Ex-MP Phey Yew Kok on the run for 36 years

From ‘Ex-PAP MP Phey Yew Kok faces charges more than 30 years after he fled Singapore’, 24 June 2015, Today

More than 30 years after he jumped bail and fled the country, former PAP Member of Parliament and president of the National Trades Union Congress Phey Yew Kok was finally brought to justice today (June 24). He appeared in court today to face the charges that were served on him in 1979.

On Dec 10, 1979, Phey was charged on four counts of criminal breach of trust involving a total sum of S$83,000. He was also charged on two counts under the Trade Unions Act for investing S$18,000 of trade-union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister.

On Jan 7, 1980, Phey failed to turn up in court and a warrant of arrest was issued against him on the same day. Phey surrendered himself at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22, 2015, said the CPIB in a press release. He was accompanied back to Singapore yesterday. “Phey will be required to assist CPIB in further investigations in relation to other offences he may have committed,” said CPIB.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in response to media queries: “Phey Yew Kok was facing charges of Criminal Breach of Trust when he absconded while on bail in 1980. He has now turned himself in and returned to Singapore.

…”We have maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because we have zero tolerance for corruption. When we discover wrongdoing, we do not hesitate to act. We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government.”

The National Trades Union Congress said it noted that Phey “has surrendered himself to the authorities. We must now let the law take its course”.

Little mention has been made of this man, and even though he was on the ‘wanted list’ all this while, he didn’t make it on a recent list of ‘Singapore’s Most Wanted‘, which includes rogue lawyer David Rasif, CID detective Mark Koh, murderer Harvinder Singh, and a woman who’s likely the previous record holder of most number of years on the run, bank executive Siak Lai Chun, eluding the Police since 1997. The curious thing is, it wasn’t a case of the authorities finally smoking him out of his rabbithole. He turned himself in at the ripe old age of 81, in the very same city that CPIB officers went on a manhunt back in 1989.

Although our PM asserts that there is no cover up, and you may be charged for contempt if you suggest that there is, the fact is no one, not since the 80’s when JBJ was haranguing Parliament for answers to his whereabouts, seemed to even want to mention this guy’s name. It’s like refraining from pointing out a VIP’s crotch stain while at a formal dinner party. Those born just around the time he fled, as I was, would be more familiar with dissidents like Francis Seow and other fugitives/exiles featured in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore with Love Film than this guy, who was supposedly a rising star in the political arena before he got into hot soup lining his pockets with dirty money, and retreated into obscurity since flying the coop.

Talking about ‘awkward’, the PAP didn’t hesitate to let Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer go some years back when he confessed to an affair and promptly resigned. On the other hand, other ex PAP MPs like Choo Wee Khiang got to be President of some table tennis association even after getting charged and jailed for corruption. Phey Yew Kok, before the news of his surrender was out, was practically unheard of before the news of his surrender broke (except given a nod by Pritam Singh in this FB rant about crooked PAP MPs in 2012). It’s like a father refusing to talk about a disowned son to his family, an enigma unfamiliar to many of us as the name of his constituency was. Where the hell was ‘Boon Teck’ anyway? (My guess is it’s somewhere near Toa Payoh). Suddenly the media is hot on the history of Phey’s ‘rise and fall’ in an attempt to make his re-emergence as sensational as if he was dragged back to the homeland by an elite squad of special forces who spent the last decades chasing a slippery mastermind around the globe, through jungles, snowcaps and what not.

One interesting tidbit of the man is that he used to be President of the Singapore Boxing Association in the 70s. There were also rumours that he once worked in Taiwan. He supposedly had his Singapore PASSPORT with him all this while, which wasn’t impounded by the Police after he was charged. His 2 bailors also lost $95,000 because of him, and if they’re still alive, are probably waiting to settle this 30 year old O$P$.

Well, all I can say is this – about damn time.

SG50 salary bonus should be for everyone

From ‘Extend SG50 bonus to all’, 19 June 2015, ST Forum

(Sim Ghee Choon): IT IS encouraging to hear that a $500 bonus will be given to civil servants (“Civil servants to get $500 in special SG50 payment”; yesterday). However, it is disheartening that Singaporeans who work in the private sector will miss out on this jubilee celebration.

Stay-at-home mothers who are taking care of the next generation and retirees will also not be similarly rewarded. Would the Government consider giving this bonus to all citizens in their Central Provident Fund accounts instead?

If the writer had done his homework, he would have known that DBS Bank had already given employees ranked vice president and below TWICE the civil service bonus (Companies urged to recognise employee’s contributions with special SG50 reward, 29 May, ST). SMRT also rewarded their staff with $500 worth of shopping vouchers. If the Government had decided to give not just civil servants, but EVERYONE in the country $50 cold hard cash ($500 would be ridiculous), people would still be complaining as if a millionaire relative just gave them a $4 ang pow during CNY .

One gripe that non-civil servants have towards the SG50 bonus, other than it not being distributed to every citizen, crooks and that bastard neighbour included,  is that it comes from taxpayers’ pockets. In 2003, a freelance journalist suggested in a Today commentary that the civil service is a burden to other Singaporeans who don’t live off an ‘iron rice bowl’, that those who work for the government ‘do not generate wealth’, and 1 in 9 people in the private sector is supporting a civil servant. That would be seeing the civil service in pure economic terms, without realising that that civil service extends beyond paper-pushing bureaucrats to the people that keep the streets safe, our young ones educated, and ensure the ill and infirmed are well taken care of. Yes, the same folks who will be working and sweating their butts off while the rest celebrate SG50 in August.

In 1971, Dr Toh Chin Chye was against the policy of dishing out civil service bonuses, for the very fact that this may become a ‘political issue’. To quote the man:

If Prime Minister Lee says to give each one a bonus, then I’m sure the confidence of the people in the Government will collapse.

As he predicted, once the bonus floodgates opened in a bid to keep the civil service ‘attractive’ and ‘clean’, ministries included, people began to question how the Government spent our hard-earned money. Today, those who don’t get the SG50 cut frantically take out their calculators and deduce what could be bought with that enormous sum of money ($71 million to be exact, according to TOC). No two people will ever agree, however, on how best the money should be spent. For every suggestion to pump dollars into ‘the arts’, there are others calling for more hospital beds, affordable housing or adding a Harry Potter attraction to Universal Studios.

Then there are those who call the Government out for vote-buying and begin to speculate on the timing for the next election. Though it may seem that $500 is the crunchiest carrot of the truckload of goodies that they have been dishing the past few years, any gratitude and pleasure over this bonus may just diminish over time due to hedonistic adaptation. It may be ‘Wow!’ one moment, and ‘Meh’ the next, simply because it doesn’t feel like you earned the $500 out of your individual achievements, especially since every Tom, Dick and Harry in the civil service got what you got. Besides, you don’t need to tempt civil servants to vote in the PAP. The whole system was designed such that they have an obligation to do so anyway.

The problem is that it’s impossible for the Government to know what EVERY damn Singaporean wants, nor should they pander to people who become instant financial advisors once there’s goodies to be given out. They declare an additional SG50 public holiday but some of us complain that we still need to work on shift, while those who don’t need to work take the opportunity to zip out of the country for a long weekend vacation like the ungrateful brats that we are. They give us fun packs but we complain that these are bloody useless and a waste of money. They give us free public transport and we scoff at their ability to deal with the impending crowds. They give our babies SG50 slings and we ask why no milk powder vouchers instead. They donate money to disaster-hit areas and we complain that we could have done more. They give electricity bill discounts and we complain that this encourages indiscriminate use and hurts the environment. If we push our luck any further, the Government may just use the spare dough to ship the whole lot of us to some Third World village for a week, just for us to see ‘how good we have it’ here, that we should be thankful we even get paid at all.

ST editor Chua Mui Hoong thinks that the $500 lacks sincerity (Cold hard cash lacks warm, fuzzy feeling, 21 June, Sunday Times), and compares the bonus to a man giving his girlfriend cash instead of making the extra effort to find out what she really wants.  She even thought of a ‘special gold-plated medallion’ to commemorate the event, like what we give to SG50 babies, which I would reject on the spot because it’s like a clueless relative giving you redundant kitchenware during Christmas. At least you can fetch a higher price selling crockery on Carousell. Nobody wants your stupid SG50 medallion, not even people with a fetish for medallion smelling. Hell, if you want sincerity and love let’s just forget the money and instead have our MPs come deliver to every Singaporean 50 seconds of hugs and kisses then.

Burning joss paper leading to lung cancer

From ‘Restrict incense burning to places of worship’, 15 June 2015, ST Forum

(Madam Wah Yan Chan): I AGREE with Mr Mckeena Neo (“Common corridors not the place for burning incense paper”; June 2). While our forefathers may have burnt joss paper and incense sticks as a sign of devotion, they probably did so without knowing that such burning produces a cocktail of harmful carcinogens that may cause conditions such as asthma and, in the long term, can lead to life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer.

Causing inconvenience and harm to others should never be justified on the bases of religion and tradition. Surely Singapore should have a law prohibiting the burning of incense and joss paper in common areas and restricting the practice to designated places of worship.

There are regulations in the Environmental Public Health Act that stipulate how many joss sticks and candles with specific dimensions may be burnt in premises such as an ‘enclosed space’ or a temple. When burning cancerous joss paper, however, the public is merely advised to use burning pits and containers provided by town councils and clean up their mess after satisfying the gods, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it just outside your HDB flat. The writer above is clearly convinced that burning joss paper increases one’s risk of cancer and should be banned from public areas. The problem is she’s somehow OK with people getting cancer in ‘designated places of worship’.

Whether or not joss paper has the same risk as cigarette smoke is up for debate, since I believe no one has done extensive epidemiological studies on joss paper as we have for tobacco. What is certain, however, is joss paper is a potential fire hazard, especially if people are appeasing their ancestors near a PETROL STATION. Even burning them in bins as recommended by the authorities may lead to explosions in your FACE if there’s a stray aerosol can lying within. In 1976, a blaze ripped through a Jalan Ubi village, rendering 16 locals homeless. It started when burning joss paper flew into a mattress factory. If only the Fire department had SPRUNG into action faster then.

You may think we’re relatively safe because we don’t live in attap houses anymore, but God help you if a stray hot ash lands on your curtain.  You could say a lit cigarette may cause hell on Earth as well, but the trajectory of burning ash in the wind is more unpredictable, and it’s harder to catch the culprit because it could have blown in from anywhere. It could be a little girl behind it following her parents’ instructions to send money to Grandma’s account in the Netherworld. Do we, then, need to wait for someone to perish from a freak joss paper fire, not to mention asthma or lung cancer, before we do something?

Curbing a religious practice may have, well, inflammatory repercussions, and may explain why the authorities are slow to crack down on joss paper burning, even doing little to stop worshippers from aggravating the haze and pissing off asthmatics some years back. Interestingly, one of the stories behind how joss paper was invented involves a con-job by a paper inventor Cai Lun, who tried to boost paper sales by faking his own death and getting his wife to bribe the King of Hell to return his soul through joss offerings. Today, it has morphed into a custom of filial piety and endearing superstition, though one incompatible with our bid for a ‘clean and green’ future. Then again, we’re still seeing ever more cars on the road, trees being cut down to be replaced by condos and people continuing to smoke like chimneys because the government has banned all ‘smokeless’ tobacco products. At least the burning of joss paper, for all its environmental damage, is a small price to pay if it stops ghosts, demons and the evil dead from popping out of hell portals in what’s left of Bukit Brown and haunting the shit out of us all.

I forsee the practice dying out by the next generation anyway, provided we all don’t die of joss-induced cancer, asthma or in a fiery inferno anytime soon.

Uber and Grabtaxi drivers requiring a vocational licence

From ‘Uber, Grabtaxi drivers may need vocational licence’, 10 June 15, article by Zachary Soh, My Paper

DRIVERS who run chauffeur services under ride-booking apps such as Uber could be required to obtain a vocational licence in the future.  While they are currently free from this requirement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it is looking into removing this exemption, as a way to ensure the safety of passengers taking private-hire rides.

In a forum letter published in The Straits Times, LTA noted that chauffeured vehicle services have become more accessible to the public with technology and given the industry’s recent growth, it is studying possible measures to safeguard commuter interest. The cab community has cried foul recently, following news of ride-matching apps and rental companies working together to run their own fleet of “taxis”.

The rental firms lease out cars to drivers at a rate cheaper than taxis. The drivers then use the vehicles to fulfil bookings from apps like Uber and GrabTaxi. These companies and drivers, however, do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on the taxi industry, such as vocational training.

…Meanwhile, Uber drivers have told The Straits Times that the time and money required to take a vocational course will be an extra burden for them. One driver, Yu Kim Reed, 30, asked why vocational licences have to be implemented now, given that chauffeur services have been around for so long. “The only difference is that a (car hire) call centre has been replaced by the Internet,” Mr Yu said.

According to the Sunday Times (Are ride-matching apps an UBER problem, 14 June 2015, ST), some Uber drivers do in fact ply their trade like ‘chauffeurs’. One subscriber known as ‘Marcus’ supplies mints, newspapers, water, even a socket for phone charging for his customers. Uber also has a strict rating system whereby any score below an average of 4.3 (out of 5) warrants a suspension or total ban, so drivers are forced to go the extra mile, sometimes literally.

Other requirements before becoming a full-fledged Uber driver include a 2 hour training session, online lessons, up to $5000 commercial insurance, and setting up your own company and registering your car for commercial use should you choose to drive your own vehicle. All that, however, doesn’t ensure passenger ‘safety’ as what LTA is hung up about. Then again, your safety isn’t guaranteed even if you’re in the backseat of a ‘proper’ taxi anyway, especially if you’re drunk and vulnerable.

One ride-sharing/matching app supporter explained in a letter to the ST that the business model satisfies a genuine need among frustrated passengers who have tried calling call centres and forced to ‘listen to their holding music’ (Ensure licensing doesn’t stifle progress, 12 June 2015, ST Forum). He also hinted at an element of ‘protectionism’ given that main players like Comfort Delgro, having tremendous ‘economies of scale’, still reap profits despite their high rental costs. As the occasional app-user myself, I tend to agree that there is a market for such services, more so if my Uber ride includes complementary perks like an iPhone charger or a bottle of champagne.  It is also a wake up call for regular cabbies not to disappear just before midnight charges kick in, not to rely on the customer for directions, or drive like demented road warriors in Mad Max.

Financial factors like app companies taking a cut from your earnings aside, 3rd party booking apps have their share of problems too. Grab Taxi requires you to exchange handphone numbers with cabbies, for instance. Passengers could screw you over by cancelling last minute or not appearing at the designated pick-up spot. You still risk having someone puke all over your backseat, or rob you with a box-cutter. Someone got duped into paying $97 to a fake Uber driver. But that is how ‘market forces’ work. If you want your privacy, or if you don’t trust private cars, take the train, but bear with the crowd and breakdowns, or fight with other flag-down passengers.

Ride-sharing/matching is still, at the very least, more reassuring than the ‘pirate taxis’ that once roamed the streets.  These flourished as early as the mid fifties, when entrepreneurial drivers capitalised on the bus strikes to perform a public service when people could no longer rely on the main form of public transport. Business was so competitive in fact, pirates were willing to charge 5 CENTS per mile and provide ‘doorstep’ escorting services.  It’s a misuse of the traditional use of the word ‘pirate’, though. These drivers aren’t plundering from anyone. They’re pirates like how people operate ‘pirate radio’ before the Internet. Comfort DelGro is your ‘Top Hits’ station, with the same old songs played to death, while Uber/Grab Taxi is where you get to hear the ‘cool stuff’ without ‘royalties’.

Of course, the Government had to clamp down on these guys and declare all out war, not so much that passengers were harmed by it, but because they had to protect the interests of our taxi-drivers, who were partly the reason why pirates had their supporters in the first place. Taxi drivers then tend to ‘choose’ tourists over locals, and people complained about their ‘attitude’ after an evening at the cinema. Today, taxis choose to wait in queue outside our casinos rather than pick you up when you’re stranded in some godforsaken ulu place past midnight. By the time you get an actual human voice on the Comfort Cab booking line, you would have been assaulted and left to die pants-down by the road.

In 1970, the Government coerced drivers into ‘job conversion’ in a bid to phase out pirate operations, and anyone who continued to go pirate would be fined and have their ride confiscated. In 1971, a man who depended on pirating as his livelihood was driven to suicide by traffic offences slapped by the police, among other debt woes. By 1975, the pirates returned to the new towns, because the waiting time for the only bus on the road was probably longer than that needed to set up your one-man taxi business.  Even if bus frequencies have since improved, we sometimes still watch helplessly as bus after bus zooms by, the captain ignoring your flailing arms, oblivious that there’s a gaping hole in the middle because nobody wants to move in.

Today, the authorities are considering a softer approach in contrast to the ‘Operation Pirate Taxi’ blitz of the past, but the fact that we’re even discussing frameworks and legislation now despite our ‘world class’ transport system, in view of the high demand for these apps (6 companies and counting, the LTA one not included), suggests that not enough is being done to move people around an increasingly crowded city efficiently. Well yes, there are good and bad Comfort drivers, just like there are good and bad Uber/Grab Taxi drivers, but there isn’t enough evidence to say that the one without an official licence is more likely to drive you off a pier and plunge into the river. For the record, regular taxis have driven into condo pools before. At least I know which of the two is more likely to carry a float just in case the unimaginable happens.

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of mandatory licensing, the first thing LTA should work on is figuring out what’s wrong with the current system, and consider the benefits of these apps not just in terms of moving the public, but as a form of employment, without having their judgement fudged by taxi giants with vested interest in seeing the demise of their hi-tech rivals.  In the meantime, if I want an ‘uber’ chauffeur service at a fraction of the price of an actual limousine, I know who to call.

LKY’s name and image not allowed in commercial merchandise

From ‘New law on Mr Lee Kuan Yew ‘not aimed at artists or creative work”, 31 may 2015, article by Walter Sim, ST

A new law to safeguard the name and image of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from commercial profit is not aimed at restricting artistic or creative work, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said yesterday.

Such work could include paintings, books, movies, photographs or performances that make use of Mr Lee’s name or image, a ministry spokesman said in response to queries from The Sunday Times.

“Such works may be sold for private gain, but they are different from merchandised products for the mass market. Hence they will not be covered under the proposed law,” the spokesman said.

“The specific intent of the proposed law is to prevent Mr Lee’s image or name from being used in commercial merchandise. Examples are things like chocolate boxes, souvenir coins or medallions and office stationery,” she added.

‘Commercial merchandise’ would also include perishables like a Breadtalk bun in tribute to the man. Though borne out of good intentions with a charity aspect to it, negative reactions from the public swiftly killed the product. Which leads me to wonder, with such strong emotions displayed by Singaporeans in response to any form of exploitation of LKY’s name and image, is there even a need for a half-baked posthumous law where submissions are on a ‘case-by-case’ basis? You would have to set up an entire section within the ministry just to evaluate whether people can put LKY’s face on a manga comic, a doggie bowl, a video game, a lego set or a goddamn key chain.

Then there’s the question of what differentiates ‘commercial merchandise’ from those exempted for ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ reasons if profit is to be made either way. If the garage that gave away the Alex Yam-designed ‘black ribbon’ car decals had instead sold them at 50 cents each in honour of SG50, would that be breaching the new law? Even if they did distribute the stickers for free, business may have surged after the gesture and earn the wrath of critics scoffing such tribute acts as ‘publicity stunts’ to generate revenue indirectly. If something of a ‘commemorative’ nature like a ‘souvenir coin’ is not allowed under the proposed legislation, what about those planned special edition $10 and $50 notes featuring LKY on them?

I was once in a cafe which showcased a series of LKY’s books as ‘browsing material’, possibly to draw reverent customers who are either too cheapstake to buy the books themselves, or have no idea how libraries work. So it’s hard to tell if someone is genuinely in awe of the man, or using some typical business cunning to reap profits out of his death, even if none of the actual merchandise that they’re selling has anything to do with LKY, or politics for that matter. It’s like a bar owner promoting a ‘Michael Jackson’ night and playing nothing but MJ albums on his stereo on the singer’s death anniversary, without necessarily giving his cocktails and salad entrees cheesy names like ‘Thriller’ or ‘Dill the World’.

There’s also the issue of whether I can only depict the man in a favourable light. If I were a performance artist mimicking our Dear Leader, but instead of all-white shirt and pants I’m dressed in a dragon emperor’s robe, would I be hauled up by the Police for doing injustice to Him even if I’m not earning a single cent from my act? Chances are someone would run up and slap me in the face before the police even get to hunt me down for blasphemy. I bet you won’t see LKY drinking, smoking or swearing in the upcoming movie and musical, though I’m sure in real life he wasn’t immune from such vices. The man eats, shits and breathes like everyone else.  Except that if you do portray him doing any of these things, you’ll likely get crucified on the spot, or worse,  ‘Amos-Yeed’. It would also probably be illegal for you do post memes like these, even if the short and sweet content below speaks volumes about how some people are messing about with our dead leader’s name.

Instead of curbing the unnecessary deification of LKY, this impending law may very well make the man more of an ubermensch than he already is and feed into this hysterical personality cult that he was so dead set against. He was protected by security officers and Gurkhas nearly all his life. Today we propose to shield the man with wishy-washy state laws, because there’s no dead person greater who deserves our veneration, not first President Yusof Ishak, Sir Stamford Raffles, comedian Victor Khoo, nor legendary getai Beng Ah Nan.  Leave Him in peace already.

NAC withdrawing $8000 grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel

From ‘NAC withdraws grant for graphic novel publisher due to ‘sensitive’ content’, 30 May 2015, article in CNA

The National Arts Council (NAC) has withdrawn a publishing grant for the graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye on the eve of its Singapore launch because of “sensitive content”. The council declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the decision to revoke the S$8,000 grant.

The experimental graphic novel by artist-illustrator Sonny Liew follows the story of comic-book artist Charlie Chan during the formative years of Singapore’s modern history. It weaves together fictional and historical elements, with nods to events and personalities in the nation’s history, such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, in 1987.

In a statement, NAC’s senior director of the literary arts sector Khor Kok Wah said: “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions. The Council will continue to support and work with Epigram, a leading publisher of Singapore literary works, on other projects.”

…Mr Liew expressed his disappointment with NAC’s decision. “I’d hoped the book was nuanced enough in … dealing with the issues. But developments have made it clearer that NAC works under constraints that make it difficult for it to support works that are deemed politically sensitive.”

In 2011, the NAC withdrew a grant for a volume of playwright Chong Tze Chien’s collected plays, which had included Charged, a play that dealt with national service and race.

According to the Funding Guidelines, NAC will reject works that appear to have a ‘negative influence on society’, those that advocate for lifestyles that are seen as ‘objectionable’ by the public, denigrate on the basis of race or religion, undermine the authority of the government or threaten the nation’s security or stability. In Charlie Chan, Operation Spectrum is satirised as a plot to ‘replace all music in Singapore with the melodies of Richard Marx’, which gives a new, rather ominous twist to the lyrics of his greatest hit ever, Right Here Waiting (wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you). Not only will this ‘indirect censorship’ boost sales of Sonny’s book, it will also draw audiences to rediscover the adult contemporary music genius that is Richard Marx.

A more extreme parallel to Charlie Chan would be the charges slapped on fellow cartoonist Leslie Chew, the mastermind behind ‘Demon-cratic Singapore’. But I would think another reason why the depiction of LKY in a comic book is considered ‘too sensitive’ for funding is probably because of recent discussions to make it illegal for anyone to commercialise the image of our great leader for personal gain. I wouldn’t be surprised if MDA goes around pasting black boxes over panels of Charlie Chan containing references to LKY or the Marxist insurgency. The way around that, of course, is to order the unedited ‘US version’, or head over to the Causeway to buy it, along with a DVD for ‘To Singapore, with Love‘, which would neatly serve as a ‘behind the scenes’ companion to Charlie Chan if you want to know more about that fog of Singapore history known as Operation Spectrum.

Interestingly, Chong Tze Chien, the other victim of NAC’s sudden withdrawal was featured on the organisation’s publication titled ‘Literary Singapore’. The ‘directory’ of writers describes the play ‘Charged’ as such:

Through his signature use of experimental and innovative puppetry and stage devices, Chong’s “Charged” is Singapore’s most controversial and nuanced political play to date – addressing the issue of racial tensions in the most explosive of scenarios – that of a Chinese corporal shooting his Malay counterpart while on military duty.

And then NAC decided: Hmm, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea supporting this after all, I want my money back. What was once lauded as a ‘most controversial’ portrayal of race relations becomes a ‘taboo’ overnight. One moment you’re giving yourself a pat on the back for a ‘progressive’ stance, and the next you’re hurriedly taking it back, like ‘modern’ parents having second thoughts about giving their 18 year old son the car keys before his big date, afraid that they may have to pay an abortion check later. Incidentally, ‘Charged’ won the ‘BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT’ at the 11th Life! Theatre Awards.

I suppose one has to be prepared to make a living the hard way if your grant doesn’t qualify because your book or script is too provocative by NAC standards and may spark a mass riot like Charlie Hebdo. If only they’d told you sooner though. MDA did the same last-minute about turn when they banned Ken Kwek’s Sex Violence Family Values when it was just about to premiere in local cinemas. You could say the authorities were ‘right there waiting’ before deciding to pull the plug.

Fitness first luxury gym not for ‘lowly clerks’

From ‘Gym chain Fitness First should respect the dignity of labour’, 23 May 2015, Voices, Today

(Preethi Athavle): In reference to the report “Fitness First to launch one-of-a-kind gym for captains of industry” (May 21), I take objection to Fitness First saying that chief executives “do not want to be down there … with a lowly clerk”.

There are many facilities such as business-class seats in airlines and five-star hotels that ordinary people cannot afford. And it is fine for businesses to argue that the higher prices are due to the higher costs of providing premium services.

But to use the adjective “lowly” for a clerk is unacceptable. While many senior executives may have overcome great difficulties to attain their current position, it is equally true that not everyone starts at the same point in life’s race.

According to a Financial Times article, the new invite-only ‘penthouse gym’ would be a ‘private and intimate’ affair so that chief executives don’t have to ‘share a changing room with the great unwashed’. I suppose it would also spare them the embarrassment of appearing less fit, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, hence depriving all of us ‘lowly’ people the pleasure of realising we can do more reps and lunges than someone from the ‘C-suite’ class. Let’s be considerate, then. How else are these people going to maintain their fitness and keep our economy booming? By JOGGING in Bishan Park? Banish the thought!

Rich folk have many ways and means of hobnobbing with their peers of course, whether it’s partying at Pangaea over thousand dollar cocktails or playing a few rounds of golf at an exclusive club. With the new FF gym catering to the elite, you can discuss business over treadmills or a herb power smoothie, or even arrange for meetings in branded sweatpants since you’re too busy for showers. Because that’s what rich people go to gyms for apparently, to have a goddamn teleconference after swinging some dumbbells around. It’ll be the gym equivalent of the sky-high ‘Elysium’ paradise in that sci-fi movie of the same title starring Matt Damon. That sounds like a better name for it, by the way. Ironically, gravity is a force that tends to pull you down to earth, not lift you into the skies.

They’ve got the 5 Cs and now they want to add a G to the mix, a gym that gives you a ‘luxurious fitness an wellness experience’. Maybe they have staff there who help dab the sweat off your brow as you work out, or stand by your side cooling you down with a giant fan, feeding you grapes and organic muesli mini-bars for that quick energy boost while you strive to meet your ‘fitness goals’, without the clerks and the rest of the peasantry getting in your way and secretly mocking your belly flab. Hey FF, how about an exclusive gym for lowly clerks too? You could call it Fitness First Fun Camp or something, where members get to pound metal and chop wood, getting a ‘holistic’, natural workout at the same time as serving their Gravity masters 38 storeys above the ground.

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