Who wants to watch live feeds of Parliamentary proceedings?

From ‘Videos of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government: Chee Hong Tat’, 7 Nov 2017, article in CNA

Video recordings of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government which in turn commissions national broadcaster Mediacorp to cover the sittings and show the footage on various platforms, including free-to-air television as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s Parliament micro-site and its Facebook page.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat clarified this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party (WP). Mr Perera had asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings.

He also asked if the Ministry would consider removing the copyright if indeed they are protected by one, and make all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use.

To this, Mr Chee said the public can use the recordings for personal and non-commercial purposes with attribution to Mediacorp. He said the recordings are already used regularly by social media sites and political parties, including the Workers’ Party.

Mr Perera then questioned why Parliament is not given the funding and ability to makes its own live feed and video recordings available with a searchable archive as is the case with countries like Australia, Taiwan and the United States.

Mr Chee said demand for a live feed of proceedings is low.

To be fair, it’s probably true that there are less people willing to sit through a live Parliamentary feed than a Crime watch episode. Mediacorp being a business entity struggling with ratings overall however, has a vested interest in making Parliamentary sessions not so much informative than ‘entertaining’ in bite-size snippets to cater to the general public, yet at the same time refrain from making their political masters look bad, no matter how attention grabbing it would be. Like when they’re caught napping for example.

Beyond intellectually stimulating debates, TV is also the perfect politician toolkit for drama. You have MPs bawling like a baby.

Begging for mercy.

Pointing to the heavens like in Taiwan drama serials seeking divine justice

Could anyone forget the saga that is ‘Tang Liang Hong is Not my Brother’

Some make grand exits like a boss without saying a single word.

And you have the occasional stand-up comedy bringing the House down, like Chan Chun Sing’s ‘Madam President’ skit.

In fact, when Today in Parliament debuted on SBC in 1985, while it was welcomed with much fanfare, there were already calls by Parliament fans for full uncensored telecasts, an act that would symbolise ‘democracy in action’. Though it’s often assumed that PAP speakers would reap the most airtime from these sessions, there were also complaints of opposition MPs hogging the limelight, like JBJ’s ‘unending complaints’ ‘unending complaints’ and ‘belching hot air’.

One MP, Tay Eng Soon, opposed the format of TV broadcasting altogether, recommending that viewers ‘close their eyes’ and listen to the crux of debates rather than picking on visual distractions like a politician’s dress sense, body language, or shiny reflection off his bald plate. But what is politics without its histrionics and theatre anyway.

Despite Chee Hong Tat’s claims of low viewership, I do believe there is value in putting up videos wholesale (by topics at least) as a supplement to the standard edits since the government has always emphasised on digitalisation and transparency, so that hardcore Parliament fans should be given the chance to dissect discussions, warts and all. Isn’t the purpose of the party whip or Speaker to serve as a real-time moderator/editor of the proceedings anyway, so that debates don’t get out of hand?

Besides, in the age of Netflix, TV viewership has been anaemic for years anyway. Given a choice between Parliament and watching a run-of-the-mill drama with actors spouting foreign accents, I’d rather spend my time on the former. The acting may even be better.

 

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SMRT giving amnesty to flood culprits

From ‘Some SMRT staff own up to lapses during amnesty’, 4 Nov 2017, article by Adrian Lim, ST

Staff from at least one department in SMRT have admitted to lapses in their work, in response to a company call to own up – without penalty – before a wide-scale audit is launched.

The Straits Times understands that the employees are from SMRT’s building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations.

It is unclear how many staff have come forward in the “amnesty” exercise that ended yesterday, and which is targeted at quickly plugging gaps in maintenance operations – one of which caused the flooding of an MRT tunnel last month, bringing down train services on a stretch of the North-South Line for about 20 hours.

…PeopleWorldwide Consulting’s managing director David Leong said: “From an HR perspective, it’s very poor people management. The trust between the management and staff is totally lost.

“It doesn’t lead anywhere… Are you going to retain the people who owned up and let them do the same job? Or are you enticing them to come out, to remove them later?”

This amnesty is a witchhunt disguised as a saintly pardon. It’s like the bad guy in movies saying he won’t shoot you if you spill the beans, but lets you suffer a fate worse than death if you do anyway. SMRT’s CEO being a military guy probably explains the strategy behind this snare. It’s like urging the enemy out from the trenches with promises of warm baths and a 3 meals a day as a POW.

In a separate article, interviewed commuters were furious that those responsible would be given a second chance, but this gesture, like extending a greasy hand to someone hanging onto the edge of a cliff, can only mean that one’s career standing in SMRT is effectively over. And I believe those who owned up already know it, whether they end up with a stern warning or not.  Nobody expects a tea party with balloons and hugs of forgiveness.

Staff ferreted out by this so-called amnesty, supposedly without penalty, will be implicitly blacklisted and deprived of further opportunities within the company. The fact that management even needs to twirl a carrot to lure the culprits out from hiding suggests incompetence in governance and a dearth of ownership among workers. So, to quote something Trumpy, this makes ‘both sides’ look really, really shitty.

As the man in charge has said, all the fuck-ups boils down to ‘deep seated cultural issues’. Instead of pulling out all the stops with this fake magnanimity as a diversion from assigning blame, get to the core of the problem and fix it instead of dusting off table scraps.  I mean, that is your job after all, right?

UPDATE: Once the amnesty ended, SMRT embarked on a massive internal audit code- named ‘OPERATION OSPREY’, which sounds fiercer than the kinds of names we have for SAF mobilisation (Mighty Duck?). It was last used in 2001 by CNB to crack down on drug fiends, which gives you some idea of how the bigwigs view underlings who mess up, that they have to conjure an image of swooping talons snatching filthy rats out of their burrows.

13 staff including Vice Presidents from Maintenance were hauled up for disciplinary action, while SMRT maintains its deathly silence over the numbers ‘saved’ after owning up during the amnesty period (in the process exposing their colleagues). Meanwhile, the heads that matter remain firmly attached to their bodies, despite some talk of adjusting their salaries, while others roll.

 

 

Reserved Presidential Election is the Right Thing to Do

From ‘Reserved Presidential Election would cost votes but is the right thing to do’: PM Lee, 29 Sep 17, article in CNA

PM Lee Hsien Loong knew that the reserved Presidential Election would be unpopular but went ahead with it, as he strongly believed it was the “right thing to do“, he said in a dialogue session held last Saturday (Sep 23).

“Did I know that this subject would be a difficult one? That it would be unpopular and cost us votes? Yes, I knew,” he said at a People’s Association Kopi Talk held at Ci Yuan Community Club.

“If I do not know that these are sensitive matters, I cannot be in politics. But I did it, because I strongly believe, and still do, that this is the right thing to do.”

Mr Lee acknowledged that there was “some unhappiness” following the reserved election. “I can feel that; you do not have to tell me,” he said.

Three Malay candidates came forward to contest this year’s reserved election. while all of the candidates in the 2011 election were Chinese. Although businessmen Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican and Mr Farid Khan did not qualify, resulting in a walkover, they would not have come forward in an open election, Mr Lee said.

“So why didn’t they come? Because they knew that in an open election – all things being equal – a non-Chinese candidate would have no chance,” he said.

When the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, they knew it was – to put it mildly – an unpopular decision but to them it was the ‘right thing to do’. When the Nazis embarked on ethnic cleansing and conducted vile experiments on Jews for the advancement of science, they too strongly believed that it was the right thing to do. When Darth Vader ordered the destruction of the planet Alderaan by the Death Star…You get the point.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are no good or evil men in this world, just men with what they believed were ‘right’ intentions. But this is what we’ve come to expect of a dominant party anyway, a smiling Nazi-nanny pushing divisive policies for our own good, and deciding for the nation how multiracialism should be handled, even down to the ‘right-ness’ of the stuff we read on the Internet.

Yet, history has proven, by the PM’s own admission, that HE and his PAP COULD BE WRONG.

In 2011, PM Lee said sorry to the nation, admitting ‘mistakes’ made that included overzealous foreigner intake and problem gambling as a result of the IRs.

‘And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry but we will try better the next time.’

When the next election comes around, given the ‘political cost’ of this unpopular PE, I wonder if he would apologise again – that they didn’t get it right at all. That they should have trusted the Chinese majority race, that we should have been given the dignity of casting our votes, that the ONE survey that the PAP likes to quote justifying the reserved PE (because Singaporeans, particularly the Chinese, are inherently racist who prefer to vote for a president of the same race), is a flaming pile of horse-shit.

If someone who was NOT from some prestigious institution had come up with a casual survey with the same results, he or she would have been hauled up for sedition and threatening racial harmony.  If someone who’s NOT the PM said stuff like ‘all things being equal, you being non-Chinese would have no chance’, he’d be branded as a straight out racist. The walked over candidates Marican and Khan threw their hat in the ring because they believed they could make a difference, not because they had no Chinese threat to deal with. Implying so is an insult not just to their ability, but to the idea of equality altogether. Also, has anyone wondered why it’s called CIMO and not MCIO or ICOM?

Let’s say I’m hiring a head waiter for a Chinese restaurant. My executive chef is Chinese,  my marketing director is Chinese, even the dishwashers are Chinese. ‘All things being equal’, fluency in Mandarin included, it shouldn’t matter if I hire a non-Chinese to do the job. The only reason I decide to hire MIOs only is because it’s better to have at least one non-Chinese on my team to placate my racist non-Chinese customers.

No sir, it’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the far-right thing to do too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malay and Indian food less healthy than Chinese food

From ‘War on diabetes: Changing eating habits of Malay, Indian communities an uphill task’, 25 Aug 17, article by Wong Pei Ting, Toh Ee Ming, Today

For Malay food vendor Aida Manapi, 50, the tastiest ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken) must be crispy and glistening, and there is only one way to cook it — “deep fried”.

And when it comes to roti prata, no one serves it by being stingy on ghee (clarified butter), said stall vendor Senthilvel Vedachalam, 43.

Such traditional methods of cooking or serving Indian and Malay favourite dishes, along with mindsets that they have to be cooked in a certain way for best results – have made it difficult for many hawkers and home cooks to change the way they prepare these dishes. For them, unlike Chinese dishes, one cannot produce a healthier, yet still tasty ayam penyet or roti prata by simply using less oil, salt or sauce.

In a related article back in 2010, even medical experts pointed to Malay food as a key reason for the burgeoning rate of diabetes and obesity among the community. Endocrinologist Lee Chung Horn also described Malays as ‘gregarious people’ characterised by social assemblies that revolve around fatty foods. The article above seems to suggest that toned down Malay and Indian dishes would be less enjoyable compared to Chinese food with their ‘bland’ porridges and soups, but that doesn’t explain why the queues for untampered char keow teow (with pork lard) are always longer than other stalls which put healthier choice stickers up on display.

Inevitably, the focus is always on hawker fare, food so rich and so close to our heart it’s often blamed for slowly destroying it. But that would be too simplistic an explanation for the diabetes epidemic. Due to our hectic, stressful lifestyles, it’s often challenging to prepare and indulge in homecooked meals, where one could at least regulate the amount of sugar, salt and fats, whatever race you are. Still, most of us don’t eat hawker food every day, we tend to go for variety across all cuisines, and articles like these also tend to avoid mentioning fast food for some mysterious reason. I would want to know if eating 1 Mcflurry is worse than a chendol, for example.  Of if a chicken chop at the ‘western’ stall is a healthier option than Spicy McChicken.

But if you’re talking about Chinese food being healthier than Malay/Indian food, here’s a quick rundown with a few shockers. References here , here and here.

  1. If you’re choosing between beef rendang and char kway teow, you could have 2 servings of the former and still take in less calories than the mother of all fatty foods. (312 vs 744 kcal)
  2. Roti prata vs Ang Ku Kueh? The Indian breakfast wins – minus curry I suppose (209 vs 240kcal)
  3. Goreng Pisang or Tau Huay? Of course the deep-fried banana anytime. (197 vs 317 kcal)
  4. Cantonese pork porridge with century egg has more cholesterol than mee rebus (370 vs 206g)
  5. Bak Chor Mee has more total fat than Mee Goreng ( 22.7 vs 20.4g )

Being accused of  gastro-racism aside, the fact of which race is more diabetic compared to the rest seems as clear as day, but putting the blame on some generic heritage foods alone without an assessment of other lifestyle habits may mislead some into preferring the wrong foods as ‘healthier’ alternatives, without controlling for hidden carbs/fat/salt in beverages or condiments. Further, just because something has less calories doesn’t mean it has more ‘nutritional value’. Take carrot cake vs nasi lemak as a single meal for example, the latter packed with more essential nutrients and fibre if you include fish, cucumber and egg. If we take this obsession with calorie counting and sugar content too far, we may neglect our B and C vitamins, calciums and omega-3s.

The adage ‘eat in moderation’ never seemed to cut it with me, perhaps ‘Eat Less, Move More, Occasional Treat, Screw Macs’ may be a personal mantra that could work in the long run.

Maki Kita means ‘curse us’ in Malay

From ‘Sushi chain Maki San apologises for making a mistake with name of National Day themed rolls’ 6 Aug 2017, article by Fabian Koh, ST

Puns can be creative and hilarious, but puns can also go so wrong. Local sushi chain Maki-San launched a special chicken char siew sushi roll for Singapore’s 52nd birthday, calling it the Maki Kita.

The name is a play on the lyrics of Singapore’s National Anthem, in which the first two words are “Mari kita”. In a Facebook post on Friday (Aug 4) afternoon, the chain explained that the name aimed to reflect “the cheeky and playful side” of the company, and means “Our sushi”.

Unfortunately for them, in Malay, while “kita” refers to “us” or “me”, “maki” means to curse or insult.

Thus, the name Maki Kita essentially means “Curse us”.

The sushi chain acknowledged the kerfuffle and announced in another Facebook post that night, just seven hours later, that it was changing the name to Harmony Maki.

If there’s any consolation, this is not the worst pun to pull off when it comes to promoting limited-edition culinary creations. In 2015, Breadtalk made a grave mistake with its commemorative LKY bun following his passing. While naming a pastry over a dead person was in poor taste, the Maki Kita appears to be an honest, but unfortunate, screw-up (Incidentally, Makikita also translates in Tagalog to ‘You’, though using that as a defence would probably backfire horribly as well).

Whether it’s getting hopelessly lost in translation or bastardising our food heritage, everyone seems to be jumping on the SG52 bandwagon, from pandan souffles to salted egg yolk panna cottas. Unlike McD’s Nasi Lemak Burger, there’s nothing distinctively ‘local’ about the renamed ‘Harmony Sushi’, unless we can claim ‘chicken char siew’ as a Singaporean delicacy (The other ingredients are egg, cucumber, fried shallots and coriander mayonnaise)

Tricky names aside, at least this brainchild of 4 Spectra secondary school students doesn’t strike one as an overdecorated, pompous travesty. Check out the ‘atas-trophe’ that is the ‘Satay’ : a ‘skewer of roasted Japanese eel, king prawn and squid served with a peanut-based sauce’ from French diner Saint Pierre.  Part of a $248 set that includes Nasi Lemak with goddamn King Crab, this is one luxurious starter that not all Singaporeans can afford. Or if you want something slightly less pricey, dig into Jamie’s Italian’s version of Chicken & Rice ($19.65).

Sometimes you just gotta call a risotto a risotto. And it’d rather have cucumber slices than some half-arsed broccoli. If you see any local delight corrupted by the word ‘infused’, take your money and run far, far away.

 

In the spirit of ‘maki kati’, I have a suggestion for a novelty dish that every Singaporean can enjoy. Fishball Meesua in Laksa broth. Or F.M.L.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Li Shengwu surprised that Government is so petty

From ‘Li Shengwu surprised that Facebook post on Singapore court system enough to trigger AGC response’, 17 July 2017, article in ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (July 17) it is looking into a recent Facebook post put up by Mr Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a private post, which was uploaded on Saturday, Mr Li, 32, shared a Wall Street Journal article on the recent Oxley Road dispute, titled “Singapore, a model of orderly rule, is jolted by a bitter family feud”.

He also commented on Singapore’s court system.

The AGC said in a brief statement on Monday morning that it is aware of Mr Li’s post and is looking into the matter.

In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon responding to AGC’s statement, Mr Li said he was “somewhat surprised” that his last post – which was shared on “friends only” privacy settings – was enough to trigger a response.

He added: “I’m surprised that the Singapore government is so petty. Would they also like to trawl my private Facebook feed for seditious vacation photos?”

In the offending post, Li Shengwu, a Harvard academic, shared his thoughts on media censorship, as a side note to a linked article summarising he Oxley ‘political crisis’.

Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.

We all also keep in mind, of course, that Shengwu is PM Lee’s nephew, and PM Lee has declared in public that he would not take legal action against another member of the Lee family as it would besmirch LKY’s name. But that wouldn’t stop the AGC from calling this being in ‘contempt of court’.

Or would it?

This could well be a post-Oxley Catch-22. AGC has taken to task people like cartoonist Leslie Chew and rogue political activist Han Hui Hui.  We should expect them to demand that the offender issue a statement of apology, or least remove the post from the face of the earth. But this is – dun-dun-dunnn – PM Lee’s own flesh and blood.

Incidentally, one possible reason why international media tends to be cautious about commentaries on Singapore’s elite is they may get ‘sued until their pants drop’. Which is what both Shengwu’s uncle and – guess who – late grandfather LKY did when they were accused of running a dynasty by the Herald Tribune. Now that alleged dynasty has been dramatically torn apart.

Shengwu is a grown man and doesn’t need daddy to tell him what not to post on Facebook, even if it’s in ‘private’ setting. He’s also been described as ‘Oxford’s finest debater‘, having won Best Speaker at a World Debating Championship. It’s interesting to see how being a world-renown master debater can get you out of a tangle with the all-powerful AGC. I wonder how ‘seditious’ those vacation photos could be, though. Did he pose with kangaroos in Oz with ‘sensitive captions’?

Maybe Dad and Aunt Lee Wei Ling are drafting their Facebook notes as we speak. It’s Game of Thrones week, but save some popcorn for this one.

UPDATE: Lee Wei Ling just described this ‘petty’ incident as a case of ‘Big Brother’ syndrome and suggested that there’s a FB police monitoring the Lee siblings’ posts, even infiltrating privacy settings. It’s more likely attributed to the very nature of social media itself, rather than a Government hack charming his way into Shengwu’s circle of friends.

No doubt her big brother is watching this intently. Like a pesky cockroach that refuses to die.

 

 

 

No Chinese on NTUC Foodcourt signboards

From ‘Lack of bilingual signs a wrong move’, 8 July 2017, Voices, Today

I am appalled at the removal of Chinese language on signboards at NTUC Foodfare’s food court in Block 303, Choa Chua Kang Avenue 4 after its facelift.

Many elderly patrons were perplexed on the first day of its recent reopening and had asked staff at the counters to translate the menus before they placed an order.

This oversight is detrimental to Singapore’s efforts to foster a bilingual environment against a backdrop of today’s younger generation being increasingly unable to master their mother tongue.

I hope that Foodfare could at least use Chinese on signboards in its locations where many of the residents are elderly, for their reference.

No, making signboards bilingual will not train our mother tongue. If I want to order Rojak from a foodcourt stall, I’ll look for ‘Rojak’ and not 罗惹.  I’ll also never use the Chinese translation of rojak in everyday speech. Nor will I say the words 豪大大鸡排 (hao da da ji pai) out loud without feeling slightly uncomfortable.

Has the writer even taken a look at signboards of MRT station names? Buona Vista, for example, translates to Many Beautiful Songs. Is that how we want our children to pick up Chinese? What if I want my kid to learn Malay? Is he fated to eat Nasi Padang for the rest of his life?

Removing Chinese from menus may well be a smart business decision, simply because not ALL our elderly are Chinese as the writer presumes. It may confuse non-Chinese speakers, or even turn some off altogether, like this writer who felt left out because the electronic signboard at the Arrival Hall in Changi Airport that welcomes Singaporeans home lacks Malay and Tamil translations.

Yet, at the same time, you can’t afford to have all 4 languages to describe something like mixed economic rice. It’s like watching a movie with 3 sets of subtitles. For reasons known only to civil aviation authorities, airport signboards directing human traffic are selective in the languages used. If you’ve travelled enough, you’ll wonder why signs only have English and French, others English and Korean/German/Chinese etc. If all is to be fair in this world, we should have signs in EVERY KNOWN LANGUAGE on this godforsaken planet.

There’s a more practical reason for avoiding excessive translations of signs – The tendency for the people in charge to screw things up, like insert a curse word in the Tamil version Lau Pa Sat, or make you squirm in embarrassment at the Chinese translation of Bras Basah. 

Also, this image below is exactly why we should leave Chinese-only signboards in the Geylang eateries the hell alone.