Aug 16, 2005

Still Singaporean?

I don't know if it's part of their in-house training or it's a recruitment pre-requisite. Your typical Sinagporean SPH reporter/journalist is either highly trained in the art of "Quoting Out Of Context 401" or has a serious case of tunnel vision.

Many thanks to lancerlord for the link!

Adios, amigo

Ibrahim Ferrer, 1927-2005

Aug 15, 2005

I'm not into poetry, but...

I chanced upon Gilbert Koh's blog today and was deeply moved by his poetry. Though I'm not much of a poetry person myself, his words are simple enough for laymen like me to understand, yet deep enough to resonate long after they are read. Highly recommended.

Among the pieces is one called "Photography". As an amateur photographer, I've yet to come across a better description of a captured moment that is the photograph.


Smile, I commanded
you obeyed
and I caught forever that
when something on your face
disguised itself
so well
as happiness.
Quiet fears and other
troubles have marred
this day
yet the years will pass
and in time this image
will be enough
to make us
that in this instant
we had been so much
happier than
we really were.
How kind and skilful,
the way time
deceives memory,
erases pain,
fills us with warm
nostalgia for
things that never

How to protest publicly plor-per-lee

Mr. Wang gives good advice to the SDP on how to stage a public protest the correct way:

The next time they stage a 4-man demonstration for some cause such as increased government transparency, they should also arrange for another 4 group of persons to stand 15 metres and demonstrate for some totally unrelated, and politically neutral cause (for example, "Be Kind to Your Pets").

They should organise both demonstrations in highly similar fashion. For example, both groups stand in the same way and behave in the same way, at the same time of the day. The only difference will be in the messages printed on their placards and T-shirts. For example, the first group's T-shirts may read "More Transparency in the CPF!" and the second group's T-shirts could read "Be Kind to Your Pets".

It will then be interesting to see the police reaction:

Aug 12, 2005

Today reporter does not know how to count

One wonders if reporting the local news has numbed the brains of our journalists at Today, that they cannot count properly? So boys and girls, let's take a look at the picture below and count how many people are there wearing white T-shirts? One...two...three...four! Four! Hahahahahaha...*thunder and lightning*.

Protesters sent packing

Ansley Ng

Police dispersed a group of six people who had gathered outside the Central Provident Fund (CPF) building yesterday after receiving several calls that a crowd had gathered at Robinson Road.

The group were protesting against a lack of transparency and accountability in three Government organisations.

Wearing white T-shirts painted with red words and carrying placards printed with the slogan "Singaporeans spend on HDB; Whole life earnings, on CPF; Life savings but cannot withdraw when in need", protesters Monica Kumar, Yap Keng Ho, Charles Tan and Chee Siok Chin arrived at 12.30pm and stood outside the building for nearly an hour before being ordered by police to leave for being a "public nuisance".Ms Chee, the sister of opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, said the protesters did not represent any political party or group.

"We are members of a civil society," said Ms Kumar, who distributed a statement to reporters during the protest.

Using the recent National Kidney Foundation (NKF) saga as an example of how public matters are run in a non-transparent and non-accountable manner, the group called for the Government to be transparent and accountable, starting with organisations such as the CPF Board, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

Dr Chee arrived with a male companion 10 minutes into the protest and started selling his books just metres away from where the protest was taking place.

Both Dr Chee and the protesters told reporters they were not "connected" with each other.

"If there are no more than five of us, we don't need a permit. This is perfectly legal," said Ms Chee.

At 1.15pm, four police vans from the Neighbourhood Police Centre carrying about 40 policemen of which about 10 carried shields and batons arrived at the scene.

"You have broken the law … an offence of public nuisance. Please disperse now," an officer was heard telling Ms Chee, who at first refused to leave.

Police said they had received several calls that a crowd had gathered at Robinson Road.

After observing the activities of the six people, said the police, they ordered them to disperse.

The four protesters then moved to the side of the building but were again stopped by the police officers.

Their particulars were noted and their placards and T-shirts seized. Police have classified the case as assembly without permit, and causing public nuisance.

The case is under investigation.

Aug 9, 2005

Nagasaki, 60 years on

I turned on the NHK channel this morning, and they were broadcasting live the memorial ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nagasaki nuclear bombing. It also took me a while to dawn to the fact that Singapore gained its independence on the exact same day, twenty years after the Bockscar dropped the fateful bomb to end the Pacific World War.

Nothing like the mushroom cloud had ever been seen, not by the general public. It was a suitably awesome image for the power unleashed below. On August 6 the first atomic bomb killed an estimated 80,000 people in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. There was no quick surrender, and three days later a second bomb exploded 500 meters above the ground in Nagasaki. The blast wind, heat rays reaching several thousand degrees and radiation destroyed anything even remotely nearby, killing or injuring as many as 150,000 at the time, and more later. As opposed to the very personal images of war that had brought the pain home, the ones from Japan that were most shocking were those from a longer perspective, showing the enormity of what had occurred.

Joi Ito was invited to write an op-ed for the New York Times, an interesting perspective of what the anniversary means to young Japanese in today's context.

Happy 40th Birthday, Singapore

Happy Birthday Singapore! Turning 40 is no mean feat, and it seems that hitting middle age comes with its share of trials and tribulations. With still a third of the way to go, 2005 has already brought more than its fair share of events - things like the NKF CEO "peanuts" salary, IRs, etc. But hey, don't fret - these are all part and parcel of growing up as a nation.

What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. And stronger I hope you will become for the 4 million people that live within your tiny boundaries. 40 is when people rise into middle management, manage people and perhaps start to see things from a wider perspective. 40 is when you should have your own perspective of the world, be able to think for yourself and not be misled easily (不惑之年).

You've a lot of responsibilities, with a large family to provide for, no longer the hot-blooded runaway train of your youth. Times have changed, when in the past just bringing back the paycheck was enough to satisfy the family, but now you realize they need more than just having their material needs satisfied. They want to sit down and talk, have you listen to what they're thinking. Maybe you should take a break from work and listen to what they have to say. Making money isn't everything, you know.

I remember attending your 24th birthday at the National Stadium during Sec 2, as one little square among the hundreds in the giant placard display. Even after enduring several weeks of practice under the hot sun, I felt proud of being a Singaporean on the actual day with the fireworks display and all. The one other time I felt so strongly was when Singapore beat Selangor in a Malaysia Cup match, shouting "kelong" and "referee kayu" with my fellow breathren in the jam-packed humid spectator stands. Those were wonderful days.

You've grown since then, and so have I. You're mature enough to think for yourself now, and I hope the recent events have given you a wakeup call on what's really important to your family, not only money, not only material possessions. Stop working overtime, go home early, have dinner with them, let them talk - and listen carefully.

Happy 40th Birthday, Singapore.

Aug 8, 2005

Singapore defeats Taiwan to win "Culinary God" title

In case you haven't heard, Singapore beat Taiwan in a culinary contest at the 2005 Taipei Chinese Food Festival, to win the title of "Culinary God" (食神). Just like in the Stephen Chow (周星馳) movie, both teams pitted their culinary skills against each other to come up with an original menu, with the ingredients kept secret before the start of the contest.

Given the best local ingredients from Taiwan like Penghu crab, Yunlin black chicken, Taitung eel and Tainan lotus seeds, both teams had only four hours to prepare seven dishes. The entire process was not without its dramatic moments, with both teams racing neck and neck for each of the seven dishes. Eventually, the Singapore team won over the judges with their vegetarian white bittergourd dish to gain top honours, a great birthday present for our nation's 40th birthday

Things you can do in Taiwan (and not Singapore)

Hold an public funeral to something the government claims still exists.

Impersonate a political figure and become famous for it.

Swing your worker's hammer whenever you like and not get arrested for it.

Dance in the street without needing a permit.

Aug 7, 2005

SDP launches RadioSDP podcast

The Singapore Democratic Party has launched probably what is the first Singaporean political podcast named RadioSDP, which can be downloaded in MP3 format from their website.

The Singapore Democrats have launched RadioSDP, the first political podcast in Singapore (see announcement on the Home page). SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has given the inaugural address, in which he highlighted the Party's manifesto as well as raise issues regarding transparency and accountability (or the lack of it), NKF, ministers' pay, minimum wage, foreign talent, etc.

The somewhat outdated lead-in music and awkward intro (reminds me strangely of one the Perfect 10 DJs) notwithstanding, CSJ sounds ernest and speaks in a controlled tone, articulating clearly what he and his party stand for.

Regardless of what Singaporeans think of him and the SDP, the significance of this event is that finally he has a chance to speak freely via the Internet, which means on his own terms, without bias or interference from government-controlled voiceboxes that have political vendettas to silence him.

Perhaps its too early to see whether the podcast will have any significant effect on changing the political climate, but maybe it's a first step toward getting more heartlanders (gosh I hate that word) to be more aware of the reason why they keep feeling a distinct pain in their rectal area. Perhaps someone had been prodding them there for far too long.

I remember around 2 years ago I was back home on a short visit and was waiting at the City Hall MRT station for some friends when one of them told me that JBJ was selling his books just outside the station. I went there and bought a book, he autographed it, and I shook his hand. It was an honour to shake the hand of one of the few Singaporeans I admired. Already well over seventy, beaten and pumulled repeatedly to the floor, but each time climbing back with a never-say-die attitude to the ideals he believed in. And now, selling his printed word to pay off his lawsuit debts.

Now, how many Davids do you know that can stand their own against such a Goliath, bent on destroying them? But here I was, shaking the hand of one of these Davids, and his stone? The words written on the very books he sells, head still held very high.

One podcast by one podcast, one book by one book. Bit by bit, it may seem a fruitless exercise, but remember, it only takes a spark to light a raging forest fire.

Aug 2, 2005

Singapore, Inc. wants a slice of Taiwanese banking pie

Flipping through the finance pages of the Taiwanese papers, one seldoms sees anything related to Singapore, so lately the news of Temasek wanting to buy a 17.5% stake in Chang Hwa Commercial Bank raised not a few eyebrows.

State-run Chang Hwa Commercial Bank's (彰銀) shares yesterday nudged up by 1.06 percent to close at NT$19.0 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, after Singapore-based Temasek Holdings reaffirmed its intention to buy the bank's stakes last week.

To secure the support of Chang Hwa's current management, Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控), which became the bank's largest shareholder after winning the tender for a 22-percent stake last month, said yesterday that it would support the bank's head in retaining his post.

But faced with such an aggressive courtship by an outsider, the Taiwan government decided that it was better that one of the oldest financial institutions in Taiwan marry within the country. Probably the Taiwan government hasn't forgotten the anti-Taiwanese, pro-China rhetoric that LHL has been spewing of late. Guess money alone doesn't buy everything, does it?

Nevertheless, Singapore's government-owned Temasek Holdings Ltd, previously the most likely tender winner, reportedly offered in a letter to Chang Hwa's board members last week to buy the bank's common shares and the government's 17.5-percent stake for NT$21.5 per share, leaving Taishin Financial's triumph uncertain.

"We did receive the letter and have written back to Temasek," Chang said yesterday. He however declined to elaborate on the content of the feedback, citing confidentiality.

Temasek's efforts appear to have a slim chance of success, as the Ministry of Finance is unlikely to go back on its promise that the bid winner would be granted preference over the purchase of the government's stake in the bank next year.