Gotong Royong and Other Anachronisms

Gotong Royong is a great kampung concept, where everybody helps each other out, knowing that good will and favours are remembered and returned. It is the storytelling of the good old days when things were simpler and even better sometimes.

However, Singapore has grown into a cosmopolitan city and things are never simple now, if anything it gets more complicated. HDB used to be simple housing for citizens. Now it is overpriced, even PRs can buy it, and owners can have both a HDB flat as a rental cash cow and a private property to stay in, or the other way around. The HDB as simple public housing is an anachronism.

Same story of the good old days of CPF. It used to be meant for retirement planning and then, payment for a HDB flat and heartland home to be rooted to  Singapore. Since then, CPF has lost its original purpose also.

At another level, that is also the story of the PAP as the party is losing quickly its relevance and appeal. It used to be simply for the people, the rakyat. Not so now. While the PAP is introducing nostalgia as a subliminal political gimmick e.g. the good old days of the PAP, the irony is that we understand those days are over, from gotong royong to simple HDB flats to a passionate and popular PAP. The good old days are gone and one cannot dwell in the past. Gotong royong is sadly an anachronism, just like the PAP is politically.


PM Lee says Singapore needs “gotong royong” spirit to do well

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the strong community spirit present in kampongs should still be maintained today for Singapore to do well.

Mr Lee made these comments at a book launch, specially held for former residents of Kampong Radin Mas.

Kampong Radin Mas is believed to be among the oldest villages in Singapore.

While it was the birth place to many Malay-Muslim institutions, Mr Lee said it also produced leaders who made important contributions in politics, as well as in arts and culture.

He asked: “How did Radin Mas produce so many talented people? Some people said it’s because of the ‘air pancur’ – the spring water, which flowed from Mount Faber to the kampong. Others said maybe it was the ice ball kacang, or the kuti kuti and the kana. All the sights and sounds and colours and activities of the old kampong.

“But everybody agrees that the ‘gotong royong’ spirit had a lot to do with it, where people help one another, where everybody knew everyone else and each spurred the other to go on and do their best.

“Even today, when we are in HDB flats – much bigger towns, not a few hundred people, but hundred thousand people perhaps – it’s still necessary for us to maintain that strong community spirit for us to do well.”

The book “A Village Remembered: Kampong Radin Mas 1800s To 1973” documents life in Radin Mas village before it was demolished in 1973 to make way for a satellite town.

The book recounts the origins of the village, famous landmarks in Radin Mas and even has some ghost stories. It also gives some examples of how the community worked together.

Former Minister of Social Affairs Othman Wok said: “I remember this old man. He used to come to sell things in the kampong and one day after the rain, he slipped and fell down. All his things went all over the place. So the people laughed. They thought it was very funny. But not my mother – she came down and helped the hawker to take all his things, wash everything, and he was very grateful.”

The government said one way the community spirit can be re-invented today is through common amenities.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said: “I think this is something for us to think about as we go forward, as we build the new Singapore.

“How do we build communities is an important point as we bring people together. I suppose HDB, our land agencies, would have to think about it very carefully. It is nice to build nice buildings, but I think it is also the facilities which are important, where people can come and congregate.”

The book is based on historical documents and interviews with former and current residents.


Hypocrisy in FCBC: Planks and Specks in Eyes

Practice what you preach.

Firstly, Pastor Larence Khong’s Faith Community Baptist Church took what it thought was the high road and sacked its then married, now divorced female staff for having an affair with another church staff, another divorcee. The sacking was illegal as MOM regulations said that the female staff was pregnant when she was sacked. Employers cannot give pregnant female staff the boot according to Section 81 of the Employment Act,

“If employer terminates the employment of a pregnant employee within six months from the date of estimated delivery or the date of her confinement without sufficient cause, the employer is required to pay the employee maternity benefits she would have otherwise been eligible for.”

The female staff then complained and MOM intervened, and FCBC grudgingly gave its fallen church goer the compensation she deserved under secular law. The penalty for ignoring MOM was a maximum fine of $10,000 and maximum jail term of 1 year. Where was FCBC’s compassion? Pregnant woman and turning her out? Even if they thought she was a moral blight, then at least just compensate her according to law and then boot her out. Hard but just. But FCBC neither had compassion nor common sense and opted for being hard and mean.

Secondly, Pastor Khong’s own daughter, Priscilla Khong, is a single mother and had a son out of wedlock. Irrelevant and a personal lifestyle choice under normal situations but not so in the context of FCBC’s puritan stand on sacking a pregnant staff. Priscilla is OK and forgiven in her church and daddy’s eyes, performing magic shows with him as a means of spreading their pick and choose version of the Gospel. So much for the strict sacredness of marriage and the traditional family that FCBC so wanted to preach. The hypocrisy in practicing what was preached.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5


Compensate woman fired for adultery, church told
It sacked pregnant employee ‘without sufficient cause’, says MOM

One of Singapore’s biggest independent churches has been ordered by the Government to compensate a female church worker fired because of her alleged adulterous relationship.

The female employee at Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) had gone to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) after she was sacked last September when the church found out she was pregnant with the child of another church employee.

The ministry said that it looked into the complaint and found that the woman was “dismissed without sufficient cause within six months of her delivery date”.

The church did not give her the salary and maternity benefits she was entitled to under the Employment Act.

NDR 2013: WP’s Old Wine and PAP’s New Bottle

As usual, the annual NDR is good news and goodies. Credit to the PAP in trying to listen. This year is no different. However, NCMP Gerald Giam, who looks set to be the next MP from East Coast GRC, explained why this year’s NDR was a good one. The PAP listened to the people and borrowed ideas from the leading opposition, the WP.

An example from NCMP Giam’s blog article, on Medishield, which is the most important promise in the NDR as it affects all unlike HDB, PSLE and other policies which affect segments of society only,

During the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament in March 2012, I said:

some of those who need MediShield coverage the most, like babies with congenital problems and the very old, are often denied coverage.    MediShield currently covers 92% of Singaporeans. Those who are not covered include some of the elderly, homemakers, and others who have voluntarily opted out of MediShield. Some are not able to obtain MediShield coverage due to pre-existing conditions.    I would like to ask what the Ministry is doing to achieve a higher level of coverage for all Singaporeans? What is the Ministry’s targeted level of coverage of MediShield?

And the answer came during last night’s speech:

Elaborating on the changes, (PM Lee) said that universal coverage means there will be no more opting out, with everyone covered including the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses.

Many interpretations on what NCMP Giam meant. The PAP listened, the PAP stole WP ideas without attribution, the PAP and WP are more alike in policies and direction than most people think. The most important interpretation is that the WP, warts and all and we should not be blind to them, is doing its job in parliament by advocating and influencing the ruling party. So the 2-party system in Singapore can work, and it does not need to be confrontational like in other parliaments, Westminster system or not. The Singapore Way could be a consensual 2-party system where the incumbent and the opposition work towards centrist positions. A work in progress no doubt, and proves the worth of WP in parliament.

National Day, Celebration not Protest

Some people turned up for an alternative National Day celebration, which was more like a protest, at Hong Lim Park. It was organised by Gilbert Goh, the nobody turned somebody overnight a few months ago when he organised the anti-foreigner protest, attacking the PAP’s White Paper on population and a target 6.9 million populace.

National Day is for everybody to celebrate together regardless of their political differences. I thought it was in 2011 and after the milestone GE, a bright spark among the organisers of the NDP finally persuaded the political parties to ditch their party whites or blues and wear red and white when attending as MPs during the annual parade. That was a conciliatory move to show moving together as one Singapore despite natural diffierences in politics.

The run up to this National Day was spiced first with gay activist Alex Au saying that it was alright to burn the Singapore flag. He crossed the line with that provocation on the rights to free speech and it was one of Alex Au’s few fumbles in his usually good blogging. The instigation to burn the state flag was a deliberate conflation of Singapore as a state and the PAP as Singapore, and confused between disliking the ruling party as the same as disliking Singapore and its emblems. The flag is sacred and a sense of collective identity and belonging steeped in history that transcends politics and parties. Learned Alex Au should have known that. Flag desecration is nonetheless controversial, and Germany, Israel and Switzerland are among those who outlaw flag desecration like burning. I’m sure Singapore has similar laws and if it doesn’t, it should.

This National Day protest at Hong Lim Park, is similarly an affront to Singapore and Singaporeans. Gilbert Goh must have got it into his head that he is some unstoppable protest pied piper and wanted to draw people from celebrating to protesting. Protesting is all well and good because that is what Hong Lim Park is mostly for but to provocatively hold it on National Day itself, or even over the National Day weekend, is bad timing and thus bad taste.

Holding a protest on the same day as the national day rally since the rally is a PAP-run affair mostly; now that is fair game. Gilbert Goh actually gave fellow activists and opposition politicians like Ravi Philemon and Leong Sze Hian a bad name when they stood with him on this Hong Lim Park protest.


Anthony Kan

Traditionally for the last 47 years, Singapore celebrates its nation building with a large scale parade. Tomorrow, a very small group of people are calling Singaporeans to join them at Hong Lim Park to celebrate National Day.

Ironically, those people at Hong Lim Park don’t quite believes that the National Day should be celebrated. They are people who believed that the Singapore flag can be burnt. The National Anthem is sang each time the Singapore flag is raised. So are they going to sing the National Anthem and burn the Singapore flag tomorrow at Hong Lim Park? The National Anthem is almost inseparable of the Singapore flag.

I had a little exchange with one person who is going there. That person said that it is going to be great excitement in their camp. What started that little exchange was a comment by that person who said that cartoonist Leslie Chew could be president. I wished the person well and said that to be able to dream is a good thing. I was then extended an invitation.

There are lots of these innocent people who had good intention of doing good for Singapore. They were sold by people who promises a dream where no stray animals would be abused, no elderly people need to toil in their golden years, no challenges from foreign talents for their jobs. Perhaps past heavy handedness of people carrying out good meaning policies had upset these people.

I wished the person well again and said “enjoy and have fun (with your dream)”. I am too busy doing things for Singaporeans to indulge myself in your fun. The person then turned a little agitated and cynical and asked “Is that so? “And what are you busying over?” I told her I am busy looking out for jobs for the unemployed, coordinating animal welfare groups so that the strays may not be abused, helping the aged to earn a dignified living instead of having to ask for donations for everything. I had no reply till now.

You see….the difference between the Floating Stage at Esplanade and the on at Hong Lim Park is this : At the Esplanade floating Stage, people are celebrating real accomplishment, whereas at Hong Lim Park people are indulging in a dream. Two separate world, two different sets of people. The Realists and The Dreamers. It is good to have dreams, and to work towards realizing one’s dreams.

I was waiting for a reply so that I can explain why I cannot join their fun and the difference between being Realist at Esplanade and Dreamer at Hong Lim. You see, the real world is full of rules and guidelines, but dreams do not. In a dream, one can do anything that is beyond human and nothing will ever happen when one awakes.

So in their dream, anyone can become Prime Minister or President, and you can have as many PMs and Presidents as you wish. Their dream also consist of homosexual activities anywhere and everywhere, not sure if their PMs and Presidents are also part of that? Their dream is full of hatred and they like to SLAP the people they don;t like and never get slapped back.

Let me also make this clear. They are not Opposition politicians. The real Opposition politicians will be at the Esplanade Floating Stage celebrating real accomplishments and will not be at Hong Lim Park dreaming.

Alvin and Vivian’s Religious Provocation in Malaysia and Racial Harmony Day Singapore

Infamous Malaysian sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee are doing it again to score controversy. However, they got more than they bargained for by provoking Muslims in Malaysia and were charged with sedition today. Their crime was stupidity as they not only provoked Muslims, but provoked them during Ramadan. It was not accidental, and totally deliberate. Incidentally, Malaysia and Singapore are so similar in that Malaysia also resorted to sedition laws to squash racial and religious provocation. Although the slight difference is that in Malaysia it is used to protect the majority’s interests, in Singapore in past cases it is used to protect minority’s interests.

Alvin and Vivian’s precarious Internet stunt to gain attention is unwise in multi-racial Malaysia, given the racial and religious sensitivities of their bad joke. In Singapore, schools acknowledge Racial Harmony Day on Friday although to be exact, the Day is marked annually as on 21 July. Many of us would have forgotten or never knew the significance of this weird red letter day.

On 21 July 1964, the historic Chinese-Malay riots broke out in Singapore, supposedly because of provocation between Chinese and Malays when Malays were marching in Geylang to celebrate Prophet Mohammad’s birthday. Nonetheless, the context of the riots was deeper and charged by UMNO-PAP tension e.g. PAP’s campaigning in Malaysia for a Malaysian Malaysia which was a frontal challenge to UMNO’s bumiputra politics.

Malaysia sex bloggers charged over pork posting
Created 18/07/2013 – 14:09

A Malaysian couple known for a sexually explicit blog were charged Thursday with sedition after they caused outrage by posting a Ramadan greeting on Facebook which showed them eating pork.

Alvin Tan, 25, and Vivian Lee, 24, pleaded not guilty to publishing or distributing a “seditious publication” and two other charges in a Kuala Lumpur district court in Muslim-majority Malaysia, a court official said.

They were denied bail and so will be jailed pending trial, she said. The next court date has been set for August 23.

Sedition is punishable by up to three years in jail.

The duo had posted a greeting for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on social networking site Facebook last week, showing a poster of them eating pork, which is forbidden in Islam.

They later apologised in a video on YouTube for the posting, which sparked widespread anger. Their Facebook page is no longer accessible.

The other charges were causing disharmony on the grounds of religion and possessing or producing obscene material, which is punishable by up to five years in jail, the official said.

Prime Minister Najib Razak criticised the couple on Wednesday while discussing implementing a new law to replace the colonial-era sedition act, which has been slammed by critics as a tool to crack down on dissent.

“The insolent and impudent act by the young couple who insulted Islam showed that freedom of expression and irresponsible opinion can jeopardise the community,” he was quoted by The Star as saying.

Last year Lee, a kindergarten teacher, and Tan, who is currently unemployed and a former law student at the National University of Singapore, sparked outrage in Malaysia and Singapore by posting erotic photographs and videos of their lovemaking as well as close-ups of their genitals on a blog.

The duo, who said they aimed to destigmatise sex, shut down the blog because of family pressure in the conservative countries, where pornography is illegal.

WP Keeping their Game Face

PM Lee over the weekend put it to WP that they have no integrity over the hawker centre cleaning matter, which in perspective, is getting more and more of a mountain out of a molehill. Vivian Balakrishan already cheekily slapped WP’s face on the right cheek with a glove to provoke WP into a duel that WP would lose. Despite its cheek still stinging, WP was smart enough to do damage control and let the matter rest like asking WP deadweight Pritam Singh to remain stoically silent despite being called out a liar in parliament, rather than their mismanagement of their hawker centre cleaning be exposed more in court.

PAP scored by showing the political middle ground among us that WP is not as great as we thought e.g. PAP has AIM, WP has FMSS. On the other hand, WP also scored as they were seen as being bullied by the PAP over a small matter of asking hawkers to foot the bill of cleaning the roof structures. A small municipal misstep done by WP that would have been seen as a big matter if committed by the PAP.

The PAP could have dusted their hands and walked off pompously knowing that while they were seen as bullies as usual by the WP supporters, the PAP would have rested comfortably because the damage done to WP’s reputation so soon after WP’s FMSS fiasco was palpable. PAP could take a big hit as they normally do, but WP could not, not so soon in a string of mismanagement within the WP leadership that started with Yaw’s scandal, FMSS and now this so-called integrity controversy.

The insistent shove by PM Lee that WP must give an explanation and clear the air is just overkill. For the PM to step in over a hawker centre cleaning bill and said that there was implicit dishonesty is just too much even if true. It’s like the Gomez saga in 2006. Everyone eventually knew that Gomez was mistaken, and made false stupid accusations that the PAP committed election sabotage. However, when the PAP kept clinging on to the Gomez-bashing that was fast becoming stale, the broken record that kept playing the same scratchy tune was just irritating and did more harm to the PAP than to WP after a while. It’s the same broken record now.

Our MPs’ consciences are clear

We refer to the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on 12 July 2013.

The various allegations against the integrity of Workers’ Party’s Members of Parliament contained in the statement have already been fully responded to and rejected by the Party, both in and out of Parliament.

Regarding the cleaning of hawker centres, we have put forth the facts as we have found them, based on our own earlier investigations. We defended our position in Parliament on 9 July 2013 with a clear conscience.

This matter has been in the public headlines since late May. We have made our position known both inside and outside Parliament and the relevant documents are already in the public domain, so the public can make its own judgment on the matter. We do not find it productive to continue debating and arguing with the ruling party over this issue.

The Prime Minister referred to the Workers’ Party’s slogan for General Election 2011: “Towards a First World Parliament”. The concept of a First World Parliament is not about the People’s Action Party or the Workers’ Party, but about what Singaporeans want for our country and what they believe is necessary to secure our country’s future.


13 Jul 2013

Personal Data Protection Act After 6 Months

Businesses from banks to property agents, those offering lucky draw, organisations and places which requires you to change your NRIC for a pass for entry would be affected when the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) comes into force next July when businesses have to comply by then. Many of us who had to surrender our IC or had to give an incomplete or fake NRIC when filling up forms by companies knowing that our personal data would be traded around behind our backs are now potentially protected. Businesses can’t peddle our phone numbers away for us to be harassed by another company selling insurance, a time share, a financial product, a survey, without our consent.

The No-Call Registry starting in January 2014 is an interesting repository of “do not harass me” handphone numbers. Companies can be fined up to $1 million by the Personal Data Protection Commission if the PDPA is flouted. Unless the commission is in reality all bark, no bite as they are flooded with complaints and paralysed into inaction. Still, be sure to register your handphone number if you are bothered by callers trying to sell you something.

There would be new industries – companies offering personal data protection services to SMEs. As companies and organisations big and small need personal data officers once they collect customer personal information, this is a niche skill set, like MAS compliance officers maybe. Companies are scratching their heads to get around the PDPA since collecting IC numbers would be increasingly frowned upon. Handphone numbers would be more important than before as personal identification although the PDPA also covers its collection, storage and use.

The PDPA is the right step ahead, similar to the UK’s 1998 Data Protection Act where it protects an individual’s right to privacy. Would Singapore also introduce a Freedom of Information Act like the UK, which is an act about the state’s responsibility for transparency?

Businesses want more clarity on Personal Data Protection Act

SINGAPORE — The newly-enacted Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which requires individuals to be informed and consent gained if organisations are collecting personal data, does not prescribe the circumstances under which NRIC numbers should be provided — posing a conundrum for some organisations here as they adjust their policies and practices.

The collection of NRIC numbers is a common practice among a variety of businesses here and those which spoke to TODAY said it serves verification and audit purposes to ascertain a person’s identity and they would like more clarity on the laws.

For example, telecommunications companies need customers’ NRIC numbers for regulatory requirements and some businesses ask visitors for NRIC numbers before they are allowed to enter secured office premises.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson for the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said it will be publishing the final advisory guidelines to organisations before the end of this year. It had conducted two public consultations — one ended in April, the other last month — after it published an initial set of advisory guidelines on its website.

The Act does not prescribe the type of personal information an organisation can collect. Nevertheless, the PDPC guidelines said: “As a best practice, organisations should avoid over-collecting personal data, including NRIC numbers, where this is not required for their business or legal purposes. Organisations should consider whether there may be alternatives available that address their requirements.”

TGIF Bazaars, the operator for Sentosa’s Boardwalk Bazaars, said it needed vendors to produce either their NRIC, passport, Work Pass or business registration numbers in order to secure a booth.

Its spokesman pointed out that these identification numbers are the “only known ways” to validate the legality of a vendor’s participation and it is “a part of our responsibility” to request for such information. These numbers may also be needed for accounting and audit and may also be “required” by the authorities here, he added.

SingTel said it had several ways to verify the identity of its customers. “At our shops, verification is done by checking customers’ NRIC. Another way is to send a one-time password to customers’ mobile phone via SMS,” said a company spokesperson.

While it does not share personal information with any third-party organisations without consumers’ expressed permission, SingTel said NRIC numbers are collected as part of regulatory requirements when customers subscribe to its services.

During the PDPC’s public consultation in April, some companies also called for the commission to provide more clarity on the use and collection of NRIC numbers. For example, the Singapore Press Holdings asked for clarification on whether an individual can be refused entry into secured office premises if they object to their NRIC card being retained.

The PDPC had previously noted that NRIC numbers are of “special concern” to individuals as they are unique to each person and are used in many official transactions with the Government.

Government agencies and statutory boards are excluded from the law — which was passed in Parliament in October last year — as they are governed by internal rules, most of which have not been made public.

Organisations have 18 months to adjust to the Act, between January this year and July next year, when the rules come into force.

Under the Act, organisations must make “reasonable” security arrangements to protect personal data in its possession or under its control in order to prevent unauthorised access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or “similar risks”.

The PDPC noted that there is no “one size fits all” solution for organisations to comply with the new law and each organisation should consider adopting security arrangements that are “reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances”.

“Organisations such as TGIF Bazaars are advised to review their processes that involve personal data, including NRIC numbers, to ensure that they comply with the PDPA when the act comes into effect. There is no enforcement during the transition period,” the PDPC spokesperson said.