Ku De Ta renamed to Ce La Vi

From ‘Ku De Ta is now Ce La Vi’, 4 June 2015, article by Serene Lim, Today

Say goodbye to KU DE TA and hello to CE LA VI.

L Capital Asia, the Asian private equity business sponsored by French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which owns the majority stake in KU DE TA Singapore, announced today (June 4) the creation of its new entertainment brand CE LA VI at Marina Bay Sands’ SkyPark. The name is an abbreviation of the French phrase “C’est la vie,” meaning “This is life”.

…This move comes after the Courts of Appeal ruled last week that KU DE TA in Singapore had to stop using the name, which belonged to the eponymous beachfront club in Bali. It follows a court ruling last December, where it was revealed that Nine Squares, the licensor of the KU DE TA trademark in Singapore, did not own the trademark.

But CE LA VI’s chief executive officer Kirk Martin told TODAY plans for the name change had already been in the works even before last year’s court ruling. “When I came on board in April last year, we had already started raising questions such as ‘Who are we? What does our brand mean? Where do we want to take our business?’” he said. “We wanted to raise it to an international brand level, especially with L Capital investing.”

…“Sure, we could make a deal (with KU DE TA Bali) but we made a decision that the best way forward is to have our own name. To build a global brand, we have to own our own destiny. We’re still young enough to build a new brand platform. We were ready — we just had to accelerate the announcement of CE LA VI.”

No Singaporean I know would use the pompous ‘C’est La Vie’ in ordinary speech. We usually express stoic resignation when shit happens with the Singlish ‘What to do?’, the standard English ‘Life’s like that’ or the slightly vulgar Hokkien ‘Lan Lan’.  Trust the French to dress up an emotion verging on hopelessness with carnival flair. You could be at the end of the rope and instead of writing a suicide note, you just need to say to yourself, with a nonchalant shrug, ‘C’est La Vie’! and next thing you know you’ll be out skipping in the garden sniffing the roses.

‘Ku De Ta’ itself is a bastardisation of the French ‘coup de’tat’, though its clientele are mainly the creme de la creme of high society, the hors d’oeuvres-nibbling nouveau riche, well versed in haute couture with little tolerance for the bourgeoisie, rather than the anarchist agent provocateurs in Les Miserables. Maybe the CLV owners really meant ‘This is THE life’, an expression which looks similar but means something else entirely despite the addition of a single word. It is a phrase people ejaculate when they’re tucking themselves under a duvet made up entirely of 100 dollar bills.

There’s also nothing unique about the new name. We already have a locally registered gift company called C’est La Vie, who’re unlikely to take CLV to task for copyright infringement, though a suit may come the other way round, like how Subway once tried to bully small-time confectionery Subway Niche. Elsewhere in the world we have CLV-themed guest houses, bakeries, farms, talent companies and, strangely enough, cigars.  The only thing missing is a funeral business, one with an accompanying slogan that says ‘Everyone dies. Get over it. C’est La Vie’.

To anyone who has absolute zero knowledge of French lexicon, CE LA VI looks like a really large Roman numeral. It is also an anagram for VICE LA, which sounds the title of an 80’s cop drama with mustaches. It’s like naming a sleazy karaoke bar ‘Do Re Mi’. Pardon my French, but this new name for a club this swish is quite the ‘faux pas’.

Future Music festival banned because of drugs

From ‘Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for permit denied’, 7 March 2015, article in CNA

Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for a permit has not been approved, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (Mar 6).  “The Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore to hold the Future Music Festival Asia 2015 in Singapore,” said MHA in a statement. It said the appeal was received on Mar 3, and the outcome was conveyed to organisers Livescape Singapore on Mar 6.

Livescape Singapore, which has sold about 15,000 of the 20,000 tickets available for the two-day festival, previously submitted applications for a public entertainment licence to the police in January and last month, but was rejected both times. Police cited “serious concerns” over potential drug abuse at the event.

…The festival, which had a three-year run in Kuala Lumpur, has been marred by drug problems. Concert organisers had to put a stop to the event on its third day last year, after six Malaysians died of drug overdose and another 16 people were hospitalised for drug-related reasons.

Several Singaporeans were also hospitalised after a suspected drug overdose. Two were later charged for drug offences in Kuala Lumpur.

In Parliament on Friday, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli said that the Government is “keeping an eye” on music events, over concerns of potential drug abuse at such festivals.

In 1970, Woodstock: THE MOVIE was banned in Singapore. No official reasons were given then, but for a nation that also banned Puff the Magic Dragon, it became clear that the censors deemed Woodstock as not only a vile gathering of unsavoury, promiscuous, slovenly hippie characters who strut around nude, but also as a rock bacchanalia promoting and glamourising drug use.

Then ‘electronic music’ in the form of techno/trance arrived on the scene, and the Ecstasy-fuelled ‘rave party’ was born. Not only was such head-bobbing monotonous music conducive to getting high or stoned, it also served as a mantric, vulgar call to arms for secret society hooligans, as depicted in Royston Tan’s ’15’.

We mananged to keep Zoukout in check though, thanks to an army of security officers, though that didn’t stop people from falling into the sea and drowning, or getting molested. In fact, the risk of getting drunk or groped, whether it’s a rave or a state-sponsored New Year countdown, is higher than you slipping into a psychedelic death trance after popping some fun pills.

Zoukout isn’t all that innocent as we might think. Some folks have called for a total ban on that as well, for promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, spreading STDs and encouraging people to have random sex on the beach. The Zouk management insisted that this was the work of a few black sheep, and we shouldn’t allow such ugly incidents to taint the image of Singapore as THE nightlife destination in all of South East Asia.

Not that drug abuse isn’t already happening anyway. If you can’t drop some ketamine or mephedrone at beach festivals, you can always do it in the clubs, or ‘house parties’, where you don’t have nosy bouncers or undercover cops poking into your business all the time. This isn’t the first time we’ve deemed music a threat to public order and civilization as we know it. We’ve pressed the mute button for Thaipusam festivals, for example.

If it’s not due to knee-jerk ‘serious concerns’ over drug use, we also have zero tolerance towards artistes promoting the ‘gay lifestyle’. In 2005, an Action for Aids charity concert Affect05 was banned because it featured a gay couple as lead singers. Some Christians were aghast that openly gay Adam Lambert was performing in Singapore. Taiwanese veteran Ah Mei was banned from performing ‘Rainbow’ at Gardens by the Bay. It appears that succumbing to toxic hallucinations from Avicii-induced euphoria is just as bad as having the idea drilled into your head that ‘gay is OK’.

Maybe we should ban the Laneway festival as well, for turning our clean and green Singapore into a hideous ‘garbage city‘. Not to mention K-pop boyband concerts, for inducing cult-like behaviour. How about F1 concerts? In 2013, mega superstar Rihanna was allegedly high on weed while lip-synching on stage. Think of the harm this would do to her teenage fans! It’s been a while since we’ve seen the ‘Stomp!’ troupe performing in Singapore. Maybe we secretly banned them because they encouraged people to pick up random trash cans and sticks off the street and raise a ruckus, fooling the police into thinking that a riot is happening. And finally Sentosa New Year countdown parties too, because we don’t want women to get gang-raped in full public view.

What we’ll have left is ‘good clean,  wholesome, drug-free fun’, like Air Supply or Kenny Rogers in concert, where you’ll be exposed to love ballads about the sun and the rain and not think about getting high on marijuana at all.

UPDATE 9 March 2015: FMFAsia is officially cancelled. You could say it won’t be coming our way anymore in the near..future.

Illegal Geylang peddlers pranked by Merlion TV

From ‘Police investigating video pranksters’, 25 Jan 2015, article by Danson Cheong, Sunday Times

A group of pranksters who pretended to be plainclothes officers in order to terrorise illegal cigarette peddlers may have got themselves in trouble with the real police. The pranksters, who call themselves MerlionTV, uploaded a two-minute video on Jan 14 called “Scaring the s*** out of illegal dealers in Red Light District”.

It shows a crew member approaching cigarette peddlers in Geylang and pretending to be an interested customer. But right after, he walks away and pretends to speak into a mouthpiece. In one segment, he is heard saying: “10/20 Romeo, we found a subject, we found a subject.”

Another crew member then lunges from the shadows, and the peddler is then seen running away desperately. The crew members give a short chase before returning to the abandoned cigarettes and showing off the goods.

Three peddlers, all seemingly foreigners, were targeted in the video, which carries a disclaimer saying the crew “did not impersonate any police officers or law enforcement entities”.

Geylang is scheduled for ‘re-zoning’ and a public alcohol consumption ban to free itself from its reputation as a sleazy foreign worker enclave with an undercurrent of ‘lawlessness’. Until then, it’s still open season for syndicates to ply their contraband trade, in this case what the ICA calls ‘duty-unpaid’ cigarettes. Not sure if the Merlion TV team knew that they could be fined $500 for buying the stuff, even if what they pulled off here was part prank, part vigilante sting operation, a fake vice raid that the SMRT Feedback group would surely approve. Though laughs were intended, the video does raise some serious questions about the state of enforcement in the district, like ‘Where the hell were the actual authorities’? and ‘Are these immigrants even legal?’

Impersonating an officer is a serious crime, of course. You could wave your fake badge and swing your fake baton and pressure prostitutes into having discount sex with you. Or you could ‘confiscate’ sex drugs or cough syrup dressed up in fake police paraphernalia bought from Peninsula Shopping Centre. Maybe the real police can check that place out for a change. Imagine all those fraudsters out there wearing tight black shirts with the words ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on them scaring gullible folk into surrendering their ICs, money, phones or even their damned virginity. I may even be forced to give up my queue for Hello Kitty at Mcdonalds if I get approached by one with a fake stern mug.

In a previous ‘Purge’ prank, the guys were stalking innocent bystanders with a weapon and managed to get away scot-free to indulge in more ‘extreme Candid Camera’ silliness. Now, the police are again hot on their tails for creating what could be deemed a ‘public nuisance’, though technically they did not identify themselves as police officers. But this is Geylang, not Bishan Park, and people getting chased all over the place screaming ‘Mata lai liao!’ is the norm. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary ‘fear, alarm of distress’ out of the ordinary here, and if the Police decide to arrest the team for making a mockery out of the profession, you’d expect fans to complain that the cops should be out there rounding up the masterminds behind the illicit street trade instead of locking up some video pranksters with a warped idea of fun.

The fact that foreign workers appear to be exploited here suggests that there’s more to this than just an underground black market trade, probably someone ‘higher up’ is plotting a revenge gang war as we speak. Ironically, the people behind the Purge prank are giving the authorities greater reason to ‘purge’ dirty, chaotic, smutty Geylang once and for all. And since we are imposing a liquor control zone in this hotbed of vice, how about passing a Bill to ban all selling, possession and smoking of cigarettes too? Duty paid or unpaid.

Public consumption of alcohol to be banned after 10.30pm

From ‘Stricter laws on public alcohol consumption proposed’, 19 Jan 2015, article in CNA

The public will not be able to purchase alcohol for take-away or consume alcohol in public places from 10.30pm to 7am daily when liquor control laws proposed in Parliament on Monday (Jan 19) kick in. The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill was introduced on Monday.

The start time of 10.30pm is aligned with the closing time of most businesses in residential areas, and it is the time by which most community events, including getai, end, said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a media statement. The restriction will apply to all public places to avoid displacement of problems from one area to another, MHA said.

People will continue to be allowed to drink at home, at approved events and in licensed establishments such as bars and coffee shops outside of these hours, the MHA said.

Under the proposed law, Little India and Geylang will be designated Liquor Control Zones and come under stricter restrictions on alcohol consumption and retail hours of take-away alcohol, based on the police’s operational assessment. Such zones are where there is significant risk of public disorder associated with excessive drinking.

Under the new restrictions, you can’t bring booze to a BBQ in East Coast Park at night without applying for a ‘liquor consumption permit’. Likewise if you and your significant other intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day with champagne over a moonlit picnic. The punishment for your midnight revelry is a fine of up to $1000, and if you happen to be intoxicated within the Liquor Control Zone, the police have the right to tell you to ‘leave and DISPOSE of your liquor’, failure of which is a 6 months jail-time. All this doesn’t, however, address the problem of drunk-driving, which accumulated over any festive period may cause more deaths, injuries and blocked roads than your occasional Little India Riot, whether you drink in the day or night. You don’t even need a drop of alcohol to trigger disorderly behaviour. SMRT bans ALL forms of drinks on the train but people still fight over priority seats anyway.

To single out Geylang is no surprise, it being called a ‘powder keg’ and all, but this zonal extension is a ominous sign of ‘nanny-creep’, where you may have LCZs being slowly formed elsewhere for our ‘protection’, from Joo Chiat to goddamn Joo Koon.  Tekka hawker centre near Little India has already suffered from the migration of the drunken blight, with police banning beer bottles in the premises. So what’s a midnight outdoor drinker to do? Stock up your fridge, invite your friends over, get pissed drunk, and get into an indoor brawl over cricket. Well, at least it’s not a PUBLIC disgrace- that is until someone gets thrown out of the 8th storey window in the heat of battle.

What about those Robertson Quay teens, who now deprived of their fun beverage, decide to turn to another drug of choice, nicotine, or something more illicit perhaps? They sure as hell ain’t converting to detox juices. Worse, they may even drink MORE than their usual fill before the curfew clock strikes 10.30pm, after which the police won’t just be stalking people holding onto beer cans, but fishing out bodies from the river into which the intoxicated kids plunged to their deaths.

If the Government is serious about the alcohol scourge, they should ban outdoor consumption 24/7, or risk having public buses impeded by suicidal drunks in broad daylight. It seems like the only thing stopping us from banning alcohol altogether is sin taxes. But as if increasing the tax isn’t enough, now you’ll need to pay for a permit to bring a chiller stocked with Tiger beer to a beach party. Might as well make full use of that hard-earned permit by binging and destroying your livers too. Good luck with that, though, if you intend to hold a party for some Bangladeshi guest workers. You may have to pay the authorities extra for the chaperone riot police.

In fact, with the ban in place and you can no longer buy cheap beer from 7/11 in the middle of the night, alcoholics are being nudged towards the ‘licensed retailers’, meaning bars and kopitiams benefit, so hooray for more sin taxes, and if you have to drive just to get your fix, then you’re giving the traffic police, or the Grim Reaper, more work to do. If the objective is the maintenance of public order and safety, then a supplement Bill should be tabled along with the alcohol curbs. How about the banning of picking and throwing of projectiles, lighting fires, or use of makeshift bamboo poles as spears in public? Hell, even walking around with your face glued to your phone is a safety hazard. Why not ban public texting or watching Korean drama videos on phones too?

Ironically, the tagline for Singapore’s own Tiger beer is ‘UnCAGE’, but what we’re creating here, because we don’t trust people to behave responsibly in the presence of alcohol, are depressing cages of sobriety.

Shisha ban affecting the ‘character’ of Arab Street

From ‘Shisha smoking on decline over past 2 years’, article by Amir Hussain, 10 Nov 2014, ST

…Last year, the authorities revoked the outdoor smoking licences of 12 out of 23 shisha cafes in the area for allowing shisha smoking outside designated areas. Under the law, food establishments are allowed to have smoking areas of up to one-fifth of their outdoor refreshment areas. There are now 16 licensed shisha retailers, with the majority in Kampong Glam. This is a far cry from the 49 in 2012.

A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha, which will kick in later this month, will allow existing retailers to sell the tobacco product until July 31, 2016. Noting the gradual decline in shisha providers over the past two years, seven businesses, ranging from carpet shops to an outdoor gear retailer in the Arab Street area, told The Straits Times they were not surprised by the ban announced in Parliament last week.

…But the first shisha retailer in Singapore, Cafe Le Caire’s owner Ameen Talib, said: “The fact is that shisha brought a certain character to the area, led it to be known as an Arabic Quarter and added a certain vibrancy.”

Dr Talib, 52, first received a tobacco retail licence from the Health Sciences Authority in September 2001, two months after opening his restaurant in the then sleepy Arab Street. The former accountancy professor, a third-generation Arab Singaporean, said he wanted to rejuvenate the former Arab Quarter of colonial-era Singapore.

“When you walk around, you need to smell the aroma of kebab, the aroma of shisha. Visually, you need to see people sitting on the road relaxed, smoking shisha. You get the feeling you are in the Middle East. And you need to hear Arabic music as you walk down the road,” he said.

In 2004, 3 years after Dr Talib first introduced Singaporeans to shisha, or ‘sheeshah’, he called Arab Street the ‘only bohemian village in town’, where one can have ‘nice, CLEAN fun’ without alcohol. A shisha contraption, of course, other than having a pipe that you stick in your mouth and trade saliva with others, is far from ‘clean’, despite the use of a bubbling water vessel that gives the illusion of ‘purification’. Before MOH resorted to a total ban, HPB had to rely on public education i.e scare tactics to warn users that shisha wasn’t just another form of social smoking. Unlike a standard cigarette, you risk contracting not just lung cancer, but Tuberculosis and HERPES. It’s like putting an ornamented pubic toilet brush in your mouth and sucking on it for hours. Yes, don’t let that cute Ninja Girl blowing a dildo-shaped watermelon shisha fool you. That thing is a biohazard.

The same shisha-pushing professor also called for a blanket ban of alcohol throughout the area back in 2012, in order to preserve the ‘core and heritage’ of Kampong Glam, the same shisha-centric ‘character’ that he pioneered back in 2001. There was no shisha before Talib opened the floodgates, but it doesn’t mean that Arab Street, with its carpets, textile, spice shops, tomb-makers, didn’t have any less of its Islamic ‘charm’ then, even if it didn’t immediately transport visitors to the bustling smoky, dusty bazaars of Baghdad sans camels and belly-dancing slave girls. In fact, some shop owners in the area even agreed that shisha was a relatively new trend, and was NEVER connected to Kampong Glam’s identity and history. Maybe the Sultan and his royal family imported them secretly from the Middle East back in the 19th century, but it was never a feature of the ‘kampung’ vibe on the streets.

So what’s Talib’s cafe going to do now that it doesn’t sell alcohol and recently had its shisha licence revoked for flouting outdoor smoking regulations? How about some nice, clean, live screenings of football over authentic Samovar tea then? The total ban may be a little extreme, given that cigarettes are spared because they have become ‘entrenched’ according to MOH spokesmen (and also taxable), but to say that banning shisha will make the ‘Arab Quarter’ lose its ‘character’, ‘vibrancy’ or ‘heritage’ is a pitiless excuse for the real reason; Fear of business going up in smoke. Ban prostitution and you’ll have pimps complaining that, like losing shisha, it’ll deprive Geylang of its ‘character’ and ‘colour’ as well.

Zouk an institution that needs saving

From ‘Zouk may shut by year end’ 18 June 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The founder of Zouk, Mr Lincoln Cheng, says he is tired of getting short lease extensions for the popular dance club’s Jiak Kim Street site. If he does not get a three-year extension he is now requesting, he will close the 23-year-old iconic nightspot for good by the end of this year.

…When the club first opened in 1991, the land around it was largely vacant. But today, the club – which is situated within three recently conserved riverside warehouses – is dwarfed by neighbouring condominiums and hotels. It was no surprise, therefore, when questions about the fate of Zouk started making the rounds in 2012.

…When told of the news, celebrity presenter and Zouk regular Najip Ali said he was shocked. “When Zouk opened, it was ahead of its time. In the 1990s, Zouk put a stamp on the kind of nightlife that didn’t exist.” It was where he learnt about music and deejays. “Zouk has been and is still an institution,” he said.

Development plans aside, it was MP Indranee Rajah (“If Zouk was not there, then it is unlikely the youth would congregate there.”) who indirectly blamed the rise in drunken rowdiness in the Robertson Quay area on the dance ‘institution’. Since complaints by residents, the Government has been mooting the idea of a ‘no-alcohol’ zone so that babies from nearby condos can sleep at night. If Zouk were an ‘institution’, then its graduates are Masters in Inebriation. No riot has broken out on Jiak Kim Street so far, though there may soon be a protest or two. Like the SaveZouk campaign for example. I wonder what colour these guys will be wearing. Maybe neon rainbow.

I’ve been to the club myself a few times, and back in those days it was a hedonistic eye-opener seeing people gyrating on raised platforms, revellers decked out in the wildest accessories, meeting gays, transgenders and Najip Ali, sweating and grinding to guest DJs spinning revolutionary dance tracks that no other disco at the time were keen to play. In the 90’s, Zouk WAS Clubbing, a place that has become synonymous with a street with the unlikeliest of names in ‘Jiak Kim’. You didn’t need to give taxi drivers directions or addresses. You just had to say ‘Zouk’, and he’d give you that knowing wink and a nod, sometimes breaking out into small talk about how ‘happening’ you are. Then again, it’s also the same place that revived Rick Astley’s popularity, thanks to Mambo Jumbo Nights, a phenomenon that has even been exported out for the 2012 Singapore Day in New York.

For 23 years, Singaporean merrymakers have stayed faithful to the icon of glam, the ‘queen’ of clubs, despite intrusions by global players like Ministry of Sound and Supperclub, which all bowed out of the scene entirely while Zouk continued to attract 24 hour party people, even till now, except to the wrath of condo owners, who obviously didn’t have a clue about what Zouk was about when they decided to move in right next to it. In the spirit of MP Indranee’s argument: If the condos were not there, there would be no one to complain about noise, piss and vomit. And we probably would have let the kids drink themselves to death or fall off the bridge and drown or something.

Here are some facts every Singaporean should know about our homegrown premier club:

1. Zouk means ‘village party’ in French Caribbean, and was refurnished out of 3 abandoned riverside godowns. The logo was inspired by Arabic script and is a mixture of the ‘sun, all-seeing eye and the sea’. Zouk’s address is 17 Jiak Kim Street, though no one knows what happened to the other 16 numbers.

2. Founder Lincoln Cheng is an architect by training. In 1995 he was charged for bringing in 376 diazepam tablets and having possession of 125 Upjohn tablets, 4 Playboy magazines and some porno tapes, all part of a high profile drug bust which forced the club to close temporarily.

3. Tan Jiak Kim was a fifth generation Baba merchant who formed the Straits Steamship Company in 1890 with a few other rich businessmen, in addition to sterling work among the Chinese community and setting up a medical college. He would have qualified for the Pioneer package. Most of us would have never heard of him if not for Zouk. Thankfully, there’s also a nearby bridge named after the man, a bridge that the very same drunk kids are puking and dumping trash on.

4. In 1993, a brewery bar named ORANG UTAN opened in the Zouk complex. No it wasn’t a place where you could pet Ah Meng for free over beer and grub like what you do in a cat cafe. Though that just MIGHT work elsewhere.

5. A ‘Healthy Lifestyle Party‘ without cigarettes and booze was held for 1000 SAF personnel in 1992. As fun as your Grandaunt’s birthday bash, I reckon. The words ‘healthy’ and ‘party’ belong together like ‘innocent’ and ‘sex’. I hope there was at least Hokkien techno.

6. ‘Zoukette’ is what you call a fashionable female club regular. It was also the name of one of the more popular IRC channels in Singapore. Yes, Zouk has outlived even IRC, ICQ and Windows Messenger.

7. The PAP celebrated its 50th anniversary there in 2004, an event that most true-blue Zoukers and Zoukettes would rather forget. Amongst those boogieing the night away then was PM Lee himself, Lim Swee Say, and a certain Indranee Rajah, the same MP who thinks Zouk turns our kids into raving alcoholics. Look, here’s proof!

Party people in the house, y'all.

Party people in the house, y’all.

Wait, that means 2014 is the 60th year of PAP’s reign. How about a farewell All-White Zouk party again this year, for the club to go out with an unforgettable BANG?. After all, who WOULDN’T want to see our ministers dancing?Not sure if invitations will be extended to Ms Indranee though.

8. Zouk is likely to have played host to a more diverse range of international stars than any other stadium or concert hall in Singapore. From 80’s synth-pop band Erasure to techno/trance maestros, Kylie Minogue to K-pop girl groups, even a crooning Tony Leung.

9. In 2007, Zouk was where you could watch girls in skimpy attire wrestle one another in spaghetti sauce. 3 years later, the club organised an event called ‘Baby Loves Disco’, where hip parents could bring their babies for an afternoon party, some as young as 2 MONTHS. It looked like the beginning of a slow demise, less an ‘institution’ than a free-for-all venue for any event under the sun.

10. In 2008, it was reported that Zouk hired 70 security officers and had 100 surveillance cameras installed. What would become of these bouncers once Zouk is gone? Maybe protecting our ministers when they queue for chicken wings, perhaps?

So those were the days, my friend, we’d thought they’d never end. Thanks for the memories, Zouk. The puke on the sidewalk, the awesome live DJ gigs, the vodka-Ribena, the silly dancing, for being the only place in town where you could impress the girl of your dreams with cheesy 80’s moves. Unlike high-end exclusive clubs like Ku De Ta, Zouk welcomed mopey teens, the fuddy-duddies, the geeks and the wannabes with open arms. You did well to put us on the map of ‘cool’ and convince the world that Singapore was not THAT boring after all, but like all good parties, this 23-year-long one must come to an end. Good night, and Zouk Out.

Clubhouse for maids a space to call their own

From ‘Clubhouse for maids a good move, but charity leader’s remarks irksome’, 17 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Mannat Johal):…I am heartened to read about the clubhouse, which will provide facilities such as a computer lab and library, as well as various courses, for only S$4 a year. This will greatly benefit domestic helpers and make their experience working in Singapore a lot better. They will have something to look forward to each week, knowing that they can enhance their skills and spend time fruitfully at the clubhouse.

What irked me, though, was the statement by the President of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). He said: “We want (the workers) to go to a place where they can be among themselves, where they will not be disturbing the owners of the building or residents of the area.”

This gives the impression that domestic helpers generally cause owners and residents annoyance by simply patronising places such as tourist attractions. No such problems are said to exist when Singaporeans and tourists patronise these areas. Are domestic helpers that different? Should they not be allowed to enjoy these areas as we do? Are they that much of a nuisance compared with tourists, who are possibly more unfamiliar with Singaporean culture and etiquette?

Also, why does FAST want domestic helpers to be among themselves? Singapore is a multiracial society where harmony between people of different races, religions and backgrounds is a significant feature.

In 2001, Sri Lankan maid Sanda Perumal, along with her employer Angie Monksfield were given the boot out of Singapore Cricket Club because having maids in the premises was against internal club policy. As recently as 2011, some condos were still banning maids from using swimming pools.  Having a clubhouse just for maids would seem like an apologetic gesture for years of discrimination bordering on colonialism, a place where FDWs may benefit from the enrichment activities that such centres can offer rather than doing wild stuff like turning a stretch of Orchard Road into a street party . The other unspoken purpose here is to keep foreign workers out of sight, out of trouble, though you can’t stop them from murdering their rich employers. It’s like how people are uncomfortable with having workers’ dorms just down the road, treating the living quarters of others like a concentration or leprosy camp. The next question then: What about having a club for workers from Little India? One which holds a masterclass on anger management perhaps? A place where they can bond over some Darjeeling tea instead of Tiger beer?

Ethnic enclaves form all over the world as part of natural urban progression, and some even serve as tourist attractions, classic examples being Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. What FAST is concerned with here is gatherings of FDWs disrupting business, but one can think of some iconic commercial spaces that may have benefited instead from foreign workers milling about, never mind the occasional drunken brawl, sleaze or spontaneous mass dancing.

1) Lucky Plaza

Though initially viewed as an ‘image’ problem, Lucky Plaza remains till this day Orchard Road’s premier maid hangout, and some businesses have learned to adapt to capitalise on the loyal throngs, from fast food chains like Jollibee to IDD sellers and remittance. It’s also the first place I would think of if I have a sudden craving for Pinoy fare like sisig and pata.

2) Golden Mile Complex

Earning its title as ‘Little Thailand’, Golden Mile is renown as a foodie destination if you’re looking for authentic, homely cuisine. Some Thais refer to the Beach Road complex as their ‘second home’. Locals looking for some alternative entertainment to Bangkok barhopping can boogie all night long at places like ‘Pure Thai Disco’.

3) Peninsula Plaza

A lesser known enclave, this place is our very own ‘Little Myanmar’. Not all’s rosy in terms of local business though, with some lamenting that Peninsula has turned from a ‘classy mall’ into a ‘Myanmar market’. It has also become a collection centre for Cyclone Nargis donations and a place to congregate and discuss politics. In my youth, it was a place to get rare records and band merchandise. Yes, those were the days when it was cool to wear a cap with your favourite band’s logo on it. Backwards.

4) City Plaza and Joo Chiat

The newest enclave on the block, City Plaza is turning out to be ‘Little Indonesia’, and would have been a ghost town if not for maids flocking there on weekends. For obvious reasons, it attracts Bangladeshi workers too. Joo Chiat, with its string of bars and restaurants, is close to becoming ‘Little Vietnam’. Now you know where to go if you’re in the mood for pho or Ayam Penyet. Or some intimate Vietnamese hospitality, if you know what I mean.

So, with or without these club facilities, our FDWs already have a place to mingle (sometimes with other foreign nationalities) and be seen, even if it means moonlighting on the fly or simply fooling around. The fact that places like Lucky Plaza and Golden Mile have hardly changed at all means that the authorities are silently aware of their social (and economic) significance.  It is, however, unrealistic to expect migrant workers to integrate with Singaporeans on weekends, when they already spend almost their entire working lives dealing with us. In some situations, in fact, we’d rather they leave us the hell alone.

Let’s not forget the many other ‘enclaves’ and invisible boundaries that we draw around us every single day. Christians have their mega-churches, Muslims their mosques. Billionaires have their fancy clubs, golf courses, Iggy’s and Nassim Road. Women have Ladies’ Night and entire shopping mall levels dedicated to them. Hipsters have arty-farty cafes, expats Robertson Quay, and even seniors have ‘retirement villages’. What’s the big deal about a clubhouse for maids?

We’re a motley nation, not an orientation camp where everybody sits around the campfire singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, and by all means let FDWs have places to ‘call their own’ as long as they abide by our laws and don’t have mass orgies in public. A artificial enclosure like a clubhouse may be a place for maids to be ‘among themselves’, but without the flavours of home and the calming familiarity that Lucky Plaza brings, it’s unlikely to be a place to ‘belong’.

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