Wednesday, 23 May 2018

NDP 2018 Theme Song: We Are Singapore

New National Day Parade song is updated version of 1987's We Are Singapore
Song rewritten with new lyrics in line with this year's theme bearing the same name
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 23 May 2018

The theme song for this year's National Day Parade will be a modern take on the 1987 classic We Are Singapore, and is updated by local singer Charlie Lim.

Lim, 29, who has rewritten the verses of Hugh Harrison's song to include lyrics like "the future is uncertain and everything must change", unveiled the song to the media at The Float @ Marina Bay yesterday. The theme and logo of this year's parade were also revealed.

Lim, who performed a live acoustic rendition of the song, said: "They wanted to refresh the song which was written in 1987 and was very relevant in its time, but I think now we want to look at things from a younger generation's perspective."

To come up with the song, Lim spent a week watching YouTube videos of old NDP songs to figure out what worked. "It was kind of scary to take on something that everyone knows and sings," he said.

"I recorded a demo in my bedroom and we actually used that."

NDP 2018 executive committee chairman Alfred Fox said the theme for this year, We Are Singapore, captures the unity of Singaporeans. The logo encompasses the crescent and five stars within the word "Singapore" sitting in a speech bubble.

"The theme is enduring, clear and direct," said Brigadier-General Fox. "It means many different things to many different people and if you ask Singaporeans, it is about geography, it is about culture, identity, vision, even food to some. It's really who we are and encapsulates many different meanings."

Monday, 21 May 2018

Govt has to make good case for GST hike and ensure lower-income given support: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Government will ensure those affected by GST hike get help they need: PM Lee
By Zakir Hussain, Foreign Editor, The Sunday Times, 20 May 2018

PUTRAJAYA • In implementing a future GST hike, Singapore's Government will have to work very hard to not just win over voters, but also ensure that those who will be affected significantly get the help they need, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

"We have given a lot of notice. There is time to explain, and there is time to work out how exactly we will make sure that Singaporeans are given the right support in order to be able to live with a new tax," he said. "It is something which we are taking very seriously indeed."

PM Lee was speaking to Singapore reporters in Malaysia's administrative capital after separate meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as well as Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

In one of its first decisions, Malaysia's new government will slash its goods and services tax (GST) - which was introduced in 2015 - from 6 per cent to zero per cent from June 1, in keeping with a campaign promise by the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

It has, however, said it will reintroduce the sales and service tax and is taking other major steps, such as stamping out wasteful projects, to plug the shortfall.

PM Lee was asked by Singapore reporters whether this development would make it harder for the Singapore Government to sell the GST hike to Singaporeans.

Singapore had in February announced plans to raise the GST from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2021 and 2025.

PM Lee had in Parliament last Wednesday cited how Malaysia's experience with the GST highlighted trust as a crucial factor in determining whether citizens will accept or reject an unpopular policy.

Yesterday, he said: "Raising a tax is never an easy thing to do... Each case is different, the circumstances in every country is different, but every time you want to raise a tax, it is never a light matter. It is never an easy decision to make.

"You have to work very hard to make sure you have a very good case to be able to explain to voters why you are doing this, what you are using the money for, and to persuade them that you know what you are doing and they can trust you.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Vulnerable Adults Act passed in Parliament on 18 May 2018

New law ensures protection of the vulnerable
It lets MSF officials step in to keep seniors and people with disabilities safe from abuse
By Rahimah Rashith, The Straits Times, 19 May 2018

A long-awaited law that allows the Government to step in and protect seniors and people with disabilities from abuse and neglect was passed in Parliament yesterday.

The Vulnerable Adults Act will allow officials from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to enter private premises to assess a person's well-being.

It will also grant officials powers to temporarily relocate vulnerable adults to safe places such as shelters and disability homes.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee stressed that the law will be invoked only as a last resort in high-risk cases, where family and community interventions may not be effective.

"In cases like this, the Government must take a proactive approach and intervene early, as any delays may lead to further harm, or worse," he said, adding that the law must not replace the social work supporting vulnerable adults and their caregivers.

First mooted in October 2014, the Bill was more than three years in the making.

Yesterday, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked why it took so long.

Mr Lee said extensive consultations and studies were needed. "This Bill involves intrusive statutory intervention in the realm of family and personal matters, so we did not want to rush this."

The new law will accord protection to whistle-blowers and professionals, in a move to encourage people to help vulnerable adults.

Among other things, it also raises the penalties for offences committed against vulnerable adults, to deter abuse and neglect.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Debate on President's Address 2018

4G leaders will listen to people's views, launch discussion series: Heng Swee Keat
Heng Swee Keat pledges they will consider all views from various groups with open mind
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 May 2018

The debate on the President's Address wrapped up yesterday with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announcing that 4G ministers will launch a series of discussions with various groups in society to share their ideas and listen to Singaporeans' views on them.

Disclosing this in his speech wrapping up the week-long debate, he pledged that the younger ministers would consider all views with an open mind.

"We will partner Singaporeans each step of the way in our journey of building our future Singapore. The fourth-generation leadership will listen with humility and respect.

"We will consider all views with an open mind, and adjust our course accordingly. We will communicate the thinking behind our decisions clearly. We will bring Singaporeans together and give everyone a role to turn good ideas into concrete action."

Details on the discussion series will be given after the Government takes stock of the parliamentary debate, he added.

The need to keep their ears to the ground and foster trust between the 4G and the electorate was a theme that emerged in the debate the past five days.

About 70 MPs and ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, spoke.

The House discussed issues highlighted in President Halimah Yacob's speech last week on behalf of the Government, setting out its plans for the rest of its term.

These include growing the economy, reducing inequality and leadership transition. The 4G leaders also set out their plans to deal with geopolitical shifts, technological disruptions and social schisms.

Mr Heng, the last among them to speak, sought to elaborate on how they will achieve their vision for Singapore.

Each generation of Singapore's leaders has, at critical junctures, worked to strengthen this trust, he noted as he vowed the 4G leaders are as committed to doing so.

Equally important for the Government is to bring out the best in every Singaporean, he said.

It is "the central question that should occupy each generation of leaders... 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G or 10G", he added. "Because Singaporeans are at the heart of everything this Government does."

Harnessing the strengths of people will become even more crucial as Singapore faces ever more complex challenges, Mr Heng said.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Ministerial Statement on National Service Training Deaths by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on 17 May 2018

Tighter discipline and safety rules following NSF deaths
Trust placed in Govt to keep enlistees safe during NS won't be taken lightly: Ministers
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 18 May 2018

The trust that Singaporeans place in the Government to keep their children safe during national service will not be taken lightly, and commanders at all levels are responsible for ensuring safety.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam made this pledge in Parliament yesterday as they revealed moves to tighten safety rules and discipline after deaths of two full-time national servicemen (NSFs).

One was a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldier who died during training, and another a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer who drowned after taking part in a prohibited ragging ritual.

Referring to the SAF case, Dr Ng said: "We must constantly improve the rigour of our safety systems. If we don't, it will mean another precious soldier lost to a family."

He said the External Review Panel on SAF Safety - an existing group comprising senior medical consultants and academics that scrutinises the military's safety management - will have a member appointed to Committees of Inquiry (COIs) to address potential lapses.

COIs are to submit reports to the panel, which will make the findings public after it reviews them.

Separately, Mr Shanmugam said new measures will be taken against unauthorised activities such as ragging, adding that more information will be released next week.

He stressed that it is the command's responsibility to ensure that unauthorised activities are not repeated. "Parents send their children to NS, they trust us. We have to maintain their trust."

The pledges come after the deaths of two NSFs within a fortnight.

On Sunday, SCDF Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, died after a ragging ritual went awry at Tuas View Fire Station. Criminal charges are "almost certain", Mr Shanmugam said. Two SCDF regulars have been arrested, with more being probed.

On April 30, Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan, a 19-year-old Guardsman, died in hospital, close to two weeks after he displayed heat injuries during training.

A COI has been convened to investigate his death. A coroner's inquiry may be held, pending the outcome of police investigations.

An external medical panel would also be set up to recommend how measures and policies in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on heat injuries can be improved.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Harbhajan Singh: Veteran nurse has no plans to retire

While the pioneer leaders were the original architects of Singapore, everyday heroes helped build society here. This is another story about such people in the series The Lives They Live.
By Toh Yong Chuan, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2018

Mr Harbhajan Singh works in a hospital and some patients have mistaken him for a security guard.

"My father was a watchman, but I am a nurse," he said with a laugh.

The 77-year-old started working as a nurse in the Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) accident and emergency department in 1962 after three years in its nursing school.

In 1965, Mr Singh was posted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) as a tuberculosis nurse. More than 50 years later, he still works in the hospital. He has worked for 42 years in its wards and is one of the longest-serving nurses at TTSH.

In 2015, TTSH gave him the title of "Emeritus Fellow", an award normally given to doctors. He is the only nurse to have received the award from the hospital so far.

But Mr Singh almost did not become a nurse.

After passing his Senior Cambridge exams, the Gan Eng Seng School alumnus decided to apply to join the civil service, which held a recruitment drive in 1959. "We had to write down our choices. My first choice was teaching, second choice was nursing, and third choice, laboratory assistant," he recalled.

The interviewer told him he was more suited to be a nurse, he said.

"Maybe the interviewer felt that I should be a nurse because I was already living near SGH," he said in jest. At that time, he was living with his father and mother, a housewife, as well as two brothers and a sister in a village near SGH.

Mr Singh accepted the offer of a place in the nursing school. His parents were supportive of his move.

"Nurses care for people. Nursing has a good image," he said.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Why school sports matter

By Lim Say Heng, The Straits Times, 14 May 2018

Many simple yet profound lessons occur at the National School Games (NSG).

For M. Anumanthan, now a 23-year-old professional footballer with Home United and an established Singapore international, the importance of discipline was a much-needed education.

He had the talent but lacked the right character, until his St Gabriel's Secondary School coach Clement Teo intervened and changed Anumanthan's attitude and his life.

Anumanthan stopped skipping classes, dedicated himself to fulfilling his football dreams and helped his school to the South Zone B Division title in 2010.

"That was when I truly believed in what coach had been constantly telling me to do," Anumanthan said in a previous Straits Times interview. "His advice made me see the right way to go if I was to become a national footballer.

"I'm grateful to have had someone to show me the way."

Three years later, the midfielder claimed a bronze medal at the 2013 SEA Games and was voted the 2016 S-League Young Player of the Year.

Stories like Anumanthan's highlight the role school sports play in the national ecosystem.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Heng Swee Keat on career, health and that Prime Minister question

Lunch With Sumiko: Heng Swee Keat's steely resolve behind genial manner
Soft-spoken and polite, Heng Swee Keat comes with a solid CV and a wealth of experience
By Sumiko Tan, Executive Editor, The Sunday Times, 13 May 2018

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat remembers how, as a young police officer, he encountered a traffic light that was not working and had to get out of his patrol car to marshal traffic.

There he was, smack in the middle of Lower Delta Road with honking cars whizzing by. He had to impose some order quickly.

"You have to do some gut feel and say, 'OK, enough cars have passed, let me now not cause a hold-up'," he recalls.

That gut feeling also guided him when, as commander of Jurong Police Division later, he and his men had to raid construction sites to sniff out illegal immigrants.

Police operations involve split-second decision-making.

"You decide what you do there and then. Arrest, not arrest. Shoot, don't shoot."

He says all this in his trademark mild-mannered way, but his eyes are serious. It occurs to me suddenly that he's someone who would not hesitate to do what's necessary.

The man considered to be one of the front runners to be Singapore's next prime minister has a reputation for being decent and likeable.

Up close, Mr Heng, 57, is indeed amiable and polite. He is soft-spoken, speaks in clear, complete paragraphs and has an engaging way of relating anecdotes. He uses the word "nice" a lot and has a calming presence.

Behind this modest, genial front, though, is an impressive curriculum vitae.

In his career that spans 30-plus years, he has been a police officer, principal private secretary to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, senior civil servant, head of Singapore's central bank and education minister, and is now Finance Minister.

His wealth of experience - both in policymaking and hands-on operations - means he is comfortable with both police constables and G-20 ministers, students and central bankers.

And that mild manner, I discover during our 2½-hour lunch, also belies a steely resolve and a strong sense of fair play.

HE HAS chosen to meet at Our Tampines Hub in his Tampines GRC ward.

It is my first visit to the Hub, which opened last year and is billed as Singapore's first integrated community and lifestyle destination. He has arranged for me to get a tour prior to our lunch. It has left me envious and open-mouthed with awe.