Singapore must steal other people’s lunches

From ‘Singapore must steal other people’s lunches to stay ahead of competition’, 30 Apr 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

Amid growing competition, and workers hungry to learn in places like Chengdu and even further away such as Russia, Singapore must not only protect its lunch but steal other people’s lunches, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged.

…Ms Zuhaina Ahmad, a career guide at the NTUC Youth Career Network, said she has spoken to a few young Singaporeans “who feel that they’re in an era where they’re entitled or privileged to what the Government is giving”.

“If you study up to a degree level, this is what you’re entitled to. Not all of them are like that, but I think we need to manage their expectations as well,” she said.

Mr Lee said in reply: “It’s something that we have to work on, always. You must always want to do better, but you cannot always want to hope for the sky, and that’s the challenge. Because if you’re not hungry, you wouldn’t try, but if you’re unrealistic, you’d be disappointed.”

Of course our PM meant ‘stealing other people’s lunches’ as a figure of speech, just a darker version of ‘punching above our own weight’. The language of success is often filled with bloodthirsty metaphors:  We’re told to ‘seize’ the day and ‘conquer’ our doubts, words usually used in military parlance to mean plunder and destroy. We ‘grab’ the bull by the horns and ‘eliminate’ the competition in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world. The harsh truth is just that – success usually means having to tread on some heads along the way, and there are people who excel in their careers at the merciless expense of others’ ‘lunches’. These days, others’ trust seems to be an even bigger bounty than actual money. Just ask Kong Hee and gang.

Even Teamy the Bee, our forgotten productivity mascot, makes a living by ‘stealing’ nectar from flowers. Corporate banditry happens all the time; a small start-up gets chewed to bits when a bigger company copies i.e ‘steals’ its ideas. Aspiring inventors fall prey to patent disputes with entities armed to the teeth with lawyers. The use of the phrase in the context of ailing productivity, though, seems to suggest that it’s time for workers to switch to survivalist fight-or-flight mode, that in the event that we may not be able to punch above our weight, sometimes we just have to hit below the belt for our lunch money. But still, the only thing stealing our lunches eventually will not be other people, but robots, which makes our PM’s statement, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately redundant, like what most blue-collar workers will be in the silicon age. Needless to say a politician’s job is robot-proof and he doesn’t need to worry about lunch for the rest of his life.

‘Lunch’ is always a sensitive topic for food-loving Singaporeans. You could tell by how aggressively we reserve tables at hawker centres. When an ex Transport Minister told Singaporeans that ‘there is no free lunch‘ during a public transport hike, we went ballistic as the Toa Payoh couple refusing to share their table with an old man would.

Yes, there’s a time to be hungry and rise up to the challenge when it comes to our precious lunches, but we are also in desperate need for compassion. Beg, cheat and steal like Robin Hood if you have to, but share your ‘lunches’ with less fortunate human beings, especially those who can only afford 3 meals a day at a hawker centre instead of restaurants.

So let’s take PM Lee’s metaphor with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle it on our lunch of the day before someone sneaks up from behind to steal it.


Steve Chia in and out of Macpherson SMC contest

From ‘NSP’s Steve Chia withdraws from Macpherson SMC contest, citing online abuse’, 23 Aug 2015, article by Jeremy Au Yong, ST

The National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) on-again, off-again, on-again bid to contest MacPherson SMC in the coming polls took another surprising twist early on Sunday when council member Steve Chia put up a Facebook post declaring that he was no longer contesting the seat.

The abrupt U-turn, the second by NSP this week, appears to stem from online criticism Mr Chia received since he pushed for the party to renege on its deal to avoid a three-cornered fight with the Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party (PAP) by steering clear of the ward.

“The Trolls have won,” he wrote in a Facebook post put up at around 1am. “With this notice I am announcing that I will not be standing for this coming #GE2015 and will not be contesting in #MacPhersonSMC anymore.”

In his Facebook post,  Steve posted the hashtags ‘#MyReputationisGone’, #NotWorthIt and #KateSpade (in reference to Tin Pei Ling), signs of a distraught Opposition warrior who has reached breaking point with the haters. Which strikes me as surprising because this guy has faced worse problems in the past than having to deal with an online impostor – being the ‘butt’ of jokes, so to speak.

Political observers are already well familiar with  Steve’s unusual hobby – taking nudie pics of himself and his maid (separately, I should add) – and the police report filed on him by his own wife back in 2003. He was also investigated for charges of outrage of modesty. Steve’s reputation was already in tatters then, though quite a few went to his defence, urging the public to focus on his abilities than his weird fetishes. An NCMP then, he didn’t take the media onslaught well, resigned as NSP’s secretary general and complained about his ‘powerful enemies‘ who threaten to oust him out of politics totally.

Chia’s rise to power in 2001 was played out like a ‘Cinderella story‘, though detractors said that he got into the NCMP scheme as ‘a lucky consolation prize’ with a measly 34% because the PAP went on a ‘romp’ everywhere else. He even got praise from Goh Chok Tong, which some would say was a tactic to keep Chee Soon Juan out of Parliament. Chia was the lesser or two evils, and it wasn’t long before the glass slipper would crack.

After the nude photo episode, Steve gradually crawled back onto the political stage under the SDA alliance, and challenged now Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Choa Chu Kang during the 2006 GE. He read out his handphone number to the crowd during a rally, inviting anyone to meet him for ‘kopi’, and dared Gan to do the same. A wild pledge to donate 4 months of his MP salary into a community fund followed. All this came after he was let off with a ‘driving without due care’ charge rather than ‘dangerous driving’ when he ran a red light earlier that year (‘With charge reduced, Chia has GE chance after all’, 17 March 2006, CNA). He had, however, criticised Chiam See Tong’s SDA for not ‘having a future’, and mentioned that he would ‘quit politics’ if he lost the 2006 election. We didn’t believe him for a second.

Steve also wrote a book compiling his speeches as NCMP in Parliament. Titled ‘Called to Serve’, you can now get it on Carousell for $6. If it had nude photos inside, you’d have to pay ten times the price for it. In this day and age, with MPs quitting over adultery, it’s no longer a big deal snapping naked selfies or wefies of yourself or some other willing party. Even if Steve is the sort who engages in group ‘Furry’ orgies I don’t believe a politician’s ability should be judged on what he does behind closed doors or with a selfie stick. His book is testimony to his contributions, whether the people up there cared about them or not.

It’s rather the topsy-turvy turn of events, with Hazel Poa leaving NSP after an internal spat, and Opposition supporters cursing at the party for sabotaging the WP’s chances in Macpherson thereby discrediting ‘opposition unity’, that’s making Team Orange look like what Goh Chok Tong referred to as the ‘No Substance Party‘. Steve’s sudden decision to quit instead of fighting rumours is not helping their cause at all. Just last week he accused the WP of not showing ‘respect’ for fellow Opposition comrades. Today, he wishes them all the best after declaring his exit. His constant to-and-froing in politics speaks of an innate recklessness than a case of a phoenix rising out of the ashes. The trolls may have gotten the better of Steve, but any blow to an Opposition candidate, whichever party they belong to, is a political windfall for their PAP counterparts. You would expect PAP to harp on the NSP’s indecisiveness any time soon and then extrapolate it to the Opposition as a whole. It’s not the trolls who’ve won, Steve. It’s the PAP.

NSP, ‘No Steve Party’, ‘Non-Sense Party’ – whatever you want to call them – without its ‘star players’ now (No Star Politicians), will have to depend heavily on the Nicole Seah halo effect for votes. Kevyrn Lim, please stand up. As for Stevie, I will bet my bottom dollar that we won’t be seeing the last of him, despite us already, well, seeing too much.

#DontCrySteve #FightTampinesGRC #NudeChiaMade4Politics #RotiPrata

PM Lee queuing for fried chicken wings

From ‘PM Lee spotted queuing 30min for chicken wings at Redhill Food Centre’, 13 June 2014, article in Asiaone.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was spotted at Redhill Food Centre, queueing for 30 minutes to buy fried chicken on Thursday night. A passerby took a photo and uploaded it on Facebook with the tongue-in-cheek caption: “Just your regular 50-60 plus uncle queueing half an hr for famous fried chicken wings. Albeit swarmed with guards. Lots of em.”

According to Lianhe Wanbao, the photo of him started circulating this morning, with many excited to see the PM dining at the hawker centre located at Blk 85 Redhill Lane. Netizens have praised the prime minister’s willingness to do queue for food himself just like any other member of the public, as well as immerse himself in the public community.

The Chinese daily learnt that the stall is the popular chicken wings and fried bee hoon stall Yan (#01-19). Online reviews recommended its two eponymous items, and cited reasonable prices and large portions as other plus points besides taste. Bee hoon costs 60 cents, while a chicken wing costs $1.20.

The minister also posted a picture of a dessert stall at the same hawker centre on his Facebook page, mentioning that the ‘Lucky Cat’ in front of it seemed to bring it popularity and business indeed. He also thanked an anonymous person for giving him a bowl of green bean soup.


Wing Commander

Imagine the field day that ‘netizens’ would have if PM Lee had queued up for pork soup instead. It’s not a common sight to see a leader of his position actually queuing for stuff. Even less so for half an hour, enough time to make some key decisions of national importance. PM Lee looks solemn and pensive in the pose above, probably meditating on the fate of the nation, or plotting  to get Roy Ngerng to shut the hell up once and for all. I wonder what dessert he ordered after chicken wings though. I’m sure more people are interested in what he had than his musings on ‘Lucky Cat’. Ice Loong-an Jelly, perhaps?

‘Wayang’ or not, the person who snapped PM Lee has inadvertently promoted this humble breakfast bee hoon stall in Redhill, which blogger Hungry Bunny says is actually known as ‘Eng Kee’. I trust our PM has great taste in hawker fare. He’s known to be a fan of Tiong Bahru Tau Huay and Zion Road Char Kuay Teow too. Spotting him  at these stalls is like catching a rare migratory bird. You’d hit the jackpot if you catch him queuing at a Malay stall for Mee Siam (Just plain Mee Siam, thank you very much).

Here are some queuing PM Lee ‘memes’, sans bodyguards, of our leader simply blending in with ordinary Singaporeans in everyday situations other than buying hawker food, like the ‘People’s PM’ that adoring fans know him to be.

PM Lee in a Hello Kitty queue

PM Lee buying Lim Chee Guan

The lucky cat follows him EVERYWHERE.

PM Lee at Krispy Kreme

PM Lee taking peak hour MRT

And a World Cup bonus image.

Viva PM Lee

Viva PM Lee


Vulgar RI teacher reported to Police and 2 Ministers

From ‘RI takes action against teacher’, 8 Dec 2012, article by May Chen, ST

RAFFLES Institution (RI) is taking disciplinary action against one of its teachers, Mr Adrian Chng, for using inappropriate language – even though he did not do so in his capacity as an RI teacher. The Straits Times reported on Thursday that Chew Jee Yang, 17, a Singapore Polytechnic student and member of the national youth softball team, had filed a police report against Mr Chng, the team manager, for his use of expletives in a WhatsApp group chat with three co-captains of the squad. Wang Zheng Rong, 18, also took issue with Mr Chng’s choice of words, although Chin Ken Min, 19, distanced himself from the complaints.

…Mr Chng, RI’s assistant head of the physical education and co-curricular activities department, is also the secretary-general of the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association. Mr Chng and the three players had been discussing preparations for an overseas tournament in Argentina last month in the WhatsApp conversation, which took place in September. In it, he used expletives such as “f***” no fewer than four times.

A complaint against Mr Chng was also later e-mailed to several parties – including Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong – by Chew and Wang’s mothers.

…AN EXCERPT of one of the exchanges Mr Chng had with his student-athletes.

The conversation was in response to the teacher, who was functioning as a team manager, chasing the boys for jersey and slacks sizes ahead of an overseas trip. He had lamented that time was “tight”.

  • Zheng Rong: Frankly speaking time can’t be tight time runs at a constant speed! HAHAH!
  • Teammate: Lol
  • Adrian Chng: U better make sure ur a** super tight if not de bat I’m gonna stuff in there is gonna fall out

Maybe it’s not Adrian Chng’s profanity that the MOTHERS of these teenagers are worried about, but that he could be a dangerous bat-wielding sodomiser who preys on innocent virgin boys. This is how the accused looks like according to the SBSA (Singapore Baseball and Softball Association) website. You can’t deny the respectability of a suit and tie.

By now, getting the police involved in teacher-student spats isn’t surprising anymore. It has been done for teachers who’re too stern, or those who ruin expensive haircuts before important examinations. What’s disturbing is these budding athletes have their mummies complaining to MINISTERS for abusive, sexually charged, language. When Chew and Wang enlist into the army, is Mummy going to complain to Ng Eng Hen for homophobic verbal abuse by drill sergeants as well? Or feedback to SAF that no one tucks them in to sleep at night?

Perhaps Chng as team manager was doing a favour and prepping the boys for a hard NS life, where threats of sodomy with random objects are used in place of ‘Good Morning Recruits!’. Or he was just doing what most sports team managers would do to discipline their charges, regardless of whether their day job was teaching in a prestigious school or preaching from a pulpit. I thought we’ve come to accept that angry, ‘macho’ profanity in the management of competitive sport is all part of team camaraderie, whether it’s boys’ softball, men’s rugby or in a bikini beach volleyball World Cup tournament. The only sports coach who doesn’t need to resort to potty-mouthing is the one in charge of seniors’ Gateball.

What is known is that Chng is apparently doing a good job with RI softball. Earlier this year, the RI team beat Hwa Chong for their fifth national school’s title in 6 years. God knows if a fiery personality and foul language were part of his coaching methodology, but it seems to work for RI. It was just unfortunate that Chng’s obscenities were documented in Whatsapp group chat this time round. If every testosterone-charged team coach or manager was caught F-bombing or mentally ass-raping his squad and summoned by the police or ministers because of distraught parents, what hope is there for youth sports in this country? What if Chng wasn’t from RI but from a ‘neighbourhood school’ instead? Would the boys and their mothers let him off then? Maybe these boys and their parents have been watching too much of Disney’s Angels in the Outfield.

Even if Chng were indeed using foul language on a student in the capacity of an educator, is a police report even necessary? In 2008, a CCA teacher reportedly cursed and sweared at his ex-student for not greeting him properly.  Private tutors have been known to lash out at hopeless students on Facebook.  But in most cases it’s often the teacher at the receiving end of a student’s fury. In a reversal of the case above, a distressed teacher called the police to report a Hokkien-vulgarity spewing pupil in 2008. Another RJC teacher had to respond to a vulgar Facebook post online about not being able to ‘fxxxing control the class’. Many petty obscenities hurled at unpopular teachers are often ignored, because students heaping scorn on a teacher is expected – it even bonds them with fellow students – but not the other way round, even if such ‘motivational’ expletives are the secret to a softball team’s success.

Without a full picture of the relationship between Chng and his boys, one can’t tell if he was indeed abusing his authority or was just being his normal foul-mouthed self and was marked for some unknown reason. I’m guessing that it’s his ties with an elite school which may have inflamed any misgivings between the parties involved. In the meantime, if you’re in the business of playing a sport that uses anything with a handle, be it a softball bat or a croquet mallet, making nerdy jokes to your coach about ‘time-tightness’ may not be the smartest thing to do. If you’re a teacher suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, delete Whatsapp off your phone with immediate effect.

9 year old complaining to MP about scary trailer

From ‘MDA to probe horror trailer during TV primetime’, 16 Nov 2012, article in Today online

The Media Development Authority (MDA) will investigate if MediaCorp had breached guidelines under the Television Advertising Code by showing a horror trailer during primetime. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Communications and Information Sim Ann, said this in response to a question by Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza.

Mr De Souza had related how a nine-year-old resident (Renee Guerville) had told him that she couldn’t sleep after she saw the horror trailer on TV at 8pm. Regulations stipulate that on free-to-air television, trailers for films featuring violence or horror elements, which are unsuitable for viewing by children cannot be aired between 6am and 10pm, as that time belt is meant for family audiences. Trailers with stronger content can only be shown after 10pm.

I don’t watch TV, but I’m guessing this movie was shown during the Halloween season last October, and only one horror anthology has a track record of sending little kids to emergency wards for tranquiliser shots. Even adults would be disturbed by creepy movies that feature nothing but prolonged videocam footage of things waiting to appear out of NOWHERE.

Instead of calling for the ambulance like Italian kids, some traumatised Singaporean children complain to their MP instead of dealing with fear the usual way, by bunking in with their parents, snuggling with teddy or leaving the light on, until they eventually forget about it altogether. After all, it’s not just untimely scary movie trailers that will haunt a kid to tears. Seeing a squashed bird on the road would give them nightmares as well. If irrational fear didn’t serve a purpose, we wouldn’t be wired with it, and coping with ghosts and eerie pale children sprawling all over ceilings is simply the artifact of an emotion that would come in handy when you’re stuck in a tent in the woods, where being ‘anxious’ about what’s out there would make the difference between survival or becoming breakfast platter for a family of bears.

Most adults harbour a niggling horror trope in their minds, whether it’s the climax of Blair Witch Project or images from other classic movies like the Exorcist or the Ring. I belong to the generation where clowns are considered more frightening than demented chainsaw-wielding maniacs wearing hockey masks.

Not funny

The Internet, of course, is full of shock pranks like people cutting a nasty video into otherwise harmless cartoons or Barney. There’s also G-rated horror especially catered for kids, like R.L Stine’s Goosebumps. Singapore-based writer James Lee has also made a name for himself with his Mr Midnight series, which includes hilarious titles like ‘REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH’ and ‘WHAT’S THAT THING ON MY HAND?’. Obviously some kids love being spooked otherwise these wouldn’t sell. The book covers look pretty scary too and I wonder if any other 9 year old is going to start complaining about such material being openly displayed in bookstores.

That’s it. I’m not going to Pastamania anymore

The above cover bears an eerie resemblance to a scene from Insidious.


You can’t protect our children from the occult forever, and some parents would agree that it’s better to numb children to violence and horror early on before they start preparing for PSLE, when instead of memorising formulas they turn around to check on the door every 2 seconds. I do that sometimes when I’m alone in a hotel room, but I don’t blame my parents, the MDA or the filmmakers for it. If kids don’t start embracing fear and dealing with it, they’re always going to find someone to blame for their emotions whenever something tragic, violent or shocking happens. On the flipside, having surprise Jack-in-the-Box trailers on TV may be a good thing; shouldn’t you kids be playing outside or doing your HOMEWORK instead of watching scary TV?

It also helps that the writer is a picture of innocent youth, and giving a sympathetic fatherly ear would make any MP look good, notwithstanding how many other letters written by grown-ups about more important matters get ignored or served on a template. One must wonder what’s happening to parenting these days when kids are made to run to the authorities directly instead of having ‘family discussions’. Thanks to the attention given to Renee, Chris De Souza should expect more letters from concerned kids from now on, whether it’s about teachers being too fierce or why Santa Claus never gave them any presents for Christmas. Hell, if I wanted my MP to do something for me all I need is a pseudonym, bad spelling, crayons and paper blotted with tears. Why bother with formal lengthy emails when juvenile pleas would do? A 9 year old complaining about a Malay wedding Amy Cheong style would go something like this:

Dear Mr MP Sir,

My PSLE is next week. Today there is a Malay wedding downstairs in the void deck and the noise is very loud. The singing is very awful and I can’t study. Please tell them to stop. My daddy will beat me if I don’t get 290 for PSLE. Your help is very much appesiated.

Yours fatefully,

Ah Boy

Gory trailers are unlikely to turn children into emo recluses, but something else more sinister may harm them in the long run, not so much dark spooky shadows but bright golden arches.

No Arts and Sports in reshuffled Ministries

From ‘Keep Arts and Sports in ministries’ names’, 3 Aug 2012, ST Forum

(Ace Kindred Cheong): I AM saddened that “Sports” and the “Arts” have been omitted from the names of the new and restructured ministries (“No ‘sports’ in name sparks debate”; yesterday). The omissions will lead to doubts about whether the Government is still as committed to supporting the arts and sports.

It is also ironic that it happened in the middle of a historic Olympics in which Singapore won its first individual medal in 52 years, after the fantastic bronze medal achievement by our top women’s table tennis star Feng Tianwei. It would be more sensible for the Cabinet to retain the titles of the two ministries – the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

This will send a clear signal that sports and the arts have not been sidelined by the Government.

The new ministries have been named MCCY (Culture, Community, Youth), MSF (Social, Family Development) and MCI (Communications, Information).  It’s made more confusing than it already is and drives one MAD (Ministry of Arts Defunct) just trying to tell one other apart. Ministries of ‘social affairs’ tend to be rather wishy washy over what they’re supposed to take charge of historically. ‘Culture’ is a catch-all term that is itself archaic in its usage. Established in the late fifties, the job of then ‘Ministry of Culture’ was responsible for brainwashing people with film propaganda. They were also the state censors, precursors to our current Board of Censors and MDA, who glued objectionable pages of books together. They were more the Culture and thought POLICE than a ministry of any sort, and here we see ‘Culture’ coming back with a vengeance. Watch out Fifty Shades of Grey sequels. Incidentally, the top Google search for ‘Ministry of Culture’ yields a local company that promotes some sort of corporate motivational team-building. Wonder if there’ll be any suits filed for copyright infringement ala Subway.

In 1985, ‘Culture’, with its negative connotations as mind controllers, was taken out, and the MCD (Community Development) was formed. It’s only in 2000 when SPORTS was plopped in to form MCDS, and ‘Youth’ joined the fray in 2004 to the soon-to-be-defunct MCYS. It’s also ironic how the government needs to set up a ministry arm solely for YOUTH when we’re on the crest of a silver tsunami. If I had my way with government acronyms, I would have gone for McCOYS (Ministry of Culture, Community, Old people, Youth and Sports) which just about covers EVERYTHING. We’re also more likely to have an SCOG (Senior Citizens’ Olympic Games) than a YOG. At the rate these ministries are splitting, you’ll have a whole chunk of large Roman numerals instead of abbreviations. At least some people can still make out Roman numerals.

What did having a SPORTS ministry ever do to produce a sporting  nation? Our Olympic medal winners are foreign-born. We have some decent swimmers, sailors and shooters here and there. But our local footballers have been the same dismally inconsistent lot for the last 12 years that ‘Sports’ has been part of MCYS. Our best moments in the Game (Malaysia Cup) were in the 90’s, BEFORE sports got noticed as a government agenda. Today, we can’t get past mediocre ASEAN teams even with the government boosting our foreign import funds, which either means our sports officials are getting it all wrong, or we simply are a nation who are no longer interested. Mah Bow Tan’s expensive Goal 2010 fantasy turned out to be one as attainable as flying solar-powered cars (It may be argued that the state of football is worse off now than when this pipe dream was cast more than a decade ago). Obviously the tactic of pumping in money to buy talent (players or coaches) on the pretense of grooming a sporting nation just isn’t working.

‘Arts’ emerged in 1990 from a messy series of acronym spin-offs, from the Ministry of Culture to MCI (Communications, Information), MCD and then MITA (the ‘TA’ stands for THE ARTS, without the ‘T’ it would be ‘M.I.A’), a move lauded by struggling artists who needed government investment and support, until MITA began clamping down again on offensive material and recordings as its grandparent Ministry once did (A Janet Jackson album and the video game Half-Life). Sounding too close to ‘MATA’, MITA then rebranded itself as the effeminate MICA (Information, Communication, Arts) in 2001, and proceeded to get on the nerves of arty folk by banning gay concerts like ‘Affect 05’ in 2005. Unlike the short-lived Sports arm, Arts enjoyed a good run of over 2 decades despite the zealous snipping, keeping the scene vibrant and local performances afloat, though there are always critics complaining that they’re never doing enough. We also have an ‘Arts’ NMP Janice Koh in a government now castrated of an Arts body, someone credible to comment on Grandfather Road issues when the ministerial body itself has trouble defining what ART is. But I think the simpler reason is that having a ministry of ARTS gives ART a bad name. Film fans have already felt the effects of the omission of ARTS , with this year’s Film Fest pulled out due to lack of funds. I think there’s something more deeply entrenched in the Singaporean psyche that defies government intervention when it comes to sports and arts. We have been bred and raised with a very skewed bias towards a results-based ideal of personal achievement, one that doesn’t involve a paintbrush or kicking balls.

Our Malaysian neighbours have a cleaner dichotomy in the form of a ‘Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage’ and a ‘Ministry of Youth and Sports’, the former bringing to mind the image of a fuddy-duddy curator who knows his history and the latter that of an hip, vivacious, fun-loving official devoted to keeping the country relevant. Japan has the same idea as me when it comes to combining everything together, with its Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The PM proposed 3-tier system with its bland categorisation sounds wan and jaded, with the MSF, or should I say Ministry of Procreation, as a disturbing personification of all the kaypoh aunties who ask when you’re getting married or when you’re having kids during Chinese New Year.

Ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang charged with corruption

From ‘Former table tennis president and manager charged with corruption’, 8 Dec 2011, article by Hannah Teoh,

Two former employees of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), including the former president, have been charged for corruption and criminal breach of trust. The first man, Mr Choo Wee Khiang, 57, was the president of STTA at the time of the alleged offences.

…Choo had also received gifts from Chinese coaches and players. In 2005, Choo received $1,500 from a former assistant coach of STTA, Mr Luo Jie, on behalf of Mr Liu Zhongze, who was a national team player at that time. The money was given to Choo in exchange for giving Liu more opportunities to represent STTA in table tennis tournaments.

Between 2003 and 2004, Choo also received US$600 (S$768.95) on two occasions from Mr Shi Mei Sheng, a former STTA coach, as a reward for approving the use of training facilities in China.

…Choo resigned from the STTA in July 2008. He had been with the Association for 20 years. Choo will be charged for three counts of corruptly accepting gratification and one count of criminal breach of trust.

The maximum punishment for corruption is a $100,000 fine and five years’ jail on each charge. In 1999, Choo, a former MP for Jalan Besar GRC served a two-week sentence for issuing false invoices to help a family friend cheat a finance company.

Choo was not only an ex-MP, but an ex-convict as well. What’s absurd is he had a stint as STTA President from 1992 to 1998, was jailed in 1999 for 2 weeks, fined $10,000 and barred from elections for FIVE years, and then RE-ELECTED back as President in 2002. What gives?  In 2009, he was even awarded the ‘International Olympic Committee President’s Trophy’ at the Singapore Sports Awards. Here’s a sample of his testimonial:

During his tenure as President of STTA, he introduced and implemented the strategic plan to promote table tennis to all and to bring glory to Singapore. He was instrumental in the setting up of the centre of excellence for table tennis in conjunction with the construction of the STTA Training Hall in Toa Payoh. He pioneered the Foreign Sports Talent scheme, oversaw the induction and development of a team of talented players with world class coaches. Under his charge the women’s table tennis team rose to number 2 and the men’s team to number 10 in world rankings. A most memorable and historic achievement was when the women’s table tennis team won an Olympic silver medal in at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the first medal for Singapore in 48 years.

Choo Wei Khiang didn’t need a yellow ribbon project to integrate back into society, he was literally handed gold for an illusory sporting success and had his past brush with the law conveniently forgotten. If found guilty, we’d have even less reason to be proud of the much decorated silver medal, earned not just through the mercenary labours of a foreign talent scheme, but dirty cash as well.

But wait, there’s more. In 1992, while he was still MP for Jalan Besar GRC, he made a racist slur about Indians as follows:

‘One evening, I drove to Little India and it was in complete darkness not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around’

Yes it’s an old nugget that might have been funny at some point in history but rather tasteless today. In the same year, while still as MP, he was slapped a 2 month ban from golfing at Singapore Island Country Club for ‘dangerous play’ (MP Choo’s 2 month ban confirmed, 23 July 1992, ST), probably a first for any politician making a nuisance of himself on the green by assaulting people with golf balls. It’s disappointing how people forget easily, celebrating dirty, racist, reckless teeing ex-politicians and getting them back up to speed in society so quickly while others with a less illustrious career path struggle to even get a job. Most people don’t get out of jail of a financial felony and become elected PRESIDENT of anything within a matter of years. Unless of course, you promise to bring the nation an Olympic silver medal, upon which all is forgiven. Over TABLE freakin’ TENNIS.

Here’s an awkward moment for Vivian Balakrishnan, who had this to say about a man being charged with graft as we speak, in response to Lee Bee Wah’s taking over to ‘clean up the house’ in 2008.

I must say I am very uncomfortable with that line of questioning because I want to say there’s one more person we need to acknowledge, and that’s Mr Choo. He has dedicated many, many years of his life to table tennis.

Wee Khiang’s nephew happens to be none other than Desmond Choo, who has received nomination for a dubious honour himself by AWARE, the ALAMAK award for making a sexist remark on wives during his election hustings. Let’s just hope racism and greed doesn’t run in the family as well.

Postscript: On 30 April 2014, Choo was acquitted of 3 corruption charges, in addition to the criminal breach of trust charge of which he was cleared in 2013, let off with nothing more than a ‘stern warning’ from the prosecution.