TOUCH Family Services had booked the venue with the Singapore Recreation Club and applied for approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the police to hold the event. The voluntary welfare organisation also tried to engage the MSF as a partner for the event. The proposal was rejected by the URA last month.

The organisers had rejected suggestions that the event was pitted against Pink Dot. The red theme was inspired by Singapore’s national colour and the SG50 tagline Celebrating The Little Red Dot, while the date had been chosen because it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays and also the weekend when the annual National Family Celebrations traditionally culminate, they said.

The Padang has been traditionally used for sporting events and other activities which are generally FUN by nature, whether it’s a Zombie Run or a Justin Bieber concert. Even the organiser for this year’s waterless Songkran festival managed to book the place, but withdrew due to poor ticket sales. How did a celebration of the Thai New Year get the green light but not TOUCH’s Family extravaganza?

If there’s one similarity between Red Dot and Pink Dot it’s that both themes are inspired by national colours. Pink Dot explains that pink is the colour of our ICs, and it’s what you get when you mix red and white. Due to constraints of the venue, however, Pink Dot only allows foreigners to ‘observe’ the event but not participate in the highlight: The formation of a pink circle. I wonder what formation #Famfest had planned for, maybe a heart shape, or better still an outline of Singapore with a heart at its centre. Maybe our PAP can hold their own party to celebrate more than 50 years of total supremacy and call it White Dot to complete this trilogy of colours.

Lawrence Khong describes #Famfest as if it were a war campaign to defeat the enemies of his Church – sexual immorality and gay activism – rather than what should really be a relaxed carnival atmosphere. If they had lightened up on the ‘Values’ and war analogies, #Famfest would have just been deemed as a typical fun day out, for kids to run about with their parents rather than sitting around hearing some pastor ranting about the virtues of a heterosexual marriage like a general rousing his troops for battle.

But what’s more puzzling than the hashtag in #Famfest is the number of parties you need to seek permission from if you need to host any event at the Padang, whether it’s an atas mass picnic or a seniors’ game of rounders. According to the Terms and Conditions on the SRC website, you need to seek a total of up to SIX agencies  and  get 3 licences/permits  even PRIOR to getting approval from the SRC itself.

a) Urban Redevelopment Permit/s if applicable. (URA)
b) Public Entertainment Licence (PELU)
c) Composers & Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (Compass)
d) Artist impression of type of set-up and layout
e) Fire Safety Bureau (FSB) Licence
f) Building and Construction Authority Permit/s if applicable (BCA)
g) Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
h) Land Transport Authority (LTA) if applicable

And that’s excluding the MSF and the POLICE which TOUCH took extra steps to notify.

Interestingly, one of the conditions is that the event must not be political or religious in nature, and TOUCH’s chairman is both a pastor and an unabashed supporter of S377A. But ultimately it was URA and the Ministry who rejected the application, for reasons unclear. Isn’t it SRC’s call to decide if an event is ‘unsuitable’ for the grounds? To be fair, I would demand an answer myself looking at the amount of time and effort I had to waste just to book the damn place. If you made it so difficult to secure the Padang, why even allow third party events to be held there at all. No wonder the NDP is held only every 5 years at the venue. It probably takes the same amount of time to get the necessary permits as to plan the entire parade, full dress rehearsal included.

 

 

 

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Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.

Schoolchildren spending too much time on CCAs

From ‘Review time spent on CCAs’, 24 March 2014, ST Forum

(Lee Hui Ling): …My daughter studies at an independent secondary school. She is required to stay back after school for her CCA three days a week, each time for up to four hours. If there are forthcoming performances or competitions, she may need to stay back on additional days for practice.

Many of her schoolmates who take public transport wake up as early as 5.30am to make it in time for school at 7.20am. Lessons end around 1.30pm and, following lunch, CCA starts at 2.30pm and ends at 6.30pm. Taking public transport home sets them back by another one to 11/2 hours and some manage to reach home only after 8pm. Following a quick dinner and wash-up, they start on their heavy homework load or revisions after 9pm. By the time they go to bed, it is way past midnight or 1am.

They wake up a few hours later at 5.30am, with barely five hours of sleep, to start another long, tiring day.

…In their quest to excel in not only academics but also CCAs, some schools may have imposed gruelling hours on students. In the process, students, and the teachers who stay back for equally long hours, get caught up in a system that drains them mentally and physically. The primary purpose of CCA is to develop the interests and talents of students; winning accolades is secondary and this should not be done at the expense of students’ health.

I urge the Ministry of Education and the Health Promotion Board to look into this issue.

In 2008, 15 year old ACS student Tan Wen Yi wanted to get out of track and field and switch to drama as his CCA. He was made to stay back 4 times a week as punishment for skipping training to play football. When his parents refused to have any of it, he headed for his bedroom, climbed onto the ledge of the window and jumped to his death. Right in front of his hapless mother. No one saw it coming.

Of course most kids don’t resort to such drastic tactics to get out of CCAs, but added pressure and long hours during competition season is part and parcel of school life. What parents are really worried about, other than sleep deprivation or sudden suicide, is whether this preoccupation with ‘winning accolades’ would have any impact on their child’s studies. If you’re a Type A go-getter and extrovert who thrives on CCAs and little sleep and want to be the Prime Minister when you grow up, then good for you. If CCA is a dreary chore and you would rather spend the time writing Chinese composition, then there should be flexibility to cut back, like ‘days off’ after intense training or medal success, or the choice to take a less hectic CCA.  The problem is some schools may deprive you of a CCA which may be the best fit for you for purely ‘business’ reasons, like an under-performing team which can’t deliver results. Not to mention kiasu parents who think some bonus points would do you good and forbid you from joining any ‘unprofitable’ CCA that seems, well, FUN.

Add homework, tuition and piano lessons to the mix and you’ll produce ‘well-rounded’ kids who hardly have time for themselves or family, victims of the national philosophy that children can only grow up to be productive cogs in the machine if they excelled in at least 1 CCA. Kids who’re ‘team players’ but lack the spark of creativity, fail to develop spiritually, or don’t get to experience the world outside school or even the country. Kids who don’t know what it’s like to help out at their parents’ hawker stall, how to climb a tree, or do something nice for a needy stranger.  In 2007, a survey revealed that only 2.6% of teens had at least 9 hours of sleep every night, a deficit that they can’t even make up for during week long holidays which are often stuffed with even more CCA activities, homework, enrichment classes or group projects. We’re producing kids who can’t, both literally and figuratively, DREAM.

During my time, competitive sport taught me the sour taste of humiliation and defeat and I have no regrets, but I never felt like I was cheated of my personal time, nor put in a pressure cooker environment like what kids these days seem to be immersed in.  So now we know where this epidemic of ‘busyness’ in the working world comes from. We were groomed from young to be madly rushing, always behind time, and everyone believes that this constant stress as a driver for excellence can only be a good thing. Until someone breaks and does the unthinkable that is, which by then would be only too little, too late.

 

No water splashing allowed at Songkran festival

From ‘Singapore’s 1st Songkran water festival goes dry’, 25 March 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

There will be no water pistol fights, celebrity dunk stations, or really, any kind of water fun at Singapore’s first Songkran water festival on April 12 and 13. The organisers of Celebrate Songkran 2014 at the Padang have taken heed of the national campaign to conserve water and nixed the water-based activities.

Instead, they will host a Water Conservation and Water Heritage Exhibition in conjunction with national water agency PUB. The organisers said this was appropriate in view of the recent dry spell and current moves to cut back on water usage.

Though lighting designer Sanischaya Mankhongphithakkul, 25, agrees with the rationale, it still feels a little odd. “What’s a water festival without water?”

The whole point of traditional Songkran is to get soaking wet, as dousing is symbolic of washing away bad luck. It’s also the Thai New Year, usually accompanied by Buddhist activities such as prayer sessions, as what took place back in 1999 during Singapore’s first open-air Songkran near Paya Lebar MRT. In 1988, Songkran was held at the now defunct Big Splash, where other than getting wet and wild, participants would be expected to burn joss sticks and bathe statues of Four Face Buddhas. Otherwise, Golden Mile Complex is the place to be if you want to mingle with Thai workers ringing in their New Year with water fights. It’s a religious festival, not an excuse to get fashionably drunk and watch Far East Movement.

No wonder Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Ms Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn, had reportedly (according to the ST article) threatened to sue festival organisers for ‘undermining the values’ of the Thai festival, not so much that we’re cutting out the real star of the show for conservation reasons, but because we’re twisting the agenda to suit our needs and flying in entertainers, turning it into yet another outdoor pop music festival that’s really a B-grade cousin of the F1 megaconcerts, headlined by a band who’s not even Thai to begin with. How would you feel if Westerners adopted our version of Chinese New Year, but just went around eating dim sum, making fortune cookies or ‘lo hei-ing’ over meatballs and spaghetti instead of yusheng?

The ‘CelebrateSongkran’ website continues to run misleading images of drenched people with Supersoakers, oblivious that the banning of water activities has, in a manner of speaking, rained on everyone’s parade. Conservative Christians who refuse to fold paper ingots at their grandmother’s funeral should not attend by the way because of its religious (i.e ‘paganistic’) origins.  Yes you can’t have water fun because your God forbids it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.05.19 PM

Dampnation!

Songkran in Singapore used to be an intimate, simple, even holy affair, celebrated only within a niche community, now commercialised and rebranded as a pseudo rave party like how the Indian ‘festival of colours’ Holi has turned into a rainbow powder orgy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Water Wally prancing around on stage either, blind to the irony that by completely overturning the theme toward water conservation just to avoid cancelling the damn thing, you forget that you’re also splurging on electricity and raking up carbon miles flying in celebrities. I mean, we could just run another ‘Keep it to 5′ campaign rather than bullshit our way through someone else’s New Year celebration, and with the $60 price tag for 2 nights of partying, you’re more likely to see rich teens and expats there than the folks who appreciate the true meaning of Songkran, the homesick Thai workers. The only sprinkling of any sort you’ll see there will be drunkards taking a piss by a bush, or the buckets of sweat produced by the people cleaning up after your mess when the night’s over.

It also sets an awkward precedent for future events which have the slightest implications on the natural environment. Should we stop people from burning incense during Qing Ming because of the haze? Stop circulating new $2 notes or printing ang pows in the event of worsening global deforestation? Scrape F1 during an oil crisis? Ban St Patricks Day or Oktoberfest when there’s an epidemic of hops infestation? Put a stop to Hungry Ghost Festival offerings during a famine? If you want to enjoy REAL Songkran without some event organiser messing it up and turning it into a poor man’s foam party (without the foam of course), yet don’t want to be seen wasting water, you can do it at a pool or beach where you can splash all you want. More importantly, it’s FREE, and you don’t have to listen to bloody annoying Far East Movement while at it.

 

PM Lee unfriending SBY on Facebook

From ‘Singapore PM Lee unfriends Yudhoyono? Indonesian media duped by spoof’, 12 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussein, ST

WHEN a satirical website weighs in on a serious bilateral dispute with the potential to escalate, expect some to fall for it. Several Indonesian media outlets, under pressure from a 24/7 news cycle, ran a spoof by Singapore’s NewNation.sg headlined: “PM Lee unfriends Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Facebook, untags him from photos”.

And at least one afternoon daily, Harian Terbit, ran a page one article on Wednesday on the supposed virtual rift, headlined: “Singapore PM-SBY cut off friendship”, with a prominent Facebook logo between pictures of the two leaders.

…While both countries’ leaders have active public Facebook pages – Prime Minister Lee has more than 271,000 followers and President Yudhoyono more than 1.8 million – neither leader maintains a Facebook account, at least not one that’s public, that enables them to befriend and, in Facebook parlance, unfriend, another user of the social networking site.

…Several of the online news websites soon realised their mistake, rewrote their stories and ran corrections. And at least two ran reports on how some, themselves included, fell for the hoax. The VivaNews website headlined its piece: “Singapore PM unfriends SBY, Indonesian media fell for the hoax”. The website of the largest national newspaper, Kompas, was also taken in. It later amended its headline to “KRI Usman-Harun controversy: Satire on Singapore PM blocking President SBY’s Facebook spreads”.

In a correction below that report, the website reproduced the erroneous version it ran a few hours earlier, based on the New Nation spoof. But some on social media had yet to realise the satirical report was a hoax. A commentary on the hardline site, voaislam, seemed to take the spoof for real, saying the reported action “has crossed the boundaries” and calling on Indonesians to be brave in standing up to Singapore.

But a reader on a Kompas forum commented: “This is a severe hoax. How could something concerning ties between two countries become a laughing matter? If taken seriously, the consequences could be fatal.”

New Nation aspires to be the Singaporean version of The Onion, the original news spoof site that has a reputation for fooling despot governments into taking their news seriously. Iranian media lapped up a fake story about rural Americans willing to vote President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Obama. China was convinced that Kim Jong Un was voted the Sexiest Man Alive. Bangladeshi journalists believed them when Neil Armstrong reportedly admitted that his moon landing was a hoax. New Nation have even conned our own nation’s biggest troll site, Stomp, with a fake article about a woman fainting at a nomination centre for ‘opposition unity’, and seem mighty proud of it. And now our Indonesian neighbours have just been hoodwinked by a joke about PM Lee breaking up with SBY on Facebook. Problem is, the New Nation article wasn’t very funny to begin with. And maybe they didn’t actually ‘fall for it’ but deviously planned this all along just to aggravate matters between the two nations.

It is a fact that both leaders have Facebook accounts, and to have one ‘unfriending’ another after years of painful name-calling in a final act of political tit-for-tat isn’t THAT far fetched.  New Nation’s article was eerily similar to a post by Mr Brown semi-jokingly calling for PM to ‘unfriend SBY on Facebook’, accompanied by a comic portraying the leaders engaging in a juvenile tiff. I’m not aware of any country that has waged war on another over a silly parody, but this embarrassment comes right after our ministers have been seemingly appeased by Indonesia’s proclamation that they bore ‘no ill will’ towards us after naming a navy ship after a couple of ‘state actors’, possibly the worst euphemism for terrorists ever.

It also doesn’t help if your ‘spoof site’ has a title that dozens of ‘serious’ news organisations share as well. Like ‘New Nation News‘ and UK’s New Nation (‘number 1 black newspaper’). Maybe editor Belmont Lay (also part of the Mothership.sg) should change the tagline back to ‘50% REAL news’ from the current ‘50% lucky news’ (50% unlucky that the Indonesians thought it was for real). Or consider something other than ‘New Nation’ altogether. Like ‘The Chap Chye’ or something.

Whether or not the Indonesian media were plain suckers or were deliberately provoking a reaction, this isn’t exactly the best time to prank a country in a position to curb the impending haze and cooperate with their neighbours, especially so after we ‘uninvited’ their top brass from our airshow. I’m not sure if by starting a joke about bilateral ties being severed over Facebook we risk letting the Indonesians have the last laugh while we tear not from the unintentional comedy of their journalists, but eventually, if the winds of change don’t blow in our favour, from their smog in our eyes.

Tan Cheng Bock uninvited from Istana CNY party

From ‘PA withdraws Istana party invite to Tan Cheng Bock’, 8 Feb 2014, article by Robin Chan, ST

FORMER MP Tan Cheng Bock, who quit the People’s Action Party to contest the 2011 Presidential Election, sparked a debate yesterday about the motives of the People’s Association (PA), which had withdrawn its invitation to him to a yearly Istana party. Dr Tan, an MP from 1980 to 2006, said he had been going to the Chinese New Year party for former and current grassroots leaders since 1980.

This year’s event will be held tomorrow afternoon.It is not the same party as the one to honour the pioneer generation. Yesterday, Dr Tan wrote about the incident on Facebook, prompting PA to issue a public apology for what it said was a mistake. The error arose because an old invitation list was used instead of a new one, PA’s deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said.

Dr Tan’s post, which garnered more than a thousand likes and shares, said that he received the invitation on Dec 27 last year. Twelve days later, on Jan 8, Mr Lim, the labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, called him to explain that a change of policy required the invitation to be withdrawn.

“He conveyed (that) to me by phone and e-mail. There was a change in ‘policy’ to invite only those ex-advisers to grassroots organisations, from the immediate past GE (2011). I did not fit into this category as I stood down in 2006,” Dr Tan wrote.

Replying, Mr Lim said in a statement that it was “most unfortunate that PA made the mistake of using the old list instead of the updated list”. The list is periodically reviewed, he added, to let a wider base of people attend. It was last reviewed “a few months ago”.

…Mr Lim took issue with Dr Tan’s post: “I was heartened that Dr Tan very graciously accepted my explanation over the phone. So I am surprised he now brings this up publicly as an issue.”

The last time a politician made a Facebook fuss over having an invite withdrawn was WP’s Chen Show Mao, who was denied attendance to a Hungry Ghost dinner back in 2011. Clearly, the PA hasn’t learned from the social media repercussions of the last high-profile ‘uninvite’, which explains Lim Swee Say being taken aback by TCB complaining about it on FB. Withdrawing an invitation is embarrassing for both parties, but more so for an organiser who should really know better, even if there’s a ‘policy’ to hide behind when telling the uninvited the bad news. As for TCB’s dismay, it’s not surprising either considering that during his presidential campaign, he suggested ousting the PM from the Istana in  ‘Queen of England‘ fashion. But speaking of hungry ghosts, where exactly has Chen Show Mao been to lately?

Not sure if TCB was given a spot on the actual pioneer party. That depends on how our PM defines ‘pioneer’, and how the hosts of the pioneer party feel about this awkward incident (They include Heng Swee Keat, Lawrence Wong and, and to no one’s surprise, Lim Swee Say).  Like the definition itself, this year’s pioneer invitees appear to be a mixed bag. They include Hooi Kok Wah of yusheng fame, opposition veteran Chiam See Tong and former MP Ong Ah Heng. Incidentally, MP Ong himself once admitted in 2010 to replacing elderly cleaners, fellow ‘pioneers’ even, with younger, fitter foreign workers upon receiving complaints by a family.

More than a decade ago, a pioneer generation was described as one who ‘grew up with Singapore’, called upon to sweat it out in factories and shipyards, or be among the first to serve the army. In 2007, PM Lee described the pioneer generation of public servants as ‘the last of the Mohicans‘. A survey on familiarity with Singapore ‘pioneers’ in 2012 included ‘founding fathers’, i.e political heavyweights like Devan Nair, LKY and Goh Keng Swee. In the Reach portal, they are those who built Singapore from her infancy, even if they’re today ‘scavenging for food to eat, tin cans and cardboard to sell’. It seems that anyone can be regarded a pioneer as long as you’re old, Singaporean, and worked almost your whole life to feed your family. If you’re an afterthought to the PM’s party, you probably haven’t contributed that much. Or contributed TOO much, stepping on the party organisers’ toes in the process, like TCB was known to do. You’re also unlikely to find billionaires in the list, because you don’t usually associate rich folk with out-in-the-sun back-breaking work that the image of a ‘pioneer’ summons, even if they’ve started out in life doing exactly that to become what they are today.

As symbolic as the 1500-strong party is supposed to be, those who believe they have served the nation beyond the call of duty but didn’t get the invite will be wondering ‘Why not me?’, just like being left out of any hip party hosted by the most popular person in school. Granted, it’s intended to span all walks in life and you can’t accommodate everyone, though by not making its criteria explicit it begs the question of how the PAP determines your pioneer value. But if you’re a true-blue pioneer, it shouldn’t matter if you’re remembered or not. And you wouldn’t complain on FB insisting that you’ve been mistakenly taken out of the invite list.


Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

Joseph Schooling deferring NS for 2 years

From ‘Singapore top swimmer Joseph Schooling granted National Service deferment’, 21 Oct 2013, article by May Chen, ST

The government has granted swimmer Joseph Schooling’s request to defer his National Service obligation, enabling the 18-year-old to focus on training until after the 2016 Olympics. He is due for enlistment in 2014 but has been granted deferment until 31 August 2016.

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Monday that the ministry had received a request from the swimmer’s parents earlier this year. He said: “The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth supported the appeal for deferment as they assessed that in his previous achievements in international competitions, Mr Schooling had potential to do well in the next Olympics.”

“As this appeal satisfies all the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen, the Armed Forces council has decided to grant deferment for Mr Schooling for full-time NS till 31 August 2016 in order for him to train and do well in 2016 Olympic Games. He will be enlisted for full-time NS once his deferment ends.”

Schooling, is based in the United States where he is ranked among the top swimmers in his age group. He was the youngest competitor to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley at the world championships in Barcelona this year.

In 2011, our Defence Minister announced that the list of disruptees from NS would be publicly available on the MINDEF website, however currently it only covers boys deferring for medical studies or those on PSC scholarships, without any mention of local sportsmen who took extended time off to train for prestigious competitions. If you’re an Olympic medal hopeful, you stand a good chance of deferment. In 2007, 2 national sailors and ‘elite’ athletes were granted disruption to train for the 2008 Games.  Joseph may consider himself fortunate to be be spared the hassle of NS for an entire 2 years, but others who were deemed less ‘exceptional’ in their talents and pursuits were not so lucky.

In 2010, Matthew Goh was denied deferment for 3 months to represent Singapore in the Asian Junior Championships and WORLD Junior Championships. His event? Long Jump. In the 2009 SEA games he shattered the national record of 7.62 metres, but ended up sixth overall. This year, he came in first in the less renown Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic championships, but recorded a significant drop in form from his SEA games feat at 7.03 m. He hopes to represent Singapore again in 2013-2015, but one can only wonder where he would be today if he was just given that sliver of chance to compete 3 years back. The problem of filtering out sportsmen based on their current achievements and Olympics-worthiness is that you risk depriving them a chance to achieve the desired potential. I can only hope Matthew Goh proves that assumption wrong. If all else fails there’s always foreign talent.

One may argue that MINDEF’s definition of exceptional merit means a history of medal wins and the potential to do well in the mother of all sporting events, and whether it’s sailing a boat, swimming or athletics, any sport that requires remarkable feats of endurance, strength and skill should be deserving of one’s complete devotion in order to enhance Singapore’s presence on the global stage. Apparently, that category includes staring at a computer screen and clicking furiously on a mouse.

In 2005, Stanley Aw, Counterstrike enthusiast had his NS deferred by 2 months to participate in the WORLD CYBER GAMES. I’m no sporting or gaming fan, but I’m certain long jump is an Olympic event and Counterstrike isn’t and NEVER will be. How is it that a record holder is denied deferment but not a videogame addict? Or maybe MINDEF thought Counterstrike would be relevant to NS training anyway and could utilise Aw’s elite soldier skills in field combat. Ex Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean had no explanation for it either. Lord knows what Stanley is up to now and I’ve no information on how well he did for that competition. Maybe he’s stationed somewhere in Afghanistan as Special Forces as we speak. If I knew that MINDEF was flexible towards non-traditional sports, I would have tried competitive Scrabble, Rubik Cube, or even ballroom dancing in my youth. Why waste all that sweat, aches and pains on something trivial like jumping off a white line?

Game on, soldier

Singapore Flyer no longer attractive to locals

From ‘Experts,  tour guides not surprised by Singapore Flyer receivership news’, 28 May 2013, article by Debbie Lee and Jessica Lim, ST

Analysts and tour agents were not altogether surprised when news broke on Tuesday evening that company that owns the Singapore Flyer had enter receivership just five years after it was launched.

…Analysts noted that the Singapore Flyer was not attractive to locals and did not encourage repeat visitors while tour agents also told The Straits Times that the ticket prices were too expensive and some had stopped taking tourists there.

Mr M. Loganathan, a tour guide, said that he prefers to take tourists to view Singapore’s scenery from buildings like the OUB building instead. “It’s cheaper so we earn more. At these places, tourists can stay as long as they want and take as many pictures as they want,” he said, adding that he suggests alternate locations to the Flyer to tourists the guides.

The Singapore Flyer project was formally announced and endorsed on June 27, 2003 by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the developer, Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, and STB.

While the attraction crossed the one-million mark in ticket sales in August 2008, it suffered several breakdowns including two major ones. On Dec 4 in 2008, the wheel was stuck for nearly five hours due to bad weather and some 70 people were stranded. A few weeks later on Dec 23, wheel stopped moving for more than six hours. Some 173 passengers on board were trapped and 11 passengers eventually had to be evacuated via a sling-like device from a few of the capsules, and those stranded were given food and drink. Following this breakdown, additional back-up systems costing about $3 million were installed.

The ‘analysts’ are right. I only ever took the Singapore Flyer once and that was the end of it. It explains the fancy add-ons to get people interested after their maiden voyage. A basic ride currently costs a whopping $33 for a half-hour rotation and entry into a ‘Journey of Dreams’ showcase. For twice that price ($69), you may experience a Moet and Chandon champagne flight, which includes bubbly in an ‘elegant tulip flute’ and strawberries and chocolate. For $99 you and your partner may enjoy – literally – HIGH tea. The problem with Flyer feasting is that you can’t enjoy afternoon delight or a romantic date at your own pace once the wheel hits the downturn. For the same amount I could have a more relaxing time at a buffet spread, with the luxury of a restroom so that I can drink and piss out as much tea as I want. And who needs a butler in that enclosed space anyway, unless he also doubles up as a serenading violinist or carries an emergency jetpack to shuttle passengers to safety in the event of disaster.

What the above article avoided reporting on past Flyer breakdowns was that the cause of wheel failure in Dec 2008 was a small ELECTRICAL FIRE, and that two passengers were subsequently HOSPITALISED. One Indonesian tourist who swore that he would never take the ride spoke of trapped riders URINATING into plastic bags while hanging in the air. Imagine if you’re stuck in a Moet Chandon package capsule and you had no other receptacle to relieve yourself than a tulip flute, and mere strawberries to stave your hunger. Just the thought of that remotely happening is enough for me to save that $33 for Kai Kai and Jia Jia instead. I’d rather see pandas do nothing for 15 minutes than twice that duration in a rotating deathtrap worrying about which side to jump from once the capsule catches fire. I sure as hell don’t want to land smack on the Esplanade.

But that’s not all. 2010 saw the Flyer being hit by LIGHTNING. A year later, a baby in a stroller rolled off the disembarkation platform 3 stories off the ground (but thankfully onto a safety net). But if you’re really unlucky, you may get half an hour of witnessing ridiculous couples fondle each other. At least you can disembark the MRT if such behaviour gives you nausea. On the Singapore Flyer there is NO escape. It gives ‘altitude sickness’ a whole new meaning. All the above, for $33 a pop and waiting in a queue for longer than the entire ride itself. In fact, even an illegal ticket at half price would be a hard sell in my opinion.

Despite the initial fanfare and optimism over the then TALLEST Observation Wheel in the World (30 m taller than the London Eye, but now overtaken by New York’s 190m High Roller ferris wheel), there were some voices in 2003 who called out the Flyer as a blatant copycat of the London icon, with the ST Forum using a telling subject header for one such letter: Singapore Flyer won’t Fly. 10 years on and the Flyer looks set to have its wings clipped as the naysayers predicted, its unpopularity coupled with problems within management.  I can imagine in 50 years if nobody could bear to tear down a $200 million dollar project, we could send some gardeners up there to seed the abandoned capsules and turn the entire structure in the world’s biggest vertical hanging tropical garden. Only THEN should the Management consider skyborne eateries, maybe a Kopitiam in the form of a spiralling tower selling hawker delights, a refreshing gastronomic SPIN on what’s previously a Ferris Wheel ride so boring you need to pay extra for booze to help get it over and done with.

We could rename the attraction – wait for it – the Singapore Fryer.

Singapore flag mis-Used at rock concert

From ‘American rock band vandalises Singapore flag as part of on-stage decor’, 23 May 2013, Stomp

STOMPer Djent was concerned after learning that a Singapore flag vandalised with the words ‘The Used Nation’ across it was used as an on-stage decoration for a recent concert by American rock band The Used. In his report, STOMPer Djent wrote:

“This pop-punk bank from the USA, The Used, had a concert in Singapore at the Hard Rock Cafe Coliseum in Sentosa on May 18.

“Apparently, a Singapore flag was used as stage deco and it was vandalised with the words ‘THE USED NATION‘.”

..pledge ourselves as one Used people

..pledge ourselves as one Used people

The ‘Used Nation’ is what the fan club of the Utah band ‘The Used’ calls itself, and I suspect the flag was purchased, painted over and presented by Singapore fans rather than the band itself, following the trend of displaying defaced host flags at international performance venues. In the band’s Facebook page, you’d see images of ‘The Used Nation’ being written on flags all over the world including Brazil, Sweden, Russia and even Japan, which the band apparently loves to bits. I wasn’t sure if the Used were a post-hardcore/screamo/pop-punk band who sang about politics which may explain the flags, so I checked out the lyrics to a song titled ‘Now That You’re Dead’, taken off the latest album ‘Vulnerable’.

‘Die! Die! Die! Die!
‘Breathing! Not Breathing! Breathing! Not Breathing!’

Nope, doesn’t sound like a call to anarchy to me. But just to be sure, this is from ‘Disaster’

Making love to her cadaver.
Like I said, I had to stab her.

Again, just your usual necrophilia and murderous violence. Nothing to get riled over. All part of the band’s repertoire of ‘making positive music‘, I suppose.

I doubt any of these nations have taken the Used to task for disrespecting their national flags, and it’s unlikely that Singapore will be the first. The authorities may, however, decide to shut down their concerts like what happened to metal band Cradle of Filth, or impose a requirement to take down your particulars whenever you decide to buy the National Flag outside of National Day and run a background check to see if you ‘follow’ the Used on Facebook. And then deploy some plainsclothes cops with black eyeliner as fake Used fans to seize your paraphernalia at the concert.

Land of the Rising Used

Which sets us up not just as a ‘Used Nation’, but a DOUBLE-STANDARD one as well. Local artists have been slammed and their work clamped down for using the National flag as a motif, while we allow sore loser Malaysian football fans and American rock bands to get away scot-free. The law doesn’t stipulate any exemption for foreigners showing contempt for the flag, but if I zip around town with wearing a CLEAN flag around myself like a cape, I’m likely to get arrested under Section 9, Sub-Section 4 of the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Chapter 296). Hell, I may even get a warning letter if I write ‘I LOVE Singapore’ on our beloved Red and White or perform an acoustic version of Majulah Singapura at a pub with a ukelele decorated with five stars and a moon stickers. I can’t imagine what would happen if I starting rapping the Pledge.

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