Friday, May 31, 2013

More Cracks In The System

Does it look like this guy is trying to crack you up?
Call it another crack in the system. No, we don't mean the latest crack that caused another delay in the south-bound train service between Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio. And this crack was not at the welded joints, for which a contractor was prematurely named in a preliminary assessment as the party involved in all cracks that appeared at welded joints.

This time the crackheads wear blue uniforms. Sergeant Muhammad Kaldun Sarif had testified in open court he decided not to dust for finger prints or take DNA swaps at a crime scene because he "made a preliminary assessment" of suicide. It must be the kind of stirring Singapore police initiative that Kishore  Mahbubani lauded as "at least as competent, if not more competent, than the FBI".

Ambassador to the United States Ashok Kumari Mirpuri proved just as competent, buttressing Sgt Khaldun's tenuous presentation by explaining that police protocol were operational guidelines, and were not prescriptive.  In other words, SOPs (standard operating procedure) are for wimps. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training officer who used one smoke grenade too many and killed Private Dominique Sarron Lee must have been operating on the same guiding principles. Now you appreciate why Singaporeans are weary of rushing in to help someone lying on the street. A giddy sergeant may "make a preliminary assessment" of assault, and taser you first, ask questions later.

The good ambassador was objecting to the ABC and Fox News coverage of the Shane Todd coroner's inquiry. For reporting on Singapore news, these two could potentially face the wrath of Media Development Authority (MDA), when latter gets their Yaacob Ibrahim inspired licensing act in place. Which means MDA will demand the story to be removed within 24 hours, or forfeit their S$50,000 performance bond. Ambassador Ashok sent his letter to Associated Press, which was copied to Washington Post and CBS, meaning ABC and Fox News are not the only news agencies updated of the cracks in our system. The Americans must be wondering what kind of crack is smoked in our little red dot.

On a tragic note, dengue claimed its first life when a youth was prematurely discharged from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) inspite of their doctor's assessment that his platelets were still low. The prescription given was to go see a General Practioner to monitor his blood count.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Evil That Men Do

Look who's leaping from flood waters into hot water. Cornered by the tsunami of backlash against the proposed news website licensing requirements, Yaacob Ibrahim dismissed it in monetary terms as "just a banker's guarantee", arguing that no upfront payment is involved. The examples they cite as sites affected - Media Corp, Singapore Press Holding and Yahooo! News Singapore - all have deep pockets, but anybody with an IQ higher than the water logged minister knows that there are lots more individually operated websites that fall easily under the technical qualification of a "significant reach exceeding 50,000". Opposition MP Lina Chiam spoke for us when she asked the obvious, "How is a news website to be defined?"

This is not the first time they have insulted our intelligence, and will not be the last. There's good reason the White Paper made use of a 6.9 million figure, not 7.0. Robert M. Schindler, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business, explained that consumers “perceive a 9-ending price as a round-number price with a small amount given back.” Researchers have also found that prices ending in .99 communicate “low price” to consumers. Someone else put it this way: "I still think you need to be a moron with an IQ of 40 to miss the difference between 1.99 and 2.00." And it must be capricious of the anonymous White Paper authors to imagine that a 100,000 souls will be missed.

In another pathetic attempt to justify their incompetence - some will say outright deceit - MDA quoted the example of an article on the "Innocence of Muslim" video which they asked Google to block. Well, last we heard, Google still obliges if they think their content policy is violated. But it is doubtful they will  act on the nebulous grounds that MDA is proposing. While Google may do no evil, the same cannot be said of MDA, or Yaacob Ibrahim. Latter should learn from the sixth point of the 10-point corporate philosophy of Google which says, "You can make money without doing evil."

Even assuming that the policy makers had intended good - that they actually have an honest bone in their body, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or other - they should be mindful of the potential harm they are inflicting on a future generation. Recall Marcus Antonius's speech to the crowd of Romans after Caesar was murdered ("Julius Caesar", Act 3, Scene 2): "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No News Is Good News

You can tell Yaacob Ibrahim is still sore with the internet. How else would we ever learn that the Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs was once courting a Puerto Rican lass instead of a nice Muslim girl? Julian Assange, look out, a fatwa could be on your way anytime soon!

Ibrahim is targeting not just websites with "significant reach" - defined as having 50,000 unique visitors per month - he is aiming to amend the Broadcasting Act "with the view to ensure that any other sites which are hosted overseas but reporting on Singapore news is also brought in the licensing framework." Which means The Financial Times (FT) which reported on Shane Todd's untimely death will have to apply for a licence from the Media Development Authority (MDA) and put up a performance bond of $50,000. FT, and other overseas sites, may very soon have to comply within 24 hours any MDA directive to remove content found to be "in breach of standards".

The example of prohibited content quoted was the "gory" car crash images of an accident at Tampines Avenue 7. The video of an intern punched viciously by a supervisor with anger management issues apparently passes muster with the minister. Frankly, the real objectionable stuff is telling pork chop soup and free smoke jokes at a formal dinner gathering in Washington.

The MDA assures us that the new regulation will not apply to blogs, though adding: "If they take on the nature of news sites, we will take a closer look and evaluate them accordingly". The following picture is gory, but takes place overseas - a live birth at a hospital parking lot - nothing like the boring stuff going on in Singapore. Florida based Emily Robinson was hired by South Florida Sun Sentinel photojournalist Amy Beth Cavaretta and her husband, photojournalist Joe Cavaretta, to document the delivery of Cavaretta’s second child on last Friday. Baby was in a hurry, hence the outdoor impromptu shots. Thank God for the internet.
Robinson's pictures going viral on the internet

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Go On, Make My Day

The former president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) was charged with criminal breach of trust for misappropriating association funds in 2005, but declined to take the witness stand to defend himself. One word that comes to mind is chutzpah, derived from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning "insolence" or "audacity". Choo Wee Khiang, 58, was a former Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC and may be harbouring the impression that association should still carry quite a bit of weight.

His lawyer is arguing that Choo had "derived absolutely no personal benefit" from the $8,400 that went to an assistant coach who moonlighted at Fuhua Secondary School from 2001 to 2003. Never mind if it was Choo who devised a convoluted way to make the Fuhua principal make payment to the coach. A similar logic was applied in the case when Action Information Management (A.I.M.) finagled the Town Council software deal and the MND Review Team declared that "there was no misuse or loss of public moneys in the transaction." Teo Ho Pin and Chandra Das can sit pretty because there was no money trail leading to their personal accounts, but "personal benefit" can be interpreted in many ways.

In the instance of law professor Tey Tsun Han, personal benefit includes receiving several gifts from his student, which included a limited edition Montblanc pen and tailored shirts. The guy has just been convicted of six counts of corruptly obtaining gratification. And if Tey had so much as obtained extra egg for his order of kway teow, you can bet he will be slammed with one more count of corruption.

Choo would be foolish to assume the court of public opinion would rule in his favour, the position taken by Mr and Mrs Todd after they walked out of the coroner's inquiry on their son's mysterious death. After all, Choo did lose his MP position in 1999 after pleading guilty to a charge of abetting his brother-in-law to cheat a finance company in 1990. And he did make the racist joke in parliament: "One evening, I drove to Little India and it was pitch dark but not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around." By today's standards, he should be in court for sedition.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Growing Old In Singapore

Women in Singapore can expect to live to 85 and men to the age of 80, if the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures are to be believed. Problem is, WHO assumes we have the same healthcare availability and affordability of the other top 3 countries, namely Japan (female 86, male 82), Switzerland and San Marino. Even if Ah Ma and Ah Kong can scrounge up the money to see a doctor, their sprightly presence is not always welcomed.

Some residents at Toh Yi estate organised an evening meeting in February 2012 to protest the construction of 130 senior citizen studio apartments at the junction of Toh Yi Road and Toh Yi Drive. It mimicked the actions of the Woodlands group who objected to the building of an elder-care centre at the void deck of their HDB blocks. Haunting images of the notorious death houses at Sago Lane were evoked in their passioned protestations, but one suspects their fears relate more to the horror of the market value of their enhanced assets plummeting with the growing sights of so many old people still walking around their estate.

Hence the pretty billboards. Ah Ma and Ah Kong must be in the picture, you just have to look real hard.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Good News About Singapore

Yay, finally, something positive to read about Singapore, after a dismal surfeit of negative court proceedings and workplace bashing. Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) supposedly helped develop a molecule that will kill cancer cells without destroying healthy ones. Called Hamlet (Human Alpha-lactabumin Made Lethal to Tumour), the protein-lipid complex is based on a protein present in human breast milk. But why did the scientists name it after a Prince of Denmark instead of choosing a Singapore sounding label, say HAMTAM (Human Alpha-lactabumin Mainly Targeted At Tumours)?

Apparently it was a Swedish team who first discovered Hamlet in 1995. A Catharina Svanborg, Swedish microbiologist best known for her work on proteins in breast milk, sought out Professor Gerhard Grueber (Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany, 1995) for his expertise in structural biology. Latter, currently an associate professor, had joined NTU in August 2005. The collaboration with the local university which started 3 years ago in 2010 was led by Prof Svanborg and Dr Manoj Puthia from Lund University of Sweden, and Prof Guber from NTU's School of Biological Sciences. Maybe if Guber had spear headed the team, the name would be more Aryan sounding, say ADOLF (Alpha-lactabumin Destroy Only Lethal Foreign cells).

Of course, if the foreigners take up citizenship in 5 to 10 years' time, the time frame within which the team hopes to develop a commercially available product, Singapore can take more credit for the fight against cancer.

Based on our past experience with ping pong paddlers, future developments can be hard to predict. In one notable instance, a PRC import took the Olympics medal and prize money and headed straight home for the Motherland. Including her kid, before he comes of age to warrant posting a financial bond to ensure he has to return to fulfill his National Service obligation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Who Is Janadas Devan?

In response to Ian Buruma's article in NYR ("The Singapore Way, 19 Oct, 1995") which made reference to a journalist who lost his job for writing something critical of the government, the unnamed person wrote "I am that nameless entity". That person was Janadas Devan.

Janadas took pains to elucidate that he was not an employee of any newspaper, he merely wrote a column on a freelance basis. For reasons that remain unexplained, but which were clearly not journalistic, the column was halted.

According to Wikipedia, Janadas Devan is a Singaporean journalist and a former Review Editor of The Straits Times. He is the son of C.V. Devan Nair, the third President of Singapore.

On 27 October 2007, Janadas wrote the article "377A debate and the rewriting of pluralism" in which he rebutted  the outrageously homophobic parliamentary speech of Nominated Member of Parliament Thio Li-ann (she of the "anal sex is like shoving a straw up your nose to drink" infamy). In his 7 July 2007 article, "Can mum, mum and kids make a family?" Devan advocated the formation of same-sex marriages in Singapore,  citing the instance of a personal female friend in the United States who had married another woman, has two healthy children and living an "otherwise normal life". As of 2008, Janadas contributed regularly to the Straits Times.

Is this Janadas Devan the ghost writer of Teo Ho Pin's long winded missive with which he attempted, again, to weasel himself out of the perverse justification of the AIM transaction? Janadas is currently Chief of Government Communications at the Ministry of Communication and Information (CGC), a role better known in the prevailing parlance of the lesser mortals as spin doctor. He will need all the penmanship skills at his command to rewrite Devan Nair's scathing epitaph for Lee Kuan Yew:
"Lee is gifted with a brilliant brain and an eloquent tongue. But the capricious gods omitted to equip him with the saving grace of that essential wisdom which makes for true greatness. And Singapore thereby missed the infinitely more potent miracle of the political and spiritual success it might so easily have provided, as a practical, living demonstration to the other unhappy, struggling, heterogeneous nations in Southeast Asia, not merely of singular economic achievement, but also of the eminent viability of a free, open, sane, and equal multiracial democracy, worthy at once of economic, political, and moral emulation."

Devan Nair and James Puthucheary et al spent serious time in jail to free us from the shackles of British colonialism. When fathers and sons end up on opposite banks of the political divide, the expression that comes to mind is that the apple has indeed fallen far from the tree.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Competence Challenged Again

Any resemblance to the hard truth is strictly coincidental
Call it another mee siam mai hum moment. The prime minister gave a big speech about safety at work, and identified the construction, manufacturing and marine sectors as places where most incidents occur. What he missed out was the Jurong East IT workplace where a 29 year old undergraduate was pummeled mercilessly like a human punching bag. Apparently the Manpower Ministry was alerted, but they proved as meek as the recipient of the heavy blows to the head. All MOM did was to remind employers to treat employees "fairly and with respect" and, as for the "unfairly treated", "they should report it to the police immediately." The Acting Manpower Minister's own pretty speech about discriminatory hiring practices was just as lame, premised on his stance that laws were not "a silver bullet that will solve all problems."

We are glad the parents did not take the law into their own hands when they confronted the violent cretin who abused their son. For all we know, one  wrong move, and they could end up as subjects of a police investigation. We are glad that they did convince their mild mannered son - who had earlier denied he was the subject in the video because he did not want to blow up the matter - that might is not right, bullies need to be put in their place. Imagine the horror if the intern had been a female, who could have ended up like the Singapore core, violated multiple times by having foreign elements inserted, until a Good Samaritan like Shane M had the moral courage and guts to intervene.

Meanwhile, at the Shane Todd inquiry, some body's boast that the Singapore police is at least as competent, if not more competent, than the FBI, is starting to blow up in his own face. Ashraf Massoud, computer analyst engaged by Todd's parents, had to teach the cops a thing or two about handling evidence. The Post-it note on Shane's laptop, "Please do not enter. Please call the police" , means just that. Leave it to the professionals.

The sorry mess in our cowboy town makes you wonder who are the guys governing the place. If Singapore Inc was ever asked to fill in a table indicating the identities of their key technical and professional staff, maybe a line will be drawn across the table with only one word typed in: “Outsourced”.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Truth Is The Real Casualty

NOT the Ministry of Manpower advertisement
No wonder the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) flashed it's advertisement on telly last night again. You know, the one that has an old lady at a food court whinging about how her boss treats her. The happy ending has same lady saying "I know my rights", and the recalcitrant boss recanting, "I do it right". The stuff of fairy tales.

The hard truth on the ground, as demonstrated in the Shane M video, is a stark difference. The problem in propagating official lies is that truth becomes the real casualty. The MOM is not the only one at risk. The following opinion piece (unsigned) can only pull the paper's ranking lower than 149:
"In a parliamentary disclosure that took the wind out of the moral sails on which the opposition party had been coasting, he (Khaw Boon Wan) pointed that the WP, too, had turned to party affiliates in its own council management. The WP's defence - that the affiliates were supporters and not party members - was hardly convincing." (ST Monday May 20, 2013)

The believability situation is so bad that even the City Harvest Church media unit is setting up their own trial coverage because, "While we understand the mainstream media's perspective, we hope to plug possible gaps for our members."  Good luck guys, the gap in credibility is now so huge, it's as good as turning into a black hole, the cosmic region of spacetime from which gravity prevents anything, including light, from escaping.

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's All Done With Math

In what could be a smoking gun in the City Harvest Church court case, it was discovered that the 2 percent interest rate in the original bond documentation for a Special Opportunities Fund managed by a church member could not possibly yield $76,625.  So a fudge figure of 5.05 percent was necessary to revise the tranche papers.

In the drawn out saga of the Town Council rates, the Ministry of National Development (MND) was off by "nearly S$1 million." The anonymous team there simply took the managing agent rate for 1 year, and multiplied it by 3. Ms Sylvia Lim had to remind them: "We had clearly stated earlier that the managing agent (MA) contract for the three years (2012, 2013 and 2014) provided for staggered pricing, with increase in costs factored in each year."

Mom was right all along. We have to pay attention to our math homework. But we know there's more to it than just simple arithmetic. Png was spot on when he told parliament:
"Finally, I believe whatever that was written in black and white in the AIM transaction has been reviewed by the committee but whatever intention that was written in the hearts of the people that were involved in this transaction will remain hidden for their conscience and makers to judge."

Teo Ho Pin should pay close attention to what transpired in the 2006 election, when Wong Kan Seng, with the compliance of the sycophant press, droned on and on for days about James Gomez misplacing his minority-race candidate's application forms. The episode about the closed-circuit television evidence was immortalised in a famous podcast, and Wong won his place in the history books. Or perhaps Teo may prefer to take up Lim's invite to make a report to the CPIB.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Story Of A Brave Ah Lian

Japanese politicians scrambled to distance themselves from mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, after he said forced recruitment of Asian women to work in military brothels had been necessary to maintain discipline among soldiers. "If you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary," he told reporters. "That's clear to anyone." That may be clear to him, just as "Gang rape is democracy in action" was crystal clear to MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Zainudin Nordin.

Tell that to Swee Lian, author of "Tears of a Teen-age Comfort Woman", a 16 year old from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) forced to be a "jugun-ianfu" (army comfort women). After her parents were imprisoned and tortured to death for supporting the China Relief Fund to fight the Japs, while cowards were working for them as translators and policemen, Swee Lian was raped by the Kempeitai and sent to the army brothel as girl number 23. The inmates were referred to as "sisters" and told they were members of a "patriotic women's army" who came from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and the "newly liberated territories in Southeast Asia".

"Work" started at nine o'clock, with a lunch break, followed by the "afternoon session" which lasted until six in the evening. One girl estimated her "team" had to "entertain" about 600 soldiers - allowing 10 minutes per session and a 10 minute "interval" between each session - over a period of 8 hours. The math nauseated Swee Lian.

Fortunately her boyfriend, who was a member of the anti-Japanese guerrillas taking the fight to the jungles of Borneo, managed to rescue her from the brothel and found her a sanctuary in a Buddhist nunnery in Singapore, where she hid until Japan's surrender on 15 August 1945.

Prime Minister Abe was among several senior politicians who distanced themselves from Hashimoto's remarks. Meanwhile, Hashimoto attempted to justify his remarks, telling reporters that he had been referring to the atmosphere of the times, just like someone trying to put in context the outrageous quote of Terry Goodkind.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Fix Goes On

At the watered down MND Review debate, Denise Phua, MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said: "To be honest, the last thing on the minds of my fellow TC chairpersons, councillors and the staff was to fix and trip the opposition."

At least she stuck to the same word used by prime minister Lee Hsien Loong in a rally speech at Raffles place on 3 May 2006:
"Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I'm going to spend all my time thinking what's the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week's problem and forget about next year's challenges?"

But Cheong Yip Seng, 43 years at the Straits Times and retired as editor-in-chief in 2006, decided to change the offending word: "The prime minister would spend much more time than he now did, to counter the opposition." ("OB Markers, My Straits Times Story", page 424). He even wrote that it was Goh Chok Tong, not Lee, who first expressed the fear that the incumbents would have a hard time if the opposition gained more seats in parliament.

It's not a completely useless read, you do get the rare honest disclosure like ST was prepared to settle instead of going to court with NKF's TT Durai. His reasoning: "I was mindful of strong pro-NKF sentiments in powerful quarters". In particular, two ministers had come out in defence of NKF, one of whom is the self acclaimed patriotic Khaw Boon Wan, then the acting Health Minister. Based on his latest prima donna performance in parliament, he still acts.

With the significant investigations in the works, Shane Todd's mysterious demise, City Harvest Church court case, the unfinished business of AIM, one wishes there was an independent media in place. Cheong recognises that as the fourth estate, on par with the other three centers of power, executive branch of the government, the legislature and the judiciary. Cheong wrote Lee Kuan Yew had settled in advance the key principles of media management in a one-man-one-vote polity: "The first was that the Singapore media is not the fourth estate as it is in the West." (page 163)

That's one reason why you did not come across Sylvia Lim's discovery in the mainstream papers:
"The PAP TCs highlighted AIM’s “track record”, but based on the tender documents we have seen, AIM listed only one prior project, also a sale and leaseback. When AIM was asked to fill in a table indicating the identities of their key technical and professional staff, a line was drawn across the table with only one word typed in: “Outsourced”. "

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Price Of A Patriot

If you require proof Khaw Boon Wan is no gentleman, read how he addressed Ms Sylvia Lim in his closing remarks of the MND Review "debate":
"This is self-righteous and - pardon me for saying so - arrogant. Many of us in this House have been serving Singapore for decades, long before she entered this House.  Please, don't behave as if you're the only patriot in this House."

It kind of sets you thinking. Firstly, the oldest man in the House already said Singapore is not yet a nation - patriots are normally associated with nationhood. Then there's this definition of a patriot as a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. But how can anyone honestly do that when our country has been raped beyond recognition by members in the House who have sold it out to foreign interests, and diluted the national core to a fraction of its original composition? Even the kids of the future generation are not spared the ravaging pillage and plunder of the rapacious horde.

It was only in April 2013 that we learnt there was once a dastardly system of awarding sites in Housing Board estates to private pre-school operators based solely on the highest bid. Everybody cheered the announced intention to halt this inflationary practice. And there was the welcomed news that families with a gross monthly household income not exceeding $2,000 could actually enjoy subsidised fees as low $10 a month.

Then every body's jaws dropped. A mother of two revealed that kindergarten and childcare fees at 22 PAP community Foundation (PCF) centres in Sembawang GRC have announced hikes of not 5, 10 or 15, but TWENTY percent from January 2014. And this is how Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (also PCF Executive  Committee Chairman) Lawrence Wong justified it: "But the average fees will still be way below market and that's how we have maintained our fees." Leopards never change their spots.  Like the Khaw Boon Wan practice with public housing prices, rates can be de-linked and re-linked to private sector numbers at their political convenience.

Thomas Paine once wrote: "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." The patriots, who are still standing bravely in spite of all odds, deserve better.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lack Of Trust All Around

Morbid anti-suicide pledges are flooding the internet in China according to a BBC report, written in the hope that they will prevent authorities from falsely ruling their death as suicide should they die in suspicious circumstances. "Even if I have no car, no house, no lover, no money for food, and even if I have Aids, I will not commit suicide or fall off a building voluntarily," was one typical post. The trend is interpreted as a serious lack of trust that many place in public institutions, ranging from the police to the courts.

The Financial Times (FT) report on the death of American engineer Shane Todd may suffer a loss of trust too if the Singapore Police Force (SPF)'s challenge stands up to scrutiny. At stake is the London-based newspaper's accounting of the latest version of Todd's last actions alive: "Mr Todd, 6ft tall and nearly 200 pounds in weight, fashioned a noose from a computer bag strap, hung it over his bathroom door, closed and locked the door. He put the noose around his neck, stood on a chair and jumped off."

The version allegedly told earlier by SPF to Todd's parents: "police said their son had drilled holes in the bathroom wall, affixed bolts, wrapped the strap through a pulley and over the door." The key difference between the two stories is that no Rube Goldberg configuration of drilled holes and pulley system was evident at the site of the crime scene when inspected by the parents.

The SPF is miffed because FT made no attempts to confirm with them whether the police gave different versions of the story. But it stopped short of presenting it's version of Todd's demise. An official autopsy report submitted by the SPF had ruled the death to be “asphyxia by hanging”. The fine distinction is that self induced asphyxiation is suicide, asphyxiation by a third party would be tantamount to murder.

The SPF is entrusting the coroner's enquiry starting today to establish the final story.  There are no provisions for an appeal. If the decision is controversial, a serious lack of trust will be imputed on the system.

Meanwhile, there's no rush to post an anti-suicide pledge on your Facebook account. Kishore Mahbubani is saying that any objective investigation will show that the Singapore police is at least as competent, if not more competent, than the FBI. The same fella who said that poverty has been eradicated in Singapore.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Rape Of Democracy

Daming Sunusi, an Indonesian High Court judge running for a Supreme Court position, was quoted by Kompass in January 2013 saying, "The one raped and the rapist both enjoy it, so [we would] need to think about the death sentence." Sunusi had to apologise for inferring that rapists should evade capital punishment because victims enjoyed the act.

One who took offence at the tasteless quip was Commission for Child Protection chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait, ""It is disturbing that a judge, whose role is to protect the legal rights of women and children, could say something so audacious and consider it as a joke. He should be sacked."

Zainudin Nordin, MP of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was not in a jocular frame of mind when posting on his Facebook account American writer Terry Goodkind's take on a system of government, “Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action.” Short of blaming it some mysterious administrator who might have made the post, Zainudin claims his intent was to present his view that "each decision comes with tremendous responsibilities."

Yet when queried whether he was the author of the email threat to take legal action against a netizen for highlighting his endorsement of Terry Goodkind, Zainudin would not confirm in the affirmative. Hey, even Spiderman fans know the line, "With great powers come great responsibility."

If Zainudin chooses to shirk his responsibility with the Denise He defence, it implies his powers may be just as vaporous. If he had real power, he would be able to get away with words like this:
"Repression, Sir, is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love - it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they're conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict."

Zainudin embarrassed himself by aligning with the wrong camp, like when Bernie Ecclestone managed to compliment Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and offend black people all in the same interview, saying how he "would love to have a good lady race driver and preferably black and Jewish too, but they might take maternity leave."

Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, responded to the insinuation on women and religion: "Mr Ecclestone is either an idiot or morally repulsive." Ditto Zainudin Nordin.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Moving On

Business Times reports former Member of Parliament (MP) Cynthia Phua has just joined real estate consultancy Knight Frank Singapore as its executive director of retail services. Madam Phua was once a general manager of NTUC Fairprice Co-operative's real estate business unit, the partisan employer who has a proclivity to provide jobs for party stewards like Desmond Choo (deputy director of industrial relations and the National Transport Workers Union) and Ong Ye Kung (former deputy secretary-general).

Singapore's first woman full minister and former minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Lim Hwee Hua's third posting since leaving politics was independent non-executive director with Ernst & Young's Global Advisory Council. She also joined private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts as adviser (October 2011) and Jardine Cycle & Carriage as non-executive director (July 2011).

Phua and Lim were part of the team that was turfed out of Aljunied in the May 2011 General Elections. Phua and Lim were also partners of a shameful episode in May 2009.

The 17-year-old boy may have been intellectually challenged, but even with his low IQ he could sense his mother was shabbily treated when she approached the MP for an appeal to the HDB which was in the process of repossessing her flat. Phua was standing in for Lim, then travelling abroad on some junket. The low EQ MP added injury to injury (he suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder that renders him weak and sickly) when she addressed him aggressively: "Who are you? What are you doing? Why aren't you working?"

He expressed his frustration on the way out by slamming a folding chair against an inanimate glass door, but not sufficiently violent to break it or cost expensive damage. That night the police arrested him.

A week later, mother brought a hand written apology from his son to Lim, back from her overseas trip, begging for mercy. Lim, alien to the milk of human kindness, was not moved: "'I made it very clear to (the mother) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There's no excuse to be violent."

If there was a follow up to The New Paper report , it can't be well distributed. Lim  and Phua may have moved on, but the fate of the youth, and her mother struggling to survive on her cleaner salary of $400 a month, probably did not warrant a mention in the mainstream media.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Press Freedom Update

The latest 2013 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders dispensed with weightage of dramatic political developments, focusing instead on the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.

Finland, the Netherlands and Norway are sitting pretty on top of the pile because they had distinguished themselves as countries that actually respect media freedom.

The real bad guys are Somalia (175th, -11), Syria (176th, 0), Mexico (153rd, -4) and Pakistan (159th, -8), places where journalists and netizens do get physically killed in the course of practising their craft. 2012 was apparently the deadliest ever registered by Reporters Without Borders in its annual roundup. Tanzania (70th,-36) sank more than 30 places because a journalist was shot while covering a demonstration and another was murdered within 4 months.

Burma (151st, +18) has gotten out of its rut in the bottom 15, where it lingered every single year since 2002, probably because the generals stopped gunning down monks in Saffron robes. The enlightened approach to Aung San Suu Kyi and the sincere attempts at reforms must be paying off.

No violence was inflicted on journalists in Singapore, unless someone wants to make a hullabaloo out of the loss of tenure for one academic. Compared to what happened at Tahrir Square, the outing at Hong Lim green was a walk in the park. Even the 200+ Malaysians who defied local laws to stage an illegal assembly near the perennially puking Merlion were treated with kid gloves.

Murder and public mayhem can't be reason for Singapore's ranking dropping 14 points from 135th to 149th.  One clue was Japan (53rd, -31) tumbling down the chart because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the “kisha club” system.  A kisha club (記者クラブ kisha kurabu) is a chubby Japanese news-gathering association of reporters that limits access by domestic magazines and the foreign media, as well as freelance reporters, to press conferences. Also, Argentina (54th, -7) fell amid reports of a new law regulating the broadcast media. So, was it self censorship or impending threats of muscling the social media, cartoons included, that gave the little red dot a rotund black eye? Imagine, if the Sticker Lady had printed "Press For Freedom" instead of "Press Until Shiok" on her labels, she could have been clasped in irons instead of being slapped with 240 hours of community service.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth

Not the "Gentleman" move
It would appear to all and sundry that heaven and earth are being moved to protect Teo Ho Pin from the malodour of AIMgate. For starters, the official mouth piece, now ranked 149th by Reporters Without Borders in the latest World Press Freedom Index, tried its darndest best to put a shine on the fallacious MND Review of a sordid saga. Teo was not the first to receive a get-out-of-jail-free card.

In June 1992, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, then Administrative Service Officer, was in the center of the storm concerning a leaked flash estimate of economic growth for the second quarter of 1992. The subsequent Official Secrets Act (OSA) investigation finding prepared by the ISD put the blame squarely on Tharman as the originating source, with recommendations that could torpedo his high flying civil service career. Kingmaker Lee Ek Tieng, then Managing Director of MAS, gathered support from other power brokers like Goh Keng Swee, J.Y. Pillay and Lim Kim San to neuter the ISD report. The complete list of those lobbied reads like a name dropper's wet dream, all spelt out in delicious detail in Ross Worthington's "Governance In Singapore," starting from page 155.

Twenty two long months after the publication of the flash estimate in the Business Times, the case was finally prosecuted, with an apriori arrangement that a non-custodial sentence would be considered. Tharman would be fined only $1,500, an amount that would ensure him free from impediment to stand for election.

Teo is not Tharman of course, but the stakes are also high. The last headache they need is another by-election.

Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim is doing her job by filing an adjournment motion on the town councils review for the next Parliamentary sitting on 13 May 2013. The initiative will give her at least 20 minutes to air the public's perspective , “... time to articulate what we think are critical aspects of the review of town councils, and in particular the transactions MND was looking at as well." Let's hope she's a fast speaker, as the spectrum of shenanigans in the AIM transaction can easily fill a whole book. George Bush had a shoe thrown at him, the Gangnam Style dancer deserves to be whacked with a hefty volume.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Golden Rule

Named after Charles Ponzi, a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays unrealistic returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors. The latter explains why Bernard Maddox could get away with it for so long (federal investigators believe the fraud began as early as the 1970s). When the high returns to the earlier investors could no longer be sustained, it was the money from the subsequent investors that perpetuated the scam until the mathematics no longer hold.

In our context, the lure of asset enhancement has given licence for the authorities to inflate public housing prices, via the mechanism of linking to private property rates and some mysterious accounting entity called "land reserves". Whatever the sleight of hand, sufficient numbers have subscribed to the snake oil, and 20+ year old houses which used to cost $20,000 are switching hands at $400,000 or more. The market's the ceiling.

The sad part of the episode is that the younger generation will have to perpetuate the shady exercise by taking the role of the subsequent investors in the Ponzi scheme of things. Why should they be mired in a fraud just because earlier investors drank of the Kool-Aid?

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Minister for National Development could do the morally right, and effect a proper spring cleaning. He should be aware that many of the younger generation will be coming of voting age in 2016.

Unfortunately, instead of roaring into action, the mouse squeaked. Khaw Boon Wan told participants at an Our Singapore Conversation  (OSC) dialogue on housing that he wants to lower the prices of flats by just "a few percent" over the next few years. His (selected) audience was objecting to selling back new flats only to the the Housing Board as this would limit the profit home owners can make. These are obviously not the needy people in dire need of shelter. Or assistance from public subsidy to stay out of the rain.

"If you want to sell a flat for $700,000 or $800,000, how can we stop you? No way". He says that, in accordance to his principle, he does not oppose the idea of subsidised EC (executive condominiums) owners making a tidy sum when they sell their units. To be rich is glorious, Deng Xiaoping would be so proud. Social inequality, Gini coefficient, all will have to take a backseat while this man is in charge. That's the golden rule in play: He who holds the gold, makes the rules.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Another Dog And Pony Show

It can't be expressed clearer than this: the TCs were set up for, and fulfil(,) a political purpose.

Deputy Secretary (Development) Tay Kim Poh had his hands tied from the very beginning. Although charged with a review of the sale in 2010 of the Town Council Management System (TCMS) software belonging to the PAP Town Councils to Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM), he knew the parameters of his purview were not free of political agenda. When his boss told him to jump, he could only ask, "How high?"

Public attention was focused on why TCs with millions of dollars in reserves will transact business with a $2 company. With only $2 in equity, how did AIM come up with the money in 2010 to buy $140,000 of software and lease it back? There are lots of interesting details not revealed in the MND Review Report. In the 7 pages of annexes to the 37 page report, not a single page of balance sheet or profit and loss account is included. Without the disclosure of accounting data, it is difficult to verify, as the Report claims, "There was no misuse or loss of public monies in the transaction".

But there was an interesting revelation on page 2:
In 1994, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) informed the TCs that it would cease HDB's IT system support used by all TCs. This was to be effected by 1996 as part of HDB's handover of responsibilities and functions to the TCs. The PAP TCs decided to aggregate their demand and called for an open tender in 1994 for the development, installation and maintenance of a Town Council Management System (TCMS) software.  AIM participated in the tender and was awarded the contract to develop this first generation TCMS.

In 2003, the TCs called an open tender to develop and maintain the second generation TCMS. This was awarded to National Computer Systems Pte Ltd (NCS).  AIM did not participate in the tender.

So, we are given to believe, way back in 1994, AIM actually had the manpower and resources to develop, install and maintain the first generation TCMS. And if AIM had served TCs well, why did it not participate in the 2003 tender? So many questions, so few answers. BTW why did the MND Review Team members choose to be anonymous?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sleeping With The Enemy

When the Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation ("The Cenotaph") was spray painted with graffiti, many were howling and baying for blood about the sacrilege of the war dead. Some of those outraged may be blissfully unaware of two living individuals who used to cosy up to the Japanese occupiers of World War II.

One answered an advertisement in the Synonan Shimbun and went to work for the Japanese propaganda department called the Hodobu. His job, deciphering intercepted cables from Reuters, UP, AP, Central News Agency of China and TASS, may have contributed to the capture, torture and death of many a freedom fighter. One of the editors, George Takemura, was pal enough to drop in in the evening and give him a packet of Japanese cigarettes from his own rations.("The Singapore Story", pg 63,64)

The other met his Jap buddy by helping him to buy fish and vegetable at the market. Soon he became errant boy of second lieutenant "Amaya-san" for pineapples and papayas (no mangoes, this was way before Michael Palmer's time). Amaya's boss, lieutenant Kokubu, treated him to miso soup and Japanese pickles. He even helped them build the Bakri memorial for Japense soldiers who died fighting there, the last major stand of British and Allied troops. Before long he was made an inspector in the Japanese police department, who hunted down the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).

No wonder, after the Japs were finally kicked out, and he was looking for a new job, one Major McLean made clear he disapproved of the fact he was an interpreter during the Occupation and accused him of being a collaborator. McLean explained that the MPAJA had fought side-by-side with the British, fought many running battles against the Japanese throughout the Occupation. In SR Nathan's mind, the MPAJA were the bad guys, and the Japs the nice fellows. Worse, he told McLean he would carry a gun for the Eskimo rather than carry anything for the British. ("An Unexpected Journey, Path To The Presidency", SR Nathan, page 122)
Lieutenant Kokubu is on the left.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

He Will Not Be Missed

Two years ago today, May 2nd, Osama bin Laden was put out of his miserable existence in Abbottabad, his hiding place of choice in Pakistan. At least Hitler did us a favour of putting a bullet to his own head.

Whether you had to surrender your nifty Swiss knife because you forgot to pack it in your checked luggage, or dump the expensive aftershave or cologne because there was still 100 ml left in the bottle, we all have good reason to say good riddance to this poor excuse for a homo sapien.

Some characters are more difficult to get rid off. Like the Labour chief Lim Swee Say who said the national drive to raise productivity does not mean workers have to work harder and longer hours. He should know, he does not have a portfolio to be in charge of, yet he keeps collecting millions from the tax payers. And gloat about how his regular review of his CPF account balance make him feel rich, filthy rich.

When he talks about making jobs easier and smarter, he's not referring to your daily grind, always keeping an eye out for the foreigner who will take away your job at the slightest excuse in the name of globalisation. He's reminding you that with the abomination of the GRC chicanery and gerrymandering, it's easier and easier for him go with the flow and never worry about being voted out. Too bad he's not getting an iota smarter with each passing year. He still makes you want to reach for the mute button each time his mug pops up on the tv screen.

The clown who gave you the ridiculous "Cheaper, Better, Faster" (CBF) has come up with something more idiotic. His contribution on how Singapore should hit its productivity targets: "The first 'how' is to be CBF, the second 'how' is to make the job, make the life of the worker more ESS - easier, smarter and safer. In the context of Singapore, given our low unemployment, tight labour market, there's a third ‘how’. Beyond CBF, beyond ESS…that is to value every worker." Maybe he should start doing some real work, like fighting for the workers' minimum wage, before we put a value on his pathetic existence.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Same Old Same Old

The guy was helicoptered in to address the reliability issues of the "world class" mass rapid transit system, but instead of focusing on the uptime and safety aspects, he is proving to be another despicable determined to rip off the commuters for profit objectives.

Under his charge, ex-army officer Desmond Kuek, president and chief executive officer, SMRT has just fired a shot across the bow: SMRT warned that its profitability will be further eroded in the next 12 months by the "continuing misalignment between fares and operating costs". That has to be cryptic military code for justifying another round of fare increases.

Although revenue increased 5.9 per cent to $1.1 billion, the company's net profit declined 30.5 per cent to $83.3 million. SMRT's operational costs in the first three months of this year rose 12.9 per cent from the same quarter last year, due to higher train and staff costs. Imagine, staff costs taking as significant a bite of the operating revenue as train costs. How much are the ex-officers paid anyway?

A real cheap G-clamp
In most likelihood, SMRT will decline to disclose details of the compensation package, citing it as a matter of "transport and national security". That was the official excuse when they declined mainstream media's request for photos of the crack in the rail that brought down the train system (again) on Monday. More likely they must be trying to avoid the embarrassment of a picture of the broken section held together by flimsy G-clamps. The equivalent of the collector shoe assembly being held together by a tie-wrap. Notice the familiarity in recourse to cheap engineering solutions. Welding rods must have been too expensive an option for SMRT to consider. The section with the crack was supposed to have been checked using ultrasonic testing just last Thursday. But as real engineers know, there are ultrasonic testers and there are ultrasonic testers.

The guys in charge are maintaining that the crack in the MRT rail is "no risk to safety". Let's hope they don't have to eat their own words any time soon, public lives are at stake.