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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Schizophrenic NSman slapped with 14 extras before suicide jump

From ‘Coroner rules out foul play in NSF’s death’, 12 April 2014, article in CNA

A Coroner’s report has ruled out foul play in the death of a 22-year-old man who was serving national service last year. Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Pte Ganesh Pillay – who has schizophrenia – was found dead at the foot of his condominium in Sengkang last July.

His father has raised concerns over how the army deals with soldiers with mental conditions. The Coroner’s Court heard that Pte Ganesh’s supervisor did not know the full extent – and effects – of schizophrenia.

…Pte Ganesh was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18. But his father said his son’s condition had stabilised with medication. He said: “When the army told him that he cannot be exempted, but he will be downgraded to PES E, I was rest assured that the army will take care of him. I trusted the army.

“In fact, I trusted that much to the very last day. I still have that trust, until the time he died, then I start to figure out what went wrong.” On the day Pte Ganesh died, he was unwell and had returned home from camp.

His supervisor — Captain Jessie Goh — had earlier issued Pte Ganesh with 14 extra duties as punishment for, among other things, unsatisfactory work and improper bearing. Mr Reganathan said Captain Goh seemed oblivious to his son’s condition.

In a similar suicide case in 1979, Cpl Tan Cheng Eyong leapt to his death 2 days after consultation with a camp psychiatrist. He had obsessive-compulsive neurosis and ‘reactive depression’, a disorder reportedly triggered by his O Level exams.  A 1987 report on the incidence of mental illness among NSmen revealed that between 400 and 500 required psychiatric help each year, of which 10 to 15% suffered from schizophrenia, 30-35% with ‘stress related conditions’ and the rest from ‘depression, anxiety, HOMOSEXUALITY and various other NEUROSES’.   What was less reported in the 80′s was the phenomenon known as ‘possession-trance’, (40 cases referred to Woodbridge from 1979 to 1981) where the authors of a study published in 1986 discussed the effect of a stressful life event like NS on this ‘hysterical dissociation’. I would expect the rates of mental illness to be higher today, though it’s unlikely that there are any official statistics on this matter. Most boys escape NS unscathed of course, but some, like Ganesh, may have flown way over the cuckoo’s nest.

Ex military psychiatrist and colonel Ang Yong Guan identified schizophrenia as the MOST COMMON psychotic illness among NSmen, with only a minority of those diagnosed able to qualify to work in non-combat positions provided their disease was under control. 19 year old Julius Chan, today a peer specialist dealing with mental patients, wanted to pursue priesthood and avoid NS. He ‘prayed a lot, asking God to take away this time’ for him, went too far, suffered a schizoid breakdown and was eventually exempted from conscription. The most well known case of an NSman going berserk is Dave Teo, who went AWOL with a SAR21 rifle and ammo after his girlfriend broke up with him and eventually jailed for 9 years. He was suffering from behavioral problems including suicidal thoughts and depression, and also ‘began to HEAR VOICES of people who were not there’, aural hallucinations being one of the signs of schizophrenia. Thankfully, no one was massacred in Orchard Road where Dave was caught.

Then there are the other neurological diseases. Jonathan Lim Chong Ping, who drowned in the Singapore River over Christmas in 2013, had sought treatment for ‘adjustment disorder’ while serving NS.  Harmoko Julianus, 22, was suffering a relapse of bipolar disorder when he made a bomb hoax at the British embassy and only exempted from NS after the incident. Maybe the best management of mental disorders in young men is not helplines or risperidone, but a PES F status, whereby you’re medically unfit for any kind of service altogether.

Andy Ho of ST believes that NS, which takes the schizophrenic away from his family, stigmatises and punishes him for symptoms of his illness, should be exempted altogether (Exempt these young men from NS, 13 April 2014, Sunday Times). In any case, is clerical work so important that we need to desperately fill these vocations with boys with mental illness if we have to? What’s the value of fulfilling NS obligations for the sake of it if they don’t do anything productive or in Ganesh’s case, make things worse?

It is not clear when exactly an 18 year old Ganesh became schizophrenic, but only a study examining the onset of schizophrenia among Singaporean men will provide some insight as to whether the regimental rigours of NS has anything to do with aggravating the disease, adjusting for other factors such as family history. Any researcher, however, would be MAD to even propose such a hypothesis for a complex disorder, one that happens to manifest around the same time as NS enlistment. Also, we don’t have a base of non-enlisted men to compare to since NS is mandatory. A 1968 study by Steinberg and Durrell, however, showed a striking increase in admissions for schizophrenia among men joining the US Army, especially within the first month. Those include men who WILLINGLY signed up for war.

What’s unacceptable here is that for such a prevalent mental disorder among NSmen, someone of the rank of Captain would have totally no clue about what schizophrenia means. It doesn’t help that society also often downplays the term ‘schizophrenic’ as reference to anything that’s ‘unpredictable’ or mixes it up with ‘multiple/split personality’. Singapore’s Urbanism has been described as ‘schizophrenic’, and artist David Chan calls his exhibition about humans with animal heads ‘Hybrid Society: Schizophrenia‘.  It has also been misused to describe spouses, friends or bosses who are ‘extremely temperamental’. To an uninformed layperson like Jessie Goh, a ‘schizo’ attack may not be any more severe than someone throwing a really bad tantrum.

One of the extras dished out to Ganesh was for ‘failure to sign a logbook’. To lash out 14 extras on a human being, schizophrenic or not, is also a sign of mental disturbance, that of a sadistic psychopath. And there are probably more of these in the military than people hearing voices and thinking of killing themselves. The commando head dunker, the dog abuser, or the encik who insults your mother. Maybe all these nuts should get their heads checked as well.

Air steward sueing SIA after luggage fell on his neck

From ‘Air steward sues SIA’, claiming cabin bag fell and injured him’, 9 April 2014, article by Selina Lum, ST

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000. But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India. That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve. Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

To my surprise, someone has been successful in a suit against SIA for deadly falling luggage before. In March 2004, the High Court awarded $600,000 in compensation to Dr Euan Murugasu after he was attacked by a falling suitcase, leaving him with headaches, double vision and costing him his job as an ENT surgeon. In 2007, traveller Mark David Ryan, vice president of DBS bank, claimed SPINAL CORD INJURY after getting hit on the head by a bag containing a DSLR camera, an accident which he believed was the cabin crew’s fault. It appears that issuing helmets could save the airlines more money than safety belts. Nobody’s going to sue NParks for negligence if a tree branch falls on their face.

Killer baggage aside, even the food that SIA serves could hurt you. A British passenger in 2000 once tried to sue the airlines for serving PINEAPPLE juice with shards of glass inside, each as big as ‘five carat diamonds‘. Turns out that Stephen Golding falsified a radiographer’s report, and SIA proceed to counter-sue him for fraud. In 1993, a NZ woman took legal action against SIA after she had hot COFFEE spilled on her (New Zealand woman takes SIA to court over coffee spill, 1 Nov 1993, ST). A year before that, a similar incident happened at a US McDonalds’ outlet, where an elderly lady was awarded 2.9 million after sustaining third degree burns from the piping hot beverage.

But what about cabin crew themselves seeking claims from their own employer over inflight injuries? In another heavy-luggage related 2011 incident, stewardess Li Na wasn’t satisfied with a $250,000 payout after she suffered a back injury, seeking further compensation from SIA when it was in fact a passenger who knocked into her while she was lifting luggage in the first place.  In 2007, steward S Manikam blamed SIA for failing to order the crew to cease breakfast service during turbulence, resulting in him falling against an armrest, eventually developing REFLEX SYMPATHETHIC DYSTROPHY. SIA countered that he should have known better. Sometimes even part of your uniform can physically maim you, as what happened to an ex-stewardess who in 2002 sued SIA for sandals that gave her ‘foot problems’ (Ex stewardess sues SIA over ‘problem sandals’, 23 Jan 2002, ST). Not only are those an eyesore to some travellers, but serve as ancient Chinese foot binders cum torture devices as well.

You’re liable to head-to-toe injury risk if you work on a SIA plane, and given the hazards on board, turbulence and passengers included, this hardly comes as a surprise. Falling luggage, however, presents a complex whoddunit. Is it SIA’s fault if passengers carry dumbells in their bags, overload the overhead compartments, or do not position their stuff properly? Should cabin crew be trained to detect when a bag compartment is beyond its tipping point and be drilled in Baggage Dodging? If you could pay half a million to a passenger when a bag falls on him out of no reason at all, shouldn’t your own staff be entitled the same?

Here’s a tip for any claim nonetheless, whether you’re hit by a trolley bag, scalded by coffee or tea or have your feet run over by a meal servicecart: Don’t just settle for ‘neck injury’ or ‘nerve damage’. Do your research. The longer and more convoluted-sounding your illness is, the scarier the prognosis, the better your chances of winning a suit.

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000.

But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India.

That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve.

Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/courts-crime/story/air-steward-sues-sia-claiming-cabin-bag-fell-and-injured-him-20140#sthash.U9wl1n29.dpuf

DJ Chris Ho calling for ‘fckn’ Singaporeans to be killed

From ‘Radio DJ apologises for Facebook post’, 5 April 2014, article by Walter Sim, ST

A MEDIACORP Lush 99.5FM DJ apologised yesterday for a controversial Facebook post in which he called for Singaporeans to be killed. Mr Chris Ho commented on an army recruitment advertisement on the social media platform on Thursday.

The campaign, launched last December, bears the slogan: “How far would you go to protect our home?” The Singaporean wrote in response: “How far…? Let’s see… I’m with you foreigners! Kill the **** Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”

His comment caused fury among netizens and was reposted on citizen journalism portal Stomp. Contributor Tee Seng said: “What kind of joke is this? If he hates Singaporeans so much, why is he still here? I used to be a fan of his but he has gone too far.”

Mr Ho told The Straits Times yesterday he was surprised by the response. “It is such a far-fetched statement that I’m shocked that Singaporeans are taking it so seriously,” he said, adding that the “satirical” message was meant to mock the campaign slogan. “Hello, Singaporeans, you mean you need people to give you a wake-up call to defend the country?” he asked.

“Why should the question be put forth as such? Singaporeans who love the country would know what to do.” He said he wanted to allude to the rising levels of anti-foreigner sentiment here. The ex-Straits Times rock columnist added: “I think Singaporeans are looking for a new Anton Casey… I’m not advocating genocide.”

How far? Too far for some, apparently

How far? Gone too far for some, apparently

It took me a while to ‘get’ the humour behind Chris Ho’s jibe at the SAF ad, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks he’s ‘too cheem’ for me. It’s also hard to tell when he’s sarcastic or furious when he and New Nation bickered online over the post where the latter made fun of Chris ‘falling’ for a satire piece about ‘Man dying in a protest against foreigners‘ (which wasn’t even very funny to begin with). I don’t know what experts on wit think of either example of this ‘satire’, but in my book, satire should have universal appeal, is spontaneous, and actually funny to someone other than the creator. Or maybe it’s just me.

As for the ad, I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone ‘how far would you go’ to defend the nation, even if any response other than ‘I’ll fight to the death’ will be deemed unacceptable. It’s like asking ‘Will you die for Singapore?’, or ‘How much would you give to society?’, a pedantic rhetorical device to remind you of your duty, where an actual answer isn’t expected because we don’t want to hear the ugly truth.  But there’s a double meaning here too if you interpret ‘how far’ in terms of literal DISTANCE, which is more likely to be the case here, looking at the mountains in the background. It sounds sensible at first, referring to overseas stints from Brunei to Afghanistan to get you all geared up for military operations, but if you think about it, the further away you are, the SLOWER you are in coming back in the event of a real ATTACK back home. Either way, the slogan is bound to get criticised, and Chris, or X’Ho, is no stranger when it comes to controversy or criticising his home country.

Dj-ing for Lush aside, Chris is a local music icon who in the early 80′s performed as frontman for Zircon Lounge and is today revered as the counter-cultural antithesis to more ‘wholesome’ ambassadors like Dick Lee.  He also dabbles in ‘spoken word’ album territory, and from his 1999 album ‘X’ with an X’ came a track called ‘Singapore is Not My Country‘, his take on Alfian Bin Saat’s ‘ode’ to the nation (the full transcript here). In the 2000′s, Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz was formed. The album ‘Follywood’ features the track ‘Mouthless Fish‘ about people ‘barely breathing to make ends meet’, with BigO magazine rating it as the ‘most fucking punk rock album we have ever’. Check out this ‘punk rock’ album cover!

Majulah SingaPawnStarz

The ‘shock jock’ has even been filmed getting his PENIS tattooed. In THAI. A Today review of 2008′s Baphomet Sacrum describes him as ‘Singapore’s unfavourite son’.  Anyone unfamiliar with ‘dark wave’ or goth would think track titles such as ‘Satan’s Blood’ and ‘Her Soul’s Demise’ off the Lucifugous collaboration album were devotional hymns of the occult.  ‘No Ordinary Country’ has the refrain ‘Majulah Fearless Supremacy’ and its album cover has lightning logos on it. There’s even a song about the Blogfather himself called ‘Excuse Me Mr Brown’, where Chris calls Brown the ‘next Talking Cock big time’. ‘Talking cock’ being, well, the lingua franca of social media most of the time anyway.

So the first question that came to mind was: What did this multi-hyphenate (author, singer, DJ, film director) celebrity, being Singaporean and all, actually DO IN NS? According to a 2006 Interview with Today, he said he ‘has done everything he could think of to get into the Singapore Armed Forces MUSIC AND DRAMA Company’, and eventually spent 2 years as an actor after BMT. Like, who wouldn’t right? How far then would you go, Chris Ho, to protect this country that you love-hate so much? A question that wasn’t addressed in his FB apology, or maybe it was hidden somewhere so deep and lost in ‘satire’ that I couldn’t detect it with my radar for low-brow fart jokes and all.

There was a time when the man actually made seriously good pop music, without the Singapore-bashing and ‘satire’ getting in the way. Unlike his current ‘uneasy listening’ work, ‘Deeper’ (1992) is heartfelt and uncharacteristically melodious, and no surprise that this came before the ‘Punk Monk Hunk’ days, where spiritual awakenings mean getting your genitals pricked and scarred in the name of art. Pubic hair snipping? Amateur!

Which suggests that Chris is capable for much more than just ranting against the Government or NS, or participating in the Berlin Porn Festival. It would be nice to see that good ol’ innocent side of him once more.

Drunk man arrested for kicking a bus in Serangoon Road

From ‘Man who kicked bus at Serangoon Road arrested’, 31 March 2014, article in CNA

Police arrested a 51-year-old man on Saturday after he tried to stop a bus and kicked it when the bus driver could not let him board. The video of the incident went viral after being uploaded online. Bus operator SBS Transit said that on March 29 at about 6pm, a Service 65 bus heading towards Tampines had pulled out of a bus stop in front of an Indian temple along Serangoon Road when a man rushed across the road from the right.

The man stood in front of the bus, obstructed its path and demanded to be allowed on board, despite the fact that the bus was no longer at the bus stop. According to SBS Transit, the bus was in fact already on the second lane of the road.

When the man’s request was refused, he proceeded to hit and kick the bus exterior and damaged the left rear mirror and the front wiper of the bus. Meanwhile, the bus captain called the Operations Control Centre, which then contacted the police for assistance.

A passer-by also came forward to assist by advising the man to get back on the pavement. The SBS Transit spokesperson added that as a result of the incident, the trip had to be disrupted for the 45 passengers on board. The man was subsequently taken away by police to assist with investigations. (According to ST, they ‘understand that the man was drunk’)

The video is pure entertainment and uniquely Singaporean from start to finish, with action, comedy and drama all rolled in one. Here are some of the best bits, with dialogue unsurpassed by anything Jack Neo’s Singlish script generator can muster.

0.25: ‘Eh brudder, brudder, don’t open lerh, I scared lerh’

0.28: ‘L*nj*ao la!’

1.25: THIS gesture

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1.39: Drunk:OPEN!

          Driver: CANNOT! (LOL)

1.45: ‘Wah, Spiderman huh’?

1.49: ‘He’s marbuk (drunk) ah? Marbuk already’.

1.55: Drunk man swings on a windscreen wiper.

http___makeagif.com__media_3-31-2014_UsjGXR

2.11: An Indian man steps in and takes a shove calmly, with a van passing close by. Thankfully, this being Little India, only 1 other man gets involved, though there were many bystanders watching the scene unfold.

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2.37: This holy man on the extreme left, presumably from the temple nearby.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 6.37.16 PM

2.53: Indian hero saves the guy from being knocked down by a passing car. Even helps him up.

2.57: ‘Sibei Siao eh’

3.04: ‘His leg kena, his leg kena.’

Hilarity aside, the bus driver did the right thing not to be intimidated and allow the nuisance in, and luckily the man wasn’t strong enough to smash the glass door in, as a Chinese national did last year. Incidentally, that also happened around Little India, which has already been identified as a ‘powder keg’ ready to explode. Here’s what could happen if you’re drunk and on a bus:

If you’re drunk anywhere near a bus stop, you could fall asleep on the bus bay, get run over and killed instantly. Or you could lose your balance and fall before a bus, like what happened to trigger the Little India Riot last year. That’s not including he numerous DUI accidents and deaths as a result of intoxication.  All this despite recent curbs in alcohol licensing and tax increases, from a country that has banned adultery sites and chewing gum. It looks like alcohol and all its consequences, the laughable and fatal ones, are here to stay.

It’s a shame that this incident took place just days before the roll out of the enhanced security measures from the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act. If it had occurred on April 1st (POATA implementation date), we’d have more to chuckle about, that being April Fools’ and all.

 

‘Little Chinatown’ Geylang is a potential powder keg

From ‘Step up safety in Geylang, say MPs, grassroots leaders’, 30 March 2014, article by Amelia Tan, Sunday Times

Geylang Members of Parliament and grassroots leaders want more done to keep the area safe, and say the measures should go beyond ramping up police patrols. Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong wants fewer alcohol licences issued, stricter operating hours for businesses near residential estates, and a stop to foreign worker dormitories sprouting near Housing Board flats.

…Geylang has come under fresh focus after Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said last Tuesday that he was more worried about the area than Little India, where a riot involving foreign workers took place last December. Testifying at the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot, he said crime rates in Geylang were disproportionately high and hostility towards the police rife.

Mr Tong told The Sunday Times that the red-light district, with its many bars and lounges, peddlers selling contraband cigarettes and drugs, as well as shops and vendors which stay open late into the night make Geylang more of a potential trouble spot than Little India and increase the risk of violent crime.

…He also highlighted the predicament of those living in Blocks 38 and 39 Upper Boon Keng Road, off Lorong 3 Geylang. The HDB flats are beside a row of terraced houses which have been converted into dormitories for workers from South Asian countries.

Many of the workers drink alcohol at the void decks of the blocks late into the night and some urinate at the playgrounds. Mr Tong said the problems have not been solved despite his asking police to increase their patrols. He said: “I think the solution is to stop the houses from being used as dorms. They are just too near the HDB flats.”

Grassroots leader Lee Hong Ping, 45, who labelled Geylang “Little Chinatown”, said crowds of foreign workers from China can cause traffic jams when too many of them gather on the pavements and spill onto the roads. Residents have also complained about not feeling safe at night.

The Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee described Geylang as a hotspot for ‘lawlessness’ and a congregation area for ‘unsavoury characters’. The Police also cited statistics that the level of public order offences and crime were almost twice as high as that in Little India in 2012, thus the ‘powder keg’ analogy. Another ST report carried the headline ‘People in Geylang speak of an ‘undercurrent of fear’ (March 30, 2014) based on the refusal of some residents to talk to the press. The authorities should be wary, however, not to focus too much on buffing up security at these ‘enclaves’ while neglecting other public areas when random people get slain. Since the Little India incident, we’ve all but forgotten about what went on in the very beating heart of the city, gang fights at Orchard Cineleisure for instance.

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There’s no question that the Lorongs are where resentment of authority is rampant. In 2007, a crowd of 200 gathered around 4 undercover police officers on an illegal gambling raid operation and threw rubbish and beer bottles at them, forcing one officer to draw his weapon on one of the men in the crowd. It had all the makings of a full blown riot, though today we’re unlikely to see the level of violence of the secret society clashes in the 1920s, where the police don’t just get glasses and rocks tossed at them, but BOMBS as well. There’s no evidence that alcohol had anything to do with these events, though some shopkeepers admit that vice is a crowd-puller and good for business.

Geylang may be called ‘Little Chinatown’ today, but according to some sociologists in 2009, Geylang was already the NEW Chinatown when PRCs started flocking to the area to set up shop, while its older sibling with its annual gaudy CNY decorations has morphed into a tourist town, today complete with giant LCD advertising screens and a ‘food street’ that’s clearly designed to draw tourists on a hawker mecca. We’ve already lost our vintage Bugis Street, we don’t want the same fate to fall on ‘Little Chinatown’ now, do we?

The police may think that Geylang, with all its vice and sleaze, is a time bomb waiting to explode. Residents worry about their wives or daughters when they go out at night. But to anyone with a sense of history or adventure, the ‘unsavoury’ nature of Geylang is part of its gritty, trashy charm, a seedy side of Singapore that remains largely unsanitised and brimming with a thrilling sense of ghetto sprawl and chaos, like the Chinese Harlem except that the only protection you need is not a personal weapon, but personal contraception. It has even been called a mini ‘United Nations’ of street-walkers. This is a place you won’t see on our tourist brochures, but any Singaporean will try to tempt a foreigner to have a taste of it. With a nudge and a wink of course.

 

 

Foreign workers rioting over cricket match

From ’17 charged after fight at Kaki Bukit’, 28 March 2014, article in CNA

17 foreign workers were charged in court on Friday following a brawl that broke out at a dormitory in Kaki Bukit. 14 of them are from Bangladesh and were charged with rioting. The other three from India were charged with affray for their alleged roles in the fight.

Their cases will be mentioned again next month. They were among 35 workers arrested following Tuesday evening’s fight, which allegedly took place during a live screening of a T-20 cricket match.

The match was between Bangladesh and the West Indies, in which the West Indies won.

I probably know a bit more about golf than cricket, but I never heard of anyone throwing furniture over the former. Like any spectator team sport, cricket has its fair share of violent hooliganism. In 2006, Indian fans unhappy with match cancellation set bonfires and burned advertising billboards, injuring a few policemen in the pandemonium. 10 years before that in 1996 at the World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka in Eden Gardens, Kolkata, the game was awarded to the visitors after things turned ugly and the riot police had to be deployed to quell an Indian mob angry that their side were on the losing end. You’d never think a sport with a lengthy glossary of confusing terms (Boot Hill, Cart-wheeling stump, Left-arm Unorthodox Spin among others), suggesting some quiet civility about it,  would have some of the worst ever sore losers in the history of sporting competition.

A wicket crowd

A wicket crowd

Emotions run high easily in crowded dorms. In 2001, an Indian national was fatally stabbed with a kitchen knife by a housemate because he spent too much time in the TOILET every morning. So when is a brawl a riot and when is it an affray? According to our statutes, an affray is ‘where 2 or more persons disturb the public peace by fighting in a PUBLIC place’. ‘Rioting’ occurs ‘whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly or by any member thereof, in prosecution of the ‘common object’ of such assembly’, unlawful assembly meaning FIVE or more persons engaging in a ‘common object’ of wrongdoing. If you decide to throw punches with someone on the MRT, you are committing affray. If you’re part of a gang and slash people over staring incidents, then you’re ‘rioting with a dangerous weapon’.

Both terms appear to be have been used interchangeably in the past. In 1939, 17 Chinese and Indian workers got into a ‘disturbance’ at Alexandra Brickworks, resulting in several injuries and a broken arm, an incident reported as an ‘affray’. The way similar battles were described suggests that an ‘affray’ was considered a milder version, or precursor, of a riot, like a poke in the chest escalating into a kick to the face. Which doesn’t explain how in a group of 17 men involved in a free-for-all over the same thing, a few can be engaged in affray while the rest were rioting.

You may, however, avoid a rioting charge if you get into a fistfight while IN a football (or cricket for that matter) match, as long as nobody makes a police report. Being involved in a catfight also may spare you from affray charges, though people are more likely to stand and watch than try to break it apart for the entertainment. Or if you’re a Taiwanese politician.

No fighting in the war room

But if you’re really lucky, you could get involved in what’s technically an affray right outside the Subordinate Courts and nothing would happen to you, like this trio below. It’s 2 participants short of a riot, mind you.

Fight club

Then there’s the question of whether a dormitory may be considered a ‘public place’. If a husband and wife got into a massive quarrel in the wee hours that involves the tossing of hot kettles and frying pans in the kitchen and the whole neighbourhood knows about it, what charge does it come under? If 5 relatives started body slamming each other in their backyard over inheritance, are they RIOTING? Is there a penalty for, well, just ‘FIGHTING’ wherever you are? After all, you never know when a scuffle may lead to serious harm or death, in the privacy of a bedroom or on the rooftop of a building, with or without ‘dangerous weapons’.

Ironically, free-to-air live cricket matches was one of the suggestions following the Little India riot to keep our workers ‘happy and motivated’. Perhaps Bollywood movies would be a better idea.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 11.42.57 PM

 

 

Education Alive ad depicting a kid trapped under a truck

From ‘Tuition agency order to stop ‘objectionable ad”, 27 March 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

The advertising authority ordered a tuition agency to stop placing an advertisement that shows a child trapped under a vehicle, after parents denounced its graphic content. The full-page advertisement by Education Alive to promote a workshop carries a picture of a child crushed under a vehicle beneath the words “Breaking news: Child trapped under 4 tonnes truck!”

It also asked “concerned parents” of children taking the GCE O- and A-Level examinations this year what they would do to “save” their child….Its intent was to convey to parents that “their child’s future is a matter of life and death” and that parents “can literally change their child’s destiny if they wanted to”, she (founder Sherina Koh) explained.

…Senior marketing executive Samantha Lee, 33, who has two sons aged two and five, said it was “very wrong to use such a picture as part of their marketing campaign”.

“What kind of message are they trying to put across? That if I do not attend this workshop, my child will die? It’s insulting to parents,” she said.

Photo credit from 'Faces of Death'

Photo credit from ‘Faces of Death’

Yes, this ad is definitely objectionable. First of all, it’s 4-TONNE truck, not 4 TONNES truck. Next, it’s ‘imagine if he WERE your child, not WAS’. The hyphen between the ‘MUST ATTEND’ is missing, and I seriously doubt the claim of ‘INSTANTLY’. It’s a child’s brain you’re talking about here, not a stained shirt treated with Dynamo. If I were a parent, I’d be more offended by the grammar and the schizo right and left text alignment than graphic violence, and this would be the last place on earth to send a child for English tuition (though it could also mean a great place for CHINESE tuition). Yes, I would risk my life to pull my baby out from under a truck in an instant, just like I’d rescue anyone else’s kids from the clutches of a company that sounds more like a geomancy consultancy than educators.

Sherina Koh explained in a subsequent FB post cum apology that the truck image was inspired by the story of a mother displaying superhuman strength by lifting a car off her trapped child, which suggests that failure to enrol your kid with Education Alive spells eternal doom and you’re a bad parent for neglecting to do so. In any case, lifting a CAR is one thing, 4 TONNES of TRUCK on the other hand, is ridiculous. She also describes a child’s ‘future’ as being ‘a matter of life or death’. Erm, isn’t EVERYONE’S future a matter of life or death? You either live or die tomorrow, or next week. Did she really mean EXAMS instead? That if you fail your O’s/A’s, it’s the end of the world as you know it? Gosh, it must terrible for those school dropouts then, especially those who went on to found multibillion internet start-ups. Their destiny must be total shit if Education Alive is to be taken seriously.

These EA folks brand themselves as ‘coaches’ not ‘tutors’. They’re also dream builders and dream ‘livers’. I have my dream liver too; I like it slightly on the raw side in a hearty bowl of peppery pork innards soup. For a bunch of ‘fun-loving’, ‘crazy’ practitioners of this destiny-changing ‘methodology’ who wear clown noses on their website, having a gruesome image in a full page ad seems out of place. But that’s not all. They used to have an ad with the actual words ‘DYING’ in Dracula font, which they pulled out of their FB page when I last accessed it. Maybe they don’t just help kids pass exams, they’re necromancers who resurrect the dead too. With their pixie dust dream magic.

And it’s ‘witness how your child COMES alive’.

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

 

Singaporean radical fighting against Syrian regime

From ‘S’pore man under probe for ‘going to fight in Syria”, 23 Mar 2014, article by Priscilla Goy, Sunday Times

Singaporean man is being investigated for allegedly going to Syria “with the intention to undertake violence” in the ongoing armed conflict there, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday. Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a 37-year-old supermarket manager, is a former Indian national who obtained his Singapore citizenship in 2008.

A member of the public informed the authorities of his alleged trip to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after he had left Singapore last November. The MHA confirmed it is investigating the allegations.

The ministry also said the authorities established that Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, a 37-year-old Indian national and former Singapore permanent resident, helped to radicalise Haja and assisted him in his plans to participate in armed violence in Syria.

Gul, who worked as a system analyst here, was investigated under the Internal Security Act. He was deported and banned from entering Singapore for his role in abetting and aiding Haja. When The Sunday Times asked when Gul was investigated or deported, an MHA spokesman said it “does not comment on operational matters”.

The initial reaction to such news is how on earth did we allow such budding extremists to become citizens and PRs in the first place, fanatics who would rather sacrifice themselves in another country than take up arms to defend ours. But ‘radicalisation’, sometimes of the ‘DIY’ kind, could happen to anyone with a passion for ‘militant jihad’, Singaporean or not.

It happened to Abdul Basheer in 2007, a bright law grad and lecturer who graduated from Raffles Institution and National Junior College and was an employee at Drew and Napier. Having succumbed to ‘MTV-style’ recruitment websites espousing extremist Islamic ideology, Abdul was seduced into joining the Taleban to fight in war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan against infidels (He was later re-arrested in 2012 for pursuing the same agenda). Henceforth the term ‘self-radicalisation’ was born, along with related terms that threaten to glorify self-service terrorism: The ‘DIY’ terrorist, the ‘Lone Wolf’, the Jihad Rambo.

In 2010, a full time NS men followed in Abdul Basheer’s footsteps. 20 year old Muhammad Fadil was exposed to online Jihadist propaganda, and ‘deeply radicalised’ by the lectures of personalities such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, whose videos you can download freely off Youtube (Feiz Muhammad has been suspected to be the inspiration behind the Boston marathon bombers). I can’t tell if these clerics were directly urging youths all over the world to buy a ticket to Pakistan and take up arms in Arabic, though it seems to boil down to a matter of selective interpretation. MDA and MFA should be doing more to ban inflammatory martyr recruitment sites, rather than forcing news/opinion sites to close down over licensing requirements, or blocking sites that encourage marital affairs or medical marijuana.

To ‘radicalise’ someone is a term that has been in use locally since 1987. Third Stage, a drama group, was accused of ‘radicalising’ the public with ‘Marxist propaganda’, producing ‘satirical plays’ which put the Singapore’s political system in a bad light. And these guys were put on watch by ISD presumably because at the time the pen was deemed mightier than the sword. You didn’t need to fly to terrorist school or even know how to load a bullet, you just needed to produce provocative government-bashing drama in order to be labelled ‘leftist’ or ‘radical’, capable of subverting people into overthrowing their rulers.

Trust religion to corrupt a word that once described a good thing (a radical idea, change) into one suggesting extremist violence. It’s likely that ‘radical’ has its roots in politics, used way back in 1846 to describe the act of questioning authority by ‘despots’ and ‘rulers’. Sometime in the 80′s, radical became ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’, and for a time abbreviated to ‘rad’, as popularised by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who subscribe to the ‘ideology’ of fighting crime, skateboarding and eating pizza. Today, you’d have to be careful about using the word in case the ISD comes knocking on your door searching your laptop for ‘radicalising’ material.

All this tight-lippedness over this mysterious Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar seems shady though. There’s no information of his previous arrest or deportation as far as I could find online other than he and Haja being ‘village friends’, unlike the media spillage that surrounded Abdul Basheer and Fadil. I hope it’s not too radical to ask: Why?

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.

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