Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Besides being anti-PAP, why are opposition parties running?

The question the opposition parties must ask themselves is: Why are they contesting? Is it because they are for Singapore or because they are against the People’s Action Party? (“Opposition talks on poll areas likely to be complex”; July 28)

Here, we examine each party’s beliefs. For example, the Workers’ Party probably has different ideas from the Singapore Democratic Party about what the Republic should be like.

From the WP’s viewpoint of national interest, is it then better to have a SDP candidate elected rather than a PAP one? Are numbers so important as to erode the importance of beliefs? If not, then it behoves the WP not to make way.

Second, it is easy enough to make motherhood statements and play up the oratory of criticising the Government. But do the parties have the wherewithal to run constituencies efficiently?

The WP has found that governing is a daily, laborious and unglamorous drudge.

Can some of the other parties run a constituency? If not, then is it in residents’ interest to suffer so the parties can play their numbers game?

One feature of some parties is the flip-flopping of the leaders from one party to another.

We are entitled to ask what their core beliefs are. Is there anything aside from anti-PAPism and opportunism?

Eugene Tan Y.S.
TODAY Voices, 29 Jul 2015

Inderjit Singh fires broadside at alternative media

Veteran MP Inderjit Singh dismisses online chatter that he has quit the PAP
Inderjit 'not quitting PAP, will help campaign'
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Veteran MP Inderjit Singh, who announced last week that he will retire from politics at the next general election, said yesterday he remains a People's Action Party (PAP) member and will help Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to campaign during the elections.

His latest remarks on his Facebook page came amid social media chatter and online reports that Mr Singh, 55 - one of six MPs for Ang Mo Kio GRC, which is helmed by Mr Lee - had quit the ruling party.

He dismissed the talk, saying he had asked Mr Lee way back in January 2013 if he could step down.

The online comments about Mr Singh leaving the party arose after his Facebook post last Friday night declared that he was retiring from politics. It came hours after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee's report was released.

Some netizens and online news sites then dug up and put online past speeches he had made in Parliament and suggested he had been "forced" to quit for speaking out against some government policies.

They cited as further proof the boundaries committee's recommendation that Mr Singh's Kebun Baru ward be carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC. It will be part of Nee Soon GRC at the next elections.

Reacting to the chatter online, Mr Singh said in his Facebook post yesterday: "I read with amusement that some people have taken my old speeches and reposted them with a headline that I have left the PAP. The White Paper speech was made in early 2013 and the one on the response to the President's Address was posted in May 2014."

Before his latest post, PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen, who is Defence Minister, had said on Sunday that the party wanted to handle the retirement of its MPs in a "more deliberate and dignified manner".

He added: "You can post your retirement on Facebook but I think... an MP who has served 15, 20 even 30 years... that's not the best way to do it. For many of them, they'll have to prepare their ground, ensure... continuity and say goodbye."

Some websites read the comment as directed at Mr Singh - the only MP to have announced his retirement on Facebook - and said it was a sign of "infighting" in the PAP.

When asked about it yesterday, Mr Singh said: "If there was infighting, would I be helping PM Lee with his campaign?"

Ang Mo Kio GRC: The Prime Minister's constituency

PM Lee Hsien Loong is anchor minister of Ang Mo Kio GRC, which stays with six members under Friday's boundary changes. But half are veteran MPs who may retire. Insight looks at possible young contenders in-waiting
By Charissa Yong and Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

The 187,652 voters of Ang Mo Kio GRC - which remains one of two six-member Group Representation Constituencies under the latest electoral boundary changes announced on Friday - may have three new faces to cast their ballots for.

One of the GRC's current MPs, Mr Inderjit Singh, announced on Friday that he is retiring, and two others - Mr Seng Han Thong and Mr Yeo Guat Kwang - may follow suit but they declined to comment when asked about their future at a community event yesterday.

The three veteran MPs have been taking their likely replacements on walkabouts and constituency events for at least half a year.

These possible replacements for the three fourth-termers are all much younger - food-supply company executive director Henry Kwek, 39; colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, 43; and Temasek Polytechnic School of Design deputy director Darryl David, 44.

Nearly every community event and home visit that Mr Singh, 55, attends, Mr Kwek does too.

And wherever 65-year-old Mr Seng goes, so does Dr Koh. Mr David also attends almost all the events that 54-year-old Mr Yeo does.

Small wonder then that the neighbourhood buzz has been that the long-serving trio are likely to retire from politics at the next general election, which must be held by 2017, but which many political watchers expect could be held as early as September.

The presence of the three dedicated potential candidates is a telltale sign, as the People's Action Party has been sending its hopefuls to constituencies early to give them more experience of serving residents on the ground.

The young guns, if fielded, could find themselves tested in "battle", too, as the Reform Party, which contested the GRC in the 2011 General Election, has been active on the ground there. Its secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said on Friday: "I think it is important to challenge the PM on his home turf."

Additionally, under Friday's boundary changes, Ang Mo Kio GRC loses a western portion to Nee Soon GRC but absorbs districts from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC as well as Sengkang West SMC that have seen population growth from new housing developments in recent years.

What effect, if any, will these young voters have in what has been until now a mature constituency, and what would established constituency voters make of a new, young line-up? Or will the fact that the Prime Minister is anchor minister make all this a moot point? Insight reports.

Ensuring minorities will always have stake in Singapore

By Mathew Mathews, Published The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2015

My nine-year-old son recently told me he liked living in Singapore because he could have friends of different races.

This was before the school's Racial Harmony Day celebration on July 21. When I probed further, he denied parroting anything he had recently been taught.

Neither of my other two sons had ever mentioned anything similar and I concluded that the issue of race might be more salient to my nine-year-old.

Though my wife is Chinese, our nine-year-old has more Indian features while our other two sons are often regarded as Chinese based on their appearance.

Issues relating to ethnicity matter more for minorities.

They are more likely to be sensitive to the fact that they have physical attributes and cultural practices which differ from those of the majority.

Minorities often consider how those of the majority view them. In an attempt to be accepted, some strategically choose to suppress aspects of their minority identity - they take pains to associate less with minority culture, whether in terms of dress style, language, cuisine or celebrations.

But in some societies, markers of minority identity are forcibly suppressed.

No to fliers? Let small firms make a living

Mr Lim Fah Kiong suggested that advertisers be allowed to promote their products on a noticeboard near the letterbox area in void decks ("Have void deck noticeboards for advertisers"; last Tuesday).

Should such a noticeboard be accessible to all? Who is responsible when it is cluttered with old advertisements? Should it be under the care of a town council, whose staff will duly clear it?

The reason people put fliers on our doors and gates is that it is too expensive to advertise their products or services in newspapers or on TV.

They also have no access to the letterboxes, unlike bigger companies that engage SingPost to do the job, for a charge.

Is it so difficult to bend over, pick up a flier on your doorstep, and keep or dump it accordingly?

It is tough running a small business in Singapore. Let us help our fellow men make a humble and honest living in whatever ways we can.

Daniel Chan Wai Piew
ST Forum, 28 Jul 2015

Pioneer Generation Ambassadors: PM Lee praises 3,000 for reaching out to elderly

Volunteers visited 120,000 pioneers to explain govt healthcare benefits to them
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2015

In the past 10 months, 3,000 volunteers quietly visited 120,000 pioneers at home to tell them about the benefits of new national healthcare programmes.

Many of these seniors live alone, suffer various ailments and are rarely seen at community events.

Reaching out to them is a difficult task, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night at a dinner to show appreciation for the volunteers' dedication and hard work.

"You embody the Singapore spirit of kindness, respect and a sense of shared responsibility," he told 1,600 of the volunteers.

These Pioneer Generation Ambassadors come from all walks of life: Students, housewives, professionals, retirees and even fellow pioneers.

They visit the pioneers at home and explain the benefits they will receive under the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and the MediShield Life plan which provides for lifelong health insurance.

The PGP is a good policy, said Mr Lee, but no matter how well intended it is, "we still must make the effort for pioneers to understand it, so they can take advantage of it".

The volunteers have a difficult job, he noted.

They must master the details of the policies and communicate the details simply and clearly, in terms that make sense to the elderly.

Serving pioneers also takes passion, patience and commitment, as it takes time to learn how to interact with the elderly, particularly if they live in different circumstances and speak a less familiar language, he said.

Mr Lee praised the volunteers for involving these seniors in the community, ensuring that their daily needs can be met, accompanying them to clinics when they are ill and returning to check on them, and lending them a listening ear.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PM marks Youth Day, opens Sports Hub in front of 50,000 crowd

Stretch your limits, PM tells Singapore youth
He tells young performers at Sports Hub's official opening that they are country's future
The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

A colourful sea of light sticks waved to the beat at the National Stadium yesterday as a 53,000-strong, near-capacity crowd cheered on thousands of young performers who showcased their talents.

From freestyle drills and a frisbee game to a dance comprising martial-arts moves, some 4,100 students exuded the confidence of seasoned performers with their crisp and choreographed movements.

The Youth Celebrate! event marked Youth Day as well as the official opening of the Sports Hub.

Earlier in the day, about 500 students created the largest floating Singapore flag by wearing red and white floats in the pool at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

The same group then created a new Singapore record of 7,505 laps swum in an hour, breaking the previous record of 3,772 laps.

The guest of honour at the event was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who told the youth that they are Singapore's future.

He said: "Hearing you, feeling you: I know this is a future that is bright; a future that is full of hope."

PM Lee also said the Republic's next 50 years will be down to them.

"Whatever we can do to prepare you, we have done: stable society, homes for everybody, good schools everywhere, jobs for your parents, opportunities ahead.

Although yesterday was officially its opening, the 35ha Sports Hub - which includes an aquatic centre and multi-purpose sports arena - has already hosted various sporting events, including this year's SEA Games and the Barclays Asia Trophy two weeks ago.

Mr Lee marked the occasion by sealing a time capsule containing 50 items symbolic of the Republic's sporting aspirations.

A pledge for the future

Embrace our differences, don't try to eradicate them
By William Wan, Published The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

In a matter of weeks, we Singaporeans celebrate our nation's 50th birthday and I have been thinking about what this milestone means.

The national narrative is as familiar to us as the ubiquitous red SG50 logo. Five decades earlier, emerging abruptly from a short-lived merger, we found ourselves thrust into an accidental independence, much against our will and good sense. Our viability as a newborn was threatened by unresolved racial tension, the prospect of poor economic growth and high unemployment, and the belligerent posturing of unfriendly neighbours, among other woes.

When independence was declared, I was a young man recently graduated from secondary school. Despite the optimism and energy of youth, I can still recall clearly the urgency for the newly independent Singapore to find its feet, and for its ideologically divided people to unite. All the while, waiting on the fringes, were those who could not wait to see us fail.

Thankfully, we did not.

But in 1965, things were far from certain. The race riots of the year before were still fresh in our minds. At the time, I lived in a largely Chinese community and, during the riot, rumours swirled of imminent attacks. Those in our neighbourhood armed themselves and huddled in their homes, frightened and suspicious.

Are Singaporeans becoming more caring?

A kinder, gentler social media?
Recent good deeds documented and shared widely online suggest possible trend, say observers
By Adrian Lim, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

The past fortnight saw at least three acts of kindness in Singapore documented and shared widely on social media - in what some say is a refreshing departure from the negativity often found on the Internet.

A Facebook video showing some 30 passers-by teaming up to lift a trailer to free a trapped man, and an online account of a pregnant woman who gave birth in a car with the help of two good Samaritans were two such examples.

The video of the trailer rescue, filmed and posted by an eyewitness on Wednesday, was shared over 5,900 times as of yesterday. The other incident took place on the same day; it was featured in a Straits Times article that was shared about 26,000 times by readers.

The publicising of these good acts follows cases earlier in the year when good deeds, such as that of an Edgefield Secondary School student who gave up his shoes to a barefooted boy, were shared online.

Some people who carry out charitable deeds are also choosing to publicise these online - not for fame but to influence others to do good.

For instance, four 13-year-old students from Marsiling Secondary School bought a homeless man new T-shirts and gave him money for food.

They filmed what they did and a friend shared it on Facebook two weeks ago. The clip was shared over 2,800 times on Facebook, with some netizens saying they also wanted to do good.

On their kind act, one of the Marsiling Secondary students, Shafiq Iswandy Abdullah, told The Sunday Times: "It's good that it motivates others to do the same thing."

Observers say these cases suggest a possible trend of highlighting positive acts on social media.

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said Singaporeans appear to be on the lookout for acts of generosity, with the wish to spread the word about them.

SG100: 'Green' domes and ideas hub

An economist visualises Singapore as a vibrant ideas hub with climate-controlled domes to keep global warming at bay
By Lim Say Boon, Published The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

Singapore in 50 years will likely be hotter but less crowded, highly skilled and even more connected to the international centres of capital, technology and learning.

None of the above is based on science. It is an optimist's view of the future, extrapolated from decisions Singaporeans will make over the decades in response to the challenges coming our way. Understanding the journey is more important than any deterministic vision of SG100.

With that optimist's lens in place, let us take a journey into the future.


By 2065, the debates of 50 years earlier over property prices, migrants and social benefits have become irrelevant.

Advanced ageing of the population, intense globalisation, the all-pervasive influence of the worldwide "digital brain", the Great Moderation of growth in China, emergence of new frontiers of economic dynamism in South Asia and Africa, and climate change have made the quarrels of 2015 parochial and petty.

But the journey had not been linear. In the early years of the period 2015-2065, social backlash against Singapore's rapid integration into the global economy of the 50 years from 1965 saw the ascendency of the argument that the city state could not take more foreigners, that the Government should spend more on social benefits and the expectation that domestic consumption could dwarf the importance of external demand.

None of the above was economically sustainable. But democratic politics being "the art of the possible" meant that the Government had to accommodate, at least in part, popular demands.

A walk in the park as Y Stars get loudest cheers

YMCA charity event attracts larger turnout this year at Gardens by the Bay
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

A year after being disrupted by about 30 protesters at Hong Lim Park, an annual charity event returned yesterday with more support from volunteers and sponsors.

Live from YMCA Proms @ the Park 2015 - the YMCA Special Talents, Arts & Recreation Society, also known as Y STARS,...
Posted by YMCA of Singapore on Saturday, July 25, 2015

On Sept 27 last year, the protesters - including activists Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui - had attended a Return Our CPF protest rally, which was held at the same time as YMCA's event.

The group marched to the charity carnival, some waving Singapore flags, and paused in front of the stage, chanting "Return our CPF" and other slogans, just as a group of special needs children was about to perform a dance item.

Six of the protesters later faced public nuisance charges.

Netizens, including several MPs, criticised the protesters for their behaviour, noting that fighting for a cause should be done with consideration for others.

But, at yesterday's concert, held at Gardens by the Bay, there were only loud cheers and audience members clapping along to songs.

There was a turnout of about 1,500 people, up from the 900 or so last year.

One of the performances that attracted the loudest cheers was a dance routine by Y Stars - the same group whose performance was disrupted by the protesters last year.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Migrant workers get a sweet 'thank you'

Volunteers give out candy-filled goodie bags to thank them for their role in nation building
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

Many SG50 events focus on Singaporeans, so some volunteers have decided to put migrant workers at the centre of celebrations to mark Singapore's 50th birthday.

A group of Singaporeans braved the blistering heat yesterday afternoon to give out small packs of goodies to migrant workers in Little India.

They distributed about 30 packs yesterday, and hope to distribute 500 packs to foreign workers in places such as Geylang , Lucky Plaza shopping mall as well as housing estates before National Day on Aug 9.

We gave to about 20 migrant workers including 1 from Chong Qing China and a domestic helper from Indonesia. We found...
Posted by ThankU50 on Saturday, July 25, 2015

The ThankU50 initiative was started by five friends, who asked fellow Singaporeans to share the sweets in their SG50 funpacks.

One of them, social worker Yap Ching Wi, said: "As only Singaporean and permanent resident households receive an SG50 funpack, it would be great to extend this exclusivity to the workers, so they know they're remembered."

The 47-year-old added: "It's not the same as a charity handout, because the packs will be made personal with individual thank you cards and will be distributed by ordinary Singaporeans."