The danger of sewing on a moving MRT train

From ‘Unsafe to sew on train’, 19 Nov 2015, ST Forum

(Tan Lay Hoon): Recently, I came across a young woman working on a piece of cross-stitch embroidery inside an SMRT train. She sat forward with a gap between her and the back of her seat, perhaps to facilitate the flow of her needlework movements.

The embroidery floss running through the needle was about 45cm long. I suggested to the woman that it could be dangerous to sew inside the confines of a moving MRT train. She replied that she had been sewing while riding in MRT trains for a long time and returned to her task. There were commuters seated on both sides of her.

While the train was relatively empty during the off-peak hour, sewing is not a safe activity to pursue inside a train that is travelling. At times, MRT trains lurch when moving or halting. If the woman is pulling the needle in an upward movement and is caught unexpectedly by a sudden staggering of the train, an involuntary jerk of the hand holding the needle may cause the needle to jab at a fellow commuter sitting or standing close by.

There will be very serious consequences if the needle impales an eye or other body part of a nearby commuter who could not move away in time. How can the injured commuter seek recourse?

If the SMRT’s regulations do not permit sewing inside MRT trains in operation, what is the appropriate action that a concerned fellow commuter can take in such a situation? By the way, what circumstances warrant an activation of the emergency communication button?

Thanks to this civic-minded writer, SMRT security will now have more things to check other than bulky haversacks suspected to carry bombs. Needles are notoriously difficult to search, let alone parangs. You could secrete them in your back pocket, your coin pouch or even pin them in your underwear. But maybe it’s not just needles but other deceptively harmless things with a pointy end that need to be looked into. With all the sudden jerking and staggering going on in the train, your vital organs could be impaled not just by cross-stitch instruments but pens, chopsticks, or the edge of a hardcover book. No wonder durians are banned. Recently I had some guy sketching with a pencil behind me. I was praying so hard the train didn’t jerk otherwise the nib would have penetrated my medulla oblongata.

If you are a chronic worrier practically anything could bring you to an early grave, not just sharp objects. Someone nodding away while sleeping could unwittingly cause head concussions. You may be a hit-and-run victim of that uncle on the motorised wheelchair. If you’re the extreme type who are especially good at estimating the length of sewing thread, even staying at home and avoiding the crowds could also be hazardous. You could fall off your bed and die, for instance.

I can imagine Tan Lay Hoon’s reaction if she ever saw someone wearing this massacre waiting to happen on the train below. Imagine the train braking to a screaming halt and this person careening into unsuspecting passengers. A total bloodbath. The world would send us condolences for this horrific accident. #prayformrt

Local invention called The Spike Away vest

You can’t activate the emergency button willy-nilly, of course, and SMRT has guidelines against inciting unnecessary panic and wasting everyone’s time.  If you ever push the panic button in the event of an impending needly holocaust, but not a single person is harmed by wayward cross-stitching, then slapping a fine on you is duly justified. The only thing being pricked then is your conscience.

State of emergency as a Call of Duty publicity stunt

From ‘Singapore under attack:Imaginary war a Call of Duty marketing ploy’, 30 Sep 15, article in CNA

Popular first-person shooter video game “Call of Duty” posted a series of tweets about a fictional attack on Singapore as part of their online campaign to promote its new game, on Wednesday (Sep 30).

The new game was Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. At 1.03am on Wednesday, the Twitter page belonging to @CallofDuty posted a tweet that said: “BREAKING NEWS: Unconfirmed reports are coming in of an explosion on the North bank of the Singapore Marina.”

When that tweet was sent out, its user name was “Current Events Agg.” and had a illustration of a globe as its profile picture.

…More tweets were sent out subsequently describing “large plumes of dark smoke”, “shots fired at newly established blockades” and riot police dispersing rioting mobs. It also named “James Chung” as the fictional “commander of the Singapore Armed Forces”.

A tweet sent out at 3.35am said: “A state of Martial Law has been declared and will remain in place until the incident is firmly understood.”

The next tweet sent out at 5.37am revealed that the earlier ones were part of an online campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

The makers of Call of Duty could get in trouble here for committing the offence of transmitting a false message. If police reports have been filed for hoax tweets declaring public holidays for the World Cup or ‘Voluntary Non-Work’ days due to the haze,  there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go after someone fabricating an explosion in the ‘north bank’ of Singapore Marina, as unlikely as that may seem. Even 13 year old boys have been arrested for making up stories about bombing MBS. Still, the only things exploding in this country, thank God, seem to be cars or hotpots.

Risk of unnecessary alarm aside, it’s probably the first time that Singapore has been featured in a first-shooter video game, which is almost as cool as our cameo in the Simpsons. It’s also likely that the video game disaster scenes would be more realistic than what was portrayed in Jack Neo’s first foray into Michael Bay-esque destruction porn in the first Ah Boys To Men movie. Who knows, maybe the SAF may be interested in buying the game themselves for battle simulation if the haze situation gets any worse, at the risk of our NSmen being tempted into lobbing grenades at base of the redundant Singapore Flyer to see where it would roll.

The game itself is set in 2065, and it’s comforting to note that the CoD makers have faith that Chinatown would still exist 50 years from now. It also happens to be our #SG100 year. CHOI!

Thank Goodness it wasn’t Little India, in which case the ‘Singapore Authorities’ would surely ban the shit out of this. Let’s hope for fans’ sake that none of the Singapore missions include ‘overthrowing a ruthless dictatorial regime’ too.

901 people arrested for attempted suicide in 2014

From ‘More arrested for attempting suicide’, 18 July 2015, article by Tee Zhuo, ST

More people were arrested for attempting suicide last year, according to latest police figures as of June 8. Last year, 901 people were arrested for trying to kill themselves, compared with 862 in 2013.

The 4.5 per cent increase in arrests, however, may not necessarily be a cause for alarm. Experts said the rise could be due to better intervention by third parties, such as family, friends and the police. Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, those who attempt suicide can be punished with jail for up to a year, or with a fine, or both.

…The number of suicide deaths in 2013 was 422, down from 467 the year before. Statistics for last year have yet to be released.

…While suicide is illegal, those arrested are often referred to professionals. Some are let off with a stern warning, said experts. Statistics from the State Courts show only five cases filed, with at least one charge under Section 309 of the Penal Code, last year. This figure is also the lowest in a steady decline from 16 such cases in 2010.

Lawyer Peter Ong of Templars Law believes the suicide law should be abolished as it does not serve as a deterrent. “Knowing they may be arrested if their attempt fails may push them to complete it,” said Mr Ong.

Like section 377A, the suicide law is an archaic one descended from British colonial rule. According to psychiatrist Chong Siow Ann in an ST article last year, this has roots in Christian theology, whereby St Augustine decreed that killing yourself was a ‘mortal sin’ equivalent to killing God since He made Man in His image. In a 2007 editorial, Dr Chong cites the astonishing statistic that more Singaporeans die committing suicide than from road traffic accidents every year. The rest fail miserably, and either carry on with their unhappy lives with the crutch of antidepressants, counselling, religion, or get arrested if they’re unlucky, a rare few getting charged and put on probation only after 10 unsuccessful attempts.

Which begs the question of what exactly is an ‘attempted suicide’, and how the police differentiates this  from one that is merely attention-seeking behaviour with no real intention to die. A man jumping in front of an MRT train is a clear indication, though he failed so horribly in the attempt that he only complained of ‘back pain’ after falling onto the tracks. Earlier this year, another man was arrested for sitting on a ledge and ‘dangling his legs’. It wasn’t reported if he was threatening to jump or was just there for the view.

Quarrelling couples threaten each other all the time. Antics such as raising one leg over the bedroom window, or holding the kitchen knife against one’s abdomen in the middle of a shouting match may seem more dangerous than someone perching on a ledge all by himself, but these people don’t get sent to the police station. Neither do we arrest those who pop 20 tablets of Panadol thinking it would send them into a blissful eternal sleep when all it does is send them to the hospital, if anything happens at all. One particular patient survived after swallowing 120 tablets.

A published paper explained that 3 conditions needed to be fulfilled before the state presses charges: 1) Repeated attempts 2)Wasted resources 3) When other offences are committed in the process, like injuring another person. In 2006, a man was charged based on the last criteria after falling on and breaking a girl’s leg in his misguided attempt. Both survived, partly because he jumped from the THIRD STOREY of his block.

The suicide law itself may very well be a double-edged sword, on one hand deterring those with half-hearted intent from tempting fate and allowing time for intervention, while pushing others determined enough to complete it.  Since the law is not applied most of the time, it’s probably ineffective in weeding out people who just want to mutilate themselves for sympathy and may not even be diagnosed with depression in the first place, like teens cutting their wrists and uploading their battle scars on Facebook, probably driven by the same reasons behind children their age actually taking their own lives.

Our government may even be AFRAID of repealing it in case it leads to an actual INCREASE in suicide attempts and deaths. So until there are figures that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that decriminalisation works, I doubt they’ll pull the plug on this piece of legislation.

Self-radicalised teen released under Restriction Order

From ‘Singaporean teen arrested under ISA released, under Restriction Order’, 29 June 2015, article in CNA

A Singaporean youth who was arrested under the Internal Security Act in May has been released from custody and is placed under a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for two years from June, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday (Jun 29).

Investigations showed the 17-year-old had become radicalised after viewing videos, websites and social media materials propagated by radical ideologues and terrorist elements, MHA stated. “He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans,” MHA said.

Under the Restriction Order, the youth will have to attend religious counselling and has to stop accessing violent or extremist online material. He will not be allowed to leave Singapore without permission or to issue public statements. Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public, MHA added.

The teen ‘radical’ has not been named, and was arrested sometime in May, which means he’s been under lock and key for not more than 2 months. This leads me to the inevitable comparison of ISIS boy’s fate to another kid around his age, one who got into trouble after badmouthing a certain dead leader. That kid is none other than Amos Yee.

1) Identity

The identity of ISIS Boy remains under wraps. Not so secretive was another 19 year old detained under ISA for planning violent attacks, with the death wish of assassinating the President and Prime Minister. It’s puzzling why the name of this guy got leaked, but not the younger teen whom the ministry folks seem to think can be ‘de-radicalised’ with ‘religious counselling’, and not with that thingamajig used in A Clockwork Orange.

Amos, on the other hand, made a grand show-and-tell of how he felt about LKY, through his own Youtube Channel no less. Despite depicting the man in a rather unflattering position with Margaret Thatcher, he did not call for his followers to gun down the rest of the Lee legacy, or strap themselves with homemade bombs and detonate them inside 38 Oxley Road.

We also know who Amos’ parents are, which school he dropped out from and maybe even where he lives. We know that he LOVES bananas. We know absolutely nothing about ISIS boy or his friends. At least if you see Amos in the streets one day you could run and hide in case he unleashes a torrent of anti-Christianity rants on you. ISIS boy is practically invisible, and exactly how the shady organisation wants him to be.

2) Time spent ‘in remand’

Excluding a pending 2 week stint in IMH, Amos has already spent at least 40 days in remand, and may potentially exceed the time ISIS boy spent ‘detained’. What gives? The kid who’s an actual threat to public safety getting out of prison before another who dissed Christianity and broadcast some cartoon porn for the world to enjoy. Which is the more heinous crime? Amos probably knows more about the history and geography of Syria than any blind follower who looks forward to a training stint there like it’s the Disneyland of the Middle East.

3) Victimisation

Amos has been threatened with castration, and even hit square in the face by a random attacker with dumbstruck reporters standing by snapping away without lifting a finger to help. His fashion sense has been made fun of, and his parents shamed for not doing their job.

What about ISIS boy? Were people afraid of teaching him a lesson in case his secret ISIS brethren begin blowing up our stuff and loved ones? Where was that slapper when we needed him the most?

4) Cause

An eminent psychiatrist from IMH has suggested that Amos may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder, which may explain his behaviour. It’s also the kind of tactic lawyers resort to when they don’t know how to keep extremely rebellious teens out of jail. If diagnosed, Amos may be at the receiving end of the ominous-sounding Mandatory Treatment Order, which has been dished out on maid abusers, bra sniffers, schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers. He may never be the same again after 2 years of forced rehab. Or maybe this was a devious ploy all along to escape NS.

ISIS boy, on the other hand, isn’t suffering from a mental disorder, but merely mixed up with bad company and swayed into some murderous doctrine disguised as rap videos. Unlike Amos, there seems to be hope for ISIS boy, that he shall be guided onto the path of righteousness with religious elder support. Yet, the one labelled ‘sick’ here and set to be coerced into therapy is not the one with aspirations to actually fire weapons at other human beings, but the boy who merely had one too many things to say, and refused to take those words back.

Policeman shot in Khoo Teck Puat hospital

From ‘Shooting case at hospital:Man could face death penalty’, 22 June 2015, Today

The police have classified Saturday’s incident at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where a police officer was shot, as an unlawful discharge of firearms under the Arms Offences Act, an offence that carries the death penalty. The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was arrested for motor vehicle theft on Friday, will be hauled to court this afternoon on this holding charge

…The suspect, who was under remand for further investigations into his alleged motor vehicle theft, had complained of chest pains on Saturday and was escorted by police officers to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to seek medical attention.

At about 7.05pm, while inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape and struggled with one of the officers. TODAY understands that the suspect had attacked the 31-year-old officer while his colleague stepped out of the room. The suspect is believed to have taken hold of the officer’s baton and used it to beat the latter.

He then snatched the officer’s revolver and discharged three rounds, before he was subdued and the situation was brought under control. The accused sustained superficial injuries.

The death penalty for using a gun on another person, even with just the intention to cause hurt,  came into force in 1974, signed off by then President Benjamin Sheares. ‘Firearms’ also includes air pistols, air guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Arms Offences Act. In fact, you don’t even need to aim your weapon at a living thing to get convicted with a possible death sentence. The law states:

“…any person who uses or attempts to use any arm shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have used or attempted to use the arm with the intention to cause physical injury to any person or property.”

The lesson here then, is unless you’re a soldier or a cop, hands off anything that fires pellets, missiles or bullets. Even threatening people with a toy gun, or what the law describes as an ‘imitation arm’, can land you 10 years in jail and 3 strokes of the rotan. What’s not clear is whether you’ll still get death if your gun is not loaded and you’re using it just to scare your target like an imitation arm. What will happen to you if you shot people in the knee with a bow and arrow, or a catapult at close range for that matter? Or what if you managed to disarm a robber of his pistol and was forced to fire it near his feet to scare him away? As Mr Bean taught us, you could create havoc just using your bare hand as an ‘imitation arm’.

The first death sentence for such a crime was doled out to Sha Bakar Dawood in 1976, who wounded 3 people in a brothel and fired at the police. A year earlier, an accomplice to an armed robbery was sent to the gallows as well, despite him voluntarily surrendering to the police. For decades our strict gun control laws kept us safe from gang robberies and mass slaughters, that is until 2005 when Chestnut Drive Secondary School was mysteriously attacked by a suspected sniper with an air-gun. Not sure if the culprit was ever caught, though thankfully no one was hurt during the onslaught.

It’s a terrible idea to try to snatch a policeman’s revolver, not only because you risk being sent to the hangman’s, but you may get shot or even killed before your execution in the ensuing struggle. In the mid 80’s, a motorcycle thief was shot in the abdomen in failed attempt. 2 men died within the span of 20 days in 1984 while playing tug-of-war with armed police. In 1985, a 19 year old was hit in the chest and died after trying to grab a PC’s revolver. In his defence, PC Tay Kok Thong had just wanted to fire a shot to ‘scare him away’. In the same year, an escaping burglar was fatally shot in the neck.  In the KTPH case, the policeman had it worse off, but would the accused still get the death penalty even if he was shot in the face at the same time that the cop got his hand blown off, and survived?

I trust that our police are drilled in dealing with gun-snatch situations without the trigger being pulled and accidentally killing someone. Still, if you’re a revolver thief, you may try sneaking up on a detective while he’s fooling around with his girl in a park, or grab his bag while he’s swimming, instead of trying to yank it out of his holster. For the moment, there is no punishable-by-death law against the ‘unlawful wielding of a knife or equivalent sharp object’, even though you can just as well kill someone at close range with a stabbing weapon. Such a law, however, could probably put an end to secret society gangfights and domestic kitchen disputes once and for all.

SIFA film withdrawn due to cut Molotov Cocktail scene

From ‘Singapore International Festival of Arts withdraws two films from Open event’, 18 June 15, article by Mayo Martin, Today

Organisers of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts’ (SIFA) pre-festival event The OPEN have withdrawn two films from its movie line-up after the Media Development Authority Singapore (MDA) said these required edits before it could be screened.

The films were Tony Manero by Chilean director Pablo Larrain and A German Youth by French film-maker Jean-Gabriel Periot.

…In a statement, organisers said they were informed yesterday (June 17) that both movies required a scene each to be cut due to sexual and mature content, respectively. Rather than screen a film with edits, the organisers have chosen to pull out both films “to respect the integrity of the directors’ vision and craft”.

The two scenes in question were a fellatio scene in Tony Manero and a scene featuring a video on how to make a Molotov cocktail in A German Youth. Both films had received an R21 rating on the condition that the scenes be edited.

…SIFA director Ong Keng Sen told TODAY: “The objection to the fellatio scene was that it was too graphic and extreme, but I told them it should be put into context on why people are behaving this way. It was about how violence and decadence has been imprinted in the human being.”

Meanwhile, A German Youth is a documentary that was shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It traces the founding of the militant Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof Group.

Ong questioned the objection to the Molotov cocktail scene, citing how the information on making one is already available on the Internet. “I tried Googling how to make it and it’s all within the first four entries. We have to ask ourselves if these censorship guidelines are still applicable when all of these are available on the Internet,” he said.

Well, you can google ‘nude uncensored sex’ on the Internet and get exactly what you want but that doesn’t mean we should scrap censorship altogether, be it for mainstream movies or ‘niche’ festival films. Cutting out a blowjob scene is probably expected of MDA, but snipping a scene teaching you how to make a homemade bomb is strange given that we do allow films featuring ‘occasional recreational drug use’, as well as cinematic step-by-step manuals on how to design and operate improvised weapons of fiery destruction, nevermind if these actually work in real life.

This scene from Salt starring Angelina Jolie, for example, tells you how to escape from a room conveniently stocked with volatile chemicals and a fire extinguisher by assembling an instant flamethrower in less than a minute.

The one and only Macgyver can blow people up using a video camera and silly putty. The whole series, in fact, is about the man making weapons out of scraps.

Which suggests that it’s OK if you’re the good guy making an explosive out of baking soda, detergent and shoelaces, but not if you’re intending to use it in a riot against the Authority. If that’s the case, we should also censor films and TV featuring scenes of people smashing bottles in half and turning them into stabbing weapons. We already banned beer bottles in Tekka hawker centre for the exact same reason anyway.

In fact, in the fifties before we had videotapes not to mention Youtube, the ST even revealed an old-timey homemade bomb recipe in one of their riot reports: Petroleum jelly/trade rubber, petrol, cotton fuse. Today, you can experiment with DIY detonators using nothing but ingredients and accessories bought from Daiso. You could build a bomb in pyjamas over your kitchen sink without having to put on goggles, labcoat or safety boots. You don’t need an obscure film from a festival that few people care about to transform us into amateur terrorists overnight.

Other than cracking down on festival films glamourising bomb-making, terrorism, explicit sex and homosexuality, our censors also objected to themes that potentially threaten religious and racial order. In 2004, we banned ‘The Final Solution‘, an Indian documentary that was considered ‘inflammatory’ because it dealt with communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. Singapore’s very own ‘To Singapore With Love’ was a liability to national security. I’m not surprised no one has thought of making a film based on the true story of Mas Selamat’s escape. It would probably be banned as well because it puts a certain minister in a bad light, and teaches viewers how to slip out of a toilet and cross over to Malaysia amid tight security, without having to assemble a single Molotov cocktail while at it.

Then there were the weird ones. In 2008, we banned ‘Bakushi’, a Japanese film about rope bondage. 6 years later, we passed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ without cuts on the big screen with an R(21) rating. Perhaps there is hope for fetish fans after all. Still, it’s ridiculously ironic how the cut Molotov cocktail scene is categorised here as ‘mature content’, when the censors obviously think adults are not mature enough to handle it, that people would suddenly become ‘self-radicalised’ after watching a foreign film, go raid liquor and hardware stores, then fly a private plane above the city and drop little homemade bombs causing death, destruction and chaos everywhere.

Beer promoters banned from hawker centres

From ‘Why are coffee shops allowed beer promoters?’, 21 May 2015, ST Forum

(Rajasegaran Ramasamy): I FULLY support the “no go” for beer promoters in hawker centres (“Breweries told to withdraw beer promoters from hawker centres”; yesterday).

I am puzzled that the National Environment Agency has decided to implement the ban only at hawker centres.

Why are coffee shops, where these promoters also operate, exempted? Are they either registered stallholders or stall assistants? Alcohol, like cigarettes, can be addictive, and its promotion should be discouraged at all premises.

The reason NEA gave for the ban was that beer promoting activities may give rise to ‘disamenities’ such as touting and patron harassment, not so much that alcohol is bad and beer ladies, by peddling their addictive product to uncles, are part of a nationwide problem, as the writer suggests. Beer bottles were recently banned from Tekka hawker centre in order to eliminate the ‘disamenity’ of people threatening each other with broken glass shards. If we want to purge our society of any form of beer promotion short of banning alcohol entirely, why stop at beer servers? How about banning Tiger beer ads about ‘The Unofficial History of Singapore’? Or ban any form of beer sponsorship  of major sporting events because we don’t want our aspiring sportsmen to be ‘under the influence’ after competitions? Let’s all hide beer behind the counter like cigarettes too, so that we have more fridge space for our healthy oxygenated mineral water.

If such disamenities do in fact exist, however, NEA is merely transferring the problem elsewhere, such as the ‘fierce competition’ already happening in some kopitiams between the ‘beer aunty’ and the ‘pretty little things’ in tight polo-Ts and mini skirts. Maybe we should start banning bottles from coffee shops too, before they turn catfights into blood brawls.

‘Disamenities’ is a terrible catch-all word to describe social ‘problems’ that seems to apply exclusively to consequences of inebriation. MP Indranee Rajah includes ‘peeing in the river‘ as one such disamenity. So is puking on the sidewalk or talking loudly, anything that may be classified as a nuisance without becoming a full-blown crime like drunk-driving your car into someone’s living room or rioting on the streets. I used to think it referred to any business or establishment that does the opposite of what a proper ‘amenity’ is supposed to do, like a void deck karaoke room or a bustling watering hole with live bands playing past midnight. These days, it refers to specific human activities like beer ladies fighting for the attention of some half-drunken sweaty uncle. If your beer buddy is misbehaving in public, he’s not just a menace, he’s also a ‘disamenity’. Try explaining the term to him and it may just stump him into sobriety.


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