Archive for Rants

Short Takes

Wow, I have written a grand total of like 4 posts last year. Makes me wonder where and what I have spent the time on. On reflection, I realised that the lack of impetus to blog may also be a little related to some degree of disappointment with some of the people who I useed to have political and current affairs discussions. In general, the personal sentiment is that it will make no difference if these people have their way with their choice of government. It will be more of the same since they are themselves intolerant of those who would dare to contradict them.

Regardless, here’s some short takes on what I think about some recent events to get back into blogging.

“SMRT Ltd (Feedback)” vs Xiaxue Xiaxuay

Well, I won’t comment on who has made a stronger case. But rather, it is pretty obvious that Xiaxuay isn’t going to come out on top at all. After all, all her past engagements were against people she has someone knowledge of, which thus allow her some leverage against them. But in the case of “SMRT Ltd (Feedback)“, just how does one fight someone with no real identity? We might not really know who Xiaxuay is, but there’s a picture of a pink piece of shit we can all put our boot to. But there is very little the general public knows about “SMRT Ltd (Feedback)”. What she is doing is like Polish cavalry charging with lances at Nazi Panzers. There can only be one outcome, and we are all waiting very patiently (and still waiting) for the Panzers to deliver the coup de grâce.

The rat problem in Bukit Batok

Well, I can agree that leftovers from stray dog feeding may have attracted the rodents in the first place. But that is not why an entire colony of several hundred rats flourished. Small amount of leftovers could not have sustained that kind of rat population. It is obvious that after being attracted to the area, the rats were later able to find an abundant food source which allowed them to “live long and prosper”.

Obviously, no one likes the prospect of that food source being identified. Residents will blame the town council and the MP for it, and in humiliation they will punish / fine the one who “created” that food source. Nevertheless, I suspect that residents have reported the problem for some time, but several smart alecks in different agencies and departments probably decided that it isn’t appropriate to utilize their budget to deal with, treated it as something outside their “jurisdiction” and just “pass the buck”. To put it in an analogy, it’s like a time bomb has been discovered but because no one is willing to defuse it, it is then passed around until it finally exploded in everyone faces. Sadly, even after that happened no one has the balls to own up and just say we messed up and we will do our best to clean it up. Instead, they find it more convenient to blame the stray dog feeders for the problem instead of finding a long term solution.

Meanwhile, rats are so common these days it’s not just a localised issue. Even so, it shouldn’t be a national issue, because crows and rodents are a big problem in every major city. To help solve this problem – leave no leftovers.

The proposed Sengkang West columbarium

Really, I am not interested if someone didn’t like it because of superstition or because it is going to affect the price of his flat, or that he is being short-changed (or conned) into “overpaying” for his unit because it was not what he thought a temple should be. In particular, whatever real life problems that a columbarium would bring, such as competition for car park spaces, road congestion etc also exists be it a church, or a school or even a shopping mall. Furthermore, temples with columbariums are not uncommon in Singapore. That is why in principle, I had originally objected to the complaints by some of these residents.

However, in spite of all that, some of the residents who are unhappy with it did made a valid point about the entity that was allowed to build the temple which will contain the columbarium. Regardless of what their original objection maybe, the question on why a plot of land meant for religious purposes was awarded to a commercial entity must be answered. Read about all that here.

While everything may indeed look legal or lawful, the matter is that what is legal or lawful does not necessarily mean it is right or good. Consider how AIM got then tender to all of the PAP town councils’ computer systems. How AIM got all that may perhaps be lawful, but there are very few who would consider that as right or good. So, this columbarium is yet another ticking time bomb and if not properly defused would definitely explode in the face of Sengkang West’s Member of Parliament and the ruling party. But of course, no one is betting on Sengkang West remaining as a SMC (Single Member Constituency) after the next boundary review by the elections department.

What is even more disappointing however, is that none of the alternative parties took this matter up and help the residents press for an acceptable answer on this matter.

【Addendum】 A friend pointed out that I was wrong in this assertion because at least the NSP did take up this matter.

Edz Ello

It is not the first time some foreigner comes to Singapore, enjoy this country’s hospitality, and the education or job opportunities provided and then go on to make disparaging remarks about us. I am not going to go into a tirade against specific groups of foreigners or all foreigners because that would play into the hands of those who find every nitty-gritty thing to label anyone a xenophobe. Furthermore, in my office I had worked with a number of “Edz Ello’s” countrymen and there are a few I truly enjoyed working with. At the very least they are competent in what they do compared to another group who is acclaimed to be “experts” in Information Technology.

But I have said this before, and I will say it again – in no small part the main stream media (MSM) and perhaps a part of this country’s policies have brought this upon us. When our own leaders lea-duhs berate us for not having “spurs stuck to our hide”, or that Singapore “cannot do without foreigners” and even “foreign talents provide good jobs to Singaporeans”, how can the least of the foreigners not even think highly of themselves and consider Singaporeans to be inferior? Worse of it all when foreigners acts bad ass, our lea-duhs then tell us to “reflect”, or to “have a big heart” without even so much a slap on the wrist against the offenders. That is then followed up by their supporters and followers which waste no time in labelling anyone a xenophobe or their comments as xenophobic.

Really, how can Singaporeans not be angry and view this as a form of a injustice and unfairness? And where else can we seek re-dress other than an outpour of condemnation in the alternative media because the angry voices are never allowed to be heard on the MSM? There will be those who will say Edz Ello is entitled to his freedom of speech. Likewise, afford us our freedom of speech to condemn him then.

If freedom of speech is indeed practised, then let those among us correct those who are too extreme without anyone labelling any unhappiness against foreigners as xenophobia.

Je ne suis pas Charlie

Freedom of Speech. No one should dictate what another can say blah blah blah…

The fact is, freedom of speech is an unachievable ideal. Perhaps achievable when when human beings behave reasonably, logically and rationally. But human beings aren’t always that. No matter how much we insist there should be ‘freedom of speech’, one fine day there’s still going to be some idiot who will punch another in the face for saying something offensive, or kill another for insulting his mother.

Some will say to self-censor means it’s a form of fear, and to be in fear and thus not be able to do something is thus a lost of freedom. Now let me put that in perspective. Fear, is irrational. Fear is not real. Danger is however, real and tangible. If someone puts a knife across my throat and ask me to stop saying something, I will stop. That is not because I fear, nor am I giving up my freedom. But rather, the danger of losing my life is real. Have I make myself clear? Really, if anyone wants to be the hero and continue saying whatever offends the other chap, even when he really has no right to be offended, and then lose his life for it – be my guest.

That said, let me emphasize: Killing IS NOT right. Killing IS NOT at all reasonable or rational either. But one can continue hiding behind that veil called ‘freedom of speech’, but beware that one might ultimately pay the price for not being responsible in considering how someone else might feel otherwise about the satires, or even racists jokes he might be cracking – not just to friends – but to the anyone out there in the world who can see it.

So go ahead and persist with the “freedom to insult” and “freedom to offend”. We will all condemn the killers, but I certainly won’t feel sorry for the chaps in Charlie Hebdo. To even call it satire would be an insult to or even Leslie Chew, who made the Demoncratic comics (even though I don’t really like his stuff).

And so, je ne suis pas Charlie (I am not Charlie).

Current Affairs – Hong Kong

The protests in Hong Kong has been ongoing for more than a week and it has always been my considered opinion that in the end the protesters will gain nothing out of this. Whatever they demanded is not in the authority of the Hong Kong government to give, but that of Beijing’s central government. If this persists, whatever in this article may well come true, and I certainly have no complaints about that even though I am skeptical. After all, the pragmatic leaders of China certainly wouldn’t like the idea of an outflow of investments into Singapore and I suspect that the Shanghai Free Trade Zone is probably part of their contigency plan. That’s not mentioning, everybody wants to be China’s bitch these days.

Furthermore, the position of some of those making the demands has left no room for Beijing to negotiate, while they accused Beijing of having closed the door to negotiation completely. Some of them believes that negotiating with China would be “bargaining with the tiger for its skin” (与虎谋皮). I wondered how their current course of action will actually make the tiger just give them its skin. On the other hand, some believed that the Chinese government is completely evil. While vilifying the Chinese government may give them the moral high ground and thus enforce the notion of the nobility of their cause, the question on how they are going to achieve their objectives remains. Simply put, whether they stand chance to succeed or not is moot when they have denied themselves any chance to achieve their objectives right from the start by considering China their enemy, when it should not be so. On top of which, it is not beyond Beijing to sit back and give this a cold treatment. After all, it is an “evil government” that basically treats human lives as nothing more but mere digits. Nevertheless, I felt China’s central government in Beijing has only itself to blame for this lack of trust.

Anyway, from an utterly selfish point of view, I don’t really give a damn how long the protesters wants to drag this if it ends up benefiting Singapore. I don’t really give a hoot about the grades and the learning of those students either because I fully believe people should live with the consequences of their choices and decisions. Some may believe that the economy will not be affected, but with a lot of paper wealth evaporating from the stock market itself and tourists avoiding Hong Kong as a destination, sooner or later there will be some effect on the chap on Main Street. In fact, Hong Kong’s economic share in the Chinese economy has fallen from 25% in 1990 to a mere 3% today. None of these political struggles will help add value to Hong Kong to improve its competitiveness. If Hong Kong still has any importance left to China today, it is political. The “One Country, Two Systems” model must succeed, in order to provide China its bargaining chip in any future negotiations with Taiwan for reunification. Should China believe that the model has failed, it will view it as a setback to its plans to reunification and I shudder to imagine China’s response. In other words, the success of the “One Country, Two Systems” model will be Hong Kong’s “talisman of protection” (护身符). China will continue to maintain a pretty much hands off approach as long as everything goes “according to plan”.

The jury is out on whether China has reneged on its ‘promises’ to give Hong Kong democracy. In my opinion, China may have kept to the letter of law but not the spirit of it. To put it into an analogy, if I promising to give you a treat and then proceed give you only a bowl of rice without the associating dishes and thus consider my obligation completed, you have all the right to protest. Whether I give a flying damn and give you the dishes you expected is another matter entirely.

But it is not as simple as the analogy. I agree it is utterly meaningless for the kind of universal suffrage whereby Hong Kong is only allowed to vote for candidates that were pre-determined. That, would be of no different from the elections opf North Korea, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It is however, within China’s right to demand that the Chief Executive be someone they can trust, such that they can hold him responsible for any actions which would in anyway violate Beijing’s interests. It thus appeared that the people of Hong Kong and the Chinse government are at an impasse, but do they not have a middle ground?

Before I get to that, let me back-track a bit. Why do the people of Hong Kong call it a ‘fake’ universal suffrage and likened it to the elections held in countries like North Korea? The main dispute lies in the 1200 member “nomination committee” (modelled on the existing election committee which elects the Chief Executive), which the people of the Hong Kong do not consisder to really represent them. The composition of the Election committee is detailed here in this article.

As an example of why the Hong Kong people complains about this committee. Take a look at the “Agriculture and Fisheries” subsector which has 60 members, a good 5% of the seats in this committee. It is said that not only does this subsector not take up an equivalent proportion in Hong Kong’s ecomony, the manner in which the members are elected is hardly democratic. Whether that is true I have not verified, but Hong Kong is highly urbanized so there may be some truth behind it. Above which, the people of Hong Kong felt that all the members representing these subsectors are more interested in serving the agenda of the rich (if not China itself), and has partly blamed it for the many social issues currenly plaguing Hong Kong. It is thus understandable how the people feels about any Chief Executive candidate approved by this committee in 2017.

So, where is the middle ground? The middle ground would be to broaden the representativeness of the nominating committee. Sadly, Beijing has closed the door to that which is why the people are now on the streets.

To end, I want to point out that the Chief Executive has a very limited set of powers granted to him by the Basic Law and the power to enact and amend laws is with the Legislative Council (or LegCo for short). What would be more important would be to ensure that the people retained the full rights to elect anyone to this council, whereby all its members will be elected by universal suffrage in 2020. LegCo can then serve as a check on the powers of the Chief Executive himself as specified in the Basic Law.

Thus, it is also my opinion that these students (and a lot of these protesters) are really misguided, if not used by some people with ulterior motives and agenda. There is without a doubt that someone is financing the tents, and the supply of free food and water to those who are still occupying Mongkok and Admiralty in Hong Kong. Perhaps the students believed that all those stuff are donated by a supportive public, but it would be wise to ask who is collecting all those donations and who is organising the logistics to bring these things to the areas now occupied by the protesters.

Current Affairs – The Fracas at Hong Lim Park

It is with a mixed feeling of disappointment and annoyance as I watched the video of Han Hui Hui’s confrontation against the NParks official and one of the police officers posted on Roy Ngerng’s own Facebook wall.

There are many aspects of that disappointment, and I will attempt to explain them one at a time. Firstly, I am disappointed on how a good cause of letting the government know that improvements should be made to the CPF scheme is now hijacked by such extremists. To put in it an analogy, a good pot of porridge is now ruined by a few pieces of rat shit (几块老鼠屎坏了一锅粥). In my opinion, whatever can be said about the shortcomings of the CPF has been said. Now what is left is wait for the response from the government, which to some extent we have heard from the Prime Minister himself during the National Day Rally. Frankly, what else is there to say right now? Return our CPF? To everyone, right now? Pray tell how we actually expect the government to actually even achieve that. Pray tell how voting the PAP out will make that happen. Which alternative party is insane enough to actually promised that as part of their political platform?

Next, I am disappointed with the NParks actually approving the event when they should have record the YMCA event which they have given prior approval. It allows the conspiracists to call this a deliberate “trap” set by the authorities which culminated in the confrontation that took place, such that Han and Ngerng will look bad to turn public opinion against them. While I not so politically naive to deny that such a thing may not be too far fetch as documents declassified in the United Kingdom has shown that such set-ups may have been used in the 50s and 60s, how does that justify the uncompromising, uncooperative attitude Han Hui Hui has displayed in the video Roy Ngerng posted? When I read those declassified documents and about how Lim Chin Siong was set up and betrayed, there is a well of indignation. But if I was a reader reading about Han and Ngerng, and watching that video 50 years later, I would not be surprised to have felt completely nothing at all!

I admire the calm and restraint of the NPark official and the police officer on site, but I was utterly disappointed that they did not come prepared with the knowledge of what are the laws granting them the authority. It is my considered opinion that the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Chapter 257, and PEMA for short) would have given the NPark official the authority to revoke the permit given to Han Hui Hui and her group at any time. A friend had pointed out that if he was the NPark official he wouldn’t have the patience to even bother to convince her to compromise and move to the unoccupied part of Hong Lim Park, but would have taken out a Blackberry (if he is issued one) and sent her the written revocation of the permit right away. An ex-police officer told me that the revocation would then allow the police officer on site to act under Section 18(b) of PEMA and if she refused to cooperate, to put to good use their standard issue “Rolex Kings” (aka handcuffs). All of these are on the Statutes for those who would bother to read them and I did not just make it up.

It is my sincere hope that this lesson will now improve how civil servants deal with some of the more belligerent members of the public in the future, and in the future come fully prepared with the legal knowledge on what laws grant them the authority to act. Even though I do not appreciate a high-handed approach by government officials, people like Han Hui Hui who thinks they know a lot about the law and thus could “legalise” their otherwise repulsive actions and behaviour should be smacked so hard that they learn the lesson that ‘children should not play with fire’.

Finally, I am utterly disappointed with how some people can subject their moral compass beneath their political stand or ideologies. I am no fan of the PAP myself but there is nothing that would stop me from pointing out what is wrong. Heckling* the other event is simply wrong, especially when that event is held by an organisation that has nothing to do with government and the ruling party. All the more so when it was an event for special-needs children, the aged and the under-privileged. Failing to make the best out of a bad situation, and refusing to compromise and cooperate, not only demonstrates Han Hui Hui’s lack of wisdom, but also her conceit and selfishness. There is even now an attempt to justify the heckling of the other event by arguing that the YMCA emcee has been provocative. If we are to twist the facts and to justify what is wrong as right, or use the law to legalise what is wrong, then we have no moral authority to criticse the PAP for the same in the future. In fact, for those of them who now justifies Han and Ngerng, just what moral right do they have to condemn the PAP on giving its town councils contract to AIM in the past? Do not forget that granting that contract to AIM may well have been all legal under the law, but there are very few of us who would equate that with the morally right thing to do.

To end this post, let me point out that Han and her band of merrymen has not only done nothing to help to bring about more meaningful change and improvements to the CPF system, their actions may have irked some middle-voters into deciding that it may actually be wiser to vote for the PAP again. And that to me, would have been the greatest setback for democracy in Singapore.

There will be those who would say that I am getting things wrong because I was not on site myself. Say whatever you want, but for a more or less unbiased report I suggest that they refer to this article on Yahoo Singapore, and not the Straits Times or the likes of “The Real Singapore”, for reference. In general, Yahoo has been way more balanced in the articles posted on Singapore’s current affairs and the politics compared to the two I have named.

* – I have chosen not to amend this part even though I have promised to amend it. The reason being that though strictly speaking none of the performers were really heckled, the word heckle is synonymous with the terms disrupt, interrupt, and harass. In my opinion, that was exactly what happened to the event itself, even when the special needs children were not specifically heckled.

Random Discourse – All that fuss about the CPF

I read this recently. If I understood it correctly, the entire premise of that post seem to be that the so-called “Roy Clique” is detrimental to the opposition and that it will sort of deter the middle voters which have in recent years drifted towards voting for the opposition camp. If not, it suggest that this clique will actually draw the rabidly anti-PAP crowd towards them and thus would hurt the moderate parties which have chosen a less confrontational path in their politics.

I can’t tell the future so I cannot say it will not turn out the way as the author of this post has predicted. However, for those who are “ABP” (anything but PAP), it really doesn’t matter whether an opposition party will ride on the coattails of the “Roy Clique” or not. Any opposition party will get their votes, which typically made up about 25 ~ 35% of the total votes. I will not be surprised that certain opportunists may capitalise on the CPF issue in the next election to try and win votes, but the condition whereby a split in the opposition vote will only occur in a multi-corner fight. Should the ruling party thus win with a small margin and less than 50% of the votes cast in such a situation, then instead of pointing fingers at who has divided the votes and caused the electoral defeat, the opposition parties should sit down and reflect upon their own political discourse and evaluate why it has not drawn the other voters towards them. They will have to make themse;ves stand out among the rest. The Punggol East By-Election has demonstrated that an opposition party can stand out among the rest and consolidate the opposition votes in itself. I personally hope that isn’t a one time effect, but an example of a maturing electorate.

Back to the matter “advocated” by the “Roy Clique”. I have bothered with none of the CPF-related “protests” at Hong Lim Park so far. Does it mean I do not care?

No. I certainly have my own unhappiness about the minimum sum, and I am not particularly happy with the returns in both the Ordinary Account (OA) and the Special and Medisave Accounts (SA & MA). I certainly isn’t happy that we cannot withdraw our CPF in a lump sum in our old age. However, I do not see what the likes of Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng will achieve. Han and Ngerng can ramble on and on about the problems or the issues of confidence we have about the CPF, but what outcome are they expecting in the end? I am not asking them to propose solutions, but at the very least tell us what they believe is the best for us, and it is up to the million-dollar paid bastards to tell us whether they can (or cannot) do it.

Roy and his merrymen seem to want to convince us of a few “facts” – that a large part (or perhaps even all) of our CPF monies have been mismanaged and lost, and that we are short-changed in terms of returns. Contradictory in some sense, because wouldn’t asking for more returns for something that may already be gone make the hole even deeper?

As for whether the CPF monies are still there or not… I’ll make two assumptions. Firstly, assuming the worst case scenario where the money in the CPF (Central Provident Fund, for those outside this country who are not familiar with our abbreviations) is indeed all lost, then there can be only one outcome – i.e. the value printed on our CPF statements will not even worth the paper it’s printed on, one way or another. That also means whatever Singapore currency in your wallet and outside the CPF is going to be pretty much worth shit as well. If you don’t get it, that will be the result either because of the complete collapse in confidence in Singapore’s financial viability, or the Singapore government printing more money to cover the hole. In short, whether I liked it or not, it would be better to “live the lie” so some people can continue to draw out their CPF in parts during their old age instead of everybody seeing the value of their money gone.

Next, assuming that the CPF monies are still there (i.e. just invested and cannot be cashed out immediately or suffering a shorfall as a result of paper losses in investments), then the main bone of contention would be the minimum sum and why CPF members are not allowed to draw it all out in a lump sump.

We often heard that this is to stop people from messing up. But I disagree. From a completely selfish point of view, the main reason for this to be done is to avoid having to bail out anyone who has misused their CPF monies either through womanising or gambling, regardless how few these people are. Really, everyone can say I am good enough to manage my own money, but no one will stand up and admit “I screwed up” when they failed to live up to their word. It really doesn’t matter to me when people messed up their own lives, but there will always be those who complain that the government isn’t doing anything to help these people, and even advocate for the government to do something. For those who are all so noble, they can put their money on the line and pledge it to help those people. After all, it shouldn’t really concern anyone to make that pledge, if they believe everyone can be responsible to themselves and also live with the consequences of their own choices.

Back to some of the common complaints about the CPF, I have sort of notice that there are some things which are not very well publicised. They are unfortunately all on the CPF website for those who make a bit more effort to look. But really, more can be done to better inform the people about them. Here are some of them:

  1. It is not entirely true a person cannot get better returns with his CPF. There is the CPFIS (CPF Investment Scheme). While it is limited in its scope in what it can be invested in to make more returns, it is not true at all that there is no avenue whatsoever beyond the first $20,000 in the OA. The downside means the person will also have to take the risks that comes with the scheme, and it all depends on your risk appetite / tolerance.

  2. It is also not entirely true that the government has done nothing to help the returns of the CPF catch up with the minimum sum. The first $20,000 in the OA and then the first $40,000 in the SA & MA combined (i.e. the first $60,000 in all 3 accounts) pays an additional 1% p.a. on top of the current CPF interest rates. Consider the power of the compound on the long run. It may not be really a lot, but it is in my opinion baby steps in the right direction. We can all hope that the extra interest that is paid on the first $60,000 can be adjusted according to inflation, or that some form of dividends on top of it can be paid to our CPF accounts when the country is doing well.

  3. The minimum sum seems unachievable for all. However, most Singaporeans should be able to “own” a HDB flat, even for those who consider it a long-term lease. The value on that flat itself would probably have surpassed the minimum sum. While we cannot pledge all of that as the minimum sum, the fact most of us will still have a shelter over our heads which will allow us to cover one of our basic needs. Even at its barest, some of us can still rent out a room to make a small amount of money.

Before I end, I will point out that there will be those who doesn’t have more than $20,000 in their CPF accounts and thus not be able to get that 1% additional interest nor invest their money. There will also be those who don’t own a flat. This group of people is worse off than the lot of us who are unhappy about not being able to see all of our CPF money again. The next worse off group would be those in need, who can only look at the figure in the CPF statement but not utilise it. I have no solutions for them and in my case, whether I liked it or not, I need to have some alternate savings and make some sacrifices now. Hopefully when I am old, whatever I managed to save together with the monthly amount doled out from the CPF will be enough to meet minimum subsistence level.

There are also those of us who felt we have been betrayed and that the CPF system that we were once promised no longer serves its purpose. That may perhaps be true. But it is completely meaningless to whine about it. We can demand someone to make things better, but we still have to plan for ourselves if things don’t go our way. So for those of us who still can, make the best of whatever tools and means we have now to go as far as possible.

i Light Marina Bay 2014

This is the second in a series of backlog blog postings.

This event was held between 7th ~ 30th March 2014 at the Marina Waterfront.

As with any such events, there is always a crowd of people and it usually takes a lot of patience (something I truly lacked) for one to be able to get a shot of the installation without the usual annoying obstructions and hinderances.

Just like the Doraemon Expo, some of the other visitors can really drive a person who is trying to get a photo crazy. Some people can hog an exhibit (or installation) for many minutes trying to get their ‘perfect shot’ oblivious to the people around them. In one particular case, there were two cosplaying girls that were hogging one of the exhibits taking photos in various pose. Perhaps the drool from some of the lecherous mutts standing spurs them on in their display, but I would hope they would just get lost so I can get a shot and move on.

If it weren’t these idiots, then there are those who would obstruct the exhibits and check their photos after they are done. Common sense is sadly… uncommon. I wondered what happened to the traditional upbringing because my parents would often berate me for being a hinderance and inconveniece to other people. If they were children I would understand, but not so when some of these are adults. As if that isn’t infuriating enough, some of them even have the cheek to ask those standing around waiting to take a photo for them. Talk about rubbing salt on an open wound.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. Enjoy the photos of some of the exhibits and some of the sights in the area, though my lack of skills at photography really don’t do some of them any justice.