NAC Bin Centre costing $470K, mostly on consultation

From ‘Inadequate financial controls, weak governance uncovered in AGO report’, 26 July 2016, article in CNA

…For instance, in the audit of the National Arts Council (NAC), the Auditor-General found from its checks of contracts for the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall Redevelopment project that 47 out of 164 variation works were carried out before approvals were given. The delays in obtaining approval were up to 3.5 years, it added.

“The large number of instances indicated a breakdown in the controls put in place to ensure that variations were properly justified and approved before works commenced,” it added.

AGO also found that NAC had paid a consultancy fee of S$410,000 for the construction of a bin centre costing S$470,000. “There was inadequate assessment on the reasonableness of the exceptionally high consultancy fee, at 87.2 per cent of the cost of construction,” it said.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) had told AGO that the construction of the bin centre was more complex and required significantly more design expertise, technical consultancy services and effort to coordinate with multiple parties and these were the reasons for the fee to be above the norm.

The NAC Bin Centre is the EC of all bin centres. To foreign workers who’ve been found living in HDB bin centres, or more commonly known as ‘rubbish dumps’, the NACBC is the pinnacle of refuse repository luxury. For near half a million, you get a classical design, odour control, maybe even air-conditioning and wi-fi. Right in the heart of the Civic District too.

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Imagine how much $40K could do for the arts scene, or local graphic novels like The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Instead of channeling resources into promoting a vibrant local culture, the NAC decided to focus their energies into making a rubbish collection centre ‘blend in’ with the help of some overpaid consultants, and in doing so have unwittingly made the NAC Bin centre a star attraction, as Instagrammable as the departed Punggol lone tree. Soon it’ll make it into the TripAdvisor Top Things to See List, favorited by those with a morbid fascination with the logistics of rubbish. Step aside, Supreme Court Jail Cell, this is next big thing to hit the Civic District since thousands queued for hours to see a dead politician’s body.

We’ll never look at bin centres the same way again. NAC has taken the humble bin centre from its smelly eyesore roots, pumped in an extreme makeover and created an icon for architecture junkies everywhere. Some foresight may have gone into this; you never know when one can repurpose a lowly bin centre into a hipster cafe, or even a RC meeting room. Yes, versatility is built into its price tag. One day it’s piling trash, the next it’s selling profiteroles or artisan hot dogs. For those who see utility out of having a deserted train station, a 1 billion dollar artificial Gardens, a giant spinning wheel or high-end sandy turf inside the Sports Hub, this $40K is worth every peanut – I mean penny.

Foreign entities banned from sponsoring ‘sensitive’ events

From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum

(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.

LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.

Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn.  Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.

And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.

The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?

MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.

No actual hawkers in Hawker centre 3.0 committee

From ‘Hawkers’ views must be central to review’, 16 April 2016, ST Forum

(Kwan Jin Yao):Wednesday’s report noted that the new 14-member committee set up to keep Singapore’s hawker culture strong is made up of people from the private and public sectors, including food enthusiasts and representatives from the educational institutions (“Serving up help for hawkers and better hawker centres“).

Actual hawkers or even those who work in hawker centres seem to be glaringly missing. Given the fact that the median age of cooked-food hawkers is 59, it would also make sense to include people from different age groups in the committee.

…Soliciting and aggregating the perspectives of hawkers across locality and demographics should, therefore, be central to the review.

Above all, a discourse over costs is necessary. We need to find out how cooked-food hawkers manage overheads, manpower and ingredient expenses; how costs and remuneration may deter young Singaporeans from entering the industry; and how hawkers may have struggled in recent years.

A conversation must also be had about the unfair disparity between hawker centres and other dining establishments, especially when much fuss is kicked up when the former raises prices, but not when the latter does the same.

Enough has been said about how hawker culture is a cornerstone of the Singaporean identity. Attempts to glam it up on the international stage by sending hawkers for Singapore Days overseas and getting celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey to come here and cook laksa have made Singaporeans proud of their food heritage. A committee seems like a really boring way to keep the trade enticing to Singaporeans, especially those who have decided that they don’t want a typical bread-and-butter career and are brave enough to pursue a passion for hawking instead. Once used as a threat to kids who don’t study hard, we have moved away from the ‘roadsweeper/toilet cleaner/street hawker if you fail exams’ stigma and have come to accept young professionals taking up what kiasu parents once called ‘dirty jobs’.

If you were to pick a hawker of your choice to be a member of this cadre, who would you choose? Someone from the mixed economic rice scene? Or a niche Hokkien Mee specialist? How would you ensure that the candidate is not working purely out of self-interest when making recommendations? If the committee decides that all Hokkien Mee sellers should cut down on pork lard, how would that allow me to make an objective decision? Don’t get me wrong, I love hawker food. But I’d rather they be out there running their stalls and spending time with their loved ones after 12 hours of backbreaking work than sit behind a table arguing with people who don’t know the nuts and bolts of the business. Let’s see, there’s a famous food blogger, some director from the NHB and bizarrely, the Editor at Large of SPH. What is he going to do, I wonder. Change ‘Mixed Economic Rice’ to something that sounds more palatable?

Hawker or no hawker, the committee should aim towards long-term sustenance, and that goes beyond hawker centre infrastructure alone. Urging hawkers’ children to take over the stall runs counter to our relentless pursuit of excellence. Even the 2014 Hawker Master Trainer Pilot Programme designed to equip aspirants with the necessary skills didn’t work out well for NEA and WDA. The legacy problem aside, you can also trust ‘the powers that be’ to dash your hawker dreams, like what they did to aspiring fishball mee seller Douglas Ng. But an even more palpable conflict of a national level is that the Minister of Health has recently set up a task-force that has sworn balls-out WAR ON DIABETES.

According to one expert, the rise in obesity, a known risk factor for diabetes among other chronic diseases, is because of our ‘cheap food’ and sedentary lifestyle (Obesity also rising in Singapore, 2 Apr 2016, ST). So on one hand, we’re supposed to embrace our hawker culture, on the other we have the anti-diabetes army telling us to eat more brown rice, fish and broccoli, and less char kuay teow. Experience has taught us that you can’t marry the two. A healthy laksa doesn’t exist. If you see a ‘healthy pyramid’ logo on a stall it will be perceived that the food will probably taste like embalmed mummy meat. I believe even some members of the Hawker 3.0 committee secretly swear by the magic umami orgasm that is pork lard. Not sure how far Minister Gan is willing to go when it comes to managing our dietary habits. Maybe the banning commercials of unhealthy food may finally come to pass after years of MOH twiddling thumbs over it.

We can only pray hard that our ‘cheap food’ doesn’t become the first casualty of this diabetes war. If you want to drop the bomb on unhealthy fare, perhaps the overrated Korean fried chicken/bingsoo scene would be a good place to start.

All bicycles need to be regulated

From ‘All bicycles, not just electric ones, need to be regulated’, 26 Nov 2015, Voices, Today

(Alfred Lim): I support the suggestions in the letter “Greater regulation needed for electric bicycles, riders” (Nov 24). I would state further that every means of transport used on the roads, including regular bicycles, should be regulated. The growth in bicycle usage is unprecedented. Since the cost of motorcycle Certificates of Entitlement (COE) went up substantially, many have switched to bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise.

In land-scarce Singapore, car and motorcycle ownership is regulated in part by the COE system: There is a limit on the number allowed. Cars and motorcycles are required to be tested and insured, and are subject to ownership and usage laws. However, few regulations apply to bicycles, which were once few in number and hardly infringed on other road users’ rights. But this is no longer so. To be fair to all, the cost of bicycle usage cannot be zero or negligible.

Cyclists are not required to pass any test, which perhaps explains the unsafe behaviour seen regularly when they speed at pedestrian crossings, ignore the red light and disregard traffic laws. Being unregistered, they are rarely caught.

Bicycles require other road users to keep a safe distance; one occupies as much space on the roads as a motorcycle. They can cause accidents; hence, insurance is necessary.

Bicycles were once slow and cumbersome, but the new, lighter ones are capable of speeds nearing 50km an hour. Accidents could prove injurious to riders and other road users.

It is time to revisit the premise that we need not regulate bicycle ownership and usage. Accountability and regulation in this regard would be to the benefit and protection of all road users and pedestrians.

The call to issue licences to anyone who owns a bicycle is a case of backpedalling into the early 20th century, a time when bicycles were ‘slow and cumbersome’ and yet it was still dangerous to cycle one-handed while doffing your hat when a lady walks by.

In 1933, such measures were lauded as revenue-generating for the Government, in addition to deterring theft. Licensing did eventually come into play in 1936, with nearly 100,000 bikes being registered with the authority, and naturally, the Government took credit for  the subsequent reduction in traffic offences. I’m not sure if baby tricycles were spared, and whether it was your civic duty to report to the Police if you caught someone’s kid on an unauthorised vehicle blazing down the pavement without having to pass any sort of ‘test’ whatsoever.

In 1981, the Registry of Vehicles decided to scrap bicycle registration as they thought it was no longer sustainable to continue producing number plates and that it involved too much paperwork. The fee then was a measly $5. The very thought of applying for a licence for bicycle-riding today would turn many budding riders off, even if the fee is in the low double-digits. All this runs contrary to our vision of a cyclist-friendly nation. If roads do eventually appear to be safer following bicycle registration, it could merely mean that there are less cyclists on the streets, not because errant cyclists suddenly begin behaving more responsibly. You could register your killer pitbull with AVA, but if you don’t leash him in public there’s still the risk that it would bite someone’s face off.

Perhaps we should be thankful, for now, that the Government doesn’t already mandate bicycles to install ERP gantry readers. ‘To be fair to all’, as the writer suggests, maybe it’s not just cyclists who need to ‘pay’ for running riot on our streets. How about that oblivious jogger with earphones on, or those trolley-pushing cardboard collecting aunties? Or the uncle on a motorised wheelchair? Not every nail that sticks out needs to be hammered down.

The blunt instrument of regulation is not the answer to harmonious commuting. For cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to get around seamlessly requires creative rejigging of the current infrastructure given our space constraints. It requires smart policies coupled with enforcement, not slapping on another bureaucratic hoop that echoes the days when Mamasans rode around in trishaws.

NEA not providing the public with hourly PSI readings

From ‘Hourly PSI readings would allow for better decision-making’, 28 Sep 15, Voices, Today

(Tan Zhi Rui): Amid the annual haze, I would like to again strongly make the case for the National Environment Agency (NEA) to provide hourly Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings instead of three-hour averages.

Singapore is a small country and a slight shift in prevailing winds can cause sudden significant changes in air quality. With a three-hour-average PSI, lower PSI levels for the earlier two hours can lower the reading when the haze has already reached a hazardous level in the third hour.

The NEA’s FAQs on PSI webpage states that its health advisory is based on the 24-hour PSI as it is a “better reflection of the total exposure”, and health effects have been mostly studied based on this measure. In comparison, the three-hour PSI is only “an indicative measure” that the public may use “to make adjustments to their daily activities if they wish to do so”.

I understand that public health planning is more effectively done on a daily, 24-hour basis. However, logically and given a choice, most people would refer to a shorter time frame to avoid exposure to the worst hours of the haze.

While the use of three-hour averages may moderate PSI readings and prevent undue panic, it is irresponsible not to provide a more accurate hourly measure for Singaporeans to protect themselves, especially when the NEA has the data.

This is particularly incongruous given that the hourly PM2.5 readings are available on the NEA website, which are equally “highly variable when the wind drives smoke haze from place to place” as stated by the NEA.

In NEA director Fong Peng Keong’s response, he cited ‘insufficient evidence’ from recent studies of sub-daily or shorter PM2.5 exposure for the ‘development of a 1-hour PSI based on exposure to PM2.5 for a 1 hour period’. In 2013, Minister Grace Fu urged the public  to pay more attention to the 24 hour reading instead of the fluctuating 3-hourly average. Ng Eng Hen said giving 3 separate readings would ‘confuse’ the public. You’re talking about people who’re accustomed to dealing with all sorts of national health coverage schemes. So nope, we won’t be ‘confused’. We’re a smart nation. We voted the PAP back into power, for God’s sake.

The Government’s argument is that 24 hour readings are ‘backed by long-term epidemiological studies’, and are internationally accepted methods of assessing the health impact of air quality, but doesn’t explain whether these studies take into account tiny nations like ours when the 3 hour average can fluctuate from low 200’s in the afternoon and drop to 80 by late evening (like yesterday 3 Oct 2015, for example).

There was a time in 2006 when the NEA didn’t even promote 3 hourly readings, citing ‘unnecessary alarm‘ if these were published instead of the 24 hour readings. These days, you don’t even need to check the actual PSI to get ‘alarmed’ by the haze. Simply looking out of the window and taking a sniff would do (though the NEA later clarified that low visibility may not mean a high PSI). Or you could check out this ‘no bullshit PSI readings’ website if you really want to know what the one-hourly PSI is. But honestly, aside from statisticians and academics, how many of us actually care about the 24-hour PSI? Since 2006, we’ve complained that it has no practical use, and only serves as ‘post-mortem’ data for the good folks at NEA to crunch before the next haze comes around. It’s probably as useful a gauge as today’s weather if you’re wondering whether to bring the brolly out tomorrow. Even if you had exposed yourself to what’s considered a ‘very unhealthy’ 24 hour PSI for just one day, nobody will be able to tell you for certain your risk of getting lung or heart disease in 5 years.

There’s no reason why our top scientists in NEA would not be able to derive one-hour PSIs on the back of a napkin. So my guess is that they’re afraid of people overreacting to spot PSI levels and neglecting the supposedly more trustworthy 24 hour ones. Which means panic buying of N95 masks, people suddenly taking an interest in library books (to hide from the haze), conspiracy theories about cloud-seeding or hoaxers sending mass SMSes about fake holidays and office shutdowns. Oh wait, all that’s already happened, hourly PSI or not.

Amos Yee parody sketch cut from Chestnuts 50 show

From ‘MDA on cuts to Chestnuts 50: script was sent in late’, 20 Sep 15, article by Akshita Nanda, ST

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so “several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case” could not be processed in time. It was responding to writer-director Jonathan Lim’s sketch parody show showing at the Drama Centre Theatre until Sept 27.

Last Friday, the show ended with Lim saying his team was told just hours before the opening show a day earlier to remove about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by the case of teen blogger Amos Yee, or forfeit their arts entertainment licence.

…Speaking to Life, Lim says he was surprised by the reason MDA gave to cut the Yee sketch, since another segment referencing an ongoing court case was passed. The current Chestnuts 50 performance includes a part inspired by the City Harvest mega-church case, where its founder and five others are alleged to have misused church funds.

*Warning: spoilers ahead*

I was fortunate enough to catch Chestnuts’ second performance last Friday. When Jonathan Lim made his announcement near the finale about the last minute change requested by MDA, I wasn’t sure if it was yet another of the many ‘meta’ gags made at the MDA’s expense. It turned out that he was serious and the Amos Yee gag was snipped, which I was looking forward to based on what I saw in their teaser materials online. If MDA had also decided to tone down the fiery ‘bromance’ between LKY and Lim Chin Siong in another major sketch, it would be a case of Chestnuts being ‘roasted on an open fire’, and the only thing left watching would be Jonathan channeling Kit Chan in drag.

According to Lim’s Facebook page, MDA’s reason given then was that it was an ‘ongoing legal case’. As for the City Harvest sketch, the slightest of changes were made to characters’ names, but everything else about the plot was rib-ticklingly obvious. Even Mediacorp’s The Noose managed to get away with mocking Sun Ho’s music career. And they’re probably itching to do an Amos one too, pending MDA’s green light.

The question would be: Legal case, SO WHAT? Has a gag order been imposed like how the AGC told the public to ‘refrain from commenting’ about last year’s Thaipusam incident? Furthermore, it seems a different set of standards apply to social media, where it’s a Amos Yee lampoon free-for-all. Even Amos himself managed to get his Facebook posts updated while he was in remand. Then there’s this Tumblr blog about Amos’ fashion sense.

Not to mention Youtube. Here’s examples of Amos parody videos which MDA apparently decided is OK for general viewing, ongoing legal case or not.

MDA also beat their personal record of late notification. Last year they issued a NC-16 advisory and licence to the Dim Sum Dollies just 3 days before the opening show. In their press release, they said that conducted the script review ‘expeditiously’, claiming that they received the script on 1 Dec 2014, 10 days before opening. Not so lucky for Elangovan’s ‘Stoma’ though, which was banned completely.

To be fair, maybe the MDA is indeed overburdened by regulatory duties, though some would say they brought it upon themselves, having to nanny not just films, radio, plays, video games and books but political videos and ‘sociopolitical’ websites as well. A previous attempt to introduce a ‘self-regulation’ scheme for arts groups to classify their own productions turned out to be an abject failure. So this last-minute censorship and its excuses about late submissions is like the MDA giving the arts community a retaliatory shrug: “We gave you a chance to regulate ‘ownself’ and cut the red tape, but you didn’t want to, so this is what you get’.

Maybe there is still hope for the Amos Yee sketch if Chestnuts decides to launch an exclusive on Youtube instead. The show is otherwise still worth catching without Amos inside. Hopefully this piece of news doesn’t make the ‘gao lak’ experience a ‘gao wei’ one.

LTA mobilising SAF soldiers during MRT breakdowns

From ‘Talk of SAF helping out in rail incidents sparks debate’, 22 Aug 15, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

News that soldiers could be roped in to help out during massive train breakdowns has sparked a debate about whether the military should pitch in during such incidents. Many questioned if rail disruptions are a “matter of national security” and whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), “a national resource”, should be called upon to help the public transport operators, which are commercial entities. Others, though, felt it was worthwhile tapping the military, which can be mobilised quickly and is “quite dependable”.

The Straits Times reported that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has approached the SAF to explore deploying the men in green to give directions and manage crowds. They will be tapped only during large-scale disruptions.

Currently, personnel from the police, Public Transport Security Command and Singapore Civil Defence Force already help the LTA and public transport operators to manage such incidents.

On the issue of getting soldiers to lend a hand in the case of major disruptions, commuters had a variety of views. Accountant Lee Boon Chye, 29, who takes the train from Ang Mo Kio to work in Raffles Place, said: “While the army has the manpower and resources to get things done, it should not be helping to solve problems of companies that are profit- driven... It is also not a national crisis that requires soldiers. “These companies can hire auxiliary police officers or private security firms.”

…Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said it is “not a bad thing” to involve the SAF for contingency planning, especially for worst-case scenarios. The associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University said: “Train breakdowns have so far resulted in delays for a few hours.

“But a train breakdown could become a crisis if there are other untoward consequences, such as a stampede, civil unrest or if the train breakdown continues for days or weeks… it will then be justifiable for the military to support efforts to manage the crisis.”

The last time the SAF was activated for a major event that had nothing to do with shooting and killing people was LKY’s state funeral, where 10,000 men and women were roped in to make sure the procession went smoothly (No job too big for Ah Boys, 16 May 15, ST). Other festivities which involved the army include the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, the recent SEA games, and of course the annual staple that is the NDP. The military supposedly has the most experience in organising massive groups of people quickly, and besides defending the nation or going overseas for humanitarian relief efforts, it sidelines as the country’s largest logistics organisation. It’s also a dependable source of cheap labour.

Event planning aside, SAF soldiers have been also tasked to patrol airports to beef up security against terrorists, which led some to question whether our boys in green are even qualified to handle hostage situations or urban warfare. There’s an unlikely long-standing relationship between SAF and public transport operators. In 1976, SBS ‘borrowed’ SAF mechanics to repair their buses in the midst of labour shortage. More bizarrely, soldiers were ‘volunteered’ to become guinea pigs in an 1987 experiment where they were subject to a mock breakdown exercise in the middle of a tunnel, squeezed into two cars to mimic peak hour conditions without air-conditioning. What is this, the Third Reich?

So not only does the SAF supply us with human bodies to do ‘sai-kang’, they also provide trial participants for ethically questionable experiments that test the limits of human endurance. Presumably because they’ve been adequately hard-drilled by the war machine to swallow unspeakable torture. Incidentally, both the LTA and SMRT chiefs are former military stalwarts, so no surprise that they probably agreed on this brilliant idea with a top brass handshake. Ah Boys to MRT Ushers, really. Furthermore, shouldn’t stampede control be managed by the riot police? Or we’re all reserving those guys for Little India scuffles?

So if we’re all fine with sacrificing our army pawns to tackle ‘national crises’ in peacetime, why stop at MRT breakdowns where there’s a remote chance of stampedes and ‘civil unrest’? We could apply their operational finesse in other matters that may affect ‘national security’, so that our police officers can focus on other areas like arresting bloggers. Here’s a list for consideration:

  1. McDonald’s Hello Kitty Queues
  2. Primary One Registration
  3. Securing JEM in event of fire/ceiling collapse/flood
  4. Security at K-pop concerts
  5. Crowd control when Kong Hee goes to court
  6. Sentry duty at SMRT depots in case of trespassing vandals
  7. Collection lines for SG50 Commemorative notes
  8. Picking up dead fish hit by mysterious seaborne disease
  9. N95 mask distribution during bad haze conditions
  10. Road marshalling at marathons. Wait, they’re probably already doing that for that Army one.