Foreign workers removing bus stop for airforce exercise

From ‘Don’t rope in construction workers for military exercises’, 17 Nov 2016, ST Forum

(Tan Yulin): I was disappointed to see construction workers removing a bus stop to turn Lim Chu Kang Road into a runway for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Exercise Torrent (“Turning road into runway“; Nov 12).

Getting construction workers to do the work defeats the purpose of the military exercise. Besides testing the operational abilities of the air force to launch aircraft in a short period of time, it is also important to test the capabilities of our soldiers to convert a road into a runway.

It would have made the exercise more authentic if combat engineers had been activated to remove the bus stops, guard rails and lamp posts, without the help of construction workers.

Doing so would also have served as a test of the different forces working together in times of threat. Besides building teamwork and understanding among the different forces, such exercises should be a test of the operational readiness of our multi-disciplinary armed forces. I hope this can be taken into consideration for future airforce exercises.

Foreign workers have always been a key ‘shadow army’ behind the SAF machine, and if the writer herself had a boy going through NS, she would have been complicit in their invisible work as well. If not for maids, who would help lug our NSmen’s duffel bags home after a hard day’s training, or wash the mud off their No. 4s and boots?

Dismantling bus stops aside, the packing of parachutes has also been outsourced to non-soldiers, with some alleging that PRCs are behind it. With our dismal birthrate and shortage of manpower, it would be unrealistic to stretch our army’s capabilities right down to the most basic of logistics. That includes washing tanks and feeding the army in times of war. Though contracted to ‘civilian’ companies, I’m pretty certain that foreign workers will be involved.

Even the SAF and Police rope in foreign workers. In order to test SCDF’s anti-riot capacity following the Little India incident, actual dorm workers were roped in as part of a simulation exercise, right down to awkward reenactments of throwing projectiles at armed SCDF personnel. A much easier job than pulling bus stops out of the ground if you ask me.

Then Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan said in a FB post that the mock riot was ‘well received…by foreign worker ambassadors‘, and that it was a ‘meaningful collaboration’. Likewise, you could say the use of construction workers to prepare a runway for the RSAF is a cost-saving optimization of resources so that our airforce can focus on their flying stuff and our combat engineers can focus on their bridge-building/demolishing stuff.

It’s time we accept that foreign workers have contributed to our military operations in some way or another, from the rations that soldiers eat to the airborne equipment that keeps them from going splat on the ground. Or maybe the RSAF had intended for actual soldiers to do the dirty work in preparation for the exercise after all, but our boys were activated to other soldierly duties: Managing crowds during a MRT breakdown.

NS Man wants permission to open fire

From ‘Police reports made  on man’s ‘open fire’ comment in response to FB post on Pink Dot’, 13 June 2016, article by Koh Xing Hui, ST

A man’s Facebook comment that he would like to”open fire“, made in response to a post on foreign sponsorship of a recent gay rally in Singapore, has caught the attention of the community on Monday (June 13).

Police reports have been made regarding the comment by a Bryan Lim that read: “I am a Singaporean citizen. I am a NSman. I am a father. And I swore to protect my nation.

Give me the permission to open fire. I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes.”

The comment was made on a post on the We Are Against Pink Dot Facebook page. The post was on foreign sponsorship of the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rally Pink Dot, held at the Hong Lim Park on June 4.

It is not clear who Mr Lim is targeting – the LGBT community or those who support the gay cause.

But in the light of the gay club shooting in Orlando in the United States on Sunday, which left 50 dead and 53 others injured, members of the LGBT community here are spooked and have lodged police reports.

Despite Bryan’s subsequent claims that his ‘threats’ were ‘taken out of context’ and that he was referring to Bloomberg and not the LGBT community, what makes his FB post problematic is how it is framed as a defence of the nation in an imaginary war, whether the enemy are the foreign devils imposing their ‘Western values’ on us, or those advocating a LGBT ‘lifestyle’.

The army does in fact, train us to ‘open fire’, and that really is what NSmen are supposed to do when the sovereignty of the nation is at stake. It’s just unfortunate that Bryan’s lamentable remark came in the light of the deadly Orlando hate-crime shooting, which was spookily attributed to the alleged killer flying into a rage after seeing two men kissing in public. No wonder MDA decided to cut the Les Miserables gay kiss scene. We don’t want to have anti-gay psychotics barging into the Esplanade theatre slashing random people with parangs (Thank goodness for our strict assault rifle laws!). Maybe it was all for our own safety.

Arrests have been made against tough guys acting our their violent fantasies on Facebook. This one was more specific, in reference to the Benjamin Lim suicide case:

Please reveal the identity of the 5 plain clothes officers and we go handle them ourselves. Kill them.

As if hunting down police officers wasn’t enough, some vow to set Ministers and the PAP on fire, like this guy:

It is time to burn Vivian Balakrishnan and the PAP! Rally together and vote them out!

As far as I know, no one has actually been charged and imprisoned for expressing murderous intent through social media (though one 16 year old boy has been jailed for far lesser crimes), and it’s unlikely that Bryan Lim, father, NSman, WAAPD (We are against Pink Dot) fan, will be punished under the law for inciting violence. But this is just one man speaking for himself. The analogy of war between all things good and pure and the LGBT ‘movement’ was started in the first place by men of substantial influence who are supposed to lead by example, in particular Christian pastors.

In 2013, pastor Yang Tuck Loong of the Cornerstone Community church was reported to the Police for his call to arms, urging his flock to prepare for war and be ‘battle ready’ against the ‘powers of darkness‘. God knows what a preacher with a shotgun would do given the circumstances. There is already a villain on the pro-family side of this war, and the surname of this man that the more passionate members of Team LGBT love to hate rhymes with ‘Wrong’.

It is because of such powerful war metaphors, delivered in blatant contrast to Christian teachings of love and compassion, that those on either side of the sexuality divide form factions, be it Pink Dot, WAAPD or the Wear White campaign. It’s like those petty House wars in Game of Thrones, when the real threat of the Undead is knocking right outside our defenses. Ignorance, a mob mentality and a supervillian-magician in the form of a megachurch pastor make a potent, explosive mix, and we’re going nowhere fast in this gay debate if people on both camps keep lobbing firebombs at each other. For every Bryan Lim homophobe threatening to shoot innocent people, there’s someone in support of the LGBT cause flaming Bryan in return, even bringing his children into it (What if your child turns out gay etc). You guys should just organise arm wrestling matches among yourselves as an outlet for your anger before ejaculating all this ridiculous machismo over Facebook.

So much hate, and to what end? Whether it’s Bloom-goddamn-berg or Pink Dot supporters, wishing violent death upon people through public announcements, whatever your religious inclinations, is a step backward in our move towards a compassionate, forgiving society. It’s ironic that Bryan Lim references little ‘Buddha’ and ‘Jesus’ in one of his previous posts because surely they wouldn’t approve of bigotry or resolving problems with guns. You know nothing about religion, Bryan Lim. A true patriot would never harbour ill feelings toward his fellow Singaporeans, whatever their sexual orientation.

As an employer I would frown upon such behaviour calling for violence just because something contravenes my principles.  Such anger should be channeled to more productive ends rather than ‘opening fire’ and instead shooting yourself in the foot. I hope Bryan Lim learns his lesson, becomes a kinder father and NSMan and the only instance when he should ever ‘open fire’ is at a backyward BBQ where all his LGBT friends are invited. Or if he’s really serious about protecting the nation from collapsing into a moral war he could do everyone a favour and quit Facebook altogether.

Israeli diplomat using Singapore flag as a tablecloth

From ‘Israeli embassy apologises for junior diplomat’s misuse of Singapore flag as table cloth’, 30 Dec 15, article in Today

The Embassy of Israel in Singapore has apologised for the behaviour of a junior Israeli diplomat who misused a Singapore flag as a table cloth during an outdoor party. In a press statement, the Embassy said it “was appalled to learn of deplorable behaviour displayed by one of its junior staff members and expresses its sincere apologies”.

“The Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed that requisite strong disciplinary procedure will be adopted against the individual after his meeting with the Singapore authorities, reflecting the severity with which Israel views this incident, especially in light of the close and friendly relationship between Singapore and Israel,” added the statement issued tonight (Dec 30).

Photos apparently showing the incident were posted online earlier this week.

TODAY understands that the Israeli Ambassador was summoned in by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) after a police report on the incident was made and investigations revealed the identity of the diplomat.

singapore_flag_tablecloth_0-Israeli-diplomat-Israel

When an American rock band who call themselves The Used performed in Singapore, a defaced Singapore flag was displayed as a stage prop. Despite complaints and police investigations, nothing happened to the band, which suggests that some foreigners don’t need to have  ‘diplomatic immunity’ to get away  scot-free with flag misuse. On the other hand, we arrest 13 year old girls if they set the same object on fire.

The fact that an Israeli official was involved is bound to set tongues wagging about preferential treatment. Our country has been described as the ‘Israel of South East Asia’, bearing strong similarities in terms of geographical vulnerability and military might. If not for the Israelis, we would not have an army as mighty as we do today, having sought the help of what the late LKY called ‘Mexicans’ to set up shop here right after independence. Which puts us in a difficult position when it comes to making our stance heard regarding the ‘senseless killing’ of Palestinians in Gaza. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, for one, openly condemns Israeli aggression, though the Government as a whole is still relatively silent about the atrocities. Israel has its avid supporters, no doubt, none more so than some Christian communities who proudly declare their love for our ‘brother-in-arms’, that they are ‘very vocal in their support of the Jewish state’.

Netizens slam the tablecloth incident as a case of abusing diplomatic immunity, harking back to the hit-and-run saga involving the late Romanian embassy official Dr Silviu Ionesu. In the Ionescu case, the Romanian embassy argued that the accused had been ‘engaging in official duties’ at the time of the crash, citing ‘Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention’. Official duties here referring to ‘attending a private birthday party of a karaoke hostess’.

In 1956, diplomatic immunity was invoked by a German vice-consul in defence against inconsiderate driving. According to his lawyer, such a status shielded one against more serious charges, even murder. In 1988, the same legal protection spared American diplomat E.Mason Hendrickson from being charged under the ISA for supposedly encouraging Francis Seow to join opposition politics. The US embassy defended their mission delegate, that he was just doing his job as an envoy. Hendrickson was expelled nonetheless and LKY refused to apologise to the US, referring the case to international arbitration. If you could get booted out for interfering in local politics, abusing the state flag should be no exception.

According to Kishore Mahbubani, this power was never intended to protect one against local laws, that it was invented centuries ago to enable diplomats to talk to leaders of enemy states without fear of getting killed. So theoretically, you’re not supposed to enjoy immunity if you’re engaging in any activity ‘outside of official duty’, condo parties included. I, for one, haven’t the slightest clue what diplomats do when they’re not in ‘working mode’ other than sleeping, pissing and shitting. Disciplinary action is in order, though expulsion seems rather unlikely. As for the flag in question, let’s hope it’s washed down with tender loving care rather than ending up in the dumpster. Or how about a discount on our next Protector purchase as compensation perhaps?

PAP candidate Ng Chee Meng dispelling groupthink

From ‘Former CDF dispels concerns over group-think in PAP’, 22 Aug 2015, article by Laura Elizabeth Philomin in Today

With almost a third of the Cabinet members hailing from the military, former Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Ng Chee Meng – who was today (Aug 22) formally unveiled as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency – dispelled concerns of “group think” among the country’s political leaders.

…“All of us have unique life experiences… we all bring unique perspectives. Even while we were in the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), we speak our mind, we share our views – and the only common thing that drives us is the common desire to serve and achieve the best outcomes,” said Mr Ng, 47, who stood down as CDF earlier this week to enter the political fray.

He added: “The best way to look at group think is to first, be aware of such probabilities and possibilities, and thereafter make sure that we listen actively to differing views, consult widely from the different sectors so that we can seek out the best ideas to answer or design any solutions.”

To support Ng in his assessment of groupthink, DPM Teo Chee Hean chipped in by comparing himself to fellow SAF scholar Lim Swee Say, with whom he shared the same ‘crucible’ that is the SAF, but both having their own personalities, hence ‘same-same but different’. Whatever that means. The former CDF is stating the obvious, that people, by nature, are all different. But that doesn’t absolve one from being an accomplice to groupthink. In fact, you could have groupthink in full force exactly because of contrasting personalities.

If I’m a soft-spoken introvert and my co-worker is a loud obnoxious extrovert who makes his voice heard, the direction of any decision-making will tend to sway towards the vocal one even though my ideas are sound but I suck at pitching them, and the group will naturally take the path of least resistance, and the nail that sticks out will be hammered down. Over time, you’ll tend to deceive yourself that the result was the best possible ‘team’ solution, when it could very well turn out to be the shittiest decision ever made. One example of possible groupthink at work was when a staggering majority of PAP MPs voted Yes for the Population White Paper. It remains to be seen if the right decision was made.

I also think it’s rather premature for a candidate who hasn’t yet secured the electorate’s vote to give his two cents on policy-making. If he could explain to me the difference between a ‘probability’ and a ‘possibility’ of groupthink, I would be slightly more impressed. As a military leader you rule by fear of insubordination, and there’s barely any room for healthy, intellectual debate with all that chest-thumping, medal polishing and baton swinging.  If he’d done his research he would cite teary-eyed Lim Boon Heng when questioned if groupthink exists within the PAP (‘There is no groupthink *sob*’ i.e. “I’m a living example because I opposed the casinos and cried in my sleep over it”). Nobody in the PAP accused him of crocodile tears then. You won’t expect the same outpouring of emotion from a military minister, no SIRee.

Retiring MP Inderjit Singh questioned in a lengthy Facebook post if ‘parachuting’ in so many high ranking SAF officers who are ‘cut from the same cloth’ would lead to groupthink. I don’t know, would you disagree with someone who provided you with not just a parachute bag, but a soft cushion to land on? Incidentally, Pasir Ris-Punggol was also a landing pad for one Michael Palmer. He may not have been a military man, but he sure misfired pretty bad.

So, General Ng, what colour is your parachute ?

LTA mobilising SAF soldiers during MRT breakdowns

From ‘Talk of SAF helping out in rail incidents sparks debate’, 22 Aug 15, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

News that soldiers could be roped in to help out during massive train breakdowns has sparked a debate about whether the military should pitch in during such incidents. Many questioned if rail disruptions are a “matter of national security” and whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), “a national resource”, should be called upon to help the public transport operators, which are commercial entities. Others, though, felt it was worthwhile tapping the military, which can be mobilised quickly and is “quite dependable”.

The Straits Times reported that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has approached the SAF to explore deploying the men in green to give directions and manage crowds. They will be tapped only during large-scale disruptions.

Currently, personnel from the police, Public Transport Security Command and Singapore Civil Defence Force already help the LTA and public transport operators to manage such incidents.

On the issue of getting soldiers to lend a hand in the case of major disruptions, commuters had a variety of views. Accountant Lee Boon Chye, 29, who takes the train from Ang Mo Kio to work in Raffles Place, said: “While the army has the manpower and resources to get things done, it should not be helping to solve problems of companies that are profit- driven... It is also not a national crisis that requires soldiers. “These companies can hire auxiliary police officers or private security firms.”

…Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said it is “not a bad thing” to involve the SAF for contingency planning, especially for worst-case scenarios. The associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University said: “Train breakdowns have so far resulted in delays for a few hours.

“But a train breakdown could become a crisis if there are other untoward consequences, such as a stampede, civil unrest or if the train breakdown continues for days or weeks… it will then be justifiable for the military to support efforts to manage the crisis.”

The last time the SAF was activated for a major event that had nothing to do with shooting and killing people was LKY’s state funeral, where 10,000 men and women were roped in to make sure the procession went smoothly (No job too big for Ah Boys, 16 May 15, ST). Other festivities which involved the army include the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, the recent SEA games, and of course the annual staple that is the NDP. The military supposedly has the most experience in organising massive groups of people quickly, and besides defending the nation or going overseas for humanitarian relief efforts, it sidelines as the country’s largest logistics organisation. It’s also a dependable source of cheap labour.

Event planning aside, SAF soldiers have been also tasked to patrol airports to beef up security against terrorists, which led some to question whether our boys in green are even qualified to handle hostage situations or urban warfare. There’s an unlikely long-standing relationship between SAF and public transport operators. In 1976, SBS ‘borrowed’ SAF mechanics to repair their buses in the midst of labour shortage. More bizarrely, soldiers were ‘volunteered’ to become guinea pigs in an 1987 experiment where they were subject to a mock breakdown exercise in the middle of a tunnel, squeezed into two cars to mimic peak hour conditions without air-conditioning. What is this, the Third Reich?

So not only does the SAF supply us with human bodies to do ‘sai-kang’, they also provide trial participants for ethically questionable experiments that test the limits of human endurance. Presumably because they’ve been adequately hard-drilled by the war machine to swallow unspeakable torture. Incidentally, both the LTA and SMRT chiefs are former military stalwarts, so no surprise that they probably agreed on this brilliant idea with a top brass handshake. Ah Boys to MRT Ushers, really. Furthermore, shouldn’t stampede control be managed by the riot police? Or we’re all reserving those guys for Little India scuffles?

So if we’re all fine with sacrificing our army pawns to tackle ‘national crises’ in peacetime, why stop at MRT breakdowns where there’s a remote chance of stampedes and ‘civil unrest’? We could apply their operational finesse in other matters that may affect ‘national security’, so that our police officers can focus on other areas like arresting bloggers. Here’s a list for consideration:

  1. McDonald’s Hello Kitty Queues
  2. Primary One Registration
  3. Securing JEM in event of fire/ceiling collapse/flood
  4. Security at K-pop concerts
  5. Crowd control when Kong Hee goes to court
  6. Sentry duty at SMRT depots in case of trespassing vandals
  7. Collection lines for SG50 Commemorative notes
  8. Picking up dead fish hit by mysterious seaborne disease
  9. N95 mask distribution during bad haze conditions
  10. Road marshalling at marathons. Wait, they’re probably already doing that for that Army one.

Retiring Chief of Defence Force entering politics

From ‘Chief of Defence Force LG Ng Chee Meng to retire this August’, 31 July 2015, article by Neo Chai Chin, Today

In a move set to spark speculation on whether he will enter politics, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ng Chee Meng, will retire from the Singapore Armed Forces on Aug 18. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had announced LG Ng’s retirement on Facebook.

On his plans moving forward, LG Ng said: “While I do not rule out the option of returning to the Administrative Service or entering politics if the opportunity presents itself, my immediate focus is on handing over my duties to the incoming Chief of Defence Force.”

Dr Ng said on his Facebook post that there would inevitably be questions asked about LG Ng’s future plans. “Given his tested leadership and proven capabilities, I would not at all be surprised, if indeed he is (entering politics),” wrote Dr Ng, who is also the People’s Action Party’s organising secretary.

According to the book ‘Singapore Politics Under the PAP’, military scholars in the early seventies were second choice to ‘academic and professional’ talents when it came to recruiting new blood for the ruling party. What was once the domain of lawyers, architects, bankers and doctors has given way to Brigadier Generals and Rear Admirals. Our second PM Goh Chok Tong was reportedly ‘aware that having too many military men’ in government was BAD for Singapore’s image, and Cabinet should not have a majority of so-called ‘paper generals’ with the same military mindset. Goh, incidentally, was once a TROOP LEADER in the Boy Scouts.

Hmm, I wonder what kind of impression that a government dominated by ‘scholar-soldiers’, some of whom get promptly appointed Minister of States after elections, would give the rest of the world.

Nevermind that the captain of the Singapore ship is the shining example of the military-PAP-public service complex, the youngest ever Brigadier General at the tender age of 32. Our DPM Teo is another, so is the current Secretary General of NTUC and the Minister of Manpower, a man who knows more than a thing or two about cardboard exercise. They even got an army guy as Auditor-General. Which turned out to be not a bad thing after all.

But it’s not just Parliament loading up with SAF powerhouses, military men have been snagging top positions in public transport operators and statutory boards as well, the most prominent one hogging the limelight at the moment being the ever apologetic Desmond Kuek, former Chief of Army and now SMRT CEO. Incidentally, Minister of Transport Lui Tuck Yew also happens to be a former Chief of Navy. Their combined military prowess could not prevent salt water from causing one of the worst train breakdowns in history.

Your retirement money is also in the safe hands of a military man. Earlier this year, Ng Chee Peng, former navy chief was appointed chief executive of the CPF board. He also happens to be Ng Chee Meng’s brother. Rear Admiral Ronnie Tay was chief of NEA and then IDA. BG Tan Yih Shan spearheaded IPOS. Chew Men Leong, ex Navy Chief, helmed PUB and is currently the head of LTA. So, assuming that men drilled in the ways of the warrior have the skill-set and discipline to deliver with clockwork precision, it’s inevitable that your money, your drinking water, your internet, mobile phone, car, even groceries all somehow have links to the SAF hydra. If an SAF scholar ever takes the chair at MDA, you can kiss your porn goodbye.

Maybe we should reserve our SAF scholars for something more befitting of their calibre than running ministries. Like saving our country from an alien invasion, a doomsday asteroid or Ebola. Like this badass below.

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.