Changi naval base renamed RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base

From ‘Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base’, 18 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Sunny Goh, Dr): Names and labels have been under scrutiny lately. While the Syonan Gallery has been hotly debated, one other name change has escaped attention: RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base (“Changi Naval Base’s new name to hark back to beginnings“; Feb 10).

It is problematic in two aspects. First, is the new name supposed to shift the emphasis away from “Changi” as the base onto the ship “Singapura”?

If so, this will force a contest between two historically powerful words, and not everyone will agree that the ship triumphs over the base.

Most people – visitors and taxi drivers included – will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Second, how is the ship related to the base?

The RSS Singapura was a former Japanese minelayer that was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin and was used by the then Singapore Naval Volunteer Force as its headquarters from 1966 to 1968, while the base was officially opened only in 2004, almost 40 years later.

Those at the Republic of Singapore Navy must be able to account for this, if foreign dignitaries were to ask them about the name. From a practical point of view, there is another problem.

Over time, an abbreviation for the name will probably emerge – the same that has taken place for the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC). But having seven letters, such as RSSSCNB, is itself unwieldy.

All of this begs the question: If the original name wasn’t broken, why fix it?

Just the day before, the Government made a reluctant and rather surprising U-turn after a public outcry over the Syonan Gallery, changing it to the mouthful’ Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies’, which sounds more like the title of a history textbook than an actual venue. What if my grandfather DIDN’T survive the Japanese Occupation? Wouldn’t this new name be a snub to those who sacrificed their lives during this horrific period?

Think ‘Changi’ and our world-famous airport comes to mind. But there was a time when naming our iconic airport after a place that evokes bloody war atrocities was deemed to be ‘in poor taste’. Brand it anything else to soothe psychological wounds and we may not have the Changi Airport as we know today. Similarly, I’d like to think that if we had retained ‘Syonan’ as a name for exhibitions, Singaporeans would learn to accept and move on over time like how ‘Changi’ became mundane, yet still retaining a prickly reminder of wartime history. Unfortunately, we’d rather sanitise our labels than learn to deal with them.

The ship RSS Singapura itself has some interesting history. Once bequeathed with the Japanese ‘WakaTaka‘, it was given its current name when Singapore joined Malaysia. It was also intended in the 60’s to be converted into a floating night club. Now thanks to the Syonan saga, we have to be wary of labels that summon wartime sensitivities, and by coming with up a practically useless and cumbersome hybrid-hyphenated name for the naval base, we’re injecting those affected with a double whammy; combining a ship that once served the Japanese Imperial navy and a place once associated with instituted mass murder.

Maybe the Navy should emulate Yaacob and reverse the decision after some ‘deep reflection’.

 

Singapore should treat Donald Trump with respect

From ‘Treat China and Trump with respect in 2017’, 11 feb 17, article by Kishore Mahbubani, ST

…So, let me conclude with another controversial point. We should also treat Mr Trump with respect.

Why? Because we live in a small state. We are price-takers, not price-makers. We have no choice on who becomes the US president. Only the Americans can choose their president. When they do so, we have to accept and respect their choice, even if the chosen candidate has criticised Singapore. Small states must develop a thick skin. Even a relatively large state like Canada has decided that it must be pragmatic. A recent New York Times report noted that even though Mr Trump’s “personal style and policies are widely disliked by Canadians”, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite his personal beliefs, “swiftly turned the machinery of Canada’s government towards finding a way to get along with Mr Trump”.

We should emulate Canada: Ignore rhetoric and focus on interests. There are many good reasons for working cooperatively with China. There are equally good reasons for working cooperatively with the US. We should maintain good relations with both.

Prof Kishore addressing DJT as ‘MISTER TRUMP’ is telling. Respecting the decision of the US electorate and respecting the MAN himself are two completely different things. As a tiny red dot, there’s a thin line between respecting DJT vs appearing submissive and kowtowing to a world power. He also says Singapore should develop a ‘thick skin’, which implies ignoring whatever Trump thinks of our country. Even if he believes that we’re a province in CHINA. PERIOD. ALTERNATIVE FACT.

No sir, the job of respecting shitty presidents is not the job of Singaporeans, but of Singaporean politicians who need to find the right balance between admiration and grovelling to keep our sampan afloat. For the ordinary Singaporean, DJT will remain as a source of endless satire and mockery, known more for his Apprentice TV series, multiple wives and lewd ‘pussy’ catchphrases than the leader of the Free World that he’s supposed to be. We don’t have to deal with him, tolerate, appreciate or much less ‘respect’ him.

DJT is a personification of what Singaporean leadership should NEVER become – TWEETING IN CAPS for one, firing Attorneys willy nilly, shooting down companies for not supporting his daughter’s fashion line, forming a cabal of administrators that resemble the Sinister Six. In local parlance, DJT is the political equivalent of what we call a ‘negative demo’.

Save your respect for your elders, our Olympic sportsmen, the single-mother prostitute who has to earn a living to support her child’s education, even Emperor Palpatine, but a billionaire ascending the throne to become the most powerful man in the world using nothing but the rhetoric of fear and hate – I’ll pass, thank you very much.

Syonan a great insult to Singapore

From ‘Name is a great insult to S’pore’ and ‘Why should we name our gallery Syonan’, 11 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ong Lay Eng): The name Syonan is a great insult to Singapore and Singaporeans (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

We must not forget the war crimes of the Japanese during World War II and the immense sufferings Japan inflicted on our forefathers. This is Singapore’s history and we need to tell our descendants what their forefathers experienced.

(Gan Kok Tiong): If the gallery at the war museum was created by the Japanese for the people in their own country, then I would have nothing to say (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

But in this instance, this is our gallery to show Singaporeans the atrocities and humiliation that our people, especially the Chinese, suffered during the Japanese Occupation.

What was light to the Japanese was calamity to the people of Singapore. I suggest that the name be changed to the hanyu pinyin shounan and zainan, meaning “calamity” in English; or simply “The Japanese Occupation Gallery”.

Last year, the National Gallery decided to name a gala event as ‘The Empire Ball‘ and anti-colonialists freaked out. Likewise, any reference to ‘Syonan’ would conjure images of our once imperialist tormenters decapitating prisoners or stabbing babies in mid-air with their bayonets. Though Syonan-to translates to ‘Light of the South‘, those 3 years and 8 months of the Japanese occupation were dark times indeed, but with the state of the world under a Trumpian leadership, perhaps our darkest days are yet to come.

But would this furore over historical fact be a case of jumpy denialism? Would simply naming the museum the ‘Japanese Occupation Gallery’ downplay the grisly emotional heft of ‘Syonan’, a word that implies utter domination and a loss of national identity? How would these symphatisers feel about the word ‘Nippon’, as in ‘Nippon-Go‘ (Japanese language), which children during then-Syonan were expected to attain a ‘complete mastery’  over, since it was the ‘lingua franca’ of Malaya? Or would they complain to MOE if teachers dashed into history class dressed as Japanese soldiers shouting ‘Banzai’?

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Yes, we should not forget the dreadful war crimes inflicted upon our forefathers, even as we fiercely embrace Japanese culture today – from otaku to sakura, sashimi to hentai. But self-censoring a part of history just because certain people find it ‘insulting’ is exactly what our rulers tried to do with their propaganda drives during the Occupation. Now that, in my opinion, would be the true ‘calamity’.

UPDATE(17 FEB 17): After some ‘deep reflection’ by Yaacob, it was decided that Syonan Gallery would be renamed as the less hurtful-sounding ‘Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”. Well, maybe not deep enough. You can’t even abbreviate the place now. If you’re taking a cab, you’ll probably have to tell the driver to take you to ‘the place formerly known as Syonan Gallery’.

Now let’s do something about ‘Syonan Jinjia (shrine)’ in Macritchie reservoir, perhaps ‘The Temple in the Woods that commemorates the Dead of our Japanese oppressors’

Culling animals to make space for humans

From ‘Make no apology about culling animals if needed’, 4 Feb 17, Voices, Today

(Douglas Chua Hock Lye): From otters in Bishan to wild boars in Pasir Ris to fowls in Sin Ming, Singaporeans now see more animals invading our already-constrained living space.

Pet-lovers are clamouring for tolerance and advocating protection for these animals, while those who detest animals are putting up with noise pollution and nuisance, and have safety concerns.So where do we draw the line between protecting animals and accepting them as part of our lives, and eradicating them totally because they have no relevance to us?

I readily admit I am not an animal lover. I am also not an animal hater. However, if these wild animals turn on us with aggression and harm us, as crows did at Pasir Ris last month — attacking people — we cannot turn a blind eye and pretend all is part of nature.

As it is, space is scarce in Singapore. For some, going for a jog means the possibility of encountering a wild boar, for instance. Animals will be animals. Do we want to read about someone being attacked by a wild boar before we decide to act?

We need to find a balance to please all parties, and the culling of animals, without bringing them to extinction, is the best option.

Culling is done in other parts of the world whenever an animal population poses a threat to humans. In the end, the safety of Singaporeans comes first, and we must make no apology about reducing the size of these animal populations when it is necessary.

In the 1930s, if there was a report of a mad dog with rabies running around biting people, the animal would be readily “DESTROYED“. These days, the nasty business of animal control is crouched in euphemisms like ‘culling’ or ‘management’, which takes away the sting of what we’re really doing; Killing animals for our own selfish reasons, whether it’s crow-shooting with rifles or putting chickens down ‘humanely’ via euthanasia.

Take the Harambe case, for example. An artificially created space for a wild animal ‘invaded’ accidentally by a human baby. Human judgement decided that shooting the gorilla dead was the best call. Likewise, we dictate how much is too much when it comes to roaming strays, though the fact that Singapore is so land-scarce is no one’s fault except our own. And the animals, the sudden ‘invaders’ of that realm we call civilisation, are paying the price for the progress of our own making.

Experience shows that culling is NEVER the best option. MP and animal activist Louis Ng questions the effectiveness of AVA’s culling of 630 monkeys in 2015. Despite our best efforts, rats continue to plague food establishments. ACRES has even declared that culling is ‘not an internationally endorsed practice‘ and may even be unethical. We are not ‘pretending’ that being attacked by a pigeon is ‘part of nature’. It is, in fact, nature’s response to HUMAN nature. We also can’t predict how culling would affect other flora and fauna. To target a specific animal without due consideration of its impact on biodiversity betrays our lack of understanding of how nature works at all.

Culling of shitty human beings, on the other hand, which is what our judicial courts are already doing to murderers, or what military assassins do to terrorist leaders, would do more good for the world than culling any animal that’s remotely capable of goring a random jogger to death.

So ‘animals will be animals’, and humans, being the worst animal of them all, will still be incorrigibly, ruthlessly, arrogantly, ignorantly – human.

Singaporeans pronouncing W as ‘dub-due’

From ‘English words: Time to say them right’, 4 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ng Hee Chun): Many Singaporeans are not pronouncing English words properly.

For instance, the word “red” is pronounced as “raid”, and the letter “w” is pronounced as “dub-due” instead of “double u”. Other words that are commonly mispronounced include “liaise”; “tuition”; “reservoir”; “abalone”; “almond”; and “their”.

If nothing is done to rectify this, our children will continue to speak this way. It is not about Singlish, or British or American accents.

If even my children’s primary school teachers are pronouncing words wrongly,what can we say about the standard of English that is being passed on?

Singapore is well-known for its high education standards.

But it seems that when it comes to proper English pronunciation, we are not getting it right. It would be helpful if the authorities can create an awareness campaign on how simple English should be spoken in daily life.

Yes, spare a thought for our ‘chew-ren’.

Picking on the ‘raid’ example may be an extreme case, like ‘three vs tree’. Hell, sometimes we can’t even pronounce the name of our own country properly. Even as adults, we fail to grasp why alone is a-loan but abalone is air-buh-loan-NEE. Or Esplanade vs Promenade. We can’t decide if it’s Media-KORE or Media-KOP (Mediacore). We know of Evelyns who introduce themselves as ‘Eve-lyn’ and ‘AIR-VlYN’.

Here’s some other examples of glaringly mispronounced words which we hear in everyday life.

  1. Colleague, or as we say it, KER-LEEG
  2. Film – Flim
  3. Nowadays – Nowsaday
  4. Flour – Flah
  5. Excuse me – Eskew me
  6. Coke – Cock
  7. Primary -Prembry

Perhaps part of the reason why Singaporeans continue to make the same mistakes is because we deem it impolite to correct a person during normal conversation. Also, sometimes we need to mispronounce deliberately just to be understood, depending on the literacy level of the recipient. For example, if I ask a fishmonger if he has any ‘Sam-mon’ instead of ‘SELL-MERN’, I’ll get a blank stare. Or to the desert stall lady that I want ‘AH-MERN’ jelly instead of ‘AL-MOND’. If a school principal asks me if I send my kid to ‘TEW-TION’, I’m not going to reply with the same word pronounced in the ‘proper’ manner (TOO-EE-TION)because it is not socially acceptable to sound smarter than a head of education.

In 1994, our way of speaking was termed ‘Singapore English Pronunciation‘ (SEP) in an academic paper on linguistics. Our tendency to express ‘th’ as in ‘three’, or ‘then’ as ‘den’ was attributed to having ‘the tongue a little further back and without the accompanying hiss, using an alveolar plosive’. We also have problems with ‘consonant clusters’, like how we say ‘fack’ instead of ‘fact’.  The authors concluded that it was not ‘wrong’ for us to speak in this manner, and in some situations may in fact be the most ‘appropriate’ way of speaking.

So yes, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that words like ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Opportunity’ are often taken for granted in SEP, but it’s unlikely that we’ll convert to the ‘proper’ pronunciation overnight because as social animals we’re rather commit linguistic faux pas (‘par’) than be seen as a snob. Instead of taking the pedantic approach and admonishing people for relying on ALVEOLAR PLOSIVES, perhaps we can all learn to live and let live in a ‘I say Toe-may-toe you say Toe-Mar-toe’ world.

 

24 noisy chickens culled by AVA

From ‘Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers’, 2 Feb 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

As a debate flared up yesterday over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in the Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

…The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GZJeplKV18

According to the AVA’s own FAQ,

It is rare for the bird flu virus to be transmitted from chickens to humans. Of all the bird flu virus strains, only the H5N1, H9N2, H7N7 and H7N9 (Shanghai 2013 strain) strains have been known to pass from chickens to humans.

Unless you’re the kind of sick pervert who sneaks up behind cockerels and sodomises them, the chances of anyone getting exposed and infected by bird flu from stray chickens is, by AVA’s own admission, rather low. So how is this poultry-cide even justified? Using this public health argument, these chickens are being put down with the same nonchalance as one does fogging to get rid of mosquitoes.

There was a time when chicken-stealing was a thing. With the demise of kampongs, having the occasional cock around serves as a nostalgic reminder of how simple life used to be. Now, with the authorities chick-hunting in response to complaints, all we have left to wake us up in the mornings is the metallic grumbling of the MRT train nearby.

So the weird neighbour with the noisy parrot that squawks ‘Fuck the PAP’ all day gets to keep his fowl-mouthed pet; while the free-as-a-bird chicken responding to nature’s call is slaughtered for being a nuisance and an indeterminate carrier of pathogens. Add one more bird to AVA’s kill-list, which also includes pigeons, but not crows (NEA) or mynahs (nobody’s business).

Thanks a lot, Sin Ming residents, now that the python in the woods has nothing to feed on, we have to be prepared to find them swimming around in our pools more often, waiting for a treat in the form of a juicy, plump baby perhaps.

Drink don’t drive ad difficult to understand

From ‘Simple language works best in public campaign advertisements’, 30 Jan 2017, ST Forum

(Michael Loh Toon Seng): An advertisement by the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Road Safety Council and Sgcarmart.com reads: “Get a ride home. Don’t drive to drink, and you will never drink and drive.”

It took me a while to figure out what the message was. At first, I thought it was saying that if you drive to drink, you will never drink and drive again because you will surely die in a road accident.

Why didn’t the ad just say that to avoid having to drive after drinking, don’t drive? A plain “don’t drink and drive” would also have sufficed, as there is strength in simplicity.

It is well and clever to use catchy phrases in ads, but if people cannot grasp a message’s meaning at the first reading, they will likely ignore it. Messages in public campaigns should use plain, easy-to-understand language so that they get the right message across.

The current anti-drunk-driving slogan may be tongue-twistingly catchy as “She Sells Seashells”, but breaks the first rule of public communications; it needs to be re-read at least twice. ‘Don’t drive to drink’ on its own already requires some cognitive juggling to interpret as ‘Don’t drive the car to the pub/bar’, while ‘you will never drink and drive’ requires a background understanding that drinking and driving is bad. There are limits to how you want to play around with words and puns in such a campaign, and while simplicity would work for the first time reader or drinker, people would soon grow tired of repetitive warnings and it’ll just become naggy after a while.

In 2011, the Traffic Police went for the jugular and presented the drink-driving message as an obituary, hoping to shock people into abandoning their cars and alcohol altogether. While the content was painfully obvious, some found it in bad taste.

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Like visuals of oozing cancer on cigarette packs, the authorities also tried to pump up the gore factor, with a 2009 campaign that looks straight out of a slasher flick. It may have been too ‘PG’ for some parents’ liking.

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So how do you find the middle ground between in-your-face viscera and pedantic finger-wagging? How about a morality tale of killing your best friend and living the rest of your life in eternal regret as an amputee in a wheelchair? This 2005 ad reminds boozers that it’s not just your life at stake when you DnD.

In real life, though, a different story pans out if you happen to be a Mediacorp celebrity. A decade back, Christopher Lee was jailed 4 weeks for drunk driving. Today, he’s still promoting bak kwa during CNY and likely to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award despite his past drunken indiscretion. Drink and drive, and all is forgiven.

Or a light-hearted approach with cute doggies? Check. Though some would say it trivialises a serious crime.

Not saying that such campaigns are entirely futile. The number of drink-driving cases reportedly fell in the first half of 2016, though that could also be attributed to the Government’s overall crackdown on public alcohol consumption, enforcement, the rise of private car hires, ride-sharing and bars offering valet services, or even ‘drink-counting’ apps. 

So, like the fact that smoking kills, everyone already knows that drunk-driving does too, but it’ll take more than blunt public announcements to steer the message home. Maybe the Traffic Police can turn their attention to campaigns urging people to actually drive in the right direction on roads too, like ‘Drive on the Right Side of the Road, or we’ll See you on the Other Side’. Hur. Hur.