Friday, November 30, 2007

Burma plays a “Blind man’s Bluff” game with ASEAN and UN

The Burmese junta has once again fooled ASEAN and UN with its latest arrest of Aung Zaw Oo, a member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group on 26 Nov and the closure of the Maggin Monastery. All these happened after the signing of the human rights and democracy charter at the recent 13th ASEAN Summit. The monastery is famous for its hospitality in sheltering HIV/AIDS positive patients who went to Rangoon for treatment.

Obviously, the Burmese generals are playing their usual Blind man’s Bluff game with UN and ASEAN as the “It” and the generals as the teasers. Before you read the Amnesty International’s report on the arrest of Aung Zaw Oo below, perhaps you would like to take a moment to view the video of the killing of the Japanese journalist during the September crackdown.

Myanmar arrests continue two months on

Amnesty International condemns the new arrests of political activists inside Myanmar, despite the commitment by Prime Minister Thein Sein to the UN Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari in early November that no more arrests would be carried out.

"Two months after the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arbitrary arrests continue unabated as part of the Myanmmar government's systematic suppression of freedom of expression and association, contrary to its claims of a return to normalcy," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Program Director.

"Normalcy for the military government may mean a return to systematic and widespread human rights violations away from media attention, but the international community must no longer tolerate this situation," added Catherine Baber.

Amnesty International confirms that the following arrests have occurred since early November:

  • On 4 November, U Gambira, head of the All-Burma Monks Alliance and a leader of the September protests, was arrested and reportedly charged with treason. Two of his family members previously detained as 'hostages' in an attempt to force him out of hiding, have been kept in detention;
  • On 13 November, the government arrested Su Su Nway, a member of the youth wing of the main opposition National League for Democracy party. Fellow youth activist Bo Bo Win Hlaing was arrested along with her while putting up anti-government posters;
  • On 14 November, at least three people were arrested in Yangon for passing out anti-government pamphlets;
  • On 15 November, authorities raided a monastery in western Rakhine State, and arrested monk U Than Rama, wanted for his involvement in the September protests. He was reportedly beaten during the raid and his whereabouts remain unknown.
  • On 20 November, Myint Naing, a senior member of the National League for Democracy was detained;
  • On 20 November, ethnic Arakanese leader U Tin Ohn was detained and his whereabouts remain unknown;
  • On 20 and 21 November, other ethnic leaders, including Arakanese Cin Sian Thang and U Aye Thar Aung, Naing Ngwe Thein from the Mon National Democracy Front, and Kachin political leader U Hkun Htoo were rounded up but released after questioning;
  • On 26 November, Aung Zaw Oo, a member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, was arrested in Yangon, likely on account of his involvement in planning events for International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the fact that these arrests are still taking place despite the government's promises to the contrary. Just last week, the Myanmar government was attending ASEAN's 40th Anniversary Summit, where it signed the organisation's new Charter committing it to the "promotion and protection of human rights".

To date, up to 700 people arrested during and since the September protests remain behind bars, while 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the protests have not been released.

Amnesty International is urgently calling on the government of Myanmar to release all those detained or imprisoned merely for the peaceful exercises of their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including both long-term and recent prisoners of conscience, and to stop making further arrests.

Check out more Burmese news and opinions on

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Singapore's Pump Prices Up Again

Pump prices went up again. There are more cars and drivers than there used to be. The uprising China and India demand more energy. The world is also experiencing more and more extreme weather conditions which require more energy to cool down or heat up the homes and offices but the world's oil supply is following an opposite trend. Can our government bring down the price of oil?

*You can purchase the informative "The Oil Age" poster online. It describes the world oil production and depletion problem, shows a detailed map of the current world oil reserves and explains the important use of oil in various industries like food and plastic production.

The following article titled Oil Prices: It Gets Worse was obtained from

This gloomy assessment comes from the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based organization representing the 26 rich, gas-guzzling member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The agency is not known for alarmist warnings, and its World Energy Outlook is typically viewed by policy wonks as a solid indicator of global energy supplies. In a marked change from its traditionally bland, measured tones, the IEA's 2007 report says governments need to make urgent, bold decisions on energy policy, or risk massive environmental and energy-supply crises within two decades — crises and shortages that could spark serious global conflicts.

"I am sorry to say this, but we are headed toward really bad days," IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told TIME this week. "Lots of targets have been set but very little has been done. There is a lot of talk and no action."

The reason for the IEA's alarm is its expectation that economic development will raise global energy demands by about 50% in a generation, from today's 85 million barrels a day to about 116 million barrels a day in 2030. Nearly half that increase in demand will come from just two countries — China and India, which are electrifying hundreds of cities and putting millions of new cars on their roads, most driven by people who once walked, or rode bicycles and buses. By 2030, those two countries will be responsible for two-thirds of the world's carbon gas emissions, which are the primary human activity causing global warming.

India and China have argued against enforcing strict emission controls in their countries, on the grounds that these could hinder their economic growth and prompt a global economic slowdown. But the new IEA report says working with China and India on alternative energy sources and curbing emissions is a matter of global urgency.

The bad news is not only environmental. As the world scrambles to boost energy supplies over the next two decades, an ever-greater percentage of its supplies of oil and gas will come from a dwindling number of countries, largely arrayed around the Persian Gulf, as the massive North Sea and Gulf of Mexico deposits are finally exhausted. That will leave the industrialized countries far more dependent on the volatile Middle East in 2030 than they are today, and the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran will dictate terms to companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, which increasingly operate as contractors to state-run oil companies in many producer nations.

"Most of the oil companies are going to be in an identity crisis, and need to redefine their business strategies," Birol says. The soul-searching may have already begun, as oil executives begin sounding the alarm about the supply crunch that lies ahead. Last week, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of the French oil giant Total, told the Financial Times that even the target of 100 million barrels a day is an optimistic one for an industry that currently produces 85 million — far short of the 116 million barrels a day the IEA projects will be needed by 2030 to fuel the global economy.

And in a sharp departure from the usually reassuring comments offered by Big Oil executives, De Margerie said companies and governments now realize that they have overestimated the amount of oil that could be extracted from places difficult to reach and costly to explore. "It is not my view, it is the industry view," he said. In other words, the message is that the current sky-high oil prices may not be a temporary burden on the world economy.

Forecasting prices, however, has become an increasingly inexact science for analysts, as prices in recent months have galloped ahead of their worst predictions. Says Oswald Clint, a London-based analyst for Sanford Bernstein: "A year ago, our predictions for November 2007 were about $50 to $62 dollars a barrel" — at least $35 short of Tuesday's price. The oil-research firm predicts that expanded production will bring oil prices back to $70 a barrel by 2010. But to Birol, that sounds optimistic.

"If you want to lower prices you have to slow down oil demand growth in China and India, use cars more efficiently, use biofuels, and also convince producing countries to pump more oil," says Birol. But he is uncertain any of that will happen. "I don't see the political will." Then again, nothing fuels political will like a soaring price at the gas pump.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Foreigner’s Perspective of Singaporean Bloggers

Dr Henry Jenkins, the Director of MIT Comparative Media Studies Programme and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities, visited Singapore sometime ago and blogged about his experiences after hearing much about Singapore’s work culture and in particular, three very distinct stories of Singaporean youth "misbehavior" on the blogging platform. His full blog post titled Singaporean Girls Gone Wild contains excerpts below:

“Singapore is so known for its work ethic and sense of decorum that I have joked off and on about marketing a series of videos of Singaporean Girls Gone Wild which consisted of school girls in uniforms throwing peanut shells on the floor of the Raffles Hotel bar with wild abandon before returning to studying for their exams. After all, one of the first things that I ever learned about this country was that the law specified that one could be thrashed with a bamboo cane for chewing gum in public. My first impression then was something like that planet in Star Trek: The Next Generation where one could be put to death for stepping on the grass.”

On Wee Shu Min:

“When Wee Shu Min, the teenage daughter of a Singapore member of parliament stumbled across the blog of a Singaporean who wrote that he was worried about losing his job, she thought she'd give him a piece of her mind.

She called him "one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country" on her own blog and signed off with "please, get out of my elite uncaring face".”

On Sarong Party Girl:

“So in choosing to call her blog, Sarong Party Girl, the youth was trying to reclaim a negative term which embodies an explosive mixture of sexual and racial transgression, while no doubt thumbing her nose at traditional sexual morality in her country.”

He continued with:

“So rather than question why it is that the authorities had to act, or the merits of which is the more appropriate law to use, or whether this is a prelude to a political clampdown, the Internet's cause will be better served if active users weigh in and do their own clamping down...”

Indeed. That's what we should do. We do not require any regulations at all for the Internet is a free space for everyone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A little life jacket took 5 Singaporeans' lives

What actually happened at the scene of the Singaporean dragon boat accident at Tonle Sap, Cambodia? When I watched the TV news on the tragedy yesterday, I had another question in mind: Why weren’t they wearing life jackets?

According to the Straits Times, life jackets were optional during the dragon boat race at the Tonle Sap event and the paddlers had decided to do without them so that they would be able to paddle faster and better. This would have never been allowed in Singapore.

Certainly, it was a decision gone wrong which has caused the loss of the precious lives of our five young men. It’s just like driving a car. Even if the driver has excellent driving skills, it is imperative that he puts on his safety belts whether or not there are safety regulations enforced because he will never know when an unfortunate accident may strike.

The following is the eyewitness account of Singapore dragon boat accident in Cambodia reported by ChannelNewsAsia:

SINGAPORE: A Channel NewsAsia viewer who was at the scene of the dragon boat accident in Cambodia on Friday evening gave an eyewitness account. Mr Joey Paraiso, who was in Cambodia to cheer the Filipino team, also sent Channel NewsAsia a series of photos of the accident and subsequent rescue efforts.

The Singapore boat capsized as the 22 men were rowing back to the starting line at the end of the 1.5-kilometre Cambodia-ASEAN Traditional Boat Race. Five men are missing after the incident, all members of the new national dragon boat team that was formed about a year ago.

Mr Paraiso recounted what he saw. He said: ''What I witnessed was the Singaporean team had already finished the race and was starting back to the point......for them to disembark. "Unfortunately, during the time team players (were) getting off from the boat, the boat suddenly shook off and overturned. It happened so quickly." He added: "The remaining players, the Singapore rowers, one by one floated and saved themselves and there were some railings that they were able to hold on.....

"All the players, I guess, were a little over-fatigued so they were not able to swim normally, so they just looked for something to hang on and the current was a bit strong. "All the rescued players were able to meet on the platform and to account for those missing."

"All the people watching that incident were shocked, so (there was) a little commotion and panic all around the area," he added. - CNA/ir

Update: The Singapore dragon boat team were allegedly warned about the strong currents by Cambodian officials.

Foreign workers causing social problem in Singapore

Straits Times reported on Sunday “Foreign workers at void decks leaves residents seething”. I concur with the report as I am one of the frustrated residents living in the area. In the report, residents staying along Jurong West Street 61 complained that groups of Indian foreign workers have been gathering at the void deck of Blk 651A during weekends, drinking beer bought at the nearby mini-mart and are normally quite rowdy and when they get drunk, they would urinate or sleep wherever they like and might even get into fights among themselves and with residents.

However, what Straits Times reported is only part of the big social problem that we face in the area. I shall illustrate my experience here.

At the end of the corridor of my flat unit, there is a unit which is occupied by a group of Indian foreign workers (They could be Sri Lankans but I can’t confirm as I don’t communicate with them at all). It is supposedly rented by their employers to house the 6 to 8 of them.

What irks me is not them being Indians (I am not a racist) but the problem is that they are usually quite noisy at night. As they are on weird work shifts, probably starting at around 3 or 4pm, they would normally not sleep before 3am. They would watch TV and VCD or talk loudly in the house. Sometimes, they would even walk out of the flat and start talking on their mobile phones during the wee hours.

You might wonder why we don’t make a complaint to HDB which, as far as I know, rents out flats under 2-year contracts to employers of foreign workers. Yes we did, few years ago and we managed to get rid of the previous occupants because they were even worse – some walking around in the house in underwear. We are already thinking of complaining to HDB about this batch of foreign workers because we are suspecting them of allowing unauthorised workers to stay in the same house but we are keeping watch over the situation as we do not want any over-reactions.

Apart from the problem at my block, Boon Lay Interchange, which is near the reported Blk 651A, is another location where you would see foreign workers congregating in public places. They do not gather in small groups of 3 to fives like in the Blk 651A situation. The problem at the interchange is somewhat more serious.

During the night of every weekend or public holiday, hundreds or may be a thousand of foreign workers (mostly if not all Indian nationals) congregate over a large area stretching from the rectangular open space in front of the MRT Station to the periphery of the interchange and the overhead bridge leading to the new park which is currently under-construction (See the picture obtained from They normally do not drink there but the amount of litter they leave behind is a lot. You can take a look at the areas on Monday mornings. Really unsightly and unhygenic.

I am trying to heed PM Lee’s advice to be understanding towards foreign workers but this social problem involving foreign workers in Singapore has been affecting us for years and there seems to be no perfect solution to our frustrating problem. Repeated complaints to MPs do not work. So we are in a Catch 22 situation where on one hand, we take in more foreign workers (estimated to be 50,000 more over the next few years) to boost our economic development but on the other hand, we tax-paying Singaporeans are forced to share more of our common spaces with foreign workers who behave so differently from the majority of us.

Educating them would also not have the intended effect as most of them are on short-term contracts so when a batch of foreign workers finally learns our social habits, it’s time for them to leave and the next batch which knows nuts about our culture and habits takes over.

Voting against the government to show our displease in the poor handling of this situation would not work either as the areas affected are only a fraction of West Coast GRC and Hong Kah GRC. Worse still, oppositions don’t seem to be interested in the western GRCs. Seriously, so what can we do other than shifting house?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Than Shwe Finds Burma’s Fate in the Stars

Burmese junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s wife Kyaing Kyaing recently visited the celebrated Shit Myet Hna pagoda in her husband’s birthplace, Kyaukse, in central Burma, but she wasn’t just sightseeing or calling on friends and relatives.

The revered site is known as the “Eight Faces” pagoda because it faces eight points of the compass. Kyaing Kyaing is reported to have prayed symbolically there for support from all sides for her beleaguered husband and his despised regime.

Kyaing Kyaing and her husband, like many members of the ruling military, are deeply superstitious and rely on astrologers and other soothsayers to advise them.

They also indulge in yadaya, a kind of voodoo said to ward off ill-fortune, and are said to have employed its rituals in an occult bid to influence meetings between opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the official appointed by Than Shwe to act as a go-between, retired general Aung Kyi.

Than Shwe reportedly even attaches significance to Aung Kyi’s name, combining as it does Aung at the start and Kyi at the end. This combination is known in Burmese as “Ket’ Kin,” meaning the state of two names being diametrically opposite to each other and thus astrologically significant.

There are others examples of ‘Ket’ Kin’ within the military junta. The names of Than Shwe, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and the official who signs government decrees and statements, Col Thant Shin, all begin with the letter T and end with S—‘Ket’ Kin,” according to the superstitious.

Than Shwe wasn’t always so subject to superstitious belief—one source close to the family says he was no strong believer in astrology when he was regional military commander in the Irrawaddy delta.

His wife Kyaing Kyaing, originally ethnic Pa-O, has long been a strong believer in nats, or spirits, astrology and yadaya.

She is said to have been told by an astrologer in the 1980s that her husband would one day head the government. The astrologer, a monk, also offered the delighted Kyaing Kyaing the information that her husband had been a king in his past life.

After the first prediction came true, Than Shwe (not surprisingly) developed his interest in astrology and yadaya and began to seek the advice of astrologers and soothsayers—including Rangoon’s most famous fortune-teller, ET (also known as E Thi).

A Buddhist nun, Daw Dhammathi, is believed to be one of his family’s most favored astrologists, and Kyaing Kyaing is a frequent visitor to her temple compound in Rangoon’s North Okkalapa suburb.

Than Shwe’s efforts to neutralize the powers of Suu Kyi are also said to account for his extraordinary initiative to force Burmese to grow physic nuts, which are intended to provide alternative fuel for the cash-strapped country.

Physic nuts are known as kyet suu in Burmese, a combination of words that carry the astrological meaning of Monday-Tuesday. Suu Kyi’s own name has the astrological meaning of Tuesday-Monday, and it’s said that Than Shwe’s astrologer suggested that by planting kyet suu throughout the country Suu Kyi’s powers could be neutralized.

There’s no sign of that happening yet. Astrology and yadaya obviously have their limitations.

Source: The Irrawaddy

Cracks appearing between Singaporeans and Immigrants

Cracks are already appearing between Singaporeans and the new settlers who have come as permanent residents, not just between different ethnic groups, but also within races.

Ill feeling towards foreigners is beginning to surface in this most unlikely of places – cosmopolitan Singapore – attributed to the record influx of immigrants. By tradition, Singaporeans with their own migrant history have been open about foreigners from east or west, which has led to a recent mass arrival of settlers and visitors.

More than a million have arrived, mostly during the past decade, and although they have brightened the economy, they are also starting to incur a social cost as well as increasingly sparking friction with locals. Despite land reclamation, Singapore remains a small city, one of the densest in the world. The pressure is testing the tolerance level of Singaporeans, who are struggling to cope with a widening income gap and rising prices. Already one third of the 4.68 million people here are foreigners, not to mention the nine million tourists who arrive annually.

It has prompted warnings from leading figures, the latest from Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. According to him, cracks are already appearing between Singaporeans and the new settlers who have come as permanent residents “not just between different ethnic groups, but also within races.” People are showing less trust towards one another. Goh said “the new residents did not mix easily with Singaporeans” and the latter, in turn, “tended to leave the new-comers alone.”

Earlier, retired and respected civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow said if he had his way, Singapore would think twice before pushing for a 6.5 million population. Questioning the rationale, Ngiam said in an interview published in the governing party newsletter that Singapore does not need numbers but talent.

The 70-year-old said: “If we do it wrongly, it will change our economic and social system.” He stressed the need to appeal to people’s hearts. “Otherwise, Singapore will become just a six-star hotel where guests stay in good times and flee when times are bad. We will never become a nation,” he said.

Singapore’s mainly middle class, stressed by a widening wealth divide, is deeply worried about the large inflow. “Foreigners are viewed as threats to locals’ livelihoods, they are viewed with suspicion and envy,” a surfer posted.

A pivotal part of immigration is the successful luring of wealthy foreigners to settle here. It is doing wonders for the economy, but is also aggravating inflation and widening the income divide. If Singapore were not careful, it could split into two or three parts, warns Foreign Minister George Yeo. “And that third Singapore is the big chunk of people squeezed in the centre, between the poor and the rich,” he said.

“This group is the most vulnerable. If they feel the high life is out of their reach, frustration can set in. And being more mobile than the lower-end group, they can be tempted to vote with their suitcases. That is an option the other group doesn’t have.”

These warnings show growing government awareness that the speed to expand the population, if not the strategy itself, may threaten social harmony. Several incidents between foreigners and locals have stirred emotions, reflecting the current sensitivities.

These are minor everyday happenings in a crowded city that would have gained little attention if they had involved only locals, but were blown up into hot issues because foreigners were involved. In the latest case, Singaporean Michelle Quek said a Caucasian and his wife or girlfriend attacked her and her friend after her schoolbag “accidentally hit the woman”.

She said a quarrel ensued, which resulted in the Westerner holding up her friend by the arms, lifting her off the floor and dropping her onto the floor. She herself was punched on the nose. A couple of angry bystanders confronted the Westerner and stopped him from leaving, nearly causing more mayhem.

Singaporeans were also enraged when three young British tourists mocked an elderly rickshaw rider because he couldn’t pedal fast enough for them, then posted a video of the struggling old man on You-Tube.

Titled “The Slowest Taxi in SE Asia” it showed the trio squeezing into the small rickshaw, poking fun at the 76-year-old rider throughout the 10-minute trip. One remarked, “God, he’s in fifth gear” and every one laughed. They ran off without paying. Scores of Singaporeans bombarded the visitors, expressing what they would like to do to them. “Don’t come back to Singapore,” wrote one. “We will be waiting for you.”

Westerners are, of course, not the only people who are affected. In fact the bigger issue is the tens of thousands who have flocked here from China and India. Last year a record 70,000 foreigners were admitted; this year the figure is set to be higher.

Verbal insults have become a frequent phenomenon on the Internet between Singaporeans and some of the better-educated permanent residents. So far there have been no major incidents but the underlying resentment has given rise to fears that a small incident may one day flare up into big trouble.

Some aliens find it difficult to find accommodation; others get a cool reception from office colleagues. The government and community representatives have organised citizenship ceremonies and social gatherings to make the newcomers feel welcome. Leaders often extol the role of foreign talent in nation building.

Respected blogger redbean wrote of a growing potential for xenophobic tension. “For those who have to face the foreigners daily in all his living activities, when every citizen has to fight for his space and the air he breathes, tension is likely to build up and break out.”

The article was written by Seah Chiang Nee and obtained from The Star

Friday, November 23, 2007

MDA Directors doing Rap! Hype and Happening!

We have MDA directors doing rap! Do you remember Singapore’s P65 MPs doing a hip hop sometime ago to engage the youth? They certainly can’t beat the MDA directors! Very soon we will have senior grassroot leaders doing rap too to engage the elderly Singaporeans! This rap is so funny as it is making public officers in suits look silly! And Ya really gonna check out the other blogs!

MDA Senior Director's Rap

Cluelessness in Full Flight

Sing along to MDA Senior Management Rap

Yo! Singapore censor rap hits YouTube

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's Media Development Authority, which regulates and censors media and the arts, has scored an unexpected hit on YouTube with a rap video about the city-state's media ambitions.

The YouTube posting has received more than 11,000 hits -- and a string of snide postings on the video site. The government body aims to promote the growth of the media industry, to promote "core values" and safeguard consumer interests, its Web site says. It hopes the rap video will showcase its potential to be "a vibrant media city".

But critics say this ambition does not rhyme with Singapore's regular censorship of films and theatre and the many defamation lawsuits its government have launched against foreign media.

In the video, middle-aged executives are seen moving and shaking to a rap tune, mouthing lines from a corporate brochure.

"William Hung is more entertaining," said one of the YouTube postings, referring to the goofy singer made famous in American Idol.

Update: The video has since been put up on the popular TechCrunch.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Study: Internet will slow by 2010

If you have a fast broadband Internet connection, enjoy it while it's still fast. According to a study by Nemertes Research, video and interactive web sites will begin to overwhelm Internet service providers as early as 2010.

"Users will experience a slow, subtle degradation, so it's back to the bad old days of dial-up," Nemertes President Johna Till Johnson told USA Today. "The cool stuff that you'll want to do will be such a pain in the rear that you won't do it."

According to the report, cable and phone companies, which provide 94% of the United States' broadband access, must invest about $55 billion to upgrade their networks to cope with the coming bottleneck. That is far more than planned, says Nemertes.

The biggest upgrades will need to be made in upstream data capacity. Until recently, the web was mainly read-only, and service providers built their networks around downloading. But with the explosion of video and photo sharing, self publishing (blogging, etc.), and bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing, networks will begin to feel the strain on the upstream end.

"Two years ago, nobody knew what YouTube was," said Johnson. "Now, it's generating 27 petabytes of data per month."

Much of the cost of upgrading will be in installation of higher-capacity lines, according to the Nemertes study. Verizon's new fiber optic service, FiOS, which reaches 1.3 million users in the US (myself included) is a start, but the study implies that the upgrade may not be happening fast enough to stave off an impending bandwidth crunch.

The news was reproduced from ReadWriteWeb

Burma junta is a bloody murderer not a troubled child

ASEAN leaders have signed a charter on democracy and human rights in Singapore on Tuesday after much international pressure on ASEAN over the atrocities committed by Burma (Myanmar) over the last few decades, in particular the brutal killings of monks and civilians in the recent pro-democracy nationwide protest in September.

Fine. ASEAN, together with the media, can continue to trumpet on the success of ASEAN in getting the democracy and human rights charter signed but as the charter apparently does not comprise any provision for enforcing human rights compliance, the effect of the signing goes to zilch. To quote Mr Sinapan Samydorai, president of Singapore’s Think Centre:

"They're more into rhetoric than real action. They can talk about human rights, but they can't enforce it."

To prove Burma’s sincerity in recognising human rights, it has to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is the opposition leader of NLD, all, I mean ALL, political prisoners including the protesters in the recent crackdown and stop all arrests and tortures of its people with immediate effect. I do not care what ASEAN’s Secretary-General Mr Ong Keng Yong has said:

“If you have a troubled child in the family, you can’t send it away to the mental house or sanatorium. I think our leaders’ instinct will be to see how ASEAN can help Myanmar.”

A troubled child who goes around killing people (not a few but thousands of Burmese since the military junta took over in 1962) is no simple child and should not be protected by his parent (ASEAN) but be tried under the court of law for he is undoubtedly a bloody murderer. No law or parent will ever allow a criminal/child to continue with their evil doings.

ASEAN certainly needs to work harder to address human rights issues in the region and start growing more teeth to stop the world from calling it a toothless tiger.

Arroyo takes parting shot at Myanmar with strong criticism before leaving summit

SINGAPORE: The president of the Philippines took a parting shot at Myanmar's junta Wednesday, deploring the pace of democratic reforms in the Southeast Asian nation as she hastily returned home to oversee preparations for a looming tropical storm.

"Let me be very clear. We ... remain concerned about the pace of progress of Myanmar on the issue of human rights," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.

"We particularly deplore the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi," the pro-democracy leader who remains under house arrest. "She must be released, now," Arroyo told reporters before cutting short her visit to Singapore by a day.

Philippines is the most vocal critic of Myanmar among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Myanmar dominated discussions at ASEAN's annual summit this week but scored a diplomatic victory when it blocked a planned briefing by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Asian leaders. But Arroyo said Myanmar was still not off the ASEAN hook.

"We will not rest in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation in Myanmar. We must be active in advocating peaceful reforms in that nation. It is good for Myanmar, for ASEAN and the world," she said before heading to the airport.

During the summit, ASEAN adopted a charter that calls on member nations to respect human rights and democracy. Arroyo said her government is pleased that the charter incorporated language that advances these values.

But "we remain concerned that the forces of authoritarianism still move rather slowly toward democracy in Myanmar," she said.

Arroyo was returning home early to focus on the needs of the people likely to be hit by a typhoon that is expected to make landfall in eastern Philippines this week. Arroyo will miss a summit Thursday of ASEAN leaders and the European Union. In Manila, Arroyo's executive secretary, Eduardo Ermita, said Arroyo will fly directly to the southern Philippines to meet with heads of disaster-response agencies.

She has already ordered the evacuation of thousands of people in the eastern Philippines. The area is bracing for tropical storm Mitag, which is packing sustained winds of 85 kph (53 mph) with gusts of up to 100 kph (63 mph).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Malaysia to claim Pedra Branca using unverified blog photos?

How ridiculous! The team from Malaysia comprising Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and his son Federal Counsel Faezul Adzra Tan Sri Gani Patail had to resort to using a blog’s unverified photo of Pedra Branca (Right) to present their case to the judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), The Hague. Singapore’s Attorney-General Chao Hick Tin presented the photos and described it as “an attempt to convey a subliminal message of proximity between Pedra Branca and the coast of Johor”

To quote from the Straits Times dated 20 Nov 2007:

"AT A glance, the two pictures look alike. Both have Horsburgh Lighthouse and Pedra Branca in the foreground. But look again - at the background which shows the Johor mainland, with Point Romania and a hill named Mount Berbukit. In one picture the hill is highly visible; in the other, it is hardly visible.

Therein lies the photographic illusion that Malaysia had created to exaggerate the closeness of Pedra Branca to Johor, Singapore said yesterday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

The first photograph, which Malaysia had shown the court last week, was taken by a camera using a telephoto lens.

The second photograph was taken by Singapore, using a camera lens that approximates what the human eye sees. As a result, the Malaysian photograph exaggerated the height of Mount Berbukit by about seven times, Singapore’s Attorney-General Chao Hick Tin said when he presented the two photos before the court."

And also to quote from AG Chao:

‘This blog site is a most unusual one. It was created only last month. There is no information on the identity of the blogger and the photograph used by Malaysia was only put on the website on Nov 2 2007, four days before the start of these oral proceedings’

From a layman’s point of view, I think the presentation of a false evidence would badly affect Malaysia’s chance of winning the case to obtain sovereignty of Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh as Malaysia calls it. It will be interesting to listen to Malaysia's rebuttals in two days' time but in any case, it would be a major embarassment to the Malaysian law authorities for using supposedly fake evidences to prove their case.

Also read:

Malaysia uses plagiarist's blog to claim Pedra Branca at ICJ?

Evidence obtained from a seemingly fake blog to present to court (evidence included)

Activists attack ASEAN on lack of Burma pressure

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A leading Myanmar(Burma) dissident slammed ASEAN's failure to pressure the junta over its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, as the 10-member group unveiled a charter on Tuesday that enshrined human rights and democracy.

"It's a historical moment for them to sign the charter, which is supposed to be the charter for the protection and promotion of human rights, and now they let the (Myanmar) regime take over their agenda," said Khin Ohmar, a former student leader of Myanmar's 1988 uprising, in which up to 3,000 people died.

"Now they're taking sides with the regime it seems. I think it's a bad step and backtracking," she said at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.

The ASEAN charter, unveiled at a summit marking the grouping's 40th anniversary, aims to integrate the economies of its 10 member-nations and to "strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms".

"Burma has been a major shame for ASEAN," Khin Omar said. "The social, economic and security aspects that it's looking to resolve and promote in the region, will not happen if they don't resolve Burma's situation." (Also read "US says ASEAN reputation at stake over handling of Myanmar")


Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Nyan Win told his Japanese counterpart on Tuesday in Singapore that Western sanctions had hurt ordinary citizens the most and the way toward democratization was through economic development.

"The West has imposed economic sanctions, which directly harm the lives of ordinary citizens," a Japanese official quoted U Nyan Win as telling Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

"I am not aware of a case in which sanctions resulted in the progress of democratization. Rather, economic development leads to democratization."

Nyan Win also criticized the West for only listening to the opposition.

"Not everything that the opposition, which stands up to the government, says is correct. Only when one realizes that there are mistakes among the opposition, can we come closer to each other."

Small demonstrations around the region were staged to protest what critics say is ASEAN's soft approach to the junta's iron-fisted rule.

In Singapore, four Singaporeans defied a ban on both Myanmar protests and a general law on group protests with a march towards the ASEAN summit venue, while in Bangkok about 20 activists protested in front of the stock exchange.

In Kuala Lumpur, some 200 people from Myanmar living in Malaysia staged a skit mocking Myanmar's crackdown on the recent monk-led protests in the country.

ASEAN diplomats say the group is grappling with a dilemma. On the one hand, Myanmar's membership is complicating its efforts to create a powerful and influential bloc in a globalize world. But shoving the junta beyond the pale would drive Myanmar further into China's embrace and to ASEAN's disadvantage.

ASEAN has instead opted for "engagement" with Myanmar, calling on the junta to work with the United Nations towards democracy and to release political detainees.

"It's been a buffer state between China and India," said Tony Regan at energy consultancy Nexant. "The ASEAN policy was to take on Myanmar as a friend and therefore make it less vulnerable and less paranoid. Now they have a credibility problem."

Khin Omar said ASEAN was setting itself up for more pressure. "If they don't get some kind of resolution toward Burma during this summit, I think the whole international community and governments will put more pressure on ASEAN.

By James Pomfret

(Additional reporting by George Nishiyama and Koh Gui Qing in Singapore, Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur, and Nopporn Wong-Anan in Bangkok; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ren Ci Ming Yi's Mannin University PhD

Double trouble for Ren Ci Hospital. Straits Times did a write-up on Ren Ci’s Venerable Ming Yi and the non-recognition of his Mannin University doctorate (PhD) in Singapore. It was reported that Ming Yi did not check if Mannin University or its PhD programmes were recognised here before he enrolled into them and he claimed that he did the PhD only for the sake of gaining knowledge.

Alright, I would give him the benefit of doubt that he did not intend to cheat on the management of Ren Ci but it is interesting to wonder why he chose the unknown Mannin University over other Singapore-recognised foreign universities for his Doctorate degree in Philosophy.

I always believe any rational graduate student who wishes to pursue a post-graduate course would check whether the Master’s or PhD course is accredited or not by first taking a look at its official website for information on its achievements and then obtain verification from Ministry of Education or any external agencies that the doctorate programme is indeed recognised here. Apparently, he did not.

Our attention might then be drawn to another possible misappropriation of funds by the Ren Ci’s management. Did it subsidise Ming Yi’s Mannin University studies? Did the management know that Mannin is not a recognised tertiary institution in Singapore? And even if they did know but allowed him to study on public funds on the basis of gaining knowledge, one question might arise. Does he even need the PhD to manage Ren Ci? But if the PhD course was financed out of his own pocket, there is seriously nothing for the public to worry about.

The following article was reported in The Straits Times by Theresa Tan:

Ren Ci chief in new controversy over PhD

THE Buddhist monk mired in controversy over irregularities in the books of the Ren Ci Hospital and Medicare Centre is now facing another set of questions - over his doctorate. Venerable Ming Yi's resume says he holds a PhD in philosophy from a 'Mannin University' in Ireland, but checks by The Straits Times with the British Council, the Irish Embassy here and the Irish education authorities showed that neither the university nor its qualifications were recognised there.

Through a spokesman, Venerable Ming Yi said at the weekend that he did his doctorate through distance learning, but never checked if the university awarding the degree was recognised.

Readers have been writing in to ask about his PhD after The Sunday Times ran a profile on the Ren Ci chief on Nov 11. Netizens have also started questioning the credibility of his degree. Like other readers, education consultant Larry Lim said he had never heard of Mannin University. He said he had tried checking, but could not even find a website for it. 'It is highly questionable when a university does not even have a website. Does the university even exist?' he asked.

When The Straits Times asked the Irish Embassy here whether the university in question was real, the embassy said that the Irish Department of Education and Science did not recognise Mannin University or its qualifications. Ireland's Higher Education Authority, the statutory body for higher education and research there, said there were seven official universities in Ireland, and Mannin was not one of them.

Press officers for both the department and the University College Dublin, one of the seven recognised Irish universities, said they had never heard of Mannin University.

Recognised institutions aside, the Irish Department of Education and Science said that 'it cannot give advice on other organisations purporting to offer higher education programmes or comment on the quality of courses offered by such institutions'.

While Venerable Ming Yi's PhD qualifications are highlighted on several websites such as Wikipedia and Buddhist resource site Singapore Dharma Net, online searches for the university itself drew a blank.

But The Straits Times found on the Web two individuals who claimed to have graduated from Mannin University. One is the head of a group promoting human rights in the Maldives, and the other a man who runs a chain of gyms in Thailand. Neither could be reached for comment.

Venerable Ming Yi broke an earlier silence on the subject on Saturday after repeated queries by The Straits Times. Through a Ren Ci spokesman, he said that someone introduced him to the PhD programme at Mannin University while he was doing his master's in health-care management at the University of Wales, an accredited institution.

The spokesman said Venerable Ming Yi, a former student of Raffles Institution, did a distance learning course with Mannin University, but had never visited its campus. He would not give any more details on how the monk obtained the PhD. 'Venerable Ming Yi did the PhD as he wanted to learn more, but he did not check if the university or its degrees are recognised,' he said.

Climate Change: Global Warming is for real

The planet is warming, from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in between. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 0.8 degree Celsius, and even more in sensitive polar regions.


And the effects of rising temperatures aren’t waiting for some far-flung future. They’re happening right now. Signs are appearing all over, and some of them are surprising. The heat is not only melting glaciers and sea ice, it’s also shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move.

Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

  • Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.
  • Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years.
  • Sea level rise became faster over the last century.
  • Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
  • Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average.
  • Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees.

Other effects could happen later this century, if warming continues.

  • Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).
  • Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger.
  • Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.
  • Floods and droughts will become more common. Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.
  • Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be gone by 2100, leaving thousands of people who rely on it for drinking water and electricity without a source of either.
  • Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by mosquitoes.
  • Ecosystems will change—some species will move farther north or become more successful; others won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier. Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay. He fears that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well.

Source for the article: IPCC, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Clashes between Singaporeans and Foreigners

There has been quite a few cases of outburst between Singaporeans and foreigners recently. Singaporean Michelle Quek was attacked by a foreigner after his girlfriend was accidentally hit by Michelle’s school bag. Another example involved three British tourists, one of them named Bo Davis, and Singaporean trishaw man Mr Lee.

The number of new citizens and permanent residents (PR) is increasing year after year as a result of Singapore’s emphasis on its foreign talent policy. When people of different backgrounds, culture, beliefs and social behaviours come together, conflicts occur naturally. As what SM Goh mentioned in the Today newspaper yesterday, cracks in society are showing. No doubt, it has got to do with our foreign talent policy. The influx of foreigners into our society is often viewed as a threat to many Singaporeans’ livelihoods.

We certainly need to address the problem by reviewing our foreign talent policy. The movement of people is different from the movement of goods. Although you might argue foreigners will eventually assimilate into our society but how long would they need and to what extent are they prepared to do so? As time goes by, more Michelle Quek's incidents may happen especially when local-born Singaporeans become minorities in our society.

Michelle's blog carries the Youtube Part 1 and Part 2 .

Singapore bans Burma protest at ASEAN summit

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has banned all outdoor protest at a summit of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) and rejected an opposition party's request to stage a Myanmar(Burma) pro-democracy protest, police and activists said on Saturday.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to sign a common charter that would turn the 40-year-old group into a legal entity. Myanmar prime minister Thein Sein is expected to come, which would mark the first appearance of a top junta member at an international forum since the regime's bloody crackdown on protesters in September.

About 2,500 police have been mobilized for the event and roadblocks have been set up in streets around the venue, where ASEAN will meet other Asian leaders, including Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

A police official told Reuters that two applications for an outdoor protest had been rejected, but one for an indoor protest had been approved. He declined to say who the applicants were or where the indoor protest would be held.

The opposition Singapore Democratic Party said on its Web site the government had rejected its application for a protest to "call on ASEAN member states to take concrete measures to promote democracy in the region rather than just make empty promises".

Under Singapore laws, any public gathering of more than four people requires a police permit. "The Charter states that ASEAN would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in the region. How does ASEAN intend to do this if its chair bans outright any form of political activity?" the SDP said. An SDP member told Reuters the party had not decided if it will stage a protest anyway.


In September 2006, during the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore, SDP leader Chee Soon Juan ignored a police ban on outdoor protest and made headlines worldwide with a dramatic standoff with police, which formed a human barricade around the handful of SDP activists, blocking them in a city park for four days and nights to stop them from holding a democracy march.

Police said that for the duration of the ASEAN summit, four areas, including the summit venue and the president's palace, had been marked as "protected areas". This means that police can search or detain anyone in the area or ask them to leave.

A group of international students from the National University of Singapore plans a Burmese democracy demonstration outside the summit venue, a statement on the SDP Web site said. "The students will wear red t-shirts and stand in groups of four to remain within Singapore's stringent laws against the freedom of assembly," it said.

Diplomats expect that the annual ASEAN summit will be dominated by the Myanmar issue. Human Rights Watch has urged ASEAN to establish deadlines to implement a binding regional human rights mechanism. On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted to urge ASEAN to suspend Myanmar until the military regime shows respect for human rights.

The charter that ASEAN is set to sign on Tuesday does not include provisions for suspension or exclusion of members, one of the committee members who drafted the text told Reuters on Friday. Singapore and other ASEAN members have said that keeping Myanmar inside ASEAN offers better chances of putting the country on the road to democracy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taxi Problems in Singapore and Possible Solutions

How often are we not able to hail a taxi in Singapore during peak hours or rainy days? During those times, we often see many taxi drivers driving their empty taxis on the outer lanes of the roads, putting on “ON CALL” signs, apparently waiting for the next caller willing to fork out weekend taxi peak hour surcharge of $2 and/or the call booking charges of between $2.80 and $4.

And now there is another problem. It was reported in the news that some taxi drivers are touting and demanding exorbitant flat fees from taxi passengers especially tourists visiting Singapore. While I condemn these “market spoilers” for their touting activities, there might be a need to understand why there has been a rise in such activities recently.

Two days ago, I took a taxi from Choa Chu Kang to Jurong Point. The moment I got on, the taxi uncle started a conversation with me. He complained to me how difficult it is to earn money these days and how the few “black sheep” (he was referring to the taxi drivers touting for business) have portrayed a bad image for the rest of the law-abiding taxi drivers. He mentioned some of them did touting at places like Clarke Quay because it was getting more difficult to find customers at night. How true this is I do not know but I agree that many drivers including the taxi uncle himself earn less these days as a result of the rising diesel prices and taxi rental costs. To worsen the situation, their diminished net earnings cannot keep in pace with the rising cost of living in Singapore.

I think the root of all these problems is with the complicated system of surcharges. The taxi companies should seriously consider lowering the midnight surcharge rate to a more reasonable one to help the taxi drivers attract more customers while reducing the possibility of a “hide-and-seek game” with passengers especially during the time between 11.30pm to midnight as it will not benefit them much if they do so.

The taxi companies could put in place a point system to allow some rental fee deductions if they make, say 2 trips during the “hideout” period. The peak hour surcharge rules should also be scrapped and instead, the same rental fee deduction system could be used for certain number of trips made during peak hours to alleviate the problem of a lack of taxis on the roads. In addition, more efforts should be put in to promote the “Share a cab” scheme to free up more taxis for other passengers.

At the same time, the daily taxi rental fee should be adjusted periodically in conjunction with any major fluctuations in the diesel price to give their drivers more “breathing spaces” in midst of the rising cost of living in Singapore.

Yes. All these solutions seemed to be benefiting the taxi drivers and their passengers, not the parent taxi companies but if volume of passengers pick up as a result of better efficiency of the whole taxi industry, sacrificing a small percentage of profits initially to earn a lasting goodwill from their passengers may not seem to be a bad idea after all.

Singapore lifts ban on Mass Effect game

It’s pretty silly for Singapore to ban the game Mass Effect just because it contains some lesbian sex scenes. MDA was obviously only looking at the sexual content of Mass Effect and possibly also did not like the occasional use of the word “bastard” and at least one aggressive use of the word “bitch”. Thank goodness, they lifted the ban and allowed it to be released after all under an M18 rating. Adults like me who love gaming can finally get the originals from the stores in Singapore and need not worry about breaking the law by downloading it secretly from the internet. The article below was reproduced from Straits Times.

MDA lifts ban on game with same-sex love scene
By Leung Wai-Leng

In a reversal of its earlier decision, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has decided to allow role-playing game Mass Effect to be released here under an M18 rating.

The Board of Film Censors (BFC) said in a statement on Friday evening that it will selectively use games ratings to 'enable highly anticipated games to be launched in Singapore' until it puts in place a games classification system in January.

The statement said that 'this will allow such games to enter the market with immediacy and give the industry and members of the public a better understanding of the benefits of the proposed games classification system'.

Mass Effect was banned earlier for containing a same-sex love scene, making Singapore the only country to disallow its sale. It caused a furore among local and international gamers.

Other games with graphic violence such as popular action game Assassin's Creed - released this week - was allowed on store shelves after distributors affixed a consumer advisory label declaring the game 'Not to be sold to young children'.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Malaysia's side of story on Pedra Branca

Singapore has failed to adduce evidence to support its claim that Britain had established title on Pulau Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca) in the years 1847-1851, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) here heard.

Malaysia’s counsel Sir Elihu Lauterpacht said that although Singapore had repeatedly stated that its conduct after 1851 merely confirmed and maintained a title already acquired, there was no contemporary documentation of any kind which implicitly or explicitly specified that the island was or had become British territory.

“One looks in vain for evidence of any official, formal, direct or even indirect assertion of title,” he told the 16-member bench. He said that unless by 1851 there really existed British title over Pulau Batu Puteh, there was nothing that could be maintained or confirmed.

“Just as we are taught in school the simple arithmetic that when zero is multiplied by any number whatsoever, the result is always zero. So a title that does not exist cannot be confirmed or maintained by any amount of subsequent state action,” he said. Singapore, which is claiming sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, had argued that it was maintaining and confirming its pre-established title of Pulau Batu Puteh as the British successor and had continuously, exercised State Authority on and in relation to the island.

Sir Elihu refuted this claim, saying that overwhelmingly this was practised with regard to the operation of the lighthouse on Pulau Batu Puteh and had nothing to do with sovereignty over the island. He emphasised that the operation of lighthouses was not a basis for sovereignty, citing the Minquiers and Ecrehos case, where the ICJ had decided that lighting and buoying since 1861 could not be considered sufficient evidence of an intention to act as sovereign. They were not seen as acts of such a character that they could be considered as involving a manifestation of state authority.

He also cited another case where an arbitral tribunal held that “the operation and maintenance of lighthouses and navigational aids is normally connected to the preservation of safe navigation, and not normally taken as a test of sovereignty”.

Turning to Middle Rocks and South Ledge, Sir Elihu said that there was also no substance in Singapore’s claim for these two marine features because, just like Pulau Batu Puteh, they have always belonged to Johor.

On Singapore’s contention that it had also carried out non-lighthouse activities, he said that these could either be attributed to the republic’s role as the lighthouse administrator or were otherwise unconnected with sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh.

Sir Elihu submitted that when Britain built and operated the Horsburgh lighthouse on the island, it showed no intention at all of acquiring sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh. In light of this, plus the strong British practice in the 19th and 20th centuries of building and administering lighthouses on its key trade routes on the territories of other states, the continued administration today by Singapore of a lighthouse, which formed part of the Straits Lights System, could not be regarded as evidence of its sovereignty over the territory where it is located.

Submitting on Singapore’s claim that Johor never carried out any competing activities on the island on its own, Sir Elihu said this point was “meaningless verbiage.” He pointed out that Pulau Batu Puteh was a very small place, no more than half the area of a football field, and all that area had been taken up by the lighthouse.

“Where was Johor to engage in competing activities on the island, what competing activities could there have been on the island. Was it to build a competing lighthouse?” he said. Sir Elihu said that Johor had licensed Britain to construct and operate a lighthouse and after that there was nothing for Johor to do except let Britain get on with the operation of the lighthouse and any related activities. “There was no scope for any competitive Johor activity,” he stressed.

Describing every stage, phase or element in Singapore’s claim to Pulau Batu Puteh as ill-founded, he said that Britain’s conduct between 1847 and 1851, on which Singapore relied to found the establishment of title during that period, could not be regarded as effective.

“Singapore concedes that it must show an intention of British conduct to have acquired title in that period. But there is no evidence of British conduct that can be interpreted as a manifestation of intention to acquire sovereignty between 1847 and 1851,” he said.

The article titled "No evidence from Singapore to support claim of sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh" was obtained from New Straits Times

More: On Malaysia's claim on islands being part of Johor Sultanate

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Briton Bo Davis apologises to Singaporean trishaw man

Mr Bo Davis has publicly apologised to Mr Lee Shee Lam saying it was “disrespectful and insensitive” to make fun of an old man but Mr Bo Davis who was accused of being a bully, claimed they did pay the full fare of S$10, contrary to trishaw rider’s Mr Lee’s claim. AsiaOne reported the news as below:

Brit tourist who mocked S'pore trishaw man apologises on Net

We are sorry for what we did. So says one of the British tourists caught in the middle of an Internet controversy involving an elderly Singaporean trishaw rider. The three visitors were slammed on the Internet for mocking the 67-year-old rider during a trip here. They were also accused of not paying their fare after the ride.

One of them, Mr Bo Davis, has written a public apology for his. But he also said, contrary to trishaw rider Lee Shee Lam's claim, they did pay the full fare of $10.

A video posted by Mr Davis, 26, caused a furore on the Internet. The video showed the trio squeezed on board Mr Lee's trishaw as the elderly rider struggled to pedal under their weight. Mr Lee was later seen going from one passenger to the next to ask for his fare before they left in a taxi.

Mr Davis sent the apology to the Singaporean who re-posted the video on YouTube, a Netizen who identified himself only as Jimmy. In the note, Mr Davis said, in hindsight, the video "does look very bad". He wrote: "I offer my sincerest apologies to Mr Lee, his son and everyone that has been offended."

He added it was "disrespectful and insensitive" to make fun of an old man. Recalling the night of the incident, Mr Davis maintained his group later paid the full $10 fare. "I know I was laughing, but I wouldn't dream of not paying for the ride - that would be unforgivable," he wrote.

When told that Mr Davis claimed to have paid the full fare, Mr Sam Lee, the trishaw rider's son, said he stood by his father's account. However, he added: "But then again, the incident was three months ago, and old people may not have the best memory."

He said he has already let the matter rest, and he hopes Netizens will do the same.

Cost of Living vs Standard of Living

A million-dollar solution from Mr Lim Hng Kiang, our Trade and Industry Minister who is on a million-dollar salary:

“First, the CPI measures average changes in prices across all households. Whether there is an increase in the cost of living for a particular household depends on that household’s spending patterns. Switching to cheaper products can reduce the cost of living despite a rise in the CPI.

I agree with him on the first part that the extent of the increase in the cost of living for a particular household does depend on that household’s spending patterns. There are indeed families or individuals who are spending beyond their means on material items. The increased cost of living would likely hurt their pockets more than ever.

However, the widespread inflation causing an erosion of purchasing power of Singaporeans as a result of the spiraling cost of living affects all people especially the lower-income people in Singapore. Although switching to cheaper products does help to reduce the cost of living, it also reduces the standard of living. How do you expect the lower middle-class and lower-incomed earners who are already on a not-so-high standard of living to lower their standards further?

As our fellow blogger Mr Wang has pointed out, the minister does not seem to understand the difference between the cost of living and the standard of living. In my opinion, he seemed very concerned with the monetary aspect of this whole issue and that keyword in his mind is cost so he does not seem to worry too much about our quality of living in Singapore.

The minister’s statement makes me feel so disillusioned. We have worked hard hoping for a better standard of living but now the government tells us to switch to cheaper alternatives? The 2% GST hike this year, which was uncalled for, has already affected us to some extent. I really do not see the point of sacrificing our living standards further. And is he again going to suggest lowering our standard of living further during the impending economic crisis which might happen in a year or two and a more or less confirmed GST hike after the 2010/2011 elections?

If that were to happen, there are probably many who might have to heed his advice and own smaller flats, buy more house brands thus sacrificing taste for price, do without maids or perhaps eat one less meal per day.