Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Burma in ASEAN

Burma has been with ASEAN for a full ten years. How much has this repressive state contributed to the common good of ASEAN? The nation has been under repression for the past 40 years under the first generation of military dictators. When ASEAN opened the door for Burma in 1997, its members did not specifically hope to act as "agents of change" in the Burmese political stalemate.

Logically speaking, ASEAN itself was vulnerable and plagued by slow progress, with more "don'ts" than "do's," with its notorious non-interference principle, and questions of legitimacy of each member government.

While piggybacking Burma and with no real will to push for political change in Burma, ASEAN kept turning a blind eye to the worsening situation there. ASEAN members' private interests ruled over efforts to bring transformation to Yangon.

For Burma, ASEAN has been a fancy dress to put on so it could look normal. In reality, conditions in Burma do not seem good, with an ongoing civil war, a power struggle between the government and the opposition, and prolonged ethnic insurgencies.

With their leader, Senior General Than Shwe, 73 and few of the other generals aging, it is interesting to note if the next generation of military rulers would be milder and more humane or would they continue the hard stance? Can ASEAN finally get rid of its “dog that does not bark” tag? And one finally question: Would Daw Aung San Suu Kyi be finally released under external pressure?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma Junta's Hired Thugs Target Peaceful Protest

Since August 19, 88 Generation and others have been protesting peacefully, yet bravely across Burma in response to the "massive rise in fuel and transportation fees". The junta has been using hired thugs instead of the army to crack down on dissent, even recruiting children,

"On August 25 in Shan State, near the town of Muse, five young Kachin school boys aged 14, 15, and 16, were "recruited" with the use of force by the Burmese army. "

"The military junta then emptied jails in anticipation of arresting dissenters and mobilized the USDA and Swan Aah Shin, a group essentially of junta-backed thugs. Arrests of activists, including 88 Generation students and dissidents, began on Aug. 22."

Reuters has said "paid gangs" are preventing journalists from covering the protest. The junta annouced 88 Generation protesters would be prosecuted and and face up to 20 years in prison. A small group of protesters "eluded several junta thugs" and marched in Kyaukse, Than Shwe's home town. Arrest are said to have reached over 100 and photographs of protesters are being circulated to track them down.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Burma, Saffron Revolution, and ASEAN

BBC did a report on the clumsy show of force by the military government during their confrontations with the monks and civilians. You can read the report on BBC’s website.

Though there has been few deaths since the start of the anti-government protest sometime last week, I was disgusted by the way the junta treated the citizens, in particular the monks, who are highly reputed in the Buddhist nation. The people were severely beaten with rifle butts by the soldiers but despite the use of force on them, the Burmeses seemed resolute to fight for democracy this time round and to free their democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (They were brutally crushed by the junta in 1988 and many thousands died).

The political event has resulted in US and European Union calling for economic sanctions but these were rejected by Burma’s ally, China, stating the sanctions would not be helpful.

In my opinion, Singapore Government, the current Chairman of the ASEAN, should be more pro-active in forcing the Burmese junta to back down and accept the wish of all the Burmeses to restore democracy, and not just paying lip services by issuing statements through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating:

Singapore is deeply concerned by reports of clashes between protestors and security forces in Yangon. We urge the Myanmar authorities to exercise utmost restraint. We call upon all parties to avoid provocative actions and to work towards reconciliation and a peaceful resolution of the situation."

If you check up ASEAN’s website, you would see no description on the latest development in Burma. Is the association not interested in what is actually happening in the military state, that it sees no need to address the situation other than just giving official statements? What the association really needs to do now is to threaten Burma’s junta with total economic sanctions and expulsion from the association. ASEAN is not simply an organisation set up to sign FTAs with this and that country, it has to get rid of its ‘paper tiger’ reputation and pay more attention to the human rights and other issues in the region.

Update: Singapore's Foreign Minister, Mr George Yeo, who is also the current Chairman of ASEAN has made an official statement on 27 Sep 2007 in New York. It was, however, not available on its website when this post was published.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Myanmar's (Burma) Secret War

After reading the latest developments on the major news providers like Reuters and CNN, I became more interested in what happened in this secret state in Southeast Asia. So I went Youtube and found this documentary. The totalitarian rulers are really ruthless to do anything just to stay in power.

See How Creative Singaporeans Can Be

We have been complaining how uncreative Singaporeans are and how they are spoon-fed by teachers at school. The following illustrated how creative Singaporeans can be in making their dissatisfactions known:

Attack of the Eight Elephants

Eight paper cut-outs of white elephants were put up outside Buangkok MRT Station in August 2005 by some Raffles Girls’ School students to show their silent protest against its non-opening. Very innovative indeed. The ruling party may have got the ‘hint’ and perhaps forced SBS Transit to announce the opening 5 months later before it turned into a political issue against them during the General Elections 2006.

Online Petition - NKF

Also in 2005, there was an unprecedented massive online petition which involved some 43,000 netizens against the old management of NKF, in particular Mr T T Durai, who was the Number 1 target after the public found out about his extravagant spendings on public money like the ‘Golden Tap issue’. The government, in particular the Ministry of Health, and Mdm Ho Ching, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong initially supported Mr Durai and contributed NKF’s success to him. They backed down after public pressure. Shortly after, the government launched a public lawsuit against some board members in the old management.

Odex Saga

Hundreds took up arms in a mass street protest against Odex’s hard line stance on Anime Privacy. Oh, not humans. Just anime figurines like Ultraman, Gundam Zakus, etc. There were anti-riot vehicles and policemen at the ‘riot’ scene but they all could not arrest the troublemakers.

All Black at Centrepoint

It was initiated by some forummers on Sammyboy Forum to protest against the compulsory annuity policy announced by the Government, which allows a payout only from the age of 85. Wearing black to shop on Orchard Road is not a crime but this event, although being small-scaled, certainly influenced the Government’s decision making on the policy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fast Detection Method of Bird Flu (H5N1) Found

Researchers in Singapore have created a handheld device that can detect the H5N1 bird flu virus from throat swab samples in under 30 minutes, raising hopes it will lead to rapid detection and containment of the virus.

Conventional laboratory tests take around 4 hours, and require machines to first isolate and amplify the virus before it is tested.

Writing in the latest issue of Nature Medicine, the scientists said the new device would allow decentralized testing of the H5N1 virus, especially in countries that lack basic public health resources.

H5N1, a disease found mostly in birds, is endemic in many parts of Asia and experts have warned for years that it could spark a pandemic, killing millions of people, if it learns to jump from person to person.

"The World Health Organisation containment plan aims to stop an epidemic locally in order to prevent a global disaster," the scientists said.

"In the event of a flu epidemic, its rapid containment would depend on the prompt identification of the first cases. But as routine surveillance may be problematic in countries with limited public health resources, low-cost, easy-to-use detection (procedures) would be advantageous."

The all-in-one device is able to isolate, purify and amplify the viral DNA from raw throat swab samples and put it through an H5N1 detection test.

"The answers you will get is: am I infected? If yes, how 'severe' is it?" one of the researchers, Juergen Pipper of Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, wrote in an email to Reuters.

The team ran several hundred tests on the device.

"The accuracy is comparable to conventional equipment, although we are faster and cheaper," Pipper said.

The scientists hope to use the device to test for other viruses, such as SARS, AIDS and hepatitis B.

"In addition, it may be applicable not only to the flu virus, but could be adapted to other infectious agents, and to other bodily fluids like blood, urine or saliva," they said.

The article was obtained from Reuters.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Citizen Paparazzi on Stomp

Citizen paparazzi is not a new concept to this modern world of ours. In Singapore, we now have Stomp, a citizen journalism platform created by Singapore Press Holdings, possibly with the hope of getting more Singaporeans to get more involved in Singapore’s current affairs.

However, it seemed that it has deviated from its original aim. One look on the webpages of Stomp, you will notice they are full of colours and juicy news. Perhaps this is one way of getting more traffic into their website and generating more advertisement revenue while letting netizens to engage in some form of active journalism.

In my view, getting more citizens to get involved in current affairs of our nation is not the same as allowing a platform for more paparazzi style of journalism where day-in-day-out, you see people uploading photos of interesting happenings in Singapore, describing crime scenes in great details, or maybe talking about girls. Can this really help the society to progress? I think not.

Instead, Stomp should really consider taking up an active role in getting more netizens to voice their views and perhaps organise real-time online debates on real social issues such as poverty, increasing income-gap, human rights etc.

Why should Stomp take the initiative then? The blogosphere we have now is too ‘scattered’ and certainly does not have a huge financial backing like SPH. Writing letters to Straits Times can sometimes be too much of a hassle, too formal and might put off the younger generations who might only be interested in short, more adhoc form of discussions.

Let’s put a stop to the apathetic nature of Singaporeans towards current affairs. Proper civic engagement can really make a vital impact on Singapore.

Friday, September 21, 2007

You've Got A Problem With Gays and Lesbians?

7 out of 10 Singaporeans have a problem with homosexuals. That was what I read in yesterday’s Straits Times report. It was based on a NTU SCI survey out of 1000 people. This high percentage of non-acceptance of homosexuals really baffled me. Who did they survey on? Could it be a coincidence that the surveyed ones are generally less receptive of the ‘social deviant’? From the people I know, friends, family members and relatives, who are all between the age of 10 and 62, I found out that more than half of them do not really mind having homosexuals around them. To them, homosexuality is created by nature and is not of a choice in life, so there should not be any discrimination against this group of people. I agree with this logic.

So I am curious. Is it just the people around me who are more liberal in thinking and does the Singaporean society generally find homosexuals disgusting?

I did my little ‘survey’ from a few popular Singapore blogs and websites and was pretty surprised to find out that the results were totally different from that of the survey done by the Straits Times.

From, out of 1280 people surveyed online, almost 70% of people felt gay sex should be allowed. Although it is to be noted that having homosexuals around is pretty much different from approving gay sex to be the norm of the society, it is justifiable to assume that more than this 70% would find themselves ‘ok’ with homosexuals around. After all, we are not even broaching on the topic of sex which is still considered a social taboo.

And from an Attitude Survey 2000 found on PLU website conducted in Singapore to gauge attitude of general public to gay-related issues, a similar trend prevailed and most people think as Singapore is becoming more and more global, it should be a more tolerant society and all citizens should be treated with equality, irregardless of their beliefs, races and sexuality.

So why not consider repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code and remove this divisive curtain placed on the gay community and give them equal rights?

Also read "Nothing Wrong With Being Gay".

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Culture Is Destiny; A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew

"We have focused on basics in Singapore. We used the family to push economic growth, factoring the ambitions of a person and his family into our planning. We have tried, for example, to improve the lot of children through education. The government can create a setting in which people can live happily and succeed and express themselves, but finally it is what people do with their lives that determines economic success or failure. Again, we were fortunate we had this cultural backdrop, the belief in thrift, hard work, filial piety and loyalty in the extended family, and, most of all, the respect for scholarship and learning." - LKY, 1994

I've found an interesting article on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's views on Asian culture. In the article, he compared the asian culture with the western version. He also mentioned it's our unique culture in Singapore that created the economic success in our little nation. Read on @

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rare Article in Newspaper on Opposition

In the weekend edition of the Today newspaper on 15 Sep 2007, there was this article titled "50 years on.. What keeps Workers' Party going?". When I read the headlines, I thought that it might be another article to highlight the strengths of the PAP and weaknesses of the opposition parties in general. But I was wrong. Although in the first paragraph the journalist praised the ruling party for creating an economic miracle, the following paragraphs totally caught me by surprise.

The rest of the paragraphs described the history of Workers’ Party throughout the short history of Singapore. Few items caught my eye:

The title -"50 years on.. What keeps Workers' Party going?" seem to suggest that the party is able to withstand the constant onslaught from the PAP and being 50-year old, it is a party which is wise, experienced and still popular among Singaporeans.

“One exception was the WP's call for a "caring society" in the 1980s, which offered Singaporeans an alternative policy.” and “But even this platform was somewhat usurped by the PAP Government when then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong took the reins in 1990 and unveiled a vision for a "gracious society". Isn’t this phrase suggesting that the ruling party ‘stole’ the Workers’ Party’s manifesto?

“That means working the ground — Mr Low reportedly attends as many funerals as he can in Hougang — and convincing the constituents that its members can do as good a job, if not better than, their PAP counterparts in running an estate and helping them solve their municipal problems through non-governmental means.” Why is the media giving the WP free advertisement, telling the public that WP is a party with ‘human touch’?

In my opinion, the media, on the government’s behalf, is probably trying to show to the world that Singapore is a true multi-party democracy and not entirely dominated by the PAP. This is probably due to the recent exclusion of Singapore from the Global Club of Democracies. Also, the timing of this article further confirmed my suspicion. As WP’s 50-year anniversary is still almost 2 months from now, why must the media publish this article now and not closer to their anniversary to make it even more relevant? Or is the media really going to be more balanced now?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Real Actions Taken Only After Tragedy Happened

It is very common to see provision shop owners displaying their goods outside their shops. If you go to places like Toa Payoh for example, you would see lots of goods along the corridors such that any passer-by would find it difficult to move to the other side of the row of shophouse. Isn't this a potential fire hazard as well? If a fire were to break out during a busy Sunday, a chaotic situation might happen when the passers-by along the corridor try to run for their lives. Someone might seriously get hurt or even get killed in a stampede or by the falling goods. Maybe I'm just being too imaginative.

The Hougang fire tragedy photo was obtained from a fellow blogger's blog at

Friday, September 14, 2007

What Will They Tax Next?

An interesting short video from UK - Campaigning against their wasteful burden of tax. Imagine if this happens to us here in Singapore...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

SBS and SMRT - Money Not Enough?

Read the Straits Times and you'll know that the time of the year has come - Transport Hike. Or may be you would prefer to have a nicer sounding name -Transport Adjustments. You might agree with their justifications like the rising cost of petrol and how much they have invested in providing us with a better service but before you decide to believe their side of the story, check out the financial statements on SMRT's website and SBS Transit's website and you will be appalled to see huge, ever-increasing profits made over the last few years. Let me just make some basic analysis on the summarised financial statements on (

It takes no effort to see that their PATMI have been increasing steadily over recent years to such extent that FY 2007's figure is now almost twice that of the figure 5 years ago.

And looking at their financial ratios - you have good profitability ratios, good rates of return and a falling gearing ratio which would suggest the business much prefers equity funding to debt funding. This minimises the interest payment problems and the control problems of having a dangerously high level of long-term debt on the balance sheet. Good interest cover ratio also suggests the business is easily able to meet its interest obligations from profits.

So are they in a situation where they are facing falling profits, increased business risks, liquidation etc and they have to increase the transport fare in order to stay profitable? Why then do they want more transport hike, oops I mean transport adjustments?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nothing Wrong with Being Gay

I notice there has been many cases of confrontations with the authorities and MOE, like Mr Alfian Sa’at’s relief teaching case, police confronting a group of runners during Pink Run, and now this case of a RI teacher, Mr Otto Fong apparently being told to delete his blogpost on his ‘coming out’ by the school or maybe the MOE. This incident has become a fiasco on the blogosphere. You can read some of the articles on theonlinecitizen

The issue with homosexuality is always a sensitive one but in my opinion, all homosexuals should not be stopped from doing anything that is lawful. In Mr Otto Fong’s situation, if he is a good teacher, what’s wrong with declaring himself as a gay if he does not perform lewd acts in front of the students?

I do know of ‘normal’ friends who are teachers and like to go clubbing with their skimpily dressed female clubbing friends. If Mr Otto Fong gets dismissed because of this blogpost, all heterosexual male teachers should be dismissed too by the same logic that they may deem to be threats to all the girls and women in mixed or girls’ schools.

Some Problems with Foreign Talent Policy

There seemed to be too many foreigners living and working in Singapore these days. A decade ago, when you walked down the streets, you would probably hear familiar languages and dialects such as English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese etc.

What do we have now? People speaking unheard of Chinese dialects, Myanmarese, and other very strange sounding languages which I have never heard of in my entire life. They bring along with them different cultures, habits and behaviour, many of which are pretty different from the typical Singaporean. It is even more contrasting if you compare them with our younger generation who are more westernized in terms of thinking and behaviour.

Opening the door more widely to foreign nationals who work with their special technologies, skills and knowledge will certainly cause both short-term and long-term social problems.

“Movement of people” essentially differs from “movement of goods” , the reason being that the former may cause a wide range of problems, from the minor conflicts in everyday life likely to arise in contacts between people from different cultures, to problems concerning the protection of human rights, and even problems bearing on quintessential question of race and nationhood.

You can argue that these new people will eventually assimilate into our society but how long would they need and to what extent are they able to do so? We must understand that not all people are able to change readily to adapt to changes around them and even if they do, they just might not or are unwilling to adopt some of our behaviours and habits, whether they are desirable or not desirable ones. Is the government going to make them sign something like a social contract, stipulating the list of things they need to do and the deadline of accomplishment?

“Movement of goods” is however much easier to handle. At a particular work field, we have standardized productivity and efficiency control systems in place. The quality assurance specialists would ensure everything pass the assurance test before the goods of consistent quality are being shipped out. Goods are easier to be controlled and manipulated but not people.

Crisis during Recession

Imagine now we have a recession and these foreign workers, who are presumably employed because they are cheaper to hire and/or they are more experienced than our local workers, decide to leave for a greener pasture. What they would leave behind is a massive black hole which might be disastrous for the employers who now have to employ the more expensive local workers to fill the gap thus pushing up their labour costs further up in a turbulent recession period.

And if these foreign workers are willing to stay, there is no guarantee that their employers would not terminate their services in an attempt to cut costs. A prolonged recession would probably generate mass unemployment not just among the local Singaporeans but also among foreign workers. These foreign workers will not disappear into thin air. Some may want to stay behind to seek other jobs and if they are desperate, may work illegally in some industries.

The government should understand fully the reliability of the local Singaporean workforce to mitigate any possible negative impact on domestic industries and labour market. It should control the influx of foreign workers more tightly especially now that we are passing the peak of economic boom and heading towards an unavoidable recession in a few years’ time.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Now You See It, Now You Don't!

"The most potent impact that the new media will have on politics is that, politicians will find it impossible to lie in the future. The truth will always be out there, because somewhere, someone has the facts, or has seen something, and will publish it. Fortunately for us in Singapore , we have run a clean system, and hence have nothing to hide." - Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (Source: Ministry of Information, Communication and Arts)

And if you read mrbrown's website, you would have seen the proof of the YoungPAP removing their cycling events off their website sometime after Prof Ho Peng Kee rejected Workers' Party's application to hold a cycling event along East Coast Park quoting

“It is an open area where there is potential for breach of peace, public disorder, and unruly behaviour.”

“You may be well behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid”.

Apparently, the YoungPAP is erasing evidence of their cycling activities so that the public would not be criticising the PAP of adopting a double standard.

This may just be a simple case of manipulation of information but on a bigger picture, would you think the PAP might even manipulate critical data such as economic statistics such as GDP, inflation rates etc and social statistics on income disparity, Singaporean-Permanent Resident-Foreigner ratio etc just to make sure the data look good enough even though they really ain't?

Pavarotti - A Great Star Has Fallen

"I think a life in music is a life beautifully spent and this is what I have devoted my life to" - Pavarotti.

I have all along been a classical music fanatic and especially interested in choral sacred music, oratorios and operas. Pavarotti, being one of the world most famous tenors alongside with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo, has passed away recently. His demise is certainly going to be felt by a lot of people interested in classical music. I personally love his very spirited, emotional and flawless voice. Two of my favourite pieces by him, Nessun Dorma from the opera Turandot(top) by Puccini and Ave Maria(bottom) by Schubert could be heard on Youtube.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Merkel tops 'powerful women' list

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has topped a list of the most powerful women in the world for the second year.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is fourth in the Forbes magazine list, which is assessed using a mix of media "reach", influence and economic impact.

The Queen - among only three UK women listed - rose 23 places to 23, partly because of the length of her reign and her "increasing media favourability".

Businesswomen have performed strongly, taking five of the top 10 places.

Ho Ching, head of Singapore's Temasek Holdings was at number three while Pepsi's chief executive Indra Nooyi was fifth in the list of 100 women.

1. Angela Merkel (German chancellor)
2. Wu Yi (Chinese vice-premier)
3. Ho Ching (Temasek Holdings)
4. Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State)
5. Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo)
6. Sonia Gandhi (Indian National Congress Party)
7. Cynthia Carroll (Anglo American)
8. Patricia Wortz (Archer Daniels Midland)
9. Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods)
10. Patricia Russo (Alcatel-Lucent)
Source: Forbes magazine

Second highest Briton after the Queen was London Stock Exchange boss Clara Furse, at 54th.

In another strong showing by the world of business, chief executive of mining giant Anglo American, Cynthia Carroll was the highest ranking newcomer, placed seventh.

Other City-based high-flyers included the chief executive of publishers Pearson, Marjorie Scardino, who was ranked 17th and Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of fashion label Burberry, who placed 66th.

However, Margaret Beckett, who was placed 29th last year in her role as foreign secretary slipped out of the top 100 list completely after being replaced in the job by a man - David Miliband.

And Cherie Blair also failed to make the list, having been named as 62nd most powerful woman in 2005.

Published on BBC News online, 30 Aug 2007