Sunday, 14 April 2019

Smart water meters to be rolled out to 300,000 properties here to help save water

Firms, homes to get smart meters to track water usage
Users can keep tabs on how much water is being used via an app; eventual goal is to install them islandwide
By Cheryl Teh, The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2019

The water meters you see outside your home may be on their way out. Their better and brighter cousins, smart water meters, will soon be coming to town to update you on just how much water you are consuming.

For a start, 300,000 smart meters will be installed on residential and commercial premises here.

Singapore's national water agency PUB announced yesterday that the installation process will be completed by 2023, with the eventual goal of having such devices installed islandwide.

There are currently some 1.6 million water meters on premises across the island. These are read manually once every two months.

Customers are billed every month, with their water consumption estimated every alternate month.

PUB also expects that smart meters will help people and companies keep tabs on their water usage via a smartphone app.

This is because the smart water meter will allow for water consumption to be read automatically several times a day, and transmitted accurately and remotely back to PUB on a daily basis.

Through a mobile application or online portal, customers will have ready access to their daily water usage data. They will also receive high-usage notifications and leak alerts promptly.

Pilot trials in Punggol and Yuhua earlier had shown promising results. A total of 800 households reported an average of 5 per cent in water savings, said PUB.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Jewel Changi Airport to open on 17 April 2019

$1.7 billion Jewel opens doors to give Changi Airport added sparkle
Complex an investment in airport's future; 500,000 to get a preview over six days from April 11 to 16
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Apr 2019

Jewel Changi Airport, the $1.7 billion investment to help secure Singapore's premier air-hub position, welcomed its first public visitors yesterday.

After the project was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech in 2013, it took four years to transform an open-air carpark into a 10-storey complex with shops, leisure attractions and facilities for travellers and visitors.

Over six days, from 1pm yesterday to 10pm on April 16, about 500,000 people who had signed up for free preview tickets are expected to visit.

When the 135,700 sq m Jewel, with more than 280 shops and restaurants, opens its doors to all from April 17, travellers will be able to access an early check-in lounge serving passengers of 26 airlines, including Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot. This covers 60 per cent of all departing flights.

Located next to Terminal 1, Jewel is connected to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 via air-conditioned travelators, and there will also be facilities for all travellers to store their luggage round the clock.

Mr Shukor Yusof, aviation analyst at Endau Analytics, said: "Jewel is an extension of Changi's constant move to stay relevant and profitable. It is a new landmark for the best airport in the world."

About a third of Changi's 65.6 million passengers last year were on transit flights, and Jewel will offer them new opportunities to dine, shop and entertain themselves, apart from attracting local visitors.

With the demand for air travel in Asia expected to grow strongly in the coming decades and competition increasing among airports, Jewel is a key part of Changi's strategy to improve the airport experience and grow traffic, said Changi Airport Group's (CAG) managing director for airport operations management, Mr Jayson Goh. He told The Straits Times: "If you are flying through Asia and looking to make a stopover, you can choose from several airports. We want to make sure Changi Airport continues to provide the capacity, attractions and amenities to cater for this growth."

Hong Kong International Airport, for example, is developing a 25ha Skycity mega integrated development, set to be completed in the coming decade.

Jewel's highlights include a 40m-tall indoor waterfall and a five-storey garden with more than 2,000 trees and palms, and over 100,000 shrubs. Shops and outlets include famous New York burger chain Shake Shack and American fast-food chain A&W.

Jewel - a joint venture between CAG and CapitaLand - will also offer play attractions from June 10, including a 50m-long suspended bridge with a glass flooring that will allow visitors to look down at the greenery below, a 250m-long bouncing net, mazes and slides.

It will also host the first Pokemon Centre outside of Japan.

Those flying through Singapore will have to exit the transit area to visit Jewel and clear immigration again before their next flight.

Jewel will also house the first Yotelair in Asia, with 130 cabins that can be booked for short daytime layovers or overnight stays.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, president and group chief executive officer of CapitaLand, said: "The combined catchment of residents and Changi Airport's growing passenger traffic makes Jewel a compelling proposition to draw international brands to Singapore and empower home-grown retailers to connect with a global audience."

Jewel was designed by a consortium led by Safdie Architects, helmed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who also came up with Marina Bay Sands.

Beware 'class warfare' approach to taxes

Imposing more taxes on the rich ends up hurting the middle class
By Dan Mitchell and Donovan Choy, Published The Straits Times, 11 Apr 2019

Singapore is one of the world's most impressive economic success stories. Decades of strong growth produced economic convergence with rich nations in North America and Western Europe. Given how few nations have made that jump, this is a remarkable achievement.

What's even more noteworthy is that Singapore's economy then continued to expand at a healthy pace. Based on measures such as per-capita economic output, residents of Singapore are now significantly better off than their counterparts in almost every nation in the so-called rich man's club of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

For all intents and purposes, Singapore has shown that conventional theories about economic growth need to be updated to reflect that growth doesn't necessarily need to weaken once a nation becomes prosperous. Singaporeans should be thankful for the sensible governance that has made the nation a role model.

Unfortunately, some people are willing to threaten the country's prosperity by urging higher tax burdens on the wealthy. They risk national competitiveness by advocating additional layers of tax on income that is saved and invested.

This "class warfare" approach is deeply misguided, especially in a globalised economy. Singapore's policymakers should remember these six observations as they contemplate fiscal policy issues.


Singapore's prosperity is not an accident. The country routinely ranks near the top of all indices of economic freedom and competitiveness. Small government, open markets and rule of law are a great recipe for national prosperity and Singapore is a powerful example of how a nation can become very prosperous with the right approach.


What makes Singapore special is that it avoided the mistakes other nations made when they became rich. Countries in North America and Western Europe created costly welfare states once they became relatively prosperous. This is known to academics as Wagner's Law, and it has serious consequences since larger public sectors reduce competitiveness and lead to less growth.

While poverty is a serious issue to be addressed carefully, it is noteworthy that most academics agree that there is no incidence of absolute poverty in Singapore.

Even the poorest in Singapore are comparatively far better off than the poor in other developed countries because it has largely avoided this mistake.


In some cases, rich nations completely reverse the policies that are associated with prosperity.

After World War II, Argentina was one of the world's 10 richest countries. But it then fell victim to populism under Juan Peron.

Politicians not only expanded the fiscal burden of government, but they also imposed protectionism, subsidies and other forms of intervention. The Argentine economy has continuously lost ground ever since.


An ageing population is the greatest challenge in almost every prosperous nation. It is good that people are living longer, of course, but when you combine increased longevity with falling birth rates, this puts a lot of pressure on welfare states.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons for Greece's recent collapse (and Italy's looming collapse). Singapore, by contrast, is in a relatively strong position to deal with demographic changes, thanks to a self-funded welfare system that has traditionally promoted self-reliance and self-responsibility, as well as a tax code that does not penalise saving and investment.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

9th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on 9 April 2019

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mahathir affirm commitment to cooperative and forward-looking bilateral relationship
Singapore and KL to begin maritime boundary talks within a month
By Royston Sim, Deputy News Editor (Politics) In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 10 Apr 2019

Singapore and Malaysia will begin negotiations to delimit their maritime boundaries in a month, as both countries have taken steps to de-escalate tensions at sea.

This measure was one of several that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad welcomed at their Leaders' Retreat yesterday, the first under the Pakatan Harapan government.

Speaking at a joint news conference, PM Lee said he and Tun Dr Mahathir affirmed their commitment to a cooperative and forward-looking bilateral relationship.

"The relationship between our two countries is rooted in our long history, and strong family and business ties," he said. "This remains unchanged even with the new Malaysian government."

The leaders also discussed current bilateral issues, including airspace and maritime boundaries.

Dr Mahathir said: "We agreed that the fundamental principle is to resolve issues of concern in a friendly and constructive manner."

Both PMs welcomed the progress made in implementing recommendations to resolve the maritime dispute. Dr Mahathir said: "As the saying goes, good fences make good neighbours. We will now proceed to maritime boundary delimitation in the area."

Ultimately, Malaysia believes it is important to delimit all outstanding maritime boundaries between Malaysia and Singapore, he added.

Malaysia and Singapore had mutually suspended the extension of their overlapping port limits on Monday, reverting to what was in place before Oct 25 and Dec 6 last year, respectively.

Earlier yesterday, a Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman said there were no Malaysian government vessels anchored in the area previously covered by overlapping port limits as of midnight. "We will continue to exercise sovereignty and take appropriate enforcement actions in the area," he said.

Dr Mahathir also said at the news conference that Malaysia wants to take back control, in stages, of its airspace over southern Johor that has been delegated to Singapore.

PM Lee said Singapore is willing to discuss this matter with Malaysia, and stressed the key considerations include the safety and efficiency of air traffic operations.

On water, Dr Mahathir said resolving the issue of the price of water sold to Singapore under the 1962 Water Agreement is a priority.

Singapore, on its part, is concerned about pollution of the Johor River as well as its long-term yield, PM Lee said.

Beyond these bilateral issues, the broader Singapore-Malaysia relationship continues to grow, PM Lee said. For instance, the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia is working to further cooperation on multiple fronts.

PM Lee also invited Dr Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali to this year's Bicentennial National Day Parade at the Padang on Aug 9. Dr Mahathir said he was glad to accept the invitation.

Then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak and his wife had attended the National Day celebrations in 1969, on the 150th anniversary of modern Singapore's founding.

Asked if the recent maritime and airspace disputes will have lasting damage to bilateral ties, PM Lee said: "If it is managed well, then it can be productive for both countries and the overall relationship can prosper. If it is not managed well, it can cause a lot of trouble and poison the overall relationship."

PM Lee said he wrote a letter to Dr Mahathir in December as he was worried that things were not going in the right direction. He asked Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to deliver it in person and explain his concerns to Dr Mahathir.

PM Lee said he is very happy that Dr Mahathir took in what they said and took action, which enabled ministers from both sides to meet and turn things around gradually.

In a Facebook post last night, PM Lee said issues will crop up from time to time between close neighbours bound by history and kinship.

"When this happens, we need to keep channels of communication open, build trust, and tackle the issues pragmatically and with an eye to both sides' concerns. Then we can move beyond solving problems to cooperating for mutual benefit," he said.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

15 percent of Singaporeans find Muslims threatening

Probe ripples under surface calm of 'racial harmony'
Issues like Islamophobia in Singapore require us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and have honest dialogues
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 10 Apr 2019

Racial and religious harmony is an ideal deeply ingrained in our national consciousness. When an issue disrupts our self-image of a socially harmonious society, you can expect Singaporeans to react strongly.

So when a recent survey showed that 15 per cent of Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) find Muslims threatening, it drew an overwhelmingly negative response online.

Many commenters labelled that finding “fake news” and said it stirred up issues where there were none. Some even asked for a Straits Times article on it to be taken down.

The finding was from a recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study on religion based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,800 residents late last year. One question was: “Do you consider those belonging to the following groups as threatening or non-threatening?”

Buddhists were seen as the least threatening; 2.8 per cent of respondents found them very or somewhat threatening, followed by Hindus (4.2 per cent ), atheists (5.1 per cent), Jews (5.3 per cent), Christians (6.5 per cent), and Muslims (15.6 per cent).

An ST article on the finding shared on Facebook attracted hundreds of “angry” reactions and now has over 1,600 irate comments.

A typical comment was: “Who even allowed this to be published? Irresponsible journalism. In this climate, such an article is totally uncalled for. Please take it down!”

Several said publishing the finding was “dangerous”, “divisive” and “insensitive”.

Such reactions, to my mind, point to a certain desire to be protective of racial and religious harmony, and a perception that the finding is inimical to it. To be sure, the intensity of the sentiment is not a bad thing in itself. We are, understandably, fiercely protective of an ideal that has guided diverse Singaporeans to co-exist peacefully for years.

But beneath the desire to protect “harmony”, I wonder if the angry response to the finding is also the result of Singapore having been “too” successful in maintaining social peace, so much so that any negative fact or feeling around race and religion proves highly discomfiting.

When the surface of a lake is too calm, any ripple can cause unease. Indeed, two-thirds (66 per cent) of those surveyed in a different 2016 Channel NewsAsia-IPS study felt that talking about racial issues causes “unnecessary tension”.


The value of the IPS survey is that it confronts Singaporeans with an unpalatable truth: That Islamophobia is a fact of life in Singapore.

Seeing Muslims as threats is a classic example of Islamophobia, or prejudice based on an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims.

It was not just that 15 per cent here found Muslims threatening. This figure was more than double the number of people who found Christians threatening, and about thrice the respective numbers for Hindus, atheists and Jews.

The moral peril in the meritocratic race

By David Brooks, Published The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2019

Many of the people I admire lead lives that have a two-mountain shape. They got out of school, began their career, started a family and identified the mountain they thought they were meant to climb - I'm going to be an entrepreneur, a doctor, a cop. They did the things society encourages us to do, like make a mark, become successful, buy a home, raise a family, pursue happiness.

People on the first mountain spend a lot of time on reputation management. They ask: What do people think of me? Where do I rank? They're trying to win the victories the ego enjoys.

These hustling years are also powerfully shaped by our individualistic and meritocratic culture. People operate under this assumption: I can make myself happy. If I achieve excellence, lose more weight, follow this self-improvement technique, fulfilment will follow.

But in the lives of the people I'm talking about - the ones I really admire - something happened that interrupted the linear existence they had imagined for themselves. Something happened that exposed the problem with living according to individualistic, meritocratic values.

Some of them achieved success and found it unsatisfying. They figured there must be more to life, some higher purpose. Others failed. They lost their job or endured some scandal. Suddenly they were falling, not climbing, and their whole identity was in peril.

Yet another group of people got hit sideways by something that wasn't part of the original plan. They had a cancer scare or suffered the loss of a child. These tragedies made the first-mountain victories seem, well, not so important.

Life had thrown them into the valley, as it throws most of us into the valley at one point or another. They were suffering and adrift.

Some people are broken by this kind of pain and grief. They seem to get smaller and more afraid, and never recover. They get angry, resentful and tribal.

But other people are broken open.

Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that suffering upends the normal patterns of life and reminds you that you are not who you thought you were. The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realise that success won't fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do. They realise how lucky they are. They are down in the valley, but their health is okay; they're not financially destroyed; they're about to be dragged on an adventure that will leave them transformed.

They realise that while our educational system generally prepares us for climbing this or that mountain, your life is actually defined by how you make use of your moment of greatest adversity.

So how does moral renewal happen? How do you move from a life based on bad values to a life based on better ones?

Monday, 8 April 2019

Doxxing set to be outlawed under changes to harassment laws to deter online vigilantism

Practice of doxxing set to be outlawed but observers see challenges ahead
Online vigilantes' practice of publishing personal info of individuals online set to be outlawed, but observers see challenges ahead
By Cara Wong, The Sunday Times, 7 Apr 2019

Many have been shamed publicly, some received death threats, others lost their jobs, and a number have even fled the country - all because they have been "doxxed".

Online vigilantes have "doxxed" these individuals by publishing their personal information online - in the pursuit of justice or malicious fun - after viewing them as perpetrators in incidents usually involving public spats, ungracious behaviour or offending online posts.

In making public information such as the individuals' names, contact numbers, addresses or employment details on online forums or social media, the aim is to cause and facilitate harassment, violence or fear of violence towards such victims.

This practice of "doxxing" is now set to be outlawed with the amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act introduced last Monday to plug an existing gap in the legislation that only forbids using abusive and insulting language and behaviour to harass a victim.

But observers say the new law may face challenges in implementation, citing several grey areas that have to be clarified, such as how to define "doxxing" and how to determine culpability.

Professor David Tan of National University of Singapore's (NUS) law faculty said a big challenge is to define what constitutes permissible online shaming and what would be harassment.

For example, simply identifying a person who parked in a disabled parking space should be allowed.

But a post that includes a call to action - such as urging others to share contact details of such an inconsiderate person to make prank calls or food deliveries - would be "doxxing" and is forbidden, said Prof Tan, who teaches courses in privacy and data protection law.

However, complications arise in determining whether an act is "doxxing" or not, as it depends on the context in which the comments are made, said lawyers and experts.

One potential loophole could be when a netizen does not make a call to action to harass the victim but merely posts identifiable details about a person along with an angry comment, said lawyer Lionel Tan.

Mr Tan said the netizen behind such a post could argue that the information was meant to shame the person into changing his behaviour.

As there is no real threat of violence or harassment, the defence could argue the predominant intent was not to harass the person, said Mr Tan, who specialises in social media at law firm Rajah and Tann.

However, even if the original publisher argues he did not intend to harass the victim by publishing details such as his name and a video of him driving dangerously, other netizens may interpret his original post differently and take action, he added.

The prosecution could still make a case if it establishes that it is clear, from the circumstances, that the publisher knew or ought to know that his acts would have resulted in harassment, said Mr Tan.

Criminal lawyer Joel Ng said that in certain scenarios, the prosecution may have to rely heavily on the type of information revealed to demonstrate the person's intent.

It would be obvious when netizens post information, like phone numbers or addresses, that provides avenues for the person to be contacted and harassed, he added.

"These are the certain kinds of information which would be very difficult for one to say that they can't reasonably expect harassment to occur as a result of it," said Mr Ng.

The offence should still stand if the identifiable information is already available online, like through the person's public Facebook page or workplace address, he added.

"Just because certain information can be found publicly doesn't mean that you should still post them to the world at large," he said.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Hate speech: Singapore is prepared to err on the side of caution to preserve racial harmony, says Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam

Minister outlines Republic's approach to preserving racial harmony and tackling hate speech
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Apr 2019

Singapore is prepared to err on the side of caution to preserve racial harmony, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, stressing that good relations among different communities in Singapore "didn't fall ready-made from the sky".

"There is nothing natural about it. We engineered this over many decades," he told Parliament yesterday in a 90-minute ministerial statement on Singapore's approach to tackling hate speech.

"If anything, we are prepared to err on the side of caution and risk overreacting to preserve harmony, rather than take chances and risk explosions."

He traced the smooth ties among Singaporeans to the country's founding leaders, recounting how they were determined for Singapore to be a multiracial, multi-religious society organised horizontally - in which all races and religions are treated equally and on the same level.

"Our uniqueness in this respect should not be underestimated. Equality of races and religions is not the natural order of things; it has to be defended," he said.

Mr Shanmugam quoted founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had said: "This will not be a Chinese nation, not a Malay nation, not an Indian nation."

The late Mr Lee, reflecting in a New York Times interview, said in 2010: "I believe (our younger generation) has come to believe that this is a natural state of affairs... They think you can put it on auto-pilot. I know that this is never so."

He urged Singaporeans to heed Mr Lee's warning, saying: "What we have in Singapore is precious, hard fought."

In his speech, the minister also dwelt on Singapore's approach to secularism and set out his decision to cancel black metal band Watain's local concert.

Setting out the effects of hate speech, Mr Shanmugam said it "disengages" morality and dehumanises its victims.

Once normalised, such mindsets are hard to reverse and result in deep social divides.

Although offensive speech may not veer into the territory of hate speech, it can have the same impact in the long run. In fact, it can be even more insidious as people are "drip-fed" such harmful notions.

He highlighted how some comedians use racist caricatures in their skits, and recounted a woman making disparaging comments about Malay weddings at void decks. "If we normalise offensive speech, after a while, the tone and texture of public discourse will change."

Turning to the Singapore brand of secularism, he said the Government does not take a hands-off approach on matters of race and religion. It actively works to foster good relations among different communities from a practical, nuanced and neutral position.

This sets it apart from countries like France, where secularism means the state will not interfere in religious matters and people can publish material that vilifies any religion, Mr Shanmugam said.

"Why should that right to publish override the right of a religious group not to have its texts, beliefs, practices ridiculed?" he asked. "What about obligations of citizens to preserve harmony and unity?"

When deciding on such issues, the Government assesses the reaction of the majority in the affected community, the security implications of that opinion, and where the weight of mainstream opinion lies.

On the Watain ban, Mr Shanmugam quoted an interview with the band's frontman Erik Danielsson, who had said: "I totally encourage any kind of terrorist acts committed in the name of Watain... That is the way rock and roll works."

Critics of the Watain ban had hit out at the Government's "self-righteous" behaviour, with some saying people can listen to the band without being influenced by its beliefs, and churches can urge their members not to attend such concerts.

Seen in isolation, these are valid points, Mr Shanmugam said, adding that Singaporeans should look at the bigger picture.

If the Watain concert got the go-ahead, the Government would have to permit future shows with similar themes.

Over time, this could deepen racial and religious faultlines and normalise hate speech, he said.

He also dismissed online comments suggesting a "Christian conspiracy" influenced the Government's decision, and that Christians are over-represented in institutions of power.

"They tried to turn it into a 'Christian versus others' debate. These people are nasty, opportunistic and dangerous," he said. "No one, Christian or otherwise, influenced me. I am not a Christian. I also decided to ban two Christian preachers in 2017. So, what does one make of that?"

He added in his closing speech that one of the risks of a weak political leadership is it seeks favours from specific religious groups, warning that this approach "will lead to disaster".

"So, many governments, both in this region and outside, have gone down that route. It is one of the easiest ways to get votes," he said. "You really need a strong political leadership which is fair between the different religions."

Mr Shanmugam also said hate speech has travelled faster and farther because of social media, and Singapore needs to do more to deal with it as social media platforms are unable or unwilling to do so.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill is one step, but further steps must be taken, he added.

In all, 16 MPs spoke after his speech, with some such as Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) and Nominated MP Walter Theseira asking about the grey areas where offensive speech is concerned.

"It is inevitable that one man's belief or culture, when put into the public sphere, may give offence to another," Dr Theseira said, citing how the consumption of specified food may be normal for one religious group but offensive to others.

Ms Phua added: "Where is the line between public discourse and platforms like private WhatsApp group chats?"

Yesterday, the House observed a minute of silence to remember the victims of the attacks on two New Zealand mosques last month.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Singapore to introduce new law to prevent spread of fake news; the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill introduced in Parliament on 1 Apr 2019

Online news sites must publish corrections on fake news, take down false articles under proposed law: PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Mar 2019

Singapore is to introduce a law that will require online news sites to publish corrections or warnings on fake news, or even remove such articles in extreme cases, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

These new measures to tackle the spread of fake news are part of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, which will be introduced in Parliament on Monday.

The move, a key recommendation of a Select Committee, will put Singapore among the first countries to take steps to legislate this increasingly serious problem faced by many countries.

PM Lee said the Bill will empower the Government to hold online news sources and platforms accountable if they allow deliberate falsehoods to proliferate.

"This includes requiring them to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods so that readers or viewers can see all sides and make up their own minds about the matter.

"In extreme and urgent cases, the legislation will also require online news sources to take down fake news before irreparable damage is done," he added in a speech on the changing media landscape at the 20th anniversary celebrations of news provider Channel NewsAsia, which will now be called CNA.

Also at the event at St Regis hotel, attended by about 300 people, were Mrs Lee, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and his Senior Ministers of State Janil Puthucheary and Sim Ann.

On Monday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam is scheduled to deliver a ministerial statement on restricting hate speech to maintain racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

An Institute of Policy Studies research paper released on Thursday showed that one in four Singaporeans has no qualms about allowing extremist religious leaders to share their views online, as long as they do not instigate harm against others.

Fake news plagues many nations, and PM Lee said governments are studying it closely and deciding what measures to take. The French have passed a law allowing their judges to order the immediate removal of fake news from the Internet during election campaigns.

But legislation alone is not enough, PM Lee said. Such laws must be supplemented by citizens who are alert to the problem of fake news, well-informed of what is going on in the world, and provided with the means to make sound assessments of what they read and hear, he added.

Students are taught information literacy and cyber wellness in schools, and the National Library Board provides tips on such issues for the general population. The Government's Factually website also publishes the facts on government policies or issues of public interest.

"But spotting fake news is easier said than done. In general, people are overconfident about their ability to do so," PM Lee said, adding that even the most intelligent and well-trained people can fall victim to such falsehoods.

CNA, therefore, plays an important role in Singapore's society, he said, urging it to invest in its people, build capabilities, and take advantage of Singapore's status as a media and technology hub. "The Government... will work hand in hand with you," he said. "We share an interest in fostering an informed society through quality journalism."

Mediacorp chairman Niam Chiang Meng noted: "Accuracy is no longer as valued as in the past. It is no wonder that public indifference and cynicism have grown."

CNA, he said, intends to be an impartial provider of accurate information and insights.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Institute of Policy Studies report on Religion in Singapore

Keep religion out of politics, Singaporeans say
One in four open to extremists sharing views online or at events, finds IPS report
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Mar 2019

Most Singaporeans are religious, but still frown on religious behaviour that could influence politics or disrupt social harmony, a new report by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has found.

They also feel that having different religious views is no barrier to getting along when living in close proximity.

But the researchers noted that a sizeable proportion of people have no qualms about letting religious extremists publish their views online, or hold public meetings to talk about them.

When surveyed, one in four people said putting such views online is acceptable as long as they do not instigate harm against others, and younger respondents were even more likely to think so - possibly because of more liberal attitudes towards free speech among the young, the researchers said.

But the overwhelming consensus across all age groups is that it is unacceptable for religious leaders to incite hatred or violence against other religions.

The working paper's authors, however, noted there is a fine line between espousing extremist views that consider other faiths as enemies and making hate speech.

"How the Government navigates the desire by this significant segment of the population for freedom of speech pertaining to extremist views in future will be of interest,'' they added.

The findings on people's attitudes towards religion were part of an international study involving multiple countries. It was written by IPS senior research fellow Mathew Mathews, research associate Leonard Lim and research assistant Shanthini Selvarajan.

"Religion is an influential and powerful force, and seeps into multiple domains of public and private life," the authors said.

"Tracking the expansive reach and influence of religion is thus crucial in maintaining inter-religious harmony and surveying public sentiment in public policy."

A total of 1,800 Singapore residents aged 18 and older were surveyed for the local component of the international study.

Face-to-face interviews were carried out between August and December last year by market research company ML Research Consultants.

Participants were asked about their religious beliefs and how these influence their views on issues such as public policy, religious harmony and infidelity.

Although 80 per cent have religious beliefs, only 40 per cent said they would consider themselves to be a "spiritual person". Buddhists, Taoists and Hindus were more likely to have religious beliefs but not identify as spiritual.

Most also had at least some level of belief in life after death, heaven, hell and religious miracles.

On religious harmony, seven in 10 people said they feel people from different religious backgrounds can get along when living close together.

Even so, around 15 per cent of them said they found Muslims at least somewhat threatening. This was higher than for any other religious group.

When asked about religion and politics, most agreed religious leaders should not try to influence voting at elections or make remarks about politicians' characters.

Three-quarters also agreed the country's laws should not be based on a particular religion.

Religion was also found to influence people's views on moral issues such as infidelity, abortion and homosexual sex.

The younger and better educated respondents, as well as those with no religion, tend to have more liberal attitudes.

Egg on your face: Calculated act rightly treated as a crime in many societies

By Margaret Chan, Published The Straits Times, 30 Mar 2019

Social media moves faster than anything else out there, writes online marketing guru Neil Patel, on the destructiveness of the Internet. A moment of dumbness can go viral and turn into a nightmare of mob justice out of control.

This explains why comments on social media have to be taken seriously. Take the recent case of a young man, Mr Edmund Zhong, who posted on the Channel NewsAsia Facebook page that he wanted to throw an egg at Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam. This was after an egg-throwing incident in Australia when a teenager egged a senator for insensitive remarks in response to the Christchurch massacre.

Very quickly, another person responded to Mr Zhong with information on the minister's upcoming Meet-the-People Session. Now the two men are being investigated for the offence of inciting violence under Section 267C of the Penal Code. In a subsequent interview with the media, Mr Zhong came across as bemused, if not irritated, that the police had come to his home.

Did the police overreact? On that comment, Mr Shanmugam himself said he laughed it off.

The way I see it, the police did Mr Zhong a favour by visiting him, and nipping a potential problem in the bud.

Fact: Egging someone is not funny but criminal. Several jurisdictions have ruled it criminal to attack anyone with either an egg, pie, tomato, flour or a glitter bomb.

On March 3, a Brexiter threw an egg at British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and was jailed for 28 days. The chief magistrate, on passing sentence, noted: "An attack like this is an attack on our democratic process. This is a public servant and attacks on MPs must stop. The message must go out - this must stop."

In May 2016, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson beat up the protester who had pied him. The culprit was charged with felony assault and misdemeanour battery.

In 2010, an American woman smashed a pie into the face of Canada's then Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, and was banned from entering Canada for two years. The act was discussed in the Canadian press as an act of terrorism; a physical attack on a minister in order to get a government to change its policy.

So, if someone had indeed smashed an egg on Mr Shanmugam's head, would we laugh? I think not.

Journalist T.A. Frank, reporting in The New Republic on the 2011 pie attack on media mogul Rupert Murdoch, studied several films of such attacks, including the 2004 strike on Conservative columnist Ann Coulter at the University of Arizona, and the 1998 offence against Mr Bill Gates in Brussels.

Mr Frank concluded: "One thing they have in common is that they're not funny. And I don't just mean that I don't find them funny. Watch a few of them… Does any of them make you laugh? Does anybody in any of the videos laugh? Invariably, the response of the gathered crowd is alarm followed by disgust. A whiff of chaos, of a broken social compact, is in the air. Everyone is shaken."

Serbian activist Srdja Popovic, who co-founded the non-profit Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies that teaches protesters how to make their point without getting into trouble, said the use of humour, or "laughtivism", is particularly useful.

For example, in Finland, militaristic white nationalists conducted anti-immigrant neighbourhood patrols. Activists dressed like clowns followed the patrols around, making the intimidation look ridiculous.

But Mr Popovic makes clear that "laughtivism" is not a joke. It is an intentional act of aggression against an opponent. "If they react, they will look stupid. If they don't react, they will look weak." And Mr Popovic warns against throwing eggs or pies at anyone. The act may seem like slapstick, but it can be offensive and insulting, and backfire.

University of Colorado professor Peter McGraw explains his benign violation theory - that there can never be humour when the audience feels that the situation is unsafe.

The defence that a pie or an egg does not cause physical hurt will fall when people witness the annoyance and humiliation that is visited upon the victim. Singer Anita Bryant broke down and cried when she was pied in 1977. In 1976, Pat Moynihan was campaigning for a seat in the US Senate when he was ambushed. Moynihan, a child of Hell's Kitchen and no softie, told The New York Times that it was "a violent act" that "scared the hell out of me". After all, in the moment of the attack, who was to tell it was not an assassination attempt?

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Heng Swee Keat at NTU Students' Union Ministerial Forum 2019

Singaporeans must remain open to foreigners, says Heng Swee Keat
We don't want a world where people build walls; This will give them confidence to interact with people of all cultures from around the world
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Mar 2019

Singaporeans need to be open and understanding of foreigners - whether immigrants or workers and students from other countries - so that they have the confidence to interact with people of all races, languages and cultures from around the world, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

It will be very negative for Singaporeans to draw an exclusive circle for themselves as Singapore would then have no place in the world, Mr Heng told about 700 students attending a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) yesterday.

"We don't want a world where people build walls around themselves," he said to laughter.

"Our pledge - regardless of race, language or religion - is not to be taken lightly… but really as a way of life for Singapore.

"Beyond that, we ought to deepen our understanding of other people... whether they are new immigrants, our immediate neighbours, students from NTU, National University of Singapore or other universities," he said.

Mr Heng also encouraged students on exchange programmes to interact and learn from others.

The need for Singaporeans to have an open mindset and a multicultural outlook was one of his key messages at the two-hour forum, during which he was questioned on a raft of issues, including population growth, technological disruption and meritocracy.

On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government's 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.

Singapore's population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

Giving an account of a constituent who was not comfortable with having foreigners working in his company, Mr Heng said there lies a "difficult trade-off" of integration Singaporeans have to make.

"On the one level, many Singaporeans understand, rationally, we should have more people join us because our workforce is declining.

"But at the same time, emotionally, we don't feel comfortable that there are people who appear a little different from us and I would like to keep this to my circle. This almost tribal feeling is a very deep one," Mr Heng added.

Quoting the saying "Teochew nang kaki nang" - which translates to "Teochew people, we are the same people" - Mr Heng said it makes sense to retain some form of identity and culture in multicultural Singapore, but Singapore must not propagate the notion that only people exactly like us are our people.

On the economic front, Singapore needs to be open as well. Noting that Singapore should not be too narrow in its development of deeper skills and innovation, he said: "Asia and the world are our hinterland, and how we can add value and create value - not just for Singapore - but for the entire hinterland, will define our market.