Friday 31 July 2015

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Singapore, 28 to 29 July 2015

Singapore, Britain to boost cooperation on cyber security
Both countries also agree to work together on combating terrorism and maritime piracy
By Idayu Suparto, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

Singapore and Britain yesterday agreed to step up cooperation on cyber security, in an acknowledgement of the growing threat of cyber attacks, while pledging to bolster collaboration on fighting terrorism and maritime piracy.

As part of efforts to beef up cyber security, the two countries yesterday said they would work together to cooperate in areas ranging from emergency response and cyber research to talent development.

Both sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cyber Security Cooperation that will see them doubling their joint spending in cyber research and development from $2.5 million to $5.1 million over three years.

The MOU was signed by Cyber Security Agency chief executive David Koh and Britain's National Security Adviser, Sir Nigel Kim Darroch. It built on agreements made during President Tony Tan Keng Yam's state visit to Britain last year.

The signing took place on the second and final day of British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Singapore at the Istana. He and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing.

"The UK has well-known expertise in this field and we hope to share our experiences in this increasingly important area," Mr Lee told a joint press conference.

The two prime ministers earlier held talks, where Mr Cameron said both countries agreed to explore ways to work together in the global fight against terrorism and share experiences on countering extremist ideologies spread by groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as ISIL.

Mr Cameron said he would discuss with Mr Lee how Britain and Singapore can work together to "protect ourselves from the threat of ISIL and to counter the extremist ideology that is doing so much harm to our young people".

Mr Lee noted that both countries could share their experiences particularly in dealing with individuals who have been radicalised.

Collision of coalitions in Malaysian politics

By Yang Razali Kassim, Published The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

Malaysian politics is at an inflection point. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say it is in a mega-crisis.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has just countered his critics over the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal by sacking his vocal Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General who led a high-level probe. This latest twist has left many bracing themselves for a backlash and uncertainty.

Yet, it is not just the ruling Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government that is in trouble. The opposition coalition is also grappling with its own survival.

It is significant that both sides of the political divide are reeling under unprecedented pressure or in disarray simultaneously.

What will come out of this?

It is the crisis in BN that is more serious, given the repercussions reverberating throughout the system due to Umno's defining role as the ruling coalition's anchor party.


Datuk Seri Najib is fighting for his political life in the face of the scandal in the 1MDB investment fund which he advises. Never before has a sitting prime minister been openly pressured to step down relating to a financial probe - with the charge led by a former prime minister at that, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Never before has there been a high-level probe into the dealings of a government-linked investment fund whose chief adviser is the finance minister, who is also prime minister.

While the sacking of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is no surprise, given his outspokenness over Mr Najib's handling of the 1MDB scandal, the premature replacement of Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail "on health grounds" is intriguing. He is due to retire in three months, so why the hurry?

SMRT's contingency plans need fixing

While waiting for new trains, a new third rail and other upgrades to the MRT system, the rail operator needs to improve the way it manages breakdowns. Urgently.
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

The massive breakdown three weeks ago of the North-South and East-West MRT lines would no doubt have riled many commuters.

More than 250,000 were affected when trains on Singapore's two longest and most heavily used lines were halted for more than two hours during the evening peak on July 7.

There were several accounts of people not managing to reach home until close to midnight, and some by walking. That it came on the back of a spate of recent major incidents would have knocked the confidence of even the most ardent rail supporters.

In the first quarter of this year , there were five major service disruptions, each lasting more than 30 minutes. These excluded a fire that stopped the Bukit Panjang LRT service for 24 hours.

And that came on the back of 12 such disruptions last year - more than the 11 in 2011, the year that rail breakdowns rippled across the corporate and political spheres.

Even so, a Londoner in Singapore would probably be puzzled why these incidents get people into such a tizzy. In London, if the network is operating 100 per cent, it makes news.

And it is not uncommon for Singaporeans to hear praises from visitors about our public transport system. Adjectives like "excellent", "reliable" and "brilliant" are sprinkled liberally in their comments.

Are we talking about the same system? In essence, we are not.

Visitors do not always take the train during peak periods. And if you are a tourist, your perception of time is slightly different. You look at the country which you are visiting through somewhat rose-tinted glasses.

Higher compensation for workplace injuries

Maximum amount of compensation to be raised by about 20 per cent from Jan 1
By Melissa Lin, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

The maximum amount of compensation for workplace-related injuries will be raised by about 20 per cent from next year.

From Jan 1, 2016, employers will be liable for $69,000 to $204,000 in the event of a workplace death, under the Work Injury Compensation Act.

If a worker suffers total permanent incapacity, compensation will range between $88,000 and $262,000.

The cap on medical expenses will also be increased from $30,000 to $36,000, Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say told 1,200 representatives from industries, such as construction, marine and manufacturing, yesterday evening at the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards.

"The last time we made such adjustments was in 2012, so it's about time we keep up with wage increase and inflation in medical costs," he said.

In another change, expenses that facilitate an injured worker's return to work will be claimable under the Act from next year.

This will cover charges for treatments such as physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy, and worksite assessment.

Final proposals for CPF tweaks by end 2015: CPF Advisory Panel

The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) Advisory Panel's final set of recommendations on tweaks to make the CPF system more flexible will be released near the end of the year, said the panel's chairman Tan Chorh Chuan yesterday.

He was speaking at the end of the first of two public focus group discussions for the panel's fourth term of reference, which looks at options for investing CPF monies.

Prof Tan said the process would take longer than the previous phase of review, which looked at the flexibility for lump-sum withdrawals and higher CPF Life payouts, as investment options are more technical.

The work will include commissioning a study to model the effects of some of the options being considered.

The views he heard during the discussion were very varied, said Prof Tan, who is also president of the National University of Singapore.

"Some are quite happy to leave their CPF money as it is, because they're quite happy with the returns. Other participants see it as part of their portfolio and invest with their cash and keep it as guaranteed safe returns," he said.

There are also "very savvy people" who invest a large portion of their money, said Prof Tan, speaking to the media at the M2 Academy in Orchard.

But there are also some who do not invest even though they might want to because they lack confidence or time to manage the investments, or who may invest more if there were simpler lower cost options available.

Record number of couples said 'I do' last year

Marriages hit five-decade high of 28,407; more available housing may be behind rise
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2015

Wedding bells rang longer and louder than usual last year with a record 28,407 marriages registered - the highest in the past five decades.

The figure is an 8.2 per cent rise from the year before, and the highest since record-keeping began in 1961.

Meanwhile, divorces and annulments fell by 2.9 per cent to 7,307 last year, according to the report by the Department of Statistics released yesterday.

Commenting, sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "This could be due to more couples taking marriage preparation seriously and therefore being less likely to divorce."

As for marriages, data showed that even after taking population changes into account, the rate was the highest in at least 10 years .

Changes in housing policies may have played a part. Sociologist Paulin Straughan said: "For many couples, the time to get married is when they get access to housing."

She pointed out that there have been more Housing Board (HDB) flats up for grabs. From 2011 to 2013, there were huge launches of 25,000 to 27,000 Build-To-Order flats each year.

There is also the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme - which allows married couples to rent existing HDB flats while waiting for their new flats to be built.

Associate Professor Straughan said initiatives to promote marriage, such as the Marriage and Parenthood Package, consistently drove home the message that marriage is valued.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Tan Chuan-Jin on helping the vulnerable and benefits for unwed mothers

Intervening early 'could mean a world of difference'
Tan Chuan-Jin says helping the vulnerable is one of three key priorities MSF is focused on
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

When a parent often cannot pay his child's pre-school fees, that could indicate the family is facing some problems. And even if the pre- school is aware of this, it may not know how to follow up on the case.

Having a coordinated system in which such warning signs are flagged earlier could help the authorities to intervene earlier.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is looking into this issue, to better help vulnerable groups - one of three key priorities.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, who took over MSF on April 9, on Monday said the other areas are building stronger families and promoting volunteerism.

In his first sit-down interview in his new capacity, Mr Tan said MSF is working with the Health and Education ministries to get data, find patterns to identify vulnerable children and intervene earlier.

This is to "bring them on an even footing... so they're not disadvantaged because of circumstances".

"Upstream work could mean a world of difference to the possibilities. Not doing some of this will not mean that every child (in such circumstances) therefore is destined to fare poorly, but the probabilities are there. For some, it will be a lifetime of social challenges."

He acknowledged that some may disagree with this approach. "Do you become over-zealous... too much of a nanny state...? But that's where we need to determine how we view these issues.

"Perhaps by taking steps earlier, could I actually prevent the situation from deteriorating? We're talking about lives here."

Singapore, Jakarta to further boost ties; Indonesian President Joko Widodo's first official visit to Singapore, 28 to 29 Jul 2015

Agreement to bolster economic, security ties and work closely on areas like tourism and anti-terror fight
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Singapore and Indonesia yesterday agreed to further bolster their strong economic and security ties and step up cooperation on e-government, youth and sports development as well as tourism.

Both countries will also work closely to better tackle the threat of extremist terrorism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at a joint press conference after the signing of three agreements.

"We both worry about ISIS. We both have nationals from our countries involved in terrorist activities, including in the Middle East," Mr Lee said.

Mr Joko added that the two nations will share information on terrorism and militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

More than 500 Indonesians are estimated to have joined ISIS. Yesterday, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said it had detained a 51-year-old Singaporean for trying to join the group.

Mr Joko is on a two-day state visit to Singapore, accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo and several key ministers.

He will be back in Singapore next month, to attend the National Day Parade on Aug 9.

Yesterday morning, his visit began with a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, after which he called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Later, he met Mr Lee and they witnessed the signing of three memoranda of understanding for greater cooperation in youth and sports development, and collaboration in business and e-government.

Mr Lee said at the press conference after the event that they had a good meeting on how they can build on already-solid ties.

Bilateral trade with Indonesia has been on an upward trend over the past 10 years, reaching $72.4 billion last year. And Singapore has consistently been among its top five investors, investing US$5.8 billion (S$7.9 billion) last year.

Both leaders also agreed to work together to draw more Singapore investors, especially to the special economic zone of Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

Singaporean deported from Turkey, detained here for attempt to join ISIS

By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

A 51-year-old Singaporean who was on his way to Syria to join militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Mustafa Sultan Ali is the first Singaporean to be arrested abroad for trying to join ISIS, which has attracted 30,000 foreign fighters to territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, including about 1,000 from South-east Asia.

He also told the Singapore authorities that he was prepared to carry out attacks here, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday.

Mustafa, whose occupation was not disclosed by MHA, left Singapore in late May for a neighbouring country and boarded a flight to Turkey from there. He took that route in the hope of hiding his tracks.

Mustafa planned to cross into Syria from the Turkish border, but was detained by the authorities in Turkey. He was deported to Singapore and arrested last month.

"Investigations showed that Mustafa had been deeply radicalised by the terrorist ideology of ISIS and other radical ideologues he had come across online," the MHA said.

"He had travelled to Turkey and tried to make his way to Syria in order to participate in armed violence by fighting alongside ISIS.

"Mustafa also said that he was prepared to carry out ISIS-directed terrorist attacks against Western establishments in Singapore."

Mustafa was issued with a two-year order of detention under the ISA this month.

He is the second person to be detained for terror-related activity this year. In April, student M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, was detained for having made plans to join ISIS in Syria. He also said if he could not do so, he intended to carry out violent attacks here, including to assassinate the president and prime minister. Last month, a 17-year-old self-radicalised youth who had made plans to join ISIS was placed under a restriction order, which limits his activities.

Yesterday, community leaders greeted the announcement of Mustafa's case with dismay, and said it highlighted the worrying reach of ISIS' radical ideology.

They also felt it was worrying that his radicalisation was not detected until his capture abroad.

SCORE Appreciation Awards 2015: Chalking up a big SCORE with ex-offenders

69 individuals, organisations get awards for helping former inmates at the workplace
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

After spending eight years in jail, Mr Richard Tee was not used to life in a regular workplace.

But his supervisor at toast and coffee chain Ya Kun International, Mr David Wong, encouraged him as he entered the workforce.

For his praiseworthy behaviour, Mr Wong was given a Model Supervisor award yesterday. He was among 69 individuals and organisations recognised at the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) Appreciation Awards Ceremony 2015.

The annual awards by SCORE, a statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs which helps inmates and former offenders rebuild their lives, were given out at the Grassroots' Club in Ang Mo Kio.

Mr Tee, 50, who was jailed for drug-related offences and is now a cook at Ya Kun, said: "I've never worked before so it was difficult because it's a very different lifestyle. But (Mr Wong) helped me a lot. He taught me how to cook ." And while it is difficult in the food and beverage industry to take Sundays off, Mr Tee said Mr Wong lets him do so, enabling him to go to church.

To show his gratitude to his "very good-tempered" boss, Mr Tee, who is the first ex-offender to be hired by Ya Kun, nominated Mr Wong as a "surprise" for him.

Mr Wong, 53, an executive chef at Ya Kun, said: "(Ex-offenders) are not different from anyone else... People make mistakes. They should be given a second chance. And being a supervisor, you have to be in their shoes to understand them."

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 Hsien Loong praises 3,000 volunteers 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.

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

Youth Celebrate: PM Lee 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."

National Values Assessment for Singapore 2015

Singaporeans see virtues like compassion in themselves but view society as materialistic
Singaporeans rated themselves as kind and friendly, but society as kiasu and competitive
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 24 Jul 2015

Singaporeans see themselves as being more gracious and less self-centred now than they were three years ago, according to a new survey.

This finding is based on an attribute that many say they have - compassion. But in the first National Values Assessment survey, done in 2012, it did not rank among the Top 10 personal attributes.

Another newcomer on the list is positive attitude.

The findings, unveiled at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) seminar yesterday, bode well for the country if Singaporeans act on their values, said former civil service head Lim Siong Guan at the event.

But when placed against how the respondents view their fellow residents here, the results indicate a major disconnect between what Singaporeans see as their own personal values and those of society.

The new Top 10 personal values are all virtues, including compassion and respect.

Alas, society is largely seen as being competitive, materialistic and kiasu (Hokkien for afraid to lose) by the 2,000 residents surveyed here between March and June this year. The poll was done by local business consultancy aAdvantage and Britain-based Barrett Values Centre.

The disconnect puzzles Mr Lim, who heads Honour (Singapore), an organisation that promotes the value of honouring one's word and one another.

He said: "Practically everything seems to be the fault of others." One is left wondering "how the two reckonings - the individual describing himself and the individual describing others - can be so different".