Unarmed man robbing Holland Village Stan Chart bank

From ‘Manhunt for Standard Chartered bank robber at Holland Village’, 7 July 2016, article by Lianne Chia and Diane Leow, CNA

A manhunt is underway at Holland Village, as police investigate a robbery that took place at Standard Chartered Bank on Thursday (Jul 7) morning.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the suspect made off with S$30,000 from the Standard Chartered branch, and was not armed at the time.

The branch was closed after the incident. The bank said it filed a police report immediately, and is working with the police on investigations. “We would like to highlight that the safety of our customers and staff is top priority and our branch staff are all well-trained to react to such situations,” StanChart said in a statement.

Police earlier confirmed that they are investigating a robbery at the bank which took place at 11.25am.

…Bank robberies are rare in Singapore. In November 2008, a man dressed as a woman attempted to rob a United Overseas Bank branch at City Plaza on Geylang Road.

It’s been close to 2 days since the robbery at time of writing and the robber is still on the run. By this time, if you had spray painted a HDB block with anti-PAP slogans you and your friends would have been hauled into a police van. Yes, in Singapore, you can’t escape if you vandalise public property, but rob a bank and you may elude the police for more than 10 years if you’re lucky, like the sole mastermind behind the 2004 West Coast POSB bank robbery, who successfully made off with $37,000 with the help of a fruit knife and a WOODEN PLANK. The Stan Chart robber had nothing more than a very convincing note to the teller.

The first telltale sign of a potential bank robber is what he puts on his head or over his face. A hoodie is a dead giveaway. A motorcycle helmet. A surgical mask – possibly. But if you walk into a bank planning to steal money with a STRAW HAT like you just came out of your Hokkien Mee stall, then your plan is DOOMED from the start. DOOMED.

With neither witnesses or the police giving details of what exactly happened in the bank, one can only speculate about how a single person can bypass security and coolly steal wads of cash without the usual drama most of us associate with bank robberies: Toy guns, taking hostages, bombs, getaway cars, wearing stocking over your head. If a previous successful robber could figure out the exact dimensions of a wooden plank to jam a door, I suppose the Stan Chart perpetrator could accomplish the same deed through sheer methodical research. Or by watching repeats of Ocean’s Eleven.

There doesn’t seem to be an elaborate scheme here, unlike the 1970 case of a man conspiring with 5 others to pull off a bogus heist of his own bank. It took 3 weeks for the crime to be solved and the stolen quarter of a million dollars recovered. This remains the biggest bank robbery in Singapore’s history, one that is faithful to the typical bank robber scenario where a gun is waved and the actual words ‘THIS IS A HOLD UP’ were uttered. Today, if you want to steal from your own company, you don’t need to plan a full scale robbery. Some do it through pineapple tarts.

Unlike other petty criminals or upskirt voyeurs, bank robbers have the mystique of romantic banditry about them. Internet commentators have given the guy a thumbs up for breaking the establishment. Jokes have been made at Stan Chart’s expense. Sales of hoodies and mustard pants may skyrocket. Still, I doubt the reception towards a serious offense potentially punishable by death if you carried real guns would be this laissez-faire had the robber not been a Caucasian, but a PRC instead. If it had been any foreigner other than a white guy, the Internet would probably hunt him down while the cops continue checking dustbins for non-existent weapons all over Chip Bee Gardens.

UPDATE: The robber was caught 3 days after the incident in Bangkok. Go Home Team!

Tesla electric car penalised with $15000 carbon surcharge

From ‘Electric car Tesla slapped with $15000 tax surcharge’, 5 March 2016, article by Christopher Tan, ST

An electric car which attracts tax breaks in several countries has been slapped with a tax surcharge in Singapore. The Model S – a sedan made by California-based Tesla Motors – is the first tailpipe emission-free car to be penalised this way here.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 44, registered a used Model S he sourced from Hong Kong just before Chinese New Year. He was shocked that the car – for which he paid close to $400,000 – was liable for a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

“Honestly, it’s stupid,” said the senior vice-president with an Internet research firm. “I went back to them (Land Transport Authority), and they cited a UN emission test regulation. They also factored in carbon emissions at the power station. We don’t apply a carbon penalty to people charging their iPhones, do we?”

According to LTA, the Tesla uses 444 watt/hr per km, equivalent to 222g/km of carbon. You will only get rebates if your carbon emission is below 136g/km. In comparison, if you use the ICAO carbon footprint calculator to determine the amount spewed from a round trip between Singapore and Bangkok, you get a figure that is roughly a 1000 fold increase – 240kg of carbon per passenger. That’s excluding the taxi ride to and fro the airport. In other words, you need to drive a Tesla for 1000km before you can clock the same amount chugged out over a short holiday. How much carbon did we emit over the SG50 long weekend last year, I wonder. Alas, policy decisions made on the basis of CO2 emissions are never simple. You could avoid taking the car out on the weekend but end up guzzling electricity at home Netflixing on your giant 48 inch Smart TV, snacking on smoked salmon flown all the way from Norway to your coffee table. Your very mundane existence is itself a strain on the carbon budget.

Before we saw carbon in a different light, beyond its presence in fizzy drinks and the fact that we excrete it out and trees suck it back in, electric cars were seen as the panacea to our oil dependence problem. If we’re not able to witness solar-powered flying cars in this lifetime, then electric seemed to be the way to go. We imagined these vehicles as sleek, Zen-quiet machines which naturally smell of fresh pine, guided along by a GPS equipped with the voice of Sir David Attenborough. It was the future of transportation, not MRT lines underneath Macritchie reservoir, not car-free days, not bicycles or hoverboards. Instead, our government bans electric scooters in parks, slaps penalties on supposedly ‘green’ cars that happen to be gluttons for electricity, and the public asks for zero emission bicycles to be regulated. No, we’re still not going to emulate the Jetsons in another 50 years.

But this isn’t the first time that anyone who tried to promote clean tech got into a tangle with the authorities. James Diebley couldn’t register his battery-operated three-wheeled Corbin Sparrow as a motorcycle as the LTA deemed it to be more ‘car-like’. Although the LTA explained that it would have granted the rebate , Diebley eventually gave up the EV, but only because being a solo vehicle, he couldn’t use it to send his kids to school. On one hand, we want to encourage families and pledge to cut emissions, on the other it seems that the prerequisites of driving a cool electric car around Singapore include being 1) bloody rich and 2) single. Yes, try picking up girls with a gadget that looks like a character out of Pixar’s Cars.

Somehow, people have this perception that being small and compact, Singapore would be ideal for an electric revolution. Yet at the same time we have one of the highest ownership of modified supercars in the region, despite the roads being notoriously race-unfriendly. Bureaucracy is often blamed as the final nail in the coffin of any hopes of us becoming a car-lite, low-carbon nation, but without the right mindset and behaviorial changes in all of us to ‘heal the world, make it a better place’, or we continue to have billionaires who can afford to be penalised even if their EV is a grid vampire, our future generations will still inherit the scum we leave behind, with or without electric cars and their rebates and charges.

More elderly Singaporeans killing themselves

From ‘More seniors in Singapore taking own lives’, 17 Dec 2015, article by Janice Tai, ST

…Last year (2014), 126 seniors aged 60 and above killed themselves. This is a jump of nearly 60 per cent from the 79 seniors who committed suicide in 2000. There were 95 of them in 2010.

While the suicide rate in Singapore has remained at between eight and 10 suicides per 100,000 residents over the past decade, the proportion of the elderly among those who take their lives each year has risen.

In 2000, 23 per cent of suicides here were from among the elderly. By 2010, the group made up 27 per cent, and the number grew to 30 per cent last year.

In less than 20 years, a fifth of Singapore’s population will be at least 65 years of age, making our country a ‘super-aged’ nation. Despite this, our Government still sees the ‘silver’ lining behind the challenge of dealing with millions of old folks, that they could turn a burden into a ‘positive force for social and economic development’. In other words, we will try our darnedest to keep you productive, but nothing much can be done about your psychological well-being. Other than, well, giving you priority queues for everything.

We used to think that longevity and advances in medical technology would make our ‘golden years’ less miserable than they’re supposed to be, but not every senior citizen will spend their twilight years watching their last sunsets on a hill with loved ones by their side. Some will end up rotting in a house with no one noticing until the stench overwhelms your Indian neighbour’s pungent curry. If you’re counting on your children or grandchildren to keep you sane till your dying breath, you better hope they don’t beat you to it and commit suicide themselves too. Yes, those below 10 years included.

Having one of the highest rate of diabetes in the world isn’t helping either. Not only are we ageing faster, we’re getting sicker too. Not every old foggie wants to socialise in the seniors’ corner or have the time for your ‘community activities’, especially if there’s cardboard to be pushed and sold, or if you’re struck with dementia and spend your days indoors trying to figure out how to get out of your pants to take a piss. Our grandfathers used to entertain the family with war stories and tales of famine and survival. When it’s my turn, nobody will give a shit about how I passed my PSLE, or how I met my wife online. The kids will come, give Gramps a hug, and then go stare at their phones for the rest of the visit.

If I were to find myself immobile, physically dependent on a bedpan and have to live with the shame of a helper cleaning up after my foul incontinence, then yes, I’d rather die before being transferred to a retirement village and oblige dancing kindergarten kids with an ugly toothless grin and arthritic clapping. Deplete my bank account to pay for that additional hospital stay and a pill worth more than a ferry ride to seedy Batam for one last fling? Hell no.

The term for killing yourself to spare others the pain of caring for you is ‘altruistic suicide’, which makes the act sound as heroic as sacrificing yourself by taking a grenade in the face for your loved one. The tricky bit is how to end it all painlessly. I can’t possibly roll myself off the top of my block, not to mention pop a hundred painkillers into my mouth without shaking them all onto the floor if I’ve got Parkinson’s. Which may explain why some old folks decide not to wait for the inevitable decline and meet their maker when they still have the strength to climb the stairway (to heaven).

Interestingly, someone speculated a link between opium and elderly suicide in 1975. Or rather, the lack of it. Another theory about why it tended to be Chinese men who took their own lives rather than the Muslims was possibly religion, which makes taking your own life a cardinal sin for the latter. Whatever it is, loneliness, money problems, shitty unfilial kids or just abject futility at the whole purpose of your existence, maybe it’s time our Government reboots their thinking of geriatric care and study how we can age gracefully, and not obsess whether we have enough money to carry us to our graves.

We should look at other less affluent societies where old people celebrate life even without the best nurses or hospitals that money can bring, where they’ll sip wine, laugh, enjoy slow dancing, and go skinny dipping in an icy lake without being hauled up for indecent exposure, where they’ll reminisce on the trivial absurdities of their youth, rather than harp on a lifetime of missed chances and regrets.


Nude-less Playboy still banned by MDA

From ‘Playboy.com ban in Singapore remains: MDA’, 14 Oct 15, article by Lee Gim Siong,  CNA

The ban on access to Playboy.com in Singapore will not be lifted, said the Media Development Authority (MDA) on Wednesday (Oct 14). The US-based magazine had announced on Tuesday that it will stop publishing nude photographs in its pages from February next year. The website had also stopped publishing nude images since 2014.

In response to queries from 938LIVE, the MDA also said that it is too early to comment on the revamped Playboy magazine, as it has yet to be launched.

The spokesperson added that Playboy.com remains on the list of websites which are symbolically blocked in Singapore, to signal the types of content which the community regards as offensive or harmful.

The majority of these websites are pornographic in nature, and this position on the Playboy website has been in effect since 1996.

Playboy’s shift of focus away from naked centrefolds spells the inevitable demise of the ‘girly mag’. Along with Singapore’s very own FHM, we men may no longer bond at the newstands pretending to be browsing golf monthlies but in fact peeking at the covers of dirty magazines. The Internet (more specifically, porn) has made the eponymous bunny and its celebrated flesh parade obsolete, just like how it has made MDA’s ‘honour roll’ of blacklisted websites redundant. Some of these ‘symbolically’ banned sites may not even exist anymore. Not sure if it still has ‘Sex.com’ on it.

MDA’s taking a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach, naturally, but may find other reasons to stick to the status quo, like articles glamourising homosexuality, incest, bestiality or anything that goes against our conservative Asian values. No hot-blooded man is going to access Playboy.com for erotic essays of course, unless they’re doing so out of pure nostalgia, a misty-eyed throwback to the good old days of borrowing a semen-stained Playboy mag from your classmate for a few days and hiding it from your parents under your mattress. It wasn’t a ‘men’s magazine’ so much as a ‘boys to men’ magazine.

Here then, is a curious history of Playboy magazine in squeaky clean Singapore:

1) Playboy and its companion Playmate calendar was banned in 1960. Until then it was being sold at $2.10. Today, you may have to fork out at least 10 times that price considering it’s a collector’s item. You may even choose to feature it as an art exhibit, for hipsters to stare and stroke their chin at, instead of stroking something else.

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield

2) In 1979, there was talk of the glitzy Playboy Club opening in Singapore. Its philosophy stood for ‘refinement, distinction and perfection’. Yes, that is exactly what we teenage boys feel while rubbing ourselves under the blanket spending a hot night alone with the magazine. Remember, the actual Playboy publication was still banned then. I don’t suppose the Club hosted strip-shows. In any case, in 1983, the Club was struck off the register because it wasn’t doing worthy of ‘distinction’, or rather, ANYTHING at all.

3) In 2003, one of the reasons given by the Censorship Review Committee for the ban of Playboy magazine but not Cosmopolitan was that it was ‘demeaning to women’. So I guess movies like Secretary are fine, then.

4) Ngee Ann City once boasted of Singapore’s first PLAYBOY boutique store (Playboy rears its rabbit’s head at Ngee Ann City, ST 1994). I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of this. Maybe I was too busy with, ahem, the Internet. It soon went bust, and was never to be mentioned again.

5) In 1991, Temasek Holdings reportedly acquired a 5% stake in New Zealand-based Brierley Investments Limited (S’pore’s connection with Playboy, 20 July 1991, ST). Industrial Equity (Pacific Ltd), a unit of Brierley’s, acquired a 5.8% stake in Playboy Enterprises in 1987. So, get this, a part of our Government-linked investment funds may once have connections to a girlie magazine that the Government itself BANNED for local consumption. That’s like investing in a company owned by a Mexican narc cartel.

6) In 2007, Singapore-based Acme Mobile Pte Ltd struck a deal with Playboy to distribute ‘Playboy branded’ games, images and ring tones across South East Asia. No nudity, of course. But likewise for Playboy.com.

Without naked pictures, it’s only a matter of time before Hugh Hefner’s salacious legacy goes limp. As limp as the reasons given by MDA to continue banning the World’s Finest Men’s Magazine ever.

Stray chickens spotted in Singapore

From ‘Stray chickens spotted wandering around several parts of Singapore’, 22 July 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

Singapore may strike some as a concrete city, but stray chickens have been seen wandering around various parts of the island in recent months.

A concerned member of the public living in the Stirling View and Mei Ling Road neighbourhood in Queenstown had wrote in to Stomp recently to report several sightings of chickens in the neighbourhood.

She had highlighted the issue to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the town council, but attempts to catch the birds were reportedly not successful. Stray chickens also appear to be thriving in the Fort Canning area.

According to Mr B. L. Koh, who goes on regular jogs in the vicinity, stray chickens can be spotted at three locations – near the Fort Canning Hotel, the Central Fire Station on Hill Street and the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple along Tank Road.

Unlike other flying birds like pigeons, crows and mynahs, chickens don’t shit on our cars or heads, and neither are they legally considered ‘pests’ that need to be culled. In fact, one particular species with a glorious flaming red comb is known as the Red Junglefowl, an endangered species. If there’s any ‘concern’ by the complainant it’s probably paranoia over bird flu, in which case, he or she should also sound the alarm on every flock of pecking pigeon that you can find in almost every neighbourhood. ESPECIALLY WITH LITTLE CHILDREN CHASING THEM ABOUT OH DEAR GOD!

In 1983, an ST forum writer lamented about his missing cockerel in the Chip Bee estate, whose ‘strident’ morning cry would bring some ‘kampung’ vibe to an otherwise staid concrete jungle, Mother Nature’s alarm clock that would make you arise with a smile rather than stumble about shit-faced grumpily reaching for the snooze button. The cock’s crow was welcomed as the ‘sweetest of nature’s melodies’, a sound that’s all but extinct today. Without cocks, we’d have to settle for the shrill buzz of crickets and lizard chirps, a creepy-crawlie orchestra to soothe our senses against the barrage of chugging engines, MRT trains and neighbours banging goddamn cutlery early in the morning.

Others didn’t take too kindly to the constant crowing, though. Still, it’s not like these chickens are grazing around HDB flats to the annoyance of humans. They’re not bothering anyone, not picking at leftovers in a hawker centre, or charging at little children, not attacking your Sheng Shiong plastic bag of groceries, so why the fowl mood? Aren’t we supposed to be a ‘City in a Garden’, where you can find the occasional otter family, monitor lizards, Lyssa zampas or even an owl in the Istana?

That video of chickens frolicking about on a grass patch was strangely therapeutic, and pity that some people fail to appreciate the simple joy of animals running wild, and complain to the authorities with a cock-and-bull story that we’re facing a chicken epidemic. Imagine an AVA officer chasing a squawking bird and failing miserably. Now that will go viral – I’m cocksure of it.

SAF getting first female Brigadier General

From ‘SAF promotes first female to Brigadier General’, 26 June 2015, article by Chan Luo Er, CNA

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) now has their first female Brigadier-General (BG). Col Gan Siow Huang was one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of BG and RADM (One -Star) at the annual SAF promotion ceremony on Friday (Jun 26). She will assume her rank on Jul 1.

She was among the first four women to receive the SAF merit scholarship in 1993, and she now heads the Joint Manpower Department. In recent years, she has been making calls for more women to choose the SAF as a career. Currently, close to 1,500 women hold combat jobs in the SAF, less than 10 per cent of SAF regular personnel. Every year, about 60 women join the army.

As women make progress in the armed forces, Singapore continues to lag in terms of female presence in boardroom positions (9% of board seats). This despite instances of negative gender stereotypes in army recruitment ads, such as the ‘Shades of Green‘ campaign that suggested that there’s still a little vain princess in every woman looking at a career in SAF, rather than a GI Jane. It’s probably a matter of time before we get a female Chief of Army, and this is likely to be even before we get our first female Prime Minister.

Here’s a timeline of achievements by women in uniform in an organisation that is traditionally helmed by men with moustaches. As expected, those in the honour roll who are also mothers are lauded for their ability to ‘balance work and family commitments’, and talk about how their husbands are always ‘supportive’ and OK with the fact that their spouses have more balls than they do.

1967: First deployed doing clerical and logistics work.
1971: First military car drivers.
1987: First Senior Warrant Officer (SWO).
1987: First combat instructors. In this article, the now derogratory phrase ‘fairer sex’ was used.
1999: First Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) (High-flying women, 30 June 1999, ST)
2000: First Commanding Officer (CO) of an an army combat unit
2005: First colonel. Like BG Gan, Karen Tan (now retired from SAF) is a working mother.
2006: First Regimental Sergeant Major
2007 (?): First F-16 fighter pilot
2014: First Apache helicopter pilot. Captain Joyce Xie was formally trained in molecular and cell biology.
2015: First BG.

As you can see, women in uniform have achieved more in 15 years than their counterparts in Parliament. Our Cabinet is still predominantly male. Maybe Jack Neo, currently bleeding the Ah Boys franchise dry, may want to consider an ‘Ah Girls to Generals’ movie trilogy.

Policeman shot in Khoo Teck Puat hospital

From ‘Shooting case at hospital:Man could face death penalty’, 22 June 2015, Today

The police have classified Saturday’s incident at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where a police officer was shot, as an unlawful discharge of firearms under the Arms Offences Act, an offence that carries the death penalty. The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was arrested for motor vehicle theft on Friday, will be hauled to court this afternoon on this holding charge

…The suspect, who was under remand for further investigations into his alleged motor vehicle theft, had complained of chest pains on Saturday and was escorted by police officers to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to seek medical attention.

At about 7.05pm, while inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape and struggled with one of the officers. TODAY understands that the suspect had attacked the 31-year-old officer while his colleague stepped out of the room. The suspect is believed to have taken hold of the officer’s baton and used it to beat the latter.

He then snatched the officer’s revolver and discharged three rounds, before he was subdued and the situation was brought under control. The accused sustained superficial injuries.

The death penalty for using a gun on another person, even with just the intention to cause hurt,  came into force in 1974, signed off by then President Benjamin Sheares. ‘Firearms’ also includes air pistols, air guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Arms Offences Act. In fact, you don’t even need to aim your weapon at a living thing to get convicted with a possible death sentence. The law states:

“…any person who uses or attempts to use any arm shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have used or attempted to use the arm with the intention to cause physical injury to any person or property.”

The lesson here then, is unless you’re a soldier or a cop, hands off anything that fires pellets, missiles or bullets. Even threatening people with a toy gun, or what the law describes as an ‘imitation arm’, can land you 10 years in jail and 3 strokes of the rotan. What’s not clear is whether you’ll still get death if your gun is not loaded and you’re using it just to scare your target like an imitation arm. What will happen to you if you shot people in the knee with a bow and arrow, or a catapult at close range for that matter? Or what if you managed to disarm a robber of his pistol and was forced to fire it near his feet to scare him away? As Mr Bean taught us, you could create havoc just using your bare hand as an ‘imitation arm’.

The first death sentence for such a crime was doled out to Sha Bakar Dawood in 1976, who wounded 3 people in a brothel and fired at the police. A year earlier, an accomplice to an armed robbery was sent to the gallows as well, despite him voluntarily surrendering to the police. For decades our strict gun control laws kept us safe from gang robberies and mass slaughters, that is until 2005 when Chestnut Drive Secondary School was mysteriously attacked by a suspected sniper with an air-gun. Not sure if the culprit was ever caught, though thankfully no one was hurt during the onslaught.

It’s a terrible idea to try to snatch a policeman’s revolver, not only because you risk being sent to the hangman’s, but you may get shot or even killed before your execution in the ensuing struggle. In the mid 80’s, a motorcycle thief was shot in the abdomen in failed attempt. 2 men died within the span of 20 days in 1984 while playing tug-of-war with armed police. In 1985, a 19 year old was hit in the chest and died after trying to grab a PC’s revolver. In his defence, PC Tay Kok Thong had just wanted to fire a shot to ‘scare him away’. In the same year, an escaping burglar was fatally shot in the neck.  In the KTPH case, the policeman had it worse off, but would the accused still get the death penalty even if he was shot in the face at the same time that the cop got his hand blown off, and survived?

I trust that our police are drilled in dealing with gun-snatch situations without the trigger being pulled and accidentally killing someone. Still, if you’re a revolver thief, you may try sneaking up on a detective while he’s fooling around with his girl in a park, or grab his bag while he’s swimming, instead of trying to yank it out of his holster. For the moment, there is no punishable-by-death law against the ‘unlawful wielding of a knife or equivalent sharp object’, even though you can just as well kill someone at close range with a stabbing weapon. Such a law, however, could probably put an end to secret society gangfights and domestic kitchen disputes once and for all.