Sham marriages is big business in Singapore

From ‘More convicted over sham marriages’, 28 July 2013, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Immigration authorities are cracking down on those involved in sham marriages, with 139 people convicted in court in the first half of this year. This is a sharp jump from the 89 people dealt with in court for the whole of last year, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Sunday Times.

The increase follows stepped-up enforcement by the ICA against marriages of convenience, where a Singaporean marries a foreigner to enable the latter to enter or remain in Singapore. Middlemen who arrange such unions were also among those convicted.

…The Sunday Times understands that women entering into such marriages are usually from China and Vietnam, and they marry Singaporeans to extend their stays here. They often come as tourists, but want to find work here. Some find their “husbands” on their own, while others go through middlemen, who include Singaporeans and foreigners.

The women pay the middlemen, who in turn pay the bogus Singaporean bridegrooms. The men – mostly manual workers or jobless – are often paid between $2,000 and $5,000 for their part in the scam. On top of that sum, some men also receive a few hundred dollars more for each visa extension obtained after the marriage is registered. The couples in these marriages usually live apart and no sex is involved.

…Under the new law, those found guilty face up to 10 years’ jail or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

…Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan noted that sham marriages have been going on for years and syndicates are often involved as it’s “big business”...He has a Vietnamese client in her 20s who felt she needed more time than her tourist visa allowed to find a good Singaporean man to marry. To extend her stay, she agreed to go through a sham marriage and paid a Singaporean less than $1,000.

“The irony is that she had a fake marriage in order to find a real one,” he said.

Lawyer Hri Kumar Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, welcomed the crackdown on sham marriages, but warned of a downside. He said: “Because the ICA now has to impose rigorous criteria and checks to ensure that marriages are not sham, it affects genuine marriages as well.

“Some in genuine marriages are finding it difficult to secure long-term stays for their spouses. This creates uncertainty for the couple and makes it difficult for them to plan a family.”

In 2011, 1 out of 5 marriages was between a Singaporean and a foreign spouse. No one can know for sure how many of these were ‘genuine’ marriages, nor is it easy to define a ‘marriage of convenience’. For example, would you call arranged marriages or shotgun weddings ‘marriages of convenience’? Yet both are perfectly legal even if there’s no love involved. If such a union leads to sex and babies, is it still a sham marriage if the purpose of having babies is to grant one a Long Term Visit Pass? Last year, China nationals bore Singaporean men twice the number of babies (2034) compared to 2000 (1122)(Fewer kids with both parents from Singapore, 21 July 2013, Sunday Times). We assume these are ‘genuine’ cases because people only have babies with those they love, no?

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 11.55.26 AM

I’m thinking the ICA data is an underestimate, and you can probably get away with a sham marriage without ever sharing the same bed with someone as long as you play ball with your partner in crime.  Conversely, a ‘genuine’ marriage is one that should involve some degree of sacrifice and consummation, preferably leading to babies which our government will welcome happily with open arms. And yes, you’re supposed to love each other till death do you part as well. In other words, a fairy tale wedding.

Men who seek foreign brides for ‘love’ have given reasons such as loneliness, family pressure, or blame Singaporean women for being too pampered or materialistic while foreign brides have less expectations and are better at cooking or foot massages.  The guy gets a girl who doesn’t nag him to death, the girl gets someone to look after her and a chance to escape from a miserable home country to become Singaporean eventually. It’s a win-win situation. It becomes a crime if you’re entering the marriage just for money. Oh, wait. Hmm.

Sham marriages, or ‘marriages of convenience’ as euphemistically termed, have been recorded as early as the late 50’s. In 1975, a shoemaker and a Dutch national were caught in a MOC, the former not even knowing what his wife’s name was at the time. They married in 1956 and never saw each other again after they registered their union. In 1969, a Hong Kong woman was charged for corruption after marrying a local widower so that she may apply for permanent residency. In the same year,a local labourer filed for divorce, exposing his MOC to an Indonesian woman in the process because his wife refused to have sex with him until she got her IC. Taiwanese entertainer Chen Chin Pei was declared an illegal immigrant after being accused of contracting a MOC with a local man for a PR status in 1987. More recently, Chinese immigrant Lin Yanmei was probed by the CPIB for MOC with a cleaner. She was also hanging out in hotels with another man whom she called her ‘godfather’.

Not all MOCs are initiated by foreigners who want an extended stay in exchange for marriage. In 1975, a local clerk married a teacher whom she did not love because she wanted to ‘get away from home’. Some Singaporeans marry just to land a HDB flat. Supermodels or Playboy bunnies marry old tycoons who are only capable of consummation with urinary catheters. I could marry a woman whose father is a powerful politician to get ahead in my career, a roundabout, perfectly legal way of getting paid for marrying someone I do not love nor want to have children with. Yet a low-wage male worker desperate for money, in the hope of some female company on the side even if he knows it’s all fake, stands to face jail-time for agreeing to an indecent proposal while his wife fools around as some rich bloke’s mistress so that she can afford to keep the scam alive.

Or you can choose to believe Hollywood that some good may come out of bogus marriages after all. In the case of movies like Green card and The Proposal, that ‘good’ is called love. But sappy endings aside, in the case of Sandra Bullock’s character in the Proposal, a high-flying immigrant professional marries a local out of convenience to attain permanent residency. I doubt the same crackdown would apply to ‘foreign talents’ in a similar position here, though it’s likely that if you’re a foreign-born billionaire we’re more than happy to make you a Singaporean without you having to bear the inconvenience (or is it convenience?) of marrying anyone anyway.

 

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Amy Cheong blaming divorce on cheap Malay weddings

From ‘Police report filed against Amy Cheong over offensive Facebook post’, 8 Oct 2012, article in Sg yahoo news.

Singapore police are investigating the former NTUC staff who was fired on Monday morning for her profanity-laced post insulting traditional Malay void deck weddings. A police report was filed against Amy Cheong, assistant director, membership department at labour movement NTUC, by a member of the public, Lionel Jerome de Souza on Monday morning.

De Souza is the secretary of Hougang’s Inter-Racial and Confidence Circle (IRCC), which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports. In his report, he urged the police to take a serious view of Cheong’s comments which “inevitably hurt the feelings of the Malays”.

In her post on Sunday evening, Cheong had put up a public status on her personal Facebook timeline, complaining about a Malay wedding that was being held at a void deck near her home. Among other things, she related Malay weddings to high divorce rates, and asked how society could “allow people to get married for 50 bucks”, peppering her post with vulgarities.

In a separate post, she also allegedly wrote, “Void deck weddings should be banned. If you can’t afford a proper wedding then you shouldn’t be getting married. Full stop.”

Unless calling a Malay an ‘asshole’ is considered a racial slur, I think this is more a case of carelessness and faulty logic than racism. There are, of course, people who don’t spend a cent outside the registration fee for marriage, and still live happily ever after. If Amy Cheong had complained about the noise rather than associating divorce rates with ‘cheap weddings’, maybe she would have just been let off with a stern warning without getting the sack. For someone who already lost her job, a police report seems like overkill, but for someone in senior management, Cheong should have known better, especially after so many incidents of Facebookers getting in trouble posting ‘silly’ remarks about Muslims, not to mention a certain filmmaker being dealt with death warrants for making a shoddy Internet film where the Prophet was played by an actor looking like Jesus. In such a charged climate of ‘anti-Islamic’ sentiment and its subsequent retaliation, it wasn’t so much a malicious, hateful remark, as it was a really bad idea. Of course our Facebook-savvy PM was quick to dish out the damage control by urging everyone not to let this incident ‘undermine our racial and religious harmony’. But maybe this is more a case of custom intolerance than a hate crime that nearly everyone is making this out to be. If I post on Facebook about ‘damned ding-dong-chiang lion-dancing’ during Chinese New Year, I would get the same treatment from the Chinese community too. Or would I?

Just last year, people were flamed for racial abuse after complaining about McDonald’s playing religious prayers during the fasting month, putting links to images of pigs Photoshopped on the Kabba, or calling kids on kindergarten buses little ‘terrorists’. But let’s see if high ‘divorce rates’ among the Malays is indeed a factual statement, and whether it’s in any way related to ‘$50 weddings’. According to a 2006 commentary by a Malay man, there are 3 typical reasons to explain the high divorce rates among Malays. One, the tendency of women to ‘fall in love’ too easily. Two, the cultural expectations of ‘short courting periods’ and thirdly, general ‘money problems’. In the same year statistics showed that divorcing Muslims stayed in a marriage shorter than non-Muslims (an average of 7.8 vs 10 years), and the most common reason for divorce was ‘personality difference’, followed closely by ‘infidelity’. Just this year, ‘infidelity or extra-marital affair’ took top spot as reason for divorce in Muslim marriages.  There would also be the pressure of ‘remarrying’ within two years as the community supposedly frowns upon single parents. Which suggests that money issues aside, there’s also a hint of  ‘fools rush in’ syndrome. So it’s not just about the ‘affordability’ of weddings that encourages failed marriages (This may well be a myth, you can be charged $1K to $6K just for PLANNING and DECOR alone). One may have to consider whether the union was failed in the first place.

Every once in a while we get annoyed by atrocious singing, throbbing drums, motorcycles chugging and horning, yelling and general littering amid the merrymaking, but I would make the same complaints against Chinese funerals even as a Chinese, just not making a fcuking ass of myself ranting on Facebook about it. I wonder how Amy Cheong would react if someone went:

How many f**king days do Chinese funerals in void deck go on for?F*ck!!!Pay for a real funeral you asshole!How can society allow dead people to lie in a dirty void deck? KNS!

I also stumbled upon a Twitter account of ‘Amy Cheong’ apologising to countless people. I doubt this is the real Amy Cheong, considering that her Twitter icon is that of Ted, the vulgarity spewing bear.

Sumiko Tan had shark’s fin soup coming out of her ears

From ‘ You’re what you eat’, 5 Feb 2012, article by Sumiko Tan, Lifestyle, Sunday Times.

…Growing up, I had shark’s fin soup coming out of my ears. At any one time, we’d have pots of it in the fridge where it would have turned into jelly and had to be heated up…While I didn’t dislike the dish – the fins are tasteless but the soup is flavourful – I developed something of a phobia for it.

Those days, no one batted an eyelid about eating shark’s fin soup. The Chinese have for centuries revered shark’s fin as a delicacy and it was served as a treat – a symbol of respect, honour and prosperity. Today, no one can escape the bad press surrounding it.

…I would never order a bowl of shark’s fin soup for myself…But if I am served a bowl of shark’s fin – like at my recent Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner – I will take it.

I’ll take it because it is there. I’ll take it because the soup is tasty. I’ll take it because it will be a sheer waste of money to leave it untouched to be then thrown away. Mostly, though, I’ll take it because it will be rude to my host if I don’t.

…In my world view, animals – unless they have been domesticated – were created to be killed by humans for food. And if you’ve watched documentaries, you’ll know animals in the wild are vicious. They rip apart and kill each other all the time, whether for food or to protect themselves or their young. It’s all part of nature and the cycle of life, so why are some people so hung up about what animals might be ‘feeling’?

(See more of her article under Comments below)

Perhaps at some point in history sharks were as abundant as ikan bilis, that Sumiko could afford to ‘get sick’ of shark’s fin soup, but from my own experience encountering unsavoury comments from shark-lovers on a previous post, she’s asking for a brutal slugfest from eco-warriors all over the country.

Here are some nasty remarks from the Twitterverse:

Sumiko Tan – you might want to read a few books on ethical consumption before you excrete what’s passes for an opinion. I am happy to help.

Sumiko Tan the Apex predator

Who cares if you continue to eat sharks’ fins or not Sumiko tan! Waste of newspaper space. Completely skipped her musings n read abt fd.

Sumiko’s argument on the ethics of eating shark’s fin against the backdrop of inevitable cruelty in our domestication of animals for food seems sound, until she brought up the biblical concept of man’s ‘stewardship over the planet’, and how animals were CREATED to be killed for food. If animals were created solely for food, you would have headless, fat unfeathered birds without beaks, claws or wings to fend off attacks from hungry homo sapiens. You would have suckling pigs sprouting out of the ground like flowers in the spring, and crabs would be just be a couple of overgrown, non-functional pincers. Heck, you would just need to set up a hotpot by a river bank and fish would just leap happily into it.

If sharks were created to feed us, why the razor sharp teeth to chomp swimmers’ torsos off with? Why not do away with the body altogether and just have fins latching onto rocks like barnacles? Fins evolved to steer these mean killing machines, not to make guests happy at Chinese wedding banquets. Every appendage of ‘God’s creations’ was built for survival, whether it’s a tiger’s penis or a scallop’s adductor muscle, and only happen to be delicious (don’t know about tiger penis) because that’s nature’s way of motivating carnivores to prey on them for their own survival.

As omnivores with no compelling reason to depend on animal flesh as part of our diet, it’s hard to take an objective stand on eating other sentient beings without appearing heartless or hypocritical. Sumiko has chosen the former, and at the same time suggesting that people who shun sharks’ fin like monkeys’ brains are hypocrites if they so much as eat Chicken McNuggets. Meat lovers who take the ‘humans are entitled to eat other animals’ approach should rear an animal from birth and then personally slaughter it for dinner, and perhaps they would think twice about that ‘face on the plate’ before talking about animals’ ‘feelings’. Anti-shark’s fin lobbyists should state for the record what they wouldn’t consider cruel eating, before boring wedding guests with their depressing statistics on shark kills which they took off Discovery Channel.

I do not deny enjoying meat, but I don’t believe a cow willingly sacrificed itself for my sake. I ate an animal that another human killed, and the animal probably suffered more than it deserved to. Blood and guts were spilled, and perhaps somewhere out there a calf is yearning for its dead mother. I’ll be the first to admit that I won’t slit a chicken’s throat so that I may eat it, though I may turn into a vegan for a couple of weeks if forced to do so.  Better someone who savours every last drop of a depleting resource than one who eats it halfway and tosses it aside. So yes, Sumiko can have her soup and drink it and no one should stop her, though the looming soundtrack of ‘Jaws’ may play insidiously in the background while she’s at it.

Postscript: I’m floored by the amount of heated attention generated out something as trivial as Sumiko Tan eating shark’s fin soup. Many provocative opinions from both sides of the fence on this one, and here’s a summary of what has been said both by those against the practice and those who don’t mind the occasional delicacy.

1. Eating shark’s fin is cruel and eating a farmed animal is less so. Hell, you can’t even compare the two! I’ve seen the infamous Gordon Ramsay video myself of how sharks are sensationally dumped after being finned. Any argument on cruelty is assuming an anthropomorphic stance on how the victim might suffer under the circumstances. Because farming is industrialized and certified to conform to certain ‘minimisation of unnecessary suffering’ protocols, we usually assume that farmed animals have it easier.  Still, a chicken spends its entire life cooped up and ‘enduring’ hock burns and all sorts of disfigurements, whereas a shark spends most of it in the wild prior to its untimely, ‘agonising’ demise. Sure you can be ‘humane’ in treating and ultimately killing an animal for food, but only by our own standards of what suffering means to them. Those who rely on the ‘farmed animals suffer less’ argument should spend some time at a chicken farm/slaughterhouse and see for themselves before one takes their views seriously.

2. Sharks are endangered and if they go extinct, eventually we would too. There are other ways whereby we’re already indirectly destroying the oceans, by widespread overfishing, going on luxury cruises, or supporting oil companies with a history of spills. Shark conservation is just one of many other proactive deeds we should be doing, and we shouldn’t be obsessing over a ban on one product while ignoring the blight of other hazardous human activities like tourism, industrial sewage or global warming on no less relevant marine lifeforms. If we elevated the shark to deity status while allowing its prey to dwindle through our actions, it kinda defeats the whole purpose, does it.

3. Sharking finning is not ‘sustainable’ and wasteful. Farming isn’t exactly ‘green’ either.

4. We shouldn’t impose our beliefs on others. This is personal, of course, and if you think embarrassing someone at a banquet is worth it for ‘the greater good’, then by all means, as long as you can define what that ‘greater good’ is, and are well prepared to be challenged on the subject. A related hot button is about ‘personal choice’. The question, then, is whether we have sufficient grounds to stop someone from making one. Smoking, for example, is a personal choice, and its effects are immediate (second hand smoke), and you have an obligation to your fellow man to intervene. Can you do the same for someone ordering shark’s fin soup, say, your grandmother on her 88th birthday?

5. Not wasting food is not an excuse. What’s the alternative then, if you’re stuck at a wedding table with 9 shark-lovers and you’re the only one who doesn’t think it’s ‘such a big deal’? The only way to make such a rejection effective is a dramatic walk-out (not that the bride and groom would host another banquet any time soon anyway). Otherwise leftovers would just be  shared backdoors among the kitchen staff or nonchalantly dumped. In fact  if you’re a true eco-warrior you shouldn’t be wasting ANY kind of food, and better find a means of it being consumed or put to good use. Yes, even if you’re being served monkeys’ brains.

6. All animals are fair game. No it’s not fair game.  Animals are defenseless against our tools of capture. If not for technology we’d still be chasing rodents down burrows for dinner, not to mention catching trout with our bare hands. We eat large wild beasts today because we can, and part of the reason why shark fin eaters  annoy us is because they don’t really HAVE TO eat the damn thing, especially since it lacks any significant nutritional value, or taste for that matter.

The Girl with the Nipple Piercing

From ‘Movie poster too raunchy’, 15 June 2011, article by Boon Chan in ST Life!

The teaser poster for the dark Hollywood trailer The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which shows a topless actress with nipple piercing, has turned out to be too much of a tease…The Media Development Authority has asked that the poster be taken down as it has breached MDA’s film advertisement guidelines.

…The film ‘s release date is strategically emblazoned across her (Rooney Mara’s) chest but you can still make out her breasts. She is embraced from behind by actor Daniel Craig.

…(Ms Jinny Tan, lawyer): I think it’s a bit explicit for the general public because there’s a bit of nudity, although the important places are covered. I think it’s a bit too much flesh.

The Authority Who Kicked A Fuss

Obviously this Jinny Tan, mother of 2, hasn’t been out much. Too much flesh? Has she seen topless lingerie ads at bus stops? Or full bodied bloody nudity suggestive of menage a trios on magazine covers? Thanks to MDA bringing this controversy to light, the downloads of the unedited poster will hit all time data transfer highs from Singapore IP addresses.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if you weren’t able to tell if the actress had her nipple pierced, so it’s not so much the suggestion of a nipple behind the ‘strategically emblazoned’ date, since our ads play peek-a-boo all the time, but that it’s a mutilated one, a concept which still strikes a raw nerve in some Singaporeans.  Or perhaps the accessory does to horny adolescents what ‘X’ does for pirates hunting for buried treasure, saying ‘Nipple HERE!’. A little self-censoring innovation by cinema operators could have saved this from the sleaze can, like sticking a rating to be advised label over the offending region, or putting soon- to-be-obsolete liquid paper to good use, though that would be breaching artistic licence since the font design is supposed to be, you know, smudgy and gritty and stuff.

Daniel Craig isn’t even molesting the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, unlike the very different scenario depicted in Janet Jackson’s banned album cover art below. What’s interesting to me is how topless women with a male hand draped around their chest ALWAYS never smile, I mean even for erotic wedding shots; The naked bride never ever looks like she enjoys the warm cradle of her groom’s arm (See Melody Chen and Randall Tan’s wedding shot below, in total bliss obviously). If the flesh police want to be consistent in their enforcement of decency why aren’t they storming wedding banquets to pull such copious filth off the pedestals? Children attend weddings too, you know.

The Girl with the Finger Bikini

Say Squeeze..I mean Cheese

Brutal music videos

From Music video clips showed brutality and cruelty 29 march 1986 ST Forum

Perhaps the most revolting of all the video clips was the one by Greg Kiln, Jeopardy. ..It showed couples handcuffed to each other …the bride’s face turning into a skull, lightning striking the church, and a strange tentacle reaching out to grab the groom by theneck.

Such interpretations of the concept of marriage should not be promoted in Singapore. It is shocking that SBC broadcast such a sordid and hideous video clip.

People will be prompted to behave violently and horrendous crimes, brutality and cruelty…will increase.

Here’s the nasty clip in full uncensored glory, thanks again to Youtube. Cute tentacle.


Void deck funerals too eerie

From ‘Don’t use void decks for funerals’ 12 Oct 1983 Letters to ST

The wailing, chanting, funeral music, coffin, canopy, lights and banners have been most disturbing and depressing.

It is very upsetting to have to live with a corpse under the floor for days, not to speak of the aura of eerieness that surrounds the place during and for some days after the funeral.

The sight of a coffin must be psychologically disturbing to them (children)

From ‘Hold funerals and weddings in the proper places’ 17 Oct 1983 ST Forum

A lot of dust and smoke gets into the rooms because of the long hours of cooking on primitive stoves the night before and the day itself for a wedding and the endless burning of incense paper during a funeral service

It is also not right for people to set up make-shift toilets just below our bedrooms during the funeral service.

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