Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'I curse the day I was born a Singaporean'

Letter by Olinda Brazil originally published at Malaysiakini.com

It is very amusing to see how Malaysians (probably of the minority races) have spasms of ecstasy when referring to Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) in Malaysian forums. From across the border in Malaysia, Singapore seems like Wonderland and LKY like a benevolent god.

As a Chinese Singaporean, born of Malaysian parents who took up citizenship here in Singapore, I can understand why they feel this way. The grouses are familiar: NEP, corruption and ineptitude in governance.

Let me provide an insight on how it is like to be a Singaporean. I must first stress that new immigrants or Permanent Residents (PRs) from Malaysia (like my parents) will not experience any disadvantages. It is the children of these people (like me) or new PRs' children (who will be Singaporean) who will feel the disadvantages most sorely, and curse the fact they were born in Singapore:

On the relative development of both countries - Singpore developed well largely due to early good advice given to LKY, its strategic position, the lack of natural disasters and its easily-governable size. Malaysia lags behind in spite of its natural resources because of its larger size, poorer planning/ execution, more difficult decision-making and corruption.

However, Singapore has problems at present because its development model is outdated. As LKY still insists on the methods recommended tens of years ago, trouble is looming. There is no impetus to change because there is no one who dares to disagree. The media prints only propaganda, the courts will always find the government blameless as the government runs 70% of the economy.

The opposition has been persecuted to the point where only those with nothing to lose will dare to oppose, and the common people are scared to death of arbitrary arrest.

Yes, corruption is more widespread in Malaysia. But in Singapore, it also exists - though restricted to the top political elite and in a legalised form. In Malaysia, many get a share of the cake but in Singapore, only a select few get a share of the cake.

Many scoff at the position of the Malay rulers. But are they aware of the many dubious acts of LKY and his cronies - his ‘cooperation’ with the wartime Japanese, then the Communists and then the British (he betrayed the latter two in the end)?

And the actions taken by him and his courts to destroy the opposition, moves which are reported in a twisted manner by his press? A shining example of good character?

Yes, up till recently, Singapore was performing excellently. But at the same time, the ordinary people had the fruits of their labour taken away. We seem rich but yet are in debt. The government apartments are now exorbitantly priced. Cars are a necessity (given the poor performance of the profit-oriented public transport companies) but are also exorbitantly priced.

Much of our money is locked in the Provident Fund and it is becoming impossible to get it back while we are still alive. Yes, all races are treated equally - and they are sucked dry equally. This is the pivotal point in times when things became bad. By the way, the money in the Provident Fund (as well as in the reserves) is used for investment - for which there is almost no transparency and accountability.

Huge losses have been incurred in the current crisis yet the ruling party still baulks at spending a million or two on the poor. Oh, and we spend twice as much on defence as Malaysia despite being at least 400 times smaller.

Instead of addressing the root of the problems, LKY's son (yes, his son - by the way did Dr Mahathir install his son as prime minister?) decided to take action on only one aspect of the problem, in a negative manner. Instead of lowering costs for citizens, and therefore maintaining wage levels, he decided to import foreigners to lower cost.

It is effective - foreigners earn much more per hour than they do back home. They are stuck with the same employer for the duration of their visa, hence they are obedient. If they are sacked, they have to go home. And home means facing unpaid debts which they incurred in getting to Singapore. So which foreign worker will dare to resist exploitation?

This means the ‘choosy’ Singaporeans get to twiddle thumbs at home. And would the Singaporean ministers care? They are paid $S$2 million basic per year, a performance bonus of up to eight months, and get a pension when they reach retirement age. Good clean governance, huh? Oh yes, the judges are paid the same too so not surprisingly they always find for the government.

Malaysians are LKY's top choice. It gratifies him to poach bright minority students which his old pal Dr Mahathir had educated. They get good jobs (there is supposedly a quota to be filled), will not get sacked (as it means they go back to Dr M) and are favoured by corporations, as they do not have national service obligations.

None want to be citizens - at the end of the day, they will retire to the Malaysia (which they hate so much) to enjoy the Singapore dollar’s strength. God have mercy on the children they leave behind!

Currently one person in three is a foreigner in Singapore. The press chooses to obfuscate matters by lumping citizens and PRs together in their reporting (as 'resident population') so the huge number of foreigners in Singapore is understated.

To all Malaysians who love LKY, you have to be ruled by him, not as a PR turned citizen, but as a born and bred Singaporean, to understand that he is not what you think.Y ou curse Dr Mahathir because you know LKY will treat you like lords. You are correct but very shortsighted and shallow.

Dr Mahathir may be much less than perfect, but only ignorant fools will say LKY is better than him. Singapore residents receive two broadsheet pages daily on how bad things are in Malaysia, but no Singaporean commentator will blast LKY and compare him to Dr Mahathir.

Why? Because it is stupid to compare - we have not been ruled by Dr Mahathir or Umno so how are we able to compare? Using anecdotal evidence supplied by privileged fellow countrymen is poor practice.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Police investigates filmmaker over screening

Fellow artist Martyn See writes on my investigation:

The police has commenced formal investigations against artist Seelan Palay for the screening of his film One Nation Under Lee. He is allegedly being investigated under section 21 of the Films Act which states that —(1) Any person who —(a) has in his possession;(b) exhibits or distributes; or(c) reproduces,any film without a valid certificate, approving the exhibition of the film, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction.

Needless to say, the above law makes criminals out of just everyone who has ever screen an unlicensed video in Singapore, even if held in the comfort of his or her own home.

During the private premiere of the film held at the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel last year, censorship officers entered the screening room and seized a DVD of the film (see videos here and here). The censors has yet to rate the film, although a submission has recently been made (see here).

Below is a transcript of the police interview, held on Monday 21st June at the Cantonment Police Complex, which I recieved via email from Seelan.

Police investigation regarding my film One Nation Under Lee

Introductory question (Q): What do you know about the facts of the case? (Posed to me as "Tell me about yourself" by the officer but strangely printed as "What do you know about the facts of the case?" in the version I was to sign at the end.)
Answer (A): I am an artist.

Q1. Can you remember where you were on 17 May 2008 at about 2pm?
A1. I cannot recall.

Q2. I am now informing you that the investigation into this offence is of the incident that happened at Excelsior Hotel on 17 May 2008. Do you recall this incident?
A2. I do not recall it as an offence.

Q3. Can you explain why you were at the Excelsior Hotel on 17 may 2008?
A3. I remember that I was at the Excelsior Hotel on that date to attend a private event.

Q4. Are you aware of a film that was screened on this date at Tulip Room at Excelsior Hotel?
A4. Yes.

Q5. Were you in the Tulip Room when this film was screened?
A5. Yes.

Q6. What was this film all about?
A6. That is a private matter.

Q7. Who is the one who is in charge of this event?
A7. It was a private event so that is none of anyone's concern.

Q8. Do you know who brought the film to the Tulip Room on 17 May 2008?
A8. That is a private matter.

Q9. Do you know who prepared this film?
A9. That is a private matter.

Q10. How long was this film screened?
A10. I cannot recall.

Q11. Can you remember what happened after the film was screened?
A11. Some uninvited guests entered the room.

Q12. Do you know who these uninvited guests were?
A12. I cannot recall.

Q13. Can you explain what happened after the film ended?
A13. The uninvited guests asked for the DVD of the film. The DVD was given to them.

Q14. How many copies were there in the room?
A14. I do not know.

Q15. Who handed over the DVD to the uninvited guests?
A15. I cannot recall.

Q16. What is your role in this private event?
A16. That is a private matter.

Q17. Who was operating the systems when the film was screened?
A17. That is a private matter.

Q18. Were you at Jalan Gelenggang on 16 May, one night before the incident?
A18. I cannot recall.

Q19. I'm going to show you a document, can you tell me if you have seen this document before? (Officer then shows me a letter from MDA apparently sent the night before the event with a warning not to screen the film. Films Act sections were quoted in the letter.)
A19. I cannot recall.

Q20. The officers who served this letter at No.2A Jalan Gelenggang claim that you were the one who received the letter. What have you got to say about this?
A20. Did they identify themselves as police officers? If they claim it was me, did they ask for my name or IC?

Q21. Did you remove the DVD from the player and hand it over to Madam ---? (Name undisclosed for the purposes of this email)
A21. That is a private matter.

Q22. Do you have anything else to add?
A22. The uninvited guests should be investigated for barging in to and disrupting a private event.


by Seelan Palay

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Standing up for the people on bended knees (Criticism of Workers Party)

Written by Ng E-Jay
23 June 2009

In his no-holes-barred masterpiece Requiem for an unbending Singaporean, former President C.V. Devan Nair recounted how, after J.B. Jeyaretnam had won the 1981 Anson by-election, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said that he would make him “crawl on his bended knees, and beg for mercy“.

But the former Worker’s Party leader was made of far sterner stuff, and in Devan Nair’s own words, “he never did crawl on bended knees, or ever begged for mercy, and it is to Lee Kuan Yew’s eternal shame that Jeyaretnam will leave the political scene with his head held high, enjoying a martyrdom conferred on him by Lee.

Today, it still remains to be seen whether the Worker’s Party is able to live up to J.B. Jeyaretnam’s principles and embody the same kind of moral rectitude and courage so consistently displayed by its former stalwart.

Not much progress after ending GE 2006 on a high note

The Worker’s Party fielded 20 candidates in the 2006 General Elections and obtained an average of 38.43% of the valid votes cast in all the constituencies they contested.

The Worker’s Party’s successful attempt at renewal and their ability to field a fresh slate of younger candidates at the 2006 General Elections led many to believe that they had finally come of age.

However, despite ending GE 2006 on a high note, the Worker’s Party has thus far been unable to capitalize on the new-found momentum and rising wave of anti-establishment sentiment.

Not long after the 2006 elections, two WP candidates, Mr Chia Ti Lik and Mr Goh Meng Seng, resigned from the party due to internal party differences.

Recently this year in March, at least four other WP members also resigned from the party, including Mr Abdul Salim Harun and Ms Lee Wai Leng, both of whom had stood in Ang Mo Kio GRC against PM Lee Hsien Loong’s team in GE 2006.

The Worker’s Party has to find a way of stepping up its recruitment to make up for the loss of these young, promising party cadres.

There is an urgent need for WP to address the way it retains talents within its ranks. If the WP is truly serious about continuing the party rejuvenation and growth started after its poor showing in the 2001 elections, it must make its existing members feel appreciated and give them every motivation to remain with and contribute to the party. Human capital is its only enduring resource.

An Approved Opposition?

The Worker’s Party has also been unable to shed its image of being overly moderate and being unwilling to be hard-hitting where necessary.

To be fair, the WP has been consistently making their voices heard in Parliament and criticizing Government policies where they feel criticism is due. Their Parliamentary speeches are also generally well thought-out given the time constraints imposed in Parliament.

However, the WP has made it known that they are willing to work within the system. Throughout the years, their track record has shown that they are not keen on challenging the fundamentals of our political system, despite the fact that:

  • elections not being free and fair, and are still under the sole purview of the Prime Minister’s Office,
  • there is little separation of powers between the judiciary, the legislature and the Executive, and
  • we do not have a free and independent media.

While I acknowledge the WP’s efforts in providing constructive criticism of Government policies, their implicit support of the system only serves to enable the PAP to entrench the system further.

Before WP’s 50th Anniversary dinner in 2007, Mr Low Thia Khiang gave the PAP a “passing grade” in governance, and even called certain opposition leaders “mad dogs”, a remark that was reported by the Straits Times.

During the Mas Selamat saga in 2008, Mr Low Thia Khiang also refused to answer PM Lee’s question on whether he thought DPM Wong Kan Seng should resign. PM Lee sacarstically remarked: “No answer. So I guess that settles the point“.

These examples, including Organizing Secretary’s Yaw Shin Leong’s public confession that he had voted for the PAP in the last election, only serve to reinforce the perception that WP is an “approved opposition“.

Sylvia Lim: “The laws are fair and just”

The Worker’s Party’s tendency to lend credibility and support to PAP’s system of government was clearly on display at the 2007 International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Singapore.

During the conference, WP chairperson Sylvia Lim was making a point about checks on executive power when she observed that as much as she desired political reforms, these have to be pushed within the boundaries of the law. She also said that election outcomes must be respected.

After claiming that Singapore’s laws are fair and just, Sylvia Lim went on to say that Singapore does not need any external help in the rule of law, and that “we Singaporeans are quite capable of deciding what kind of country we want … I don’t think we need anyone outside to canvass our agenda for us.

Earlier, Sylvia Lim had prefaced her speech by saying she wished to “draw a balance” between the rule-of-law positions held by Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar and Singapore Democratic Party politicians, who had questioned Singapore’s rule of law. (Straits Times, “We don’t need outside interference, says Sylvia Lim“, 20 Oct 2007.)

In a country where basic civil rights such as the freedom of speech and assembly are regularly denied, it is astounding how Sylvia Lim could have come up with such a blatantly one-sided assessment of the situation that conveniently forgets all the bad things that the ruling PAP has done to civil rights activists and democracy advocates in Singapore.

Sylvia Lim’s remarks drew a strong rebuttal from the Singapore Democratic Party, which posted a message on its website stating:

The truth is that Singaporeans, while wanting to decide what kind of country we want for ourselves, have been unable to do so because our rights, including our right to free and fair elections have been crushed by the PAP.

It is therefore disappointing that as an opposition leader, Ms Lim feels that the election system is acceptable and that the outcome must be respected. We may not be able to do anything to change the election outcome but we do not have to respect it.

We need to fight to win back these rights and we need to change our political system. In short, we need reform.

It is true that the PAP says it doesn’t want foreign interference. It is also a lie. What do you call the National Wages Council having American, German and Japanese business representatives sitting on its board deciding the wage levels of Singaporean workers?

Help for Singaporeans so that they can be empowered to speak up against the suffocating grip of the PAP is not interference. Interference is when a foreign government supports one party over another as the British did with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wing in the PAP.

For the record, the SDP welcomes support for efforts to democratise Singapore. Beyond that we reject attempts to influence the policies of any political party by outsiders.

It is disappointing that the Chairman of the Workers’ Party cannot see this distinction but instead parrots what the PAP so disingenuously advocates.

Appeasing the PAP so that we can be an acceptable opposition is not to “draw a balance” as Ms Lim claims. It is rather an unfortunate tactic that will be conveniently exploited by the PAP.

The SDP said it before and we say it again: Singapore’s Opposition cannot stand up for the people on bended knees.

A party that chooses to remain aloof

The Worker’s Party has thus far chosen to remain aloof, seldom cooperating publicly with other opposition parties except during an election period when everyone wants to avoid 3 cornered fights.

For example, the WP has consistently avoided participating in seminars and forums organized by the SDP, such as the forum on electoral reform held on 20 Jan 2008 and the Opposition Unity forum held earlier this year. They also did not participate in the Budget forum organized by the Reform Party on 28 Feb 2009.

So what is WP’s strategy?

All this discussion begs the question: So what exactly is WP’s political strategy?

The Worker’s Party appears content at playing the role of a “moderate” opposition party that appeals to the middle ground — people who are neither very pro-PAP nor very pro-opposition, but open to ideas from both sides of the fence.

The WP might believe that the largest share of votes can be captured from this segment of the voting population, hence they have chosen to concentrate all their efforts on winning hearts and minds here.

They may also believe that by playing the role of a moderate opposition that only challenges Government policies but never questions the health or integrity of the political system, they would be allowed a space under PAP’s umbrella.

In other words, they believe that political change can only come about by working within the framework designed by the PAP. They may also believe that the majority of voters want opposition parties to follow this path.

The WP strategy of “standing up for the people on bended knees” might be nothing more than very shrewd political calculation on their part.

The Worker’s Party knows that it does not appeal to “fringe” voters who want a vociferous opposition, but it also knows that when it comes to voting, the majority of fringe voters will still cast their vote for whichever opposition party stands in their constituency, including the WP.

The WP can thus let vociferous opposition parties like the SDP canvass support from the fringe segments of the voting population, whilst sitting back and collecting the benefits during the elections. It is a win-win situation for the WP: it can enjoy the result of work done by others, but avoid antagonizing the PAP.

The WP knows that after the period of renewal and rejuvenation, it is the opposition party that has the most numbers on its side, and can field a credible slate of candidates during elections. It might therefore think that there is no necessity to cooperate with other opposition parties in between elections, because during election time, others will have to come knocking on its door.

However, the day will eventually come when the people of Singapore want a more robust challenge to the PAP and want mainstream opposition parties to start playing a greater role in building a better political and economic system for all Singaporeans.

If the Worker’s Party remains content at playing its current role of being a non-confrontational party that avoids challenging the system even though the system is blatantly flawed, it will one day start to lose mind-share to more progressive and outspoken parties like the SDP.

If Mr Low Thia Khiang and the Worker’s Party wish to build an enduring legacy for themselves, that is something they should think about seriously.

Friday, June 19, 2009

SATYAMEVA JAYATE (Elangovan's latest play)

Seelan: The latest work of Singaporean playwright, Elangovan, will be showing on 1st and 2nd August 2009. Please support and attend this interesting upcoming production.

written & directed by Elangovan
performed (in English) by Ahamed Ali Khan (Gandhi) & Hemang Yadav (Godse)

Sat 1 & Sun 2 Aug 2009, 8 pm, $20, The Substation Theatre (Tickets available at The Substation Box-0ffice - Tel: 63377800)

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." ~ Plato


Mahatma Gandhi, the messiah of peace is the pioneer and perfector of Satyagraha - the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience.

On 30 Jan 1948, at 5.10 pm, Gandhi leaves his room at the Birla House. He walks briskly to the prayer ground. Gandhi greets the waiting crowd. Nathuram Godse folds his hands and says 'Namaste'. Pushing aside one of the girls walking with Gandhi, he shoots him at pointblank range. Three bullets hit Gandhi. Godse surrenders to the police. He is hanged till dead at Ambala Prison on 15 November 1949.

Godse's defence was not allowed to be publicized by the Indian government for more than 50 years. According to Justice Gopal Das Khosla, one of Godse's judges, who did play a role in convicting him: "the audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men were coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs. I have, however, no doubt that had the audience on that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse's appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of 'not guilty' by an overwhelming majority."

Both Gandhi and Godse believed in TRUTH. But they took different roads to truth. Is Godse really the mad Hindu fanatic as portrayed by the establishment that sentenced him to death?

Both Gandhi and Godse meet in "Trishanku's heaven". [Trishanku's heaven is a mythological world created by sage Viswamitra for mortal king Trishanku who wanted to go to heaven. The immortals refused to accept Trishanku and he was marooned between earth and heaven for eternity.]

They debate about their preferred modes of 'speaking truth to power' - Ahimsa (Non-violence) and Himsa (Violence). Godse's memoryscapes contest the official truths of the Gandhian era to reclaim history.

Godse's gun that he had used to kill Gandhi is on the table with one bullet left. Both are forced to play Russian-roulette as only then they will be liberated from the stalemate position in Trishanku's heaven. Their cross-examinations of each other exhume the nature of tyranny in our lives, and examine the relevance of peace and love to survive as human beings in this violent world.

But a bullet is fired to seal the glaring discrepancies in the mythifications.


GODSE: The Muslim squads in Pakistan were well supplied with daggers, swords, spears and even fire-arms. They had bands of stabbers and their auxiliaries, who covered the assailant, ambushed the victims and disposed the bodies. The bands were subsidized by the Muslim League. The assassins were paid cash for the number of Hindus and Sikhs bagged. Women were raped in the presence of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. After being raped they were distributed among the Muslims to be kept as concubines or were forcibly married. A large number were carried into the tribal territory, and became untraceable. Children were snatched from the hands of their parents, tossed on spears and swords, and sometimes thrown alive into the fire. Women's breasts, noses and arms were lopped off. Sticks and pieces of iron were thrust into their private parts. The bellies of pregnant women were ripped open and the fetus was thrown out. All these happened at a time when, in India, you undertook your last fast to get better treatment for the Muslims in India.

GANDHI: 15 August 1947. Independence day. The Sikhs in Amritsar slaughtered the male Muslims. The Muslim women were stripped, raped and then paraded naked through the city to the Golden Temple, where their throats were cut. A British officer of the Punjab Boundary Force found four Muslim babies roasted like piglets on spits in a village raided by Sikhs. On both sides, a man's sexual organ became a target. In India, Sikhs and Hindus checked the trains going to Pakistan and slaughtered every circumcised male. In Pakistan, the Muslims blocked every train going to India and slaughtered every uncircumcised male. RSS groups kidnapped a Muslim woman wearing a Burqa. They soaked her in petrol and set her ablaze outside the gate of Nehru's York Road residence. The vultures were so bloated by their feasts that they could not fly. The stray dogs were so choosy that they ate only the livers of the corpses. But the Harijans, Hindu untouchables were spared. In the Pakistan refugee camps, the Sikhs and Hindus complained to their Muslim guards that they were forced to live in filth as there were no untouchable to clean the latrines. In Karachi, the sanitation system collapsed. So the Muslims allowed the untouchables to wear green and white armbands similar to those of the Muslim National Guard for protection from killing squads. [Laughs] It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mahathir critisizes Lee Kuan Yew's visit to Malaysia

By Mahathir Mohamed

1. Ancient China considered itself the centre of the world and called itself the Middle Kingdom. And well it should. It was far more advanced in every way than Europe of the Dark Ages. Maybe China is thinking of making a comeback.

2. But we already have a new Middle Kingdom now. During Lee Kuan Yew's triumphant visit to Malaysia he made it known to the Malaysian supplicants that Singapore regards the lands within 6000 miles radius of Singapore as its hinterland. This includes Beijing and Tokyo and of course Malaysia.

3. Of course this self-deluding perception places Singapore at the centre of a vast region. It is therefore the latter day Middle Kingdom. The rest are peripheral and are there to serve the interest of this somewhat tiny Middle Kingdom.

4. Kuan Yew also explained that the fear Singapore Chinese would control Iskandar whatever is not justified. Malays can also work there. It is good to know that Malays can also work in their own country. I wonder as what? Maybe someone should make a study of the Malays of Singapore just to know what it is like to be a Malay minority in their own country.

5. As for the 3 sen per 1000 gallons of raw water supplied to Singapore Lee says it was absurd for the former Prime Minister of hinterland Malaysia to ask to increase it to RM8 per 1000 gallons. I don't know where he got this. Some Malaysian officers did suggest this figure but we were ready to bargain and maybe settle for RM3. And why not? Johore sells raw water to Melaka for 30 sen, 1000% higher than to Singapore. And Melaka is, I believe, a part of Malaysia! Some Malaysians may see the irony of this.

6. The great 5th Prime Minister has decided that since the people of Johore did not want to sell sand to Singapore, Malaysia would not build any bridge, straight or crooked, or negotiate and settle the other issues like the Central Provident Fund, the Railway land. Maybe the 5th Prime Minister thinks he is punishing Singapore. Actually he is giving Singapore what its wants including the 3 sen per 1000 gallons water until 2060. Think of how many grains of nasi lemak we can buy with 3 sen in 2060. Imagine what 1000 gallons will earn for Singapore at that time. Can't think of a more astute PM for Malaysia.

7. All those who met the great man from the little country were lectured on how Malaysia should be run. We should not have anymore problems now. We have been told the direction to take. MCA must help UMNO to win because Singapore does not want an Islamic Party like PAS to win. We must ensure this. Sorry PAS. Working with the DAP, the offspring of PAP has not endeared you to Mr Lee.

8. I have a lot more to say about this little Emperor but I will reserve it for later.

Also read:

Former New Straits Times Chief on his visit (In Malay)

Lee Kuan Yew: Race, Culture, Genes

Malaysia visit roundup from Malaysia Insider

8 days is only 8 days - why LKY may have gone up North?

Why is everyone excited about LKY?

No country for old men

Friday, June 12, 2009

World's most liveable cities: Vancouver No.1, Singapore No.54

Seelan: Please note that Singapore did not even make it in the top 20. This is especially for some of you out there who think that Singapore is the best place on Earth even though you've never even seen a quarter of the rest of the planet.

World's most liveable cities

Brisbane Times

Australian cities occupy five of the top 20 places in a British survey ranking the liveability of 140 of the world's major centres.

Melbourne ranked third in the world, behind Vancouver in Canada and the Austrian city of Vienna in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2009 Liveability survey.

It assessed 140 cities based on stability, health care, education, infrastructure and culture and environment, giving each one a rating out of 100.

Perth was equal fifth with Calgary in Canada, with Sydney sharing ninth place with Zurich in Switzerland and Brisbane in 16th place.

As well as Vancouver and Calgary, Canadian cities also featured strongly in the top 20, with Toronto (4th) and Montreal (17th).

The New Zealand cities of Auckland and Wellington finished 12th and 23rd respectively.

US centres were well down the list. Pittsburgh ranked highest, in 29th place.

The highest-ranked Asian city was Osaka in Japan (13th). The next highest was Hong Kong (equal 39th with Madrid, Spain) followed by Singapore (54th) and Seoul, South Korea (58th).

The worst city to live on earth is Harare, the strife-torn capital of Zimbabwe.

"The performance of Asian cities reflects the diverse levels of development throughout the region," EIU spokesman Jon Copestake said.

"Australian cities represent many of the best aspects of liveability, while instability in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh means that cities in South Asia fare much worse."

The Economist Intelligence Unit is a branch of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist, a weekly news magazine, in London.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Male commuter punches 68-yr-old housewife and no one comes to help

Jun 08, 2009, The New Paper

A MARKETING trip ended in tears for an elderly woman when a male bus commuter allegedly punched her in the face for not moving out of his way.

His friend also hurled obscenities at her.

Madam A Nyanamani, 68, a housewife, claimed the driver of SBS Transit 198 ignored her pleas for help and allowed both men to alight while she was crying.

Moreover, none of the other commuters on the packed bus lifted a finger to help her, she alleged.

The incident, which happened on Wednesday morning , left Madam Nyanamani shaken and slightly bruised around her left eye.

She had been on her way home to her four-room HDB flat in Jurong East, where she lives with her husband and her son's family, after her usual trip to the market.

Carrying two bags of groceries, she had to stand on the lower deck of the double-decker bus as it was crowded.

But a male passenger, who was seated, objected to her standing in front of him and his friend. Both men appeared to be in their 30s, she said.

She claimed: 'He said 'no, no you cannot stand there, get out.' She was then standing near the rear of the bus.

Madam Nyanamani said she was puzzled as she wasn't obstructing the men by standing in front of their seat.

When she asked why, the man allegedly stood up and punched her in the face, right under her left eye.

Stunned, the elderly woman, who had a cataract operation on her left eye about five years ago, said her vision blurred at that point.

Indignant, Madam Nyanamani asked: 'Why did you punch me?' She said the man's friend replied: 'Why must you stand there?'


The friend then shouted vulgarities at her.

Afraid that she would get hit again, she held up her hands to shield her face.

Thinking that she was going to retaliate by hitting them, the two men threatened to call the police, she claimed.Madam Nyanamani then said she would do the same.

The three of them then went to the front of the bus to talk to the driver.

Even though Madam Nyanamani tried to tell the bus driver what happened, she claimed he ignored her.

She said: 'He didn't want to look at my face, even while the two men continued to hurl vulgarities at me in front of him.'

At the next stop, he allowed both men to alight. Madam Nyanamani got off at the stop after that and rang her son for help.

Her son, Mr Selvan Kanna, 36, an engineer, lodged a complaint with SBS and made a report at a police station in Jurong East.

Madam Nyanamani sought outpatient treatment at a polyclinic. She said: 'I'm scared now to take buses.'

Bus driver disciplined

THE bus captain who let the two men alight after Madam Nyanamani was punched has been disciplined.

Ms Tammy Tan, SBS Transit vice-president of corporate communications, told The New Paper: 'Our bus captain should have taken a more pro-active approach and rendered assistance. For failing to do so, he will be disciplined.'

She said the bus captain had first become aware of a dispute between Madam Nyanamani and another man when he heard voices raised.

However, she noted: 'He had no idea what the commotion was about nor was he aware that she had been assaulted.'

The bus captain then contacted the operations control centre to report the incident and seek guidance.

By this time, both parties had moved to the front of the bus and were in a 'heated exchange where vulgarities were used'.

Ms Tan said: 'We wish to apologise to Madam Nyanamani for his service lapse.'

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Government reverses ban on Tiananmen performance

Singapore Democrats

The Government had initially banned an art project that was to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of students and protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The decision was, however, reversed later in the day.

The organisers were informed of the ban today because the event, to be held at The Substation this Thursday, was deemed "inappropriate". The reason given is because it is located in a government-owned building.

The reversal, the Singapore Democrats understand, was because the Government did not want the bad publicity that the ban would attract as it was part of a worldwide project.

Entitled “Tank Man Tango”, the project is scheduled to be held in places like Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Taichung (Taiwan), Seoul, Weimar, Leipzig, London, Bristol, Washington DC, and Mexico City.

On 4 Jun 89, the Chinese government sent in tanks to clear Tiananmen Square which had been taken over by thousands of mainly student protesters calling for political and economic reforms. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 demonstrators were killed by the army.

The iconic image that came from the infamous episode was a man who stood in front of a column of tanks, clutching only a plastic bag, to temporarily prevent the armour from entering the Square. Hence, the title “Tank Man Tango” which, according to the organisers, is a “stylised recreation” of the steps of the Tank Man. Watch video here.

It is understood that the PAP Government remains unhappy about the decision to allow the event to go ahead but feels that it would not be worth the international criticism if the ban stayed.

Activists had already vowed to hold the event at Speakers' Corner if the performance at The Substantion was prohibited. Activist Mr Seelan Palay had written to the National Parks Board to stage the event.

Perhaps, the PAP calculated that the ban would have created a bigger stir and attracted more people than it otherwise would. Did it learn its lesson from banning and seizing videos like Singapore Rebel and One Nation Under Lee?

It probably figured that the ban would not stop the event from going ahead at the Speakers' Corner – with a bigger audience – and the PAP would still end up an international laughing stock. Conclusion: Not worth it.

In any event, Singaporeans should make their way to The Substation on 4 Jun 09 to see for themselves what the fuss is all about:

Tank Man Tango: June 4, 1989 anniversary commemoration at The Substation

As a way of commemorating this anniversary, The Substation is participating in a worldwide public art project to be performed in the cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Taichung (Taiwan), Seoul, Singapore, Weimar, Leipzig, London, Bristol, Washington DC, and Mexico City.

On June 4, 2009, from 6.30 to 9pm in The Substation theatre, come join us to learn and perform the Tank Man Tango together as an artwork and a vigil; or come for conversation, and share memories and perspectives. The Tank Man Tango is a simple, stylised recreation of the steps of the Tank Man as he defied the tanks. The video can be found on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MziREAZ_WqA&feature=channel_page

Then on June 5, join us at The Substation Gallery between 12 noon and 9pm: we will be erecting replicas of the Goddess of Democracy statue from a D-I-Y kit, filling the gallery space with them.

Everyone is invited.

Documentation from both days will be uploaded onto the memorial website: www.forget2forget.net

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Singapore that we aspire to build

Jufrie Mahmood, Singapore Democrats

My youngest son, Khairul Azrie, is in Secondary 3. Like his brother Khairul Anwar he too represents his school in basketball. It is a known fact that most Malay boys their age either play soccer or sepak takraw.

When time permits my wife and I would make it a point to watch them play in the numerous inter school and inter district tournaments, especially if the games are played at the Aljunied Basketball Centre, which is a stone’s throw away from where we live. And we are proud to say that when they are on the court they play their hearts out, making meaningful contributions to their teams.

My sons’ choice of sport has given them an exposure that is somewhat different from what we normally see. The friends that they go around with are almost entirely non-Malay. Come Hari Raya their friends would converge on our house to savour the ketupat and rendang prepared by my wife. The dessert has always been the traditional kueh normally served during Hari Raya. To many of them the food was so finger-licking good that they would tease my wife to let them come for makan more often than just once a year.

What my children are going through reminds me of my childhood days at the government quarters in Haig Road where I grew up. It was a multiracial setting in every sense of the word where everyone was oblivious of their racial background. We were completely colour blind. Whether you are Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian it made no difference at all. We had Ali as well as Ah Lee, the Kanagasabai children and the Pereiras.

Even the hawkers in their tricycles and pushcarts were multiracial. The ‘chi chong fan’ lady and uncle Karupayah, the kacang putih man would take turns making their rounds. Soon after came Ah Heng, with his ice kacang ball, to be followed by Wak Karto plying his mee rebus and tahu goreng. Not to be left out was Mama Maideen with his famous mee.

All of them could speak bahasa Melayu, our so-called Bahasa Kebangsaan. Once a week we were treated to a movie at the open field in Kulim Place where the GSWO (Government Servants Welfare Organisation) club house was also situated. Those were the wonderful days, gone forever.

Though the environment we find ourselves in today is vastly different from the one that I grew up in I am nonetheless happy to see my children coping well with their circle of friends. Last weekend however, when we were just about to finish our dinner Azrie suddenly asked me whether it is true that as a Malay he would not be allowed to join his friends should they opt to serve in the air force. What about the army or navy? He further said, without being asked, that he learned this from his friends in school.

On hearing what his brother said, Khairul Anwar chipped in and said that he too had heard about this. His teacher had told the students in a class discussion that since he is a Malay he would not be called upon to serve his nation in the services mentioned above because "Singapore is surrounded by Malay countries."

"What’s wrong with that, papa? Are they not countries friendly to us?" They are also our major trading partners and members of the ASEAN family, he continued.

I took a deep breath, told him and his two siblings (my eldest child, a girl, studies at Temasek Polytechnic) to finish their dinner, help their mama to clear the table and move to the living room.

I had planned to discuss this issue with my children sometime in the future when they are more mature. I did not want to disrupt their growing up years. But when this very subject of racial discrimination was brought up by my children themselves I had no choice but to bring forward the process of politically educating them.

I related to them some of the more pertinent points of disagreement serious-minded opposition personalities are having with the PAP Government. As for me I have said all my life that I had stood for multiracialism.

The PAP also claims to adhere to the concept of multiracialism. When Singapore was a part of Malaysia its leaders pushed for a "Malaysian Malaysia" so aggressively that the Malays got very irritated. They feared that the concept pushed by the PAP would deny them their special rights, as enshrined in the constitution. Its actions infuriated the Malaysians to such an extent the Tunku, Malaysia’s Prime Minister at that time, was left with no other choice but to expel Singapore from the federation.

Not long after attaining independence the PAP put into practice discriminatory policies which they were so dead against when Singapore was in Malaysia. And make no mistake about it, such policies cannot be justified no matter how the Government tries to rationalize them.

One explanation put forward by the PAP is that they did not want the Malays to face a dilemma should a war break out between Singapore and its neighbours. So, to "save" them from this so-called dilemma it is best that they did not be put in such a situation. To do this they must not be allowed to serve in the armed forces, especially in the air and naval forces.

I related to them an article entitled The Ghosts That Walk With Us written by the late Mr S Rajaratnam in which he concluded that the chances of Singapore going to war with its immediate neighbours were real. Under such circumstances the Malays in Singapore would not want to fight, thus justifying the discriminatory policies.

This perhaps explains the absence of Malays in the air force and the navy and their preponderance in the civil defence and to a lesser extent, the police force. How wrong can the PAP be? This is certainly not the way to build a united nation. Perhaps Singaporeans need to be reminded that during Indonesia’s konfrontasi when then President Sukarno sent his commandoes to infiltrate our country, our soldiers in the 1st and 2nd SIR Battalion, almost entirely Malay, proudly defended their country against the Indonesian intruders. Quite a number of them got killed in the process.

Unlike the colour-blind environment in which I grew up, every turn we make nowadays we are reminded of our racial origin. We can’t, for instance, move into any housing estate of our choice due to the racial quota and you inevitably are reminded of your racial origin.

We cannot enroll in SAP schools unless we take Chinese as a second language; we go to CDAC or SINDA they tell us to go to MENDAKI.

We cannot serve in many fields in the armed forces although many foreigners-turned-Singaporeans can. For that matter, as a contractor, we are not allowed into military compounds even to cut grass or do pest control work.

We are not allowed to wear something as basic as the tudung (head scarf) when our young women reach puberty in secondary school even though religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution.

We cannot have more than one full minister as the quota has always been only one and that too is almost always a ministry in charge of clearing garbage. If we choose to stand for elections we have to prove our racial origin and first be issued with a certificate even though our NRIC clearly identifies us by race.

The funniest thing about this requirement is that for repeat candidates you still have to do it at every election as though in the short span of time between GEs our race undergoes a change.

This is the kind of discrimination and humiliation that the ethnic minority groups in Singapore have to live with. On one occasion a member of the approving panel was an Arab and it took an Arab to tell a Malay that he was a Malay and therefore qualified him to stand in the GRC. There are, of course, many other instances that keep reminding Singaporeans of their racial origins.

But I continue to have faith that there are enough Singaporeans of all races who oppose such discriminatory policies. Sooner, if not later, such policies will be dismantled and Singapore will be a truly multiracial society, a society that we aspire to.

I have gone into politics to oppose PAP’s hegemony, and to strive to give Singaporeans an alternative voice. I do not subscribe to the thinking that the PAP has a monopoly of ideas that are good for the nation. I believe in the establishment of a multiracial, democratic Singapore in the true sense of the word. PAP’s discriminatory policies have no place in a truly democratic Singapore.

To the PAP, any group that poses a serious challenge to its rule is labeled either a communist, a communalist or a religious extremist. And it never fails to play the racial card whenever it suits its purpose. That was how they robbed the Workers' Party team in 1991, of which I was a member, in the Eunos GRC of victory by accusing me of mixing religion with politics. The "sin" was my usage of two very common Islamic expressions of "insya Allah" and "Alhamdullah" (God willing). That, in short, is how the PAP operates and with the media under its absolute control it gets away with everything.

Apart from racial discrimination, I told my children there is a long list of other issues and policies which my comrades in the SDP and I oppose and strive to change. I intend to register in their minds the unfair tactics employed by the PAP in order to stay in power. I told them I shall be going through with them the issues in small doses so as not to overload their minds.

We in the opposition staunchly believe that it is in Singapore’s long term interest to have at least an alternative group of dedicated Singaporeans which can challenge the PAP and be ready to take on a leadership role should the PAP falter further, lose control and quickly degenerate into an unworthy outfit. I do not believe in putting all our eggs into the PAP basket. It is suicidal.

This after dinner session marked the beginning of my children’s political education.

Jufrie Mahmood is a veteran oppositionist. He stood as a candidate in the 1988, 1991, and 1997 general elections.