Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lessons from Beyond the Grave:What two Singaporeans teach us ( Part Two)

Dear Friends,

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

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)


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:)






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.


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.

Noblesse olige.

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

Lessons from Beyond the Grave: What 2 Singaporeans teach us (Part 1)

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...)

My comments:

Hi friends,

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

Re: Ronald Susilo & Li Jia Wei- MYOB!!

Mismatch from the start?

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.'

My comments:

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

The Mystery of the Crooked undertakers and Alistair Cooke

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."

Cancerous bones

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...)

My comments:

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

Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank :2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Nobel for anti-poverty pioneers
(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. "

Surprise choice

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

From "Feedback Unit" to "Reach" : Just more Spin?

1. Feedback unit to be renamed REACH

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..)

My Comments:

Dear friends,

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dreams are made of these:Google gobbling Youtube!

Google to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion
Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:47am ET

By Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Web search leader Google Inc. said on Monday it agreed to acquire top video entertainment site YouTube Inc. for $1.65 billion in stock, the highest price yet paid for a consumer-generated media site.

The first deal to value one of the new generation of user-participation Web sites at more than $1 billion combines two of the most popular Internet brands: Google, synonymous with Web search and rapid innovation, and YouTube, a Silicon Valley upstart that has spearheaded the video-sharing craze.

YouTube, which grew in 19 months from a start-up in a garage to now serve up 100 million videos daily, has drawn scrutiny from major media companies for copyrighted television and music videos that users post without owner consent. (Read on...)


Dear friends,

Is it any wonder that America remains the destination of choice for immigrants? Where nothing is impossible and dreams are limited only by your imagination?

In the US of A: Youtube

Char Hurley (29), Steve Chen ( 27) and Jawed Karim (yes, there is a third guy and Karim left to pursue an advanced degree at Stanford). They met whilst working at Paypal and over dinner and idle small-talk developed the idea for Youtube. Never ever discount small-talk!

This threesome founded YouTube, Inc. on February 14, 2005. In 19 months they have more wealth ( albiet only in Google shares) than many nations' GDP's! I do hope that Karim kept his share-holdings or he will be the most depressed person on earth now-his advanced Stanford degree notwithstanding!

Listen to Charlie Rose's interview with co-founders on ( where else?) and try not to be too envious!


In Singapore, SPH Magazines Pte Ltd , a company of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, acquired Hardware Zone PL and its subsidiaries for S$7.1 million. Although this sum may appear like paltry small-change ( or some may call this "peanuts"), it is still evidence that even in little Singapore, dreams do sometimes come true. (Read more..)

However, some feel that Hardwarezone's valuation could have been higher if our media industry were less monopolistic ( read Xenoboy).


IN the summer of 1998 at a picnic in Silicon Valley, Eric Xu, a 34-year-old biochemist, introduced his shy, reserved friend Robin Li to John Wu, then the head of Yahoo's search engine team. And as they say, the rest is history... ( but not without its share of ups and downs) Read on...

By the next year, 1999, Robin Li had founded his own search company called Baidu and today, it has market capitalisation of US$3 billion and is the world's fourth-most trafficked Web site.

Many of my Gleneagles Hospital doctor friends use Baidu to search for Chinese song lyrics for our regular Karaoke sessions in the doctors' lounge- so it must be true!

And Baidu is doing what no other Internet company has been able to do: clobbering Google and Yahoo in its home market.

Let us dare to dream

Perhaps coming from a small nation has caused us to be more "pragmatic" and parochial in our aspirations and outlook.

Most of us have lived through decades of "molly-coddling" by the authorities and had education in schools where conformity is preferred to rebellion and criticism of "accepted" social norms is frowned upon.

I am a strong advocate of education and it may surprise many here that I believe and am actually thankful that in Singapore, any child that is able and willing has a good chance of climbing the social ladder.

It could be better, but it could also have been worse! However I do not believe in resting on our laurels. What had been good for us in the past may not necessarily work in the future.

Start teaching our kids: "Why not?" instead of "How can?".

Let us not define their boundaries. For them, the sky's the limit!

Steve Jobs, in a speech to Stanford University's commencement ceremony (2005), said these vitally inspiring words that I want to share with everyone,

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

(Read complete speech of Steve Jobs at Stanford University commencement ceremony 2005)

Cheers ( and dream on!)

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hope our Hip-hopping MP's not doing Black-eyed Peas' "My Humps"

MPs to perform hip hop dance moves at Chingay Parade next February

By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 03 October 2006 1650 hrs

SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament from the post-65 generation will be performing hip hop dance moves at the Chingay Parade next year.

The parade will be held along Orchard Road on February 23 and 24.

The 12 post-65 MPs will perform with 300 hip hop dancers at the Chingay Parade.

"The whole process was very enjoyable because the Post-65 MPs, the P-65 team, are very close, so we had a lot of fun doing it. It's more because of the closeness that we have and learning a new dance skills that we're coming forward to also participate in the Chingay," said Teo Ser Luck, Parliamentary Secretary, Community Development, Youth and Sports Ministry.

A few of them are not embarrassed to admit that hip hop is not their cup of tea.

"I have two left feet, I can't dance but I enjoyed myself. I showed my kids what I did, then they went "mum, loosen up a bit!" My kids can dance but I can't," said Jessica Tan, MP, East Coast GRC.
"That's part of the fun - to laugh at yourself, to have a sense of humour about everything and that's what we're trying to do as P-65 MPs, trying to connect with the youth and having fun with them, that's the main thing," said Chris de souza, MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

"All of us are having fun. It's not important whether we perform well, we dance well or whether we look professional on tv or during the parade. Most importantly, we have to connect with the youths of today," said Lam Pin Min, MP, Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Aside from the MPs' performance, the Chingay Parade will feature colourful floats and various activities.

Stretching along Orchard Road from Liat Towers to Orchard Plaza, it's expected to attract some 200,000 people. - CNA /dt


Hi friends,

I must admit to being bemused by the news about our MP's preparing to connect with our youths by doing hip-hop moves for the next Chingay Parade.

Before you get too excited, the Chingay Parade is not Singapore's version of a Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival Parade. Chingay is an annual parade associated with the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Whilst I do admire these post-65 MP's attempts to identify with the younger electorate, I do wonder how the often-cited "conservative Singaporeans" view all this.

Well, I just hope the MP's do not go too far....

OK, I would define " too far" as something like Black-eyed Peas' "My Humps".(Click link to sample Youtube's "My Humps"-It may just be your cup of tea.. Check it out!).

I really don't know about you, but try as I might, I just cannot picture these MP's gyrating their hips, making suggestive sensual moves. Can you?

I guess "one man's meat is another man's peas!"


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Link: Black-eyed Peas

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MM Lee's apology: Icy response from Malaysian government...

Putrajaya (Reuters) -

Malaysia's prime minister gave an icy response on Tuesday to an apology by former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew, who had upset the country by criticising its race relations.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he had received Lee's written apology but declined to say whether he accepted it and instead repeated his objections to Lee's original comments.
(Read on...)


Dear friends,

As highlighted by (Seah Chiang Nee), the response from Malaysians (esply Chinese) were mixed or even positive although the official response from the Malaysian government was understandably icy.

Gauging from the reactions and comments ( albeit selected excerpts) across the causeway, MM Lee appears to be seen as some sort of a champion or a master strategist who can tip the balance of Malaysian politics in favour of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian PM.

Very interesting.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Monday, October 02, 2006

Snippets about MM and MOM

1.MM Lee says sorry that recent comments caused discomfort to PM Abdullah

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew says he is sorry that his recent comments about Chinese Malaysians had caused Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi a great deal of discomfort.

Mr Lee had said during an international forum in Singapore more than two weeks ago that ethnic Chinese minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia are being marginalised.

In his letter to Mr Abdullah, Mr Lee said he had no intention to meddle in Malaysian politics.

Nor does he have the power to influence Malaysia's politics or to incite the feelings of Chinese in the country. (Read more from CNA...)


Hi friends (from both sides of the causeway & also Indonesia),

Now that MM Lee has clarified his position, I hope that we can all move on.

Let us all concentrate our resources on creating a win-win situation for all.

Enlarge the economic pie so that ASEAN can be the next miracle to rival China and India.

It may seem a tall order, but let us put our differences aside to pursue this vision together. How about it?


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

2. MOM unveils measures to help maids and their employers

By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia

The Manpower Ministry has come up with new measures to help maids and their employers forge a better understanding and relationship.

Top among them is prompt salary payment.

From November 1, maids can ask for their salaries to be paid into their bank accounts here.

The Manpower Ministry will introduce this as a new work permit condition for employers.

But maids who have been promptly paid by their employers can continue with their current arrangements.

One employment agency that has enshrined this practice in its contracts fully agrees with this new requirement.

Mary Goh, Director, Garden Home Employment Agency, said: "Opening of the bank account is a good move in a sense that it ensures transparency. And the maids are happy because they feel very secure with the bank account and they are motivated to work harder because they know the money is in their bank account."

Another measure will be random interviews with maids, especially those working here for the first time.

The Ministry will randomly select these maids during their initial months of employment.

During the interviews, the welfare of the maids will be looked into and safe working conditions, their rights and responsibilities will be reiterated. (Read on...)


Dear friends,

I am again happy that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) appears to be doing something to address some of the problems facing our domestic workers ( maids).

Making sure that the employers pay the maids directly into the bank accounts is good. Making random checks on the maids is even better. This would certainly discourage any employer or his family from abusing the vulnerable maids.

But, it still does not address the sad fact that these same maids do not even get a day off a month! As noted in my previous post, although the new contract stipulates that the maids be "given a compulsory day off every month" it then pulled-back by qualifying that they may be paid "cash in lieu”. As rightly pointed by MP Halimah, a maid would find it tough to go up against her boss “because the power relations are uneven”!

Singaporean employers can be extremely persuasive for at the drop of a hat, this maid can be bundled straight to the airport and sent back to ulu kampung or province somewhere faraway!

If faced with a choice of a lifetime of debt ( if deported unexpectedly) or $20 paid in lieu of a day-off, the choice is obvious.

So at the risk of being labelled a ranting lunatic, please go all the way, MOM, and make a weekly day-off compulsory for all workers in Singapore, maid or not!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Of SingPost and other Temasek-linked companies

Post offices to offer one-stop service for buying, selling properties

SINGAPORE : Customers will soon be able to buy, sell and rent residential and commercial properties at the post office.

SingPost has signed an agreement with ERA Realty Network to provide a one-stop service to customers looking to sell, buy or rent public and private homes and commercial properties.

It will initially be offered at three of its post offices in Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade and Toa Payoh from October 16.

SingPost says the initiative is part of its diversification strategy to leverage on its wide retail network to offer more value-added products and services to its customers. - CNA/ms

Hi Friends,

The above is yet another example of a Temasek-linked Company (TLC) making a foray into the local market. SingPost and TLC’s are like behemoths making use of their economic muscle and physical presence to their fullest benefit.

So what else is new? One can already walk into the post-office to get an unsecured loan (conditions apply-of course); buy insurance and even book one’s next flight out of Singapore (albeit only on budget carriers). It is but natural progression isn’t it (or so we are told)? Go to the post-office to sell your apartment, or buy two if you are so inclined!

Oh yes, would you like to hazard a guess what “Speedcash” is? Bring in your family heirloom, (but only if they are of at least 18K gold), in exchange for the cash that the loan shark had been pestering you about! Yes Singapore Post is in the “pawn shop” business too!

Singpost and other TLC’s ,are the epitome of Singapore Inc. Anything and everything is for sale. There is no protection for anyone. Mum-and-pop stores are passé. The NTUC, a trade union co-operative, through its subsidiaries or associated entities already run scores(hundreds?) of 24-hour convenience shops all over the island, including in most ExonMobil petrol kiosks.The saying goes that NTUC has businesses that take care of your family from the “cradle to the grave”. Yes they really have a casket service (I am dead serious!).

Does the government (through its linked companies) crowd out private enterprise? The argument by officialdom has always been that if the TLC’s do not move in, the Carrefours and Walmart’s of the world would. We are supposed to be eternally grateful to TLC’s for being Singapore’s “white knights” against the Carl Icahn’s of the world!. Strange, but none of my acquaintances subscribe to these theories. Maybe my friends are all skeptics or cynics?

We are told that globalization entails that there be no protection for the locals (against foreign competition), no protection for the (economically )weak from the onslaught of the marketplace. There is no protection. Period. You are on your own! (The only exceptions being strategic industries like newspaper publishing and airlines.)

I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness when I look at the forlorn faces of old men and women who belonged to a past era. They are relics of a distant past. They just have to sit and wait. Wait for the next handout. Wait for the next Progress Package or Economic Restructuring Share or whatever fanciful name it is called by next.

Is there a place for them in the new Singapore? Is their place only in our hearts?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: I have nothing personal against any SingPost staff. In fact the two ladies that I encountered at Tanglin Post Office were extremely polite and helpful. But the service to re-direct my mail for 2 months totaled more than S$50 and I think it is a tad expensive!