Police report filed over Vivian Balakrishnan’s Facebook glitch

From ‘Elections Dept reins in breach of rules’, 10 Sep 11, article by Siau Ming En, Today

…Screengrabs of a tweet on Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan’s account linking to a Facebook post about an election walkabout — with a time stamp indicating it was published today — had some netizens questioning if electoral rules had been broken.

A spokesperson for Dr Bala­krishnan — who is leading the PAP team defending their seats in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC — said the minister has explained to the ELD that the Facebook post in question, which was first published on Sept 4, had been repeatedly published automatically.

“Despite multiple attempts by the page administrators to stop this, the problem recurred at 1.52am on Sept 10, 2015. We have contacted Facebook headquarters to conduct an investigation into the source of this bug,” Dr Balakrishnan told the ELD.

As his Facebook and Twitter accounts are linked, an associated tweet was also generated today. “We have also requested that the page be locked down to prevent any further postings,” Dr Balakrishnan said. Both the Facebook post and tweet have been removed from the respective social media platforms.

The police confirmed that reports were lodged on the matter, and they are looking into it.

UPDATE: Facebook confirmed on 11 Sep 15 that it was indeed a bug in the system that led to ‘recurrent autoposting’. Which is the internet equivalent of a ‘broken record’.

PAP’s youngest candidate Tin Peiling was accused of flouting Cooling Off Day rules back in 2011 when one of her Facebook posts called out rival Nicole Seah for sympathy weeping. An ‘administrator’ named Denise He took the rap. 4 years later, Tin is a rising star and looks set to sweep Macpherson off its feet, and another breach of Cooling Off Day rules is attributed not to a social media ghostwriter, but a ghost in the machine. Just a few days back, police reports were made against PAP MPs attending getais, which cater to a different sort of ghost altogether.

I suppose we should trust the Minister when he claims that there was a glitch in the Facebook-Twitter matrix. After all, this is the man who delivered an epic lecture about integrity and admitting to mistakes during his hawker centre kerfuffles with the WP. He could have blamed it on a hacker like what Ello Bello did to explain his seditious comments on Facebook. He could have blamed the haze for impairing his judgement and making him lose track of time. BUT NO, he chose to target a bug in the 2 biggest social media platforms in the world. Vivian is also no slouch when it comes to tech, being a self-professed gadget hobbyist himself, so he should know what he’s talking about. The PAP, I’m sure, just like it doesn’t have a ‘history of backstabbing’, does not have a history of obscuring the truth either.

Still, I don’t recall the Minister making personal apologies for blowing the YOG Budget in 2011, putting the fault on the ‘ministry’s inexperience’ in organising such a mega event. He also justified tripling the budget by saying that the YOG couldn’t have been a success otherwise. That’s like ordering a cake too large for a birthday party and then buying more candles to make up for it. Well at least he didn’t say there was a glitch in his calculator then.

If there’s a freak result in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC today, let’s hope the PAP team admits that they simply did not do enough to win hearts and minds, rather than dig into the ballot boxes looking for phony saboteur votes instigated by rogue polling agents. But if they do walk out as victors, my advice to the Minister and his team is to look beyond petty politics, all this talk about being whiter-than-white clean, and focus on the haze immediately instead.

WP’s Daniel Goh filing police report over poison pen letter

From ‘WP’s Daniel Goh refutes allegations of extramarital affair’, 28 Aug 2015, article in Today

Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Daniel Goh this morning said in a Facebook post that he has lodged a police report over the poison pen letter alleging that he had an affair with a former student.

…In a post on his Facebook page just before midnight (Aug 27), Associate Professor Goh, who is a sociologist at the National University of Singapore, said someone wrote a poison pen letter to the WP and the media claiming he had an affair with a former student whom he supervised for her thesis.

“I categorically refute the baseless allegations and I question the timing of the poison pen letter coming immediately after the candidate introduction,” wrote Assoc Prof Goh, who was introduced by the WP on Wednesday as a candidate for the coming polls.

One man who would be interested in this turn of events would be disgraced former WP candidate Yaw Shin Leong, whose downfall began when TR Emeritus exposed his affair based on accounts from ‘reliable informants’. The New Paper soon pounced, Yaw’s silence was taken as a sign of guilt, the PAP questioned the integrity of their council, and before you know it, the man tumbled out of politics altogether. It wasn’t long before scandal swung to the other side, with anonymous SMS tip-offs implicating PAP’s Michael Palmer for screwing around too. Unlike Yaw’s dithering, Palmer readily admitted to his indiscretions and quit the party in a manner that some might describe as ‘honourable’. The only reason why these vicious allegations weren’t labelled as ‘poison pen letters’ nor the media excoriated for ‘gutter journalism’, was that they turned out to be true. Or maybe because it’s, well, THE NEW PAPER.

There Will be Mud

Within days of Parliament dissolving, ‘netiquette’ met the same fate. Politicians are suddenly fodder for dirty sleuthing, and social media has become plague-ridden with one calculated smear campaign after another. NSP’s Steve Chia and Sebastian Teo were at the receiving end of the poison nib, with entire websites dedicating to besmirching their reputations. In the last GE, Vincent Wijeysingha crossed swords with Vivian Balakrishnan, the latter pointing to an online video and accusing the SDP of promoting a ‘gay agenda’. Both Steve and Vincent are as good as gone from politics, and it won’t be long before this poison shroud would start infecting other Opposition parties, with conspiracy theories floating around that these spreaders of falsehoods could either be PAP saboteurs/sympathisers, or even rival Opposition supporters, that instead of hurting Daniel Goh they actually boost his election chances. If WP play their cards right, we have a strong Opposition contender in our hands. Well, whatever doesn’t kill him.

Within a day of Goh lodging a police report, Law Minister Shanmugam did the same against a ‘seditious’ Facebook user accusing him of being an ‘Islamophobic bigot’ after his speech about segregation between Malay/Muslim and Chinese schools in Malaysia. It’s the kind of racism accusation Malaysian politicians would toss at LKY for his thoughts on Malaysia’s social quirks. So things have gotten ugly pretty quickly, and we’ve not even gotten to Nomination Day. You have to wonder if such retaliatory responses have been exaggerated because of this ‘smear frenzy’ that has gotten our candidates all antsy in their pants. Try to screw my election chances by defamation, and I’ll smack the law on you even harder. I figure politicians would turn a blind eye to trolls if polling wasn’t, well, just 2 damn weeks away.

So ‘negative campaigning’ and the revenge attacks associated with it, is the order of the day despite the Elections Department frowning upon it. In Goh’s case, the cowardliness of the attack and the mainstream media’s hyena scavenging somehow reversed his fortune into a positive one, instead of descending into ‘YawGate’.  It’s called ‘election fever’ for a reason; The system is delirious with a sickening contagion, where combatants are pitted not against actual rivals in a war of words or wits, but against anonymous hecklers who just want to see the world burn. In the past, writing poison pen letters that mar the reputation of police officers could land you 6 months in jail. If need be, the likes of “Max Chan” could be charged now under the Protection from Harassment Act, a charge that would actually make sense. Unlike this headscratcher.

So much shit online that threaten to condemn Singapore politics to a mudslinging Woodstock orgy and all our MDA is merely concerned with is ‘Pappy Washing Powder’. I wonder if that works on bullshit as well as tough stains.

UPDATE 29 Aug 15: K Shanmugam decided not to file a police report after meeting his accuser. 

Breadtalk LKY bun in poor taste

From ‘Breadtalk apologises for Lee Kuan Yew commemorative bun’, 25 Mar 2015, article in CNA

Bakery chain BreadTalk has apologised for a “commemorative bun” it put on sale to mark the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Proceeds of the sale of the buns were to be donated to the Community Chest, BreadTalk indicated. However, the move was criticised on social media as being in poor taste. Some on Facebook said it was a “disgusting” attempt to cash in on the passing of a founding father of the nation.

…The buns had gone on sale with a sign: “Thank you for your unwavering strength and dedication in transforming Singapore. Filled with gula melaka-flavoured grated coconut and mixed with attap seed, this kampong-inspired creation is a tribute to a visionary leader who gave his life to build a nation from a kampong to a successful Singapore today. Let us join hands and hearts to honour him, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”



This is just wrong. ‘Li Bu Kai Ni’ (can’t bear to leave you) should be made of a spicy red-hot tom yum filling, more representative of LKY’s fiery passion for Singapore, instead of some flaky coconut. While people in crutches are out there braving the heat queuing for hours to bid farewell to the icon, the people at Breadtalk were thinking of how to use this sombre event to promote their brand, for charitable causes or otherwise. They should just sell black charcoal red bean buns throughout this entire week of mourning instead.

It isn’t the first time that Breadtalk mixed pastry with puns; In 2010, they were accused of being racist for selling Naan the Nays. During the presidential election campaign in 2011, they dedicated the TAN-TART to all 3 candidates. When Steve Jobs died, they created the APPLE OF MY I.  I don’t recall Apple fans running riot over their stores demanding they withdraw this monstrosity. Not sure if they did any ‘Black and White’ creation when Michael Jackson passed away.

Occasionally they run out of ideas, naming one of their ring buns the ‘Circle Line’ to promote the new MRT line.  The commemorative ring pastries were launched in early October 2011. 2 months in, and the actual Circle Line broke down in one of the worst PR disasters in the history of Singapore’s public transportation.

The Circle Jinx

As if naming LKY after food isn’t bad enough, PAP MP Teo Ser Luck invented a crossfit workout named LKY91 dedicated to his hero, 91 being the age of LKY’s demise. No doubt the late LKY was an exercise addict, but surely he deserves better than be honoured by air goddamn squats and ‘double unders’. Not to mention in the late stages of his life he was suffering from peripheral neuropathy. LKY91 reads more like a torture manual rather than an exercise routine. Maybe you should rename it the #fml91 workout. Because that’s what you’ll say to yourself over and over 91 times for subjecting yourself to this physical abuse.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.30.39 PM

This clip is the perfect response to all this personality cult nonsense, one that says ‘I ain’t got the time for your dumbass bullshit’.

Xiaxue taking out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)

From ‘Xiaxue takes out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’, 6 Feb 2015, article in CNA

Controversial blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue, has taken out a Protection Order against satirical group, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) for repeated harassment.  The Protection Order, which comes under the Protection from Harassment Act enacted in November last year, is meant to prevent the satirical group from publishing or continuing to publish offensive comments about Ms Cheng and her family.

Making the announcement in a blog post today (Feb 6), Ms Cheng, 30, claimed that she has been harassed by the anonymous entity since 2012, ranging from snide comments on her looks and height to disparaging her character. Her family has not been spared from harassment as well, she wrote.

Speaking to TODAY, she said that the circulation of her home address online was among the reasons leading to her decision to take out the Protection Order. It was published by a netizen on the SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’s Facebook page.

…Should they flout the court order and persist in making insulting or abusive comments against Ms Cheng and her family, they could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

There is one man out there who would be following this saga keenly, a man who scams Vietnamese tourists for a living and was forced to close shop because of online harassment. In fact, Xiaxue may be ‘influencing’ him to do the same to the self-proclaimed vigilante group as we speak. Jover Chew, time to unleash your own Protection Order bro. It costs about $300-500 to lodge a magistrate’s complaint, which is the amount you earn from a crappy second-hand iPhone sale. I don’t think they accept payment in bags of coins, though.

It wasn’t long after the legislation against cyberbullying was enacted last year before a Frenchman summoned a PO against a certain Dr Param, who uploaded a Youtube video with what I’d assume to be offensive and scathing captions about the foreigner after a spat in a petrol kiosk. Param was ordered to remove the captions, the contents of which remain a mystery. There was a time when PPOs or personal protection orders were filed against drunk, abusive wife-beating husbands. Today, if you have the money and the time, you could immunise yourself against disparaging insults and death threats by issuing orders against trolls who don’t physically camp outside your home stalking your ass, but talk trash about you behind a screen. The duress you suffer at the hands of these jerks may not even be a fraction of the trauma that Xiaxue professes to have gone through, and you can still get your PO filed.

It’s like defamation suit ‘lite’, for ordinary people who don’t expect to be awarded $29,000 for being flamed online.  In the no-holds-barred universe of social media, the intention of POs against online hooliganism is to make the Internet a place for shiny, happy people holding virtual hands, though it would certainly also make the web much less, well, FUN. There are ways around the viciousness without going to the courts. You could choose to block comments or followers, delete all your social media accounts, change your email and start your online life on a fresh slate, like how an abused wife would change the locks of her house to prevent a monster husband from barging in demanding for sex, money, or both. Seeking protection also doesn’t stop people from bitching about you openly in public, or sticking pins in a voodoo doll designed in your image. No legal summons in the world can do anything about the centuries-old force of human nature that is gossip.

Most people who aren’t celebrity bloggers, or rather INFLUENCERS,  may choose to simply ignore the bashing as long as nobody’s lurking outside their doorstep and their address and contacts remain secure. After all, haters gonna hate hate hate hate.  Alas, much of our gratification from social media is derived from people making fun of other people, and if today the victims of our collective Schadenfreude have at their disposal a legal tool to shut people up, well, there goes the entertainment. It’s the modern equivalent of pitting a gladiator with a sword vs another with a balloon sabre. No argument, no one-upmanship, no fight to the death, just one person using the code of law against the other over a reputation-slaying insult. That’s it. You can’t defame politicians without going bankrupt and now you have to think twice before telling Steven Lim that you’d rather stuff a used dildo in your ear than hear him sing.

Xiaxue is no angel by her own admission. Some years back she launched her own vendetta campaign against people who dissed her on Facebook, some who probably deserved it, but were deprived of the opportunity to file POs against the Tyre Queen herself. Mean blog posts aside, her Twitter feed is a candid resource of violent, vulgar insults against her critics, blog rivals and innocent human beings who happen to be brought here to take up jobs that Singaporeans spit upon. Even her neighbours’ babies are not spared.

To those who have been hurt or shamed by her before, or had their families unwittingly implicated over a ‘geylang chicken’ remark, SMRT Ltd’s antics are just a sweet case of ‘what goes around comes around’. After all, legal proceedings aside, Xiaxue has a loyal army of fans (at least 40,000 daily readers) ready to defend her honour. A good time to be a lawyer, nonetheless, now being open season for ‘hater’ hunting. Tyre Queen 1, SMRT Ltd Feedback 0.

SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Paypal account suspended

From ‘Sim Lim Saga: Online vigilante group says Paypal account suspended’, 10 Nov 2014, article in asiaone.com

Online vigilante group SMRT (Feedback) has said its Paypal account has been suspended due to “suspicious activity”. According to a statement on its Facebook post on Saturday: “So Paypal has suspended the account due to ‘suspicious activity’ which is usually associated with criminal gangs or terrorist activities.

“Come to think of it, actually that’s true. We are terrorists. Sim Lim terrorist – terrorizing the hearts of errant retailers floorwide.”

Second Minister of Home Affairs S Iswaran urged ‘restraint’ whenever netizens try to be ‘judge, jury and executioner’ in dispensing online justice, and instead ‘let DUE PROCESS take its course’. This due process involves CASE ‘INVITING’ the rogue store to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), this after 18 complaints over the course of 10 months have been lodged against Jover Chew and gang. Due process, sir, is too NICE to be even effective. SMRT Feedback believes that a ‘necessary evil precedes a greater good’, even if that evil deed means forcing the enemy to flee the country, like Anton Casey did. In Jover’s case, he got pranked with 3 large Pizza Hut pizzas delivered to his home.  ONLY THREE?

‘Vigilantism’ didn’t always have a ‘Gotham’ feel about it. In the 60’s, the government set up what was known as the ‘Vigilante Corps‘, a group of dedicated individuals who volunteered their services in case of civil emergencies and ‘nation-building’. They acted within the law and were practically the equivalent of today’s SAF Volunteer Corp. They didn’t have a ‘death wish’ like the original 70’s street vigilante Charles Bronson had, and were assigned to non-vigilante tasks like donating blood or helping out at old folks’ homes. Like Boy Scouts, practically.

PM Lee has already warned against this ‘lynch mob mentality’, yet there’s something romantic and gratifying about DIY justice, whether you call the crusaders a ‘one-man army’, keyboard warriors, digital bandits or witch-hunters. We all root for the masked renegade who gives plodding law enforcement the finger and takes matters into his hands.  Without the spirit of vigilantism, we wouldn’t have random commuters apprehending molesters on the train, nor would give give out medals of courage to people who chase down grandma-robbers. If we all waited for ‘due process’, we’d yell ‘Mata Mata’ all day long when a crime against humanity is committed, and by the time the police come knocking, snatch thieves and potential rapists would have long escaped the clutches of justice. If the police question you on your inaction, you can retort that you were simply taking Minister S Iswaran’s advice, allowing the all-powerful ‘due process’ to make things right. That is, when the cows come home.

SMRT’s takedown of Jover Chew is a digital extension of such acts.  And then some, bordering on harassment, even ‘cyber-bullying’ (leaked gross topless pictures of Jover sprawling on his bed). SGAG, another ‘satirical’ site, followed up with a ‘You Don’t Chibai‘ shirt personally delivered to Mobile Air. In PM Lee’s cowboy town, SMRT Feedback is the mysterious gunslinging stranger who walks into the salon and starts taking out the trash one by one, broken bottles and all. Steven Seagal would approve. 3 years active, the very first post in 2011 by the collective had nothing ‘vigilantic’ about it at all. In fact, it sounded dead serious.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.48.02 PM

The group then took on a bigger challenge, getting into an argument with veteran actor Tay Ping Hui after calling him a cheapskate. You know you’re ready for big time trolling if you can cross swords with Tay Ping Hui. Today, SMRT is no longer just mocking train breakdowns or fighting arrogant celebrities. They’ve become – and there’s no cheesier way to put this- a force to be reckoned with.

But it’s not just conniving bastards or racists who face the wrath of online vigilantism. We should be especially careful of those who blame and shame lesser criminals, like people who can’t PARK, for example. If you’re a married man checking out the Geylang night scene, be wary for the female vigilantes from ‘Geylang Checker’.  One vigilante baits horny men online by posing as a 14 year old girl. His mission: Rid the Internet of  perverts and paedophiles. You could go vigilante on people who don’t return trays at hawker centres, joggers who run with their pets on a leash, or the worst of the lot, people who drink shark’s fin soup!

There is one very well known portal that probably kickstarted this whole ‘online vigilantism’ spree in the first place, a website dedicated to ‘citizen journalism’ that catches anti-social behaviour in the act, exposing and shaming ordinary Singaporeans in an act of trivial folly. Yes, that’s none other than STOMP, and here is the owner of the site SPH reporting via the ST about online vigilantism ‘going too far’ in the Sim Lim Saga. Jover’s wife has already made a police report about SMRT (Feedback)’s actions. She should really have hired an anti-vigilante vigilante to do the job instead.

Pizza Hut calling customer a pink fat lady

From ‘Pizza hut Singapore apologises for calling customer ‘fat”, 14 Oct 2014, article in CNA

Pizza Hut Singapore has apologised to a customer who found the words “Pink Fat Lady” scrawled on her receipt. The customer, Ms Aili Si, who was at the chain’s Bukit Merah outlet on Sunday (Oct 12) evening, found the words written on her pizza takeaway receipt.

She posted a photo of the receipt on the company’s Facebook page, along with the message: “I don’t think it is nice for your staff to describe me as such on my receipt. As a customer I definitely hope to be treated with basic respect deserved by any others. I hope to receive an apology from the staff and Pizza Hut.”

She added: “Just feel insulted. What’s wrong with being plus size? I’m a customer and I pay for my pizza! Not that I’m getting it for free!”

It ain't over till the fat lady complains

It ain’t over till the fat lady complains

No, there’s nothing wrong with being ‘plus-sized’, ‘big’, ‘chubby’ or any other euphemism for ‘fat’. What went wrong was that the Pizza Hut server should have just asked for a name instead of writing out 3 words that would identify her most accurately. Would the customer be any less angrier had the receipt read ‘Pink Big Lady’? Or the exotic bubble tea sounding ‘Pink BBW’?  Some feminists, in fact, even take offence to the word ‘Lady’. If you didn’t get the name of a customer like Aili, or afraid to make a catastrophe of it like they do at Starbucks, perhaps the safest way to describe her on a receipt without getting flamed on social media is ‘Full-figured Woman in pink’. Which is how some people would describe rose wine.

Some years back, a bunch of women displayed ‘plus-sized’ pride by posing nude in a calendar for charity, as a crusade against the fat stigma, and incidentally during a time when the BBW fetish community was gaining ground. The word ‘Fat’ to describe someone’s physique in everyday conversation, particularly that of a woman, may be even less frequently uttered than another taboo word ‘Pregnant’, unless it’s used as a superlative for some over-achievers, like the lady who holds the  Guinness Book of Records for the World’s ‘Heaviest’ Woman. Back in the seventies, we had no qualms about blasting fat people for not looking after their health, or even celebrating their rotundness. Today we’re more afraid of hurting their feelings than worry about them hurting their heart and arteries. In 2008, the Ministry of Education scrapped the TAF CLUB , a national school fitness programme that spelt FAT backwards, and renamed it to the HHF (Holistic Health Framework), which tells you absolutely nothing about how chunky these kids are. Conversely, you don’t hear people complaining about the words ‘THIN’, ‘SKINNY’ or ‘SMALL’; in fact sometimes these are even taken as compliments. If you wrote ‘Pink Skinny Lady’ instead, you may even get a tip.

If you’re on the curvy side and want to get some XXL clothes, you don’t go to a ‘Fat Lady Boutique’, you shop from ‘Joy in Curves’, Big on Attitude, and the god-awful sounding ‘PLUSYLICIOUS‘. From the names of such shops alone, you’d notice this patronising tendency to associate women on the heavy side with ‘attitude’, ‘confidence’ and ‘sexiness’, when most overweight women are, well, just plain Janes.  We restrict the F-word to the realm of food science, as in calories from FATS, or when used in the beauty industry to denote something repulsive that needs to be destroyed with fire, like ‘fat burner’, or ‘eliminates fats’. There are movies titled ‘Big Momma’s House’ and not ‘Fat Momma’s House’, or ‘200 pounds beauty’ and not ‘OBESE beauty’. Hipster FnB establishments are named ‘Fat Boys’ or ‘Two Fat Men‘ but not ‘Two Fat Women’. The IMDB synopsis for Shallow Hal reads ‘ A shallow man falls in love with a 300 POUND woman because of her ‘inner beauty”, not ‘falls for a FAT woman’. It seems more socially acceptable to be as heavy as a pregnant sow, than to be called the 3-letter word FAT.

There are some instances, however, where adopting a PC-stance against fatness would just seem out of place. You don’t say ‘It ain’t over till the plus-sized lady sings’ for example. The ‘Yo Momma so Big’ insult just doesn’t have the same sting as ‘Yo Momma So Fat’. Weird Al Yankovic would have never pulled off a MJ parody hit had he sung ‘Curvy’ instead of ‘Fat’. Some do take the euphemism to the extremes, the worst examples being ‘Queen-sized’ and ‘Natural Body Type’, which is like calling a complete idiot ‘selectively talented’.

I’m not sure if ‘Veg Lvr’ or ‘Shrm Dlt (mushroom delight?) from Aili’s receipt refers to vegetarian pizzas, which may be a sign that she’s conscious about her weight, despite being defensive of her ‘plus-size’. Perhaps to test just how sincere Pizza Hut is in their apology, I should do down to any of their branches for a takeaway order, make a nuisance of myself,  and see if the staff would write ‘Crazy Ugly F**ker’ on my receipt.






MBS food court chicken rice stall infested with cockroaches

From ‘NEA to take action against Marina Bay Sands stall for cockroach infestation’, 11 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be taking enforcement action against a chicken rice stall at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for cockroach infestation.

In a statement on Saturday (Oct 11), NEA said it has found cockroach infestation at the stall in the 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang foodcourt. The foodcourt has voluntarily closed since Tuesday evening (Oct 7) for cleaning and pest control treatment, in the wake of customer complaints and photographs of cockroaches that went viral online.

…The 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang food court is located at the South Promenade of The Shoppes at MBS and is run by Koufu. Other branches can be found at Changi Airport Terminal 1, JEM, Republic Polytechnic, ITE Ang Mo Kio and the Nanyang Technological University.

When Facebook user Kovit Ang posted his image of a troop of five roaches ready to attack pieces of fried meat, he did weight-watchers all over the country a huge favour. Now if you find yourself having a ridiculous craving for chicken rice between meals, it helps to recall that horrific photo, feel the surge of bile up your throat, and switch to an apple and a protein bar instead. But before one tars all Food Republics, Kopitiams and Koufus with the same brush, remember that one of the reasons why food courts exist is because people wanted to avoid pests like stray mynahs and, in the case of the recently shut down Ghim Moh Market, rats living in up to 71 burrows.

Not much is mentioned about the significance of ‘1983’ in the Koufu website other than a story that suggests the origin of nasi lemak at Malacca Street. It wasn’t that far from ‘1983’ when Singapore had its very first ‘food court’. Scotts Picnic in Orchard, established in 1985, was supposed to be an ‘upmarket’ hawker centre, where patrons could eat in air-conditioned comfort. A string of food halls with the same dining concept and similarly snazzy titles (Food Paradiz, Food Palace) followed suit, but within 3 years owners were reporting slumps in takings, with complaints that the air-conditioning made oily smells cling to one’s office attire. This despite attempts to install roman columns and chandeliers or employ a live DJ to spin the latest 80’s hits.

The food court idea was meant to be an improvement of the existing hawker centre infrastructure, a culinary ‘renaissance’ so to speak, for the busy office worker in the heart of town. Today, with a near patriotic resurgence of hawker culture, these places have been reviled by food lovers all over, not so much for the hygiene or stubborn oily smells, but because it’s the only place where you’ll get charged $8.50 for chicken rice, cockroach or no cockroach, that tastes mediocre, if not downright terrible. There are exceptions, of course, though seeing a Hokkien Mee seller in a food court wearing a straw hat doesn’t mean the dish is any good.

Food guru Dr Leslie Tay is all too familiar with how the food court subletting system compromises the quality of one’s cooking, himself declaring that he would never visit such a food court if he could help it.  Koufu Sentosa has even found itself listed on Lonely Planet, the nadir of the evolution of the food court from hawker centre upgrade to campy tourist trap. The operator has even masked its hydra arms in various guises, calling its Star Vista branch in Buona Vista ‘Kitchen’, among others including ‘Gallerie’, ‘Rasapura’ and the ultimate, ‘GOURMET PARADISE’. The only thing ‘nostalgic’ about 1983’s Taste of Nanyang after this roach incident is how it suddenly reminds you of the conditions on board the overcrowded boats our migrant forefathers arrived in, like in ‘The Awakening’.

But if you’re a Koufu devotee and still believe that the cockroach incident in an iconic building is an isolated incident simply blown out of proportion, maybe this photo below, snapped at Koufu HDB Hub Toa Payoh circa 2011, will change your mind not just about the franchise, but chicken rice forever.

The menu at Koufu has gone beyond ‘exotic’


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