Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Singapore International Festival of Arts bosses in public spat


SINGAPORE — A public spat has erupted between the two main figures behind the Singapore International Festival of Arts, with its Artistic Director, Mr Ong Keng Sen, accusing Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lee Chor Lin, of “hijacking” the festival, which is slated to run in August.

The conflict was aired in an email sent on today (March 18) by Mr Ong to Ms Lee, as well as to the Ministry Of Community, Culture And Youth, the National Arts Council and members of the press.

In the email, Mr Ong accused Ms Lee of not responding to his emails regarding the content and design of the festival brochures and described her as being “unprofessional and unethical”.

“I don’t think you should be treating the festival director in this way. I am not just your content provider. I have been providing materials but nothing has come back to me for review,” he said in the email.

Mr Ong is referring to the vetting of text and designs regarding the brochures and programmes of the Festival as well as the pre-Festival event OPEN, which takes place in June. He has been unable to do this, he said.

According to him, there has been a communication blackout since March 11. “I’ve sent 20 emails asking for information and there’s nothing coming back. It’s a hijacking of material and for seven days, they have been refusing to give me anything,” said Mr Ong in a phone interview.

“I have been appointed by the (National) Arts Council to deliver a vision of the Festival and this vision is being frustrated,” said Mr Ong.

“The bottomline is that the CEO has not encountered any of the artists at all — any of the films and productions I’ve watched. So how can she (come up with the brochures containing) these productions (without consulting me)? The CEO runs the business side and not to ‘project’ (a festival’s) content,” he added.

When contacted, Ms Lee denies that it was a case of “hijacking”. “There is an understanding way back in June (about the) division of labour. I’m in charge of the PR, marketing and collateral, and he agreed to it. It’s a process that is not creative anymore. We’re down to page number, figuring out the ticket prices, making sure what goes into the brochure will make sense to readers.

“Artists have a view of things, but this particular product goes to the audience, and this has to be taken into consideration. The whole design and graphic process is one that he is not familiar with.”

As to claims of not responding to Mr Ong’s emails, “We have responded. It’s just at some point there is a cut off line. It’s really a simple thing.”

She added: “Despite these very obvious creative combustions, I think we’re on our way to having a very good festival and producing a brochure will be a very important milestone because that’s when the information will be disseminated. I’ll just let this blow over then we pick up and go forward. It’s a very interesting relationship we have.”

Noting that it is "not uncommon for differences of opinions to emerge" in the lead up to any major event, National Arts Council Chief Executive Kathy Lai said: "Despite these differences, we acknowledge that both Keng Sen and Chor Lin have unique strengths and experiences that they bring to this partnership.

"We have spoken to both of them and we have their commitment that they will move beyond this episode and focus on their vision of a world-class festival."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rest in peace, uncle Isa.

SDP mourns the passing away of Mohd Isa

One of SDP's stalwarts, Mr Mohd Isa bin Abdul Aziz has passed away. Isa, a member of the party's Central Executive Committee (CEC), died last night of renal failure after suffering a stroke in November 2013. He was 56.

Isa, as he is known to members, joined the SDP in the late 1980s and has always played a leadership role in the party. He stood as an SDP candidate in past elections, the latest in Sembawang GRC in the 2011 GE.

Isa was a staunch believer in the party's cause, steadfastly championing the rights of his fellow Singaporeans. He never wavered in his fight for a democratic Singapore and worked tirelessly towards this ideal.

Even when he was struck with illness, Isa still came for walkabouts and house visits with the party. He would take a break at the void-decks when he was tired after climbing the floors and knocking on doors, but would resume his task when he recovered. He never complained or asked for anything in return.  

He was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act in the 1980s which only made him even more determined to seek justice and democracy for Singapore. He liked to joke that his name, Isa which bore the initials of the notorious secret police, struck terror into the hearts of Singaporeans.

Isa had encountered Dr Chee Soon Juan when they were boys in the 1960s, playing football at the MacPherson housing estate at Circuit Road (and ended up quarreling). They did not meet again until 1992 when Dr Chee joined the SDP.

Through the years, the two had become close colleagues. Isa said on several occasions that his biggest wish was to see Dr Chee get into Parliament. "Once you are in Parliament I can retire," he told Dr Chee.

Isa's latest contribution to our nation was the SDP's Malay policy paper A Singapore for All Singaporeans: Addressing the Concerns of the Malay Community where he provided direction and inspiration.

He leaves behind his wife, Madam Norjan, daughters, Naajia and Daanaa, and son, Altaf. His daughters recalled how he would talk to them about politics in Singapore when they were young and impressed upon them the need to stand up for what is right.          

Isa was a democrat and a Democrat. The SDP has lost a true leader, Singapore has lost a loyal citizen.

The SDP sends our deepest condolences to Isa's family. He will be missed by all of us but his memory will spur us on. Rest well, good friend.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Missing You (2014)

Missing You
Photocopy (Edition of 200)
Seelan Palay

Dr Chia Thye Poh (born 1941) is a Singaporean former political prisoner who was detained in 1966 under the Internal Security Act of Singapore for allegedly having led a call for the revival of armed struggle – an accusation he denied till today. Prior to his arrest, he was a physics lecturer and member of the Parliament of Singapore.

He was imprisoned without trial for 32 years – five years more than the late Nelson Mandela. However, there is little knowledge of Dr Chia and his actual ideas among the generations of Singaporeans after him.

Upon his release in 1992 and having his rights to speak to the press finally restored, he said, "The best years of my life were taken away just like that without a charge or trial". Tears swelled in his eyes as he contemplated his lost chance of marrying and raising a family. He then spent most of his time abroad, and the details of his past and present were mostly available in fragments found on the Internet.

Adapting the most recent online photograph of Dr Chia, I printed and photocopied a poster similar to a "missing persons" notice. You are welcome to take a copy and put it up anywhere.

Let viewers ask themselves, "Who is this man?", "Why is he missing?", "Is this a notice... or a statement?".

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ethnicity is Poison

Source: The Real Singapore


What does it mean by "pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality"?

When I was in BMT, my company had really outstanding malay muslim soldiers who were all-rounder and great leaders. They did well in their IPPT, SIT test and received great feedback from the peer appraisal. The best recruit being a Chinese could have been easily explained, but it was hard for me to understand why (for my platoon) only the Chinese and Indians made it to OCS and the Malays were all posted to SISPEC when they were clearly more outstanding than us in all aspect. I was disappointed but I couldn't care much because I was happy that I was in OCS.

Then, when i was in OCS, the thought came back to me again as i was indenting food for my company one day. During BMT, we had to always pay attention to how many non-muslims and how many muslims are there when we indent food. I looked around, there were no muslims in my company. There were some in other companies, but it definitely doesn't reflect the composition of our population. At that point of time I didn't think too much of it, because frankly as a Chinese, I don't really care because it's not me who's discriminated against.

When I was training in Air Force as a trainee, the thought came back to me again. At SAFTI, there was a muslim food corner. There wasn't any at the Air Force School. Again, I didn't really care but I was starting to feel disgusted at how we are discriminating our muslim friends. I had classmates in JC who shared that they were really disappointed that they couldn't pass the test to be a pilot. Some of them were told that they failed the test, some were told that they were rejected because they failed the security clearance.

There was once when the Chief of Air Force came for a visit to conduct a forum and we were told that we could ask him questions. Our instructors wanted to be sure that our questions were appropriate, so they requested that we had to submit our questions to them for vetting before they could be approved for asking.

I thought if I asked "why are there no muslim in the Air Force", it might be a little too harsh, so i rephrased a bit, it was "why are there so little muslims in the Air Force". The instructor read it and returned it back to me, saying that it was too sensitive and told me to ask something else. He said "we all know why. it's better not to ask ". So my question became "so what's next for RSAF". I never got to asked the CAF.

I went to another instructor with the same question, she was the strict and law-by-law kind, so i thought she could give me a proper explanation. Her reply was "what do you mean by there are no muslims? there is one pilot who is muslim. check your facts first before you say such things, you will get into trouble for saying things like that" Ok, so there is one muslim pilot in the entire Air Force, that just confirmed that there is discrimination.

Every time I recite the national pledge, I wonder why are we saying it when we don't even mean it. Regardless of race, language or religion? Based on justice and equality?

We have been extremely lucky that our muslim friends have been really tolerant and have not reacted badly to this issue, but who knows what might happen in the future? This is like a time bomb that may explode any time. If there are people who can "make mountains out of molehills" out of Purple Light and dirty ceilings, imagine the potential of this issue.

Ethnicity is poison. Let's just remove our ethnicity from our IC and just call ourselves Singaporeans.

By Anonymous (Scared of ISA)

Local Malay Unhappy with Discrimination Against Malays in the SAF

Source: The Real Singapore

I don't usually do these long ass posts but I really felt I needed to get this off my chest.

I was at the Navy Recruitment drive in Vivocity when I playfully decided to ask the Warrant Officer a few questions.

Me : Is joining the Navy a good career choice?

WO : Yes it is very rewarding

Me : What are the critereas I need to have if I wish to be in the Navy?

WO : You need to be a fit individual with diploma or A levels.

Me : I am a reasonably fit individual who gets minimum silver for Ippt every year. I have perfect working senses and limbs. I have a Diploma in Mass Comm and a few commendable testimonials from previous employers. However, My name is MUHAMMAD FADZRI BIN ABD RASHID. If i were to apply, will I be wasting my time?

WO : (sheepishly looks at the floor) *wry smile followed by a slight shrug*

Me : I'm just playin' with u man I know what the deal is.

My friend and I laughed at what we thought was just an act of mischief. But when we further discussed the matter, I realize that this form of discrimination has been well ignored by the general public.

We serve our duties as Singaporeans. Well and maybe even better than some. We serve national service, we vote and god knows we add to the birth rate. Why are we deprived of the opportunity for key positions in the military?

Is it because we are surrounded by muslim countries that they fear we will be in the position to choose? If so then why put us through National service?

I'm not saying the muslim community doesnt have a part to blame in this discrimination. A few over fanatic individuals do aid in raising paranoia in society especially when the term "terrorism" is always associated to Muslim males.

However, Singaporean Malay or Muslim males raised in Singapore undeniably have a different upbringing. I wish they took the time to evaluate a person well along with his background instead of discriminating an entire ethnicity. If they needed manpower that bad, they should be willing to go the extra step.

What saddens me the most? I have no idea how to defend a country that has never once defended me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

‘More rules’ needed as interest groups jostle for public space

A friend said, "More rules" is the only thing the govt can come up with to deal with evolving civil society. Ridiculous.

‘More rules’ needed as interest groups jostle for public space
Former Attorney-General Walter Woon. TODAY file photo

Society must accept compromise, learn to disagree without being disagreeable, says former AGC Walter Woon

12 November 2013
SINGAPORE — With more interest groups jostling for public space and a citizenry more inclined to challenge the Government, society will need “more rules, not fewer”, said former Attorney-General Walter Woon yesterday.

“You cannot expect, when you live with 7,400 people in the same kilometre, to have your way all the time. You must accept compromise, you must accept that, even if they (other people) do not agree with you, there has to be a form of adjudication ... uphold that rule of law ... learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Speaking in his personal capacity at a session of the Institute of Policy Studies’ Conference on Civil Society at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel yesterday, Professor Woon, who is a National University of Singapore law professor, cited four factors that will lead to greater interaction between the various interest groups and the Government, as well as among the groups themselves.

He pointed out that with 7,405 people per square kilometre, Singapore is “the most crowded society in human history” with no “pressure-release valve”, which other countries with a countryside possess.

The population density is expected to increase to 10,000 people per square kilometre by 2030, the former Nominated Member of Parliament added.

Secondly, it will be “inevitable” that “different interest groups will increasingly find themselves in competition for public space, in opposition to Government, in opposition, in fact, to other interest groups”.

Technology, meanwhile, also facilitates the creation of interest groups, he told the conference. “The existence of the Internet allows the lone wolf to join the pack. And the pack then also (fights) for that public space.”

Fourthly, as a result of rising education levels, people will “have a perspective that there are things that can be done better”, Prof Woon said.

In the past, he noted, the Government’s approach to clashes with interest groups had been to wield “the iron hand in iron glove”, and to say “we will make the decisions”.

However, it can no longer do this, as “it is quite clear that the electorate is now willing to vote against the Government”.

Prof Woon noted that, anecdotally, there have been more challenges to the Government in the courts within the last five years than in the past 30 to 40 years, such as the two constitutional challenges to Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between males.

Speaking at a dialogue session later, Law Minister K Shanmugam said the Government has to work with civil society. He described the relationship between the two sides as one that is “by and large ... working quite well”.

However, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that not every engagement between civil servants and civil society results in a positive experience, adding that “there are areas where, maybe, agencies have been less than forthcoming”.

“My own belief is that civil servants believe, like us, in engagement, but when the rubber hits the road in terms of specific proposals, in terms of specific meetings, in terms of specific agencies, there can be a difference in perception and one can be wrong ... both sides can be wrong,” he said.

Citing the Government’s work with animal welfare groups as an example, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore cannot be governed without the active participation of people and civil society in today’s modern and complex economic and civil situation.

He said: “If you ask (the animal welfare groups) today, look at what was accomplished in the last two years. At their suggestion, the government formed the animal welfare law reform group — they came up with fairly revolutionary set of suggestions, very, very substantive suggestions. The government accepted all of them this year.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Defining poverty in Singapore is more than just the ‘cliff effect’

Source: Yahoo News
By Kirsten Han

A man sells tissue packets on Orchard Road in Singapore. (Yahoo photo)

It’s no secret that Singapore is a rich country. In 2012, it was found to be the richest country in the world.
But despite the expensive clubs and the glamourous Formula 1 races, not everyone in Singapore is enjoying an ultra-rich lifestyle. Although unemployment is fairly low, studies have shown that a considerable number of people in Singapore can be considered the "working poor" – struggling to make ends meet despite having jobs.
With inequality becoming a real worry, the government is still loathe to define poverty. Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development, has now said that an official poverty line might be unhelpful as it poses the danger of a "cliff effect", where welfare schemes are only made available to those below the line while ignoring others in need of support.
It's a strange argument: if the government is already aware of the dangers of this "cliff effect", would it not then be able to avoid it? It would be an incompetent government indeed if it were able to blindside itself just by officially defining poverty.
The existence of a poverty line does not mean that all focus should be directed towards those who fall below it. An official poverty line shows that the poverty is an issue acknowledged by the government to exist as part of the structure of society. Once we see that poverty exists as a structural problem, more steps can be taken to address the distribution of resources and opportunities.
As it stands, poverty in Singapore is more often than not seen as an individual failing with individual solutions. People are urged to retrain and upskill and become more "productive" rather than to expect more social welfare. Social welfare is dangerous, we are warned. That way lies laziness, a mindset of entitlement and the loss of our brilliant status as an economic success.
An official poverty line would demonstrate that the problem is more than just one of individual struggles. An official acknowledgement of the poor would show that, try as they might, a strata in our society is unable to make ends meet. It would force us to take a good hard look at our policies and recognise that our eagerness to please and attract big businesses is not producing the trickle-down effect that was promised. And it is from that point that we start trying to figure out how to deal with poverty on a structural level.
On a certain level the Minister is right: defining poverty might not be helpful. It would not be helpful if it only existed for cosmetic purposes; if the acknowledgement of the poor was not followed by structural reform. But once we have this line and are able to see ourselves not only in terms of who's the richest, but also who's the poorest, it would be remiss of the government and its citizens to not seek solutions.
I can understand the government's desire to avoid a "cliff effect". But refusing to see the cliff doesn't mean that no one is falling off it. Refusing to define poverty doesn't mean that no one is poor; it just means that we don't get the full picture of what work needs to be done.
Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are her own.