28 December 2008

For The School Or For The Students?

I shared the same frustrations with Mdm Wang about being enrolled into one of the "top" secondary schools. I was in the top 10 percentile in my primary school and managed to be enrolled into one of the "elite" secondary schools. Well, I maintained in the 10 percentile, only this time , it's the bottom 10 percentile. It was easy to be discouraged and disappointed. It did not help also that you have classmates who come from wealthy families where their parents can provide whatever extra resources to help them cope, including good and sound advice on how to manage their studies, choosing the right ECAs, what to aim for higher learning etc.

However, one difference between my school and Mdm Wang's was that my principal did not request that students drop weaker subjects "so as not to pull down the school standard". When some students really did badly in their exams and failed to make the bare minimum to promote to the next level, they were asked to be transferred - not because the school was afraid that the standards would drop. It was for the interest of the student - to place him in a more compatible environment. To help him re-build his confidence.

Indeed, one of my classmates was transferred in that way and when I met him a couple of years later, he told me that his confidence had improved and managed to stay focus on his studies. He would have given up on his studies had he remained in that top school.

Well, my school achieved the intended objective of helping this ex-classmate of mine. However, was the school worried about students pulling down standard? I am one of those who contributed to the school standard drop yet I graduated. The best part is, my form teacher continued to be encouraging on the day he handed my nothing-to-be-proud-of certificate and told me to continue to give my best. I'm sure I disappointed him.

Anyway, that was almost 20 years ago... I wonder if it has changed to be like Mdm Wang's.

18 December 2008

Foreign Workers Abandoned

I just cannot understand how could companies be so uncaring?

Left to their fate - Group of 179 foreigners among a growing number abandoned (Today, 18 Dec 2008)

According to their report, their registered employer is Tipper Corporation, a marine company. Tipper claims that Mr Uthayanan (whom the foreign workers though is their "boss") was supposed to look after the workers and train them before placing them on a project next year.

Ministry of Manpower clarified that "Tipper Corporation remains responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the workers, and if they fail to fulfil their responsibility, they will be committing further breaches of the law."(Today, 18 Dec 2008)

I wonder how many of such cases will surface in the coming months in view of the economy downturn.

-----------------------Updated on 24 Dec 2008-------------------------------------------
Seems like there may be hope yet... at least for some of the 179 workers. Apparently, while waiting for MOM and the employer, Tipper Corporation to investigate and resolve the issue, some members of the public and some NGOs came forward to provide food and alternate lodging for the workers.

Also, according to a report in Today, 23 Dec 2008, their owed wages will be paid. However, the fate of the workers, or at least some of them still remain unknown - will they be repatriated or gainfully employed long enough for them to pay the debts they took to come here to work?

May people be more giving, not only in this festive season but all the time, whenever we can.

07 December 2008


Just the other day, I overheard a discussion between 2 guys at the local coffeshop. I heard them addressing each other as TC, Endu (I supposed they meant Andrew, spoken in Singlish) and KS.

TC:"Eh, Endu, I'm thinking har... now that market drop, perhaps it's time to start business"

KS:"What! Siao ah! How can?!?! Where got money. Big banks no more bang and you still think of business?..."

Endu:"Hear him out. I think the prospects are there. You see ah, now everything burst, everything drop, so it will be easier to start bisness. Anyway, bisness always take time to kick start and by the time we're ready, the market will also be ready and we can ride the wave to the next peak!"

KS:"Or sink deeper into the abyss..."

Endu:"Don like that la... anyway,what bisness you think of huh?"

TC:"Hotel. You see har, private property has fallen. So it's not difficult to acquire some place to start our hotel. Orso, many people will sell their house, recession mah... people always sell house, wife and children when in recession, right? So,where to stay? Park? Cannot la! Take nap only kena nabbed by warden and pay $200 orkong, imagine stay in park, wa lau! Sure sent to jail and cane somemore. So they stay Hotel, la! As long as you don charge more than $200 per night!"

At this point,I can't resist the urge to look at the trio and saw that Endu was clearly beaming, KS kept shaking his head and TC was staring into the sky, perhaps visualizing his dream hotel. KS seemed about to speak up but Endu cut him short.

Endu:"Hotel must have name la... so what to call it?"

TC:"Gahmen Approved World Klass Hotel!"

KS:"How the hell do you expect the government to endorse our hotel and a world class one!"

TC:"Hello, you're not listening... I said gahmen...not government, spelling not the same. And just because our hotel's name is World Klass, doesn't mean it has to be world class standard. I said approved, not endorse. We need approval to register our business right? We need approval to build or convert our flat to a hotel right? We can even invite a minister or two to our opening ceremony but that doesn't mean it is approved, accredited or endorsed right? Name doesn't matter one la. Like Layman minibonds are not bonds and not for layman, right?"

KS:"It's Lehman, not lay man..."

Endu:"Whatever... hmmm Gahmen Approved World Klass Hotel... GAWK! In short! Wow, we'll have people gawking at our hotel!"

At this point, my coffee has turned cold. I took a last gulp and left the place. But I'll keep in mind to avoid any hotel by the name of GAWK.

25 November 2008

Mr Tan To Run For Election

An online petition has been set up to support Mr Tan Kin Lian to run for Presidential Election. You can read more about him in his own website or elsewhere in the internet.

Initially, I had wanted to sign up the petition in support but hesitated when I read that he "will only do it if enough people want [him] to lead. If Singaporeans want change, they must have a stake in it and show their commitment by putting down their names. [He] cannot do this without strong support' (Straits Times, 23 Nov 2008) and he requires a 100,000 signatures.

Someone by the name of smallvoice585 commented in The Online Citizen. My hesitation to put my name in the petition is consistent with the last paragraph of smallvoice585 comment.

A great leader should first and foremost, have a vision, a set of beliefs and commit himself to the cause. People who share similar vision and beliefs will gather in support. Asking for support first is almost like saying "I'm not sure if my plans work, what do you think? Should I press ahead? Will you support me?".

Mr Tan did respond to smallvoice585 and explained his reasons for the 100,000 signatures. I'll leave you to decide if he had explained clearly enough. I'm still not certain exactly what he is trying to do.

In any case, I do wish to see more people running for election, be it GE or PE. I think that Singapore has a lot of talent to offer but simply not enough who are committed and prepared to face public scrutiny. I wish to be able to vote and cast my ballot to the person I know who is the most capable. I do not wish to enjoy a one day "holiday" because my estate is a walkover. I do not wish to vote for a candidate because everyone else tells me this is the right one or that is the wrong one and I know absolutely nothing about him/her.

06 November 2008

What Do They Have In Common?

Recently, I read about a certain undergrad in the local mainstream paper who wanted to buy a $4000 Chanel bag with her first paycheck and thinks her friend "who is left with $20 to last until the end of the month, is silly to consider taking up a part-time job to earn some extra cash." Tsk, tsk, tsk... I said to wifey, "What a spoilt brat!" Later in the week, this undergrad stood up and claimed in her blog that she had been misquoted and she is really not the spoilt brat as the press made her out to be.

Some years back, there was a poly student who lost her mobile phone and later discovered that video recordings (stored in her lost phone) of her making out with her b/f went into the internet.

What has these two girls got to do with one another? Nothing! Other than both were much talked about in the local cyberspace, they are not related (at least not that I know of) and their acts are also not related. As far as I'm concerned, there's this someone who is a spoilt brat/there's this someone who did not report accurately (depending on whose side of the story you stand by) and there's this someone who rather immoral/careless (depending on how liberal you are).

Yes, there's always someone, somewhere out there who did/did not do something and hit the head lines. Their acts, whether we support, encourage, condone, condemn, agree, disagree... is real life learning materials for our children. Whenever I read such news, be it from mainstream media or otherwise, I seldom focus on the name (unless s/he is someone I know). I do not see any value in remembering the names. It is the act that is worth remembering. It is the act that is worth the education material. And it is the act that I will usually talk about with people I know. When we start to focus on the issues and not the person, there'll be less hurt, less personal attacks and hopefully less libel suites.

So to me, it doesn't matter if AL is a spoilt brat or not... what matters is any undergrad who thinks that his/her very first paycheck is anything more than $4000 is well unrealistic. It doesn't matter if TM is immoral or not but someone who records very intimate and personal video of themselves is being careless and to lose that video is being very very careless (did I say this ape's vocab is limited?)

Talk about the act... condemn or support the act but avoid the person, because "person" can change.

22 October 2008

Keep In Touch

OK, I've been lazy and not updating my blog frequently. Apologies to my handful of fans who still come in once in a while.

I joined one of the social networking website - Facebook. Actually, I joined quite some time ago and managed to connect to some of my friends I maintained contact anyway. However, in the last month or so, I found my primary school group in Facebook. Little did I expect that a simple class photo could get me connected with several primary school friends. We have been actively updating with each other. Almost everyone (including myself) will respond to a friend invite with "Wow!" or "Amazing!".

A lot of reminiscence... a lot of nostalgia.

21 October 2008

There's A Part For Everyone

Regardless of what the rating may be, I'd say Nation Builders is a very good film to remind us that there will always be people out there who needs help... no matter how well a nation develops or progresses economically. Never, ever leave them (the elderlies) behind because someday, all of us will get old, economically unproductive and possibly a liability to people around us.

Some may think that the destitute have only themselves to blame... so not working hard enough when they had the chance. Is this the case for every single one of them? Perhaps not. They could have been mislead. They could have been ignorant about economics and poor in understanding financial planning. They could have little or no education to start off with. So, I urge everyone, please don't leave them behind. There are many simple ways to help them such as buying tissue paper from them, give you unused card boxes to them or simply give them a token of appreciation for their singing or do what Think Happiness suggested.

We reap what we sow.

30 September 2008

JB Jeyaretnam - He Never Give Up

Veteran opposition politician Mr JB Jeyaretnam dies of heart failure at about 1:30am on Tuesday, 30 Sep 2008. (read here). You can find out a lot ore about this man from the internet.

As a relatively young ape who start to tune in to Singapore's political scene, I've heard quite a bit about him (in the past) but never really seen him in action. Anecdotal evidence (coffeeshop and taxi driver talks) showed that he was a man who perservered and convicted to his cause. He was sued to bankruptcy but that did not deter him from going back into politics. When he was discharged from backruptcy and formed a new politcal party earlier this year called Reform Party, I was like

"oh great! NOW, I can see this man in action. Let's see how he'll stand up to the ruling party in the next GE."

Shortly after the inaugural dinner of the Reform Party, he took steps to continue his relentless pursuits (seen here and here) with regards to the Jurong GRC by-election.

I'm sad to see such a man, who against all odds stays true to his belief, depart from us.

Some Dreams Can Never Be Fulfilled, Can They?

Don't be mistaken. I'm not in this particular video neither am I related to these musicians... except I played the same musical piece back in my school days.

Those were the days. Those were one of the proudest moments of my life. Thinking of such moments makes me sigh. Listening to musical pieces like these, overtures that I had played before, almost make me cry. It is such a pity that more than a decade of music passion has gone to dust to be replaced by mundane rat-race. Hope the next generation gets more opportunities to develope their potential and not be moulded to whatever field the state wants them.

18 September 2008

Singapore Short Stories - Terrorists Plans Foiled

" FIVE more Singaporean members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network have been released by the Internal Security Department (ISD), after they were assessed as no longer posing a security threat that required detention." (Today, 16 Sep 2008)

Did you know how some of them were arrested in the first place and why one of their plans were foiled? Well, according to The Kin Jio Leaf,
they had actually sent in Foreign Talents who are supposed to be THE experts to carry out the attacks.

When the first FT arrived, he was supposed to go to this pre-rented flat to assemble the bomb. When he got there, found out that he was only given a room in that flat (rental high la) and there were other Foreign Workers (chio chio Dragon Ladies) in the other rooms. "What the heck", he thought "maybe I can even date the dragon ladies out and get lucky"...he didn't. The next thing he know, ICA and MOM stormed the flat. The dragon ladies are illegal overstayers... he being in the same flat was investigated also.

"Sir, although you got proper document to be here but we found that you are conducting a small business at home without a permit!" The MOM and ICA officers noted, confiscated his devices thinking that he was making a MP3 player and sent him back.

The second guy was smarter now (with more budget). Rented the whole flat, assembled the bomb, got to the void deck and...stomach pain (must be the curry fishhead the previous night). So painful that he left the bag at the void deck, ran up to his flat and "bombed" the toilet first. When he returned, the bag was lost...garung guni man picked it up, stripped it apart and sold it at Sungei Road.

Third guy got the bomb prepared and headed to the MRT. (He was planning to bomb Raffles Place Station actually). However, he couldn't squeeze into the train. Tried taking a bus, also the same problem. Then he called for a cab. He was running late (need to set if off during peak hours) so when he arrived, didn't bother to pay the taxi driver and made a dash for the station. Afterall, he's a terrorist what! However, the taxi driver happened to be a sprinter and can break ice with his fist....so the terrorist kena abish abish and broke his jaw. The taxi driver realising he has caused grievous hurt, chabo-ed. When the terrorist picked himself up, he realised the bomb is lost...again...in Sungei Road in pieces.

Finally, the terrorist head said, "I think we should get the locals to do the job. They know the place better"

Being Singaporeans, those newly recruited guys wanted to be very sure of the assignment so they took picutres, videocam etc.
They made a scan through all the regulatory requirement to ensure that they do not need a permit to carry out the act. They did a cost-benefit-analysis, send to the supervisor for recommendation, manager for support and eventually to head office director for approval... but by then the US found those pictures and alerted the SGP government...

17 September 2008

It's Not Just The Men...

Reading An Eligible Beauty from Today, I felt inclined to tell ex-Miss Singapore, Ms Teo, that not only Singaporean men have little confidence in dating women with "higher qualifications", Singaporean women too, believes so.

Relating a personal experience - I was falling head over heels over a girl... many years back... way before I know wifey. (Pardon me but at this juncture, I must admit that I have to thread very very carefully in case wifey turns white, green and red and then I get a broken head and a wounded knee... after she break my head with a bat and made me kneel on cockle shells :p)

As the years progress, our path diverge. To put it simply, she went to uni and I went into poly and we lost contact a couple of years after that. Interesting part was when I talked to my friends about her, many of them (mostly women) asked if I was at all concerned that she'd be a graduate and I a diploma/others. I couldn't and still can't understand what has an academic certificate got to do with a relationship? Isn't the ability to communicate and share happiness (and misery) more important? We're not applying for a job, are we?

Anyway, to cut the long story short, we lost contact not because of the differences in our academic qualifications but simply, we've left adolescence and sought our life objectives in different path.

I've found one of my life objectives - wifey, I wonder if she has found hers? Or perhaps she, like Ms Teo is "over qualified" that not many potential suitors dared to ask?

I've to stop writing now... gotta take out the thrash...now where did I leave the bat and cockle shells...

16 September 2008

More Than Just Medals

If I am proud of the Singapore paddlers, I'm more proud (pardon my poor vocab) of Yip Ping Siew and Laurentia Tan. Pin Siew (swimming) and Laurentia (equestrian) are two of the six athletes representing Singapore for the Paralympic 2008. The other four athletes are Ting Chee Keong Eric (athletics), Lim Kok Liang Desiree and Tan Wei Qiang Jovin (sailing) and Theresa Goh (swimming).

Pin Siew won a gold and silver medal for swimming....
Laurentia won two bronze medal for equestrian.

Just their names alone sound soooo heartlander Singaporean.

I tried to google their names and hardly find any information on the web relating to their background except Laurentia. These people give me great motivation to better myself and are living prove of mind over matters... or perhaps in the case of Laurentia who suffered from cerebral palsy, more than just mind... faith is equally important too.

Congratulations to all of you! You've done us proud!

10 September 2008

Congratulations Team Singapore

I had actually wanted to post this much earlier and before I can complete what I started... the dampening announcement and followed by well... anyway,let's move on or in this case, move back.

The last Singapore got an Olympic medal (silver in weight lifting) was back in 1950 by Tan Howe Liang. Before I go on, please don't forget this man. I'll come back to him later.

In this 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing, the Singapore Women's table tennis team won another silver medal. In spite of what some may say about the paddlers being foreign imports, I feel proud for them, especially Li Jiawei who has been living and training in Singapore since 1995 and representing Singapore for more than 10 years!

Well done ladies!

But I hope they don't stop there and continue to push themselves further, like the true sportsman, Tan Howe Liang.

Personally, I feel that Tan Howe Liang deserves more credit than is due to him. He worked as a clerk and a mechanic to finance his own training and expenses. He wasn't there for the citizenship or for the prize money. He made a commitment to his father that he would be the strongest man and fulfilled his promise. Conviction was what brought him there.

Sports, like most other pursuits should not be simply about winning a medal or getting a certification. We should pursue our own dreams and not medals and certificates because medals and certificates are nothing more than a "tick boxes" in the long long list of life.

09 September 2008

A Good Blog

If you noticed, I have added the blog - Think Happiness into one of the links.

I first came to this blog when I was linked to one of it's article called Meeting David Marshall In 1994. ...and I was impressed, especially the mention of the lack of fire in the bellies of our youths these days. The post made me think that perhaps it was too much of a good life that we have less and less of people who are committed to Singapore and its citizens.

I went on to read some of the other posts and haven't really found any article that I disagree with. Most are focused on positive thinking - looking at things from a brighter side, taking the initiative to get something good done. I will visit this site every now and then.

18 August 2008

Purpose Of ERP?

Now, I am totally lost. Nope, not because the GPS on my motorbike is not working... actually I don't have a GPS on my bike :p

Can someone remind me again on the purpose of ERP? While the heading in this ST article suggest ERP is to keep the traffic flowing, the article also quoted PM Lee saying

"When ERP was increased, we also reduced road tax and improved public transport. As a result, many more Singaporeans can now own cars. With more cars on the road, we need to increase ERP to keep traffic flowing." (ST, 17 Aug)

Forgive my ignorance but I perceive it to mean ERP increase is for the purpose of ... increasing ERP? Ok... maybe what he meant was ERP increase has created the unintended result of ERP increase. If I work backwards, the unintended ERP increase is a result of more cars on the road. Backtrack a bit more, i.e. more cars on the road is caused by... reduced road tax and improved public transport?

So what are we actually trying to achieve? Are we encouraging Singaporeans to switch to public transport? Or are we encouraging Singaporeans to own a car? My simple mind simply cannot work out the logic.

08 August 2008

Apathetic Singaporeans?

For quite a number of years and quite often, I've read or heard about Singaporeans being apathetic about the socio-political issues here. The most recent that I've seen is from Aaron. He guessed that we are apathetic because we are given "a roof over the head and a full stomach" and Singaporeans "will only become interested in socio-political issues if they are starving or they have to sleep on the streets." Perhaps that is true. Perhaps joblessness, homelessness and starvation was the driving force, the fuel for the fire in the bellies of the Singapore pioneers to engage in socio-political issues,

or do we really have to go into that to get Singaporeans to be engaged? Especially our youths? Perhaps there is an alternative - an alternative that I experienced and will share with you now.

I was apathetic. I don't even know what is an MP, the purpose of parliament, what are political parties, who's in what party etc. When it comes to social issues, all I know is that the destitutes are taken care by the charity organisations, once in a while school or army dish me a donation card/bin and tell me to help in charity, I get attend school in sardined-packed buses and a lot other mundane or should I say bread and butter issues. This understanding of socio-political issues had stuck with me even when I'm 21 (legal age for voting), even after I got married about 5 years later.

Why? Simply because I know someone has voted for someone and that voted someone will take good care of Singapore. I couldn't care more as long as I have a job, a house and my family is well taken care of. However, this apathy was dispelled, on the very day when I received the Election notice that I am supposed to vote.

"Who is this guy? Who is this contender? What have they done? What needs to be done around my constituency? Who can do a better job in addressing the needs of the residents? Who can do a better job to address the needs of Singapore? What are the needs of Singapore?" and so, with only a few weeks to V-day (it was the 2001 election and from what I know, one of the shortest period between announcement to voting day), I did a frantic search on whatever I know about the two candidates and yielded very... very little information.

When V-day arrived, the only reason I voted for that particular candidate was a very simple letter addressed to the residents a couple of years back. I will not tell you the content of that letter because it is not the point. The point is, that is the only thing that I know of, he did for the residents and I know absolutely nothing about the other candidate.

From that day onwards, I told myself to read up more, to find out more. It may be years before I get to vote again or perhaps never will I have the chance again but I want to vote wisely with an informed choice. It was a good thing that I did that because come 2006, my area was contested again and I must say I know who I am voting for.

Did hunger, poverty and homelessness drive me to become interested in Singapore's socio-political issues? For your information, I'm still gainfully employed, I still have my HDB flat and none of my family members are starving... except when I'm on a diet.

My point? Let the people know they have a say and they can make a difference. They earlier they know, the more interested they'll be and the earlier the Government can find good leaders to groom.

02 July 2008

Dinner At The Local Coffeeshop

So angry... actually not so really that angry la.... :oops:

A couple of week ago, we were having dinner in one of the local coffeeshop chain... wife placed the order for some dishes and the operator's rule is "pay first". Wife returned to the table for $$$ and at the same time felt that she had "over-ordered" so we decided to drop one dish. When we returned, the operator claim that the dishes had been keyed into the cash register and the chef had started cooking on ALL the dishes... cannot cancel. I told her we hadn't pay yet and what if I walked away then? They would be Lan Lan (Singlish: means a state of helplessness), right? The norm is that if payment is required first, food is prepared only if payment is received. Anyway, didn't want to spoil the dinner over such minor issue and we relented. It was a case of misunderstanding afterall. Come to think of it, we were partly to be blamed for wrong assumption. :oops:

When I returned to my seat, the kopi-soh (the lady who's responsible for taking drinks orders) who took my order forgot who ordered. When I made my claim, she said "respond la... I've been asking around". Wa lau! (Singlish: an expression made when one is Lan Lan) I couldn't hear her because her voice was relatively soft in the coffeeshop and I couldn't see her because she was standing behind me. I wouldn't have known if wife had not saw her and prompted me. Didn't want to argue further with kopi-soh and paid up but she didn't have a 10 cent change! :evil: What is this! It's not like I give her $50 for a 80 cents kopi-O, I gave her all the coins I had, in denomination of a 50 cent and two 20 cents... she did not have a 10 cent change!!!! :evil: For those of you who may not be familiar, kopi soh typically carries a pouch, full of coins so that she has the exact change when required. I wouldn't have been so upset if she had been polite and request that she'd return to me when she had the change - instead she asked if I have the exact amount! Of course I don't have or I would have given her the exact amount!

I was upset, no doubt about it... but more disappointed than being upset because these coffeeshop staff fit the description of "locals-with-poor-service-level" and they are the examples often quoted to justify for foreigners-with-better-service. S.......i........g.........h

Pedestrian, Cyclist and Motorists

Saw two forum letters with regards to the the rights and place of cyclist.

Bikes vs Bus (Today, 17 Jun 2008)

Cyclist v pedestrian: whose right of way? (ST, 20 Feb 2008)

My view is that the issue lies not in deciding should bicycles stay on the road or pedestrian walkway. The issue lies in how we (motorist, pedestrian and bicyclist) can accommodate each other. The issue also lies in how we view our "rights".

Cyclist should not be restricted to either the road or pedestrian walkway. Cyclist should be free to choose which path is safer for them. Having said this, I think all cyclist should exercise caution and put on protection gears such as helmets, arm and knee guard and install blinking/warning lights. Cycle in a single file and keep to the left so that motorists can bypass them. Also, if they choose to ride on pavements, they should slow down or even come down and push their bicycles if they arrive at a crowded/tight spot.

Pedestrians too, should exercise a bit of patience and not hog the entire pavement. When a cyclist rings the bell, he is trying to warn the pedestrian and hopefully, make some space for him to pass through. Pedestrian can simply step aside, make way for the cyclist to pass and continue on their leisurely stroll.

Motorists too, should slow down and overtake when they spot cyclists on the road. Tailgating cyclists or anyone for that matter, is (to me) a foolish thing to do.

What I have suggested above is commonsense and simple thing for everyone to do but why are some people so intolerant of each others' presence? and demand to know who has the right of way?

Pedestrians do not have full, absolute and exclusive rights to use the pavement, neither do the motorists have full, absolute and exclusive rights to use the road.

Cyclists, too have to be considerate to the pedestrians who have as much right as cyclist to use the pavement.

Motorists... just because you paid road tax, COE and ERP doesn't make you king of the road.

But why are we so obsessed with determining who has the rights to what? More strangely is that we seem to be always appealing to the authorities to set rules/laws to determine our "rights". Are we being deprived of rights in the first place? Or are we so naive to think that every rights has to be determined by the "authorities"? Don't we exercise our basic human rights with common sense to share the common places in this little dot that we call home? Can't we use our common sense and exercise our rights and at the same time not depriving others of their right? Or are we still behaving like little children and run to mommy/daddy to tell us what to do and what not to do.

13 June 2008

Growing Up - Religion, The Introduction

Sorry, folks... been busy lately doing someone else's job... but that's life.

In my previous post some time ago, I mentioned that I'll talk more about growing up in Singapore or should I say, MY growing up in Singapore. (Noticed how egoistic am I? :p)

Anyway, as I was on my way home just now, thoughts about my religion, or rather, my journey into discovering religion came into my mind. So, I will blog about it here.

I was born into a typical Chinese family and religious inclination is a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism... just like any typical Chinese family in Singapore. I had no idea what is Taoism or Buddhism. I just followed what my parents, and grandparents, did. We worship the Goddess of Mercy (which is in line of Buddhism), Tian Gong, Guan Gong, Tu Di Gong and our ancestors (the latter are more in line with Taoism). Nevermind if you do not know these deities but just to let you have a brief introduction to the polytheistic nature of traditional Chinese faith in contrast to the monotheistic nature of other religion such as Christianity.

Like I said before, I merely followed what my elders did and went through the religious rites without knowing what we were actually doing. It was until about the age of 10 when I started to be more explorative and involved in understanding religion and it was actually Christianity where I started off.

It all started when I would "sneak" into the church right beside the HDB flat where I used to stay. Theplayground in the church compound is particularly attractive :p. Furthermore, churches are typically peaceful. Occasionally, I would attempt to go as far as into the building itself and sit in the Sanctuary (where mass service is held) and contemplate. It was on one such incident when Pastor Yap caught sight of me and extended his invitation to the Saturday children session with promises of singing, games, story-telling and friends. The songs, games, stories and friends certainly appealed to me and before long, I attended the Saturday sessions regularly.

It was obvious that all the songs and stories were related to the Christian faith and it was through those where I started to understand Christianity more. Before long, I was baptized through prayer and the Saturday service was no longer just about fun. Don't be mistaken - the singing, story-telling etc still went on but I went to church for reasons more than just fun. I was slowly discovering another aspect of myself, i.e. my perceptions towards the world beyond mortal affairs. Furthermore, I discovered certain potential in me when I was occasionally tasked as the song/prayer leader and even a team leader once, during a church camp. Well, actually it wasn't something great as other kids did get their chance but my point is we were given opportunities to take lead at one time or another. From the bible, parables and sermons, I begin to see more into the adult world... the real world.

However, my going to the church wasn't warmly received in my family. My dad was openly skeptical about Christianity with me. My mom was skeptical too but she's more reserved on her opinion. In any case, my parents had never forbid or restrict me from going to church.

On one occasion, I got an earful from dad when I say grace at the dinner table, thanking God for providing food for us. My dad had a poor grasp of English but he certainly knew what I said. "What did Jesus do to provide food for you?!?! I worked so hard to feed the family and you thanked Jesus instead of me, your father!" Well, both my parents were workers with little education and they certainly worked very hard to feed this family of six. I can understand his unhappiness. Since then, I made my prayer in my heart. If I'm still a Christian now and if my dad is still around, having dinner with us, perhaps I'll amend my prayers to "Thank you Lord, for giving us a father who worked so hard to feed us, and for giving us a mother who can cook so well (my mom can really cook)". But my dad is no longer around and I'm not a Christian now - I'm what they call a Backslider.

There are several reasons why I backslided. The initial reason was that when I went into secondary school, the ECA took its toll on me. Saturday was full day ECA for me, not the typical half day. That left Sunday for me to attend church but Sunday is the only day when I have full day for my family. Following my missing church, a few upsetting incident happened with the members of that church which made me lose faith. One of it was that a couple of the church members went to my home, supposedly to enquire why I missed church. I was in school for my ECA, as usual, and my mom attended to them. My mom didn't know that I seldom attend church service then and explained that she didn't stop me from going.

Sensing that they were unable to get anymore answers from her, they turned their attention to the deities and ancestor tablet place on the altar and remarked that my mom was worshiping idols (in Mandarin, the word is rock). THAT upsetted my mom and she retorted that she respected their rights to they religion and respected her son's choice in religion and told them not to make such insulting remark on her choice of religion. If we had knew about the Seditions Act then, those two fellas could have ended up in jail. My mom didn't tell me about that encounter immediately then when I returned from school... still respecting my choice. There were other incidents with some Christians, personally experienced by myself and finally made me gave up Christianity totally.

Before anyone say I am against Christianity and attempting to spread not-so-nice messages, let me add that another person (Lay Hoon's the name) who got baptized with me, had a totally different experience. Her life had certainly changed for the better. She had certainly found hope in Christianity (and I have no idea how is she doing now since I stopped going to church). My experiences with some were not pleasant but that was mine experiences. I was almost against Christianity at one point of my life. Thank goodness, a sound minded Christian friend once told me, man can fail you because it is human to err but God will not - do not judge a religion base on the actions of man. With those words, I'm managed to keep an open mind about Christianity and any other religion.

If there's a church nearby with its doors wide open, perhaps I'll sneak into Sanctuary and contemplate once more. :p

29 April 2008

Who Should Take Responsibilities?

In my previous post, I talked about responsibility and accountability and the fairness of taking actions on those responsible and accountable for the lapses.

Coming back to the issue of Mas Selamat's escape. Without the benefit of knowing the full details other than looking the the COI Executive Summary and Ministerial Statement, I am of the opinion that accountability and responsibility goes beyond the officers stationed in Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC). Everyone has to take responsibility and account for something... and what is that something?

In my earlier post, I quoted from the Ministerial Statement that there were "no evidence of connivance, collusion, or assistance given to Mas Selamat" nor "malice or criminal liability on the part of any officer implicated". In other words, none of the staff actually intended for Mas Selamat to escape. Thus, for that matter, I don't think anyone (including the GC and SDO) should face any "permanent" punishment such as termination. Doing so will only encourage their successors to be more resistant to taking responsibilities... or perhaps even deny their lapses. However, some disciplinary actions along the lines of stoppages of leave, bonus, demotion, reassignment or at least re-educate and re-train should be necessary. By doing so, it sends a clear message across that the lapses are serious matters and cannot be condone, and yet the "authority" is prepared to hear out the difficulties the officers may face in conforming to the expectations.

To determine who is responsible for the lapses and weaknesses can go very high up. The GC guards and SDO who did not follow SOP by leaving Mas Selamat out of their sight are certainly responsible for this non-conformance. It seems that they are not the only ones. There have been cases where MS had closed the door. Who should take responsibility for not preventing such non-conformance to take place? Should he face disciplinary actions? The toilet was not meant for detainees but was used nevertheless for convenience. Again, who should take responsibility for not preventing such practices? Should he face disciplinary actions? Although the COI did not explicitly mention it, who should be responsible for the weaknesses that warrants improvement in

1) Command and Control
2) Communication Coordination
3) Regular Exercises and Audits
4) The WRDC itself

The WRDC is a "complex-multifunctional facility" (Ministerial Statement). Who is responsible for ensuring that the WRDC has all the resources necessary to run such a facility? Who runs the renovation and re-development programme? Were there any risk assessment done to ensure that the renovation and re-development programme do not alter the security eco-system? Who do all these works? Are they trained to manage renovation and re-development projects? Is the WRDC provided with sufficient resources to not only carry out the multifunctional roles but additional resources to carry out the re-development program? Are there other detention centres (I'm do not know how many are there but let's include the prisons as well) that faces similar cultural, operational or infrastructure weakness? If there is, who should be accountable? These questions can go on and on, higher and higher into the organizational hierarchy and may very well implicate everybody but that is not the point. The point is for everyone to ask themselves "Am I one of the confluencing factor?"

Anyway, I don't think Minister for Home Affairs or Director ISD need to answer all these questions to the public - the COI's Executive Summary is quite comprehensive and the Ministerial Statement is even more detailed. However, I hope for everyone's sake, they will find the answers within themselves and take any corrective actions where required.

28 April 2008

Responsibility, Accountability, Culpability & Actions

The nature of my job (past and present) places safety management on high priority. In the course of my work, I've been exposed to much knowledge on the concepts and methodologies of safety management. After reading the Executive Summary by the COI on Mas Selamat's escape and the Ministerial Statement by the Minister of Home Affairs, I find many areas where the knowledge on safety management can be applied to security management.

When lapses (be it safety or security) have been found, the rational and natural approach is to take actions to "plug" the lapses. However, in my opinion, the issue of determining responsibility, accountability and culpability will determine the effectiveness of the "lapses-plugging-actions". To put it in another way, what "personnel-related-actions" to take on those who are responsible, accountable and culpable will have an effect on how the "lapses-plugging-actions" are being carried out. If the "personnel-related-actions" are not perceived to be fair and just, "lapses-plugging-actions" will be carried out half-heartedly. So what do I mean about who are responsible, accountable and culpable? Here's my definition:

Responsible - the person who is actually carrying out the job, e.g. the Gurkha Contingent (GC) guards and Special Duty Operative (SDO) or, in my line of work, the technician who does the repair work.

Accountable - the person whom those responsible reports to. This person may not be actually doing the job of escort or repair but has to account for how well or badly was the job done. These people include supervisors, management staff, auditors, independent checkers etc.

Culpable - When there are procedures to be followed but the person chose to do otherwise, in maintenance, we call it non-conformance (to procedures). However, that person is not culpable (of misdeeds) yet. If his non-conformance is due to malice, intent to sabotage, wanting the adverse consequences to happen or clearly defies commonsense, then we would deem this person to be culpable. Rightfully, he should be removed from his job or face other severe disciplinary actions because he is a threat to himself, his colleagues and the organisation. However, if his non-conformance is due to a misunderstanding of the procedure, or even lack of clear procedures, inadequate resources, etc or when his non-conformance is actually a "cultural norm" (everyone else does it)... well, what action should we take? I'll come to that later on.

Back to Mas Selamat's case...

There were "no evidence of connivance, collusion, or assistance given to Mas Selamat" nor "malice or criminal liability on the part of any officer implicated"(Ministerial Statement). Thus, in my opinion, no one is culpable, not even the GC guards and SDO operative, based on my description of culpability. However, that does not mean that no one is held responsible or accountable for the lapses leading to Mas Selamat's escape. Looking the COI's recommendations, clearly the lapses went beyond the escorts' not keeping line of sight of the detainee, un-grilled window and weakness in the perimeter fencing. The COI's key recomendations include,

1) Centralised Command and Control
2) Enhance Communication Coordination
3) Regular Exercises and Audits
4) New Detention Facility

These recommendations suggest that there are "high level" weaknesses. There are people, most likely high up, who are responsible for effective command and control, communication and coordination etc and even higher up who are accountable for the "need-to-be-improved" areas. There are people who have to be responsible and accountable for the weaknesses.

So what "personnel-related-actions" should be taken? If no one is culpable of intentionally assisting Mas Selamat's escape directly or indirectly, does it mean that no (disciplinary) action will be taken on anyone? No. The personnel-related-actions can include re-train and re-educate, stoppages of leave/offs/bonus/promotion for a fix period of time etc for all those responsible and accountable for the lapses and weaknesses. This is to send a clear message that lapses cannot be condone, whether it was done intentionally or not. Since these disciplinary actions are not permanent, it gives hope to the staff that they have an opportunity to do better in future.

On top of that, the disciplinary actions must be seen to be fair and not exonerate anyone, especially the top management. If not, all the talks and recommendations about centralised command and control, enhancing communications and coordination will turn into "blah blah blah" in the ears of the lower ranking staff. All the weaknesses will still be present.

Should anyone be sacked or asked to leave? Since the COI and CID did not find any evidence of connivance, collusion or malice, I don't think anyone should be sacked. In fact, sacking someone or making someone resign is really a simple way out. That person will take away a full load of knowledge and experience about the "honest mistakes" he made. I would even advocate that everyone should stay on, from the director of ISD to the GC and SDO. Stay on to make things right. Stay on to ensure that the correct ways of doing things are materialised.

A punitive culture within any organization is always counter-productive. It will not only make everyone shirk responsibilities - such a culture "encourages" people to cover-up or even distort truths. In such a cultures, those directly responsible (normally the lower ranking staff) for the lapses are removed immediately but the indirect causes e.g. inadequate tools, ambiguous procedures, crazy-boss-who-make-me-repair-the-nuclear-reactor-in-5-minutes etc are unchecked and unrectified. Someone else is bound to make the same mistake, again. Weaknesses will occur and go undetected, unreported, waiting to blow up on anyone "suay" (unfortunate) enough to step on it at the wrong moment.

08 April 2008

Ha! I Found The Prince

Just found out that the Frog Prince is still in town and not in Paris as he claims!

He's been stalking my children! :p

No la, actually he really is out of town. I was just having a bit of fun with my mobile phone with camera features. It came as a surprise that under the Frame facility, Frog Prince actually made it into the features. Can't help it but to capture a couple of shots with it. Kinda cool, don't ya think?

29 March 2008

Feeling So Guilty

Not too long ago, I just passed my Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). Before that, I was thinking about keeping physically fit, not just for the yearly IPPT but also for my health's sake... thinking, like I did every year. True enough, I thought a lot about keeping fit for the last week or so but hardly did any exercise (if you consider a stroll in the park to be exercise in the first place). Not only that, I pampered myself with these:

Got both of these and quite a few other dishes at Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens a couple fo days ago. The crab soup was delicious and guaranteed with roes at less than $10. Arrghhhh.... the cholesterol!!! Anyway, got quite guilty over it so the very next day, I headed straight to the gym for some workout.

I was quite surprised with myself when I managed to pull 4 STANDARD chin-ups... enough to pass my IPPT :p and even more surpising was that I managed to clock a better timing than my RT-IPPT when I attempted the 2.4km run on a threadmill. Ok, ok,,, these achievements are nothing to brag about but it is still my personal best sinc the last 4-5 years. Hmmmm... was it the crab soup? Anyway, I told myself to maintain this standard for at least a year and not only will I be able to pass my IPPT next year, I can even get a Silver Award!... or should I aim for a Gold Award? :p

20 March 2008

Where Can He Hide?

It's been like 3 weeks since Mas Selamat escaped and still no sign of him. From what I read in the net or news, more than a thousand personnel have been mobilised to search for him. More than a thousand phone calls or emails were received by the police with possible sightings reported. However, there are simply no trace of his where abouts - perhaps the Home Team did find traces just that these were not publicised for fear of jeopardising their operation to hunt him down... perhaps. If Mas Selamat is still in Singapore and the Home Team really do have reliable traces or leads to his hiding place, I find it very hard to believe that they could not get him by now.

If his escaped had been planned and co-ordinated with accomplice, I believe he must have fled the country on 27 Feb 2008, the day he escaped the detention centre. How certain are the police when they say he acted alone? Assuming he is still in Singapore and unable to contact any of his accomplice, where can he hide? I don't know.

But I asked myself, if I were him, where will I hide? So I started to muse over this question. Where ever I may be hiding, the place has to be as far away from public view as possible. It should also be near sources of food and water... and near the coast as much as possible. Eventually, my thoughts led me to think of Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

Firstly, it is not unusual to see anyone in a cemetery... even at night, especially in Chinese cemetery where punters are known to seek additional help for the spiritual world. Also, no one would take more than a glance at a stranger in a cemetery... especially if that stranger appears to be unkept. Who knows? The dilapidated stranger you saw may not be a human after all. Food is really not an issue, if one is not too choosy. There's bound to be some offering of food and drinks to the deceased. Well, if those are really not up to your taste, there's fruit trees among the forests surrounding the cemetery. Beyond the CCK cemetery to the western end is the sea. even if the Home Team were to comb the cemetery, chances are they may not be as enthusiastic about their searches compared to other places. Come on... cemetery gives everyone the creeps. He'll just need to bide his time and await for an opportunity to perhaps hijack a motorised boat from one of the kelongs near Serimbun or Kranji and off he goes... provided the Police Coast Guard failed to detect him.

Anyway, it's just my musings... there's still a lot of questions to be addressed... such as how could he get to CCK cemetery in the first place? How certain can he be that punters will not approach him and ask "Bang, you know which hantu gives good tips?" Or perhaps, he had been taken away by the pontianak hiding there... which is why the Home Team could not find him anywhere in this world...

To all the group troopers who are actually doing the work of searching - don't loose heart. We know you are putting in your best effort to look for him. Keep it up.

19 March 2008

What's My Mood?

Many years ago, a group of us were receiving our training somewhere at the eastern side of this little red dot. On one particular morning, when we just stepped into our class. This statement was scribbled on the board - "I'm so happy I can lick my own ass!" No one knew who's the joker who wrote that but we were laughing and speculating how do this person lick his own behind?

However, this statement has been etched in my mind for may, many years. Whenever I am elated, "I'm so happy I can lick my own ass!" comes to mind...

And this is exactly how I feel this evening... because I passed my IPPT! This means no more RT... no more burning 3 evenings every week for the next 4 weeks... no more dieting, no more training, no more... WAIT. I think I should just maintain my fitness and continue exercising regularly. For the sake of my health and not just for passing IPPT.

P/S I haven't figured out how can a person lick his own behind... do you think contortionist can do it?

09 March 2008

Mind Over Matters?

Just had my 5th RT session. For the uninitiated, RT is known as Remedial Training. You will be blessed with RT if your fail or did not attend your IPPT. IPPT is Individual Pa Pok Test... no lah. IPPT is Individual Physical Proficiency Test. It is compulsory for every NS liable Singaporean to take the IPPT once a year. Since I'm still an Operational Ready NSmen... or so they term us but I still regard myself as reservist, I'm still required to take the IPPT once a year. For my last IPPT window, I failed my 2.4km run... ok ok... to be honest, I would have failed my chin-up also if I had not cheated a bit... a little it of jerking and not keeping my arms straightened :p

Of all the stations, consisting of of 4 static stations (shuttle-run, situps, standing broad jump and chin-ups) and a 2.4km run, I always have problems with chin-ups. Every year, during the test, I will fail by 1 or 2 chin ups... and have to re-test or attend RT. Since the days of my Basic Military Training, standing under the chin up bar would make my heart pump faster and I'll conjure butterflies in my belly. Only in the last recent years, I have problems with running the 2.4km also... just managed to pass.

I've always wondered what is it that keeps me from passing my IPPT.

Is it due to lifestyle?
Or perhaps diet?
Maybe it is work stress and the lack of time for exercise?
But I think all the above are excuses. I smoke but there are chimneys out there who can get gold medal for IPPT. The Company's Best PT during my BMT is one such example. Diet wise... well, I'm not obese and my BMI is still within the ideal range. And I have reduce my intake of fatty and high cholesterol food. Lack of time and stressed by work is also not an excuse... afterall, I'm one who do not believe in selling my soul to my employer.

So what's keeping me from training for my IPPT? I believe it is this...Mind Over Matters. I just have to keep to a strict regime of exercising regularly. I must keep reminding myself that exercising is not just to pass my IPPT. It is to keep my health stable as well. Afterall, age is not slowing down for me and as the years pass, I am finding it harder and harder to keep up and maintain my personal standard.

For a start, I have to train to pass my RT-IPPT in less than 2 weeks. Wish me luck :p

03 March 2008

Terrorist On The Run

Just doing my part for the safety of Singapore. This man was placed under preventive detention at the Whitley Detention Centre for involvement in a number of terrorists plots against Singapore. He had escaped on Wednesday 27 Feb 2008. If you see him, please call the police immediately.

Added on 8 March 2008

It's been more than a week and seems like there's not a single trace of this man's whereabouts other than the lead provided by the petrol kiosk workers on the day his man escape. Is he still hiding in Singapore? Or has he left the country? Is he working with accomplice(s) or still hiding alone. There's still a lot of questions left unanswered. The first and foremost is "How did he escape?" We've been told that he escaped while he went to toilet break when his family came to visit him... hardly a satisfactory answer. Wasn't he escorted? Shouldn't the toilet/building/compound be secured? Well, I hope MHA can release the details... eventually, whether he is caught or not.

Next perplexing issue is that why is the information released to the public 4 hours later? On the previous case of the NSF who smuggled a rifle with live rounds out of the army camp, public was also made aware much later. The reason cited then was that they do not want to alarm the NSF, forcing him to panic and go on a shooting spree... or hide. That sounds reasonable, at least to me. But what about this case? Supposedly, he did not pose an immediate threat since he's not armed... and he will definitely go into hiding... much better than the NSF. Afterall, he's been trained overseas making him somewhat a "foreign-trained-talent". Will the public panic? I don't think so since the public did not panic when news of the NSK with a dangerous weapon came out. In fact, I think most Singaporeans are too complacent to panic. If they had alerted the public earlier, perhaps the petrol kiosk workers would have informed the police much earlier and maybe he could have been caught on that very night. Anyway, its just my wild speculations.

What made me perturbed is that the information to assist the public to identify this man is released in piecemeal. We have his face in the papers and news on that day. We were told he walks with a limp on the left leg the next day. Later, we were informed that his limp is not observable unless he is running or walking fast. And a couple of days later, the public was informed of the clothes he is likely to be wearing when he escaped... information that is no longer useful or relevant since after so many day, he could have changed or even left the country.

One other very puzzling thing is that Dr Teo Ho Pin, Law and Home Affairs Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman, posed questions to Mr Wong Kan Seng, Home Affairs Minister, in parliament about this security lapse (see link) !?!?! Pardon my ignorance, isn't the Law and Home Affairs Government Parliamentary Committee equally accountable or are they just an independent audit committee? Is there too much focus in creating too many committees that we have over-sighted on the REAL issues?

Of all the statements that came out from the politicians so far, I feel it is still these from MM Lee that make sense. Trust this old man to be rationale, precise and to the point... whether you like what he said or not.

I can only hope and do what little part I can to ensure that Mas Selamat is caught before any harm is done. Mas Selamat is not a threat just to Singapore. He is an allege terrorist. He is threat to the world.

09 February 2008

Singapore Short Stories - Ah Meng's Naming

Ah Meng is somewhat of a local celebrity. She's an orang utan in the Singapore Zoological Gardens and entertains tourists occasionally by having breakfast with them. Someone asked me why is she given a boy's name...well, here's the story.
According to the Kin Jio Leaf, Ah Meng came into this world on 18 June 1960. She was actually kept as a pet illegally until 1971 when the Khirsah and Council then found her. They abish abish the owner until he look like a baboon's behind. Years later, when Harrison became the CEO, we gave Ah Meng to Harrison for safekeeping in the zoo.

Harrison had this wonderful idea of "Breakfast With An Orang Utan" program and consulted us. We also have our hidden agenda and so we agreed. However, we had this big problem... the full name of Ah Meng is AhBuCeDarElleFarGoHaInJerKinLiMeng. It means "The Beautiful One" in our language. Harrison couldn't pronounce it so he named it "Ah Meng" for short...which means "The Beast" Rolling Eyes in our language.

Of course Ah Meng not happy lor and she give Harrison the finger whenever she saw him. (Harrison claimed that Ah Meng's dislike of him had something to do with that time someone wanted to make a documentary and Ah Meng avoided the camera by climbing up a tree. Harrison coaxed her to come down but eventaully she fell down and injured her arm. So from then on, she don't like him Rolling Eyes )
The above short story was written some time ago but somehow was not posted here. Just got to find out that Ah Meng passed away (CNA news). Breakfast will never be the same in the zoo.

If you like to find out more about Ah Meng, go here.

20 January 2008

Spot The Seahorses

A diving friend snapped some pictures of seahorse. Kinda cute.

Talking about seahorses... do you know that the eggs of seahorses are kept by the papa seahorses? That is, it is the papa seahorse that get pregnant... not the mama seahorse....

See if you can spot the seahorses. I could... ... but cannot now... ... hmmm, wonder where are the seahorses... ... keep a look out for the eyes... that's what my friend says...

09 January 2008

The Best Birthday Gift

I have been receiving birthday gifts but non is as special as this card. It is made by my daughter, Trixie. Did I say I am very proud of her? Nothing beats a simple card that is original and comes with sincerity. Not only did she give me a card, she called to wish me a happy birthday.