Monday, 6 August 2012

Watz Buzzing - 6 Aug 2012

Estate upgrading comes to Hougang

Yahoo! News Singapore, 5 Aug 2012 

At an open dialogue session yesterday (4 Aug) with 150 students from local and overseas institutions, Acting Minister for MCYS, Major General (NS) Chan Chun Sing told the audience that immigration policy is “a balancing act”.

“The pace of the inflow of new immigrants has to be constantly adjusted… the adjustments will depend on how much society can benefit from the economic potential of the newcomers without accentuating social tensions.”

“The Government needs to find a balancing point between how much we can accept them and the economic dynamism and fresh perspectives they bring.” 

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$10 million spent on Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings

The total cost of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings which were setup to investigate the disruption of MRT train services on December 15 and 17 last year have amounted to nearly $10 million, Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

According to a spokesperson from LTA, the cost will be split between SMRT and the LTA, with SMRT paying $5.9 million, and LTA bearing the rest of the cost of about $4 million.

LTA’s $4 million will be included in its expenses incurred for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year, said the spokesperson. 

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The making of another tragedy

The govt is going all out to convince the people that bigger and bigger population is good for the country and people, more lively, more alive, richer, vibrant and prosperity for all. And for the sake of this glorious future, Sinkies are encouraged to have babies for all the wrong reasons. The primary reason is economics, to support the ageing population.

When the reasons for having babies do not include whether the parents want the babies, love to have babies, can afford to have babies, it baffles the logic of any reasonable and caring man. How responsible it is to ask people, with no regards to their emotional and psychological needs and financial ability to go and make babies?

Babies that are born not out of parental love and needs but to serve the country and nation are simply the products of a tragedy, a misguided logic for their existence. And this tragedy or pain is hundreds of times more than the two years of NS and 20 years of reservist liabilities. The commitment and responsibilities, including having the money to give these children a decent life, start the day they are conceived and would not end till they are financially independent. What about those who are not gifted to struggle successfully in this highly competitive city? Who’s responsibility to provide for them?

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The drive for more babies...and the wrongheadedness of the approach 

The government is getting there...but still does not quite get it. Or chooses not to get it. Or believes it can have its cake and eat it too. Wishful thinking.

There were 2 articles and an editorial on encouraging Singaporean couples to have more babies. Very briefly, the first article was on NTUC pushing for 6 months paid maternity leave and an option to take a further 6 months unpaid. The second article was on changing employers' mindset to make for a more baby and mother friendly work environment. Finally, the editorial was on how a holistic approach was needed to encourage more babies, ranging from more hands-on fathers, to affordable childcare and preschool.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 

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Sorry state of the legal profession at home

Justice OldSupremeCourtBuilding-Singapore-20071013

Alex Au’s recent article The ghosts of absent lawyers should have elicited a response from the Law Society. Since it has not responded, let me attempt an explanation.

The sorry state of the legal profession has been in existence for decades. The legal profession used to have a few human rights lawyers in earlier years. Several were also politicians interested in preserving the rights of citizens – John Eber, TT Rajah, J B Jeyaretnam and David Marshall come to mind. But one by one (with the exception of J B Jeyaretnam), they were damaged or neutralised by the ISA, contempt of court proceedings, defamation suits and disciplinary proceedings.

G Raman and Francis Khoo appeared on the scene in the 1970s. The ISA was swiftly used against them and many others in the profession. Raman was imprisoned while Francis became an exile. 

The ghosts of absent lawyers

Lawsocgate is likely to rumble on for a while. Legal processes take their own time and there are probably some facts yet unseen by the public.

However, I will argue that the issue it has uncovered goes beyond that of the Law Society versus M Ravi. Athough Ravi, colourful a character as he is, has a tendency to steal the show, we shouldn’t lose sight of an even more troubling question about the law profession itself.

Just to recap, on 16 July 2012, a Monday, just as a court hearing concerning by-elections got underway, a Wong Siew Hong from the Law Society appeared in court. M Ravi was then representing Madam Vellama in seeking a declaration from the court that the prime minister does not have unfettered discretion as to when to call by-elections. In chambers straight after the open hearing, Wong produced a letter from a psychiatrist Calvin Fones saying in a nutshell that Ravi was unfit to practise law due to a relapse of his bipolar disorder. 

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The Meaning of Our Pledge

All adult Singapore citizens have learned to say the Pledge. However, a lot still cannot recite it with complete accuracy. Quite a good number do not really know what it means.

When asked what the Pledge means to us as citizens on this National Day, some say it means “one united people” or some variation of this, and others say “it’s about multi-racialism” or something about religious tolerance. So far, I have yet to hear someone saying that the Pledge is a solemn vow by the person reciting it to build a democratic society based on justice and equality.

To most people, the National Pledge seems to read something like this: “We, the citizens of Singapore pledge to be one united people, and live harmoniously with people of different races and religions, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.” This is vocabulary that has been ingrained in their minds in spite of having recited it for the 12 years when they were in school. No one remembers the vow to build a democratic society based on justice and equality. 

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Scoring PM 14 months on

This piece is in response to PM’s cabinet changes 14 months ago and to this on reasons for moving ministers around and out, someone commented, “How about getting a more decisive PM now? A new PM will be much more receptive to new ideas and fixing failed policies.”

Who knows? Will Teo Chee Hean, Tharman or Ng Eng Hen be any better? Could be, but only one of them has held a major economic portfolio for a decent period of time, and in recent months fumbled badly. Teo  is a “security” man and Ng is shaping up that way: surgeon turned security guard.

And in favour of giving our PM a bit more rope before condemning him, he has only been able to choose his own cabinet since May 2011: something Goh Chok Tong, never had, despite him being PM for over a decade. Even PM in his first term had to live with “legacy” ministers: his dad, and duds like GCT, Wong, and Mah. 

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The Gloves are off and The Net is cast

The double whammy news announcements of the major cabinet reshuffle and the setting up of the Media Literacy Council in Singapore has caught many people off guard and gotten everyone buzzing. I am not going to go into an academic and detailed dissection of the two announcements as these have been covered by other online platforms and some bloggers.

Instead, I will like to share my views on the implications of these moves. Amidst the noise, many of the more forgiving souls would have been hit by an epiphany  today – that for all the ‘nice’ overtures made by our government to try to persuade us into thinking they are listening and changing to be a kinder, better government, the truth appears to be that nothing much has really changed.

To project a softer image, we have, over the past year,  been inundated with numerous pix in the media of smiling/laughing ministers hanging out with the grassroots residents (especially Mr Kee Chiu);  the sudden proliferation of ministers’ Facebook pages (including our PM);  and many ministerial comments and speeches peppered with well crafted words like Singaporeans first, caring, understanding, engaging and listening to the people. Hopes were raised and even among the cynical, some were cautiously optimistic that a more democratic society with more civil liberties will emerge 

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Lee Wei Ling and the elastic band on her father’s shorts

I grew up in a middle-class family. Though they were well-off, my parents trained my brothers and me to be frugal from young. We had to turn off water taps completely. If my parents found a dripping tap, we would get a ticking off. And when we left a room, we had to switch off lights and air-conditioners.

My father’s frugality extends beyond lights and air-conditioners. When he travelled abroad, he would wash his own underwear, or my mother did so when she was alive. He would complain that the cost of laundry at five-star hotels was so high he could buy new underwear for the price of the laundry service.

One day in 2003, the elastic band on my father’s old running shorts gave way. My mother had mended that pair of shorts many times before, so my father asked her to change the band. But my mother had just had a stroke and her vision was impaired. So she told my father: “If you want me to prove my love for you, I will try.” I quickly intervened to say: “My secretary’s mother can sew very well. I will ask her to do it.” 

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Mrs Chong to blame?

According to an online Straits Times report on Aug 2, a former teacher from a top secondary school was charged in court with having sex with an underage boy, thus confirming a rumour that’s been swirling in cyberspace.

The woman, in her early 30s, allegedly had consensual sex with the boy on the first occasion sometime in January this year.

The prosecution successfully applied for a gag order.

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Of Change and No Change

Earlier this year, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat gave a talk at SMU. I wrote a blog post in response to his speech two days later. In particular, I discussed how his rhetoric of having a “Singapore Plus Plus” strategy did not meet with MOM’s immigration policy.

Not only are the availability of employment passes a “free for all” with no levy, ceiling or ratio to meet, “foreign talent” on employment passes could bring their dependents, meaning their spouse, children, parents and even parents-in-law!

I emailed my blog post to Heng Swee Keat, but I received no reply. Recently, I was heartened of the policy change that employment pass holders will face restrictions on the dependents that they bring in. They need to earn at least $4,000 to bring in their children and spouses, and be at the P1 ($8,000) level before they can bring in their parents. No more parents in law. 

Beware of spam Facebook app called “Whatsapp”

There is a spam app going around Facebook now. If you receive notification on Facebook saying your friend has shared 3 pics with you on WhatsApp, do not click on it. It is a spam app. The app will send the same notification to all your friends without your consent

If you have already clicked on it, just remove the application from your Facebook account by following the instructions here. This should also remove all the notification that the app send to your friends. Let’s hope Facebook remove the app soon. 

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GRC and unfair playing field accelerate PAP’s downfall

A chess game in motion
Politics is like Chess, you get better by playing a better opponent – P-K4 Project Editorial @ New Asia Republic
Politics is like chess – you get better when you play against a better opponent. With that in mind, former Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong made a revelation which most of us already know way (DUH) back in 2006 about the purpose of GRC. According to Goh, GRCs made it easier for the PAP to find “top talents”. He went on to add that without the GRCs, it takes away the assurance of a good chance of winning in a maiden election and that would deter many capable and young Singaporeans from risking their careers to join politics. This is precisely the route in which PAP got its debuting candidates into parliament – on the coat-tails of heavyweight ministers. 

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