Monday 30 November 2015

Jubilee Walk: 8km trail of Singapore's iconic locations launched on 29 November 2015

SG50 Jubilee Big Walk in heart of Singapore draws 25,000
PM Lee flags off event celebrating SG50; many took part with families and friends
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2015

A drizzle at the start of the SG50 Jubilee Big Walk early yesterday failed to dampen the spirits of the 25,000 participants who took a leisurely stroll through the heart of Singapore.

The 5km mass walk, organised by The New Paper and the People's Association, is one of the last major events of the nation's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

It took in part of a permanent 8km commemorative trail, known as the Jubilee Walk, connecting more than 20 historic and iconic locations within the Civic District and Marina Bay precinct.

Eager walkers had begun arriving as early as 5.30am for the 7am flag-off. Many took the chance to soak in the sights.

"It was a walk down memory lane for me," said retiree Johnny Toh, 64, who was at the event with six family members.

"Singapore is so different now, compared with the past. There are many skyscrapers and new buildings. It was nice to be able to enjoy what Singapore has built over the years together with my loved ones."

Like Mr Toh, many walkers were with their families and friends.

Among them was 49-year-old John Lee, who took part with his wife and two sons, aged seven and 12. "It is good to expose our children to Singapore's historical landmarks, so they can better appreciate how far we have come as a nation," he said.

Landmarks along the route held special and personal memories.

Student Karthik Thayumanavan, 22, said walking past the floating platform reminded him of his national service days. The venue was where he had his passing-out parade at the end of basic military training.

"That was a proud moment for me," said Mr Karthik, who completed the walk with his girlfriend.

Yesterday's route passed key landmarks and sites marking significant events in Singapore's development, including the Padang, before ending at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay.

The event was flagged off by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the start point at the National Museum.

Mr Lee, who also launched the permanent Jubilee Walk yesterday, completed the walk, along with families, babies in strollers and individuals decked out in superhero outfits.

Jubilee Big Walk and Future of Us Exhibition
Did the Jubilee Big Walk this morning and launched The Future of Us exhibition. It captures our historical past, vibrant present and shared future. Hope you find time to experience it with your friends and family. :) Details at - LHL(PMO Video by Alex Qiu and Chiez How)
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mr Lee took selfies, shook hands and exchanged high fives with the crowd and also launched the 220m Jubilee Bridge connecting the Merlion Park and waterfront promenade by the Esplanade.

He then visited the SG Heart Map Festival at the Marina Bay floating platform, where he joined young children on a merry-go-round at the festival's literary playground.

Revamped Pasir Ris library woos teenagers, reopens 28 November 2015

It has snazzy features, including digital doodle wall and mezzanine space for young people
By Audrey Tan, The Sunday Times, 29 Nov 2015

A long queue formed on the fourth floor of the newly renovated White Sands Shopping Centre in Pasir Ris yesterday morning.

The adults with bags in hand and children in tow were not waiting to have brunch, but to enter the revamped Pasir Ris Public Library, which reopened yesterday after nine months.

The library has returned with a strong focus on teenagers, given the high ratio of young people in the east. It has added some snazzy features to appeal to teens, including a digital doodle wall - a virtual white board where visitors can "write" messages with their fingers.

At the new Teens' Mezzanine space, library-goers can browse book promotional videos made by the National Library Board (NLB) on a screen. They can also make book recommendations by scanning library books on a panel. These will be saved, so teens can view books enjoyed by their peers.

AED on Wheels: Heart attack? Cabbies can be lifesavers now

By Aw Cheng Wei, The Sunday Times, 29 Nov 2015

The next time a person suffers a heart attack on the street, cabbies may go to his rescue.

SMRT taxis will be equipped with automated external defibrillators (AED) in a three-year pilot programme launched last Friday.

The device can send an electric shock to the heart to revive it in the event of sudden cardiac arrest.

About 120 SMRT cabbies have volunteered for this AED On Wheels initiative introduced by SMRT and Temasek Cares. The philanthropic arm of local investment firm Temasek Holdings gave $376,500 for the initiative, with the promise to review its results in three years. The money will be used for cabbies' training, and equipment leasing and maintenance.

The pilot aims to buy time for those who suffer a heart attack, before Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers show up. Depending on road conditions, cabbies can respond to distress calls in about three minutes - shaving about eight minutes off the average response time officers take, said SCDF chief medical officer Ng Yih Yng at a media conference last Friday.

"People on site are obviously going to be faster than (officers)," Colonel Dr Ng said, noting that the SCDF receives around 1,900 calls about heart attacks every year. This is about five calls on average a day.

SMRT Roads managing director Benny Lim said selected cabbies were sent for a four-hour training in September. Cabbies will be notified of a heart attack through the SCDF's myResponder app if they are within 1.5km of a distress call.

Submit clips of road offences to us: Traffic Police

Don't just post them on Facebook, say police, send them to TP to help in investigations
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 29 Nov 2015

Have camera footage of a car accident or traffic violation?

Well, do not just post it on Facebook but submit it to the Traffic Police (TP) as well. This would help investigations, say police, and make available critical information such as contacts of eyewitnesses.

Currently, motorists can report traffic violations at police stations or through TP's online feedback portal. In a period of four months since its launch last December, the online portal received almost 100 videos of traffic violations.

Wouldn't it be nice if people shared good road behaviour videos? TP has arrested a man who is believed to be the biker...
Posted by Singapore Police Force on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Now, the police hope that the followers of popular online Facebook groups Singapore Reckless Drivers, and Beh Chia Lor (Hokkien for horse cart road) will do more.

These groups, which have posted hundreds of in-car camera footage highlighting bad road use, have between 28,000 and over 90,000 followers each.

The groups say they can receive up to five videos a day, submitted by their followers.

The booming popularity of these online groups has helped shine the spotlight on road safety, said police. But it would help if these videos were also submitted to the authorities. When reports are made on the TP online portal, motorists have to undertake to testify in court, and provide video evidence or eyewitness' contacts.

Desperate housewives and the lure of chap ji kee

The story of the game known as 12 Cards sheds light on the Chinese and their love of gambling
By Janice Loo, Published The Sunday Times, 29 Nov 2015

In 1977, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, explaining the need for state-run lotteries such as Big Sweep and Toto, said: "If you do not run (the lotteries), the chap ji kee man who has always swindled the people of their money is still there. It is the history of Singapore. The Chinese who travelled overseas are the biggest gamblers you can find in the world. Because to leave China was to gamble. In Manchu China if you returned you were beheaded. Because you were bringing in dangerous foreign ideas. So to leave China for Nanyang was a gamble."

Mr Lee's words point to the perennial thorny question on the control of a vice that is intertwined with the early beginnings and social history of the Chinese community in Singapore. While the allure of chap ji kee has faded, it had, for more than half a century, been the most entrenched and widespread form of illegal public gambling in Singapore.


In 1823, following his return from a four-year administrative stint in Java, Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, issued orders for the suppression of gambling in the colony. Severe penalties were introduced such that "whoever games for money or goods shall receive 80 blows with a cudgel on the breech, and all money or property staked shall be forfeited to Government". This was a move to remedy what Raffles perceived as the moral laxity of the administration under the first resident, William Farquhar, who had set up gambling, opium and spirit farms against Raffles' wishes, where revenue from the sale of gambling licences was used for public works.

According to the memoirs of Abdullah Abdul Kadir, a teacher of the Malay language, the Chinese - for whom gambling was a major pastime - "sighed and drew deep breaths (with) a grim look on their faces as they grumbled and abused Mr Raffles for preventing them from gambling". Abdullah, who not only worked for Raffles as a scribe and interpreter but was also an admirer of the man, castigated the naysayers for failing to recognise that the measures were for their own good. The temptation of quick money often led to debt and crime. In his defence of Raffles, Abdullah declared: "(It) is obvious that gambling ruins people, deceives them and puts wicked ideas into their minds. Gambling is the mother of vice, and of her three children the eldest is named Mr Liar, the second Mr Thief and the third Mr Thug... it is these three persons who ruin the world."

It's Happy 60th Anniversary for Bukit Timah constituency

By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2015

Even as Singapore continues its year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations, Bukit Timah residents yesterday marked their constituency's 60th anniversary with a carnival.

"You might wonder why Bukit Timah is celebrating its 60th anniversary when it is only SG50," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the crowd at the event.

"It is because Bukit Timah was first formed as a constituency for the 1955 Legislative Assembly elections, before Singapore became independent, before we achieved self-governance," said Mr Lee, who was guest of honour at the event organised by Bukit Timah Grassroots Organisations.

Did you know that Bukit Timah constituency was formed 60 years ago, long before Singapore gained independence? Bukit...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, November 28, 2015

Speaking to some 1,500 guests at Bukit Timah Community Club, he noted that the constituency had evolved from an area of kampungs, vegetable and pig farms as well as factories to a place which 42,000 residents now call home.

Efforts have been made to upgrade the place, Mr Lee said.

For instance, residents can look forward to the opening of the Downtown Line 2 next month. "I hope to take a ride from Beauty World down to Marina," he said to applause.

Story of Sikhs here 'the story of Singapore': PM Lee

By Chong Zi Liang, The Sunday Times, 29 Nov 2015

As a father whose child has Down syndrome, Dr Bilber Singh found education opportunities for his daughter lacking.

Therefore, he rallied other like- minded parents and, together, they formed the Down Syndrome Association in 1996 to provide enrichment classes for children with Down syndrome, teaching them subjects such as independent living.

Was happy to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation last night. The Sikh culture...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, November 28, 2015

His daughter Jaspreet Kaur, now 35 and armed with the life skills she has learnt, has just left her job as a kindergarten assistant and is training to be a therapist at the association.

"The situation has evolved over time and the Government has been giving much more assistance over the years," said Dr Singh, 66, a medical practitioner.

Yesterday, he was among the members of the Sikh community whom Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded at a dinner held to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee. A book on 50 Sikhs and their contributions to nation building was also launched.

He said the largest group of Sikhs arrived here in 1881 to form the backbone of the police contingent. Today, Sikhs have distinguished themselves in diverse fields such as academia, the judiciary and uniformed services.

Sunday 29 November 2015

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 8th S Rajaratnam Lecture

PM Lee sets out ways to safeguard Singapore's interests abroad
He says a united, successful Singapore makes it relevant to, and respected by, others
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2015

Small as Singapore is, it has refused to accept being powerless on the international stage as its fate, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Our foreign policy is a balance between realism and idealism. I spoke about this as well as our fundamental interests and international relations at the S Rajaratnam Lecture yesterday. The Lecture series is organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Diplomatic Academy.Compared to where we started off 50 years ago, Singapore’s position in the world has improved immeasurably. We are respected and successful. We enjoy good standing in the international community and we have friends from around the world.For this, we have generations of MFA officers and Ministers to thank, starting with our first Foreign Minister, the late Mr S Rajaratnam, after whom the Lecture series is named. In fact, MFA has done such a good job that people hardly know they exist, until they lose a passport somewhere. :)In the end, both our external influence and our domestic success comes down to us as individuals. In the words of Mr Rajaratnam, “Being Singaporean is a matter not of ancestry, but of choice and conviction.” If we have that conviction, we can achieve success for Singapore as one united people, we can have an effective foreign policy, and we can keep our little red dot shining bright in the world.Thank you to Ambassador Ong Keng Yong for moderating the Q&A session. You can view my lecture here:– LHL (PMO Video by Alex Qiu)
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, November 27, 2015

Delivering the annual S. Rajaratnam Lecture organised by the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Diplomatic Academy, he said the country is determined to be a master of its own destiny in a world where power often determines which countries prevail and set the agenda.

"Our foreign policy is a balance between realism and idealism," he told an audience of diplomats, foreign service officers and students at the Fairmont hotel.

"We know we have to take the world as it is and not as we would wish it to be. But we believe that we can and must defend ourselves and advance our interests."

Singapore's fundamental interests are to have peace in the world, stability and security in the region, a network of friends and allies, and to ultimately preserve its sovereignty, he said.

It has advanced these interests on the global stage through four strategic ways in the past 50 years, and should continue to do so, he added as he elaborated on them.

First, Singapore must be an active and constructive international player that adds value.

Its officials and diplomats have played active deal-making roles to forge international consensus on issues such as climate change and maritime law in the past.

Singapore has also made common cause with other small states in forming groups to influence the global agenda.

Second, Singapore must sustain good relations with its neighbours, namely in South-east Asia, he said.

It works with its partners to make ASEAN an effective and credible group, and also aims to be an honest and fair broker in disputes such as the one over South China Sea territory.

Third, Singapore must continue to succeed as a country if it wants to remain relevant globally.

"A failed state cannot have an effective foreign policy," Mr Lee said. "The diplomats may be brilliant... but if the country is in a mess, nobody will take them seriously."

Singapore's prosperity and harmony is why other countries want to do business with it and learn from its expertise.

A strong defence force is also a vital layer to protect Singapore when all else fails.

Finally, Singaporeans must remain united across political, racial and religious divides.

The opposition must understand Singapore's fundamental interests in the world and not "seek to undermine them to court foreign support or to gain political points", Mr Lee said.

Singapore also maintains a crucial distinction between race and nationality, a distinction not always understood by other countries, he noted.

While many Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, Singapore is not a Chinese society; while five of Singapore's former foreign ministers have been of Indian ethnic origin, they have taken a Singaporean perspective and represented Singapore's interests.

"In the end, both our external influence and our domestic unity and success come down to us as individual citizens," he said. "We must be determined that we want to be Singaporean, to stand up in the world, and to be a shining red dot."

Govt shift to left in social policies the right move: ESM Goh Chok Tong

There was urgent need to redistribute wealth sustainably to mitigate income gap: ESM Goh
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

The Government's shift to the left in its social policies worried Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong initially. He felt, as did some Singaporeans, that it was "becoming too populist (and) giving away too much", he said yesterday.

But he later saw that it was the right move because there was an urgent need to redistribute wealth in a meaningful and sustainable way to help lessen the stress of a widening income gap.

Mr Goh said this at a forum when he was asked whether he shared the worries of some Singaporeans who felt the Government was "pandering to the electorate's whims and fancies, and is no longer the firm, decisive Government it used to be".

Yes, he shared their concern, he told The Straits Times' editor-at- large Han Fook Kwang, who had asked the question and was moderating the dialogue attended by 230 people, including business leaders and Straits Times readers.

It was the first of six dialogues in a series titled Pioneering The Future, with pioneer leaders giving their insights on key policies that shaped Singapore into what it is today. The series is organised by the Economic Development Board (EDB) Society and The Straits Times.

Mr Goh said that from his experience, "what you give, you can never take away from the population".

"(Founding Prime Minister) Lee Kuan Yew's style was to give away bit by bit, because there's no end to what people want," he added.

"If you give all at one time and have nothing else to give, that's when they kick you out. And this time the Government is giving a lot.''

But later, Mr Goh said, he realised the Government had "no choice" but to introduce policies such as compulsory health insurance scheme MediShield Life and the Workfare Income Supplement for lower-wage workers. The reason is that Singapore was increasingly becoming a very divided society owing to a wide disparity in income, he said.

Despite acknowledging the necessity of the shift, he still wonders whether the policies will be sustainable in the long run. The Government has been doing calculations of its expenditure, but given such unpredictable factors as the demands of the people in the future and demographic changes, he said, taxes may have to be raised three or four decades down the road to fund the policies.

Singapore quietly helping developing nations, says envoy

By Albert Wai, TODAY, 27 Nov 2015

Singapore has been “quietly helping” other developing countries to build up their human resource capacity to address climate change threats, said the Republic’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng, adding that the sharing of know-how is more impactful than direct cash grants.

In an email interview with TODAY, Ambassador Kwok said Singapore “sees no need to make a big deal or to extract returns for our efforts”.

“As a small country, we do not adopt the conventional approach of establishing donor-recipient relationships, but treat our development partners as equals,” he said, adding that Singapore has been sharing know-how and helping to build capacity in areas where it has relevant expertise, such as sustainable urban development, water and sanitation.

He pointed out that Singapore has helped more than 170 developing countries from Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands, and from Africa to Latin America on capacity building and addressing climate change issues.

“Drawing from Singapore’s own development journey, we firmly believe this approach is more impactful than direct cash grants,” said Mr Kwok, adding that to date, Singapore has trained close to 11,000 officials from developing countries in climate change programmes alone.

NEA bans use of all freshwater fish in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes from 5 December 2015

*updated 5 Dec 2015

By Jasmine Osada, The Straits Times, 5 Dec 2015

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has banned the use of all freshwater fish in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes with immediate effect.

The agency said in a media release on Saturday (Dec 5) that tests conducted by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and NEA have found freshwater fish to have significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and to have higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

As a further step to protect consumers from public health risks, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will ban with...
Posted by National Environment Agency - NEA on Friday, December 4, 2015

All retail food establishments that want to sell raw fish dishes must use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption. This refers to fish that are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and are stored and distributed according to cold chain practices.

NEA will be issuing notices to all retail food establishments to inform them of the ban.

Posted by Lianhe Wanbao 联合晚报 on Saturday, December 12, 2015

Food stalls including those at hawker centres, coffee shops and food courts are required to stop all sales of raw saltwater fish as well, until they have shown that they can comply with the practices required for handling raw fish.

Restaurants operators can continue operations, but will still be subjected to the same inspections and checks by NEA.

The AVA and NEA also said in the media release that they will be working with the industry to meet the expected increase in demand for yusheng dishes during the upcoming Chinese New Year season.

New NTUC Foodfare scheme for hawker stalls

Social enterprise can help people keen on running outlets under its Rice Garden brand
By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2015

Aspiring and current hawkers can now get a leg-up to open their own economy rice stall, while helping to keep prices affordable.

Foodcourt operator and cooperative NTUC Foodfare yesterday launched a new scheme for food-stall operators to convert their stalls to outlets under Foodfare's Rice Garden brand, or for newcomers to start new Rice Garden stalls.

Rice Garden stalls in hawker centres and coffee shops here sell mixed rice dishes at lower prices compared with stalls elsewhere.

A meal of one meat and two vegetable servings is capped at $2.50 for senior citizens and $1.50 for Comcare cardholders. The general public pays $2.70 or $3, depending on the location of the stall.

In return, stallholders get a monthly grant of $4,000 to defray the cost of keeping food prices low as well as an one-off amount of up to $20,000 to buy the equipment they need for setting up the stall.

The stallholder will be linked up with NTUC Foodfare's central kitchen for food supplies, and get training and business operation advice.

The scheme, called the Rice Garden's Business Community Partnership Programme, already has two participants - food operator Kimly Group and a former employee of Foodfare, Madam Diep Phuong Mai.

NTUC Foodfare hopes to open 10 other such stalls next year and will assess applicants based on commitment level and stall location.

Appeal court orders Workers' Party-run AHPETC to appoint accountants to fix lapses

Appointment, which is subject to HDB's approval, is to fix lapses at WP town council
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2015

The Court of Appeal yesterday ordered the Workers' Party-run town council to appoint accountants, subject to the approval of the Housing Board, to fix lapses uncovered by an audit this year.

In doing so, Singapore's highest court said it had to "focus sharply on what Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is obliged to do and has not done".

It noted various lapses in governance and accounting, and said that "on the facts before us, there is no real dispute that AHPETC has not fully complied" with its obligations under the Town Councils Act and guidelines under the Town Councils Financial Rules.

The accountants will help to identify outstanding lapses; advise on steps to be taken to fix the lapses; submit monthly progress reports to the HDB, until they are "reasonably satisfied" that AHPETC is compliant with the law; and look into whether past payments were improper and should be recovered.

The appeals court said the HDB must consent to the identity and, if need be, the terms of reference of the accountants so as to "ensure transparency and efficacy in the execution of these duties".

On its part, the HDB should not "unreasonably withhold" consent.

In the event of any dispute over this, it added, either party can seek assistance from the court.

The court also ordered the town council to make all its outstanding transfers to the sinking fund within three months.

The town council must also decide, by then, whether to accept the grants-in-aid previously offered by the Minister for National Development subject to conditions, so as to make the sinking fund transfers.

Otherwise, it is to take other steps to raise funds, such as increasing service and conservancy charges or liquidating investments.

The 72-page judgment yesterday was delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the case in August with Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang.

In May, the Ministry of National Development (MND), which has withheld $14 million in government grants from the AHPETC, appealed against a decision by the High Court, which rejected MND's application for the court to appoint independent accountants to safeguard the grants to AHPETC.

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the High Court's dismissal of that MND application. CJ Menon wrote that under the Town Councils Act, "the court can only make orders compelling the Town Council to perform its statutory duty. It cannot appoint its own agents to perform these powers, duties and functions of the Town Council".

The High Court had also ruled in May that only the HDB or residents - not the MND - could take legal action against a town council if it fails to perform its duties.

Safe spaces on US college campuses shouldn't be echo chambers

Censorship by students is a growing problem on college campuses in the US
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

WASHINGTON • The video clip starts with Mr Nicholas Christakis, the master of Siliman College in Yale University, standing in a square at the school surrounded by a group of students.

"Other people have rights, too, not just you," he says to someone off screen. A voice instantly shoots back, urging the crowd to ignore the don. "Walk away, walk away, he doesn't deserve to be listened to," a student says. But the encounter is only heating up.

Mr Christakis turns to a different student but his attempt to interject seems to set her off.

"Be quiet!" she screams.

And when he persists with his point, she unleashes a tirade: "You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master, you should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It's about creating a home here. You are not doing that!"

The video of the confrontation - one apparently triggered by an e-mail arguing that Yale students did not need to be protected from offensive Halloween costumes by the school - has since taken a life of its own.

In two weeks, the 11/2-minute clip kicked up a firestorm of debate over what some see as a worrying trend of sanitising intellectual discourse and restricting academic freedom on campus.

And for her trouble, the shrieking student in the clip has found herself becoming the poster child for the "strawberry generation".

But who is right and who is wrong here? Are students indeed being overly sensitive or are others simply glossing over genuine offence? Is academic freedom really at risk?

Petition war over Adam Lambert's appearance in Countdown 2016 show

Row over gay singer Adam Lambert performing at Celebrate 2016
By Anjali Raguraman, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2015

A petition in support of American singer Adam Lambert performing at Celebrate 2016, MediaCorp's New Year countdown concert, was launched on Thursday and garnered more than 12,700 signatures in one day.

Titled "We want Adam Lambert performing in Countdown 2016", it has 12,747 signatures as of 6pm yesterday. It is a response to an online petition launched on Wednesday, asking organisers to remove the openly gay singer from the show.

The earlier petition addressed to MediaCorp, the Singapore Government and Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Grace Fu, other organisers, partners and sponsors of the event, called Lambert an "inappropriate choice" to "send off our historic Jubilee Year or to usher in the new year". It aims to get 20,000 signatures and, as of yesterday, has garnered more than 14,400.

Both petitions are on the website iPetitions.

Those behind the counter-petition call themselves "the moral majority of Singapore". They "utterly denounce and condemn the obvious sexual orientation discrimination demonstrated by the other petition on this site that is against Adam Lambert performing in Countdown 2016". Support in the comments section include one by commenter Soh Yu Da, who says: "Singapore is an inclusive and secular society. Bigots do not speak for me."

Kuhan Mani says: "His music has nothing to do with his sexual preferences. And even if it did, I don't see why it should matter. If you don't like him or his music, don't watch it! Stop ruining it for other people."

Saturday 28 November 2015

SG Heart Map Festival at The Float celebrates Singaporeans' favourite haunts

By Jasmine Osada, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

A year-long drive that saw Singaporeans sharing stories about their favourite places has culminated in a grand celebration.

The four-day SG Heart Map Festival @ Float was launched last night amid a light show and fireworks at the Marina Bay floating platform. The SG Heart Map initiative began in November last year, when Singaporeans were asked to share personal stories about the places that define Singapore.

To date, about 100,000 contributions have been collected and they have inspired art installations at the SG Heart Map Festival. Some of the places include Changi Village, East Coast Park, Little India and Tanjong Pagar.

Visitors were greeted by exhibits created by the festival's seven lead artists. The works included poetry and prose, an audio installation, a photography showcase and a short film made specially for the event by Singapore film-maker Royston Tan.

Mrs Chua Xin Ru, 36, a business owner who was at the festival with her husband and children, said: "We sometimes take these places in Singapore for granted as we see them every day, but they are actually what makes us Singaporean."

Encouraging Singaporeans to join in the celebrations, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said: "This is a great event for Singaporeans to come, not only for the atmosphere but also to fall in love with the Singapore cityscape once again."

A community-driven initiative led by the SG50 Environment and Infrastructure Committee, the SG Heart Map Festival @ Float is now on at the Float @ Marina Bay until Sunday.

Today, it is open from 5pm to midnight. More details, including opening hours on specific days, can be found at

Higher income ceilings benefit over 2,000 applicants in November 2015 exercise

By Janice Heng and Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

At least 2,100 families and 220 singles who applied for new flats this month were newly eligible due to higher income ceilings.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong gave these figures on his blog yesterday, to show how changes have benefited buyers.

The figures, from 11am yesterday, were for the Build-To-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats exercises which closed at midnight.

It was the first launch with new income ceilings of $12,000 for families and $6,000 for singles.

The planned September and November launches had been merged to give time for policy changes to kick in.

Income ceilings were also raised to $8,500 for the Special Central Provident Fund Housing Grant (SHG), making a total of 6,500 applicants eligible as of 11am.

In the BTO launch, projects in the new estate of Bidadari were the most popular.

As of 5pm yesterday, there were 3,283 applicants for 151 five-roomers there, almost 22 applicants per unit.

Four-roomers had more than five applicants per unit.

"To meet the strong demand, we will be launching more flats in Bidadari next year," said Mr Wong.

Also in the BTO launch were flats in the non-mature estates of Punggol, Bukit Batok, Hougang and Sengkang, which saw application rates of 0.9 to 4.3 for various flat types.

For the new two-room flexi scheme, more demand came from singles rather than the elderly.

New scheme to help SMEs Go Global online

By Jeremy Koh, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

Online commerce is booming, so local firms will no doubt welcome a new website and related services offering guidance on selling goods and services over the Internet.

The "Go Global" initiative, backed by heavyweights such as Google and key government agencies, is aimed at local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

It was launched yesterday.

SME bosses can now watch videos by experts on topics relating to selling products digitally. These topics include setting up e-payments systems, navigating international tax processes and structuring a returns policy.

Google and nine other industry partners which launched Go Global will all contribute content.

"The Internet is transformative. It will tear down barriers that have stopped small businesses from thinking and acting as big as they want to be," said Ms Joanna Flint, Google's Singapore director, at the launch of the initiative yesterday.

Google's partners are Spring Singapore, International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, CyberSource, law firm Rajah & Tann Singapore, RSM, SingPost, United Overseas Bank, UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute and Verztec Consulting.

The website also provides businesses with data on demand levels for their products in a given overseas market, and how much competition they will face there.

Using another tool, businesses can also assess how conducive their websites are to supporting online sales.

Regular workshops will be held to help firms improve online sales.

More in Singapore getting cancer, but survival rates also up

Study finds significant rise in proportion of those surviving at least 5 years after diagnosis
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

While more people in Singapore are getting cancer, even more are surviving this killer disease longer , a recently released study has found.

Over 35 years, the proportion of men who survive a cancer diagnosis by at least five years has gone up from 13.2 per cent in 1973 to 1977, to 48.5 per cent in 2008 to 2012.

For the same period, women survivors more than doubled from 28 per cent to 57.1 per cent.

However, the monograph on Cancer Survival In Singapore 1973- 2012, released on Sept 29, cautioned that the increased survival rates could be partly attributed to earlier detection of the cancers, which helps to "prolong" lives.

"Therefore, survival time can still increase even if there is no postponement of death," it noted.

Between 1973 and 2012, 163,331 people here were diagnosed with cancer and 110,899 have died.

But there was improvement in survival for cancers diagnosed at different stages across the years.

Cancers in Singapore are generally detected later than in other developed countries, the study stated.

But it added: "Our treatment and cancer management is comparable to our international counterparts."

Unhealthy lifestyles affect the chances of survival, it said.

SAF 'on guard against terror attack'

Paris attacks are a reminder not to take Singapore's security for granted: Minister
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

The recent terror attacks in Paris are a sobering reminder that Singapore's safety and security cannot be taken for granted, said Senior Minister of State for Defence Ong Ye Kung.

"(If) something like that can happen in Paris, it can happen here as well... It can happen in any urban city around the world. We must always be on high alert," said Mr Ong . The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the Nov 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

The moment the sirens went off, more than 500 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR) sprang...
Posted by cyberpioneer on Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mr Ong said the Singapore Armed Forces is always on standby to stop such attacks from happening here. "If there is any terrorist threat or external incursion, any trouble, we stand ready to react."

But he added that the SAF can only do so much, and Singaporeans also have a role to play in defending themselves.

Mr Ong was speaking to reporters yesterday after he witnessed how soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR) were activated to test how they responded to a mock invasion. It is among several army ground units, like the armour and artillery units, that have been rostered and asked to stand by.

Mr Ong noted that Singapore has been stepping up its security vigilance since the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, with uniformed personnel deployed in key installations, and security agencies working together and conducting frequent anti-terror drills.

Friday 27 November 2015

Report that Singapore has no objections to Indonesian plans to manage Riau airspace inaccurate: MFA

The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2015

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday (Nov 26) refuted a CNN-Indonesia report that cited Indonesian Cabinet ministers as saying that Singapore had no objections to Indonesia's plans to manage the entire Indonesian airspace and that the Republic supported Indonesia's intention to take over the airspace in three to four years.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the issue of the airspace over Riau - which has formed part of Singapore's Flight Information Region (FIR) - came up during an informal discussion at a dinner hosted by Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on Monday (Nov 23) for Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

But the MFA said the report, which was carried in Bahasa Indonesia on the CNN-Indonesia website on Wednesday (Nov 25), was inaccurate as Singapore had not agreed to Indonesia taking over the FIR.

"The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion," the spokesman said in a statement released on Thursday (Nov 26).

"The subject of the Flight Information Region (FIR) came up during the dinner hosted by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on 23 November 2015. DPM Teo did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner," the spokesman added.

#DidYouKnow: What is a Flight Information Region (FIR)?FIR is a specific region of airspace in which flight...
Posted by Ministry of Transport, Singapore on Friday, November 27, 2015

The spokesman also stressed that the administration of the FIR "is not an issue of sovereignty" but "based on operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety".

"DPM Teo emphasised that this is a complex technical and operational issue under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and involves many other countries and airlines which use the busy airspace covered by the FIR," the spokesman said.

Mr Teo reiterated these points in his meetings with several Indonesian leaders, including Mr Luhut and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, during his visit to Jakarta from Monday to Wednesday.

According to the spokesman, the Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes is not an issue of sovereignty and had agreed that the "paramount concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR".

"There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another. For example, Indonesia also provides air traffic services in airspace which belongs to other countries," the statement added.

The CNN-Indonesia report had cited Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno as saying that Indonesian President Joko Widodo had affirmed to Mr Teo that Indonesia would take over the FIR in Riau Islands and that Singapore had agreed to assist Indonesia in the preparations to do so.

Fall in cases lodged over maintenance of parents: Report on Ageing Families in Singapore

By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2015

The number of elderly people in Singapore may be rising, but the number forced to seek state intervention to obtain financial support from their children is down.

There were 213 cases lodged with the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents last year, a fall from 257 in 2013 and 303 in 2012.

The number of people aged above 65 now makes up 11.2 per cent of the population.

The Maintenance of Parents Act was passed in 1995 so the state can intervene and possibly order children to provide financial maintenance when elderly Singaporeans cannot support themselves but their children are not helping.

Grown-up children still remain a key source of physical, emotional and financial support for the elderly, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in its latest report on Ageing Families in Singapore released yesterday.

The report is based on data from various sources and draws on findings such as those in a 2013 HDB Sample Household Survey, which found that 75 per cent of younger married residents provide regular financial support to their parents.

Likewise, 78 per cent of elderly residents with children reported receiving such financial support. On average, an elderly parent received $535 a month from his children in 2013. At least 77 per cent of elderly residents also said they were able to rely on their children for emotional and physical support, such as buying groceries, transportation and housework.

For elderly residents unable to rely on families for such help, the state has developed home care services, providing food, nursing, therapy, transport and cleaning.