Singaporean man setting himself on fire in JB

From ‘Singaporean man sets himself on fire in JB’, 13 April 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru. The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol. The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher. He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

In 1969, Ah Hock Keith Morrisson committed suicide ‘Vietnamese style’ by setting himself on fire with a tin of kerosene. His dramatic death happened within a few months of leaving the Singapore Infantry Regimen, during which he exhibited abnormal behaviour such as crying or staring in a daze. The ST described the fiery act as turning himself into a HUMAN TORCH, which is also a Marvel character and part of the Fantastic 4 assemble created in 1961.  A few years later, a Buddhist nun set herself alight ‘Saigon-style’ in a temple, using the same flammable liquid. It is not known if these were in fact inspired by a series of self-immolation protests by Vietnamese monks in the 60′s, or the result of a deadly obsession with a comic book hero whose entire body comes alight at will.

This man is on fire

This man is on fire

A quarrel over suspected infidelity combusted into suicide when 28 year old Madam Kalachelvi set herself on fire after hearing rumours of her husband’s cheating. The distraught husband followed suit. Suicide by self-torching continued into the 90′s, with a case of a 13 year old SCHOOLBOY performing the act after getting a scolding (Schoolboy, 13, set fire to himself after scolding in school, 28 Nov 1992, ST). In 2010, a man, reportedly suffering from mental illness, walked into a Shell petrol kiosk toilet and came out in flames. The most recent incident occurred at the Ceylon Sports Club, Balestier last August, with kerosene again found at the death scene. There’s no record of locals burning themselves to death for political causes as far as I know, though you could get in trouble for setting effigies of our Transport Minister aflame.

Singaporeans are renown petrol guzzlers in JB, some even stocking up petrol in cans in car boots to bring home. One Stomper caught Singaporean drivers attempting to bring these back across the Causeway disguised as engine oil containers (You can import up to 20 Litres without a licence). Other drivers are seen jacking up or shaking their cars  just to load more petrol, to get more bang for their Singaporean buck. With a reputation for such strange, kiasu behaviour, a lone man on foot asking to handcarry 4L of petrol wouldn’t seem too surprising, and the only reason I could think of as to why he had to do it in JB is that you can’t just walk into any shop to buy kerosene as if  it were cooking oil here.

A couple of years ago we were wracked by a spate of copycat suicides by drowning in reservoirs (which may actually be as painful and agonising as burning to death, both falling under the Top 10 Worst Ways to Die). One can only hope that this single act of self-immolation doesn’t, well, spread like wildfire.

Postscript: Stephen Lew Soon Khiang, 42, died of his self-inflicted injuries within a day, with doctors saying that he had just a 1% chance of survival.

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru.

The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol.

The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher.

He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/singaporean-man-sets-himself-fire-jb-20140413#sthash.a38528Iw.dpuf

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Woodlands checkpoint breached by 65 year old

From ‘Woodlands checkpoint breach was the first time security barrier failed to stop a car:ICA’, 9 March 2014, article by Toh Yong Chuan, ST

The man who drove his old Mercedes-Benz past the Woodlands Checkpoint on Saturday managed to do so because a security barrier meant to stop unauthorised cars from leaving the checkpoint was ineffective. It was the first time the barrier failed to stop a car, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Sunday.

On Saturday, the man, a 65-year-old Malaysian national, who is also a Singapore permanent resident, drove the Singapore-registered car through the checkpoint at 4.05pm after he was stopped for a boot check. He bolted from the checkpoint and evaded the authorities for more than five hours, before he was arrested by the police at 9.15pm.

The security barrier, installed in 2006, was about knee height and designed to puncture the tyres of vehicles that try to drive over it. It is checked daily and on Saturday punctured one of the tyres of the car, but did not stop it in its tracks. The ICA is investigating why the barrier was ineffective.

According to the ICA Annual Report 2005, crash barriers and cat claws were installed as ‘anti-dash-through’ measures to stop ‘determined’ vehicles from dashing through the checkpoint like how one does it countless times in the movies. The ‘heavy duty’ spike barriers, capable of RIPPING off the tyres and DESTROYING undercarriages, was put to the test in a demo against a mighty ten tonne truck, and passed with flying colours. ICA then concluded that their barriers would ensure that no vehicle, even the most ‘foolhardy and determined’ shall pass unharmed, that includes the risk of severe injury to the dasher. Unfortunately, even the spikiest of cat claws wasn’t enough to stop a 65 year old uncle from foiling the checkpoint boys in blue and eluding capture for FIVE HOURS. With a couple of punctured tyres too. I wonder how long people were waiting for cabs because they were deployed by ICA to manhunt instead of transporting people.

Just last month, there were already signs that the barriers were wonky, with one car bumper being mistakenly devastated by a spike attack for no rhyme or reason. It could have been a horrific disaster if the fuel tank were pierced by this death trap. Alas, the cat claws failed to perform on Saturday, sprung like a kitty swiping at a ball of wool instead of the fearsome killer of vermin that it’s made out to be.

No excuse for this spike in security breaches

Of course even if you had sophisticated electronic weaponry to paralyse any vehicle in its tracks without physical damage, it would still be utterly useless if the officer on duty just wasn’t paying enough attention to sound the damn alarm in the first place. Or took an astounding 2.5 minutes to trigger one after pondering on it, as what happened when Malaysian trespasser Nurul Ruhana Ishak slipped away in Jan this year. That’s half a minute longer than Blur’s entire ‘Song 2′. It’s SO much cheaper to get a troll or Gandalf to stand guard against potential trespassers.

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The clip of the incident (now under the Official Secrets Act, meaning it’s illegal to spread it around) is almost a comedy of errors, with the Merc stalling at the barrier and the guards standing around helpless after the car drove over the spikes, probably too stunned to give chase on foot like what TV cops do. The most badass officer on the scene whipped out his baton, probably threatening to smash the window in, though what was really needed then was someone bold enough to pounce in front of the car, poised to shoot, maybe jump on the bonnet smashing his way into the driver’s compartment with his bare fists if the perpetrator ever attempted to run the officer down as well. I mean, instinctively, if I were to see an old man try to escape from me with two punctured tyres, I’d give chase on at least a bicycle or hijack the nearest scooter, rather than stand around dumbfounded by how the spike barrier cocked up big time.

Or maybe I’ve just been watching one too many action movies.

$4.3 billion MCE congested on second day of opening

From ‘Motorists fume over slow traffic along newly-opened Marina Coastal Expressway’, 30 Dec 2013, article by Kenny Chee, ST

Traffic on the newly-opened Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) might have been fairly smooth on Sunday when it opened to the public, but it was a different story on Monday.

Travel was slow on several segments of the MCE and surrounding roads. Some motorists said they were stuck on the $4.3 billion expressway for nearly an hour, while some commuters were fuming over having to pay higher than usual taxi fares because they were stuck in jams linked to the expressway.

LTA boasts that the MCE is their ‘most ambitious‘ project to date, flashing earth-shattering statistics like how 1200 Olympic pools’ worth of soil were dug up to create the first of its kind undersea tunnel in Singapore. We all know how expensive this project is (you could build 4 Project Jewels), but here are some other fun facts that LTA might not be so willing to brag about following a nightmarish start to what has been lauded as a marvel of civil engineering. Clearly, in the case of undersea roads, ‘bigger’ and ‘deeper’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’, or ‘faster’.

  • Singapore’s second most expensive expressway is the KPE, costing $1.8 billion.
  • When construction started in 2009, LTA’s Chief Executive declared the work a major engineering challenge, that they had successfully ‘moved a river’ for the KPE and have ‘dammed’ the sea for this Kraken of a road. His name? Yam Ah Mee. Dammed if he do, dammed if he don’t.
  • Early the same year, it was reported that the project busted its budget by almost 2 billion (from its original 2.5 billion) because of higher prices of materials and unexpectedly weak soil. Minister Raymond Lim was questioned if his team had looked to other possibilities before building ‘underground and underwater’, but he said none of these were suitable and that the government takes a ‘stringent financial approach’ to evaluate the cost vs benefit of such massive jobs. Money can’t buy you imagination, I suppose.
  • In 2008, the government appointed global engineering firm Mott MacDonald as design consultant for 3 of the 6 contracts. These are the same people behind the first MRT line in Singapore, and worryingly, the Downtown line as well. Incidentally, the Marina Coastal Expressway has a Mc in its acronym. I doubt an Upsize will do any good.
  • Lastly, we make our transport systems ‘safe and smooth flowing through a suite of advanced traffic systems’ called ITS. Or Intelligent Transport Systems. It’s an acronym as ingenious as our expressways themselves.

We’ve been hit by a series of sloppy planning rearing ugly heads in dramatic fashion. First the Downtown line, then the DNC registry reversal and to cap the year off, a disappointing sluggish scrum through the MCE. We’re so used to agencies employing quick recovery action and offering Band-Aid solutions that we confuse their responsiveness and nervous engagement with social media for competency. Anyone can patch a leak, but you need some form of higher intelligence to prevent one. LTA fines SMRT or SMS for crappy work. Who fines the LTA then?

The LTA may have believed they built the tunnel equivalent of the Colossus, but what we have seen so far from opening day jitters is a choking Goliath, with so much emphasis on making the expressway wide and sturdy that we ignore its relationships with surrounding infrastructure and forget how to direct traffic. LTA was quick to publish a help guide to drivers confused about the MCE exits, which to a non-driver like me looks like a trigonometry problem sum confusing enough to quit driving altogether. AYE to ECP or CBD? WTF MCE.

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.

Taxi in Bukit Timah condo swimming pool

From ‘How did this taxi end up in Bukit Timah condo swimming pool?’ 10 Nov 2013, Stomp

A taxi ended up in the swimming pool of a Bukit Timah condominium in the early hours of this morning (Nov 10). Stomp contributor Saiful and his friends noticed the cab when they looked out of the window of a condo unit. The reader says it was raining heavily at the time.

…”My friends and I were partying at a friend’s condo at Bukit Timah. “It was raining heavily and we decided to call a cab, but we couldn’t get one. When we looked out of the balcony, we saw a cab below, and later realized it was in the pool.”

“We went down to take a closer look, but didn’t see the driver. It happened at around 3am this morning.”

Cabbie had a rough night

Cabbie had a rough night

According to Ch8′s Instagram page, it was in the Southaven One condo where the uninvited guest took a dip in the pool. Amazingly, this isn’t the first time that a cab got itself submerged in a private residence. In 2004, cabbie Ling Hong Lim drove into the Kentish Lodge pool at Oxford Road, saying that his vision was blurred due to a heavy downpour, and that the pool looked to him like a ‘big puddle’ then. The Southaven incident matches the series of events which happened 9 years ago; heavy rain, condo, late night on a weekend. A wrong turn and before you know it pictures of your sunken cab are splashed all over the news. Thankfully, no one was hurt, not the driver, nor anyone having a midnight tryst in the pool.

No wonder taxi ridership has taken a plunge

Getting a vehicle trapped in a pool is no laughing matter, of course. It’s a loss in revenue, additional repairs incurred and you need to pay a crane to hoist your taxi out for you.

How does one even get a CRANE in there?

But of course that’s not going to stop the jokes from coming in fast and furious. The Asiaone FB page is flush with netizens making fun of the mishap, as if a soaking wet taxi hasn’t already put a serious damper on the driver’s income.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 3

Falling headlong into large bodies of water isn’t the only case of things not going ‘swimmingly’ well for our cabbies recently. A few months ago, one found itself stuck on the stairs in NTU, on the way to the S4 building. Netizens were quick to post memes of the incident, calling it ‘Grand Theft Auto’. I thought that was a step too far. If it were a Mini-Cooper instead of a Comfort cab, I’m sure the driver could have manouevred himself back and up the stairs like it’s the normal thing to do.

Not a set on ‘The Italian Job’

Just last October, a taxi was found straddling a road divider in Tampines. Again, the cabbie was nowhere at the scene, and probably fled in embarrassment. It’s like being found with your foot trapped in the toilet bowl after taking a shit in it.

There’s no escape from this trap. NONE at all

A case of overworked cabbies or bad infrastructure, I wonder.

Later this morning, help was on the way in the form of a tow-truck, hauling the wet cab onto land, where cars are supposed to be. Not sure why they needed a crane years ago when a towline and a topless man could have done the trick. Spot the number of curious bystanders taking a snapshot of this bizarre scene below. The colour composition of this shot is amazing, by the way. The shades of blues capturing perfectly how this driver will feel tomorrow morning.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 4

But just look at the girth of the path leading up to the pool. You could drive a damn BUS right through it! Something needs to be done about the lighting or barricades near condo pools really, before more vehicles get tricked into getting ‘ponded’ and something tragic happens whereby the swimming pool becomes a cold, watery grave not just for the taxi itself, but the driver as well.

Most expensive car in Singapore worth $5.3 million

From ‘Fastest car in Singapore Koenigsegg Agera sold for $5.3 million’, 15 June 2013, article by Fabian Koh, ST

THE fastest and most expensive car in Singapore was unveiled yesterday. The Koenigsegg Agera S hypercar – boasting a 420kmh top speed and a $5.3 million price tag – was revealed to 200 VIPs and guests at a private launch event at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia hotel.

Handcrafted in Sweden, the car, which runs on regular petrol, took around 4,000 hours to produce and and comes with a 1,040 horsepower twin turbo engine. There are only three other Agera S models in the world – one in America, and two in Hong Kong. Its price tag here includes a $100,000 certificate of entitlement.

The model here was bought by Ms Angela Tan, 38, wife of investor Denis Chua, 40.

…The vehicle’s hefty price tag could buy several other supercars. According to the Land Transport Authority, a new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta registered last month cost about $1.47 million. A new Rolls-Royce Ghost EWB cost about $1.19 million while a Lamborghini Aventador had a price tag of $1.27 million.

The last record for most expensive car was held by the $3.6 million Pagini Huayra in 2012, 3 of which were bought by ‘men in their early 50′s with passion for cars’ who own a collection of Lamborghinis. In 2010, it was reported that a $3 million Pagini Zonda F was bought by entrepreneur and famed car-enthusiast Tommie Goh, (excluding the $11,600 annual road tax and $60,000 insurance premium) whose ‘toy collection’ also included a Ferrari Enzo, F50, F40, F512M, as spotted by a traveller in 2011. He also owns the world’s first F1 simulator worth half a million dollars. If you’re that loaded, why not a fancy arcade game that costs as much as a 4-room flat even if you can choose to zip around town in an actual sportscar with wheels?

Multimillion cars have been around for more than two decades, with a $3.2 million Jaguar XJ220 reportedly owned by a member of the Malaysian royalty way back in 1992. It’s nothing less than gratuitous affluence of a very successful minority of relatively young Singaporeans that explains this supercar craze, with sale of ultra-luxury vehicles holding steady even during an economic slump in 2012, and 60 units of Lamborghini Aventadors worth $1.5 million each being SOLD OUT in early 2011. I don’t know much about hypercars or even cars in general, but the Agera S Hundra looks like it’s drabbed in spandex and something you can use to fight crime with. Some may say such cars will be neutered on our congested streets and therefore a waste of money, but that’s not the point if you’re a millionaire car collector. It’s how SCARCE this sexy beast is that matters. Rich people buy hot rare shit all the time and who are we to stop them?

Batmobile Schatmobile

This high-flying need for speed has risks and consequences though, and I’m not sure what the LTA is doing allowing such ultrafast vehicles on our roads. Ma Chi, the China Ferrari driver who killed himself and 2 others, was zooming about in a limited edition Ferrari 599 GTO which could hit top speeds of 335km/h. This Agera S trumps that by nearly 100km/h, and having a lady driver putting her name down for it offers little assurance that nobody will get mowed down by it some day, like when a naughty valet sneaks a joyride while you’re having dinner at RWS, for example. By the way, GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato. If you don’t own a supercar at least you can impress girls with some racecar trivia. Just don’t pronounce omologato like you’re describing gourmet Italian coffee or ice-cream.

These proud Agera owners probably belong to the same League of Super-rich who live in $300 million Nassim Road bungalows and down Jewel of Pangaeas as nightcaps before they sleep everyday. Or they could be living in Hamilton at Scotts.

For a city state that boasts more Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis per capita than ANYWHERE in the world (more than 4000 such supercars registered in 2012), what could be more essential than having your supercar right smack in your APARTMENT instead of in a dusty garage, especially if it’s one of out only THREE in the world? It’s the pinnacle of obscene indulgence, that so many Singaporeans have to struggle to find basic housing and yet here at Hamilton we set aside space in the form of ‘sky-porches’ allocated to some filthy rich tycoon’s Ferrari, a car which he wouldn’t drive around much anyway but use it more as a flashy centrepiece to impress guests as a cocktail party where they can discuss carbon fibre finishes all night long.

Thieves would have trouble stealing your million-dollar baby too, not without first plummeting to their fiery deaths if they intend to drive the damn car straight out of the 10th floor of the Hamilton building like in the Transporter movies.  Wait, you don’t even need to plunge down a building to get burnt to crisp in an expensive sportscar anyway. All I’ve got in my humble abode to show for is a bicycle with flat tires. Not handcrafted either. If I handcrafted a car myself it wouldn’t win top prize at a boxcart race, not to mention fetch 5 million dollars.

‘Look’ signs with eyes painted on zebra crossings

From ‘Look signs get pedestrians to keep an eye out for traffic’, 2 June 2013, article by Charissa Yong, 2 June 2013, Sunday Times

If you see a pair of eyes on the road, do not be alarmed. The new road markings, which spell out the word “look”, come courtesy of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to remind pedestrians at zebra crossings to look out for oncoming vehicles.

Yesterday, the LTA said it will be progressively adding more of the signs at pedestrian crossings, starting with five at Ang Mo Kio Street 43, Jurong West Street 52, Sin Ming Road and Bukit Merah Central – estates with many elderly residents.

The move follows positive public feedback from an initial trial last year.

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 4.46.17 PM

The Zebra Crossing has eyes.

Who says our stat boards don’t have a sense of humour? LTA might as well stick googly eyes on the road if they want to make a cartoon out of the serious business of safe road-crossing. This idea looks like it was inspired by Samantha Lo’s ‘My Grandfather Road‘, and with the resignation of Singa, it seems that we’ve given up on road courtesy altogether and thought it would be better to give specific commands to pedestrians otherwise they’d take oncoming traffic for granted and waltz along a zebra crossing as if they were protected by a force field, as if it were, well, their Grandfather’s Road.

Our authorities have come up with countless measures to alert motorists about not horsing around when it comes to zebra crossings. In 1984, the Public Works Department painted the word ‘ZEBRA’ in Bukit Purmei, while today we use ‘X-ing’ and zigzag markings to denote zebra crossings. We’ve built flashing beacons, speed humps, strips and drawn inverted triangles to bombard drivers with visual reminders to slow down before zebras, yet people still get knocked down. In a shocking video shot in Jan this year, a schoolboy dashing across a zebra crossing near NUH was sent FLYING after a car drove smack into him. Thankfully he didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, though such an event could have been avoided if both parties just ‘looked’ out for each other.

Cue cartoon eyes.

The fact is people shouldn’t just be ‘looking left and right’ only at zebra crossings, whether they’re strollers, drivers or cyclists. Shouldn’t one be attentive ALL THE TIME? Even if you’re crossing a green light wearing body armour?  Hesitant jaywalkers and motorcyclists mowing up and down pavements can strike anytime, really. Even as you educate pedestrians about ‘looking’ etiquette, some may take it too literally and start snapping photos around a zebra crossing instead.

Look. And Snap

Or you could take the instructions too seriously and ‘look’ longer than required, possibly resulting in you dithering about the curb and confusing motorists about your true intentions. Kids may get so attracted to the cute Disney eyes on the road that they pay more attention to the ground than what’s coming at them from the sides. Or you could also spend too much looking left and right that you may get run down from the FRONT by an uncle on a bicycle, which is almost as dangerous as a drunkard on a Segway with a battering ram in front of it.

Look out for dog in basket

Of course, there are nuisance pedestrians who ignore zebra crossings entirely, rendering all the LTA’s efforts decorating our roads with warning symbols as void. Or perhaps they just didn’t notice, what with their eyes glued to their phones and all.

Look. At your phone.

The zebra crossing has infuriated both pedestrians and motorists alike for decades, with each party blaming the other when something nasty happens, like a power/class struggle over a disputed minefield between someone abusing the right to cross vs another abusing the right to drive. When all else fails though, one can always blame mishaps on malign forces. In 2009, Clementi residents blamed a ‘tomb’ for laying an evil curse on a zebra crossing that led right into its path after a boy was tragically run over by a tipper truck. The other favourite for finger-pointing is of course the traffic authority itself, for not installing enough road humps, not deploying more patrol units or not summoning motorists for zipping through zebra crossings like nothing was there. In fact, some drivers may actually take their chances and SPEED UP near a zebra crossing if they see someone slowly walking towards it.

So much for eyes – literally – on the road, when what really matters is that people are properly using those eyes on their HEADS. Sam Lo must be itching to get back to work on the streets. Imagine what you can do with those goofy eyes. Like adding a smiley face to make someone’s day perhaps, at least during their final moments on earth before a mad driver runs them over.

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don't arrest me, Police

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don’t arrest me, Police

Peggy Heng parking at a handicapped lot

From ‘Confessions:Celeb blogger parked at handicap lot deliberately’, 23 March 2013, article in asiaone.com

In a Facebook confession reported by Stomp recently, local blogger and model Peggy Heng talks about parking at a handicapped lot because the rest of the lots had been taken up by illegally parked cars. In an earlier report, the blogger had drawn criticism when she produced a video to promote a dating event. She then gained attention again after undergoing plastic surgery to further her career.

A Stomp reader Kelly saw Peggy’s facebook posting and said:

“Blogger Peggy Heng proudly declared parking at a handicapped lot.”

Here is the full post on Peggy’s facebook page:

“Parking at the handicapped lot at my house carpark now because of too many cars parking illegally here (even when only season parking is allowed for overnight). “I’ve been too kind… As much as I can, I try to refrain from calling the authorities to do something about it. “But these inconsiderate people just gotta go all out and leave me with not even ONE lot around the blocks. “Good luck and happy summon day :)”

Peggy later published a furious ‘clarification’ to explain how she had sought permission by the HDB to park in that ‘stupid handicapped lot’ and that she was entitled to a parking space being a season parking holder. Having returned home at 3 am I’d suppose if you’re desperate for a bath and sleep, an empty slot usually reserved for the disabled is as tantalising as a warm bed. But probably not as irresistible as posting about it on Facebook.

Most people wouldn’t brag about how they scored a handicapped lot. For one, it makes you look like an uncaring swine. Second, even if forced by circumstance to park in a disabled lot (if you see smoke coming out of your house), at the risk of being fined $50 for it, you should have the decency to repark your car the very next morning and keep your fingers crossed that nobody noticed for that short few hours. It’s possible that not a single disabled person in your neighbourhood drives, though you’d still need a mandatory space to allow for that occasional one popping by for a visit.

According to the Code on Accessibility, that’s about 1 disabled spot for every 50 lots. For some, a fine isn’t a sufficient deterrent because rich Mercedes motorists can easily afford it. Some are also known to reuse handicapped labels once they’ve recovered mobility, or create their own fake labels altogether. It may not even be inconsiderate or imposter drivers; you could have rubbish bins or panel railings blocking the area, defeating the purpose of disabled lots in the first place.  It would also be awkward if you’re forced to park your wedding limo in a disabled lot while picking up your bride, only to come back to the sight of someone threatening to smash your windows with crutches. You also wouldn’t want to run into trouble with THIS guy below. Yes, the one with arm tattoos.

How Audi-cious!

Illegal parking aside, the other bane of civility is the abuse of disabled toilets. Statistically speaking, the chance of a disabled person using a toilet is higher than one parking a car. The intrusion into one’s intimate right to relieve oneself is as mean as taking his rightful parking space or priority seat. It’s probably OK to use handicapped loos if you’re about to shit your pants or you need to get changed quickly and the rest of the cubicles are either occupied or choked with stinky floaters. But more often than not disabled, spacious toilets are used more for a different sort of relief (the sexual kind) than that which they’re intended for, yet people get fined for stealing parking spaces, but get off scot-free for doing their dirty business on toilet seats and grab bars other than taking a dump. You may not get fined for sleeping on priority seats, but your reputation may be ruined forever.

Some people, never having to hobble around on one leg in their entire lives, question why the disabled should be given so much love and attention when it comes to toilets. It’s an unsympathetic, economical question to ask, none delivered with more fine cussing than another celebrity blogger, Xiaxue. In a controversial 2005 post about her brother getting blasted by someone in the disabled loo, she asked:

So tell me … our government spent millions of taxpayers’ money to build so many facilities for the physically disabled, and only they are allowed to use it?

Exclusive use would be possible if we didn’t have so many damn people around. We tend to forget that these disabled may not be permanently so; anyone of us would rue the day we hogged such spaces for our own selfish ends when we fracture a femur or suffer blisters on all our toes. Enforcement can only do so much to create the inclusive society that we are so fond of promoting. In a ‘me-first’, overcrowded Singapore that is hooked on automobiles despite an extensive network of public transport, we still have plenty to catch up in terms of graciousness. I believe the disabled and the able-bodied can get along and share public spaces with a little give and take; If I’m wheelchair bound I wouldn’t mow down kids playing on the MRT ramp when they should jolly well use the steps. Likewise, if I’m an able person and someone with their entire head in a cast asks if he could cut my taxi queue, I would gladly oblige. Let’s not argue about entitlements to the point that our infirmed start rigging their wheelchairs with battering rams and flamethrowers shall we.

Nicoll Highway speed camera not transparent to motorists

From ‘Wrong to hide speed cameras from motorists’, 20 Dec 2012, ST Forum

(Emmanuel David): I RECENTLY received a notice from the Traffic Police informing me that my car was caught by a speed camera near lamp post 107 along Nicoll Highway in the direction of Guillemard Road. After revisiting the site several times, I discovered no notices along that stretch of Nicoll Highway notifying motorists of the presence of a speed camera.

There appeared to be a platform for a speed camera near lamp post 107, but no camera was mounted, and the platform was hidden from the view of motorists. I understand that Britain, Australia and many American states, as well as neighbouring Malaysia, have strict laws specifying that the use of speed cameras must be transparent to motorists.

…At a time when there are visibly fewer Traffic Police officers patrolling our roads, and an increasing dependence on speed cameras, it is important that the use of such third-party devices is governed by legislation. Almost all other speed cameras in Singapore would adhere to such a law if it was promulgated, but the one along Nicoll Highway did not when I was driving past it.

Everyone speeds at some point behind the wheel and most get away with it. When we do get caught it’s only natural to be defensive, denying that we exceeded the speed limit or hope that the camera snapped the wrong car or malfunctioned. Those of us who could afford it and know that we broke the law pay other people to take the rap. The rest of us, like the writer here, blame traffic legislation, display some futile worldliness about other nations’ laws and even conduct our own field sleuthing in an attempt to save face, without admitting whether we had in fact been speeding or not. It’s like you got fined for littering and complained to the officer about the lack of warning signs in the vicinity, or better still, for ambushing you from behind a pillar and violating your right to litter freely and not get caught.

Some would argue that instead of reducing accidents, making speed cameras VISIBLE and bright orange would actually wreck havoc on the roads when motorists jam brakes after spotting the box at the last minute. The same could happen to oblivious drivers who fail to pay attention to road signs telling you there’s a speed trap ahead. Yet, all the speed cameras, bush-raiders and signs in the world won’t help if you don’t even know what the speed limit is (up to 70% of road users). Maybe if a certain Ferrari driver had been snooped by hidden speed cameras and deprived of his licence earlier, a horrible accident could have been prevented.

In the 60′s we had human speed detectors in the form of the traffic police instead of ‘third-party devices’, who were believed to be constantly lurking behind trees or bushes stalking their prey, their motorbike wheel or side of helmet sticking our ridiculously behind a trunk. But it’s not just victims behind the wheel getting ‘punked’. You could be caught unawares jaywalking, smoking in a non-smoking area, or jerking off alone in a cinema. And it doesn’t matter if the one exposing you is a mysterious overhanging box, a squealer, someone with an invisible cloak or an undercover cop dressed as the usher. You lucked out, that is all.

Drivers will generally agree that there should be deterrents to road hazards; it’s only when they get their demerit points when they decide to blame the police for sneaky tactics and lament the lack of ‘transparency’. I mean, why not just do away with ‘undercover’ jobs altogether and put CCTV signs EVERYWHERE so that we’ll rid this country of all forms of shady dealings and misdemeanours altogether? Anyone who speeds and risks hurting another being deserves the full penalty of the law, whether you felt that the snare was unfair to you or not. Anyone who complains to the public about traffic injustice without addressing road safety or personal responsibility ALL the more deserves a ticket too.

NS man killed by tree in freak accident

From ‘NSman’s death: Tree was checked in April’, 29 Sept 2012, article by Jalelah Abu Baker and Lim Yan Liang, ST

The site where the fallen tree killed an operationally ready national serviceman (NSman) on Thursday was checked during a routine inspection in April.

The inspection was carried out by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which said in response to The Straits Times’ queries last night that such checks included the pruning of trees on state land in populated areas.

“For forested state land next to populated or high-traffic areas, SLA carries out periodic and cyclical checks of trees, and will prune them when necessary,” said an SLA spokesman.

The spokesman did not say how often these checks were made, and declined to comment when asked what the authority thought had caused the tree to fall, citing ongoing police investigations.

On Thursday, Lance Corporal (NS) Tan Tai Seng, 23, was waiting to enter the military grounds of the Ama Keng Training Area in Lim Chu Kang when the tree fell and pinned him to the ground.

When a tree falls by the roadside and no one is there to see it, who do you point your fingers at? SLA, NParks or GOD? April is a good 6 months since this tree was maintained, and according to NParks’ Tree Management Programme, inspection along ‘major roads or parkland’ is done at least once every 18 months, to check ‘health and stability to ensure that trees are safe and stable under NORMAL weather conditions’. Which suggests that the authorities have little control over ‘healthy’ trees still succumbing to ‘tree failure’ in the event of storms. Of course when someone’s life is at stake, it’s no longer ‘tree failure’ anymore, but a ‘freak accident’. In the Garden City, when the bough breaks, it’s not just the cradle that will fall. Vehicles are a favourite target for killer trees. Other hits include houses, hikers, covered walkways and even the NTU hostel. One death is too many still, no matter how much pruning or hi-tech tree tomography the authorities deploy to keep our 800,000 roadside trees (in 2009) in pristine condition.

In 2000 alone, there were at least 3000 cases of trees falling apart, and NParks maintains that the number has been reduced over the years. So how did SLA suddenly get involved in tree management? Earlier in March, one particular huge tree in Upper Bukit Timah which crushed a couple of cars was reported to be ‘managed’ by SLA (after a clarification by the media that it was wrongly attributed to NParks’ charge) with one of the motorists describing it as more than ‘FLIMSY’. It seems that the work to look after our trees is split between these agencies (though they would call it ‘tapping on mutual resources and expertise’), with SLA taking charge of a tree bank consisting of 11,000 trees in 2008. But even SLA may refer you to someone else if you try to seek damages when a giant tree crashes into your house. In the case of a near-fatal bungalow incident in Seah Im Road in 2008, it was EM Services, a property management company. If a tree falls and hits your car in a HDB carpark, a lawyer may tell you to claim damages against your TOWN COUNCIL, though the latter will tell you to speak to your insurance company. Sometimes, the town council may pin the blame on a ‘horticultural contractor’, and even the URA may be answerable to trees falling in their carparks. Like pesky birds, it seems that we’re facing the same accountability problem with toppling trees, and no one knows if they should call the HDB, NParks, URA, SLA, property agents, insurance companes, third-party contractors, your MP or the Archbishop if something unforseen and terrible happens.

Most of our trees were part of a LKY-led ‘green rage’ to artificially landscape Singapore into a tropical paradise, and instead of just focusing on post-mortem fingerpointing, one should think about the tree’s history too, whether it was indigenous to the area or one of those ‘instant trees’ that was erected in a hurry, like a clumsy prop on a shaky wooden stage. Any attempt to sue NParks, SLA or your town council with negligence in the event that a tree murders a loved one would be countered with the ‘Act of God’ defence, unless you could prove beyond a canopy of a doubt that the authorities have not been diligent in their inspections. But just how efficient are these ‘checks’ anyway? In the recent case of a tree crashing a metal roof of a walkway in Sentosa, it was checked merely 3 WEEKS before the incident, though the inspection was managed by Sentosa’s ‘environment and landscape’ team and there was no mention of any agencies’ involvement. If so, SHOULD NParks have been involved? Or is it a case of ‘your tree, not mine’? Are victims of killer trees condemned to resigning themselves to just ‘bad luck’ and endless rounds of ‘passing the parcel’ over which tree belongs to which agency?

It would be unfair to blame the SAF for not training our soldiers how to defend themselves against uprooted trees, but if history prevails, the likely answer given to the distraught family of the deceased is probably a botanical (fungus infection, bad soil) or a meterological one (bad weather, strong winds). Mother Nature already took the blame for being the mastermind behind our flash floods, and now she’s orchestrating death by trees too.  I think it’s time we have an NParks App that alerts Singaporeans to any tree that is ‘due for inspection’ so that we can watch out for falling branches or whole trees going ‘timber!!’ on us if we’re anywhere near. They could call it Angry Trees or something. It could save a few lives and cost much less than a bunch of overpriced bicycles.

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