Thursday, 12 July 2012

Watz Buzzing - 12 Jul 2012

Open letter to PM Lee: Jalan Suka residents’ red light woes

Dear PM Lee,

On behalf of the residents at Jalan Suka, especially my elderly mother, I am urging you to look into the matter of the worsening security in this area.

I have written to URA to ascertain why so many residential units here have been converted and are in the process of turning into brothels. The URA officer whom I have corresponded with has clearly stated that the units at Jalan Suka are meant for residential and institutional purposes, not commercial use like brothels. The URA officer added that we should approach the Singapore Police Force (SPF) instead.

I have been in contact with my MP and SPF regarding this issue for the last 5 years (at least), and more recently the DPM Teo Chee Hean, asking them to intervene as it is within their power to take action against the owners and brothel operators.

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Alex Au doesn't learn, has to apologise for his post again

You would have thought that Alex Au, the highly celebrated blogger among the Liberals and LGBTs, would have learnt his lesson well, when he was asked by Minister Shanmugggam to remove his offending post in his blog. I wrote about that incident here - Shanmugam's veiled threat against Alex Au?


1. We act for Mr K Shanmugam.

2. We refer to the following comments that you have made on your website,, under the Responses section of the blog posting entitled “The Media and Yaw Shin Leong” published on 8 February 2012:
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Signs in Tagalog begin to appear in Singapore

(Photo Stomp)

As more foreigners flood into Singapore, even signs in foreign languages are beginning to appear in Singapore scenes.

In this particular photo of an ‘Out of Order’ sign captured by a netizen and reported by STOMP, it was written in 4 languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tagalog.

It is not known how Tamil, which is one of our 4 official languages stated in the Constitution of Singapore, gets replaced by Tagalog.

The netizen said, “I spotted this sign while waiting for the lift at Plaza Singapura basement two yesterday (July 8), at about 8.30pm.”

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Press Release From M. Ravi’s Office in Response to Today Online and to Straits Time Report on the High Court Filing for Judicial Review of US$4 Billion Loan to IMF

This response was sent out today from M. Ravi’s office on behalf of their client Kenneth Jeyaretnam who was responding to the reports in the Mainstream Media over the weekend:

Statement of Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Firstly, contrary to the impression conveyed by the Today Online report dated 7th July 2012, I took this action in my personal capacity as an ordinary Singapore citizen rather than as Secretary General of the Reform Party.

Secondly, I strenuously object to the above Today report which states that:

Over the past few weeks, Mr Jeyaretnam has been arguing on his blog and also to the Channel News Asia report of the same date which states:

This is the central bank’s response to queries raised by the TODAY newspaper following a series of blog postings by Reform Party’s Secretary-General Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

I absolutely refute the impression given that this matter has only been raised on my personal blog.

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MARUAH welcomes changes as first step towards universal human rights norms

As highlighted in MARUAH's submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review of Singapore in 2011, the mandatory death penalty fundamentally conflicts with international human rights norms.

MARUAH is therefore glad at this first step towards consistency with universal standards of human rights%2 but calls on the Singapore Government to do much more.

MARUAH President Braema Mathi says, "We applaud the Singapore Government for taking this important first step. But this iskonly a small step in the right direction, as the mandatory death penalty is fundamentally troubling, and it continues to be applied to a substantial number of criminal offences."

The Government announced today that it will change the law, such that the mandatory death penalty will not be applied in two types of cases: firstly, where a drug trafficker only played the role of a courier, and the trafficker had substantively cooperated with the police or had a mental disability; and secondly, where there is a homicide but there was no intention to kill. In these cases, the courts may either impose the death penalty, or sentence the convicted person to life imprisonment with canin'.

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Attn: Campaigners for Yong Vui Kong who is on death row - govt offers lifeline, so grab it!

It is time M Ravi and his team of anti-Death Penalty Campaigners swallow their pride in their mishandling of Yong Vui Kong's case and grab this last and final chance to save him. The govt looks set to abolish the MANDATORY death sentence and Yong Vui Kong looks qualified for this last olive branch to save his life. Yes, you read it right!

This is what I have always been fighting for - to abolish the MANDATORY death sentence, while keeping the death penalty itself. Campaigners for Yong Vui Kong on the other hand have fought tooth and nail against the Death Penalty, and in the process, passed up loads of opportunities to save Yong. That includes to have a plea deal with the Prosecution by getting Yong to testify against his drug lord boss, Chia Choon Leng.

Now all this will be history and Yong would be saved - provided the stubborn anti-Death Campaigners yield to the fact that they allow Yong Vui Kong a chance to be resentenced WITHOUT getting the law to change against Death Penalty.

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Singapore Shades of Grey

With all the hype around the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, I wondered what a Singapore Shades of Grey would be like. So I started the #singaporeshadesofgrey hashtag:

1. @mrbrown: "Let's ballot for a BTO flat," he whispered. Her toes curled, as thoughts of the 30-year loan pleasured her senses.

2. @mrbrown: His pelvis moved stronger with every thrust but he just couldn't board the rush hour MRT train.

3. @dsylxeic: A soft gasp escaped her lips as he slid his… key into the door of their new Punggol flat.

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Trying to be too clever

Last week the Ministry of Finance (MOF) clarified that each household is eligible for only one Goods and Services Tax Voucher (GSTV) - U-Save rebate, the component of the GST Voucher scheme which was meant to help offset monthly utilities bills. "The amount of GSTV-U Save rebates depends on the flat type, and not the size of the household," the ministry stated in a press release.

If, say, three members of household, staying in the same flat, are individually eligible and duly received notification for the GSTV- U Save rebate, only one use of the utilities rebate may be utilised.

This is inspite of the fact that all three members of the household are individually taxed by the regressive GST scheme each time they make a purchase of goods or services, whither at a hawker center, food court or restaurant.

The GSTV is a permanent scheme introduced in February this year, within the 2012 Budget, so that, Thaman Shanmugaratnam may argue, “GST plus other schemes will not be regressive”. Well, it doesn't seem to quite work out as originally planned, does it? What semblance of altruism traceable in Thaman's effort is torpedoed by some smart aleck.

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Singapore's National Anthem to be switch from Malay to English for new citizens?, 9 Jul 2012
Malay or English?

The latest debate concerning the language in which the National Anthem, ‘Majulah Singapura’ should be sung continues.

Yes, ‘Majulah Singapura’ is the title for Singapore’s National Anthem and not ‘Mari Kita’ – a common mistake among Singaporeans who assume that it is the title because they are the first words of the anthem.

Written and composed by Zubir Said in 1958, the song was later adopted as the National Anthem in 1965. Full story

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Khaw Boon Wan, fishing and the Asian
In a blogpost in March this year, Minister for National Development Mr Khaw Boon Wan wrote about the problem on fishing with live bait at our public parks and how careless anglers leave a mess of rotten bait without cleaning up.

The result? NParks now bans live-bait fishing at the waterfront jettys. That's not surprising $CUT$ given everything else that's banned in Singapore.

What is surprising is Mr Khaw's view on the ban. The Minister admitted that the prohibition is "not a good solution" as it spoils the joy of fishing. (The SDP is with the Minister on this one - it's like walking into Steaks 'r' Us and then told that the only item on the menu is garden salad.)

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SADPC responds to the proposed amendment to the mandatory death penalty
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) is glad to receive the news that the Singapore government has taken the step to make alterations to the application of the mandatory death penalty.

We gratefully acknowledge that the government has halted all executions since July last year, while looking into possible amendments towards the currently rigid procedures behind the mandatory death penalty and we take this as a positive message that the government recognises the need for legal reform.

From our understanding, the proposed amendments, once implemented, will allow for judicial discretion in sentencing some criminals convicted of drug-related and murder cases to life imprisonment with caning, which is perceived to be a lighter sentence than death.

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How daft can Sinkies be? V1.1

Their forefathers came to build this little colonial outpost to what it is today only to be told that they lacked talents. Then comes the importing of foreigners who could not help their own countries, runaway from their own countries, to come here to rule the Sinkies.

And with the most advanced and highly rated schools in the world, with the best facilities, the daft Sinkies claimed that they are daft and needed the talents of half broken down schools in third world countries to come here and help them.

And being the most advanced financial centre in the world other than the European cities, we could not produce any talents to run our banks and needed to import foreigners who came here to learn the ropes, to run our banks. To add insult to injuries, the banks that we have today were built by the so called no talent locals.

And now, after they have built the banks to such a size some declared locals are not good enough to run them. And foreigners who have not run them, never built a bank, are deemed good enough, better than the locals. They are still wearing their blinkers and not seeing that western bank managing methods and processes are mostly fraudulent, gambling and taking high risks on fictitious products and derivatives that will risk the bank going bust.

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Casinos - Controlling the harm after damage is done...

"Singaporeans and permanent residents paid a total of $288 million in casino levies in 2011 and the first six months of this year." - Straits Times Breaking News[Link]
You do the maths. This translates to 2.88M visits to the casino for the last 18 months if we assume every Singaporean gambler pays $100 to get in. Those who pay $2000 in levy are likely to visit the casino more than 20 times per year so 2.88M is a lower bound of the estimated number of visits to the casinos. If you annualize it is about 2M visits a year and the govt collects $200M in levies alone per year.

That is two visits for every three Singaporeans in the country. If you leave out children, it translate to roughly one or more visit per Singaporean adult per year. I can't think of any other attraction in Singapore that is more frequently visited than the casinos. According to reports 200,000 Singaporeans visit the casino every year [Link]and this works out to an average of 10 visits per gambler every year

The govt is now considering further measures to limit the visits for those who are financially vulnerable and problem gamblers[Link]. By the time someone is identified to be a problem gambler, it is probably too late. But it is still better than doing nothing. However, much more can be done. In S. Korea, for example, citizens are not allowed to enter the casinos[Link].

If the govt is serious, we can go much further with the measures - do an opt-in scheme rather than an exclusion scheme. If you want to go to the casino, apply to go in and get means tested and some counselling before you're allowed to play at the casinos. The problem is after you allow the building of casinos here, it is unpopular and difficult to implement measures targeting citizens - some will complain it is unfair to target them rather than the measures are there for protection. 

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Former MOE scholar’s 6-page-long mitigation to the Court

The former Ministry of Education (MOE) scholar Jonathan Wong, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment for sexual relations with an underage girl submitted a 6-page-long mitigation to the Court during sentencing.

The 25-year-old pleaded guilty in Court on Monday to 2 counts of commiting indecent acts and 3 counts of having sex with a minor, another 5 charges against him were taken into consideration during sentencing.

In the 6 page mitigation letter he detailed his plans to improve as a person, he mentioned :

-Hanging up reports of his crime and his sentencing at a prominent location where he can see them every day when he wakes up. This will serve as a reminder.

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Why I prefer the London Tube to MRT

I know what I’m about to say may sound controversial, and utterly absurd to some. Surely the London underground can’t be better than Singapore’s own Mass Rapid Transit system?

Well, I’m not about to embark on some academic spiel comparing the technicalities of both rail networks and emerge with conclusive scientific data proving my view is right. I’m just saying it’s my personal preference, that given a choice, I actually like the Tube better.


Yes, it is a fact that the Tube has stuck around since the 19th century, and is really a museum piece compared to our spanking new Circle Line. The Victoria Line which I take from Vauxhall, near where I lived, is perpetually closed on weekends, no thanks to efforts to upgrade its ageing network.

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Reading between the lines of MOE's sex ed revision

Reading between the lines of MOE's sex ed revision

I went to secondary school and junior college in the 1990s. Sex ed in secondary school meant a few hundred of us 14-year-olds crammed into the school hall to watch the Silent Scream video, named for the open-mouthed 'scream' of a foetus when it is being aborted.

Years later, we all remember it: the video was gruesome, traumatic, certainly quite effective in scaring us. And the logic was simple: You're too young to have a baby. And abortion is a heart-wrenching option. So whatever you do, just don't get pregnant so you don't have to get an abortion. It made sense.

Then came sex ed in junior college, an unfortunate job for one of my teachers. She was otherwise a calm, capable teacher, but here she looked flustered at having to talk to us about sex. "Err, just don't do IT," she kept repeating in a variety of ways, almost pleading with us for a good twenty minutes.

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Women Democrats talk holistic health

Chaired by leading Women Democrats member Ms Chong Wai Fung, the participants who came for SDP’s Holistic Health for Women forum went away with loads of useful information and great door gifts.

The talk started with Dr Tan Lip Hong who spoke about some of the common health problems that afflict women.
He took the participants through the many diseases to which women are most prone. Generally, women are physically less active than men.

Unknowingly to most people, heart disease is the number one killer for women, especially among those post-menopause. It is closely followed by cancers, with breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer being the highest killers among cancers in women.

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Comments on the Singapore Army's camouflage uniform

Dressed to fight: Singapore Army infantry demonstrate the difference between the old Number 4 combat uniform (right) and the design which replaces it. Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence

It does not take a defence expert to tell which of the two soldiers in the image above blends better in tropical vegetation. The Singapore Army soldier on the left wears camouflage fatigues with an improved blend of green, tan and black hues, colour pattern and uniform design compared to the uniform worn by the soldier on the right, which has a design that is being phased out.

This past week, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) decision to swap the old combat dress, known as the Number 4 uniform, for a uniform with pixelised camouflage patterns came under scrutiny of the Singaporean media. The SAF camouflage uniform came into prominence after reports from the United States said that the US Army was rethinking its US$5 billion, eight-year-long investment in its pixelised Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

Here are some comments on the matter:

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Misrepresentation by The Straits Times article

On July 07, The Straits Times (ST) published an article on dengue clusters in Singapore, titled “Hougang is hardest-hit among nine clusters”. I was disappointed with the way the ST Reporter, Ian Poh, quoted me.

On July 06, at around 5 pm, the reporter approached my grandmother to interview her about the dengue cases in the neighbourhood. As my grandmother was not conversant in English, I had to step in and translate part of the conversation. According to her, NEA reporters have been visiting the area frequently to ensure that the dengue fever was contained. The ST reporter and I then chatted about the dengue cases in the neighbourhood.

When he asked whether the family has been affected by mosquito bites, I replied in the negative. I repeatedly said that I was not that aware about the situation this time round because I was working. In fact, I was apologetic that I could not be more informative and the reporter assured me that whatever I said was sufficient.

This episode reminded me of a recent SPH controversy. Mr Daniel Ong, owner of the boutique Twelve Cupcakes bakery, was approached by SPH reporters with requests to feature his company. When he subsequently reproduced the reviews on his company’s website and social media, he was asked to cough out around S$3000 for infringing copyright acts.

If the Straits Times can legally claim ownership of the article on Mr Ong (which is about Mr Ong, after all), then what rights do interviewees have over how the Straits Times represent them?

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