MINDEF-SAF personnel forced to download SGSecure app

From ‘All Mindef-SAF personnel required to download SGsecure app’, 28 July 2017, article in Today

All Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) personnel are required to download the SGSecure application on their mobile phones and complete the e-learning modules within, the ministry said on Friday (July 28) amid online complaints from users who said they had been forced to install the software.

The app, which enables the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force to send alerts to the public in times of emergencies, and for the public to report suspicious activities, is part of the SGSecure movement launched in 2016.

…Mindef and MHA’s comments came amidst online complaints by users who alleged that they had been threatened with disciplinary measures if they did not install the app. Many of the complaints were written in the reviews section of the app.

One user, Mr Dylan Leong, wrote: “Got forced to download if not disciplinary actions will be placed against us.”

Mindef did not directly address queries on the alleged punitive measures faced by those who refused to install the app.

“Global and regional terror threats are persistent and long-term issues that should not be taken lightly. Singapore is just as susceptible to these threats as any other country,” the ministry said in its statement.

Total defence calls for totalitarian measures, though it doesn’t mean people will end up using the SGsecure app, preferring to park it in a folder so hidden that in the rare event that you do really need it, you would get discovered and killed while the app is still loading or your phone is struggling to detect Wireless@SG.

An anti-terror app sounds sexy and all, but we shouldn’t rush into technology without considering human elements. There are some common sense scenarios where you SHOULDN’T use your phone when hiding from a terrorist raid. Take this scene from the Run. Hide. Tell Crimewatch promo, for example, when our protagonist decides to sms the police in a dark room, which is basically telling your enemy ‘YOOHOO I’M HERE’.

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But terrorism is no joke, of course. So as an inactive NSmen myself, I decided to give the app a go.

The first notification I got was to enable location services and I was immediately reluctant to do so. Not only was my privacy at stake, but it would deter users from making reports that may be perceived by the defenders of Singapore as frivolous or pranks. What if they hunt me down and arrest me for making a false bomb alert which I thought genuine? On the flipside, the app makes it almost TOO EASY to troll the authorities. Which means more time spent on investigating false alarms than doing important work like, you know, catching rapists and shit. Personal Batman beacon, this is not.

I also checked out the e-learning module, which is basically scrolling down some infographics and watching two Youtube videos. Once you’re done, you need to ‘register completion of e-learning’, which means giving your personal info in a form. Now you’re a qualified SGSecure expert!Yay!

But what’s really telling about the whole concept of the app, and bugs me like hell, is that it has NO FEEDBACK OPTION. You can’t tell MINDEF how to improve the app, even if it sucks one-star donkey balls. What the app would be useful for, though, is tracking missing persons, with the right incentives. If we had this app during Mas Selamat’s escape and rewarded users with cash prizes, he wouldn’t have made it past the beach with his makeshift raft. We would have the whole of Singapore manhunting like Pokemon Go.

You know who we should really force this upon instead? Convicted upskirt voyeurs. With their talent for stealth filming they would make excellent reconnaissance agents. They could sneak up close and personal with suspicious characters like a ghost. We could also reduce their jail sentences for their penance in return for their heroic deeds. And if they get caught, well, too bad you sick pervert!

Good effort, MINDEF. But if I ever find myself in trouble, I’ll stick to the tried and tested method of calling 999. By the time I dig out this app, fiddle with the glare settings, skip the time-wasting opening tutorials, and swipe for the emergency contacts, I’d probably have my head lopped off by then.

 

 

 

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NSmen given free rides for NS50

From ‘Make it easy for NSmen to take free rides’, 26 June 2017, ST Forum

(Elvis Zhang Haowei): As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties. According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station. At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious. How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen? We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues. 

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse.  Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative. For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen’s entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Wearing a No.4 in public comes with a certain weight of responsibility. Muddy boots are a no-no, you can’t indulge in the basic vices such as chewing gum, smoke or drink alcohol. If a baby in the train is having cyanosis, bystanders look to you to save the day. If you take a seat and stare at your phone, some idiot will take a photo and complain about it on Facebook. God knows what would happen if you are found sitting down on the MRT floor – Someone may file a police report.

If you dress like a chow recruit on the train, passengers will instinctively run and hide, assuming that you stink after a day’s jungle training. In fear of contaminating the seats, you stand for the rest of your arduous journey from Tuas Link to goddamn Pasir Ris. Serving the nation forever alone.

Given the level of mental and physical suffering expected of a man in uniform, would anyone in their right mind don the No. 4 JUST for one day’s worth of free rides? Or pose as an imposter if they’re not actually NSmen? What’s the worst that could happen if you’re a non-NSman borrowing your buddy’s uniform for a free ride? You, *gasp* pay the fare, that’s what.

So yes, if you think about it, why reserve just one day (June 30) for NSmen to get unlimited free public transport if they wear uniform? Let’s salute our everyday heroes and give it to them FOC – or at least discounted rates – all day EVERY DAY, whether in uniform or in T-shirt and sandals. After all, they are practically volunteer train/bus marshals. If a fight breaks out between uncles over a priority seat, they’ll be there to intervene. If someone faints, they’ll attend to the victim. If some China national leaves a suspicious luggage near the toilet, they’ll tackle him to the ground with an anaconda chokehold. In fact, they are already talks of them being activated during a train breakdown to control crowds. I mean, you could stop paying THIS guy for his superhero services already.

Forget about reserved gantries. NS50 committee, if you’re serious about recognising our NSmen, please issue a special access EZlink cum credit card instead of crappy vouchers. Give the poor sod below something to look forward to after 2 shitty years of NS.

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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’.

 

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.

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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 ?