Sunday 31 July 2016

Singaporean detained under Internal Security Act for glorifying ISIS, inciting violence

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, detained under ISA for promoting violence and ISIS, radicalising others
44-year-old's postings exploited religion to legitimise terror, radicalising at least 2 citizens

By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2016

A Singaporean who actively spread radical ideology online, incited violence and radicalised at least two fellow citizens has been detained under the Internal Security Act.

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, had been living in Australia for 14 years, after leaving Singapore with his family shortly after run-ins with Muslim leaders and the authorities.

But when he returned here on July 1, he was arrested for terrorism-related activities, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Zulfikar made many Facebook posts that promoted and glorified terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its violent actions like the beheading of its captives, "while exploiting religion to legitimise the terrorist activities of ISIS", it said.

"He has further exhorted Muslims to take up arms and wage militant jihad in places like the Middle East, Palestinian territories, Myanmar and the Philippines," it added.

His postings led to at least two Singaporeans becoming radicalised.

He also planned to hold training programmes to persuade young Singaporeans to join his extremist agenda of replacing Singapore's secular, democratic system with an Islamic state, using violence if necessary.

In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was fortunate that the security agencies caught him before he could do more harm.

"Such extremist, violent beliefs have no place in our multiracial and multi-religious country," he said. "The Government will be alert to spot such individuals, but we need everyone's help to uphold and protect our harmonious way of life."

Tolerance alone is not enough

By Devadas Krishnadas, Published The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2016

Singapore recently marked Racial Harmony Day. In the midst of the events at schools and in the community, many seem unaware of the reason for the choice of date.

July 21, 1964 was the date of the largest race riots in Singapore, primarily between Malays and Chinese. Thirty six people were killed, nearly 600 injured and, in the aftermath, some 3,000 were arrested.

Racial harmony for a high-pressure, heterogeneous society such as Singapore is an existential consideration. We place emphasis on the need for tolerance between races. This is laudable but, I would argue, is too low a standard for our needs today.

Tolerance is a condition where different ethnicities or religions may either have a weak understanding of one another, or actively dislike and yet mutually agree to put up with one another.

Often, this tolerance is both superficial and limited to public arenas.

The causes for the race riots in 1964 were low trust between the races and the politicisation of race and religion in the context of the fraught politics of the Federation of Malaysia. Singapore had then already a 150-year history as a multiracial society - one where the different communities tolerated one another but often lived separately even if they had to interact daily for practical reasons. The standard of tolerance failed spectacularly then when tensions erupted.

The fear is that tolerance today may mask simmering issues and that when tensions erupt, conflict can emerge even amid a climate of "tolerance".

We must perennially push for a much higher threshold of harmony.

People's Association unveils advanced courses for seniors

Programme includes cooking, craft or staying healthy, as well as community work
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2016

The People's Association (PA) is stepping up its efforts to help senior citizens stay active as they age.

From September, it will offer a dozen advanced courses for seniors to learn more about cooking, craftwork or staying healthy. They will be available over six months and add to a total of 36 hours of lessons.

The programme includes doing community service as well and is open only to those who have completed the basic programme.

Those who finish the programme will get an Advanced Certificate in Senior Wellness, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Some of the courses are tie-ups with institutions of higher learning and industry associations, like a course on problem-solving by the National University of Singapore.

The new programme was unveiled by Mr Lee, who is also PA's chairman, at a ceremony for seniors who had completed the basic level.

The 375 seniors are the second group to complete the PA's Senior Academy basic programme. Last year's batch had 250 people.

The academy, which opened its doors in February last year, has seen over 6,000 people sign up for courses as diverse as cooking, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and playing the ukulele.

The new programme is available at 20 community centres and open to Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 50 and older.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Singapore and the United States - reliable partners

By Vivian Balakrishnan, Published The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2016

Next week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will make an official visit to Washington, DC at the invitation of President Barack Obama.

This is a rare honour. The last time a similar invitation was extended was in 1985, when President Ronald Reagan invited Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

This year, we celebrate 50 years of excellent diplomatic relations with the United States. The US values Singapore as a reliable friend and close strategic partner in South-east Asia.

Singapore and the US have a shared commitment to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific within an open, inclusive, balanced and rules-based regional architecture.

When we established diplomatic relations, Singapore was a newly independent nation facing profound economic challenges and the imminent threat of militant communism. The US' stabilising presence in South-east Asia provided security and time for Singapore and other non- communist countries in the region to develop and prosper in a free market.

Investments by American companies helped to create many high quality jobs for Singaporeans, provided access to modern technology and entry to markets in developed countries. This gave Singapore a significant head start in globalisation.

Today, the US remains our largest foreign direct investor, with over 3,700 American companies headquartered here.

Building on the US-Singapore free trade agreement, we are its largest trading partner in South-east Asia. Despite our small size, we are the fourth-largest Asian foreign direct investor into the US.

We are also parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which will help to anchor the American economic and strategic presence in the region.

Paving the way for more inclusive buildings

New rule requires buildings like malls to add accessibility features when doing alteration works
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2016

Starting next year, buildings such as schools and malls must include two basic accessibility features if they are undergoing any additions and alterations (A&A).

The new rule applies to commercial and institutional buildings such as offices and schools. When these undergo any A&A works, they will also have to make their entrances barrier-free with either a ramp, stair-lift or platform lift, and provide at least one accessible toilet.

Currently, if a building undergoes A&A works on a certain floor, that floor must be made accessible in accordance with building codes - but this does not affect other floors.

Under the new rule, the building owner would need to add an accessible building entrance and one accessible toilet.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced this and other measures to promote user-friendly design at the opening of this year's Singapore Universal Design Week yesterday.

A new Universal Design Guide for Public Places was also launched as a reference for possible features.

"It's about being inclusive and embracing the needs of everyone in society," said Mr Wong. Newer buildings have incorporated universal design - designing for the needs of all - but there are still older buildings which are not accessible, he noted.

Legislation to make buildings barrier-free was introduced in 1990 but applies only to new buildings.

Noting that one in four existing commercial and institutional buildings is still not accessible, he said: "We need to accelerate the progress of our accessibility improvements."

Building and Construction Authority (BCA) acting deputy chief executive officer Chin Chi Leong said business areas such as Shenton Way would be one focus.

The BCA will further consult stakeholders before the new rule kicks in some time next year. The exact date has yet to be announced.

Mr Wong also announced other moves to encourage accessibility.

Australian Detention Center Tortured Children: Stripped, tear-gassed and strapped to a chair

Aussie territory stops use of hoods after teen abuse video
But PM resists pressure to widen mistreatment probe
The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2016

SYDNEY • Australia's Northern Territory has suspended the use of hoods and restraints on children, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull resisted pressure to broaden an inquiry into mistreatment in youth detention centres.

The investigation was ordered after national TV aired video footage showing guards at a centre strapping a half-naked, hooded boy to a chair. "Whether the chair is the right thing or not, I'm putting to review. I've stopped its use," Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) yesterday as anger mounted over the scandal.

"Let's stop use of the spit masks until we take advice," he said, referring to the kind of hood that was placed on the boy in the footage, covering his neck and head.

Mr Giles has insisted he was not aware of the extent of the abuse, as calls mounted for him to resign after his 2010 comments calling for criminals to be put "in a big concrete hole" resurfaced yesterday.

The footage showing the abuse of six Aboriginal boys was shot between 2010 and 2014 at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre near Darwin. It also showed boys being stripped naked, thrown by the neck into a cell and held for long periods in solitary confinement.

A former guard at the centre told the ABC he had seen one boy, Dylan Voller, put in the chair at least three times. In one video, the then 17-year-old was left alone for two hours after being shackled.

Friday 29 July 2016

Public Consultation on Draft Vulnerable Adults Bill 2016

Views sought on move to ensure more protection for the vulnerable
Proposed Bill will allow State to step in where community, family efforts prove ineffective
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2016

While cases of abuse of the elderly and Singaporeans with disabilities have remained under 200 a year, the authorities want to put more safeguards in place as this population is expected to grow.

The Government is proposing a Vulnerable Adults Bill and yesterday urged the public to send in their views by Aug 23.

The Bill was first mooted in January last year by then Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, and aims to better protect the elderly as well as adults who are unable to care for themselves against possible abuse and neglect.

Key areas in the Bill include giving the State the right to enter private premises to assess the person's well-being, as well as to temporarily relocate vulnerable adults to safe places such as sheltered homes or adult disability homes.

Currently, the community and government agencies can rely only on moral suasion to enter homes to provide assistance. But if the person is able to make decisions for himself and refuses to be rehomed or to get a court order against the perpetrator, his choice will be respected.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said the Bill will also let the State intervene in high-risk cases, when intervention by the family and community - which the ministry said is the "first line of care" - is not effective. The Bill also proposes to raise the penalties for those who abuse or neglect vulnerable adults by 1.5 times.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Qualifying salary for Employment Pass to be raised from $3,300 to $3,600 from 1 January 2017: Manpower Ministry

Employment Pass holders must soon have higher minimum pay
Qualifying salary for foreigners to be hired on Employment Passes raised to $3,600
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2016

From January next year, foreign professionals will need to be paid at least $3,600 a month if firms want to hire them on Employment Passes (EPs), up from $3,300 now.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday that this is to keep pace with rising local wages, but business associations are worried that firms could lose competitiveness due to rising labour costs.

The changes are also meant to "maintain the quality of our foreign workforce and enhance their complementarity to the local workforce", said the ministry.

The qualifying EP salary was last raised in 2014, from $3,000, and before that in 2012, from $2,800. More experienced workers must also earn more to match their skills and work experience.

Starting salaries of graduates from local universities have been rising, and touched $3,300 a month at the median last year for Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University graduates in full-time permanent employment, according to MOM statistics.

Soon, EP applicants will also need to earn more to qualify for passes. Employers who want to renew their employees' existing EPs will have close to a year to adjust.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

AGO Report FY 2015/2016: Inadequate financial controls, weak governance uncovered in Auditor-General's report

Channel NewsAsia, 26 Jul 2016

The Auditor-General's report for Financial Year 2015/2016 was released on Tuesday (Jul 26), and it uncovered instances of inadequate financial controls over Government operations and weak governance.

In a media release, the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) said that, as a whole, it audited the Government Financial Statements - incorporating the accounts of all 16 Government ministries and eight organs of state - and the financial statements of three statutory boards, a Government fund, five Government-owned companies and three other accounts. Selective audits were also carried out on nine statutory boards and three Government funds.

The audit observations in this year's report relate to six ministries, including the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Defence, and six statutory boards such as the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Nanyang Polytechnic, AGO said.

The Auditor-General observed a number of instances of inadequate financial controls over Government operations, including those outsourced to external operators. There were cases of inadequate controls resulting in loss of revenue to the Government, he added.

For example, the AGO found that HDB did not have adequate oversight of the operations of its car parks at industrial estates and residential estates, which were outsourced to commercial operators.

"There were many instances where vehicles were not charged parking fees and motorists had evaded payment by manipulating the car park system," the AGO report stated. "HDB could have detected these instances if it had examined the data from its car park system and the monthly reports from the operators of the car parks."

Tuesday 26 July 2016

A few steps? HDB to make homes more elderly-friendly

By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2016

Older residents who have to climb a small flight of steps to get into their Housing Board flat may soon have one less obstacle to overcome.

The Housing Board plans to expand its Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme to include subsidies for ramps more than one step high, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

The goal is to make HDB estates more elderly-friendly, given the ageing population, he told reporters after visiting Nee Soon GRC's Kebun Baru ward. "You'll see more of these needs emerging - mobility, access, connectivity but also community. You want (the elderly) to stay active," he said, adding that expanding EASE is one way to help seniors.

The scheme, launched in 2012, has subsidised about 90,000 households to fit their flats with elderly- friendly features such as grab bars and slip-resistant treatment for toilet tiles. Eligible home owners - those with an elderly household member aged 65 and above, or 60 to 64 years old for those who require assistance in daily living - pay only a small part of the cost.

Currently, only ramps that can overcome a one-level difference within the flat or at its entrance are subsidised. This is because ramps that cover two to three steps may be put at too steep an incline to be useful, or end up obstructing the common corridor, said Mr Wong.

But the Housing Board has been looking for space-efficient solutions that would not cost residents too much money or time to maintain, the minister added.

"Once we have identified a good solution, we hope to expand the EASE programme so that more residents can benefit," he said. "I hope it can be done as soon as possible."

The multi-step entrance was a feature of some flats built in the 1970s and 1980s to give residents a greater sense of security and privacy.

Ministry of Home Affairs warns against distributing radical works

By Toh Yong Chuan, Senior Correspondent and M Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Reporter, The Daily Star, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2016

Those who distribute publications that promote radical leanings will be dealt with firmly under the law, the authorities here warned.

"Anyone found doing so will be investigated for purveying extremist ideas," a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said yesterday.

"The authorities take a very serious view of the distribution and propagation of radical teachings and ideology," the spokesman added in a reply to The Straits Times.

He was asked whether hardline material was being handed out here, after an English newspaper in Bangladesh, the Dhaka Tribune, reported on Saturday that books spreading radical teachings were being distributed to Bangladeshi workers in Little India this month.

The report comes six months after Singapore announced the arrest of 27 radicalised Bangladeshi workers. The men, who were sharing militant books and videos, met weekly and were recruiting other workers. They were nabbed under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in November and December last year.

All have since been deported, and 14 were arrested by the Bangladeshi authorities upon their return.

A second group of radicalised men were picked up between late March and early April. Another eight Bangladeshi workers were arrested for being members of a clandestine group that called itself the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB).

They were planning to foment violence back home to topple the government, and set up a caliphate under the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

Six were charged with financing terrorism - four were sentenced to between two and five years in jail this month and two have claimed trial. Another two remain in detention under the ISA.

Five others who were not involved in ISB but had shared radical material were deported, and arrested on arrival in Bangladesh.

The two waves of arrests have prompted Singapore leaders to warn that while those arrested were funding and plotting attacks on targets back home, they could easily have turned their attention to Singapore targets.

Just last week, the Ministry of Communications and Information banned Al Fatihin, a hardline newspaper published by Furat Media, a media agency linked to ISIS.

The ban makes it an offence to distribute the newspaper, largely in Bahasa Indonesia, by any means.

There are an estimated 160,000 Bangladeshi nationals here, mostly work permit holders doing manual jobs at construction sites and shipyards.

Monday 25 July 2016

Efforts to fight terrorism 'must involve every Singaporean': Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam; Singapore condemns Munich shooting on 22 July 2016

By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2016

Fast-response police officers trained to tackle terrorism have started their patrols, and more will continue to be deployed in the coming months. But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also stressed that counter-terrorism is a "national project" that must involve every Singaporean.

He was speaking to reporters at the Esplanade yesterday after observing officers from the new Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) on a patrol.

The unit, made up of land division officers, was commissioned in June, two months after it was first announced at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition in April.

"The police have done very well in doing this in a very short space of time. Over the next few months, the deployment will continue, and the number of forces would be increased," Mr Shanmugam said, adding that morale is high among the officers.

"They know they are doing something extremely important for their country."

Since last month, ERT officers, who are specially trained in counter- assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, have been patrolling public areas such as shopping centres and theatres.

They have also been engaging building owners and managers to come up with joint response plans, including how to work together during emergencies.

Asked whether Singapore had received threats recently, Mr Shanmugam said he did not want to get into specifics.

But he added that "from time to time, we receive credible reports on threats and, depending on the nature, some are more serious than others".

He also talked about the important role the public plays in countering terrorism.

Besides the police response, said the minister, "there is also the social response", especially how the community responds the day after any attack.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Singapore refutes Indonesia claims of attempts to 'thwart' tax amnesty scheme

Singapore is respected, successful and ‘we don’t live in fear of anyone else’: Shanmugam
Law and Home Affairs minister responds to “taunts” from Indonesian minister
TODAY, 23 Jul 2016

Singapore may be small, but it is respected and successful, and “we don’t live in fear of anyone else”, says Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, in response to ‘taunts’ by an Indonesian minister.

In a Facebook post on Saturday (July 23), Mr Shanmugam said he did not understand why “there is this constant attempt (by Indonesian ministers) to put us (Singapore) down and taunting us that we are small”.

He said that both countries benefit from good relations over the last 50 years and have cooperated on many matters. But he noted, “every now and then, someone in Indonesia will tell us that we should know our place, a little red dot.”

Yes, we are a little red dot. We may be small. But we are respected and successful. And our people lead meaningful lives. And we don’t live in fear of anyone else,” Mr Shanmugam wrote.

His remarks came after Indonesia’s Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro was quoted in Indonesian media on Tuesday saying that he was “not afraid of Singapore which is just a small country like that”.

Mr Brodjonegoro and other Indonesian ministers this week have made several remarks about Singapore as their country attempts to recover millions stashed by Indonesian citizens overseas via a tax amnesty programme. Several Indonesian media reports have accused Singapore and its banks of coming up with a special scheme for Indonesians to leave their assets in Singapore instead of repatriating them home.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) refuted these claims on Saturday.

“Recent claims in the Indonesian media that Singapore is implementing policies to ‘thwart’ Indonesia’s tax amnesty programme are untrue. Singapore has not cut tax rates or changed any of our policies in response to Indonesia’s Tax Amnesty Programme,” said the MAS and MOF in a joint statement.

“We subscribe to internationally agreed standards for combating money laundering and for exchange of information. If there is any case of suspected cross-border tax evasion, concerned authorities can approach Singapore – we have assisted and will continue to assist in line with the international standards,” the two agencies added.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Multiculturalism - Let's Think About It

Let’s Think About It – Multiculturalism
21 Jul 2016

Why is Royston so passionate about keeping the kampong spirit alive? Why does Denise Keller find the HDB experience awesome? Why does Taufik find weddings and funerals at the void deck interesting? What brings our communities together, and what forces threaten to pull them apart?

Find out more in the new season of “Let’s Think About It”. Catch Taufik Batisah, Royston Tan, Denise Keller, Saleemah Ismail and Sharada Selvanathan as they share their views and stories with Minister Yaacob Ibrahim on multiculturalism in Singapore.

PUB officer faces over 700 charges of cheating

Sum involved was about $2m in total; he also faces nine counts of money laundering
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2016

A technical officer with national water agency PUB was yesterday hit with more than 700 charges of cheating, involving a total of about $2 million, and nine counts of money laundering.

Mohamed Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, 42, is accused of deceiving various PUB employees into believing that the quotations he produced for contract work were genuinely sourced from the open market - when in fact they were from businesses he controlled.

In doing so, he is alleged to have dishonestly induced the employees to approve quotations for various purchase orders worth a total of $1.98 million. They were subsequently awarded to businesses controlled by him.

Most of the alleged offences took place between 2009 and 2012, and mainly involved small value purchases.

A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Aug 18.

Sa'ad is out on $80,000 bail and his passport has been impounded.

In a statement, the PUB said that in mid-2012, its internal audit discovered anomalies in the small value purchases of mechanical equipment and general maintenance work at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks. The PUB reported this to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in August that year.

Sa'ad was then suspended without pay.

He joined the PUB in 2000 and had been supervising the mechanical maintenance work at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks since October 2004.

'Pervasive' lapses found in Workers' Party town council accounts: KPMG; WP MPs sued by own Town Council AHTC over $33 million in improper payments

Weaknesses cover key areas of governance, financial control and reporting, among others: KPMG
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2016

Auditors of the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had harsh words for the way it was managed, saying they found "pervasive" control failures in its accounts and work processes over the past five years.

These weaknesses cover key areas of governance, financial control, financial reporting, procurement and records management, KPMG said in a report on Wednesday.

In all, KPMG flagged six areas where AHTC's control environment had failed to set the foundation for discipline and structure for its internal workings. These include the lack of communication and enforcement of integrity and ethical values. For instance, "highly irregular" methods were used to process over $60 million worth of payments, and temporary accounts used for more than one million transactions were not cleared swiftly.

Also, several payments were made using a dummy code that meant duplicate or fictitious payments could be made without being detected. The town council's audit committee also did not meet as often as it should to address the issues raised by AHTC auditors as well as the Auditor-General.

"There is an issue larger than the sum of individual lapses at AHTC," KPMG said in its report, which the Workers' Party (WP) released on Wednesday night.

The lapses were a systemic problem and fixing them means town councillors have to "reset the tone at the top of AHTC" to emphasise competence and accountability.

KPMG estimated that the town council will take at least 18 months to rectify all the lapses and weaknesses that have been found.

AHTC chairman Pritam Singh said it accepts all the recommendations in full, and its MPs "will immediately lead an exercise to review" governance, controls and other key areas identified in the report.
Last night, the Housing Board noted "with grave concern" the findings, including the town council's slow progress in remedying the lapses after "a long and protracted process for AHTC to appoint an independent accountant following orders by the Court of Appeal".

"It is imperative that AHTC takes immediate steps to reset its tone from the very top," it added.

"As large sums of public monies are at stake, AHTC also needs to account to its residents and the public whether any monies have been lost as a result of these lapses," it said.

The monthly report by KPMG is its fourth on the state of AHTC, which hired it to look into its books following significant lapses in governance flagged by its own auditors and the Auditor-General in a special report in February last year.

The new report completes one part of KPMG's work, which is to identify where AHTC did not comply with the Town Council Act.

Watch out for these 'stealth bikes': Men in black have errant road users in their sights

Traffic Police's month-old 'stealth bike' team clamping down on reckless motorcyclists
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2016

Dressed in black jackets and riding black motorcycles, these "bikers" give motorists a shock when they turn on their lights and sirens and reveal their true identities.

The covert officers have been on their bikes on Singapore's roads since last month in the latest attempt by the Traffic Police to clamp down on road offenders - particularly errant motorcyclists.

Explaining the initiative, TP commander Sam Tee said it was not easy for officers to go after motorcyclists in unmarked cars, as they can lose sight of them in heavy traffic.

The 900cc "stealth bikes", on the other hand, are much more manoeuvrable. "Our strategy has evolved. We are matching vehicle type for vehicle type," said Senior Assistant Commissioner Tee.

Bikers are an area of concern for the TP. They have held community events and media campaigns to warn them about the dangers of reckless riding in the past year.

TP statistics show that last year, 4,875 motorcyclists and pillion riders were injured, a 5 per cent rise from 2014. This group also accounted for almost half of all road deaths last year - 72 out of a total of 152.

To address the problem, the TP have increased enforcement to target what they call a "small minority" of motorists and motorcyclists who misbehave.

In their first month of operations, TP's stealth motorcycle officers detected more than 700 violations - including offences such as using a mobile phone while riding and reckless riding. Covert operations - which also included officers in unmarked vehicles - detected 2,653 violations in the first six months of this year, up from 1,048 in the same period last year.

Michelin Guide Singapore 2016: Hawkers join celebrity chefs on Michelin list

Pork noodle, soya sauce chicken eateries among 29 establishments awarded stars
By Eunice Quek, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2016

A pork noodle stall and a soya sauce chicken stall were made Singapore's first Michelin-starred hawkers in the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide, in a list that was dominated by celebrity chefs.

At the launch of the guide last night in Resorts World Sentosa, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Crawford Lane and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Complex were among 29 establishments awarded stars. They each received one star.

Tai Hwa owner Tang Chay Seng, 70, said: "I was very happy when I heard the news. In Singapore, there are a lot of things that are delicious and I feel very lucky to have won."

Mr Chan Hon Meng, 51, owner of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, said: "I hope hawkers will appear every year in the Michelin Guide."

Mr Joel Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world, added five more to his collection. Joel Robuchon Restaurant at RWS was the only one here awarded three stars, given to restaurants that serve "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". His L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, also at RWS, garnered two stars, given to restaurants with "excellent cooking, worth a detour".

Friday 22 July 2016

BCA SkyLab: PM Lee launches $4.5 million Building and Construction Authority research centre

Revolving lab to test ideas for 'energy' buildings
BCA SkyLab to test technologies that can create buildings that make more energy than they use
By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 21 Jul 2016

A revolving laboratory, perched on a roof eight storeys high, will take Singapore closer to constructing buildings that not only make as much energy as they use, but also produce more energy than they consume.

The 132 sq m research centre - the size of two three-room flats - was launched yesterday and is the brainchild of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

It will be used to test-bed technologies to bring more "positive energy" buildings to life.

Positive-energy buildings are those that can produce more energy than they consume by, for instance, harnessing solar energy, while cutting energy use with more efficient air-conditioning or lighting systems.

The medium-term aspiration is to develop such positive-energy low-rise and medium-rise buildings that are energy self-sufficient, and energy-efficient high-rise buildings, said Dr John Keung, chief executive of BCA.

Launching the BCA SkyLab at the BCA Academy in Braddell, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that as the Republic's economy developed, its building activities grew in scale and complexity, and the focus is now on environmental sustainability.

"The BCA SkyLab that we are opening today will play an important role in our environmental sustainability drive," he said.

The $4.5 million rotatable lab, which takes 30 minutes for one round to be completed, will allow researchers to test new systems with actual weather and climatic conditions, as opposed to simulating them using historical data that may not be accurate due to climate change.

More to benefit from IT aid scheme: NEU PC Plus Programme

NEU PC Plus Programme
5,000 more families to get subsidies for PCs, broadband access after changes
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2016

A scheme that makes computers and broadband connectivity more affordable for needy people with disabilities and students has been enhanced to benefit more people.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday announced two changes to eligibility criteria for the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) NEU PC Plus scheme, which offers beneficiaries new computers with three years of free broadband access, at a cost subsidised by up to 75 per cent.

From Sept 1, the monthly household income cap will be raised from $3,000 to $3,400. This is expected to benefit another 5,000 families over five years.

In addition, special education (SPED) students on the Ministry of Education's SPED Financial Assistance Scheme will automatically qualify for the subsidies.

Other criteria have also been tweaked to help more low-income families (see table).

For applicants who cannot afford to pay even after the discount, they currently can earn their computers by doing community service, such as sorting books at school libraries.

The monthly household income cap to qualify for this will also be raised from $2,300 to $2,500 from Sept 1.

More people with disabilities tapping enhanced Assistive Technology Fund

Fivefold jump in Assistive Technology Fund beneficiaries since changes made last year
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 21 Jul 2016

More than 1,100 people with disabilities have benefited from a fund that helps them to pay less for assistive technology, mobile apps and devices such as hearing aids since criteria to qualify for the subsidies were changed in August last year.

This is more than a fivefold jump from the figure over the one-year period before the changes were made - and has exceeded expectations, The Straits Times has learnt.

When announcing the changes to the Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) in March last year, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said that he expected the number of beneficiaries to double from 200 to 400 a year.

The ATF subsidises up to 90 per cent of the cost of the equipment. Three enhancements were made to the funding scheme:

• Previously, the fund could be used to buy assistive technology devices only for use in school or at work. It can now be used to pay for devices for more purposes, including those that help with daily living.

• The monthly household income per capita cap for eligibility was raised from $1,500 to $1,800, to help more families to benefit.

• The lifetime cap for subsidies was doubled to $40,000, as people may need money to replace devices or buy new ones when their needs change as they age.

Mr Tharman had said the Government wanted to encourage and support the use of assistive technology by people with disabilities.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Workers' Party MP Png Eng Huat laments White Men Privilege

Minister Tan Chuan-Jin takes WP's Png Eng Huat to task for 'stirring hate and anger' by politicising expedited clearance
By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

Minister for Family and Social Development Tan Chuan-Jin has posted a lengthy Facebook update about his expedited clearance by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at the Tuas Checkpoint on Sunday (July 17).

He said that he had joined residents on a one-day durian trip to Johor Baru and had travelled by bus so that he could be with residents and volunteers: "On the return journey, ICA facilitated the clearance for me and my security officers who were carrying their firearms, as well as the residents and volunteers who were with me on my bus."

Workers' Party MP Png Eng Huat had commented on his Facebook that he was "dismayed" to see a lane for immigration clearance specially opened for Mr Tan and his residents. Mr Tan is MP for Marine Parade GRC.

Mr Tan said that he had the impression that Mr Png had queued for a long time when ICA checks showed that it was "all of 30 mins".

Mr Tan added that Mr Png's post was "aimed at stirring hate and anger, not only to be directed at me, which I can understand politically, but also at my residents and volunteers (who organised as well as helped guide each bus), as well as our officers who secure our borders. It's unfortunate that he and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue." 

The ICA said on Tuesday in response to media queries that it is normal practice for the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to give expedited clearance to ministers.

ICA also confirmed that Mr Tan was travelling with 20 bus loads of people, who were his residents and grassroots leaders, on Sunday (July 17) when he, his security officers and the other passengers in his bus were given clearance, without having to queue, at the Tuas Checkpoint at around 9.20pm.

The passengers in the other 19 buses were cleared through the normal channels, ICA added.

Singapore-KL High Speed Rail targeted to start running around 2026; Memorandum of Understanding signed on 19 July 2016

MOU signed for high-speed service that will cut journey to 90 minutes
By Janice Heng, In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

The much-anticipated high-speed rail (HSR) project to connect Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is targeted to be up and running in about 10 years' time, cutting travel time between the cities to 90 minutes compared with four hours by road.

The 2026 target is among points agreed on in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to pave the way for more detailed planning of the ambitious rail link.

The MOU was signed in Putrajaya yesterday, witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak. It will guide the crafting of a legally binding bilateral deal to be signed by both governments towards the end of this year.

"There are one or two issues and some details that still need to be worked out, but the main picture is there," said Mr Lee. He was speaking at a joint press conference with Datuk Seri Najib, after the MOU was signed by Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister, and Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

Some key points of agreement include the types of services, how the rail system will be run and where responsibility for its assets, like the trains and tracks, will lie.

Three services will run along the rail line that will have eight stations, of which only one will be in Singapore - at Jurong East.

These are: an express service between the two end-stations - Jurong East and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur; a shorter shuttle service connecting Singapore and Iskandar Puteri in Johor; and a domestic service linking the seven stations in Malaysia.

To run the cross-border services, a train operating company will be appointed in an international tender. Another firm will run the Malaysian domestic service.

The rail service, with a top speed of over 300kmh, will bring both cities closer, said the prime ministers.

Mr Najib said: "We'll not see Singapore as too distant, but two cities that are very closely connected in the true sense of the word."

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Dialogue with PM Lee Hsien Loong at the South Asian Diaspora Convention 2016

Leaders need to make people see how globalisation benefits them: PM Lee
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 19 Jul 2016

News from around the world in recent days has been dismal: a terror attack in the French city of Nice, a failed coup in Turkey, and shootings of cops in the United States.

Amid these worrying developments, is there room for optimism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked at a dialogue last night.

These are troubled times, he replied, citing Brexit, terrorism and tensions in the region.

"But at the same time, we should remember this is a time generally of peace and prosperity," he said.

Globalisation has brought considerable benefits to people in South Asia, China and all over the world, he noted. And the way forward is more globalisation, he added.

However, he stressed that there must be greater distribution of the benefits of globalisation "to those who have not enjoyed it or may be at risk of its side effects".

PM Lee was speaking to about 1,000 people at the South Asian Diaspora Convention's gala dinner. Moderator Shyam Saran, India's former foreign secretary, also asked him what message he wanted to convey on globalisation.

PM Lee pointed out that India's opening up to the world since the 1990s has seen it prosper, and its diaspora has provided a network and presence all over the world.

"Singapore, too, has sought benefits from our links with the subcontinent," he said, adding that India, too, has a role to play in this region.