Rats on a hill near Bukit Batok MRT

From ‘Rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT’, 17 Dec 2014, article in CNA

A rat infestation has been spotted in the vicinity of Bukit Batok MRT station. Simulation system operator Ryan Keith, 33, is a longtime Bukit Batok resident, and recorded a video of the rat infestation on Tuesday evening (Dec 16), at the hill just beside the train station.

“I was there for about 10 minutes and I think I saw more than 50 rats,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “This spot is near to many eateries, and rats can breed very quickly and bite through wires, so I am quite concerned.”

He said he has approached the National Environment Agency (NEA) about the problem, and they told him that “they will look into it“.

Channel NewsAsia understands that this is a plot of state land under the management of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), as an agent of the Singapore Land Authority. Channel NewsAsia has approached the HDB for comment.

It does not bode well when an agency says they will ‘look into it’, when they really should be saying ‘we’ll send someone down before someone gets bloody typhus’. At press time, both agencies are waiting for the other to issue ‘statements’, by which time another litter of rat babies would have already been born feeding off scraps from a discarded, oily Old Chang Kee plastic bag. Opposition parties contesting in the ward should be taking notes, because this is the best evidence available if you ever decide to call Bukit Batok constituency a shameful ‘slum’.

In this case, it appears that the buck is being passed to HDB who owns the vermin-infested land. When dead rats were found floating near the Merlion in 1972, the Ministry of Environment directed a complainant to the PWD (Public Works Department) and then the Health Ministry, before redirecting him back to the original contact. Well if only we had grass-cutting coordinator MSO to sort things out back then!

In our reputedly ‘spick and span’ Garden City, you still find these resilient little bastard critters invading shopping malls, fast food joints, hawker centres, HDB drains, or on the MRT. Even the food we eat is not spared. You could find pieces of rat in even roti prata with mutton curry.  In the fifties, people bought hunting cats to take matters into their own hands during a rat epidemic. Today you find rats as large as cats themselves, and the reason why cats are not doing their job is because they’re being over-fed, mutilated by humans, or being rounded up to become cuddle accessories in some cat cafe, where they spend their confined days staring out of the window depressed, fantasising about all the big fat rats they could maim and eat instead of entertaining shitty humans over tea and biscuits.

Well, if even stray cats and dogs are terrified of this marauding menace, there’s only one option left to resolve this issue. Release the PYTHON!!

Update: The NEA, AVA, Jurong Town Council and HDB issued a joint statement the following day blaming the rat infestation on people feeding stray dogs, while a pest control team was deployed to wage war on the rat army, an operation with the cheesy sounding name of ‘Rat Attack’ that drew excited crowds as if they were witnessing a SWAT team in a terrorist hostage situation. Kudos to the Star Pest Control team for braving the rain to subdue the pestilence. These guys have their own Facebook page, which features grisly photos of massive insect nests if you’re into that kind of thing. Their logo, strangely enough, includes a rat with a Elvis hairdo. Still, glad to know someone out there gives a rat’s ass about public health.

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MSO tackling the problem of uneven grass patches

From ‘Government looking to coordinate grass-cutting services in public spaces’, 10 Dec 14, article in CNA

The Government is looking into consolidating grass-cutting services in public spaces. The Municipal Services Office, set up in October, said it is acting on feedback to better coordinate public services for residents.

…The Pang Sua Park Connector in Choa Chu Kang is a popular spot for many, but some have noticed that grass in the area is not evenly cut. Grass-cutting services for this strip along the park connector is managed by NParks. However, across a drain, such services for the plot of land is managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The uneven length is due to the agencies having different schedules for grass cutting.

Ms (Grace) Fu said: “(The person who raised the issue) felt it is sometimes a little bit strange where certain parts seem to be cut well, not the others, and also because some parts that are not cut frequently enough, it actually affected his experience of the park. So I think that we should take such feedback seriously, and we are looking for areas where we can systematically resolve issues rather than just do it on a case-by-case basis.”

The first order of business for the newly formed MSO is not handling difficult neighbours in a HDB estate, who should clean up collapsed trees or who should catch mynahs, but to tend to ugly looking grass patches because someone complained that his ‘park experience’ was affected by differing lengths of ground foliage  (#firstworldproblems). As a Garden City, having a uniformly green landscape is top priority, of course. You don’t want to instill mass panic in the general public by giving the impression that the drought is upon us once again because some patches look sparser than others. I suppose some people are more concerned about the state of the nation’s grass than their own public hair. Your wall-punching, Teo Chee Hean-dissing, nuisance neighbour from hell can wait, even if it takes 5 years. Grass takes precedence.

In the past, there’s nothing more terrifying than uncut, 1m long grass. People were afraid of snakes lurking within them, or you could step on dogshit without knowing it. Most of the time, however, our problem lies not with the grass itself, but the people paid to trim the green to maintain this tidy ‘park’ atmosphere. Grass-cutters were blamed for propelling rocks onto unwitting passers-by or cracking car windows, or even almost amputating legs off with their deadly hand-held cutters. When we get pricked by a stray twig that sprang wildly off those whirly blades of death, we curse contractors for employing reckless foreigner grasscutters or using a tool that would make them as hazardous as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and we curse them again if they’re not doing a proper job ensuring that not one blade of grass is taller than the other,  because we’re so used to seeing soothing, homogenous open spaces that the thought of one weed of lallang hanging out of place is enough to send us into cataleptic shock. Like when you order ice kacang and only one side of the slope has condensed milk but not the other.

In the meantime, uncles are running riot with their electric scooters, joggers are breaking their ankles tripping over protruding stones, and nobody’s picking up that fishball stick straddling the MRT track and park connector. Some people just don’t like the idea of the grass being greener on the other side, I guess. Next on the agenda, coordinating the management of fallen leaves so that we won’t have a situation where we have neat piles on one side of the pavement, and an unsightly orgy of scattered leaves on the other.

A-star scholar biting the hand that feeds her

From ‘Drop ungrateful scholarship holders’, 28 Nov 2014, ST Forum

(Estella Young): WHILE funding for the local arts scene is always welcome, it is disappointing to see Dr Eng Kai Er use her one-woman arts grant as a thinly veiled attack on her scholarship agency (“A*Star scientist starts arts grant in protest against six-year bond”; Tuesday). Depicting herself as the hapless victim of a scholarship bond and describing her scientific research as “narcissistic, masturbatory work” that she is not interested in show a shocking lack of appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on her doctoral studies, not to mention the academic and professional opportunities afforded to her.

It would have been far more honourable for Dr Eng to resign her scholarship once she had resolved not to pursue a scientific career. Remaining employed in the field while publicly sniping at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the scholarship system is simply biting the hand that fed her.

Eighteen is not too young an age to make a commitment for the next decade of one’s life. A six-year bond is hardly indentured slavery: The savvy scholarship holder who dislikes his job would use the opportunity to hone his professional skills and position himself for his post-bond career change.

Since Dr Eng is unlikely to remain in the scientific field beyond her bond, A*Star might be better off terminating her bond immediately and channelling the estimated $700,000 in liquidated damages to a more deserving party.

While Dr Eng was still studying at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, she and a fellow student paraded around Holland Village in the nude for kicks, probably at the peak of her artistic blossoming then.  A-star decided to let her off with a warning letter. Eng, other than an being an aspiring patron for the arts scene here with her ‘No Star Arts Grant‘ project, is no slouch in areas outside of the Infection expertise that she was groomed for. The Hwa Chong alumni was a national competitive ice-skater, MENSA member and more recently a dancer-director-choreographer for a play titled Fish. She also dances on the MRT in her free time. Not sure if anyone has called her side projects ‘narcissistic’ or ‘masturbatory'; her one-woman arts grant certainly RUBBED some folks the wrong way.

Are you A-star scientist, or Are you Dancer?

If Eng is ‘biting the hand’ that feeds her, then bond-buster Chen Jiahao, aka Acid Flask, must have chomped off an entire arm for accusing A-star of bribery and corruption in 2007.  A-star threatened with defamation, and Chen shut down his blog. Ironically, Eng published a paper that deals with a cellular process known as ‘autophagy’, or a ‘constitutive, dynamic, bulk degradation process’. The word in its original Greek means ‘self-eating’.

The notion that students should already know what they want in life by EIGHTEEN is subjective at best. I didn’t then, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure up till now. Which is why I’m writing a blog instead of paying people to do arty-farty shit. We’re not worker bees cemented to fulfil an ordained purpose till we die, and according to Cherian George, at this age we’re not trusted to vote or watch an R21 movie, yet are supposed to be ready to enter a contract binding us till we’re 30 years old (Bond-busters:Who’s to blame?22 Aug 1997, ST). Things change, people change. You could be working Semliki Forest viruses one day and decide you want to become Natalie Portman’s Black Swan the next.

Most scholars would swallow the bond despite losing interest in their jobs, driven by emotional indebtedness and fear of stepping out of line, but a rare few will react in the most extreme way possible. SAF doctor Allan Ooi reportedly killed himself in Melbourne over his unhappiness with his bond. A scholarship also doesn’t necessarily guarantee promotion success in the real world, with some switching to private after their pride was burnt by high-achieving non-scholars. For those who refuse to soldier on or pursue their other passions whilst giving their benefactor the middle finger like Eng has, breaking the damn thing appears to be the only other option.

In fact, breaking a bond may be the best thing that ever happened for some Singaporeans, like ex PSC scholar Brandon Wade for example, now US-based and millionaire founder of a ‘sugar daddy’ dating website. Hector Yee, doomed to slog at the National Computer Board, broke free and got himself a job at Google. A-star chairman Philip Yeo called his act of defiance ‘bullshit’, this coming from a man who once said he wants ‘hungry leaders, not boring drones‘. ‘National Computer Board’, incidentally, is the kind of boring, ‘droney’ name that summons retro images of clunky, grey computer monitors and floppy disks. The only time you hear someone actually say ‘computer’ is in an 80s sci-fi movie where you’re asking some artificial intelligence behind a screen to summon data for you. Like ‘Computer, set coordinates for Lamda Galaxy’, or ‘Computer, find this rogue scholar and terminate her contract now’.

While originally intended as a mechanism to harvest talents with the ‘moral obligation’ to contribute to nation-building,  the ‘Programme’ has been deemed by some as an ‘instrument for converting free Singaporeans to indentured serfs‘. In a world where we routinely encourage our local brains to venture overseas, ‘dream big’ and hone their skills, the expectation that scholars should return home to serve the glorious motherland after their stint and contribute locally in a stifled work environment seems outdated, even naive.

A ‘bond breaker’ no longer has that stigma of ‘brash ingrate’ tied to it anymore, when ‘staying hungry’ and ‘breaking the rules’ has become the hip work ethic these days. Even if they did stay on to serve obediently as ‘promised’, there’s no guarantee that may even be model workers. Some government drones fall prey to sex corruption, others get caught for child porn and underage sex. Nobody accuses them of being ungrateful brats or depriving others of the chance to succeed, though we the taxpayers pay for their education, training AND their jailtime.

Eng has already been let off the hook once for going full frontal and the dancer-artist seems prepared to bear the consequences after some serious bitching about how her day job sucks ass. If all else fails, a rewarding career of MRT pole-dancing beckons.

Nuisance neighbour not opening door for Teo Chee Hean

From ‘Hand wringing over neighbour from hell’, 24 Nov 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The authorities have drawn a blank in efforts to deal with a nuisance neighbour who is said to have plagued a Pasir Ris block for more than five years. Residents of Block 612 at Elias Road claim Mr Liew Chien Siong, 33, is responsible for round-the-clock noise, leaving items dangling dangerously outside his flat and assaulting a neighbour’s son.

Two households even plan to move out because of the noise. Numerous complaints have been made to the Housing Board, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and police – to no avail.

“Even when our MP Teo Chee Hean came, he also refused to open his door,” said Mr Ismail Jan, 64, who lives in a unit above Mr Liew’s. He told The Straits Times that Mr Liew, who lives alone on the second storey, bangs on his walls and ceiling at all hours with what sounds like a solid object. He added: “Police came but said they have no authority to force open the door. I don’t know how long I have to suffer this.” All three agencies told The Straits Times they have received complaints but have been unable to contact Mr Liew.

Mr Siew Wen Chang, property manager at the town council, said it “manages only common property” and therefore the HDB and police must deal with the occupant as “the noise is within the flat”. In August, the town council cordoned off an area below the unit after it spotted a blind dangling outside the kitchen window.

The neighbour from hell is yet another example of PM Lee’s proverbial fishball stick analogy. The police can’t barge in guns ablazing and the town council won’t do anything about this ‘internal noise’ even though everyone else has been terrorised by it for 5 years, to the point that even the building’s structural integrity needed to be checked after all the banging and shaking. To show that they’re genuinely concerned for public safety, the town council even placed a token barricade in case Mr Liew’s dangling blind turns into killer litter. I don’t see such special arrangements for residents with potted plants hanging precariously form their window ledges. Why stop there, how about giving away free mufflers for distressed neighbours? Or maybe a pirate’s eyepatch just like what some of our ‘relevant authorities’ wear on a daily basis?

Are the authorities AFRAID of some guy who goes around dressed in army uniform and quite clearly a nutcase? Is he a soldier gone rogue trained by some secret militia with the ability to despatch an entire SWAT squadron if it had to come to that stage when tactical infiltration is the only resort? The HDB really ought to roll up their sleeves and flex some legal muscle instead of going around roping in mediators to possibly try and talk some sense into this menace to society, or at least get staff from IMH to assess if he needs to be tranquilised or put in a strait jacket. Now that Liew’s snubbed even the DPM himself, it will be utterly useless sending down inspector, social worker, MSO officer, or even the goddamn Chief of Army to put a stop to this potentially violent madness. Short of slipping a smoke bomb under his door or getting the CIA to go undercover as pizza delivery boys, HDB may want to consider the more rational tool of EVICTION.

In 1980, exactly such a tough stance was taken against any family who ‘persists in encouraging or supporting acts’ of housing block vandalism. A man who threw a VCR out of his window was evicted by HDB in 1984, in addition to being jailed a month for killer litter. You could even get kicked out of your HDB flat if you sublet your room to Thai prostitutes, or engage in ‘religious activities‘ such as setting up an entire temple or a cult seance within your house. If we were back in the 80’s, Mr Liew would have been booted out long before Teo Chee Hean even needed to step in. Instead of banging walls all day long, he’d be out there roaming the streets longing for a wall to even lean on. Has HDB, gasp, gone SOFT over the years? That it would allow someone to play a ‘Greatest Accordion Hits’ CD at full blast 24 hours a day without serving even a warning letter?

Probably not. Just 2 years ago, a HDB bully got an eviction notice, with full endorsement from Minister Tan Chuan Jin, for abusive acts of spitting, soiling laundry and vandalism. In 2013, a dog-crazy woman was evicted because her pets’ piss and shit caused a massive stench and were barking all night long. What will it take for HDB to use the whip of justice on Liew? For a distraught neighbour to go bonkers from the noise and start attacking Liew with a chopper? Or will we have to send in the artillery and wrecking ball to coax him out of his demonic fortress, at the risk of collateral damage? Will we be forced to demolish an entire building to eliminate one man-sized cockroach?

Now that TCH made his move but failed, it’s unlikely that another minister or MP will up the ante and make our DPM look bad. Maybe it’s time to send in THIS guy, who’ll probably do a better job than some shitty barrier underneath a window.

UPDATE: Liew was eventually arrested under section 7 of the Mental Health Act and referred to IMH for psychiatric assessment (Mental health check for Pasir Ris neighbour from hell, 28 Nov 14, ST).

4 year old boy’s death from Nasi Padang a misadventure

From ‘NEA to take action against stall owner’, 1 Nov 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said it will be taking action against the owner of the nasi padang stall linked to the death of a four-year-old boy. A coroner’s inquiry completed the day before found that Shayne Sujith Balasubraamaniam had likely contracted salmonella from food which his mother bought from the stall in Northpoint Shopping Centre’s Kopitiam foodcourt, before dying four days later on Jan 22. The coroner called the tragedy a “misadventure”.

Operations at the stall were suspended for three weeks for the NEA to conduct investigations. After the coroner’s inquiry, netizens wondered if stall owner Siti Abibah Guno would face further action. Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an NEA spokesman said yesterday: “With the coroner’s inquiry now completed, NEA will proceed to prosecute the licensee in court.”

Under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, Madam Siti faces a fine of up to $2,000 for each charge. Investigations had revealed unsafe levels of bacteria at the stall because of two main hygiene lapses – failure to register a food handler as required and failure to protect food in a covered receptacle.

Madam Siti was adamant when she told The Straits Times over the phone on Thursday that she had done nothing wrong as her licence to run a food stall had not been revoked.

According to the NEA’s advisory webpage, ‘3 persons’ were reported to contract ‘food poisoning’ on 18 Jan 2014, and NEA decided to drop the grading down to ‘C, but only effective from 10 April 2014, nearly 3 months after the boy’s death. My Paper reports that other than the deceased, his mother and 2 year old sister were also hit by the salmonella bug, the culprits being curry chicken and tahu goreng. If you check the latest grade for Siti’s stall from NEA’s online database, you would find, to anyone’s befuddlement, that it had since been upgraded to A. But what’s more surprising is that Siti was awarded NO DEMERIT POINTS and listed as NO SUSPENSIONS at all the past year, despite the Jan incident. You might even say it’s an unblemished track record just looking at the details below. No wonder she thinks she has done ‘nothing wrong’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 7.47.12 AM

 ‘C’ means a score of 50-69%, or barely meeting the passing mark, though the running joke among fans of hawker food is that the lower the score, the tastier the food, with the lowest rating ‘D’ standing for ‘Delicious’. With this Nasi Padang tragedy, you can’t tell that joke anymore without someone groaning at its, well, tastelessness. D is diarrhoea, then death. So, the question remains, how reliable are these ratings anyway? How does the public make an ‘informed choice’ from these grades if there’s a lapse of a few months between a tragedy and the actual ‘demotion’? Or if your online licensing details says there were no suspensions the past year when in fact there was?

It seems that NEA will only issue some kind of strained apology or reassurance when hundreds of people are affected, like the Geylang Serai rojak poisoning back in 2009, which also took 2 lives thanks to an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium that also sounds like a Harry Potter spell to induce instant faecal incontinence. Back then, the CEO of NEA himself wrote a letter to Today saying he was ‘deeply saddened’ and that NEA ‘should have moved in firmly’ to tackle the rat infestation problem at the Temporary Market. In this Nasi Padang case, they’ve decided to go on the litigious offensive straight off, before telling us how ‘affected’ they are by the tragic demise, or what measures, other than tweaking gradings up and down, are going to be implemented to ensure that such ‘misadventures’ don’t happen again. Incidentally, the rojak stall was also rated C (Rojak stall given C grade for hygiene in Dec, 8 April 2009, ST).

 Meanwhile, if you think you’re safe if you avoid stalls which display uncovered food, whether it’s economic rice, rojak or Taste of Nanyang Chicken Rice, think again. Even dipping your fishballs in a Sichuan hot pot may not avert a gastrointestinal holocaust. Nor eating Prima Deli chocolate cakes. You should also worry about what your kids eat in their school canteens. If you see a food stall with a ‘C’ rating, don’t think of it as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘average’, but ‘CAUTION’.  Do a quick spotcheck of the premises before ordering, and don’t gobble down the food in case it’s swarming with gross, hidden maggots, as what happened with another case of Nasi Padang last year (also from a stall in Yishun), an image that is enough to turn you into a vegetarian for a week. Watch out for Ecoli in salad though.

As for NEA’s online database, if it’s really a case of wrong information displayed, then you’ve just scored a big ‘F’ in my book.

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.

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.

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