National Stadium should be named after Lee Kuan Yew

From various letters, 16 Nov 2013, ST Forum

(Kong Peng Sun):…Had it not been for one of our founding fathers, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we would not have our nation and stadium today. He has sacrificed a lot for this country, leading it to be so successful economically and able to stand tall even among the developed and advanced countries. There is no bigger way to honour Mr Lee than to name our stadium after him.

(David Tan Kok Kheng):…When the original National Stadium was officially opened in 1973 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, it was seen not only as a move towards a more sporting nation but also a step forward in nation building.  If there is one single personality who comes to mind when we think about the building of this nation, be it economically, socially, in education or even sports, it is Mr Lee.

(Lim Teck Meng):…The Grandstand (West) could be the Choo Seng Quee Grandstand, after our most successful mastermind who created our super team and started our unique Kallang Roar.

The Main Gallery Stand (East) could be named after our most famous footballing son, Fandi Ahmad. Till today, there is no footballer like him who has given fans lots of memories with his fantastic performances.

The Northern Stand could be dubbed the Majid Ariff Stand, after “Mr Twinkle Toes” who is our only footballer to have made it to the Asian All-Stars team.

The Southern Stand could be the Dollah-Kim Song Stand, after Dollah Kassim and Quah Kim Song for the moment that epitomised the Kallang Roar days: In extra time of the 1977 Malaysia Cup Final, Dollah crossed to Quah to score, allowing Singapore to beat Penang and bring back the Malaysia Cup after a long hiatus.

Our ex-premier has been named after many prestigious awards, the World City Prize included, but has yet to even have a street, or MRT station named after him. Some have called for a capital in Singapore to be named ‘Leekuanyew City‘, among other viable proposals such as a hospital and even our beloved Changi airport. A public amenity like a spanking new stadium shouldn’t have any issues with branding if you decide to name it after an important person instead of sticking to sentimental, marketable monikers like the ‘Grand Old Dame’ or ‘Kallang Stadium’. One may argue, however, if honouring a powerhouse politician over sporting legend is taking the piss on local sports. You also risk having critics of nonagenarian ministers mocking the stadium as the ‘Grand Old FART’ instead.

Naming parts of the new stadium after famous footballers sounds like a decent idea if we can’t decide on anyone ‘big’ enough to fit the bill, except that the National Stadium, or Singapore, is not all about football and we might not be fair to sportsmen who actually made it to the Olympics, like Tan Howe Liang for instance. ‘Dollah-Kim Song’ also sounds more like a Korean rapper than a striking partnership. LKY aside, EW Barker has also been suggested for his contributions to sporting complexes in housing estates. But if you’re deadset on choosing a leader who spearheaded sports on an administrative level, you’re forgetting one particular person – someone who came up with the idea of having a National Stadium in the first place.

According to the SSC Sports Museum history of the National Stadium, the construction of the original National Stadium would not have been possible if not for money raised from the national lottery. Between 1968 and 1976, more than $20 million was raised. The operator was Singapore Pools, the lottery games were Toto and Singapore Sweep, and the minister who came up with the brilliant idea (inspired by the Bulgarians) of building a stadium using Singaporeans’ gambling money was none other than Othman Wok.

In 1965, Encik Wok, then Social Affairs Minister, argued for a stadium of ‘Olympic’ standards in Kallang to help put Singapore at the forefront of international sport. As the chairman of the Singapore National Olympic Council, he launched the Singapore Sports Awards in 1967 to recognise sporting excellence. Tasked with the ‘toughest job in sports’, Wok himself was a sportsman in his own right, a hockey player and rugby captain back in RI. I can’t imagine LKY indulging in any team events other than fist-shaking debating. Or even kicking a chapteh about for that matter.

In 1971, Wok introduced the National Stadium Corporation Bill in Parliament, which laid the groundwork not just for the physical stadium infrastructure but the future of Singapore sports. Fans of F1 should note that he was also an avid supporter of the Singapore Grand Prix back in 1967. Punters should be reminded that without Wok and his vision for a National Stadium, we’d have no TOTO too. The man has even met Football God PELE in person, which alone should be sufficient reason to give Wok the edge over LKY, Barker or football personalities from Fandi to supersub Steven Tan if you want to name the stadium after someone who’s done more for sport than merely give a speech on its opening day.

The Othman Wok Stadium has a nice ring to it and if I had the chance I’d vote him in. Let’s save LKY for bigger things. I hear Changi Airport’s Terminal 5 would be ready by 2020.

Wok this way

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Singapore not a cruise ship, but a sampan 2.0

From ‘Singapore remains a sampan, but an upgraded one’, 31 Oct 2013, article by Sumiko Tan, ST

SINGAPORE will be in trouble if it thinks it has arrived and can afford to relax, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated yesterday. The country is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenceless as it used to be, it must continue to be on its toes and work hard to improve.

Speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his official visit to France, he said “my eyes popped out” when he read a commentary in The Straits Times likening Singapore today to a cruise ship.

Commentator Koh Buck Song had argued in Monday’s Opinion pages that Singapore politicians’ oft-used metaphor of the country as a sampan, easily tossed about by the waves of global competition, was no longer valid. He said it risked promoting small-mindedness and cramping national self-confidence and ambition.

Instead, Mr Koh said, Singapore was more like a well-oiled cruise ship that caters to every need. As it offers the smoothest of journeys, passengers can relax because they feel secure, he added.

Mr Lee, however, warned: “Once you think you are in a cruise ship and you are on a holiday and everything must go swimmingly well and will be attended to for you, I think you are in trouble.

“We are small, we are not as poor as we used to be, we are not defenceless, we are able to fend for ourselves and to make a living for ourselves, and we are better off than before, and I think that we need to keep on working hard, to continue improving.” As to what might be a more appropriate metaphor, he said with a laugh: “I think we have upgraded our sampan. It’s sampan 2.0.”

This is my sampan, this is my land, this is my future, this is my life

It’s not just politicians using the sampan analogy to refer to our vulnerability when things get rough and we are forced to ‘weather the storm‘. A ‘prominent economist’ described Singapore as one which would sink if a ‘few monkeys’ jumped on board. A writer for a city guide to Singapore titled Cultureshock! refers to us as a ‘canoe’, not a steamship afloat on the ocean. Perhaps we may consider an alternative form of naval transport between the two extremes, that Singapore is more like a catamaran instead, a vessel owned by only rich people that doesn’t keel over in choppy waves, but will be ripped to shreds in a tsunami, or by Jaws.

In 1972, PM Lee’s father gave a stern warning to bank union workers not to ROCK THE BOAT if they wanted to share in Singapore’s prosperity, echoing S Rajaratnam who a year earlier used the same expression on minorities promoting ‘chauvinism’.  In his later years, LKY believed Singapore had grown enough room and speed to qualify as a PLANE that cannot afford to go on ‘auto-pilot’, and here his son is undermining that image by referring to our country as sampan 2.0, without specifying what exactly has been upgraded or what bugs have been eliminated. Judging from the spate of flash floods of late, we know the leaks in the boat are still there, and the captains haven’t changed one bit since the sampan came into existence. What has changed, though not necessarily for the better, is that our sampan has gotten prettier, pricier but WAY HEAVIER over the years. If it doesn’t capsize due to turbulence, it could very well just sink under its own weight. If the sampan had a name it would be called The Greedy Sardine.

In Koh Buck Song’s piece (Sink the Old Sampan, 30 Oct 2013), he explains the ‘small cruise ship’ comparison in terms of on board recreational facilities (Zouk, casinos), efficient services, cosmopolitan population, an endless variety of activities to cater to every need and bizarrely, for ‘lifelong learning’, which makes sense if you’re the type who spends half a day in the ship library rather than go out there and play bingo with aunties. I for one would rather be stuck in a tub with a ladle for a paddle than go on a cruise. Luxury liners also happen to be heavy polluters, hosts to cheesy cabaret shows where entertainers drag you into a ridiculous conga line, and you can’t stroll the boardwalk in peace without bumping into sweaty fat passengers wearing skimpy trunks that leave little to the imagination carrying a sloppy club sandwich in one hand and a dripping Cornetto in the other.

Maybe PM’s eyes wouldn’t ‘pop out’ so much if Koh Buck Song had compared us to one particular cruise ship known for something other than 24 hour dining or casinos; The Love Boat.

LKY antagonising an entire generation of Chinese

From ‘Life after Cabinet…and death’, 11 Aug 2013, excerpts from ‘One Man’s View of the World’, Think, Sunday Times.

…Occasionally, when I disagree strongly with something, I make my views known to the Prime Minister. There was an instance of this when the Government was looking to reintroduce Chinese dialect programmes on free-to-air channels.

A suggestion was made: “Mandarin is well-established among the population now. Let us go back to dialects so the old can enjoy dramas.”

I objected, pointing out that I had, as prime minister, paid a heavy price getting the dialect programmes suppressed and encouraging people to speak Mandarin. So why backtrack?

I had antagonised an entire generation of Chinese, who found their favourite dialect programmes cut off. There was one very good narrator of stories called Lee Dai Sor on Rediffusion, and we just switched off his show.

Why should I allow Cantonese or Hokkien to infect the next generation? If you bring it back, you will find portions of the older generation beginning to speak in dialects to their children and grandchildren. It will creep back, slowly but surely…

When the Speak Mandarin Campaign brought its War on Dialect to radio in 1982, clamping down on dialect broadcasts over Rediffusion, that didn’t stop master storyteller Lee Dai Sor from producing his own albums, TWELVE of them in fact. That’s more albums than all the Singapore Idols combined. His bestseller cassette, Ru Chao San Bu Wen, was a folk legend about incompetent Qing emperors. In 1983, he rejected SBC’s invitation to perform at a New Year show because he had to speak Mandarin. In the media, he reportedly ‘retired from broadcasting’, but now we have confirmation from LKY himself that the plug was pulled on his show because it was in Cantonese.

This was a man who could sell the Singapore Story better any million-dollar NDP, but had to pursue his passion working for Radio Australia and Rediffusion Malaysia when his own country turned him away. Celebrated as a folk hero, drama company Toy Factory produced a play about Lee’s life, titled ‘Big Fool Lee’, a homage to Lee’s influence as the voice of a generation who refused to be muted by LKY’s social engineering. ‘Big Fool’ died in 1989, but his spirit, like dialect, lives on today.

Dialects have already crept into mainstream consciousness and pop culture, ‘slowly but surely’ no matter how LKY tried to suppress it with the same vigour as SARS. As late as 1990, Cantonese ‘patriotic’ songs like Sparrow With Twigs were banned from airplay and only recently reinstated. In a big way too, being featured in local movie ‘That Girl in Pinafore’. It’s not just the older generation ‘threatening’ to make dialect fashionable again. Local rapper Shigga Shay boasts about being a ‘Limpeh’. Mr Brown’s ‘Lekuasimi’ was a spoof of an NDP song. Royston Tan’s 881 made us (the English-educated included) all sing ‘Che Lang Che Pua’ in KTVs again.

We continue to order ‘kopi siew dai’, not ‘coffee, less sugar’, and order ‘har gao’, not ‘prawn dumplings’. Dialect has already been embedded in our social fabric, gone beyond the days of ‘Wah Lau’, and there’s nothing a 90 year old Hakka politician can do about it. Especially when his own PAP successors are using it as rhetoric. Goh Chok Tong used ‘pah see buay zao’ in reference to ‘stayers’. You could use the same phrase for Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and what have you. If there’s anything that needs a resurgence it’s Mandarin itself, our general grasp of it left a lot to be desired, though we have more than enough PRCs moving here to help us, well, ‘keep up’ with the language.

Unlike Mandarin, dialect doesn’t exist in textbooks nor does it appear in listening comprehension tests.  It lives only in the hearts, minds and mouths of Singaporeans, young or old, proud enough to speak it and keep it alive, campaign or no campaign, a glorious artifact that binds us to our roots. Anyone can be a polyglot or Chinese scholar if they train hard enough, but only in Singapore can one be a true master of the dialects, like the late Ah Nan was. Those who agree, please Kee Chiu.

LKY on death and mediocrity

From ‘Singapore’s Lee says he wants a quick death’, 7 Aug 2013, AFP article in insing

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who will turn 90 next month, said in a new book published Tuesday that he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.

“Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit,” he wrote in the book “One Man’s View of the World”.

…”There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach,” he wrote.

…Singapore’s low birth rate has forced the government to open the country to foreigners, who now comprise a third of the population. The influx, however, has sparked protests from citizens and prompted the government to tighten immigration flows in recent years.

Lee pointed to the example of Japan, which he said is on a “stroll into mediocrity” as the ranks of its elderly swell due to young couples not producing enough babies.

Well, I suppose everybody desires a quick and painless death, including founding fathers, though for LKY he may choose to succumb to it only if he’s willing to let go of his baby, our Singapore. In 1988, he famously declared at the National Day Rally that:

Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.

A quote that has often been misinterpreted as LKY RISING from the grave. Like a zombie. Our ex MM has been the victim of a couple of hoax deaths himself, none of which imply a ‘quick and painless’ one as he so desires, though some opponents would wish him the exact opposite.

Today, he appears to want to spend as little time on a ‘sick bed’ as far as possible. To LKY, death is, in other words, Retirement and playing Scrabble, while most of us look forward to the end of work as a reason to rejoice, to LIVE. In 2008 after suffering from an atrial flutter, he said that he would not live beyond 94 as his father did, and attributed longevity to his parents’ genes in addition to an abstemious lifestyle of repetitive exercise and spartan eating, a routine some would deem to be worse than death itself.

Despite his intolerance for mediocrity like one’s revulsion of the plague, there’s every possibility that LKY’s inevitable demise will be as ‘mediocre’ as the rest of humanity. In 1976, he set out his criteria on Government job candidates:

…I don’t defend rudeness. I don’t defend arrogance. I don’t defend mediocrity. I don’t defend the desire to do the minimum and get by.

In 2007, he even used mediocrity to justify why First World Nordic countries like FInland and Denmark paid their ministers less than those in Singapore.

…He (Low Thia Khiang) has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Their systems and governments never produced the kind of transformation that we have, and their system and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government.

So much for this medicore ‘Swiss standard of living’ then. Naturally you would have Scandinavians retorting to LKY’s remark with the ‘Nokia’ argument.

He kept up the defence of his stance of only having the best in 2008, when he said:

If they (Government) do not find talented people with the drive, energy, integrity and passion, then the future is in doubt. The system cannot cope with inadequate, mediocre men. You need top men, able men.

Alas, you can’t have a functioning society without mediocre people taking up mediocre work to serve the cream of the crop. To us it’s a ‘normal’, even ‘average’, day job, be it operating cranes or running a hawker stall. To LKY, mediocrity is a euphemism for physical and intellectual laziness. From the way he describes Japan’s ‘elderly swell’ like a fetid tumour, it appears he has little faith in the ‘silver economy’ as well.

Mediocrity may also be defined as being nothing ‘out of the ordinary’, so if Japan is ‘strolling towards mediocrity’, then Singapore, if she continues with the same system of government, policies, education, housing and arcane laws,  is steadily ‘brisk-walking’ towards it.  A template city with a makeshift citizen core that has lost its soul, a mediocre shell of what it aspires to be, that even she herself would commit seppuku just to get it over and done with.

It’s unlikely that ‘One Man’s View’ will be the elder statesman’s swansong and he may be waiting out for that ultimate autobiography of autobiographies to deliver his final chapter on himself, on Singapore. If he’s right about the 94 year deadline, then that last book, a potential record-breaking blockbuster (especially if unfinished), will be 4 years in the making. Fifty Shades of Lee, perhaps?

Police investigating mutilation of new 1 dollar coins

From ‘Hole in $1? That’s what photos online show’, 13 July 2013, article by Pearl Lee, ST

…Barely a month since the launch of Singapore’s latest series of coins, several pictures of $1coins with a hole have been circulating online, leaving some to wonder how it could happen. Only with extreme force, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday, adding that it was an offence to mutilate coins, and that the matter was being investigated by police.

So far, The Straits Times has found three different pictures of a $1 coin with the middle missing, indicating that this may not be an isolated issue.

…The new $1 coin, launched on June 25 as part of a new series, is the only one with a bi-metallic design. The gold part on the outside is brass-plated, while the silver centre is nickel-plated. In a statement, MAS said that its Third Series coins had “undergone stringent tests before circulation”. The $1 coin, in particular, had “gone through numerous tests to ensure the durability of its bi-metallic components”.

On Wednesday, MAS posted a warning against damaging coins on a Facebook page it set up to promote the new coins….Under the Currency Act, a person who mutilates or destroys any Singapore dollar notes or coins may be fined up to $2,000.

They liked it so they put a ring on it

Thanks to the person who posted photos of dislodged $1 coins, now anyone who gets their itchy fingers on one will try to see if they can pop the middle out, like how we poke out parking coupons. While the majority of the police force is shocked by the arrest of the Kovan double murder suspect who turned out to be one of their own, we have some officers scrambling to nab people who mutilate coins in such a foul grisly manner or for possibly posting a hoax on Stomp and causing widespread alarm that the new Singapore bi-metallic currency is defective (in addition to being mistaken for Euros). It also gives new meaning to the term ‘break a dollar’.

According to the Currency Act, it is also a crime to ‘print or stamp, or by any like means write, or impress, on any currency note any mark, word, letter or figure’, which means that if you’re an aspiring magician you may be charged for currency destruction while practicing tricks that involve signing on, tearing or setting aflame 2 dollar notes. If you’re a billionaire you’re also not allowed to wipe shit off your ass with money or light cigars with them, though the $2000 fine is spare change to you anyway. Cash is king after all, so for most of us insulting money is like committing treason against the monarchy. To some, messing with their money is like vandalising the statues of their gods.

Most people would not think of bending a coin out of shape or try to snap it with their teeth, though for the new $1 coin, some may be tampering with it just so to fit the slot on a supermarket trolley as it supposedly should. It’s the bank notes instead that are often the recipient of someone’s rage. A writer to the ST in 1958 threatened to ‘tear up all bank notes’ which bore the image of the Queen or King of England because it reminded him of the yoke of colonialism. In 1965, someone defaced the $10 note with the words ‘Lee Kuan Yew is a Traitor’, stamped in purple ink.

Money talks

Money talks

Defaced paper currency have also been used as communication material for gangs, when the words ‘Black Eagle Gang’ and ‘Pig’s Mind’ were scrawled on money back in 1983. 5 years later, a drunkard was fined $300 for tearing up 2 $20 bills. In a somewhat comical sequence of events in 1989, a man walked up to a police officer, tore a 1 dollar note in front of him saying that he ‘can’t buy beer with it’ and got arrested for his efforts with a fine of $50. The most severe penalty I could dig up was a $1000 fine slapped on a labourer for burning off $205 (Man fined $1000 for burning $205, 23 Dec 1994, ST). These examples of foolish contempt for your own stash suggest that the more money you destroy, the higher your fine, since you behaved like you could bloody well afford it.

I wonder if you’ll get arrested for EATING your money, though.

Demon-cratic Singapore creator arrested for sedition

From ‘Cartoonist arrested over complaint’, 24 April 2013, article by Feng Zengkun, ST

SINGAPOREAN cartoonist Leslie Chew, 37, was arrested last Friday by the police after a complaint was filed against him about one of his cartoons, his lawyer said yesterday. Mr Choo Zheng Xi, who is with law firm Peter Low LLC, said Mr Chew was held over the weekend and released on Sunday night after posting bail of $10,000. He will have to report to the police again on April 30.

…Mr Chew draws the cartoon strip, Demon-cratic Singapore, which is posted regularly on Facebook. According to a description on the strip’s Facebook page, it is “a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events in a fictional country“.

Mr Choo said Mr Chew is being investigated for alleged sedition, in relation to a cartoon posted on March 27 regarding the Malay population. He added that Mr Chew was also questioned about a second cartoon which was not included in the complaint.

This was posted on Dec 14 last year, and was the subject of a letter sent by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to Mr Chew three days later, said Mr Choo. He said that in the letter, the AGC said the cartoon “scandalises our Courts through allegations and imputations that are scurrilous and false”. He added the cartoonist had not yet been charged.

Late last night, a cartoon depicting Mr Chew’s questioning by the police – whom he described as “very professional” – was uploaded on the Facebook page. Last night, the police said they were looking into the matter.

Chew’s cartoon was not discriminatory against Malays, but referred to the government of ‘Demon-cratic Singapore’ as a racist one. The strip that ‘scandalises’ the courts depicts a character called ‘Pinky’ Loong kicking a High Court Judge out of his office and also involves a cheating politician not so subtly named ‘Michael Phucker’. Other uncannily familiar characters in the Demon-cratic Universe include $8 KHAWTeo CHEE HONG, HAIRY Lee, THORNY Tan and Ho JINX. Incidentally, the evil party in Chew’s story is called ‘Party against People’. The entire cast sounds inspired by nicknames straight out of an EDMW or Sammyboy forum thread conceived by 13-year olds. Not exactly Mad Magazine material, I suppose.

Some authors have the nerve to do away with the ‘parallel universe’ angle and mock the PAP straight up. In 1971, 22 year old cartoonist Morgan Chua drew a cartoon of LKY riding a tank threatening to crush a baby symbolising the paper he worked for, the Singapore Herald. LKY’s also a favorite target of foreign humorists;  You can only purchase ‘Harry Lee Kuan Yew, A Pictorial Account of his Life and Times‘ online, a collection of lampoons by Rodney King, an Australian who worked here for more than a decade. In this book the ‘lovable old twerp’ ‘gets a good hand-bagging from Maggie Thatcher’ and ‘falls down a rubbish chute’. It would have been funnier if his caricature of LKY didn’t resemble the stereotype of a slant-eyed Asian.

You can, however, publish a book full of toon politicians here if you’re careful enough. Greg Nonis gave us ‘Hello Chok Tong, Goodbye Kuan Yew’ in 1991. Today, if you’re lucky, the authorities will tolerate your satire if you bypass the censors and post comics on your own blog or Facebook, provided you cover yourself with the appropriate disclaimers and give your characters names that would trigger a knowing smirk in your reader but not an angry lawyer’s letter. My Sketch Times features a DR ‘WOLF WU‘ who’s ‘helping to change the way traffic procedures are performed’. S’pore Says posted a cartoon of a ‘Mr Wong’ in a Monkey King head vice getting a headache when the mantra ‘Mas Selamat’ is chanted. The Cartoon Press, which I must say boasts some of the best pencilwork I’ve seen so far, has a turkey with what looks very much like Lim Swee Say’s head.  Some of this stuff is actually funnier than Demon-cratic Singapore, which has ‘episodes’ with too much text and one too many cringingly lame name-puns.

Anyway here’s a random picture of our Prime Minister in a pink shirt. Hmm..I wonder if anyone has made a caricature of this already.


WP’s Blue Paper will cause great hardship to us all

From ‘WP’s proposal hurt Singapore SMEs and workers:Grace Fu’, 24 Feb 2013, article in Today online

…Posting on her Facebook page, Ms Fu said the WP wants to freeze foreign workforce growth immediately which she said, will hurt Singapore small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and workers. She said the government’s plan on the other hand is to significantly tighten the inflow of new foreign workers, but allow businesses time to make adjustment and help SMEs in particular, make the transition.

Ms Fu touched on several points raised in the WP’s paper. Among them is the argument that by raising the resident labour force participation rate, Singapore can maintain its non-resident workforce at the current numbers. Ms Fu said this will “cause great hardship to Singaporeans and SMEs”, which employ 70 per cent of Singaporean workers.

She said if these businesses fail, many Singaporean workers and their families will suffer and added healthcare, construction of HDB homes, and train lines will also be affected badly.

“WP argues that by encouraging more senior citizens and homemakers to work, we don’t need additional foreign workers. But how can our seniors and women fill the need for workers now where we need them most — such as construction and cleaning/maintenance?”, said Ms Fu.

Foreign labour has been the nation’s drug of choice for so long it’s expected that the WP’s cold turkey solution to creating a ‘dynamic resident workforce’ would come with its fair share of withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps this bold suggestion is just another ‘emotional hump’ that needs to be surmounted, though I’m not sure how many seniors and women are willing to do dirty, ‘low-skilled’ work like construction and cleaning in place of the junkie’s ‘high’ we get from foreign workers. Minister Fu was being selective in her blasting of the ‘Blue Paper’ of course, just like how everyone else zeroed in on the 6.9 million figure of its White counterpart.

I wonder if the SDP has their ‘Red’ paper in draft mode, though I hope it’s less clunky and has more images. I believe the reason why the average Singaporean doesn’t grasp the full picture of such policy papers is because it’s impossible to read them from start to finish without dozing off. WP’s paper may not cure our immigration addiction, but it can certainly cure insomnia. People want to read a summary of your executive summaries. The rest can be footnotes and appendices for the more serious-minded folks. The good news is that Singaporeans are at least aware that such documents exist. Some of us even begin to watch Parliamentary sessions in full over YouTube while the rest of the world is playing Candy Crush.

Grace Fu is one of the more vocal female politicians around, but I’m not so interested in what she used to do for a living (PSA CEO) or how she justifies her astronomical ministerial pay, but rather her bloodline, namely her father James Fu, ex Press Secretary to then PM Lee Kuan Yew. In 1986, the government restricted the local circulation of Time magazine based on their editor’s refusal to publish a correspondence in full, exercising its new powers under the amended ‘Newspaper and Printing Presses Act’.  The article in question was ‘Silencing the Dissenters’, which LKY, through secretary Fu, took offence for its ‘factual errors’. Time was then accused of ‘meddling in domestic politics’ in its handling of a story involving the PAP’s ‘muzzling’ of Opposition MPs. The spotlight was on none other than beleaguered Anson MP JB Jeyaretnam (incidentally from WP). In 1988, Fu, on behalf of LKY, stung another powerhouse magazine, the Asian Wall Street Journal. A full page advertisement had to be bought over to publish government ‘clarifications’ on articles deemed to be ‘distorting’ the truth. His most prominent work for the PAP, it seems, was threatening to ban prestigious magazines altogether for ‘irresponsible’ reporting i.e media censorship. He was also once the ominous sounding Director for Information.

But wait, there’s more.

Long before his role as LKY’s mouthpiece, Fu was a reporter for the Nanyang Siang Pau. In 1963, he was ARRESTED during Operation Cold Store as a political detainee. Only LKY can explain how a political opponent would wind up as one’s personal secretary in 1972. In the same fell swoop was fellow ‘conspirator’ Dominic Puthucheary, who being Malaysian was readily banned from entering the country for  ‘pro Communist activities’.

On 2 November 2009, ST published a feature with the headline ‘Son of former leftist is now PAP volunteer’. In fact, the ST were rather open with Puthucheary’s son about Daddy’s history with the ISD. This son is none  other than Malaysian-born PAP MP Dr Janil Puthucheary. Another ‘son of a leftist’ is Ong Ye Kung, former Aljunied PAP candidate and now part of GLC Keppel Corp, his father being ex-Barisan Sosialis MP Ong Lian Teng. Such media fascination with Janil and Ye Kung as offspring of ‘leftists’ makes Grace Fu’s father’s past involvement with the ISD conspicuous by its relative silence. Any attempt to speculate why may end up with a totally different ‘Paper’ coming my way, one from the White camp seeing Red, which upon reading may see me turn Blue, then Yellow because of threats hurled my way, before this post, or even the blog, is forced to fade into Black.

SAF offering citizenship to Malaysian enlistees

From ‘ Knuckledusters era over, says former ST editor’, 20 Oct 2012, article by Amir Hussein, CNA

In 1973, a reporter at the now-defunct New Nation broke a story about how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was inviting Malaysians to enlist, with Singapore citizenship as an incentive. The reporter got the story after spotting a small classified advertisement put up by the SAF in The Straits Times.

On the same day that the story was published, plainclothes police officers turned up at the newsroom and whisked him away for interrogation.  A week later, on a Sunday, the reporter was personally served with an enlistment notice – even though he had completed four years of National Service in the Vigilante Corps.

Detailing the episode in his book OB Markers: The Straits Times Story, former Singapore Press Holdings English and Malay Newspapers Division Editor-in-Chief Cheong Yip Seng said that, until now, the episode was not publicised and was known only to the newsroom, the reporter’s family and friends.

…Among the chapters is one on the “Knuckledusters Era” of the 1970s where Mr Cheong, 69, recounts the Government’s “tough treatment of the Singapore media”, including crackdowns on newspapers.

“I have seen newspapers closed when they fell foul of the government, and friends lose their jobs. Journalists have been detained. I did not suffer their fate, but many were the times when I was at the receiving end of Lee Kuan Yew’s fury,” he writes.

Bringing non-locals into the armed forces with the carrot of citizenship isn’t so shocking when you consider how we dangle incentives in front of foreign talent these days, especially when it comes to our Olympic Table Tennis players. However it’s one thing to have a foreigner win medals, and another to have one bear arms for the country. I just had to find out for myself if such enlistment ads by SAF actually existed. It didn’t take long to dig the online ST vaults to uncover one in 1974, which was out to recruit non-combat staff like mechanics, armourers and storemen.

Zooming in, you can see that ‘non-citizens who are successful in their applications will be offered citizenship’.

You can also refer to a 1973 ad which may be the one mentioned in Cheong’s book, where in addition to those listed above, foreigners may serve as a combat medical orderly. There was, however, no specific mention of Malaysians. Even the NAVY was offering foreigners the same reward. Where one’s loyalties lie was secondary to the urgency of building up military numbers. Shoot first, integrate later. You could apply the same analogy to the current state of ping-pong. Paddler first, Singaporean second.

So how different are things these days? Check out this Navy recruitment brochure, where one prerequisite other than being Singaporean is that you’re a Singaporean PR ‘intending to take up citizenship’.  According to the QnA, you will need to be a Singapore citizen, however, before putting your ink on the contract. You also have to serve NS if you’re a second generation PR. Although there are no explicit terms and conditions guaranteeing citizenship after 2 years of wasting your life, there are subtler ways of nudging you into becoming Singaporean. In 2010, a $9000 payout to NSmen was withheld from PRs, only to be handed out once they become citizens,  serving as both reward (for citizens) and BAIT (for PRs). However, there are still many who would rather give up the PR status than submit themselves to conscription. Minister of Defence Ng En Hen revealed in 2011 that a third of male foreigners who became PRs under the sponsorship of their parents renounced their PR status just before enlistment.

The government has since been juggling between having enough men in the SAF to defend the country vs retaining enough countrymen (and PRs) itself. But it’s not just prospective Singaporeans who are repelled by NS,  many born and bred here are equally reluctant to bear arms for the nation. Ng Eng Hen recently revealed an increased number of Singaporean and PR defaulters (those who failed to register or went AWOL after going abroad) this year compared to last. A sagging birth rate isn’t helping either; we can be discharging all the state of the art missiles our inflated military budget can buy, yet fire nothing but blanks in our bedrooms. You can roll in the mud, hurl a grenade or assemble a rifle in less than 30 seconds, but fail in the most basic task of replacing yourself.

But back to knuckle-dusting. It wasn’t just the 70’s that was a thugs’ life for journalists who question the status quo. The last reference about ‘knuckle-dusters’ came as late as 1994, when LKY wrote in his memoirs his affection towards political writer Catherine Lim.

Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister . .. She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac . . . Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters.

Strong words, but you’d have little to fear really; Knuckle-dusters are banned here and we’re getting too crowded to be caught alone and defenceless in ‘cul de sacs’. But here’s what they look like, for the benefit of those who think LKY’s referring to sparring mittens. You can see it’s far too deadly a weapon even for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Your knuckles are dusted

Eve Tan calling Malays low educated and lazy

From ‘Disgust over Eve and Ivy cyber rants’, 10 Oct 2012, article by Ian Poh, ST

INTERNET users are calling for action to be taken against two other people who posted controversial comments on Facebook. They said the posts’ authors should be dealt with in a similar way to Ms Amy Cheong, the woman fired on Monday for making racially offensive remarks about the Malay community.

One of the two Facebook users, who called herself Eve Tan, also posted derogatory comments about Malays, branding them “low educated” and “lazy”. They were apparently made last month in response to a question on the Health Promotion Board’s profile page. When others challenged her, she replied: “Get real, just see the truth.”

Another Facebook user calling herself Ivy Lim has also come under scrutiny for comments posted on the site. She had written: “Looks like all th(e) Malays can’t get over it. Poor thing!”

…Mr Nazry shared a screenshot of Ms Tan’s controversial comment and captioned it: “A fine example of complete ignorance portrayed by our very own Singaporeans.

“It truly, truly disappoints me that some of us are no longer sensitive and tolerant to the feelings of other races. Whatever happened to racial harmony/tolerance?”

Close call for those who ‘Liked’ this

Hence ‘$50 void deck weddings’

I do agree that this is a ‘fine example of complete ignorance’, because you’d have to be a complete moron to post such things on Facebook in light of how ‘netizens’ react to touchy race issues these days. In a separate post, Eve Tan gave some dubious statistics about how Malays make up the majority of prisoners and underaged smokers. Facebookers like her aren’t the only Singaporeans caught expressing the ‘hard truth’ about local Malays. There’s another more important and renown personality who knows a thing or two about the Malay psyche, and if he had a Facebook account, I wonder if he would be publicly slammed in the media or summoned by the police for ‘investigations’ as well.

Last year, LKY’s Hard Truths was branded as ‘haram‘, or forbidden to Muslims, by the Malaysian government (You may still get a copy from the nearest bookstore). According to Wikileaks, he called Islam a ‘venomous’ religion. He also urged Muslims should let go of some strict religious observances and be more sociable when eating with others, a statement regretted by both his own son and Minister Yaacob who had to apologise on his behalf. The AMP (Association of Muslim Professionals) criticised him for implying that Malays are lagging behind in terms of educational levels compared to Chinese and Indians. But like Amy Cheong’s comment on Muslim marriages, perhaps we should step back and reflect before grabbing the flaming pitchfork and raze Eve and Ivy’s houses to the ground.

In 2009, a 10 year report on PSLE maths reported a plunge in performance for Malays in that subject from 1999 to 2008, along with poorer results overall compared to Chinese and Indians. Teachers cited the reason for poor math as Malay students seemingly resigning to this as a ‘personal flaw’ by nature, as well as their not being able to afford tuition like the other races. Even with free tuition sponsored by Mendaki, there were ‘indifferent’ parents who did not bother sending their kids for classes. PSLE may not the most reliable marker for the success of an ethnic group, but this does highlight the complex interplay between educational level, family income, a system that has become heavily dependent on tuition and a perceived less-than-enthusiastic attitude towards academic performance.

It’s not so easy to back up ‘facts’ about Malays committing crimes though. The Singapore Prison Service Annual Statistics offers no data on ethnic proportion in jails in 2012, although in 2004, the Chinese still made up the majority of inmates (> 40%) with Malays in second place. What has been reported, though, is that the number of Malay drug abusers arrested has increased by 6.8% compared to drops among Chinese and Indian addicts in the first half of this year (vs the first half of 2011). In 2010, stats were released to Khaw Boon Wan showing that the number of Malay smokers aged 30-39 was DOUBLE that of Chinese or Indians. You can also find data to justify your claim that ‘Malays are too fat’ or have more births out of a wedlock, but I wouldn’t expect to get reliable information on teenage pregnancies, violent crime or PSLE/O Level failures, and perhaps for good reason.

All this talk about ‘lazy Malays’ reinforces the  ‘Relac one corner’ stereotype and racist jokes about chauffeurs named Ahmad, and it is one that is entrenched deep in Singapore-Malayan history. In the 20’s you could write freely about how the Malays are ‘cursed with the lazy spirit’ and have a ‘marvellous ingenuity of avoiding work’.   Malays continued to defend themselves against the ‘cruel epithet’ that is ‘The Lazy Malays’ into the 50’s. They were described as a ‘leisure-loving, lazy people contented with what little success they have’, formed the bulk of ‘grass cutters, drivers, PEONS and clerks’ and were struggling in school because of laziness and ‘lack of willpower’. It even appeared in school humanities textbooks in 1956, where Malays were described as ‘lazy and indolent’. Malayan historian Sir Richard Winstedt was accused of writing an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that they were ‘lazy, dishonest and immoral’. It was later attributed to an anonymous correspondent and another white fellow called Sir Hugh Clifford (of whom Clifford Pier was named after). Half a century later and despite societal advancements, this mindset about certain races or classes remains as narrow as before.

In 2004, a motivational guru from Malaysia delivered a reality check on the state of the Malays, which he believed was ‘rotting':

The Malays are hardworking, but not as consistently hardworking like other races. They are only hardworking in things they are passionate about. The successful races are hardworking in whatever they do.

Malay-bashing isn’t just limited to Singaporeans. A Malaysian-Hainanese rapper named Wee Meng Chee, or Namewee, ranted against the Cantonese, Singaporeans and ‘Bumi’ Malays in a song called ‘Kawanku’ in 2007, where Malays ‘ tak suka kerja’ (don’t like to work), ‘tiap hari tidur’ (sleep everyday) and would regret if there were no Chinese in Malaysia because of one less holiday (CNY). Namewee is considered a seditious troubemaker to the Malaysian authorities, and if anyone came up with something similar in Singapore, they would spend a few weeks hanging out in a cell with people who have sex with underaged prostitutes, while their racist rap goes viral on Youtube.

Well, we are all hardworking in things we love doing. Perhaps the Malays love doing some stuff more than others, and even if they’re lagging behind in terms of what we traditionally view as academic success or an illustrious career, look no further than our fertility rate by ethnicity to see what the Chinese and Indians are lagging behind the Malays in. What really matters now, an issue of national EMERGENCY, is being hardworking in an activity that is the complete opposite of ‘work’ altogether.

I haven’t watched Avenue Q at MBS, but I wonder if this song is still on the playlist after recent events.

Archbishop’s letter harming social harmony in Singapore

From ‘Archibishop slams Alex Au, anti-ISA organisers’, 20 Sept 2012, article by Teo Xuanwei, Today

The head of the Catholic Church here has criticised a blogger and the organisers of a rally against the Internal Security Act (ISA) over a blog post which suggested that he was pressured by the Government into retracting a letter he had sent expressing support for the event. The flap arose from Mr Alex Au’s lengthy critique on his blog – posted on Tuesday – of what he described as the Government’s “arm-twisting” of Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

Mr Au wrote that based on “second-hand” accounts, Archbishop Chia had sent a “warmly-worded” letter to the event organisers – civil society groups Function 8 and Maruah – only to later send a second letter to withdraw his statements, purportedly after pressure from the Government. Archbishop Chia said yesterday that he had decided to withdraw his letter because “on reflection, its contents did not accurately reflect my views on the subject, and if used in a manner that I did not intend, may inadvertently harm the social harmony in Singapore“.

According to Alex Au’s blog Yawning bread:

…In the warmly-worded letter, the archbishop expressed his support for the rally and, I am told, endorsed the call for the abolition of the law in question.

The blogger, who previously was coerced into removing posts for criticising the Law Minister and the AGC’s verdict on Woffles Wu, did not reveal who his sources were, and later claimed in his article that His Grace was called up to ‘lim kopi’ with DPM Teo Chee Hean. No one will know for sure if that ever happened, but it appears that past spats with members of Parliament and the authorites have failed to stop Alex from delivering scoop after scoop of incendiary insider news, undeterred by the possibility of being brought to task for ‘serious allegations’. One can still wonder, though, what exactly the Archbishop wrote that made him do a double-take, failing which his letter, once publicised, would have detrimental effects on our SOCIAL HARMONY. At most, you’d imagine a man of God asking for compassion and enlightenment in meting out hard and swift ‘justice’ on political firebrands, be they Marxists or what not. Nothing wrong with that, and I would expect a religious man to apply the same grace of God whether or not it’s ISA detainees or the man on the street, without ‘crossing the line’ into politics or stirring up a frenzy all over the country.

In the last GE, it was often the POLITICIANS themselves treading the fine line through their visits to places of worship, yet  nobody tells them off for mixing their dirty work with religion. Which makes separating religion from politics like keeping a dog away from a lamppost, especially when you’re giving a sermon on what some might refer to a crime against humanity. The Catholic Church indeed has an embittered history with the ruling party for sympathising with the said detainees, though the MHA refers to the relationship as a ‘long-standing’ one. In 1987, a mass was held for victims at the Church of the Risen Christ, at which, according to some fellow Catholics who were riled by the event for transgressing the political sphere, were supporters wearing ‘T-shirts with slogans’. According to a ST report on the 400-strong event, the shirts were yellow and bore the biblical quote ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’. Nothing will happen to you today if you wore such cliches out on the street, other than a wink and nod from fanboys of conspiracy theories and the X-files. It also sounds like a typical lyric from a K pop song with bits of English chorus in it.

Father Edgar D’Souza, one of the organisers of such masses, caught the attention of then PM Lee Kuan Yew, who had terrifying words for this ‘emotional’ show of support for individuals he deemed as violent terrorists.

If this is carried on, it may not be the next mass, it may not be the next statement but if feelings were aroused, if the agitation continued, THERE MUST BE A COLLISION.

The priest, along with 3 others, were later summoned by LKY to the Istana in a ‘closed-door’ meeting and reportedly threatened with arrest under the ISA for seemingly ‘subversive’ activities in invoking the name of God to rouse their clergy. LKY had also complained to the Archibishop Gregory Yong to keep his priests in check and not ‘engage in jousting’ on Government policies. Following the fateful meeting, the Archbishop suspended the 4 priests to avoid a ‘conflict or collision between the Church and State’, apparently under pressure by the PM. It then transpired that LKY had unleashed a litany of criticisms levelled at the Church and the Archbishop, and did not show due respect to the holy chief of churches. When a joint statement was read out by His Grace during the Istana meeting, LKY looked at his watch and asked ‘how long he was going to take’. But losing his frock wasn’t all for D’Souza; he was later embroiled in scandal with a ‘woman lawyer’. A certain Father Joachim Kang who spoke out on how the Archbishop was ‘cornered’ by the PM would be the same priest later arrested and jailed for misappropriating church funds worth $5 million.

So the current Archbishop’s withdrawal could certainly be a change of heart and playing it safe, bearing in mind what the previous Archbishop went through with LKY and the PAP, or, as Alex Au suggests, there was a touch of government nudging to ward off any ‘social disharmony’ that may arise from influential men speaking out on a ‘sacred cow’, a cow so old you could strip its leathery hide off its back and use it to whip people into submission immediately. His Grace later clarified that his first ‘letter’ was intended as ‘private communication’.  You’re the HEAD of the Catholic Church, and you’re writing to an activist group. Unless you’re inviting them to tea at church, anything written in the official capacity of a religious heavyweight to a group that names itself after a button on a keyboard is perhaps too BIG a deal NOT to get leaked, especially if it’s an E-mail. Let this be a lesson to all: If in doubt, use the ‘Recall’ button.

Of course the government understands the power of religion to sway the masses into irrational groupthink. There were probably more prayers whispered for Kong Hee than a decade’s worth of tsunami victims combined, and any force that could propel pastor Sun Ho into superstardom has the power to overturn archaic laws as well. In their fear of whipping up unwanted support for activist groups like Function 8, the Government’s hush-hush sessions with religious leaders on ‘sensitive issues’ have whipped up nothing but curiosity and speculation instead.


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