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’.

 

Syonan a great insult to Singapore

From ‘Name is a great insult to S’pore’ and ‘Why should we name our gallery Syonan’, 11 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ong Lay Eng): The name Syonan is a great insult to Singapore and Singaporeans (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

We must not forget the war crimes of the Japanese during World War II and the immense sufferings Japan inflicted on our forefathers. This is Singapore’s history and we need to tell our descendants what their forefathers experienced.

(Gan Kok Tiong): If the gallery at the war museum was created by the Japanese for the people in their own country, then I would have nothing to say (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

But in this instance, this is our gallery to show Singaporeans the atrocities and humiliation that our people, especially the Chinese, suffered during the Japanese Occupation.

What was light to the Japanese was calamity to the people of Singapore. I suggest that the name be changed to the hanyu pinyin shounan and zainan, meaning “calamity” in English; or simply “The Japanese Occupation Gallery”.

Last year, the National Gallery decided to name a gala event as ‘The Empire Ball‘ and anti-colonialists freaked out. Likewise, any reference to ‘Syonan’ would conjure images of our once imperialist tormenters decapitating prisoners or stabbing babies in mid-air with their bayonets. Though Syonan-to translates to ‘Light of the South‘, those 3 years and 8 months of the Japanese occupation were dark times indeed, but with the state of the world under a Trumpian leadership, perhaps our darkest days are yet to come.

But would this furore over historical fact be a case of jumpy denialism? Would simply naming the museum the ‘Japanese Occupation Gallery’ downplay the grisly emotional heft of ‘Syonan’, a word that implies utter domination and a loss of national identity? How would these symphatisers feel about the word ‘Nippon’, as in ‘Nippon-Go‘ (Japanese language), which children during then-Syonan were expected to attain a ‘complete mastery’  over, since it was the ‘lingua franca’ of Malaya? Or would they complain to MOE if teachers dashed into history class dressed as Japanese soldiers shouting ‘Banzai’?

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Yes, we should not forget the dreadful war crimes inflicted upon our forefathers, even as we fiercely embrace Japanese culture today – from otaku to sakura, sashimi to hentai. But self-censoring a part of history just because certain people find it ‘insulting’ is exactly what our rulers tried to do with their propaganda drives during the Occupation. Now that, in my opinion, would be the true ‘calamity’.

UPDATE(17 FEB 17): After some ‘deep reflection’ by Yaacob, it was decided that Syonan Gallery would be renamed as the less hurtful-sounding ‘Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”. Well, maybe not deep enough. You can’t even abbreviate the place now. If you’re taking a cab, you’ll probably have to tell the driver to take you to ‘the place formerly known as Syonan Gallery’.

Now let’s do something about ‘Syonan Jinjia (shrine)’ in Macritchie reservoir, perhaps ‘The Temple in the Woods that commemorates the Dead of our Japanese oppressors’

Singaporeans pronouncing W as ‘dub-due’

From ‘English words: Time to say them right’, 4 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ng Hee Chun): Many Singaporeans are not pronouncing English words properly.

For instance, the word “red” is pronounced as “raid”, and the letter “w” is pronounced as “dub-due” instead of “double u”. Other words that are commonly mispronounced include “liaise”; “tuition”; “reservoir”; “abalone”; “almond”; and “their”.

If nothing is done to rectify this, our children will continue to speak this way. It is not about Singlish, or British or American accents.

If even my children’s primary school teachers are pronouncing words wrongly,what can we say about the standard of English that is being passed on?

Singapore is well-known for its high education standards.

But it seems that when it comes to proper English pronunciation, we are not getting it right. It would be helpful if the authorities can create an awareness campaign on how simple English should be spoken in daily life.

Yes, spare a thought for our ‘chew-ren’.

Picking on the ‘raid’ example may be an extreme case, like ‘three vs tree’. Hell, sometimes we can’t even pronounce the name of our own country properly. Even as adults, we fail to grasp why alone is a-loan but abalone is air-buh-loan-NEE. Or Esplanade vs Promenade. We can’t decide if it’s Media-KORE or Media-KOP (Mediacore). We know of Evelyns who introduce themselves as ‘Eve-lyn’ and ‘AIR-VlYN’.

Here’s some other examples of glaringly mispronounced words which we hear in everyday life.

  1. Colleague, or as we say it, KER-LEEG
  2. Film – Flim
  3. Nowadays – Nowsaday
  4. Flour – Flah
  5. Excuse me – Eskew me
  6. Coke – Cock
  7. Primary -Prembry

Perhaps part of the reason why Singaporeans continue to make the same mistakes is because we deem it impolite to correct a person during normal conversation. Also, sometimes we need to mispronounce deliberately just to be understood, depending on the literacy level of the recipient. For example, if I ask a fishmonger if he has any ‘Sam-mon’ instead of ‘SELL-MERN’, I’ll get a blank stare. Or to the desert stall lady that I want ‘AH-MERN’ jelly instead of ‘AL-MOND’. If a school principal asks me if I send my kid to ‘TEW-TION’, I’m not going to reply with the same word pronounced in the ‘proper’ manner (TOO-EE-TION)because it is not socially acceptable to sound smarter than a head of education.

In 1994, our way of speaking was termed ‘Singapore English Pronunciation‘ (SEP) in an academic paper on linguistics. Our tendency to express ‘th’ as in ‘three’, or ‘then’ as ‘den’ was attributed to having ‘the tongue a little further back and without the accompanying hiss, using an alveolar plosive’. We also have problems with ‘consonant clusters’, like how we say ‘fack’ instead of ‘fact’.  The authors concluded that it was not ‘wrong’ for us to speak in this manner, and in some situations may in fact be the most ‘appropriate’ way of speaking.

So yes, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that words like ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Opportunity’ are often taken for granted in SEP, but it’s unlikely that we’ll convert to the ‘proper’ pronunciation overnight because as social animals we’re rather commit linguistic faux pas (‘par’) than be seen as a snob. Instead of taking the pedantic approach and admonishing people for relying on ALVEOLAR PLOSIVES, perhaps we can all learn to live and let live in a ‘I say Toe-may-toe you say Toe-Mar-toe’ world.

 

Cats banned from HDB flats

From HDB letter to resident circulating online, 8 Jan 2017

All felines are banned from HDB flats but not various pedigrees of cat-sized toy dogs. HDB’s rationale for the ban has been the same for the last 4 DECADES. In 1978, HDB issued a statement ‘categorically’ banning cats from flats because they tend to stray ‘by nature’ and cause a nuisance to residents. Cat experts would subsequently protest that most cats are perfectly fine being confined within 4 walls and the ‘pussy gone wild’ excuse is a gross misconception. In that letter, roaming cats were also blamed for inciting fear in certain people and can ‘damage public property’ with their CLAWS. Yes, provided people hang their curtains OUTSIDE their flats.

Dogs, on the other hand, whilst enjoying this privilege, do not have the tendency of invading homes or leaving pawprints on your car, though occasionally, unlike the most ferocious of kitties, may BITE A CHUNK OFF YOUR FACE. 

Of course it doesn’t take just a cat to ‘disturb good neighbourliness’ by shitting indiscriminately, shedding fur or cauterwauling in the middle of the night. By the same token, not only should we ban shedding, barking dogs (though HDB has a solution of ‘debarking‘ noisy ones), but we should evict humans who smoke and burn incense in corridors, blast music in the wee hours of the morning, or take a piss in the lift. 

Surely HDB should be aware of the Love Cats pilot project in Chong Pang, a program endorsed by our cat-loving Law Minister himself, and let everyone know if the results have altered their perception of cats in any way. Even if they’re still pussyfooting around the regulations, it’s hardly useful to demand that an owner ‘remove’ the cat without offering any humane suggestions, considering that stray cats have been victims of horrific barbarism of late. Is HDB going to knock of the doors of every ‘old cat lady’ there is and round up all their cats? Wouldn’t the ban encourage more people to feed strays indiscriminately? Are the cat abusers out there rubbing their hands in masturbatory glee?

The approach to household pet management should be consistent across the board, whether it’s a dog, cat, goldfish or chinchilla: Enforcing responsible ownership. A blanket ban on cats based on their ‘nature’ has no scientific basis and reeks of an innate bias from watching too many campy spy movies with cat-stroking megavillians.

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Perhaps our Law Minister or other ‘angels in power‘ can do something about this.

9 religious leaders praying for Minister Heng Swee Keat

From ‘Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in stable condition in ICU’, 14 May 16, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was in a stable condition yesterday, the day after he had emergency brain surgery following a stroke.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who visited him at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), said: “He was sedated. His condition is stable, but he will remain in the ICU for some time.

“He is in very good hands, like all patients at the National Neuroscience Institute.”

…Many Singaporeans showed up at the hospital to ask after Mr Heng’s condition. A table at the hospital’s Heritage Museum was overflowing with flowers, cards and gifts, and had to be expanded.

Yesterday, leaders of nine faiths from the Inter-Religious Organisation came together to pray for a smooth recovery for Mr Heng.

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I wish the Minister all the best in his recovery, and may the combined healing powers of the IRO bring the good man back up on his feet again. Singaporean leaders are a hardy bunch who soldier on despite terrible illnesses to serve the nation. Our own PM had to deal with both prostate cancer and lymphoma. His father suffered for the country till the very end.

I’m not sure though, if such resilience creates unnecessary pressure on our ministers to carry on despite being stricken with illness, instead of spending more time with their loved ones and, well, taking things easy for a change. No one should expect Minister Heng to spring back to work after this incident, and if he decides to step down for health reasons, no one should fault him for giving up the portfolio or forsaking his Tampines residents either. MPs have quit on us for far more frivolous reasons.

Still, another job for the inter-religious leaders, who recently paid holy tribute to a dead strongman known to be a recalcitrant agnostic.

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The power of united prayer even extends all the way to the victims of US school shootings.

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But it seems like this religious ‘supergroup’ is not done chanting incarnations for sick people or those who’re already dead. They also provide prayer services to newly commissioned SAF officers. I don’t know if this prayer package includes other military lowlife like recruits out of BMT, who also occasionally die due to safety lapses too. Still, not sure if anyone still wants to sign up for OCS if it’s so dangerous that you need the combined powers of 9 religious leaders to make sure shit doesn’t happen to you.

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They bless inanimate objects too, such as:

The F1 track

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(Though they should also pray at major marathons. More people have died running marathons than the past seasons of the F1 Night Race)

The newly opened Downtown Line.

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(A ritual which, unfortunately, couldn’t prevent the recent power/signal faults that led to train delays. Or the Pasir Ris freak accident when SMRT staff were killed on track)

Bedok Reservoir, where the souls of the drowned reside.

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(Now this probably worked like a charm. Suicides at Bedok Reservoir are at an all time low)

Last but not least. WORLD PEACE FTW! Keep up the good work, IRO!

Ex-MP Phey Yew Kok on the run for 36 years

From ‘Ex-PAP MP Phey Yew Kok faces charges more than 30 years after he fled Singapore’, 24 June 2015, Today

More than 30 years after he jumped bail and fled the country, former PAP Member of Parliament and president of the National Trades Union Congress Phey Yew Kok was finally brought to justice today (June 24). He appeared in court today to face the charges that were served on him in 1979.

On Dec 10, 1979, Phey was charged on four counts of criminal breach of trust involving a total sum of S$83,000. He was also charged on two counts under the Trade Unions Act for investing S$18,000 of trade-union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister.

On Jan 7, 1980, Phey failed to turn up in court and a warrant of arrest was issued against him on the same day. Phey surrendered himself at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22, 2015, said the CPIB in a press release. He was accompanied back to Singapore yesterday. “Phey will be required to assist CPIB in further investigations in relation to other offences he may have committed,” said CPIB.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in response to media queries: “Phey Yew Kok was facing charges of Criminal Breach of Trust when he absconded while on bail in 1980. He has now turned himself in and returned to Singapore.

…”We have maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because we have zero tolerance for corruption. When we discover wrongdoing, we do not hesitate to act. We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government.”

The National Trades Union Congress said it noted that Phey “has surrendered himself to the authorities. We must now let the law take its course”.

Little mention has been made of this man, and even though he was on the ‘wanted list’ all this while, he didn’t make it on a recent list of ‘Singapore’s Most Wanted‘, which includes rogue lawyer David Rasif, CID detective Mark Koh, murderer Harvinder Singh, and a woman who’s likely the previous record holder of most number of years on the run, bank executive Siak Lai Chun, eluding the Police since 1997. The curious thing is, it wasn’t a case of the authorities finally smoking him out of his rabbithole. He turned himself in at the ripe old age of 81, in the very same city that CPIB officers went on a manhunt back in 1989.

Although our PM asserts that there is no cover up, and you may be charged for contempt if you suggest that there is, the fact is no one, not since the 80’s when JBJ was haranguing Parliament for answers to his whereabouts, seemed to even want to mention this guy’s name. It’s like refraining from pointing out a VIP’s crotch stain while at a formal dinner party. Those born just around the time he fled, as I was, would be more familiar with dissidents like Francis Seow and other fugitives/exiles featured in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore with Love Film than this guy, who was supposedly a rising star in the political arena before he got into hot soup lining his pockets with dirty money, and retreated into obscurity since flying the coop.

Talking about ‘awkward’, the PAP didn’t hesitate to let Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer go some years back when he confessed to an affair and promptly resigned. On the other hand, other ex PAP MPs like Choo Wee Khiang got to be President of some table tennis association even after getting charged and jailed for corruption. Phey Yew Kok, before the news of his surrender was out, was practically unheard of before the news of his surrender broke (except given a nod by Pritam Singh in this FB rant about crooked PAP MPs in 2012). It’s like a father refusing to talk about a disowned son to his family, an enigma unfamiliar to many of us as the name of his constituency was. Where the hell was ‘Boon Teck’ anyway? (My guess is it’s somewhere near Toa Payoh). Suddenly the media is hot on the history of Phey’s ‘rise and fall’ in an attempt to make his re-emergence as sensational as if he was dragged back to the homeland by an elite squad of special forces who spent the last decades chasing a slippery mastermind around the globe, through jungles, snowcaps and what not.

One interesting tidbit of the man is that he used to be President of the Singapore Boxing Association in the 70s. There were also rumours that he once worked in Taiwan. He supposedly had his Singapore PASSPORT with him all this while, which wasn’t impounded by the Police after he was charged. His 2 bailors also lost $95,000 because of him, and if they’re still alive, are probably waiting to settle this 30 year old O$P$.

Well, all I can say is this – about damn time.

Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ’emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.