Google Translate

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Onward to Singapore 2010!

The big news tonight is that Singapore will be hosting the first Youth Olympics in 2010! All rejoice! The government and grassroots efforts have succeeded! And let's not forget the support of the taxi drivers who pasted the decals on their windows!

Okay, okay, seriously speaking, this is good news for Singapore for a number of reasons. Firstly, it reinforces Singapore's growing reputation as a place to hold international meetings, following the IMF/World Bank meeting (* see note 1 below). Secondly, it emphasises the government's drive to develop a thriving sports culture here, especially with the recent high-profile tender for the Sports Hub. (* see note 2 below) Thirdly, it more-or-less assures of a stable -- if not booming -- economy up to 2010, after the casinos start operations next year.

Which leaves me with just one question:
Where is there space around NUS to build an Olympic Village???

Notes:

  1. All of these international meetings came after the government announced its decision to build a casino here. Conspiracy theorists say that the government had been "held ransom" by the MICE power brokers: build a casino or forget about holding international events. I doubt that's true.
  2. Urban legend says that when former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew watched a soccer match, he asked, "What's so great about watching 22 men chase a ball?" Again, I doubt that anecdote is true.
--

Friday, 15 February 2008

Remembering Total Defence Day

Yeah, I was one of the many who had forgotten about this day. It wasn't until I saw the scrolling TV ticker about the public siren alerts that I remembered. Shame on me... and probably 80% of the population.

Okay, 70%. The school kids were forced to remember. And some of them spent their morning at the War Memorial at Stamford Road. They had to bask unsheltered under the hot sun, away from some white tents that had been set up nearby. I guess those were meant for the VIPs. Pity the kids.

The rest of the day passed normally till 12:05pm. Right on the dot, the sirens blared. Within the air-conditioned confines of the office, we could hear the familiar wails. Some of my colleagues wondered why they were on. Was it another test of the public warning system? (BTW when was the last test??? I don't recall hearing one in the last couple of months.)

I guess I was the only one with a ready answer. It was Chinese New Year during World War 2 and after a long and treacherous battle, the invading Japanese army had succeeded in all but conquering Singapore. Which left only one course of action:

"It's the day the British sold us out."

RIP, war veterans.

--

Friday, 8 February 2008

Provide feedback on Budget 2008

I got this in the email recently. The Feedback Unit will be holding an e-Townhall meeting on 19 February to discuss this year's Budget Statement. (Yes, I'm not only a member of the online Feedback group (though I've hardly participated), but also receive their newsletter.) A few things came to mind when reading it:

  • What's up with the name "e-Townhall"? Feedback Unit, the 1990s called. They want their "e-" prefix back.
  • Only government correspondences use numbered paragraphs. I've never come across this oddity in other correspondences, official or otherwise.
  • A chance to actually dialogue with ministers (assuming that they're the ones physically banging on their keyboards and not some lackeys)? But why doesn't Minister Tharman himself participate? For a discussion this important, I'd rather hear from the horse's mouth (no disrespect to the minister or those involved).
Still, it might be a good opportunity to hear what others are saying (complaining?). I admit that I tend to be secluded in my Ivory Tower for too long, so I think it's good to widen my exposure somewhat.
eTownhall Meeting on 19 February 2008

1 The Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver the Budget 2008 Statement in Parliament on 15 February 2008. Are you already thinking of airing your views on the Budget 2008 initiatives? Do you agree with Government’s spending priorities? Do you think it addresses the primary concerns of Singaporeans?

2 REACH is providing you an opportunity to engage public leaders on Budget 2008. Join Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Dr Amy Khor, Chairman of REACH and Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Vice-Chairman of REACH in our e-Townhall meeting from 7.00 to 9.00pm on Tuesday 19 February 2008 to discuss Budget 2008 and its initiatives.

3 The e-Townhall meeting is a real time web-chat. To participate, simply register your interest with REACH at reach@reach.gov.sg. The closing date for registration is 18 February 2008, Monday. However, we strongly encourage members of the public to register early.

4 For enquiries, please contact REACH at reach@reach.gov.sg or 1800-353 5555.

Please click on the following URL link for more information.
http://app.reach.gov.sg/reach/Events/eTownhallMeetingonBudget2008/tabid/141/Default.aspx
--

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Filipinas lured to Singapore with fake round-trip tickets - where's the outrage?

From Asian News Gazette, "Fake roundtrip tickets used to lure Filipinas to Singapore" (Nov 14, 2007) by Veronica Uy:

Trafficking syndicates use fake roundtrip tickets and offer them as "free" to lure Filipinas they deploy for sex jobs in Singapore, the Philippine embassy in Singapore said last week.

In a recent statement, Consul General Maria Lumen Isleta said: "Most of the human trafficking victims who run to the embassy for help hold dummy return tickets and ask for our assistance to be repatriated back to the Philippines."
This is old news, but it's the first time I've come across it. It's also been picked up by Bangkok's The Nation, "Trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore at all-time high: report":
Human trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore has increased alarmingly to an all-time high to 212 cases in 2007, an annual report from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore said on Monday.

The report, submitted to Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto G Romulo, cited a 70 per cent surge in cases from 125 in 2006.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Fule-Anoto noted there were 59 recorded cases in 2005.

Last year's figure "is only a small fraction of all the Filipino human trafficking victims in Singapore," the report said.
(I think The Nation article was just published, because Singabloodypore posted it verbatim today.)

There was talk about making Singapore's prostitution laws stricter, especially with the rise in child sex tourism. But I don't remember this issue being raised at any time then or after. And it's bloody disturbing in terms of international relations.

Singapore is supposed to be The Philippines closest friend in Southeast Asia. If that's the case, I wonder how important it is to the Singapore Government. I wouldn't want my friend to allow me to be abused. No one would (right?).

Unfortunately, this illicit practice has also prompted the U.S. State Department to downgrade Singapore. This reminds me of a story, which I cannot verify if it's true or not. It was told by someone who apparently had connections within the local Foreign Affairs Ministry. Back when some State Department officials came to visit Singapore, they were told point-blank that there is no underage sex nor sex trade in Singapore.

"Oh, and don't forget, Singapore is your strongest and most trusted ally in Southeast Asia (so don't mess with us!)."

If the above anecdote is true, then that means the issue has been brushed under the carpet, perhaps to maintain Singapore's squeaky clean image. But now that the Philippines government has brought it out to light, we can't afford to hide our heads in the sand anymore.

It's time for Singapore to help and support its friend and win back its confidence.

Aside: incidentally, I didn't know that Filipinos are required to have round-trip tickets before being allowed to leave the country. Do domestic workers get an exemption?

--

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Crowded MRT trains... no more?

Crowded MRT train carriage

Finally, SMRT will be adding extra trains during peak hours! This is Singapore, not Tokyo! We don't want nor need to be pushed into trains, as if we were sardines in a can or sheep in a slaughterhouse. We don't want to jostle in crowded trains, especially after a tiring day at work!

It's been a ridiculous situation for years. I've lost count of how many times I had to pass on boarding some trains because they were jam-packed. It became second nature for me to wait for the next train. So it's about time SMRT became "customer-centric" and acceded to the demands of its commuters.

Yeah, I used inverted commas for "customer-centric". Even Minister Raymond Lim admitted that our so-called public transport operators have been "profit-centric" for far too long. It's not called "public" for nothing, you know.

Hopefully, crowded trains will be a thing of the past. One can hope, right?

SMRT and SBS Transit raise peak period train frequencies
February 1, 2008, 4:48pm

SINGAPORE: Starting 4 February, the journey to and from work for commuters is expected to be quicker.

Both SMRT and SBS Transit announced on Friday that they will be increasing the number of train trips per week.

SMRT, which operates the North-South and East-West lines, will run 83 additional trips during the morning and evening peak periods. It said this will cut average waiting times by as much as 1.5 minutes.

The change is expected to benefit passengers travelling southwards from Yishun, and westwards from Boon Lay during the morning rush hours.

Meanwhile, northbound and eastbound commuters in the evening peak period may similarly expect a quicker, less crowded journey.

SBS Transit, which operates the North East Line (NEL), will add another 10 trips each week.

It said the move will cut average waiting times from four to three minutes during the morning peak period, and from five to four minutes in the evening rush hour.

-- Channel NewsAsia
--

A bicycle built for... three??

Bicycle built for three

Mainland Chinese never fail to amaze me. They talk (shout?) loudly when within earshot of the other party. They insist on speaking in Mandarin with an Indian person.

And they cycle... a lot. Here was this mother with her two young children on a single bicycle. The youngest looks no more than a toddler and was seated just behind the handlebar. The older girl sat behind her mother on the rear wheel's cover. And the mother struggled to keep the bicycle standing.

No Singaporean in his or her right mind would cycle in the middle of the day in the city, when traffic is at its craziest. Yet this family seemingly did the impossible. I don't know whether I should congratulate them or call the Traffic Police.

--