Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Dharmendra Yadav's Interview of David Marshall

Dharmendra Yadav just posted on his blog an interview with David Marshall he did back in 1994.

I suppose it doesn't really say anything new about David Marshall but rather confirms my impression of him as a Don Quixote - lunging at bullies indeed (see the end of Yadav's account)!

I've seen Dharmendra Yadav's letters to the press with his characteristic 'Think Happiness' signoff many times before, but until today, I never knew anything else about him. Now, thanks to his blog profile, I know more.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Another Elangovan Play Banned

A email just came in on the Art Community Yahoo! Group from S Thenmoli, the President of the theatre group, Agni Kootthu (Theatre of Fire). Seems that yet another play of Elangovan's failed to pass censorship.

According to Thenmoli's email and to a Channel NewsAsia article, the Media Development Authority (MDA) issued an RA18 licence for the play, SMEGMA, on Tue 1 Aug. Today (4 Aug), the licence was withdrawn. Thenmoli reported that the second (and official) version of the MDA letter withdrawing the licence said that "After careful consideration, we find that the play undermines the values underpinning Singapore's multi-racial, multi-religious society, and portrays Muslims in a negative light." Thenmoli said that there was an earlier first version of the letter which gave more reasons: that the play might 'negatively impact... bilateral relations' and that "Two playlets featuring Muslim terrorists are also provocative in view of the increased tension in the Middle east."

I went to the Substation website to take a look at the publicity blurb about the play. The first paragraph reads:

"Truth Is The Enemy Of The State
SMEGMA interrogates the 'moral, cultural, religious, political, economical legitimacy world' from many different perspectives of the underdogs and their masters. This plastic society's hidden hierarchies are brought to the surface by the experiences of its outsiders; a schizophrenic transsexual, pregnant female suicide bomber, irate non-smokers and defiant smokers."

The rest of the publicity is much longer but essentially expands on this first paragraph.

Finally, what does smegma mean?
First, read the polite definition from the British Compact Oxford English Dictionary.
Then the explictly direct definition from the American Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Changing of the Guard?

If I could give this year a name, it would be The Year of Endings. In the realm of permanent passings, HDB founder Lim Kim San just passed away on Thursday (20 July) and earlier this year, Rajaratnam (22 Feb). The elections of 6 May saw many (24) MPs retiring and the PAP appreciation dinner was on Sat (22 July). Among them was David Lim who also announced last month that he would be leaving NOL later this year. On Friday (21 July), Lee Hsien Yang also announced that he would be leaving Singtel.


Marche Marches On

Interesting. The Sunday Times today (pL27) reported that the Pasar Gourmet (a Chew Swee Cheng company) Marché franchise ends in Apr 2007. Marché Heeren has already closed and its space will be taken over by Vila'ge, a restaurant that is virtually a duplicate of Marché (and started in 2004 at China Square by ex-Pasar Gourmet staff). Marché Suntec closes in Jan 2007.

At the end of this year (Dec), Marché International itself will open an outlet in VivoCity. Am looking forward to that because the standard at the Marché franchisee outlets droped after the Suntec outlet opened.


Beadcurd War

I found Teo Pau Lin's beadcurd articles in the Sunday Times (16 & 23 July) interesting. It helps sort out the confusion (which often occurs in the hawker world). According to the Sunday Times of 13 May 2001, Rochor Beancurd was founded by China-born Mdm Tan Kim Keow who started off with a cart along Rochor Rd (about 1983 I think because one of the articles said they started making beancurd 23 years ago). Around 1989, the stall at Short Street opened & the one at Sims Ave opened 4 years later.

In 2002, the youngest brother, David Koh, 38, left and opened Beancurd City in Jln Besar. However, he didn't do well there & opened up a Beancurd City outlet next to the original Short St stall last month. The sister, Koh Chay Luang, 44, is helping him.

Meanwhile, the eldest brother, Koh Koon Meng, 61, opened Rochor Beancurd House on Geylang Road in 2004 and has just opened a second outlet along Tg Katong Rd.

The original stall at Short Street, Rochor Original Beancurd, is run by the middle brother, William Koh, 47, and his wife, Mdm Eng Ah Moi. They are not on speaking terms with their younger brother so you might want to avoid that particular topic if you patronise their stall (or David's for that matter).


Gambling Internet Cafes

Interesting article in today's Sunday Times (pp3-4): electronic gambling dens run under the guise of Internet cafes. The article focused on Touch Internet in Toa Payoh but said there were several others in HDBland across the island. Guess the police will be very busy over the next few weeks.


I'm Back in Play

After a long hiatus, I'm back again. This seems a useful place to park my record of interesting Singapore news articles. Don't expect regularity though.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Would Rajaratnam Have Approved?

There was an exchange of letters in the Straits Times Forum. On 31 Mar, Chua Beng Huat invoked the ideals of Rajaratnam to criticise Singapore for its materialism (or as Rajaratnam said, 'moneytheism') and obsession with race. This was countered by a letter from PAP's Indranee Rajah published today.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Friday Night Huddle

Friday night (10 Mar) saw the three main opposition groups meeting at PKMS to discuss electoral strategy and agree on who will contest which ward in order to avoid three way fights that will split the opposition vote. I would ordinarily dismiss mention of SDP infighting in today's Sunday Times report of the meeting by Peh Shing Huei. However, given Chee Soon Juan's past record (in staging a coup d'etat to take over the SDP) and the recent defection of three SDP members (Cheo Chai Chen, Dr Vincent Yeo and Lim Tung Hee as mentioned by Peh Shing Huei & Ken Kwek in their 5 Mar article 'Opposition parties jostle to contest hot seats') to the NSP (one of the founding parties of the SDA), it sounds like the SDP are undergoing a problematic period. Today's Sunday Times has the full report of the meeting: 'The night of the opposition huddle' (p8).

The big opposition news was carried on Sat 11th by The New Paper ('JBJ: Spoiler or saviour?' by Clarence Chang on p10) and Weekend Today (last paragraph of Loh Chee Kong's article 'Opposition could field up to 52 candidates' on p4): that J B Jeyaratnam might be able to clear his defamation lawsuit debt, assemble a team, and run one last time! Possible wards include Tg Pagar (Lee Kuan Yew), Marine Parade (Goh Chok Tong) or Ang Mo Kio (Lee Hsien Loong). See the Map of Electoral Divisions for details about these constituencies and List of Constituency for who the current MPs are.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Apolitical Singaporeans

Today's Today cover story reports the results of a government survey on S'porean political involvement... or lack thereof. While 43.2% of the 500 people surveyed have "discussed politics in an informal settion", it seems like only around 6% have done other things like write a letter to the newspaper, joined a civil society organisation or spoken to an MP about government policy. I suppose I'm one of the 5% by being involved in several civil society groups and participating in the Feedback Unit's Government Consultation Portal.

I did try to find the original survey done by the MCYS' Political Development Feedback Group, but no luck on either of the above websites.


Restless Maids

Today in Today, Neil Humphreys ('A sad tale, maid in Singapore') was aghast at the rejection by Parliament of legislating mandatory rest days for maids (see Straits Times report of 9 March by Leslie Koh & Tania Tan). The rationale for rejecting the legislation was given by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower, Hawazi Daipi who
"said legislating employment terms and conditions would lead to 'rigidities and inconvenience' for many households. 'For example, some households have elderly or infirm members with special needs who require constant attention and may find it difficult to release the domestic worker for a prescribed period every week,'..."
However, the industry itself is not going to sit with government inaction. The Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) and CaseTrust are working out a standard employment contract which requires a minimum of one day off per month or $20 more in salary. This will be made an industry standard. The details are in yesterday's Today ('Finally, a day of rest for foreign domestic workers ...' by Teo Xuanwei). I know it isn't much (even security guards get 2 days off a month) but it's a start.

Humphreys mentioned in his article a 9 March Straits Times report ('Foreign workers a 'high-risk' group') that Singapore maids are a high risk suicide group (12 suicides per 100,000). The Straits Times figures were obtained from Dr Chia Boon Hock who will be presenting his work on Singapore Suicides at the 2nd Asia Pacific Suicide Prevention Conference (10-12 March @ Furama RiverFront).

There was also mention of a Dec 2005 Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reply to a Human Rights Watch report. Well, MOM issued three replies from the 6th to the 8th of Dec. The one Neil Humphreys was probably referring to is the one on 7th Dec titled 'Fact Sheet in Response to Human Rights Watch Report' which states that
"The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) imposes work permit (WP) conditions which bind all employers to look after the well being of their FDWs. These conditions include provisions on personal safety, proper housing, prompt salary payment and adequate food and rest."
The initial response from MOM on 6 Dec is also quite substantial: 'MOM's reponse to Human Rights Watch Report'. For the Human Rights Watch report that started it, read Maid to Order: Ending Abuses Against Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore. Or if you want the quick version, read their press release: 'Singapore: Domestic Workers Suffer Grave Abuse'.

A final note: Lin Yanqin reported in yesterday's Today that the Feedback Unit has commissioned a study on the views of foreign domestic workers. Wonder what that will reveal...


Firmly Shut... or not?

Teng Qian Xi surprised me by commenting on the Detention-Writing-Healing forum in the Thu 9 Mar issue of Today. 'More room under the banyan tree?' pointed out as evidence of an opening climate of discussion about the past, biographies being published by major opposition figures including avowed Communist leaders like Chin Peng. Seminars critically examining the past now occur on a regular basis and I was surprised to see the former political commissionar of a Communist Regiment speaking at one of them! Teng pointed out that the official letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs was to be expected.

Her second last paragraph probably sums up her point: "But the fact remains that Tan and Fernandez were allowed to speak and were rebutted publicly. This is a first step that deserves no small credit, especially since it has been 15 years since Mr George Yeo, then the Minister for Information and the Arts, first proposed "pruning the banyan tree judiciously" to allow civil society to thrive."

However, it seems that little discussion has arisen online about this whole affair. Are people afraid or do they even care?


Rajaratnam and Singapore History

It seems like articles in the papers about Rajaratnam and Singapore's historical amnesia has died down. Not much has appeared since Wed 8 March. However, articles are still coming into the Straits Times online Forum. Today, Sam King, a former newspaper colleague of Rajaratnam, wrote a piece titled 'Remembering Raja in his swimming trunks'.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Growing Tomatoisation of Ang Mo Kio

A tomato letter war has been raging in Today. It was started by Neo Chew Peng on 24 Feb complaining about a sign in Ang Mo Kio that put a tomato next to the town's name. Ang Mo Kio Town Council replied on 4 March that what Neo saw was an isolated incident but on 9 Mar Rick Lim Say Kiong sent in photos with his letter, saying that "I have been living in Ang Mo Kio town for more than 20 years and it seems that this fruit has been gradually used to characterise this matured housing estate."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Firmly Shut

In a direct reply to Chua Mui Hoong's article, the Ministry of Home Affairs has written a letter to the Forum. Published today, it restates the official position:

"Mr Tan and Mr Fernandez were not political dissidents or opposition members engaged in the democratic process. They belonged to the Communist United Front (CUF) which supported the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). The CPM was an underground organisation which used terror and violence to subvert the democratic process and overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia. Many innocent lives were lost, victims of the CPM's armed struggle."

"...they and other ex-communists and supporters cannot be allowed to re-write history by watering down communist atrocities, subversion and other unlawful activities and glossing over the harm they caused to so many victims and the threat they posed to our country. Had the CUF and CPM succeeded, Singapore would never have achieved what we have today - a peaceful, prosperous and multi-ethnic democratic society."

Now the question that remains is - will Fernandez and Tan be redetained for recanting on their confessions?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Fire Dragon

From what I've been able to gather online, Man San Fu Tat (万山福德祠) conducted a fire dragon ceremony after a hiatus of a decade. The performance was by 龙狮艺术原流传 (Sar Kong Mun San Fook Tuck Chee Lion Dance Troupe) on 二月初二 (second day of the second month or 1st March in the Western calendar), the day Singapore temples celebrate Tua Pek Kong's birthday. Victor posting on has a report: Dance of the Fire Dragon.

The fire dragon ceremony is Cantonese. The most famous one is held in Hongkong at Tai Hung during the Mid Autumn Festival.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Electoral Boundaries Report published

Yesterday, the Map of Electoral Divisions for the next General Election was released. It's no surprise really. I've heard rumours as early as Dec last year that it would be around the March school holidays (11-19 March). Looks like it'll be after the March holidays though - it takes at least two weeks from announcement to elections proper. Nomination Day requires minimum four days notice and Polls have to be at minimum nine days after Nomination Day. Visit the Elections Department website for more details and to check whether your name is on the register.


Lim Hock Soon Murder

Wed 15 Feb was quite the shock: an early morning gangland-style murder in Serangoon of Las Vegas Nightclub boss, Lim Hock Soon, 41. Mr Lim and his family were starting out the day when a man holds them up, ties up the family and shoots Mr Lim. Newspapers were using the words 'secret society' and 'triad' freely. Reporters Tanya Fong and Ben Nadarajan profiled the victim as the 'Big Shot With a Low Profile' in the 17 Feb Straits Times. Details of the shooting were also reported in the same Straits Times issue.

Mr Lim's funeral on the 21st was well covered in the press on the 22nd. The New Paper of course covered the funeral from a human interest angle with 'Huat Ah!' on the 22nd by Faith Teo and 'I came to see the xiao jie' on the 23rd by Low Ching Ling.

Judging by the execution-style operation, I suspected that the murderer was across the Causeway within an hour of the killing. That was proved right when news broke on the 26th that the suspected murderer had been caught in KL. What surprised me was the article in the 27 Feb Straits Times by K C Vijayan reporting that 'Gun murder suspect was tailed from JB'. Apparently, the Malaysian police had spotted him in JB four hours after the murder and had tailed him until the 26th (11 days!) to see who he met. All the earlier stories about a manhunt and a tipoff look like a smokescreen now.

Over the next few days after the arrest of Tan Chor Jin and five other 'associates', papers on both sides of the Causeway linked him to Singapore's 'Ang Soon Tong' or '21 Gang'. Tan, also known as 'One-Eyed Dragon', was described variously as an enforcer, the leader of the Ang Soon Tong, and a bookie. Mention of criminal activities ranging from gun-running, drugs, illegal money-lending, and illegal gambling. One of the others arrested, Ngoi Yew Fatt, is wanted for another murder that happened in Yishun on 2nd Feb 2005. The murder is now said to be an underworld dispute over gambling money.

Newspapers have been covering the story more or less constantly with dramatic rendition of details like Tan's return to Singapore on an SIA flight and his being brought back to the scene of the murder ("heart-rending screams pierced the air"? Ouch!).


Time to Let Dissidents' Tales Out of the Closet

I was surprised to see a further article about the Detention-Writing-Healing forum in the Straits Times. It even went on to associate Rajaratnam's funeral with the ex-detainees' public forum. Even more suurprising, it was written by the Deputy Political Editor, Chua Mui Hoong. To add weight, she is sister of Chua Lee Hoong, former intelligence analyst (see Straits Times 12 Oct 2002 article by Yeow Kai Chai 'Koh Beng Liang's Debut Poetry Collection...').

'Time to let Dissidents' Tales Out of the Closet' (Straits Times Insight page, 3 Mar) sounds like a serious 'all-clear' signal to start discussing seriously about the political turmoil of the 50s & 60s. Decisions were made then - some rather draconian. Faustian and Machiavellian deals were struck - some perhaps unwisely. Undoubtedly mistakes littered the road to independence and economic development. After over three decades, I suppose it is probably time to discuss and dissect the era in order to learn from the errors of that generation's victors and losers. It has to be done before the last of them leave the nation permanently. Once they cannot answer and defend themselves, it will be too late to make sense of the era. Discussion after their departure becomes a futile exercise that will be more about using history to justify competing political philosophies.

For those interested in the Chuas, here are two of the webpages I came across:
'ST columnist Chua Mui Hoong say freedom of press in Singapore should be improved!' from the Useless Rantings blog; and
'Climate control in the Singapore Press' by Eric Ellis which appeared in The Australian on 21 June 2001 and republished on the Singaporeans for Democracy website.
As is evident from the website addresses, they are definitely anti-government in tone - not something that can be considered unbiased sources.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Geylang Serai

Today is the last day of operations for Geylang Serai Market after 42 years. It will be demolished and a new market built nearby. Stallholders will move to a temporary site on Sim Avenue till 2008. The Block 51 Old Airport Road food centre is luckier - it is only being renovated and should be reopened next year. That means Old Airport Road stallholders will be in temporary stalls for only a year.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Detention - Writing - Healing

A historic event happened on Sunday afternoon in the form of a Singapore Fringe Festival forum. In the Detention - Writing - Healing forum held at the Esplanade Recital Studio, ex-political detainees Tan Jing Quee & Michael Fernandez joined playwright Robert Yeo in a discussion about their detention experience and life after release. Robert Yeo spoke about his experience writing The Singapore Trilogy, a set of three plays (You There, Singapore?, One Year Back Home, & Changi) written and staged over a period of x years. The plays were loosely based on Michael Fernandez's story. Said Zahari was to have been part of the panel but was unfortunately too ill to travel. Hopefully he will be better in time for the launch of the second volume of his memoirs, Dark Clouds at Dawn, and Marytn See's documentary, Zahari's 17 Years. As Said Zahari was reported to have said, "'Such an event would not have taken place in the country even five years ago," (Kwek, Ken. 'Ex-detainees to speak at local forum'. Straits Times. 7 Jan 2006). The event was organised by The Necessary Stage and Tan Chong Kee chaired the session.

The Associated Press report filed by Gillian Wong ends a quote from a member of the audience that I thought summarised the forum:
Melanie Hui, 24, a Singaporean who works with a nonpolitical private group, described the talk as "illuminating."
"I left the forum thinking that there is such a big gap in our understanding of that era, especially for people in my generation," Hui said. "I think it's a really historic event, and it's about time."
For such a historic event, both blogs and newspapers have remained relatively silent. The event was mentioned in Straits Times articles on 7 Jan (Ex-detainees to speak at local forum), 14 Jan (2006: Politics increases its stage presence?) & 18 Feb (Telling the Singapore storyies). Online, I found only reproductions of the 7th Jan Straits Times articles on Singabloodypore and OB Markers for Singapore Filmmakers.

Today (27th Feb), the Straits Times carried one article about the forum: 'Ex-political detainees want their story told'. Online, I spotted a good account of the forum posted on Singabloodypore by 'Charles' titled 'Ex-political detainees break silence at forum'. A shorter blog entry was posted by 'perrin' onto Sintercom by 'perrin' titled 'Detention-Writing-Healing'.

This leaves me wondering - is the subject considered irrelevant for today's Singaporean? However, the forum was well attended with many young people in the audience. Will wait to see if this turns out to be a non-event.


Tammy Sex Video

More and more Internet news becomes print news. On Mon 20th, the Straits Times carried an article 'Nanyang Poly probing sex video clip' about a 4.8M handphone video of a couple having sex being circulated. The girl was identified as 'Tammy', a Nanyang Poly student. It was reported that her handphone was "apparently stolen by a girl who was jealous of her popularity." and that the thief "uploaded it and mass e-mailed it to lecturers and students of the school." While the article said that blogging about the incident started on Thu, the earliest blog entries I've found thus far are from the 17th at Book of Aletheia (NYP sex scandal) and juz brennan (Raunchy Poly).

On the 24th, the Straits Times carried an interview with 'Tammy': 'Student in sex video: 'We didn't intend to be porn stars''. Both the Straits Times and the New Paper have been carrying followup articles about cases of photos and videos being used as blackmail after breakups as well as why some people film such videos. Of course some of the articles carried moralistic overtones or undertones. In Penang, the Star carried a story, 'Sex video featuring student on sale', on Sat 25th that the video had been downloaded by pirates and is being sold!

The funniest posting must be from 'zipper'. On the 21st, he posted an 'OPEN LETTER TO PM LEE - Reason why blog sites must be regulated.' to the Google group soc.culture.singapore. You can read for yourself the comments such a post attracted.

Will today's newspaper articles in the New Paper and solitary article in the Straits Times be the end of the coverage? I suspect so unless the perpetuator is caught.


Holland Village CPR

Once in a while, some community infomation slips into the news. For instance, yesterday, a 17 year old ACS International student, Esther Tan gave CPR to one of the Holland V newspaper vendors, 'Uncle Loga'. The Straits Times went on to say that Logadasan works at Mama Joe Magazine Corner (In a decade of going to Holland V, (I never knew the name of that shop). I'm not sure whether 'Uncle Loga' is something actually used by the community though. Hope Loga pulls through

Many blogs just post news articles and make a couple of comments. Book of Aletheia on the other hand seems to be doing actual news reporting with an Esther Tan interview. Check out her post 'A young role model'.


The (In)Significance of Political Elections in Singapore

NUS' Dept of Political Science had their annual Singapore Forum on Politics on Sat 25th. I didn't have a chance to attend it but Double Yellow's Musings has a summary while NUS taped the whole thing and made it available online as a webcast. I don't think it bodes well for the opposition that he criticised the only speaker who might be standing in the next elections as an opposition candidate - James Gomez. To be criticised as boring is not quite a good sign.

What did the assigned Straits Times journalist, William Han, pick up? Well, the article titles in the Sunday Times on the 26th speak for themselves: 'Lack of political choice harmful: Forum panel' and 'Media 'too timid' in election coverage: Panellist'. The latter article which reported the views of Viswa Sadasivan, The Right Angle Group Chairman and former SBC current affairs producer, was reproduced on at least two blogs: Mr Wang and Anti-Neo-Democracy Theorist.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


SMU's Li Ka Shing Library

Minister Mentor opened SMU's Li Ka Shin Library on Fri 24th Feb 2006. HK tycoon Li has given a $19.5 million endowment to the library and is sponsoring eight scholarships annually.


Grass Cut

DPM Wong Kan Seng clarified that the PA is not the PAP. He, however, saw "'nothing wrong if a PAP member approaches a grassroots leader to invite him to be a PAP member if that person shares the principles, objectives and values of the PAP" according to the 21st Feb Straits Times. Letters proclaiming political neturality from both the People's Association and the Pasir Panjang Garden Estate Neighbourhood Committee were published in Wed 22nd's Straits Times Forum. I suppose that is formally the end of the issue. However, you can still see snide comments about the topic appearing on various Internet forums.

Saturday, February 25, 2006



On 16th Feb a Straits Times newpaper article caused a stir: 'Police act to keep teens off streets after 11 pm'. It reported that police were implementing an anti-loitering measure against teens below 17 years of age. Parents of teens found loitering in public places after 11pm would get a letter from the police. Although a Straits Times article said on 17th Feb that "GOOD Parents, social workers welcome move", the 20th Feb Straits Times editorial was critically titled "Crime fighters or babysitters?"

It seems that the measure rasied enough eyebrows that the Police Force had to 'clarify' their position on Feb 22nd: only selected cases would have letters sent to parents. Nothing has come up on this recently so I presume the issue has settled to the bottom of the ocean.

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