Monday, June 30, 2008

Organ trading: Peril of Slippery Slope and Ethics Committee's Impossible Tasks

Hi Friends,

I wrote the following letter to the forum pages of our MSM (Mainstream Media).

Addendum (1.7.08): The letter has been printed in all the 3 papers that I sent to. But in one of them, the letter is almost unrecognizable ( but better than nothing).It is mostly unedited in the other two (Actually totally unedited in Today's version).

Let me state that I am active in my hospital's committees- including the Medical Advisory Board ( elected) but I am not on the Ethics Committee of my hospital.

I have written some posts on Organ Trading and HOTA (Human Organ Trading Act) :

1. Organ trading- What next? Is there nothing sacrosanct?
2. Brain death case at SGH (HOTA)
3. Mystery of crooked undertakers and Alistair Cooke



June 29, 2008

Dear editor,

I wish to make two points about Organ Trading.

1.Organ trading is dehumanising and problem of the “slippery slope”

I am opposed in principle to Organ Trading as to legalize the sale of human organs will inevitably put Singapore’s healthcare system on the slippery slope down to a level where we become less human. There are already some who argue that so long as there is a willing seller and willing buyer, the market should be left to sort itself out.

Although narcotics and other illegal drugs also have such a scenario, we do not seek to decriminalise them nor campaign to allow narcotics trading do we?

The “slippery slope” arguments also forces us to consider a scenario where we may start with trading of kidneys and livers now but will then slide down to include hearts and brains in the future. Although the sale of a human heart will entail the death of the donor, public consensus may by then be that as different people have different usefulness for society, it is then not immoral that the less economically productive should make the ultimate sacrifice ( with or even without payment).

It may seem unthinkable now but once we accept that the human being and his organs are mere commodities to be traded like meat in the market, it becomes less difficult to imagine Singapore in the future as a version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where “Alpha humans” are treasured and “Epsilon humans” are expendable.

2. Ethics committees’ impossible job- MOH should take over policing of organ trading

In my opinion, any organ donation other than by a close family member (spouse/parent/children) should always be suspect. Why should any distant relative be so altruistic as to donate his kidney at great surgical risk to himself if there is no financial gain? I have even heard of a military general claiming that his humble private soldier is willing to voluntarily donate his kidney out of respect for the general!

The committee members are volunteers and are not professional sleuths. The two doctors and one layman can only trust their instincts whether to accept the accounts told to them by the donor and organ recipient. If these latter two are well coached and well-armed with affidavits and diagrams of family trees, short of going to remote towns and villages in South Asia or Indonesia, the ethics committee would just have to clear the transplant!

I suggest that the responsibility of detecting organ trading is too onerous for the hospital’s ethics committee. MOH itself should take over this function as it has more resources at its disposal and only after organ trading has been excluded by MOH’s committee should the hospital’s ethics committee convene and then only to do what these doctors have been trained to do- to vet the medical indications for transplant and other such medical-related issues.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

cc: Ministry of Health

PS: Published in Straits Times; Today; My Paper. No reply from MOH

Monday, June 16, 2008

Singapore's 4 opposition schools- My unpublished comments

Hi friends,

I did an email interview with Straits Times' Syed Zakir Hussain on the so-called 4 opposition schools ie JB Jeyaratnam; Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Chee Soon Juan.

Unfortunately, the editors did not print any part of my interview.

Since it has already been written, I thought I would share the interview with our readers.

To put the intervew in the correct perspective, I will include Zakir's letter also.

Straits Times Syed Zakir Hussain's letter (edited)

Dear Dr Huang,

I hope you are well. I'm a journalist with The Straits Times. We're working on a feature on "the four schools of opposition politics" in Singapore, and I was wondering if I'd be able to get your thoughts - as someone who's written (and blogged) on politics and related issues in recent years.

The feature is in the form of four stories on each of them (sort of an objective report card) - and we're speaking to political observers and a few others. It's essentially a short historical and current-day assessment of J.B.Jeyaretnam, Chiam See Tong, Low Thia Khiang and Chee Soon Juan - their approaches to politics, their track record and achievements (including in the non-conventional sense) and how their platforms/ideas have gone down with voters.

Would we be able to get your comments and views?

Our questions are:

1. How would you describe the political styles of each of these four politicians, say in two to three sentences each?

2. What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these four "schools"?

3. What is it about each of these four "schools" that you feel might appeal - or not appeal - to the average Singaporean voter? Does each of them cater to a different type of voter?

Look forward to your reply.

Thanks! Regards,


Zakir HussainJournalist,

The Straits Times

My comments

My opinions about the 4 opposition leaders and their leadership styles

General Introductory Comments:

I do not entirely agree that the politics of J.B.Jeyaretnam (JBJ), Chiam See Tong (CST), Low Thia Khiang (LTK) and Chee Soon Juan (CSJ) are so different that they should each be pigeon-holed into separate school. Each of the 4 is an individual with his own personality and style but the 4 veteran politicians share the common goal of trying to break the PAP monopoly with the hope of establishing a sustainable and healthy multi-party democracy.

This project may yet again be misconstrued by some as Mainstream Media’s (MSM) attempt to drive a wedge between the different opposition parties as a “divide and rule” tactic but I am willing to give the editor/writer the benefit of doubt.

I qualify my statements by saying that I do not know any of the 4 gentlemen personally and my impressions are gathered from the main and alternative media ( like everybody else).

1. How would you describe the political styles of each of these four politicians, say in two to three sentences each?


He is the elder statesman of Sg opposition politics and a hero to many. He is the biblical David who broke the PAP’s 100% stranglehold at Anson and single-handedly opened the door for others like LTK & CST. He is the only true believer of the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy ( amongst PAP and other opposition politicians) and could be described as the successor of David Marshall. He is the archetypical Westminister opposition party leader who is fearless and uncompromising and whose sole aim in life is to see the development of free and unfettered democracy. He has given his whole life for his principles.


LTK is a cautious politician, perhaps as a result of what has happened to other opposition personalities such as JBJ, Francis Seow, Tang Liang Hong. He appears to want to work within the system even if the rules, which are made by the PAP, appear unnecessarily suffocating and restrictive. He does not believe in being confrontational for its own sakes and is seen by some as being too accommodating. His recent statements that WP is not prepared for political rule for at least 10 years or more and that his work is of a watch-dog may signal to the PAP that he is keen for co-opetition ( like Coke and Pepsi) ie mutual existence without trying to destroying each other.


Least colourful of the 4. Other than clinging on to Potong Pasir ( which is no mean feat in itself ), he has shown himself to be happy to be a localised municipal politician ( like a mayor) rather than a national leader. Unfortunately he has not been able to groom any politician to take over his mantle (perhaps due to bad experience with CSJ) . Popular at PP as he is undoubtedly sincere and a people’s politician. Not a threat to the PAP who is willing to wait for him to step down from the stage after which PP will be back in PAP’s fold.


Having failed to get any headway into mainstream politics due to what he considers as uneven playing field in a system where the incumbent is seen to be both a player as well as the referee, CSJ is resorting to extra-parliamentary struggle and advocates civil disobedience as he feels that unfair laws should be challenged in order for true justice to prevail. To CSJ, he will not compromise even if by challenging injustice, he may be seen to be washing dirty linen in public. He is comfortable with using local and foreign media to bring attention to his causes.

2. What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these four "schools"?


Strengths: Seen as hero who is the victim of the incumbent’s tactics. Legendary oratorical skills at rallies and in parliament. Only opposition politician who can face-off the senior PAP leaders. Reputation as the Lion of Anson.

Weaknesses: Poor organiser and tactician/strategist. Assumes the Westminster system will be accepted by Singaporeans ( who are easily swayed by MSM which supports one-dominant party politics ( eg PAP and China)). Seen as too old. Does not seem to have long-term strategy.


Strengths: Strong grassroot support. Has empathy for the disadvantaged and poor. Good organiser and seems to have a plan (but seem too slow to many). Integrity is admired by all and is acceptable to the PAP so much that he has been cited as the type of opposition politicians that has a place in Sg’s landscape ( contrasted to JBJ and CSJ).

Weaknesses: Appears to be too accommodating and not providing alternative views and politics like a conventional opposition politician. Seemed to remain silent even when the people felt frustrated by the govt’s unpopular policies. Being upstaged by SDP and CSJ now is the defacto opposition leader. Dares not take risk in raising his profile for fear of attracting attention from the PAP?


Strengths: Honest and sincere politician who is still able to command respect of PP’s residents. No skeletons in the cupboard.

Weaknesses: Unable to recreate the old SDP. No successor in sight. Does not seem to have a viable long-term strategy for his party.


Strengths: Known to be good orator and surprised even MM with his eloquence. Appears to be an inspirational and charismatic leader who is able to get party members to believe in him and his causes. In any other country, he might have been a leader of a significant alternative party. A master in getting maximum media attention. All who have interacted with him are surprised at his intellect ( not what is commonly portrayed by MSM)

Weaknesses: The majority of Singaporeans see him as discredited politician more intent on antics than proper serious politics. Unable to convert neutrals and pro-PAP supporters to his cause. At Sembawang GRC, his vote share of 20% plus is the same as the hard-core anti-PAP vote.

3. What is it about each of these four "schools" that you feel might appeal - or not appeal - to the average Singaporean voter? Does each of them cater to a different type of voter?


Appeals to all idealists ( all ages even the young). Many support him due to sympathy for his sacrifice ( lost property/ career and decades of his life) and that he seems to be the only opposition leader who dares spar with certain senior govt leaders.
Not appeal: To pragmatists and those who see him as too confrontational and uncompromising.


Appeals to many average Singaporeans esply younger group. However if he becomes more and more centrist and share the PAP’s stances on major issues, voters may feel that they might as well vote for the PAP instead of a PAP-clone. He has to make a breakthrough soon. If he does not raise the party’s profile, the idealistic will flock towards CSJ’s SDP or even JBJ’s Reform party.
Does not appeal: To the bleeding-heart liberals who will support JBJ/CSJ, But faced with no other choice, liberals will still vote for WP.


Appeals to middle and lower-class PP constituents because of his track record and empathy with them. But due to his age and health, his hold on PP has limited timespan.


Appeals to hard-core anti-establishment types and increasing numbers of people who are disillusioned with moderate parties like WP who are deemed too compromised.
Does not appeal: To majority of Sgaporean’s as MSM’s demonization of him ( eg Chua Lee Hoong’s unkind article) will have some effect on people’s minds. He has to try very hard just to convince people that he is a normal rational person.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Monday, June 09, 2008

What think ye of SDP?


Alex Au of Yawning Bread has written an excellent exposition about the Singapore Democratic Party.

Please read it. It very succinctly discusses both sides of the coin. That SDP is a trouble-maker or a change agent. A villain or a victim?

Let me say that my mind is still not made up about them. My brain-washed mind wishes that they are less confrontational but my heart says that maybe they are pushed to the wall and have few alternatives to what they are doing.

But don’t let anyone decide for you. Think it through yourself!

I had previously written something about the Politics of Retreat that Alex and Russel Heng ( a academic) had alluded to : here (Retreat from Power: Who will lead us?)

2. click here ( Havel,Walesa,Tutu: Living Proof that evil does not always triumph)

Happy reading.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Lessons about Discrimination from the Book of St James

Hi Friends,


Would you go to an entertainment joint eg St Jude Nuclear Station, that :

1.Allows people of certain race in for free but not for others ? Eg All Greens free but Chinese/Malays/Indians/Caucasians etc have to pay

2.Allows certain nationalities in for free but charges the rest? Eg Singoopooleans free but non-Singoopooleans like Malaysians, Indians,Singaporeans,Americans etc have to pay

3.Allows certain occupations in for free but not for others ? Eg Air Line pilots free but PAP ministers, doctors, students etc have to pay.

4.Allows free entry on certain nights for people of certain sexual orientations ? Eg Heterosexuals free but homosexuals and bisexuals and others have to pay.

5.Allows entry for those who pay but not for those who will not ? Duh!

I think most of you get the idea by now.

There are discriminations and there are discriminations

Most clubs already have some discriminatory entry policies such as all women nights or free entry for airline crew or even beautiful people of the “glam” circuit etc.

Most patrons find these acceptable but not when St James Power Station allowed in for free foreign tertiary students whilst charging their local counterparts.

This controversial move by St James ( before the U-turn) triggered some raw and mangled nerves. It would be instructive for everyone to know why. Why is it that certain discriminations are acceptable market practice whereas others could lead to boycotts and uproars ?

Acceptable discriminations in Singapore

My personal take is that Singapore society prides itself for its meritocracy and feels perfectly at home with discriminations based on wealth and ability. Most feel that if one does well academically or have talents in special skill-sets (music/creative industry), society would reward them with not just higher pay packets but also higher status.

But try telling these same Singaporeans that even if you are a tertiary student of a solid university (with GPA 4.0 no less), that they will be treated as second class just because their identity cards showed that they are not foreigners, they will not take it lying down! I further postulate that the uproar would be less loud if all tertiary students who are on the dean’s list got entry fee waivers. This is because one can work towards a dean’s listing or get a certain bank’s "tritalinium" credit care but one generally cannot help being a citizen of one’s nation.

If St Jude wants to charge a premium for entry? Good! I will earn that money and you let me in! If Singapore Island Country Club's membership costs $250000? Good! I will show you the money and you let me play golf on the signature championship Bukit course! (NB I will tell you how LKY forced open the white-only “race barrier” at SICC at another occasion).

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is also discriminatory but it has not started any riots! You want to use the road, pay lah!

Whatever it is, don’t tell me that even if I am willing to pay the sky-high price and work to be the best of the best that I am barred because I am not Green or not Singoopoolean!

So how, Dennis?

So Dennis Foo, why did you "nearly (fall) off (your) chair" when you read about the uproar over the controversial policy in the newspaper? I am surprised that you are surprised!

How about trying free entry for Dean’s list scholars or for Mensa members?

Guaranteed that there will be less uproar! But then who wants to be part of a crowd of nerds, right? Ha ha.

Back to the drawing board?!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

St James does a U-turn

The S'pore nightspot's reversal comes after the press reported local students were upset that their foreign counterparts got in free while they had to pay a cover charge.

Fri, Jun 06, 2008AsiaOne

Local nightspot St James Power Station has decided to drop its unpopular door policy of waiving club entry fees for foreign tertiary students while imposing a cover charge on local ones.

The reverse in policy comes following a My Paper article on Wednesday that reported local students being upset at such a policy, which they protested as unfair and discriminatory.

Powerhouse, the nightspot's main dance room, had a sign at its door stating the policy, but it still came as a surprise to Mr Matthew Rao, 25, a National University of Singapore student, who had flashed his identity card at the door of the popular nightclub and was asked to pay the $20 cover charge. His foriegn friends, who were with him, got in for free.

"I thought the IC was for age verification, but the bouncers said I had to pay because it was proof I was Singaporean," recalled Mr Rao in the My Paper report.

"Why should foreign students get different treatment? If they live here, why shouldn't they pay as well?"

In an interview with The Strait Times Life! on Wednesday night, St James chief executive Dennis Foo said that he "nearly fell off his chair" when he read about the uproar over the controversial policy in the newspaper.

Acknowledging that "St James has erred", an apologetic Mr Foo announced that all tertiary students over 18, both local and foreign , will get in free before 11pm to its main dance club, Powerhouse, if they produce a valid student pass.

Powerhouse is opened on Wednedays, Fridays and Saturdays.

On why such a policy was introduced in the first place, Mr Foo explained: "Powerhouse, being a dance club, targets the younger set, some of whom are tertiary students.""But there are so many tertiary instituitions here. We can't offer it to all, so we chose foreign students to start with. It was also to give the place a more cosmopolitan feel."

Other nightspots

A check with other popular nightspots such as Zouk and Ministry of Sound (MOS) reveals that they do not have such nationality-specific policies in place.

Zouk, however, does offer free entry for certain credit card-holders on some nights and has industry nights such as Aircrew Night on Saturday when aircrew get free entry and 40 per cent discount on drinks.

There are no entry benefits for students there.

Over at Ministry of Sound, local students do have something to cheer about as both local and foreign students are granted free entry before 11pm on Wednesday and Thursday. MOS also offers free entry to air crew, who also get discounts on drinks at the club's Sky Lounge.As for St James' U-turn, it remains to be seen whether local students will continue frequenting the club.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Reflections of a Singaporean after a soccer match

Hi Friends,

I answered the call of duty (from a radio announcement) to go to the National Stadium to support the national team as it plays Uzbekistan in its World cup qualifying match tonight. For me this match outing was memorable for more than a few reasons.
It had goals (10 in all including a penalty- photo left); noisy and boisterous fans ;a half-time marriage proposal (photo right) and … memories.


I watched my last live-match involving the Singapore national team more than 30 years ago.
Weekend Malaysia Cup matches were what many teenagers looked forward to in the 1970’s. We enjoyed watching Quah Kim Song, Mohamed Nor, Dollah Kassim, Eric Paine, Robert Sim, Seak Poh Leong, Syed (break a leg) Mutalib, Hasli Ibrahim, S Camel Rajagopal and others beat the stuffings out of minnows like Perlis,Sarawak,Negri Sembilan,Malacca. The only teams who provided some competition were Selangor , Penang and maybe Pahang.
The Kallang roar then was formidable and the football fever red-hot! I even remember being in a stampede during the Singapore versus Penang ( or was it Pahang?) match when due to an unexpectedly large sell-out crowd of more than 65000, riot police had to intervene and prevent disaster as crowds queuing for tickets at the back were lunging forward and pushing many of us towards the metal gates. To avoid getting crushed, some of my friends had to climb over the gates even though police and VC’s (Vigilante Corps) were swinging truncheons at them.
There was one unfortunate fatality of a fan who suffered a heart attack in the excitement. I cannot remember whether we won or lost but after that weekend, all match tickets had to be bought before match-day from community centres etc.
I thought tonight would be a golden opportunity to show my son what the Malaysian cup era soccer matches meant to my generation. Almost like National Service, it was a rite of passage.
So there we were seated at the grandstand at 7.30pm.
The Match
I am no masochist but I enjoyed the match. Yes, we lost. And yes ,the score was 3-7. Hand on my heart- Singapore played well (really!). But the Uzbeks played better. Their overlapping fullback ran through our defence like a hot knife through butter (ala Ryan Giggs of olde). I hate to say it but it was like taking candy from a child.
We were outclassed. Period.

There is no shame in losing to a better team. FYI, Uzbekistan beat Saudi Arabia 3-0 ( I am entitled to some sour grapes). Suffice to say that our attack was better than our defence.
Our goal-keeper Lionel Lewis kept out another 3-4 certain goals! We missed about one or two other chances. So the score could have been much worse- like 4-11! Thank God it was only 3-7!
The Singapore team ran itself to the ground and had no answer to offer and at the end, I was pleading with the ref to please blow the damned whistle to end the misery quickly.
Just in case you think I am less than qualified to comment on the quality of the game, let me state my credentials. I was my class goal-keeper during recess breaks (almost by default as I was not good at kicking); and still am a loyal supporter of Leeds United (can name most members of the famous team under Don Revie) ( Harvey, Hunter, Gray, Charlton, Madeley, Bremnar, Clarke etc)
The Aftermath

There was no sadness nor regrets. Just numbness.

With a halftime score of 2-6 ( or was it 2-5? ) the final score was almost immaterial. It was about trying one’s best in extremely difficult circumstances. And I think the Singapore Lions almost succeeded. The papers tomorrow may perceive this defeat differently but I hope that the reports are not too scathing!
I think I speak on behalf of the Singaporeans in the crowd that we felt proud to be Singaporeans tonight. I also sense that for the duration of the match, none of us begrudged the many
foreigners who wore the all-red strips to play for their adopted country. Whether they be from China, UK, Eastern Europe or Africa, we rooted for them as much as for those born and bred on our own shores.
Singapore, the nation, has not arrived yet but is an experiment very much in progress.

Singapore is not perfect but it is not as bad as portrayed by the Chee’s and one ex-Singaporean.
Perhaps watching a soccer match would change their minds – but knowing them, maybe not.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan