Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Watz Online - 6 Jun 2012

Why China opted out of the Shangri-La Dialogue
Photo from Xinhua.

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy offers three theories as to why China did not show up at the 11th Asia Security Summit, aka the Shangri-La Dialogue, which just took place in Singapore, despite Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie having taken part at the forum last year and engaged participants "robustly":

One theory is that China's impending internal political transition is causing senior Chinese officials to avoid public forums where they might be forced to make comments that could hurt them domestically.

Another theory states that China concluded after last year's event that the forum too easily becomes a space for regional medium sized powers to gang up on China. A third theory is that China is trying to send a message that it opposes regional multilateral forums that include the United States and wants to establish that China's relationship with its neighbors is not an issue it wants to discuss with Washington in the room.

When pressed by Rogin on China's no-show at the conference, this was US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's response:

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Philippines must stop running amok
 The Philippines should seek a diplomatic solution to the ongoing dispute over the sovereignty of Huangyan Island. China's position is firm; the government prefers diplomatic negotiations to resolve the current tensions, but it will unswervingly safeguard its territorial sovereignty.

The Philippines' unrealistic ambition to grab China's Nansha Islands, of which Huangyan Island is part, has led to its gamesmanship over the past month. This has included harassing Chinese fishing vessels, stating its intention to seek international arbitration, trying to rename the island and removing Chinese signs and monuments and inciting anti-China demonstrations in the Philippines.

For a long time, China's restrained, calm and constructive attitude toward disputes in the South China Sea has been taken advantage of by some countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, who have been emboldened to encroach on China's islands and reefs, territorial waters and resources in the South China Sea. They have even sought to introduce third parties into the disputes in an attempt to internationalize the South China Sea and intimidate China.

Over the years, China has insisted on one-on-one dialogue with the countries disputing its sovereignty of certain territories, but with the United States as the puppeteer behind the scenes, Vietnam and the Philippines have chosen to rebuff China's friendly intentions and its proposal to "put aside disputes and seek common development".

With the US' strategic center of gravity shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, the South China Sea issue provides an "entry point" for Washington's new strategic deployment. Against this background, the Philippines and Vietnam believe their opportunities are coming and they are rushing to "rake in the profits" on offer in the South China Sea.

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US set to further boost naval presence in Asia

The United States is set to further enhance its naval engagement in the Asia Pacific as Singapore Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen conveyed the republic's in-principle agreement to the former's request to forward deploy up to four littoral combat ships (LCS) to Singapore on a rotational basis.

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and Dr Ng met yesterday in Singapore, which also marks Panetta's first attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), according to a joint statement.

During their meeting, Panetta and Dr Ng discussed a wide range of regional security and defence issues. They noted that both navies would work together to finalise deployment details and arrangements. The LCS will not be based or homeported in Singapore.

Its crew will live on board the LCS for the duration of their deployment. Panetta reaffirmed that the LCS deployment would strengthen US engagement in the region, through the port calls at regional ports, and engagement of regional navies through activities such as exercises and exchanges.

Dr Ng welcomed the US' strong participation in regional forums like the SLD and Asean Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), which facilitated open dialogue and helped to build mutual confidence and understanding.

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Dempsey Details Plan for ‘Singapore-managed’ Ships

The littoral combat ships that will soon begin rotational deployment to Singapore are an example of the increased military engagement called for under the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said June 3.

En route from Singapore to the Philippines today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff filled in the picture outlined yesterday during the 11th annual Asia security conference in Singapore known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Following a bilateral U.S.-Singapore meeting at the conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Singapore’s Minister for Defense Ng Eng Hen finalized the rotation of four U.S. littoral combat ships to Singapore. Dempsey told American Forces Press Service today that the ships will be managed out of, not based in, Singapore.

“They’ll be deployed for six to 10 months at a time, on a rotational basis, but they’ll make port calls throughout the region,” the chairman said. “And so while the U.S.-Singapore relationship will be the most significant beneficiary of that, so too will Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines [and] others in the region.”

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Tan Jee Say's policy discussion group plan in limbo

Any use of Orchard Road building for meeting may breach tenancy contract

Former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say's plans for a policy discussion group to meet at 38 Orchard Road seem to have been put on the back burner.

The state-owned conservation building next to MacDonald House is leased to Chanson F&B, which is owned by his wife Patricia and her businessman friend Ng Meng Khoon.

They had leased it from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) from August last year till February 2014 for restaurant and office use.

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As Yale's Blunder Deepens, Singapore Bares Its Teeth

When the Yale College Faculty passed a resolution in April condemning the "lack of respect for civil and political rights in the state of Singapore, host of the proposed Yale-National University of Singapore College" and urged "Yale-NUS "to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society," Yale's president Richard Levin declared that the resolution -- passed in his presence and over his objection -- "carried a sense of moral superiority that I found unbecoming."

Levin then unbecame what he ought to be as president of a liberal-arts university by going to Singapore and giving a speech at the end of last month, the same month in which authoritarian corporate city-state had committed yet another of its abuses against basic civil liberties that have been monitored and condemned by many international observers and advocates -- liberties that, as the Yale faculty resolution emphasized, "lie at the heart of liberal arts education as well as of our civic sense as citizens" and "ought not to be compromised in any dealings or negotiations with the Singaporean authorities."

Yale President Richard Levin; Photo: AP

When Levin gave his speech touting the appointment of the ill-prepared but energetically pliable Yale professor Pericles Lewis as Yale-NUS' first president, Singapore had only recently prevented Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), from leaving the country to give a speech of his own at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Not only wasn't Chee allowed to leave Singapore; the International human rights lawyer Bob Amsterdam, counsel to the SDP and Chee's representative internationally, was detained and turned back at Singapore's Changi Airport when he tried to visit Chee on May 20, days days before Levin's visit.

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NGO's media coverage findings

WE READ with interest the recent exchange between Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang and the editors of The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao ('Low explains comments on media'; last Wednesday).

Maruah believes media monitoring during elections is pivotal to free and fair elections. Such monitoring to ensure balanced coverage has to be done by neutral parties, and the conclusions shared with the public.

We conducted a media monitoring exercise during the Hougang by-election. Due to limited resources, the immediate analysis was limited to the English-language newspapers and Lianhe Wanbao. We had conducted similar exercises for the General Election and Presidential Election last year.

The monitoring process covered the following parameters: quantitative coverage by the media in terms of column inches devoted to positive stories and negative stories; qualitative coverage in terms of placement of articles and photos; and an assessment on the positive or negative imaging through the choice of photos.

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Singapore a poor model for Myanmar

BANGKOK - When Myanmar's reforming President Thein Sein visited Singapore in January, officials there offered lessons on how to modernize and attract foreign investment. Singapore's eagerness to court Myanmar's ruling generals has been a diplomatic feature of the international community's two decades of trying to crack open the reclusive country.

Now that Asia's "next economic frontier" has started to open up, Singapore - where Myanmar's senior generals bank and seek hospital treatment - is keen to offer itself as a dazzling example of how to become a first-world economy within a couple of generations.

It's a siren call that should be resisted, said Rodney King, the Australian author of the controversial book Singapore: Myth and Reality.

"Singapore is not a good development model and not one a developing country should follow. Singapore has basically conned the world about its nation-building achievement," said King. "It is frightening that they should regard Singapore as a good model to follow."

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Singapore Family Sedan Matches Cost of a U.S. Home

Vinay Mathur gave up on buying a new car in Singapore as the cost of a permit rose to the highest in 17 years. He settled for a two-year-old BMW 3-series.

“By the time we began seriously to think of buying a car, license prices had shot up,” said Mathur, 42, referring to the so-called certificates of entitlement, which are auctioned by the city-state and used to control congestion.

Singapore Family Car Matches Cost of a U.S. Home
Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Customers look at cars in a Volkswagen AG showroom in Singapore. Record economic growth in the city state is enabling buyers to splash out on Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG autos even as a 24-fold jump in the cost of a car permit inflates costs.

Customers look at cars in a Volkswagen AG showroom in Singapore. Record economic growth in the city state is enabling buyers to splash out on Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG autos even as a 24-fold jump in the cost of a car permit inflates costs. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

SDP Secretary General Chee Soon Juan
Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, said the government should amend the permit system because it favors the rich.

At S$86,889 ($67,000) just for a permit, the total price of a Volkswagen Passat in Singapore is about the same as the median U.S. metropolitan home. A 25 percent jump in residents in seven years, coupled with the world’s highest proportion of millionaire households, has fueled a 10-fold surge in license prices over three years.

The government said last week it will postpone plans to cut the number of permits available and slow traffic growth, responding to the outcry over soaring prices.

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LTA hastens installation of overhead traffic lights at 'Ferrari crash site'

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will bring forward its plans to install overhead traffic lights at the junction of Victoria Street and Rochor Road.

LTA said it will start installing the overhead traffic lights on Tuesday, instead of waiting for Downtown Line MRT works to be completed next year.

The traffic lights are expected to start operating early next week.

LTA said it decided to do so following public feedback and suggestions on how to further improve the road junction.

A fatal accident at the junction involving a Ferrari and a taxi on May 12 left three dead.

Another accident occurred on May 26 involving a Lexus and a taxi.

LTA said its traffic engineers have studied the feedback and suggestions, and decided to bring forward the installation of the overhead traffic lights at the junction as another precautionary measure, instead of waiting till 2013 as planned.

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Will public transport fees go up again?

Will public transport fees go up again?

Singaporeans may have to pay more for public transport in 2013.

A lot will depend on a 13-member committee that will review the fare adjustment formula and framework.

The Fare Review Mechanism Committee (FRMC) will be headed by Richard Magnus, a former Senior District Judge for the Subordinate Courts who stepped down in 2008. He also serves as the chairman on the Casino Regulatory Authority and is part of the Public Transport Committee (PTC) as well.

In March, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that there would not be a fare adjustment this year because a review of the formula and framework would have to be done first.

This means, the revisions in 2013 may mean higher fees (for commutors) because fare adjustments are being skipped this year.

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JC student uses the F word on DPM Teo
JC student uses the F word on DPM Teo

A 17-year-old junior college student used the “F-word” numerous times in his blog post to blast Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The student was not happy with the way Mr Teo handled questions posed by students at the Pre-University Seminar held on 29 May.

He said he was unsatisfied with the way the minister replied certain questions with another question - “what do you think?”. He remarked that at just 17 years of age, he lacked the life experiences to provide solutions to national problems

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Teacher accused of luring students to become his mistresses
Teacher accused of luring students to become his mistresses

A married male teacher has lodged a police report after being accused by netizens of luring two of his students to becoming his mistresses.

According to an online post by a netizen, the teacher, who is from a renowned private school, apparently lured his students to become his mistresses by promising them passes in their exams and other incentives.

The person also claimed that the married man has been having a long term intimate relationship with a Chinese student. After the student had graduated, the man allegedly preyed on another student by offering her the chance to be an intern at a good establishment.

The name and photos of the teacher were posted online.

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Hougang MP Png takes issue with media reports

Newly-elected Hougang MP Png Eng Huat has refuted media reports saying that he set up and closed down eight companies over 12 years.

In a statement posted on the Workers' Party website on Monday, he cited reports in My Paper and Lianhe Zaobao and took issue with their timing, saying they 'did not get their facts right'.

Published in the run-up to Polling Day for the by-election, they said he was the director and shareholder of 11 firms, eight of which wound up between 1990 and 2002.

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ISA detainee Lim Hock Siew passes away aged 81
Former ISA detainee Lim Hock Siew at a tribute to him on 6 August 2011. (YouTube screengrab)

Lim Hock Siew, Singapore’s second longest-held political prisoner after Chia Thye Poh, passed away Monday evening from illness at the age of 81, according to his friends.

Though the exact cause of his death is yet unknown, Yahoo! Singapore understands that Lim had been ill in recent years, and had not seen many of his friends.

Lim was one of more than 110 activists who were arrested under the Internal Security Act in “Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963, and was the last of his batch of detainees to be released from incarceration on 6 September 1982, after 19 years and eight months.

He was a founding member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), but was dismissed from it alongside 12 others in 1961, later taking part in the subsequently-formed Barisan Sosialis, led by Lim Chin Siong and Lee Siew Choh.

The son of a fishmonger, Lim, as a practicing doctor, dispensed free medication at his clinic and give transport money to needy patients.

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Singapore GIC buys into South Africa's supermarket chain

South African retailers continue to pique the interest of foreign buyers, with the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation acquiring a stake in Spar.

Following the acquisition, the corporation now held 5,18% of the issued ordinary share capital of the company, Spar said in a Sens announcement on Friday.

Last year, US retail giant Walmart concluded a R16,5bn deal to buy SA’s Massmart.

Foreign investors are keen to tap into the growth potential that the African market offers when compared to other more developed jurisdictions such as Singapore. International investors own about 70% of Truworths, SA’s largest clothing retailer, from 67% a year ago, and more than 90% of Massmart.

Almost 60% of shares in Mr Price and 54% of Woolworths are owned by foreign funds, increasing from 51% for both stocks in May last year, according to Bloomberg data.

Singapore Shipping Association denies claims of "frothed"bunker fuel

The Singapore Shipping Association on Monday said that claims of "cappuccino" or frothed bunkers being supplied in Singapore are "overly exaggerated and unsubstantiated by hard evidence at the time of loading," according to an official statement.

The "cappuccino" effect is allegedly due to the presence of entrained air, which may cause the bunker fuel to froth, causing manual measurements to be unreliable, the SSA said.

After a period of several days, the froth reportedly subsides, which may result in the apparent loss of bunkers, it added.

In addition, "allegations of supplying frothed bunker after several days' [of] sailing are completely inadmissible," the SSA said.

Ex-Beijing mayor 'sorry' over Tiananmen crackdown

HONG KONG: Chen Xitong, who was Beijing mayor during the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, said he was "sorry" and that the deaths could have been avoided, according to a book to be released this week.

Chen, who fell from grace in one of China's biggest political scandals, was widely seen as the official who pushed for the use of military force against the student-led protests in the heart of the capital.

The 81-year-old, who in 1998 was sentenced to 16 years in jail on corruption charges, however attempted to play down his role in the new book, saying he was merely acting on orders from the top leadership.

"I feel sorry," Chen said in the Chinese-language book "Conversations with Chen Xitong" which will hit Hong Kong book stores on Friday ahead of the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

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Heroic neighbours hold on to maid to prevent fatal fall

Three courageous neighbours held on to the limbs of a maid for over 30 minutes to prevent her from plunging to her death.

The incident happened at around 10am on 3 June at block 550 at Woodlands Drive 44. The 29-year-old maid known as Nurani is believed to have lost her footing while standing on a stool to hang clothes.

Upon hearing her screams, a female resident who was watching TV in the living room, dashed to the kitchen and managed to grab Nurani’s hand in time. However, she could not support her weight for long and actually lost her grip.

At that moment, her neighbour living directly below, a 40 year-old technician, only known as Mr Zhou, was at the window to catch hold of Nurani’s leg to stop the fall. His wife managed to find two other people to help. The trio held on till the Singapore Civil Defence Force officers arrived.

Mr Zhou said that Nurani was very frightened and kept struggling, making it difficult for him to hold on to her leg.

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New rule: Employers must watch when maids clean windows

Employers will have to follow stricter guidelines when their maids clean the exterior of windows at their homes.
When this chore has to be done, the employer or an adult representative will have to be around to supervise it. Window grilles must be installed, and locked during the cleaning.

These rules, to take immediate effect, will apply to all homes, except those with windows at ground level or which are along common corridors.

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Probation for teacher who caned maid three times

A secondary school teacher who had pleaded guilty to caning her maid three times was given two years' probation on Monday.

54-year-old Lee Meng Choo, a teacher at Junyuan Secondary School, had pleaded guilty in April to abusing her maid.

The Straits Times reported that she had caned her Indonesian maid, Ms Sri Maryati, 24, on the buttocks, back and hands for not checking on Lee's 11-year-old son's homework and setting the alarm clock wrongly.

She also pulled the maid's ear until it bled for clogging up the kitchen sink, said the paper.

Ms Sri sought help from a neighbour's maid, and the neighbour subsequently brought her to the police.

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Retiree jailed 3 weeks for punching and striking maid

A retiree was jailed for three weeks on Tuesday for punching a Myanmar maid.

Liew Joo Seng, 71, admitted causing hurt to Ms Biak Dim Par, 25, at his daughter's flat in Sengkang on Oct 31, 2011.

The court heard that Liew shouted at the victim when he found out that his bottle of achar (pickles) had turned stale as it was left opened and had to be thrown away

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The works of 'My grandfather road' artist

A Singapore guerilla artist responsible for the works of street art that have been spotted around Singapore lately has been arrested.

However, netizens are questioning if her works, which pokes fun at the unique querks of Singaporeas, can be considered 'public art' which contributes to the cultural flavour of Singapore.

Among her works are "My Grandfather Road" spray painted onto roads here, and "My Grandfather Buildings" onto walls.
Going under the moniker SklO, she also pasted circular stickers with slogans such as "Press Until Shiok" and "Press for Money" above the buttons at roadside crossings.

An online petition has been going around asking for 20,000 signatures to ask the Government to ease their restrictions on public 'art' and reduce the arrested woman's charge from Vandalism to Miscellaneous Offences.

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'Sticker Lady' stirs art debate

The arrest of a 25-year-old woman, who is believed to have painted on roads and pasted stickers on road traffic signs, among other things, has re-ignited a perennial debate over what should be the right balance in Singapore between law enforcement and allowing room for creative expression.

This newspaper is not revealing the identity of the woman, who is the founder of an online magazine, as she has not been charged with any offence. A police spokesperson said the woman is currently out on bail.

News of her arrest has become a talking point - on whether the woman's acts, which included stencilled messages of "My Grandfather Road" on several roads, should be deemed vandalism or, at worst, public nuisance.

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