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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAG Hri Kumar ‘hitting below the belt’

From ‘Tan Cheng Bock hits out at Hri Kumar for ‘highly inflammatory comments’ over EP challenge’, 8 July 2017, article by Faris Mokhtar, Today

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has slammed Deputy Attorney-General (AG) Hri Kumar Nair over remarks in the latter’s court submissions against Dr Tan’s legal challenge on the coming reserved Presidential Election, calling them “hitting below the belt” and  “highly inflammatory”.

Dr Tan’s challenge was thrown out by the courts on Friday (July 7), with Mr Nair — who was representing the Attorney-General’s Chambers — describing Dr Tan’s case as “entirely self-serving“, “purely selfish”, and having “no regard for the principle of multiracial representation” 

Writing on Facebook, Dr Tan, who was not present in court when the ruling was delivered in chambers, said Mr Nair had encroached into “dangerous racial politics” with his words.

Dr Tan pointed out that as a public servant and a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Nair “should not have made such a statement”. Mr Nair was a two-term MP who stepped down in 2015, before he was appointed as Deputy AG in March this year.

“This case is not about race. It is about process and procedures. It is about upholding the Constitution. Let’s keep it that way,” said Dr Tan, who is also a former PAP MP.

On the appointment of Hri Kumar as DAG, peers heaped nothing but praise for the ex-PAP MP. Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said he was the ‘best among the best’. The Law Society president describes him as ‘incisive, diligent, fair-minded and yet for all his intellectual rigour, affable to a fault.’ Surely this can’t be someone capable of ‘hitting you below the belt’, a term usually thrown at opposition MPs, or even PAP MPs for that matter?

Blunt personal attacks may be tolerated if you were still an MP, but as a High Court judge, it seems rather unprofessional. It may be called the ‘Chambers’, but surely there is no room for mud-slinging or shit-dredging here.  You can easily be in contempt of court for the slightest insult, but that doesn’t mean the court should treat you with contempt, especially if you’re a past President-elect.

TCB didn’t charge into this fight unarmed of course, having sought advice from Queen’s Counsel lawyer Lord Pannick who opined that Section 22 of the President Elections (Amendment) Act 2017 was unconstitutional. Section 22 is basically a roster of mostly dead presidents and what race they were. It’s strange, though, to say a President ‘belongs’ to a specific community when he, the PRESIDENT, belongs to all peoples, regardless of race, language or religion.  Also, one people, one nation, one Singapore. Never forget.

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To sum up the whole argument, TCB contends that Ong Teng Cheong should be the first elected President. The law says it should be Wee Kim Wee because although he wasn’t elected per se, he acted like one. Hence if you use your fingers to count five terms based on the hiatus-triggered model, the next President should be a long-overdue Malay one. Take that, Lord Pannick! Take that, Her Majesty!

Incidentally, DAG Hri was appointed by President Tony Tan (another ex-PAP man), ‘under the advice’ of PM Lee Hsien Loong.  He joins Lucien Wong  (PM’s previous personal lawyer and now AG) to oversee the laws of the land. The Government has full confidence that their links with the PAP (and ex-boss) has no bearing on their duty to uphold our ‘rule of law’ whatsoever. Why? Because they say so, that’s why. Justice is blind, and so are we.

There’s a scary resonance with the recent Oxley saga here – people quarrelling over dead men’s bodies. In LKY’s case, his residence. In this case, their claim to being an ‘elected president’. We already have one ex-leader coming to haunt us this Seventh Month, let’s not add 2 more ghosts to the list.

 

 

Lee siblings not invited to Lee reunion dinner

From ‘Lee siblings welcome PM’s offer to settle dispute in private’, 6 July 2017, article in Today

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings said on Thursday (July 6) they welcome his offer to manage their disagreement away from the public eye, and they would stop posting on social media “provided that we and our father’s wish are not attacked or misrepresented”.

Two days after the parliamentary debates earlier this week over their allegations that saw 29 Members of Parliament speak about the issues, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling released a seven-page public statement on Facebook putting forth the background to the dispute and their reasons for going public.

…They claimed that PM Lee quarrelled with them on April 12, 2015, the day their father founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s will was read. And he had allegedly not spoken to them since.

They also added that PM Lee was the first to invoke lawyers, a move that “gobsmacked” them since they were “were siblings discussing (their) fathers’ house”.

Shortly after he wrote to them that he had hired Mr Lucien Wong to deal with the situation and asked them for their lawyers, all direct communication ceased. They added that the first Chinese New Year reunion dinner following Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, all relatives were invited except them.

The younger Lees may have decided to take their beef with PM Lee offline, but they couldn’t resist one final parting shot, one that exposes the pettiness of our leader. I’m not sure what’s worse, suing your own flesh and blood for defamation, or not inviting them for reunion dinner. If there’s anything Ah Gong and Ah Ma would have wanted, it would be the family getting together at least for Chinese New Year.

LWL/LHY also accused big brother of having two faces – but then again which politician doesn’t? One moment our PM channels a seminal moment in LKY’s march to independence and opens the floodgates in front of national TV, the next we hear of him refusing to speak to his own siblings except through a lawyer. And we continue to trust the same man and all his flaws to steer this ship through stormy waters.

While it looks like this ‘Korean drama’ has reached its uneasy epilogue, with the PM resorting to making a public apology and all, what’s intriguing to me about this saga is not so much the lies, deception, hypocrisy, apple-polishing and political charades, but the choice words coming from the mouths of all dragged into this CIRQUE DU SO-LEE.

Here’s a look back at ‘The Best (words) of Oxley’, and how they can be used in everyday speech:

  1. ORGANS OF STATE
    ‘Do not question the authority of the Government or face the wrath of the organs of state!’
  2. RECUSE
    ‘I recuse myself from this Whatsapp chat group’
  3. DOGSBODY
    ‘I spent the whole weekend doing dogsbody work for my best friend’s wedding’
  4. GOBSMACKED
    ‘Your dad went to Pink Dot? I’m gobsmacked!’
  5. WHITEWASH
    ‘I would have read Men in White if it wasn’t so whitewashed’
  6. ORWELLIAN
    ‘Ownself defend ownself is so Orwellian’
  7. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
    ‘I have shares in Pfizer so I’m not participating in the generic Viagra trial on erectile dysfunction due to conflict of interest’
  8. PARTY WHIP
    ‘Please don’t forget to bring the party whip at the next BDSM teadance’ 
  9. MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE
    ‘Let’s set up a ministerial committee to discuss the terms of reference for ministerial committees’
  10. BESMIRCH
    ‘You besmirch my father’s honour by casting Adrian Pang as him in that movie’

‘For what it’s worth’, I guess what we can take away from this episode is one, the Lee family is human after all, and two, journalists who cover angry exchanges over Facebook have the easiest job in the world. It also sets an awkward precedent for other public figures with relatives dying to expose them but afraid of getting ‘sued still their pants drop’.

May the Lee clan have a peaceful Seventh Month this year.

 

Singapore behaving like a small state

From ‘Minister Shanmugam backs Bilahari’s brilliant response to Kishore’s article on small states’, 2 July 2017, article in CNA

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has weighed in on differences about foreign policy ideas between Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan and dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Kishore Mahbubani.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (Jul 2), Mr Shanmugam, who used to be Minister for Foreign Affairs, said he found Professor Mahbubani’s piece on foreign policy “questionable, intellectually” and commended Mr Kausikan for a “brilliant response”.

…In his Facebook post commenting on the article, Mr Kausikan took issue with the first lesson mentioned by Professor Mahbubani in his article: “Small states must always behave like small states”.

The Ambassador-at-Large described the statement as “muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous”.

In Kishore’s original article, he quoted the great Thucydides to back up his ‘eternal rule of geopolitics’ that small states should know their place, specifically – ‘..the strong do what they can, while the weak suffer what they must’. The context for this was the ‘Melian dialogue’, which is basically a powerful nation (Athenians) threatening to annex the island state of Melos (a colony of Sparta). 

Melos resisted initially after attempts to appeal to Athens’ higher sense of morality but were eventually destroyed. But what’s curious about this is not Darwinian logic passing for political truth, but that the passage by Thucydides was ultimately a ‘dramatisation’ of the negotiations between the mismatched states and may not have happened in reality. For anyone else not familiar with Greek wars, using Sparta may not be the best example to justify capitulation as pragmatism and prudence if you’re a little red dot. Because This is fucking Sparta that’s why.

Of course, one can also quote from another ancient text to counter the political law of the jungle. It’s called David and Goliath. It’s even the name of a Malcolm Gladwell bestseller. Times have changed since; we don’t throw spears at each other. We don’t pillage and rape other peoples’ women. We don’t lay siege with catapults and battering rams. These days, for one small country to bring a bigger one to its knees you don’t need a physical army. You just need one really brilliant hacker, or a megalomaniac on a small deserted island with a doomsday machine.

Or maybe just one Lee Kuan Yew. Here’s another passage from Kishore’s article, which suggests that our current leadership can no longer stand toe to toe with the powers that be.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew never acted as a leader of a small state. He would comment openly and liberally on great powers, including America and Russia, China and India. However, he had earned the right to do so because the great powers treated him with great respect as a global statesman. We are now in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era. Sadly, we will probably never again have another globally respected statesman like Mr Lee. As a result, we should change our behaviour significantly.

Owwwch. Once a barking terrier in a big arena, now a puppy cowering in the corner with its tail between its legs. Or in Bilahari’s exact words – a tame poodle.

What’s a small state to do? According to Kishore, the key is ‘exercising discretion’. Every small state is small in its own way, big in others, and I would like him to cite an example of the WIMPY KID of small states, the one that sneaks out of the back door when the house burns to the ground. The state that exemplifies the saying ‘discretion is the better part of valour’.

Maybe the real takeaway from his piece is that Singapore should not overstep its boundaries and refrain from interfering with bigger shit beyond us. He used the South China Sea as an example, but at the same time advocated that statelings like ours should adopt a ‘Machiaveillian’ approach in order to survive, a philosophy straight out of the LKY/Goh Keng Swee/Rajaratnam school of thought. You could say ‘Machiaveillian’ is how LKY treated his political rivals, pushed through his population policies, or how he wanted the Oxley Road house handled after his death (But that’s for a certain Parliamentary debate to mull over). A small Machiavelli is pretty much how I would describe Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

The Terrex incident is still fresh in our minds, with China being the perennial big brother trying to bully little Singapore out of the last piece of candy. Bilahari and Shanmugam preferred to view the commentary not as a reality check, but one that downplays Singapore’s prowess in the international stage, where we’re traditionally seen as ‘no pushovers’ despite our size. We do what we think is right despite global pressure or mockery. We didn’t give in to the US when Michael Fay was caned for vandalism. We didn’t give a fuck when we banned the import of chewing gum. We also hate the word ‘Syonan’ because WE ARE SINGAPORE, dammit!

An article which hints at selectively kowtowing to greater powers being the best policy may be construed as a slap in the face of the Singapore that Lee Kuan Yew built, a small nation with big-ass balls, but with the side effect of becoming a nation still struggling to move on from the former elder statesman’s influence, to the point that quarrels over his private knick-knacks have become a matter of intense national interest.

Kishore closed the ‘small states’ discussion with an analogy from the animal kingdom.

In the jungle, no small animal would stand in front of a charging elephant, no matter who has the right of way, so long as the elephant is not charging over the small animal’s home territory.

Well, not if we’re a mouse though.

 

 

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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Lee family Oxley saga a ‘petty dispute’

From ‘Singapore will not be dragged down by Lee family’s ‘petty disputes’, says Goh Chok Tong’, 17 June 2017, Today

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Friday (June 16) weighed in on the Lee family spat over 38 Oxley Road, by urging Singaporeans to “not be dragged down by a family’s petty disputes”.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Goh noted that Singapore has “prevailed through crises and adversity”. “We are a hardy people, built our family and nation from humble beginnings,” he wrote.

Mr Goh succeeded founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1990 and handed over the baton to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2004. He added: “What is happening in public between Lee Kuan Yew’s children is not us and should not be allowed to define who we are. We are bigger than our troubles, stronger than our differences. Whatever damage Singapore may suffer, willfully inflicted or otherwise, I know Singaporeans will not lay meek… We will always look forward, to fight real battles and create a better future for ourselves and our children.”

Yes, most Singaporeans we know have humble beginnings – relative to the Lees, that is. We don’t have an army of lawyers to draft our public statements. We can’t afford to have a sister-in-law or cousin to draft a high-profile will for a dying strongman father. Our kids can grow up to do their own thing without getting dragged through the mud by our aunties and uncles with claims that Dad has political ambitions for them. The only holiday we know is the one where you can chill in peace without someone Facebook posting viral shit about you at 3 am in the morning.

To most of us, a petty family dispute is when second brother forgets to message that he’s eating dinner, Mom overcooks and Dad complains why the fish was steamed instead of being deep fried, while youngest sister threatens to walk out of the house because second brother gets to iPad while she doesn’t. To our overlords, it involves National Heritage, personal integrity on a much grander scale, sung to the tune to $24 million dollars. And in the case of a a certain Lee couple, being forced to leave the country in fear of ‘state organs’. It also gives Chinese microbloggers a chance to laugh at us.

Yes, it’s an ugly state of affairs which may or may not have an impact on our everyday lives. Government will remain Government, as darkly Orwellian as the PM’s estranged brother believes it to be. Lee Wei Ling will continue to bitch about her brother being a ‘dishonourable’ son. Eventually, whether or not a certain Demolition clause is enacted, the Oxley house and all the lawyers behind it will go to dust, just as the Lees along with all of us, this land, this country, would fade into nothing, leaving a mere insignificant blip in this vast cosmic eternity that is bigger than any of us, including LKY, could ever imagine.

 

 

 

ASAS does not want Pink Dot to ‘support the freedom to love’

From ‘Advertising watchdog asks Cathay to remove phrase in Pink Dot ad’, 9 July 2017, article in CNA

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) has advised Cathay Organisation to remove a phrase in an advertisement at Cathay Cineleisure mall promoting an upcoming Pink Dot event.

The phrase in question reads: “Supporting the freedom to love.” In a statement on Friday (Jun 9), ASAS said this “may affect public sensitivities due to the issues at hand”.

“The rest of the advertisement may otherwise remain,” said the advertising watchdog, noting that “the Pink Dot advertisement at Cineleisure technically does not breach the general principle on family values in the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice”.

…The ad – which went up on an escalator at the mall on May 31 – drew complaints from people in the “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” Facebook group, who are opposed to the annual rally held in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

‘Freedom’ and ‘love’ are two words in the English language that inspire fierce, positive emotions, among other provocative words like ‘home’, ‘God’ and ‘bacon’. But link them together and colour the phrase pink and you start to rile the censors. This coming from the same folks who intervened when a casual diner featured barenaked butts on its advertisements. Just when you thought they only clamp down on bra ads at bus stops or objects that look like vaginas. Suddenly, the freedom to love is no longer a natural human trait, but an unwelcome disease.

‘Free love’ means a different thing entirely, of course, implying mass orgies and promiscuity. So I’m not sure if ASAS is mistaking one term for the other. Those on the side of the Church complain that loving another of the same sex defiles the marriage ‘covenant’ in the Bible. Yet they keep silent on the ‘freedom’ of paedophile priests to ‘love’ their altar boys. Or the freedom to love more than one woman at a time, enough to engage in mistress-stashing, or better still, polygamy.

Not that removing a single phrase makes any difference to the anti Pink Dot lynch mob. These guys would freak out if they so much as see a pink car, a rainbow cake, or a goddamn flamingo. Now if they see a Milo Van round the corner they would immediately think of Pink Dot ambassador Nathan Hortono, incite their brethren to spit out the nourishing chocolatey drink before it turns them to barstool-humping pink-tongued homosexuals.

If someone from the WAAPD clan decides to scrawl the word ‘faggot’ on the banner, would it get the same heat as someone writing ‘terrorist’ next to a cartoon lady wearing a hijab? Cheer a vandal for homophobic slurring and you get off scot-free. Do the same publicly for a racist and you would expect a late night visit from the police, in addition to a nationwide ‘anyhow-hantam’ witchhunt leaving a trail of companies denying on Facebook that you were ever their employee.