Couple having sex in RWS jacuzzi in front of children

From ‘Couple causes stir in Resorts World Sentosa jacuzzi’, 14 Dec 2014, article by Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times

A couple allegedly stripped and had sex in a jacuzzi at Resorts World Sentosa’s Beach Villas last Friday afternoon, in full view of horrified guests. While the jacuzzi was meant only for the couple’s villa, it sat within a larger pool being enjoyed by other guests.

One guest, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lee, told The Sunday Times that she was alerted to the incident when her two children and their two cousins – aged between five and 11 years – noticed that the woman was not wearing anything from waist down. The children were swimming in the pool at the time.

The 41-year-old housewife, who was there with other family members after one of them paid about $1,000 a night for their villa, said she alerted the concierge immediately, and told the children not to look.

“But the couple started having sex in the jacuzzi. It was very obvious, and my mother shouted at them. I quickly ran in to get my phone and snap pictures, and they stopped only when they saw me doing that,” said Madam Lee.

“I would have closed one eye if the kids were not there, but I’m surprised the couple did it even though they were aware there were children around.”

…Those guilty of public nudity can be charged under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, and face up to three months in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000. For committing an obscene act in public, the maximum punishment is three months in jail and a fine.

Embarrassed, curious, shocked, amused, angry perhaps, but the ST chose to describe onlookers as ‘HORRIFIED’. Madam Lee herself admitted that she would have let the horny couple go at it if there were no kids around, though I doubt that would stop voyeurs like her from taking photos either. If there’s anything useful about this complaint it’s that people, not just young innocent children, should avoid private jacuzzis altogether. You never know what remnants of bodily fluids lurk in that bubbling cauldron of sex.

Telling your kids ‘not to look’ is just about the worst parenting advice ever. Children will stumble onto sex inevitably, whether it’s from the Internet, a HDB staircase, void deck, on public transport, even erotic bus ads. A mother determined to shelter her children’s eyes from any activity hinting at public fornication would have to equip them with smart visors 24/7, a gadget that turns your field of vision into a mosaic fog once activated by Mommy’s stern voice, or if the device detects two human bodies connected in a pattern consistent with ‘fondling’.

Better still, hook your 11 year old up with chastity underwear with erection sensors, because once you stop him from staring at people having live sex, his adolescent mind will automatically conjure up fantasy scenarios beyond a wet romp in a hot jacuzzi. Once an arousal is detected, a signal will be transmitted to an app in Mommy’s phone with the notification: ‘Level 5 erection detected’, after which the program will share tips on how to control your kid’s bodily urges, like throwing him into a tub of ice or making him kneel before an altar and confess to some angry deity.

Children should be protected from domestic violence, misogynistic rap songs, bad grammar on public signs and people not clearing trays in hawker centres. An encounter with public sex is an opportunity for realistic, fact-based parenting, not puritanical liturgy; To teach children that people engage in exhibitionist sex because they’ve run out of ideas in the bedroom, that excessive time spent in a jacuzzi is bad for your sperm (after which you can educate him about what sperm is), and that if you ever think of hanky-pankying with your classmate in the void deck, the penalty will be some uptight housewife whipping out her phone (which they only ever use to play Candy Crush), uploading your pic on Stomp, and exposing the precocious, disgraceful pervert that you have become, your life ruined forever.

Qiaonan and Griffiths merging to form Angsana Primary School

From ‘Griffiths and Qiaonan alumni upset over new name for merged school – Angsana Primary’, 23 Nov 2014, article by Pearl Lee and Ho Ai Li, ST

What’s in a name? Plenty of history and memories, say former staff and pupils of Griffiths Primary School and Qiaonan Primary. They are upset that the two pioneer schools, which together have been around for 145 years, will be merged to form Angsana Primary School – a name with little connection to its predecessors.

“Why Angsana? Why not something like Griffiths-Qiaonan?” asked 86-year-old Eunice Tan Khe Tong, a retired principal, who was there for Griffiths Primary School at its start, and its end.

…Primary 6 pupil Lim Jiexin, who was Qiaonan’s vice-head prefect this year, shook her head when asked what she thought of Angsana, which will occupy the Griffiths building. “Why do they have to use that? They should choose a better name.”

The name ‘Angsana’ is the brainchild of MOE’s Schools Naming Committee, but speaks nothing of either school’s history. It also has no relation to Casuarina Primary, another school named after common trees in Singapore. The SNC probably ran out of ideas since ‘Changkat’ (where Qiaonan is currently located) and ‘Tampines’ are already taken. This lack of creativity is apparent when you have primary/secondary schools named Bedok View, Bedok Green and Bedok South within the same constituency. Some schools make an extra effort to remind us of their roots, such as the FIRST TOA PAYOH Primary School (To be more precise, it’s in Potong Pasir).

If renaming a school after where it’s located is ‘insipid’ and renders it ‘devoid of character’, why not that of a common tree then? With Singapore’s birth rate likely to decline further, we may see more schools closing, merging and given other tree names such as ‘Yellow Flame Primary‘, or ‘Saga Primary’. If not an actual tree, then how about something related to the Garden City theme, like ‘Woodgrove’, ‘Fernvale’ or ‘Orchid Park’. It seems that the first thing that comes to mind when naming new schools is something leafy, green or flowery, not whether the final selection ‘resonates’ with the students or the alumni. That would take some, well, imagination.

It’s not the first time that current and former students have protested against schools merging or changing names, citing the severing of a vital link to history as the main reason.

1) 1976 – Stamford Girls’ School to San Shan Integrated School (which later merged to form First Toa Payoh Primary School)

2)2001 – Swiss Cottage + Moulmein Primary to Balestier Hill. The geocities petition website still exists. Meanwhile the ‘Swiss Cottage’ brand lives on in its secondary school. The only Swiss cottage I’ve ever seen is the one on a Ricola box.

3) 2005 – St Michaels to SJI Junior. The reason for this renaming was not so much poor enrollment, as it was to ‘thicken blood ties’ within the Lasallian religious order.

4) 2005 – Thomson Secondary to North Vista (in Sengkang). Thomson was supposedly the name of a colonial architect. A Vista is what you call a HDB estate that’s not a ‘Green’ or a ‘View’.

All these complaints fell on deaf ears, naturally. It’s interesting how we place so much sentimental value on old schools and their names, more so than the history of other buildings or amenities which tend to hold a less special place within our hearts, such as temples, swimming pools, libraries or mum-and-pop coffee shops. Part of the reason, I believe, is because our primary schools are where most of us made our first best friends, got into our first fights, and of course, where we had the damned mother of all exams, the PSLE.

I’m proud to say that my own primary school, Mayflower Primary (an AWESOME name too, I must add) still exists. The fact that I remember the first line of my school song is the best indicator of how its history and memories ‘resonate’ with me after all these years. One can only wonder what’s going to happen to the school songs of Qiaonan and Griffiths. Any school song with the lyric ‘Angsana’ in it just sounds terrible and I wonder why the SNC didn’t even consider that in their name selection. For one, you can’t pair it to rhyme with anything other than ‘Banana’.

Teacher using criminal force on boy with ADHD

From ‘Ruling may instil fear in teachers’, 22 Nov 14, ST Forum

(Trent Ng Yong En): A COURT has ordered a primary school teacher to do 60 hours of community service for forcibly dragging an 11-year-old boy with behavioural issues out of class for not following instructions (“Teacher who mistreated boy gets community service”; yesterday). While the teacher’s actions could have been more appropriate, given that the boy suffered from neuro-developmental disorders, the court ruling will likely instil fear in teachers when dealing with insubordinate students.

The teacher may have used force to drag the pupil out of class, but how could this sensibly constitute “criminal force”? Section 350 of the Penal Code reads: “Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent… knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person… is said to use criminal force to that other.”

The court seems to have taken a broad interpretation of this provision to find the teacher’s act of disciplining the pupil amounting to causing “injury, fear or annoyance”. This interpretation, taken to its extreme, could cover all acts of school discipline where a teacher or discipline master physically handles an errant student in the slightest way.

Clearly, this is not a school culture we want to encourage, where insubordination is condoned and educators live in fear of the students and their parents. While the law may have decided that educators must take care when disciplining students, such that their acts do not amount to criminal force, what should be discussed is whether educators should be given more discretion to discipline their students, so long as it does not amount to a gross violation of their bodily integrity – for example, slapping, hitting, or throwing projectiles.

If you’re a teacher resorting to physical force to keep an unruly child in his place, you’re accused of assault. Will the old lady who pummelled a helpless child on the MRT with an UMBRELLA be slapped with the same charge of  ‘criminal force’ then? Or what about an angry father slapping someone else’s boy to avenge his own bullied kid? If a parent running out of ideas wrestled his own nuisance kid to the ground in public, few would intervene. If it’s a teacher doing the same in the classroom on the other hand, we demand for his dismissal. Today, teachers are supposed to rule not with an iron fist, but a benevolent caress. You can no longer discipline a child for ‘his own good’ at the expense of your ‘own job’. The problem worsens when parents are not doing theirs. Granted, the child had neurological issues, but it would have been the same outcome had it been a child without ADHD/autism or any other illness that explains disruptive behaviour.

If these same charges were applied to teachers in the past, we would have at least half the education workforce doing ‘community service’ for slapping or spanking rowdy kids for ruining class, the only difference being they’re not on Ritalin or other psychostimulants to keep their ‘naughtiness’ at bay. My own primary school teacher walloped my knuckles with a wooden ruler and nobody was around to call the cops for this blatant act of physical abuse, nor did anyone send her away for 60 hours to do the janitor’s job. When I told my parents they simply laughed and added fuel to the fire by saying ‘Obi Good’. I mean, it’s not like I went home in crutches, an arm in a sling, or had one eye dangling out of its bloody socket. Thanks Mom and Dad, for letting a stranger half beat me to death because you love me too much to do it yourselves.

Children with ‘issues’ in school these days are protected by euphemisms and medical jargon. You’re not ‘naughty’ but ‘hyperactive’ or suffering from ADHD. If you’re the aggressive sort, you’ve got ‘oppositional defiant disorder’. Sometimes this outcry over physical duress may lead to otherwise capable leaders losing their positions. 10 years ago, the principal of Nan Chiau High stepped down after parents called the police on him for hitting their lying daughter with a SOFT COVER BOOK. If this ADHD child abuser were otherwise an excellent educator capable of bringing out the best PSLE scores in the school, it would be a loss not just the ‘punishee’, but the ENTIRE class, if he quits because his reputation as a bully who exercises CRIMINAL force has been cemented by overprotective parents who can’t do anything about their own unruly children themselves.

But the fact is you don’t even need to touch the flesh of a problem child to get into trouble with the police, or hate your job forever. You could get hauled up for questioning if you CUT HIS HAIR, or if you even say to a kid: ‘I don’t want to see your face!’, which amounts to ‘verbal abuse’. One teacher resigned after being accused by a rich and influential parent (who contributed to school funds, naturally) for abusing Daddy’s Boy. She merely ‘reprimanded’ him for BREAKING FLOWER POTS (Time for corporal punishment in schools, May 6 2014, ST Forum). Don’t say I didn’t warn you if Junior grows up to be a serial vandal.

In 2003, a RJC GP teacher verbally crushed a student for sloppy work and dramatically tore up his essay in front of class.

Not sure what happened to the kid, or the teacher after this. Although it gives some idea of what a horrible subject GP is, it’s also a masterclass in breaking down a student or his ‘insolence, laziness and apathy’ and being a ‘sly crafty old fox’. The insult of all classroom insults. Maybe parents should take notes about disciplining their own child, rather than write complaint emails to principals whenever their kid gets pinched in the ears, or being told to get out of class in a tone and volume beyond that of a gentle whisper.

Tuition in Singapore is a billion-dollar industry

From ‘$1 billion spent on tuition in 1 year’, 9 Nov 2014, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Singapore’s tuition industry is now worth more than a billion dollars. The latest Household Expenditure Survey found that families spent $1.1 billion a year on tuition – almost double the $650 million spent a decade ago and a third more than the $820 million spent just five years ago.

The Department of Statistics, which polled more than 11,000 households between October 2012 and September last year, released the latest survey in September. The average household spending on tuition rose from $54.70 a month 10 years ago, to $79.90 in the latest survey.

The department told The Sunday Times that along with spending more, there were also more households in the latest study – 1.2 million compared with 993,000 a decade ago.

Some parents are known to pump in almost $6K a month on tuition for their kids. That’s more than what the average household spends on food ($1188/mth), transport($811), clothes/shoes ( $156) and recreation, including holidays, ($292) COMBINED in 2012-2013 (12 interesting trends about Singapore household income and spending, Sep 18, 2014, ST). Now a billion dollar industry that has naturally spawned copycats and scammers,  this amount speaks volumes about how tuition has taken precedence even over some of the bare necessities of life for some Singaporeans. We are no longer just a Tuition Nation. We are tuition JUNKIES.

All this despite PM Lee’s assertion that the PSLE is not the be-all and end-all in 2012, and after the Ministry ceased announcing top scorers in the exam. This year, PM Lee again reiterated that there’s ‘too much tuition’ going on in Singapore, quite the understatement really. In 1981, tuition was already a million-dollar ($52 million) goldmine, with parents spending up to $125 a month. A 2009 survey revealed that 85% of students between 13-19 spend FOUR HOURS per week on tuition, that’s excluding hours spent on CCAs.  The number of tuition/enrichment centres also jumped from 750 in 2012 to 850 this year. And that’s counting only those registered with MOE (Tuition seen as ‘necessity’ for students to do well, 2 Sep 2014, ST), and excluding private tutors.  How many are out there under the Ministry’s radar operating out of a house in Lentor? How many are earning big bucks like millionaire super Physics tutor Phang Yu Hon? ( The other lucrative subjects taught by super-tutors are JC economics, Math and General Paper). If you’re an aspiring tutor aiming to bank on this national addiction, you’ll never get anywhere teaching Geography or, god forbid, Literature.

In fact, there are so many centres business owners have to resort to bad spelling to differentiate themselves, like Beautyful Minds . Some are not even just ‘classrooms’ anymore. We have ‘STUDIOS, HUBS, LABS and MUSEUMS’, and there are centres that even decide the career path of your kids before they complete primary school, like Little Professors. Or those that promise to groom you into a business powerhouse through ‘leadership skills’. Some parents even go out of their way to attend courses themselves on how to get their KIDS to ace the PSLE. You’d be a total disappointment to your tuition-happy parents if you grew up to be a ‘hawker-preneur’, boy.

But it’s not just the traditional subjects (Mandarin, Maths, Physics) that require tuition. We have tuition for pre-school,  tuition for sports, and tuition for ABACUS. I mean, who needs a calculator or a smartphone if you have magic BEADS to perform your daily practical arithmetic, like finding out how much Mommy spends a month sending you to enrichment classes, or counting the number of precious hours of your miserable life slipping away when you could be out there in the sun learning how to ride a bike or knowing what flowers really smell like. Or if you’re the kind who actually begged your parents for tuition, the hours wasted in that useless institution known as SCHOOL.

Return My CPF protesters heckling special needs children

From ‘Ugly scenes break out at Hong Lim Park’, 28 Sept 2014, article in Today

Ugly scenes broke out at Hong Lim Park yesterday (Sept 27), where protestors allegedly heckled participants of a YMCA carnival including special needs children. The two events  — the YMCA carnival and a rally called Return Our CPF  — had been given approval to be held at the Speaker’s Corner and were allocated separate lawns, according to a joint statement by the police and National Parks Board (NParks).

The statement said NParks and the police approached rally organiser, blogger Han Hui Hui, 22, to “request her cooperation to speak at the allocated space” but Ms Han “did not heed our advice and continued to hold her event at the same lawn as YMCA”. “Ms Han’s group encroached into the YMCA event area, holding placards and shouting slogans, disrupted performances and frightened participants, including special needs children who were performing at the charity event. The Police will be conducting investigations into this incident,” the statement said.

According to a Channel NewsAsia report, participants of the protest rally ended up marching around the YMCA event at least four times. The protestors also got close to Minister of State (Trade and Industry) Teo Ser Luck, who attended the YMCA event.

In a Facebook post last night, Ms Han claimed the group walked towards the stage after the children finished their performance and YMCA staff “tried to push us back out” of Hong Lim Park.  “The moment we reached the stage area, they pushed those children out (to perform), they were shocked at why there were being pushed out and so were we. We decided to walk off as it’s Teo Ser Luck who we wanted to ask to #ReturnOurCPF.”

The Sunday Times posted this picture of the ‘Y stars’, an ensemble of children with mental disabilities including Down’s syndrome, with the caption: ‘Although the special needs performers were stunned….they SOLDIERED on and finished the slow’, blatantly evoking sympathy for the children and making Han Hui Hui’s angry uncle troupe look like a mob of Satan worshippers looking for young flesh to sacrifice at the altar.

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Without a full picture of what really went on at Hong Lim Park, I find it hard to believe that anyone would deliberately ruin a children’s performance, special needs or not. The Y crew trains once a week and had a ‘modern dance’ routine specially prepared. Imagine how the proud parents recording this special moment on their brand new iPhone 6plus might feel.

Guest of honour Teo Ser Luck revealed to the media that he had to console one the performers who seemed to be shaken by the CPF hecklers (Chaos at Hong Lim Park charity carnival, 28 Sept 14, Sunday Times), despite being himself harassed by profanity-spewing protesters. HHH claimed that the group just wanted to ‘spread the message’ across and argued with some NPARKs director in another video, insisting that she’s free to march wherever her permit allowed her to. Roy, the original instigator of the whole CPF hoopla, seemed to be relegated to flag-bearing duties, upstaged by a pint-sized hothead who has a blog titled ‘Honest, honorable, holistic, humbly unexplainable irresistible’ and the audacity to make a bunch of plainclothes police look like bumbling idiots. When forced to introduce himself, one inspector even BOWED before HHH. Give this guy a Singa the Lion award already. Is he here to chase some bullies away or take your damn order?

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I suppose it’s normal to act in an awkwardly amicable manner when dealing with the likes of HHH in front of a camera, but some situations do call for the police to approach people with a ‘F-off!’ face. This situation probably needed that. Instead of arguing by the letter of the law, the authorities should have managed this the same way they would bust someone having a noisy orgy in the neighbourhood at 2am in the morning.

Contrast this with how the police, in actual uniform, cornered Chee Soon Juan and sister in 2006. HHH should thank her lucky stars she didn’t have to be surrounded in a phalanx of blue.

Even if there’s nothing illegal about crashing someone else’s party if both parties have been granted simultaneous permission for some bizarre reason, there is such a thing as human decency, and if you have a loudspeaker with you and leading an emotionally charged contingent of cantankerous crackpots, you should have the common courtesy to stay clear of a Christian charity event, even if the target of your complaints is Teo Ser Luck. If the intrusion was intended from the beginning to bring attention to #ReturnMyCPF at the expense of one’s dignity, then it has probably succeeded.

Some witnesses claim that the YMCA group started taunting the CPF protesters first. Whichever side started the fracas, the biggest loser in all this, ultimately, is Roy Ngerng. Not only has his limelight been hogged by an attack chihuahua, but this incident does nothing except aggravate his current defamation situation. Tan Chuan Jin has already labelled this a vile and disgraceful act, to add to his repertoire of words meaning ‘bad’ and endless things that he is ‘appalled’ by.

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Arguments about our money aside, I’m sure both sides will agree that the kids deserve a second chance to shine, so #ReturnMyYstarsperformance.

Half of teens watching porn is ‘expectedly horrendous’

From ‘Half of teens here exposed to pornography: Survey’, 6 Sept 2014, article by Janice Tai, ST

ONE in two teenagers here has watched or read sexually explicit materials, a poll has found, with some as young as seven when they were first exposed to it. And one in three admitted viewing pornography in the past year, whether intentional or accidental. The first large-scale survey here to examine children’s exposure to pornography, which polled 836 students aged 13 to 15, was conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness, the main agency that gives online safety talks in schools here.

Experts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes. Dr Munidasa Winslow, an addictions specialist in private practice, called the figures “expectedly horrendous”.

…In the Touch survey, 5 per cent of the teens who had seen porn encountered it first in lower primary levels – at age nine or younger. They were not asked how often they accessed this subsequently. Pornography was defined in the study as images or content, such as anime and erotic novels, that depicted naked people or people having sex.

Touch Cyber Wellness is part of the non-profit charity hydra that is the Touch Community Services group, which other than ‘touching’ the lives of the needy, also occasionally engages in surveys to justify why society is in a state of wretchedness and needs their guidance. Last year, they published a divorce survey which came to the staggering conclusion that the richer you are, the more likely that you’re cheat on your spouse, predictably after 5 years of marriage. If you knew who’s helming the Touch group, it becomes obvious that this survey was designed from a high moral ground with the intention of demonising porn as a disturbing ‘addiction’ and precursor for molest and rape. That man is pastor Lawrence Khong.

But the truth is this statistic is hardly even SURPRISING to begin with, not to mention ‘horrendous’. Some years ago, it was reported that SEXTING was already on the rise among not just teens, but mature adults as well. In 2009, one in 10 teens were found to engage in unprotected sex, with someone pulling the same accusation of porn being a bad example of ‘sex education’. Before we had smartphones, teens (half of over 200 polled to be exact) were already indulging in cybersex, sado-masochism and bestiality from the newfound toy that was the INTERNET (Teens at risk from porn sites, chatroom overtures, 20 Oct 2000, ST). It’s easy to blame technology but people have been watching porn even before phone chatlines, video cassette tapes or even paper was invented, as anyone who has visited the pottery section of a sex museum would know.

The problem with this survey is that they have hastily linked ‘exposure to porn’ to ‘addiction’, and to get a addiction specialist involved in a study that doesn’t clinically diagnose these teens as ‘porn-addicted’ is surely exaggerating the actual situation, which is kids STUMBLING into porn, or surfing out of curiosity. No mention is made if they had locked themselves at home watching it all day, masturbated in public, went around stealing bras and panties to sniff, or had their grades affected because of too much masturbation or panty-sniffing. Yet, Touch already made the flimsy association between porn exposure and ‘sex crimes’, without any data to suggest that these crimes have been rising at all, or examining the flipside that most kids who watch porn, even on a DAILY BASIS, don’t go around looking for office ladies to rub their crotch against on the MRT, like those playing violent video games going around stabbing random people on the streets. Maybe someone should conduct a survey of how many teens are being exposed to Christian evangelism in schools, and then make some wild hypothesis that being exposed to Christianity leads to militant religiosity or makes you a poorer kid because all your pocket money goes into funding some pastor’s wife’s singing career. At least the second parameter can be objectively measured.

They didn’t even define ‘pornography’ the way most adults understand it. By their definition, 50 Shades of Grey is porn (erotic novel), and so is a nude Renaissance painting (NAKED PEOPLE). As one judge famously said about porn, ‘I know it when I see it’. I’m not sure if the Touch folks, being chaste and holy and all, actually ‘know’ what their subjects were actually seeing in the first place. Innocent children are always an easy target if your mission in life is to ban porn forever. What about working adults? Don’t THEY need to be protected from porn too, hopefully we may see a drop in public office sex scandals, online vice rings and underage sex, no?

I believe there are more important, objective issues to worry about than porn, like juvenile smoking and drinking leading to rowdiness, truancy and damaged livers, or tuition and enrichment classes leading to stress, depression and eventually suicide. Just that it doesn’t seem to be in Touch, or Khong’s, moral interests to embark on such research instead.  For a survey about teens getting hard from porn, its premise and conclusion is all rather limp in my opinion.

ACS chartering 5 MRT trains for rugby match

From ‘SMRT acknowledged prior approval should have been sought: LTA’, 27 Aug 2014, article in Today online.

Transport operator SMRT has explained to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) why it let Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter five of its trains to transport students and staff to a rugby match yesterday (Aug 26) at the National Stadium. SMRT has also “acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought”, said an LTA spokesperson in a statement today.

“The operator is required to obtain LTA’s approval to run trains for non-public transport purposes because as regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services,” the spokesperson added.

ACS(I) had chartered the trains to transport 3,000 of its students and staff to the Schools National C Division rugby final match, which was the first school final to be held at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. Yesterday, the LTA said it was looking into the appropriate action to take against SMRT after the public transport operator failed to seek the necessary approval from the authorities before letting the school charter its trains.

They've got a ticket to ride

They’ve got a ticket to ride

When asked about why they supported this private entourage, SMRT said that they believed in ‘supporting local education’ and ‘national initiatives’ without compromising core service delivery (Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains…25 Aug, ST). This was a rugby championship match between rival schools, not a mass deployment of martyrs to the battlefront. It’s MRT playing host to a private event, where instead of your favourite restaurant or theatre being closed off for some company party, it’s 5 entire trains. I doubt LTA would have said NO anyway even if SMRT had asked for permission. The alternative would be 80 buses clogging up the roads and this is one premier school which is more than able to afford hiring a Zeppelin or cruise liner if they wanted to. Better to inconvenience some lowly train commuters than aggravate those car-drivers, eh?

Still, when you see ACS’s motto being flashed on the LED scroller in the image above, you can’t help wondering if SMRT the public transport provider is sidelining as a party organiser here. If a school like ACS could hire MRT trains to bring their students to a sports competition, what’s stopping a multimillion, Government-endorsed company from doing the same to bring their employers to a Dinner and Dance, or from office to Changi Airport for an overseas AGM? If I’m very influential, could I hire one train just to ferry people to my gala wedding in style, complete with buskers and champagne? After all, it’s cheap, eco-friendly and SMRT has given us the assurance that normal passenger service would be minimally affected. Imagine if traditional rivals like RI or Hwa Chong followed suit with their own mass events. Hwa Chong even wanted an MRT station named after them for God’s sake. In fact, managing director Lee Ling Wee went on to ENCOURAGE more schools located near the CCL to charter trains during off-peak hours because it seems that they could afford it. You know, just to dispel the notion of MRT chartering being the sole right of elite institutions. Maybe SMRT should have an online booking system too, and exclusive themed trains like ‘Summer Wedding’ or ‘Ruggers’ Fiesta’ which you can choose to upgrade to.

I think if the event had been a charity fundraiser or a Big Day out for pioneers or the handicapped, few would complain. But this was for a select group with no noble intentions outside of flying some school flags or chanting slogans for a sport that only gets screened live in dingy Irish bars. I for one would rather watch a Bonsai pruning competition than the Rugby World Cup final. ACS’s private joyride had no philanthropic, ‘educational’ value or ‘national’ objective worthy of inspiration or pride. So why does rugby warrant this special privilege? Vivian Balakrishnan could have skimmed his YOG budget had he thought of chartering for volunteers and participants back in 2011. If you accept the argument that this is ‘cost effective’ then anybody can justify using the MRT as their grandfather’s train to move thousands of people for other frivolous reasons. Does SMRT have any qualification criteria at all?

As for that LED marquee screen that otherwise no one ever gives a shit about, now there’s an idea for a wedding proposal, guys.

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