Tampines 1 reported to police for racial discrimination

From ‘Women files police report against Tampines 1 for alleged racial discrimination; mall issues apology’, 9 April 2016, ST

A woman filed a police report on Friday (April 8) against Tampines 1 shopping mall, alleging that she was subjected to racial discrimination by an employee of the mall.

The mall had earlier issued a public apology to businesswoman Diana Hairul, and told The Straits Times it had counselled the employee about her actions.

Ms Diana, 36, who uploaded on Facebook on Thursday (April 7) evening a screenshot of an e-mail she received from the employee, wrote that she had felt discriminated by the reply.

The e-mail read: “Hi Dee, We are not so keen to run a Malay road show as our target audience are mainly Chinese. Thus, we regret to inform you that we are unable to rent a space to you.”

What’s shocking to me is not so much that a police report is being filed, since the police have been activated for more petty things, like a child getting scolded by a teacher. What’s unnerving is Diana’s FB post and Tampines MP Masagos Zulkifli’s follow up.

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First, she specifically addressed the Malay Muslim community. She didn’t say ‘Hey hey everyone’.  Then there’s ‘rejected US’, which by implication to her first sentence suggests that Tampines 1 wasn’t just declining her business, but Malays in general. The use of CAPS on ‘mainly the chinese’ is to emphasise that this is a race issue. And oh, you should feel discriminated ‘against’, not ‘feel discriminated’, but I think people would have been drowned in CAPS by then to notice. People complain about how Tampines 1’s email was worded but in all fairness, the complainant’s rant and its capacity to incite negative feelings is worth looking into as well.

From a business standpoint, Tampines 1 should have done its calculations and decided that a Hari Raya road show simply would not be profitable. The trick is fudging the answer to make it seem like such road shows are not compatible with the mall’s ‘theme’ or ‘direction’ (They eventually gave the excuse that they were fully booked). We also should not expect businesses to patronise a certain race at the expense of their bottom line. If I were to propose to those in charge at Geylang Serai market that I want to sell Chinese new year decorations, it’s likely that I’ll get rejected because of the obvious ‘target audience’ in the area. Likewise if I were a real estate agent intending to sell a house in Kampong Glam, I’m not going to ‘feel discriminated’ if my boss decides it’s better for my Malay colleague to pitch the sale.

Fine if a member of public makes a commotion over something businesses have to manage discreetly on a daily basis. Anyone who’s mature and sensible enough wouldn’t be riled by Diana’s outburst into believing that Tampines 1 is anti-Malay and doesn’t want their money. When news broke that a Chinese man attacked 3 madrasah students we didn’t descend into a mob. So yes, we can be certain that Singaporeans are rational people and will not boycott Tampines 1 over an isolated incident, no matter how someone tries to assault our senses with complaints in CAPS.

I’m also not too sure about MP Masagos’ strongly worded response on his FB. (Post was deleted at time of writing. Hmmm..)

masagos1_0

‘INSENSITIVE AND INCOMPETENT’, ‘SPREAD ILL WILL’, “SHAME ON YOU!’.

Insensitive, yes, but I don’t think the staff deserves the rest of the berating. Spreading ‘ill will’ is a serious charge, the kind that will land you in court. Didn’t Minister Gan just tell us to develop a ‘learning culture‘ from such mistakes? Has the Minister considered the career repercussions of the affected staff from this public bashing? As a public figure I would have expected something more neutral, diplomatic and forgiving, like ‘Let us all learn from this lesson in our bid to become more inclusive’, or ‘The reply was a missed opportunity. Businesses could emphasise communication skills as part of their training programme’, or ‘The staff may wish to apply for course via SkillsFuture so that such incidents may be avoided’. Taking sides, shaming and fanning flames on the matter short of accusing people of Islamophobia helps no one.

This was Masagos’ response to the Paya Lebar assault earlier in the month.

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Yes, more ‘SHAME ON YOUs’, though in this case he did urge us not to ‘incite hatred and division’. In other words, don’t stir shit while the Police are investigating. The same applies to the Tampines 1 case, whatever the Police are doing to resolve the matter while at the same time managing ‘walking time bombs’ in Little India.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to patronise Tampines 1, Hari Raya bazaar or no bazaar, and hopefully it doesn’t turn into the Little Chinatown of Tampines after this incident. If there’s any mall that deserves to have the police knocking on their doors, it’s not one as supposedly ‘racist’ as Tampines Mall is, but those with the potential to randomly kill you. Jem, I’m talking to you.

Compass Point renamed as 1 Sengkang Mall

From ‘Compass Point to be renamed 1 Sengkang Mall’, 23 Dec 15, article in CNA

Compass Point will have a new name when it re-opens with a new look next year. The shopping centre said on its Facebook page on Tuesday (Dec 22) that the name 1 Sengkang Mall has been approved by Government authorities.

In the Facebook post, Compass Point said the mall was renamed to Sengkang Mall before updating the post and changing it to “1 Sengkang Mall” at about 10am on Wednesday.

It also announced the winner of the naming contest, who walks away with a S$1,000 cash prize. However, many on Facebook were unimpressed by the choice of the name and urged its owners to stick with Compass Point. Some called the new name “simplistic” and “boring”, or even something a 3- to 4-year-old could come up with.

The mall had narrowed down its list of suggested names to eight choices. The other options were: Sengkang Central Mall, One Sengkang, Sengkang Square, One Sengkang Square, Sengkang One, #1 Sengkang Square and 1SM.

Some names are hard to shake off. I still call the ‘Grandstand’ at Bukit Timah ‘Turf City’, while others, like Orchard’s ‘Wheelock Place’, took a while to catch on after its rebranding from ‘Lane Crawford’. Some older buildings continue to retain names that confuse shoppers. Even now I find it hard to differentiate between Bukit Timah Plaza and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. Then there’s Bugis Junction and Bugis Cube, Tampines Mall and Tampines Mart, Far East Shopping Centre and Far East Plaza. Some folks give up totally and just refer to shopping centres by their key tenants. My parents used to call Thomson Plaza ‘Yaohan’, for example, and would have continued to use Yaohan whether or not the managment spends thousands of dollars just to change the name of the building from Thomson Plaza to Thomson Square, Thomson Point, Thomson Mall or #One@Thomson.

It’s also interesting how frequently shopping centres use the numbers 1 and 8. There’s ONE KM, Junction 8, Ten Mile Junction (Now Junction 10), 888 plaza and Triple One Somerset. Nobody’s going to rename Jem as Jurong 50 although its actual address is 50 Jurong Gateway Road. What do you expect from a country that names a second bridge to Malaysia, well, the Second Link, and its national stadium The National Stadium.

Shopping centres aside, here’s a list of rebranding exercises that suggest that money doesn’t always buy originality, and that sometimes it’s better to hire a monkey on a typewriter than reward a member of public if you want a name for something.

  1. $400,000 was spent on a marketing agency Interbrand to name Marina Bay as Marina Bay.
  2. $2000 cash awarded to a 15-year old who christened the now defunct Budget Terminal. How was it possible that this beat the awesome FUNPORT?
  3.  $3000 for a winning battleship name. Among those entries selected include the mouthfuls that are Sovereignty and Indomitable. All wonderful names for male libido enhancement pills too.
  4. Attractive prizes including F1 tickets to name TURNS 1, 7 or 10 of the 2009 circuit. These were named ‘Sheares’, ‘Memorial’ and ‘Singapore Sling’ respectively. I’d be extra careful around a bend named ‘Memorial’ if I were a racecar driver.
  5. You’ve probably heard of Nila or Merly, but the reason why ‘Frasia’ doesn’t ring a bell is because it’s a portmanteau of ‘Friends’ and ‘Asia’ and was the product of yet another naming contest for an 2009 Asian Youth Games mascot. It sounds more like a flower than the King of the Jungle.
  6. Ah Boy‘ was shortlisted as a baby orang utan name in 2011 following a contest organised by the Singapore Zoo. That’s what 50% of Singaporeans call their dogs and 100% of grandmothers call their grandsons.
  7. In 2012, one of Scoot’s first aircraft was named, bizarrely, ‘Barry’ thanks to a naming contest. I’m a little surprised no one picked ‘Scottie’.

Swing and revolving doors in malls should be regulated

From ‘Swing and revolving doors could pose danger, cause injuries in malls’, 12 Aug 2014, Voices, Today

(Francis Cheng): Unlike automatic sliding doors, swinging and revolving doors pose a greater danger of injuring the elderly, handicapped and children (“Westgate glass doors ‘safe’: Mall management”; Aug 8, online). The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) should regulate their use and not allow shopping malls which are usually crowded with shoppers to install swinging or revolving doors.

…Should there be any appropriate warnings or advisory signs affixed to such doors at certain heights? Are the speeds on revolving doors adjusted to cater to the disabled and the elderly? What about measures to prevent fingers from getting trapped at the pivoting side of swing doors?

Automatic doors are not as innocuous as the writer thinks. A faulty one could close in on you like a booby-trap when you least expect it. In 1984, a boy DIED after walking head first into a glass sliding door, presumably because he didn’t notice it was there. Not sure if anyone was ever decapitated by a revolving door here, but a 6 year old Japanese boy was crushed to death by one in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Swing doors come in useful in the event there’s a fire and at least there’s an exit which you can physically manipulate, unless someone’s kid is there fooling around with it because Daddy’s using the iPad and he’s bored out of his little mind. Removing swing doors from public buildings entirely deprives people the chance of acting chivalrous or gracious. You’ll never get a chance to hold a door open for someone else and feel great about it, the only redeeming quality of the typical family shopping experience, which in my opinion is otherwise an excruciating ordeal worse than having a glass door fall on top of my head.

If anything, the Westgate incident should teach parents not to let their little brats monkey around with glass doors, or anything with a pivot for that matter. No matter how playful a child is, he should be discouraged from obstructing shopper traffic with antics more suitable for a stone mill in a child labour camp. Besides, there are things out there in the mall which are more hazardous than poorly-fitted glass doors. With so many death traps waiting to claim little children or the infirmed, maybe it’s better not to go out at all, rather than waste money on advisory signs which naughty kids don’t give a shit about. It gives new meaning to the phrase ‘SHOP TILL YOU DROP’.

1. ESCALATORS

If you’re not falling into a gap when an escalator step gives way (Forum shopping mall), you may lose a toe or two, especially if you happen to be wearing Crocs. With its capacity to amputate or trap your head against the ceiling, escalators rank among the top child hazards in any shopping centre. Maybe we should hire sherpas to carry our precious ones up the stairs should we decide to ban escalators too.

2. THE ROOF

In nearby Jem, a place renown for its arse luck, the damn ceiling collapsed out of nowhere. Westgate seemed to have absorbed some jinx off its cursed neighbour.

3. LIVE WIRES

If your kid is not careful, he may be in for a shocking near-death experience. Especially so for brand new malls with some renovation/cabling works still going on.

4. STORE LOGOS

Last year, the Golden Arches came crashing down in Lot 1 shopping mall. If you want to try your luck at being compensated with a lifetime supply of fries, then this is the place to be.

5. RANDOM METAL OBJECTS

A metal object fell and hit a shopper in Tampines 1 in 2009. Blood was spilled and an ambulance was involved.

Clubhouse for maids a space to call their own

From ‘Clubhouse for maids a good move, but charity leader’s remarks irksome’, 17 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Mannat Johal):…I am heartened to read about the clubhouse, which will provide facilities such as a computer lab and library, as well as various courses, for only S$4 a year. This will greatly benefit domestic helpers and make their experience working in Singapore a lot better. They will have something to look forward to each week, knowing that they can enhance their skills and spend time fruitfully at the clubhouse.

What irked me, though, was the statement by the President of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). He said: “We want (the workers) to go to a place where they can be among themselves, where they will not be disturbing the owners of the building or residents of the area.”

This gives the impression that domestic helpers generally cause owners and residents annoyance by simply patronising places such as tourist attractions. No such problems are said to exist when Singaporeans and tourists patronise these areas. Are domestic helpers that different? Should they not be allowed to enjoy these areas as we do? Are they that much of a nuisance compared with tourists, who are possibly more unfamiliar with Singaporean culture and etiquette?

Also, why does FAST want domestic helpers to be among themselves? Singapore is a multiracial society where harmony between people of different races, religions and backgrounds is a significant feature.

In 2001, Sri Lankan maid Sanda Perumal, along with her employer Angie Monksfield were given the boot out of Singapore Cricket Club because having maids in the premises was against internal club policy. As recently as 2011, some condos were still banning maids from using swimming pools.  Having a clubhouse just for maids would seem like an apologetic gesture for years of discrimination bordering on colonialism, a place where FDWs may benefit from the enrichment activities that such centres can offer rather than doing wild stuff like turning a stretch of Orchard Road into a street party . The other unspoken purpose here is to keep foreign workers out of sight, out of trouble, though you can’t stop them from murdering their rich employers. It’s like how people are uncomfortable with having workers’ dorms just down the road, treating the living quarters of others like a concentration or leprosy camp. The next question then: What about having a club for workers from Little India? One which holds a masterclass on anger management perhaps? A place where they can bond over some Darjeeling tea instead of Tiger beer?

Ethnic enclaves form all over the world as part of natural urban progression, and some even serve as tourist attractions, classic examples being Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. What FAST is concerned with here is gatherings of FDWs disrupting business, but one can think of some iconic commercial spaces that may have benefited instead from foreign workers milling about, never mind the occasional drunken brawl, sleaze or spontaneous mass dancing.

1) Lucky Plaza

Though initially viewed as an ‘image’ problem, Lucky Plaza remains till this day Orchard Road’s premier maid hangout, and some businesses have learned to adapt to capitalise on the loyal throngs, from fast food chains like Jollibee to IDD sellers and remittance. It’s also the first place I would think of if I have a sudden craving for Pinoy fare like sisig and pata.

2) Golden Mile Complex

Earning its title as ‘Little Thailand’, Golden Mile is renown as a foodie destination if you’re looking for authentic, homely cuisine. Some Thais refer to the Beach Road complex as their ‘second home’. Locals looking for some alternative entertainment to Bangkok barhopping can boogie all night long at places like ‘Pure Thai Disco’.

3) Peninsula Plaza

A lesser known enclave, this place is our very own ‘Little Myanmar’. Not all’s rosy in terms of local business though, with some lamenting that Peninsula has turned from a ‘classy mall’ into a ‘Myanmar market’. It has also become a collection centre for Cyclone Nargis donations and a place to congregate and discuss politics. In my youth, it was a place to get rare records and band merchandise. Yes, those were the days when it was cool to wear a cap with your favourite band’s logo on it. Backwards.

4) City Plaza and Joo Chiat

The newest enclave on the block, City Plaza is turning out to be ‘Little Indonesia’, and would have been a ghost town if not for maids flocking there on weekends. For obvious reasons, it attracts Bangladeshi workers too. Joo Chiat, with its string of bars and restaurants, is close to becoming ‘Little Vietnam’. Now you know where to go if you’re in the mood for pho or Ayam Penyet. Or some intimate Vietnamese hospitality, if you know what I mean.

So, with or without these club facilities, our FDWs already have a place to mingle (sometimes with other foreign nationalities) and be seen, even if it means moonlighting on the fly or simply fooling around. The fact that places like Lucky Plaza and Golden Mile have hardly changed at all means that the authorities are silently aware of their social (and economic) significance.  It is, however, unrealistic to expect migrant workers to integrate with Singaporeans on weekends, when they already spend almost their entire working lives dealing with us. In some situations, in fact, we’d rather they leave us the hell alone.

Let’s not forget the many other ‘enclaves’ and invisible boundaries that we draw around us every single day. Christians have their mega-churches, Muslims their mosques. Billionaires have their fancy clubs, golf courses, Iggy’s and Nassim Road. Women have Ladies’ Night and entire shopping mall levels dedicated to them. Hipsters have arty-farty cafes, expats Robertson Quay, and even seniors have ‘retirement villages’. What’s the big deal about a clubhouse for maids?

We’re a motley nation, not an orientation camp where everybody sits around the campfire singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, and by all means let FDWs have places to ‘call their own’ as long as they abide by our laws and don’t have mass orgies in public. A artificial enclosure like a clubhouse may be a place for maids to be ‘among themselves’, but without the flavours of home and the calming familiarity that Lucky Plaza brings, it’s unlikely to be a place to ‘belong’.

$1.47 billion Project Jewel a vanity showpiece

From ‘Who is Project Jewel’s target customer?’, 27 Dec 2013, ST Forum

(Kelvin Quek): I WAS surprised and concerned to read about the high cost for Project Jewel (“Project Jewel at Changi Airport to cost $1.47b”; last Saturday). It is unclear how this expensive complex, 70 per cent of which will be retail space, will give our airport an edge over other competing air hubs.

It is also unclear who it is targeting – visitors, residents, airport staff, or all three. When travellers arrive at their destination, they want to get out of the airport as quickly as possible.

Similarly, departing visitors are unlikely to make it a priority to visit shops, eateries or leisure attractions located outside the departure gates of the airport. If the project is primarily aimed at attracting residents to Changi Airport, the question then is: Why is that necessary?

Why use up valuable land at Changi to build another shopping mall? Why not have an aviation museum or something related to the airport?

…We should also stop building iconic projects which may just end up as vanity showpieces that bring little tangible benefits to Singaporeans. The money saved can be put to better use to meet more pressing needs in areas such as health care, education, transport and housing.

Jewel of Changi

The 1 billion dollar price tag has drawn comparisons to another iconic ‘vanity project’, the Gardens by the Bay. PM Lee himself referred to the Airport’s Jewel, semi-jokingly, as the ‘Gardens by the Airport’ during his National Day Rally this year, unwittingly hinting at the cost of this glorified mall. Visibly gushing over this new addition like a first-time father, he mentioned that the Jewel was not just for visitors, but for Singaporeans too, including ‘families on Sunday outings, students studying for exams and even newlyweds taking bridal photos’, which answers the writer’s question about who the target customers are. Don’t we already have the 3 terminals, and Kinetic Rain for that?

Designed by the same brain behind MBS, Moshe Safdie, Project Jewel appears to nothing more than a posh cousin of the existing T3 mall, a mash-up of our new National Stadium’s dome, Safdie’s LV island maison and the Gardens by the Bay which will draw locals from all over the island for the same reason that people flock to novelties like Jem in Jurong. In 2007, there was similar fanfare over the retail arm of T3, with the promise of top brands like the first Ferrari shop and luxury cellphone manufacturer Vertu. I don’t think these are around anymore. Instead you have ‘Speciality Stores’ like Poh Kim Video and 24 hour light-bite cafes like ‘Heavenly Wang’. If you want to spend some final precious moments with your child before his departure for overseas study, you’d have to jostle for parking space with families going to the airport just to buy stuff from some upmarket grocer, and not see a single plane landing or taking off, as what normal people would do if they’re going to the airport, well, FOR FUN.

Perhaps the money could have been put into better use, like providing proper resting areas for all those in transit treating the airport like a ‘refugee camp’. If Project Jewel fails to take off and goes the way of the Singapore Flyer, one might as well have installed a 4-storey tall, world-record breaking Kinetic Rain display instead, with round the clock security to prevent crazy people from tampering with it. Or an actual jewel-encrusted giant statue of Lee Kuan Yew. Don’t forget to bring in the feng shui masters though.

Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

JEM mall using Feng Shui to reverse misfortune

From ‘Jem to reopen only when mall is risk-free’, 21 Sept 2013, article by Jessica Lim, ST

The boss of the development firm behind the Jem mall yesterday promised that it would reopen only when there is “no risk” of incidents like a burst pipe occurring again. It came as a team of experts flew in from Australia to assess damage at the beleaguered shopping centre – which is even considering hiring a fengshui master to revive its flagging fortunes.

Mr Steve McCann, group chief executive officer of Australian firm Land Lease, also refuted an accusation from MP Ang Wei Neng that his company may have taken short cuts in a rush to finish the mall, which was eventually opened four days late in June.

Calling the MP’s comment “unfortunate”, Mr McCann told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview: “We certainly do not put revenue ahead of safety.”

…Last month, the mall also made the news when three employees suffered burns in a deep fat fryer accident and a car went up in flames in its carpark.

He added: “It goes without saying that, (it is) unfortunate, but totally unrelated to the centre and quality of the asset.”

Following the collapse, MP Ang said he was ‘concerned that there was some rush to open the mall’ and that the builders ‘may have taken some short cuts’ (Collapse of ceiling: Jem closure worries shoppers, 20 Sept, ST). Though Lend Lease denies any accusation of doing a rushed job, the management should be faulted for bad planning from the very beginning, getting off to a shoddy start with a 4-day delay back in June due to ‘administrative issues’. In a 2011 MND press release on JEM’s website, the country’s third largest suburban mall was scheduled for completion in 2014.  But JEM isn’t the only building being erected in a jiffy these days. Condos, BTOs, offices and every other cookie-cutter mall are sprouting across the city like a mold infestation, and nobody notices when something catches fire, or walls collapse within them because they don’t name themselves after hard, precious stones.

I’ve passed through JEM just once, the self-proclaimed ‘CROWN JEWEL of the WEST’, and the recent incident would make any wary future shopper brace for broken slabs of concrete falling on their own crowns instead of window shopping. Designed to bring the retail buzz of Orchard Road to Jurong, it was built according to meet the requirements of the BCA Greenmark Platinum award, the country’s highest accolade for SUSTAINABILITY. Whatever that means. To most people who are unfamiliar with eco-jargon, a ‘sustainable’ design is something that doesn’t topple on your head. JEM Park consists of ‘green space and sky gardens’ across 3 levels, as part of a ‘100% green replacement strategy’. In air-conditioned comfort. If you want a true ‘green’ design, you’d build a much cheaper attap longhouse on stilts instead, with the same risk of things falling on your face.

So what good can geomancy do for what seems to be a cursed shopping mall? In 2008, feng shui masters advised that the Singapore Flyer spin in the opposite direction to wheel in fresh prosperity and blow the ‘qi’ towards the financial heart rather than sucking it away. In December the same year, the icon was hit by an electrical fire, followed by a lightning strike in 2010. It’s also technically out of business as we speak. Of course the fengshui experts may explain away these mishaps as a price to pay for what the direction change really intended to do, which is fan fortune our way at its own expense.

The prime example of fengshui-focused design is none other than Suntec City Mall, which has its Fountain of Wealth and towers arranged like a human hand. Business started to suffer since 2010 because of collateral events like the NDP and YOG, and has just reopened recently after a $410 million facelift. Another national icon the Marina Bay Sands also invested in feng shui on the selection of opening dates, which could have explained the phenomenal success of the casinos to date, but apparently didn’t ward off people plummeting to their deaths from over 50 storeys.

MM Lee once famously derided Feng Shui as ‘utter rubbish’, and anyone with a skeptical, rational mind can understand why, yet both bigwigs at Lend Lease and MBS are First World Westerners who subscribe to such magical thinking. Flailing revenues and accidents are part and parcel of the natural progression of any retail structure, but I guess a little superstition wouldn’t hurt. I’m not an expert in the ancient pseudoscience, but I question how effective geomancy is compared to say, getting religious leaders from every faith down to pray for JEM’s structural integrity and the safety of its tenants and shoppers. It seemed to have brought down the spate of Bedok Reservoir drownings.

It would be interesting to see how JEM incorporates feng shui in its remedial action plan, though the consultation fees could be better spent on securing water pipes. A name change would be awkward at this juncture, even though JEM rhymes with ‘(caught in a ) JAM’. Maybe all the sharp pointy leaves as part of their green replacement strategy has something to do with it.

Postscript: Jem reopened on 2 Oct 2013, after the BCA certified it safe for humans and a fengshui consultant instructed that a trolley bay be removed at the Jurong Gateway entrance because it was ‘blocking the flow of energy through the entrance’ (Jem mall reopens after 2 week closure, 3 Oct 2013, ST). Take note, future mall builders, that your interiors must be flushed with energy to prevent walls from falling down.