Playing football on Sports Hub field like running on the beach

From ‘Inaugural football game at Sports Hub a letdown’, 19 Aug 2014, Voices, Today

(Mohamad Farid Harunal Rashid): I watched the game between the Singapore Selection and Juventus at the Sports Hub on Aug 16, and was disappointed on several levels. First, while the National Stadium’s physical structure was impressive, the pitch was below par.

It was sandy, with many barren patches, not at all like the state-of-the-art turf mentioned in reports. Indeed, Juventus rested one of their star players, Carlos Tevez, reportedly due to concerns about the safety of the pitch.

The game itself was lacklustre and pedestrian. Notwithstanding that it was a friendly at the end of a long and busy post-season in a World Cup year, the quality of football was below expectations.

Ex-national player Nasri Nasir described his experience playing Juventus as ‘running on a beach’ (Sports Hub field far from pitch-perfect, 19 Aug 2014, ST). With all the patches of sand on the crowning centrepiece of our new Sports Hub, maybe it was a tad ambitious challenging the Italian Serie A champion on its first run. We could have started with a celebrity model bikini beach volleyball charity extravaganza instead. Then no one would be complaining about uninspiring attacks, balding pitches or miniature sandstorms being kicked up all over the place.

The ‘state-of-the-art’ field in the Sports Hub is the Desso Grassmaster, dubbed as the pitch of the 21st century. It boasts ‘good traction’ and ‘modifiable levels of hardness and ball bounce’ all thanks to its 3% artificial fibre meshed with 97% natural grass. Installed in global arenas like Wembley and Emirates stadium, the Grassmaster is undoubtedly the field of champions, able to withstand the harshest, most unpredictable weather and the most violent of rugby scrums. You’re not just running around on a grassy field, but a SYSTEM engineered to bring out the best in athletic performance. Unfortunately the Singapore version also happens to be too dangerous to play Carlos Tevez on. You came all the way to Singapore for nothing, Tevez. Nothing at all.

Spending $800K on reinforced grass alone is nothing more than a mere vanity project if you don’t have internationally recognised National teams making it its home turf. The only thing more wasteful is building a massive indoor snow landscape as a Winter Olympics training facility. That amount of money could have went into school sports development programmes, maybe more swimming pools or badminton courts for the public, but instead we blow it a technological showcase which not only has to accommodate rugby players, but stampedes of Jay Chou fans come November. To purists who still gush over Malaysia Cup nostalgia, no amount of grass science can bring back the glory days of the Kallang Wave.

In the 80’s we experimented with the artificial football field known as ‘Astroturf’, which sounds like what the Jetsons play Astro-Golf on. Heralded as the ‘future of football in Singapore’ in 2004, it was supposed to optimise training rain-or-shine. A decade has passed since and the only thing ‘space-age’ about the state of football today is that it is still in deep LIMBO. Let’s hope the Grassmaster holds out in this crazy weather and not turn into a hybrid beach instead of the perfect luxurious pitch as promised. Otherwise, there may be other avenues which we may want to consider in our pursuit of sporting excellence. Like, I dunno, chariot racing or something.

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Muslim woman demanding full refund for pigskin shoes

From ‘Muslim seeks refund for shoes lined with pig skin’, 24 June 2014, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A MUSLIM woman who bought a pair of $279 shoes was incensed to find out, after wearing them for six months, that the shoes were lined with pig skin. Administrative assistant Nur Najwa Abdullah, 43, is demanding a full refund from foot care chain Happy Walker, claiming that the sales staff had told her the shoes were made of calf skin.

Ustaz Firdaus Yahya, manager of the Darul Huffaz Learning Centre which promotes understanding of the Quran, said: “In Islam, anything related to pork, such as the meat or skin, is considered unclean.”

Islamic experts say while the use of pig-skin products is not considered a sin, a Muslim should go through a cleansing ritual if he or she has used the product….She complained to the Happy Walker outlet and told the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) about it. Muis advised her to discard the shoes and wash her feet with water and clay, a ritual cleansing.

If I were the manager of a shoe shop and someone asks me for a FULL refund for religious reasons, my natural reaction is to determine if I have in fact inflicted spiritual duress on the complainant and if the offence were indeed in accordance to what the scriptures prescribe. Granted, this Unhappy Walker customer was misinformed about the nature of the product, but MUIS have already declared that it’s ‘not a sin’ and Happy Walker was willing to offer half the money back out of goodwill. I would assume a 6-month old $279 pair would still be in good working condition, so this isn’t returning a ‘defective’ product, so much as a defective lapse in communication and understanding of how Islam works when it comes to dogs and swine. A waste of a perfectly good pair if MUIS’s recommendation is throwing the wretched filth away, short of burning it with fire.

Curious about what our Islamic authority has to say about touching nasty, forbidden things, I browsed a MUIS’ FAQ webpage, but came away with more questions than answers. Here’s a sample:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.08.31 PM

Does ‘hides’ include chemically treated, tanned leather?
If the pig and my hand are both dry, do I still need to wash the affected area 7 times?
How do I know if the earth/sand I use is not also contaminated with heavy Najis? Does MUIS have an analytical lab to sniff out najis compounds?
How pure should ‘pure clean water’ be? Will tap water do? Or do I need an entire lab apparatus to distill water for the purposes of ritual cleansing?
If I accidentally exposed my mouth and gums to pig-hair toothbrushes do I have to gargle with 6 parts water and 1 part water/earth too?

Pigs aside, what struck me most were these answers below as to whether it’s OK for a Muslim to TOUCH a DOG.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.11.15 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.24.55 PM

So is it OK to touch a dry dog with a dry hand and not cleanse after that?
Do I need to wash if I touched dried dog saliva in a cab?
Do I need a measuring jug to measure exactly 6 parts water and 1 part water and earth?
Must the water be pure and distilled as well?
If I step on fresh dogshit with shoes on, do I need to purify the dirty shoe?
If I step on dogshit with bare feet can I wash with soap first before doing the ritual wash?
Does ‘dog’ include coyote, wolf and dingo?

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.42.11 PM

What if I have chronically sweaty palms?
Can I swim, bathe, play sweaty sports with someone who eats pork?
Can my child play with toys in the image of a pig but made of non-porcine material?
How small are these ‘particles’ you speak of. Crumbs, or molecules?
Can I drink from the same bottle as a pork-eater?
What happens if I get bitten by a mosquito that just sucked dog’s blood?
If my non-Muslim friend became vegetarian just a day ago, how long must I wait before not a trace of pork filth is retained in his body?

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WHY CATS?

Pop up kindness cafe sending wrong message

From ‘Kindness cafe sends wrong message’, 13 June 2014, ST Forum

(Jeffrey Law Lee Beng): WE SHOULD not create the notion that one can only enjoy discounts or freebies by being friendly, kind and polite (“Say please and thanks for discount”; Tuesday).

I am supportive of the various initiatives of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) in encouraging Singaporeans to make a positive commitment to gracious living through simple acts of kindness. Events such as the I Love My Mum campaign, Heroes Run and photo contest organised by the SKM are commendable as they have impacted and reminded us of the importance of being filial, courteous and kind.

However, the movement’s pop-up cafe where customers are given a discount on a cup of coffee or a free loaf of bread by saying “please” and “thank you” is not the appropriate way to further inspire graciousness and friendliness, which should come from the heart.

(Lim Lih Mei): Being polite is basic manners for all. Striving hard to perform better in their studies is what all students should do. Do we really need money to incentivise such attitude and mindset? We may be nurturing a population that will perform certain acts only when the carrot is cash.

Will that be with a smile or no smile, sir?

Will that be with a smile or no smile, sir?

Here’s what you should do if you want to get a FREE coffee at the Kindness Cafe. Tip your hat, smile, bow and say ‘Good afternoon, how are you doing today, my good sir. Can I trouble you with one coffee, pretty please with sugar on top. Thank you very much!God bless you!’

There’s much more to kindness than saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ of course. You can put on the most nerve-cringing display of politeness at the counter just for a $2 cuppa but come back later and complain that it tastes like bloody ‘longkang’ water after that. There is also nothing in the Kindness Cafe rulebook that says you can’t recite the $2 line with a grumpy, monotonous tone, or shout it out with your finger pointing all over the place not even looking the poor fella in the eye. You may also try to test the gimmick by seeing how the staff would react if you just say ‘Oi!Give me THAT one’. If you have $5 or more to spare, that is. What about people with speech impairments then, do they have a sign language version for discounted coffee? If I were a staff of the Kindness Cafe I’d feel pretty unimpressed throughout, knowing that people are being nice to me only because they’re following a template on the board next to them, and not that they’re actually out to make my day. In fact I’d feel pretty good if I can charge the rare $5 customer for being a total asshole whose parents never taught to say ‘please’ like a decent human being.

The last time someone ran a promo for discounted drinks was not based on how polite you are, but how physically well-endowed you are. The bigger your cup size, the less you had to pay for drinks at Overeasy bar back in 2010. Totally unrelated of course, except that it’s not just the customers alone who got to see how ‘HAPPY things can get’.  By linking ‘happy’ material discounts to politeness, the SKM is saying ‘happiness’ is about getting things cheap, when we’ve always been told that the reward of a good deed is to have done it, that, well, courtesy is FOR FREE. Courtesy has taken on a ‘GSS mentality’, and before you know it, someone will be patrolling MRT trains dishing out free transport vouchers to people who give up their seats to those who need it. So that’s where all the money for former courtesy mascot Singa’s salary goes to.

The Kindness cafe is not going to train people into becoming angels to those poor souls in the service industry. At best, it’s just a harmless reminder that baristas are humans with feelings too and it would be ‘nice’ to give compliments once in a while. I, for one, wouldn’t line up for a Kindness coffee. Not that I’m the kind who points at menus and grunts, but because I’d have to wait for people to memorise and recite their $2 lines before getting served. Anyway, it’s also time for a new courtesy song. Something like this perhaps?

Courtesy is for kopi
Courtesy is for you and me
It makes for happy sipping and harmony
Happiness you can buy
With discounted kopi-o-siew dai
Make courtesy our way of life
(Adapted from the Courtesy is for Free song, original lyrics here)

Andy Chua paying $2.7 million to lunch with Warren Buffett

From ‘Singapore’s Andy Chua snags the right to dine with Warren Buffett with $2.7 million bid’, 8 June 2014, ST

Singapore’s Andy Chua has won the right to dine with the world’s third-richest man Warren Buffett, news reports said on Saturday. Mr Chua won the privilege of a dinner with Mr Buffett, one of the savviest stock investors in the world, with a single bid of US$2,166,766 (S$2.71 million). No other details about Mr Chua were immediately available.

The proceeds will benefit a San Francisco charity. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Mr Chua and seven guests will get to meet Mr Buffett, the Chief Executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in Manhattan for lunch at Smith & Wollensky, a 10-restaurant chain of steakhouses with small-batch bourbons and deep-polished wood, where a shrimp cocktail goes for about US$20 and the long bone rib-eye close to US$70.

Bidding started last Sunday at US$25,000. By Tuesday, the US$500,000 mark had been reached. The bidding surpassed US$1 million on Wednesday. On Friday evening, there was a flurry of late bids. Bloomberg News reported that Mr Chua was the 12th and final hopeful to bid with less than 10 minutes to go in the auction on Friday evening.

The winning bid was more than double last year’s US$1 million winner, the Omaha World-Herald said.

Like the owners of the most expensive car in the country, Andy Chua is relatively unknown, supposedly another mystery Singaporean tycoon. And for good reason;  if I had a vault of pure gold hidden beneath my backyard I would choose to remain a recluse too. Not all rich folk collect European football clubs like Peter Lim. For Chua, a million dollars per hour with Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, is worth splurging on.  Perhaps you’d get priceless money-making tips that Buffett doesn’t already tell you in his books. You’d also get some insight into his favourite foods: Medium-rare steak, hash browns and a cherry coke. One lucky diner didn’t just go away with investment tips. Ted Weschler was given a job at Berkshire Hathaway. So not only is this a 2 million dollar power lunch, it may also be the most expensive interview ever. Amazingly, Chua’s not the first one from Singapore to spend a few hours power-lunching with an investment god.

In 2005, Jason Choo spent almost ONE-TENTH of Chua’s bid to score a date with Buffett. All that is known about this guy is that he spent 3 hours with his idol at the same steakhouse with his wife, and was a 33 YEAR OLD investor and Vegas regular then. Jason and Andy join the ranks of other Asian men who have had the privilege of spending some private moments with Buffett, including China’s Zhao Danyang (2007) and  Duan Yongping (2006), with reports claiming that the 2011 and 2012 Anonymous winners might also have been Chinese. I wonder if these guys’ net worth skyrocketed since eating steak with Buffett, or continued to do anything for the same charity outside of seeing an 83-year old billionaire put food in his mouth.

Proceeds for the luncheon go to the Glide foundation charity that donates a million meals each year to the poor in San Francisco. We’ve had similar charity bids locally. In 2012, a bunch of food bloggers got people to bid for Valentine’s Day dinner dates for the Spastic Children’s Association. Daniel Ang was ‘sold’ for $82. 65. If Choo and Chua had given their money to the Hair for Hope cause instead (target $3.6 million this year), not only would they have given local cancer-striken children a new lease of life, but saved many scalps as well. The same amount could also spare thousands of masochists from suffering blisters on their feet participating in Bare Your Sole 2014. Personally, I wouldn’t give my life savings just to have lunch with anyone. Other than Aladdin’s Genie, perhaps.

UPDATE: Andy Chua is the chairman of the AMES United group, formerly Yun Nam Hair Care, and is in the beauty empire business. Well I’m sure those two have plenty to talk about then.  I wonder why AMES is named like a football club, though. (AMES stands for Achievement Morale Efficiency Significance. Funny, I thought it should be American-Megabillionaire-Emulating Singaporean.)

PM Lee rejecting Roy Ngerng’s derisory $5000 offer

From ‘PM Lee rejects blogger’s offer of $5000 as damages’, 27 May 2014, article by Nur Asiyiqin Mohammed Salleh, ST Singpolitics

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has rejected blogger Roy Ngerng’s offer of $5,000 as damages, his lawyer Davinder Singh said in a letter to Mr Ngerng’s lawyer on Tuesday. This offer is “derisory” and “completely disregards” the gravity of Mr Ngerng’s conduct, the undisputed fact that the libel – that PM Lee misapproriated CPF funds – is false and malicious, and Mr Ngerng’s “calculated and systematic aggravation of the injury and distress” to Mr Lee, Mr Singh wrote.

…Mr Lee had on Monday offered to waive aggravated damages if Mr Ngerng removed four blog posts and a Youtube video and undertook not to publish similar posts or videos. Mr Ngerng agreed. But instead of removing the video, Mr Ngerng made it private. He also sent two e-mails out republishing the video and offending posts.

“He therefore has only himself to blame for losing the opportunity of not having to pay aggravated damages,” said Mr Singh.

Channel 8 news tweeted an image of Davinder Singh’s retort to the measly $5ooo offer, and surprisingly, I was able to understand most of the ‘legalese’ in the letter. Judging by Roy’s behaviour it looks like it won’t be the last we see of such letters and requests for ‘service of process’. The saga has dragged on for far longer than necessary, with ‘lost opportunities’ on both sides to settle their differences in a more palatable manner other than one dominant party simply asking for more money from the other.

Here’s some choice selections from the latest salvo, a masterclass in defamation suit demands written with the panache of an executioner sharpening his blade before chopping someone’s head clean off.  You can even use this as a template when a restaurant owner offers you free dessert after a waiter spills hot coffee all over you, that it’s a ‘derisory’ compensation for the ‘injury and distress’ that you’ve suffered, completely ‘disregarding the gravity’ of your situation.

1. ‘Derisory and completely disregards the gravity of your client’s conduct’.

Meaning the 5K is an insult and I spit on your ridiculous offer. The next logical question to Davinder would be, so how much do you want then. Is there a market rate for ‘damages’? How much higher do I need to bid before ‘derisory’ becomes ‘acceptable’? I expected Roy to come up with less in fact, and maybe top up the remainder of damages with a thousand kowtows.

2. ‘The undisputed fact that the libel is false and malicious’.

Legalese 101: Libel is any defamation that can be seen, such as writing, printing, effigy or statue. Slander is any defamation that is spoken and heard. If Roy had reserved his misappropriation accusations for his Return my CPF protest, it would have been slander, though I’m not sure which of the two is more serious. The word ‘undisputed’ is used twice in the letter by the way, a word one would usually hear in the context of a boxing championship match, though it’s obvious who’s the one getting bruised up the most here.

3. ‘He therefore only has himself to blame of losing the opportunity of not having to pay aggravated damages’.

In short, Roy asked for it. Instead of restraining himself and keeping a low profile, he allegedly circulated the ‘deleted’ posts to ‘local and international’ media. Obviously, the phrase ‘live to fight another day’ doesn’t mean anything to Roy. What was he trying to achieve with the leaking? Get support from the Queen’s Counsel?

4. ‘Your client’s explanation..that it was a momentary lapse of judgement is disingenuous and incredible’

Disingenuous is a bombastic word that only became popular when Spellcheck spared us all the burden of having to spell ‘-nuous’ correctly. It’s best used when you want to accuse someone of dishonesty but want to lord over him while at it, like ‘Take that! I just used a big word on you’. It’s also an accusation that is unlikely to get a comeback because the recipient will be wondering what you meant, and will have trouble finding a response that has more letters in it.

5. ‘He has also not come clean with you…did not disclose to you that he intended to renege on that undertaking’

i.e Roy lied to you M. Ravi. Renege is another word people don’t usually say in real life. It sounds too French for something that’s not actually food.

So the stakes have been raised. Place your bets for what PM Lee will finally accept as a decent offer for his suffering. I’m thinking somewhere in the region of $25K, which can probably cover half our Government’s standard donation to our Indonesian neighbours after a massive earthquake.

UPDATE: Roy has been fired from TTSH for misusing hospital resources for his personal stuff, namely fighting a losing battle against PM Lee. The other reason was that he did not conduct himself ‘honorably’ and with ‘integrity’ in his legal dealings with his accuser. He’s not helping matters by alleging that the sacking was ‘politically motivated’. Roy, is one defamation suit not enough?

Clarke Quay bus stops vandalised by CPF blogger fans

From ‘Clarke Quay bus stop vandalism under probe’, 25 May 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, Sunday Times

The police are investigating a string of vandalism acts by apparent supporters of blogger Roy Ngerng, who was last week served a letter of demand for a post on May 15 alleging that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings. Mr Ngerng apologised to PM Lee last Friday, and admitted that the allegation in his May 15 post is false and “completely without foundation”.

He added: “I unreservedly apologise to Mr Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by this allegation.” On the same day, information and advertising boards at several bus stops around Clarke Quay were found defaced with text such as “We support CPF blogger” and “Return CPF money” in black block letters, according to a report in The New Paper yesterday.

Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed that graffiti was found at six bus stops, one of which was right outside the Old Hill Street Police Station. The police confirmed that a report was lodged early last Friday. It is understood that LTA contractors were dispatched by mid-afternoon to clean up the affected areas.

…Moulmein-Kallang GRC Member of Parliament Denise Phua condemned the acts which occurred in her ward and called for common sense to prevail. “Such forms of negative expression are not useful in helping Roy Ngerng’s current situation or addressing the deeper issues concerning CPF withdrawal,” she said.

“The issue calls for a rational, deeper and more constructive dialogue.”

The writing's on the wall

The writing’s on the wall

This is what’s going to happen before any ‘constructive dialogue’ takes place. The vandals will be caught, named and shamed. Roy Ngerng will be forced into paying PM Lee a certain sum of money, probably to the tune of the minimum CPF withdrawal sum. The Old Hill Street Police staff will be chastised for this embarrassment happening right under their nose (I wonder if the ‘Old Hill Street’ Division still wears shorts). And if there’s anyone who’s going to start the ball of ‘CPF conversation’ rolling, it will NOT be Denise Phua, PM Lee, the Minister of Finance, M Ravi, or even the CPF itself. Workers’ Party MPs, yes we’re looking at you.

In 2011, Gerald Giam wrote in his blog that the ‘real reason’ for raising the draw-down age for your CPF to 65 years was that the PAP does not want to have the burden of looking after our old folks if they run out of retirement savings, that this was, in Giam’s opinion, typical of the Government’s ‘calculating and heartless’ style. In a ST poll on the raised limit, more than FOUR IN FIVE Singaporeans opposed the move, believing that we should have the right to enjoy our money without the Government telling us exactly when the time is ‘ripe’.  Lim Boon Heng recently suggested that the retirement go up to 70 years of age, which follows that you should only get to smell your money when you’re in a wheelchair with a tube sticking out of your nose, and instead of spending your CPF payout on a well deserved holiday it’d be on adult diapers  and bedpans.  Lim Swee Say also attempted to dispel the notion that the CPF is something we ‘can see, but cannot touch’. With such unfounded confidence in our employability, longevity and that the world will not end in 50 years, CPF will not just be known as a ‘Cardio Pulmonary Failure’ fund anymore, but a ‘Coffin Purchase Fund’, or Cash Prior to Funeral.

As for the vandals, given the insane risk taken in light of recent events i.e the Toa Payoh vandalism, it would have been smarter to just spray paint a succinct CPF O$P$, than what appears to be an essay in graffiti terms, the handwriting giving the Police a convenient lead in their pursuit.  The mainstream media will also make every attempt to squeeze the villain out of the culprits to distract from people making an underdog hero-victim out of Roy Ngerng. We will be embroiled in discussions over whether Roy or the vandals are considered troublemakers or martyrs. So, no there will not be a ‘dialogue’ anytime soon. The CPF minimum sum will still rise, ‘adjusted for inflation’, and our Government will continue to believe that they’re the best people to manage our retirement money, or what most of us call the ‘fruits of our labour’. Forbidden fruits rather, whose sweetness most of us can only savour in bits and pieces. If our sense of taste is still intact by the time we even get it, that is.

Roy himself has created a video to raise awareness about his plight and the tragi-comedy that is the CPF issue. Other than the fact that he speaks better than most MPs, especially Lim Swee Say, here are some takeaway highlights from ‘Roy’s Message’.

1. His surname is pronounced ‘NERNG’, the first G is silent.

2. Yes we all know he’s an ‘ordinary Singaporean’. He mentions it at least 3 times. Not if he’s made a bankrupt, in which case he joins the ranks of ‘not so ordinary’ Singaporeans like JBJ and Chee Soon Juan.

3. Near the end we see Roy fighting back tears and calling his fight a sacrifice for the people of Singapore, that it doesn’t matter if his character is ‘assassinated’, as long as people continue to demand the right to know what’s being done to their money. It would have made a rousing campaign oratory.

4. If this guy had a film biography made about him, I can only picture Pierre Png playing the lead role. Director Martyn See may be interested.

5. No, there was no hidden ‘gay agenda’ that certain ministers may use against him.

When it comes to money, it’s easy to dispense to the common man what the Government would call ‘populist’-speak, and Roy is convincing in his recurrent ‘David vs Goliath’ theme, appealing to the same lower reptilian brain that irrationally views a discounted price of $1.99 as a must-buy bargain even if the product totally useless. Good luck, ‘Rob’ Roy. And I hope your dreams, our dreams, for a better CPF system come true when I’m 64.

UPDATE: Roy has been asked to remove another 4 articles, including the Youtube video, which he uploaded between May 20-24, his apology deemed to be ‘insincere’ according to PM Lee and his lawyer, when Roy had already explained that he did not apologise for stuff he’d written other than the CHC analogy. No explanations were given as to whether these posts were also defamatory or Roy had inevitably incurred further charges for ‘renewing his attack’ on the PM and aggravating ‘injury and distress’.

So distressed was our PM that he posted this emo pic on Twitter.

Lesson learnt for all bloggers: You can’t win. Apologise, pay up and stay off the Internet for a month. Give the impression that you’ve left the blogosphere to repent for your sins, even if you still think you did nothing wrong.

UPDATE 2: A 71 year old man was arrested on suspicion of being Roy Ngerng’s No. 1 fan. Wonder if he managed to make full use of his CPF monies. Meanwhile the whereabouts of the hooligans who recently vandalised a MRT train remain unknown.

 

The police are investigating a string of vandalism acts by apparent supporters of blogger Roy Ngerng, who was last week served a letter of demand for a post on May 15 alleging that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

Mr Ngerng apologised to PM Lee last Friday, and admitted that the allegation in his May 15 post is false and “completely without foundation”.

He added: “I unreservedly apologise to Mr Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by this allegation.”

On the same day, information and advertising boards at several bus stops around Clarke Quay were found defaced with text such as “We support CPF blogger” and “Return CPF money” in black block letters, according to a report in The New Paper yesterday.

Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed that graffiti was found at six bus stops, one of which was right outside the Old Hill Street Police Station.

The police confirmed that a report was lodged early last Friday. It is understood that LTA contractors were dispatched by mid-afternoon to clean up the affected areas.

When The Sunday Times visited the vicinity of the Old Hill Street Police Station, there were no traces of the graffiti.

The culprit or culprits could face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to $2,000, and could also receive between three and eight strokes of the cane.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC Member of Parliament Denise Phua condemned the acts which occurred in her ward and called for common sense to prevail.

“Such forms of negative expression are not useful in helping Roy Ngerng’s current situation or addressing the deeper issues concerning CPF withdrawal,” she said.

“The issue calls for a rational, deeper and more constructive dialogue.”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/news/story/clarke-quay-bus-stop-vandalism-under-probe-20140525#sthash.cs8S5wio.dpuf

Roy Ngerng defaming PM Lee in Heart Truths blog

From ‘Singapore blogger issued letter of demand by PM Lee’s lawyers’, 19 May 2014, article in CNA

Mr Roy Ngerng, author of a blog titled The Heart Truths, was today (May 19) issued a legal request by Drew & Napier, on behalf of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to remove an article that had been “published maliciously”, according to the lawyer’s letter.

According to the letter issued by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, the blogpost, titled “Where your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial”, is understood to mean that Mr Lee “is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid in the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

“This is a false and baseless allegation and constitutes a very serious libel against our client, disparages him and impugns his character, credit and integrity,” the letter, dated May 18, stated.

Mr Lee has requested that Mr Ngerng:

  • Immediately remove the blogpost;
  • Publish an apology on the homepage of his blog for as long as the offending blog post was left online; and
  • Pay compensation for damages and legal costs.

The blogger has three days to comply, failing which legal proceedings will be taken against him, the lawyer wrote.

Another year, another lawyer’s ‘letter of demand’, a euphemism for a written threat to sue. Calling the PM’s weapon of choice a ‘legal request’ is like calling a police warrant for your arrest a Hallmark greeting card. Other bloggers like Alex Au and TRS’s Richard Wan have complied quietly and helplessly to our PM’s demands after allegedly defaming the Government, and Roy Ngerng looks set to follow suit. Roy had planned a protest called ‘Return my CPF’, jointly run with another financial expert Leong Sze Hian, with the same fetish for bar graphs.

Law Minister K Shanmugam had this to say about the ‘right’ way of criticising ministers:

If you make a personal allegation of fact, if you say I took money, I am corrupt, I will then sue you and ask you to prove it. But if you say I am a stupid fool who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and the Government comprises ministers who don’t know what they’re talking about and you criticise every policy of the Government, no one can sue you.

PM Lee probably took Roy’s post to implicitly mean that ‘he took money and he is corrupt’, but made no challenge for the blogger to ‘prove it’. Instead, the standard demands are raised just like it applies to anyone who had the audacity to go beyond calling the PM a ‘stupid fool': Remove, apologise or be damned. Roy seems to be have put much painstaking effort into charts and statistics, which I have no patience for, and it would be a shame if he’s not even given the chance to back himself up with his ‘research findings’. Meanwhile, you can hurl ‘baseless’ obscenities at the PM and his mother and the worst thing that could happen to you is losing your job. You could even create a bar chart of how much the PM sucks compared to other countries’ PMs and you wouldn’t be harrassed by Drew and Napier with a pitilessly self-deprecating apology written on your behalf.

Roy’s comparison of CPF handling with the City Harvest scamsters is scanty at best. First of all, churchgoers give their money WILLINGLY to Kong Hee and gang. We have no such liberties with CPF. Secondly, we will never ever see Ho Ching do a Sun Ho. Or maybe some of us are dying to actually see that happen, at the risk of our eyes bleeding. (By the way, Kong Hee has 95K Followers and counting on Twitter. Lee Hsien Loong, 71.5 K). Also, no matter how hard you pray to Jesus Christ, you will never see your hard-earned money until you hit 55.

Whatever the outcome of this, it has raised a valid concern about what exactly happens to our money. Is our CPF monies being used by GIC for investment or not? This is what the GIC website says in one of its FAQs:

The short answer is that GIC manages the Government’s reserves, but as to how the funds from CPF monies flow into reserves which could then be managed by either MAS, GIC or Temasek, this is not made explicit to us.

The ‘short answer’ should be ‘WE DON’T REALLY KNOW’. Well then, who does?

Even some of the PAP MPs themselves were confused when this issue was raised in Parliament in 2007. An article by Chua Mui Hoong quoted MP Sim Boon Ann as saying that CPF funds are ‘indirectly’ invested by Government through the GIC and other channels in external and real assets, and asked if its time to ‘wean the Government off CHEAP funds’. Ng Eng Hen was reported to remark that ‘the link between GIC and CPF was not so SIMPLE’, which doesn’t sound the least assuring.

Maybe instead of laying down the gauntlet so soon on Roy and hiring D and N (ideal names for a pair of twin attack rottweilers) to wallop his ass dry, the Government should ‘invest’ some time in cutting through this fog of jargon and tell the common man where exactly our money is. In the meantime, here is a picture of our PM hamming it up with some bloggers at an Istana party, a reminder that there are times when he does engage by showing up in person with arms wide open and not in the form of an aggressive, hissing letterhead.

The Hurt Truths

The Hurt Truths

UPDATE: Roy has taken down the offending post, apologised ‘unreservedly’ to the PM, and requested to waive the ‘damages’ and legal costs. Our PM is having none of it. While Richard Wan of TRE was spared from having to dig deep into his pockets, Roy, a healthcare worker, looks set to be the first non-politician citizen to have to compensate the PM for what’s deemed a ‘malicious’ article. Chee Soon Juan’s defamation suit in 2006 makes an interesting parallel to Roy’s CHC analogy , where he compared both Lees’ running of Singapore to that of the NKF scandal.The penalty? A whopping $330K to PM Lee. I think I would rather take the rotan than cough up anywhere near that sum. Maybe Roy should change the theme of his protest on the CPF to a fundraiser instead.

Tourists charged $707 for Alaskan king chilli crab

From ‘One meal equals to one meal’, 11 May 2014, article by Melody Ng, TNP

Seafood meals can be expensive. But a Filipino family on a trip here were stunned when they were hit with a bill for $1,186.20. Just the crab alone cost them $707.

Their meal on April 26 at Forum Seafood Village Restaurant at Boat Quay also included prawns, a fish and a plate of vegetables. Mr Santiago Caaway, 54, said the total bill was more than what the family paid for their flight here and back. The restaurant had been in the news previously after tourists accused it of over-charging. But Forum Seafood spokesman Thomas Tham said the restaurant clearly states its prices and patrons know how much the dishes cost.

And it was no ordinary crab that the Caaway family ordered. They had chilli Alaskan king crab, which other restaurants and seafood suppliers say is expensive. Was Mr Caaway aware that he was getting the Alaskan king crab instead of the more common and cheaper mud crab?

Mr Caaway claimed his family did not know there were different types of crab on the menu but said they wanted it cooked in chilli gravy. “We heard that Singapore is known for its chilli crab, so we thought we must have this,” said Mr Caaway, who has since returned to the Philippines.

The Alaskan king crab rip off aside, Caaway paid a remainder of almost $480 for ‘prawns, fish and vegetables’. They may not have heard of the Newton Tiger Prawn saga back in 2009, when a group of Americans were charged $239 for EIGHT tiger prawns at the iconic hawker centre. NEA ordered Tanglin Best BBQ Seafood to shut down for 3 months after STB relayed the complaint. Not sure if the prawns the Caaways ordered were of the tiger variety, but it was fortunate that they didn’t order the lobster, which was priced at $348 for 1.6kg in 2011, incidentally the target of an expat’s complaint. For the price of 1 Alaskan king crab, the Caaways could have had 6 servings of Sin Huat Crab Bee Hoon instead.

A case of following bad advice dished out by their hotel concierge, the Caaways could have avoided getting fleeced by Forum if they had read TripAdvisor’s reviews of the place, where hopping mad patrons reported the following prices and called the place a blatant tourist trap, with little being said about the actual quality of the food. Wonder if anyone told them about this other thing we have called ‘zi char’. Not in STB’s brochures or website, I suppose.

Fish – $115
Broccoli – $27
Asparagus – $20
Fried rice – $18
BBQ King prawn – $23. Each.
A ‘tofu dish’ – $30
Plain rice – $1.50

Philippine media also reported that a STB director had apologised personally to Caaway and made sure that they were ‘properly remunerated’ since this arose from a case of miscommunication between patron and staff. Despite the online flak, calls for boycott, and demands for closure, this place is still in business, just like how tourist traps remain viable in any other country. Rival Boat Quay restaurant Fuqing Marina Bay Seafood also has a reputation for charging ridiculous prices, with STB having to deal with a similar PR fallout after an American complained about his $210 crab a few years back. No wonder expats have rated us the most expensive city in the world.

It takes a savvy or experienced traveler to avoid such scams, and I’m not sure if we’re spoiling visitors by giving them partial refunds if they aren’t very streetwise when it comes to identifying potential daylight robbery. You can imagine other ‘crabby’ tourists exploiting STB’s niceness by claiming that they were ripped off by a seafood restaurant and expect compensation. In 1986, an exasperated Briton called it the ‘Singapore Rip’, after having to pay $30 for chilli crab at Punggol Point. These days, that’s the price you pay for a BBQ Prawnzilla. Buyer beware, especially if the menu reads ‘Seasonal prices’ and the staff spotted you entering the premises with your DSLR hung conspicuously around your neck. Not all foreigner complaints are valid of course. In 2001, one K. Will whined about paying TWO DOLLARS for one prawn at a East Coast seafood restaurant. Pretty average in those days if you ask me, unless he was talking about belacan-sized prawns instead.

A holiday gone terribly wrong for the Caaways, and such a shame and irony that it takes a national dish sampled in a wrong place to put all the efforts spent on a recent STB promo ad to utter waste.  Singapore always has a surprise for you indeed.

CISCO officer taking $10 coffee money from maid

From ‘Ex-CISCO officer jailed a week for taking coffee money’, 17 May 2014, Today

A former Certis CISCO security officer who took S$10 in “coffee money” from a domestic helper was jailed for a week yesterday.

Kalaiarasan Muniandy, a 22-year-old Malaysian, was carrying out his duties on Jan 19 at Paya Lebar MRT Station when he spotted Ms Hasna, a domestic helper, drinking water at the station’s premises. Kalaiarasan then told her that she would be issued with a summons of S$300 for doing so and took down her particulars. When she told him that she would not be able to pay the fine as she had only S$10 with her, he asked her to place the money on his desk and told her to leave.

When the helper’s employer found out about the incident, she lodged a police report and the case was referred to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. For his act of corruption, Kalaiarasan could have been fined a maximum of S$100,000 and jailed five years.

The picture says carbonated water, btw. There are bubbles.

Even babies are not spared from this absurd ‘no drinking’ rule. In 2010, a news clip depicted an SMRT officer kindly asking a mother and her child to get out of the train to BOTTLE-FEED water. Not sure if this is video staged, but it also features an officer fining a schoolgirl for eating peanuts, and issuing a stern warning to an auntie for drinking water after taking her medication. It’s like the classic reality television series ‘COPS’, except on the MRT. WHY U NO GIVE CHANCE?

A woman was also fined for eating a sweet on the train. Her penalty? THIRTY DAMN DOLLARS. Why is the fine for drinking water 10 times that amount? Could it be that the consequence of consuming sugary snacks is merely the drawing of pests, while a puddle of plain water is a deathtrap? With our trains packed to the brim, how many passengers have actually slipped from dripped water and suffered skull fractures from it? You’re more likely to get bruised in a fist fight than keel over on a few drops of water, really. If safety is a concern, why not BAN passengers from entering the train if they’re soaking wet from the rain too, or wet umbrellas for God’s sake. Wait, you’re not supposed to even enter or remain on a train when it’s FULL.

So rules are rules, and SMRT would like to claim that they have been applying it across the board, whether you’re eating a KFC chicken wing or sipping from a water bottle for throat relief. But have they really? Some water sippers have been let off the hook with just a warning instead of the maxiumum $500 fine. Another blogger recounts an SMRT auntie telling her off for drinking mineral water (but presumably let off without a fine). Surely there should have been exceptions when we were experiencing the drought some months back? What if you’re an NSman on the way home after a vigorous day of training in the hot sun defending our nation, or a catatonic elderly person on the priority seat? If I had the money to spare I would go around MRT stations testing SMRT protocol to see how much they would fine me if I drunk plain water, Coke or chicken soup that my dying grandmother made especially for me. Or see how far I’d go if I fake a voice as hoarse as someone with trachea cancer.

‘Coffee money’ didn’t always imply bribery in the past. In the 1930’s it was used by the rich to describe little ‘tokens’ which they generously give out in addition to a servant’s salary. And 20 cents could probably buy you an actual cup of coffee then. Today even HOT WATER is more expensive than that. In the 60’s ‘coffee money’ was a smaller sum of ‘extortion’ or ‘protection’ money given to gangsters. It wasn’t until the seventies when the market rate of coffee money rose to $10, and referred to petty inducement of any figure of authority to waive a criminal charge or bend some regulations. This CISCO officer reportedly asked for $30, but settled for 10 as well. What of the maid then, shouldn’t she be charged for offering a bribe too? By the way, you could get jailed for giving Malaysian traffic police ‘kopi money’ to waive off a speeding ticket.

The record for the world’s cheapest  ‘coffee money’, was an astounding ONE DOLLAR in 1980 used to tempt a customs officer into clearing cargo for a shop assistant. What an insult, I can’t even get anything out of a vending machine with that kind of money these days. Well technically speaking, back then you could use that to buy a kopi-o and even get some change back. On the flipside, the largest amount of ‘coffee money’ recorded so far could be the $2000 accepted in 1969 by a BP oilman to obtain dealership for a petrol kiosk. That could get you at least 40 cups of kopi luwak.

Wonder what Kalairasan did with his $10 ‘coffee money’. Maybe a Grande Starbucks Frappucino with a side order of cheesecake. They serve free coffee in jail, I hope.

Higher aspirations and the cost of living

From ‘Higher aspirations one reason S’poreans find cost of living high’, 11 May 2014, article by Xue Juan Yue, Today

Having higher aspirations in life is a reason why Singaporeans find the cost of living here expensive, despite real wages having gone up, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (May 10). But Singapore has to ensure that opportunities to get out of poverty must not be priced out and remain abundant to fulfil the dreams of younger Singaporeans, said Dr Ng.

The Defence Minister was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and responding to a question from the audience concerned over the rising cost of living in Singapore.“If you look at household goods, per household, what people have – handphone, TV – has actually gone up,” said Dr Ng. Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children, he added.

That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people, including himself, said Dr Ng, as the reason is “objective” and does not address “issues of the heart.”

The reason is unsatisfactory because there are things which will increase that don’t give a hoot about our aspirations or ‘wants’ in life. Take fuel costs, electricity, food or even basic housing, for example, which will go up whether you choose to pursue a phD and Masters, or rot like a hermit at home. The more you consume, the poorer you’ll get, and any village idiot can tell you that. It has nothing to with what we normally associate with ‘aspirations’. The need for ‘handphones and TVs’ are symptoms of us ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Nothing noble or honourable about it at all. The reason does not please people not because it’s ‘objective’, but because it’s simplistic. I could ‘aspire’ to be the first international male porn star in Singapore and the kopitiam will still jack up their hot water prices by 10 cents next year, whether I make it or not.

This comes from a former cancer surgeon who once admitted in Parliament that he gave up a comfy, high-paying job to become a politician, in pursuit of a higher ‘aspiration’, so to speak.

I will tell you squarely in the face that you’re getting a BARGAIN for the ministers you get. I worked half as much and earned five times more when I was in the private sector and no one grumbled.

Well, we Singaporeans must be the luckiest electorate in the world to be blessed with such value-for-money Ministers, leading by example as  what must surely be the epitome of TRUE aspiration.

In 2003, Dr Ng told Singaporeans desperate for jobs to be ‘flexible and realistic’ in their search for work, and not to reject jobs which ‘may not be ideal’. A Today reader interpreted it as ‘Don’t be PICKY’, a phrase which was repeated in a Today headline in 2008. i.e Forget about your aspirations, just get a job dammit! The cost of living continued to go up anyway, even if people abandoned their aspirations to, well, just GET BY.

Every high-flyer in Parliament has a rags to riches story to inspire the average Singaporean. ACS-ian Ng himself lived in a rental flat in Zion Road, enduring ‘hard times’ even after upgrading to a 3-room flat in Queenstown, getting his big break with a Government scholarship to specialise in cancer surgery overseas. Roped in by then DPM Lee Hsien Loong to stand for election in 2001, his Bishan-Toa Payoh constituency headed by Wong Kan Seng emerged victorious by walkover. Within 2 years he was appointed Minister of State for Education and Manpower. Today he’s a full fledged Minister of Defence and married to the CEO of SingHealth and 2012 Woman of the Year Ivy Ng with 4 wonderful kids, and now he’s telling us about how these damned aspirations are making us feel the pinch everytime we buy wanton mee from a hawker centre, get treated at a hospital, or conned by a telco into paying for 4G ‘value-added’ services.

Yes we all feel the pinch alright, we just need a harder one to wake us up from this nightmare already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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