"How do I account for all these?"

Muddy Waters vs Olam + Temasek: An issue that warrants a look

As a writer, I relish the many ways I can pun the headline when commenting on an issue such as this. As a Singaporean, I’m not sure this is the time to get all nationalistic about it. Here’s a summary if you haven’t been following the saga. It started on November 19 when California-based research firm Muddy Waters and its owner Carson Block raised serious questions at a London investment conference about the accounting practices of Singapore-listed commodities trader Olam. Likening it to Enron, Muddy Waters accuses Olam of accounting gaffes and running a high risk of failure, and is adamant that…

Zero tolerance, zero compassion

In this year’s National Day Rally, PM Lee said: There is one particularly difficult area where we need to be big hearted and that is in relations between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans. To summarise a long-winded speech, he told us we can’t afford to be one-eyed dragons, because it reflects badly on us and people will think that Singapore is anti-foreigner and xenophobic. He urged us to feel for other fellow human beings, especially non-Singaporeans who may offend because they do not know what our norms are. He reminded us that it is wrong to slam the shortcoming of others but…

"This strike action has succeeded beyond all our expectations."

What a striking difference five days made

What a difference five days made Twenty-four, times five, little hours Brought the MOM and the powers Where there used to be complains … What has happened in the space of these five days since those Chinese drivers first went on strike? Ministry of Manpower (MOM) warned SMRT to thoroughly review and improve its human resource and management practices. SMRT announced that it was already planning to give the drivers a $25 increment. SMRT also said it is now looking into their wage concerns and will share its decision with them next week. A first townhall was held with China…

SMRT Chinese drivers strike: A bus load of issues

SMRT Chinese drivers strike: A bus load of issues

This strike by SMRT’s Chinese bus drivers is turning out to be a very interesting development. And it’s not just the thesaurus’s worth of euphemisms that we learned yesterday. While the mainstream media is busy explaining itself today why it avoided the word ‘strike’ — because apparently what they did is technically not one — and whether it’s legal or not, the incident has brought out a whole load of social issues that deserve closer examination. Foreign labour pay It is now out in the open that SMRT pays its bus drivers differently for the same job. This differentiation applies not only between…

No gallows

Death penalty for the government then?

Consider the following scenarios: First, the case of Noinoi. In 2006, Mohd Ali Johari was charged for the murder of his two-year-old step-daughter, Noinoi. He admitted to slapping her, immersing her in water repeatedly. He was a father at 17, a gambling addict, runner for illegal bookmakers, immature, deficient parent. He said he sometimes brought Noinoi home with him as he thought that she would help him avoid detection by the police. Look at “Nelly” and “Rose”. Nelly (aged six) was placed under foster care after her mother, uncle and grandfather were arrested for illegal gambling. She had been cared…

Lest we forget

Saving future Private Lees and Third Sergeant Tans

It goes without saying that we need to protect our sons and daughters in service before they can protect us. Reports on the findings of the inquiries into the death of full-time National Servicemen Dominique Sarron Lee and Tan Mou Sheng, coming just days after Remembrance Day, make for some tragic reading. Amidst the details of what went wrong and who were at fault was a short mention that Dominique’s mother, Ms Felicia Seah, has been visiting her son’s grave in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery every day since he died in April. How depressing is that? My own experience in…

Not akan datang

Sex.Violence.FamilyValues — Ban and blame (ourselves)

I fully agree with Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim that the ban on Sex.Violence.FamilyValues is “not a step backwards”. After all, was there any step forward to begin with? A play-safe mentality has always been the MDA’s trademark. Notwithstanding that, it still surprised me that 20 out of 24 members in the Films Consultative Panel (FCP), which the MDA had consulted on, felt the film should be banned. The remaining four thought a R21 rating as appropriate. This panel purportedly comprises “members of the public, representing different age groups, races, religions and professions, including those with knowledge about the film industry”. Yet,…

Entitlement mentality

Entitlement mentality

From Channel NewsAsia: “The government will always do its part to help the less fortunate especially through education, through housing, through financial assistance schemes but also through upholding meritocracy and keeping paths up open,” said [Prime Minister] Lee. […] But Mr Lee stressed that the government is not able to do everything for the less fortunate. He said: “The government cannot, and should not do, try to do everything. It is too impersonal. It can be bureaucratic and help then becomes a matter of social administration, not of care and compassion. And eventually, this fosters an entitlement mentality, instead of…

Guy Fawkes

HDB, the ball is in your court

Talk about staying competitive. If this were a competitive market, the HDB would have been trounced and rendered obsolete faster than you can say obigood. I’m referring, of course, to the housing policy paper launched by the Singapore Democratic Party that proposes major reforms in the public housing market. Meanwhile, in other news, the HDB is still battling internal demons and dragging its feet over whether to allow singles to buy flats direct… The proposal will be welcome by Singaporeans who despair of the relentless rise in property prices and difficulty in acquiring a simple roof over the head. Like…

"But the gap is only this wide"

Renewed call for wage shock therapy

It looks like Lim Chong Yah is not one to back down easily. Given his prominent status as founding chairman of NWC, architect of the previous wage shock therapy, and the first and only Emeritus Professor of both NUS and NTU, can the government continue to ignore him? When Prof Lim first called for a repeat of wage shock therapy in April this year, both PM Lee Hsien Loong and NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say publicly dismissed the proposal in the space of two weeks. There was no effort at all to engage him, to hear out his views in…

Keeping up to date on voiddecker.com

Have you been reading this, Minister Tan?

The Singapore government has long taken pride in being firm to stick to what it thinks is right, rather than what’s in favour. Having to admit openly to heeding public opinion makers and the general populace is a hard pill to swallow, especially when the stance it once championed is proven wrong. So when there are calls for policy changes, be it from experts, think tanks, opposition parties or ordinary Singaporeans, the government’s instinctive reaction is to dismiss the calls. Ministers and PAP MPs will caution us with doomsday scenarios. Right on cue, the local press will publish reports quoting…

Permission to speak, sir!

Permission to speak, sir!

Singaporeans live in a controlled environment. Most of us go about minding our own business without thinking much of it. Spare a thought, however, for our civil servants and journalists dying to speak out, especially those who endured a 30-40 year career to do so. New guidelines from a Public Service Division circular last week have lifted the gag order on civil servants so that they can take part in the national conversation. The PSD said this is “in the spirit of the (Our SG Conversation)”, so that civil servants can “engage in meaningful discussions on most government policies and share their…