HDB suggesting debarking of noisy dogs

From ‘Dog disturbances, HDB suggests debarking…’, 28 Aug 2014, article in CNA

An animal rights group has voiced “strong objections” to a Housing and Development Board (HDB) suggestion that dog owners who are unable to keep their dogs from barking should consider surgically “debarking” their pets.

The HDB notice, issued by its Ang Mo Kio Branch on Aug 22, referred to a “dog barking nuisance in the middle of the night at Blk 601, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5″. It called upon dog owners to consider one of three options: Obedience training sessions; training collars to control and modify the behavior of their pets; or debarking the dog through surgery.

There are two ways to debark a dog in the vet’s surgery. One, yank its mouth open, pull its tongue forward, grab the vocal cords with forceps and cut them off. Two, make an incision over its voice box, remove voice box and tendons. The dog may continue to bark though effectively muted, but may display ‘neurotic behaviour’. Animal lovers have been long aware of the consequences of debarking, that it would turn the dog into a dangerous ‘monster’ who bites postmen’s crotches willy-nilly without warning. Well so would you if someone de-tongued you. Or if you were forced to do it yourself with a pair of sewing scissors like that finale scene in Oldboy.

Well that’s one way to take a vow of silence

Amazingly, this barbaric practice isn’t banned anywhere in the world. It’s a subtler version of the ancient torture gadget called the ‘choke pear‘, a device which is shoved into a liar’s orifice and unscrewed open slowly leading to severe internal mutilation. If a human being can’t seem to keep it down whatever the situation, to suggest making a few snips around the voicebox would be considered cruel even under general anaesthetic. We all know a few karaoke singers around the block who desperately need to be de-‘sung’, but HDB wouldn’t dare suggest that we send these chronic screechers for ‘voice recalibration’. It would be psychological torture, because God gave us voices to sing and recite poetry under the moonlight so we can score mates and reproduce.

There are less invasive ways to make any yapping dog shut the hell up without taking the ‘dog-ness’ out of him. Give him something to chomp and latch on. Like the groin of some HDB officer on his dog-silencing prowls for example. Or pay hundreds of dollars to get on stage live with Cesar Milan when he comes to town, whose dog sorcerer magic can turn your boisterous, extrovert dog into a hushed, plaintive squeaker which just a single, penetrating stare. If dogshit became a rampant problem, we have it in our human ingenuity to surgically remodel a dog’s anus, creating an artificial defecatory delay so that we can catch its poo in time and avoid the nasty business of picking the yucky thing up from the ground.

HDB comes across in their notice as treating a dog’s voicebox as a switch to turn on and off, like an annoying leaky tap that a plumber can fix. In 1985, they even considered a blanket ban of dogs in general from homes because of complaints by residents. But it’s not always the Board endorsing the torture of innocent creatures. Some owners resort to turning their Wolverine cats into Hello Kittys by ‘declawing’, which involves some form of amputation of the feline’s digits so that their human babies don’t get disfigured by moody cats. All you World War POWs got off easy by just having your fingernails yanked out one by one. In agriculture, calves are dehorned by a searing hot iron so that they won’t gore farmers or other animals. Or remind people too much of Satan.

Let’s hope our MND Minister and well known Buddhist animal lover Khaw Boon Wan puts his money where his bark is and stop this debarking nonsense once and for all. As for those who complained about the dog nuisance, maybe this clip will change your mind about dog barks.

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Authorities not claiming responsibility over a fishball stick

From ‘New Municipal Services Office announced’, 17 Aug 2014, article by Monica Kotwani and Eileen Poh, CNA

There will be a new authority set up to coordinate the work of various Government agencies in order to better serve the public when it comes to municipal issues. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this on Sunday (Aug 17) during his National Day Rally. The Municipal Services Office (MSO) will coordinate the work of agencies such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA), NParks, the Housing and Development Board and Police. The aim is to improve service delivery to residents.

PM Lee highlighted an example cited by Mayor for South West District, Low Yen Ling. “Yen Ling’s residents had complained that the walkway to the Bukit Gombak MRT Station was often dirty,” Mr Lee related. “One resident told her he saw a fishball stick there on the walkway. The next day he came back and looked, the same fishball stick was still in the same place. Her residents have very sharp eyes. So Yen Ling called up the agencies to find out why the area was not being cleared regularly. And she had to make multiple calls to several agencies, held several meetings. She finally managed to establish what happened. “

Ms Low found that a slope on the left of the walkway is overseen by the National Environment Agency (NEA). In the middle, which is a park connector under NParks, while the pavement close to the road is under LTA. Mr Lee said the cleaners of these areas had different cleaning schedules, and the area on the right where the fishball stick lay was cleaned every two days.

Stick it to the Man

Stick it to the Man

Ironically, in the same article, PM was waxing lyrical about Singapore becoming a SMART NATION, and here you have a mayor having to arrange MEETINGS with agencies to decide what to do with a dumped fishball stick. I wonder who would take responsibility if the fishball stick happens to lie exactly midway between NPARKS and NEA’s turf. Maybe the cleaners under the respective payrolls would have to play scissors-paper-stone in order to come to a decision.

Like an unexpected pregnancy after a drunken mass orgy, the Bukit Gombak fishball stick anecdote has become an awkward metaphor of our neurotic, self-serving, ‘not my problem’ bureaucracy. Creating another liaison office to coordinate a response isn’t going to solve the actual problem here which PM Lee did not address in his rally: LITTERING. In full parental mode, our government have spawned yet another nanny to pick up after us because we don’t know how to make people responsible for their own environment. It’s like how setting up child welfare isn’t going to stop people from having irresponsible sex. In fact it takes some of the guilt and regret off your shoulders because you know someone ‘s taking care of your damn baby, rather than leaving him abandoned and straddling the imaginary boundary between two agencies who want nothing to do with him.

The formation of an MSO is a typical approach to how we deal with such issues: Create another layer of bureaucracy to address it, confuse everyone with yet another acronym, and hope for the best. This is just sweeping the littering scourge under the carpet. And then putting another carpet on top of the first one for good measure.

‘Municipal’ is a word that is as old as there have been only gas lamps on the streets, as seen in this 1849 article below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.24.50 PM

It’s also an old-timey word you wouldn’t expect Singaporeans to even pronounce properly, with the MSO appearing to be an organisation whose responsibilities we’ll inevitably mix up with those of the ‘Town councils’.  MSO also stands for ‘Medisave-cum Subsidised Outpatient‘ scheme, or the fancy rank of some random customer service officer in the civil service. Maybe we need another agency to regulate how agencies are named, one that could launch an ‘Acronym Streamlining Scheme’. Or ASS.

There are other ‘grey areas’ around which our ‘relevant authorities’ don’t want to touch with a ten foot fishball stick. Nobody wants to claim responsibility over pesky mynahs, for example.  Then there’s killer treesleaves in drains, or even stray pythons, which depending on where the creatures are found may have to involve ACRES, PUB or even the Police Force. Some of these, like venomous reptiles, obviously need more urgent attention than something out of an Old Chang Kee deep fryer, and I’m not sure if the MSO can get the agencies’ act together in double-quick time before someone gets killed. We need an Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force equivalent to deal with such things. A ‘task force’ implies active hands-on, while an ‘office’ brings to mind meeting minutes, roundabout e-mails and endless hole-punching. If I need someone to get rid of a snake in the toilet bowl and I don’t know who to call, I instinctively would choose the people who call themselves a task force rather than an office, though there jolly well could be no difference between them at all.

Good luck to us if we were ever invaded by a swarm of radioactive, mutant, giant mosquitoes aggregating and breeding over a drain by the road in a HDB estate. By the time you get around calling NEA, AVA, HDB, PUB, LTA, the Town Council, or the whole damn ARMY, we’d all get hemorrhagic, radioactive dengue and die a horrific death before the first minutes of meeting have even been tabled.

NLB CEO saddened by protests against gay book pulping

From ‘NLB saddened by criticism over removal of books’, 13 July 2014, article by Akshita Nandra, Sunday Times

The National Library Board did not anticipate the widespread dismay that greeted news that it had removed three children’s books following complaints about their homosexual themes, chief executive Elaine Ng said yesterday.

She told The Sunday Times in an interview that she was saddened that several local writers have withdrawn from library-related events in protest. “I’m saddened by their disappointment in us. I would like to engage those who have worked with us for a long time and hope they will accept our outstretched hands in future,” she said.

But the NLB is not changing its decision to keep the three books off the shelves. They will not be resold or donated as usually happens with discarded books, because of concern that they might be unsuitable for young children.

…”It’s unfortunate that it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction but we have an ongoing process of review,” said Ms Ng. The NLB has a collection of five million books, acquires one million a year and reviews between 4,000 and 5,000 titles a year for suitability.

Ms Ng said information about the withdrawals could have been communicated better, and suggested a public dialogue “down the road”. Asked why not hold it now, she replied: “Things are still fairly emotional.

…The NLB has not been without its supporters. One Facebook group, Singaporeans United For Family, has commended its action and claimed to have gathered more than 24,000 signatures of support as of yesterday.

In 2011, MTI minister Lim Hng Khiang praised the library as a ‘very progressive organisation’. CEO Elaine Ng chimed in by describing libraries as social learning spaces that ‘draw and unite people across ALL ages and CULTURES’. 3 years on and Minister Yaacob has suggested that the NLB also has a duty to conform to ‘existing social/community norms‘. You can’t be both ‘progressive’ and be a nanny at the same time. ‘Outstretched hands’ notwithstanding, Elaine Ng, a former research analyst and high-flyer at MINDEF, did not provide her explanation as to why the books are ‘unsuitable for young children’ and must be destroyed at all costs. I doubt they did the same thing to 50 Shades of Grey. More like a Thousand Shreds of Black and White if ‘And Three Makes Tango’ gets turned into mush. Or what about that 1987 movie about 3 grown men living together taking turns looking after a baby girl. Smash and burn the damned VCD with fire! Look at Steve Guttenberg’s face! Just look at it!

This is not a community norm

OH DEAR GOD!

OH DEAR GOD!

By not elaborating on why ‘alternative/non-traditional’ families are ‘bad’ for children, NLB’s allowing the ‘overwhelming majority’ to do the explaining on their behalf online. To say that things have been ‘fairly emotional’ is not only an understatement, but implies that NLB has mulled over the ban in a calm, objective manner unlike the pack of wild animals that is the general public; that ultimately they still believe they’ve done the right thing. This coming from a chief who was awarded a ‘People Engagement’ trophy in 2013.

Here’s a snapshot of what this self-declared ‘majority’ of concerned Singaporeans are feeling at the moment, according to the ‘Singaporeans United for Family’ FB page.

Eternal, congratulatory gratitude

awesome

Hell, just give the NLB a standing ovation and National Day award already. Unlimited loans for you and your family, sir!

Genuine fear

sodom

Bring a crucifix to the penguin enclosure at the zoo next time. They are EVIL.

 HIV

Thank you for loving gays as HUMAN PERSONS. DOWN WITH WESTERN CULTURE and their HIV epidemics!

Still, nothing sells a book like controversy, and although a few copies may be sacrificed in the pyre, ultimately the authors of Tango may even have NLB to thank for the publicity. A reading event has been organised right outside the National Library as we speak, with copies of intact Tango books available, granted permission by the Police of course. For an event intended for CHILDREN. Is that #wearwhite thing still on? Time to do some work, guys. Just make sure you don’t end up looking like, erm, penguins i.e #wearblackandwhite.

blackandwhite

NLB, you’ve just slapped yourself with that ‘outstretched hand’, and too bad we don’t have weekly bestseller lists anymore that we can shove in your self-righteous faces when a story about gay penguins makes it to the top of the charts. Penguins aside, I still enjoy a good browse every now and then, and I love that I can still find and borrow rare, surprising titles like Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina’ and The F-Word without anyone charging at me with a burning pitchfork ranting about defiling community norms or Sodom and Gomorrah.

UPDATE: Minister Yaacob ordered the offending books to be relocated to the adults section, and the complaints persisted. Some were afraid of pranksters deliberating misplacing the books back in the children’s section, while others disagreed that Tango should be labelled as such and wasn’t ‘age-appropriate’ for mature people. NLB must be thinking they shouldn’t have brought this in in the first place.

Children’s book about gay penguins banned from libraries

From ‘NLB removes two children’s titles after complaint that they’re not ‘pro-family”, article by Pearl Lee, 8 July 2014, ST

The National Library Board (NLB) has removed two children’s titles after it received e-mail complaints that the books are not “pro-family”. The first book, And Tango Makes Three, features two male penguins who behave as though they are a couple, while the second book, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, has two female partners trying to adopt a baby from China.

Facebook user Teo Kai Loon had posted a note in a Facebook group named We Are Against Pinkdot In Singapore on Tuesday morning, calling on fellow group members to “scrutinise” the library’s catalogue, and not allow such children’s books to “go under the radar”.

“You can always e-mail NLB for that, the action is swift, all within two days. Remember, the onus is on us,” he said.

In the same note, he also included an e-mail he had received from Ms Tay Ai Cheng, NLB assistant chief executive. In it, she said that the two books have been removed following his feedback. She added that NLB takes a “strong pro-family stand” when selecting books for children.

A true brrrr-omance

Same-sex human parents I’d probably understand, but the anti-gay lobby won’t even spare penguins, describing an unusual story about two male birds taking turns to sit over an egg as not ‘pro-family’. The BBC recently ran a story about two similar penguin fathers in Kent Zoo rearing an abandoned chick.  The headline? ‘Gay penguins in Kent zoo are ‘THE BEST PARENTS”. One lucky bird’s surrogate fathers are somehow some human beings’ enemies of the ‘family unit’. One of those people, unfortunately, is the top brass of a public institution responsible for national literacy and nurturing minds, telling children not to be influenced by the instinctive actions of an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT species. What next, The Three Little Pigs as an ode to a homosexual menage a trois, with the Big Bad Wolf doing more than ‘blowing the house down’? (If you know what mean *wink*)

I once saw two male Sun Bears at the Singapore Zoo giving each other fellatio during my vulnerable teen years. It didn’t make me want to find a man to pair- bond with. Or give fellatio for that matter. It made me think that male bears could have been fondling each other for centuries before some furious scribe decided to document the same act in humans as a terrible atrocity against God.

There’s nothing ‘pro-family’ about a NORMAL penguin ‘lifestyle’ anyway in the sense of boy meets girl and together they raise Junior to become Happy Feet. Like most beasts, males slaughter each other over mates, babies get occasionally eaten, abandoned, even kidnapped. If you’ve watched March of the Penguins you’d learn that the females abandon their young, travelling for miles to source for food, leaving their offspring with what’s practically a single-parent family. The animal kingdom is hardly a reliable model for what these purists call the ‘ideal’ family. If the NLB were so strong on ‘family values’, then ban Twilight, the Hunger Games and Sweet Valley High already, before we have a horde of horny, two-timing, violent delinquents running wild all over the country. Wait, too late.

The last time a children’s book from the library was slammed was when ‘The Story of Little Black Sambo‘ was deemed racist. NLB also banned Fifty Shades of Grey for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, kids who are deprived of a heartwarming tale of unconditional love and parenthood inspired by real life events can browse ‘teen fiction’ books outside of the library that promote premarital sex, glamorise the occult, murder, rape and kinky BDSM, without these ‘pro-family’ crusaders making the slightest tweet about it. The underaged girl who goes for an abortion is a victim, the rebel who abandons his aged parents is a rockstar, while two harmless birds enjoying each others’ company and raising a chick instead of devouring it is deemed such an abominable threat to human existence as we know it that the story must be pecked clean from libraries. Bring on more copies of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ then.

Birds have no ‘agenda’ or ‘lifestyle’ to speak of. It’s only a few gay-obsessed humans who will pick on anything to ruffle some feathers before they even witness a single act of penguin sodomy going on.

 

A-Mei’s Rainbow performance banned by MDA

From ‘No A-mei’s Rainbow for an outdoor event as it is accessible by anyone, including the young, says MDA’, 13 June 2014, article by Boon Chan, ST

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that it had advised a music festival’s organiser not to have A-mei’s Rainbow performed. The Straits Times had broken the news here online on Wednesday that the Taiwanese diva had been prohibited from singing the track at the 2014 Spring Wave Music And Art Festival at Gardens by the Bay on June 7.

The song Rainbow is about gay relationships and A-mei is also regarded as a gay icon. According to an MDA spokesperson, this was because Spring Wave was an outdoor event accessible by all members of the public.

“For indoor events, consumer advisories are used to allow consumers to make more informed media choices for themselves and their children. The nature of outdoor performances at public spaces, such as Spring Wave which was held at Gardens by the Bay, makes it difficult to do the same. Hence, organisers of these events should ensure that their performances are suitable for general audiences.”

Overseas media reports noted that the singer was perplexed as she had previously performed the song at her gigs in Singapore.

Rainbow contains the following gay lyric: ‘Our loves are very similar, we get hurt because of men, yet we continue colliding’. It also makes a not so subtle reference to a closet (‘spacious enough to keep your paradise’). Yet it doesn’t make any explicit references to lesbian sex, or even kissing. On the other hand, despite our ban on a Katy Perry song from radio stations, the superstar still performed ‘I Kissed a Girl’ to an emphatic singalong at Singfest 2010. Which means the ban didn’t work one bit.

There’s also another platform to listen to Rainbow which is also ‘accessible by all members of the public’. It’s called YouTube. It has a live performance of A-mei waving a flag and showcases members of the audience spontaneously gay kissing.  In Singapore. Is MDA going to ban this from YouTube too?

From the video above it becomes clear to me why Rainbow is banned. It encourages heterosexual and homosexual people to smooch each other and spread the love around like a goddamn virus. Thanks for thinking of the children, MDA. Please make sure the song isn’t performed at Pink Dot too, lest we turn Hong Lim Park into a sticky mass orgy. And under no circumstances should you allow a situation where we have Adam Lambert and A-mei doing a Rainbow duet, indoor or outdoors, for the love of all things straight and innocent.

Before the rainbow became an international symbol of gay pride, it was a celestial slide into a pot of gold, a natural wonder that springs hope and brings smiles all round. The colours of the rainbow was the only mnemonic I still retain till this day after learning it in primary school. Now, thanks to the MDA, you can’t watch The Wizard of Oz or listen to a singing Kermit the Frog without wondering if their songs contain subliminal messages promoting this ‘alternative lifestyle’. My childhood is ruined forever.

Take ‘The Rainbow Connection’ for example, which can be re-interpreted as a gay anthem.

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, (the illusion that sex can only be heterosexual)
and rainbows have nothing to hide. (come out, gays of the world!)
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Oh, Kermit. Miss Piggy ought to know.

Red Dot Family Event not allowed at Padang

From ‘Refusal to allow pro-family event at Padang puzzling: Khong’, 10 May 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang. Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Khong — who has regularly spoken out against homosexuality — said he was disappointed with the ministry’s move. He added: “I am puzzled by MSF’s restrictions on TOUCH to organise (the event) and also confused with their position on family.”

As part of the organiser’s proposal, participants had been asked to wear red to the event which was to be held on June 28, the same day as Pink Dot — an annual event held at Speakers’ Corner in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, where participants wear pink. The organisers had considered calling the event Red Dot Family Moment 2014 but it settled on #FamFest 2014.

On Wednesday, the media reported that the MSF had rejected the application by TOUCH Family Services as it deemed the event unsuitable for the Padang. The ministry proposed alternative sites, but the organisers declined as they felt that the alternative locations, which were in the heartlands, were less accessible.

Mr Khong, who is also a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, stressed that the event was meant to promote family values. He said: “#FamFest 2014 is about defending the family against the onslaught of sexual infidelity, divorce, family violence and media that promotes sexual immorality including the homosexual agenda.”

…TODAY understands that TOUCH Family Services had booked the venue with the Singapore Recreation Club and applied for approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the police to hold the event. The voluntary welfare organisation also tried to engage the MSF as a partner for the event. The proposal was rejected by the URA last month.

The organisers had rejected suggestions that the event was pitted against Pink Dot. The red theme was inspired by Singapore’s national colour and the SG50 tagline Celebrating The Little Red Dot, while the date had been chosen because it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays and also the weekend when the annual National Family Celebrations traditionally culminate, they said.

The Padang has been traditionally used for sporting events and other activities which are generally FUN by nature, whether it’s a Zombie Run or a Justin Bieber concert. Even the organiser for this year’s waterless Songkran festival managed to book the place, but withdrew due to poor ticket sales. How did a celebration of the Thai New Year get the green light but not TOUCH’s Family extravaganza?

If there’s one similarity between Red Dot and Pink Dot it’s that both themes are inspired by national colours. Pink Dot explains that pink is the colour of our ICs, and it’s what you get when you mix red and white. Due to constraints of the venue, however, Pink Dot only allows foreigners to ‘observe’ the event but not participate in the highlight: The formation of a pink circle. I wonder what formation #Famfest had planned for, maybe a heart shape, or better still an outline of Singapore with a heart at its centre. Maybe our PAP can hold their own party to celebrate more than 50 years of total supremacy and call it White Dot to complete this trilogy of colours.

Lawrence Khong describes #Famfest as if it were a war campaign to defeat the enemies of his Church – sexual immorality and gay activism – rather than what should really be a relaxed carnival atmosphere. If they had lightened up on the ‘Values’ and war analogies, #Famfest would have just been deemed as a typical fun day out, for kids to run about with their parents rather than sitting around hearing some pastor ranting about the virtues of a heterosexual marriage like a general rousing his troops for battle.

But what’s more puzzling than the hashtag in #Famfest is the number of parties you need to seek permission from if you need to host any event at the Padang, whether it’s an atas mass picnic or a seniors’ game of rounders. According to the Terms and Conditions on the SRC website, you need to seek a total of up to SIX agencies  and  get 3 licences/permits  even PRIOR to getting approval from the SRC itself.

a) Urban Redevelopment Permit/s if applicable. (URA)
b) Public Entertainment Licence (PELU)
c) Composers & Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (Compass)
d) Artist impression of type of set-up and layout
e) Fire Safety Bureau (FSB) Licence
f) Building and Construction Authority Permit/s if applicable (BCA)
g) Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
h) Land Transport Authority (LTA) if applicable

And that’s excluding the MSF and the POLICE which TOUCH took extra steps to notify.

Interestingly, one of the conditions is that the event must not be political or religious in nature, and TOUCH’s chairman is both a pastor and an unabashed supporter of S377A. But ultimately it was URA and the Ministry who rejected the application, for reasons unclear. Isn’t it SRC’s call to decide if an event is ‘unsuitable’ for the grounds? To be fair, I would demand an answer myself looking at the amount of time and effort I had to waste just to book the damn place. If you made it so difficult to secure the Padang, why even allow third party events to be held there at all. No wonder the NDP is held only every 5 years at the venue. It probably takes the same amount of time to get the necessary permits as to plan the entire parade, full dress rehearsal included.

 

 

 

Tissue paper sellers paying a $120 licence fee

From ‘Tissue paper peddlers are unlicensed hawkers, says NEA’, 17 April 2014, article in CNA

Mobile peddlers selling packets of tissue paper on the streets are unlicensed hawkers, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in response to a letter posted on a website that these peddlers are charged a S$120 licence fee. “Although technically in breach of the laws against itinerant hawking, those peddlers who are needy are referred to the relevant agencies by the NEA for appropriate assistance,” the agency said on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

In a letter posted on the socio-political website The Real Singapore, the writer had questioned the need for street hawkers to pay S$120 to get a licence following his encounter with a visually-impaired man who sells tissue paper for extra income.

The NEA said that, at present, only 11 street hawkers under its Street Hawking Scheme are licensed to sell tissue paper in town council areas. Under the scheme, which started in 2000, those who meet the eligibility criteria pay a nominal fee of S$120 a year, or S$10 a month, to peddle their wares at fixed locations without having to pay rent.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the NEA said unlicensed peddlers selling tissue paper at coffee shops and hawker centres will be warned to stop selling their wares….”If they ignore the warning, the NEA will take enforcement action against them, just as it does for other illegal hawkers,” it added.

‘Enforcement action’ against what the law describes as ‘itinerant hawkers’ entails a fine not exceeding $5000, or up to $10,000/imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months for repeat offenders. On surface, this appears to be a major ‘compassion deficit‘ on the part of NEA to anyone who’s ever encountered a blind tissue peddler led by a relative walking around hawker centres, or the lady in a wheelchair who sings ‘Tissue paper One Dollar’ around MRT stations. I wonder if she’s also required to apply for an Public Entertainment licence.

Tissue paper ‘hawker’ Edwin Koh, 43, makes about $30 to $40 over the weekend, charging $1 for 3 packets. Rejected by his family, he sleeps in the playground after getting thrown out of a shelter for smoking. 75 year old Chia Chong Hock is reported to be the ONLY licensed tissue vendor in Singapore, earning his keep at Tiong Bahru MRT wearing a Santa hat, his makeshift ‘stall’ decorated with cherry blossoms and a Singapore flag. Even with all the props and decor, he still makes $20 to $30 a day. A Madam Rani who used to hang around the junction at Orchard Road facing Heeren (and someone I personally encountered) was reported to earn only $14 a day even for a busy district. Most of us spend that same amount in a single meal without even thinking about poverty lines. There are exceptions of course, foul-tempered peddlers who curse at you for rejecting their sale, or pushy ones who stuff tissue packs in your face as you’re eating bak chor mee.

While the cost of everything else seems to be going up these days, it’s a sobering thought that these Singaporeans are still keeping their tissue prices at 3 for $1,  especially since there is a constant demand for the goods, being used to reserve tables and all. Without the milk of kindness by strangers giving beyond the selling price of tissue paper, I wonder how these folks even survive. Some ugly Singaporean customers however, have even been known to compare prices (5 for $1 vs 4 for $1) between peddlers and haggle. If you take a closer look at some of the brands of tissue hawked, you’ll find a popular one called ‘Beautex’, with a tagline that reads, rather ironically, CHOICES FOR BETTER LIVES.

To be fair, the government hasn’t completely turned a blind eye to their plight. Amy Khor calls tissue peddling a ‘ very uncertain livelihood’ and that such elderly folks should be referred to the MCYS and CDCs for financial assistance. Then again, there are ministers like Wong Kan Seng who in 1987 slammed a group of blind tissue sellers for ‘acting like beggars’, his Ministry even accusing members of the ‘Progressive Society of the Blind‘ of duping the public with claims that proceeds were going into building a music school. It would be temporary blindness of the officers under his charge that led to the escape of a very famous fugitive 10 years later.

Still, I question how the statutes define ‘itinerant hawker’ (any person who, with or without a vehicle, goes from place to place or from house to house carrying for sale or exposing for SALE OF FOODS OR GOODS of any kind) and why selling tissue paper is subject to NEA’s regulations. If the NEA clamps down on people selling curry puffs or otak-otak, I doubt anyone would complain, since you could get sick from consuming their wares without proper sanitary controls. How does the need to control something as benign as tissue paper fall under the Environmental Public Health Act? Does tissue paper give you lip salmonella? Has anyone been hospitalised from severe allergic reactions after wiping their faces with tissue paper? If you use tissue to chope tables at food centres, do they leak toxic fumes all over the place? Does tissue paper turn your pimples into 3rd degree burns?

Since the rise of tissue peddling in the early 2000’s, NEA have not relented on their stand against illegal hawking, with a spokesperson in 2004 deriding the hardship as ‘disguised begging’. Tell that to the Santa Claus uncle, NEA.

 

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