29 Jan 2005

Three SIA pilots face probe

When Harry Lee gets his teeth into an issue its a little like wrestling with a pitbull. The pilots have not been charged, they are suspected of doing something. It is actions such as the branding as 'undersirable' that appear every now and then just to remind Singaporeans, to keep their mouth shut and that we should all be afraid, be very afraid.


Sacked SIA Captain Ryan Goh, who had his PR status revoked, renews flying licence
Three SIA pilots face probe
By Karen Wong

DID they help an ex-colleague, branded an 'undesirable immigrant', to renew his pilot's licence here?

The saga of Captain Ryan Goh will take another twist when three Singapore Airlines pilots go before a high-powered SIA inquiry panel.

They are suspected of helping Capt Goh, 43, to use SIA's flight simulator to pass two flying tests - one of the requirements by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to renew a pilot's flying licence.

If the sacked pilot's access to SIA's simulator for the tests was a breach of company rules, the three SIA pilots who helped him face disciplinary action.

This could range from a warning to suspension to 'summary termination', which means an immediate sack.

If they are instructor pilots, they could lose their instructor status.

No specific charges have been levelled at the three pilots, sources told The New Paper. But it probably relates to the use of SIA's flight simulator by Capt Goh, a Malaysian who had his Singapore Permanent Resident status revoked over his role in a pilots union dispute.

The president of the Air-Line Pilots Association-Singapore (Alpa-S), Captain Mok Hin Choon, declined to comment when contacted by The New Paper.

He would only say: 'I've been asked to give statements for the investigation.'

When contacted by The New Paper, an SIA spokesman said: 'This is an internal matter which is being examined by the company and we have nothing more to add.'

It is understood that three senior management members will sit on the inquiry panel in line with company procedure.


Sources said Capt Goh was allowed to use the simulator as it was believed he only wanted to put in some practice time.

It is understood the use of the SIA simulator is not exclusive to SIA pilots and time slots are leased out to pilots of other airlines.

Capt Goh went through a 'recurrency practice' and a 'base check' on two occasions, Oct 21 and Oct 27, while he was on a visit here. This helped him to get his licence re-certified by CAAS after he was told to leave Singapore.

Pilots usually use the flight simulation centre to train and sit for two tests, which they have to pass in order to renew their Singapore flying licences.

Asked about its requirements for pilot licence-renewal, a CAAS spokesman replied: 'An Airline Transport Pilot Licence is required to be renewed once every six months.

'The renewal process is made up of two parts. The pilot needs to pass a medical test, and he also needs to pass a skills test and an instrument rating test.

She added: 'Captain Ryan Goh's Airline Transport Pilot Licence has been renewed because he fulfilled the requirements.'

Since he left SIA, Capt Goh has been having trouble finding work despite applying to several international airlines, sources said.

He had not been flying for a while, and his licence was expiring.

The New Paper understands that one cannot fly for a foreign-based airline with a Singapore-issued pilot's licence, unless one sits for new tests in the country which the airline is based and get a pilot's licence issued from there.

A Singapore-issued licence will allow Capt Goh to fly on any Singapore-registered airline, like Valuair, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia.

But, it remains to be seen if he can find work here. As a foreigner, he will need to apply for an employment pass if he is to be based here.


Capt Goh was found to be an 'undesirable immigrant' following his involvement in a pilots union dispute.

Capt Goh, who was living here from 1981, was singled out by then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for instigating the ouster of Alpa-S leaders in November 2003, amid unhappiness over wage negotiations.

He was accused of threatening industrial peace in SIA - which could also affect the overall interests of Singapore.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng then declared that he was an 'undesirable immigrant', and his permanent resident status was revoked.

It is understood that, as an 'undesirable immigrant', he would have to leave Singapore for good and must be given special permission to visit.

He would also not be allowed to look for a job here.

On May 1 last year, Capt Goh left Singapore for Perth, Australia, where his wife and two sons live.

Bruce Nauman

A few of my students have been asking me what I have been doing. Well the link below will give you an example of lazy days visiting museums and art exhibitions. I visited the Tate Modern In London in November 2004 and recorded an installation by Bruce Nauman. It requires windows media player, which the majority of people have.

If you need more information on Bruce Nauman you can click here. Or visit the Tate Modern site to read the words that you hear in the video I recorded.

I often visited exhibitions in Singapore but since arriving in the UK I have become overwhelmed by the number, frequency and diversity of things to go and see. Something I missed while living in Singapore.

27 Jan 2005

Do you have news or articles to share?

We are looking for Innovative, Enthusiastic, Ambitious Bloggers to join as as News/Articles Contributors.

Our Inspiration comes very much from blogHOUSTON.net and L.A. Observed.com where Bloggers regularly update/contribute linkage and comment on aspects of its state.

Our Primary Focus will be devoted to reporting, linkage and comment on aspects of Singapore and subjects that interest me. Media, Books, Design and the Politics of Singapore are my main focus. As a contributor, your concentration can drifts to the city's history, architecture, geography, sports and other topics.

If you wish to join us a News/Articles Contributor, just drop me an email, do state the Interests and Subjects you wish contribute in. Help us spread the words.

24 Jan 2005

The Incestous World Of Singapore's State Run Enterprises

Mellanie Hewlitt
23 Jan 2005
Singapore Review

I was very amused by Mr Chen Hwai Liang's weak and shallow rebuttal of Gary Rodan's December article "The Coming Challenge to Singapore Inc." Mr Chen had stated that:

a) "GLCs are run commercially. Their managements are answerable to their boards, which in turn answer to shareholders" and

b) "Most major GLCs are publicly listed"

These flippant statements by a senior representative of government (from the Prime Minister's Office) on what are already publicly known "secrets" will only cast more shadows and doubts over the credibility of public administration in Singapore. It is a known fact that GLCs (Government Linked Companies), whether in the form of TLCs (Temasek Linked Companies), GICs (Government Investment Corporation) or SOEs (State Owned Entities) enjoy many special privileges which ordinary bonafide private sector companies do not.

Regardless of how they are coined by the government, "GLCs" are viewed suspiciously by the general investing public and members of the international community. On the surface, these entities look and sound like bonafide business concerns. Many are listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.But this is a skin deep appearnce which ends when one peers into the internal management of these companies. Under closer scrutiny, little has changed as regards management of Singapore's GLCs/TLCs/GICs (or whatever fancy new terms the authorities wish to coin) and the old issues concerning TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, NEPOTISM and PERFORMANCE still remain.

...to continue reading click here.

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum?

By Lunatics I mean, certain strata of the management...


Has anyone out there similar experiences, of management expecting you to bend over backwards for the customer/student/client. No matter how ridiculous the request, the management, because they are 'customer' focused, even though, the letter is from a 'student' demand that it be taken seriously. After this letter was circulated I realised that a lot of students were sitting there trying to work out whether my tie matched my shirt, rather than taking notes and listening. What do you think, read on...? I'd really appreciate your 'feedback'.

Subject: Lecturers who need grooming

Dear Mr Vice President

I am right now a part-time student studying in (Name Removed). I have been to the (removed) for a month now and my impression of the school is fairly good. I met great lecturers, both looks (not great but pleasant enough) as well as class professionalism. One is very interesting and motivating, one not too bad and the other two very boring. So long as they don't put us off in any way, we will continue to go for as many boring classes as well. Granted that we should be there to learn but it is also very true that we feel motivated when we see pleasant lecturers. Lecturers who look and smell unpleasant will put us off!

Some lecturers could be nice in the heart but certainly the smell together with the look that we see in them will also have effect on our desire to learn. When lecturers belge in a class, it can be totally disgusting especially when the lecturer is standing just next to us. Some lecturers have bad body odour which need some corrections, especially those overweight, including those not so overweight. I have seen about 5 or 6 fat lecturers although some are not my lecturers. One is a woman. They lack exercise. It is good for both their health and looks to go to (removed) down in (removed), 5 minutes from the (removed).

I read in the newspaper recently about staff development for the lecturers in this (removed). They should go for grooming classes. Pardon me for being so direct in my comments but it is my true feelings about the (removed). I hope the management will take care of the lecturers' health. The lecutrers (sic) will also project a better image of the school if they look good themselves. Realistically and true to my heart, I look forward to go to a class with a lecturer who is both pleasant to look at and great at lecturing. I truthfully admit that I have at least one at the moment. I hope to see more of them.

I thank you for listening to my true and direct feelings. Please do not take offence at my comments. I truthfully appreciate your attention to my mail. Thank you for your precious time.

Oh I appreciate this 'feedback'. Management then demands that we take this b.s. seriously. What I said when presented with the letter by my supervisor, and asked for 'feedback' cannot be printed...

22 Jan 2005

No economic clout = no political constituency = no audible political voice

Singaporean spending not central to Singapore economy
by Robert Schwartz, 20 Jan 2005

Writing about Singapore's economic outlook is boring. It's not that there is nothing to say, it's that there is nothing to say about Singapore itself. A pertinent discussion of Singapore's near term prospects for the first half of 2005 has to start with the effects of the tsunami. This then would segue over to the actions of America's Federal Reserve Bank, which in turn would be followed by a pithy, yet substantive, look at the global electronics cycle.

Where do the people of Singapore fit into this analysis? Hopefully as readers of this piece, but that's about as far as it goes.

In 2001, the Ministry of Trade and Industry published a paper that looked at the four primary, long term drivers of Singapore's economy. The number one influence was growth in the United States. Number two? Growth in the economies of Indonesia and Malaysia. Third was global semiconductor sales. And rounding out the top four was domestic construction.

But wait, you might say, what about Singaporeans' love of shopping? Certainly that has to count for something? You're right it does. The problem is that Singaporeans love of shopping is usually done someplace other than Singapore. The fastest growing component of private consumption over the past decade or so has been Resident Expenditure Abroad.

Of the spending done in Singapore, the fastest growing type of retailer (by far) has been motor vehicle dealers. From 1997 to the third quarter of 2004, dealership sales had increased by a total of nearly 260%, not including the effects of inflation. The next fastest growing category was supermarkets, which grew by a total of nearly 32%. Overall, non-motor vehicle retail turnover grew, excluding inflation, by a total of 7.1% from 1997 through September 2004.

The key to Singapore's retail sector is not the average Singaporean. The key to retail in Singapore is the overseas visitor. If you want to get a handle on how well the sector is doing, look at the growth in visitor numbers. These have traditionally led the retail numbers.

So again, where does this leave the people of Singapore? In their government housing units voting for the PAP every so often and that's about it. As far as making the economy move forward, the average Singaporean is a non-event. And as such has little say in the political environment. No economic clout = no political constituency = no audible political voice. [This might be read as an enraging statement, but then again, being Singaporean you'd probably just shrug your shoulders...]
The consumer's share of Singapore's economy is around 42%. This compares to about 55% in Japan, a country notorious for saving, and close to 70% in the United States. It is not coincidental that the average American, who is such a vital part of the US economy, has such a central role in the political sphere.

In fact, the average consumer in the United States has more power over the direction of the Singapore economy than does the average Singaporean. It is the continually increased spending on ever more gadget-filled electronics equipment or on a new lifestyle drug done by a typical American that drives the sales which drive Singapore's production.

To be fair to the government, it knows that any money spent on boosting the consumption of average Singaporeans is money that will very quickly find its way to foreign shores. As such, the PAP has decided that it would prefer not to spend its hard-earned tax revenues boosting the local economies of Batam, Johore or Bangkok.

This is also why the government's interest in the domestic consumer economy is limited to construction. This is a section of the economy that can't be taken out of the country. The problem here is that by the mid-1990s the residential property was way ahead of the average Singaporean in terms of price, affordability and location. As a result, the property sector took a serious dive. Furthermore, neither the public nor private housing markets have come close to hitting the highs reached in 1996/1997.

The problem with this emphasis on property is that it has handcuffed many Singaporeans. A typical private residence bought between the beginning of 1994 and the beginning of 1998 has, at best, not appreciated. At worst, this homeowner could have held onto this asset for over a decade and have it being worth less today than when it was purchased. This means that a Singaporean family could been paying off a mortgage that was higher than the value of the property itself. This negative equity is extremely depressing, both economically and psychologically.

Alright, so where does this leave us? Talking about things far from Singapore's borders. And, quitefrankly, it's a bit boring, not to mention impolite, to talk about other people's lives instead of yourown. But when your lives don't count for much,economically, there just isn't much point to a conversation.

The crescendo builds up as everybody scrambles to raise charges

Following the latest round of fee hikes imposed by the 3 local universities in Singapore, we circulate below article by a reader.

By: Lim Boon Hee
22 Jan 2005
Singapore Review

A pattern that leads to inevitable hikes ...
The masses are resigned to this 'natural order of things'

THE same symphonic pattern emerges.

First, the prelude, with the local media heralding a slew of statistics announcing the arrival of better economic times.

Then, a premature suggestion to restore the ministers' and top civil servants' pay cuts, which was greeted with unpopular feedback by many who felt that the economic upturn benefits have yet to filter down the masses.

The main theme comes into play with miscellaneous school fees and town councils' service and conservancy charges going up.

This will inevitably lead to more government and quasi-government bodies following suit.

The crescendo builds up as everybody scrambles to raise charges, taking the cue and green light from the early birds who first up their fees.

The finale ends in an anti-climax as the masses resign themselves to their fate — the swallows have arrived, spring has come, the flowers are blooming and so prices must go up.

We are led to believe that this is the natural order of things.

Oddly enough, when times were really bad and many retrenched, things took much longer to come down and the cuts were, if any, merely token symbolic ones.

What is worse is every price increase is met with the rhetorical reassurance that nobody would be deprived of basic services despite the hikes and the social net is always there for those who really cannot afford the increment.

The other tired argument to justify the hikes is that the charges have not been increased for so many years and therefore the increase is way overdue.

This is cold comfort as most Singaporeans would rather tighten their belts than go through the hassle of applying for poor men's benefitsfrom the government.

So what is next? University and polytechnic fees, transport hikes,hospital bills, parking charges, stamps ...


Lim Boon Hee

19 Jan 2005

Singapore without Singaporeans

Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review
19 Jan 2005

After scam after scam (involving COE, CPF, Medi-shield, HDB etc) more and more Singaporeans are seeing the light of day and realise that this little island is a place only to work and make money. It is no place to call home, raise children and retire.

One cannot make a sterile air-conditioned office a home. This is something Singapore's million dollar ministers have yet to learn. The approaching long weekend will again herald another mass exodus of citizens from the tiny island. This trend (which occurs on every long weekend without fail) is a revelation and is symbolic of things. It reveals that for many on this island, there is no life after work. So many leave the pressure cooker city and find temporary bliss off-shore during the long weekends.

There is a life beyond the pressure filled world of work, money, school grades, exams, paper qualifications and the 5Cs, and more and more Singaporeans are reaching out and moving beyond the restrictive political, social and geographical confines of the little island to realise their dream.

We attach below article by an on-line forumer for your reading pleasure.

A Singapore without Singaporeans
By: Goh Meng Seng
19 Jan 2005


A Singapore without Singaporeans, A Nation without Nationhood. That's where we are heading to.

There are people who commented that Singapore is just a "Merchant City and a Hotel" to them. They are in their twenties but they are already planning their exits, migrating to somewhere more comfortable to live in.

They are not entirely "wrong" to think this way. Look at it this way, when you start to see those in the forties, losing jobs and not able to get employed with a decent wage, would you worry for yourself? Worst of all, the govt is seeking to raise the retirement age when it is obvious that those in their forties find it hard to get a job!

It is apparent that for those who have been caught by the "Asset Enhancement Scheme", they will not have enough money for retirement! And all PAP thinks about is whether this group of people would burden their coffers! That's how medisave came about.

Those in their forties and planning for retirement will have no choice but to cash out and retire somewhere. They must face the reality that they have come to the end of their productive life and the state is not going to take care of them. For all the myths they have believed so dearly, democratic socialism or asset enhancement, they have been disillusioned and there isn't going to be enough money for them to retire in Singapore. There will be no farewell party for them when they leave. It would be "good" if they no longer pose a "financial burden" to the govt anymore!

For those in their twenties they saw what would happen to them in their forties. They will also plan their exit and realize that they would only be "useful" when they are at their peak of productive life cycle. It is no wonder the PAP is beginning to woo them nowadays. But there are still many who wisely remain unconvinced and migrated out. So the FT policy is in place to fill up the void left behind. But these FTs may just remain forever Foreign.

When a nation is filled with people, both young and middle aged, thinking about migrating out of the country all the time, there isn't an existence of a Nation in essence anymore. Singapore is just a temporary refuge to their being. Andthere is no doubt what will happen to these people if there is to be an eminentthreat to Singapore as a Nation.

Nationhood has not been firmly forged for the past 39 years of nation building.The national day parades that we have had for the past have lost their appealwhen the reality of PAP govt policies set in.

Goh Meng Seng

Media Fairyland

I was reading this article yesterday and was struck by how a repressive regime is defined by the use of an indicator that Singaporeans know all too well. The link between corporations, the PAP and media is also not unique to Singapore but 'Repressive Regimes'.

The role of the media corporations in the United States is similar to that of repressive state regimes elsewhere [say for an example - Singapore]: they decide what the public will and won’t be allowed to hear, and either punish or recruit the social deviants who insist on telling a different story. The journalists they employ do what almost all journalists working under repressive regimes do: they internalise the demands of the censor, and understand, before anyone has told them, what is permissible and what is not.

So, when they are faced with a choice between a fable which helps the Republicans [PAP, right-wing, conservative, tradional], and a reality which hurts them, they choose the fable. As their fantasies accumulate, the story they tell about the world veers further and further from reality. Anyone who tries to bring the people back down to earth is denounced as a traitor and a fantasist. And anyone who seeks to become president must first learn to live in fairyland [For Singapore I think 'Lah-Lah-Land is more apt.]. George Monbiot

If you are interested, read on here...

Anti-terror tops Singapore agenda:

or my preferred title, BIG BROTHER IS REAL.

If you don't feel paranoid, that you are being watched, then you are living in 'lah-lah-land'.

[World News]: Singapore, Jan 17 : Several Singapore ministries have set anti-terror and anti-crime as top priorities in their agenda for the years to come, Xinhua reports.

Domestically, police will make use of rapid DNA fingerprinting sensors at crime scenes to upgrade their forensic capabilities and establish a bomb database to facilitate investigations into blasts, media reports said Monday.

The National Security Coordination Secretariat plans to build up a horizon scanning capability to help identify possible terrorist threats while the Singapore Armed Forces will coordinate with other agencies to launch actions against the threats.

The responsibilities of the ministry of law include strengthening Singapore's legal system to deal with trans-national crimes, terrorism and terrorism-related issues and identifying regional and bilateral legal instruments and UN conventions on terror.

As far as foreign relations are concerned, Singapore will keep good relations with all major powers in the world while maintaining its autonomy.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will endeavour to enhance relations between Singapore and its neighbouring countries, especially with Indonesia and Malaysia.

The ministry advocated that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) work together as politics, economics and security are bound up together in the process of globalisation and that no country can fight against terrorism alone.

Indo-Asian News Service

Below is a related article. Singapore had few civil liberties, now you have even fewer...

The Power of Nightmares

The threat of the evil-doers is now being used to invade schools and remove civil liberties from Singaporeans. Cameras in lecture halls, sounds like someone is frightened of what may be said in those rooms. The threat from 'terrorism' is the fear of an idea. When will the cameras be removed? Is there a timeline for installation and 'removal'?

Who will protect Singaporeans from their so called protectors?

The press became accustomed to publishing scare stories and not retracting them; politicians became accustomed to responding to supposed threats rather than questioning them; the public became accustomed to the idea that some sort of apocalypse might be just around the corner. "Insecurity is the key driving concept of our times," says Durodie. "Politicians have packaged themselves as risk managers. There is also a demand from below for protection." The real reason for this insecurity, he argues, is the decay of the 20th century's political belief systems and social structures: people have been left "disconnected" and "fearful".

The making of the terror myth

Yes, what occurred in Beslan was terrible, does the government have any evidence that such an attack was being planned, or is their argument going to be that it 'might' happen. The making of choices based on the idea of 'worst possible' scenario tends to hand control to those with the most frightening nightmares. Rule by fear has replaced the promise of hope.

"Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful."

Read on...


The audioblog below is a test to make sure that I am audioblogging correctly. But my students might want to listen to it, as it is by a bunch of Derry lads. The town I am originally from and so you can hear what I would sound like if I wasn't talking Chimology.

Its a radio recording of a Song called "Saunter", by Champions of the Universe, its also my kinda music...turn it up loud..


this is an audio post - click to play

18 Jan 2005

The Great COE Scam

By: Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review
15 Jan 2005

COE, Parf, ARF - confused? Characteristics of The Great COE Scam

It is glaring that although Singapore has the world's most expensive cars, the vast majority of car owners remain confounded by the complicated pricing and ownership system. (See artcile from the New Paper 14 Jan 2005 "COE, Parf, ARF - confused?")

In all developed countries, buying a car is a simple and transparent affair that is concluded between buyer and seller. The only other third-parties involved are the insurance company and the finance company. In Singapore a series of bureaucratic shields and paperwork complicate the process.

The system is massively complicated, designed to confuse the average car buyer. The objective is to disguise the underlying scam which involves siphoning funds from the car owner into the bloated coffers of the government.

The latest tender saw car COE premiums ending at $18,400 (up to 1,600cc) and $14,002 (above 1,600cc) - the lowest in over a decade. The government is set to release between 100,000 to 120,000 COEs this year. At anaverage COE "price" of approx SGD16,201 per COE this amounts to a whopping SGD1,944,120,000/- in COE revenue for the government.

Although the supposed objective of the COE system was to regulate traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion, a number of characteristic reveal the actual COE scam which has the hidden purpose of siphoning funds from car owners.

The scam is Revealed via the following formulae:

COE Revenue = COE Price X Number of COE issued.

Regardless of the price of the COE, the total COE revenue collected remains generally stable at approx SGD1.994 billion. This is because any fall in price is compensated by issuance of more COEs hence keeping the COE revenue relatively stable.

Below are some of the characteristics of the COE scam:

To continue reading click here...

17 Jan 2005


Yet again the Straits Jacket points the finger at the youth of Singapore and argues that the youth need to change either through maturing and growing up or being taught moral values...so yet again the social structure and politicans, academic, journalists and judiciary are some how not having any effect on society.

To point the finger at one group or social role is classic 'victim-blaming'. The social structure is formulated and built on the premise of passive acceptance. I have had many students come to me after lectures and tell me that I should not criticise, that criticsim is negative. The mis-conception of criticism as fault finding, and argumentative or unnecessary is a myth in the land of 'lah-lah'.

Where are the examples of adults, fully matured, well educated arguing as opposed to all agreeing with each other on every issue?

My response can be viewed at Cogito and Power in Singapore.

Jan 17, 2005

Guilt-trip approach on youths won't work

THE article, 'Critical thinking straight from the heart' (ST, Jan 7), struck a chord with me as I too have numerous first-hand experiences of the 'wall' of cynicism and apathy that surrounds today's youth.

If young people are indeed disengaged from issues of national interest, guilt-tripping them by questioning their moral courage or value system is hardly likely to bring them back into the fold.

It must be realised that most members of the current generation take for granted that, to a large degree, they can control their own lives, whether in terms of relationships or careers, lifestyles or beliefs.

In contrast to the generation before, active civic participation is no longer part of the fabric of everyday life, something that you did without questioning its importance.

The issue of young people and politics is one of political passion. The problem is that most see their relationship to their country, and indeed the world around them, entirely passively.

Politics - the way the country and the world works - is something done to them by other people, over which they have no control and want no control.

Solving youth apathy means recognising that it is a problem and finding why it is a problem. Quick-fix solutions will only make it worse.

If the problem is that young people are not interested in politics, then politicians should get them interested. That does not mean, as many have argued, artificially creating some kind of 'youth-centric' politics.

That young people are interested only in young people's issues is a prejudice held by older generations. If it were true, why do teenagers always go on about animals and the environment? Those involved in politics should make it interesting.

If the problem is passivity, cut young people some slack.

Every problem a teenager faces - from poor grades to teenage angst - is now discussed threadbare and ascribed to low self-confidence, which in turn is seen to be the result of too much pressure on them by their parents, teachers and peers.

When even the tiniest aspect of young people's lives is linked to something that has been done for them or to them - and about which they have little control - it's little wonder that they feel helpless when confronted with the problems of the world.

If they are left alone a bit more to work through the problems of growing up, they might develop the self-confidence everyone says they are lacking, and start thinking about bigger things.

Alvin Harvey Kam Siew Wah (Dr)

Give priority to moral education

MANY are ready to observe that Singaporeans lack critical thinking skills. And they leave it at that. As if by pronouncing their stand, they have excluded themselves from the mass of people whom they have so degradingly labelled.

We do not need more naysayers to tell us we are a soul-less city with an artificial sheen of perfection. What we need are constructive suggestions on how to inculcate good moral values and a sense of belonging in young Singaporeans.

Everything we have achieved today did not seem plausible at the beginning. But we have done it. Singapore today is a marvellous example of successful out-of-the-box thinking.

If we have built this much in a short span of 40 years, we can definitely achieve some level of success in our efforts to develop our youth as good thinkers. We are not starting from zero. We have the resources, we have the will. All we need is to curb our cynicism.

For a start, let us bring back moral education lessons in a big way. Children need to be taught from young that there are some fundamental values to which we can adhere to. For example, basic courtesy to our elders, a sense of compassion, and giving even when we may not receive anything in return.

Liao Shuxin

Singapore detains 2 more related to terrorist group

www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-13 21:27:00

SINGAPORE, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Two more Singaporeans have been detained for involvement with the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah(JI) over the course of last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Thursday.

According to a statement by the ministry, one of the two had traveled to Thailand and Yemen to source for weapons in the past decade and suggested to the JI several potential attack targets inSingapore in 2001.

The other, who had been released on a restriction order in 2002,was re-arrested and detained for continuing to support the cause of the Philippine separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was against the conditions of his restriction order.

The ministry also said that the order of detention for another JI member has been extended for two more years because he continues to pose a threat to security.

A fourth detainee, who had performed cooperatively in investigations into the JI and other terrorist groups in the region and responded positively to counselling, was released on a suspension direction, the statement noted.

Local media reports said that a total of 36 Singaporeans, who are regarded as JI members, are being detained under the Internal Security Act up to now.

The following is loosely related to the detention above...

Bush under fire over human rights

Please click on comic for larger version

Watchdog says US setting bad example

Richard Norton-Taylor, Julian Borger in Washington and Suzanne Goldenberg in Fort Hood
Friday January 14, 2005
The Guardian

America's human rights abuses have provided a rallying cry for terrorists and set a bad example to regimes seeking to justify their own poor rights records, a leading independent watchdog said yesterday.
The torture and degrading treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay have undermined the credibility of the US as a defender of human rights and opponent of terrorism, the New York-based Human Rights Watch says in its annual report.

"The US government is less and less able to push for justice abroad because it is unwilling to see justice done at home," says Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director.

Continue Reading...

16 Jan 2005

Singapore's Spots to Avoid

Rather old news but if you follow the links it takes you to a very good area which debates prostitution in south east asia with links to the international organisations calling for various actions to be conducted...the link to the original is here.

Singapore's Designated Redlight Areas

Part One Squeaky Clean Sex

Please click on picture for larger version

A prominent news magazine once said that Singapore was a fine city, and then went on to explain that you could be fined for almost anything in Singapore.

Jaywalking can become a blot on your police record.
The mosquito patrol can enter your home without a warrant and check your flower pots for standing water, which constitutes an offence in the Lion City.
Not flushing a public toilet is an infraction punishable by a fine.
Urinating in an elevator would get your picture in the paper in the early 1990's (along with a fine of about S$800).
Even feeding the city's wild pigeons was illegal when I was there....

But in this squeekiest of squeaky clean cities, prostitution is legal -- and relatively well regulated. And if you're not careful you could walk right into a brothel in some of the city's shopping malls without even realizing what you were opening the dorr to...

Prostitution in Singapore is restricted to designated redlight areas (DRA's); some sources say there are five of these, others say six. But since they are all fairly close together, it's probably irrelevant. There are a total of about 400 brothels in the city with an estimated 10 to 20 prostitutes each. That's about 6000 prostitutes in the city...

Prostitutes carry a yellow health card in Singapore. They must report in "regularly" for health checks.

Please click on picture for larger version

And while prostitution and brothels are legal, solicitation is not. Even in the DRA's, there are no (legal) street walkers.

The sex industry in Singapore seems to be part of an official desire to make being "sensible" as controversial as possible. But for tourists who are not part of the Singapore mindset, the situation can become confusing. (And keep in mind that the government wants to be sensibly controversial to the International Community; the idea of citizens doing the same at home doesn't fly.) Organizations like Amnestry International and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) see things in a different light than the government of Singapore. The official line is that, since prostitution is going to exist, regulating it is the only sensible course of action. CATW and similar groups take the position that legalization provides protection mostly to the individuals who run the brothels, and to some lesser degree to the men who frequent such places, but rarely to the actual prostitutes.

Many of Singapore's prostitutes are imported from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Part Two The Designated Redlight Areas
Part Three The UN and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Sex industry assuming massive proportions in Southeast Asia
Sex as a sector: Economic incentives and hardships fuel growth
End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

14 Jan 2005

Let this be a warning to all

Please click on picture for larger version

Blogger sacked for sounding off

Waterstone's says bookseller brought firm into disrepute

Patrick Barkham
Wednesday January 12, 2005
The Guardian

Former Waterstone's employee Joe Gordon. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

A bookseller has become the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his "sandal-wearing" boss.

Joe Gordon, 37, worked for Waterstone's in Edinburgh for 11 years but says he was dismissed without warning for "gross misconduct" and "bringing the company into disrepute" through the comments he posted on his weblog.

Published authors and some of the 5 million self-published bloggers around the globe said it was extraordinary that a company advertising itself as a bastion of freedom of speech had acted so swiftly to sack Mr Gordon, who mentions everything from the US elections to his home city of Edinburgh in the satirical blog he writes in his spare time.

Mr Gordon, a senior bookseller who rarely mentioned work in his blog and did not directly identify his branch of Waterstone's, said he had offered to stop posting anything about his working life online when the company called a disciplinary meeting. According to his union, Waterstone's rejected his plea despite it not having any guidelines on whether its employees are allowed to keep weblogs.

"This wasn't a sustained attack," Mr Gordon told the Guardian. "I was not deliberately trying to harm the company. I was venting my spleen.

"This was moaning about not getting your birthday off or not getting on with your boss. I wasn't libelling anyone or giving away trade secrets."

to continue reading...

13 Jan 2005

Singapore mainstream media still do not “get” blogs

From Wannabe Lawyer

The nation-building press still “don’t get” blogs.

Evidence 1:

Straits Times 3 Nov 2004 via myrick

But Nanyang Technological University communication and information lecturer Randolph Kluver disagreed that more blogs will flourish.

I just don’t see much of a future for them until regulatory policies are relaxed somewhat, or until some sort of event occurs in which a blog can provide information the media cannot,‘ he said.

A Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesman said Internet content providers engaging in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political and religious issues relating to Singapore must register with the authority.

These include all political party websites and sites like Sintercom, an online magazine and forum on politics and current affairs. Individual sites and blogs need register only if the MDA asks them to do so.

What Randolph Kluver speaks about is a permissions-based culture. This is the culture that has been cultivated by the ruling classes, up till now. Don’t do it unless it is allowed, otherwise you will be punished. What Kluver demonstrates however, is that people who have been conditioned by the permissions-based culture seem unable to understand the possibility of alternatives. Either that, or the Straits Times is again engaging in its famous ability to mis-quote and mis-report on the facts.

Fortunately, while ruling classes can attempt to use technology to maintain control, technology is a natural symbiont to liberty. Without freedom and liberty, there can be no technology, and without technology there can be no liberty...

Read on here...

Nepotism in Singapore

Recirculated by Singapore Review are two old articles which should be read in conjunction with the attached file concerning Nepotism in Singapore.

The attached Nepotism file is a factual report "Why it might be difficult for the government to withdraw from business" by Tan Boon Seng and highlights in an objective manner who's who in Singapore's incestous political circles and GLCs/TLCs. It summarises in a transparent and obvious manner the close relations of senior government officials and politicians.

If you are interested you can read on here. And if you spot any changes that might have occurred since it was first published then leave a note in the comments section please.

12 Jan 2005

Money or Values?, The Singaporean Question?

Please click on comic for larger version

A rather interesting comment that for me largerly sums up a rather long interaction and comments section to an article entitled,'Cogito'.

Anonymous said...
Some of those who have posted comments on the original article have taken Mr. Mc Dermott's comments as a personal attack.

Some of the replies are even irrelevant and fail to show an understanding of the the aritcle.
Mr. Mc Dermott's experience with students wanting to be spoon fed is not confined to Singapore but a phenomenon that plagues educational systems around the world.

Jamie Han Li Chou's reply is well written. I don't think it's too late for change but given the nature of some of the other comments to this thread, it seems some wouldn't even understand what the 'change' is.

10 Jan 2005

Singapore opposition leader loses legal battle

article in full

by Gui
Qing Koh

SINGAPORE, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A Singapore opposition
leader lost a three-year legal battle against
defamation charges brought by the city-state's
founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and his
successor, court documents showed on Friday.

Singapore's High Court ruled that Chee Soon Juan of
the Singapore Democratic Party must pay Lee and former
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong S$500,000 ($303,600) in
damages in relation to a case dating back to
Singapore's 2001 general elections.

Chee said the verdict would likely bankrupt him,
effectively ruling him out of the next elections due
by 2007, since he cannot afford to pay S$300,000 to
Goh and S$200,000 to Lee. Singapore law bars declared
bankrupts from holding political office.

"There is no way I can pay half a million dollars,"
Chee told Reuters.


Why Singapore is a Pathetic Place

I first saw this on Mr Brown, who got it from Peking Duck, which took me to the original "funny 'cause it's true" article.

5. Faced with such mismanagement, most people would complain. Not Singaporeans. Their government effectively controls the media and runs a highly effective PR campaign aimed at convincing the people the government is wonderful. Many sincerely believe it. Those who don’t fall for it keep quiet, or wish they had. The few people who dare to speak out suffer reduced career prospects or even spurious legal action. Unlike Hongkongers, Singaporeans have no right, in practice, to walk down the street handing out anti-government leaflets and shouting anti-government slogans. It is a crime to speak in public without a permit. Pathetic.

Patong's ladyboys struggle to cope in badly damaged tourist industry

Jonathan Watts in Patong beach
Monday January 10, 2005
The Guardian

Even without the high heels and the giant blue plumes of her feathered headdress, Jana is a very tall girl. In fact, she normally towers over most of the customers at the Moulin Rose (sic) cabaret club, where she performs lip-synch renditions of The Power of Love. But tonight, she is slumped in a chair and feeling low.
For Jana is one of the hundreds of "lady-boys" on the red-light strip of Patong beach who survived the tsunami but are struggling to cope with its economic aftermath: the devastation of a large chunk of Thailand's tourist industry.

Like the prostitutes, masseurs, go-go dancers and kick-boxers who make a living in this hotbed of exoticism and sleaze, the transsexual population of Patong are struggling to make ends meet because the foreigners they rely on for business are being warned by their governments to stay away from the disaster zone.

They are too much of an embarrassment to the authorities to merit much support from the government, particularly at a time when the world's attention is focused on the search for foreign victims of the disaster.
Read more here...

Power in Singapore

After having had a lot of comments to an article in which I mentioned an encounter that I had with Queenie, I have decided to try to ellicit a more academic discussion. Education is not an isolated institution, but is dependent on and interacting with other institutions in any society. So a very quick look at a very well known outline of power below, and applying it to Singapore might show why I am so concerned with Queenie and her lack of expectations for education.

"power must not only refer to the capacity to realize one's ends in a conflict situation against the will of others; it must also include the capacity to prevent opposition arising in the first place [...] in one sense power is most powerful if the actor can, by manipulation, prevent issues from coming to the point of decision at all." by David Lockwood.
(cited in J.Urry and J.Wakeford (eds.) Power in Britain, 1973)

Lukes Three Dimensions of Power (1974)

According to Lukes there are three different levels at which power can operate on.

Direct Conflict

This is also known as the ‘liberal’ view of power.(Dahl and Polsby)
One part has more power because they have been able to prevail in the face of other’s opposition. That an elite can impose their wishes against a majority opposition. Dahl and Polsby argued that in order to ascertain who has the power in American society you must also prove that they can impose their will.

Whether the oppostion parties in Singapore represent a majority of suppressed individuals would be an argument which would be difficult to provide empirical evidence in support of it, I do feel that the Lee family is, or at least the Lee's themsleves think they are, an elite group. The Lee family does seem to impose their will on a very receptive society. Why is the Singaporean public so receptive and agreeable with such an un-meritocratic, nepotistic political system?

This leads nicely to the next level...

Behind the Scenes

The two-dimensional view or the 'reformist' view (Bachrach and Baratz). Power is exercised by preventing certain conflicts of interest from coming into public play in the first place. This ability to ignore legitimate issues or areas of conflict is seen to require reform in order to over come this illegitimate situation.

In Singapore public demonstrations are a thing of myth and legend, the press is owned or controlled by the PAP. Legitimate questions, such as 'what happened to contributions made to the Suharto regime in Indonesia?' will be ignored by the press. Claims made by international NGO's are largely ignored or at least not followed up. To name but two, last year the Trafficking in Persons Report listed Singapore as being complacent, Reporters Without Borders slammed the lack of press freedom in Singapore. These are only two of the many issues that have been side stepped or simply ignored by the PAP.

So the PAP have power over these two levels but Lukes believes that this discussion on power needs to go further...

People’s Thoughts and Desires

"Is it not the supreme exercise of power to get another or others to have the desires you want them to have - that is, to secure their compliance by controlling their thoughts and desires?" (Lukes , 1974:23)

The radical view

The processes of socialisation including education are part of the exercise of power in any society. This will result in a situation whereby those who are being harmed by this process will remain unaware.

As with many Education systems around the world, the government in Singapore shapes education policy from primary school to higher education. My article about Queenie was intended to highlight the level of success the PAP education policies have had over the last 45 years.

Primary school exercise books used to, or still do have the 5 values that the government holds dear. I believe that there are as follows:

The Five Shared Values:

Nation before community and society before self
Family as the basic unit of society
Community support and respect for the individual
Consensus, not conflict
Racial and religious harmony

Values One and Three seem to be contradictory, even if it is a shift from the word 'self' to 'individual'. It is a value system of consensus building and denial of conflict or criticism.

Pejorative is a word used to criticise Lukes three dimensions of power, but Queenie probably couldn't be bothered to look the word up in a dictionary, she would rather make her teacher tell her what it means.

First conceived by PM Goh Chok Tong, then the First Deputy Prime Minister, in 1988, the Shared Values ideology was nationally adopted in 1993. Spelled out in the first epigraph of this section, the ideology officially proclaims a set of beliefs as part of Singapore’s cultural heritage. The ideology thus proclaimed, as Gunther Kress and Bob Hodge might put it in a different context, has the modality of being real, natural, transparent, inevitable, factual, unquestionable, and doubtlessly true.[85]

With a propaganda machine supported by the mass media publicizing its launch and its ongoing regurgitation in public discourse, the ideology has a widespread, even hegemonic reach. When we did a Yahoo.com search on the phrase, “Shared Values Singapore,” we found e-domains that encompass target audiences ranging from “Singapore Kids”[86] to educators and students[87] to “Expat Singapore.”[88] The last website is meant for expatriates or foreign talents, living and working in the nation-state, including those who plan to do so. 12
Storeys' Secret World

6 Jan 2005

Corporate Contributions to Help Tsunami Victims

Corporate Singapore Does Its Part To Help Tsunami Victims

Same topic two very different journalistic styles, one in Singapore, the other in the UK. Can you spot the difference kids? For those of you not wanting to think, teacher has highlighted and added comments to enable you to score well in the exam paper....

January 6, 2005

This week in the Singapore Scene, we look at how corporate Singapore is rallying together to do their bit to help in relief efforts in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster.

selfish expansion

So when disaster struck on Boxing Day of 2004, they wasted no time to pitch in, and are doing their part to help in the relief efforts.

Since the Development Bank of Singapore or DBS opened its ATM and internet banking facilities for customers to donate to the Singapore Red Cross, collections have exceeded S$1.8 million in three days. Following its initiative, another bank OCBC has also set up phone and internet banking donations for the Red Cross.

At Exxon Mobil, the company is making a staggering 2 million dollar contribution. (Staggering if you earn S$1500 a month)The organization will also match employee and retiree contributions around the world. (In Singapore) You (not the company)can visit selected Esso and Mobile service stations with AXS machines to donate to the Singapore Red Cross.

City Development Limited has so far collected $90,000 in employee contribution and dollar for dollar match by the company. Its head of corporate communications Belinda Lee.

For more Singaporean Press ass licking of corporations read here.

For a touch of objective well researched journalism read the article below where a real journalists actually goes on-line and looks at the profits of these large companies and compares their income with their contribution.

Another wave of miserliness from Britain's (Singapore's?) super-rich

Corporate donations to the tsunami appeal are stunningly stingy

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday January 5, 2005

Most television programmers like to aim for a balance of light and shade, but the editors of the news bulletins over the holiday period have not really had that option. Instead, and for each evening since Boxing Day, the TV news has been a glimpse of hell. Report after report, from Indonesia or Sri Lanka or some flyspeck island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has brought some new horror. Not the pictures of the mangled buildings and upended ships; it is surprising how quickly we have become inured to those. But the stories - of orphaned children, of babies snatched from their mother's arms, of fathers washed out to sea - seem only to get worse, taking us ever deeper into the calamity.

All that the bulletins have had to lighten the gloom is a related story: the British reaction to the disaster. On this the media have spoken with one voice, lauding the great British public for a generosity that has made us among the most openhanded nations in the world.

The scale of British giving has been moving, especially acts of kindness by those with least to spare: cleaners or pensioners or the unemployed donating sums that either took a week to earn or were a week's keep. People have drawn a legitimate pride in this and in the public's outpacing of government, whose earliest pledge of £1m looked so paltry.

Ministers increased that to £50m and yesterday hinted there would be more if needed. That is welcome, but hardly overwhelming. Others have pointed out the contrast between that contribution, even if it rises to, say, £100m, and the £6bn the UK government found so readily for the war on Iraq. But one need not look so far. The cost of the new national identity card scheme, for example, bringing food and shelter to no one, is estimated at £3.1bn. Next to sums like that, £50m or £100m is, to use a grimly appropriate phrase, a drop in the ocean.

But the government is doing plenty of other things, lending military assistance to stricken countries as well as deploying staff in London and around the world. No, anger, if we feel it, should be directed at the third lead player in public life: not citizens or government, but big business.

Corporate Britain was quick to realise it needed to stand with the public mood and publicise its concern. The major companies doubtless feel proud of their generosity. They shouldn't. They should be ashamed.

Vodafone announced it would be giving £1m and matching all staff donations. A million pounds is a lot of money to you and me, but not to Vodafone, to which it is pocket change. The company's annual profit, registered last May, was £10bn. That means the company made substantially more than a million pounds an hour. Yet that is all they gave - less than an hour's profit. It is less than they gave their new boss, Arun Sarin, for his annual bonus.

Put another way, Vodafone has given a mere one tenthousandth of its annual profit. (Not its total revenue, mind, which would be a larger figure, just its profit.) Think of your own annual income, after you've paid off all your expenses. Now work out what one ten-thousandth of that sum would be. If you had given just that amount to the tsunami appeal, would that be enough? Would you announce it with pride?

Or look at one of the early givers and publicity seekers: the Premiership. It gave the same Vodafone figure, £1m. The Premiership is made up of 20 clubs, so that would have set back each team a grand total of £50,000. That is what Manchester United pays Wayne Rooney for four and a half days' work.

That club alone is worth £700m; its annual profit is £47m. Maybe the Man U players did the maths and felt guilty but, if they did, it was not nearly guilty enough. Between them they raised another £50,000. When you think that Rio Ferdinand earns £80,000 a week, that is scarcely an impressive total from an entire squad. They could each have sold off a couple of diamond ear studs and raised more than that.

The rollcall of shame continues. BP gave a healthy looking £1.6m: fine, until you realise the oil giant's expected profits for 2004 weigh in at £9bn.

Abbey National's trading profit from its core businesses topped the billionpound mark in 2004, even if the company made an overall loss. Times must be tough, though, because when it dipped in its corporate pocket it found just £25,000. I've done the sums: on my comfortable Guardian salary, that's the equivalent of me giving less than two quid.

Tesco is proud that it has sent food, water and hygiene products to Thailand and Sri Lanka - but it's still a shock that, with annual profits of £1.7bn, it only managed to give an anaemic £100,000.

Philip Green, the BHS boss, is a famously generous man, giving serious sums to charity. But even his £100,000 in cash and £1m worth of clothes looks like less of a sacrifice when one notes that his Arcadia group paid him a dividend of £460m last year - and that he spent £5m on a toga party to mark his 50th birthday two years ago.

None of this should really come as a surprise. Battlehardened viewers of Children in Need and Comic Relief will have noted the corporate givers' eagerness to grab free publicity - handing over a cheque on TV - combined with their stunning levels of stinginess. The sums they give are the coppers down their sofa, the lint in their pockets - and we are expected to be grateful.

The problem is not just rich companies, but rich individuals. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the wealthiest 10% of UK income earners give just 0.7% of their household expenditure to charity, while the poorest 10% allocate 3% of theirs.

What explains this institutional miserliness at the very top of Britain's wealth tree? Historically, the argument was always that Britain was so heavily taxed, the rich did their bit by paying whacking sums into the national exchequer. In the US, by contrast, the ultra-affluent knew they were barely taxed so they made up for it with personal and dynastic philanthropy: think Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller.

But that logic no longer applies. Today's British companies enjoy some of the lowest tax rates outside America. Now they have the best of both worlds: low tax and no guilty expectation of philanthropy. They can keep almost all their money to themselves.

Unless we, their customers, say otherwise. This last week has seen a rare and stirring demonstration of people power. Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do - or we will take it off you in tax. Either way, it's time to start paying.


Here atypicalsingaporean picks up on the same topic.

3 Jan 2005

How we can help from Singapore

Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster Relief
How we can help from Singapore

CLick on the following link and pass the url on to others...


Assist.com, includes a Missing Person Search Engine

2 Jan 2005


The following piece was originally from Singapore Review and is a subject that was and continues to be very close to my heart. The article appears to be in response to a piece from the local Strait Jacket. As usual the Strait Jacket points the finger at a group , in this instant it's 'students' who are the problem, or the education sector. The lack of criticism in Singapore would be classified as an epidemic if it was a virus. It permeates all organisations, institutions, media, radio, television, government, politics, employeee-employer relationships... When was the last time you told your boss, your mother, your father, your son, your daughter, basically anyone who felt they were in power 'NO'?

To point the finger at one group or social role is classic 'victim-blaming'. The social structure is formulated and built on the premise of passive acceptance. I have had many students come to me after lectures and tell me that I should not criticise, that criticsim is negative. The mis-conception of criticism as fault finding, and argumentative or unnecessary is a myth in the land of 'lah-lah'.

If you wish to be creative the first thing to be done is to tear apart, or break into small pieces, and then put it back together. You must learn how it works and as with a car engine that means taking it apart. To the untrained layperson it appears destructive or negative. It is the necessary first step.

I have rarely talked about my job as a lecturer and this will be the first time ever. I would like to tell you a true story of an interaction I had with a student while lecturing, after which I considered resigning, and for awhile I lost all hope in humanity.

Now to set the context, I am a sociology lecturer, lecturing to young adults on a degree programme. I am not saying that all my students are or were similar, I have had many wonderful fantastic students who have been a joy to teach, but on one occasion I met someone who said something I will never forget.

To protect the guilty I will not use her real name. Lets call her 'Queenie'. Queenie and in a group of other students were engaged in preparing an esssay plan, the question is of little importance to my story. I asked the question, wrote it on the white board, and then told the students to prepare an essay plan. "But before you put pen to paper, I want you to think for 3 minutes about the question, just think."

Well Queenie, god bless her, looked up and uttered the following most philosophical thing I have ever heard a sheep say.

"I didn't come here to think. I came here for you to think, then tell me what to think."

She wanted to be a teacher...

Jan 1, 2005

Our smart students not willing to think critically

I FIND it ironic that after decades of praising the education system for producing students who are adept at memorising formulas, a skill that has enabled them to be world beaters in international mathematics and science competitions, the Government now wants youths who are able to express their opinions about what sort of Singapore they want to build.

Unfortunately, as in the case of the bilingual policy, we cannot have our cake and eat it, a fact that has taken the Government some time to figure out.

The more we reward students for their ability to memorise model answers, the less willing students will be to use their critical minds. Why should they risk getting low grades by expressing critical, unorthodox views when it is so easy for them to just be spoon-fed by their teachers?

In his article, 'Lost generation or future leaders: Our call' (ST, Dec 30), Mr Verghese Matthews questions whether figures of authority have instilled in young people the critical spirit and the moral courage to use it for the good of society.

He is optimistic that there is hope yet for Singapore's future: 'I am confident that there are many young critical thinkers in our society who are testing the waters.'

I applaud Mr Matthews' attempt to bring into public discussion the question of whether enough is being done to encourage critical thinking among Singaporean youths, but alas his article has come two decades too late for my generation.

Having gone to a top secondary school and junior college, and now doing my undergraduate studies at a local university, I can safely say that there is an appalling lack of passionate, critical thinkers, even among the intellectual elite of Singapore's youth.

It is not that my generation does not have smart people with critical-thinking skills. The problem is that too many of my peers lack the moral courage to speak out after going through an education system that rewards conformity and punishes originality.

We have become a generation of sheep, too afraid to challenge the authority of our herders. The few wolves left among us who do challenge the status quo run the risk of being labelled as anarchists and troublemakers.

It is no wonder that many have become so jaded that they no longer feel it worth their while to carry on expressing their views, choosing instead to either remain quiet or to head for greener pastures elsewhere, in which case they run the risk of being labelled as 'quitters'.

In both cases, the ultimate loser is Singapore, for conformity results in stagnation, while 'invention is always born of dissension', as the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard so rightly pointed out.

In 1784, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote his famous essay 'What is Enlightenment?' in which he appealed to his countrymen to have the courage and resolution to use their own reasoning skills instead of blindly depending on the authority of so-called experts. More than two centuries on and in a country far away from his beloved Prussia, his emotional appeal still remains relevant.

Sadly, the works of Kant seldom take pride of place on the bookshelves of many of our policy-makers, who would much rather fill their shelves with more 'practical' books, such as those by economist John Maynard Keynes.

The price Singapore is paying for their narrow reading habits is an entire generation of lost sheep: Gen S. My generation.

Jamie Han Li Chou