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MINISTERS IN CHARGE OR MERELY FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS?

grace fu and award winner

Picture from ST, 27 Feb 2016 

I DON’T MEAN TO SOUND LIKE A SPOILSPORT OR NITPICKING, but when I saw the above picture I was struck by its sharp contrast with the Straits Times reports on the deaths of Student Benjamin Lim and SCDF NS Recruit Edwin Ong. The stark difference in treatment and prominence given to the above event and the other two is like between day and night. 

It would appear that our ministers are only willing to appear in publicity pictures when the going is good. They want only to associate themselves with ‘happy’ events. 

Isn’t this a bit like being  ‘FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS’ – sharing your limelight, but not there to commiserate with you in your time of loss and sorrow, when you needed help or some words of assurance and a kind word or two most – as in the case of 14-year old student Benjamin Lim and SCDF NS Rec Edwin Ong’s parents?

Bringing it up in parliament is certainly important. But we suspect that it only comes about only because of the many adversed and critical comments, including Benjamin’s parent’s open letter, in the social media about the vexing series of events surrounding Benjamin’s suicide under circumstances that have negatively impacted both the police and the MOE – the indiscriminate manner and lack of care in which they had apparently carried out their duties. As we all know, Benjamin Lim killed himself hours after he was interrogated by the police for an alleged molest of an 11-year old girl. He had jumped from his family flat within minutes after his school phoned his parents on the same day to bar him from participating in a school camp due to start the very next day. The decision by the school to bar him appeared to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. In this case, I think it had all but smashed and shattered the 14-year old’s self-esteem and confidence into a thousand pieces, among other reasons.

Back to the above topic, the ST Athlete of the Year award.

It would appear that the organizers seemed to have forgotten to include one significant person (IMHO) who is missing in all 7 pictures published with the reports, I am referring to the teacher, in this case the winner’s coach, Mick Massey, who must be, apart from family members, the next most important person who should be included in the photo-taking sessions. Would it be wrong to consider her coach as a significant person primarily instrumental to her success? While minister Fu appeared in THREE of the 7 ST pictures published, there was none with her coach in it. Was her coach, Mick Massey (who was mentioned in Rohit Brijinath’s Commentary on the same day), not invited or did he opt out of the photo-taking sessions? For whatever reasons, the ST could have at least included a small portrait picture of Massey in Rohit’s article ‘Champion’s spirit in a faltering body’. That should be the right and decent thing to do – to also accord someone significantly involved, with some form of tangible recognition.   

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND MADONNA

 

IMO, the Catholic Church is free to express its view on the Madonna show that is coming to town. As the ‘head’ Catholic, Archbishop William Goh is within his rights, duties and obligations to remind (I don’t agree with the word ‘admonish’) his flock. Having said that, I also think that in the present age of ‘enlightenment’ (I am using the term rather loosely for obvious reasons) it is the right of every catholic to decide for himself/herself whether to go or not to go, because IF there is an issue, it is one between him/her and God. I know this flies in the face of the Catholic’s basic ‘mother-child’ doctrine.

The Catholic Church cannot make ‘good’ Christians out of members of its flock by mere words of condemnation of an act or thing, any more than it could prevent or save them from carrying out an illegal activity or act because it just does not have the sort of ‘real world’ power to back it up. 

In days of yore, the Catholic Church wielded awesome real world political and legal power over the life and death of members of the Catholic faith, in particular, those who came before it accused of a crime against the faith, but that was history. The gradual/progressive loss and erosion of the Catholic religion’s real influence and power, or a sense of it, over people has been fading, fading and still fading.

Once upon a time, people would be ex-communicated and burned alive at the stake for being accused of practising witchcraft or having committed acts judged to be blasphemous. The Catholic Church’s influence and power to which even Kings had to subscribe to/abide by (or lose his crown), even if it were merely more of paying lip service or going more by the letter than in actual spirit of obedience and supplication (eg. one English king was infamous for finding excuses to behead his wives, so that he could marry his latest fancy, as divorce and polygamy were (still are) frowned upon by the church of the day. Marrying somebody without the blessings of the church was tantamount to religious and political suicide in those times when religion and politics were intertwined and very much one and the same).

Back to the current topic. My impression is that the head of the Catholic Church here is doing no more than indulging in an act of token symbolism of power over its members.

I tend to see, the ‘Power Formula’ of the modern day Catholic Church vis a vis the lay believers as something like this:

*Church Power = Flexible and Discretionary, as far as its believers are concerned

*strictly referring to Christianity only

Having say that, I would hasten to also add that IMHO, among Christian denominations in Singapore, a spontaneous sense of community among Catholics arguably exists far more strongly than in other denominations. And I actually do admire that it is so. However, this is not saying that I necessarily agree with everything it does or doesn’t do. I disagree, for instance, with the deathly silence of the church over the Amos Yee (an ex-Catholic) saga. It was as if the Christian denominations were waiting for each other to be the first to cross the red line or no fly zone that was very swiftly drawn up by political elites and acolytes of the ruling party – I am referring to the number of police reports lodged by apparently ‘enraged’ citizens. Or, were the churchmen viewing it as getting (or rather, avoid getting) their respective religions mixed up with the politics (of abject adoration for the late leader)? 

We all know that in this country mixing religion with politics is a huge blasphemous NO NO. Witness the hapless helplessness of the lamb when a number of Catholic do-gooders were labelled, arrested, accused and detained without trial, for being members of a ‘MARXIST CONSPIRACY’. (Of course, it is true too that the PM of the day was one scary and shrewd politician who brooked no gainsaying or challenges to his power and decisions.) Where and what was the stand of the Catholic Church then (and ironically, even now), and for that matter, the rests of the churches? It would appear that the supplication and surrender was made to the secular power-that-be THEN, and not to the God-that-be, ALWAYS, ironically.

On a kinder note, one would suppose that PRAGMATISM, or more precisely being left alone to practise a religion sans politics (even in the most fundamental sense of the word) was the paramount order and objective of the day. After all, it would had been (and still is) a monstrously uneven power of an egg (church) against the sledgehammer of the government and its acolytes.

It is very much like the other side of the coin of the church’s modern day perfunctory and acquiescence-dependent ‘power’ of persuasion over its members.  Case in point – recently, the present Vatican Pontiff made a point about Donald Trump’s deliberately racist comments against Mexico and Mexicans.  Trump accused the Pope of playing to the Mexican gallery as he was a guest of the Mexican govt at that point in time. Jeb Bush, a fellow Republican presidential contender (he had since announced his retirement from the race to be Republican presidential nominee) when asked for his comment, notable replied to the effect that he would take the Pope’s view only where religion is concerned! That in my view, is a measure of the irrelevance and marginalization of religion when it comes to the crunch, in this day and age. 

Finally, to borrow something appropriately enough from the pop music world: What will be. Will be. So why not ‘Let it be’? Madonna is simply being ‘offensive’ only because it makes show biz sense for her. 

 

 

Student Benjamin Lim and SCDF Recruit Edwin Ong – Victims Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place?

silos-5

It had been just weeks ago that student Benjamin Lim committed suicide just hours after he was released from police interrogation for an alleged offence of molesting an eleven years old girl.

Today, in TOC:

SCDF recruit commits suicide at training insitute, shortly after enlistment”

http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2016/02/scdf-recruit-commits-suicide-at-training-insitute-shortly-after-enlistment/

Rec Edwin Ong had left the following lengthy note of his intention in his facebook:

last words

I grieved inside as I read Edwin Ong’s fb note reproduced above. I could feel some of his utter desperation and distress, but yet the poor guy must have been making a supreme effort to suppress the overwhelming throes and anguish he must be going through, often blaming and castigating himself for all his woes and difficulties and seemingly trying to make light of the very grave act he was contemplating and about to commit.

 

“ Ya I’m curious where I’m going to end up after death. Hell maybe ? but anyway…”

 

I can only imagine what could have been racing through his mind as he composed the note.

All is not well!

Something must be very wrong somewhere in our society. Can we, government and society, carry on as though business is as usual in the wake of the deaths of these two youngsters, just weeks apart? Have Singapore become such a cold hard place that some of our young people actually saw their plights as hopeless, and preferred death as the ultimate release and relief from the pains they must have felt about their cold, hard, earthly existence on this little hard, red dot?

What both youngsters had in common was not just that both had chosen to end their own lives, but significantly to me, that they had both resorted to the ultimate solution as the only way out of their blighted existence RIGHT AFTER their respective fatal and seemingly ‘TOXIC’ encounters with government employees seemingly vested with apparent absolute power and authority over them.

Why was Edwin Ong, with the mental state he was in, considered fit for NS? It is hard to believe that he could have passed whatever vetting and proper psychological assessment, that should have been conducted, prior to his enlistment. However, is it too surprising when you consider the death of the asthmatic NSman who died after an overzealous junior commander mindlessly threw more than the allowed number of smoke (?) grenades into the confined space the former was penned in. Then there was the death of Dinesh who died after being manhandled, overpowered and punished by Changi prison guards, for allegedly being impertinent and defiant. Then there was Amos Yee; he should consider himself ‘lucky’ for still being alive and kicking given the official strictures and sanctioned punishment meted out to him for apparently hurting the sensitivities of the Christian community. Indeed, are we surprised at all, with a terrible track record like that?

Would it be too much asking the government to examine the manner and way that members of its uniformed services are taught and trained to handle and discharge their duties, in particular towards the young and vulnerable entrusted into their hands, in the course of their duties? I have made a similar point in my previous post on Benjamin Lim.

What if any control, restraint or measures are in place to keep in check possible abuse of power and excesses or an overzealous member from overstepping his authority? Officers holding such appointment are often selected based on certain traits deemed important to their effective performance on the job. But, is there a red line that they cannot cross under any circumstance, whatever the provocation or ‘stimulant’, and who is there effectively responsible in a given context to constantly ensure that it is not crossed in the heat of the moment by them? We now know that in Dinesh’s death, the supervisor of the prison guards was himself remiss in his performance and duty. Now, so, who is going to supervise the supervisor?

 

 

Unnerving That People Have To Die To Expose Shortcomings In The System

It does look like the relevant authorities could only be moved to do something about existing shortcomings and deficiencies in SOPs, regulations and specifically in this case, the PGO (Police General Orders) and MOE guidelines to school leaders, only after someone had died to expose them.

 

I am reminded by 14 year-old Benjamin Lim’s suicide of how a young prisoner, Dinesh*, had died from asphyxiation, after he was brutally manhandled with excessive force by several Prisons Officers during an incident and left lying restrained on the floor of a cell in an awkward position that directly caused his eventual death by asphyxiation.

 

*Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah died inside Changi Prison on 27 September 2010.

 

It does look like to Singaporeans that the government and ministries seems to demand HUMAN SACRIFICES before they would relent and deign it necessary to take another look at some of their existing methods and procedures, regulations, guidelines, general orders, and what have you, governing the conduct, work and actions of public officers when dealing with people in the course of their duties.

 

In the case of Dinesh, public assurances were given to the effect that existing prisons SOP pertaining to the handling of defiant/difficult prisoners would be changed to prevent a recurrence. But I do not recall any subsequent announcement or publicity given to whatever improvements and safeguards that were finally put in place since the incident, even though an undertaking was given in parliament by a minister/minister of state that it would be done. So the people are supposed to take it at face value that something has been done and accept that this is the way the government operates, its M.O. (modus operandi) of maintaining a wall of silence because certain matters or details are ‘confidential’ and/or only on a need to know basis)? So the general public do not need to know?

 

On the other hand, I can recall reading reports on the alacrity and haste with which the several prisons officers involved were mass ejected from the Prisons Service through resignation, and a subsequent fine imposed on their supervising officer at the end of court proceedings. What improvements or changes have in fact been enacted/implemented to prevent another prisoner from suffering a similar fate as Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah appeared not to have been publicised or at least not given the level of publicity it deserved. That’s only my opinion. Did I miss any public announcement in this respect?

 

This time round, let’s hope there will be more transparency and wide publicity regarding any definitive changes and improvements that would be made to the existing SOPs and system of both the SPF and the MOE.

 

Perhaps, it may be timely too for the government to CRITICALLY review and audit all of its existing civil service SOPs, guidelines, regulations and general orders for civil servants with a view to remove/modify/attenuate/improve/update any such potential TIMEBOMBS that may be lurking within the complex and mammoth bureaucratic machineries that is the civil service and government. One can arguably argue that two lives have already been sacrificed in order to surface just two of such discrepancies. Are there anymore?

 

It would not be easy, but it has to be done for otherwise still more human lives are potentially at risk, if no deliberate cleansing is undertaken to remove the ‘scourge’ in such encounters with government officials which are often heavily loaded against the ordinary person. The government has vast resources at its disposal. It is only a question of whether it has the will to do it instead of kicking the can further down the road for the next 50 years.

CHANGING THE PRESIDENCY – THE TWO ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM

 

There are two directly relevant, but hitherto unmentioned, reasons why the incumbent PAP government has to very seriously consider changing the sort of President to install at the Istana.

The first elephant in the room is the obvious and very real possible outcome of an EP election where the incumbent president, Dr Tony Tan, could find himself displaced and without a job. The last razor-thin ‘winning’ margin of Dr Tony Tan versus his nearest rival, another Dr Tan – Dr Tan Cheng Bok – said it all.

The brush with Dr Tan Cheng Bok was simply far too close to call. Too close for comfort for the megalomaniac PAP government.

It does not help that since taking office, the incumbent has conspicuously done little to endear himself to the citizens of Singapore (and I am not referring to some populist wayang). (We were told he was not a ‘people’ person by a contemporary of his from an IHL at the time of the last PE.)

Furthermore, he has lost one or two opportunities/occasions so far to ‘acquit’ himself as the ‘people’s president’, but he did not, or has chosen not to. His track record is likely to work against him (and the PAP) come next PE.

The other elephant is ironically to a large extent of the PAP government’s own making. I am referring to the almost 70% mandate given to the PAP at GE2015 by Singaporean voters. I would think that the PAP itself knows deep down inside that the apparently huge pro-PAP swing was the result of a ‘kiasu’ group of ‘swing’ voters voting with their ‘pocketbooks’ in mind rather than any real admiration for the job the government has done post GE2011. The fierce ‘onslaught’ of the opposition parties during the GE2015 rallies had literally scared the wits out of the swing voters; what if overnight the PAP is replaced by new, unknown and untested members from the opposition? Than how? It was in self-preservation more than anything else that prompted the ‘swing’ to the PAP. Foremost in the swing voters’ mind would have been ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’. The post-GE2015 eerie disquiet and disbelief of the voters had been palpable.

It helped too that the government have ‘coincidentally’ been giving out a lot of goodies to the pioneers, for example, and bombarding the general population day and night with weeks of psywar: LKY’s images, nostalgia and related past/historical events calculated to invoke a mix of awe and sense of insecurity and fear-mongering through the retelling of riots in decades gone by, and sense of guilt and ingratitude if the people were to reject the PAP at GE2015 after all that the first generation of PAP leaders had done for Singaporeans. But, deep down inside, the current PAP leaders know too well that it had ‘won’ the swing votes by default, rather than by any particular earned or accrued merits.

However, now that the PAP is firmly returned to power, this same savvy and mercurial group of voters are very likely going to vote for an elected president who would truly live up to his sacred duty to safeguard the people’s money by constantly keeping an eye on any undue or surreptitious movement of funds from the national reserves by the PAP government of the day. If you like, a sort of ‘by-election’ effect that allows the voters free play to put someone else, other than a PAP lackey, in the Instana who would give real life, meaning and substance, the raison d’être, to the concept of an Elected President.

This is the gridlock and ‘lockdown’ of the people’s treasury that the PAP government is really, really very worried about – no more free access to the coffers as and when it wishes. A truly neutral and non-partisan occupant of the president’s office would see to that; he would be a task master who is going to ask hard and perhaps awkward questions about the reserves that the government is going to be hard put to provide cogent answers and replies to. Thus far, everything is within the PAP ‘extended’ family and outsiders are none the wiser, as ‘outsider’ Singaporeans know only too well. This old boys and comfortable pally arrangement of the PAP government could very well vapourised overnight and turned into a nightmare for the PAP government when a majority of Singaporeans put the RIGHT man in the Istana.

Therefore, for these two very credible reasons the LHL government simply CANNOT afford to leave to chance as to whom it would want ensconced in the Istana presidential suite, come the PE due next year. One way out would be for the qualifying pre-requisites to be jacked up ‘sky-high’ so that even the candidates, such as Dr Tan Cheng Bok, who had previously qualified for the last PE would no longer be able to stand. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your party affiliation) for most Singaporeans the Machiavellian genius of the PAP would already have it all figured out and ready to be trotted out at the chosen psychological moment.

Is Grace Fu Being Mischievous?

lee li lian

MP FOR THE PEOPLE, ONLY, WHEN BY THE PEOPLE

Who in his right mind would believe that a PAP MP could or would, without an ulterior motive, actually speak up for voters who didn’t vote for the PAP? Really rich, and takes some believing isn’t it ? Contrary to what she says, IMO, it is Grace Fu who owes every thinking Singaporean an explanation for her mischievous remarks.

Seriously, I don’t think Grace Fu is more concerned or bothered about the rights of the voters who voted for Li Lian than for the fact that Li Lian actually has the GUTS, TEMERITY AND INTEGRITY TO REFUSE TO DANCE TO THE FIDDLE OF THE PAP’S PARLIAMENTARY WAYANG, THAT IS THE NCMP SCHEME.

IMO, the reason is more visceral: the PAP simply ‘can’t stand’ anyone who actually has the gumption to defy a cosmetic scheme devised by the PAP’s venerated late leader principally so that the overwhelming PAP dominated parliament wouldn’t look so bad in the eyes of 1st world democracies. Li Lian’s decision, in PAP’s mind, is an affront, and has made the PAP ‘lose face’ and credibility, no doubts about that.

Apparently, in the ruling party’s mindset, beggars cannot and should not be choosers.

Let me see, was Khaw Boon Wan concerned about the well being of the residents of AHPETC when he decided to withhold the TC’s government grant? To my mind, that is one hell of a way for the PAP to show its ‘concern’ for the welfare and well being of residents (including residents who voted for the PAP) of the TC. To my mind, it is nothing more than collective punishment, designed to divide and rule the residents. The real purpose is to stir them up, pitch them against each other. Guess who is calculating to pick up the ‘spoils’ of such a fall-out among fellow-residents of the TC?

As I recall it, the usual and more ‘in-character’ widely reported (father and son) reactions of the PAP is to either use ways and means to make the voters ‘regret’ for replacing PAP MPs with opposition MPs (as publicly proclaimed by the FATHER) or to find ways and means to ‘fix’ political opponents (as publicly proclaimed by the SON).

Seen in this light, therefore, Grace Fu’s remarks in parliament amounts to nothing more and nothing less than a naked, bare-faced hypocrite’s attempt at instigating and rousing the sentiments of voters (and the public) who voted for the WP, against the WP.

I am surprised (actually, not) that the Speaker did not caution her or admonish her from abusing her parliamentary privilege – using the occasion and thereby politicizing the occasion – to attack Li Lian. That would be expecting too much of a ‘ownself check ownself’ system, I suppose.

gracefool
When I last checked, pigs have not learned to fly.

 

 

 

The Curious Case Of Flooding At The Church Of St Vincent De Paul

1- ST PIC FLOOD IN FRONT OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL

Click to enlarge image

The above picture was from yesterday’s online Straits Times.

I wonder, how many have noticed that the flood water was confined only to the carriageway on the church’s side? While the other side of the carriageway, (in the background of the pic) for traffic going in the opposite direction, it was apparently flood-free – you can even see the road lines and the black-white curb edge.

It gets more curious when you consider that beyond the green hoarding in the far background of this picture there is actually a canal, the Sungei Punggol canal, running alongside this stretch of YCK Road! The canal is barely 45 metres (as measured on Google Earth) straight across from the church (see the Google Earth satellite picture below). Yet it flooded!

2- CHURCH OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL-BIRD EYE VIEW- -YCK ROAD1-FLOOD

Click to enlarge image

It can be inferred that the flood water did not come from the said canal overflowing its banks on to the road, since the half of the carriageway nearer to canal was flood-free (the ST picture). So, why was it that only the church’s side of the road was flooded? IMO, one possible reason is that the two sides of the dual carriageway have been  effectively sealed from each other, except at a limited number of breaks along the dual carriageway where turning and U-Turns are permitted. I am no expert, so I don’t know the reason for this apparent practice.

Perhaps, the PWD road engineering dept may want to consider inserting/cutting ‘channels’ at appropriate points or regular intervals along the affected stretch to allow flood water/rain run-off from the church half of the carriageway to flow to the opposite half of carriageway, and from there carried and drained into the Sungei Punggol canal, 45 metres away – constructing additional conduits to bridge the gap between the road side and the canal, if necessary? Can this be done?

BTW, it is not surprising that this stretch of YCK Road is flood-prone. From the Google Earth maps and elevation profiles reproduced below, it is clear that the church and its neighbourhood are situated in a ‘hole’ in the ground. From the elevation profiles you can see that the church is located in a ‘two-tiered’ basin. The church is in fact sitting at the edge of the ‘2nd tier’.

3- CHURCH OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL -YCK ROAD1-FLOOD

 Click to enlarge image

4- CHURCH OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL -YCK ROAD2-FLOOD

Click to enlarge image

PIC OF CHURCH OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL AND CANAL ALONG GERALD DRIVE

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CHURCH OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL-BEFORE THE RAIN - -YCK ROAD1-FLOOD

Click to enlarge image

In a blog made long ago, the point had already been made that our island is pock-marked with basins all over the place that urbanization has systemically, wittingly or unwittingly, transformed into flood-prone areas ( see https://thetwophilo.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/the-great-singapore-flood-a-case-of-ponding/ ). Perhaps, the URA, PWD, NEA and PUB should form a joint task force to look into the problem. Ideally, they should be working hand-in-glove as a team in all state and city planning and development, with each looking after their side/angle of the picture, and working together to solve, resolve and pre-empt potential issues from being created when the physical environment is being profoundly altered and permanently transformed.