Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Landed properties should not be priced out of Singaporeans' reach

Hi Friends,
Another "Dear Editor" letter:

Dear Editor,

There has been disturbing talk in the media recently that the restrictions on foreigners buying landed homes in Singapore could be relaxed.

I hope the authorities would quickly nip this rumour in the bud before there is too much public disquiet.

Goldman Sachs (Singapore) is lobbying for the rescindment of the Residential Property Act, which has since 1973, restricted foreigners and permanent residents from owning landed residential property without prior official approval.

Goldman Sachs argues that this change would serve as a catalyst for further foreign buying of private homes and boost the current residential property up-cycle. To further support this argument, it implies that Singaporeans already have a stake in the country by virtue of the public housing catering to 80% of us.

I doubt anyone in Singapore really feel that the property market would require any more encouragement. If anything, the reverse is probably true and the authorities are probably contemplating measures to cool the red-hot market to a more sustainable level. Goldman Sach’s part about public housing also sounds a tad condescending to me!

Hence I agree firmly with the industry’s opinion leaders who are quoted to be mostly against this proposal.

Charles Chong, chairman Government Parliamentary Committee (National Development and Environment) was quoted as saying, "Landed properties should not be priced out of Singaporean's reach (or) it could lead to disgruntled Singaporeans”.

Others had said that the existing Act has the positive effect of "encourage(ing) foreigners to commit to Singapore, to sink their roots here" and that landed property ownership is one of the “privilege(s) of being Singaporean”.

In Pearl S Buck’s “The Good Earth” the protagonist Wang Lung chided his sons when he overheard them talking about selling the land which he had loved so much. He said “…if you sell the land, it is the end”

Can the relevant authorities please comment?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Addendum (5th July 07):

The above letter was printed in both the Straits Times and Today. The "gahmen" has also replied thus:

Landed homes: No plans to ease foreign ownership (30 June 07)

I REFER to the letter by Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan ('Landed homes: Don't ease curbs on foreigners'; ST, June 28) on the recent report by Goldman Sachs suggesting a review of the Residential Property Act to relax restrictions on foreigners buying landed property.

On June 28, the Ministry of Law spokesperson announced that there are no plans to liberalise the existing system. In land- scarce Singapore, landed properties have to be treated as a special category where purchases by foreigners are subject to special approval.

Radha S. Khoo (Ms) Head (Corporate Communications) Ministry of Law

Please read the related article below:

Time to open the gates?
(Today 26.6.07)

Lift curbs on sale of landed properties to foreigners, says Goldman Sachs

Joseph Yadao

IN THE eyes of some, at least, there may never be a better time to slaughter one of the sacred cows of the landed home market.
The idea of owning a nest in Singapore is becoming increasingly attractive to foreigners. The Government, too, has been effusive in its efforts to draw foreign talent here to build the economy.
So why not relax restrictions on the sale of landed property to foreigners — and satisfy both needs at one go?
Making this controversial proposal in a report released on Sunday, Goldman Sachs — one of the world's largest investment banks — cited suggestive figures.
The proportion of foreigners buying private homes here climbed to 26 per cent in the first quarter of the year, up from 21 per cent in 2005. But as of May, foreigners were involved in only 8 per cent of landed property transactions this year — compared with 29 per cent of apartment transactions. The average price of a top-end bungalow falls short of that of a luxury condominium unit by about 35 per cent.
"We think this price gap could narrow to parity, or very close to it, should restrictions on foreign ownership be relaxed," said the report, adding that "foreigners would like the flexibility of greater housing choice and the positive signal of Singapore's open door policy emanating from such a move".
But the argument will be a thorny one for the Republic to swallow, given the socio-political barbs of such a move. And going by industry players' reactions, the debate is likely to remain an academic one.
Since 1973, the Residential Property Act has restricted foreigners and permanent residents from owning private residential property without prior official approval — and for good reason.
"The restrictions on foreign ownership of landed property is unlikely to be eased because it is an emotional issue. It involves (putting) a tangible, physical part of Singapore in foreign hands," said Mr Colin Tan, director for research and development at Chesterton International.
"Landed properties should not be priced out of Singaporean's reach (or) it could lead to disgruntled Singaporeans, which would be a cause of concern for the Government," said Mr Charles Chong, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment.
Even so, a concession was made in 2004 for Sentosa Cove (picture), where potential foreign buyers were given fast-track approval. Of the 36 landed transactions at Sentosa Cove, 44 per cent involved foreigners. A seaview bungalow plot within the luxury enclave set the record at $1,308 per square foot.
But that is most unlikely to herald any universal lifting of control over landed property ownership in Singapore, say property analysts.
Goldman Sachs argues in its report that removing such restrictions would not hurt the national objective "of giving Singaporeans a stake in the country"; neither would it price them out of the market.
It reasoned that the public housing market met the needs of 80 per cent of Singaporeans by making affordable homes available. The report also conceded that any policy change could be limited to selected types of landed property, such as good-class bungalows.
But Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore, argued that the influx of buyers would give landed property owners the upper hand in this land-scarce environment. "It would be a sellers' market. This will definitely have an immediate impact on prices," he said.
According to forecasts released by property firm CB Richard Ellis yesterday, home prices are estimated to have risen by 4 to 6 per cent between April and June, and they are expected to climb by another 3 to 5 per cent. One driving factor: The limited supply of new homes in the $600 to $800 psf price range.
Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy, said: "Prior to the Residential Property Act, rich Indonesians snapped up properties, pricing Singaporeans out of the market. Today, high-end property prices are up. That is starting to filter down to the mid-tier properties."
He added that keeping certain privileges of home ownership for citizens only "encourages foreigners to commit to Singapore, to sink their roots here".
Chesterton's Mr Tan added: "Some things have to be preserved for Singaporeans. Landed property ownership is one of them. It is the privilege of being Singaporean."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How is the ex?

Hi Friends,

I hope none of the ruling elite reads the piece below.

If they did, they would really feel smug about themselves and the policies of astronomical ministers’ salaries as well as keeping retiring senior ministers on the payroll instead of letting them out to pasture or getting them to ride into the sunset!

Tony Blair, soon to be unemployed, will be trying to find meaning in his life after mid-week.

Regardless of whether he gets to be a reconciler of the 3 major ancient faiths or just a Middle-east envoy trying to find the middle ground for Israel and Palestine, he will feel a voluminous void in his life that is hard to fill.

I’ll give his memoir a miss. Too many current events to occupy myself with already without having to plough through the ramblings of a “has-been” whilst really donating to his retirement fund.

Nothing personal. Actually I think I like Tony.

Presentable, articulate and a loyal friend- especially to the Americans.

Some people thought he made a great pet- a poodle.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

How to be ex-Prime Minister

By Michael Cockerell (BBC News 25th June 07)

Political documentary maker

When Tony Blair leaves Number 10 on Wednesday he will be much better off than Winston Churchill was when he became an ex-prime minister in 1945 - after winning the war and losing the general election.

"My grandfather was effectively bankrupt by the end of the war," says the great man's grandson - also called Winston Churchill.

Churchill was forced to put his home, Chartwell in Kent, on the market.
"Lord Camrose, the then proprietor of the Daily Telegraph was outraged," says young Winston.

"And he corralled 10 wealthy well-wishers and they each ponied up the princely sum of £5,000.

"So for £55,000 - which was a lot of money in those days - they bought Chartwell on the understanding that my grandparents would live there until the end of their days and then it would be presented to the nation."

'Cut off'

In contrast to Churchill, Blair will receive a severance package from the state worth some £300,000 a year.

Thanks to some astute lobbying by other ex-PMs, Blair will get a car, a police driver and round-the-clock special branch protection.

He will also receive an immediate prime-ministerial pension of almost £64,000 a year as well as a further £84,000 to run his office - on top of what he makes as an MP.

But how will Blair cope with life in the ex-prime ministers' club, after what his predecessor John Major describes as the longest farewell tour since Dame Nelly Melba?

One of Blair's closest advisers inside Number 10 told me: "Tony still doesn't know what is going to hit him.

"The thing he will miss most of all is being cut off from top-grade information.
"He will no longer receive secret intelligence reports and papers and briefings which tell him what is really going on - both in Britain and the rest of the world."

When I put this to John Major - a rueful smile of recognition came over his face.

He produced an answer worthy of Donald Rumsfeld: "People ask you questions and you're about to answer and you think to yourself, 'hang on, I'm about to express an opinion on this and I haven't seen the papers. I don't know what it is that the prime minister knows that I no longer know'.

"So here am I about to say that I think he should have handled this differently, but he may know something that I once would have known that nobody else knows."

'Disorientating experience'

Blair will also face the practical problems of adapting to the loss of the life-support system provided by Number 10.

"When you stop being prime minister it's a very disorienting experience, because you go in such a short period of time from having everything arranged for you to being on your own," says Lord Powell, who was Margaret Thatcher's right-hand man for seven years when she was prime minister.

"You don't have an up-to-date telephone book of your own because of course Number 10 had all your telephone numbers. Code numbers have probably changed since you came in.

"I remember being rung up by Margaret Thatcher a week or two after she left Number 10 and being told on a Sunday she had a plumbing problem. And I said 'oh dear, better get a plumber in'. And a long silence. 'How do I do that?' 'Well', I said, 'try the Yellow Pages'. And that's the way we had to go. I ended up ringing the plumber in the Yellow Pages."

The biggest question of all is how to fill the suddenly empty days.

The former Tory cabinet minister, Ken Clarke, who as an MP since 1970 has watched five prime ministers come and go says: "Like a departing captain of industry, Tony will want the next big job in the career.

"In his case I think it will be trying to govern the world and advise all the other political leaders how to run things. And he'll find that difficult, because you are very ex as an ex-prime minister."

Blair's meeting with the Pope on Saturday is one key to what he plans to do.
According to one of Blair's closest advisers: "Tony is obsessed with the idea of becoming a roving envoy who would seek to reconcile the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam."

Blair sought Papal endorsement for his plans to set up an inter-faith foundation - headed by himself.

And there are also strong hopes in the White House of Blair becoming a Middle East peace negotiator on behalf of the West.

Ken Clarke scoffs at these ideas: "Not that Tony would ask for my advice, but if he did I would say, 'forget about reconciling the faiths. You have disqualified yourself from that in a very big way'."

Memoirs goldmine

Blair's former press secretary Alastair Campbell is unsurprisingly more sanguine.

"There are all sorts of things Tony will do in the future," he says.

"He is 54 - while Gladstone and Churchill were in their 80s when they left office. And if you look at someone like Bill Clinton and Al Gore and you see what they have achieved since leaving office - Tony's going to want some of that: to still be involved and focus on the big international stuff - like climate change and Africa."

But Blair is also sitting on a goldmine - his memoirs. Campbell has long described his own diaries as his pension. Blair's will be worth many times more.
I asked Campbell's literary agent, Ed Victor, the New Yorker who's now the top London literary agent to the superstars, how much he thought Blair would get.

"£5m - plus or minus," replied Victor.

"And he should sell his memoirs immediately he steps down. Ronald Reagan did the deal the day after he left office, and that was very smart. Thatcher waited and I think she got less money as a result."

Blair will also have to decide on whether to stay involved in domestic politics or whether he will sign a peace treaty with Gordon Brown.

"An ex-prime minister's a rather unusual fish in politics," says John Major.

"If they say nothing, what are they doing there? If they say something, there's every chance it will be construed as an oblique attack on your successor. So it is extremely difficult to have a role that isn't capable of severe misinterpretation."

"I certainly don't think Tony will be hanging around, backseat driving on Gordon," says Alastair Campbell.

One sure way that Blair can make big bucks outside politics is by following his wife's footsteps on the American lecture circuit.

Although the rapture that once greeted him after 9/11 has waned, Blair remains the most popular and recognisable British public figure there since Lady Thatcher. He would wow US lecture audiences.

"And the lecture circuit has another purpose for you as an ex-prime minister.

When you have been used to public adulation, at least appearing before wildly enthusiastic audiences of hundreds of Americans in Tuscaloosa or elsewhere, still has a nice role in your life.

"It makes you think you are still admired and wanted - and psychologically it's a great compensation for the loss of office."

"I think Tony Blair would make a minimum of $150,000 (£75,000) per lecture in America: all expenses paid, flown there first class, put up in a nice suite," says Ed Victor.

"If he does 10 a year - say one a month - he will be making huge, huge money."

Finding happiness

But can all the money in the world make up for the loss of the most political drug of all - power?

"I don't know whether you can be happy after being prime minister, but I can tell you that I don't believe Margaret Thatcher has not had a happy day in her life since she ceased being prime minister," says Charles Powell.

It may take you a very long time to adjust fully to no longer being the most powerful person in the land.

For the one thing all members of the ex-prime ministers' club have in common is that they have lost the most exciting job that they will ever have.

Ken Clarke sums it up: "I think almost all of them, if you said that, by some amazing miracle, you could go back tomorrow and you could be prime minister again and take on all that hassle, and all that strain, and all that criticism, and all those crises, they'd all have jumped at it and gone straight back straight away."

How to be ex-Prime Minister, Michael Cockerell's TV documentary, will be shown on BBC Four on Sunday at 2100BST.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Everyone was looking ….. and nobody was helping

Hi Friends,

Apathy is endemic in Singapore.

Recent examples of people who turn sleuth to trail hit-and-run drivers to record their license plates are but exceptions to the rule.

By and large, Singaporeans are notorious for being self-centered and uncaring. Most do not know ( or care to know) their neighbours, even if they have lived side by side with them for years.

Try saying “Hello” in the lifts and you may be lucky to just get blank stares.

I do not have to mention the bus or MRT…we already know what happens on a daily basis. The prevailing attitude is, if you are pregnant or old or young, do not expect any kindness ( or a seat) and you won’t be disappointed.

I risk being labeled an “angmoh-phile” if I mention that more likely than not, the ones who will spontaneously lend a helping hand to those in trouble might turn out not to be Singaporeans. Hands up those of us who have witnessed Ang-moh's treading where locals dared not?

Of course, this generalization is unfair to those Singaporeans who are civic-minded, but I am sure even this group of Singaporeans will readily admit that they are a tiny minority.

A tiny drop in the ocean amongst people who generally do not care.

I know some amongst us will blame our politicians for being negative role models and for setting the tone that materialism is all that matters in Singapore. I am of course alluding to the ministers’ astronomical salaries.

I do not think that this argument gives validity to our being uncaring towards our fellow human beings. Whether our leaders set good examples or not, bad behaviour is still just that.

And… how many more maids must die from cleaning the windows of “Sir” and “Madam”?

Can someone check … Is Singapore the “Maids dying from window-cleaning” capital of the world yet?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Read the related account below:

Man saves maid who fell from third floor apartment
Ng Wei Keng / Julia Ng Channelnewsasia 18.6.07

SINGAPORE: It was a lucky escape for a maid on Monday, when she fell out of an apartment in Henry Park while cleaning the windows.

The owner of a bicycle shop on the ground floor heard her screams, and caught her on time.

Witness Abdul Rahman, an assistant at the Holland Grove Road shop, was reporting for work when he was greeted by what he thought was a familiar sight.

An Indonesian maid, believed to be new to the family on the third floor, was stretching from inside the private apartment, to clean the French windows.

"It's very dangerous. Because the ledge here is so low and she's standing on a stool. At first I saw she was cleaning the window and then I walked into the shop and I thought ok, nothing happened. And then a few seconds [later] I heard a scream," said Abdul Rahman.

He ran out and saw the screaming maid hanging on for dear life. She had toppled over the apartment window.

Her employers and another maid had held on to both her arms and one leg from inside the apartment.

And from below, another person was standing by to catch her.

"I ran out and saw my boss standing under the maid. Everyone was looking at the maid and nobody was helping, and my boss was alone there. So I ran down to help him. Before I reached [there], the maid fell off," said Abdul Rahman.

But thanks to his gallant efforts, 43-year-old bike shop owner Haresh Balani - who declined to be interviewed on camera - managed to catch the falling maid.

The catch helped break her fall and she landed next to the drain.

But in the process, the maid, who was of a heavy build, bumped Haresh into the drain.

Haresh suffered shoulder injuries, while the maid hit her head.

"I said, "Don't move around, just relax, don't try to force yourself to get up". She just [lay] on the floor, and kept saying pain, pain, here and there," said Abdul Rahman.

The maid was sent to the hospital.

Haresh too had to see a doctor for his shoulder injury.

Police are investigating the incident. - CNA/yy

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Modern Slavery: An Inconvenient Truth

Hi Friends,

Having been impressed (I think with some justifications) with China’s economic progress, I am mildly surprised and disappointed with the discovery of slaves in China.

This is a serious setback for China’s attempt to be accepted as a respected member of the world community.

Even a successful Beijing Olympics 2008 would not help much in projecting China as a modern and progressive nation if she does not get her own house in order.

Corruption and collusion amongst its local authorities must have been rife for such blatant forms of slavery to be possible.

I am interested to see her corrective actions and what happens to these slave-owners and their corrupt friends.

A.Slavery in China

China 'will catch slave owners' (BBC News)

China has pledged to bring to justice traffickers who enslaved hundreds of children and adults to work in brick kilns in two provinces.

As it prepared to send investigators to Henan and Shanxi, the government said that all captives would be freed.

Some 550 people have been liberated in recent weeks and families believe up to 1,000 children were enslaved.

The story made national headlines after parents of some of them launched an internet campaign for their freedom.

Children thought to be as young as eight years old were kidnapped, held captive and forced to work long hours for no pay.

The case has revealed the dark side of China's booming economy with forced labour and human trafficking common in rural areas, the BBC's Dan Griffiths reports from Beijing.

'All-out' search

Responding to calls for action by President Hu Jintao and other senior top politicians, the labour and social security ministry vowed to send a team of investigators to the two provinces.

"The team will find out the truth as soon as possible, and we will go all out to rescue the workers who have been forced to work as slaves in the brick kilns," a deputy minister, Sun Baoshu, was quoted as saying by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

"The criminal offenders will be dealt with to safeguard the legal interests of the workers."

Thousands of police have been checking building sites in the two provinces and have made scores of arrests, Chinese media report.

Provincial authorities in Shanxi have also said they will punish officials for dereliction of duty unless all abused workers are freed within 10 days.

The wife of one kiln-owner arrested by police said that officials had previously done nothing about the kilns other than ask for money from her husband.

"The officials said that we were illegal and so they came for money but they didn't do any more than that," Zhang Mei told Reuters news agency in Hongtong, Shanxi.

She also blamed a Hongtong foreman, Heng Tinghan, who had allegedly found workers and controlled them directly and is now wanted by police.

"We really didn't know they weren't getting money," Mrs Zhang said.
State TV reports prison-like conditions in the kilns where slaves were controlled with beatings or fierce dogs.

Some young male workers were shown to have festering wounds on their feet and waists, possibly from being burnt by the kilns where they worked.

Many labourers were reportedly abducted off the streets of regional towns and sold on for as little as 500 yuan ($66, £33), the AFP news agency reports, quoting Chinese press.

B.Modern Slavery around the world

Most of us probably suspect that slavery still prevails in this day and age but we just want to block it out of our conscious thoughts.

It is an inconvenient truth.

Anyway, what can we do about it even if we know it exists?

Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu had the same problem as all of us when he said in Hull, UK, in 1999 ,

"Slavery...I didn't know about all these forms that existed. I think it's largely because wearen't expecting it. It is hidden.Generally people would not believe that it is possible under modern conditions. They would say 'No, I think youare making it all up', because it's just too incredible..."

Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly probihits slavery. The article says:

"No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slaveryand the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

As you and I know, it will be a long time before UN’s declarations are able to protect the helpless and vulnerable in remote areas of Africa and South America. If the national authorities in these regions are inept or in collusion with exploiters of human labour, these lofty UN legal documents are worth “squat” to these slaves.

They will continue to be beaten, abused and killed, mostly without the knowledge of anyone else.

God is their only witness.

Please go to’s websites for more information on how humans continue with depraved acts and cruel behaviour despite so many thousand years of “so-called” civilization.

I will just highlight the section below ( from the website) and you can read the rest yourself.

What is modern slavery?

For many people, the image that comes to mind when they hear the word slavery is the slavery of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We think of the buying and selling of people, their shipment from one continent to another and the abolition of the trade in the early 1800s. Even if we know nothing about the slave trade, it is something we think of as part of our history rather than our present. But the reality is slavery continues TODAY.

Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their 'employers'.

Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the countries where it is practised. It is also prohibited by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.

What is slavery?

Common characteristics distinguish slavery from other human rights violations. A slave is:

forced to work -- through mental or physical threat;

owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or threatened abuse;

dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property';

physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.

What types of slavery exist today?

Bonded labour: affects millions of people around the world. People become bonded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, seven days a week, up to 365 days a year. They receive basic food and shelter as 'payment' for their work, but may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.

Early and forced marriage: affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence.

Forced labour: affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work -- usually under threat of violence or other penalties.

Slavery by descent: is where people are either born into a slave class or are from a 'group' that society views as suited to being used as slave labour.

Trafficking: involves the transport and/or trade of people -- women, children and men -- from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into slavery conditions.

Worst forms of child labour: affects an estimated 126 million** children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare.

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ex-NKF Director's Escape- A Parody of Justice

Dear Friends,

I have written the following letter to the MSM's forum pages. Let's see if it sees the light of day.

Author's note (7.6.07): It has been printed by TODAY. Let's see if the ST will print it too.

Dear Editor,

Ex-NKF director’s escape from justice

The public must surely be justified in being extremely disappointed at how a high profile person like the ex-NKF director, Richard Yong, was allowed to escape the grasp of justice.

Did the Official Assignees’ (OA) Office not smell a “fish” when Mr. Yong sold his three properties in February?

Selling houses, even in Singapore’s red-hot property market, is unlike selling a pair of shoes, it takes time and various government bodies are involved. It is difficult to imagine how no red flags were raised during the process.

Or perhaps the Office thought he was merely liquidating his assets in order to pay his creditors in the impending bankruptcy and hence a nonchalant approach was called for?

Whatever reasons the relevant authorities have to offer, may seem a moot point now as the horse has already bolted. But nevertheless, we would still like to hear them and we would also insist on assurances that our civil servants take their jobs and obligations to the people seriously.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

(end of letter)

Of course the subject matter is the infamous Richard Yong who was the director/chairman and erstwhile pal of Mr. T.T. Durai of the now unforgettable NKF Saga.

The Saga that is the mother of all Sagas, the one that takes the cake, the one that was supposed to teach lessons how not to kick your own b#lls bacause it can HURT! Unfortunately the NKF saga has become a recurring nightmare- a deja vu experience.

The only difference is that the nightmares come with different names- UNSW/World Bank-IMF meeting/Suzhou/Shin Corp/Virgin Atlantic etc.

All of us willingly or otherwise are caught up in this complicated web in which our tax dollars are used not just to pay expensive cabinet ministers' salaries but also squandered away by government agencies who do not admit responsibility after each and every screw-up!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Read the episode of the "Scarlet Pimpernel" below!

Tuesday June 5, 4:17 PM Channelnewsasia

Ex-NKF chairman fled just before ICA could blacklist him

It was only a matter of hours, but it was enough for Richard Yong to slip out of the grasp of the authorities and the National Kidney Foundation.

Three weeks after, the missing blanks in the former NKF chairman’s apparent escape from the country are now being filled in.

The Official Assignee’s (OA) office, which is responsible for the affairs of bankrupts, told TODAY it had “immediately informed” the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to blacklist Yong on the morning of May 17, the day after he was declared a bankrupt.

But the OA learnt the next day that it was too late. The ICA confirmed that Yong had left Singapore “just after midnight, in the early hours of May 17”. Investigations are now underway.
The getaway was a culmination of a series of events.

First, Yong had begun to cash in on his three properties in February, when he admitted liability for damages in the NKF’s civil suit. When he moved house, he did not report his new address to the authorities.

When news of these developments surfaced, the bankruptcy application against Yong was brought forward a month. Filed on April 27, a copy went to the OA, as did a copy of the May 16 date for the hearing, and a copy of the court’s declaration of bankruptcy — as per the usual process. A Mareva injunction to freeze Yong’s assets was filed on May 9.

The OA’s office told TODAY it was first informed by the NKF’s lawyers that Yong had been made a bankrupt and could be “a flight risk” on the morning of May 17. “The passports of new bankrupts are generally not impounded or confiscated by the OA. However, if there is hard evidence that the bankrupt has previously travelled or has attempted to travel without permission, his passport may be confiscated,” said a spokesman.

Attempts were made on May 17 and the next morning to personally serve the First Notice on Yong at his residence. But with Yong already gone, the OA launched investigations into offences he may have committed, such as unauthorised travel and disposal of assets.

Yong now has until June 12 to submit his Statement of Affairs. If not, the OA may apply for a warrant of arrest.

TODAY understands that Yong’s two daughters are in the United Kingdom. He was last seen on May 21 in Kuala Lumpur. “We do not have precise information on Mr Yong’s current whereabouts. To date he remains uncontactable,” said the OA spokesman. - /fa

Sunday, June 03, 2007

UNSW finally starting to do the right thing?

Hi Friends,

From the Australian media, UNSW has apparently come out with a substantially improved package for those UNSW Asia campus students who had fallen victim due to UNSW's poor management decision and its subsequent flip-flop.

UNSW may finally be taking the correct steps to right a wrong.

I do not think my comments to UNSW ( which I wrote to UNSW or someone close to it) had anything to do with this turnaround?

I said ( in comments in my blog),

“It is a moot point but this wouldn’t have been necessary if UNSW had not pulled the plug.

I am sure famous case studies like the "New Coke" market failure and how Johnson & Johnson dealt with the aftermath of the Tylenol poisoning episode showed all of us how to behave in a damage control situation.

Those students are victims- overwhelm them with “goodies” so that UNSW would come out of this smelling of roses. How many students are there?- 143 plus foundation students and UNSW seems tardy and reluctant to assist them unreservedly. Why split hairs about non-Singaporeans and Singaporeans? Think about the goodwill gained if they get more than they asked for! Anyway it is a once off and UNSW is unlikely to do any silly things like this in Prof's lifetime right?”
End of quote

Now UNSW would not be labeled as being “Penny Wise-Pound Foolish” and these latest steps may go some way in repairing its damaged reputation.

So, is the EDB going to come clean too? Damage control lessons like the J&J case also applies for Singapore Government agencies.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

The article

UNSW to assist Singapore campus students
The Age June 2

The University of NSW will pay students up to $85,000 to study in Sydney after the collapse of its Singapore campus.

Up to 148 students who enrolled at the campus will have their travel, visa and accommodation costs in Sydney covered by the university until the end of their degrees, with students to receive as much as $85,000 each.

The university will compensate a further 126 students with return airfares to Australia and a year's housing after the collapse of the Tanglin campus, which may end up costing the university more than $40 million in lost revenue, compensation and redundancies, Fairfax reports on Saturday.

The university had anticipated first semester enrolments of 300 and the shortfall was expected to cost $15 million in revenue.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Fred Hilmer said the university had spent $17.5 million on the campus before it opened.

An Australian academic, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Fairfax many professors had given up senior positions to move to Singapore.

He said the reputation of UNSW and other Australian universities had been damaged by the collapse.

"UNSW has killed off any hope of ever marketing itself as an international university, certainly in our lifetime," he said.

"It has been a monumental mismanagement."

UNSW student representative council president Jesse Young said it was a disappointing waste of taxpayers money that could have been spent on the Sydney campus.

A team of people from the university have flown to Singapore to help students with visas.
© 2007 AAP