Saturday, December 23, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By David Teo/Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 19 December 2006 2017 hrs
SINGAPORE: A 17-year-old, charged with illegally hopping onto another's wireless internet connection, will have to wait a little longer to know his fate.
This is the first such case to go to the courts in Singapore.
A district court judge has called for a pre-sentence report on Garyl Tan Jia Luo, who has pleaded guilty to using his laptop to gain unauthorised access to a home wireless network.
Details that came out of court say that early on 13th May, Tan was "bored" and wanted to access the internet but his mother had locked up the cable modem.
He left home with his laptop, and went in search of an unprotected internet connection in his neighbourhood which he found outside 6 and 7, Casuarina Walk.
A man who spotted him surfing illegally on the kerb side questioned him, and called the police.
In mitigation, Tan was remorseful and said he did not know it was an offence.
He was a first-year student at Republic Polytechnic and had dropped out of the course, said his lawyer.
The pre-sentence report will be heard on the 16th January. - CNA/so
Correct me if I am wrong.
Wasn’t Gary extremely resourceful? His mum punished him by taking away his internet connection and he went out and did what any one would have done. He walked around and found an unsecured wireless access.
Unless I am mistaken, he did not use fraud to break into the network. He did not crack the password to hack into the system.
I have wireless connections in my house. And it is UNSECURED. ( I won’t tell you the address).
I expect that once in a while, my neigbours might be using my bandwidths with my compliments. But I don’t make a fuss about it. If I did not want to share my bandwidth, I would have password-secured it!
Is it not like this scenario?: A man keeps the front door of his house open, and through this door daily flies out wads and wads of dollar notes for no conceivable reason. The man makes no attempt to close the door and his neighbours had been walking past to pick up the notes from day One.
On the 2,345th day, Gary walks by and picks up a two-dollar note. Some nosy guy then stops him and calls the police. Gary gets to see the judge and then gets the slammer?
The person who let the dollar notes out for the previous 2344 day is not guilty of abetting this "hideous" crime ?
No wonder, JBJ says ,” The Law is an ASS”
Lawyers please enlighten me. I am confused.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
1st Addendum from an Infosec professional ( Capella)
I am not a lawyer, but a InfoSec Professional.
WiFi, otherwise known as IEEE 802.11, was DESIGNED to have OPEN access. They put in security is so as to RESTRICT unauthorised people from accessing it. Look at the IEEE specs to understand the intentions of the people who design the specification.
If the owner of the Wifi does not secure their network, by IEEE 802.11 standard, it means you give consent for people to access it. In Wifi, the onus is for the owner to secure it.
I think the law has gone TOO FAR in finding a scapegoat. They probably think Wifi is just like a normal Internet connection where accessing it illegally is a crime. The law-enforcers never know that Wifi was meant to be shared openly in the first place, with security implemented if you want to have restricted access. HAIZ!
Latest addendum from Capella (22.12.06 11.42am) "Wireless 101 Class"
Dr Huang, thanks for quoting me in verbatim in the ST Forum. All of a sudden my friends start calling me and said I am in ST Forum!??! :P
Anyway everyone, I shall conduct a Wireless 101 lesson here. Short and brief, to explain why what the law thinks has nothing to do with the way this technology was designed.
IEEE 802.11 clearly states that it already does not have the security and privacy of a wired network. Why so? Wired network is secure for the fact that you need to PHYSICALLY be connected to the network to be secure. For wireless, as it uses air as a broadcast medium, there is simply no way to control how the radio waves reach the intended client.
Because of this, they have implemented an authentication mechanism to help the implementors of wireless network to secure their networks. Now, what makes the whole thing damn confusing BACK THEN was that there was two kinds of authentication mechanism: Open System and Shared Key. According to IEEE 802.11 standard Page 59 Section 8.1.1, "Open System authentication is the default authentication algorithm." Now, in case you think it is anything special, Open System authentication is not even a secure form of authentication, all it requires from the client is to specify the correct SSID, and you are in.
You may think, hey, that is not secure at all. Yes and no. If today the Wireless@SG network access uses a different unique SSID for every single access point, the users will feel extremely frustrated as they roam from one wireless network to another (EBSS mode), because they have to change their SSID constantly. So, by using this default authentication mechanism, users can be assured that they are connected to the very same "GROUP" of wireless network. The problem here lies in the fact that the people who design the standard never expect that one day the SSID "linksys" actually can be implemented by 100 people staying near the same block, but are actually not related to one another.
Because of this, IEEE 802.11 also provides provision for the secure implementation of password security, which most of you probably have heard terms like WEP, WPA, WPA2. On top of that, high end wireless routers implement 802.1x, which authenticates by each individual wireless client. Most also implement stuff like MAC address authentication (which is pretty easy to break anyway). All in all, there are features to help the implementor of access point to secure their wireless network, but they HAVE TO ENABLE IT. Out of the box, if you look at all the access points available in the market, NONE has security enabled. The maker of the wireless product DOES NOT KNOW how is it being used. That is why I have said earlier, the onus is for the owner to enable it if they do not want people to use their wireless network. Otherwise, it is implicitly taken that you intend to share out your wireless network.
That is why in the last 1 to 2 years, most wireless routers vendors tend to put additional text or information about securing the wireless network for these people who are technically illiterate to make them aware about this issue. So for these people, even after reading these text, they still think they do not want to go through the hassle of enabling it, then again, you are implicitly allowing people to access, since you have been warned to secure it but you did not.
The law in Singapore has sided too much on the clueless. It is time to throw the responsibility back on these clueless and make them take responsibility for it. Just as you will not let someone who has no driving licence to drive a car, you will also expect that the user of a wireless access point should have some technical competency to secure it. I for one will be peeved if I found out that someone's wireless network has been taken control of by a malicious user attacking my PC. Yes, the malicious user is to be faulted, but the owner of the wireless network should never have provide that chance for the malicious user to hijack their network to attack my PC in the first place.
So all in all, I support the view of Dr Huang and others that this whole this is nothing but a mere scapegoat catching exercise. :P
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Although I have great admiration for people like Yadav, Bernard Leong,Aaron and Gerald, I must come out to confess that I am totally against the idea of self-regulation to our blogosphere.
The blogosphere as we know it now, is the last bastion of truly free expression.
What was there before there was blog?
What did we have before the internet gave all of us this precious gift?
Granted, the MSM-MainStream Media (or their masters) have loosened their grip and are allowing more divergent views to be published in their forum pages. But the MSM is still firmly and totally controlled by the government.
The views of the government on the functions of the media are well known. When push come to shove, one of the government leaders would invariably mouth something like,” We will not let the editors/journalists/media etc… set the agenda”-ad nauseum.
Our MSM ain't no Fourth Estate
The MSM in Singapore is never going to be the “Fourth Estate” as is the case in the western democracies.
The “Fourth Estate’s” coinage has been attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), a British politician. It comes from a quote in Thomas Carlyle's book, "Heros and Hero Worship in History" (1841).
"Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."
The three estates in the above quote referred to the British parliament,( the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons). The Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual combined being The House of Lords, the upper House of parliament. And the Commons is The House of Commons or the British lower House.
Singapore’s MSM is not there to be a watchdog; a check and balance of the government’s abuse of power. If Woodward and Bernstein were journalists in Singapore, they would not be heroes. Very likely, they would have been detained under the Internal Security’s Act if they had tried to publish details of the happenings at the Watergate hotel on that fateful day in June 1972.
We have the Speaker’s Corner, I hear you say. You have to register at the police station next to Hong Lim Square and you also cannot use any form of amplification!
If you try a “Chee Soon Juan” and as much as walk together in larger than a group of four’s, you will share the same fate and ignominy as him. I do admire CSJ’s guts.
That leaves us precious little left.
We can just take it ( like most Singaporeans have done in the past) or leave it ( as many more have done in the present).
Or we can blog…
The “gahmen” has seemingly turned a blind eye to Singapore’s nascent blogosphere. The IDA or the police may actually visit to read the contents ( they do, I assure you) but unless one is so stupid as to write defamatory stuff about certain families and characters, or worse incite racial or religious hatred ( which I am vehemently against-incitement of hatred that is), then for godknowswhatreason, they have let us be.
Perhaps they want us to let off some steam (words in cyberspace are infinitely better than a revolution downtown) , or maybe they want to know what these “radical intellectual-types” actually feel? or maybe they are really closet liberals waiting to come out (ok just joking). I don’t know and I don’t care.
So why oh why?
We have the freedom now. So, why do we want to self-regulate? Have we been so used to being a subjugated people that when freedom has been thrust upon us, we tell them, “No, please we don’t deserve freedom” ( Xenoboy talk the most sense of us all here).
History repeating itself?
Back in the early days of Singapore’s internet, we had soc.culture.singapore which was a newsgroup.It was like the present Sammyboy’s internet forum.
When some (intellectual-types) advocated that we self-regulate ( or they called it “moderation”) I was adamantly opposed to it.
I was amongst a minority who voiced out vociferously against this. However,the majority went ahead to form "moderated.soc.culture.singapore".
You guessed it. It died a quick death. Uncelebrated-no funeral.
None of you even knew such a newsgroup existed. You know whatimean?
So, I say what I said then, “NO!”
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I believe the government is sincere in wanting to prove to Singaporeans that they are valued more than foreigners (PR’s included) for one simple reason.
They sincerely covet your votes every 5 years!
Hence I was adamant that it is a step in the right direction to provide preferential treatment for Singaporeans in healthcare and education.
However, a typical response was like “anonymous” who said,
” I feel that there is another angle to look at the issue. Why must we make citizens special by "punishing" PRs in the form of increasing their fees/ reducing their subsidies? Why cant we differentiate citiznes by INCREASING the benefits of citizens, and leaving the PRs untouched? that way, the PRs wont feel too miffed, and there will also be enhanced benefits of becoming a citizen “
So, back to the title of this post (which is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese”. (Can anyone tell me more about this lovely poem?)
What can the government say or do that will convince skeptics like you and myself that it is sincere in “loving us”- sounds so lovey dovey ( ha ha)?
This brings me even further back to my obsession about National Service. Why does it obsess me so much, you ask? It affected my life and the lives of at least half our citizenry directly (and the other half indirectly). It will continue to affect the careers and lives of male Singaporeans annually till they get sick of complaining about it ( which is about 10 years).
We have been conditioned to believe that to do National Service before working or going to Uni is as natural as going to the loo after waking up.
So, since National Service is a patriotic act (or should I say sacrifice) , that only male Singaporeans have the privilege ( ahem ala muffled cough) to participate in, it would be a natural place to start with. (BTW, how is it that permanent residents have to serve in the army of a nation which is not theirs?) Strange.
As Mr. Wang had already very succinctly dealt with this topic in his two posts entitled, Rethinking NS (Part 1) , and Rethinking NS (Part 2), I will not reinvent the wheel.
Please just read these landmark posts on National Service and also do not miss the many gems amongst the 118 comments (wow!) in Part 1 and 52 comments in Part 2.
For a gist of the comments, just sample what Mr. Wang himself said in the comment section, “
Some of my brainstormed ideas which I am still thinking about include
(1) pegging NSFs salaries to market rates of what they could earn outside (eg fresh poly grad's salary);
(2) allowing NSFs to indicate preference for particular vocations (subject of course to SAF operational requirements);
(3) MINDEF pays for life and medical insurance and the cover continues every year until the serviceman is no longer called up for ICT, then he has option to discontinue or continue using his own money;
(4) SMU, NUS, NTU etc to be pushed to consider NS experience as a positive factor in university admission (since sports, music and other CCA are already being considered in the university admissions exercise);
(5) increased income tax rebates for NSmen;
(6) priority admission to primary schools for children of male Singaporean citizens who have done NS (as opposed to once-foreign male Singapore citizens who have not);
(7) exemption from ICT for NSmen who father two children;
(8) assorted little benefits like MINDEF subsidising fees for NSmen who want to join gyms / fitness club;
(9) reworkings of SAF vocational training especially for poorly-educated NSFs such that SAF vocational training can be converted into useful working skills;
(10) option to do university before full-time NS, for selected courses where knowledge gained during studies could be useful in the SAF (like currently for doctors);
(11) essentially, priority in the allocation of various public resources for citizens who have served NS - eg in balloting for COEs; application for HDB flats;
(12) NS defence tax as mentioned by some others earlier; (13) list goes on ....."
Now you know why lawyers make much better politicians than doctors!
I hope policy makers get to read what’s on Mr. Wang’s blogs.
Make NS a worthwhile experience ( or at least a less worthless one). Ensure that it does not become a liability to the life of the average Singaporean. ( I dare not hope that it be an asset)
I will count the other ways that "How do thou love me" another time.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Links: Yawning Bread's How to treat citizens better than foreigners
Sunday, December 10, 2006
By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 03 December 2006 1918 hrs
SINGAPORE: Singapore citizens will always come first, before Permanent Residents and non-citizens, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
That is why the health and education ministries are now working on changes to reduce fee subsidies for non-citizens, so that foreigners do not enjoy the same benefits as Singaporeans.
The next offset package for the GST increase will be for Singaporeans only, just like the Progress Package earlier this year, said Prime Minister Lee.
This is because the Government's responsibility is to Singaporeans first, although Permanent Residents and foreign workers will remain priorities.
"While we have non-citizens here, citizens always come first. We have to treat them as the best, we have to treat visitors well too but citizens have to be treated better," Mr Lee said.
"Right now, PRs enjoy the same subsidies as Singaporeans for education and healthcare, and in fact in healthcare, foreign workers also receive subsidised treatment. I think we should make a clear difference – PRs should pay more than Singaporeans but less than other foreigners, there is a distinction.
"If you are not a PR and not a citizen, you should be given good treatment but we will not give you special privileges." (Read on...)
Hospital subsidies for PRs to be revised from Oct 2007
SINGAPORE: Healthcare subsidies for permanent residents at Singapore's restructured hospitals and national centres will be revised from October next year.
This is to provide a clear distinction in health benefits between Singapore citizens, PRs and others, including foreign workers.
Singaporeans will always come first. (read on...)
Give foreign talent equal dues
Why treat overseas employees differently?
Letter from Robyn M Speed (Today 6th Dec 06)
I refer to the report, "Permanent Residents debate price of citizenship", (Dec 5).
One might argue that Singapore citizens in other countries should not be entitled to the same benefits as the citizens of those countries. It is only fair that they pay full health costs and pay more for education.
If they want the same treatment as citizens, they should take up citizenship in that country.
It should not matter if Singaporeans have been living in Australia, New Zealand, or the United States for a decade or more — they should not get the same rights as the citizens. They should expect to pay more.
It is only fair. Right?
I bet you would say no; that if you do the work, you should get fair and equal treatment. Yet, that is what Singapore wants to do to foreigners here.
You want the top professionals in the world to come and work here, to build Singapore as the top research place in the world, the top education hub. Yet you want to hold them distant, to treat them as second to the locals.
Surely these foreigners are working for Singapore and her citizens, to build your country and economy, to add to your markets and prestige. (Read on...)
Many of us often complain that the government seems to value foreigners (including Permanent Residents) more than its own citizens.
The main grouse among some Singaporeans was that non-citizens were receiving similar benefits without needing to fulfil obligations such as National Service. In fact, there were allegations that male Singaporeans were discriminated against in job selections as employers would shun them in view of their annual In-Camp Training national service liabilities.
The past week’s announcement of policy changes to better differentiate the benefits accorded to citizens vis-à-vis foreigners comes as no surprise.
When we travel to any other country, we would not bat an eyelid if we knew that their citizens got preferential treatment in schools and hospitals. It is a given and a non-issue.
Resources are not unlimited. Money (in the form of subsidy) given to Peter, is money taken away from Paul. Simplistically speaking, it is a zero-sum game.
I am not ignoring the contributions and value-add to the economy from non-citizens. I readily acknowledge that Singapore’s economic pie had enlarged due in no small part to non-citizens making their living here.
There will be those like Mr. Robyn M Speed who feel that this discriminatory policy will make expatriates feel unwelcome and he even warned“ And beware, for there are always other markets for these people to go to” .
I am not worried about people like Mr. Speed.
He, and those in his shoes, have made conscious, calculated decisions before coming to work here. They have decided that on the balance of things, working in Singapore is good for them and their families. I am certain that those here with purely altruistic motives are a small minority. For Singapore and these expatriates, it is a win-win situation.
In any case, if these expatriates had wanted the exact same benefits as Singaporeans, it would be a mere formality of applying for the red passport and I am sure the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority would readily oblige.
I am more concerned about the other foreigners who do not have much chance of getting Singapore citizenship even if they applied. These are foreign workers like maids and other menial workers. Most have low wages and may not be able to afford unsubsidized healthcare services.
Unless health insurance for them becomes compulsory in their employment contracts, these workers may not seek medical help until it is too late. Health insurance would of course add to their employment costs.
Well, economists have warned us that there is “no free lunch”.
This policy shift is a step in the right direction and I am not afraid to say so.
Now, about National Service...
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Links to this debate:PRs debate price of citizenship
Littlespeck.com: Bigger is better
Friday, December 01, 2006
By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 29 November 2006 2036 hrs
SINGAPORE: Starting next year, patients will have another avenue to seek resolution in a medical negligence case.
The new framework gets patients to talk to their doctors early, so they can settle a case before it goes to trial, which translates to huge savings in legal costs.
The number of medical negligence cases in Singapore is considered relatively small with an average of about eight to nine cases a year. 97 percent of these cases are settled before they go to trial.
In 2003, there was a peak of 20 cases but 94 percent of the cases never went to trial.
Last year, 87 percent of the 11 cases were settled out of court.
In the first ten months of this year, five cases were reported with one settled while the others are still in the early stages.
This has not stopped the courts from pre-empting court cases through this new protocol which starts in January.
Before even going to court, patients or their relatives will be required to talk to their doctors to seek explanations.
This means both parties communicate early so claims are more likely to be settled.
Such a system will also discourage frivolous or cases without merit. Lawyers say such cases could have racked up legal fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Toh Han Li, Registrar at the Subordinate Courts, says: "What has happened in the University of Michigan healthcare system is that they've instituted a programme to be more open and communicative by giving more information and talking with the patients.
"As a result of this programme, the number of lawsuits dropped by half in one year and there was a great deal of savings in legal costs. The number of lawsuits dropped from 261 in one year to 114 and there was savings of, I think, a few million US dollars as well in legal costs."
Dr Lee Chien Earn, Health Performance Group at the Ministry of Health, says: "I think what it will do is it will help serve as an additional avenue for patients and healthcare institutions, providers and doctors to communicate and to better understand each other's position.
"I think doctors would be supportive of this because it gives them an opportunity to explain their decisions and to explain what has happened. Both parties come from different perspective. It's when you bring them together that they start to understand what the underlying concerns are."
This framework complements existing dispute resolution systems that are already available in Singapore's healthcare institutions. - CNA/so
I will keep my comments brief and to the point as I do not have the luxury of time (I got an exams tomorrow).
Let me say that I am extremely proud to be a member of Singapore’s medical fraternity. Notwithstanding some “black sheep”, I can truthfully say- hand to heart, that our doctors are well-trained and sincere and do try their utmost to help their patients.
My praise is not just accorded to doctors in the private sector but also to government-employed doctors.
However, despite good intentions, the result of any treatment (surgical or not) may not meet the patient’s expectations. Even in the best of hands, complications may not be avoidable.
The new proposed structure is beneficial for our society as it reduces unnecessary lawsuits.
When we go down the route of excessive litigations, the end result would be more expensive medical expenses as we doctors would be forced to practise ”defensive medicine”. I am not ignoring the fact that with the threat of lawsuits, doctors no longer think of themselves as demi-gods not answerable to anyone. They have become more responsive to the needs of patients and give fuller explanations to patients and do get “informed consent” before any procedures) etc.
However my humble opinion (albeit skewed as I am an interested party), is that the net result is healthy (no pun intended).
If the sole aim in my practice is the avoidance of litigation (and hence adverse publicity), I would have to scan every brain ( I mean patient’s brain) that walks into my consultation room complaining of anything remotely connected to the part of the anatomy between the 2 ears.
But seriously, does everyone with a headache or giddiness need an expensive MRI Brain Scan? The answer is “Yes” if you practise in New York or LA.
I am not advocating a cavalier or irresponsible practice of medicine. The doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and rapport needs the support of our community and society.
Doctors are human too. We empathise with our patients’ financial hardships and hence, I do find myself saying to my patients thus, “ Although your giddiness theoretically can be due to a small vestibular nerve neuroma, which is detectable in its early stage only with an MRI Brain, the chance of this is small (if it is indeed small). ” I do add the caveat that “if you want 100% certainty” ( or in other words- cost is not a concern), I will arrange for the Scan straight away, now, stat, pronto etc.
But, “if you trust me “( or trust that I am trying to help you without spending money unless really required), - not that you don’t trust me if you want to do the MRI Brain anyway, we (patient and I) will find a cure for your ailments in the most common sensical way.
However, if at the end of the day, some sub-optimal outcome occurs, and the patient is not convinced that the “complication from surgery” (or delay in diagnosis) is unavoidable, then let us talk about it. And try to sort out any issues before resorting to any legal process which will cost the whole of society a lot of money. Of course, some lawyers will bring home more bacon for the table but let’s not digress.
I am still trying to grapple with the impact of this new arrangement.
The jury is still out (in our doctors’ tearoom) whether this will make the practice of medicine closer to what good ole’ Hippocrates meant it to be.
The bottomline is:
Docs are humans too. We do try our damnest. Can’t we just talk about it when things don’t work out?
Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The general public is invited to submit names of persons to the Special Select Committee of Parliament for nomination by the Committee for appointment by the President as Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP).
2 The persons to be nominated by the Committee shall be persons who have rendered distinguished public service, or who have brought honour to the Republic, or who have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, sports, culture, the sciences, business, industry, the professions, social or community service or the labour movement.
B.The Nominated Members of Parliament scheme was introduced by Goh Chok Tong and approved by Parliament in March 1990. It allowed for the appointment of up to six unelected MPs for two years after which they can be reappointed. In 1997, the number of NMPs was increased to nine.
The idea behind the scheme was to allow citizens without party affiliation to participate and contribute to parliamentary debates without having to go through the electoral process. (read on...)
C. Some views from
I challenge any reader to name more than 2 NMP’s in the previous parliament.
Most would blame their ignorance on the lack of impact that NMP’s have on their daily lives.
NMP’s represent no one. They do not have any constituencies. Heck, they are not even elected.
Although NMP’s were supposed to enrich our parliamentary debate by adding a non-partisan dimension, I am yet to be convinced that their introduction to the House has brought significant benefits.
To me, risks outweighed their benefits.
NMP’s are non-partisan- Really?
Firstly, many NMP’s were not even non-partisan. Many were actually card-carrying members of a political party. ( I wonder which?).
Granted that members of a political party do sometimes hold independent views, I do not recall many NMP’s of this party actually contributing many alternative viewpoints in past parliaments.
NMP’s speak for whom?
Secondly, since NMP’s are not elected, where is their credibility? Why should we listen to them, as they only speak for themselves. Although they are purportedly nominated by professional groups, academia, trade unions etc, I do not recall voting for any members of my profession to be put forward as NMP’s. I am fairly certain no university academics or trade unionist have been voted in by their peers in any open elections.
NMP’s undermine our parliamentary system
Thirdly, opposition MP’s play a vital and constructive role in our political system. Their role should not be undermined by NMP’s. These opposition MPs’ mandate are legitimised by the people’s vote unlike the NMP’s.
Solution- Elect all MP’s even (N)MP’s
One way to legitimise the NMP’s position would be to make them stand for election. Let a list of nominees be put before the people during the General Elections. Criteria for nomination should not be different from the present GE candidates and then let the people decide who they want sitting in the House. These MP's may not have any geographical constituencies to look after, but at least they have Singapore's mandate.
Of course, we would then have to look for a more appropriate name.
They would no longer be mere Nominated MP’s but Independent MP’s (IMP’s) … well, maybe somehow "Imps" does not sound quite right. Any suggestion?
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Freed death row Briton flies out of Pakistan
Friday November 17, 10:57 PM
A British man who spent 18 years on Pakistan's death row for a murder that he claimed was in self-defence was heading home after being freed, officials said.
Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, left jail in the morning then flew out of Pakistan a few hours later amid tight security, following a decision by President Pervez Musharraf to commute his death sentence. (Read on...)
Adjusting will be hard for death row man
By Mark Simpson BBC North of England correspondent
18 November 2006, 23:10 GMT
Life in the suburbs of north Leeds will not be easy for Mirza Tahir Hussain.
The satellite dish on the wall outside his family's home is a symbol of the changing world which passed him by during the past two decades.
He is returning to a city where things we take for granted - like internet cafes and take-away cappuccinos - will seem completely alien.
When he left Britain in the winter of 1988, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, David Beckham was still in short trousers and the pop world was ruled by Wet Wet Wet and Phil Collins.
His family situation is now very different. He has four new nephews, a brother-in-law he has never met and, sadly, only one parent. (Read on...)
I was following closely the saga regarding Mirza.
It seemed even last week that this would be Mirza's last days in the prison. He has had reprieve after reprieve and it seemed that this stay of execution would surely be the last. He has prepared for the worst.
In my heart, I was already saying, "This world sucks!"
But what do you know? Miracles do happen after all, and often when we least expect it!
Now, Mirza's regaining back his life does not in any way negate the suffering he had endured in the past 18 years. No one can ever understand the agony and sense of hopelessness that he had to endure. Nobody can return him the years that he has forever lost.
Just watch the videos when he was interviewed with his brother and he looks totally overwhelmed and one can almost sense his "lossness".
I wish him well. Although he is a world apart from me, I am delighted for him.
He does not know any of us and neither did I know him from Adam till the past weeks when I got wind of his predicament.
But that is what humanity is about. We are of the same race- the human race. It matters not that Mirza is of a different race or creed, or even political persuasion. We are all human beings.
There is too much killing and murdering. And too little love and understanding.
Make love not war!
I bet you if I were born ten years earlier, and were an American, I would have made a convincing hippie at Woodstock!
Joy to the world.
For this week, the world sucks a little less,
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The American economist, Professor Milton Friedman, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976, has been called the high priest of monetarism.
His death marks the passing of a giant in the world of economics whose approach to deregulation and free markets have become the centrepiece of economic policy across the world.
He was a major influence on the economic thinking of the governments of both Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan, and has influenced the thinking of most central banks today. (Read on...)
Although my knowledge of economics is fairly rudimentary, I know that Friedman is best known for his advocacy of monetarist policies.
He was a leading exponent of the "Chicago school" which held that the supply of money was the key factor in determining economic growth and the rate of inflation and was critical of governments who try to control unemployment by spending more money. To him, excessive government (fiscal) spending to create demand, leads to inflation which would undo the effects that this spending sought out to achieve.
Economic growth , he argued, is best guided by the control of interest rates and other levers at the disposal of governments and central banks.
This brings him in direct conflict with another giant, John Maynard Keynes who is best known for advocating government intervention (fiscal policy) in the economy .
Friedman's greatest admirers included Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
( Remember Reaganomics and Thatcherism?)
Unbeknownst to most, Friedman says that his proudest accomplistment was not in economics but that he played a role in the abolition of the draft .
For the uninitiated, this draft is the same as Singapore's National Service.
This talented social commentator who mesmerised many with his broadcasts on social issues (Free to Choose) also campaigned for the decriminalization of marijuana.
Links : 1.http://a-singapore-economist.blogspot.com/2006/08/milton-friedman-tv-series-available-on.html The videos here are must-sees for budding economists.
Watch the videos if you have the time. It is good.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Link: Holland village voice (Fabian Lua)
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 13 November 2006 1832 hrs
SINGAPORE: The Goods and Services Tax will be increased to 7 percent from 5 percent presently. This was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Monday.
However, when the rise will be implemented, will be decided later.
Speaking in Malay, Mandarin and English, Mr Lee explained that the hike was necessary to finance the enhanced social safety nets, needed to help the lower income group and he emphasised that the offset package would more than counter the rise in GST. (read on)
GST hike will be felt by businesses that absorb GST: KPMG
By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 13 November 2006 2140 hrs (read on)
Just when we thought that we can breathe a little easier, PM gives us a rude shocker.
We are told that the economy has turned the corner and that Singapore has even increased the number of millionaires on its shores (although a significant proportion are from Indonesia). MM Lee also proclaimed recently that he is very optimistic for Singapore in the next few years.
The Integrated Resorts has become the single factor that almost the whole of Singapore has identified as its engine of economic growth. I have not forgotten about digital media, water services and biomedical.
But let's be brutally honest, these other engines are mere sideshows compared to the Casinoes ( just calling a spade a spade). Hence, the Sentosa properties (notwithstanding leasehold status) sell like hot cakes and the previously stuttering property market got a welcome boost.
The stock market has also enjoyed a grand run recently and I am sure the housewives and the taxi-drivers will be lining up for IPO’s again.
Did I forget to mention that the leasehold Metropolitan condominium near Redhill MRT sold out during its soft launch? Or that high society’s “who’s who” are already trying to get invitations to Capitaland’s soft launch for the Orchard Turn project? So the HDB property market will be the next to move up?
The government has mastered this very useful skill. Get the good numbers out; MSM starts to churn out the good news; lull us into feeling warm and fuzzy; then give us a good surprise!
Ha ha, Works every time!
The worst off from this GST hike will (again) be the poor. This additional 2 % will affect them more than the rich. As mentioned by KPMG, more merchants will voluntarily register for GST and hence there will be less retailers/merchants who will absorb this tax. The middle-class will also want to claim that they will once again be forgotten by everyone except their creditors.
Granted that GST is an indirect tax that punishes only those who consume, but we don't need reminding that even the poorest or the most frugal still need to eat and use mundane household items.
The only ones to gain is (again) the government. Sigh!
There is no doubt that a balanced budget is important for continued economic growth. Didn’t I just read somewhere that the Inland Revenue people are having record collections from tax-payers? Be honest, have our low COE prices ironically done us in?
I am sure conspiracy theorists will be out in droves to (again) make their point that our reserves are not as vast and as secure as have been presumed, what with Shin Corp becoming a part ( now no doubt a long-term holding) of Temasek’s portfolio etc ( you get my drift?).
I think it is about time to consider exempting GST from stable foods and essential services (including medical service- ok, I declare my pecuniary interest here).
Nah! The government leaders have already made up their minds and this is just some futile ranting of another helpless and hopeless Singaporean.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: Or maybe there will be income tax cuts? ( sorry but I am an incorrigible optimist!)
Links to other blogs about GST Hike:
1. Gecko The comments are very informative
Friday, November 10, 2006
(BBC News: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 23:43 GMT )
Democrats have gained the final seat in the battle for the US Senate, sealing their mid-term poll victory in both houses of Congress
Republican George Allen admitted defeat to his Democratic opponent, James Webb, in the close Virginia Senate race.
The Democrats had already secured the House of Representatives in Tuesday's elections.
President George W Bush has pledged to work with his rivals, and says he is open to new ideas on Iraq.
He has already accepted the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, key architect of US policy in Iraq, following the poll defeat.
The just-concluded mid-term US elections that resulted in the Democrats sweeping into both the House of Representatives and the Senate was something only the most optimistic Democrat would have dared hope for.
The resignation (or sacking) of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defence is also one of few lights at the end of a long and desolate tunnel.
Bush is now a lame duck. He has nothing to look forward to in the remaining two years of his term. He can only try to protect and preserve whatever legacy there is left.
In my opinion, the likely scenario would be like this:
1. Gates as the new Secretary of Defence would give Bush an excuse to make a 180 degree turn to consider some way of a face-saving way out of the Irag quagmire. Bush will declare bravely now that Iraq had undergone a democratic election ( and hence is a democracy by definition) and that justice has been meted out by the Sadam conviction, America had achieved a moral victory and can leave Iraq in the “able” hands of the Iraqis.
So adios and soyonara Baghdad! (Of course, the Iraqis would also ensure that Bush’s cronies in the oil business would get all the juicy contracts in order to feed America’s insatiable appetite for the earth’s fossil fuels whilst lining their corporate pockets simultaneously).
2. Now that Rumsfeld has “fallen on his sword” like the warrior of old, could Cheney be persuaded to do likewise?
The Republican Party would surely prefer that Bush use the remainder of his term to ensure a Republican successor to the White House in 2008. Perhaps a vice-President who has a real hope of stepping into the White House could use the next two years for exposure and publicity? Cheney could be persuaded to have a “ heart attack” or any other excuse ( vertigo or erectile dysfunction even).
3.Do not expect anything exciting from the world’s only superpower as there will be only political grid-lock and partisan politicking with each side neutralizing the other on all major policy initiatives.
Do not believe all the BS about “putting the past behind us” and “moving on” or other such talk!
4. America having been bitten once (again) by this second Vietnam, will not care to be involved in the rest of the world. It will be increasingly isolationist.We, the rest of the universe would just have to manage by our poor lonesome selves! Boo hoo!
Lessons that we can learn:
1.Public accountability- Rumsfeld takes the rap for Iraq. Who in Singapore takes the rap for major “boo-boos” in Shin Corp-Temasek saga?
2. There are none so blind as those that would not want to see.
Iraq was so glaringly a wrong war for America, yet the myopic Bush Administration thought that it could still pull the rabbit out of the hat even up to the last minute. Note Saddam conviction came out “coincidentally” 1-2 days before the polls were scheduled to begin.
In Singapore, what needless sufferings do the people need to endure before policies like “GRC as vehicles for weak PAP MP’s into parliament”; “continued disadvantages for citizens in non-PAP wards”; more “Tan Jee Suan’s” who are unable to benefit from Singapore’s ascent to the first world; Widening rich-poor divide etc. get the attention required?
Our new parliament ( literally too) has just come into session and some new MP’s have given seemingly “impressive” maiden speeches. We will see how much of the talk will result in anything concrete for the benefit of the common folks.
I will give the benefit of the doubt to all and sundry in the new Parliamentary chambers ( on both sides of the political divide ) and will not prejudge anyone.
Let us see how the government leaders respond to these back-benchers’ appeals.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
By Yvonne Yong, channelnewsasia.com
Posted: 31 October 2006 1826 hrs
SINGAPORE: A childhood fantasy that everyone gets to share in - this is the proposal by Eighth Wonder for their S$5.5 billion Integrated Resort on Sentosa.
Harry’s Island, as the resort will be called, is based on the fictional founder of the resort, "Hurricane" Harry O’Brien, who was born in Raffles Hotel in 1900.(read on...)
When my colleagues at the tea-room told me that one of the contenders was going to name their resort "Harry's Island", my first reaction was,
"You guys gotta be kidding!!"
Unfortunately, truth is indeed stranger than fiction!
Eighth Wonder, the erstwhile dark horse ( favourite is apparently Genting with its Universal Studio bid), is really going for broke and is resorting to what I would consider a "cheap trick".
Harry, if you do not already know by now, is the name that our first Prime Minister, called himself when he was studying in the UK. I do not know why or when he stopped using the name.
So, what does Eighth Wonder hope to achieve by using the namesake of MM?
What would the panel members of the selection committee think now that they are essentially faced with Hobson's choice?
If Eighth Wonder's bid is chosen, would the rest of the world think that it was chosen so as to honour MM with a resort? Would they dare reject the bid as it may be deemed to be a rejection of MM's legacy?
Eighth Wonder's S $5.5 Billion bid, looks impressive as it is. There is no need to resort to cheap marketing ploys like this. By so doing, it reveals the people of Eighth Wonder for what they are- lowclass desperados!
For the sake of transparency and public accountability, I hope that Eighth Wonder's bid comes in last, even behind the hideous "whatchumightcallit" of Kerzner!
And to rub salt into raw open wound, I hope the chairman of the selection committee would say,
" We would have chosen Eighth Wonder if not for their distasteful stunt"
Nah-nah nah nah nah-NA !
May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in the Eighth Wonder's chairman's armpits!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Sunday, November 05, 2006
POSTED: 5:07 a.m. EST, November 5, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi High Tribunal on Sunday sentenced former President Saddam Hussein and two other defendants to death by hanging for a brutal crackdown in 1982 in the Shiite town of Dujail.
Iraqis, under a curfew in Baghdad, spilled out onto the capital's streets in celebration of the verdict, news footage showed.
Along with Hussein, his half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Hassan, and former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court Awad Bandar also got death. ( link to read on )
This verdict is not unexpected.
The trial has been termed by skeptics as a form of victors’ justice, as the US, being the occupying force, has an interest in a guilty verdict.
The timing of the verdict, coming days before the US mid-term elections, is highly suspect especially as Bushes’ Republican Party is at imminent risk of losing its majority in the Congress due to widespread public disquiet over the administration’s handling of the Iraq conflict.
Let us make no bones about it. Iraq is now a full-blown civil war with no settlement in sight. Scores of Iraqis are slaughtered for no reason other than that they belong to different offshoots of Islam. Together with these dead Iraqis, numerous Western troops are also going home in coffins, never ever to see their homelands again.
As things stand, the Sunnis and Shites will not be able to live in any semblance of civility. Iraq faces a fractured future with the possibility of it being fragmented into many pieces.
Bush entered this conflict on the false premise that Saddam has WMD-“weapons of mass destruction” and this has been found to be a dastardly lie! The tragedy of September 11 allowed the Texan cowboy to take advantage of the groundswell of “knee-jerk nationalism” to order the US military into her second Vietnam.
This Vietnam,would prove just as costly and as painful as the first. There is no way out but for an unequivocal withdrawal. There is no graceful way out. Just run with the tail between the legs and blame the cowboy and his posse.
It is tragic that American, British and other coalition troops’ lives have to be sacrificed due to the actions of these untruthful and incompetent American politicians.
I have always considered Americans as friends (although occasionally some can be self-centered and arrogant). America is still the world’s greatest nation but I marvel at how this world's only superpower finds itself in the hands of dubious men again and again.
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, if you can hear me, for the sakes of your own men and women, admit your foolishness and please go home!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS. Read George Yeo's comments of the Sunni-Shite divide ( written before the verdict was known)
Sunday, October 29, 2006
If Mr. Tan Jee Suan was a faceless Singaporean that most of us would not have heard of if not for his untimely death last week, the second Singaporean that I wish to present to you is the opposite. His is one of the most recognizable faces of our times.
He is David Saul Marshall, Singapore’s first Chief Minister.
I like to acknowledge that most of this post’s contents are taken from Dharmendra Yadav’s blog www.thinkhappiness.blogspot.com.
Dharmendra Yadav, 28, is Legal Counsel of NTUC Income Insurance Cooperative Ltd.
He conducted an interview with Marshall in 1994, whilst a student at St.Andrew’s Junior College ( Marshall’s alma mater,) and decided to make public this absorbing interview only this year ( 2006) as part of celebration of Singapore’s 41st National Day.
To questions like “Why did it take 12 years to release this interview?
he says,”It took 12 years for blogs to arrive!But, in all honesty, I was actually remiss. I recently met some members of the Marshall family and I recalled this interview.Last week, I dug out the transcripts. I felt the time had come to release this interview.”
For other nitty-gritty’s about the interview link here.
I have taken creative liberty to only present parts of the interview which are pertinent to the issue of the day, ie what Marshall can teach us about Singapore now.
I will comment about what Marshall teaches us about "Noblesse oblige" after the interview proper.
Firstly, some biodata about David Saul Marshall.
Biodata of David Saul Marshall
Born: March 12, 1908, in Singapore.
Died: Dec 12, 1995.
Called to the Bar in 1937 after graduating from the University of London and Middle Temple in Britain.
A private in the Singapore Volunteer Corps, he was taken prisoner soon after the fall of Singapore in 1942.
Worked in the coal mines of Hokkaido, Japan. Freed in 1945.
Married Jean Mary Gray, a former social work lecturer, when he was 53. They have three daughters and a son.
Was in private legal practice before he led the new Labour Front in 1954.
April 1955: Singapore's first Chief Minister.
June 1956: Resigned from the post.
1959-1963: Lost legislative seat in 1959 polls. Won Anson by-election in 1961.
Lost in 1963 election. Returned to law. But remained active in opposition politics till 1972.
1978-1993: Served as Singapore's Ambassador to France, then Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
Oct 1993: Retired from diplomatic corps, worked as consultant to law firm Drew and Napier.
The Biodata and an article entitled "Shooting star of S'pore a legend in his lifetime", was first published by Susan Sim in The Straits Times on Dec 13, 1995.
Sim quoted Marshall's political biographer ,Chan Heng Chee, as saying , "Mr Marshall had gone into Singapore politics like a shooting star, and as in the nature of a shooting star, filled the sky with brilliance and disappeared".
Although only excerpts are presented here (for sake of brevity and focus), I strongly urge all to read the original interview in its entirety ( read the complete David Marshall Interview)
Excerpts of Dharmendra Yadav’s “Meeting David Marshall In 1994”
(Dr.Huang- Emphasis in red mine)
IN THE PAST, WHEN YOU WERE CHIEF MINISTER, YOUTHS PLAYED A POLITICALLY-ACTIVE ROLE. HOW HAS THE ROLE OF YOUTHS CHANGED AS COMPARED TO THE PAST?
The role of youths! Ha!
In my time, I tried to educate our people in an understanding of the dignity of human life and their right as fellow human beings, and youth was not only interested but excited about what I consider things that matter. Things of the spirit; the development of a human being to his true potential in accordance with his own personal genius in the context of equal rights of others.
Today, youth is interested in getting paper qualification and, as soon as possible, shoveling gold into their bank accounts. It’s a different world, even the law…………………………….
But I am seen as a critic and I am a critic.
I am frankly terrified by this massive control of the mass media, the press, the radio, television, antennae, [and] public meetings. You can’t write a letter to the Straits Times; if there is a shadow of criticism, it’s not published. And the Chinese press follows suit. It’s a very dangerous position because experience proves that no one group of human beings has got all the wisdom in the world…..
And are youths the miasma of apathetic subservience to authority? But you say to yourselves, “Well, you know, what do we seek in life? We seek a rice bowl, full!”
It is full and overflowing, in fact. They serve you your rice in a jade bowl with golden chopsticks; not that it makes much difference to the taste of the rice. But you’re empty!
You’ve got technocratic skills and you are seeking more but internally you are empty. Money is your acid test of success.
I’ve got nothing against money. I’d like to have money myself! I’d like to have a house and a garden and dogs and a car and a chauffeur but, look, I’ve got a flat. I’ve got a swimming pool attached to the flat. I’ve not even got a car but I use taxis. I have a dignified way of life without being wealthy.
I don’t see the necessity of owning a Mercedes-Benz and a swimming pool and a couple of mistresses. I think we’ve got our values all wrong.
You know $96,000 a month for a Prime Minister and $60,000 a month for a minister. What the hell do you do with all that money? You can’t eat it! What do you do with it? Your children don’t need all that money.
My children have had the best of education. In fact, I’m very proud of them. One of them is a senior registrar to two major hospitals in Oxford. Another of them is a consultant in European law to the Securities and Investment Board in the United Kingdom. They’ve had their education. There are no complaints.
I never earned $60,000 a month or $90,000 a month. When I was Chief Minister, I earned $8,000 a month. Look, what is happening today is we are encouraged to and are becoming worshippers of the Golden Calf.
We have lost sight of the joy and excitement of public service, helping our fellow men. The joy and excitement of seeking and understanding of the joy of the miracle of the living the duty and the grandeur. We have lost taste for heroic action in the service of our people.We have become good bourgeois seeking comfort, security. It’s like seeking a crystal coffin and being fed by intravenous injections through pipes in the crystal coffin; crystal coffins stuck with certificates of your pragmatic abilities.
(Dr.Huang-Other questions in the original interview included the following:)
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUTHS WHO INTEND TO PURSUE A CAREER IN LAW?
YOU HAVE FOUGHT MANY CASES. YOU HAVE SOME BRILLIANT CASES THAT YOU MANAGED TO SWEEP THE JURY OF THEIR FEET IN WORDS?
HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED BECOMING A LAWYER?
AN UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT IN ST. ANDREW’S SCHOOL?
THE PAP GOVERNMENT HAS INDEED DONE A GREAT DEAL FOR SINGAPORE. HOWEVER, THERE IS AN INCREASING DEGREE OF DISCONTENT GROWING AMONGST OUR YOUTHS AGAINST THEM. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS HAPPENING?
Our lives are empty. We don’t understand the joy of living is not in the gold coins. It is not in the bank account. The joy of living is in human relations. We are not in appreciation of this miracle of life.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MESSAGE IN GENERAL?
Recognise there is a lot of satisfaction in public service, foreign service, judicial service. A great deal of satisfaction in public service, even honorary public service in committees.
[If] you are totally engrossed in self-promotion, at the end of the day, you’ll find it’s dead seafood.
Try and give up yourselves to others.
I am so alien to this worship of the Golden Calf and the draconian attitude; the brutal attitude towards our fellow citizens. Here I ask people and, no doubt, if I ask you, “We’re all in favour so long as it’s not me having my bottoms cut! Yes, whip ‘em!”
Try to put yourself in the other man’s shoes.
And, of course, what have I got to say?
You, the young – you’ve got a fantastic, absolutely fantastic potential before you; economic expansion, heroic plans that the government has for the future not only the present. You are so lucky! No unemployment! Great potential even beyond your capacity to fulfill.
It’s an exciting country, Singapore. It’s a lovely country. And you have to make your own space for your own spiritual and intellectual needs and have the courage. Have the courage to serve your fellow men with integrity.
I’ll put it in one nutshell: have the courage to live, don’t be afraid!You know, I’m told I’m fool-hardy and always criticising, although I have such a gracious life. But fool-hardy or no, this is me; I am prepared to take what you give.
(Dr.Huang-end of interview)
By now, two French words would more than adequately describe what Singapore is lacking in the eyes of Marshall.
Literally it means nobility is an obligation. It is defined as:
1. Benevolent, honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank.
2. the obligation of those of high rank to be honorable and generous (often used ironically)
John D.Rockefeller Jr said,"every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty" .
Marshall’s seemingly “naïve” idealism is refreshing. Now I know that there is at least one other bloke as naïve as myself.
How he treasured the dignity of human life and see the potential for good in the human spirit. Giants like him have more than the right to decry the suffocation of free human expressions via the “massive control of the mass media”.
Singapore’s MSM ( Mainstream Media) may have monopoly of the printing presses, but they do not have the monopoly of wisdom.
Although MSM has improved in recent times, much more unshackling of the media needs to be done before it can offer itself as a conduit to and from the people. It risks becoming irrelevant as the youths have already bypassed our MSM by getting information via the technological highway of the internet.
About Noblesse oblige.
It is so obvious to Marshall and to most of us. The ablest must feel privileged to serve the rest.Hence the term "public servant".
There is no need to overly reward these elites (presently not a good word), to "prevent" them from being tempted with corruption. To me, such attitudes are in themselves corrupt. Its assumption is that there are no noble Singaporeans who has the interest of the common people at heart. That all men are pre-programmed for ignoble deeds.
If Marshall considered $96000 and $60000 per month unfathomable, he will surely flip if he realises that the figures are actually higher.
I will say no more. Marshall’s own words from “beyond” should be sufficient in pricking our collective conscience. No need for me to meander on.
Please read the complete interview. Thanks again to Yadav. Nice job!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS. There are two other Singaporeans that will interest some of you.
Chia Thye Poh
Lim Chin Siong
Friday, October 27, 2006
1. Singaporean Tan Jee Suan
Hawker who donates $10,000 to MRT death fall man’s family:
I know what it’s like to be POOR
By Dawn Chia (The New Paper)
October 22, 2006
SO poor that you have little more than the clothes on your back and are always struggling to make ends meet.
All these memories came flooding back to Mr Frankie Gwee when he read about the plight of the Tan family of Boon Lay.
Husband dead, killed by a train. Wife left to cope with mounting debt and two teenage boys alone. (Read on...)
I am deeply saddened that it takes the unnecessary death of another Singaporean for us to be jolted out from our slumber of complacency.
Mr. Tan Jee Suan,46 died last week.
He was one of our chronically unemployed. A blot on our impressive employment statistics churned out ever so often by government ministries and departments. A stain on our record of being able to find work for those who are willing.
Mr. Tan has escaped and slipped through our society’s safety net. I do not deny that hundreds and possibly thousands are helped by government and charitable organisations’ efforts to alleviate the sufferings of these impoverished families.
But one Mr. Tan is one too many.
Had Mr. Tan chosen a more mundane way of dying, eg jumping from an HDB flat, he would just have been another digit in Singapore’s "one suicide-a-day" statistics.
The response from common Singaporeans, when more than $500K was collected for Mr. Tan’s family, showed that we empathise with the plight of people like him. He is one of us and we understand that this underclass exists and is worthy of help.
We certainly do not need elites and their parents to tell us that the poor are poor because they are unable to compete in the new economy. (Useful link about the 3-Wee's Saga)
Unfortunately, all the money in the world will not return Mr. Tan to his household. His sons will have to grow up prematurely. His last gift to them would be the $10 for their chicken rice.
Ironically, less than 10% of this amount would have cleared all his mounting debts. Perhaps even 1% of it, if offered on that fateful day might have dissuaded him from making that tragic leap.
Let us go beyond the blame game.
How many suicides can we prevent? Admittedly and sadly, not all are preventable. But Mr. Tan’s decidedly was.
As government organs go on a collective soul-search amidst finger-pointing, how do we as individuals measure up? How do you react when a friend, a distant relative, suddenly calls you to borrow some money?
I have not been able to find a solution for this recurring dilemma.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: Time is scarce now as I have just enrolled in an MBA program. Besides neglecting my blogging, I have also almost stopped my regular runs. I am starting to have real doubts if I will be able to do the half-Marathon come Dec. Sigh!
Singaporean No. 2: Akan Datang
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The hot pair seems to be cooling off, not least because of a language barrier, as well as cultural and personality differences
By Marc Lim, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT Oct 22, 2006 The Straits Times
THEY seemed a perfect match despite their different backgrounds, but just two years after table tennis princess Li Jiawei said 'yes' to her badminton-playing prince charming Ronald Susilo, the relationship appears to have hit the rocks.
Media reports surfaced last week hinting that all is not well between Indonesian-born Susilo and China-born Li.
This seemed to confirm long-standing doubts over whether two people with such contrasting characters, backgrounds and language skills were compatible in the first place.
Susilo, 27, and Li, 25, have declined comment and pleaded to be allowed to focus on their preparations for December's Asian Games.
But while they have chosen to keep quiet, it has not stopped friends and the sports fraternity from wondering: Were they mismatched from the start?
Most people close to the couple felt that they are not the most suitable partners, although all spoke only on condition of anonymity.
A close friend of the couple told The Sunday Times: 'That they were athletes was the only thing both had in common.
'They had so many issues working against them from the start. Language was a problem. They could not even hold a decent conversation when they met. It was only inevitable that cracks would appear over time.'
Friends also said they have distinctly different personalties.
Susilo - the youngest of four children of a Jakarta businessman and housewife - is the ever-obliging and smiling boy next door, who has endless patience with his fiancee.
Li, an only child of a Beijing government official and housewife, is said to be quick-tempered and used to getting her way.
Susilo was smitten the second he met her at a sports event in 2002. For Li, though, it was certainly not love at first sight. In fact, she found him irritating when he tried chatting her up in the plane on the way to the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.
He could not speak Mandarin, while she spoke little English.
'I just ignored him. It was a long flight,' said Li in a 2004 interview with The Sunday Times.
But perseverance - grabbing any chance to talk to her in Manchester and then taking her out to dinners and movies when they returned - paid off.
The couple became national icons at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Although both returned without medals, Susilo made the quarter finals and Li lost in the bronze medal play-off, just missing out on Singapore's first Olympic medal in 44 years.
Soon after the Olympics, he proposed, with a diamond ring he hid inside five boxes.
But as Li told Her World magazine last year, she had to train him to be romantic.
She said: 'I had to teach him how to treat me well. If left to himself, he'd never buy me gifts or plan surprises.'
A close friend of Susilo said: 'Perhaps Ronald gave in too much from the start. He bought a Honda Civic primarily to drive her wherever she wants to go. He would wait for her while she shops. They bought a condominium in Kembangan mainly because she wanted to move out of the Singapore Table Tennis Association hostel.
'He probably gives in 70 per cent of the time. It's not healthy. Either he develops resentment or she takes him for granted.'
Said one of Li's friends, who knew her when she was in previous relationships: 'She has a strong character, so the guy has to show patience. But she did not strike me as someone who would settle down so early.'
The media has often noted their contrasting characters.
When Susilo picked her up from the airport after she returned from the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March, the press wanted interviews and pictures.
Susilo obliged, but Li hurried them away, leading a pack of journalists and photographers through the airport before reluctantly posing for a picture in a lift.
Li is also often reticent to talk about the relationship.
In a Sunday Times interview shortly after their engagement, Li said: 'Ronald's the more patient one. I'm bad at masking my emotions. When I am mad, I show it. When I'm glad, I show it, which is why Ronald's patience is so important in this relationship.'
Li was also known to believe that Susilo was too close to his family. One of her friends quipped that he is too much of a mummy's boy.
As Li told Her World: 'I think he's too obedient. His is a conservative and traditional family, so he's used to deferring to them too much. But he's an adult now and I want him to make his own decisions.'
Sources close to the couple said that her inability to accept Susilo's close family ties has led to arguments.
She did not see why he had to consult his parents when he bought the car and was not too keen on the idea of hosting his family at their condo.
Underlying all these problems, though, was language. Neither mastered the other's tongue and Susilo's parents, like Li, have limited English.
While Susilo's Mandarin has improved - thanks to watching Mandarin serials on television - it is not good enough to hold a conversation with Li's family.
And then there are the cultural barriers. For example, while Susilo thought he was being a good future son-in-law by playing mahjong with Li's family, he failed to allow them a diplomatic win.
In the end, he won money from Li's grandmother. And even though he returned the money, both Li and her grandmother were angry.
Quipped Susilo's friend: 'There are times when he feels like anything he does will potentially put himself in hot water with Jiawei.'
Not everyone agrees, though. A small section of their friends feels the couple are just going through a rough patch.
Both are struggling with poor form. Li's position as Singapore's top table tennis player is in doubt after she lost both the Commonwealth and South-east Asian Games women's singles titles to teammate Zhang Xueling.
Susilo, still hampered by injuries, saw his world ranking drop from a high of six in 2004 to 80. Now it stands at 49.
Their busy schedules have also kept them apart for about eight months this year. They have not spent more than a couple of weeks at a time together all year.
A mutual friend said: 'On the surface, people may see it as a mismatch, but at the end of the day, it's love that matters. When they are together, they seem just like any other couple.
'When the pressure of next month's Asian Games is over, maybe things will get better.'
Mismatch or not, friends and observers agree on one thing: that the relationship is at its most fragile.
A close friend of the couple said: 'It's matchpoint, with a very fine line between success and failure.
'What either one does now is crucial.'
It troubles me that a major newspaper like The Straits Times should assign so many pages to social gossip. One wonders if the editors have run out of ideas and that there are not other more newsworthy stories to write about?
Surely the article on Ronald and Jia Wei belongs in some "trash" tabloid and not in Singapore's premier paper!
My personal opinion is that Ronald and Jia Wei should be given some privacy and just be left alone. It is none of our business whether they are a perfect match or not.
Since we are talking about personal space and privacy, I feel that in Singapore society, public figures such as politicians and corporate figures should also enjoy the privacy that the rest of us take for granted.
When was the last time, you bump into a "who’s who" lining up for the movies or waiting for his Char Kway Teow ( fried noodles) at the hawker centre? Of course, some of them may feel that it is beneath their station to mix with commoners but my gut feeling is that these "snobbish ones" are probably the minority. Or maybe they just have their own "home theatres" and prefer fine dining. More likely they are so busy with community functions that such "time-outs" have become luxuries ( of time) that they cannot afford.
Let's try an experiment. Let all of us try not fuss over these public figures when you next meet them in the MRT or in the shopping centre.Try to look non-chalant and pretend that you meet these people everyday.
Don't gawk at them like some paparazzi about to snap pictures and of course no requests for autographs ( even if you do get pass the coterie of security personel).
Then perhaps there will be less reason for them to demand for sky-high salaries on account of loss of privacy and other emotional trauma( which MM Lee recently alluded to (again) in the US when he met his American admirers).
Then we see if the PAP reverses the "astronomical salary for politicians" policy.
As for Ronald and Jia Wei, give them room to breathe.
We can only hope that things turn out well for them, but even if they do not, let us understand that they are just as human as you and I. Some relationships are meant to be ( and some not).
Also the extra pressure is certainly not doing their sporting careers any good! ( You people want another Olympic medal or not?)
Enjoy the super long weekend and holidays everyone, (including Ronald and Jia Wei)
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS. MYOB stands for Mind Your Own Business ( as if you didn't know)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
1.US undertakers admit corpse scam
BBC News Thursday, 19 October 2006, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Seven undertakers in the New York area have admitted being part of a scheme to steal body parts for transplants.
The criminal operation saw body parts removed from corpses without the consent of relatives and sold to biomedical companies.
The body of veteran BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke was among those used.
Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes said that hundreds of parts were sold for millions of dollars, and that more people were likely to be charged.
He said the seven, who have not been named, agreed to co-operate in the investigation and entered their pleas in a secret hearing.
One of those who pleaded guilty was the undertaker who removed parts from the body of Alistair Cooke, who died in 2004 aged 95, Associated Press reported.
Four other people who have been named - Michael Mastromarino, Joseph Nicelli, Lee Cruceta, and Christopher Aldorasi - on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally harvesting bones and organs from up to 1,000 bodies, and were released on bail.
They could face up to 25 years in jail if convicted.
Mr Hynes said in a statement: "These ghoulish thieves thought they could pull off the crime of the century, stealing bones from the dead, without any thoughts to their victims' families or the transplant recipients who would receive possibly tainted bone and tissue grafts."
Prosecutors said they had unearthed evidence that death certificates and other paperwork were changed.
Brooklyn district attorney Michael Vecchione said: "They falsified documents indicating the bones were of people who had no diseases, when in fact most of them did have diseases - which would make the harvesting of those bones, and the reselling of them, illegal."
In Mr Cooke's case, his age was recorded as 85 rather than 95, and the cause of death was listed as a heart attack instead of lung cancer that had spread to his bones.
Other evidence includes X-rays and photographs of exhumed corpses showing that where leg bones should have been, someone had inserted white plastic pipes.
The pipes were crudely reconnected to hip and ankle bones with screws before the legs were sewn back up.
New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, said: "The unspeakable desecration of the bodies - PVC pipe was used to replace bones. Indeed, the very equipment that they used, the mask and gloves and surgical items were tossed into the bodies."
Transplanting tissues such as muscle, skin and bone is common in the United States and the trade in implantable body parts is legal, providing certain conditions are met.
2. Stolen body parts 'sold to NHS'
Potentially contaminated body parts allegedly stolen in the US may have been implanted into British patients, a government agency says.
Over 1,000 body parts were plundered by gangs in New York and then sold for transplants, it has been claimed.
Biomedical Tissue Services, the firm at the centre of the scandal, exported 77 body parts to the UK last year. (Read on...)
3.Highlights of Letter from America ( must read)
In his 58 years reporting US life in his Letter from America, the late Alistair Cooke offered his own view on some of the biggest events of the last half-century, as well as more personal moments, as these highlights from the archives reveal.
How it began Shortly after Letter from America's 50th anniversary Cooke addressed the Royal Television Society in New York on the history of the programme. As he explains in this extract from the lecture, when initially given the assignment, no one expected the programme to last quite as long as it did. (Read on...)
Alistair Cooke was one of my favourite radio-journalists and I try not to miss his weekly broadcasts of "Letter from America" on BBC World Service.
His broadcasts were always thought-provoking and often from the view point of someone who truly loved and appreciated America. He never let any listener forget that America came to Europe's aid in the last world war and was Britain's truest friend in her hour of need.
It is sad to hear that his remains had been desecrated by some crooked morticians whose behaviour are a cross between the mafioso and the three stooges.
It would have been hilarious if it were not so tragic!
As an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) Surgeon, I have often used cadaveric (ie from dead people) ossicles and temporalis fascia for the reconstruction of middle ear anatomy and the ear drum. I have often wondered where these ossicles ( who FYI are the tiniest bones in the human body) came from. Well, my questions have been partially answered!
I just hope our Ministry of Health does not suddenly call me next week to trace the ossiculoplasties and tympanoplasties ( with fascia grafts) that I have done over the past few years.
I would not know what to say to my patients if it turns out that these implants had originated from New York!
Maybe this macabre episode may help some poor troubled patients understand why they keep hearing voices commentating about America from a certain Mr. Cooke. However, it may prove to be little comfort considering that nobody, not even their psychiatrists would believe that they actually hear voices and that they are not psychotic's having auditory hallucinations!
Anyway, for those of you who have not heard Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America", please tune in through my links and hear a master radio-journalist at his best!
I also hope that in the quest to make Singapore a medical hub for transplant medicine, no one here (esply from our Health Ministry) would get any bright ideas from this chain of events!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Monday, October 16, 2006
(BBC News) 13th Oct 2006
Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank have been jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr Yunus, an economist, founded the bank, which is one of the pioneers of micro-credit lending schemes for the poor, especially women, in Bangladesh.
Mr Yunus, 66, said he would use the 10m Swedish kronor ($1.35m, £730,000) prize money to "find more innovative ways" to help the poor launch businesses.
He said he was delighted at the news and proud of the bank's achievement.
"I'm very very happy. It's a great honour for us and for Bangladesh. It's a recognition of our work," he told the BBC Bengali service.
"As a Bangladeshi, I'm proud that we have given something to the world. Our work has now been recognised by the whole world. "
The winners were revealed by the Nobel committee chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, in Oslo.
Mr Mjoes said Mr Yunus had shown himself to be a leader who had managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people.
He and the bank were being honoured "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below", Mr Mjoes said.
He said the bank's work in creating opportunities for large numbers of people to get out of poverty created the conditions for sustainable peace.
"Development such as this is useful in human rights and democracy," said Mr Mjoes.
The BBC's Lars Bevanger in Oslo says this year's winner caught most there by surprise.
Many commentators had expected an award to someone involved in peace talks, our correspondent says.
He says in awarding this prize to an economist, the Nobel Committee has again shown itself willing to widen the scope of the prestigious prize.
Mr Yunus set up the bank in 1976 with just $27 from his own pocket. Thirty years on, the bank has 6.6 million borrowers, of which 97% are women, according to the Grameen website.
Mr Yunus is expected to pick up the award and prize money during a ceremony in Oslo in December.
Text: Nobel Peace Prize citation
Here is the official English text of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's citation in awarding the 2006 Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank. (Link here)
Q&A: So what is microfinancing? (Link here)
FAQ on Nobel Peace Prize (Link here)
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates through the years (Link here)
The poor of the world do not ask for pity.
They just need a chance to make something of their lives. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank has more than conclusively proven that teaching someone to fish is much better than donating fish to them.
Yunus and the Grameen Bank is an inspiration to me. I hope that when my life is finally through, I can achieve even a fraction of what they have done for their common folk.
Seductive as the 5 C's may be, bringing smiles to people's faces and helping folks escape the poverty trap somehow seems more worthwhile.
Well, once in a while I should be allowed to have some delusions of granduer.
Cheers and good night,
Tomorrow is another mundane day,
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Friday, October 13, 2006
SINGAPORE: Singapore's Feedback Unit, which has turned 21 this year, will be revamped and renamed.
Its new name will be REACH, or Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home.
Announcing this at the feedback unit's 21st anniversary celebrations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the revamp is aimed at raising the level of public engagement, promote active citizenry, and create more avenues for Singaporeans to involve themselves in the issues that affect their lives.
Mr Lee stressed the government wants to encourage more people to care about issues, take them up, and shape the character and life of Singapore society. (Read article...)
2. Singaporeans support government's proactive approach to get feedback
SINGAPORE: The government has revamped a feedback group to get more young Singaporeans interested in national policies. Many think it is commendable that the government is taking proactive steps to get feedback.
Political analysts feel that the revamp of the Feedback Unit -- now called REACH -- is aimed at involving young Singaporeans in policy making.
As it is often assumed that young Singaporeans are rarely interested in national policies, the government is attempting to change that perception by tapping on the latest communication gadgets to reach out to them.
This move has got some young citizens interested. One of those interviewed said: "It will help, maybe improve and understand the government's stance and the government will in turn understand the residents' and citizens' stance."
Another said: "Everybody is shifting into the internet era and more people are learning how to write and give their ideas. I think it is a very good move." (Read article..)
The revamping and renaming of Singapore's Feedback Unit as REACH (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home) is yet another attempt by the government to reinvent itself. It is keen to show that it wants to engage the citizenry by being responsive to the ground.
However, to prove that this change is not just cosmetic takes more than just a name-change. There are spin-jobs and there are spin-jobs and we need evidence that this is not just one more.
Skeptics are concerned that sincere feedback’s are not just relayed to respective government organs who then reverberate back to the population after sugar-coating by the government dominated MSM ( main-stream media).
Municipal matters and complaints against public institutions (hospitals/schools) are attended to expeditiously ( as expected) but issues relating to certain “sacred cows” -which contrary to previous pronouncements still exist- almost never get the public airing they deserve.
These “cows” include issues like:
1. “astronomical" ministers’ salaries,
2. use of Group representative constituencies (GRC) to usher novice PAP MP’s in on ministers’ coat-tails,
3. voter intimidation (or seduction if you like) with “upgrading for votes” platform and some other sensitive issues( which if stated in the public domain may attract lawyers’ letters),
all put a dent on the government’s claim that it is serious about engaging the citizens, esply the young.
Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for what the PAP has already achieved for us ie safety, efficiency, meritocracy etc.
I can write dozens of essays of what we have done right ( and I will one day), but that will not prod us forward towards a better Singapore. In fact boasting about our achievements will only lull us to complacency. So I will just leave that task to others who make more convincing sycophants.
What then should be done?
In my humble opinion, only when the the omnipotent PAP admits to having sacred cows and then retreat from power (see previous post) will we then have the chance of attaining the just and humane society that all of us can be proud of. They must recognise that Singaporeans,esply the young want the government to loosen the grip on all aspects of society, including in the political sphere.
Economic prosperity and social justice need not be mutually exclusive.
Only then will active citizenry be a reality, not just a distant hope.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan