Lee family Oxley saga a ‘petty dispute’

From ‘Singapore will not be dragged down by Lee family’s ‘petty disputes’, says Goh Chok Tong’, 17 June 2017, Today

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Friday (June 16) weighed in on the Lee family spat over 38 Oxley Road, by urging Singaporeans to “not be dragged down by a family’s petty disputes”.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Goh noted that Singapore has “prevailed through crises and adversity”. “We are a hardy people, built our family and nation from humble beginnings,” he wrote.

Mr Goh succeeded founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1990 and handed over the baton to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2004. He added: “What is happening in public between Lee Kuan Yew’s children is not us and should not be allowed to define who we are. We are bigger than our troubles, stronger than our differences. Whatever damage Singapore may suffer, willfully inflicted or otherwise, I know Singaporeans will not lay meek… We will always look forward, to fight real battles and create a better future for ourselves and our children.”

Yes, most Singaporeans we know have humble beginnings – relative to the Lees, that is. We don’t have an army of lawyers to draft our public statements. We can’t afford to have a sister-in-law or cousin to draft a high-profile will for a dying strongman father. Our kids can grow up to do their own thing without getting dragged through the mud by our aunties and uncles with claims that Dad has political ambitions for them. The only holiday we know is the one where you can chill in peace without someone Facebook posting viral shit about you at 3 am in the morning.

To most of us, a petty family dispute is when second brother forgets to message that he’s eating dinner, Mom overcooks and Dad complains why the fish was steamed instead of being deep fried, while youngest sister threatens to walk out of the house because second brother gets to iPad while she doesn’t. To our overlords, it involves National Heritage, personal integrity on a much grander scale, sung to the tune to $24 million dollars. And in the case of a a certain Lee couple, being forced to leave the country in fear of ‘state organs’. It also gives Chinese microbloggers a chance to laugh at us.

Yes, it’s an ugly state of affairs which may or may not have an impact on our everyday lives. Government will remain Government, as darkly Orwellian as the PM’s estranged brother believes it to be. Lee Wei Ling will continue to bitch about her brother being a ‘dishonourable’ son. Eventually, whether or not a certain Demolition clause is enacted, the Oxley house and all the lawyers behind it will go to dust, just as the Lees along with all of us, this land, this country, would fade into nothing, leaving a mere insignificant blip in this vast cosmic eternity that is bigger than any of us, including LKY, could ever imagine.

 

 

 

ASAS does not want Pink Dot to ‘support the freedom to love’

From ‘Advertising watchdog asks Cathay to remove phrase in Pink Dot ad’, 9 July 2017, article in CNA

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) has advised Cathay Organisation to remove a phrase in an advertisement at Cathay Cineleisure mall promoting an upcoming Pink Dot event.

The phrase in question reads: “Supporting the freedom to love.” In a statement on Friday (Jun 9), ASAS said this “may affect public sensitivities due to the issues at hand”.

“The rest of the advertisement may otherwise remain,” said the advertising watchdog, noting that “the Pink Dot advertisement at Cineleisure technically does not breach the general principle on family values in the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice”.

…The ad – which went up on an escalator at the mall on May 31 – drew complaints from people in the “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” Facebook group, who are opposed to the annual rally held in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

‘Freedom’ and ‘love’ are two words in the English language that inspire fierce, positive emotions, among other provocative words like ‘home’, ‘God’ and ‘bacon’. But link them together and colour the phrase pink and you start to rile the censors. This coming from the same folks who intervened when a casual diner featured barenaked butts on its advertisements. Just when you thought they only clamp down on bra ads at bus stops or objects that look like vaginas. Suddenly, the freedom to love is no longer a natural human trait, but an unwelcome disease.

‘Free love’ means a different thing entirely, of course, implying mass orgies and promiscuity. So I’m not sure if ASAS is mistaking one term for the other. Those on the side of the Church complain that loving another of the same sex defiles the marriage ‘covenant’ in the Bible. Yet they keep silent on the ‘freedom’ of paedophile priests to ‘love’ their altar boys. Or the freedom to love more than one woman at a time, enough to engage in mistress-stashing, or better still, polygamy.

Not that removing a single phrase makes any difference to the anti Pink Dot lynch mob. These guys would freak out if they so much as see a pink car, a rainbow cake, or a goddamn flamingo. Now if they see a Milo Van round the corner they would immediately think of Pink Dot ambassador Nathan Hortono, incite their brethren to spit out the nourishing chocolatey drink before it turns them to barstool-humping pink-tongued homosexuals.

If someone from the WAAPD clan decides to scrawl the word ‘faggot’ on the banner, would it get the same heat as someone writing ‘terrorist’ next to a cartoon lady wearing a hijab? Cheer a vandal for homophobic slurring and you get off scot-free. Do the same publicly for a racist and you would expect a late night visit from the police, in addition to a nationwide ‘anyhow-hantam’ witchhunt leaving a trail of companies denying on Facebook that you were ever their employee.

 

Parent suing ACS (Barker) over confiscated phone

From ‘Parent sues school over confiscated mobile phone’, 7 June 2017, article by KC Vijayan, ST

Should a school hang on to a confiscated phone for three months?

This issue has reached the courts after a parent felt that the penalty was too harsh. The parent is suing a secondary school principal for damages, but has not succeeded in getting the school to return the phone.

The parent’s request to have the phone returned immediately was turned down by District Judge Clement Julien Tan. The judge ruled that the principal was justified in holding on to the phone, as the school rules had made it clear that any student caught using a phone during school hours will have it confiscated for at least three months.

…The father, represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, is claiming that retaining the phone amounts to the tort of conversion – which involves denying a person’s rights to his property. He asked the court to get the school to return the phone while the case is being decided.

Curiously enough, this isn’t the silliest reason ever for suing a school. A UK Dad sued a private school because his kid flunked his GSCE exams. Parents in a US school sued because their daughters were forced to wear skirts as uniform. If I had known Andrew Hanam then, and had rich as fuck parents, I could have hired him to sue the cranky pants off my Chinese teacher for making me stand outside in the rain as punishment and risking death by pneumonia.

Worse things have happened to kids in schools without having Mum and Dad file torts willy-nilly. They’re given nasty names by bullies, they break their limbs from playground falls, they get psychologically abused by fierce teachers to the point that the police need to be called in. We get knocked about by the system because that’s what school used to be, preparing the next generation for adversity and hardship beyond the stuff you memorise in books and forget months later.  You screw up, you lose your phone. Live with it. Grow up. A 3 month phone hold may sound like a harsh punishment, but if you can’t obey a simple commandment like not bringing a phone to school, then you’re screwed when you enter the working world.

In the past when you got your Walkman swiped by the discipline master, you either deal with it or plot revenge with thumbtacks, because bringing the matter up to your folks would only mean supplemental lashing at home. Not so these days. Parents sue if they have the means, or make police reports if they don’t. The rest demand that you share their sob stories on Facebook. Anyone to blame except themselves if the kid wets his pants the moment he puts on an army uniform during NS.

 

 

William Farquhar should be honoured with a road

From ‘Name a road to honour Farquhar’, 3 June 2017, ST Forum

(Tay Zihan):  While Sir Stamford Raffles was the founder of Singapore, Lieutenant-Colonel William Farquhar was the First Resident Minister from 1819 to 1823. It was he who governed the new settlement in the absence of Raffles, who was stationed in Bencoolen.

Among other challenges, Farquhar had to work within a limited budget. To fund the administration, he raked in revenue through the sale of licences for vices such as gambling dens and gaming houses, and through the sale of opium and alcohol.

Raffles was furious when he returned to Singapore and saw what was happening, as he regarded these activities as immoral.

Despite the prosperity achieved through Farquhar’s diligent planning and governance, he was sacked.

…Other colonial residents are remembered by landmarks, such as Crawford Street, Crawford Lane, Crawford Bridge after John Crawfurd; Church Street after Thomas Church; Raffles Institution after Sir Stamford Raffles.

Singapore used to have a Farquhar Street. It was located between Beach Road and North Bridge Road. However, it was expunged in 1994 due to street realignment and site development.

Shouldn’t we consider naming another road to honour this man who laid the foundation of modern Singapore?

Despite having a surname that was the butt of jokes when I was in primary school, I don’t remember learning much about Farquhar’s role in transforming Singapore. He’s like the Garfunkel and Oates of our founding history, playing second fiddle to a character whose contributions have been disputed in recent days, a man who has his name stamped on an iconic hotel, a stinky flower and a range of health supplements among other testaments.

I’m guessing part of the reason why we don’t have a Farquhar Institution is that he’s being portrayed as the disgraced Scot here, running afoul with Raffles’ ‘lofty ideals’, though according to some accounts, Farquhar was the reason why Raffles decided to stay on in 1822. He was also credited as being the one who even suggested taking a look at Singapore during their scouting expeditions. Farquhar was also doing the dirty work as First Resident, keeping what Raffles deemed an ‘insignificant fishing village’ alive for 3 years while the boss was far away in Bencoolen. The fact that Farquhar resorted to gambling among other sins should not be something to frown upon these days anyway. It would in fact be hypocritical. Because M-fucking-BS that’s why.

The loss of Farquhar Street is indeed unfortunate. We still keep the controversial Petain Road. We name, rather inexplicably, roads after other countries (Hongkong Street, Holland Road). We have roads dedicated to Victorian royalty (Margaret Drive, Coronation Road, Duchess Road). Yet, nothing to honour a man who spent some years of his life holding the fort while the master is away making a name for himself.

A blogger from ‘Second Shot’ uploaded an old map bearing what was then Farquhar’s legacy in the Bugis area. Its erasure is sadly symbolic of how Raffles, the raffish George Michael of their Wham-like partnership, sent him packing for failing to turn the port into the crown jewel that it was intended to be.

Instead of arguing over whether Brit colonisation was worth celebrating over and why LKY was better than all these Englishmen combined, why not recognise individual effort where credit is due?

LTA, is the MRT station naming exercise still on?

Yishun residents building wall of cacti

From ‘Yishun residents build wall to keep out nuisance neighbour’, 27 May 2017, article by Tiffany Fumiko Tay, ST

Residents at a Yishun Housing Board flat said they are at their wits’ end after being harassed by a neighbour for over a year, with one family going as far as to build a “wall” barbed with cacti on the common corridor for protection.

…The Lee family, who live in an four-room corner unit and were the ones who erected the wall, said that the barrier was a last resort for them after having had to deal with the difficult neighbour since last December.

They come home nearly every day to find an oil-like substance reeking of urine splashed across their door and along the corridor.

…Balls of toilet paper and used sanitary pads have also been found outside their flat and on their bicycle chained outside. The culprit, they said, lives on the floor below them with her daughter.

Before erecting cacti, the enterprising Lee patriarch, in true kampong spirit, designed a barricade made of durian shells. This is the way to go if ever need to fend off a shitty neighbour, pesky salesmen or a visit from the MP and lack barb wire. Even a champion Spartan racer can’t clear this obstacle. Screw mediation and CCTVs. Hurray for innovation.

Contrast this defence strategy with this lame excuse of a barricade. My 4 year nephew could surmount this in a tricycle.

Among all the bizarre warfare tactics used by HDB dwellers, this episode of planting gross sanitary pads and splashing urine ranks among the top. It’s curious how some Singaporeans would go to great lengths to collect their own excrement and weaponise them. They would defend a medieval fortress perfectly. Imagine scaling up a wall to attack a castle and getting pummelled with a storm of urine bags, sanitary pads, smelly durian shells and hot braised duck sauce. We should round these vandals up and send them on covert missions to demoralise the enemy in their base camps now, instead of wasting time and effort trying to reconcile differences, kiss and make up.

Here are other ways of being an asshole neighbour from hell than would put all loansharks to shame:

  1. Corroding their metal gates with salt, throwing braised meat sauce
  2. Throwing human faeces at doors
  3. Tossing eggs at the family car
  4. Cutting bicycle chains, stealing flowerpots

Still, the most annoying acts often come from people who don’t even live the same block as you. Yes, anonymous spam-flyer distributor, I’m talking to you. I’m taking a page off the Yishun Art of War and lining my gate with pointy objects.

Milk is milk, except for breast milk which is best

From ‘Milk is milk, however fancy the marketing’, 13 May 17, article in CNA

Authorities announced earlier this week that formula milk manufacturers will not be able to use nutrition and health claims, as well as images that make drinking formula milk look attractive, once changes to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) regulations take effect. AVA will also also streamline its import regulations in order to facilitate the entry of more suppliers and brands of formula milk, and the changes are expected to be finalised by end-2017.

Mrs Teo who heads the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) in the PMO, shared her personal experience with her children on Facebook, saying she concluded that “milk is milk, however fancy the marketing”.

“Actually, breast milk is best and both the Health Promotion Board and World Health Organisation encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 12 months,” she said. “However, for parents who need to supplement with formula, all brands sold in Singapore, regardless of price, provide enough nutrition for babies to grow healthily.

…She added: “As long as AVA approves its import, the milk is good enough. I had no reason to pay more and would buy whatever was cheapest or on sale. The kids didn’t always like adjusting but did so anyway. That’s what I found great about kids – they adjust given time and encouragement.”

Milk is Milk. Diapers are diapers. A pram is a pram. Childcare is childcare. Education is education. If the Ministry of Making Babies is serious about encouraging us to have more babies, then they should put a stop to runaway advertising across the board for all baby-related products and services. Yet parents being parents continue to splurge on their little ones, from giving premium quality milk powder to Porsche-grade prams all the way to putting them in an elite school or tuition centre if they could afford it.

A quality infant formula, as the ads go, would be your child’s ‘best start’ in life. In the 70’s, milk powder was enriched with nothing more than vitamins A and D and given unappetising names like ‘Cowhead’.  Today you have an whole armamentarium of fortified goodness targeting baby organs such as the brain, eyes and intestines, with fancy brand names such as Gain IQ (the IQ stands for Intestinal Quality), Dugro (formerly Dumex) and MaMil Gold (as in Ma’s Milk?). In TV ads, kids fed on premium formulae are dressed as little Sherlock Holmes solving practical problems to save the day. It remains to be seen if these enhanced abilities extend to solving Maths problems for PSLE.

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It’s not surprising that Josephine Teo would have no qualms about going for the cheapest milk powder on the market. After all, it’s this ‘bare-minimum’ attitude that led her to conclude that couples only need a small space to have sex. And hence small pockets to buy formula milk too.

But maybe there is a deeper social problem that explains our dependency on milk formula and why companies are capitalising on it – the stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public. If mothers didn’t feel a need to hide their suckling infants from prying camera phones like a recent case on the MRT, then perhaps companies wouldn’t be making shitloads of money selling milk powder, and we needn’t be hearing platitudes such as ‘milk is milk’ from MPs.

Orchard Road is kind of boring

From ‘Pedestrianising will only worsen woes of malls’, 21 Apr 2017, ST Forum

(Ronnie Lim Ah Bee): Shopping is no longer restricted to Orchard Road, where premium shops and foodcourts charge premium prices.

With big shopping malls sprouting up in neighbourhood centres and within walking distance of homes, there is little incentive to go down to Orchard Road.

The people who can afford premium shopping tend to be those who drive.

If they cannot drive to Orchard Road to shop, they might as well visit their neighbourhood malls.

The large crowds which are expected to come about with pedestrianising Orchard Road are more likely to be there to socialise and soak up the atmosphere than to shop.

Pedestrianising Orchard Road is going to do little to help the shopping malls along that road.

We all know what the writer means by people going there to ‘socialise and soak up the atmosphere’ but nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room – why locals prefer to stay at home to do laundry than go ‘gai-gai’ along Orchard Road on Sundays. If the pedestrianising would benefit anyone it would be a certain group of foreign workers who could then dance unhindered on the streets beyond the confines of Ion.

It was only a year back when we realised that the car-free experiment was a failure from the retailers’ perspective. In the days of HMV and Tower records, Orchard Road was the go-to hub for music lovers. I could spend half a day browsing CDs or magazines at Borders. After school we would go ‘hang out’ at Macs at Far East Plaza, traipsing through the underpasses, transversing the Patterson Road crossing which could have been our own little version of the Shibuya landmark, or watch a movie at the old Lido. The family would look forward to Xmas lights, or chaperone the kids to piano lessons at Yamaha, Plaza Singapura. Today, the only reason for me to go ‘downtown’ is to catch a R21 movie or attend a book-signing at Kinokuniya. Even the buskers are moving out and entertaining commuters at MRT stations instead. The only ‘floods’ happening in Orchard aren’t the shopping kind, but those due to a random Act of God.

My feelings for Orchard died at the precise moment when Marks And Spencer took over Borders bookstore. I remember first walking into Borders mouth agape, awed by the sheer scale of it all, books stacked almost to the ceiling and the fact that you could just walk in and out without spending a cent or any of the staff bothering you. True, such musings may be merely blind nostalgia, that the people who say Orchard Road is kind of boring are the ones who lost what they loved most about the place. Still, GSS after GSS can’t save the hollow retail shells like the fancy-pants Scotts Square. Occasionally, some gastronomic hype like a Michelin-star ramen shop or a cafe/bistro would bring some buzz to Orchard, but people soon tire of novelty and business owners eventually move to the ‘suburbs’. I dare say ‘Haji Lane’, or even Criminal Minds:Beyond Borders’ Geylang would ring more bells in tourists’ minds than ‘Orchard Road’.

Orchard Road is no longer Instagrammable, and even if you get rid of the traffic and inject some flashy gotong-royong on weekends, with Good Morning towel-twirling trishaw riders and ice-cream sandwich carts etc, Singaporeans would rather jostle with sweaty crowds at some pop-up hipster event like Artbox, or watch a midnight movie at a neighbourhood mall so they don’t have to spend a bomb on taxi fare to get home. You can infuse the streets with all the local fanfare you want, but in the end it’ll still be a place where you have to pay almost $15 for a plate of mediocre Nasi Padang.

So let’s take a moment now to remember the Orchard Road of the past – and ask yourself if you’d rather spend your leisure in a place like this today or along a concrete stretch of copy-and-paste designer brands, flash-in-the-pan food joints and mobs of selfie-stick carrying revellers. I think we should just take the pedestrianising to the extreme and rewild Orchard Road so that becomes just the Istana and a green extension all the way to Botanic Gardens. Make it the ‘Central Park’ of Singapore instead.

Orchard Road is dead. Long live Orchard Road.

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