Saturday, 15 September 2012

Watz Buzzing - 15 Sep 2012

PRC fugitive granted S’pore PR through EDB’s Global Investor Programme

A Chinese official wanted by Interpol is currently on trial in Singapore.

The PRC, Li HuaBo, was arrested by the Singapore police and charged for allegedly receiving stolen funds earlier this year (‘Singapore PR is a fugitive wanted by China for embezzling 94 million yuan‘).

According to Chinese news reports, Li was a former junior finance bureau officer from PoYang county, JiangXi province in China, before he fled the country last year after allegedly embezzling 94 million yuan from special funds set up to help the county’s one million poor residents. Li fled with his wife and two teenage daughters, eventually settling in Singapore. He and his family were later given Singapore PR status by the Singapore government.

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Singapore-Taiwan pact to be completed this year: Lien

The China Post, 13 Sep 2012
Former Vice President and Taiwan APEC delegate Lien Chan (連戰) stated yesterday that according to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), the bilateral talks over a free trade agreement between Taiwan and Singapore have made a significant progress and are likely to be completed by the end of this year.

Lien and Lee met on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. As a personal friend of Lien, Lee stated that he was happy to meet Lien and posted the picture of them dining together on his Facebook page on Sept. 9.

Lien stated that they caught up with each other during the meeting. Full story

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83% of foreign medical grads fail S’pore qualifying exams

In response to a question from Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, MP for Marine Parade GRC, the Minister of State for Health (MOH), Dr Amy Khor, replied in Parliament on Mon (10 Sep) that only 5 out of 30 candidates (17%) passed the qualifying examinations since 2009, for foreign medical graduates from foreign medical schools not recognized by SMC.
Assoc Prof Fatimah had posed the following questions to MOH:
  1. How frequently does the Singapore Medical Council run the qualifying examination for foreign medical graduates from medical schools that are not listed on the list of recognised schools for practice locally; and
  2. On average, how many candidates take these exams annually and what is the passing or qualifying rate.
The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) runs qualifying examinations once a year for foreign medical graduates who have studied in schools not recognised by Singapore to practise locally.

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National CONversation

National Conversation? LOL, as the youngsters would say.  It is just propaganda. The outcomes are pre-decided, the PAP model is rigidly entrenched, it has no parliamentary mandate,  it is an exercise in deflecting us away from  building functioning democracy. How much tax payer money will be spent on this PAP propaganda machine? It’s not even an election campaign period so doesn’t come out of their own party coffers.

Personally for me the National Conversation is a continuation of the National Silence that I am so used to. Well, until Jim Sleeper of Yale started to make a bit of noise that is. No sooner had he posted an article detailing how I was excluded from National University forums, the National televised debates for GE 2011, National Media and so on than an invite arrived to appear at a forum from the earnestly co-opted NUSSPA.

Thanks Jim! I am sure Jim causing embarrassment from Yale is also behind the sudden magnanimous decision by the PAP to accept Soon Juan’s offer of a $30,000 payment of his fine. Or the PAP have finally realised that they risk not only embarrassment but the creation of another National Martyr under virtual house arrest  in the manner of Aung San Suu Kyi, if Soon Juan is not able to join us in a proposed visit to Yale later this year.

So we all know it is just a Wayang,

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Not Exactly Conversational Mode

Not too long ago, a minister of state got an old man evicted from his HDB flat after intervening in a typical spat between neighbors. The poor chap is adamant that he had been framed by his neighbour, a 74-year-old woman. MP for Marine Parade GRC Tan Chuan-Jin wrote on his Facebook page that the resident had been “bullying his downstairs neighbour repeatedly” until the “poor woman was distraught and at her wit’s end”.

Now another heavy weight minister is crossing swords with an ordinary citizen, and a woman at that. Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat used his office to deliver a "stern response" to Mdm Ong for going to the police after her 12-year-old had his $60 haircut ruined by a scissors wielding teacher.

The "simple fact", he preached, was that the boy had been reminded "over and over again" to trim his hair, and the school had sent a letter to the parent about the subject. Quoting a media commentary, Heng claims "the mother... did herself and her son no favours."

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Singapore Conversations – Asking the wrong questions, looking the wrong places?

Can any real change come out from the Singapore Conversations initiative to engage the concerns of the people and the problem that Singapore faces today? Many on its Facebook outreach platform are already expressing scepticism about the seemingly one-way nature of this conversation. “We also want our voice to be heard, follows [sic] up and acknowledged” says Jafri, “and not merely regarded as ‘feedback’ and the due recognition being assumed by the establishment.”

Others are finding the moderator-user interface very problematic.

Take this remark by Samuel: “Why disable the post feature? Don’t you want feedback from Singaporeans?” Some have already accused the moderator for deleting unsavoury posts. Call them cynical, but the nature of Conversations does seem like another Speaker’s Corner and suggestion-box attempt to diffuse civilian discontent. I believe that most, if not all, of those involved in this initiative are earnestly looking to connect with the people, but I am a lot more concerned about their approach.

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Temasek in bidding war with Piramal and Bain for 20% stake in India's Shriram Transport Finance

The Eonomic Times, 12 Sep 2012
MUMBAI: Singapore-based Temasek, Piramal Group and Bain Capital are leading the race to acquire private equity firm TPG's 20% stake in India's largest commercial vehicle financier Shriram Transport Finance Corp (STFC), according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

The deal is likely to go through next month once the court approves the merger of holding company (Shriram Holding, Madras) with itself. The holding company owns 41.26% in STFC, while TPG holds 49% in the holding company.

TPG's indirect holding in Shriram Transport Finance is worth around Rs 2,900-3,000 crore, at the prevailing market price, and it has appointed Credit Suisse to advise it on the exit route. Full story

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Singapore. Congratulations Chee Soon Juan. Should we rejoice or is it too early to tell

In a surprise move, after the Lee Ruling Family had for about 3 decades, sued him for defamation in the courts, jailed him repeatedly and holding him under literal house arrest, denying him the right to engage in politics, denying him the right to travel out of Singapore, now suddenly out of the blue, they are about to release him from bankruptcy and allow him to contest parliamentary elections in Singapore.

Please see the article in Singapore state controlled newspaper the Straits Times dated Sept 11, 2012, "Chee's offer of $30K to settle case accepted by former leaders

It sounds almost too good to be true, but is it? I am not so sure.

Splurging on National Day Parades

Gerald Giam asked a good question. How much was spent in the past national day parades.

Could the money have been better spent, yes, no, maybe. The elusive answer depends on whether Singapore can afford to spend the money and what was the opportunity cost. For example, how much should be spent on charity, helping fellow needy Singaporeans. So if $20.6 million was spent in 2010, money literally burnt away on fireworks and gaudy displays, how much of that should have been spent on approved charities or welfare programmes, or subsidies in conservancy fees. The list goes on and on.

I’m not saying that money spent on national day parades are a total waste of money, although it is cool and populist to do so. Really, it depends on how much was spent and on what. One misleading comment was by this blogger Singapore Notes who writes good stuff most of the time, but this time slipped slightly. All of us have our bad days I know.

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Senkaku. Not Diaoyu. An Indian-Japanese Alliance please

I’m on the side of the Japanese on this one.  We need a counterbalance to increasing Chinese belligerence - via its mainland and diaspora - to keep s.e.Asian states free of Chinese misrule extending its influence beyond its ever-expanding borders.

What i’d rather see is a Japanese-Indian alliance countering the rising power of the petulant, self-serving, and fascist dragon betwixt.  I still remember how some Indians joined up with the Japanese during the European initiated ‘World War 2’ to eject the British colonialists from the region via Subhas Chandra Bose’s ‘Indian National Army’.  Quite a good thing that - though his temporary work with the Nazis was, on hindsight, misguided

However, that wasn’t a good time for an Indo-Japanese union as the Japanese would simply have stepped into British boots and done worse than them given that they were still caught up in the euphoria of being able to better the west in their wars with Russia and China.  But Indian influence would have tempered the more inhumane and megalomaniacal tendencies of the Japanese back then if they were to join in the administration of the colonies since India, unlike China or Japan, has less of the socio-economic-military belligerent streak that is one of the quintessential hallmarks of Chinese history, as was similarly the case, though to a lesser degree, in the case of Japan.  Knowing the Indian psyche, they would have freed the colonies and left them to their own devices, though Japan, as they were back then, would have wanted to continue colonising them.

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DPM Tharman’s 20/20 hindsight vs PAP’s claim of 20-year foresight

What does DPM Tharman's speech to NTU students last Wednesday tell us about the quality of PAP leadership? He had said that the bottom 20 per cent of Singapore workers have not seen any real increase in income in the last 10 years. Haven't Singaporeans known, felt and talked about this for a long time and yet it took a deputy prime minister and finance minister 10 years to know and talk about it, and only after the relevant data have been compiled and shown to him?

He amazed us further when he said "the lesson we are learning in the world is that inclusive growth does not come naturally"(Straits Times 6 September 2012). One wonders which economic doctrine tells him that inclusive growth comes naturally and has misguided him all these years.

And when he said that "Singapore's social compact cannot be left to market forces because these will only widen disparities in wealth and income", isn't this outcome to be expected of a free market economy that PAP espouses and which the history of welfare states from Bismarck's social insurance programmes in the 1880s to Beveridge's National Health Service in the 1940s, tells us about the need for Government's "sustained intervention" to provide "real opportunities" to those who start life with less? I have made similar points in a lunch with J P Morgan last year [link] What has DPM Tharman been doing all these years, from student of economics to central bank economist to finance minister? Daydreaming, he did say of his youth. Has he stopped daydreaming since?

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Ex-GLC person: GLCs are for cultivating zombies to vote for PAP

I have always been talking about the Monopoly of GLCs in Singapore. Too many govt-link companies will only cultivate more zombies in the ranks. These GLCs employees does not recognise the importance and handship of making money. They cease being competitive on a global stage and choose to be in a customer mode rather than being in a money hunting mode. Papies will never fire this zombies when businesses are losing money. Thus further fuelling the mindset of these zombies that their current performance are acceptable (which is utterly wrong).

I’ve work in these GLCs for 14 years and 9 years ago, I have decided that enough is enough. The education and training I have received from abroad, just do not match with the mindset in the GLCs. Cost is more improtant that looking for money. Example, they will spent days on end to save cost rather than spending the time and effort to look for businesses and hunt in the safari.

Guess its easier to ask the lower rankings to save cost than to be slap in the face by the customers. GLCs ranking zombies are FULL OF PRIDE !! They cannot lower themselves. Guess the papies culture has infected the GLCs too. Today, I am still doing business with the GLCs and also competing with them on overseas projects. They are too dogmatic, and full of philosophies of their military days…sigh…I wonder who cares?

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OPINION: The influx of foreigners is growing even more!

The Online Citizen, 12 Sep 2012
According to the analysis in the TR Emeritus Editorial “Foreign population continues to increase unabatedly after GE 2011” (Aug 21), for the six months from June 2011 to December 2011, the number of foreigners and PRs increased from 1.926 to 2.0 million. This is an increase of 74,000.

In contrast, the increase was 80,400 for the 12 months, from June 2010 to June 2011.

Therefore, the rate of change of growth in foreigners has actually increased by 83% (73,600 increase in 6 months compared to 80,400 increase in 12 months) on an annualised basis at the current rate of growth.

So, the answer to the original question as to whether the influx of foreigners is being curtailed, is NO!
In fact, it may be growing even faster! Full story

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Public pressure on Manpower Ministry led to amendment of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act
Yahoo! News Singapore, 12 Sep 2012
Amendments to Singapore’s law on the employment of foreign manpower will give more power to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to clamp down on errant employers and foreign workers, says Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.

The changes approved by Parliament include enhanced penalties, the conversion of certain criminal breaches to administrative ones so that errant employers can be more quickly penalised and the appointment of Commissioners to enforce MOM regulations more stringently.

These come in the wake of public calls for greater enforcement on employers exploiting foreign workers and flouting the existing system of regulations here, given the substantial proportion of Singapore’s population that foreigners currently make up. Full story

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Ex-MCA President Tan Koon Swan wasn't innocent, he was just prosecuted under wrong charge

Before anyone gets to hot under the collar and try to make a big political fuss out of the Tan Koon Swan "scandal", let it be known that there was criminal negligence (if not criminal intent) on Soon Kwan's part, notwithstanding the fact he was prosecuted under a wrong charge.

For those too young to remember, Tan Koon Swan was the President of the MCA, a Chinese based political party and a component of the Barisan National, which UMNO is their Malay counterpart. He was charged in Singapore for the spectacular collapse of Pan-El in the 1980s, which affected the Singapore and Malaysian stock markets.

Here is a report, citing Glenn Knight, the guy who prosecuted Tan Koon Swan. Knight apologises for "wrongful prosecution". If you look carefully, Knight does not vindicate Koon Swan. He simply says that Tan was prosecuted under the wrong charge.

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Tan Koon Swan has yet to decide on suing the Singapore Government, 11 Sep 2012
Former MCA president Tan Koon Swan, responding to reports of his wrongful prosecution and conviction by the Singapore High Court over the Pan El crisis of the mid-80s, says he has not made any concrete decision, including whether to sue the Singapore government.

Now a low-profile businessman, Tan told Sin Chew Daily on Monday that he had mixed feelings when the then prosecutor of the Pan El case, Glenn Knight, admitted to him of the wrongful prosecution.

In his just-released book, Glenn Knight The Prosecutor, the former crusader against white-collar crime who also fell from grace with charges of fraud years after putting Tan behind bars, said he told Tan in 2010 that it was a mistake to charge him in the Pan El case, and had apologised to him. Full story

Wrongful conviction? - The Malaysian Insider

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Glenn Knight, The Prosecutor

The first time I laid eyes on Glenn Knight I immediately concluded that he was a snob. It was at a country club here but there was nothing chummy or clubby about that guy. He looked like a bulldog. His stance and authoritative demeanor made him appear stern and unapproachable and he exuded an aura that actually struck fear in me. So far, he is the only person to cause me to feel that way. I found him utterly obnoxious.

Things are different now that we have been friends for more than ten years. (I am one of three “good friends” named in his just-published book, The Prosecutor. Allow me to say that it is an honor to be so named.) At the peak of his career as a Public Prosecutor and Singapore’s first Director of Commercial Affairs, Glenn was cruelly put through a baptism of fire and was brought to his knees to be publicly lacerated and humiliated. I now know him not just as a very human mere mortal like you and me but my eyes have opened to see him as an extremely intelligent and decent human being who believes in standing up for what is right.

Glenn’s book is guaranteed to cause a stir. It reads like a casebook and a spine chiller more than a memoir. In a way it is also a book about Singapore. Glenn’s views about some of the luminaries in Singapore’s legal circles – he calls them “the big hitters” – such as TT Rajah, Tan Boon Teik, Wee Chong Jin, FA Chua, Choor Singh (“the hanging judge”) and David Marshall are eye-opening.

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Singaporeans also subjected to hate speech

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Ms Sim Ann has spoken of online comments which ‘spew hate and prejudice against individuals or groups’. She urged that we ‘must take a clear stand against hate speech. Abuse of foreigners, or any human being, is not acceptable, whether it is verbal or physical, online or offline’. MP Mr Baey Yam Keng has also asked Singaporeans to reflect on our own actions.

The SPP agrees with Ms Sim that we must disavow hate speech. But there are two major problems with her argument.

Firstly, if she wants to frame her call in moral terms, she should have told us what she thought of foreigners who use hate speech against Singaporeans. But she did not. Earlier this year, the NUS student Sun Xu from China called Singaporeans ‘dogs’, which upsetted many of us. Singaporeans feel that our government is ever ready to lecture us, and yet the government is silent on the same actions from non-Singaporeans. This only fuels the belief that our government offers no sense of protection to Singaporeans.

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The Rigged Game

Lee Hsien Loong really took the air out of the national conversations initiative when he threw in the caveat, "As I used to say, we leave no stones unturned. But some stones, after we look at them, the original place was quite nice, and we put them back."

So what are the stones that they dare not to move? There must be many, too long to list in a short post, but the words of one author (Ashraf Khalil, "Liberation Square, Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation") come to mind.

Khalil was covering the events unfolding at Tahrir Square for the English edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm when he had the exchange with a police officer in plain clothes:

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1,135 couples cancelled flat bookings

Yahoo! News Singapore, 11 Sep 2012
A total of 48,460 couples booked their HDB flats between 2009 and 1H2012, but 4.3 percent of that total, or 1,135 couples cancelled their bookings.

These figures were revealed by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a written response to Png Eng Huat, Member of Parliament for Hougang, who raised questions about the housing board's Fiance / Fiancee Scheme.

The cancellations were mostly due to relationship break-ups including divorces and annulments, cited by 367 couples. Full story
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It’s time to bury the hatchet, when there is still time

The news of Chee Soon Juan’s offer of $30,000 to settle his defamation damage awarded to LKY and Chok Tong, and the acceptance by the two, came as a relief after so many years of acrimony. It is time that the age of brutal body blows to opposition politicians be put to an end and a new and clean chapter be allowed to start anew.

All Sinkies know what happened and how ugly that things had been and at times feel very shameful over the whole ordeal, but keeping a disinterested silence. It does not mean that Sinkies are apathetic to the unpleasantness and smell of the politicking that went against the grain of human decency.

Now that we are seeing a closure to this ugly past, let us all hope that it will be the last and will not happen again

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Crying wolf: Singapore National Conversation

Reading the online reactions about the so-called National Conversation (NC) confirms my belief that it’s a red herring and sloganeering.

As expected, the government mouthpiece MSM has been shouting from the rooftop and trying to whip up excitement over NC. Truth be told, no one gives two hoots.

Will NC be about really fundamental issues like freedom of the media, respect for human rights, civic and political freedoms, separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, electoral reforms, accountability and transparency, abuse of power, the ISA and so on?

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