Sunday, December 20, 2009

Singapore Healthcare- A Personal Perspective

Hi Friends,

I know our healthcare system is not perfect.

And our doctors are definitely not “angels”.

But there are still Singapore doctors out there who are ethical and abide by the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath (even in the private sector) that I feel a defence of our system is warranted here.

Is our healthcare more expensive than our neighbours’ ? Are there times when we wished that the results from surgery or treatment were better? Are there black sheep in our system who are “outliers” as far as indications for treatment or treatment fees are concerned? The answers are of course “Yes”!

But would I still recommend my loved ones to be treated here in Singapore? Of course (except for the most trivial conditions).

In all hospitals (public and private), volunteer doctors and other personnel sit in committees to look into how healthcare can be better delivered to our patients.In my hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, amongst other things, committees ensure that there is Quality assurance; that all deaths are independently reviewed and surgical specimens from patients confirm that operations were really needed etc.

When near-misses or actual mishaps happen, we help the hospital to diligently look for the root causes and design correct processes to plug gaps in the system. We are often pleasantly surprised to know that in many near-misses, these mistakes are identified further down the line by another vigilant colleague who actually helped to avert potential disasters.

An “honour” system where healthcare workers including nurses and doctors, voluntarily submit “Hospital Occurrence Reports” (HOR) whenever such incidences occur. These range from serious ones such as prescribing patients with drugs that they are known to be allergic to, to trivial incidences such as patients having broken skin when plasters are removed.

In fact, reporting near misses is not unique to the healthcare industry. The aviation industry also reports near misses and the familiar safety rule of turning off electronic devices that can interfere with navigation equipment, is a result of this.

However, when staff (including doctors) are recalcitrant and disregard established safety norms, they are investigated and disciplinary actions are taken when appropriate. Some doctors have had their working privileges suspended or get reported for further action by the Singapore Medical Council and the Ministry of Health.


Cheers

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan


The unabridged letter (20.12.09) ( I will append Salma Khalik's letter the moment I find a digital copy) Click here for the "edited" published letter.

Dear Editor,

I refer to Salma Khalik’s article “Make hospitals and docs more accountable”.

Khalik refers to the unfortunate case where the tissue biopsy diagnosis from a “quick analysis” frozen section (FS) (usually obtained within minutes while the patient is already in the operating theatre) differed from the final permanent section (usually reported at least one day later). It is internationally accepted practice for a surgeon to rely on FS for guidance as to whether a major operation should proceed.

In this case, the final permanent section showed “no cancer” – by which time major surgery had already been done as the FS reported a diagnosis of “cancer”.

FS is an invaluable tool used by surgeons. However, as with any diagnostic tool, there are limitations that allow errors to occur, including the initial selection of tissue by the surgeon, the tissue sampling by the pathologist, the technical expertise required to prepare the slides, errors in interpretation, and delivery of the result back to the surgeon.

Some diseases are so complex that even the most renowned pathologist would make errors in the FS or even in the permanent section!

To complicate the issue, a converse situation could also happen. The FS could report “benign” and surgery aborted, only to be proven wrong much later- by which time cancer might be too advanced for curative treatment.

Let me cite an actual example. My patient had thyroid surgery in another country. FS was not done and only partial resection was done. On re-evaluation of the tissue slides by our pathologist, “cancer”was confirmed and a second operation was needed for total resection of the cancer-bearing organ. If initial surgery was planned with FS, he would only have needed one operation.

Despite what Khalik has written in recent times, I sincerely feel that Singapore’s healthcare in both public and private hospitals has proven, time and again, to meet the needs of Singapore’s residents. The “complaints” published in the media pale in comparison to compliments we hear about our system from our patients and families.

Doctors, especially in the public hospitals, frequently miss meals as the 5-10 minutes slots allotted for outpatients are not sufficient for complex cases and those needing procedures.

Yes, mishaps do regrettably happen and on a daily basis too, but these are mainly minor with no “adverse outcomes”. This is unsurprising as Alexander Pope had said that “To err is human”.

Time does not permit me to elucidate measures taken by hospitals to minimize mishaps.

I am particularly heartened to learn that despite suffering from the KKH chemotherapy mix-up, the patients were willing to forgive. They remind me that Pope’s quotation ended with ..” to forgive is divine”.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Singapore Athletics' SAA sucks- so please go

Hi Friends,

Singapore’s Athletics, as embodied by the Singapore Athletics Association, sucks and I have said it here before.

It is high-time the government stepped in.

Much as I dislike too much government interference in our lives, this particular move by Balakrishnan and gang is the right move.

When the SAA’s bosses remain intransigent and do not reform ( and improve) for the sake of society, then they should be persuaded, nudged or even forced to make way for those who can perform.

Cheers

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Thursday, December 03, 2009

English proficiency for foreign frontline service workers

Hi friends,

In May 2008, I wrote to the papers to suggest that foreign frontline service workers be required to take basic English proficiency tests. This will increase productivity (as English is our lingua franca) and reduce the angst of many Singaporeans who had encountered frontline workers who could not understand English.

If such a worker was working at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, one would not have bat an eyelid, but the thing is that these non-English speakers are working on Mainstreet Singapore.

Anyway, please click here to read my blog post on this.

The government has responded.

In this little red dot, things move- but sometimes at a glacial pace.

So if there is anyone out there with bright ideas- don’t give up.

Cheers,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Only if they speak English ...
05:55 AM Dec 03, 2009 (Today)
by WANG ENG ENG AND ALICIA WONG

SINGAPORE - It could be the next best thing to outright requiring all foreign service staff to be conversant in English, for those tired of encountering sales assistants and waiters who don't speak a word of it.

From the third quarter of next year, work permit holders in the retail, food and beverage and hotels sectors will need to pass an English language proficiency test in order to qualify for skilled levy status.

It passes the buck, literally, to employers who pay just $150 a month for the skilled workers levy but $240 for the unskilled levy.

And while some industry players applaud this, others lament the cost of training.

The Manpower Ministry will partner NTUC Learning Hub and the Workforce Development Agency to train workers, and they are anticipating a two- to three-times increase in demand for English classes. More details of the tests will come next year.

The move, said Restaurant Association of Singapore Ang Kiam Meng, will force employers to look "more proactively" at the communication problems of foreign service staff. "It will encourage the restaurateur to upgrade their non-speaking English workforce ... As a whole it's positive for the industry," he said. But he wondered if it would prove an "extra (cost) burden" for employers.

At the Migrant Workers Centre, which yesterday saw its first batch of foreign workers graduate from a basic English course, subsidised fees are under $200 a person.

Businesses have other concerns. "Half of our workers will not make it (past the test) and might not be able to continue to work. We're going to face problems," said Ms Christine Chan, human resource manager at Riverview Hotel.

The affected half are mainly the backend staff who do not deal with customers. "When we employed them, we did not expect them to speak good or simple English," she said, pointing out that the hotel might not be able to convert all those who fail the proficiency test to unskilled worker status, as there is a quota for unskilled workers too.

And with the integrated resorts opening, "if we send staff for the English course, if they improve their competency, will they continue to work with us or move on? Cannot make them sign bond, right?" said Ms Chan.

How would the move affect companies' hiring decisions - would they give priority to those proficient in English, or willingly hire first and train later?

"The more enlightened businesses will train their staff before putting them in the frontline," said Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business senior sales and marketing manager Chew Kheng Fui - while another option could be to ensure frontline staff pass the proficiency test but resign to paying the unskilled levy for backend staff.

Or would employers turn to hiring more Singaporeans? "I wish it could but I don't think it will happen," said Mr Chew. "Getting foreigners to do the job will still be much more cost effective. Employers will just be more selective in hiring foreigners that can speak better English - so maybe the Filipinos have the advantage, compared to mainland Chinese."

Minister of State (Manpower and Trade and Industry) Lee Yi Shyan said: "We want to encourage employers to look at it as building a more productive workforce ... If they look at how much better service they can provide, that should incentivise them to send the workers for the programme.

"The cost in training is a small factor. Whether local or foreign, you have to continue to train our workers ... Otherwise, if we stand still in our skill level, our economy will not be competitive."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dollah Kassim and other heroes from my childhood.



Hi Friends,

Close your eyes.

Imagine Dollah Kassim standing before a ball in the National Stadium- about to take a free kick.

If you cannot picture him with his classic “arms akimbo” pose, I can bet that you were not at any Malaysia Cup match of the 1970’s.

Boys of my vintage derived immense pleasure from thronging to the Kallang arena weekend after weekend to watch the likes of Dollah Kassim whip the minnows of Malaysia in the only sports event that mattered- the Malaysia Cup.

Perlis, Johor,Malacca,Negri Sembilan were cannon fodder for Dollah and the gang. Only Selangor and occasionally Penang were any match for us.

If my memory does not fail me, the gang included:
Eric Paine (goalie); Hasli Ibrahim and Syed Mutalib (both capable of breaking legs) ; Seak Poh Leong (Captain); Robert Sim;Samad Allapitchay; “Camel” Rajagopal; Quah Kim Song; Quah Kim Lye;"baby-faced" Mohamed Noh and of course Dollah Kassim. (addendum 6.10.09 5.40am- "Terry" Pathmanathan was inevitably left out. Apologies)

Their Malaysian nemesis were giants like "spiderman" Arumugam; Santokh Singh;"Towkay" Soh Chin Aun;Mokhtar Dahari;Shukoh Salleh and Isa Bakar.

Filling the Kallang cauldron with 50000 or more screaming adulating fans was a “given” every weekend. The coach was of course the wheelchair-bound Choo Seng Quee who would start each training session with the national anthem.

Dollah, thanks for the memories.

Our prayers are with you and we hope that you can overcome the biggest “match” yet. You have beaten the odds before and you can do it again.

Your faithful fan,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan


Singapore football legend Dollah still in critical condition (Today 5th Oct 2009)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's football legend Dollah Kassim is still unconscious and in a critical condition after suffering a heart attack at Sunday's Sultan of Selangor Cup veterans game. Paramedics had to resuscitate Dollah before he arrived in hospital and the 60-year-old underwent an emergency angioplasty procedure to unclog blocked arteries on Sunday night. Dollah is warded in the Intensive Care Unit at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He is hooked up to machines and his breathing assisted by breathing machines. His family has requested the doctors not to reveal too much at this point in time.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Upgrading PP & Hougang: Righting a shameful wrong

Dear Friends,

Despite the good that our PAP leaders have done, shameful partisan acts such as denying public resources to tax-paying citizens just because they exercised their constitutional right to elect a Member of Parliament (MP) of their choice, would negatively impact on their historical legacy when they have finally left the stage ( or the world).

Neutral historians ( not the Men-in-white type) will always add a post-script such as … “notwithstanding his positive contributions, he would also be remembered for controversial policies which…” ( feel free to complete the para).

Now that our rulers have decided to reverse their stand, what do we see? We see losing ( not loser) political candidates come out and try to claim the limelight ( and maybe credit as well).

Where were these PAP men when their party masters took away these rights from their prospective constituents? Did they raise vociferous objections or resign in protest? ( maybe they did but the MSM did not report them?).

They are now forming committees to help residents vote for the upgrading-the denial of which they or their predecessors consented to by their sheepish silence and lack of spine.

Oh, should not the voting be under the purview of the rightfully elected MP, the right honourable Chiam See Tong and (perhaps later) Low Kia Thiang?

"Shame. Shame,Shame... Shame on you!" ( sang Caroline Fernandez in a Talentine contest decades ago) Correction (5.10.09 8.40pm- it should be Carol Ann Fernandez)

Enough said!

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Ref: ChannelNewsasia

HDB blocks 101 to 109 in Potong Pasir Ave 1 to get lift upgrading

02 October 2009 1907 hrs

SINGAPORE: Blocks 101 to 109 in Potong Pasir Avenue 1 will be the first in an opposition ward to undergo lift upgrading, according to People's Action Party (PAP) adviser to Potong Pasir, Sitoh Yih Pin, in a news release on Friday evening. In July, the government announced that some blocks in opposition-held Potong Pasir and Hougang will come under the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP). The plan is to have all eligible blocks go under the programme by 2014. Mr Sitoh, who was also the PAP's candidate in Potong Pasir in the last election, added that he will be forming a working committee. This committee will implement the upgrading, which involves garnering a necessary 75 per cent support from affected residents. The scope of works for LUP includes an overhaul of existing lifts and works required to give direct lift access on every floor.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Singapore Athletics- Still stuck in the 70's




Hi Friends,

Although I am a keen observer of Singapore sports, I confess that essentially I am not much more than an armchair critic.

However, all stakeholders of Singapore Sports, even chair-bound ones like myself , have a right to expect something from Singapore Athletics.

Athletics has remained trapped in the 70’s. While sports like Swimming, Bowling, Sailing and Table-tennis have moved forward and beyond fighting for glory at the regional level (eg SEA Games), Athletics has not.

Ask anyone with any interest in Athletics which national athlete they remember, and invariably, it would be Chee Swee Lee, Jayamani and maybe James Wong. Do not waste your time asking anyone younger than 35 years old if you want anything other than a blank stare.

If I were running a National Sports Association (NSA), which has not delivered any tangible results despite being at the helm for many decades, I would graciously step aside and say to myself,” Self, I have done my best. Despite that and despite my deep love for Singapore Athletics, it is time for someone else to do his/her part. Maybe it was not meant to be”

It is the same in every sport in any major civilized country.

Don’t meet the target- you have to go. Simple.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan


References:


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Private Educational Organisations- Accountability needed in the system


Hi friends,

I have written to Straits Times Forum about the ongoing debacle that has struck Singapore’s Private Education System.

I have strong feelings about this as I had enrolled in 2 Private Educational Organisations (PEO) in the past 3-4 years ( and I enjoyed it).

The first PEO was an University of London accredited college and I spent one year on the London School of Economics (external program). I then jumped track after one year and embarked on a PEO which helped me get my MBA with a university in south Australia.

I guess I was lucky as I was not fleeced by PEO’s who were degree-mills ( unlike Brookes Business School).

I made many friends in both institutions and what struck me most was that these students who are already disadvantaged ( as most of them are there by default as the official Uni’s -NUS/NTU/SMU, had either rejected them or made it not practical to enroll in), now face risks of wasting time in degree mills and being victims of scams.

In the Bachelor’s program, my classmates were mainly polytechnic graduates (20-30 years olds) trying to advance their careers with a recognizable degree ( UOL-LSE) and despite the gulf in age, we had a great time. I had to do Maths/Stats/Econs/Marketing/Accounting with people less than half my age! I think only one or two lecturers were older than I. haha.

In the MBA program, my classmates were a mixture of locals and foreignors, degree holders as well as mature polytechnic graduates. Only Mr. S.A. was older than O and I! Projects and presentations were the order of the day and we survived it and most of us convocated in Adelaide last year. ( we also had wine and song ( no women) there!).

However,there are many who are not as lucky as us and we read about them in the Brookes saga and in so many horror stories that I cannot recall these PEO's names as they come and go as surely as the wind.

I honestly feel that if some people were not sleeping on their jobs, there would have been less broken hearts and dreams.

To those in the PEO system, please fight on. Don’t let the system's failure distract you from your dreams and aspirations. Yes you can! ( even pass Statistics & Accounting)

The letter to the Forum page demanding accountability

July 26, 2009

Dear editor,

Singapore’s reputation as a hub of educational excellence had been dealt a serious dent, by what I can only describe as, a string of gaffes which I do not expect from our efficient civil service and government related bodies.

Involvement of Case;EDB;Spring Singapore;MTI

I refer to Sunday Times’ write-up yesterday (Academic checks not our job: Case), where Case (Consumer Association of Singapore) disavowed any responsibility for ensuring academic excellence in the Private Educational Organisations (PEO) who pay money to be accredited with the Casetrust mark, without which these PEO’s would not have been able to enrol foreign students.

Case’ executive director, Mr. Seah Seng Choon, also explained that in 2004, Economic Development Board (EDB) developed the Education Excellence Framework which consisted of three components: organizational excellence; academic excellence and excellence in student protection and welfare practices and that Casetrust’s purview was limited to the last component. Organizational excellence was run by Spring Singapore and most tellingly, an accreditation council which was supposed to be set up by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) to oversee the academic component, ensuring delivery of quality programmes by the PEO’s, did not “materialize” despite official EDB press statements.

In essence, one leg of the tripod was missing, hence contributing to the present pathetic saga amongst PEO’s.

Involvement of MOE

Furthermore, Australia’s RMIT had officially complained to our Ministry of Education in April 2007 about Brooke’s false claims and Senior Minister of State for Education, Mr. S Iswaran, revealed to parliament recently, that apart from warning Brookes two months later, no further significant action was taken by MOE.

Accountability and explanations please!

Although the main culprit is obviously Brookes, Singapore’s public and students left in the lurch by the Brookes saga still deserve a coherent explanation of how the implementation of a much heralded public policy had failed and the interests of stakeholders of Singapore’s private educational system were left unprotected.

I totally understand why these students feel let down. After all, they had put their faith in Case and other official bodies only to find out after the fact that Singapore’s reputation as an efficient and well-oiled city-state was to them, more imaginary than real.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Feeling like the least favourite child by Nur Dianah Suhaimi

Nur Dianah Suhaimi: Feeling like the least favourite child
August 17, 2008 (The Straits Times)

As a Malay, I’ve always been told that I have to work twice as hard to prove my worthWhen I was younger, I always thought of myself as the quintessential Singaporean.

Of my four late grandparents, two were Malay, one was Chinese and one was Indian. This, I concluded, makes me a mix of all the main races in the country. But I later realised that it was not what goes into my blood that matters, but what my identity card says under ‘Race’.

Because my paternal grandfather was of Bugis origin, my IC says I’m Malay. I speak the language at home, learnt it in school, eat the food and practise the culture. And because of my being Malay, I’ve always felt like a lesser Singaporean than those from other racial groups.

I grew up clueless about the concept of national service because my father was never enlisted.He is Singaporean all right, born and bred here like the rest of the boys born in 1955. He is not handicapped in any way. He did well in school and participated in sports.

Unlike the rest, however, he entered university immediately after his A levels. He often told me that his schoolmates said he was ‘lucky’ because he was not called up for national service.

‘What lucky?’ he would tell them. ‘Would you feel lucky if your country doesn’t trust you?’So I learnt about the rigours of national service from my male cousins. They would describe in vivid detail their training regimes, the terrible food they were served and the torture inflicted upon them - most of which, I would later realise, were exaggerations.

But one thing these stories had in common was that they all revolved around the Police Academy in Thomson. As I got older, it puzzled me why my Chinese friends constantly referred to NS as ‘army’. In my family and among my Malay friends, being enlisted in the army was like hitting the jackpot. The majority served in the police force because, as is known, the Government was not comfortable with Malay Muslims serving in the army. But there are more of them now.

Throughout my life, my father has always told me that as a Malay, I need to work twice as hard to prove my worth. He said people have the misconception that all Malays are inherently lazy.I was later to get the exact same advice from a Malay minister in office who is a family friend.When I started work, I realised that the advice rang true, especially because I wear my religion on my head. My professionalism suddenly became an issue. One question I was asked at a job interview was whether I would be willing to enter a nightclub to chase a story. I answered: ‘If it’s part of the job, why not? And you can rest assured I won’t be tempted to have fun.’

When I attend media events, before I can introduce myself, people assume I write for the Malay daily Berita Harian. A male Malay colleague in The Straits Times has the same problem, too.This makes me wonder if people also assume that all Chinese reporters are from Lianhe Zaobao and Indian reporters from Tamil Murasu.

People also question if I can do stories which require stake-outs in the sleazy lanes of Geylang. They say because of my tudung I will stick out like a sore thumb. So I changed into a baseball cap and a men’s sports jacket - all borrowed from my husband - when I covered Geylang.

I do not want to be seen as different from the rest just because I dress differently. I want the same opportunities and the same job challenges.

Beneath the tudung, I, too, have hair and a functioning brain. And if anything, I feel that my tudung has actually helped me secure some difficult interviews.

Newsmakers - of all races - tend to trust me more because I look guai (Hokkien for well-behaved) and thus, they feel, less likely to write critical stuff about them.

Recently, I had a conversation with several colleagues about this essay. I told them I never thought of myself as being particularly patriotic. One Chinese colleague thought this was unfair. ‘But you got to enjoy free education,’ she said.
Sure, for the entire 365 days I spent in Primary 1 in 1989. But my parents paid for my school and university fees for the next 15 years I was studying.

It seems that many Singaporeans do not know that Malays have stopped getting free education since 1990. If I remember clearly, the news made front-page news at that time.We went on to talk about the Singapore Government’s belief that Malays here would never point a missile at their fellow Muslim neighbours in a war.

I said if not for family ties, I would have no qualms about leaving the country. Someone then remarked that this is why Malays like myself are not trusted. But I answered that this lack of patriotism on my part comes from not being trusted, and for being treated like a potential traitor.

It is not just the NS issue. It is the frustration of explaining to non-Malays that I don’t get special privileges from the Government. It is having to deal with those who question my professionalism because of my religion. It is having people assume, day after day, that you are lowly educated, lazy and poor. It is like being the least favourite child in a family. This child will try to win his parents’ love only for so long. After a while, he will just be engulfed by disappointment and bitterness.

I also believe that it is this ‘least favourite child’ mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Why do you think Malay families spent hundreds of dollars voting for two Malay boys in the Singapore Idol singing contest? And do you know that Malays who voted for other competitors were frowned upon by the community?

The same happens to me at work. When I write stories which put Malays in a bad light, I am labelled a traitor. A Malay reader once wrote to me to say: ‘I thought a Malay journalist would have more empathy for these unfortunate people than a non-Malay journalist.’

But such is the case when you are a Malay Singaporean. Your life is not just about you, as much as you want it to be. You are made to feel responsible for the rest of the pack and your actions affect them as well. If you trip, the entire community falls with you. But if you triumph, it is considered everyone’s success.

When 12-year-old Natasha Nabila hit the headlines last year for her record PSLE aggregate of 294, I was among the thousands of Malays here who celebrated the news. I sent instant messages to my friends on Gmail and chatted excitedly with my Malay colleagues at work.

Suddenly a 12-year-old has become the symbol of hope for the community and a message to the rest that Malays can do it too - and not just in singing competitions.

And just like that, the ‘least favourite child’ in me feels a lot happier.

Each year, come Aug 9, my father, who never had the opportunity to do national service, dutifully hangs two flags at home - one on the front gate and the other by the side gate.I wonder if putting up two flags is his way of making himself feel like a better-loved child of Singapore.

ndianah@sph.com.sg

My comments:

Hi Friends,

The Sunday Times Forum Page published a truncated version of my letter about Malays and SAF.

The editor chose to keep some salient points about how ST journalist Nur Dianah Suhaimi's father felt when he was not enlisted into the SAF on account of his race but left out my point that yes, things have improved, but there is strong evidence that there are still places in the SAF where certain races are kept out as a matter of policy.

I believe that if we want to change, we should go the whole hog; we should go the full 9 yards! No half-measures; no tokenisms.

We are all Singaporeans-all the races. Chinese, Malays,Indians,Eurasians,ex-Malaysians,ex-AngMo's,Ex-filipinos etc. Faham? Comprehende (pidgin Spanish) You get the idea now?

Security vetting for sensitive posts should be on a case-by-case basis;personnel should be vetted based by race-blind basis. I do not think I can make it any clearer than this.

I have chosen to republish Nur Dianah's letter at the top of my post as I have realised, naively, that the average attention span of netizens is about one paragraph long. Many would have just glanced over her letter the last time and all my effort of trying to bring about change by highlighting how hurtful SAF policies have been to Malays would have come to nought!

Since the Straits Times/Sunday Times has so kindly quoted Nur Dianah's article by its proper title, and by publishing it has imlicitly endorsed it ( Yes-I think so), I sincerely hope that "gahmen leaders"; policy makers and community leaders can read her very signficant and poignant letter.

I recall that when Nur Dianah's letter was published last August (2008), Professor Tommy Koh ( whom I admire much for still trying to change things from within) made an online comment supporting her viewpoint.

I still hope that Prof. Tommy Koh would become our next President!

Cheers,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: I'm going cycling after this ( to ventilate my brain)!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Malays and SAF: Revisiting the issue



Hi Friends,


I have written to the Forum page on the following issue.


I suspect it may not be published so I am publishing it here after I have not heard from the editor after 2 days.


Here goes,


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan



The letter :


June 26, 2009

Dear Editor,

I congratulate Col Ishak Ismail on being the first Malay to be made general in the SAF.

Ishak’s promotion and the forthcoming 44th National Day celebrations brings to my mind a poignant article written by a Straits Times journalist last August.

Nur Dianah Suhaimi (Feeling like the least favourite child ST- August 10, 2008) wrote about how she felt like a least favourite child on account of her race.

She reminisced about how her father felt when he was not enlisted for NS like his other pre-university classmates although he had been active in sports. When teased that he was lucky to be able to enter the university straight after school, his father would tell them, ‘What lucky? Would you feel lucky if your country doesn’t trust you?’

Nur was also puzzled then when non-Malay friends referred to NS as “army” when her cousins were enlisted only into the police force.

To be fair to the government, the situation has improved since PM Lee Hsien Loong candidly discussed why due to security considerations, not all posts in the SAF are open to all races.
I know for a fact that there are enlistees from all races in the army now.

However, anecdotal evidence (from casual conversations with current National Servicemen) still suggest that there are some units of the SAF, where there are fewer or no Malays.

I believe in a multi-racial and multi-cultural Singapore. The reciting of our National Pledge’s “ regardless of race, language or religion” would just be meaningless words if not all Singaporeans feel that they are trusted as members of the same family.

Nur Dianah Suhaimi’s article should be required reading for all civil servants and community leaders.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan



Nur Dianah Suhaimi's original article below:


Nur Dianah Suhaimi: Feeling like the least favourite child

August 17, 2008


As a Malay, I’ve always been told that I have to work twice as hard to prove my worth
When I was younger, I always thought of myself as the quintessential Singaporean.

Of my four late grandparents, two were Malay, one was Chinese and one was Indian. This, I concluded, makes me a mix of all the main races in the country. But I later realised that it was not what goes into my blood that matters, but what my identity card says under ‘Race’.

Because my paternal grandfather was of Bugis origin, my IC says I’m Malay. I speak the language at home, learnt it in school, eat the food and practise the culture. And because of my being Malay, I’ve always felt like a lesser Singaporean than those from other racial groups.

I grew up clueless about the concept of national service because my father was never enlisted.
He is Singaporean all right, born and bred here like the rest of the boys born in 1955. He is not handicapped in any way. He did well in school and participated in sports.

Unlike the rest, however, he entered university immediately after his A levels. He often told me that his schoolmates said he was ‘lucky’ because he was not called up for national service.

‘What lucky?’ he would tell them. ‘Would you feel lucky if your country doesn’t trust you?’
So I learnt about the rigours of national service from my male cousins. They would describe in vivid detail their training regimes, the terrible food they were served and the torture inflicted upon them - most of which, I would later realise, were exaggerations.

But one thing these stories had in common was that they all revolved around the Police Academy in Thomson. As I got older, it puzzled me why my Chinese friends constantly referred to NS as ‘army’. In my family and among my Malay friends, being enlisted in the army was like hitting the jackpot. The majority served in the police force because, as is known, the Government was not comfortable with Malay Muslims serving in the army. But there are more of them now.

Throughout my life, my father has always told me that as a Malay, I need to work twice as hard to prove my worth. He said people have the misconception that all Malays are inherently lazy.
I was later to get the exact same advice from a Malay minister in office who is a family friend.
When I started work, I realised that the advice rang true, especially because I wear my religion on my head. My professionalism suddenly became an issue. One question I was asked at a job interview was whether I would be willing to enter a nightclub to chase a story. I answered: ‘If it’s part of the job, why not? And you can rest assured I won’t be tempted to have fun.’

When I attend media events, before I can introduce myself, people assume I write for the Malay daily Berita Harian. A male Malay colleague in The Straits Times has the same problem, too.
This makes me wonder if people also assume that all Chinese reporters are from Lianhe Zaobao and Indian reporters from Tamil Murasu.

People also question if I can do stories which require stake-outs in the sleazy lanes of Geylang. They say because of my tudung I will stick out like a sore thumb. So I changed into a baseball cap and a men’s sports jacket - all borrowed from my husband - when I covered Geylang.

I do not want to be seen as different from the rest just because I dress differently. I want the same opportunities and the same job challenges.

Beneath the tudung, I, too, have hair and a functioning brain. And if anything, I feel that my tudung has actually helped me secure some difficult interviews.

Newsmakers - of all races - tend to trust me more because I look guai (Hokkien for well-behaved) and thus, they feel, less likely to write critical stuff about them.

Recently, I had a conversation with several colleagues about this essay. I told them I never thought of myself as being particularly patriotic. One Chinese colleague thought this was unfair. ‘But you got to enjoy free education,’ she said.

Sure, for the entire 365 days I spent in Primary 1 in 1989. But my parents paid for my school and university fees for the next 15 years I was studying.

It seems that many Singaporeans do not know that Malays have stopped getting free education since 1990. If I remember clearly, the news made front-page news at that time.
We went on to talk about the Singapore Government’s belief that Malays here would never point a missile at their fellow Muslim neighbours in a war.

I said if not for family ties, I would have no qualms about leaving the country. Someone then remarked that this is why Malays like myself are not trusted. But I answered that this lack of patriotism on my part comes from not being trusted, and for being treated like a potential traitor.

It is not just the NS issue. It is the frustration of explaining to non-Malays that I don’t get special privileges from the Government. It is having to deal with those who question my professionalism because of my religion. It is having people assume, day after day, that you are lowly educated, lazy and poor. It is like being the least favourite child in a family. This child will try to win his parents’ love only for so long. After a while, he will just be engulfed by disappointment and bitterness.

I also believe that it is this ‘least favourite child’ mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Why do you think Malay families spent hundreds of dollars voting for two Malay boys in the Singapore Idol singing contest? And do you know that Malays who voted for other competitors were frowned upon by the community?

The same happens to me at work. When I write stories which put Malays in a bad light, I am labelled a traitor. A Malay reader once wrote to me to say: ‘I thought a Malay journalist would have more empathy for these unfortunate people than a non-Malay journalist.’

But such is the case when you are a Malay Singaporean. Your life is not just about you, as much as you want it to be. You are made to feel responsible for the rest of the pack and your actions affect them as well. If you trip, the entire community falls with you. But if you triumph, it is considered everyone’s success.

When 12-year-old Natasha Nabila hit the headlines last year for her record PSLE aggregate of 294, I was among the thousands of Malays here who celebrated the news. I sent instant messages to my friends on Gmail and chatted excitedly with my Malay colleagues at work.

Suddenly a 12-year-old has become the symbol of hope for the community and a message to the rest that Malays can do it too - and not just in singing competitions.

And just like that, the ‘least favourite child’ in me feels a lot happier.

Each year, come Aug 9, my father, who never had the opportunity to do national service, dutifully hangs two flags at home - one on the front gate and the other by the side gate.
I wonder if putting up two flags is his way of making himself feel like a better-loved child of Singapore.

ndianah@sph.com.sg

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP: MJ- A Child star without a childhood


The King of Pop of my generation has died.

For Singaporeans of my generation who are wedged between the “Baby Boomers and Gen X”, MJ best personifies our childhood and teenage years.
Perhaps only the Bee Gees had as much impact on my life.
I grew up following MJ firstly as one of the Jackson Five and later when he went solo.
I collected MJ’s albums initially as “LP records” then as audio-cassettes and finally as CD’s. Although many of my earlier collectibles were bootleg versions, my admiration for Michael’s contribution to the music scene was genuine.
I was at the National Stadium when he last performed live in Singapore.
Fortuitously, the news about his tragic personal affairs broke into the public domain soon after that. I then understood why Michael cried at the stage in Kallang.
Even now, my generation still considers him as a “misunderstood manchild” and does not pay much credence to alleged accusations of paedophila.
He was just a child who never grew up.
We laughed to ourselves when we heard how he spent millions at luxury toystores, when he built Neverneverland in pursuit of his lost childhood and even when he denied ever having several badly performed plastic surgeries.
Michael, a bit of me dies with you.
Finally Michael, you are the man.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stars & Dignatories blog for Aung San Suu Kyi- do your part


Hi Friends,

I chanced upon this website where thousands including international politicians and Hollywood stars wrote moving tributes in an effort to get Daw Aung San Suu Kyi freed from incarceration in Burma. The website is 64forsuu.org (click here)

This post is just a small effort from me to do my bit.

Please read, pen something if you want and pass it on!

Cheers,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Information about the project: About 64 For Suu


Welcome to the global hub for supporting, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's detained democracy leader, on her 64th birthday.

64 for Suu is a site where anyone from around the world can leave a message of support for Burma's imprisoned democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma's political prisoners.


We want to gather thousands of messages by Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th Birthday, June 19th 2009.

You can view video, text, twitter and image messages from around the world left by politicians, celebrities and the public in support of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Singapore's electoral reform- Great but ...

Hi Friends,

The following letter was published in today's Straits Times Forum page.

Although some of the points seemed suspiciously similar to Sylvia's speech, please note that the letter was submittted on the night of 27th May but Sylvia spoke after that. Maybe we have telepathy?

Cheers,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


The published letter (29.5.09) ST Forum

YESTERDAY'S report, 'Parliament to get more diverse voices', left me pleasantly surprised by the wide range of changes to the electoral system announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Wednesday.

Although some may construe this as an ingenious gambit by the establishment to liberalise Singapore's political system with little risk to People's Action Party (PAP) dominance, the neutrals will deem it otherwise.

Most Singaporeans will see this as a magnanimous gesture by PM Lee to increase representation by non-PAP MPs to at least 10 per cent (nine opposition members), or 20 per cent if Nominated MPs are included.

This is a tacit recognition that we are all Singaporeans, whoever we vote for, and that a diversity of views is a strength and not a weakness.

To reduce scepticism further, I suggest the following:

  • Set up an independent Electoral Commission comprising prominent Singaporeans, because the electoral system must not only be fair but must also be seen to be fair.
  • Boundary changes should be made at least a year before any election to allow interested parties to work the ground.
  • Avoid sheltering new PAP candidates in group representation constituencies as the heat of electoral battle is a prerequisite for any politician. Those without the stomach for a contest may not have the right stuff sought by the electorate.
  • Instead of non-elected NMPs, consider substituting non-partisan independent candidates who are nominated by interest groups like the present six groups: business and industry; the professions; labour movement; social and community organisations; media, arts and sports; and tertiary education institutions; plus the newly mooted 'people sector'.
    Two to three prospective candidates from each group should be shortlisted by a panel and the nine independent candidates should seek the electorate's vote on polling day. Such a format is better than the present NMP scheme, which lacks the people's mandate.
  • Further liberalise the right of peaceful demonstration. We need more Singaporeans who are passionate about a wide range of issues and who are not afraid to show it.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Burma: Peace virgil for Aung San Suu Kyi


Hi Friends,

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Edmund Burke Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)

I have used Burke’s quotation more than a few times in my posts about Burma’s actions against its own people and against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I still feel that its use is appropriate as the regime remains intransigient and despotic.

I have written so many posts about Burma that one may be forgiven if one thinks I have a personal “ axe to grind” with its rulers. I have neither family nor commercial ties with Burma. In fact the nearest I have been to Burma was probably Chiang Mai or Bangkok.

The only Burmese I know are humble hardworking folks, including competent operating theatre nurses, helpful IT engineers who solve my computer problems and the amiable doctors whom I meet at regional medical conferences. I know many who actually become solid Singapore citizens who add positively to our so-called hardworking “Asian” work-ethics.

Gerald Giam had eloquently written recently to the ST Forum and I shall also link his blog-post about the recent events regarding Daw Aung and the Burmese regime. Read here
I have posted extensively about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese regime over the past few years and I shall just link it for those who want to read them.

Link:
1. Does Myanmar deserve ASEAN? July 13 2006
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2006/07/does-myanmar-deserve-asean.html
2. Aung San Suu Kyi: Yet another year in detention! May 26, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-yet-another-year-in.html
3. Myanmar's brave Buddhist clergy and personal thoughts on peaceful protest September 24, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/09/myanmars-brave-buddhist-clergy-and.html
4. Burma’s despotic regime has crossed the line September 27, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/09/burmas-despotic-regime-has-crossed-line.html

5. Myanmar needs our support… but the silence is deafening. September 25, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/09/myanmar-needs-our-support-but-silence.html
6. ASEAN's rebuke of Burma welcomed but more action needed September 29, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/09/aseans-rebuke-of-burma-welcomed-but.html
7. Havel, Walesa and Tutu:Living proof that evil does not always triumph September 30, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/09/havel-walesa-and-tutuliving-proof-that.html
8. Why No Singaporean question and no Singaporean marches. October 10, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/10/wny-no-singaporean-question-and-no.html

9. Burma: Time for healing November 10, 2007
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/11/burma-time-for-healing.html
10. Burma fools the world (again) February 20, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/02/burma-fools-world-again.html
11.Burma's cyclone disaster: Time for unconditional giving May 06, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/05/burmas-cyclone-disaster-time-for.html
12. Burma’s xenophobic actions leave me almost speechless! May 09, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/05/burmas-xenophobic-actions-leave-me.html
13. ASEAN, please expel Burma May 19, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/05/asean-please-expel-burma.html

14. Burma continues crackdown while the world looks the other way November 20, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/11/burma-continues-crackdown-while-world.html
15. Action from UN needed for Burma and Zimbabwe! December 04, 2008
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2008/12/action-from-un-needed-for-burma-and.html


I fervently support Singapore and ASEAN doing more for Daw Aung.

Hence I was very disappointed that we had gone out of the way to welcome a Burmese leader here recently and even naming an orchid after him. I think it would have been understandable if we had extended per functionary diplomatic courtesies but there was no need to bend backwards ( or in this case “bend forward”) for them. Why so "pal-ly" with a pariah of the world?

I strongly support the Peace Virgil for Aung San Suu Kyi organised by Maruah (Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. ) to be held at 5.30pm on May 31 at Speakers’ Corner.

I hope all Singaporeans, even those who classify themselves as “non-political” will see that this is a non-partisan cause that all who love peace can support.

I will be there and I will be in Yellow!

Peace to Burma. Justice for all.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

About Temasek and the bike


Hi Friends,

I cannot resist a dig at Temasek.

This rant is perhaps born out of a need to vent out my anger and frustration. What happened at Temasek is akin to what happened to me the past week.

I felt a sudden need to buy a bicycle.

Don’t ask me why, I just needed one. Actually it is a little more complicated than that. My son T wanted a bike and after doing research about bikes for him, I decided I needed a bike too! (Long story- I would get a bike, he will try it out and if he likes it he can keep it or if not I will buy another. And I get to keep this one)

Anyway, after checking with 2 of my triathlon doctor colleagues and perusing through Spin Asia mag (which I found out after zipping in and out of 6 petrol kiosks, is available only from Esso/Mobil) and clicking through numerous websites trying to shave off a few dollars here and there before I decided on the perfect bike ( for me).

Something which is good- but cheap.

What has all this to do with Temasek, you ask?

Well, whilst reversing out from a driveway, I snapped the left wing mirror of my car on a pillar. My usual precise maneuver of extending and retracting the motorized mirror while negotiating the 4-6 cm gap between the pillar and car did not work this time. Perhaps the news about Temasek was on the radio, or maybe I was still thinking about the Pink Dot- but I really can’t remember.

But those who live in the north-east would no doubt know how I felt last Saturday morning because you would have heard a loud bawling and howling followed by a string of unprintable vernacular curses.

It wasn’t that I found out from Mike, the workshop boss, that the wing mirror module from this Bavarian manufacturer would cost $1000. Mike even assured me that I was lucky that I called him as the authorized workshop would charge even more. Lucky me!

It was not about the 1K (really) –but it was that I scrimped ( or schemed) and saved (ok- slightly dramatic but you know what I mean already) in order to save a few dollars to get my perfect bike and bam wham thank you ma'am- I had to pay much more for something which no one would even notice!

So Temasek is up to its contrarian investment strategy again! Whilst common folks like us schemed ( or scrimped) and saved to either
a) make ends meet, or
b) save for a rainy day, or
c) spoil ourselves because we deserve a little luxury now and then,

Temasek loses a chunk of our life-savings. Again.

The CNBC guy said Temasek was stupid and had done it again (not verbatim but something to the effect).
Addendum : CNBC's Foster said“A $4.6 billion loss on a $5.9 billion dollar investment. TPG lost $2 billion really quickly on Washington Mutual, but this one guys, is right up up there, as one of the worst investment during this period for one single investment fund.”
Why can't she just sit on her hands these next few months! Why can't she just go on leave till her next project? Why?
Buy high- Sell Low! Brilliant!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: I bought a cheap and good bike.
I paid my 1 K tuition fee on how not to reverse a car into a pillar
MSM actually printed 2 letters essentially saying what I wanted to say but failed to.


Letters from MSM


1.Denis Distant
ST Forum Page 18.5.09

Temasek must set example on transparency

I REFER to last Saturday's column, 'Temasek should clear the air', on the massive loss arising from Temasek Holdings' sale of its stake in Bank of America (BoA).
Temasek is neither a private equity fund nor a hedge fund, but it handles billions of dollars which belong to Singaporeans.

BoA's share price ranged between US$2.53 and US$14.81 during the period Jan 2 to March 31, when the sale is believed to have been made. This makes it well-nigh impossible to guess the size of the loss, except that it must be in billions of dollars.

After being told that the investments were for the long term - when the markets in the United States crashed after Temasek had invested heavily in US financial stocks - Singaporeans expect Temasek to explain the timing of the sale and the reasons for it. Do the reasons relate specifically to BoA or generally to the US stock market? Surely it cannot be due to diversifying the geographical distribution of future investments.

Temasek must give the lead and be transparent if other listed companies on the Singapore Exchange are expected to do so.
Denis Distant


2.Conrad Raj (Today 18.5.09)

What happened to your ‘long-term’ view?
Temasek ought to clear the air on sale of BofA stake and investment in ABC Learning


CONRAD RAJeditor-at-large conrad@mediacorp.com.sg

THE question on most observers’ lips following the disclosure of the sale of Temasek Holdings’ 3-per-cent stake in the Bank of America (BofA) must be: Whatever happened to the sovereign wealth fund’s (SWF) strategy of taking a long-term view of its investments?
.
After all, it has been drummed into us almost ad nauseam that both Temasek and its cousin, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), invest for the long term with a time horizon that could stretch for as long as 50 years.
.
In fact, this was reiterated at a grassroots meeting on Saturday night by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam when he said the Government takes an overall and long-term view of its investments by state-owned vehicles like Temasek and GIC.
.
“We track, engage and evaluate the performance. But we don’t just look at six months or one year,” he was reported to have said.
.
And in a recent speech to the Junior Pyramid Club, Temasek’s chief executive officer Ho Ching talked about the SWF’s investment policy with reference to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who has said that our investment decisions are for least one, two decades.
.
“Likewise, we invest with the appetite of a young 35-year-old (the age whenMr Lee became Singapore’s first Prime Minister) for growth and risk-taking.
.
“At the same time, we also share his thoughtful conservatism to plan and provide for his children’s needs for another 10 to 20 years, while he invests to build his rainy day and retirement kitty with a 30- to 50-year horizon.”
.
No doubt it wasn’t a conscious decision by Temasek to invest in BofA. The investment agency had actually bought an initial US$5-billion ($7.4-billion) stake in investment banking giant Merrill Lynch in Dec 2007 and added another US$1 billion last July to become Merrill’s single largest shareholder with a 13.7-per-cent stake. Following the purchase of Merrill by BofA, Temasek’s stake was converted into 189 million shares of BofA or a 3-per-cent stake.
.
Obviously, Temasek didn’t think much of the long-term future of BofA andhence its disposal of those shares at a whopping loss of between US$2.8 billion and US$4.7 billion, depending on when the BofA shares were sold. BofA shares traded between US$2.53 and US$14.81 in the first quarter of this year.
.
Many question the timing of the sale, especially when the price of banking and other financial stocks appear to be on the rise.
.
Surely, in the wake of its huge 30-per-cent-or-more decline in the value of its investments and some bad investment decisions like its $400-million loss in Australia’s ABC Learning, there must be some accountability on the part of Temasek.
.
While Temasek points out in its 2008 review that “good governance in and of itself does not deliver value”, it also notes that “good governance can help assure the sustainability of an institution beyond the contributions of any individual or team”.
.
Well, good governance requires a good deal of transparency. How can it demand transparency from its subsidiaries and other companies, if Temasek itself remains reticent? And why do we have to learn about its investments or disposals from news reports abroad?
.
As stakeholders, we should have some insight into the investment decisions of our SWFs. What was the thinking behind the disposal of the BofA shares? Is Temasek changing its investment policy?
.
It can’t be because Temasek could not have a direct impact in the running of BofA as it held a mere 3-per-cent stake in the American banking behemoth, unlike in the case of Merrill, where it was the single largest shareholder with an almost 14-per-cent stake.
.
But, then again, Temasek has been a passive investor in other companies, especially overseas, including in other banks.
.
Or is Temasek clearing the deck for CEO-designate and former BHP Billiton CEO Charles “Chip” Goodyear so that he starts with a clean sheet when he formally takes over from Madam Ho Ching in October?
.
Or as a posting on the Financial Times suggested, the folks at Temasek are “trying to get the house in order” and “they’re not buying the green shoots hype” out of the US.
.
Or is this part of Madam Ho’s revised investment strategy where Temasek will invest 10 per cent of its assets in emerging markets, 20 per cent in developed economies, 30 per cent in Singapore and 40 per cent in the rest of Asia outside of Japan?
.
For sure, Temasek has come a long way since its inception in June of 1974 with an “eclectic mix of some 35 investments valued at about $354 million” into Singapore’s second-largest corporate entity, which despite a 31-per-cent fall from end-March 2008, still was worth some $127 billion as at end November.
.
But some clearing of the air on things like the sale of the BofA stake and its ill-fated investment in ABC Learning will help restore some confidence in our Temasek.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pink Dot- It is your Right, but is it Smart?






Hi Friends,

I am liberal minded and I am happy with the triumph of secularism over intolerance in the recent AWARE EGM. Singapore is a secular state and no single religion should be allowed to impose its values on the rest- no matter how well intended this was. For me, tolerance and inclusivity is the only way to go.

Silent conservative majority awakened

However, many of you must have realised by now, how afraid the conservative majority are of the Gay lobby. These conservatives are not just the fundamentalist Christians, but include Muslims, Hindus and atheists. That the seeds of Homosexuality may actually reside in the human genes do not cut any ice with them. Most conservatives believe that Nurture also plays a role together with Nature in the emergence of homosexuality. No use telling them about gay animals in nature, or about objective scientific research etc.

They are not listening.

Some of them do accept that there are others around them who are gay or that other people’s kids are gay, but they will find it hard to accept their own children being gay.

What a liberal (like me )feels

Before I get flamed by the gay lobby, please know that this is not how I feel but what I observe around me.

For me, what you do behind closed doors is none of my business. I believe in the liberalism as espoused by John Stuart Mills. Gays should enjoy the same benefits as hetero-sexual Singaporeans. They pay tax too!

As gays are over-represented in the creative arts (maybe one day the “gay” gene would be found linked to “creative” gene?) and for Singapore to buzz like New York and Paris, gays should not just be tolerated in Singapore’s entertainment or creative industry but be encouraged to thrive. They will do this only in a Singapore where they do not feel ostracised.

Aware EGM and Laws of Physics

Newton’s Third Law of Physics says “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”.

Rosie’s gang usurped (Action) Aware and suffered a backlash (Reaction) from Gay lobby/secularists/liberals/anti-Fundies etc.

People like me (?PLME) who are non-gay, non-anti-gay as distinguished from Gay lobby like People like Us (PLUS) are put in a difficult position.

For the longest time (since the EGM-seems like eternity), we defended against conservative barbs why the passionate and rowdy EGM was the result of Josie’s (and gang) actions ( eg turning off mikes) at the event and how the pent-up emotions of secularists needed to let off steam.

We defended the CSE and why being neutral is not necessarily bad and how the confidential instructors’ guidelines should have remained so and how choices about homosexuality and anal and pre-marital sex were something each person should decide for himself/herself. Of course until these teens reach majority ( 21 years), each family still has the right to impose its values on these kids.

Now PLME are expected to celebrate together with LGBT at the Pink Dot (click here )?

Conservatives are nursing wounds- not smart to push them too far

Sure, Gays ( and secularists/liberals/anti-Fundies) had a great victory at the EGM. The sacking of the Josie’s gang stopped anti-secularists in their tracks.

No groups who are essentially One Trick Ponies ( in this case Anti-Gay) will ever attempt hijacking national organisations again.

By organising the Pink Dot event (which is no different from Gay Pride parades in major western cities) so close at the heel of the conservatives’ defeat at the EGM shows a certain amount of insensitivity on the part of the Gay lobby.

Gays may retort that they had been on the wrong end of the stick for so long that it is time others cared about how they felt instead of the other way around.

My honest opinion is that this Pink Dot will confirm once and for all in the minds of the conservatives that they had been right all along. That given an inch, Gays would want a mile; That old Aware was hijacked by Gay lobby; That CSE was Gay’s infiltration of schools for indoctrination of their agenda;

That PLME ( People-like-Me) who are non-gay, non anti-gay liberals are stupid and are wrong to sit on the fence.

I have no doubt, it is legal and well-within your right to hold the Pink Dot at the Hong Lim Park ( so long as no foreigners present/ no religious or racial talks etc) but is it Smart?

Do not be surprised that the conservatives become stronger after Pink Dot or other such events. Can't you already hear the "I told you so's" ?

Newton’s Third Law of Physics says “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”.

If forced to act, where do you think the government will lend its support?

No brainer. Where the votes are!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, May 01, 2009

AWARE- Appeal for cool heads and compromise









AWARE: Appeal for cool heads and compromise ( Unpublished letter to the Forum editor)

Dear Editor,

I read with concern of how the recent AWARE AGM had led to the emergence of two groups of Singaporeans who are now set on an apparent collision course.

This is not just any ordinary boardroom tussle where the losers nurse bruised egos and live to fight another day. The stakes are much higher. Everyone stands to lose.

In this fight , battle-lines are already drawn and allegedly, God’s name is even invoked amidst warning that He does not want “our nation crossing that line”.

Singapore has been fortunate to have racial and religious harmony for the past decades. This should not be taken for granted for we have seen with our own eyes in regions as close as Indonesia and as far as the Baltics, how religion, when stirred by provocateurs, had become the root cause of hatred instead of love; strife instead of harmony.

In those places, it did not take much to spark off hatred and mistrust amongst previously peace-loving neighbourhoods. Communities, many with families of different faiths living side by side for generations, were torn apart and like poor Humpty Dumpty, can never be put “back together again”.

Hence I totally agree with Minister Vivian Balakrishnan that religion must be kept out of this debate and that a “rainbow coalition” is needed in order for AWARE to work effectively.

May I humbly suggest:

1.Some of New AWARE ex-co members should voluntarily step down to make way for a more inclusive “rainbow coalition” ex-co. In order to allay fears that this is a “church-based” conspiracy, no more than 2 members should be from the same church.

2.New ex-co members, preferably from racial minorities and of different faiths should be co-opted.

3. The Old AWARE should now know that there is a substantial group of people who are conservative and who are suspicious of any attempts at sexual liberalizations, even if these are well-intended. Old AWARE might consider working with the “rainbow coalition” ex-co by being co-opted.

It is apparent to most of us that there are many parents who are not comfortable with or are misinformed about Old AWARE’s work in the schools. Parents need more information if they are to wholeheartedly support this work.

4.As a gesture of goodwill, Old AWARE should retract the “motion of no confidence” in order to give this new “rainbow coalition” time to work.

I hope that cool heads will prevail for the sake of our nation, a nation that all of us love and treasure.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan



Addendum (4.5.09): At EOGM ( 2nd May 09)- The NEW AWARE ( led by Josie Lau) lost a vote of no-confidence by a ratio of 2:1 and resigned. New committee headed mainly be Old-guards retook control of AWARE.

NB: Letter sent to Forum Page Editor- Not published.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Must See: Wu Guanzhong Donation Collection



Wu Guanzhong's donation of 113 works to the Singapore Art Museum in 2008 is the highest valued donation presented to a public museum in Singapore. This exhibition will showcase all 113 works representing five decades of the artist's creative oeuvre.

A key significance of Wu Guanzhong’s art is the crossing and synthesising of the two art forms of ink and oil which represent art historical and aesthetic contexts of traditional Chinese and western art.

Wu started painting in ink only in 1974, when he was aged 55, but his earlier oil works were predicated on ink aesthetics as with his subsequent inks on oil foundation.

A prolific writer of essays and art theory, his Formal Beauty of Painting foreshadowed a revolution in art in the immediate post-Cultural Revolution period when it was published in 1978. To Wu, the feelings of the individual were supreme. Equally important, however, was the individual's emotional link with the community. Hence his famed line, the "Unbroken Kite String", which expounds the connection between formal abstraction and everyday life, and acknowledges its source in the community.

A strong advocate of developing culture and the arts, and a man who holds deep respect for intercultural values, Wu’s broad brushstroke gesture of presenting his largest donation to the Singapore Art Museum will be celebrated jointly by the art community as well as the Singapore public when the galleries open their doors on 9 April. This exhibition is co-organised by Singapore Art Museum, Shanghai Art Museum and National Art Museum of China.



My comments:

Hi friends,

I was at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) today and I highly recommend everyone to make a visit to the Wu Guanzhong Collection.

For those who do not already know, Wu is an artist extraordinaire who survived the Cultural Revolution and is considered a National treasure. During the Cultural Revolution, he was forced into the countryside for hard labour and was only allowed to paint on Sundays. Hence he carried a small board with him and painted amongst other artworks, one exhibit entitled Field Chrysanthemums, 1972, an oil on board.

This very donation created much controversy in China as many Chinese were not happy that Wu chose to donate this collection with an estimated worth of S$66 Million to Singapore ahead of his own country. Wu has strong emotional links with Singapore and his eldest son, Keyu is now a Singaporean.

Read here about the donation.

Wu is a true citizen of the world and his humanity transcends language and nationality.

If you have only one day in Singapore, skip Sentosa or the Zoo, visit the Wu Guanzhong Donation Collection!

Please do not miss this.

I know you will enjoy it,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thanks Minister, I also do not want Singapore to be a rogue regime!

Hi Friends,

It appears that Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has changed his mind about including foreigners in the organ donation scheme.

The Straits times mentioned that “Only Singaporeans will be reimbursed for donating a kidney.” And that “Payments will be extended to foreigners only when there is enough confidence in the scheme, said Health Minister Khaw Bonn Wan yesterday.”

Mr. Khaw even said “We don’t want Singapore to be a rogue regime.”

This was one of the major sticking points for me as this potentially allows for legalized organ trading. ( read my post on this here) As mentioned elsewhere, I am not against reimbursing donors for expenses incurred as a result of this truly altruistic act.

If we include foreign donors into the scheme, we are unable to monitor the donor back in their homeland and we do not know where the money goes to and we are never sure that the money from the recipient really went to help defray expenses only.

This money could have been attractive enough to act as an inducement for the donor.

I know from conversations online and offline, that some people think that this is just demand and supply economics and I should not have made a big deal of it.

However for me and I think for much of the medical community, medical ethics is just as important as economics in this issue.

Anyway, I don’t expect everyone reading this to get it. Never mind.

Nevertheless, I am glad that Minister Khaw has come to his senses about this.

I might have supported him for the HOTA amendment if this was the case in the first place.

BTW, other positive aspects which he mentioned at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the NKF yesterday included:

Safeguards such as:
1.Thorough screening including psychological assessment to exclude exploitation.

2. Cooling-off period which is good as we do not want “pressure-selling” ala "time share" scams.

3. Kidney donors to be reimbursed through third party and payment partly into Medisave Top-ups (read here)

Also, Kidney patients will get travel subsidy. They should get all the help they need.

Cheers
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Link: 1.Gigamole: Human Organ Trade- a nuanced approach
2.Gigamole: Human Organ Trade-Agree or disagree?

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Top-Ranking I am not Proud of


PM Lee tops list of 10 best-paid world politicians
Thursday, 2 April 2009, 3:27 pm


From Times:

There is nothing like a scandal involving porn films claimed on Commons expenses to focus attention on the pay and perks enjoyed, sorry earned, by our public servants.

Even before Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was forced to apologise for her husband’s blue movies there had been calls for the whole system to be overturned. The committee on standards in public life which has promised to report on MP pay and expenses by the end of the year is under pressure to do something radical.

Whenever MPs come under attack over pay they are quick to argue that compared to executives in the private and public sector they are not particularly well paid.

With the G20 leaders in the country we thought it was worth getting a snapshot of how much the highest paid presidents and prime ministers around the world earn. For comparison’s sake all earnings have been converted into dollars. It also shows basic annual salary only, not the expenses claimed on top.

So, where does our own Gordon Brown stand?

1. Lee Hsien Loong - Singapore
Salary in dollars - $2.47 million
Salary in local currency - S$3.76 million

2. Donald Tsang Yum-Kuen - Hong Kong
Salary in dollars - $516,000
Salary in local currency - HK$4 million

3. Barack Obama - United States
Salary in dollars - $400,000

4. Brian Cowen - Ireland
Salary in dollars - $341,000
Salary in local currency - €257,000

5. Nicolas Sarkozy - France Salary in dollars - $318,000
Salary in local currency - €240,000

6. Angela Merkel - Germany
Salary in dollars - $303,000
Salary in local currency - €228,000

7. Gordon Brown - UK
Salary in dollars - $279,000
Salary in local currency - £194,250

8. Stephen Harper - Canada
Salary in dollars - $246,000
Salary in local currency - C$311,000

9. Taro Aso - Japan
Salary in dollars - $243,000
Salary in local currency - Y24 million

10. Kevin Rudd - Australia
Salary in dollars - $229,000
Salary in local currency - A$330,000


My comments


Hi Friends,

I am proud to be Singaporean.

There are many aspects of Singaporean life that I am thankful for and indeed proud of.

However this does not include the fact that almost all of Singapore’s political leaders (from the President, Prime Minister, Minister Mentor, Senior Ministers and all the too many Cabinet Ministers) would occupy all the top places in the league of highest-paid political leaders of the whole wide world.

In the list above, only the highest paid leader of each country was represented in the table. This is like in some tournaments where each country is restricted to only one competitor. If all of Singapore ministers’remuneration were considered (eg in tournaments with no restriction from each country) , we will take all the spots available on the list.

Not something I would be proud of, and I suspect, not something that the PAP would be proud of too!

I have blogged about this before here,



and I am still convinced that to say that only if Singapore’s political office-holders are paid astronomical salaries, could we have a non-corrupt and clean government is a false dichotomy and an insult to each and every Singaporean’s intelligence. The words "altruism" and "self-sacrifice" are obviously alien to the PAP and not present in their vocabulary!


My friends, Watch this space ( or akan dating)- for in a few months from now, when our economy starts to recover from this financial crisis and Singapore’s GDP becomes positive again, our political leaders will become smug again and insist that their astronomical salaries be restored to their previous even loftier levels on the excuse that their remuneration are pegged to Singapore’s economic growth.


Might as well peg it to the rising of the sun!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, March 27, 2009

Organ-trading through the back door


Dear Friends,

The letter to the Forum page (see below) was sent a few days ago.

As the editor is taking a long time to decide if he should publish it, I feel that I should publish it now while it is still newsworthy and still fresh in your minds.

Personally I feel that this is an example of how bad laws still get passed through our parliament.

I am not arguing that all should agree with my views about transplant medicine.

It irks me that even when the details about the "hows" and "how much" of the compensation mechanisms are so sorely missing, an overwhelming majority still voted for the law to be passed.
What is the point of lifting the Whip? How many independently-minded parliamentarians do we have?

There is no need to hide in the shadows anymore. We can unashamedly say openly (just like Iran) that you can now come to Singapore from all corners of the world- bring your kidney donor with you, and you can pay him ( or to use the right word-reimburse him) at an amount to be determined in the future.

As it is impossible to police how the foreign donor uses the money back home- we won't. How convenient.

So one and all- We do not have organ-trading. You can come to sunny Singapore where you get serious money for your kidney. But I say again, we do not have organ-trading.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Addendum (27.3.09 2.30pm): I just found out that the letter was actually published this morning. Maybe one paragraph ( which I thought was quite "juicy") was edited out, hence it was unrecognised by me in the wee hours of this morning.


The Letter to the Forum Editor

Dear editor,

I have deep reservations about the latest legislation which allows for payment for living kidney donors.

Although Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan had categorically assured parliament that the new law did not seek to legalise organ trading, many including myself remain unconvinced.

If we truly only wanted to reimburse donors for their altruistic acts, and not let this become a backdoor for organ trading, the following safeguards should have been present:

1. Foreigners should have been excluded
Only local donors should be allowed onto this scheme as we can then monitor them within our system and either reimburse them for healthcare expenses related to the organ donation through direct payment or through lifelong medical insurance coverage. Compensation for loss of earnings and other more difficult computations can also be decided by a neutral committee.

To allow foreigners into the scheme opens a Pandora’s box as it is impossible to know what a foreign donor does with the money back home. He could literally put the whole lump sum down on some gamble and have nothing left when he needs it most.

To include foreigners is also a tacit admission that transplant medicine is big business that Singapore cannot afford to ignore.


2. Compensation details should be available before parliament vote

The details about mechanisms for quantifying fair compensation should be present before MP’s were asked to vote on what must have been a tough moral choice. These details must surely be the difference between the money being “compensation” rather than “profit” for the donor.

To be asked to vote for something which lacked any specifics at all might cause our parliament to be misconstrued as a “rubber-stamp” as many may consider voting for this legislation in such a way to be irresponsible and akin to writing a “blank cheque”.


I fear that Singapore’s reputation as a medical hub with a “high ethical standard” has been seriously eroded by the passing of this legislation.



Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pseudonyms and anonymous blogging- Are nom de guerre still needed in Singapore?

Hi Friends,

Introduction

What do Vladimir Il'ich Ulyanov, Yosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, Saloth Sar and Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, have in common with Samuel Clemens and Charles Dodgson?

They are all famous personalities in history and they all had pseudonyms.

Their nom de guerre (French for “war name”) or nom de plume ( pen name) were Lenin,Stalin,Pol Pot, Carlos the Jackal, Mark Twain and Lewis Carroll respectively. (see wikipedia on Pseudonyms here)

Singapore also had her Chin Peng (real name Ong Boon Hua) and The “Plen”-ipotentiary (Fang Chuang Pi) who were leaders of the Malayan Communist Party. (See here and here on the Plen)

In the debate about anonymous blogging and use of pseudonyms, it is useful to remember the historical context in which pseudonyms were used.

History context on Pseudonym Usage

In times of war( especially guerilla warfare), the need was obvious. In other times, it was mainly tradition eg Monarchies (King George VI was born Albert Frederick Arthur George); Pope Benedict XVI was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger; Actresses including pornstars (Linda Lovelace (Deep Throat), the most famous porn star of all time, was born Linda Boreman); online world (use of handle,avatar or nicknames common eg Lucky Tan).

Perhaps of more relevance to the discourse about Singapore’s politics is the fact that from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, it was established practice for political articles to be signed with pseudonyms. For example the pen name Publius, was used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, in writing The Federalist Papers. And in Britain, political writer Junius (who was never identified) used his shroud of anonymity to great effect to expose corrupt. See wikipedia on Junius here

Junius’ letters were “considered by some to be invective though close inspection of his writings reveals a principled man centuries ahead of his time, exposing blatant corruption by the only means available (anonymity) in a country struggling with the idea of freedom of speech”.

I had written a post on my blog on this (here) and it was also published in the ST forum page.

Despite what I have written above ( esply about wartime use of pseudonyms), I still sincerely believe that in Singapore’s present political context, it would be more useful and more credible to use real names.

Lucky Tan's contention that “for many bloggers, our anonymity is to keep our friends, parents and relatives from worrying and not for any other purpose” is quite lame. (see here). I still read Lucky's satire and I like them as they are like a breath of fresh air.

Unless we are no better than Burma and N. Korea...

If you really believe that in present day Singapore ( let us not dwell in the past), to write or utter any alternative opinion would cause one to be jailed ala Burma and North Korea, that government agencies (eg ISD) are at this moment trailing your movements and tapping your communications and that we live in a make-believe Matrix world that would eventually reveal its true nature just before the ending credits rolled, then it is understandable to resort to anonymity.

But if you are not so paranoid ( or delusional), you should be like Gerald Giam, Alex Au and myself who feel that despite Singapore’s political scene being less than perfect ( to put it mildly), the establishment can and should can be engaged in a “real-world” basis.

We must have testicular fortitude

I still am convinced that one must have the testicular fortitude (balls) to stand up for what one believes in. We cannot help what our friends and relatives think about our political stands, but to live our lives cowering behind false camouflages is just plain “ sad”. And bloggers who only make anonymous comments which are nothing more than unconstructive barbs and diatribes are childish ( and should be ignored just as we ignore children’s antics).

Many people I know – who when they found out about my blog or my forum letters, were genuinely supportive. They would pull me aside in hospital corridors or even sms/phone me to say that they agreed with what I said or that they wished they had the courage to tell the government that all is not well on the ground and that it is time for substantial changes in our political governance.

No persecutions (so far)...

My work as a doctor has not been affected and patients (even from government-linked agencies) continue to see me. My interactions with government agencies (eg traffic police/telecoms/media etc) have not changed and my relatives’ chances of getting scholarships or employment are not diminished in any way just because of my outspoken views. I continue to be active in the medical circle ( election to councils and committees etc).

Fear as an excuse?

I used to say (and I say again) that “fear of the government” is very often used as an excuse to be inactive and apathetic. Period.

I may not agree with all the views of Dr. Chee Soon Juan nor am I completely comfortable about the notion of “gay marriage”, but I respect CSJ for his dogged determination and Alex Au for being open about his sexuality and using legal avenues to try to effect change.

Would we be better if dissenting views are "closeted"?

In a thought experiment- would Alex be as effective in changing government and public mindset about gay rights if he had remained “closeted” ( no disrespect intended)? On the same vein, if all non-establishment personalities ( eg Catherine Lim/Tan Kin Lian/Leong Sze Hian/Siew Kum Hong etc) had remained anonymous, would Singapore be better off? No, we could then just be conceding media space to the government’s propaganda machinery ( we know who these are) who already have near-monopoly of MSM.

On critical mass

I may be naïve, but I believe if there is a critical mass of people who dare publicly be associated with non-establishment views, the people and in turn the government would have no choice but to take notice and try to change in order not to lose support and votes.

Government's failure in allaying fear

From the palpable fear prevalent in Singapore, it is obvious that the government has been less than effective in convincing Singaporeans that it is interested in an “open and inclusive Singapore” as alluded to in PM Lee’s speech when he first took the oath as Singapore’s third Prime Minister in August 2004.

PM Lee said (click here for whole speech),
“We will continue to expand the space which Singaporeans have to live, to laugh, to grow and to be ourselves. Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate, so as to understand our problems, conceive fresh solutions, and open up new spaces”…” Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore.”

Notwithstanding this, I will continue to engage openly and I hope you will too.

Friends, my blogname (nofearsingapore) is not ironic.

I believe in it and I put my money where my mouth is.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan